Thursday, July 31, 2014

Under my Bed

Matthew 5:24 - "... First be reconciled to thy brother ..."

NOTE: Just a reminder that this blog is, essentially, my journal. It gets personal at times.

I went out with the missionaries yesterday and had a blast. Sure, most of the people we tried to visit weren't, you know, home, but it brought me back to the good old days of my mission, even briefly. I was struck by how I don't really feel like I fit in either life now, mission or being home. I'm certainly not a full-time missionary anymore, but neither am I fully in the world. Somewhere in between.

I was driving to institute shortly after I and the missionaries parted ways. I was listening to the radio, particularly that one song with Eminem about monsters under the bed. I was sitting there, trying to determine if the song had any personal relevance to me, something I often do with works of art. Then, it hit me.
I turned off the radio to think.
When I first can back from Jamaica, I was a very soft person, tender, even, in the relationships I'd helped form. As time has gone on, however, I have found myself growing more and more hard, less forgiving, more easily frustrated. When once I would have easily forgiven another for their trespass, and even sought forgiveness myself, that is no longer my first instinct. In trying to determine why that was, I guessed it began when I recently experienced a cold realization that I was being manipulated. My tender nature has been smashed repeatedly since my return, which only raised my callousness.
As I sat in the institute parking lot, my car no longer running, the curb providing me a seat, I recognized I was holding grudges I needed to let go. I recognized I was fearing new relationships for more heartache, closing myself away from others in the precise manner I'd found so annoying in recent past times. 
I asked Father for forgiveness, and for strength to know and then act in the way Christ would in my slippery social predicaments. My current instinct is to show no mercy, to give on on those I love. But I know that's not what He would do. And even if I wind up betrayed and alone in a dreary wilderness, at least I will find happiness in doing the best thing.
I walked into institute, still struggling, but more prepared for the next step.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Hands

Mosiah 2:17 - "... when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

I did a lot of things yesterday.
I did a lot of writing (obviously).
I took my brother to a mission prep camp.
I finished up the last day of my paper route.
I went on a 'date' with youngest sister.
I finished a novel, and continued ingesting another.
I even got to work on the set of a popular sketch comedy TV show.

But even with all those wonderful things, nothing brought me quite as much satisfaction as when I helped out a friend by mowing her yard and digging through her horse manure.
Funny how things work like that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Implosion (Part 2)

Matthew 15:37 - "...and they took up of the broken meat that was seven baskets full."

Continued from Precursor (Part 1)
...then I had a very strange dream.
I saw, in my mind, someone very dear to me, the same person over whom I'd had an epiphany the night before, do something very rash. I remember standing in the middle of the road right outside our house, facing east and thinking, Are you stupid? Someone will stop what you're doing for sure! It was strange, though; I wasn't worried my loved one wouldn't come back. I was very calm, and I had a distinct, deep impression that everything was going to be all right.
Well, cue the next morning, when I learned my dream had only been an image of what had really happened.

So much for going into my internship. It was an all-hands-on-deck type of day, and I stayed in my room for the most of it, working from home and getting out five or so articles, making it my most productive day in the least productive environs possible. My own feelings were described by dad as 'grim,' which was a very fair
call. However, those feelings could have been worse. They could have been a whole lot worse.
The revelation I'd received the night before, coupled with the superseding dream; everything had been timed perfectly to help me keep my cool. And things worked out, as I'd felt in my dream, all right. Sure, the house was turned upside down, we had visitors flocking in and out like a storm, but, in the end, we were still a family. We were still together. We were, at least to a point, whole. And I'm grateful that I didn't add to the fragility of the situation by overreacting to anything.
Well, I know that was frustratingly vague, but I'd rather spoil my mistakes! Again, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Precursor (Part 1)

Articles of Faith 1:7 - "We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth."

The day I had today is the day I will explain tomorrow. And it's not even over yet! Funny how this blog works, eh?

I went with my sister to the Forest Home ward again today, to help her reunite with a new friend she connected with last week. It was a little awkward; I said I wasn't coming back last week, and, instead, I still showed up today!
... Ah, it's hard to describe this past weekend without throwing everything in the air. I'll probably get a little more specific come tomorrow's post, but not by much. The important thing is, I finally got it. It took me a while, but I finally got it.
I was laying on my floor, near dead after having stayed up way too late to tag-read a gaslamp fantasy webcomic and a Brandon Sanderson novel. I was staring at the opposite wall with what I'm sure was a dull expression, too tired to stay awake, too tired to get in bed. For just a moment, as my tired mind sorted through the day, I understood something.
I understood something.
Oh, I knew what I was doing somewhere inside of me, given some of my subconscious reactions to things over the past couple of weeks, but, all at once, laying in a heap on my carpet floor, I understood where I'd gone wrong. I had been fighting the relationship training I'd received on my mission! I had allowed the way certain family members treated me to affect my own reactions to them. I was tired of them being acted upon, and then I had turned around and was being acted upon by their actions!
WHOA! Suddenly, it all made sense! I needed to change before I could help others to change! Just because they're family, just because I have a lifetime to make amends, doesn't justify me! I went to bed, slightly energized, and I offered one of the better prayers I have since my return. I prayed for the family member's eternity. 
I collapsed.
And then I had a very strange dream.
To be continued ...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why Preach My Marriage Doesn't Work

Preach My Gospel - "Use Preach My Gospel to meet your needs as a missionary ..."

I'll admit, I really thought that some of the things I learned on my mission would translate into the dating game. They just don't, much to my actual amusement. Some examples are more obvious. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service recommends that missionaries ask for referrals after every contact. Asking my blind date if they know any other single ladies is a really bad idea, and I don't need to test it to find out.
Some failed translations are less obvious. You'd think, given how much I practiced talking to people, that I would be a total Casanova and feel comfortable walking up to any lady, starting a conversation, and weaving the wordplay into an invitation. It just doesn't translate, unfortunately.
Of course, I was trying to explain this to the missionaries yesterday, who brought me along to a Single's Ward party to which they'd also invited an investigator. Completely aware I haven't gone on a single date since my return home, the two missionaries kept trying to get me to go ask this or that girl out. I had a hard time articulating how talking to random strangers about Christ is so much easier than talking to girls about my various qualities. All in all, it was a pretty hilarious night.

Dad has been reading my novel as I've been writing it, and I was grateful to watch him laugh and ponder as he consumed my world. I wouldn't have such a talent without Father's mercy, and I'm grateful to Him for that.

...Oh, and Mom is posing with a cantaloupe on which she drew a face. We're crazy over here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Doin' Tings, yah?

Doctrine and Covenants 42:42 - "Thou shalt not be idle ..."

Emotions are unfamiliar creatures to me.
Oh, sure, I can recognize them, I can occasionally sense their instigation, I can even sometimes manipulate them in myself and others, a soft word here, a sharp word there, turning away anger and encouraging joy. I still don't get them, though. I don't understand why they're so hard to control, like a bull trying as hard as it can to buck off its rider. Oh, sure, the best of riders can stay on as long as possible, but there are few.
Why does anger lead to the destruction of relationships? Why does sadness lead to the destruction of self? Why does fright lead to the destruction of integrity? We can always choose against that path, but why it it so hard?

Today was one of those days where I felt like I accomplished a lot. I helped a family move, I started inserting pictures into the digitalized copy of my journal (only seven more volumes to type!), I wrote more of my novel, I remembered the Savior, I remembered what helps my remember the Savior, and I just DID. Of course, I haven't mastered the art of completely being productive all day ever day (I did watch more TV than is probably healthy), but I wasn't idle. I was doing my part. It would have been so easy for me to just sit back and do nothing these couple of months before heading off to college, having very little outside motivation for me to actually accomplish anything. No one is pushing me, no force is shoving me; everything is internal. That, my friends, is the best feeling ever.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hands and Hobbits

Psalms 82:6 - "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High."

The curse of the creator is hard to crack. When they embark upon the creation of something that wasn't there before, they begin to develop a strange attachment to it. They desire to ensure it fulfills the measure of its creation, and their passion and drive to perfect it in every way easily consumes them. They sit at the dinner table with their family, but their thoughts are drawn back to what it was upon which they were working. Whether it is a musical composition, a grand piece of art, a broken mechanical beast, or a drafted business proposition, the creator recalls every note, every stroke, every gear, every letter, running through them over and over in their minds until they recall the one little flaw in their mental image. Abandoning family, friends, and commitments, the creator flies back to his work to fix and add and shape and mold. However, despite the talent He gave the creator, God wants them to remember that which is the most important: family, friends, and the eternal significance of things. Even a God-given gift can be misused. As for me, I have heard many stories of homes being destroyed because of an overly-consumed creator, and I recognize that capability within myself. I need to be careful.

As part of my work experience yesterday, I went in with a group of highly trained communications careerists to study and learn about how to deal with crisis communications and their sister subjects. Even though I was obviously years behind these professionals in understanding, training, execution, comfort, and application, I was pleased to discover that I wasn't completely unable to participate or offer anything new to the table. Almost like a hobbit among men, I was able to hold my own, accomplishing less, but not weighing as an utter burden. I thank Him for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Of further Rhyme and Reason

2 Nephi 2:26 - "... to act for themselves, and not to be acted upon ..."

I can choose, you know. I can choose to not stumble. I can choose to tremble at the appearance of weakness and mistakes. I can actively fight for Christ in my life. It's all too easy to give up, give in, and say, "I can't do it!" All it takes is a determination. Yes, sometimes, it will be harder than others. I know the power of addictions. But if we stand up, look straight, and tell ourselves and God in our minds, "Yes, I can do this, yes, this is the last time," and we stay fixed to that resolution, we will be fine. True, we may even stumble after that. But that's okay! That's why we have repentance! Never let one slip determine the next.

The gale rolls in, an angry cloud
Mimicking thunder claps inside
No rain clenching the sun in shroud
Can match my aching heart defied

Car door slams, I am getting wet
Yet no lasting harm consumes me
It's the thing I always forget
That even the tempest can free

Sky bursts, clouds part, light gleams, warmth glows
Pain bursts, fog parts, truth gleams, love glows
Remember, and you're sure to know
That you are stronger than your storm

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Moses and Dragons

Matthew 5:17 - "... I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill ..."

I have a bit of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality, which, of course, was fulfilled with the Atonement of Christ and therefore no longer a commandment, if you could have called it that in the first place. But, as it is, though my first instinct is to ensure my aggressors know exactly how I feel making them feel as I feel, I'm working on trying to be an example instead. Positive reinforcement, if you will.

As part of a stratagem to strengthen weak links and casually do something I enjoy doing while waiting for my fourth of July friends to let me know wagwan wi' dat, bro and I started playing a home-brew mash-up based on a Japanese comic, one of the few creative works we can actually relate on. The game itself wasn't as fun for me as how much bro was obviously enjoying himself. It's funny how you can make connections like that, even playing a dumb imagination game that prompts anyone watching to wonder what on earth is going on. As it is, we'll see how his dragon man gets along next time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Calling all Wordsmiths (with Added Commentary)

Alma 17:3 - "... and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord ..."

During my lunch hour yesterday, I had the chance to talk with my best mate on the phone. There was just something awesome about the experience, something nearly legendary. When we parted ways over two years ago, a storm had literally shot lightning bolts through the night above as we loudly bemoaned our eminent separation. For two years, we had labored diligently in the nations where God had called us, communicating briefly every so often via email. And, despite all that, coming back, it was like nothing had changed. Oh, we've changed for sure, but beyond that? Not as I see.
The phone call was a wonderful experience, and a sincere blessing from God. I look forward to my best mate becoming a regular on this blog in the next couple of months.

On the way home from work, dad and I were arguing the the topic of arguments.
"You see, when I marry, I want her to enjoy the thrill of debate!"
"That had better be low on your list of the 45 qualities you're looking for," dad said.
"No way, brah! Life will be so boring if we can't ever disagree with each other in an agreeable manner."
"But that's the thing! You can't call it a debate. The word in and of itself suggests a negative connotation. No lady will want to have any sort of conversation with any sort of contention involved."
"But that's the thing! I call it a debate because that word, moreso than the word 'argument,' lacks the implication of contention!"
"Regardless, it still suggests contention!"
We bickered back and forth for a while, all in good-natured fun. Finally, we looked up the word 'debate' on Thesaurus dot com. Argument, contest, controversy, deliberation, contention, match, hassle, wrangle, blah-blah ... None of them completely fit my understanding.
"To describe what you're looking for," dad said, "It's almost like we need a new word."
"What could it be?"
We thought for a minute.
"Maybe ... a wordjoust?"
My eyes lit up. "Ooooo! I like it! But it almost sounds like the people involved would be participating on the topic of words."
"True. We're talking about a friendly exchange of ideas."
"So ... maybe a thinkjoust?"
The new word was born.

thinkjoust [thingk-juhst]
1. a debate without contest (submitted by me)
2. a friendly exchange of ideas (submitted by dad)

This here's a word now. I'm going to use it every chance I have.

I wrote a commentary about this post on January 29, 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mi Jot Too Much (with Added Commentary)

2 Nephi 4:15 - "And upon these I write the things of my soul ..."

I guess it's not surprising for the writer of a blog to blog a lot about writing, especially when the writer writes about what the writer writes, as is his rightly right.
The most valuable piece I wrote yesterday was the talk I delivered to a congregation of strangers. Shortly following my official homecoming talk, the stake high council had commissioned me to visit a certain neighboring ward and report on a subject I'd learned during my mission.
Outlining that talk was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences I've had since I returned home. Studying repentance in the way I felt prompted to gave me great peace of mind, and even though the oration wasn't as spectacular as those I've delivered in the past, I was definitely supposed to be there.
Another miracle occurred when my youngest sister decided, out of the blue, to come along. Even though she only came to support me, she ended up making a new friend right there during sacrament meeting, a friend whom she needed in an awful way. My presence at that ward wasn't just for me; it was for her, too. And had mom not come along, I might have completely misinterpreted youngest sister's actions during my talk, thank goodness. A scriptwriter couldn't have choreographed everything better.

Of course, I was particularly struck yesterday by my own mission journal. There wasn't anything I reread that hit me in particular, but keeping that track was one of the best things I ever did. If it weren't for this work, my life in the field would be nothing more than a scattered stream of memories. This brings those memories together and reminds me of what was most important when I was serving God full-time. I never want to forget that.

Hey there! I wrote a commentary about this post on January 8, 2015. Click here to read!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Step by step

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 - "... and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of the Lord ..."

I've felt the pain of failing my Lord and Master, of knowing I personally caused him more suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Every time I consider that, it makes it easier to rise from my own mistakes and keep trying, strangely enough. I've met so many people who, overwhelmed by their one or two vices, give up completely and just end up hurting the Savior more. All I want for myself is to fix what I've broken and alleviate as much of the pain as I can, both for myself and my elder brother.

I had the opportunity to go to the temple again yesterday, making that three trips in one week. I stuck to doing initiatories rather than an endowment session yesterday, which gave me a greater appreciation all over again for the significance and importance of the endowment session and of making covenants with God. Baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament, blessings by the laying on of hands ... the covenants we make and the blessings we're promised are so essential to our eternal progression. When we strive for that full and complete level of understanding, it is far easier to stand strong.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jumping Out and Jumping On

Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 - "... the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me ..."

Yesterday was a serious blast! I went to the temple with my parents, I completed a whole bunch of chores in serious need of ... uh ... completion, I began my new schedule for journal transcription, I relaxed, I watched ponies ...
And yes, while visiting the temple was the most important thing I did yesterday, the one event I took the most personal pride in was finally beginning the draft of my first post-mission novel. I can't really describe how hard it was to just ... begin. I conceived the plot and basic world structure nearly a year and a half ago. I refined the idea a year ago. It's been rattling around in my brain for that entire time. And yet, when I finally had the time to begin ... I got stuck.
I've been there a lot.
"The first scratch is always the worst."
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
What keeps me from starting? I fear I won't succeed. I fear my voice won't be heard. I fear I haven't invested enough in the project to complete it. I fear I lack the necessary strength or motivation to really perform such an awesome task.
It's like sky-diving, I guess - if I'm even qualified to make the comparison, considering I've never actually, you know, dove out of the sky.  I don't want to jump. I don't want to jump. I don wan oo jump. Idonwanoojump. Idonwanojum. IdowanojuIdowanojuIdowanoju...
WHOOP! I've jumped! From that point on, once I've hurdled the most terrifying part, the most risky step, everything falls together. All I can do is keep pushing forward, hoping for the very best outcome. The only way I can fail myself, at this point, is if I give up. No one may ever read what I write, but that failure is not on me. By entering the race at all, I've succeeded.

The painter waves his brush and takes a step back.
If only I'd painted that stroke in black.
The musician recalls the still-echoing tune.
If only I well-played that complex croon.
The actor bows to the sound of grand applause.
If only I'd delivered that line without pause.
The writer looks back on the sentence he wrote.
Another sentiment no person would quote.
And so each of us will try, try again,
To create an art worthy of the maker's hand,
Though we, through our years, will never make perfection,
We, ourselves, will come close through His pure affection.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Two plugs (with Added Commentary)

Matthew 5:16 - "Let your light so shine before men ..."

I need to do a better job praying for individuals in my life more specifically. True, I often pray for groups in grands swoops, saying things like "please bless my [family/friends/NC bros/friends on missions/Jamaican comrades]" or however you will. I want to put more effort into my prayers in general, making them an experience and less of a checklist.

I was at work yesterday, minding my own business, slaving over yet another article for the company's iBlog, when I got not one, but two emails sending me the exact same YouTube link. The second email, sent about five minutes after the first, was actually from dad, so once I gleefully informed him our coworkers had beat him to the punch, I decided to check the video out.

embedded video removed by author

Look what I found on this YouTube channel. It's pure genius in a parody song. It's beautiful. My life makes sense now, somehow. It's like it's more worth living.
And no-one can take that away from me, unlike this guy...

embedded video removed by author

So click this link here...

Hey, there! I wrote a commentary about this post on December 11 of 2014. Click here to read it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Matthew 23:28 - " also outwardly appear righteous unto men ..."

I have that old tendency to look at other people's mistakes and weaknesses and magnify them beyond my own.

I went to institute yesterday and really enjoyed myself. So far, of the three times I've gone, I've had a different teacher every time, and one of the enjoyable things about such an experience is that I'm always being treated to a unique learning experience. What struck me deeply yesterday, surely inspired by the instructor's careful and methodical study beforehand, was how often the Lord repeats himself in the scriptures. I have noticed those patterns before, to be sure, but even though the lesson barely even grazed that concept, that simple message struck me extra deeply, today of all days.
I've seen it. The words of Isaiah. The revelations of John and Ezekiel. Simple phrases like, 'knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' Why? Why do l need to hear it over and over again? Why do my instructors teach me the same things over and over again? Why am I always told to pray, study, and take the sacrament?
Well, I think it's because I, as a frail mortal, need the extra help. I look at all the mistakes I make and recognize that, in some ways, I am like a character from a poorly-plotted sitcom who repeatedly place themselves in increasingly dramatic situations because they didn't learn the moral lesson from last episode. If God expected me to learn my lesson and never make the same mistake again after the first time, I would never progress. And that's the beauty behind the atonement; it is designed for fallible people! That's something I can really get behind, which, judging from the fact that I have a body, I already have.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Thinly-Veiled Parable (with Added Commentary)

Matthew 7:3-5 - "...considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

I went to the temple again yesterday. It was the first time I ever went by myself, and it was a marvelous experience. In order to be more aware next time, however, I made a vow to get more sleep beforehand.

A man once threw a pebble off a cliff. It rolled, and tumbled, striking another pebble. The two fell together, striking more and more of their fellows. Larger rocks were dislodged by the pebbles' advance, and even larger rocks followed suit.
Another man stood farther down the cliff side, watching the steady advance of the rolling, tumbling rocks. His positioning on the mountain gave him a unique perspective the first man had not had. Far below, in the depths of the valley, a small hamlet resided, perfectly perched far below the slippery slope the rocks were presently cascading down. The second man recognized that, if the rocks were to continue unhindered, they would collect larger and larger allies until there was nothing to stop the collective force from completely destroying the homes, livelihoods, and lives of those residing far below  If the second man acted now, he could prevent the entire problem before everything proved too monumental to cease.
As the second man stepped forward to stop the smaller, nonlethal rocks from rolling, however, he paused. Is this really my fault? he thought to himself. I didn't throw that first rock. Shouldn't the man at the top be stopping this? Looking far below at the cozy hamlet, the man shook his head. I'm sure it won't be as bad as I imagine. Those people down there should have some protection against such tragedies, anyway. Shrugging off his personal responsibility and assuring himself that he was not to blame, the second man walked away from his chance to solve the problem.
The rock slide grew in proportion until the hamlet was completely consumed by the churning, falling wall of debris.

I wrote a commentary about this post on January 22, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Drivin' Home

2 Corinthians 12:2 - "...such an one caught up to the third heaven."

Most of my day was spent at Ye Ol' Workplace, ever trying to improve my writing skills and publish articles with less edits than the last draft.
Dad and I carpooled back to the house together, and we talked a lot about the 'state of affairs' amongst we four siblings, including what is motivating each of us and where we plan to reach by the end of our imaginations. The various paths we're personally following generally have finite ends in mind; we're putting so much focus on our goals, we haven't thought too much about what will happen when we reach that point we're gearing toward.

I was reminded of a certain perspective mom and dad consistently taught all four of us. The perspective is, simply, eternal, and we're living it according to our individual desires.
I know I consistently fail to keep an eternal perspective on things. I make split-second decisions that lead to heartache. I find it more natural to be carnal rather than saintly. I find that I struggle to keep my mind focused on the Savior. I fall into pits that force me to waste time climbing back up.
Of course, if I were to master keeping an eternal perspective at all times, then I wouldn't fall as deep. I wouldn't waste as much time. If I were to keep my end destination--rest in the third heaven--in mind, ever considering how my faith and my service create stairs up through eternity, then I wouldn't lose any of that progress I've made. I wouldn't allow the simple and petty things of the world to consume me. When I reach that point, when I consistently consider my long-term goals before making any short-term decisions, I will be on the right track.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Three Strategies vs. Three Hours

2 Nephi 32:3 - "...feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

I've never been very good at focusing, I'll admit. Whenever I do any one 'tedious' activity (according to my reckoning) for an extended period of time, one of three things happen.
One, I find myself gazing off into space thinking about anything from the latest Brandon Sanderson novel to the intelligence of mice.
Two, I try to power through the activity and earn myself a mild headache.
Three, I break up the workload by pausing infrequently, taking a few minutes to engage in some other activity. I might surf Wikipedia or TVTropes, or watch sketch comedy on YouTube.
Unfortunately, I have this tendency to be distracted even while doing something as simple as listening, even when I'm listening to something I'm genuinely interested in. For example, during church yesterday, I found my mind wandering every which way. My attempts to power through resulted in even more mind wanderings. Determined, I decided to do my very best to break up the workload while maintaining my mental devotion to my worship and to my Lord and Savior.

I made it a bit of a game to assist youngest sis in increasing her own focus during church. When she hid out in the lobby, I drew her back inside. Sure, she crashed in my lap almost immediately (thanks for the photo, mom!), but I escorted her to Sunday school, sat with her, and then orchestrated a massive effort amongst her friends to keep her during Young Women. I focused on helping her have the best possible experience at church, which in turn, aided my own experience (yeah, I know the picture looks like I'm either asleep or silently plotting the world's demise, but I swear I was awake). As it was, even though sis didn't admit it, I think both of us had a far more enjoyable and effective Sunday service.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Just Move

Matthew 25:40 - "... Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Bro and youngest sis invited me to go out with them and 'the boyfriend' to Burgerville yesterday. I blatantly refused. I had a variety of reasons, but even as I watched them drive away, I regretted saying no. Sure, my evening wasn't ruined, mom and dad and I taking the opportunity to hike up to the Pool of the Winds after everyone else left. However, the second I told my siblings "no," I felt an urge to rescind my answer, despite that I didn't actually have any real desires to go. I felt the spirit prompting me to chase after them even twenty minutes after they left. I'll never know why. I allowed my own stubbornness to keep me from doing the best thing, and even now, though both of my siblings are safe and at home, I don't know what I might have prevented.

We woke bright and early this morning to help out a family in the ward with their move. Even though I barely knew anyone in the crowd when I arrived, I made a lot of friends, and even found someone willing to have a jam session with me, the first of which we scheduled for today. As we worked, I felt great, knowing that I was doing my part to serve my Lord and Master through serving His flock. I received no reward (save for the LifeSavers cylinder the mother slipped me during services today), and expected none.
Finding opportunities to serve is far more difficult now that I'm home and caught up in the daily grind. I relish every opportunity I have.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sunset (with Added Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

I reserved some time yesterday for some introspection.

I went up to the hill by our house, whereupon I'd watched fireworks on the fourth of July, and just watched the Colombia River Gorge as the sun set off on the horizon.

I considered where I've slipped in my own spirituality, what activities I could be improving on, what I wasn't doing at all.

I read scriptures from my smart phone, snapping photos every so often.

I'm not perfect. I recognized many things that needed to change, either for the better or completely.

I nonetheless felt a peace overcome me.

Upon returning home, I led a devotional for the teacher's quorum here at our ward, who were all spending the night in anticipation for assisting with a move this morning.

Dad and I sat and talked about my dreams and aspirations for a spell before we both finally staggered off to bed.

I thanked God for his love, all that he has given me, and all that he will give me.

Hey, there! I wrote a commentary about this post on November 27 of 2014. Click here to read it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Temples and Temping (with Added Commentary)

D+C 88:124 - "... retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated ..."

So! My body's a temple. It may not be as pretty as some of the other temples out there, but it's a temple regardless. Last night, I did as the above verse suggests, and went to bed early. I even rose earlier than my alarm!
Of course, the only reason why I did either of those things is because I'd worn myself out staying awake too late and getting up earlier than recommended for weeks and weeks on end. I didn't just 'go to bed early.' My body decided it had had enough, and as I was typing up my journal, my system just shut down on me. I barely had time to reach a bed before I was out and gone. Notice it wasn't my bed; bro opted to avoid completely trading places and laid down on the floor downstairs. So, when I woke up, I had forgotten my prayers, I had failed to achieve everything I'd wanted to the night before, and, most importantly, my breath was awful. I think it's time to give me just a little more rest each day. Can't be hurtin' the temple, ya know.

I was working all day yesterday, and I had a blast. I got another post up on the hospital website, and another one went up this morning (though it was more of a collaborative project between me and my boss than anything else, so I'm not really sure why I'm being credited as the author, especially when you compare my first draft to the final). Either way, I had a great time, and I could tell my writing skills were improving from the beginning to the end of the day, especially with all the feedback and advice I was getting. Though most of my companions were blue-collar types on my mission, I stuck to my guns that I personally thrive in a white-collar environment (ironically, I wear a blue collar to work, as you can see), and it's proving to be true.
Talking with the various members of the team about their own life choices and how they ended up working in communications gave me a greater perspective about paths I can choose when I reach where they've already walked. I'm looking forward to those moments.

Hey there! I wrote a short commentary on this post on November 20 of 2014. Click here to read it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Loose thy Tongue

D+C 60:2 - "But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths..."

I don't exactly know what happened to me in the interim between coming home and the present moment. I am so less confident in my own voice, it frankly surprises me. I was at institute last night, and the teacher asked how many of us have served missions. I raised my hand among others. Then she asked us to declare where we served.
Wham! My throat immediately contracted a lump. As the RMs went around the room, throwing out the names of places like Brazil, Tokyo, Wisconsin, coming ever closer to me, I found myself struggling to even whisper.
I don't know what it was. Perhaps it was because I didn't know everyone else in the room. Perhaps I don't quite feel on the same par as those other RMs. Perhaps I don't match my own expectations for what an RM should feel like. Perhaps I felt less outspoken than the others in the room. Perhaps I was scared of anyone trying to compare missions with me. Perhaps a lot of the brazenness I thought I'd developed in myself was mostly of that increased spirit my setting apart offered me. Whatever it was, I quickly grew frustrated with myself. You will not shortchange the growth you experienced over these past two years by keeping your mouth shut, I thought. Now shut up and open your mouth!
"Jamaica." I managed to say that one word with a strengthened conviction.
Yeah, some people jokingly asked me later, "So was that a mission or a vacation?" I laughed, knowing they couldn't understand. But I puffed up my chest with pride whenever that island nation was named. Yes. Jamaica.

... healing tastes sweet.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

One step back, Two steps forward

2 Nephi 4:34 - "... I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever ..."

It's about time for me to get over myself and take a plunge. It's time to conquer this next hurdle my weakness has placed in my way. It's time to devote more of my time to my personal pursuits. It's time to really take the things I learned on my mission and apply them one hundred percent. I've been shying away from it all too long, I guess. Perhaps I was fearful that, for the first time, my pursuits will not be aided by my setting apart, nor by the prayers of millions of people. Perhaps I was scared of moving without directly engaging in the work of God. I think I've always been frustrated how I, as an individual, accomplish so little in the grand scheme of things.

It was the long car ride I had yesterday that really got me thinking about all this. A brother from the ward asked me to substitute for his paper route while he's off on vacation over the next couple of weeks, and so drove me around yesterday to show me the route. I was remarkably exhausted, and unfortunately proving to be an insufficient conversationalist as my heavy eyelids threatened to close for the rest of the ride. The good brother, being the kind man he is, never commented on my near incoherency, and simply told me stories from his life as we meandered through the back roads of Washougal.
As I listened, I learned a lot about this good man. He was very successful in his career, but after he was forced to retire early, things didn't turn out the way he'd planned. He, too, served a mission. He, too, is active in my faith. Despite some of his minor setbacks, he is a remarkably jolly guy, beaming with an irrepressible optimism. Without intending to, his stories placed me on a train of thought following a deliberate set of tracks the rest of the day. He reminded me that success, in any field or measure, does not dictate my own happiness. I dictate my own happiness, through my thoughts, through my actions. I don't need to fear, even if I'm not wearing that black tag. The trust I've developed still remains.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ye Whom I Love

"The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." - The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Every time I think I've learned to let offenses slide, God throws some new offense in my way.
"Will you let this slide this time?" he seems to ask.
I'll admit, I am not doing so hot in this particular test. While I have dramatically improved in the art of forgiving others for offenses to myself, I haven't really had much recent opportunity to forgive others for offenses to people I love. That's what's really eating at me. You can insult me, disrespect me, hurt me, malign me, steal from me, lie to me, cheat me, abuse me, whatever. It may take some time, but I will forgive.
But if you do any of those things to someone I care about ... I'm struggling.

As the last part of the day, we had our weekly family home evening. We sang some hymns, ate some slightly burnt cookies, watched some Mormon messages, and played a remarkably ridiculous game called Fluxx. It's hard for me to describe what it's like, being back with my family again after two years. Even these simple things, like family night, bring me a lot of joy. It was hard for me to really appreciate these little things that I had before my 'rebirth' of sorts; now, I cherish every moment. In a couple of months, when I duck out again, I'll miss them even more.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Matthew 5:22 - "...whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

I made a big mistake yesterday.

My actions are not justified. But I could feel a lot worse about it. That's what worries me the most.

I think now would be appropriate to remind my readership, however small it may be, that this blog is, essentially, my journal. I may share some very personal things sometimes, some things that will hurt to share. I choose to share these things. My reasons are numerous, but the top are, one, I want to be honest with myself and face my weaknesses, and two, I want to deter others from making the same mistakes I have, especially once I know the cost.

I'm pretty bruised right now. Not physically. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally ... you've been there.

Now, there were obviously many positive notes about yesterday. To say otherwise would be entirely foolish. I had the opportunity to help bless the sacrament. I had the opportunity to receive forgiveness for my sins and weaknesses by renewing my baptismal covenant. I had the opportunity to sit in on a youth class and bear my testimony. I had the opportunity to take bro and our mutual friend out on an errand for the Lord, bonding throughout. I had the opportunity to really get some serious work done on my apparently massive journal project. Even in the storms that arise in my life, there is always something for which to be grateful. I'm even grateful for that simple fact. I'm also taking solace in the old phrase, "If your life is going really well, then either something really bad is about to happen, or you're doing something wrong." There's truth there.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Like a Fire is Burning

2 Nephi 9:51 - "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy."

Even though I thought I had it nipped in the bud, I still have a tendency to shy away from people when I have things I want to do for myself. For me, that could include writing, reading, playing an instrument, or anything else that doesn't necessarily involve human interaction. Of course, those things, while more lasting than watching TV or playing a video game, are not as valuable or as lasting as the relationships we will forge in the next life.

As it was, I was a little hesitant to accept dad's midday offer to take bro and I out for a Fourth of July weekend campfire in the evening. Recognizing I won't have opportunities like this forever, however, I soon changed my mentality and led the charge out of the house. We had a hilarious time, searching for firewood (at the nearest convenience store), lighting the fire (with our fireplace lighter and pages torn from an atlas), roughing it out (while eating candy corn and drinking Gatorade), singing sweet ukulele songs, and telling ol' fashioned ghost stories. It was a good bonding experience for the three of us, and I'm glad I didn't duck out. I don't think I should ever duck out for things like that.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Explosion Day (with Added Commentary)

D+C 101:80 - "And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I have raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood."

For some reason, I was just really hesitant to pray today. Perhaps this was an example of what Jesus described in Matthew 12:44. I cast out the Devil of Infrequent Prayers, and my prayers became sincere and heartfelt. Then, I got a little lax, and the Devil of Infrequent Prayers came back and found me empty, swept, and garnished.

I spent most of the day playing Call of Cthulhu with my new-found friends, enjoying the experience of playing Chuckie Fallon, idiotic delinquent skateboarder. Once that was concluded and everything was wrapped up, however, I knew I needed to give a little bit to God. Ascending the hill near my house, I sat on the conveniently-place park bench and snapped a few pictures of the awesome display all up and down the Columbia Gorge. Then, once I was satisfied my pictures couldn't get any worse or that the collage I planned on making couldn't be any less artistic, I pulled open my scriptures and began to read. It was a neat experience, pouring over God's word while accompanied by a cool breeze and distant explosions. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Hey there! I wrote a commentary about this post on December 18, 2014. Click here to read!

Friday, July 4, 2014

ROFL (with Added Commentary)

1 Corinthians 6:19 - "Know ye not ... ye are not your own?"

I had a real struggle with being humble yesterday, a fight I'm happy to report I won. I only do my internship twice a week, all-day Monday, all-day Thursday, and so today was the first time I was actually able to write an article.
Well! I wrote one article, and I was bombarded with praise from all sides. My superiors were so impressed, they gave me another article to write, and once I finished, I endured another series of compliments. Of course, my superiors had suggestions for things I needed to change or fix--I certainly didn't write a flawless article in one draft--but, regardless, I found it would have been very easy to get a puffed head over everything. Thankfully, I was able to keep in mind the simple fact that God gave me every bit of writing talent I have. If I take any credit for any amount of talent I have, all I can say is that I exercised my agency to practice something God already gave me.

My family invited a whole heap of Mormons over for a party right after I got back from my internship, and I wasn't really looking forward to the experience all that much. As you recall from my post from yesterday, large groups of people still wonk me out, so I was worried I would be sitting there, awkwardly unable to participate or contribute to the surrounding conversation. 
Well, to my relief, some of the people who were invited to the party were actually kindred spirits, and our discussion on all things geek brought me much relief. They actually invited me to participate in a good old fashioned Fourth of July game today: Call of Cthulhu. I'm gearing up to check that out in just a few hours. It's funny how God tosses us those little tender mercies.

Hey there! I wrote a commentary about this post on January 15, 2015. Click here to read!

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Luke 21:36 - "Watch ye therefore, and pray always..."

I had a couple of neat experiences today. I guess I don't really have too much of a 'change' to report, but at least I have several moments to cherish.
I had an opportunity to sit down and really talk with Doctor Marc Davis, my chiropractor here in Vancouver, about what's going on with my aching back. He showed me some videos regarding what causes back pain, and I was blown away. I finally began to understand how the spine actually works, how our nerves are protected, how subluxations occur, how they're repaired, how the body compensates for spinal damage, how everything in the body connects together ...
Sitting there, watching all of this, I couldn't help but notice that everything in my body had to have been designed. The theory that our bodies were formed by chance is just so ridiculous to me. By that logic, I could be walking through a forest and find a wild computer sitting on a tree branch furiously spitting out equations. How could such a thing come about by chance? All you have to do is look at the central nervous system and recognize just how much like a computer we are. An errant firework can not produce a smart phone.

I attended a religious institute class yesterday, and I really enjoyed it! However, after the teacher closed us off with a prayer and the students began to socialize, I immediately felt out of place. I've lost my ability to make small talk without bringing up missionary work or the Gospel in some way, and so after a few failed attempts to strike up a real solid conversation, I just decided to duck out.
On my way home, I kind of got in the zone way out on the highway, and I didn't even notice until my GPS started screaming at me to turn around. Unfazed, I headed back toward my neighborhood through a back entrance. Even though I've only been here a couple of weeks, I was feeling confident enough to distrust my GPS' directions  through the back entrance, and cockily took a different route than what was asked of me.
My five minute trip abruptly lengthened to twenty.
I was still unfazed. I was jamming out to my tunes, I was enjoying the lush countryside, and I was perfectly all right with everything. I'd been sufficiently humbled. Life was good.
But then, I started thinking. What if God allowed me to be stupid so I could be on this road for some other reason?
I turned my music off and listened.
Well, I didn't meet anyone whose car broke down, and I didn't see anyone who was in particular need of aid, and I didn't see any grand natural sight I hadn't already seen, but the silent fifteen minutes was amazing for me. Even though I was driving, I took the Savior's challenge to pray always, and I just started telling God all about my day, from beginning to end. I'm sure some of the prayer-sticklers out there would tell me I should have been kneeling with my eyes closed, but that was one of the most relaxing and invigorating prayers I've ever uttered, even I as was driving down the road with my eyes wide open and my feet firmly on the pedals. It made the relationship I have with God more personal. It reminded me what a blessing it is to be able to talk with God whenever we want. Some of my fears and worries were swept away. And, as I pulled into my driveway, I felt peace.
Maybe that's why I went down so many wrong roads. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Out of Retirement

D+C 42:6: "And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name..."

I've made it a personal goal to keep the Spirit of my two-year mission with me by going visiting with the local missionaries once or twice a week. In the two weeks I've been back from Jamaica, I haven't yet gone, so yesterday was a way for me to make up for that.
We brought bro along, and man, was that such a stellar experience! We four began our day by heading out to Five Guys, and then zig-zagged up and down and all over Washougal, searching for those who were willing to let four Mormons in out of the heat. Well, three Mormons in out of the heat; I wasn't bothered by the weather in the slightest.
I as reminded again just how blessed I really am. Some of the people we stopped by to visit are really struggling, both spiritually and temporally. I was particularly grateful that bro was with me; while I have frequented the poverty-stricken streets of a third-world country every day for the past two years, bro has rarely had the opportunity to see or visit anyone below his own social class and standing. I could tell by watching him that he was gaining a greater appreciation for what he does have, and I hope his overarching forgetfulness regarding his personal gratitude was healed, even slightly. I know my own forgetfulness was healed.
All in all, having the opportunity to walk with God's full-time messengers again was a really cool experience, for which I was incredibly grateful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Enter: The Intern

"...By our righteous choices and actions, we liberate them from darkness by increasing their ability to walk in the light..." -Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I think I have a habit of being too demanding or preachy. I recognized this following the private conversations I had with my brother yesterday, during which I'd encouraged him regarding his missionary labors and overall charisma. In retrospect, I could have done a better job helping bro feel like his potentially differing opinion still held weight, rather than simply telling him my opinion and, in essence, saying it was the only way. Presenting no choice is, ironically, Satan's way, not God's. Because God loves us enough to give us our agency, he allows us to choose even not to follow Him. Respecting others' choices, even when we disagree with them, will provide us a clearer pathway to God's rest.

I started my internship at PeaceHealth yesterday, and I really enjoyed the experience. I went in feeling pretty nervous, worrying that I would get as hazed as dad was sure I would be, but I was completely relieved when I was outright welcomed with a 4th of July smiley-face button and a bowl of blueberries. For the rest of the day, the team was very patient with me, even when I messed up a series of scans and had to redo them. Despite my expectation and my placard that I would be referred to as simply, 'The Intern,' I was even called by my rightful name. Sure, I was still hazed, sure, I was still called 'The Intern' once or twice, but I felt very at ease throughout the day, even when I ended up lost in the bowels of the building looking for a conference room I was convinced never existed. So far, it's looking like it's going to be a rather delightful experience, and I look forward to continuing to learn from my mentor's stead.