Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New generation pioneers

In a journey that paralleled the Great Pioneer Trek, I made it to Zion this week. Monday I started a new job in Logan, Utah.

The job hunt has been a long and arduous one, starting in August. My wife and I spent a lot of time on our knees in fasting and prayer to find the right place for our family and the right job for me. It's been a huge spiritual growth experience for me. This is by far the biggest decision I've made since joining the Church 13 years ago, one that completely changes almost every aspect of our lives. I had to learn to really seek Divine direction and trust my own faith in personal revelation in ways far beyond anything I had ever done. The Lord in his great loving way has gently guided me here.

My wife asked for a blessing about the whole situation a while back, and in the blessing the Lord told her that he was preparing "a place of inheritance" for us, and that she should look to the pioneers for ways to build her faith. To me this has really been similar in many ways to what the early Saints experienced.

The first and obvious similarity is that we're converts who joined the Church in the Midwest, and not without some disapproval and flak from our families. We left home to "join the Saints" out west, again disappointing many family members.

The early Saints traveled without really knowing where they would end up, or even how far they would walk each particular day. The emotional side of our journey was like that, we didn't know when any of the pieces would get put together. We had to keep moving forward spiritually, with the really know what was at the end, or where the end would be.

Every since I started working for myself, I had to learn how to rely on the Lord for everything. Food, clothing, shelter, clients, all came from the Lord, many times in miraculous ways. I had a feeling in the back of my mind that something was going to happen after the first of the year, but it was nothing more than a feeling. Since I didn't want to be in the situation of taking on a new full-time job when I had a plate full of client work, I stopped pounding the pavement for new work and just kept the few clients that had open projects at the time. It was financially tight, but again, we relied on the Lord for our sustenance and he provided just enough for our needs.

The physical journey itself was reminiscent of the pioneer's travels. Everything from bitter cold (I stayed one night in a hotel with barely any heat when the temp was -20 F), to the car breaking down multiple times (broken oxcart wheels, anyone?) and me slipping into illness and fever. This all happened on the way from Michigan to Logan.

All in all, this has been a period of immense spiritual growth for me and I've gained a closer relationship with my Father in Heaven. And now I live within minutes of the temple, instead of half a day!
11:35 PM by The Narrator  Link
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Friday, December 16, 2005

Bandaids

Recently, part of an article in WIRED magazine detailed some of the struggles scientist are having in creating visual recognition software and hardware for a variety of uses. There are huge hurdles to still become in order to make machines "see" as we do.

Several years ago there was a movie with Val Kilmer called "First Sight". This true story told of the experience this man, who was blind since a toddler, had with a revolutionary surgery that "fixed" his blindness. One of the more powerful moments, for me, was when they first took the bandages from his eyes after the surgery. Basically, he freaked out. There was sight, but his brain was overwhelmed with stimulus that it didn't understand. He asked for someone to hand him something (a can of soda) and the process of feeling it with his hands (something his brain was wired to do) and then concentrating visually on it allowed his brain to make some new connections.

Contrast this with the scriptural accounts of the Savior healing the blind. Immediately they could not only use their eyes, but the complexities of sight that we learn from infancy were immediately provided to the brain. It was a complete healing. Medical science was able to help that man regain his optical abilities, but the road to actual seeing was a long and arduous one.

When we partake of the Atonement and "take his yoke upon us", we are offered that same outcome as the blind. A complete healing. I've struggled with addiction since I was in Jr. High. Even through out my years in the Church, I was back and forth. I'd go a month, maybe even three without an incident. Most of the time it was a "gritting my teeth, cold turkey" experience, because I tried to fix it myself. I thought that through sheer force of will, I could stop the behavior and be free from the shackles. I was wrong.

The past many months, I've been getting counseling from LDS family services. Through that process, I've learned about how the Lord heals, about submitting myself to him. The result is that for the first time in years and years, I have a Temple Recommend. I've been "sober" since June 22nd. The difference between now and then, is that I haven't been gritting my teeth trying stay straight. I've been healing. I still have a bit to go on this particular journey, but I'm so much farther along than ever before.

What I really think made the difference is that for the first time, I truly submitted myself to the Lord and His will. By working on keeping my mind and will an open vessel for the Savior to fill, He came into my life more completely, and began the work of fixing and healing my character. I'll admit that I have prayed more often during this time than previous, but if you look at my prayer life in comparison to the "LDS Standard", I'm still woefully inadequate. So it was brought on by prayer. Likewise, I'm still working on reading my scriptures regularly, so the answer isn't there either. It's been through the act of submission, guided by a very Christ-like counselor and a loving and tolerant bishop.

I more truly understand now what the Lord meant when He told us "Take my yoke upon you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". When we fully allow, without reservation or holding back, Jesus Christ to lead us, the miracles told in the Scriptures can become a reality in our lives.
10:52 AM by The Narrator  Link
  1comments
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Critical

Marsha J. Evans is retiring as the head of the US Red Cross following the criticism of the agency's actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Evans, a former head of the Girl Scouts of America, took over as Red Cross president in August 2002. At the time <b>the organization was shaking off criticism of how it handled some of the donations sent in response to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.</b>" (CNN.com, AP story)

In related news, FMH recently posted about the care and handling of trolls.

I've been noticing a trend in the past decade or so that our world is becoming extremely polarized. I'm worried a great deal about this. It seems that in many places we've become a world were "my way or the highway" are the predominant stances people take. I can't tell you how many web forums I've abandoned because they became rife with polarized trolls who quickly brought every thread into a flame war. And don't get me started about how divisive politics are. It's all too obvious the rarity of real communication and cooperation between Democrats & Republicans, one always against the other's ideas no matter what. And they always have a mountain of "evidence" from "experts" to back their claims.

How did we become so critical? I agree there is a need and a place for critical dialog and debate, but it seems that we're overwhelmed with shouting blindly at anyone who's ideas oppose.

One of my favorite media moments this year came when Jon Stewart of The Daily Show was a guest on Crossfire (here's the clip if you haven't seen it). For those unfamiliar with it, Crossfire is a basically a political shouting match between Far Right and Far Left thinkers, each trying to drown the other in insults and rhetoric. Mr. Stewart comes on and tells them, point blank "Stop what you are doing. This is bad for America. You're hurting us with your partisanship and bickering." No matter how much his shocked hosts tried to weasel out of it, he held them to the fire as many in the US applauded.

To debate and involve one's mind in critical analysis is needed and healthy. We can't progress as a society without us asking questions in order to find a better way. But I fear that with the pendulum always swinging from one side to the other, we losing hope of forward progress.

This isn't the way of the Savior.
4:52 PM by The Narrator  Link
  1comments
Monday, December 12, 2005

On shelving

Ned's post recently about praying for the knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel brought out the idea of the "Shelf" in a number of the comments. The idea being that there are so many doctrinal/historical inconsistencies with the LDS Church that one has to build a mental shelf to put them up and hide them so as to not lose one's testimony.

When I introduced myself I mentioned that I wasn't a great Gospel scholar. As such, I'm in no way qualified to counter or debate any of these issues. However in my humble opinion, somewhere along the line these debates are missing the boat.

When I lived in Georgia, I faced a couple of situations with Southern Evangelicals that became quite antagonistic when they found out I was LDS. I used the same tactic each time the situation was defused. I bore my testimony about the the one thing that we shared in common: The Savior. When I told them that I believed the Jesus Christ was the Savior, the Only Begotten of The Father, and the He died on the cross for our sins, they backed down.

Here's what those events have to do with shelves: no matter what oddities or conflicts (or difference in Christian sect) we may encounter, there are more important things.
1. God the Eternal Father LIVES, and is active in his role as our Heavenly Parent.
2. Jesus Christ truly did perform the Atonement, and because of it, we can be healed, we can be forgiven and we can progress eternally.


Above all else, these things reign supreme. We can quibble and debate about Church history or about why the Priesthood was restricted until the 70's, but in contrast to the enormity of those two Truths, they become miniscule concerns.

I was an Agnostic, Anti-Christian before I was baptized, and as such had no place for Heavenly Father of Christ in my life. The LDS Church brought me out of a miserable existence and gave me a great life be introducing me to Jesus Christ and the Father. Through the Atonement, I've been able to heal from sexual abuse and addiction. Through the Divine Mission of Jesus Christ, I've found peace and guidance when before there was wandering in darkness.

To me it doesn't matter if I really don't understand polygamy, or if there are several versions of the First Vision. What matters is my relationship with God, Christ and my family.

Just to make sure you don't mistake me for a lemming, the best thing the Missionaries told me on our 1st discussion was "Don't take our word for it, you'll have to find the truth of it on your own". I fully believe that we need to think and ponder things in order to really have a testimony. However, let's keep the Big Picture in sight. If nothing else, hold on to those two overarching truths about God the Father and His Son. Maybe someday you'll get a chance to chat with a GA on your concerns, or sit down with a Temple President he'll explain things to your satisfaction. Until then, let your peace be centered on Christ.
10:39 AM by The Narrator  Link
  1comments
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mixed Nuts

I like cashews. A lot. I got a big jar of them once for Christmas. One thing about cashews, though, is that you can only eat so many before they get kinda'... boring. Same thing with peanuts or pistachios. So, I'd rather plunk myself down in front of a jar of mixed nuts. It's more flavorful. It's really the peanuts that make the cashews taste so good.

A ward is like a jar of mixed nuts (some wards more than others...). There's the peanuts and the cashews and given the the chance we'd all climb into our own separate jars with the same kind of nuts. Then God gives us callings. And suddenly you're a cashew and an Elder's Quorum President and the Lord calls a peanut and an almond as your counselors. If it were up to us, we'd pick people to serve with from our own jar, and it would be boring.

I've served in a couple of presidencies as counselors to people I wouldn't have done much with otherwise. Case in point, a while ago I served as 1st in the Elder's Quorum. The Prez was about 20 years older and a much different kind of man than I. He's was soft spoken, an engineer by trade. Phil was a about 180 degrees from me in personality and temperament and his understanding of the Gospel was far beyond mine. It's not that I didn't like Phil, it's just that before that calling, he was someone I never really spent any time with because we're so different and "birds of a feather...". We did, however, become good friends while serving together.

That's happened a number of times. Right now, my 1st counselor in YM is another soft spoken engineer (I'm a kinda' loud extrovert, in case you couldn't guess yet) and I love to spend time with him. We might have chatted here and there before we were called together, but I don't think I'd have gotten to admire him so much as a friend without us being in YM together.

He's a cashew. I'm a peanut. Mixed up together in a great big jar with a bunch of other nuts.
12:36 AM by The Narrator  Link
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Learning with Nephi

Outside of the standard Sunday School answers as to why it's a good thing to do family scripture study, I've found another benefit: teaching kids to read.

We started family scriptures with my oldest when she was 2 or 3. We'd read a few words and have her repeat them while we pointed out the words on the page. The results? My 8th-grade daughter now has an 11th grade reading level and my 5th grade son has a 7th grade reading level (and leads his school in their reading program).

I think there's more to it than what's on the surface. One might argue that reading Shakespeare, or something equally as difficult, would yield a similar result. But I'd argue that there's more going on. We know that the Holy Spirit is the source for knowledge. It seems to me that when you are reading the scriptures, the Spirit adds his emphasis and that tends to solidify the mental process when someone is learning to read. I liken it to the addition of fasting to prayer. Prayer on it's own is strong, but the addition of fasting adds that extra bit of power.

I think the Spirit helps children to learn comprehension as well. The Holy Ghost enlightens even the youngest minds with a better understanding of what is being read. Taking a short time to discuss what was just read trains young minds in analytical thinking as well.

What continues to amaze me is how my family and I reap benefits from our Church activity that are outside of the realm of your typical spirituality. After years of callings as a teacher in a number of auxilaries and having given a number of Sacrament talks, I've developed a skill for public speaking that I didn't previously have. I put that skill to good use recently when I did a Kamikaze round of 10 job interviews in 3 1/2 days (more on that later).
8:17 PM by The Narrator  Link
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So, who is this guy anyway?

By way of introduction, I'm the Narrator (Nice to meet you).

I've hung around the "Bloggernacle" for a while, lurking here and there and finally decided to throw my hand in the ring. I've decided to blog pseudonymously for a bit at first, to see how things shake out. In reference to recent events (Bannergate) I feel I must declare that I am a real person, not the experimental construct of someone's literary fiction.

I joined the LDS Church in 1993. I may tell you the story at some point later. Right now, my wife and I have 5 children, 1 girl (13) and four boys (11, 6, 5, 16 mos.) and live in the midwest. I'm currently serving as the Young Men's President (going on 3 years). It's been my favorite calling, bar none. Since we're a smaller ward out here, we don't have a huge group, but "My Guys" (as I call them) keep me on my toes. One of the best moments in this calling came when one of our Deacons (the super-popular, 3 sport jock type) introduced me to one of his non-member friends. "This is Brother Narrator, he's pretty cool". When you're middle aged, balding and chubby, that's a huge compliment.

I own a small freelance business doing advertising and web development. By way of hobbies, I enjoy archery, martial arts and art. I love the Sci-Fi channel, US History and pizza with lots of meat (see the reference to "chubby" earlier).

From what I read on the 'Nacle, I'm about in the middle of the spectrum as it relates to the Church. I'm not one of those walking Church History books or one that can debate the scriptures for hours. I'm also not extremely critical of the Church from a policy or doctrine standpoint, although I try hard not to let myself become an LDS lemming either.

I'd like to have this place be one where I can post my thoughts and ideas and we can have some good discussion. Comments are always open.
10:40 PM by The Narrator  Link
  10comments

Narrative on the Journey of Life
from the perspective of an
everyday LDS guy.

I'm a 30-something husband and father of 5
living in the midwest. I joined the LDS Church
with my wife in 1993.

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