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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Visitors from Beyond the Veil

Visitors from Beyond the Veil

After the passing of my paternal grandfather, Frank Andreasen in late February 1999, my wife and I decided to move from across town and in with my grandmother, Lauree Andreasen, along with our 3 young children, to help take care of her in her aging condition.  She had experienced several years of medical hardship and wasn’t able to take care of herself.  It was a challenge to move out of our home and into their small basement, but it was a sacrifice we felt prompted to make.  The details of that story could be shared at another time, but what I want to share in this story is what happened on the night of Feb. 8, 2000.

To preface this account, I feel that I should share that my grandparents had always been a part of my life.  In fact, my some of my earliest childhood memories are of walking with my older brother, as a toddler of 2-3 years old, from our house over to my grandparents who had and adjacent lot to ours, entering into their kitchen and being sat up on a bar stool at the kitchen counter and eating sliced apples sprinkled with salt with my grandmother.  But those were younger days which had long faded into the past.

I always felt close to them throughout the years and have many life lessons and experiences with them which shaped my life and helped me learn how to be who I am today.

On this February in 2000, after nearly a year since grandpa had passed away, her health was finally failing rather rapidly.  There were some hospice services involved, which provided some intermittent cares to help her out, but most of the daily responsibility of trying to meet her needs fell upon my angel wife (in addition to trying to care for our 3 children).  She was always tired and emotionally spent when I returned home from work each evening, so on this particular night, I decided to stay upstairs with grandma so my wife could rest.

Grandma hadn’t gotten out of bed hardly at all for the previous 2-3 days, and wasn’t eating much and barely drinking, but as she was on comfort care measures and hospice services, there were no plans to take her to the hospital, but simply let things take their course.  I could tell she wasn’t doing well on this particular evening, so I felt prompted to bring a chair in by her bedside and sit with her throughout the night.

As she lay there dosing fitfully, I sat next to her and held her hand.  She was having trouble breathing and periodically would wake up, in obvious intense discomfort and distress.  She would weakly squeeze my hand and look at me with somewhat pleading eyes, but as a health care professional who worked with elderly patients in a nursing home, I had seen these signs before and knew that there was nothing I could really do to help her as the end drew near.

As she struggled on through the night I hummed hymns to her and prayed silently, but the hours seemed to drag on forever as she struggled in the final physical throws before death would take its toll.  Despite having witnessed such end of life changes in people where I worked, this was my own grandmother, who I knew and loved for all my life, and it was heart wrenching to witness it so closely and firsthand.  I have to admit that a deep sadness descended over me.

As I was silently praying for her to find some relief from her ongoing struggles, I happened to look across the bed where she lay and noticed a picture of her mother, my great grandmother Josie Robinson Hatton.

She had passed away unexpectedly when my grandmother was just a young girl of only a few years old, and so my grandmother hadn’t even really ever known her real mother during her lifetime.  I thought of how wonderful it would be for her to finally meet her mother when she passed away.

As I gazed upon her picture, and these thoughts crossed my mind, a sudden warmth and peace filled the room.  Like a breath of fresh air and life, an unseen light began to grow and fill the dark spaces of the room.  I didn’t see an actual physical light or any personages visible with my mortal eyes, but I could feel the presence of not only her mother, but also my grandfather Frank, as well as several others.  I don’t know how I could tell it was them, but I just knew without a doubt that they were there!

In an instant the despair was gone, and a profound peace came over me and settled upon the room.  My grandmother was still struggling, but now there was suddenly a deep understanding and feeling that all was well and right.  I knew with every fiber of my being in that instant, that the relatively short amount of time my grandmother would continue to struggle was of insignificance, for as soon as she passed through the veil, she would be received into the loving arms of many of her dearest relatives.  Although she had been struggling for many days and hours, I knew that once she passed through the veil, she would never remember those struggles or be affected by such things ever again, for she would be filled with rejoicing in the great plan of happiness of our Father in Heaven.

I had always been taught and known that death was just a passage into the next phase of existence of an eternity beyond, but it was as if in this instant, I was being granted the privilege of experiencing a portion of what that would be like, even though I would still remain alive for many years to come.  The tears of sadness I had experienced only moments before were now replaced with tears of joy and happiness with the peace which flooded through me as unseen heavenly beings filled the room around us.

I sat with her throughout the night, and as the dawn arose, she was still clinging to life by a feeble thread.  The profound intensity of the “gathering” had gradually dissipated, but I knew those heavenly beings were still there, patiently waiting for God’s time table to be fulfilled for my grandmother.  Finally, I left her side as she fell asleep and prepared myself to go to work. My uncle arrived as I was leaving and I told him that I was sure she would soon be passing on, and briefly shared my experience with her.  I called my father in Idaho and informed him that if he wanted to see her again, he should come down that day, and then I left for work.

I received a phone call a few hours later that she had finally passed, but there was no sadness.  I marveled how my perspective of death had been changed with the personal understanding provided by what I had experienced.  Although her passing left a deep hole in my life, I felt happy for her, because I had been granted a brief glimpse into the joy that she was now feeling and would continue to experience throughout the rest of eternity.

She was now back with those she loved and missed, and I counted it a miracle that after 70 years of marriage, she and my grandfather would not be separated for even a single Valentine’s Day!

To all those who have gone on before us, and for those of us still left behind, and to all who may be suffering from the loss of a loved one, I feel impressed to share my witness that our loved ones are always near, and there are never any true partings or farewells, only a changing of visual perception between us, which will someday fade away when we are finally all gathered for our eternal life together in joy and happiness!  Until then, may we honor them in life with our remembrances, and may we be open to receive of their guidance until they too gather around to welcome us finally back “Home” into their loving arms once again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

God’s Sense of Humor

God’s Sense of Humor

          I believe the Lord must have a sense of Humor.  Unfortunately, we probably tend to incorrectly think of Him as being totally serious ALL the time.  But think about it for a moment – He is the Creator of ALL things.  He is Perfect and Complete.  Wouldn’t that mean that He also is full of Joy, Happiness, and even the creator of laughter?

          Now I’m not talking about boisterous, raucous laughter you might hear from a bunch of drunkards who have lost their inhibition.  I’m talking about someone who enjoys things, smiles, and yes, even laughs appropriately along the way.

          Let me share a recent experience with you to demonstrate this point.  The other day I was taking my dogs for a run.

          I was tired after a long day, so I loaded them in the back of our mini-van and drove a short ways out of town to drop them off on the side of a country road, where I then let the van idle down the road at a slow pace while the dogs run alongside or behind and enjoy themselves.

          Our two dogs have completely different personalities.  Abby is quiet and super well mannered, while Missy on the other hand, is an attention seeking diva with a tendency to whine and beg for things.

          Missy is a short, old, Bassett Hound, now approaching 13-14 years old, but is still in pretty remarkable shape for a dog that age.  Like most Basset Hounds she has way to much skin and ears big enough to fly if she had the power to flap them like wings.

          She is rather comical to look at and mixed with her personality you can’t help but either laugh at her or be a bit frustrated.

          While Abby can easily jump up into the back cargo space on her own, Missy needs help just loading up into the van.  She can get her front paws up onto the bumper, but then I have to hook my foot under her rear haunches and give her a boost the rest of the way up.  After doing so, she usually either ignores the assistance she received or wheels around or gives a look of pride as if she had made the leap to higher ground on her own.

          During the drive for the few minutes it takes to get out of town, she usually begins to whine and then quickly transforms that into an all-out hound dog bawling bark of excitement that seems as if it will blow out the windows.  She just can’t contain herself in expressing either her boredom feeling trapped in her situation or excited beyond all belief in expectation of what is coming.

          After arriving and getting dropped off to begin their run, Missy quickly begins in excitement, but within a matter of moments becomes distracted by some smell off in the weeds.  Her journey is one of starting and stopping, constant distractions and examinations of insignificant clumps of brush.  And, if she thinks she has found something noteworthy, she then immediately marks it as her own before resuming the journey down the road.

          To keep the trip from taking all day, I often have to pause, honk the horn to get her attention (if her brain hasn’t been shut off completely by what her nose is smelling) and encourage her to follow along where I am leading the way.  If I just keep going and she loses sight of the van, she just gets disheartened and stops… sits…. and waits until someone comes back eventually to find her.

          On this particular trip the other day, I was in a bit of a hurry for some reason, and I quickly found myself becoming irritated at the lagging, sagging hound dog.  After yet another pause of doggy distraction, I honked the horn to get her attention and muttered under my breath, something to the effect, “Come on you slacker, can’t you just pay attention and keep moving forward?”

          Almost immediately the clear impression came into my mind, “You are like Missy.”  This was accompanied by what I could only explained as an unseen smile.  I know that sounds funny to say, but that phrase, “You are like Missy” didn’t come with any sense of judgement or condemnation, but rather with a divine smile attached and an unheard chuckle.  It was as if in my moment of frustration with my hound dog, the Lord had a little laugh as he tried to show me how my life and actions are often like those of my floppy dog.

          I couldn’t help but smile and laugh myself at the thought and comical comparison the Lord had shared with me, and as I thought about His prompting, several humorous links became clear to my mind.

          Often, when I am struggling to reach higher spiritual ground, my feeble efforts only serve to get my front paws off the ground, while the gravity of my mortal frailties keeps me stranded at a lower level.  I guess you could say that I am spiritually gravity challenged.  It is only with a spiritual lift or kick in the pants from the Lord that I am able to make the actual ascension to any greater level of progress.  Alas, far too often, I probably then tend to pat myself on the back and act, like my hound dog, either ungrateful for the help, or thinking I have done it all on my own.  (These thoughts came with that “wink” and “nod” smile of recognition and understanding).

          Like my old hound dog, I also am probably prone to get a bit too excited at times, when something of sincere interest in on the horizon.  I may be a bit too vocal about it in my excitement and anticipation, which may be irritating to those around me during those episodes leading up to whatever it may be.  At other times I may grumble or express frustration because I feel trapped in a situation I am uncomfortable with, rather than just be grateful He is taking me on a ride to some as yet unseen destination.

          Like my wandering dog, I too, often become easily distracted from the course the Lord would want me to run. I often start spiritual things with a burst of initial excitement, but the straight and narrow path is easy to drift off of if we stop to smell and check out the subtle enticements placed by the adversary to lure us away from our progress.  Like my marking hound, I sometimes want to claim the things of this world as my own (even if in my own mind).

          When I thought about that, and how we can’t really take anything with us, it brought another smile, as the Lord showed me that such attempts to cling to the material things of this world are about as foolish as my dog peeing on a random weed and thinking that somehow she then owned it as her own. (Wink and nod with a divine smile).

          Fortunately, the Lord who drives each of our vehicles of life, lovingly and patiently honks the horn to regain our attention from time to time and calls us back onto the path of progress.  Rather than grow impatient with our faults and failures to stay focused, as I was doing that day, He cheers us on in our efforts and applauds and praises us with each further advancement we make.

          As I mentioned, these thoughts and impressions came with an unheard, but recognized heavenly laugh and smile.  And because of it, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh about it myself.  It was a very joyous and lifting form of learning and teaching.

          So what does this all mean?  I think what this taught me is that we may have a false perception of who God really is and what He is really like.  I think the adversary plants these false concepts of an unfeeling, stiff and always serious God, who is distant and difficult to please.  When in reality, He is a loving Father, who is full of happiness and constant joy.  A being who not only intimately cares about us, but also laughs at our silly foibles from time to time, and smiles with satisfaction and encouragement at our little successes – which He actually helps us to accomplish in the first place.

          If all this seems like a foreign concept to you or appears to fly in the face of your religious logic, then think of a caring parent with their little toddler child.  As that toddler is learning to walk, the steps are teetering and unsteady.  The loving parent helps them to rise to their feet and steadies them until they can begin to let go and try stepping on their own.

         The toddler’s falls and tumbles aren’t greeted with anger or condescension.  Just the opposite!  That parent cheers every unsteady step, and encourages them to try again.  And again.  And again.  Because He knows that with each practice and repetition comes experience and growth – which eventually lead to being able to walk with more confidence on their own.

          These tenuous first steps eventually progress to sure and steady strides, which later progress to running.  All these under the watchful eyes of a loving parent who waits with open arms for those running legs to carry them back into His loving parental embrace.

          I believe our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in every way, is not any different.  He is the creator of laughter and joy and EVERYTHING good, positive and uplifting!  He is quick to forgive, eager to assist and encourage us and patient with the knowledge of all things from beginning to end.  And with that perfect knowledge He also has a sense of humor about our little struggles as he sees them with the foresight of how it can and will all work together for our good in the end.

          Don’t take these thoughts the wrong way either. I not at all suggesting that our lives are a joke to Him.  It is an eternally significant journey with far lasting ramifications when the time of judgment finally arrives.  Sometimes that means He needs to be serious with us when we have made significant mistakes.  But even those moments are ruled by love and encouraging understanding and uplifting hope in us and our ability to succeed if we will but turn to Him. I also believe that those moments of seriousness are likely far outweighed by the joy, happiness and smiles of approval at our toddler-like attempts.

          Now, by suggesting this sense of humor and His loving manner of encouragement, I am not suggesting that we should be casual in our worship of Him.  Just the opposite!  Understanding and recognizing Him in His true nature, actually serves to make us love and worship Him all the more and deepens our relationship with Him!

          We are all a bit like my dog Missy in more ways than we might like to realize.  And fortunately, the Lord is willing to remind us of that with an encouraging divine wink and a nod and His perfect smile and laughter.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Unexpected Change of Course

Unexpected Change of Course

Just a week or so ago, I left work with the intent of running a quick errand across town before heading home to share dinner with my awesome wife.  But as I traveled down the road I felt would be best to quickly complete my task in the way I wanted, I came to a railroad crossing.

Now I have crossed these tracks an infinite number of times over the years I have lived in this area, and never once have I encountered a train passing through during any of the times I have passed them over.  But on this day, just as I approached, the signal lights began flashing and the rails came down.  Not only did a long train slowly pass through at its snail-like inner-city speed, but it actually came to a complete stop with the final car of the train parked right across the road in front of me.

In a short amount of time a significant amount of cars piled up on the road behind me.  Very quickly many of those drivers lost patience and whipped their cars around to find another possible route to wherever they were going.  But I felt a mixture of both stubbornness and patience (if the two emotions can exist together at the same time).  Patience in that I felt I really wasn’t in a super big hurry to get where I wanted to be, and yet a stubbornness that I wasn’t going to let the train deter me from where and how I wanted to get there.

10 minutes went by, and no movement from the train whatsoever.

I began to reason to myself, “Well, surely as soon as I turn around the train will move away and then I will feel foolish for having given up and lost patience right before the way I desired opened up before me.”  But eventually, after about 15 minutes, reason won out and I decided that perhaps someone was trying to tell me that I should go a different direction after all.

I began to ponder upon these events as I drove away, and wondered how many times unseen hands direct our paths, perhaps averting us from potential danger without our ever even knowing it.  “Am I grateful for such tender mercies beyond my comprehension or do I grow impatient because I didn’t get my way?”

I also wondered how many times I had wasted precious moments and opportunities of my life by waiting stubbornly for “my way” to come to pass.  Thinking that by just willing things to be, it would surely happen.  “In those stubborn times I try to impose my will above God’s will for me, do I miss priceless opportunities that were waiting to be claimed if I had been willing to go another path?”

Let me give a recent example of what I’m talking about:

Last week I was conducting some employee interviews with some of my co-workers.  Most of these interviews were scheduled for about 15 minutes in length to discuss some pertinent work-related issues for each employee.  But on this day, my discussion with one particular co-worker ended up being about 45 minutes in length.  The interesting thing was that the conversation ranged from not just work related issues, but also covered how basic, decent human relations mattered, and how our perspective can change our lives not only at work, but in our families and with those we love.  It was a wonderful, uplifting conversation (at least for me) and although it spilled over into both of our lunch break time, I left feeling it had been truly beneficial for both of us.

After leaving that prolonged interview, I left to run grab a quick bite to eat in the short amount of time I had left.  Now usually, during my lunch break, I drive to a quiet location not far from work, where I can have some precious moments of peace and solitude to ponder, read from a good book I always keep in my car, or something else relaxing and rejuvenating.  This personal, uninterrupted time is very sacred and important to me.

On this particular day, despite the fact that I had little lunch time left, I felt I should swing into a local gas station and grab a quick drink to take with me.  Upon entering the convenience store, I ran into a woman from my ward, who is good friends with my wife.  Her and her husband had just recently returned from out of state, where they had been consoling their children whose young son had passed away unexpectedly in the night.  It was the second grandchild lost in this small family, and the tragedy struck deeply to all those involved.

Instead of my plan to grab a quick drink and retreat off into my moments of solitude, I spent nearly 15 minutes conversing with this wonderful woman as she expressed the still raw emotions of what their family was going through.  I offered what pitiful words of comfort I could, but mostly just mourned with her, and shed tears for that brief period of time.  As we were about to part ways, she shared a simple but powerful testimony with me about the eternal nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how that gave her strength to keep going on.  I am not sure if anything I had to say affected her in any way, other than offering my heartfelt condolences at their loss, but her inner strength and testimony affected me deeply.

What I learned that day, is that sometimes we have goals in our life, or in just a simple part of a normal day.  We want to go somewhere and get something done that we think is important.  And we want to do it when and how we want it to be done.

But those railroad markers sometimes come down, and our lives are directed along a different route than what we initially desired.  Sometimes we may never know the reason why, and other times the reasons become very clear in wonderful and deeply moving ways that we are so glad we got to experience them.

That day at the train tracks allowed me to realize that I should remember to just be grateful for the journey, no matter where that road takes me.  In the end, I still got where I most wanted to go.

I got to see some different sites along a different route than I normally might have taken.

And I still made it home to share a wonderful evening with my beautiful wife.

Life is a wonderful and sometimes very unpredictable journey.  I guess one of the blessings comes in learning to be grateful for all the variety of sorrow, joy, richness and growth we experience along the way.  And that hopefully we can learn to be grateful for those unseen hands of the Almighty Crossing Guard who helps us along that path of learning which eventually leads back to Him.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


I was reminded of something today at Church while sitting in sacrament meeting and waiting for the sacrament emblems to be blessed and passed.  It is a time of both self-reflection as well as pondering about the Savior and His priceless sacrifice for me individually as well as for all of humanity.
In light of the fact that we just recently passed Easter weekend, when the stories of this time in the Savior’s life tend to be more closely examined and remembered, I thought of the side-story often overlooked in the midst of the atonement, crucifixion and resurrection miracle.  I speak of when Jesus stood on trial before Pilate.

During the time of Christ Jerusalem was under Roman rule.  In attempt to appease the religious Jewish population, it was customary at the time of the Feast of the Passover for the Roman ruler, in this case Pontius Pilate, to release a Jewish prisoner and pardon his crimes.
We all know the story of how Pilate brought forth both Jesus, a sinless in man in whom he found no fault, and a man named Barabbas who was identified as a “notable prisoner, an insurrectionist and a robber.”

Clearly the distinction between the two characters could not have been more dramatic.  On the one hand was a sinless being, who taught of love, kindness, forgiveness and charity, who went about doing good and healing the sick and lame.  On the other was a known criminal, rightly accused of his crimes and fully deserving of punishment according to the laws of justice.

But the raucous crowd, emboldened and inflamed by the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought Christ’s death because of the threat they felt he posed to their wicked way of life and control of religious power, cried out for Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate, knowing that he was innocent, eventually relented to appease the crowd, setting Barabbas free and turning Jesus over to be scourged and crucified.  We all know of the gruesome events which then followed as that justice was meted out.
But the thoughts I would like to focus upon today are in relation to the reactions of Jesus and Barabbas.
I am sure that upon realizing he would be set free, Barabbas was no doubt shocked and overjoyed.  We don’t have a record of what actually happened or what was in his heart, but I envision him probably high-tailing it out of there as fast as he could go before anyone changed their minds.
But through this whole process Christ stood silently, patiently, neither begging for relief nor trying to plead his justly innocent state.  Instead, he willingly submitted to process and voluntarily offered himself to take the punishment he did not deserve, but which Barabbas surely did.

So as I sat in church today pondering on the meaning behind the upcoming sacrament and what it represented, I came to an understanding of something…. “I AM BARABBAS”.
In fact, each and every one of us is Barabbas.  All of us have fallen short of perfection.  All of us have sins and darker sides of our nature that we may try to keep hidden at times, but which nevertheless put us on the wrong side of justice.  We are all spiritual criminals deserving of a punishment for our wrongdoings.
We may try to plead our case or justify our deeds, but the fact remains, we are all spiritually guilty to some degree or another.  We are all Barabbas, justly in spiritual prison for our crimes.
But alongside of us stands Jesus the Christ.  Sinless, perfect, flawless and completely deserving to be free from justice or punishment.  But stand there He does, patient, loving, so willing to pay the price for OUR misdeeds.
So with the recognition of this fact, that indeed we are all Barabbas, I ask the question: “What is our reaction to this situation?”
Do we take for granted this priceless offering in our behalf, and seek to run away from punishment somehow and hide among the teaming and frenzied masses of the world, hoping that perhaps we won’t have to face justice if we just blend in with the crowd and adapt to the level of those around us?
Or do we spiritually scramble in gratitude past the Pilates of the world and throw ourselves at the feet of the One who willingly offered Himself in our behalf?
This is essentially the situation we face each week as we prepare to partake of the holy sacrament.  Do we take it casually, simply trying to blend in the hopes that we don’t really have to face punishment for our sins and wrong doings?  Do we ignore the One who so willingly and lovingly paid the price so that we won’t have to, mindlessly partaking of the bread and water while our thoughts are caught up in other things?  Do we go through each day focused upon our worldly thoughts and cares… or are our hearts drawn out and knees bent in gratitude to Him?
Do we come to a realization of how truly fallen we are at any given time?  Do we recognize our brokenness and how much we deserve the punishment for our faults and sins and how desperately we need Him to pay the price of justice to restore what we can never repay?

Do we have that recognition each day of our lives?
What does Christ ask of us in return for the payment of this horrible debt which He paid in our behalf?  Nothing more than a broken(humble) heart and a contrite (repentant) spirit, as mentioned in many scriptures, but which is summed up so beautifully in Psalms 34: 18-19 “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”
Such a small price to ask in return for what He so willingly suffered and sacrificed in our behalf!
May we all do a better job at remembering that we are all Barabbas, and never take for granted what He so freely offers us in our behalf.  May we not run away in attempt to hide among the crowds and distractions of life, but instead come to His wounded feet in humble and repentant worship as He deserves.

I believe that when we do, what we find is not a life running and hiding from our fears, but a Love that is liberating, everlasting, cleansing, redeeming, uplifting and more magnificently divine and joyous than we can begin to imagine!
I am Barabbas… and so are you.  And may we always remember it!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Imagination Stagnation

Imagination Stagnation

Okay, I will admit, that with the writing of this blog, it will probably be a little indicative of my age.  But nonetheless, it is an important topic to consider across all generations – IMAGINATION (or the lack of it).

When I was a little boy, my older brother Dirk and I spent countless hours together with nothing more than a few simple toys and what seemed to be an unlimited amount of imagination.  If we had a few plastic army men or hot wheels cars and some dirt, we could play all day long in a world of make believe excitement and wonder.

It seems like most kids now days can hardly function without a TV, computer or smart phone in front of their face.

Now, before you get all upset and quit reading, please know that I am not saying that electronic devices are a bad thing, far from it!  There are countless benefits and blessings associated with such devices, and I in fact, use them quite regularly myself.  So let me clarify as we go along.

I will also admit, that when it comes to reading a book, I highly favor having an actual printed book in my hands rather than an electronic kindle or other such device.  There is something about the weight of the book in your hands and the turning of the paper pages that allows me to connect with the story so much deeper than glaring at a flickering screen.

I think that there is something lost in all of this artificially induced stimulation – Imagination.  And with that loss, I believe there are some rather unfortunate side effects as well.

Think of the difference between sitting and staring at a TV screen watching a movie vs. reading a book.  The TV images and sounds require almost nothing of the participant.  What you see and hear is what you get.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have been moved deeply and in very profound spiritual ways by many movies or programs.  But you have to admit that most of what is on your Cable or Satellite broadcast is nothing but mind numbing drivel.

For kids growing up and immersed in this type of society, the imagination is artificially produced through Apps, electronic games and videos, with little or no firing of brain synapses required.  Social interaction is also incredibly minimized to that point that even in social setting, people are sometimes hardly even aware of each other.

Now think of what happens when you give a child a book, or perhaps even do what our family did when our kids were growing up and read books together as a family.
When we read our imaginations are forced to go into overdrive as they create mental pictures, sounds, characters, places and events.

There is an emotional connection that happens in ways that just can’t be produced through electronic means for the most part.  I believe this mental imagination process also carries over into non-book thinking as well, allowing individuals to think and solve problems better on their own, without the help of Google or YouTube simply generating the information automatically for them.

I don’t have any scientific studies to back up these next thoughts, but I have often wondered if the increasing amounts of depression and anxiety might somehow be related to an increased immersion in electronic media, and far less actual social and personal interactions.  Let’s face it, your digital friendships through social media are hollow when compared to spending time with actual friends and loved ones.

Now again, don’t get me wrong, I love the tremendous access to information that is available through the internet, and I have been very highly educated through YouTube and other means as well (and have saved myself a lot of $ by learning how to do my own auto repairs, etc…).  These things have their place in the world and we are all the better for them – As long as they aren’t allowed to dominate our lives.

But let me pose a possible more serious side effect of relying solely on the digital world around us, that of SPIRITUAL DISTRACTION.

Let’s ask ourselves a few honest questions here and see how we do:

1.     What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed each morning?  (Are you getting down on your knees and saying your prayers or are you checking your social media notifications?  Are you reading and pondering your scriptures or are you reading emails and twitter posts?

2.    If you have down time during any given day, are you taking time to meditate and contemplate divine truths and improve your relationship to God? (Or are you uncomfortable with the silence of your own thoughts and therefore feel a compulsion to fill that quiet with music, shooting out texts or watching distracting videos or video games?)

3.    During the course of your average day, do you feel a compulsion to have to check your phone on a regular basis, even if you haven’t received a notification?  (Does this distraction affect your concentration on your job duties or school studies?)

4.    How about when you take your phone to Church on Sunday, so you can “use it to look up scriptures or lesson materials”?  (Do you ever feel a compulsion to click off the lesson or scriptures to check your social media accounts during Sacrament meeting or Sunday school?)  If so, can’t you almost imagine the Lord looking at you and asking, as he did His sleeping apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “What? Could you not stay with me one hour?”

5.    If you need to talk to a friend or loved one, do you prefer to call and talk to them, or simply send a text message? (is this because you feel uncomfortable with your ability to think and talk dynamically with them?)

6.    Do you find it easier to go and sit through an action movie in the theater, or to go to the temple and receive instruction in things that have eternal significance?

We could go on with such questions, but if you feel as if your day would be a disaster without being able to check you cell phone or blast music through your headphones constantly, then you might consider if you have some kind of actual addiction going on.

If you want to use those electronic devices for something useful and be addicted to something worthwhile and spiritually uplifting, how about turn off the social media accounts and try doing some genealogy for a change!

Again, all things have their place and I am not suggesting that we should eliminate them from our lives.  It also wouldn’t be a good thing to just have your face in a book all day and never have any interaction either.  We are designed to be social and spiritual beings, so finding some control and balance over these things would definitely be a good idea.

Don’t take my word for it - Consider these thoughts and quotes:

“Hearken ye to these words.  Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure up these things in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34)

“We are so plugged in to the world that it’s hard to be plugged in to God.  We have to put things aside.  God required the ancient Israelite's tabernacle (temple) to be exact.  Everything had its proper place.  And the thing is, if they built it carelessly, God would never show up!  So you wonder and say, ‘How come I don’t feel the presence of God in my life?’  Well, how much are you putting into your prayer life?” – Rabbi Jonathan Caan

So, all I am suggesting is that perhaps we could use a bit less of the artificial, electronic stimulation in our lives, and instead have a bit more spiritual imagination and connection.

Connect a bit less with the internet and let your prayers and meditation be a connection to the divine.  After all, if you really want answers without having to filter through all the garbage and biased perspectives, connect to the source of ALL KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH!

I know I’ve still got some work to do in this area.

Let’s take some time and consider what a more fulfilled life would be like with less artificial and more of what is really true.  I’m guessing we will find it a much more rewarding and meaningful existence than what we are currently experiencing.

I'll share just one more digital thought and video to conclude this discussion about limiting such things.  You can then share it with someone you think might benefit... then put that stuff aside for awhile and... Just Imagine!