One of my favorite hymns has become to be Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy.  I loved the message of being a light along the shore to those who are tossed at sea, but after I watched this video by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir about the meaning and message behind how the song was written, I grew to love it even more.  I’ve included a link to the video for those who want to watch it:

Background of Brightly Beams our Fathers Mercy

As I pondered about the meaning and important message of being connected to the higher light of Jesus and as we are connected, we are an example by being the lower lights along the shore to help guide people to the Savior, I also considered a talk that President Thomas Monson gave a number of years ago called To the Rescue.

President Monson talked about a famous painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner where a group of men are in a rescue boat heading out towards a storm, leaving the comforts of the shore where a wife and child stands watching them.  He goes on to explain that when we are true disciples of Christ, we will feel a desire and act on it to go out and minister to those in need, leaving the comforts of our homes in many cases to do so.

to the rescue

http://www.nothingwavering.org/2010/03/08/18819-leadership-training-conference-with-elder-ballard.html

When I reflected on both the song, Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy and the lighthouse analogy of being an example, and President Monson’s inspired talk, I thought about another painting that captures both perspectives of being a light to others through our examples and leaving the comforts and security of home to minister to others.

Be an Example and Go to the Rescue

GraceDarlingA63http://www.gracedarling.co.uk/Paintings.html

The painting shown above is a depiction of Grace Darling and her father, who was a lighthouse keeper.  On an extremely stormy night, Grace noticed that there was a ship that had wrecked and urgently requested that she go with her father to save the stranded sailors.  Although the sailors could see the lights along the shore, it wasn’t enough.  They needed to be rescued and guided to the safety of the lights.  Grace and her father left the comforts of their home and successfully saved the sailors.

Jesus said that as believers, we are lights on a hill and also that He is the light we should hold up.  He also said that He is in need of laborers to go out and find his lost sheep.

It isn’t easy to keep our lights burning and personally, I’m very scared of stormy seas and it’s much easier to stay inside the comforts of my home and just “shine my light” for people to see.  However, I’ve learned that if I make a habit of keeping my light burning by studying God’s Word daily, praying, and making a habit of serving others, that I have very personal and spiritual experiences and feel blessed to be able to help others come closer to the Savior.

What are your thoughts on how we can be a conduit of showing Jesus’ light to others while also seeking out and finding and ministering to His lost sheep?

Do you have any stories you can share about being the recipient of someone ministering to you or being a light/example for you to be guided from danger and towards Jesus’ light?

We had a great lesson and conversation that stemmed from Elder Nelson’s talk he gave a year or so ago about making a concerted effort to make the Sabbath a delight and to keep it holy.

The following video does a great job of highlighting how stressful life is and how keeping the Sabbath can be a blessing for us:

One of the things that stood out to me today from our discussion was that the way I observe the Sabbath is how I show God a sign of how committed I am and how much I love Him.  The Sabbath isn’t just a list of things I can’t do.  Rather, if I focus my energy on what I can do to show God my love, it will then become a delight and each person will approach it differently.  When we approach it this way, then it becomes less of a legalistic approach and more of an approach that Jesus discusses in the Bible of offering our hearts to God vs. keeping things because we are told to do it.

sunday-cans

There was a long list of Sunday “cans” that we looked at and the interesting thing is everyone is different and at varying levels in their approach to observing the Sabbath.

For me, I found that I have a greater abundance of the Holy Spirit when I don’t watch football on Sundays like I used to do.  I find I’m more patient with my family and spend much more time with my kids and hopefully bonding more vs. just shouting at the screen on Sundays and letting my kids run around wild.

Others in the group shared how they strive to make every day like the Sabbath and serve others, reaching out and loving as the Savior would have us do, etc.  I believe that is the ultimate level we should be striving for, but we also discussed starting small and working toward the best way possible.

What are some of the ways you choose to keep the Sabbath and how have you been blessed by doing so?

Our men’s group had a lesson on President Monson’s most recent article called “Learn of Me“.  Below is an excerpt from the article that stood out to me and was a significant portion of our discussion:

In the Church, the goal of gospel teaching is not to pour information into the minds of God’s children, whether at home, in the classroom, or in the mission field. It is not to show how much the parent, teacher, or missionary knows. Nor is it merely to increase knowledge about the Savior and His Church.

The basic goal of teaching is to help the sons and daughters of Heavenly Father return to His presence and enjoy eternal life with Him. To do this, gospel teaching must encourage them along the path of daily discipleship and sacred covenants. The aim is to inspire individuals to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles. The objective is to develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to become converted to His gospel.

One of the members of our group made the comment that when he is teaching his son, he can tell when he is “pouring too much information” into his kid’s head when his son’s eyes glaze over and roll into the back of his head.  He then knows that he needs to back off because effective teaching and learning isn’t happening.

dance_steps

This comment reminded me of a conference talk given by one of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy, Wilford W. Andersen, called “The Music of the Gospel“.  Below are some quotes from the talk:

Dancing without music is awkward and unfulfilling—even embarrassing. Have you ever tried it?

We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.

I thought about the things that we (my wife and I) do to teach our kids.  We pray every day, read scriptures together, have weekly Family Night where we include scriptures and Church songs, attend Church weekly.  Individually, we pray, read scriptures, serve in our community and Church.  However, I’m always praying that my kids learn to feel the gospel and Christ’s love in their hearts so they have that as a foundation.

President Monson goes on to say:

Teachers who emulate the Savior’s example love and serve those they teach. They inspire their listeners with eternal lessons of divine truth. They live lives worth emulating.

It is interesting to think back on my childhood memories on how my parents influenced me.  What is interesting is that we had frequent prayer, attended church usually, didn’t read too many scriptures together, but did have family night regularly.  I’m sure that these experiences all added up and helped me in my life more than I realize.  But what stands out to me are moments that my parents taught me lessons through their examples.

One example was when I was a young man around the age of 12.  My parents were recently divorced and I was a very troubled child.  I had been making some poor choices and was heading down a pretty bad path at an early age.

While I was visiting my Dad, I was sitting at the kitchen table, watching him make breakfast (he was the king of home made cinnamon rolls and I think it was something good like that, that he was making).  As I watched him, I felt this overwhelming feeling of peace come over me and clarity in my mind.  An impression from God through the Holy Spirit that it was critical that I change my living situation and move to live with my Dad and step-mom.  I knew that the environment and living situation with a stable home where both parents were living the Gospel of Christ was where I needed-and wanted to be and I made the decision then and there, with the grace of God-to move in with my Dad.

That decision altered the course of my life and were it not for the example of my Dad and the grace of God, I am sure I would have had an even tougher road (life is never a bed of roses all the time) than I’ve had.

I’m curious to learn of your experiences with teaching and learning.

What experiences do you have with people teaching you the gospel and helping you feel it in your heart?

How do you effectively help your children and friends not only learn the dance steps, but hear the music as well?

We watched the following video in Elders Quorum (men’s group) about surfers who almost got into deep water with some sharks (if you prefer to read it, click here):

 

After watching the video we discussed various boundaries (commandments) that the Lord has given us to help us stay on the path to Eternal Life.  Some of the commandments we discussed included: Keeping the Sabbath Holy, Serving others such as missionary work, and paying attention to the media we allow into our homes.

The conversation turned to pornography and how if we aren’t careful as individuals and as fathers, either we or our sons could be overcome with this temptation.

We discussed that it isn’t a matter of if, but when we will be confronted with this and how to react with ourselves, our children, and friends who encounter this temptation.

Some men in our group shared examples of showing love for those and not judging others who encounter this.  Encouraging them to go to Church leaders and the Savior for the Atonement. Additionally, people shared information on resources online that people can go to.

For those who are leaders or struggling personally, here are some resources:

Personal: https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng

Leaders: https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/leaders?lang=eng

At the April 1980 general conference, Elder Howard W.Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told of joining a large crowd to watch the long-boat races in Samoa.

boat_Race4

“The crowd was restless,” he said,“and most eyes were turned toward the sea, watching for the first glimpse of the [boats]. Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd as the boats came into sight in the distance. Each of them had a crew of fifty powerful oarsmen dipping and pulling the oars with a rhythm that forced the crafts through the waves and foaming water—a beautiful sight.

“The boats and men were soon in full view as theyraced toward the finish. Even though these powerful men pulled with their might, the weight of a boat with fifty men moved against a powerful adverse force—the resistance of the water.

“The cheering of the crowd reached a crescendo whenthe first long-boat crossed the finish line.”

After the race, Elder Hunter walked to where the boats were docked and spoke with one of the oarsmen, who explained that the prow of the long-boat “is so constructed that it cuts through and divides the water to help overcome the resistance that retards the speed of the boat. He further explained that the pulling of the oars against the resistance of the water creates the force that causes the boat to move forward. Resistance creates both the opposition and the forward movement.”1

What would happen without adversity?

In order to have adversity, the men first needed to get into the boat.  Next, they needed water and a tool like oars to provide a way to create resistance.  If there were no oars and they sat in the water, they wouldn’t go where they wanted to go and would float aimlessly where ever the currents took them.  If there were no water and only oars, they wouldn’t even move anywhere.

Having resistance isn’t enough though.  They could be all the smartest, strongest, well-trained athletes and have the best oars and boat but if they didn’t communicate effectively and paddle together, they wouldn’t move forward towards their goal of the finish line.

Our Lives as a Boat Race

Each of us is on a journey.  We are all in the boat of life and have choices as we move through our journey.  Daily we have the choice to let adversity overtake us, or to use tools and communication strategies to use adversity to our advantage.

The tools we use to overcome our challenges may vary depending on our situation and struggle, but some tools and communication strategies will be universal.

These include tools and communication such as praying for strength, relying on friends and family, reading scriptures and other uplifting books for insight and understanding.  Cultivating deep relationships so we can have this communication is essential as well.  It is important to work and practice daily communication and relationship building with our Heavenly Father, Jesus, spouses, children, friends, members of our quorums, etc.  If we have been effective at this, it will make it so we can paddle through adversity and become stronger, rather than adversity overcoming us.

Questions to consider

How do you respond to adversity?

How has adversity and relying on God, family, and friends helped shape who you are?

Last week we had a great conversation in church about Lehi’s Vision in the Book of Mormon.  For those not familiar with the vision, you can find all the details of the vision in 1 Nephi chapters 8 and 11.

In the vision, there is a part where mists of darkness arise around people who are striving to reach a tree with fruit that is most desirable and fills ones soul with joy.  The tree, according to scripture, represents the love of God.

In the Church, I feel that when we discuss the mists of darkness that arise in Lehi’s dream, we often correlate that with temptations, sins, and distractions from Satan that take us off of our path to God and to wayward paths.

However, last week, as we discussed and read about the dream, I thought about times in my life when I have literally had mists of darkness arise when experiencing depression or discouragement.  I’ll paraphrase one experience that I wrote about in the book Discovering Light:

There was one day while I was experiencing extreme depression and doubt.  I was driving in the rain and crying from the heavy weight that I was feeling.  Thoughts were swirling around in my mind and I pulled over and offered a mighty prayer in desperation, asking God to intervene.

Within a couple of minutes, my Grandfather called me, out of the blue.  Hearing his voice as he said “my boy!” immediately snapped me out of my downward spiral of negative thinking and I smiled as I remembered the fun times I had with him growing up next door.  Images of riding horses together, working together, singing together, etc. came into my mind.

I shared with him my emotional state and how depressed I felt.  He opened up to me and shared with me how intimately he understood my situation and shared some very personal experiences of a time when he was depressed right after my Grandmother had passed away.

He then shared his testimony of how God carried him and helped him through and he knew God would do that for me too.  This conversation gave me hope for that day and was a testimony to me that not only did my Grandfather care for me, but my Heavenly Father did as well and had sent Grandpa as an angel to rescue me.

 

This experience reminds me of something Russell M Nelson, from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles recently wrote in his book “Accomplishing the Impossible”.  He writes:

…angels are at work. Often our members are “angels” to neighbors in need. Home teachers and visiting teachers, as ordinary people, frequently render service that seems angelic to grateful recipients….I am among the many who have often referred to the loving acts of an “angel mother” or an “angel wife,” or the priceless love of “angel children”.

Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels-heavenly messengers-seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to help and how to help.  Gospel messengers, or angels, can include ordinary people like you and me (pg 25).

 

I’ll forever be grateful for my Grandfather who was close to the Spirit and listened to a prompting from God and acted as an angel to my prayer when I was in the middle of a “mist of darkness”.

From personal experience, I know that darkness, doubt, and depression can be overpowering and make one feel like it is impossible to accomplish the task of even getting through another day.  I know that with God’s help, we can all accomplish the impossible to either have strength to hold on while we are experiencing “mists of darkness” and eventually make it through.

Today in Elders Quorum we had a great lesson from the new Howard W Hunter manual entitled “My Peace I Give Unto You“.

Before class though, we spent some time introducing ourselves: where we’re from and our favorite football team (most of us were Seahawks fans so we weren’t too thrilled about the outcome of the game today–one of us was a Steelers fan and that’s like a swear word here in the Seattle area! We determined we needed to pray for our brother’s soul : ).  It was interesting how many guys had great positive memories attached to their football teams.  For example, Steve Capps remembers watching Cowboys games with his Dad and laying his head down in his “squishy belly”!

After the introductions, there were some very good conversations about how we can obtain peace when things in our world seem to be in turmoil.

Danny Kim, the instructor, read some experiences about Howard W Hunter when his wife was going in for a serious surgery and as he prayed, he felt an overwhelming peace and comfort come over him. He then asked us to share stories of faith where we felt peace during a period of disaster or sickness.

Pres. Wolf shared a story about when his wife got some clots in her lungs and he was afraid for her life.  However, as he prayed with her and laid his hands on her to give her a blessing, he felt a strong sense she would be fine and peace filled his soul.

I shared a story of when we thought we were losing our baby, and as I gave the blessing to my wife, I felt a great sense of peace came over us and we knew things were going to be OK, which they were and are still.

Finally, Br Capps shared a story of the recent cancer that his wife had and is working on still.  It sounded like they are doing fine and that through the power of faith, prayer, blessings, and patience, they are doing well.

How does Jesus Give us Peace?

The question was then posed: How does Jesus Give us Peace?

Another Elder in our Quorum, Todd, shared a touching story to illustrate how Jesus gives us peace.

He shared a story about a time when he was living in Hawaii and one of the members of his ward (congregation) ran over and killed another ward member’s son due to speeding.

He described how the father, whose son died, got up publicly and forgave the person who did that to his son and that he felt a great comfort and peace knowing the Plan of Salvation and how he would be able to see his son again someday.

This story reminded me of a touching conference talk by Elder Faust a few years ago called “The Healing Power of Forgiveness“, where he shares a touching story of Amish community members who forgave one of their own who killed many of their friends and family.

The Atonement of Christ and the Plan of Salvation are the main things that give us peace, it was determined.

I left the meeting uplifted and felt closer to my fellow Elders as well as thankful for the Atonement and Plan of Salvation and the peace Jesus give us.

What are your thoughts on how Jesus gives us peace and what experiences do you have on how He has comforted you in times of trouble?

 

 

 

Last year during the Super Bowl, Deon Sanders interviewed Doug Baldwin, Wide Receiver of the Seattle Seahawks, and told him he wasn’t a “grown man” because he didn’t warrant double team coverage during a football game.

If you are a football fan, you’ll hear Deon talk frequently about what being a “grown man” means and it usually has something to do with being athletic, powerful, physical, etc.

In the world, being a grown man means all of this along with money, power, having a perfect body and everything else the world has to offer.

In Elders Quorum (men’s group) yesterday, we had a good conversation about how we can face the challenges the world brings us.  One of the Elders in the group said something that stood out to me, which I’ve been reflecting on since.  He said if we know Jesus, we can face the world as grown men.

resurrection_3_large

This is a very simple, yet profound thought that leads to more questions to consider:

Do we know Jesus?

If we do, where are we with our relationship with Him?

If not, how do we get to know Him?

How does He help us face the world and help us become “grown men”?

Additionally, I thought about how Jesus himself was the ultimate Man.  He showed us a perfect example of what it means to be a man.  Bold when he needed to be bold.  Humble and always giving honor to His Father.  Courageous too many times to count and ultimately on the cross.  Loving, kind, the list goes on.

I am curious to continue this dialogue with those of you who read this.

How have you come to know Jesus?

If you have ever strayed, how did you return?

For someone who doesn’t know Him, what advice would you give on how to get to know Him and why it is important?

 

 

 

Dr James Dobson from Focus on the Family interviewed Dr Kevin Lehman, who is a psychologist and very popular Christian author of books about raising children.

I recently re-listened to an interview Dr Dobson had with Dr Lehman and thought I would share some highlights from the interview.

11 Ways a Father can Make a Difference in a Child’s Life

  • Give each child a responsibility in the home.

Dr Lehman had a great quote: “Everybody in our family gives back to the family.  This isn’t a hotel.  It is a home.  Big difference.”

  • Raise each child as an individual

During the interview, the popular scripture, Proverbs 22:6, was shared, which reads:

Proverbs-22-6

They made the excellent point, which I had never considered regarding this scripture.  The scripture doesn’t say “train up the child in the way we think they should go”, but in the “way he should go”.  Each child is their own individual and will need to be treated as such.

I would add that the only way we can really know the way each individual child should go is to constantly be praying to God for guidance because the Good Lord knows I’m clueless on my own and will mess it up every time I try and do things without His direction (and my wife’s gentle guidance too).

  • Be willing to accept and own your mistakes

This point was a good one because I feel pulled in so many directions sometimes.  I work as hard as possible to provide for my family.  I try and make time for each individual kid and my wife.  I volunteer at our church and am gone in the evenings sometimes each week.  I’m tired at the end of the day. My patience isn’t where it should be always…I could go on, but you get the idea.  I’m human.  It is important for us to allow ourselves to be human and when (not if) we make mistakes, don’t be too hard on ourselves and remember that we should own up to the mistakes, apologize to our kids when we make them, and then try better next time.

  • Allow your kids to make mistakes

If we are going to cut ourselves some slack, we need to do the same for our kids.

  • Be there

  • Understand your kids

I’m amazed at how perceptive my wife is with each individual child and the calm and selfless way she approaches each individual child.  I pray that I can do the same.  Something that has helped me accomplish this is by setting aside a day each week for me to take each of our kids out on a “daddy date”.  While we are out with each other, I learn things about each child as we get to spend some time together one on one.

  • Love and honor your wife

I think the video below is a great illustration of how we can go about loving and honoring our wives.

  • Believe in your kids

If you show faith in them, it will help them have faith in themselves.

If you doubt them, they will reflect that as well.

  • Slip “commercial announcements” to your kids

This suggestion means the world to kids.  They shared an example of a lady who’s father had told her she got lucky that she went to an easy high school when she came home with straight A’s once on a report card.  That one comment scarred her deeply.

However, if we spin this “commercial announcement” into a positive, it can have the opposite effect.  An example of this is by saying sincere announcements such as “I noticed that you’ve been kind to your siblings lately.  You’ve done such a good job with that and I’m proud of you…”  it can be anything quick and positive and it will go a long way.  Over time, a lot of those comments will add up.

  • Be consistent

Dr Lehman was crying in the interview when he said his greatest regret was being away for work during his daughter’s graduation, when he said he’d be there.  Additionally, he mentioned how he sees the negative effect it has on kids when their Dad’s say they’ll be to places, or do things for them and then allow other things to get in the way.  Always keep your word and do it consistently.  I would also add that having certain routines are important for kids too.  I notice that if I’m out, and don’t make it back in time to tuck the kids in, it has an impact on them and they are unsettled.  However, when I make an effort to be there regularly, they feel calmer.

  • Have fun!!!

In college I had a professor who said “the family that plays together, stays together.” I believe this is true. I think that having daily, weekly, monthly and longer term fun activities to work towards together as a family is important.  It is also important to involve each child in the decision process toward fun activities.  Ideas include: weekly movie nights, game nights, yearly big trips that everyone saves and works towards, etc.

Question

I’m sure that many of you have some additional thoughts and ideas.  Which of these points stand out to you and what ideas/thoughts would you add?

I didn’t get a chance to reflect on the events and aftermath of 9/11 until late tonight.  As I reflected on my own feelings and watched videos of survivors of the tragedy, I came across a great video I thought people would enjoy about part of a Bible that was found months after the tragedy.

Take a look at this video and pay attention to the verses that were preserved from the flames.

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-attacks/videos/remembering-911-the-ground-zero-bible

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