Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are instructed "to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39), as was stressed by Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles during our last General Conference. As my wife and I emerge somewhat from a period of hardship, I feel it appropriate today to take some time to express my thanks for my blessings.

I am thankful for my wife, for the warmth, peace and joy she brings to our home. Emilee, I thank you for your support, your tender care, your patience, your love, your gentle touch. I thank you for the hard work you do to make our home a happy p
lace where the Spirit of God may dwell. I thank you for your guidance when I feel lost and your fun-loving spirit when I feel down. For this and so much more, I thank you.

I am thankful for my parents, for the support and teachings they have given me. Mom and Dad, I thank you for raising me in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for teaching me correct principles and helping me to explore my talents. I thank you for supporting me financially and emotionally as I complete my schooling. I thank you for praying for me every night for as long as I can remember, praying that I would meet those critical spirit
ual goals. For more than I can possibly express, I thank you.

I am thankful for my brother, for the example he has given me. Derrill, while we are very different from each other, you have always been a firm defense and support to me. You were always the first to extend a hand of friendship and forgiveness after our quarrels. Your quiet spiritual leadership has helped to shape me, to make those critical decisions that have made me who I am. For the music and the joy that we have shared, I thank you.

I am thankful for the gift of music, for its power in my life. I thank God for the talents with which he has blessed me, for ears to hear and a voice with which to sing. I thank Him for the talent of composition which has allowed me to more fully express my devotion, as well as my feelings. My thanks go to Impact Vocal Band, the Santa Barbara Channel City Chorus, the BYU Men's 
Wild Pitch, The Honor Chord, Sing For Your Sweetheart and various other choirs in which I have participated and which I have directed. For the sweet resonance of the heart, I thank God.

I am thankful for our friends who enrich our lives and help us to extend 
our focus beyond ourselves and our personal needs. Without our friends, life would be a lot more boring. For your generosity, your patience, your eagerness to share, for laughs and love over good eats and weekend sleepovers, for helping us smile through our problems and our pain, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am thankful for my job, for the security it grants me. The power to pay my bills while maintaining my personal integrity is a tremendous gift, especially in this day and age where so much of business is based on trickery.

I am thankful for the opportunity I have to study at BYU. I am grateful for the chance to learn not only a vocation but also more of the doctrine of the gospel. The chance to associate with so many who are of my same faith and hold my same values is a priceless treasure.

I am thankful for Jesus Christ, for His love and His atoning sacrifice. I am thankful that He was willing to suffer and die so that I can be forgiven of my sins and live forever with my Heavenly Father. I am grateful for His gospel and the life with which I have been blessed through living according to His teachings. I am thankful to be a member of His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sants. I am thankful for the scriptures, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, written by ancient prophets who testify of Him. I am thankful for a modern prophet, Thomas S. Monson, for Apostles and other church leaders who lead God's church just as prohets did in ancient times. Within the framework of the restored gospel, I am especially thankful for the temple, for the opportunity to live with my family for all eternity. I am thankful for the power of the priesthood, through which I and my family may be blessed and eternally joined. I testify of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I give my heartfelt thanks and devotion to Him for it.

Whenever I hear the song of a bird/
or look at the blue, blue sky/
Whenever I feel the rain on my face/
or the wind as it rushes by/
Whenever I touch a velvet rose/
or walk by a lilac tree/
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world/
Heavenly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see/
the color of butterfly wings/
He gave me my ears that I might hear/
the magical sound of things/
He gave me my life, my mind, my heart/
and I thank him reverently/
for all His creations, of which I'm a part/
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waxing Nostalgic

Looking a little further forward, my family and I have planned a trip to Disney World in February. A lot of my greatest memories come from Disneyland/World: Losing a tooth on a frozen banana; A soggy trip to the airport followed by 2 weeks of illness; losing my Goofy hat in the Haunted Mansion; the day a friendly train conductor tried to convince me to take his job - the list goes on. But one of my most treasured memories is of the time I pulled the Sword from the Stone in Fantasyland.

Every day (in fact, several times a day), a large procession marches through Fantasyland toward the carousel. Merlin and a host of castle guards come to the sword to test the crowd and see if there is one among them with the heart of a king, one who can pull the sword from the stone.

This particular day, my brother had headed off by himself to hit some rides while I was with my parents. Derrill was late for our rendezvous, allowing us time to watch the Sword ceremony. I watched as Merlin called forth brawny, burly men to pull the sword while a royal band played a strength-inspiring tune. The large men with their bulging brawn pulled until their faces turned purple, but to no avail - the sword didn't budge.

I, being a somewhat impetuous lad (I believe I was somewhere in the vicinity of 8 years old at the time) began flexing my non-existent muscles to the guards who stood by the side. One of them called to Merlin that he should try this lad and I was summoned forth.

I stood before the stone with my beloved Donald Duck hat perched on my eager head as the band struck up their tune. I tugged and pulled and heaved . . . and nothing happened. As the band began to die away, Merlin announced that he still felt that I had the heart of a king and that all I needed was a bit of magic to help me find my courage. He waved his want and cast his spell, then told me to try again. I gripped the sword and gave a determined, white-knuckled heave on the magical blade's hilt as the band began again. After a moment, the sword rose - only a few inches, of course - and the band struck a triumphal note.

As I grinned proudly, Merlin bustled me to the front of the crowd declared that I was to be crowned King of the Late Afternoon. He opened a large chest and removed a shining crown, then removed my Donald Duck hat and tossed it casually into the chest. I shouted in protest that it was mine as tears washed my cheeks, thinking my hat would be locked away in that chest. Merlin quickly assured me that I would get it back and told me to smile for a waiting camera. My parents still have that momento of our trip, a picture of their tear-streaked little boy smiling sheepishly with a crown on his head.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Earliest Memories of Christmas

Whenever the holidays approach, I get nostalgic about Christmases gone by. One of my very earliest memories (Perhaps my earliest clear memory, in fact) is a Christmas Memory - catching Santa Claus when I was 5.

It's been over 20 years, but I can still remember what I asked Santa for in my letter that year - a big box with all the magic tricks in the world. I don't think I realized just what a tall order that was, but I knew that if anybody could pull it off, it would be Santa Claus.

I loved Santa Claus - I still do, in fact. I wanted, more than anything, to see him and tell him myself what I wanted for Christmas. Letters were nice and Mall Santas could bring him the message, but I really wanted to be a magician, so when Mom suggested that I try to catch him, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my Christmas wish.

Santa Claus has to fill all official Christmas stockings, wherever they may be, so we put a stocking with a jingle bell on it under my pillow on Christmas Eve. I awoke to the sound of that jingling bell (and a slight shaking of my bed - I guess Santa was having trouble reaching it or something) and opened my eyes to see the jolly man in red himself right beside my bed with a big smile on his bearded face. For some reason that I was too sleepy to question, Mom was there with the camera. When I said we should go get Dad, she told me he really needed his sleep and Santa couldn't stay long.

So then the moment came. After a big hug, Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that I wanted a big box with all the magic tricks in the world inside it. He laughed (bowl-full-of-jelly jiggle and all) and said that he had brought me something even better - a magical book!

Now, I know what all you kids are thinking right now . . . what a rip-off! You asked for cool magic tricks and you got a stupid book! I'll admit that I was disappointed at the time, but let me tell you something. It's been 20 years, and I still remember that book with a smile. Opt: An Illusionary Tale was a collection of optical illusions set in a fantasy kindgom. I cannot tell you how many times I flipped through that book and wondered how it all worked. It may not have changed my life, but it was still a lot of fun.

Would I have remembered a big box full of magic tricks? Probably. But what I really remember was the love of Santa Claus. Jolly Old St. Nicholas invites Santa to "Choose for me, dear Santa Claus, what you think is right." Santa Claus may not have given me exactly what I asked for, but he chose well anyway. Isn't it funny how life works out that way sometimes?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shattering the Fourth Wall - What is a hero?

Okay, I admit it - I'm not a superhero. I can't fly, I can't shoot radiation bursts from my fingertips and I would look horrible in blue spandex. Ever since Sapphire Sting left Paragon City, I've been losing touch with him. It's been several months now since I stopped playing City of Heroes - after 3 years, it was definitely an addiction. Sapphire Sting, Alba Caliente, Graham and Envinyatar, along with literally dozens of other lesser-used characters, are slowly slipping away. Perhaps more importantly, my friends like Nickarr, Kick Back and Trick Tracy are no longer a significant presence in my daily life. I miss them, but I cannot go back. The characters I created, the bases I designed, the friendships I forged - all are, sadly, part of the past now.

Yet part of it lives on in me - the ideals, the dream of saving the world, one day at a time. Most days, it's little things like going to work and school when I don't feel like it. Another day it may be a vote, or a blog entry supporting Proposition 8.

What makes a hero? Is it super powers and spandex, cool catch phrases and bullet-proof hair? The villains have those, too. How do we know the difference? Where does the shallow veneer end and true devotion begin? Where can we turn in such troubled times?

There is one source we can always trust, a perfect hero to us all: Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the surest and only true guide to happiness, safety and truth. Every day, if we strive to be as He is, we will become the heroes our world needs.

To help and to heal without hurting another.
To love and forgive your enemies no matter what.
To be both just and merciful in all your dealings.
To boldly stand for what's right, no matter the cost.
To gently guide all those who are lost and will follow.
To share the light of the gospel with all who will listen.
To be a brother to all even as they smite you.
To be true to your own divine heritage.

We are all sons and daughters of God, brothers of Christ, and are all eligible to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost if we will but listen. The days ahead - the last days, it seems - are times when we will all need to stand and be counted among the heroes who follow with faith the divine light of truth, even Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

The battle lines have been drawn. Let the last crusade for Christ begin - not a crusade of blood or of worldly conquest, but a crusade against the evils of this world. Let us defeat the villains, the destroyers, the haters, the hypocrites. Let us stand and wave the banner of truth!

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!
Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance?
Some will fall and some will live, will you stand up and take your chance?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mixed Feelings

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout . . .

Which, after everything is said and done, describes America, even if the election didn't go the way we each may have wanted.

Congratulations to everyone out there who likes Obama. I hope you continue to like him, since I hope he does a good enough job that we can get to like him. I recognize that he's in charge now (or will be once he hits office), and I plan to uphold him and pray for him so he can be the best leader he can be, the duty of any true American hero. While I don't expect much good out of him, I look forward to being proved wrong.

On what is, for me, a much more cheerful note, the votes are in from across the nation:

Arizona's proposition 102:
Yes 56% 1,039,606
No 44% 801,279

Florida's Proposition 2:
Yes 62% 4,662,558
No 38% 2,851,598

California's Proposition 8:
Yes 52% 5,163,908
No 48% 4,760,336

Ameican voters have chosen, once again, to defend the family, our rights as parents, our rights as voters and our religious rights. And, in small small measure, my faith in America is restored. God bless America, and may we continue to live so that He may continue to do so.

Which classic Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Superman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz