Sunday, September 22, 2013

To the Heavy Laden

"The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms." - Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

If ever you feel discouraged, distraught, dejected, or downright depressed... I'm sorry, there is nothing that I can do for you.

However, some books that I have read, such as the Bible, would suggest that in these difficult moments you are actually in very good company.  I won't pretend to understand what you are going through, but in the spirit of friendship, I do want to share just three brief examples of individuals who triumphed over adversity.  These three individuals have at least two things in common: they each experienced debilitating difficulties, and they each triumphed over adversity through faith in God:

The first is Jack Rushton, the second is Nick Vujicic, and the third is Tom Dobson. Perhaps you will find something of inspiration in their stories, and when you triumph, others are sure to find inspiration in your story as well.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? / As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. / Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. / For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, / Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."   (Romans 8:35-39)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fides Quaerens Intellectum

Tonight I attended the BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences 2013 Summerhays Lecture entitled Hearing Cosmic Harmony Again, by Dr. Daniel Peterson.  With his usual cheerful and self-deprecating humor, Dr. Peterson unfolded the history of scientific thought, from Aristotle's unmoved mover to Einstein's cosmological constant and beyond.

Dr. Peterson used Psalms 19:1-4 as a springboard, weaving the idea of the "music of the spheres" throughout his address.  To enumerate certain clues that point to a purpose driven and divinely intelligent designer of the universe, Peterson drew upon the words of philosophers, poets, scientists, mathematicians, and prophets... people such as Aristotle, C.S. Lewis, Ibn Tufayl, Aquinas, Avicenna, Averroes, Cicero, Scipio Emilianus, Scipio Africanus, Shakespeare, Paul, Alma, William Paley, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Steven Weinberg, Plato, Galen, Hippocrates, Galileo, Copernicus, Mohammad, Dante, Sir John Polkinghorne, Heraclitus, Sir Arthur Eddington, Goethe, Edwin Hubble, Sir Fred Hoyle, Hitchens, Georges Le Maitre, Penzius and Wilson, the inventor of chess, Planck, Sandage, Brandon Carter, Sir Martin Rees,  Stephen Hawking, Penrose, Hugh Ross, Robin Collins, Alister McGrath, Freeman Dyson, Antony Flew, Paul Davies, Jon Boslough, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charles Sanders Peirce, St. Bonaventure, Augustine, Baroneus, Anselm, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William James, Patrick Glynn, Ambrose Bierce and others.

This year's Summerhays lecture was a finely tuned tribute that echoed to the praise of the Creator and Divine Lawgiver.  I would highly recommend a perusal of the written contents of this lecture as soon as it becomes available to the public.  Until then, this article provides some good preliminary thoughts.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Paradoxical Commandments

The Paradoxical Commandments

"People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway."

- Kent M. Keith (Inscribed on Mother Teresa's Children's Home in Calcutta)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul

"The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a 'Mormon', I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination. . . . It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul." - Joseph Smith

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stories my Uncle Told Me

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6)

The Spirit of Elijah touched me as I read "Stories my Daddy Told Me," a blog post composed by my Uncle Joel, the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather.  I am grateful for what he is doing to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, and for the pioneering efforts of all those who have gone before.      

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Will You Choose?

Elder Russel M. Nelson's CES fireside talk, "Youth of the Noble Birthright, What Will You Choose?" is well worth reviewing, pondering, and applying.  At the end of his address, Elder Nelson also bestowed an apostolic blessing upon listeners.  Here are some of the questions that Elder Nelson, Lehi-like, posed to his audience:

- Will you choose to increase in learning?

- What sort of life will you choose?

- Will you establish priorities to help you make decisions in life?

- With whom will you choose to associate?

- Will you choose freedom or bondage?

- Will you choose to follow the Lord or the philosophies of men?

- How will you prepare for your personal interview with the Lord?

- In whom will you put your trust?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shanah Tovah!

Happy New Year! Shanah tovah! (!שנה טובה)

Today marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, (ראש השנה). The Hebrew term literally means "head of the year". The Jewish New Year begins with a ten-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance (with penitential prayers called "selichot," (סליחות), culminating in the "Day of Atonement," or Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר). These ten days of repentance are known as "Days of Awe."

The Jewish New Year also celebrates God's creation of the universe, the creation of Adam, and the pinnacle of creation, Eve. It is the Feast of Trumpets when the shofar is blown to coronate God as King of the Universe, and to awaken all people to a remembrance of Him and of our true identity as God's children, while alerting listeners to the impending day of judgment. The "Days of Awe" are a time to prepare one's soul for the "Day of Atonement," the holiest day of the year, by turning to God, forgiving others and asking forgiveness, and caring for the poor and the afflicted. In other words, it is a time to do God's will and to serve others.

What a great way to start the new year! Happy New Year! Shanah tovah! (!שנה טובה)

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's not the Critic who Counts: A Review of Daring Greatly

Brené Brown, PhD is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has dedicated a decade of her life to studying vulnerability, and she wrote a New York Times best seller entitled Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.  What does that mean, you might ask? Please allow me to elaborate.

Dr. Brown is an award winning speaker who has produced one of the top ten most viewed TED talks. She started with something very basic, an inherent human need: connection. Through her research she discovered that shame and the culture of scarcity are the great obstacles to connection, and that vulnerability is the bridge to real connection.

Dr. Brown also discovered that wholehearted people had a great ability to demonstrate love and compassion for themselves as well as others, and that they fully embraced vulnerability.  In other words, those who have the courage to dare greatly do so based on a secure belief that they are both loving beings and beings worthy of being loved.

As basic as these theories might sound, I must admit that for one that sometimes finds it difficult to be vulnerable, Dr. Brown's research has the potential to effectuate a paradigm shift in my life, and in the lives of many others.  Most of all, Dr. Brown creates a vocabulary for talking about shame, vulnerability, belonging, and worthiness that may prove useful to individuals, families, employers, and employees (in other words, everyone), who desire to be and to feel more connected.

According to Dr. Brown, vulnerability is the core of shame, fear, and the struggle for worthiness, but also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and of love.  In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown examines the implications of Teddy Roosevelt's statement:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Dr. Brown examines her own adventures in the arena of life, the culture of scarcity, vulnerability myths and armory, disengagement, disruptive engagement, wholehearted parenting and other vulnerable topics. Each chapter has something to offer, because the author is cheerfully giving of herself, which is perhaps one of the reasons why her book has been at the top of the New York Times best sellers list. I was impressed by her chapters on gratitude and parenting, particularly by the idea that who we are and how we engage with the world matters more than what we know. Though I am not yet a parent, it makes sense that modeling correct behavior, teaching by example, is the best way to teach.

Although I don't agree with everything that Dr. Brown has to say in her book, I would recommend Daring Greatly to anyone who wishes to find more joy, creativity, belonging and love in their lives.  I would add that Dr. Brown's willingness to dare greatly, to be vulnerable herself is one of the things that makes her book so enjoyable to read.