Friday, August 3, 2012

Living Revelators

A friend of mine on facebook shared a post about Chick-fil-A and asked how a group of people could hate another group (when did the definition of "hate" change, by the way?).  Someone responded with "Leviticus 18:22."

Not the best response, I agree.  Because it didn't speak to the concern of the post (about "hating" a group of people).

So someone else responded "if you believe in Leviticus you also believe in Leviticus 20:13?"

It's a legitimate question.  How does someone who believes in the Bible respond?

An understanding of the law of Moses is a good start...but it's not enough.  A belief in the Holy Bible alone is also insufficient.  A belief that God no longer speaks to man places a well-intentioned Christian in a difficult position when trying to argue the relevance of biblical values in today's world.  Why would a loving Father in Heaven, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, speak to one group of people in one part of the world for thousands of years...and then go silent?

If you had/have children, would you be an active part of their lives until the age of 15 and then simply abandon them?  Never to visit them or interact with them again until they were 72?

I testify that God lives; that Christ was literally resurrected on the third day and is alive today.  And that His Gospel is still actively practiced in His Restored and Living Church.

He speaks to men and women today just as he did for thousands of years.  He speaks to His children as a whole through a living prophet - Thomas S. Monson.  And He speaks to us individually as we seek Him through scripture study, prayer, and meditation.

Why do I believe the principle taught in Leviticus 18:22 but no longer abide by the law given in Leviticus 20:13?  Because of living revelation.  The Doctrine of Christ is eternal and the same yesterday, today, and forever.  But the world we live in today is very different than the world that existed 4,000 years ago.  It's different than the world that existed 500 years ago.  It's different that the world that existed 12 years ago.

The philosophies of man have no foundation absent the inspiration of the Spirit.  Living revelation through prophets, scriptures, prayer, and meditation have kept me spiritually safe during my 34 years on this earth and have provided guidance and direction in a world that argues there is no evil and there is no God.

Confusion, inequality, and judgment abounds in the world we live in today.  The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.  Light and truth forsake that evil one. (Doctrine & Covenants 93:36-37)

Those who seek truth will find God.  Those who find God will be filled with love.  For God is love. (1 John 4:8)  And all of the serious issues of our day could be handled better...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I talked to Jesús

I recently had a conversation with Jesús.  And he's from Guatemala.

Several weeks ago, I was sitting in a room at work preparing for a meeting when I unconsciously twisted my wedding ring around my finger with my other hand...only to feel no wedding ring.  I gasped and a couple of my co-workers immediately dropped to the floor searching for my ring.  It was no where to be found.  I retraced my day in my mind and felt certain that I had lost my ring in a particular bathroom after washing my hands.

Although I've plateaued for some time now, I lost 45 pounds over the past year.  (I have 20 more to go and am having trouble losing I'm open to any suggestions.)  With that weight loss also came a shrinking of my fingers.  And recently, I had noticed while drying my hands with a paper towel, I would pull the ring right off.  Once I had caught it after I had thrown it into the trash.  It seems that this time, I had not even noticed.

So I rushed down to the bathroom and began searching through the trash.  I know...gross.  But this was my wedding ring.  While rummaging through the trash, someone mentioned to me that the janitor crew had emptied the trash several hours ago.  So I called our administrative services to confirm when trash is emptied.  I had been in the bathroom around 12:30.  The trash was removed at 1PM.

I was given Andy's information as a contact for the trash collection.  I called him and he laughed when I told him what I thought had happened.  Andy said there's no way I'd find it.  I told him I had to at least try and he met me 5 minutes later.  Below the complex where I work, I jumped on his cart and we drove through some tunnels to find the group of janitors so he could specifically identify where the trash from that bathroom might be.  There were nine buildings and who really tracks if trash from building x goes to trash room y?!?  Fortunately, the janitor who emptied that particular bathroom knew where he put it.  

The trash room of building J.

So Andy drove me over to that area, opened the trash room door, explained what kind of bags I could eliminate and which ones I should focus on.  He handed me some rubber gloves and said good luck.

Good luck.  This was a trash room that collected all the garbage from 3 buildings, each 4 stories high with a basement.  There were a lot of trash bags.  But I was determined to search each one.  After all, this was my wedding ring.

The smells were extremely unpleasant.  Liquids seeped out of many of the bags.  And I was overwhelmed.  Then a young man walked through the door.  He had been asked to help me until he left for the day.

I said a prayer that we would find the ring.  Did I mention this was my wedding ring?  Of all the prayers Heavenly Father would answer concerning a lost item, surely a wedding ring was at the top of the list.  I knew Heavenly Father knew where my ring was.  And I knew He could help me find it among the many trash bags piled to the ceiling.

I prayed several times.  I mentioned to Heavenly Father how diligent I was I was willing to go through all the smelly, disgusting trash in order to prove my dedication.  Prayers are answered through action...and I was acting.  I was willing to put forth an honest effort.  And there was a young man here helping me.  Surely he deserved the satisfaction of finding my wedding ring?  Faith would be strengthened.  A miracle would be witnessed and shared with the entire janitor crew.

But no ring.  We searched every single bag.  Took out every item from each bag and put it back into the bag.  It was never found.

But I got to talk to Jesús.  He was the young man who came to help.  He wasn't paid anything extra to go through this trash with me.  But he helped me with a smile on his face.  And we had a good chat.  Since then, I see Jesús more often in the hallways.  I hadn't noticed him before.  But now that we've met, we see each other often.  We talk about his family in Guatemala.  We talk about my family here and my experiences in Venezuela.  It's interesting how, now that we've been connected, we run into each other...supposedly having passed each other unaware countless times previously.

It's interesting how prayers are answered.  The ring is lost...but I found Jesús (or perhaps it is better stated that Jesús found me).  And I'm grateful for the experience and lesson learned.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Book of Mormon

No catchy title.  It speaks for itself.

This book is powerful in so many ways.  Not only is it a powerful witness of Christ, it was written specifically for our day.  Christianity would not be what it is today without the Bible, and I love that book dearly.  It has played a critical role for centuries and continues to be a special witness of Christ.

But the Book of Mormon...

Someone in Sunday School really put the lesson and our study of the Book of Mormon this year into perspective for me.  She commented that the Book of Mormon is evidence that Heavenly Father knows us, loves us and speaks to us a way that nothing else does.

The teacher shared her personal testimony of how she came to know that the book is true.  Until that point, it was a rather dull lesson.  She cautioned at the very beginning not to be complacent with this year's topic simply because we are all so familiar with the book.  And, while I agreed, I was concerned that our discussion was the "same old" discussion every introductory class has about the Book of Mormon.

But then...

She shared her personal testimony of her witness.  And the class participation could not have been stronger.  One by one, several members of the class shared their witness...their personal story of how they came to know the book to be true.  And the Spirit began instructing all of us.  

And that's the miracle of the book.  There is a promise given that if we read it and pray to know of its divinity, the Holy Spirit will testify to us.  Heavenly Father knows us better than any mortal on earth.  And He knows how to speak to us.  He answers our prayers through other holy writ, or through a friend, or through a close family member, or through an experience, or through a thought, or through a combination of any of the above.  The point being that He knows how to speak to us in a way that we can clearly and unmistakably recognize.  When those experiences!  And the Book of Mormon is one way...sometimes the first way...that we open ourselves up to have a very personal experience with our Father.

The Book of Mormon was written for our day.  It is a powerful witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It emphasizes the importance of family and personal revelation.  And we will grow closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, as we prayerfully read and ponder its teachings.

I love this book.  I know it is true.  And I invite you to read it for the first time, dust it off from the shelf and read it again, or renew your dedication to read it daily.  It will change your life for the better.

Friday, November 11, 2011


What a month!  I interviewed October 3...was offered a position on October 14...traveled to Las Vegas late October with my wife for the CPCU conferment...and went house-hunting in Illinois with my wife this past week.  Our closing is set.  Our home is being shown tomorrow and we're praying for the best.

Just over a month ago, life was normal.  Everyone was in a set routine.  Now, it's everything but normal.  There has not been a routine in weeks.

And we couldn't be more happy.

My wife and I are quite the house-hunting team.  We began by randomly looking online separately.  Then we talked about it to narrow our focus.  We determined a price range.  We determined needs vs. wants.  And then we identified about a dozen homes and sent them to our realtor to prepare for the trip.

We each had our #1 home picked out.  Karen's (sad to say) was a complete flop as soon as we drove up the driveway.  My #1 lasted 36 hours longer...but was off our list by the end of day 2.

The home we chose was one that we walked through the first day.  But we didn't know it would be "the one."

We walked through over 30 homes in two days.  They blurred together.  We narrowed them down to 4 by Saturday night...and down to 2 by the time we went to bed.  And then we took a break on Sunday.

Before the trip, I was feeling anxious.  And it was more than the typical anxiety one might feel prior to a house-hunting trip.  It seemed to me that this would be a big deal.  Not sure why...still don't know why.  But choosing this particular home was going to be important.

My wife and I had settled on two homes by the time we went to bed Saturday night.  They were both "perfect" and we had no idea how we would settle the task before us.  It was Fast Sunday (and I was so glad it was).  An obvious part of our fast was to pray over the choice of homes.

Sunday morning, we attended the Normal Ward at 9AM (it's the only normal ward in the church).  After Sacrament meeting, we decided to drive past the two homes.  After we had driven past both, my mom called and told me she and my dad were on their way up for a surprise visit.  And it was such a welcomed visit!

We attended the Bloomington Ward at 1PM.  The spirit was incredibly strong during the testimonies.  One woman in particular...a convert of barely a year and just sealed in the temple to a good friend of mine was prompted to stand up after a moving testimony by another brother.  The topic of families and the sealing power of the priesthood was shared.  It was moving.  And then my friend's daughter bore her sweet and sincere testimony.  It was powerful.  Everyone was edified and lifted and taught by the Spirit.

This was the ward I wanted to be in.  But we weren't going to let the ward boundaries determine the house we chose.  Boundaries change.  Families move in and out.  And that was that.

My wife and I talked about all the pros and my her anyone who would listen.  The con of one was the pro of the other and vice versa.

Oh, and the result of our fast - both choices were good.  We would be happy in either one.  The Lord wasn't going to tell us which one...He wanted us to choose.  That was the answer both my wife and I received.  Separately and independently.  But we both received the same answer.

We drove past both homes again.  And that night we were no closer to a decision than we were the day before.

So as we woke up Monday morning, a decision was made and we agreed that we would make an offer on Garlington (that's the name of the street one of the homes was on).  It had a "wow" factor and met all of our "needs" category minus a couple of "wants."  We would walk through both one more time...but afterwards we would make an offer on Garlington.

After walking through both (and enjoying homemade blueberry muffins at Garlington), we were no closer to a decision than we were when we arrived four days previously.  We asked our agent if she would mind if we took a break for lunch so we could discuss our options yet again and then come back to her that afternoon to work up an offer.

Again, the answer both my wife and I received was that either home was good.  And that we would have to make the decision.

We went to a local pizza parlor and enjoyed some lunch.  We talked.  We kept an open mind.  And during our conversation it became more and more clear that we should make an offer on the other home...for sound reasons even though our hearts were wanting the other home.  And like a flood of knowledge pouring over me, I wanted to cry for joy.  It was the right decision.  And there was no doubt.  It wasn't an easy decision.  We worked extremely hard for the solution.  But in the end, it was clear that we had just made the right decision.  It was as if light had illuminated all the reasons we should choose this house.  And all of the things our hearts wanted in the Garlington house began to melt away and became less and less significant.
Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9 reads:
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought...

It was an amazing experience for both of us.  There may be no significant reason we chose the house we did other than to have the experience we had in going through the process.  But it will stay with me for a long time (and even longer now that I have recorded the experience).

My wife mentioned that this may have been a crossroad for us.  And I believe she's right.  We could have chosen the other home...and our life may have taken a completely different path.  But we chose this home.  And the Spirit has confirmed this decision.

The Lord is mindful of us.  And I am truly grateful for all that a loving Heavenly Father does for each of his children.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We All Yearn For More

I believe there is a drive in all of us that yearns for more - we want to do more, see more, feel more, etc.  For me, that is yet another evidence of our eternal nature.  Our intelligence has always been...and it will always be.  What's even better, is that it's not only our intelligence now, but our spiritual and physical bodies that we get to keep for all eternity.  What an incredible gift!

During our Gospel Doctrine discussion yesterday, "the next greatest thing" was brought up.  You know, the next greatest smart phone or movie or car or invention or innovative idea in the workplace - "the next greatest thing."  We're all curious about it.  When you break it down, that's what consumes a lot of our conversations.  On Mars' Hill we read, "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."  Acts 17:21

It's an insatiable hunger for humans of all ages to know more than we currently do.  And when our energy pushes or pulls us in the wrong direction, we humans fill in the blanks erroneously, as they did on Mars' Hill.  For example, if we want to feel more, we may become dramatically emotional (i.e.: watch any reality TV show episode) or we may become subject to physical or emotional addictions.  On the other hand, we could learn to feel more by growing closer to the Spirit. 

This yearning for more can lead us one direction or another.  And there's not always a clear demarcation between the "healthy" more and "self-destructive" more.

I recently changed my habits to be more physically and spiritually fit.  And I'm happy that I made those changes.  I'm reading the scriptures daily and praying often.  I more appropriately view food as fuel for my body and exercise regularly.  Spiritually, I feel more confident.  Physically, I've lost over 30 pounds.  But I still yearn for more.  There's something missing and I can't put my finger on it. 

I've resigned to the fact that my choice of employment will never really satisfy the hunger that is within.  In the eternities, what I do to bring home a paycheck and support my family will be inconsequential.  The fact that I am supporting my family, however, will be anything but inconsequential.  I'm surprised at how often I find myself thinking how insignificant and meaningless these business conversations are when one considers the eternal nature of our existence.  It almost makes me ashamed for not being engaged in more "worthy" conversations.       

So how do I scratch this current itch?  Do I read more (I read nothing but the scriptures currently)?  Do I find a more meaningful job?  Do I serve more?  Do I learn how to meditate more effectively?  I want to do more.  But what does that "more" look like?  Is it just more of the good things I'm doing and less of the bad?  Maybe the "more" I'm looking for is a refining process...  (This is me thinking out loud, so I'll excuse myself now.)  < grin >

Saturday, June 18, 2011

10 Miles Around the Lake

We live in a community with a 350-acre lake. And we live on the main road that circles around the lake. If you pull out of our driveway and remain on the same road, you will eventually circle back to our home - 10 miles later (follow the blue line).

After completing a huge milestone in my professional career 6 weeks ago, I made the resolution to create a more healthy lifestyle for me. That meant altering my diet (which I have actually thoroughly enjoyed) and being more active. One of my goals was to walk/jog the 10 miles around the lake on July 4.  I've been doing 4-6 miles the past few weeks. The beauty of going 3 miles one way is that you have to go another 3 miles to get back home.  It would be too easy for me to quit if I were on a treadmill.

This Saturday I was going to do increase my distance to 8 miles. But in my mind, if I'm already going 4 miles one way...and the half-way point is 5 miles...why not just keep going straight rather than turn around?  (Plus, the hills during the first 2 miles are KILLER and I really didn't want to do them again.)

So I put this on (which was absolutely perfect, by the way):

And I placed my MP3 player in the pocket as well as my cell phone (to track my time...and also call Karen if I couldn't pull it off) and set off at 7AM this morning.

Two hours and 13 minutes later I staggered up the driveway.  It was crazy...SO not fun...and I don't think I'll ever do it again!  Now, I did enjoy the scenery.  I did enjoy the feeling of accomplishing a difficult task.  But long distance is just not for me.

I felt light-headed, knew I would faint at any moment, and was queasy. I circled around the interior of our home several times, ate an apple and a cheese stick, and drank some Gatorade and lots of water. I stretched and did some jumping jacks and felt really good within 30 minutes.  But why people do this for "fun" I'll never know.  I had a goal...reached the goal...and will move on.

4-6 miles a day is perfect for me.  It's an ideal workout for me and I enjoy that distance.

But, I did learn something doing the 10 miles this morning.  What happened to me afterwards caused me to reflect on my spiritual health the past few years.

For years, I have served and given without replenishing my own oil.  That was especially evident while I was serving in the bishopric.  I read the scriptures because I was preparing a talk, or a lesson, or a spiritual thought.  But I didn't study them for myself.  I prayed all the time (quite literally)...but it wasn't until recently that I began having regular personal prayers again.  It was as if I was using all of my reserves...draining my spiritual strength and never restoring what I was happy to provide for others.

When I got back from the 10-mile expedition, I did more stretching than I had done before I left. I consumed a ton of carbs and a little protein because I knew my body needed that to restore its strength.

My spiritual life over the past several years could be compared to me jogging 10 miles without doing the stretching afterwards and not eating what my physical body so desperately needed when I returned.  The Gatorade I drank during my jog could be compared to the blessings received when providing service to others.  Those blessings sustained me and kept me going to finish the assignment.  But those blessings don't replenish the "nutrients" expended over time.

Daily personal scripture study, multiple personal daily prayers, and renewing our covenants at church and at the temple are the "nutrients" and "stretching" our spirits need on a regular basis.  But it's so easy to neglect the scriptures and prayer...for me, at least.

Before serving in any capacity, we certainly need to "stretch" adequately to perform the task.  That stretching may be physical preparation, prayerful preparation, studying multiple scripture references and various manuals, etc.  But I believe the "stretching" we do afterward is more important.  We cannot continuously and effectively serve others without nourishing our own spirits.  We may for a season.  But it's not possible long-term.

The continuous "stretching" afterwards replenishes our spirits and conditions us to do even more for the Lord in the future.  Part of my resolution to a more healthy lifestyle is to ensure that the oil in my lamp is always full.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Is It Greater to Give or Receive?

Those who know me well know how prideful I can be. And if you think it's bad, you have no idea how bad it gets in my head. :) At least I have the self-awareness to admit it. And I know it's something I need to continually work on.

I'm a perfectionist, too. And that can get in the way of being led by the Spirit. It can get in the way of repenting. It can get in the way of understanding a lot about the Gospel. But the perfectionist in me also deep-dives into an idea and concept until I more fully understand it. That's what prompted this posting.

Following the Last Supper of the Savior with the Twelve, we read in John 13 that Jesus "riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded."

"Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith unto him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean..."

The Savior goes on to teach the importance of service. And during our Sunday school lesson today, the teacher asked me to comment on a section of scriptures we had read. The perfectionist in me did not like my poorly constructed response. That's one reason I'm grateful for blogs. I rarely think quickly on my feet. So this is what I wanted to say:

Humility goes two ways.

Serving others is a commandment. Serve as we have seen Christ serve. Love as we have seen the Savior love. Take care of the needy. Visit the sick. Pray for those who hate you. The list goes on and on. Serving others requires a certain level of humility. Ironically, the selfish part of me enjoys giving service. It feels good. I hope it washes away a few of my many sins. Regardless of what the desired outcome may be, giving service is a commandment.

Receiving service, although not a commandment, is equally critical for our eternal salvation. It can't be a commandment because that would deny our agency. God can't say, "Accept me as your God." He can't say, "Be grateful for everything I have done for you." He can't say, "You must let me do this for you." Receiving service may require even more humility than giving service. Because it's something for which we cannot do for ourselves. And we have to accept that. And not let our pride get in the way.

The King of Kings washed the feet of the Twelve - those who were closest to him in this mortal life...even though he knew one of them would soon betray him. It was an act of deepest humility. And it represented the Atonement which He would soon complete.

The Atonement is an act for which we cannot do ourselves. And it is complete and sufficient. Our greatest challenge is to accept that receive it. We cannot set the conditions; we cannot alter the gift. And in order to do that, we must humble ourselves. With more humility than I have ever imagined. And a level of humility I have yet to achieve.

Perhaps that is why giving service is so's a stepping stone to receiving service.