Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crossroads Weather: Foggy with a chance of confusion

It’s clear. I understand now. Over the course of a lifetime, people are just not fully aware of their circumstances. They don’t know what they are doing. It’s a groping in the dark thing. I came to this understanding this morning. It’s not something to take lightly, though we are all certainly blessed for our efforts. Imagine how worse off we’d be if we weren’t blessed. Every decision we make for the most part of our lives is based in near complete ignorance. Still, we plow through and do what needs to be done.Everyone operates under mostly the same situation. We wake up every morning. We go through the day, eating our meals, doing those things that need to be done, and finish by climbing into bed with a prayer that our next effort will be done well. Then, the following morning we do it all again. The things we do are support of any decisions we made some time prior. Some choices seem to be made on the spot without any effort while others are more dramatic and can’t be so casual. Even though it may seem that the most unimportant decision is made on the spur of the moment, it’s not. We’ve prepared for that decision. Those more important decisions? Well, we’re never quite ready to make them. When we think we’ve got all the information, we don’t. Still, we do the best we can.So, our life – it’s merely one decision after another. We act or don’t. We eat or don’t. We sleep or don’t. It’s what we do or don’t. The younger we are, the less we are concerned with the research. Still, the older we get, some of the seemingly less important decisions get too little attention. Life doesn’t change much; just circumstance and perspective transform to fit the individual. Rash isn’t quite the right description, since that suggests a little less respect for the process. Unfortunately, we aren’t capable of anything else. Sure, some people are a little less affected by this malady but everyone is stuck with it to one degree or another.

As a young child, the decision process is simpler but the way we make those decisions doesn’t change a lot. Should a child decide to place a forefinger into an outlet, the shocking experience is enough to generally dissuade further experimentation. The choice to not place the finger into that hole in the wall doesn’t require a full understanding of electricity – only just enough to know it isn’t comfortable to do so. Down the road, as we age the choices are a little more complex. Regardless, we don’t have all the information before a decision needs to be made.

Choices and decisions and the consequences that follow leave us to make more choices and decisions. Sometimes, a little coaxing is necessary. Most people have parents who gladly help with this process. Those who do not, struggle a little more but they still have to make it through the process. Teachers, pastors, bishops, policemen, firemen; mentors all. People learn as they make their way through life.

I’m interested in how we seem to judge another person for the decisions they make. Even if we don’t want to admit it, we all do it. It’s clear if you just listen to 80% of all the informal conversations people have. They’re talking about people and the circumstances of their lives. A cursory look at the programs on TV suggests we’re not interested in much anything else. Reality TV, News and programs that center on the gossip of Hollywood takes up the majority of what is available. There must be something of a voyeuristic high when we watch Jerry Springer and those who choose to expose their lives on his show. Why else would that kind of show be so popular?

We see that man at the freeway off-ramp with his sign. We either give him money or try to ignore him. Either way, we make a judgment about the choices he’s made. Why else would he be standing at the freeway off-ramp? Certainly, no one wakes up one bright spring morning and decides it’s time to go get a crudely drawn cardboard sign announcing one’s desire to work for food. That choice doesn’t just come out of the blue. Does it?

So, when we make our choices, are we thinking about the long term affects the choice might make? I’d have to suggest, no. Well, not clearly. We look at the near term and some short term affects. For most choices, though, it is about the here and now. Motivations are clearly based on what is best for me now. Seldom does a long term view enter into our decision making. I’d suggest that the long-term approach to decision making happens at the most once a year during open enrollment. Life insurance. What level should I choose? 401k. How much a month should I put into that? IRA’s and CD’s. Same as 401k. You don’t think about these things all the time. Well, most don’t.

So, at eight years of age, I chose to be baptized. Did I really know enough to make that decision? I don’t regret the decision at all. But, I clearly did not have a large enough perspective to make that decision with a full understanding of the consequences.

When I was 19, I chose to serve my church and my Lord on a mission in a foreign land. The experiences I had while I served were priceless. I learned innumerable things. I grew significantly. Still, did I have enough foresight to know that was the best course to follow? I have never regretted the decision to go, even with all the struggles I had while serving. These struggles started during the first weeks and did not cease until after I returned home. I could never have prepared for those things I would encounter and have to work out without the benefit of parental guidance or any support from anyone I knew before getting out to serve. It was all because I chose to jump onto this effort with full commitment.

When I was 23 years old, I asked my dearest wife to marry me. I hadn’t finished school but I thought it would be a good thing to be married anyway. I didn’t complete the course work at that time because my duty to my family was far greater than my need to be educated. That decision certainly was not about long-term benefit and spoke specifically to the needs of the moment.

I’m certain there are hundreds of decisions I’ve made in the past 40+ years that could be detailed in like manner. The point is, it’s not normal for a person to understand the full picture when the decision needs to be made. Decisions and choices are made without that understanding and affect us weeks and years later. We’ll struggle with the consequences of a decision without ever really knowing what the real basis for the problem actually is, working to find a resolution to fix the “now”. We’ll probably negatively affect the future again and again.

I wonder how best to beat this cycle.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I Am the Christmas Spirit

I enter the home of poverty,
causing pale-faced children to open their
eyes wide in pleased wonder.

I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax,
and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.

I cause the aged to renew their youth
and to laugh in the glad old way.

I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood,
and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.

I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways
with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts
amazed at the goodness of the world.

I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild,
wasteful way, and send to anxious loved ones some little token
that releases glad tears - tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.

I enter dark prison cells,
reminding scarred manhood of what might have been,
and pointing forward to good days yet to come.

I come softly into the still, white home of pain,
and lips that are too weak to speak
just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.

In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God
and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.

I am the Christmas Spirit.
~ Anonymous

Friday, December 18, 2009

Failure to Find Cheese

Failure, utter and complete, has been the incredible picture my life has painted over the course of the past few years. You’d think I was saying this to garner sympathy or at the very least comment. I’m not. It is just a little realization that came to me in my sleep. And, like my Grandmother used to say, “I’m not complaining, just explaining.”

A few years ago, I owned my house and had a pretty decent job. The family was pretty happy living out in the Midwest. Things were good. I enjoy shoveling snow during the winter and mowing the lawn during the summer. I enjoy the extreme cold and wet heat but nothing beats the wonderful spring and fall days of pure comfort, breathing in some of the cleanest air to be found. Life was grand. I guess I took it for granted.

Have you ever read the book Who Moved My Cheese? Well, my cheese has been totally decimated, leaving me with nothing nearly as comfortable as what I had back then. In an attempt to gain some grasp on that wonderful pile of cheese, I moved first to Chicago then to Los Angeles. It seemed for a season I had what I sought. The cheese supply has not been enough, though. I need to find another source of that commodity.

It’s nearing a year since I last worked at a normal job. My prospects are almost all dried up dust in the perpetually blowing wind. I’ve wandered through this maze of life, having no luck with a new source of cheese.

My wife suggests I need to embrace what life has offered. I don’t like it. Although I used to consider myself a cheese lover, it seems my taste for cheese is quite limited. I’ve got to figure how to force my cheese-desires to expand. The question is how.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Xmas instead of Christmas?

I’ve heard people complain about the replacement of Christ with X in Christmas. There are many who misunderstand the origins of this practice, thinking it is an attempt to remove Christ from the center of the holiday. Of course, many seem to think the holiday itself was from its inception centered around Christ but that’s another story all-together.

I wonder how many people remember the historical account of the Emperor Constantine and how he decided to embrace Christianity. It goes something along the lines of this. You see the Emperor had this vision of sorts. It was probably not unlike anything many others have had but we tend to shy away from calling these things visions for fear of seeming insane. I wonder how many of the Emperor’s contemporaries thought he had lost a couple of those bricks making his load a bit incomplete. In any case, in this vision Mr. Constantine saw the Greek letters Chi and Rho intertwined.

The Greek Chi is written a bit like we write X whereas the Greek letter Rho looks like our P. Chi and Rho are the first two letters of the Greek word Christ, which means savior. XP is sometimes used to stand for Christ. Sometimes, X is used alone to mean Christ. This is the case where Chi replaces Christ in Christmas.

We English speakers and readers see X and don’t associate that with Chi. We read X-mas and have problems seeing the connection with Christ. Some Christians then mistakenly believe it is an effort to secularize the holiday.

Happy Xmas everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lost in the Depths of Worship

As the he entered the chapel, the young boy remembered that he didn’t have his arms crossed and quickly folded them. The hustle that prevailed over the need to get to church on time seemed to give way to a higher, more sacred quiet. This was not a place to play. The importance of this large room seemed to create an incredible weight that pressed down on him from all directions. There was no place in the world where the boy felt smaller. Without any of the comforts afforded by upholstery, the pews were hard, slick benches that seemed to tower over the boy. Rows of these benches led up to the pulpit, which was made from the same blonde-stained hardwood. From the boy’s perspective the ceiling was a mile high from which hung very large chandeliers that lit the room well. The boy felt guilty when he would think how fun it might be to climb the rock on the walls. The organ pipes hanging from the wall behind the pulpit made a design that seemed to the boy a face starring down at him. He’d close his eyes tightly, trying to avoid that glare. Every time he looked up, it was still there.

This was a solemn place. A place for worship. A place to be quiet. Young boys didn’t know what worship was anymore than they knew why the sky was blue. It just was quiet, a very heavy quiet. Always there was a man – sometimes a woman – who would stand at the microphone and talk about things the boy didn’t understand. These were interminable moments. Trying hard to listen, it mostly didn’t make sense. The boy liked to hear about Jesus – it seemed to comfort him. He’d sometimes hear stories about the man who built his house on the rock and the other guy who built his on the sand. He enjoyed hearing that. He liked to hear about when Jesus helped a man see or walk. He really liked to hear the story about the man who needed help but the only help came from a stranger. But most of the time, the grown-ups would talk about something that just didn’t make sense to his young ears.

The boy did understand the music, though. This young boy liked the singing part. That was the only time when he could raise his voice and push back at that heaviness he always felt here. Some of the hymns weren’t loud enough; that bothered him a little. The hymns didn’t all provide an equal measure of relief. Some brought a greater reprieve while others were simply a break in the talking. Although the Choir might sing sometimes, those times weren’t as fulfilling when the boy could sing with the congregation. That was his time.

It was hard to sit quietly, being still. Sometimes, the boy couldn’t stand it any longer. He would get fidgety – just a little – drawing Dad’s attention. A stern look told the boy to straighten up, stop moving and be quiet. The boy knew that was a warning he must heed. He hated to hear the admonition from his Sunday School teacher to “be reverent”. What does a four-year-old know of reverence? When they taught about reverence, most of what the teachers might say was hardly understandable to his young mind. He only knew quiet and nice. So, he would do his best to be nice and quiet.

The pressure in this solemn place was terribly heavy on the boy. Once, he forgot to pick up his little book when they left after the meeting was over. After realizing what he had done, he asked Mom to go back to get it. Mom was busy and told the boy he could go get it and then they would go home. He had to go in there alone. With no one else in the room, the silence seemed to hang even heavier. The boy didn’t know what fear was. Well, not until he had to go into the chapel alone. Mom and Dad always chose to sit toward the front of the chapel, which made the trip from the back doors a very long, difficult journey into this profoundly quiet, hallowed room. Once he picked the book up, his legs made to run out of the room but he knew he was to never run in the church. He held back, walking as calmly as he knew how. Still keeping his arms folded in front of his chest, he held the book with one hand under his arm. His pace picked up and by the time he was nearing half way back he was almost running – he never ran, though. That would be wrong.

*** *** ***

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Date With The Vampires

I walked into the room, which wasn’t dark at all. You’d think the vampires would be skittish about sunlight and such. You see this in the movies all the time. Where else are you going to learn about vampire lore beside the movies? Of course, there’s always Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. That’s more about a single vampire and could hardly be considered a complete definitive work as it is focused on a single Romanian vampire. So, we turn to the movies. Oh, and the internet because the internet is always so full of truth. There we find that a vampire is thus confined to the world of the night and must refrain from even entering sunlight. Just a side note: the best vampire movie out there is Vampires, starring James Woods, although it is less a horror flick and more a western gone terribly bad.

Anyway, I walk into the room full of vampires and their prey ready to do my part. It’s a vile scene indeed. On one side of the room are interview rooms; the other has a table full of snacks. I’m sure the vampires realize how difficult it would be to lure willing participants without the benefit of food. Besides, after losing a pint of blood, some people are a little woozy and need a bit of a pick-me-up before they go back to the bustle and hustle of life. The center of the room has a few beds organized so a single vampire can multi-task, focusing on two donors at a time. This is all about efficiency. People aren’t going to wait around all day just to give some stranger their blood.

Today, I notice some newer devices. Apheresis machines. I’ve been hooked up to one of these before. The process then was for platelets, which took about 2 hours. The vampires that day were thrilled to get just a portion of my blood rather than the normal whole blood.

I was invited into the interview room. No, this was not your typical Interview with a Vampire – Tom Cruise was not in attendance. I guess the world has come to a point where even the vampires are a bit picky about from whom they choose to draw blood. The movies seem to make you think just any warm body will do. Here, however, they’ll take a sample of your blood, your temperature and blood pressure then ask a lot of questions about where you’ve been and with whom you visited those places. A lot of personal questions, too. In previous interviews, there was an interviewer asking the questions. Anymore, they set you up on a computer and have you take the interview. It’s not unlike those Facebook quizzes the kids are all doing these days. Of course, the questions and the resulting conclusion have a little more correlation than those online quizzes.

I guess I passed the quiz because the interviewing vampire asked if I had ever done the apheresis machine. I told her that my experience was limited to platelets. She explained that the purpose would be to draw out red blood cells but like my previous experience the rest of the blood would be returned to my body. Of course, they’d take twice the red blood cells than they would have if they were to take a pint of whole blood. I accept the offer. You’d think the hypnotic ability of the vampires would be a little more devious. Here I am willingly giving up my vitality. You can only give whole blood once every eight weeks. Doing it this way that period is extended by double to sixteen weeks. They can’t take more because it takes that long for your body to replenish what they’ve taken.

Anyway, the machines were busy with other victims, er, donors. So, the vampire suggested I move directly to the snack table to wait for my turn. Whoa, cookies! The point wasn’t about fattening me up, was it?

When my turn came, I was ushered to an empty couch where I lied down. Another interview, though shorter, began. These vampires were all about education, it seems. After declining the opportunity to ask any more questions, the bloodletting began. Just in case there was to be blood splatter, the vampire grabbed a face shield. Blood splatter? Well, I guess the movies can’t all be wrong, can they? To my great relief, there wasn’t any blood splatter at all. I’m sure there were some who would have enjoyed the spectacle but I’m a little squeamish about my blood splattering anywhere.

The machine started drawing out my blood. There wasn’t any pain, I could hardly tell much was going on at all. When the red blood cells were removed from the blood, it was returned to me. That’s when I could feel something but not at the needle site. My lips started tingling a little. The vampire probably thought this was happening so she asked about it. A strange sensation, I didn’t know what to make of it. But as the machine started drawing out whole blood again, the sensation went away. The process repeated itself four times. Then, I was done. More Snacks! I got a T-Shirt for my efforts too.

Anyway, the vampires aren’t taking the blood for themselves. That’s another movie myth. The story here is that the blood is used to help others who need the blood for some reason. Accidents, surgeries and other ailments will sometimes leave people in a place where their bodies need the blood. An act of service unlike most other opportunities, the chance to donate blood is probably one of the more selfless deeds a person can do. You know what? The vampires are very nice, too. Besides, they feed you snacks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Stache-O-Rama

So many people and so many different styles. The mustache is so personal it seems silly to name them but we do. Everything from Fuman-chew to the Ringmaster, there’s something unique in each style.

I’ve always been enamored with the idea of facial hair. In the movies, in sports, even on the news, there’s always someone who’s decided to give up the razor preferring instead to grow a statement in the form of hair. In most cases, the good guy’s mustache is distinctly different than the bad guy. It’s rather unrelenting though, even the Duke did it once in a while. There’s something about facial hair, a well manicured stache, that says, “hey! I’m tough enough.”

Look, it isn’t that the mustachioed are all tough and manly. Sometimes the stache says, “hey, I’m a perv!” Those are the ones you want to avoid at all costs. Why a guy would decide to grow a flag on his face of that nature, I’ll never know. It just seems in some instances, it’s the wool under the nose and above the mouth talking. It takes significant dedication to build yourself a respectable handlebar mustache. Few can actually pull it off. Fewer can take that into the mean streets and survive.

So, what kind of mustaches are there and what do they say about the guy wearing them? Does this hair-lip provide a window into a man’s soul? It does seem that the mustache has as many rights in certain industries as the man.

As depicted on TV, and at traffic stops across the nation, a policeman sports a certain look that says, “you don’t want to mess with this.” It’s about survival on the streets in a world of surprises. I have a few friends who’ve decided to embrace this profession. Each of them sports a mustache and each mustache looks almost the same. I think you’d find this style of mustache very similar to the one Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum drove around the islands in that sleek Ferrari. I’ll admit I was more interested in the car. In any case, many people do not know that most police departments have regulations limiting officers’ facial hair to mustaches only. I would suggest this is more in the name of standardizing appearance and possibly to avoid strange soul patches or goatees. Still, this type of mustache seems to be a symbol of following the rules, and not expressing oneself in a way that might offend other citizens.

The Walrus has nothing on some of the more stringent of the tough guys out there. This stache named after a rather tough animal, is found on many in the blue collar world, primarily the service and repair sector. Many of these guys are self-employed. A prideful mustache, the walrus represents the no holds barred caliber of the men that helped to build this country. It also seems to complement the wearer’s credibility when quoting prices to housewives for dishwasher repairs.

The chevron mustache seems to lend its wearers the personification of panache. You’ll find many in the broadcast news industry showing off this style. It seems there’s no better way to conduct journalistic affairs than by letting this tasteful representation of manhood precede a dramatic presentation of the facts!

Salvador Dali had a style about his facial hair that has come to be synonymous with the artist. Also, known as a “spaghetti mustache” the tips can be used as paint brushes – in a pinch.

Although funny-man Charlie Chaplin wore this mustache during Hollywood's silent era, it certainly is better recognized as the choice among dictators. Recent appearances have included ex-Zimbawean ruler Robert Mugabe's upper lip. The most famous - or infamous - would be Mugabe's hero, Adolf Hitler. Incidentally, this mustache is named the toothbrush.

I recently came across a useful tool – the internet is full of the useful and useless. This one is useful, I say. I’ve seen my kids playing with those paper dolls, where you can place different styles of clothes and fashion on a model to see how they look. Well, Lord Likely has come to the rescue with a more manly version of this old trick. Check it out: Lord Likely's Extra-Ordinary Interactive Mustache-O-Rama.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Way of "Public Options"

I have been worried a little about the “public option” the Obama administration has been pushing to include in the Health Care reform now making its way through both houses. The administration is claiming such things as increased competition and reducing costs as a reason for needing the government to take on the role of insurer. First, the government is already fully vested in insuring millions of people. There is a very large constituency who have a large stake in keeping the status quo as far as the government’s health care. They are the retired population who utilizes the system we know as Medicare.

Let’s take a moment and look at something a little unassociated with the current debates going on in Washington about the Health Care reform. Student Loans. The student loan program started back in 1965. It was a private/public partnership. In the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL, pronounced fell) the banks would loan money to students who would pay them back. The Federal Government would reimburse the banks for up to 97% of defaulted loans. That is a simple way to put it. Oh, I left out something many in Washington want everyone to remember. The Government took on the bad leaving the good (and the profits) to the banks. That too is a little over simplified.

So, in 1993, congress created an alternative to the banks. Students would cut out the middle man and borrow directly from the Federal Government. The excuse at the time was that the banks needed to have another source of competition. This was the way to reduce the cost to borrowers while increasing profits to the Government, who was insuring all the loans anyway.

Enter the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA). The house passed the bill the week of September 18, eliminating the private sector’s role in federal student loans altogether. If this bill passes the senate, the approximately 4,500 colleges and universities that are currently signed up for FFEL will have to abandon the program and start using the direct-loan option by July 1, 2010.

Now, is there a parallel between the government’s involvement in health care and the way the student loan programs have gone? I don’t know but there is an eerie familiarity to the argument for a “public option”.

This morning I got another message from requesting my money. Yeah, that is another thing I always like to read about in my inbox. In any case, they’ve created a new advertisement that suggests the “public option” is all about making it more competitive. An organization that is all about social medicine is arguing the lesser offense of a “public option” for health care that would stimulate competition.

I do not believe everyone arguing for a public option is seeing it as the gateway into a more socialized system. Some do, however.

The “public option” is considered by some the most important part of the Health Care legislation. Many, like the organization, are more interested in moving on a larger agenda that can benefit from a “public option”. I don't see the “public option” as truly beneficial to the citizens as a whole. Do you? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Boycott a News Network?

You know I got myself on this mailing list. It was an accident, completely unintentional. Really. likes to send me things. They’re always looking for me to jump on the band wagon, sign petitions, contact my congressman and senators. It’s serious when I get a message from them. No, really serious and always urgent. Everything must be addressed today. Do not wait!! It was one of these messages I got this morning.

I guess President Obama has called for a boycott of Fox news. I have a hard time believing this but it is true. The man is concerned enough with what Fox has to say that he doesn’t want anyone to listen to the message.

I don’t remember ever hearing a past president take the time to call for such a silly effort in all my life. OK. There are sillier things. I don’t know if you remember when Natalie Holloway disappeared and there was some pressure for the Bush administration to something about it. His response, "My daddy hated broccoli and I'm gonna hate arugula. I don't see how this is gonna help find Natalie but my crack staff tells me it's the right thing to do. Ya'll let me know if this works because I'm just looking for a reason to boycott navy beans and beets. Did I ever tell you of the time I ate some beets and the next day my stools made me think I had a colon problem?" the President said. Now that is silly.

Still, President Obama is calling out the entire news network because of what a few commentators have allegedly done by attacking his nationalization of the health care system. No, I’m sorry. He isn’t trying to nationalize the health care system. His administration is just trying to get a better grasp on Health Care for all Americans. It is certainly considered a human right by many. Since it is considered a human right, then it is imperative we make health care available to all people. In any case, the White House communications director said FOX is a "wing of the Republican Party...let's not pretend they're a news network."

Let me see. FOX is a “wing of the Republican Party”? I don’t subscribe to this belief. Concerning the claim that they aren’t a news network I’d like to suggest a couple little points we should all consider. Brit Hume and Chris Wallace. Two members of the news staff at FOX. Two very good examples of what Journalism should be. Two members of the journalistic world that used to work for ABC and NBC respectively. While they spent a portion of their careers in the “real network news” they were both considered exceptional journalists. What happened?
I have watched NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX national news. I would suggest that none of the other networks can put anyone up against the experience either of these two men bring to the table. “Unbiased reporting of the news” is a fine descriptor of Brit Hume’s reporting style. Incredibly, I would be hard pressed to find any other reporter on today’s national stage that can match Mr. Hume.

The Democrats don’t like FOX. OK, I understand. There, on the FOX news channel, they won’t find many friends opining. President Bush and the Republicans would have been hard pressed to find a friendly opinion on any of the other networks. I do not recall any such call for action from the past administration that matches this call from the White House to stop listening to a valid news source.

I open myself to your best. Fillet me for my opinion. I’m ready. Still, it is quite silly to call for such an effort. has grabbed a hold of this bandwagon and is rushing to put some weight behind it.

This is a change in which I refuse to believe. Please, tell me why I am wrong.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Service - Mosiah 2:17

During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent his time serving and helping others. As true disciples we should be doing everything we can to emulate the master. The Savior said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

When we entered the waters of baptism, we took on us the name of Jesus Christ. This was a covenant that we would always remember Him. Alma told a group of new converts that their desire to come “into the fold of God” also included a willingness to give meaningful service.

“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8-9)

Willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.
Willing to mourn with those that mourn.
Comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

In a parable, the savior told of his return to the earth in His glory. To the righteous he said: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

The righteous, who are puzzled by this asked, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

Then He answered, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”

King Benjamin, a very wise and serviced minded leader of men, taught: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

So why do we serve?

The Lord loves and watches over us. He knows each of us individually and understands our needs. He knows what our lives will provide and what struggles we will face. In most cases, however, there is no divine intervention. God simply does not step into the fray on our behalf personally.

Upon death a man finds himself before the lord in judgment. This man was angry with God. All his life he saw the problems that seemed to pervade the earth. He is angry and blames God for all the problems he sees. At the end of his angry rant he asks God, “Why did you not do something to help these who could not help themselves?”

The Lord’s response was simply, “I sent you.”

In the Book of Mormon and also in other scriptures when we read of a prosperous people – it’s the spiritual sum that is arrived at by the multiplying of service to others and by investing talents in service to God and to man. Jesus taught that the two great commandments upon which hang all the prophets and the law involved a deepening of love for our God and our fellow man.

For a good part of my life, the account of the barren fig tree in Matthew 21:19 confused me. It seemed the Lord was simply mean spirited. This went contrary to everything I knew to be true. The account in Matthew reads:

“And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”

Surely, this tree was doing nothing for the benefit of anyone but itself. With a gloriously lush exterior, the tree stood out as being wonderful. The tree had the outward appearance of greatness without the true benefit of service to others. With a true loss of potential, this tree was nothing more than self-serving. We are no better than this tree if we live our lives without service.

Spencer W. Kimball: “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.”

What does he mean by appropriate service?

There are so many of these causes to which we can give ourselves fully and freely and which will produce much joy and happiness for us and for those we serve. There are other causes, from time to time, which may seem more fashionable and which may produce the applause of the world, but these are usually more selfish in nature. These latter causes tend to arise out of what the scriptures call “the commandments of men” rather than the commandments of God. Such causes have some virtues and some usefulness, but they are not as important as those causes which grow out of keeping the commandments of God.

Civil Service – We are encouraged by the Lord and our church leaders to become actively engaged in worthy causes to improve our communities, making them more wholesome places in which to live and raise a family.

Early in this dispensation the Lord made clear the position his restored church should take with respect to civil government. In a revelation he gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said: “And now, verily I say unto you concerning the … law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, [that it] belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you … in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land” (D&C 98:4–6).

In harmony with this statement, the Church later adopted as one of its Articles of Faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12).

We should uphold and sustain the law, but work within the law to be an influence for good, as the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled us.

We Love those who we serve

There isn’t a returned missionary who hasn’t admitted to a great love for the people in his mission. Why is this? The missionary learns to love those to whom their service is directed. Whenever we truly serve another, the side affect is a love unfeigned.

I have known a man who lived his life in service. He was faithful and knew a happiness most people never do. He didn’t just serve those he loved and knew. Through service he grew to love and know those around him. This knowledge provided even greater opportunity and desire to serve. This truly is a good cycle of life.

We are commanded to “love one another”. It is through service that we are able to develop love.

We are commanded to “love our enemies”. It is through service that we are able to develop love.

This man of whom I spoke lived his life in service. Once one of his children was having a feud of sorts with another boy down the street from where they lived. That feud culminated in a broken window. Rather than react as many would think normal, this man did not jump to the defense of his child or argue that it must have been the fault of the other boy. Conversely, he went to the hardware store, purchased the materials and replaced the window. This was not good enough. The following day, after the weekly bread was baked, he delivered a loaf of that bread to the family at the home. There was no space in the man’s heart for judgment. There was no place in the man’s heart for the selfish, unfulfilling life of blame. He found strength in serving others.

True service

True service is more than the works of our hands. The scriptures teach the Lord sees our thoughts. Deuteronomy records one of God’s earliest commandments to Israel that they should love him and “serve him with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul.”

God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to choose and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as a new king for Israel. He was to reject the first son, though he was a man of fine appearance. The Lord explained, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7.)

Solomon exhorted in proverbs – and this is something with which I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar – the statement that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7)

Latter-day revelation declares that the Lord requires not only the acts of the children of men, but “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34.)

Numerous scriptures teach that our Heavenly Father knows our thoughts and the intents of our heart. (See D&C 6:16; Mosiah 24:12; Alma 18:32.) The prophet Moroni taught that if our works are to be credited for good, they must be done for the right reasons. If a man “offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

“For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.” (Moro. 7:6–7.)

Similarly, the prophet Alma taught that if we have hardened our hearts against the word of God, we will “not dare to look up to our God” at the final judgment because “all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will also condemn us.”

It is through service that we learn to love one another. Through service we become true disciples of our Savior. Through service we are sanctified and become more like Christ.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yep, there's an app for that too!

I’ve never been very good at the rate-on-a-scale-of-ten thing. Even as a young kid, I didn’t think much of the practice. I remember how gaga my friends were over Farrah. Man, we were only in 6th grade but they were certain she was something. More recently, the world has turned its sights on such celebrities as Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox. Oh, sure the women get excited about celebrities too. They prefer Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher and Denzel Washington. I just do not seem to understand. Maybe it’s because of all the subjectivity involved. What is beautiful to one isn’t necessarily beautiful to another.

When I hear about Miss USA or Miss America pageants, or even Mr. Universe, I wonder how it is the judges can say they’re being objective. Seriously, these guys aren’t sitting there at their desks with their calculators doing complex mathematical logarithms. The judges would be dressed a little differently if that was the case. Anyone for a pocket protector?

Enter the iPhone. You know about Apple’s hand held device that is better at everything than anyone else except one thing – being a phone. Seriously, how many applications are available on this thing? Over 50,000 apps. There seems to be an app for every purpose but if there were, more would not be developed. My brother has an iPhone. He has used a couple of the apps to my benefit. Last week, we were going to a restaurant in Salt Lake City and he used an app to get us there. I liked that GPS functionality. There is also an app called Vanity™ for the iPhone & iPod Touch.

Vanity™ is going to change how people evaluate people. OK, maybe not. There’s still that subjectivity thing getting in the way. However, this app uses the phone’s ability to take a quick snapshot, evaluates the picture and returns a rating of how hot that person is. Yes, it’s on a scale of 10. Girls, just how hot is that tall-dark-and-handsome wanting to buy you a drink? I’m pretty sure it won’t take too much convincing to get this vanity stricken hunk of man-meat to let you take his picture.

Once you’ve got the picture in the phone, all you need to do is get his face framed from forehead to chin, zoom in and center the blue vanity dots over features like his pupils, nose, mouth and chin. A well-manicured, slicked back hair-do just won’t help this evaluation. After everything is locked into place, the app will calculate a score. You can save the score or post it to myspace or Facebook for the entire world to see.

Wondering about the world’s celebrities? Yes, you can compare them to each other and to those you meet on the street. Head over to the Vanity Report and check it out. There’s mathematical proof there that Brad Pitt is overrated (Brad Pitt – 8.3, Angelina Jolie – 9.2).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sir Mixes It UP, in the House!

Remember when the party was just not that cool unless there was a DJ keeping the noise at 140 dB? You know that crazy guy who showed up an hour before the party started with his ’73 Pinto loaded to the gills with equipment and vinyl! His fashion sense was just about as extreme as his taste in cars, too. Boy, he made a regular old get-together one rockin’ good time, didn’t he?

These days, there are more people carrying their own mixes. In fact, even mom makes a pretty mean play list. Gone are the days of vinyl, except in some extreme cases. Even the large collections of CDs have seen the passing of their heyday! Still, there is something lacking, something more than the wise cracks of an otherwise unassuming young man wearing some really strange clothes.

Enter the DJ Mixer. Not a throwback to the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing vinyl, this allows you to take two IPODs or two MP3 players or a mix of the two devices and make your own mix. In fact, the unit includes folding headphones so you can look the cool part of a real DJ while you mix it all up. You’ll probably give into the need to start telling little personal anecdotes and longer stories between sets. If you mess up the transition, there’s always the included effects programs to hide your little mistakes with a simple push of a button. The DJ Mixer has a flange and filter and cross-fade slider; recording option and speaker system connection with a stereo audio cable with in-line jack. Sweet mother of DJ goodness! This baby even charges your IPOD while you scratch, mix and play to your heart’s content.

What will people think of next?!!??

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mary Janes' Relaxing Soda

I came across something a little different, recently, that advertises itself as a perfectly legal and healthy alternative. Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda, claimed by its purveyors, offers something many people find in substances that might have limited medical use but aren’t quite legal. Interestingly, they suggest this frosty drink proffers the mellow without the hangover.

The claim to an all-natural experience includes a pretty limited ingredient list as well. Carbonated water, Cane Sugar, and Herbal Extracts. Mary Jane’s Soda, Inc. maintain the beneficial properties of each of these ingredients on their website. The soda is “lightly” carbonated to open the taste buds rather than overwhelm. All-natural Cane Sugar has a preferred taste to the more common Corn Syrup. It is the Herbal Extracts, however, that lends the real punch. Of these they list two specific extracts: Passion Flower and Kava.

Passion Flower’s leaves and roots have a long history of use among Native Americans in North America and were adapted by the colonists. The fresh or dried leaves of Maypop are used to make an infusion, a tea that is used to treat insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its painkilling properties. This plant has been found to contain beta-carboline harmala alkaloids which are MAOIs with anti-depressant properties. The flower and fruit has only traces of these chemicals, but the leaves and the roots are often more potent and have been used to enhance the effects of mind-altering drugs. Once dried, the leaves can also be smoked.

Kava is a tranquilizer primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. In some parts of the Western World, kava extract is marketed as herbal medicine against stress, insomnia, and anxiety. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded that it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety. Safety concerns have been raised over liver toxicity, although research indicates that this may be largely due to the use of stems and leaves in supplements, which were not used indigenously.

Since most people do not consider the negative side effects of their legal drugs of choice, I do not think many who would drink this will either. I just thought it interesting that there is such a drink being peddled in a way that just about anyone can get it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Cap N Cruch is better than Cap N Trade

An open letter to US Senators Feinstein and Boxer:

It is interesting that arguments for a Cap and Trade system try to describe it as a market style reform to reduce carbon emissions since there isn’t a true market until it is developed by people looking to create a system of transferring wealth. You see markets have to be based on real, tangible products with consistent, market wide values. The policy presented to Congress and the Senate has been one where the value assigned is based on a system that penalizes certain losers while unfairly benefiting others. Trading practices that will cost business in America many millions of dollars. Since companies will find ways to make money off the system, they’ll continue to pollute here and abroad, moving their operations to locations where they will not be held to such high standards. This is a sure way to move badly needed jobs out of the country as well.

I urge you to consider this legislation and all the affects, both desired and unintended. Much of what we face today in our economy is the unintended consequences of past Senate, Congress and Executive decisions. Vote no on Cap and Trade, save our economy, our jobs and our standard of living.

Contact your Senators at this website here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Excuses? We've Many. They Do Not Stand Muster.

When I read about people who live in places so remote, so far from any temple, they have to traverse significant hardship to get to the House of the Lord, I think about the Los Angeles traffic as nothing more than a short cakewalk.

Our lives in Illinois were very blessed as we were living in the Nauvoo temple district. Although the drive to Chicago or even to St Luis took less time, the trip to Nauvoo was always very enjoyable. I never did mind the three-hour drive. Temple attendance was hardly something we could accomplish on a whim but still it was nothing more than a day trip.

Incredible hardship stands between many saints and the temple. I recently read an account of the trip the saints living in Manaus, Brazil, endured to get to the temple. They would travel for two days on a crowded riverboat on the Amazon River only to spend another two days on a bus through the hot tropics so they could attend the Recife temple. Now, that takes a true commitment of time and effort!

So, what excuses do I have that would sufficiently explain any deficiency in my temple attendance? Oh, the traffic? Hardly.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Here?

Ah, Southern California is such a wonderful place. It is so wonderful, millions of people have swarmed into its warm embrace, overwhelming just about every system we've built to sustain our hectic lives.

The freeway, so called because there are no tolls, is congested nearly all the time. If you plan on going 30 miles, you need to also plan on taking over an hour to get there. The only thing free about this way is the lack of tolls. Millions of people destroy thousands of cars a year in the frantic stop and go traffic. 

There is no salt on the road to corrode the car's body or undercarriage. The constant stop and go, however, is the drive train’s worst enemy. Traffic, however, is a way of life. You cannot let it get you down. We go at this beast with a different state of mind, one that will not allow an increase in stress just because we're sitting in a line stretching for unseen miles. Every day, every single day, we subject ourselves to this beast, bowing to its very tangible power. Regularly, this monotony is interspersed with some very real excitement.

Excitement presents itself in a way that is so very hard to avoid. Due to one or two drivers who decide they’ve had enough of the non-monetary toll to drive these roads, caution is thrown to the wind. This is when accidents happen. An accident has the power to disrupt traffic for hours. Make it big enough, that interruption can last for days. With the right luck, a collision in the right place at the right time can affect well over a million commuters and even tie up some airtime on local radio and television. In fact, you do it right, people will talk about your exploits for at least a few moments around the water cooler before the real work of the day begins.

Traffic is not the worst aspect of living with so many people. It is just one of a few problems we face here in Southern California.

Why, then, do people live here? Well, here’s where I live. I live among rolling hills that are truly breathtaking for most of the year. I get this beauty while enjoying weather – or non-weather – that is hardly ever harsh, or difficult in any way. I drive through these hills almost every single day. Where I am driving, there are seldom the long lines of cars and traffic that you see most everywhere else in the megalopolis that surrounds Los Angeles, stretching south to San Diego and north to Santa Barbara. Yes, this is an oasis of sorts. It is one of the few reasons I can continue to suffer through red taillights and traffic almost ever time I want to go almost anywhere.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Overstepping Bounds Set by the Constitution

A couple weeks ago, President Obama essentially fired the CEO of a publicly held firm:

The Obama administration asked Rick Wagoner, the chairman and CEO of General Motors, to step down and he agreed, a White House official said.

I would like someone to point out exactly where in the constitution the President is given such powers. What I do not understand is how such a power grab can be seen as all right. It may be the best thing for GM but it is not the job of the White House to make such a decision.

Today, I got a message from asking for my support in sending a petition to Treasury Secretary Geithner that it was time to start firing the Bank leadership. Sounds rather reasonable, if you don’t mind the government stepping over their constitutional limits.

As I read on in the missive, I found something that started to make a little more sense to me. Not only was calling for action against Bank CEO’s but there was one specific CEO they were after – Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. What was it that Mr. Lewis did to draw such attention from I was pretty much shell-shocked. I was really stricken by this venomous attack on a single member of this class.

I read further and realized the whole basis for’s efforts. It seems that shortly after receiving their portion of the bailout money, Bank of America brought together a group of  banking interests to figure out how to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act.

Now, depending on your perspective, this bill is either real bad or real good. It is supposed to make organizing unions easier. Now, if you're pro-union, this is good. It also eliminates the need for anonymity in the voting process. You see, if you’re afraid of the union, you’re not going to vote against it as long as they know you did. Regardless of how I feel about unions, this is not a step toward freedom but a leap away from it. I cannot see this as good.

So, here’s what concerns me about the President, the White House, overstepping this particular boundary. The White House calls for – forces – the resignation of a CEO. This establishes precedents and a pattern in which the government gains greater control over industry. This is a move – blatant, unabashed, outright – toward socialism. Hugo Chavez did this with Venezuela’s Oil Industry and many people found it offensive. Where is the outrage when it starts happening here at home?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I don't know a lot about much but . . .

I do know this is just not right:

Before last week, when was the last time a sitting U.S. President bowed before the leader of another country? NEVER. Does it seem just a little odd that when former President Bill Clinton inclined his head while meeting the Japanese Emperor, the news papers had a field day but not a single mention of President Obama's bending at the waist before the Saudi King? Although it could be argued President Clinton had no intention of "bowing at the neck", I don't know what President Obama was thinking. I still wonder where the news organizations are on this.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Epic Fail

Between the State Department and mix-ups at Federal Express along with my current employment status, keeping my head on my shoulders has been frustratingly difficult. I think I need a candy bar.

I was reading a talk given by President Monson all the way back in 1977 when he was a member of the Council of the Twelve. He talks about the faces of failure: The Face of Fear, the Face of Idleness, the Face of Doubt and the Face of Sin. Each of these has its pitfalls to which we might succumb. I wonder if there aren't other Faces as well. When we get beat down in our efforts, it is left to us to get up but one more time than we are knocked down. How do we know if the battering has ceased if we do not try again?

Elder Monson counsels us to combat these failures with Attitudes of Accomplishment. He characterizes these attitudes as the Attitude of Faith, the Attitude of Work, the Attitude of Courage, the Attitude of Obedience, and the Attitude of Love. 

Interestingly, there might be times in our lives - I should actually suggest there will be times in our lives when we've nothing more to bolster our confidence, nothing on which we can lean than the strength we can gain through our faith. 

"Faith implies a certain trust, even a reliance, upon the word of our Creator," Elder Monson explained.

When everything seems to combine against us, it is this faith and the Attitude of work that will get us through the tougher times. Faith gives us a reason to make the effort and by work we are able to make that continuous effort toward the accomplishment of our goals.

As I struggled through this week and these past few months, it has been difficult to keep my chin up at times. Not a few times have I had to turn to my Heavenly Father for strength. I can only hope that my hope, my faith, and my courage can help me to win out in the end.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Perpetual Fool Takes a Break . . .

Incredible. I nearly made it through the day without a single folly. A very nice thing, I have had a problem with April Fool’s day for nearly as long as I can remember. I cannot recall a time when playing the joke on others was my primary concern. For nearly as long, I have found myself victim of some of the more mundane, less than creative pranks on this the first day of April. Since I have a tendency to believe anything I am told, fertile is the ground for such horrors.

Almost every year I wake with a grand sense of dread, knowing that something somehow will leave me lulled into believing one possibility while an entirely different reality bares sway. At the end of the charade, someone somewhere will call me on my naiveté.

This year was pleasantly devoid of such experiences. In fact, I didn’t have many reminders at all of this most unpleasant tradition. Today, I was not the fool. My heart is full as I close the day, full of gratitude.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Always Remember Him - Even during the Sacrament

When partaking of the Sacrament, we are making a sacred covenant with our Heavenly Father. Our part of that covenant is to always remember the Savior. This covenant helps me as I live my daily life, keeping me focused on those things I know He wants for me. Lately, I've thought more particularly on what it is I am doing while I am making these promises. Yes, I find myself looking at the reverence with which I participate in the Sacrament Meeting - especially during the Sacrament Service itself.

A weekly ordinance, rather than a once-in-a-lifetime-event, the sacrament is one of the only ordinances in which we participate more than once for ourselves. Since it is rather more frequent an experience, we should all be far better at performing it with exactness. Since our attention should be more than just a moment for partaking of the bread and a moment for partaking of the water, what do we do with the rest of that time allotted for passing the sacrament?

I remember being told as a child that I needed to think on the Savior and what he has done for me. As a young child, I had no idea what that meant so I sat quietly, which kept all those around me happy enough. Simply sitting there quietly during the passing of the sacrament seems to be a little less than enough to qualify as participating in this ordinance. Concentrating on worshipping the Savior, refraining from all other activity, is what our aim should be during this most sacred time of most weeks. Yet, how do you teach someone what it means to worship? How do you teach a child that merely being quiet is just not enough? So, I need to ponder. Is the act of "pondering on His sacrifice for me" enough to say I am worshipping Him?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tyranny of the Majority

The president and those yokels in congress have run amok. Seriously. Between what they've been preaching and the media's high horsed rants, so many people have climbed aboard the bandwagon of "give it to me for free!" Our country, our poor, poor country, was not established on the virtues of large take-care-of-everyone's-needs government. The successes we've seen in the history of this great nation have emminated from an attitude of DIY - Do It Yourself.

Was it right for AIG to give "bonuses" to executives, using the monies obtained through a hastily crafted, fault ridden, bohemoth of a bill that will continue to haunt our children's children for decades? Probably not. Retroactive taxing is no more appropriate now than it was before, though. The apparant lack of respect for the rights of people has left me flabergasted. I watch through tearful eyes as the basis upon which this country was built is torn assunder.

As I listen to the news broadcasts relating the events unfolding in Washington, I am almost constantly on the verge of breaking down, screaming at the television for all the good that would do. John McCain was riddiculed for suggesting that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Yet, that statement was as accurate that day as it is today. Fundamentally, our economy is based on free trade. The markets are free to go up as well as down. It is when government intervenes that the shifts in the market go totally out of whack.

President Obama and his cohorts in congress are attacking the very fundamentals that make this country strong. In the name of safety, they are seeking to sieze control of private and publically held companies. Serious danger looms on the horizon.

I fear what will become of this nation when we've offered our last shred of liberty as a sacrifice to the gods of safety. That day is not too far away. I hope I am wrong.

Our hope. Our only hope rests with a few Democrats seeing the light and banding with conservatives in congress. calls this a "nightmare scenario: a few conservative Democrats teaming up with Republicans to stop the progressive pieces of the President's agenda."

Abraham Lincoln suggested that what one man calls liberty is another man's tyranny.

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name - liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names - liberty and tyranny.”

I'm thinking that much of what is going on in Washington is the Progressive effort to take what belongs to one man and give it to others. Taking the product of another's labor and doing with that as they please is not liberty but tyranny. This is not what our country is about. This is not what made America the strong country that it is today.

I cannot sit back and watch this from the comfort of my livingroom. What I would ask is that everyone call your representatives, your senators and write a letter or two. Write to your congressmen! Write to the President! Stop this injustice, stop it all!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rising to Zion's Standard

Our gospel doctrine subject for the year is Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants. Although little time is spent on the subject, there has been some discussion about the challenges the Saints faced as they attempted to "Build up Zion unto the Lord" and failed. Their failure has given furtile ground for too many to speculate and judge. Too many have judged our forebears harshly because of this failure. How do we measure as we're judged against the same standards?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson suggested, "Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, early members of the Church attempted to establish the center place of Zion in Missouri, but they did not qualify to build the holy city. . . .

"Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, 'the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them' (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen."

If we are to succeed where others have failed, it is by establishing Zion in our homes first. Our families must become unified in one heart and mind. How can we look beyond the first building block of zion before it has been perfected?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bo Dangker

You know Bo Dangker. I know you do. He might not answer to this name specifically but you know who I am talking about. He's a likable type of guy, very nice indeed. He might turn up at the office or in social situations. He might even be part of your family. You see, old Bo is that guy who seems to have it all together but when push comes to shove, can't quite deliver.

Ol' Bo will generally jump at the chance to be part of your team, bringing plenty of ideas to the table. He'll accept all kinds of responsibility. When you meet again, he'll come empty handed with nothing but excuses suggesting there is no reason he should take blame. Yep, he's Mr. Bo Dangker!

Ol' Bo will think that the family potluck is a wonderful idea even taking charge early on. When deciding what he'll contribute, he'll be sure to sign up for something very extravagant - you know, the Turkey! He'll sign up for one of the more integral parts of the meal. When the time comes to deliver, good Ol' Bo will show up to eat his fill but he'll bring nothing to the table but a bowl full of justifications and a heaping side of "Yeah but I". Yep, he's cousin Bo Dangker!

Ol' Bo will slide in with a bunch of friends too. Deciding to meet up and do something fun, good Ol' Bo will see to it that he's not happy with just doing something fun. Yeah, he wants to make sure it is very special. The restaurant won't due unless it meets his criteria. Will there be any compromise? Sure there will. Everyone but Bo will give something in the name of fun. When everyone finally comes to a consensus on what you're doing where, Ol' Bo will do nothing but complain. Yep, he's Bo Dangker!

Don't be a Bo Dangker!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The interview was nearly over before it began because I refused to provide my Social Security number to an organization that hasn't given me a reason for needing it. 

Are you doing a background check? Not yet.

Are you offering me a job? Not 

Why do you need my social security number? We've always requested it.

Ok, I'll give you the social security number when you need to have it - either when you offer me a position or when you decide you need to do a background check as  prerequisite for hiring me.

Sir, we need to have your social security number before we can proceed.


Company policy.

Personal policy dictates that I do not share my personal information with just anyone to put into their files. When you offer me a position or need to do a background check prior to offering me a position, I will provide the social security number.

I do not think anyone has ever questioned this policy, sir.
We continued the interview process without the social security number. Only moments after continuing, though, I was surprised to find out the interviewer did not know Illinois was a state or where Illinios was. I can only hope the contempt I felt for her ignorance did not display itself as we completed the interview.

Social security numbers are pretty important. It might not hurt me to share it with strangers I don't know. It just might. World Geography is a major handicap for a good portion of America but I think we should all have a pretty good idea about national geography. Shouldn't we?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Interesting points would have you believe...

I am a little less than impressed with politics lately. You see, the republicans cannot seem to pull it together and the move toward socializing just about every aspect of our lives is moving at an alarming pace. The far left (as depicted by such organizations as is giddy with what is going on. In a recent message from the group, has presented a list of 10 aspects of President Obama's plan they feel make it a winner. The bold faced copy is the statement has made. The comments following the statements are how I feel about the point they are making.

  • Makes a $634 billion down payment on fixing health care.  While our healthcare system is definitely broken, infusing more money into the system isn't necessarily the answer. I remember talking with a friend about their car and all the repairs they've had to make recently. The car is broken and it has become a great big money sink. Spending more money isn't going to make it better. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the complete burden the healthcare system has become. Healthcare costs have risen at a pace that far outstrips all other inflationary data. This one point, that there needs to be a better solution, is probably the only thing on which and I agree. The way to fix the problem, however, has not been so common.
  • Reduces taxes for 95% of working Americans. Reducing the taxes of those people who do not pay them just does not make sense. I just do not understand how this is a good thing. If they were working toward reducing the taxes for 95% of all taxpayers, I would probably be on board with this. "Reducing" the tax burden of those people who don't pay taxes is tantamount to another welfare program - taking money from those who pay taxes and giving it to those who do not. While this is the standard way of things, we don't need to add to the problem. Giving enough money for Jon Laborer to purchase a pizza dinner for his family once a month isn't going to stimulate anything but it does give Mr. Laborer a sense of entitlement. I don't think anyone should have a sense of entitlement about anything from the government beyond the standard - defense, trade, etc.
  • Invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology. Government spending at its best, right? I have mixed emotions on this. I do not know that spending the money is the right way to go about this. Tax and other incentives are probably a better, more effective way to "create" home-grown jobs while trying to save the planet. President Obama has talked long and loud about the need to cut government spending. So far, I've seen a lot of spending but not a lot of cutting.
  • Brings our troops home from Iraq on a firm timetable. Interesting that the President has been given such accolades for a timetable that was established by the former administration - as agreed upon with the Iraqi government. Even the commanding officers in the field are happy with a timetable. It makes it easier to make plans. The troops are happy for the same reason. Open ended means unsurety. 
  • Reverses growing income inequality. Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Tax those who might have the power to break the downhill slide! The facts are in. Those people who have the money to invest won't invest as much money if they are paying it to the government. The best time to raise taxes (or let lower taxes expire) is not in the middle of a financial crisis. I just do not understand the logic behind the call to tax the rich so we can give more money to the failed bureaucracies that have continued to waste our money for the past 50 years.
  • Closes multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for big oil companies. The call to "close tax loopholes for the big oil companies" is misleading. Oil companies do not enjoy "loopholes" that are not enjoyed by other organizations. Reducing the money the oil companies can invest in new technologies didn't work in 1978. It won't work today. 
  • Increases grants to help families pay for college. I'm all about helping people go to college. I'm in a position that it would be nice to have the help my daughter needs to go to college. I have to wonder: will I get that help in time? Will I qualify for the help I need or will there be unnecessary burdens placed in my way because I don't fit some cookie-cutter idea of who really needs the help. 

  • Halves the deficit by 2013. President Obama inherited a legacy of huge deficits and an economy in shambles. I'll concede this point. However, I don't understand how anyone can claim they are going to reduce the deficit when all they've done is advocate spending more money. President Obama has called on us to make "hard choices" but when push comes to shove, he hasn't held his ground. While campaigning for change, Barack Obama said, "We need earmark reform, and when I'm President, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely." But now the President is about to sign a huge 2,697 page spending bill with over 9,000 unnecessary and wasteful earmarks. I'll believe the President's tenacity when he has demonstrated his ability to hold his ground on this. 

  • Dramatically increases funding for the SEC and the CFTC—the agencies that police Wall Street. Will this help us? Again, is this a point of throwing good money after bad? 
  • Tells it straight. I don't know if I fully endorse the idea that President Obama has been on board the "straight talk express". (I know that's John McCain) Look, our country is currently nearly $11 trillion dollars in debt. Our projected deficit for 2009 alone is an alarming $2 trillion dollars. Just two weeks ago, President Obama signed a bill that the Democratic-led Congress passed to spend an additional $1 trillion in "stimulus spending." And on top of all of this, President Obama has requested $3.6 trillion in additional spending for 2010. On the heals of such measures, I'm supposed to believe he's acting any different than any of the previous adminstrations? Not yet.