Google+ Followers

Friday, May 18, 2018

THE BREATH OF LIFE

THE BREATH OF LIFE

About 24 years ago, my family was enjoying a day at a popular water park in Utah.  My wife and our two young sons were relishing a day splashing in the water, going down slides and soaking up the warmth of the summer sun, as part of a much needed break from undergraduate studies and work.

One of the popular attractions was one of those artificial wave pools, which starts out very shallow and then gets progressively deeper as you get closer to the big wall where massive pump engines suck and push the water in and out to create cycles of man-made waves.  It looked like tons of fun and I had been out in the deeper areas with a float tube on previous visits and found it quite exhilarating.



But my then youngest son, Tyler, who was only 2 years old also found it interesting and kept wanted to wander over there, so while the waters were still and calm, I decided to wade out with him in my arms in the shallow area to feel the splashing waves at our legs and the cheering and screams of joy of the other occupants of the pool.  Not wanting to get into any danger I waded out about thigh-high or just below waist deep, no more than 3 or so feet, where I felt comfortable holding him in my arms.

The signal bell rang and the water began to ebb and flow.  At first it was harmless, as the small waves began to slosh back and forth around us.  But as the massive pumps began to operate at full force, I found to my dismay that I was standing in an area where the smaller waves on either side of me were converging into a large wave which was cresting right in front of where we were located.  And they kept getting bigger and bigger with each succession.  Very soon, this larger combined wave was sloshing me back and forth and I realized I needed to retreat to even shallower depth.



As I turned to work my way back to the shallows, one of the growing, cresting waves, struck me in the back and I fell forward onto my face, with my young toddler in my arms.  I panicked as the wave pushed me down onto the floor of the pool and then sucked backwards, trying to pull me back towards the depths behind me.  Realizing my young son was underwater I frantically lifted him up with my right hand in attempt to get him above water, as I scrambled to get up onto my knees and to try to stand.  But before I could get my feet underneath me, another wave hit my back and slammed me back downward again.  As several of these attempts repeated themselves, I realized to my horror that I was only getting very small moments in which I could take a brief, partial, gasping breath, before I was slammed back down and inhaling small bits of water, which made my throat spasm and want to cough.  And all of this was compounded by the fact that I was still struggling to keep my son above water as much as possible, but unsure if he was still breathing or what state he was in.

I thought about trying to scream for help when my head briefly came above water, but the entire pool was full of people screaming and yelling in delight, and no one even knew of the struggle I was experiencing.



And the waves just kept coming, and coming, and coming.  No matter how desperately I struggled with my left hand and two feet, I could not get to my knees or feet sufficiently long enough to either stand up above the waterline, or progress further toward the shallows.  And with each wave, I feared I was being pulled back into the deeper abyss.

My desperation quickly turned to panic, and then transformed into absolute terror and despair, and I became convinced that I may likely drown in a mere 3 feet of surging water.  And all the while I was terrified for the fate of my small son, who I was desperately trying to raise up above my head with one arm, but unsure if he was actually any better off than I was.

It is amazing how in such instances, time seems to change and how a thousand thoughts can compress themselves into a mere fraction of a moment.  I actually considered my options.  I could let go of my son, and use my second hand to help raise me from the bottom, and then try to locate and lift my son.  But this would consign him to dropping below the water where he would surely be washed away from me and I may not be able to retrieve him, and would increase his likelihood of drowning.  No, I could never let him go!

As I grew frantic for air and the impulse to breath was screaming for relief, I began to see sparks in my head and I realized that I would soon lose control and either impulsively take a breath and inhale water, or I may pass out and then would lose all ability to recover.  And I suddenly knew with complete certainty that I was going to die!

As I resigned myself to this fate, and accepted it, I suddenly quit thinking about myself and my own predicament.  I knew that I would die, so I instead, in one of those compressed nano-second moments, prayed silently from the depths of my soul, “If I must die, please save my son!”  I didn’t care what happened to me anymore.  I was willing to accept my fate and embrace it, and I was fine with that if it meant my son could somehow live, and so this was where all my energy and heart was pleading to the Lord to take me if He needed, but please save my son.  All of my effort was focused on keeping him above water as much as possible, so that he could breathe, so that he might somehow live.

It was in this very moment of submission and when I forgot myself and was totally focused on the welfare of my son, and all of my desire was only for his safety, that the waves began to slow and lessen in intensity.  The water receded and was suddenly able lift my head and take a gasping breath of air.  It was the breath of life!

I was finally able to get up onto my knees and raise my trunk upward and with certainty lift my son completely out of the water.  And as the water continued to calm behind and around me, I was utterly spent and exhausted.  Gasping for air and coughing and spitting water from my lungs, I heard the most joyous sound I could have heard in that moment – my son crying!

I was completely overjoyed that he was alive and breathing enough to be wailing in tears!  And as I crawled forward on my knees (because I literally didn’t have the strength to stand at that moment), I was simply overcome with gratitude.  Just being able to breathe and knowing that my son was alright was worth more than any worldly treasure or accomplishment, and I poured out silent thanks to my Father in Heaven for His mercy in delivering us from our terrible predicament.

I have to admit, that I have never once entered a wave pool again since that day.  But I have been able to draw several comparisons and insights about it and from it.  And while this list is not exhaustive, it may be informative to you as well:

1.      In life, we often think we can control our circumstances and feel we are safe to wander off the solid footing of the straight and narrow path, thinking that we can enjoy a few thrills and handle things alright without any risk.  But in reality, things can and usually do escalate quickly beyond our control when we leave spiritually solid ground behind.  We may have our moments of thrill and delight, but they come at great risk and potentially deadly cost.

2.      When the waves of life come crashing down around us, we are pretty much helpless to deliver ourselves.  We cannot stop the forces of mortality around us, and must suffer the consequences of our actions, and are powerless to change them.  We fall victim to their merciless and crushing forces… UNLESS we seek help from a Lifeguard who walks on water and has the power to calm the stormy seas around us, and is able to reach down as He did to Peter and lift him from the waves and cold depths of life’s deadly tides.




3.      I realize that my experience cannot even begin to compare in any significant degree, but I feel gained an ever-so-small, fractional experience of what kind of desperation the Savior might have suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.   As I think of how the scriptures describe Him being sore amazed and astonished to the point He fell down upon His face (Matt. 26:36-39), I am humbled to tears to consider how the massive waves of sins, suffering and sorrows of all mankind beat down upon Him with their eternal weight for nearly 3 agonizing hours.  This was so great that even our Lord cried out, “Please, if there is any other way, please take this cup away from me!”  But He willingly submitted, accepted and partook of the bitter cup.



4.      It was when I submitted and lost all thought or concern of myself, and instead focused upon the welfare and salvation of another that relief and salvation finally came.  In similar manner, the power of the Atonement was wrought when the Savior submitted, accepted and let His will be completely swallowed up in the will of the Father that the miracle was able to be accomplished, and deliverance and salvation was finally extended to all of us.  He was willing to, and did in fact, offer Himself a sacrifice and gave up His life so that we all might live!  His love and concern for us and our eternal welfare is the definition of what Love truly is.  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life, for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25)   And “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13)    We too will find ourselves and the blessings we seek, when we begin to lose ourselves in the Lord’s service and in service to our fellow men and women.  CHARITY never faileth, and is the pure love of Christ, and if we want to become like Him and be worthy to dwell with Him again someday, this will be “THE” essential quality we will need to possess!


5.      When I was drowning, I could not bring myself to let my son go, and give up his life.  I was desperate to save him no matter what the cost, just so that he could live and be safe.  As I consider what our Heavenly Father must have experienced as He witnessed His “Beloved Son”, Jesus Christ, suffering, being mocked, beaten, smitten and nailed to a cross…. Somehow He was able to let His Son go, and sacrifice Him so that ALL of us could have a chance to live.

I stand all amazed at the love that They offer me!  And you!  And all of us!

The reality and amazing grace of it all, is the fact that when the storms and waves of life are beating us down, the Lord is right there in the midst of it all, with us, reaching down to lift us, if we will but turn to Him and reach up for His help.  He doesn’t cause the suffering which comes as the result of our bad choices or because of the nature of opposition this mortal life offers.  He also doesn’t cause the trauma and waves of abuse or unjust suffering and punishment that come because of the wickedness of others which affects us.  But even in these situations, which are no fault of our own, He is willing and able to help lift us above the waves, put our feet back on solid group, heal us both body and soul, and beckon us onward along the path which leads back to Him.

The waves are sure to come and beat upon us.  He mercifully grants us times of peace and placid waters to regain our bearings and make strides forward, but he also allows the waves to return so that we can remember that He is the one that allows us to stand and grants us one truly remarkable “breath of life” to the next.  These experiences serve to keep us humble and remind us to cry out to Him with greater conviction and focus and to be more grateful for the peaceful moments when they come.  And it is during those moments of desperate desire and reaching for Him, when we truly find Him.

“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.  When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you.” – (Pres. Russell M. Nelson, April 2017 General Conference)



As we do so, He will be there, with open arms to lift us, raise us up, heal us, restore us and bring us ever closer to Him!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Grinding Gears and the Power of Love


Grinding Gears and the Power of Love

A few month ago, the transmission in my wife’s van suddenly went out and came to a literal grinding halt!  And although paying for the repairs about threw my hip out of socket with how much money went flying out of my wallet, it caused me to ponder on the nature of gears and how they apply to our lives.

If you’ve never driven a stick shift, manual transmission in a car before, then some of what follows may not make complete sense, but I think you will get the picture.

The gears in a transmission, or about any machine for that matter, work because the gears are equipped with rows of teeth which line up with and interlace with matching teeth on an adjacent gear connected to another part of the machine.  There is a series of gears of different sizes which move back and forth depending on how fast you want to go or how much power and force you need to pull with.


The problem comes when trying to shift from one gear to another at the wrong time.  The gears then get out of sync with each other instead of fitting together the way they should, one gear is spinning and the other can’t mesh with it at the proper speed.  The result is a horrible grinding sound as the metal teeth grate across each other, creating an incredible amount of sparks, friction, loss of power, broken shards of steel and loss of propulsion (and sometimes the need to replace the whole transmission).


“So how does this apply to life?” you ask.   What a great question!  Let me share a few observations which I have pondered over in this regards.

Let’s look at the gears as a representation of a relationship between two people.  Let’s start with the example of a husband and wife.  When the teeth of the gears are aligned and in sync with each other, a lot of good can happen and progress in the relationship is wonderful, smooth and powerful to behold – as two people become like one, they make each other better and fulfill the purpose of the relationship.


But when one partner decides to do something which doesn’t align with the other’s thinking and rhythm, then grinding sparks begin to fly, friction and heat become evident, pieces of hearts, trust and confidence in each other get ground off as damage is inflicted upon each other.  And unless they can calm down, realign and get back in sync again, then extensive or permanent damage may be done to the relationship.

But let’s take this analogy to another, deeper level of meaning – that of our relationship with the Lord.

The Lord is the Perfect Master Gear with perfectly aligned teeth which are spinning at the perfect speed needed for optimal progress and performance.  If we are not engaged with Him, then no forward progress can be made.  He is Omnipotent (all powerful) and therefore the teeth on His gears are indestructible and incapable of being damaged.  He is the prototype and all other gears must come into alignment with Him if spiritual progress is to occur in our lives.  And He has provided commandments to help us keep that alignment adjusted properly.


But sometimes, we tend to think that we have a better way to make progress, and we try to do things our own way and in our own timing.  We get out of sync with God’s commandments and all of the sudden we find the friction starting to happen in our lives.  Questions, doubts, concerns, unbelief, lack of faith, discouragement, guilt and a host of other symptoms result.  In other words, our gears have become either damaged


or dirtied with filth and corrosion.


This is not because God has changed or is punishing us.  It is because WE have gotten out of sync with His perfect gear.

If we continue in our misaligned ways, spiritual parts of our soul become damaged and broken.  The longer we stay out of alignment and keep trying to force our own way against His Master Gear, the more extensive and severe the damage.
If you don’t believe me, consider what He said when He appeared to Saul, who was actively fighting against His disciples, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  …And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” (Acts 9:5, 9)  He was eventually only healed through repentance and a priesthood blessing.  If that’s not spiritual grinding of the gears kind of damage, I don’t know what is.

Another significant example of the results of such misalignment of gears is found in the account of Alma the Younger and his friends found in (Mosiah 27:11-19).  I will include some portions of those passages.  “…as they were going about rebelling against God, behold and angel of the Lord appeared unto them… and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder.  … and so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth.  (and the angel said) … why persecutest thou the Church of God?  … I am sent from God …go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, … and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.   … And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those who were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.”  Alma too was only able to be restored through deep repentance and because of the prayers and fasting of his family and friends.

While these two examples are extreme cases, they serve to point out that whenever we continue to grind against God’s gears, especially in open rebellion, then damage of some sort is sure to occur, and it will always be beyond our ability to repair on our own.

Sometimes, of no fault of our own, another gear (not the Master Gear, but another flawed human gear) crashes into us with shattering force, such as is the case when abuse and acts of violence are committed upon the innocent.  These unplanned collisions can leave devastating injuries and broken pieces behind in their wake.  Such devastating breakdowns are not the fault of the Master, but He is still the means to healing and repentance.

But despite whatever breakdowns occur from whatever sources, that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  He is perfect and therefore provided a way to make all the repairs necessary when such damage occurs.  And the best part is – HE HAS ALREADY PAID FOR ALL THOSE NEEDED REPAIRS IN ADVANCE!


All we need to do is repent and commit ourselves to come back into alignment with Him and all can be restored to its proper order.  AND HE TOTALLY DELIGHTS IN HELPING US MAKE THOSE REPAIRS AND REALIGN WITH HIM!

But sometimes, even when we are doing our best to be as perfectly aligned with Him as we can, struggle is still evident.  In fact, even when we are serving and doing our very best, there are times when trials come.

Sometimes an increased load is placed upon us, and the Lord requires us to shift down into a simpler and lower gear.  This can be to help increase torque and build our strength and increase our pulling capacity to greater levels, and serves a very needed and important purpose at that stage of the journey which only the increased load can teach us.


At other times the increased strain comes and He makes us shift down so that we can climb up a steeper incline to reach higher ground with loftier and brighter views than the lower levels could provide.


But when those times of increased load or burden, or when the struggle to climb to higher ground occurs in the road of life, we must remember – THESE ARE NOT THE TIMES TO GET OUT OF GEAR WITH THE LORD!  Sometimes when the troubles and struggles come, we want to withdraw and pull away.  But in doing so we only serve to disconnect ourselves with the Master Gear which is providing all the power for propulsion.  If we disengage, especially during those times, momentum will quickly come to a stop and we may even find ourselves drifting backwards to lower levels.

No, those are the exact times we want to be fully engaged with the Lord’s Master Gear, because as He stated in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke (gear) upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Can you understand what He is promising us in these verses?  He is promising that instead of grinding ourselves to pieces, He is willing to actually pull the load for us if we will but just get fully aligned with Him.  The burden will still be there, but the Master Gear will be pulling its weight right alongside us!


So the next time you feel the frustrations, frictions, and burdens of life grinding on your soul, remember to take whatever steps necessary to realign yourselves with the Master Gear, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will gladly help heal you, your relationships, and pull the load with you in the perfect way to allow you to progress with increased speed and efficiency down the road of life – which eventually leads back to His presence.  For we are all broken and imperfect gears in some form or another, and cannot progress without His repairs and Him being an engaged part of our lives.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The JOYFUL King of Easter


The JOYFUL King of Easter

As we approach this coming Easter weekend, we should take pause to consider what occurred on this weekend a few millennia ago.  Our thoughts should ponder and be filled with humble gratitude as we consider our Lord’s suffering in the Garden, His persecution and rejection (even by some of His former friends), as well as the price He paid upon the cruelty of the cross.

But in addition to those considerations, there is another emotion which I believe is often overlooked, but which in reality is far more important to consider as we ponder over those sacred events and He who brought them to pass.  And that emotion is JOY!



Jesus Christ is the Lord and King of Joy!  I believe part of what got Him through those moments of agony was His vision of the Joy which awaited when He arose from the Tomb, and what that would mean for all of us!  Just think of what He accomplished!  He broke the bands of death, arose from the grave, obtained all might and glory from His Father, and was granted the power to redeem all those He loved upon condition of their repentance!  Certainly that original Easter was the time of perhaps the greatest Joy in all of eternity!  He was given the keys to “The” Kingdom and the ability to invite all of His friends to be a part of it with Him.


But a mistake I think we make is that often times as we consider His might and glory and majesty (and He most definitely is the King of all these things), is that those qualities also cause Him to be eternally distant from us, when in reality He is not distant, but rather different from us.

No don’t get me wrong!  In regards to His spiritual status compared to our fallen condition, we are vastly deficient and inadequate in every way, shape and form.  And when the moment comes that we will meet Him someday in His glory, I believe not just every knee will bow, but our entire souls and every cell of our physical and spiritual being will collapse before Him in humility, honor, worship and recognition of who He is and what He has done for us, and for the Love and forgiveness which He so freely offers us!  Every knee (and every fiber of our being) will bow and every tongue (and every molecule) confess that He is the Christ!

But that difference from us, is often misinterpreted to be that He is also vastly distant from us, which I believe is NOT true at all!   And I would go so far as to say that in many ways, He is not as different from us as we falsely assume and imagine.  He is absolutely perfect - YES, but also perfect in His humanity in every degree.  Perfect in His Joy, Perfect in His Love, Perfect in His Happiness, Perfect in His Humor… yes, I said Humor.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to a wonderful book called, “Beautiful Outlaw” written by John Eldredge.  What I discovered in those pages was a Savior far more personal and approachable than I had ever before imagined.  His descriptions and understanding of New Testament passages opened my eyes to a Savior who was perfectly and completely focused and driven, yet also purposeful and even humorous and playful.  And while I may not agree 100% with all of the authors doctrinal views, I am grateful for the way his writing and the thoughts of my friend who suggested the book to me, have deepened and personalized my relationship with my Lord and Redeemer in ways I had not before imagined.
(If interested, the author also has a series of YouTube videos (Link to Videos here) in which he reads certain parts of the book to some of his friends.  Well worth the time to watch if you aren’t into reading, but the book goes into greater depth and expansion of many concepts not found in the videos)

I won’t go into all the personal and sometimes very intimate details in my own life of how I have come to find this to be true, but let me share just two examples:
First, I will point you back to another blog I have written previously, about how the Lord taught me a very funny and personal lesson, (Here) about how I was just like the personalities of my two dogs!

Second, I will paraphrase the account of an acquaintance of mine, who shared the following humorous account which happened to him in the temple.  He was sitting and praying in the Celestial room, and had grabbed a set of scriptures.  He prayed and asked the Lord where he should open the scriptures to, in order to learn what He wanted him to learn at that time.  He felt a divine smile and the reply, “It doesn’t matter, because you won’t understand it anyway.”  He was a bit shocked by this reply, so closed his eyes and prayed more earnestly where he should turn to learn from the Lord, and once again felt a smile and the phrase, “It doesn’t matter, because you won’t understand it anyway.”  A bit frustrated by this response, he opened his eyes and decided just to read on his own.  As he opened the scriptures and looked down, to his surprise he had grabbed a Spanish set of scriptures and couldn’t understand a single word!  At that moment he sensed a mild, divine laughter an almost began laughing out loud himself as he realized why the Lord had replied to his prayers in such a humorous way.

Now these two viewpoints of an All-powerful and a perfect Savior and a personal, fun-loving and humorous Savior seem to stand in contrast to each other.  “How can this be?” you might wonder.  "Isn’t this some form of DIVINE PARADOX?!"

Well, let me attempt to explain how both sides of the equation can be completely true, and how such an understanding can serve to deepen your relationship with the Lord in ways you may not have previously considered.

Imagine a Great and Mighty King who rules over a vast and powerful kingdom.  His subjects respect and agree to be loyal to Him and follow His rules because they know of His wisdom, and His ability to protect them from invaders.  He can also provide order and meaning in their lives as part of something bigger than their individual, personal lives can be on their own.  But most subjects in the kingdom would probably consider the King to be so different and un-relatable to them, that He would be nothing more than a distant figure head, who didn’t really know they even existed.  They would think that perhaps their little lives didn’t even matter to the King.  (I think if we have the wrong, or maybe better stated, “INCOMPLETE” view of God, then this is how we mistakenly view our relationship to Him).

Now think about one of your best and dearest of friends.  What is it about them that makes them such a dear friend to you?
If you are honest about it, a true friend is someone:
·         You can feel completely comfortable around, while being yourself
·         You can talk openly and freely to them
·         You have probably shared laughter and happiness with them
·         You know they will understand what you are feeling
·         They are able to console you in your difficulties
·         They are able to motivate you to be a better person
·         They encourage you to be yourself, but love you enough to NOT let you go down a road of self-destructive behavior
·         If you are doing wrong, they love you enough to metaphorically, and perhaps literally, smack you upside the head and tell you to shape up
·         They want you to be your best self in your own personal and unique way
·         They would continue to care for and love you even if you decided to walk away from the friendship for some reason & they would rejoice over nothing more than for you to come back into their friendship again


Now combine those two ideas into a single Individual.  Someone who is a Mighty King, but who just also happens to be your Best Friend!  If you were best friends with the King, just think of the possibilities that would open up to you!

The King would not only be able to provide you protection, wisdom and many incredible comforts to help you through your life, but would also have the power to pardon your mistakes and wipe them from the ledger books, pay your debts and even free you from prison if need be.  He could send his strongest Knights to protect you as you travel about, and let you search his libraries and be taught by the wisest teachers in His kingdom.

But more importantly, even though He was the King and had endless duties and responsibilities, He would desire your personal companionship – You are his best friend after all!  He would also take the time to sit with you, want to talk with you, and be a part of your life.  And why would the King do that?  Because His life is enriched and made better by having you as His friend!!!

Can you imagine how boring and terrible it would be to be a King, but have no one to share it with?  No, your best friend, the King would want you to be with Him in His throne room, and perhaps even invite you to come sit next to Him on His throne sometimes so you could see the splendor of the view from the castle windows which allow Him to see over all His kingdom with complete clarity, from one expanse to the other.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!

In reality, I believe this is EXACTLY what our Lord and King wants for us – to be His Best Friend!  He calls to each of us to “Come unto me.”  “Come be my friend!”  “Share my kingdom with me!”  “Come eat, laugh, ENJOY all that I have to offer!”

Can you see it?  Can you imagine it?  He doesn’t want us to feel distant, unrecognized, or view Him as only an un-relatable being!  He wants us to partake of all that life has to offer with Him as our best friend!  And because of His Easter Atonement and Resurrection, he has literally walked with us our entire lives and completely understands everything about us – all our emotions, trials, tears, heartaches… and yes… even our happiness and joy!

As we begin to tear down the walls of our incorrect and incomplete views of who He really is, and begin to see Him as not only the Perfect, Mighty King, but also as our greatest friend and ally, then we will begin to not only see but also EXPREIENCE the JOY He has to offer us.

We can then look at the Easter weekend for what it truly is – A time of immense trial, pain, sacrifice and redemption – which should absolutely cause us to pause and bow our heads and bend our knees before He who rose triumphant from the Garden of sorrows and from the Tomb of death.

But it should also fill us with immeasurable JOY, knowing that the King who broke the bands of death, and holds the keys of liberation from death and hell, did so because He is our best and dearest friend – and He did all those things because He loves us and wants us to share in His JOY with Him!

So I invite you to open your minds.  Open your hearts.  Open your thoughts to the possibility of the most Human of all Humans (because He experienced it ALL in the garden) – your best friend, even Jesus Christ.  And as you humbly honor Him as your King, you will also find a deeper and more personal and fun-loving, joyful Friend.  And your relationship with Him will never be the same again!

I add my personal testimony and witness to countless others that not only is He the King of all Kings, and Lord of all Lords, but also our greatest friend and advocate with the Father!

Happy Easter and I hope and pray that we will not be blinded and only see Him for half of who He truly is, for He is everything we could ever hope for in a Friend, and wants to exceed our expectation in every way imaginable as we come to know Him better.  May we see and truly recognize and sing with all who know Him - that “This is He”

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Spiritual Flight


Spiritual Flight

Inspired by a conversation with a friend a few days ago, I would like to share an analogy and liken our spiritual progress and journey to that of a kite.


Some fear the winds of adversity which blow about and are spiritually content to stay on the ground, complacent with the limited view from the perspective of the world.

Some attempt to take spiritual flight and achieve a measure of limited lift from the ground level, but after rising a certain distance, they either become content with where they are at or  become fearful and want to stay close to what they consider to be the safety of the ground/world level. These halt their progress and are content to rise no further or sometimes retreat back to lower levels where they feel comfortable, with improved but still with partial views.


Some of the limiting fears of these kites may come from fearing that the higher spiritual heights will not only distance them from what they currently know, but that attempting to soar higher will result in a potentially more damaging fall. They may have seen other kites crash before them and instead of having faith to fly, they fear the potential fall.

Others find the spiritual courage and determination to leap heaven ward in faith! They reach for and long for higher Vistas and more glorious views and dream of leaving the world behind them to see things from loftier, heavenly perspectives and planes of reference. They focus not on those who have crashed, but rather those who have been successful in spiritual flight as their examples.


But what is it that allows this successful flight to happen?

It is the tethering string of authorized priesthood covenants, and obedience to His commandments which bind and connect them inseparably to their Master and the guiding strength and grace of His Atonement.


This tethering covenant string is what allows the gusting and changing winds of life not to blow us about, but instead lift us to higher planes. This tethering connection allows them to sense that when winds attempt or blow them temporarily sideways or downward, to correct course under the guiding hands of the Master who controls the string, use repentance to make necessary correction in their orientation and maintain or further increase their lift heavenward.


The Master kite maker holds the strings, but also employs authorized servants (prophets) to offer warnings of coming gusts of wind, or guidance to better orient ourselves so that these winds do not send us crashing downward. He has selected these servants because, although they are normal people like you and me, they have successfully learned how to fly.  The kite-Master has at least temporarily allowed these servants to hold the authorized use of these covenant priesthood strings so that we can relate to and more easily hear the general warning voice and learn the basics of flight.  They also teach us how to better avoid unwanted entanglements, and when we become entangled, how to more easily free and repair ourselves, so we can begin flying again.


The Master places these servants, who have learned to successfully fly already, down on ground level so they can guide and teach the beginners the basics of flying.  He has caused them to write down kite flying instruction manuals (the scriptures) to allow us to study the logistics of flight.

But those who truly learn to fly not only appreciate the instructions of the authorized servants, but also realize that by following their counsel they will better feel and recognize the more personal and individual tugs of the Master on their own kite strings.  They realize that there is light and truth above the fog and cares of the world, which cannot be seen from lower heights and frames of reference.


There are dangers to spiritual flight, however.  Sadly, when some who take flight begin to reach these higher planes and perspectives, they falsely assume that they can fly on their own.

They erroneously think they can control or are above the winds and lose trust in those authorized servants they feel are operating down at ground level, and they sever the covenant strings which tether them securely to the power of the Master Kite Maker.

Once they become separated from the authorized priesthood and covenant tether, they are at the mercy of the changing winds and they began to be blown about, drift away and eventually fall in uncontrolled descent to a crashing end, often without even realizing it is happening.

But the Master mercifully and constantly calls to us all, individually and personally, to leap forward with faith to come join Him in His heavenly views where He can teach us personally of His ways, which are far loftier, transcendent and more glorious than the limited perspective of the ground level.  For there is joy, peace and clarity to be found in these loftier heights and perspectives.


When we falter and experience falls, which every single one of us does, and even to those who have severed their strings and broken their kites, He is always there to offer loving repair of our broken and bruised parts. His call is and always will be, "Come out, Come Up, Come unto Me."


Brothers and Sisters, may we have the faith and courage to heed the Master's call and leap heavenward, but remain tenaciously tethered through repentance, faith and obedience to the priesthood and covenant strings which binds us to the lifting love, grace and power of the Master!

May God bless us in our flying lessons!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

MEANINGFUL MOTIVATION

MEANINGFUL MOTIVATION

I remember an event several years ago, when my wife and I were participating in a run/walk for cancer awareness to support my sister-in-law, who thankfully was among the ‘survivor’ group.  In those days I had better knees without so much mileage on them, and my work schedule allowed me to exercise regularly, and I was in pretty good shape.

My dear Sister-in-law Kami is on the far right.  Glad she is still with us!!!


During this event, while my wife and others walked along together, I wanted to run the 5K distance with some of the other participants up in the front.  As the race started, I took off at my usual pace and realized that I was nowhere near as talented of a runner as many of those around me.  But up ahead in the field of runners was a guy running with a pink Mohawk.

Now I know nothing of that man or who he was.  He was probably just a normal guy who he had cut and dyed his hair to run in honor of of someone at the event, (much like I was wearing a shirt in honor of my sister-in-law, with pink letters which said, "Kami's TATA Sisterhood").  And it was nothing personal against him or his haircut, but something clicked inside me, and I determined that no matter what levels of physical reserve it took, I was going to beat the pink Mohawk!  The hair simply became the goal or something to focus my motivation upon.

I kept him in my sites, gradually reeled in the distance between us, and then eventually passed him and sprinted through to the finish line ahead of him for at least the last quarter mile.  While my time was nothing stellar, for a bubba like me, it was my fastest time in years, at around or just under 24 minutes.

But my thoughts today don’t really have anything to do with my extremely limited abilities as a runner, but rather, WHAT MOTIVATES US IN LIFE TO DO THE THINGS WE DO?

And why is it important to examine and determine our motivations?

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)

There are countless reasons we are motivated to do different things:

FEAR can be a motivating factor at times to increase our performance levels.


This can include fear of being punished for doing something wrong.  Fear of being caught, which causes us to manipulate and cover up our tracks in a futile attempt to hide the truth.  Fear of how we will be seen by others, and the list goes on.

MONEY can be a motivating factor for some.


While money is not inherently bad in and of itself, it is what we are motivated and focus on in regards to that money which makes the difference.

Are we motivated to obtain money so that we can be self-sufficient and help take care of the needs of others?  Certainly the parable of the Good Samaritan is made more meaningful, because the caregiver not only had good intentions, but also had the means to provide relief to the man who had fallen among thieves and left by the wayside.

Or are we motivated to gain money to obtain material things and possessions which truly have no lasting value?

Or are we motivated to gain money to wield power, authority and influence over other people?


So while money is in no way a bad thing in and of itself the motivation behind why we seek it IS of importance.  For example, if the obtaining of money or wealth comes through fraudulent activity and dishonesty, and requires the sacrifice of personal integrity, then how much good can come of it?


While on the other hand, if financial success is achieved through honest, hard work and ingenuity, with a motivation to provide meaningful employment to others, provide relief to the suffering and less fortunate, or other noble ends, then vast amounts of good can come of it.

"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.  And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good - to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."  JACOB 2:18-19



NEEDING TO BE RIGHT, or at least think we are right, is another reason which motivates some people’s actions and interactions with others.  This can easily lead to anger and conflict.

Consider the following thoughts about such motivation:




Another anonymous author said, "We errantly learn to be right and make others wrong. The need to be right is the result of trying to protect the image we want to project to the outside.  We try to impose our way of thinking, not only upon others, but also upon ourselves."



NEEDING TO BE SEEN, VALIDATED OR RECOGNIZED BY OTHERS is another motivating factor for some people.

Receiving recognition for a job well done in not a bad thing, as this can often set a positive example and role models for others to emulate to improve themselves.

But if the motivation in our hearts behind why we are doing things is to receive the public accolades and honors of men, then we are missing out on the true value and eternal worth of who we are by making it dependent upon what others think of us.

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.  And why are they not chosen?  Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men." (D&C 121;34-35)

Just consider how such motivation reveals about us.  To do things only because it brings recognition from others, is like going back to grade school locker room or playground again, where our happiness is only dictated by the fickle clicks and what is deemed ‘cool’ and popular at the time.  Society can’t even stay stable in what words they use to describe such things: “cool, hot, rad, wicked, totally awesome, dope…” or whatever the new thing is at that moment, while the old is now outdated and irrelevant.

Do you really want your worth being determined by such instability?


Instead, there are not only Good reasons to be motivated and find self-worth, but also reasons which are Better and Best, when compared to others.

Sometimes we’re motivated not by fear, or for recognition, but only because we are asked to do something by others, but not because of our own volition.  While this is good or perhaps even better, it still leaves something lacking, because the motivation is coming from others and not from within ourselves – therefore we cannot truly take ownership of it.

Even a good thing, like working to provide for your family, spending time with family or even going to church, can be done for the wrong reasons if we are not careful.  Consider the following remarks by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

     “Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best.
      Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”
      In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.
      Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.
      It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown our good with brotherhood,” showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.”



What is by far the BEST motivation behind why we do things, is because WE ARE INSPIRED FROM WITHIN OUR OWN HEARTS TO ACT OUT OF LOVE AND CONCERN FOR THE WELFARE OF OTHERS!



So while this isn’t meant to be a conversation about what is right and wrong, hopefully it will at least serve to help us consider the motivation behind why we are doing what we are doing each day.  And I think it is important because the shallowness or depth of our worth and happiness will be determined by that internal motivation.

And when that motivation is not only based upon love and concern for others, but also primarily includes our love for God and our realization of our true relationship with Him, then we will have discovered the true nature and purpose of life itself!