Monday, May 31, 2010

Look to the Future

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I love this powerful quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley's talk "Look to the Future":

"Now, what of the future? What of the years that lie ahead?...If we will go forward, never losing sight of our goal, speaking ill of no one, living the great principles we know to be true, this cause will roll on in majesty and power to fill the earth. Doors now closed to the preaching of the gospel will be opened. The Almighty, if necessary, may have to shake the nations to humble them and cause them to listen to the servants of the living God. Whatever is needed will come to pass."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Romantic Dream

I have this little dream. It's a romantic dream, just for my wife. It goes like this.

She spends a fun morning with her daughters, but when she comes home, there is a bit of a surprise.

An unfamiliar car is in the driveway. See, I've rented a nice SUV. The back gate is open, and the rig is loaded to the gills with suitcases. Her suitcases and my suitcases. Everything is packed for a trip, including books she is currently reading. (I got a packing list from her months before.)

She smiles and says, "What do you think you're doing?"

"Are you ready?" I say.

"Where are we going?" she asks.

"You'll find out," I say. "By the time you change, we'll be ready to go."

"You're in trouble," she says, but she likes surprises. I know that for sure.

Soon, we are on our way to the airport. She keeps quizzing me, but I offer no clues, only that we will be traveling by air for the first leg of our journey, and that we will gone longer than a week.

On the drive north to the airport, I offer her chocolate covered almonds. She likes those. In the CD player is all the hit singles from 1979, the year we got married. We sing the oldies, slightly off key, and hold hands.

We get to the airport. It is there she discovers we are flying to London. It will be a long flight, but we are in the First Class section, and our seats recline. We watch "Sabrina," but we aren't on the Concord. We watch "Letters to Juliet." "Enchanted April," "Pride and Prejudice," all these movies we like to watch together. We laugh.

She asks me what we'll do in London, and all I say is, "You'll see." She doesn't like that but she does. She makes her fun little idle threats but I do not acquiesce.

We take a taxi from Gatwick to Southend-on-Sea where we board a luxury cruise liner and, from our balconied suite, we see the British Isles, including ports in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. We eat and resolve regrets and talk about everything under the sun and read books—I finally finish Les Miserables—and check our email only twice a day. And swim and talk and be together and forget for a time the enormous trials strewn behind us.

We read the scriptures together and talk about what they mean. We think of the children and talk about them and our hopes for them. We write in our journals and dream and meet new friends at the dinner table and they laugh when we tell them we are from Utah. We smile and give them all their very own copy of the Book of Mormon.

We come home two weeks later, and our trials are lighter because we have the best thing in life—each other.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Until We Meet Again

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President Thomas S. Monson tells the story of his boyhood friend, Arthur Patton, who died in World War II.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Multitasking and Attention

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This morning, I read an article from the Harvard Business Review, "How and (Why) to Stop Multitasking." The article helped me to see something that I have suspected, that is, that my multitasking, or attempts at it, actually lead me to be less productive and more stressed.

I have always had trouble doing  more than one thing at a time. Now I know better why.

I was encouraged by something Peter Bregman, the author of the article, said. He committed himself to not multitask for an entire week. When he was on the phone, he was on the phone, not checking email, etc.

After that week, he noticed some big differences. For example, he said: "When I was with my children...I shut my cell phone off and found myself much more deeply engaged and present with them. I never realized how significantly a short moment of checking my email disengaged me from the people and things right there in front of me. Don't laugh, but I actually — for the first time in a while — noticed the beauty of leaves blowing in the wind."

The dissipation of attention seems to be a bane of modern life.

A cell phone or handheld device can be totally distracting when we are in a conversation or in a meeting. It sends a message that the person calling or texting is more important than person we are with. Not a good feeling. A computer laptop can suck the life out of relationships, ruin an evening together, or even a vacation. Such things make our attention a cheat.

Pure, focused attention is one of the greatest compliments we can pay to another person. When that attention is distracted and broken apart, it is disheartening to those around us, especially those we love. We instinctively sense whether we are important to others, at any given moment, by the quality of attention we are given by them.

Satan begins his work with distraction, I believe. Distraction is the first step to unraveling a relationship, the first step on a downward spiral. We can refocus and turn that around. 

If you want to pay a loved one a compliment, set other things aside and really pay attention with both ears and both eyes. Turn off your phone and computer, and turn on your heart. When our children and spouses know that we are honest and sincere in the attention we give, they tend to be less in need of attention, but, funny, we like to give it more.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Morning Muesli

All right, here is a break from the ordinary: a recipe! Yes, a recipe for one of my favorite breakfasts. It is easy to make. And it sticks with you through the morning.

It originally came from a book called The New American Diet which isn't so new anymore. It is one of those recipes that I have made enough times that I have almost it memorized. Here it goes.

Morning Muesli

2 or 3 cups of uncooked oatmeal, depending on how many you need to feed
1 or 2 cups of milk, water, rice milk, etc. (your choice there)

Put these in a large mixing bowl, mix together, cover with plastic and let it soak overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, mix the the oatmeal with:

3/4 cup of plain yogurt
1 or 2 small to medium apples, cut into chunks
1/2 cup of raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup of chopped nuts (I like soaked almonds)
1 tablespoon of  fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of wheat germ
Dash of cinnamon to taste
Sweeten with 1/4 cup of sugar or other sweetener such as brown sugar, agave or honey to taste

I love this stuff! I have a hard time stopping at one bowl. If you try it, let me know if you like it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fathers and Sons

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"The Lamb" by William Blake

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Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake was an English Romantic poet and painter who lived from 1757 until 1827. This poem was first published in Songs of Innocence in 1789.

Here is the Choir of King's College, Cambridge singing John Tavener's arrangement of "The Lamb." (Thank you Paul S. for the link.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Tyger" by William Blake

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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What Immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What Immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake was an English Romantic poet and painter who lived from 1757 until 1827. This poem was first published in Songs of Experience in 1794.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do You Love Me?

I know this will be hard for some of you to believe, but this is a true story.

A friend of mine from Oregon once told me a personal story about a phone call he received one day. It was in the days before caller ID, so he did not know where the call came from.

The phone rang, and Virgil picked it up. "Hello?" he said.

A young boy answered. "Hello."

I imagine from Virgil's description that the boy was somewhere between 6 to 8 years old. The boy went on to say that it was his birthday, but that no one had remembered that. No one had said anything to him. There were no gifts, no balloons, no cake. Nothing. He called Virgil's number at random to ask a simple question.

"Do you love me?" the boy asked.

Well, you don't know Virgil, but I can assure you that the boy dialed the right number that day.

I have known this man for nearly 30 years, and I can tell you he is one of the most kind, tenderhearted men I have ever met in my life. He is devoted to family and to the Lord. In addition to his own family, he and his wife took in foster children and later adopted and raised them. He has worked in Scouts (from Cubs and up) for over 50 years. He loves his many grandchildren and especially loves working in the nursery. If you could see them with those children, it would put a big smile on your face.

Virgil, of course, assured the boy with all the kindness he could muster that he did love him and that he had a Heavenly Father that loved him.

Soon the conversation was over. Virgil never heard from the boy again, and never knew where the call came from or who the boy was.

I have always believed since hearing that story that this little boy's fingers were divinely guided to dial Virgil's number that day. I feel that very strongly.

I have thought about that boy over the years. He would be a grown man by now. Where is he? What is his life like? Did someone remember his birthday this year?

I have to wonder if Heavenly Father would ever direct someone in that situation to call me.

What would I say? Would I be in a hurry to get off the line, or would I reach out to a little stranger who needed love and reassurance?

At times, I think I am so preoccupied with my own life that I wonder if I could be prepared to meet the simple plea of a forgotten child.

I hope I will—we all will—be ready when the phone call comes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Favorite Psalm

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I have been reading the Psalms over the last few weeks. (The English word psalm, by the way, comes from the Greek word for the sound of the harp [psalmos] or the plucking of a stringed instrument [psallein)].)

Here is one of my favorites, Psalm 112. For me, it is a psalm of hope. I especially like the line "his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord" (v. 7). I have little left but to fully trust Him, after putting forth my very best efforts.

Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.
10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Deep Beauty

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I enjoyed this quote from the recent Young Women General Meeting:

"When I was attending Brigham Young University, I learned what it truly means to be a queen. I was given a unique opportunity, along with a small group of other students, to meet the prophet, President David O. McKay. I was told to wear my best dress and to be ready to travel early the next morning to Huntsville, Utah, to the home of the prophet. I will never forget the experience I had. As soon as we entered the home, I felt the spirit which filled that home. We were seated in the prophet’s living room, surrounding him. President McKay had on a white suit, and seated next to him was his wife. He asked for each of us to come forward and tell him about ourselves. As I went forward, he held out his hand and held mine, and as I told him about my life and my family, he looked deeply into my eyes.

"After we had finished, he leaned back in his chair and reached for his wife’s hand and said, “Now, young women, I would like you to meet my queen.” There seated next to him was his wife, Emma Ray McKay. Although she did not wear a crown of sparkling diamonds, nor was she seated on a throne, I knew she was a true queen. Her white hair was her crown, and her pure eyes sparkled like jewels. As President and Sister McKay spoke of their family and their life together, their intertwined hands spoke volumes about their love. Joy radiated from their faces. Hers was a beauty that cannot be purchased. It came from years of seeking the best gifts, becoming well educated, seeking knowledge by study and also by faith. It came from years of hard work, of faithfully enduring trials with optimism, trust, strength, and courage. It came from her unwavering devotion and fidelity to her husband, her family, and the Lord.

"On that fall day in Huntsville, Utah, I was reminded of my divine identity, and I learned about what I now call 'deep beauty'—the kind of beauty that shines from the inside out. It is the kind of beauty that cannot be painted on, surgically created, or purchased. It is the kind of beauty that doesn’t wash off. It is spiritual attractiveness. Deep beauty springs from virtue. It is the beauty of being chaste and morally clean. It is the kind of beauty that you see in the eyes of virtuous women like your mother and grandmother. It is a beauty that is earned through faith, repentance, and honoring covenants."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Mother's Day

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You stood at the doorway of my life and welcomed me into the world.

You did the most thankless jobs in the world for me, with no pay other than the pure hope that I would turn out all right.

You stopped my tears and taught me to smile.

You worried about me when everyone else forgot about me.

You woke up in the night to feed me, and stayed up late to make sure I got home safe.

Your love—and good food—always managed to bring me home again.

Though I hurt you a thousand times, you forgave me before I even realized what I had done wrong.

You gave me hope when no one else cared, and you saw the good in me when no one else dared.

You told me no when you had to, and yes as often as you could.

No one ever could do for me what you did. You are the last, best hope for humanity. And me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Judge Not that Ye Be Not Judged

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It's no secret that I try to encourage couples to get along better and to draw closer together. These things I talk about, they are not theories that I'm just throwing out. They are not just niceties. They are things that really work. They are things that I know work because I have lots of personal experience applying them.

I know the methods I have shared with readers will certainly work if you have a good level of cooperation in your relationship. But what if you don't have cooperation from your spouse, and your home feels more like a battlefield than a refuge? What do you do then?

It's important for each one of us to realize that we can't change anyone, really. We can influence others, but we can't change them. That is their choice. Likewise, we can't make anyone happy. Something we do (or don't do) may influence or encourage someone else to feel happy or unhappy for a time, but really, we can't make them happy. That is their job.

The only person you can change is you, and changing you is the thing that will help you the most to feel happy and to be a peace with this world and those who you live with.

Here is what I think is one of the biggest problems in marriage or in any close relationship: We project our bad experiences from our past lives onto those closest to us, and then blame those bad feelings that come from those experiences on them. Because we don't like to take responsibility for our lives, we project our past experiences onto others. We go into blame-o-matic mode. We insist that they take on all of our baggage for us, and when they stumble and nearly collapse under the weight, we say, "What's the matter with you?"

This is what I see going on in 95 percent of struggling relationships, to one degree or another. But if your husband or wife or child or ex-spouse or whoever is merely your projection screen, what is "now playing" on that screen is often the movie of your life, not theirs.

We get it backwards. We point and blame and criticize and writhe in agony because we think we can't be happy because someone else won't change. But who really needs to change is you and me. And I have this on the good authority of personal experience. I had to learn this myself and start to change myself before I realized what I was doing and what was going on.

Here is the pattern that is at the root of a lot of unhappiness in this world:
  • First we judge someone
  • Then we blame them
  • Then we burn with anger at them
I maintain that it is impossible to feel anger without blaming someone or something else for our problems, and it is not possible to blame without judging or condemning someone else harshly or incorrectly. In relationships, the problem starts with judging others, even though Jesus said—
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. —Matthew 7:1–2
Judging others comes so easily and naturally to us. That is the disappointing nature of this world. But the work of the gospel is to overcome the natural man and woman in all of us, and the more we do that, the happier we will become in our relationships.

Do you think our Heavenly Father is full of anger all the time because of what people do? If we look around at what is happening in this world, He sure has plenty of reasons to be angry, doesn't he? But He is not filled with anger. He is filled with love. Why? Well, partly at least because He does not judge or condemn. He doesn't need to, because He is all knowing. He knows the whole truth, so He doesn't judge incorrectly. We, on the other hand, only know part of the truth, so we are full of hair-trigger judgment and instant condemnation, and, therefore, we are often unhappy creatures.

The first step to overcoming the habit of judging others and to be happy in this world is to simply suspend our judgment. Realize that we can't know the whole truth about most situations, even in the case of our spouses, and it is the knowing and seeing only part of the truth that leads us to judge and blame and pop off. We have to keep our judgment in check if we want to be happy. We have to keep it within the boundary the Lord has set.

So instead of judging your spouses, just keep trying to understand them. Say to yourself, "I don't know the whole story and I need to learn more." The path to understanding is communication, so ask lots and lots of genuine, nonjudgmental questions. Hold off on judging them. Try to the best of your ability to fully understand what is going on in their lives.

The more you understand, the less you will judge, and the more you withhold judgment, the more you will love. And the less you judge, the less you will blame, and the less likely you will find a reason to be angry.

Most of our happiness in relationships begins with dropping our judgment of our spouses.

Note: If you are currently in an abusive relationship, this counsel likely won't work for you. You are playing life by a different set of unfair rules. I have been a witness of too much abuse in my life, and I care about you. You may need help getting the abuse under control or getting out of an abusive relationship. I can help. Let me know how I can get in touch with you personally by sending a message on Facebook, and I will help you the best I can with the resources I have.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"My New Life" with Stephanie Nielson

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Stephanie Nielson was the survivor, with her husband, of a near-fatal plane crash. Here she shares her story of her life which is centered on faith in Jesus Christ and love of family.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Is the Wife Who Understands Her Husband

A few days ago, I read a story about a wife who was completely frustrated with her husband. She had been wanting him to paint their bedroom for nine months, and he had never gotten around to it. One Saturday, a warm, sunny day that she thought was a perfect day for him to paint that room, he spent instead washing and waxing his car. She came outside and essentially chewed him out for not painting their room.

Soon after this, she had a chance to meet briefly with Gary Chapman, PhD, the author of the book The 5 Love Languages. She explained to him how her husband was driving her crazy because he wouldn't paint their bedroom. Dr. Chapman asked her if her husband ever did anything right, even something as small as taking out the garbage or paying the electric bill. The answer was yes. Then he gave her this advice: Don't bring up painting the room again. Only pay attention to what he does right, and then sincerely compliment him on those things. But don't bring up painting the room.

She did not like that advice. She didn't understand how that was going to get the room painted any sooner. But nevertheless she agreed to try it.

Three weeks later, the woman came back to Dr. Chapman and excitedly told him that she had followed his advice and that her husband had painted their room without her ever mentioning it again!
"Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad." —Proverbs 12:25
Okay, how does this work? Is a husband really that easy to trick? Is this just old fashioned reverse psychology or what?

I may be wrong, but this is what I think went on. Most men are not that hard to figure out. The most important thing a man wants from his wife is her respect, honor and support. That's what matters most to him. That is his rocket fuel. Now you'll get some variation on this theme, but that pretty much sums your husband up.

If he does not get that positive input from his wife, a primary defense for him is to simply shut down or to become cool and distant. It will be much easier for him to wash and wax the car, so to speak, than to deal with the subtle message of "you won't paint our bedroom so you can't do anything right" message he is getting from his wife. In the story, it was easier for the husband to just head out to the driveway and ignore the disrespect.

However, when his wife started noticing the good things that he did, though small, and set her expectations to the side, what happened? You've got it.

So to get what you really want from your husband, try feeding his need for respect, honor and support.

I know this sounds ridiculous to some of you. You're saying to yourself, "This guy is crazy. He doesn't know my husband." That is true. I don't know your husband. But after a lifetime of observation, and hundreds of hours of counseling, I have a pretty good idea of what makes most men tick, and even though it doesn't make sense to you now, if you will resolutely fulfill his need for respect, he will pay you back a hundred times. Just as I said in a previous blog that if a husband loves his wife the way she wants to be loved, she will pay him back a hundred times, so will your husband pay you back if you honor and support him.
"He that watereth shall be watered also himself." —Proverbs 11:25

To be loved and cherished by her husband above all else, what does a wife want more that that? Sure, there will be exceptions, but that is mostly what our wives want most. There is another thing she wants that is next to this, very close next to this. It's romance. She needs it like a flower needs sunlight. There is nothing like romance, and the attention and fun that comes along with it, that will brighten her life more.

Next to respect, honor and support, what does your husband want? He wants your tenderness—your gentleness, your caring, focused attention, a gentle hand on his shoulder, your understanding and your warmth. A wife often thinks that all her husband wants is physical intimacy, but what he really wants is her tenderness, but he can't get it any other way.

When husbands and wives lose track of what is really going on inside themselves or their spouses, they wind up in desperately lonely, parallel marriages.

So once again, marriage is a dance. Your husband loves you, of course, but he is a little embarrassed to dance. He doesn't understand how important laughter and fun is like you do. He may seem unwilling, but he is really just waiting for you to show him the steps so he will be a little less embarrassed to expose his awkwardness. He wants to learn from you, but he is not sure how to communicate that. If you will lead him tenderly and show him the steps patiently, in time, he will be absolutely and irresistibly entranced by you.

Try this experiment for three days. You must follow these steps precisely if you want it to bear fruit. Just try it: (1) don't say anything negative about your husband for three days; (2) don't have any expectations of him, just trust that he will make good choices, even if he hasn't in the past; and (3) offer him at least three sincere and heartfelt compliments over those three days. What will you get in return? If your marriage is on reasonably good footing, though responses from husbands will vary, you will like his response. Some men take a little more time than this, but most I think will respond positively in three days.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Three Words

My wife and I attended a sealing at the Bountiful Temple today. The sealer repeated a question to the couple that he once heard at a sealing in the Salt Lake Temple. The sealer today asked the couple:

"What are the three most important words you can say to each other every day?"

Of course, I thought those words would be "I love you." And that's what the groom said. The sealer congratulated him on his guess, but said that is not what he was looking for.

I turned to my wife and whispered, "I am sorry?" That was my private guess which also proved incorrect.


Then the sealer revealed the three magic words which, in his sage wisdom, should be repeated between a couple every day. The words were: "Perhaps you're right."

He went on to explain that that phrase was a great way to make a shift away from a negative focus to a positive one—a bomb defuser. Think about it: how much negative energy enters into a conversation when you insist on being right and that the other person is wrong?

"Perhaps you're right." That is a great bit of wisdom. I appreciated hearing it. (But I still think "I love you" is pretty important.)