Tuesday, September 30, 2014

100 Posts, 3000 Pageviews

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

So, a few days ago, I noticed that I was nearing my one hundredth post in as many days. Wow! I thought. That's super cool! We had about 2700 views at that point as well. I thought about trying to do some sort of promotional thing, encourage you guys to spread awareness about the blog so we could hit 3000 views by the time we hit 100 posts, but finally decided against it.

Well, guess what you guys had all gifted for me when I hopped on today:

So, for starters, thank you! Thank you for the kind words! Thank you for your comments! Thank you for reading! Even if I only had 100 views, and every single one was from me, I would still be writing the blog, but because of you guys, I know I'm fulfilling the true objective I intended when I first started drafting: to daily uplift, encourage, and invite. Thank you for all you do.

This past week, I've been wracking my brain for something I could write about that would be purely awesome, a post worthy of legendary status as a proper thank-you for you guys. By the time 9:30pm rolled around last night, I still didn't have anything.

One of my RA friends and I were out roving through buildings, professionally killing moments, when she and I stopped at the room of yet another RA to say hi. He was so excited to see us, he offered me a piece of bread with Nutella slathered all over it. I was thrilled, and readily accepted the offer. Still, though, as he spread his gift, I was watching him, wondering, what can my 100th post be about? What? WHAT? What can I offer these my readers as thanks for all they do?

Then, all at once, it hit me. I immediately started snapping pictures.

My RA friends didn't impress me with fancy wrapping or long speeches or any pomp or splendor to speak of. They offered me a piece of bread covered with almond spread. And, for some reason, I felt I would have been more thrilled to receive that simple gift than I would have been to receive a kingdom, simply because I felt their sincere, selfless love pouring through no matter how much he claimed he was really just trying to deplete his stash. And that was perfect for me.

So, no. I can't offer all you guys Nutella Spread Bread (if I could, it would be a pretty cool gag for the 100th post) nor can I do anything like it. However, I continue to work hard so that, each and every day, I can offer you a comparable feeling of love and appreciation. And, in the same way, when your encouragement and words of love and even pageviews flow in, know that you're giving me my own Nutella Spread Bread.

Love you guys! See you again tomorrow!

To another hundred, year, and beyond, wherever life takes you or I,

Zac Strickland

P.S. One more thing: Some of you might remember my first website, zacjam.com, which has long been gone and dead. I never broke 3000 views throughout the entire two or so years I maintained the site. You guys are awesome!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Magnify your Responsibilities: Crazy Protein Shake (with Added Commentary)

Romans 11:13 - "... I magnify my office."

I felt a little bit like a slacker in regards to my spiritual responsibilities yesterday.

After all, after a long, rough night, I slept right through my Elder's Quorum Presidency meeting. Then, I spent the rest of the day trying to make up for my slack by setting up my companionship's first home teaching appointments. Of course, the irony didn't escape me that it was the last Sunday of the month ... and therefore I was slacking in that regard as well ...

But anyway, for those of you who don't know what it is, 'home teaching' and its sister 'visiting teaching' are programs that give the members of a congregation the opportunity to be a support and comfort for their fellow brothers and sisters.

My companionship's 'families' were amazingly gracious about our late visits, and we all had a blast. When we went to go visit the male roommates on our list, I joked about the fact that they hadn't made us a cake before we arrived. To make up for it (which, of course, they really didn't have to, but ok), they ended up mixing me all of their protein, body-building, and supplemental mixes into one bottle and allowing me to chug it. It tasted like Pepto-Bismol, and it gave me a lot of unneeded energy considering the lateness of the hour, but the experiences we shared--both spiritual and in drink-form--helped to forge a bond I'm sure will carry on through the rest of the semester.

Even despite the memorably infamous drink, what stood out to me yesterday was the fact that I need to put my God-given responsibilities first. Given my rushing around to do what I'd earlier shirked, the day was a bit more hectic than should have been considering the sacred, calming nature of the Sabbath. I also felt a bit guilty for missing that meeting and saving my HT visits for the very last Sunday, especially since I so determinedly encouraged my friends in Jamaica to consistently make their meetings and proactively do their home teaching.

My challenge for everyone today is to not do what I did today and find ways to magnify the gifts and callings God has given you. Take five minutes, think to yourself, and ask, "What can I do better in my own personal ministry?" Even if its just one thing, it will take you a long way.

I wrote a commentary on this post on May 28, 2015. Click here to read!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting Things Together: Locked In

"Doesn't it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?" - Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Of Regrets and Resolutions

Yesterday, I was determined to catch up on the mountain-load of work I've struggled to keep from overwhelming me. With the one exception to my prior roleplaying commitment, I vowed to reject all invitations for social events or fun for the entire day.

After my commitment, I staggered back to my room with the intention to work all day so I could sleep easy on Sunday night before classes started up again. It was raining, and wouldn't you know that rain just makes me the coziest person in the world, so rather than tackle the mountain, I collapsed on my couch and disappeared to the world.

Of course, disappearing wasn't all that easy. Three different residents came banging on my door because they locked themselves out of their rooms, interrupting my much-needed nap. Finally, when I woke for reals, it was about 5:00pm, and the mountain still loomed.

Homework, journal, blog, novel, chores, readings, all fell before me, yet, despite my best efforts, by the time midnight rolled around, my climb had barely taken me above sea level. However, despite all this, things really weren't that bad. I mean, when you compare the picture in this post to how my room looked yesterday, well, things look a whole lot better.

And I think that's the thing. In small ways, given my overloaded truck-bed of tasks, I keep forgetting to enjoy the journey, focusing more on finishing and completing the individual steps simply so I can 'catch up.' The thing is, I'll never catch up. My to-do list always has something else to add. My responsibilities, whether from church or work or family or hobbies, will always need attention. But that doesn't mean that my day wasn't full of victories, tiny though they may have been. Even though my goals weren't completed, the day was not a waste. It's easy to view life as a win-or-lose all scenario, but honestly? It's not.

So, my challenge for you today is to count your victories! Let them shine in your memory! And be sure to comment below!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Same Objective: A Roller-Skating Analogy (with Added Commentary)

Zechariah 13:9 - "And I ... will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God."

A group of friends and I went out on a date last night to roller-skate and eat crepes at a delicious restaurant devoted to that particular type of food. It was, as I always seem to have, super fun!

As the four of us spun around the rink, I kept looking around at the other skaters to see how everyone else was doing. Some people were holding hands as they went. Some people were wobbly and liked windmilling their arms to stay in balance. Some people were confident, gliding past our group without a care in the world. One poor girl's frantic windmillings couldn't even stop her from falling repeatedly. One group of young girls looked like they were professionals, their synchronized skating remaining in perfect speed and balance no matter what fallen obstacle they had to skirt around. And, of course, there were the little children on scooters, tearing around the place and making the members of our party nervously wobble as they careened into our pathway without fear of death or danger.

As I watched this skating rink full of people of all sorts, shapes, and sizes, I found an interesting analogy. All of us were there for the same reason: we wanted to have fun skating. The way we were able to do that, though, differed completely from person to person. But that was OK! Because we were all still accomplishing our goals. Obviously, or we would have left.

In the same way, all of us are here on this earth for the same reason: to grow and develop and nurture our characters and personalities so we can prove ourselves and return to live with Father. And we're all doing it in our own way. Some of us stumble and fall repeatedly. Some of us are filled with confidence. Some of us are always windmilling. But that's OK! Because, each of us, as we strive and push forward, are still accomplishing our goals. And that's all God asks for: our very best efforts. No matter how many times we fall on our butts.

I wrote a commentary about this post on May 21, 2015. Click here to read!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Serving Others: Birthday Vegetables (with Added Commentary)

Mosiah 24:15 - "...bear up their burdens with ease..."

So the other RAs and I were all like, "Let's party tonight!" And we did! To, like, 2:00am! 

Some people be trollin' in this picture. We were all having a great time, I swear.
But anyway, as I was walking through a building all by myself in an attempt to rally and rustle up the crowd, who should I see but another one of my RA friends chilling at his building's front desk. I stopped to talk with him and see how he was doing, and lo and behold, two freshmen girls waltzed in and asked if they could take up some birthday vegetables to their friend's room.

Well, given BYU's standards on in-room visits and all that, my RA friend behind the desk had to tell them they were crazy. I felt sorry for the crestfallen girls, however, given they'd obviously put some hard work into their efforts, so I offered to go up to the guy's room and do their surprise work.

So, carrying a tray of vegetables and some streamers, I went up to the guy's room, where the ringleader claimed he'd left his key specifically so she could decorate the place. She also said the place would be empty. Imagine my laughter when I discovered the selfsame guy hanging out in his bedroom. He and his roommate explained they were supposed to be gone, but had fallen behind in their schedule. They begged me not to tell the girl that I'd found them. I told them, "Ok, but on one condition: you gotta help me streamer the room."

So, we did.

This is obviously the work of three guys trying to do a slap-together job in, like, five minutes.
I went back downstairs with pictures of the decorations, taking them after the guys stuffed themselves in their closets. She was most grateful and thanked me generously.

I went back to my RA friend, who was shaking his head. "You're a good guy," he said. "I wouldn't have done that."

I laughed. "Sure you would! Maybe not while you're behind the desk, but it was a good chance to serve someone." With that, we bantered a bit, and then I left, smiling because I'd helped someone do something they couldn't, aiding someone in their service for a third party who I, in turned, served by allowing the girls to think they were completely surprised. This whole situation is kind of confusing in my description, I admit, but it was fun! Not because I streamered someone's room, because naw, dog, that ain't me. No, it was because I eased someone's burden. And if I can do that every day, well, not only does it being me joy, but it brings joy to my Savior who experienced all things.

I wrote a commentary about this post on May 14, 2015. Click here to read!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giving Compliments (with Added Commentary)

2 Samuel 2:6 - "And now the Lord shew kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing.

Some people don't like compliments. I can understand that. After all, if someone compliments me, I usually don't know how to respond in kind, and end up getting all flustered and looking silly. What's even worse is when I'm first getting to know someone, and I end up using my normal self-deprecating humor around them. Of course they will repudiate the tongue-in-cheek-yet-still-negative-statement about myself, which not only flusters me, but makes me feel guilty. I mean, I really don't want to look like I'm fishing for compliments, but recently, I feel as though I've been appearing as though I have been.

Anyway, the main point is, look at all these people!

Despite the fact that some people may feel awkward after a good compliment, everyone deserves one. My simple challenge for you today is to go compliment someone today! Compliment someone you know! Compliment someone you don't know! You look at all those people in that picture, and you just have no idea what they're going through or experiencing. Whatever it is, brighten their day. I dare you.

I wrote a commentary about this post on May 7, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Seeing the Best of Things (with Added Commentary)

2 Corinthians 9:12 - "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God."

I'm an RA! Just in case you haven't been following.

Being an RA (aka Resident Assistant, aka Living with College Freshmen to facilitate their experience) is an interesting journey. One of my residents innocently asked me last night if I enjoy being an RA. I told him of course! Then, he asked me what it's like. I hemmed and hawed for a moment, then pulled out an analogy.

I see living as an RA like going to the Dentist. You're surrounded by friendly people, you get free things, you get a nicer smile, you get to relish the joys of Novocaine, your family takes hilarious YouTube videos of you saying the most ridiculous things while under the influence, your video gets, like, a billion hits, you retire from the proceeds ... Going to the dentist is great! But, you know ... you're still at the dentist.

But that's just the thing! It's like that one story of the guy who stops to talk with three different quarry workers. He asks all three of them the same question--"What are you doing?"--and he gets three different responses.

"I'm chipping rocks."

"I'm earning three gold pieces a day."

"I'm building a house of the Lord."

See, each one of the workers had the same job, but each had a different perspective. I can easily allow myself to be bogged down with the less-than-glamorous side of my job, like how people are always locking themselves out and stealing my shower curtains and leaving paper all over the shared bathroom floor, but I don't choose to focus on things like that.

I see my job as a wonderful opportunity to minister to my fellow brothers, to be their friend and help in anything they need. Sure, sometimes I'm as grumpy as a honey badger when I'm in the middle of my afternoon nap and I'm roused for whatever whatever, but I'm just grateful I still have the chance to brighten someone's day, for my employment! How many people can say that?

Well, a lot more than you'd think, I suspect. I mean, if I'd had this kind of attitude even when I was working at Sonic--"I'm feeding hungry people!"--I think my already awesome experience would have improved tenfold.

How do you serve others through your employment?

I wrote a commentary on this post on April 30, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Search for His Name

3 Nephi 27:7 - "Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name ..."

I've been more grateful than I can express for the kind words all of you have said about my blog recently. I've been touched by some of your comments, which have helped me recognize I am accomplishing my goal of spiritually uplifting my readers, something I certainly worried about at the beginning. Thank you.

In the meantime, when I'm not writing my blog, HOLY HASHTAG I AM BUSY.

I hoped this 'PrtSc' would be able to properly illustrate everything I'm juggling, including the multiple open word documents and the four stickies will with things I need to do and the millions of tabs open in the internet browser.

Yesterday, I came home around 4:00pm and, with one hour-long break for Family Home Evening, just cooped myself up in my room and sloughed over my many school assignments and personal projects. Finally, 10:30pm rolled around, and I was impossibly furious at everything in my room. I hated my computer. I hated my desk. I hated my textbooks. I hated my sink. I hated my couch. I hated my pillow.

I decided I needed to go for a walk.

I finally stopped after I'd cooled down a bit and decided to crack open my Gospel Library app, as I hadn't yet read my scriptures for the day. The first chapter I read was 3 Nephi 27, and the seventh verse, as so kindly linked to at the top of the page, caught my attention.

The context behind the verse is when Jesus was counseling His disciples to call the church in His name after much disputation pertaining to the matter. So, in this verse's case, Christ was telling his disciples that, if they are to do all things in His name, what else are they supposed to call His church? However, just that single fragment, what I left at the top of the post, got me thinking. Obviously, I know I'm writing this blog 'in His name,' in essence, writing about my thoughts on  Gospel truths in an attempt to encourage and uplift others. However, with everything else bogging life down, I think it can sometimes be difficult to see ways that I can, for example, write my Geography current event paper "in His name." However, we are promised that we can find ways, if we only seek them. Sitting there outside the Marriott, trying to ignore the cute, happy couples giggling past me, pondering that single verse, I was grateful I was reminded to keep searching.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Finding Truth in All Things: Are You There, Moriarty?

Moses 6:61 - "Therefore it is given to abide in you ... the truth of all things ..."

As part of my job as an RA, every week, I hold a 'CS Meeting,' where I gather the residents of my floor together and lead a discussion/activity about what's been going on in the hall and any concerns or problems we need to discuss.

These meetings I run have traditions we have started.  The most prominent one is, before the opening prayer, I call up two of the residents to play, 'Are You There, Moriarty?' We have a bracket going, and we're hoping to find an overall champion by the end of our time together. Either way, each match is intense, and people have even begun strategizing ways to win beforehand, though I've personally discovered brute force usually increases your chances of winning.

Anyway, given that the main obstacle in the game is that you're blind, as I watched my two residents duel it out yesterday, I thought about how one could easily use the game as an object lesson in some Sunday School lesson.

Here's mine: I would explain how, with the loss of prophets and apostles following the widespread apostasy of the Christian church, the people of the day were left in spiritual darkness. I would give the newspapers and blindfolds to my volunteers and have them play the game, likely changing the key phrase to something more Gospel-related. I would focus on how many times the two duelists miss hitting each other, and compare those whiffs to how hard it is to gain a full understanding of God's full plan without His personally chosen servants and accompanying revelations. Either way, it would be a fun break in the lesson, and hopefully, the comparison would stick.

But what about you guys? Be sure to post a short Sunday School lesson plan based on this game (or others, if you so prefer) in the comments below!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Don't Forget to Study: What I did on Saturday

2 Nephi 32:3 - "... feast upon the words of Christ ..."

This is a long block of prose!

I'll be honest, some days, I just don't have a relevant picture. This is probably obvious to you some posts, like when I start craning my neck to somehow tie the daily picture I took with the lesson I learned in the day. As it was, I figured that, at least for today, I would admit I'm at least aware when I'm doing this, and not hide the fact that the following picture has nothing to do with my thoughts. Enjoy!

Well, I just had a weird day in general yesterday. Falling asleep at 4:30am the night before was an idea that could have had disastrous consequences, especially considering I had volunteered to fill in for the DM for my DND group at 9:00am. I woke up at 8:10am, got showered, and arrived just in time to send my teammates on a battle against Scar and his hyena troop.

After that enjoyable adventure, I somehow managed to throw up a blog post and accomplish my daily goal for digitizing my journal before one of my residents knocked on my door and asked to talk. This was the same resident I'd taken to the ER a few nights prior, and he proudly showed me the tubes sticking out of his chest and just talked about everything that had happened after he called me to tell me he was heading into surgery. Poor guy obviously just wanted to talk, but right around the same time he showed up, I started hitting a wall, and about fell asleep on him right in the middle of our conversation.

I set an alarm for about two hours later than it was, hit the snooze button three times, and then just turned the whole thing off. I was out about four hours when my best bro called and asked if he could come hang out at my place. I mumbled something about being asleep, to which he called my bluff and showed up anyway. He roused me out of bed, which was good, considering I still had homework and sleep to accomplish later in the night, and we walked around campus and talked about life for a bit. We eventually parted ways, and I headed back to the dorm to write in my novel, read for my English class, and write a paper.

I was getting tired again, but I wanted to squeeze in an episode of MLP:FIM before midnight, so I threw Netflix on. Unfortunately, the internet was awful, so between buffers, I resumed my reading of the third book in the Maze Runner series. By the time the episode ended, my kindle told me I had about an hour left in the book. I had once again been sucked in by the plot, and so remained reading until just before 1:00am. I had a temple rededication to go to at 9:00am, so I prepared for bed.

Then, I remembered.

I had forgotten.

I was tired and ready to sleep, but I sure as heaven wasn't going to bed until I read my scriptures.

Lights back on, back to the couch, flip on my Gospel Library App, and I read a chapter out of the Book of Mormon and a chapter out of the New Testament. It was a shorter study session than I usually have, but I felt the Spirit, and it was enough.

When I was on my mission, my companions and I would ask our investigators or less-actives or recent converts to read a chapter or two out of the scriptures before we came back a few days later for our return appointment. Probably about 90% of the time, when we came back, they would tell us they 'didn't have time' in the interim.

My reminder for the day is: Make the time! It doesn't matter how tired you are, it doesn't matter what else you've done in the day, you will be strengthened and blessed when you read, study, and ponder God's word. I haven't missed a day since I've come back, though I've had close days like yesterday when I'm about to pass out and I'm reminded, 'Go.' I promise you, your life will seem that much more bright.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Building Friendships: Party all Night (with Added Commentary)

Proverbs 18:24 - "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

Sometimes, there's nothing better than doing stupid things with a large group of friends.

We RAs at May Hall have a bit of a reputation for being antisocial, seeing as how most of us never make any sort of appearance at any RA-based social activities. None of us are there for werewolf, none of us are there for Uno, none of us are there for just 'chillins' times. This reputation has come back around to us, and so a few of us are trying to overcome that by making more active appearances at the party times.

As it was, my fellow May Hall RA and I were assigned to rove together last night, including checking out the stoplight dance Helaman Halls was throwing on for the freshmen.

Just before we were finished with our shift, we were invited by one of our fellow RAs to join a massive group of them heading off to Sonic. It was 1:25am at this point, but we were like, sure, why not?

Well, Sonic was nearly closed, so we ended up trooping into IHOP instead and filling up with pancakes and hashbrowns and eggs and bacon and all the delicious breakfast stuff one usually has at least two hours later than when we were having it. By the time we all got back, we were staggering into bed around 4:30 am, and I, of course, had to wake up at 8:00am to join my gaming group for our pre-established time.

The thing is, though, even though I'm bone-curdling tired even as I write this post, I wouldn't trade those moments with my fellow RAs for nothing. I got to know some of them better than ever before, and the memories and experience of the event easily stomp any memories or experience I would have had just by heading off to bed right after my shift.

And so, though I've had challenges very similar to this recently, my challenge today is this: go make some memories with someone! Right now! And then, never forget.

I wrote a commentary about this post on April 23, 2015. Click here to read!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Remember You

Mosiah 4:27 - "... for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength."

I just watched this video. I would encourage everyone else to watch it as well.

I had very grandiose plans set for yesterday: I was going to turn off my alarm and make it to bed at 8:00pm, so I could sleep as long as I needed to to catch up on what I'd missed over the last week or so during my university grind.

As the week had gone by, I'd let certain things slip in my haste. As such, this is what my room looked like come the early afternoon yesterday.

As it was, I still managed to stagger into bed just before 1:00am this morning, a good five hours after my plan. I'd ended up fighting customer service, helping someone to the hospital, and playing Werewolf with my fellow RAs and friends.

I had no regrets.

Of course, that didn't stop me from sleeping in until after 11:00am today, but hey!

My simple challenge to everyone today is to give you some time. That's right. Give yourself an hour and do what you really want to do, even it's just take a nap. You deserve it. I know the readers of this blog give and love and serve so much, that sometimes, things just seem to overwhelm. If it means anything to you, I'm giving you permission to be proud of and even reward yourself.

Have fun.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Unconditional Love: Lunch Club, Open Mic (with Added Commentary)

Mark 12:33 - "... to love his neighbor as himself ..."

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get together with two of my friends, one old, one new, to have lunch over here at the food court on campus.

One thing I've really enjoyed about this little gathering is how I'm able to really get inside the mindset of other people and hear their points of view. I recognize that, for some time now, I've had a vaguely closed mindset because I haven't really given myself too much opportunity to actually listen to and consider other people's perspectives. Without meaning to, I locked away my understanding in a box for a few months and didn't give it any food or light to help it grow. Now that I'm going out and seeking other people's perspectives, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't, my understanding is growing again, and I'm seeing an increase in the amount of love I feel for everyone.

Of course, I'm not perfect. My RA friends and I went out on a double date to a little restaurant called 'The Muse' out here in Provo. Our goal was to enjoy the performances put on by Provo locals, and all of them, in their own, special way, brought us entertainment. However, some of the acts were a little more ... ah ... raw, than others, and I found myself dwelling on that and that alone.

Not my friends, however. The other members of our party were downright thrilled by the genuineness of the performers, even expressing excitement and appreciation for the rawness and how it perfectly illustrated how different and unique we, as God's children, can be. I was surprised by their reactions, but recognized how much love they had for the people behind the acts. My friends had a sincere love and appreciation for those strangers, while I found myself regretting that my focus had been on the rawness itself. My friends had a beautiful mentality, and I'm grateful I was able to glimpse it and begin the process of incorporating it into my own. Thank you, guys.

I wrote a commentary about this post on April 16, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Re-Learning Yourself: Five Defining Words (with Added Commentary)

Jeremiah 1:5 - "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee ..."

In our RA class, we've been learning all about identity achievement and moratorium and foreclosure and identity diffusion and all that stuff! I find it all very fascinating, for some reason. Some aspects of psychology really fascinate me, but others just bore me to death. I probably have a slight interest in psych so I can do a better job with my characterization. Who knows how God assigned interests, if they aren't entirely nature?

Anyway, as part of the class, we were all asked to write down five words that describe us. I found the activity fascinating, particularly in observing the way people responded to the request and how it revealed a lot about them. As for myself, I took the activity very seriously. These are the qualities I wrote, in order, from the way they came to my head:


Now, I found the order I wrote interesting, as well as the reasoning behind them.

I think, had I been in Jamaica or even Washington, I would have put LDS first. However, because I was in a room full of Mormons, I guess I didn't immediately see that as a distinguishing feature. After all, in that setting, it really wasn't. As such, 'Wordsmith' came first, something I do--and do often--and of which I was quite proud. Troll came next, which I felt like captured my mischievous, sarcastic, even negative, and somewhat flippant, personality. The next two words were unique in that they described my mental state rather than my actions, the latter of which were clearly defined by the first three words. Both 'off-kilter' and 'focused' defined how I view my own thought processes, two words I almost feel like contradict each other with any other explanation. I personally feel I think about things in a very different way than most people, reaching conclusions more quickly in some fields and completely missing the point in other fields, thus explaining the two contradictory words. My 'focus,' as well, is unfortunately entirely selective. For example, I'm really good at writing a blog post for an hour or so, but fall asleep when I read a geography textbook for longer than five minutes. 

Anyway, stepping off my self-indulgent rant, I wrote about all of this because one of the reasons we're here on earth is to relearn ourselves. Nobody knows us better than God, because God has known us at least six thousand years longer than we've known ourselves. He saw our entire pre-earthly progression, and our communications with Him on this earth are designed to help us remember not only our relationship with Him, but also who we really are beneath all this flesh, if you'll pardon the phraseology. 

So, my challenge to you is to try to describe yourself in five words! Really dig deep and figure out who you think you are at your core. I don't know how accurate my own list was, and I bet I'll adjust it as time goes on and I mature and develop over the course of my life. Then, once you have your list, pray about it! Thank God for the things you are proud of and ask Him for help with the things you're unsure about. I promise it will totally be worth your time.

I wrote a commentary about this post on April 9, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Found Happiness (poem)

John 15:11 - "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step,
but most of us, with every breath,
wonder if we're done yet.

Scenery passes us by like sand
within an hourglass,
and if we were to turn around,
we'd remember less than last.

Happiness, it seems, is fleeting
as the trees along a road.
We're so worried about the end
we see the middle as a load.

I don't buy a book to read the prologue
and then the very last page.
I don't buy tickets to arrive hours late
to a performance up on stage.

Even in the mucky parts of life,
home, friends, and family,
our steps are light when we focus on
the flowers, not the brambly.

An uphill path gives legs greater strength
to run, laughing, down the slope.
A wrong turn can help us find a friend,
who, through the rough, will help us cope.

As I perched upon my bed, pondering
my life gone by,
I realized that, while things are hard,
my smile comes without try.

Sure, you may have nine hundred miles
to go or maybe even more,
but if you pause to appreciate the trail
your steps will be more sure..

Monday, September 15, 2014

So what IS an Apostle?

I had a really cool opportunity to listen to three different Apostles yesterday, two (Richard G. Scott and Russell M. Nelson) during the regional Stake Conference held in the Utah Valley region, and then one more (D. Todd Christofferson) in a fireside late that night.

I wanted to take this post as a chance to explain, briefly, what apostles are. Many people are familiar with names like Peter, James, and John, who walked with Christ and served alongside Him during his earthly three-year ministry. Indeed, when Christ began His ministry, one of the first things He did was call those three men and nine others to join Him in spreading the gospel to the world both before and after His death. These men were raised and trained to act as Christ's earthly representative prior to His death, though He continued to lead His church through revelation (Acts 10:9-18). Though the Son's earthly ministry was complete, His work was far from over, and in the same way He'd directed prophets like Moses in the past, so did He direct His apostles.
The Apostles' importance to God's work is illustrated in Ephesians 2:19-20, in which the foundation of his church and doctrine has Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, with prophets and apostles acting in conjunction alongside him. Though the original apostles were all killed thanks to the widespread apostasy within the church in the early days, as evidenced in studies of Peter and Paul's later epistles and in Acts 12:1-2, the Lord promised that a restoration of all things (Matthew 17:11), including the Holy Apostleship, would supersede a great famine of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11-12).

So, yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen from the very mouths of three men who have been called, in this day and age, by prophecy, revelation, and the laying on of hands, to act as special representatives and witnesses of Jesus Christ. I know they are called by God to do His work for myself. I love the knowledge that God is still directing His affairs through the recognizable patterns we can find in his scriptures.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Loving our Brothers and Sisters: The ASL Movie

John 13:34 - "... Love one another ..."

As part of my homework for my American Sign Language class, I had to drive up to Taylorsville, Utah to watch a movie acted entirely in sign language. I really didn't have time after Stake Conference to change out of my suit, so I went dressed up in my Sunday best.
Though this really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, deaf people are really nice. I walk in, fumbling with my hands and desperately mouthing words, and everyone expressed nothing but patience and kindness. When I finally located the ticket counter, the first thing anyone said to me was, "You look really nice!" That really helped to calm some of my general nervousness about being there, as besets anyone who is thrust into a situation they know little about.

I'm sure there aren't many movies performed entirely in ASL, so my fellow movie-goers were downright excited by the entire experience. Thankfully for me, subtitles were handily placed at the bottom of the screen so I could piece together what was going on. I was also surprised by some ASL humor thrown in there, a notable scene being where the main character is having an internal monologue of sorts. Seeing that the movie was basically silent, his 'internal monologue' was pantomimed with his hands, prompting one of the other characters around him to ask who he was talking to.
All in all, I actually found the experience similar to Comic Con in that both featured groups of people somewhat on the fringes of society. The difference was, I sensed some discontent in Comic Con, like the people there weren't really happy with either who they were or what they had to go back to. At the School for the Deaf, everyone was happy, bubbly, and friendly, and seemed wholly comfortable with who they were and who they represented. I feel like, if I lost my hearing right now, I would probably struggle at times to be cheerful and all that, remembering what I'd lost or didn't have and reviewing and regretting the choices I'd made that had led me down that path (Obviously, if I'd been born deaf, there would be no such choices to regret, but I'm talking about if I were to lose my hearing at this current point). Of course, if I had to work through that new stage in my life with people like those who I met last night helping me along the way, I really wouldn't have anything to worry about.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Being Productive on Days Off

Doctrine and Covenants 72:3 - "And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity."

.... Because, you see, I wasn't, I still haven't been today.
The cool thing about my class schedule is that I don't have any classes on Fridays, which means I have one whole extra day to really crack down on my journal and novel and blog and homework and be really productive and be proud of what I've accomplished for the day and ...
... Oh, wait, is that my alarm? I'm not doing anything today. I'll just turn it off and sleep for as long as I want and ...

This is ok. It's ok! I'm going out for lunch with friends at 1:00pm, I'm playing DnD at 6:00pm, that gives me about four or five hours to finish up some good ol' transcribing and typing and ...
... goodness I like being social, don't I? It's 6:00pm, and I've only finished a blog post and not even gotten through my daily journal goal!
...It's 2:00pm now. I finally got all the little daily things done. I guess I'll just head off to bed and wake up early so I can do a better job getting things all taken care of and ...
... Darn it, it's 11:30.
The link says it all, I hope. So now I'm going to lock myself out from the outside world and cram a whole heap of something in until Stake Conference and my ASL Homework Movie later tonight, for which I couldn't even get a date. WHHEHEEHEEHE
Love you guys! See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Being an Example of the Believers

Doctrine and Covenants 4:6 - "Remember ... Brotherly Kindness ..."

Some of you expressed concern for me and my ailing physical state! Thank you! I'm actually well enough to function normally, even though, currently, my head feels like a whirlpool, and my voice sounds like a terrible deadbeat Morgan Freeman impersonation. Even when I say something like, "Catastrophic Banana Tutus," it makes me sound super wise and influential. This leads me to suspect that we should fire all of our current diplomats and ambassadors and just throw Morgan Freeman in the ring.
Beyond that, proof that I'm not drowning in misery comes from this next pic!

And this next one as well!

See? I totally had fun!
I guess the only real spiritual boost I'm offering for today is found in the aforementioned verse found at the top of the page. It's a link! Go on and click it! Anyway, the point is, no matter where you go, people are watching you to determine what kind of person you are, and how that meshes with your beliefs. I've met individuals who had one bad run-in with a Christian years ago, and now believe that any Christians who are nice, kind, considerate--in other words, Christians who are living up to their beliefs--are the true mold-breakers. Unfortunately, first impressions are always weighed heavily. I challenge all of my readers to vow to always be an example of the believers, no matter the circumstance, and give the nay-sayers and skeptics we encounter the chance to gain the best possible view of us and our covenants.
How are you an example of the believers? Post your comment in the section below!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Smiling through Hard Times (with Added Commentary)

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

This picture was taken when I was sick. When I am sick, really, but you know you know.

I remember telling my elementary school teachers whenever I started to feel sick at school, and they would immediately disbelieve me. "You keep smiling, keep laughing," they'd say. "How sick can you possibly be?"
But that's just the thing. It is so easy to allow something beyond our control ruin or dictate our days, to turn us into grumpy, angry individuals without any of our usual cheer.
Indeed, we always have a choice. Why not choose to be happy in times of illness or struggle?

I wrote a commentary about this post on April 2, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fire Drill: Avoiding Missing the Bridegroom

Matthew 24:1-13 - "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom."

Guys, I'm feeling a mite under the weather, so the posts for the next couple of days probably won't be long. But check this out:

We had a fire drill a few days ago, and we RAs were in charge of clearing the building and making sure nobody perished in the non-existent fire. Some people didn't want to leave, though! They were all like, "Naw, dog, that ain't me." The whole experience reminded me of the parable of the ten virgins, the link to which is handily at the top of this page. Did you know those things are links? You should click them ever-time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fulfilling your Responsiblitities

Exodus 17:12 - "... and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side ..."

I experienced a little PTSD today!
Tonight was the night our ward was organized into family groups for our home evenings, the entire experience basically turning into a giant ward social. As we gathered, all mingling and smiling and laughing, it soon became apparent that some people weren't really on board with the various aspects of their groups or organization in general. I was surprised by this, given that our ward has met all together just a few times in the past few weeks, and I assumed everyone wouldn't mind sticking with that they'd been assigned. This brought back some flashbacks to several conversations my companions and I would have on my mission, during which we would sometimes plead for certain individuals to actively engage themselves in their responsibilities and assignments, to sustain their leaders, to trust that the Lord's hand was in it all.
So, my small challenge for you today is to prayerfully consider ways you can improve fulfilling your duty in your respective congregation. Even if you're absolutely perfect at completing everything you're ever asked, ponder ways that you can more fully include the Lord in what it is that you're accomplishing. As for me, I recognized I need to be doing a better job praying for my own leaders.
As it was, though, I had a really good time at the FHE, and we even managed to snag a good selfie as a group.

Monday, September 8, 2014

An Analogy: Tight Parking (With Added Commentary)

1 Thessalonians 5:21 - "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

I went over to go play board games with some old and new friends yesterday, and was confronted with the terrible curse of navigating bad parking jobs.
There was only one spot in the parking lot, and legend had it that parking on the street earned you a ticket. Unfortunately, both cars on either side of the parking lot had pulled in with their back ends bleeding out a little over the line on each side. To make matters worse, the space provided behind the cars was minuscule as well, meaning you couldn't even fit a car length-wise between the spots on one end of the parking lot to the other.

It was a testament to my studies of both Jamaica-bound missionary and Jamaican drivers that I was able to squeeze into this impossible spot, which, by all accounts, should have been an impossible feat. Sure, I backed up and inched forward probably a good twenty times, I thought I'd hit a car at one point, I nearly slammed into a pedestrian walking behind me, I didn't even get all the way in, my trunk sticking out farther than should have been necessary, but I did it!
I was preparing to back out and go home when I realized that this could be a gospel analogy. The one I landed upon is that, sometimes, I'm offered to do or say or partake of something I feel uncomfortable about, whether it be watching a certain TV show or spouting vulgar humor or whatever. Partaking of those things may feel completely comfortable to the people I'm around, meaning their relationship with God still remains completely intact afterward. However, I may feel, personally, that such things breach my own personal standards. These dilemmas generally have less to do with keeping the commandments or following church standards, obviously, but deal more so with the personal decisions you've made to help strengthen that.
And yes, I'm getting back to the parking spot. Sometimes, navigating these personal standards may seem daunting, requiring a lot of positioning and maneuvering and even prayers in order to determine where you finally need to fall. Once you've finally found that sweet spot, you rejoice with much jubilation. Keeping your boundaries set, like staying as far away as possible from the back ends of vehicles as you creep in between them, may seem difficult, but you will be rewarded so much more than if you just blast in and see what happens.

Of course, that may not be the best analogy! What gospel analogies can you think of that are related to parking? Be sure to post in the comments below!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

SLCC: Finding a Place (with Added Commentary)

John 17:22 - "... that they may be one, even as we are one."

You guys! I went to the Salt Lake Comic Con yesterday!

Oh, man, did I have a blast. The crew and I people watched, got pictures with people in costume, ooed and ahed at all the displayed artwork, and went to panels on topics like How to Write Strong Female Characters, Bronies Unite, How to Market yourself as an Independent creator, among others. We bought posters, including a caricature of me as a zombie pony, agonized over various geek purchases, and just had a blast. Of particular mention was when I met my primary inspiration as a writer, Brandon Sanderson, who was just the coolest guy ever. During my two minutes, I asked him if I could buy him lunch sometime, and he said no in about the kindliest manner ever, ratcheting up my respect for him even more. He even told me he's serving as a Gospel Doctrines teacher in his ward, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. He's living the kind of life I want to live, that of a successful writer and an active participant in the building of the Lord's kingdom to boot.

Beyond the celebrity meet-ups, the crazy costumes, the art, the music, and even the specific and enthusiastically received education I experienced pertaining to my craft, I recognized one of those eternal truths I'm always talking about. So many people expressed sentiments along the lines of, "This is the only time of year I can truly be myself!" or "This is the only place where I really feel comfortable!" I found sorrow in those statements. Living a gospel-centered life always provides me strength and love person no matter how strange I am perceived as being. I never have to feel alone or forgotten when Christ is leading and guiding me, and I can always spread that love to others by reaching out to them in ways many of my fellow con-goers haven't apparently experienced. 

We all have the capacity to bless and strengthen. Let's not pass that up.

I wrote a commentary about this post on March 26, 2015. Click here to read!

Fill Your Space with Spiritual Reminders

2 Nephi 25:26 - "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write ..."

I really want to personalize my space in a way unlike I ever have before, starting with my plans to slap posters all up and down my room.
Even in something as simple as decorating my personal space, I want to be able to really demonstrate who I am, what I stand for, and what my goals are in life. For example, my Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, generic steampunk, and brony posters aren't displayed in this picture, instead scattered across the other parts of my room, but each represent some aspect of my life and the goals I'm trying to set for myself. I would go into the details how and why, but that's not why I wrote this post. I wrote this post to draw attention to my personal favorite wall hanging.

Something as simple as a painting of Jesus holding a lamb really helps to remind me who it is I'm really serving as I go about each day. Keeping it by my bedside means I don't miss it when I go to bed, nor do I miss it when I wake up. And, on the plus side, whenever I have a visitor, I irrevocably display my devotion and commitment to my Lord and Savior. Of course, just having a poster doesn't really prove anything, but it at least will serve as a reminder when I begin to slip in the promises I've made. And, for me, that is enough. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Comparing Personal Revelation with Scripture: A Walk

After work last night, I was inexplicably restless. I decided, as though I hadn't already been walking enough, to take a lap around Helaman Halls to clear my mind and think out a few things.

I came to a series of conclusions on my walk, specifically concerning my prayers, that I now feel I need to change in my life. In specific, I need to pray ...

1.) ... before I embark on any creative projects. For me, that includes blogging, typing up my journal, drafting my novel, performing with my ukulele, creating any videos, or anything of the like. I've been walking a fine line, nearly forgetting from whom all these talents of mine come. Matthew 5:16; 2 Nephi 32:9.

2.) ... for missionary opportunities. I'm living next-room to a nonmember. I'm working with a lot of guys with varying levels of testimony. I can have them; I'm just not asking for them yet. Doctrine and Covenants 100:6.

3.) ... for guidance in locating my future family. I think a lot of my trepidation regarding dating comes from the fact that I am going about it solo. See, on my mission, my mission president told me, for my last few P-Days, to try and receive revelation about who I'm going to marry. After much wrestling, I feel pretty confident that the Lord just told me, "You get to know someone, choose them, and then ask me if I approve." I made a mistake in that I haven't really consulted with Him too much since then, working completely blind. Just because he wants me to make the decision on my own doesn't mean he won't nudge me in the right direction. Genesis 24:12.

4.) ... before I begin my studies. I actually pray before my scripture study every time, but I haven't been for my actual classes. Given my poor track record, I need all the help I can get. Alma 34:17-27.

... and, finally, one unrelated thing. I hadn't expected all these goodies when I'd first begun my walk, so I was pondering how that always seemed to be the case. "You always give me better than I expected," I mused to myself out loud.
You always give me better than I expected.
For some reason, that made me see things a whole lot differently.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Process: How I construct my blog posts (with Added Commentary)

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

A devoted fan of Change and Cherish, named 'Whitney Zee,' posted a comment yesterday to which I found too good to not draw your attention. You can find the comment under yesterday's post, which was entitled Yer a Cougar, Harry. I'll let you read the comment yourself, but Whitney's primary concern was the fact that the titles of my posts are uninformative, confusing, and downright referential. And I agree.
My blog posts have absolutely horrible titles, completely failing any and all SEO tests and generally causing headaches for my devoted readers. The process I use to draft a blog post only makes the titles even more miserable, but I'd like to take this post to show you how I do what I do.

Now, when I first begin, I'm usually in my room or out in a public area, usually a food court. I make sure to put my game face on.

I don't plan any of the posts I write prior to their actual drafting. When I sit down, generally, all I have is a vague memory of the yesterday and maybe a couple of pictures. I usually spend a few minutes just staring at the screen and typing in a placeholder for the verse I haven't yet selected because I don't yet know the topic of the post yet. When I finally decide what I write about, I do so with great gusto.

Everything I write is mostly prose. Generally, what you see written down is directly from my mind to the paper. I really don't review or edit the posts, which explains the many typos and errors you likely find. I do this because I don't have a lot of time in my days as it is, and I'm more concerned in presenting daily semi-spiritual content rather than an entirely polished product. I save my polished material for other projects. I also make sure to leave spaces in between the paragraphs for where the pictures will go.

I put the picture(s) in the correct spaces. I actually generally rewrite the sections around the pictures, especially if what I've selected barely fits in with the final product.

I browse LDS.org for associated topics from the Standard Works (or other sources if I feel so inspired), selecting a verse less so for it's raw spirituality and more so for its direct application to the spiritual application behind the post. I generally hope people will follow the link to the verse and read the surrounding context, which, in my mind, is often just as important as the verse itself.

Finally, the only thing left to do in the post's construction itself is name is, which I almost always do last. At this point, the fun part is neatly tucked out of the way, and I'm already dreading venturing into the bounds of Facebook to update my status. I really don't like Facebook, but I recognize its necessity. A lot of my creative energy is shot at this point, so I generally slap down the first thing that comes to mind. In this post, for example, I thought, What's the point of the post? I'm talking about how an entire college campus has managed to keep a focus on Christ, and how proud I am to be a part of that. That makes me a cougar. How can I reference being a cougar in here? Maybe a Harry Potter reference? What about ... this one? (I didn't actually look up the video, but here it is for your viewing pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9GwIeh5FIY) Yeah, that's good. That is literally the amount of thought I put into the title. Now, I don't doubt that, even if I put in a few more minutes of thought, I would still manage to blow it, but I really am just terrible at naming things.

However, as Whitney put it, there really is no excuse for this weakness of mine. Besides, if it's a weakness of mine, it's time to turn it into a strength. So! Starting today, I will try to do a better job titling my posts in such a way that archival readers can more accurately know what I'm talking about. Do let me know how I did today!

I hope from this post that you all recognize that I really do love input! Please, if there's anything I can do to make this blog better, please let me know in the comments below.

I wrote a commentary about this post on March 19, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yer a Cougar, Harry (with Added Commentary)

Matthew 28:20 - "... I am with you alway, even to the end of the world ..."

It was my first day of school yesterday, a good week or two behind the rest of the nation, apparently, which would give me reason to rub it in y'alls' faces if I wasn't keenly aware that I lost a spring break because of it. OH WELL I GUESS.
I have five classes, four of which I went to yesterday. I actually enjoyed all of them quite immensely, though was obviously frustrated by the large amounts of work I immediately realized I would have to perform by the end of the week, no less. It was ridiculous, yet expected, and rather than go home and play video games the rest of the evening, as I would have done my freshman year, I actually stayed on campus and attempted to study. It was an amazing plot twist. I'm sure no one was expecting it. Shoot, I was surprised.
Of course, work played a large part throughout the day, as I went to my RA/STDEV class, a staff meeting, and then was willingly roped into another board game by my residents right before my bed time.

Again, being out here on this campus reminded me of how easy it is to incorporate the gospel into every aspect of your life. Opening prayers for my geology class, out-of-staters commenting on all the Mormons they can see, and gaggles of gals swarming past talking about engagements, break-ups, pregnancies, and attending law school because they didn't get married in their first four years. It was awesome. The spirit of Christ can be anywhere, if you''ll let him.

I wrote a commentary about this post on March 12, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

One Fourth

2 Nephi 5:29 - "... kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far ..."

As I believe I've mentioned before, one of my larger writing projects, if not arguably the largest, is digitizing my mission journals, typing them up so I can have and distribute a digital copy among my family members. I also intend to try and publish selected portions of these journals at a later date.

It took me a while, but I finally understand why the prophets and apostles want us to keep records of our days. I can't imagine all the things I would have already forgotten had I not kept track of my daily encounters. This blog, in a way, is my journal, though with a more specific audience in mind, and therefore containing less detail than my mission journals ever did. Looking back and seeing the friends I've made and the experiences I've had will keep my mission alive for me in such a way that I doubt few others things could.
My challenge for my readers today is to ensure this happens. Write down your testimony. Start a spiritually-minded blog (ha!). Do something to remind you of what you know when things get a little rough. I can promise you will cherish what you have kept and saved. I already do.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stumble (Poem)

Doctrine and Covenants 128:22 - "...shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward ..."

A man walked a lonely road
from where he'd gone, back to his home.

The path was beaten, yet in spite,
there were no other trav'lers in sight.

The man expected to walk alone,
the heat rising as the sun shone.

Brambles, twisted, blocked his path,
cut his flesh, and made him gasp

A cliff to climb, a drop to leap,
determination, his mind did keep.

But once the man gave his all
he stumbled with a mighty fall.

He rose not first, for this was his last,
he couldn't count the times of past.

More steps, more landscape, more rain,
he stumbled, fell, rose last again.

Failure was not in the pause,
but not pushing forward in the cause.

The man still walks, his back straight,
shoulders set, a steady gait.