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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?

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

In a couple of weeks, I will be taking my Grandpa to Washington D.C. for a special event they are having at the World War II Memorial for surviving WWII veterans.  This will be one of the great honors of my life.

My grandfather went to war thinking he was going to be on the front-lines of battle.  However, on the way to his assignment, the atomic bombs were dropped and the war was soon over.

ptsd

Although he was mostly involved in cleaning up and the aftermath of war, it still affected him and he saw things that he had never even thought of.  As an 18 year old boy, it was very disturbing for him.  While he was on the island of Saipan, he became severely ill and lost so much weight that they honorably released him and sent him back to the United States to recover.

I spoke with him the other day and he told me that life after the war was extremely hard.  He would have nightmares, stress, and didn’t want to speak with anyone.  He went to some counseling, but he said the real therapy was when his dad gave him some land to work and he could lose himself riding horses on the range, praying, and unloading his burdens on God.

This morning, I watched a short film on some brothers who had served in the Iraq and Afgahnastan wars, who had struggled with severe PSTD as well as drug addiction to try and numb the pain.  I loved their testimony of Jesus and how they describe the healing that came over them as they turned everything over to Him.

Here’s the video:

This reminds me of a scripture from the Book of Mormon as the prophet, Alma, describes becoming born again through giving his sins over to Jesus (see Alma: 17-20):

17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, havemercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Although I have never fought in war, I have had my own personal battles, as we all do, and I have also experienced this healing that comes through the Atonement of Christ.  I won’t pretend to understand what it is like to suffer and struggle with PTSD or any other of the affects of war that our soldiers go through, but I do know that Jesus understands and pray that we can share the Good News with not only our brothers and sisters who may not understand the peace, strength, mercy, and healing that comes by casting our burdens on Him and allowing Him into our hearts.

jesus washing feetA number of years ago when I was called by a Stake President (for a definition of click here) to be an Elders Quorum President (click here for definition), he gave me some very wise council that I was reminded of yesterday during one of our regional leadership meetings in Stake Conference.  He advised me to lay aside administration and delegate that to one of my counselors and to focus on ministration instead.

When he saw that I wasn’t exactly clear on what he meant by that, he broke it down for me as follows:

Administering is: focusing on programs, processes, managing, and meetings vs. focusing on people.  Sure meetings need to happen and processes need to be in place, but as a leader, I need to be a minister for the Lord.

Ministering is: having personal conversations with the men in my group at least on a weekly basis, praying sincerely with them, sharing scripture with them, holding them accountable to progressing spiritually and developing a relationship with God.

The whole time I served in this role, I had the paper up in my room posted with his advice and I tried my hardest to be a good minister.

Many sacred experiences happened as the Lord blessed me in the ministry.  I remember kneeling with a young man who had committed a serious grievance and faced excommunication from the church.  His soul was hurting and I felt God’s grace come over me as a love and compassion that is only from His grace entered into my heart.  Words came to me in prayer and tears filled my eyes as I knelt with this young man and poured my heart out to God for him.  Afterwards, I invited him to pray and he prayed as well.  This experience along with many others showed me how much God loves the sinner (all of us) and when we reach out to Him, he is right there ready to lift us up and forgive us.

Last night, Elder James Hamula, of the Quorum of the Seventy, gave a powerful and spiritual sermon on the importance of ministering vs. administering.  He shared the scripture in Alma 22:23 on how the King ministered to his whole household and that we need to minister with this same love and compassion to those who we have jurisdiction over.  Elder Hamula asked us what he thought would happen if we focused too much on administering in our congregations and families and a gentleman in the crowd shared a good example that Elder Uchtdorf spoke about a while back where on the surface people looked like they were doing well because they were coming to church and putting on good faces, but over time there were a lot of divorces and strife between members because peoples’ hearts weren’t into it.

When I think of my role as a father, and a leader in my local congregation, I wonder how much ministering vs. administering I do.  Administering in the family is important and as a father, I think that probably comes easier than ministering.  I work hard and provide for them, make sure things are squared away logistically for the family, teach them right from wrong, etc. However, I need to to better about speaking with each individual member of my family, including my wife, and putting my arms around them, sharing my testimony of the Gospel, praying with them with deep, sincere prayers, etc.  Similarly, as a leader, it is easy to hold meetings and track progress and delegate things out to people.  Even when I’m making visits to members of the congregation, I can be merely an administer by “checking” the box that I visited them, but not praying and preparing beforehand and then with them as well.

I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on ministering vs. administering.  Where have you seen effective ministry as a leader in your congregation, or in your family?  What advice do you have for all of us on how to be effective ministers?

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