Mar 20, 2014

Bedwetting and Family Scripture Study

Liam gets to drink hot chocolate on mornings after staying dry all night. He gets a bath if he's wet.

This morning he collected his reward, then during breakfast he asked Chelsie if he could have a bath. A little suspicious, she asked him if he had wet himself, and he replied "no". Okay, fine, have a bath.

After he was out and dry, he bravely made the long march up to mom and confessed "Mom, I don't want to feel bad anymore. I peed."

While we are disappointed that he lied (for which he is being punished), we have lauded his eventual honesty. He told me how sad his heart felt while he was bathing.

Just last week in our studies, we were reading the chapters where Alma sits each of his sons down for a father-son chat. To his son Corianton, Alma taught that "wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10). We had a discussion about that principle--how your heart can't be fully at peace when things are amiss in your life, especially when wicked actions are being consciously perpetrated.

I made sure to remind him that we aren't a church of guilt and manipulation, but pointed to Alma's final plea to Corianton "And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance." (Alma 42:29)

When Christ admonishes us to become as a little child, he means exactly what Liam exemplified today.

So: What wickedness am I allowing to corrupt my happiness? What wickedness are you allowing? Why do we train ourselves to struggle through a self-inflicted torture chamber? I've heard that human nature would only have us change ourselves when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution.

Examining my 34-year old heart, I've been down roads both high and low. There is baggage and cobwebs and skeletons. Within those halls of my heart also exists my virtues and talents, my hopes and joys. Yet focusing solely on the good does not without additional effort eliminate the bad which I am consciously allowing to remain. To acknowledge it all at once--taking on the monuments and the minutiae of our carnal past--is, I believe, self-defeating. So we take steps, then strides.

As we begin our purge, we can learn much from the parable of The Lost Coin. Tucked away in Luke 15 between two "more famous" parables (The Lost Sheep and The Prodigal Son), we read two paltry verses:
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Interpretations abound. I have typically heard taught that the woman represents Jesus Christ (or the Father), and the lost silver represents us. After all, the Lost Sheep represents you and me; the Prodigal Son represents you and me. That interpretation is certainly acceptable and doctrinally sound: we are precious and worth seeking, if we would allow ourselves to be found.

I prefer this interpretation: The woman who loses her piece of silver is me. She is you. She has lost her coin through overt sin, or gradual apathy toward this-or-that commandment, or, to use Alma's general statement, she was simply wicked, and therefore lost her full measure of happiness. In the process of the search, what is the first thing she does?

Why--she lights a candle! Now that candle, to me, represents Jesus Christ. He is my light, just as he says. Now that she can see clearly, she recognizes a need to do some housekeeping, sweeping the house, dusting the cobwebs, reorganizing the pantry, and so on. I'm sure many of us have experienced the "cleaning fever"--where we start one cleaning project, and by day's end, we've overhauled four rooms and part of the garage--right?

It is through this process--requiring much effort and action-- that she finds her silver! I've already compared the piece of silver to happiness--and that stands pat. But let me put it a different way: she says to her friends "Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost." Let's read it like this: "Rejoice with me; for I have found the peace which I had lost."

I won't spend time belaboring the missionary lesson present in this parable. Perhaps in another blog entry. But do think about it, though, if you would.

And so my four-year old has shown me the way. My little child has led me. This is but one fruit of family scripture study. It is also a fruit of Liam's nocturnal enuresis.

Dec 10, 2013

Liam's First Sliver, and My Most Recent

At our church Christmas party last Saturday night, Liam acquired a sliver. It had worked its way under the skin, so with no protrusions I couldn't just pull it out. As we drove home, I had to prepare him for the pain that he was about to experience, that he would 1) not be surprised I would be inflicting pain on him, and 2) hopefully hold still as I dug into his finger with a needle.

"Liam, what I have to do is get a needle and poke the skin around the sliver so that I can get it out. It is going to hurt. BUT: if you go to bed tonight without getting the sliver out, it can go deeper and deeper into your finger. The deeper it goes, the more it can hurt, and by tomorrow we might have to use a knife to get it out instead of only a needle."

He went totally silent. At a stoplight, I looked back to see him sitting quietly in the dark, in his car seat, with big crocodile tears, yet not even sobbing.

After we got home, it took a few minutes to unload the kids and everything else. I then found Liam sitting in the bathroom, with still wet eyes, "Dad, I'm ready."

I explained to him what I was putting on the needle and on his finger (rubbing alcohol), and talked to him about how well he did in the Christmas Pageant, what he asked Santa for, and so on. He sat there as I administered to him, thinking that I was successful in distracting him. When we are all done, I exclaimed, "wow, Liam! You did great! You didn't even move or cry or anything!" His response revealed the motivation for his unflinching stoicism: "Good, 'cause I don't want you to cut my finger open with a knife!"

I surmise that the entire time, his motivation and focus was to avoid greater personal pain in the future, which enabled him to bear the sting of both the alcohol and the poking, pulling needle. The next day, we looked at his finger and he declared himself cured--and was very happy about it.

Yesterday, I was studying The Doctrine and Covenants when I read Section 1 verse 10:
...the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:10
 In the first moment, into my mind came remembrances of individuals whom I have not forgiven entirely. Two, to be exact (or three, including myself). This is because if I measure to my fellow man a grudge, withholding forgiveness, the Lord will measure to me the same. This worries me. I need forgiveness. I do wrong every day, and I know it--and the Lord gently reminded me that I'd better get to my part.

In the second moment, I thought of Liam's splinter and unchecked surface pain. I then considered deep tissue pain, and traumatic surgery. While I don't view myself as one who has allowed these two people so much power over my life that I have become embittered, on the rare occasion when they cross my consciousness, I simply think about something else--I neither dwell on them and their offenses, nor do I forgive them. And though I do not consider myself as a resentful person, even so my attitude is contrary to the Celestial Law:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Doctrine and Covenants 1:31

In he first moment, the Lord spoke to my intellect, and appealed to my logical, pragmatic self. I recognized the issue (again).

In the second moment, he spoke to my heart, using as a metaphor the occurrence of two days prior; placing my son and my own words before me as an example of how the principle will undoubtedly operate in my own life. Needle now or knife tomorrow.

He spoke to me as he always does: through scriptures and the Holy Ghost, penetrating my mind and my heart. The idea of forgiving is no longer solely His--I have the intrinsic motivation to get it done, since it is now my idea. A change of heart will do that. And a man's heart has never been changed for the better but the Spirit of God was allowed to enter. There is only so much the Spirit can do:
...when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
2 Nephi 33:1
The Holy Ghost carrieth it unto and not into the hearts of men. Put a think on that.

And I'm grateful for this boy for showing me how to do it with a stiff upper lip:

Jun 26, 2013

A Quiz for Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As a great man once said, "In all of my humility, I can clearly see your pride." That man knew what he was talking about. Seriously, if I didn't see pride in the mirror every day, I wouldn't be able to recognize it in all of you. Read into that and you'll find humor--maybe.

That being said, this entry is not meant to sanctimoniously vaunt my righteousness. While this entry isn't mean to be about pride and righteousness, indulge me for a second:
If you emulate the publican, good for you. If you ever recognize that you've achieved "publican" status, you just might be the Pharisee.

No, this post is to cause us all to examine the doctrine straight from our scriptures through the lens of current events. It is presented in quiz format, and yes, I am attempting to "lead the witness."

1. Multiple-choice: Please select the correct option to complete the phrase, found in John 13:35:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have:

A. a current temple recommend.
B. a traditional marriage.
C. a temple marriage.
D. love one to another.

2. Multiple-choice: Please select the correct option to complete the phrase, found in Alma 31:5:

And now, as _____________ had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of _________.

A. extrinsic motivators // hypnotherapy
B. antagonizing those with different beliefs // engaging in online debates
C. enacting legislation // the courts of the land
D. the preaching of the word // the word of God

3. Multiple-choice: Please select the correct option to complete the phrase, found in 1 Corinthians 13:2:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not __________, I am nothing.

A. received all saving ordinances by the proper authority
B. served an honorable mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
C. done my home teaching
D. charity

4. True or False: Taking into account the mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ as provided by his Infinite Atonement, individuals who do not believe in Jesus Christ will still be held accountable for obedience to all commandments, regardless of the fact that they never received a spiritual witness.

1. True
2. False


Jun 27, 2011

From the Mouth of Babes

Liam loves church. He loves nursery. He loves pointing to "Papa" Howard sleeping on the stand. He loves Jesus. He loves the temple. Pretty good for a 21 month-old.

Every night when we put him to bed, before we even ask he says "payrsss!" so we all pray together. Then we ask him if he wants to sing a song, and he says "song!" We ask him which song, and he says "Jesus!" Our "Jesus" song catalog consists of "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus," "Jesus Once Was a Little Child," and "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."

I tried to mix it up the other night and began singing "I am like a star shining brightly..." when I was rudely interrupted with "JESUS!"

Together as a family, we read one column from his own copy Book of Mormon every day. He has one of the older light blue editions with the image of Angel Moroni on the cover. Every morning he gets his Book of Mormon from the shelf, says "Mo-no-ni" and gives it hugs. Lately he has started repeating some of the words that we say as we read. He usually picks out the words he knows like "water" or "tent," but he also says words that he doesn't know, usually if they're right before a comma and we pause in our recitation. Our favorite so far is "abomination."

Last week I took him to an art exhibit. We were looking at a painting called "Glimpsing Ponte Vecchio" by Cheryl Butterfield, and he said "Temple! Temple!"

Today we were particularly surprised and pleased and proud of him. Chelsie took him upstairs to get dressed before going on some errands. I was in the kitchen heating up some lunch when I heard "Mike, come quick!" - which means something cute is afoot!

I dashed upstairs to have Chelsie tell me that as they walked into his nursery, he took her over to a Lego sculpture he had designed, then explained to her what it was: "Temple! Temple!" I looked at the sculpture and was so proud of him, especially after Chelsie told me that he had made it all by himself.

I have always had strong feelings, even since before he was born, that he would be a mighty tool in his Lord's hands. When you are responsible to teach a child the ways of the Lord, your whole approach to everything changes, especially to your own scripture study. I study to teach and I study to become an example to my children. Being a parent has helped me immensely because of this incidental growth I am trying to do for the sake of my family.

And then my son comes along and teaches me a lesson about the temple, and Jesus, and singing hymns and saying prayers, and repeating scriptures. I couldn't be a prouder daddy, and I know Chelsie feels the same. He's such a good boy.

Here are pictures of the temple he made:

His inspiration looks like it was Ponte Vecchio a little, doesn't it? :)

Apr 24, 2011

His Hands

Shortly after I first arrived in the mission field in January 1999, the mission office, using technology much more rudimentary than that to which we are acclimated today, put together a 6-minute video presentation. Set to a recording of Kenneth Cope's "His Hands," the touching slide show was a collection of paintings of the Savior, each image providing an appropriate visual for the song lyrics.

As a missionary full of enthusiasm and spirit, I fell in love with the video immediately, along with the rest of my fellow 140 elders and sisters serving in Tokyo. We used the video to help investigators feel the spirit. We used it to help ward members feel the spirit. We watched it on preparation day to help ourselves feel the spirit! The music and lyrics combined with the images of our beloved Christ all worked together in a marvelous way that uplifted anybody who had eyes to see and ears to hear.

I remember still the day when Elder Tamanaha and I were riding our bikes out to do some tracting. I was singing "His Hands" in my head. We stopped at a red light, and Tama-chan turned to me and commented on what a great song it was. Yes, I had been singing out loud. Luckily we were biking through fields for most of the way.

Ah, to be a tenderfoot, idealistic green bean missionary, invincible, hopeful, unaware of so much in the world, able to cope with anything because of an "I can do anything if I have the Spirit!" attitude. That's how I was! And I accomplished a lot. I learned Japanese quite easily, I was always very optimistic, which helped aid my capabilities and God-given talents. I was going to serve the best mission ever, come home, marry within a year or two, teach at the MTC while studying education at Brigham Young University, have lots of kids, and eventually get hired by the Church Education System to be a full time seminary teacher.

Ah, His Hands. "Though I'm not yet as I would be // He has shown me how I could be // I will make my hands like those from Galilee." That was my theme song.

Reality hit.

I served an adequate mission. I worked extremely hard, but spent my energy mostly spinning my wheels. I was quite the "Law of Moses" kind of missionary, in that the rulebook dictated my actions and reactions, instead of allowing the spirit to rule my heart. I came home to freshly-divorced parents. My siblings and I all experienced trauma and hurt. One almost-bright spot was that I was nearly offered a job by the MTC. Yet as I was not accepted by BYU, the job went to somebody else. My dream of working for CES was dwindling. I pressed forward in my university studies at the University of Utah, but continued to run into money problems. It took me years of stop-and-go, part-time/full-time student work before I was able to work my way through college and get my degree in international studies.

I married at age 28, five years after my self-imposed deadline, to the second girl to whom I had gotten engaged. I had secured a job with a software company, where my talents and ideas were valued, and I was doing okay at supporting myself and my wife. Our son, Liam, joined us in 2009.

Wow. 2009. And now 2011. It has been twelve years since I sat in the chapel adjacent to the Tokyo South Mission home in Kichijoji, Tokyo, in the dark, surrounded by missionaries and looking up at a video screen playing a sweet slide show, uplifting all of our spirits, making us feel invincible.

I have spent a lot of time in the dark in these intervening 12 years. Hurt, mostly. Hard on myself. Perfectionists do not do well in the gospel until they are able to reconcile the fact that it is not behavior that warrants God's love, but rather relationship. And since all of our relationship is "child of God," we all warrant His love. But I dare you to try to behave your way into Heaven, and then mess up along the way. You will beat yourself so much that you become jaded, bitter, and eventually masochistic. You feel unworthy all of the time. Everything you do--or fail to do--becomes yet another club with which to beat yourself over the head. All of this because--well, because why?

Because: I did not have a sufficient understanding of, or faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I recalled recently a story that a wonderful Institute teacher told once to our class. Brother S. Michael Wilcox, I hope I do this story some justice in this retelling. I think I recall that this was a daydream or a pondering that Brother Wilcox had. In any case, as you read it, you will see that it was a personal revelation to help Brother Wilcox, and through the retelling of it, he has helped many others. The story is about himself, and it goes something like this:

"A great man died and went to Heaven. He was always a great man, but in his own eyes, he was not a great man. He did his best, but was like the rest of us, and made mistakes along the way. He was hard on himself, which indeed proved to be his most enduring sin.

"As he approached heaven, he saw a desk and a chair, and it looked something like the set of the Tonight Show. The Savior sat behind the desk, and asked the man if he would please be seated as they perform an interview. The Savior asked the man questions like 'how was your relationship with your wife?' and 'how was your relationship with your children,' and so forth. For each question asked, the man, who was in reality a great man, could have answered confidently and at length of the great relationship he and his wife enjoyed. The same for his children, and the same for his neighbors and fellow man. Instead, this great man would state things like, 'Well, my wife and I loved each other very much. We had a loving relationship.' He then proceeded to make an accounting of all the times when he and his bride had argued, or a time when he put her down, or hurt her feelings. For each question asked of him, the great man would say something slightly positive, followed by a laundry list of the rotten things he had done.

"The Savior looked at him, puzzled and said 'Mike, I don't remember those things. I do not have any memory of you doing any of that!' 'But I did them, Savior, I did them all!' 'Mike,' Christ lovingly replied, 'I am the Lord, and even I do not remember you doing those things.' Before the man could protest again, the Lord said, 'Mike, let's take a look on the monitor to see exactly what happened.'

"Now remember, they are on the set of the Tonight Show, so a television monitor rose up out of the ground. The man was going to show the Savior that all of those arguments with his wife did actually happen, and that he did actually yell at his children. Not even the Lord would be able to refute the video evidence, and yes, then the Lord would remember all of those rotten things he did.

"The screen powered up and the monitor turned on. There, for them both to see, was a single image. What the man saw, however, was not a moving image of him losing his temper or failing in one of the million ways he claimed to have failed. What the man saw as he sat there with his Savior was a moving image of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane suffering for his sins.

"Weeping now, the man turned to his Lord in awesome wonder and gratitude. 'Mike, I do not remember you doing any of what you described to me. No, Mike--I did them. You repented, and they became mine. I did them. Now repent of this last sin: stop being so hard on yourself. Forgive yourself.'"

So what about "His Hands"? Today is Easter Sunday. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said many times that the three most hope-filled words in the English language when spoken together are "He is risen." I just watched another video on YouTube set to the music of "His Hands." The slide show is now video clips taken from church movies. It's much slicker than its 1999 predecessor. The spirit is the same, and even stronger. I have grown much since then. I have many ways in which to mature. I listened to the words and music. I observed the moving images and hearkened back to the 19 year-old me. I felt that I would like to give some loving advice to Elder Brady about the future. "Hope is real!"

Twelve years later, I have been through a lot. But I have been so very blessed. My bride and baby are more than I had ever hoped for. They love me, and I love them. I am in an environment where love is freely expressed--it is my duty to receive it as it is given.

My Savior Jesus Christ rose from the grave. He is risen! He was resurrected, and so has my hope. Hope is real! Christ was not resurrected to the same body that his spirit previously occupied, but into a new and perfect body. He was not sent back to square one, physically. No, my hope hasn't been reset. It's not "back to the drawing board," but rather my hope is founded on the maturity, knowledge and testimony that I have acquired along the way. What has reset, though, is my attitude toward myself--yes, my very ability to love myself.

Everybody: Happiest of Easters to you all. Hope is real!

Especial thanks to my wife Chelsie, our son Liam, my parents, Chelsie's parents, all of our siblings and family members, Bishop Howard and his family, and Bishop Nielson and his family. We love you all!

Sep 18, 2010

Liam's Mission Fund

I posted this on our family blog, but thought it would be worth a posting here as well:

HELLO! Liam got so many wonderful toys and clothes from his family members and friends. He even got a little bit of cash! Today, he and I went to Wells Fargo to open his first savings account. He has $60 dollars! We won't have him pay tithing until he turns 8, but he will know by then what tithing is. This money is going toward his mission fund, anyway, so in the end, the Church gets it all, and Liam will get blessings.

Liam, and of course his parents, are grateful for everything you all have done for us for our entire lifetimes. We love you all. We are grateful for every last little thing you have done for us, and we realize that we probably don't even know the half of it. The more time we spend as parents, the more we appreciate what our parents have done.

We truly don't want to be presumptuous or act like we are entitled. We do not want to appear to be looking for handouts or the like, but we thought it might be convenient for some to create a Paypal account for Liam's mission fund as well. We realize that nothing can really replace the thrill of getting a birthday card in the mail, with the added bonus of a note signed by the U.S. Treasurer. But to help Liam save for his mission, college, and everything else, we thought that it couldn't hurt to open some more avenues or ways for him to save.

You will find his "donate" link near the top of our blog, and here it is in large-scale as well:

Again, we are grateful for all the jammies, toys, shoes, outfits, cards, messages, emails, visits and love that you have all shown our big one year-old. It will carry him far and serve him well.

Have you ever held a baby and kissed his little hands and wondered: how many priesthood blessings will these little hands give? How many people will they reach out to in Christlike service, offering comfort, friendship and love? Have you ever wondered that?

Or his feet: how many miles will these feet walk in rushing to the aid of a friend in need?

You know, it makes me think of a poem written by a master mason, Five Points of Fellowship, by Robert Morris. This poem outlines the good that our bodies can do, and paints the picture of an embrace that can only be described as sacred. This mason discusses the following things we can do with the bodies we have been given. The full poem won't be given here, but the basis is as follows:

  • Feet: hasten to the needs of our plaintive brethren.

  • Knees: pray to Almighty God for our brethren

  • Breasts: keep in our breasts a strong faith that can never be touched, where our heart holds a love for God and our brethren.

  • Hands: stretch out our arms and hold up the backs of our feeble and weakened brethren.

  • Cheek: whisper in the ears of our brethren words of strength and encouragement when the tempter comes.

I suggest reading the entire poem. Younger members of the church who have not studied will not appreciate the full significance of this poem.

(There is also the poem The Five Points Symbolism by N. A. McAulay.)

Anyway, this entry was initially intended to thank you all for the great gifts and the love that Liam received. Thanks to you all--we love you!!