Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Do We Feel Rebellious? (Part 3)

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This is the third post in a series. (Here are part 1 and part 2.)

I'd like to tell you about an experience a friend of mine had with his teenage son, who was not planning on going on a mission. Instead of bringing it up day after day, my friend decided on a different approach, and it inspired the opposite of rebellion.

This friend came home from an early meeting on a Sunday morning and said something like this to his son. "It's your decision to go on a mission. I'm not going to bring it up any more. But I know this: If you go, you will have the best experience of your life. And that's what I want for you."

His son didn't really say anything, but the father left him alone. For some months.

The result?

My friend and his wife were in an interview with their bishop. When they came out, their son was there, waiting to see the bishop.

The father asked, "Hey, what are you doing here?"

His son said, "I am here to fill out my mission papers." Which he did. Then he went out and served a faithful mission.

Maybe you don't think this approach will work with your son or daughter. Maybe you're right. But true principles are unfailing, though you sometimes have to wait a long time to pluck the good fruit they produce. My friend had faith that his son would do the right thing. And he risked letting his son figure it out on his own, letting a mission be his son's idea, not his. And it worked.

If you want to avoid inspiring resentment or rebellion in your husband or son or wife or daughter, try these principles: patience, faith, longsuffering, respect, honor, and trust.

You may think it's too late. It's not. It is never too late to try again. It is never too late to be a better parent. It is never too late to be a good kid. It is never too late to try something new. It is never too late to let the bad seeds you've planted in the past go without water. It is never too late to pray for crop failure for the seeds you planted in the past.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Life After Sugar (Part 2)

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Here's a follow up from an earlier post on living without sugar.

During a recent visit, my doctor told me that sugar is "pro inflammatory" meaning that it can cause or precipitate inflammation. This is a big issue for me as my long-term health issue (11 years) is triggered by inflammation. I can often link an episode of illness with sugar.  So you can see why it is good policy for me to stay away.

One thing I noticed when I changed my diet—and this only took a few weeks—was that I no longer craved sugar and other high calorie, low nutrition foods. Instead, I craved vegetables. I began to crave what I was currently eating, not what I ate in the past. So I am pretty sure that if you can get through the first few weeks, you'll get over your craving for diet Coke or dark chocolate Snickers bars or Dots (a past sugar fix for me) or whatever it is that you are addicted to, consciously or not.

I knew I had turned a corner when I thought to myself, "Where's the broccoli? I really want broccoli."

I know some of you think I'm crazy. I am crazy. Crazy about feeling better.

Another thing I've noticed is that I have not gotten a sunburn over the last two summers. I have gotten sunburns most years since I was a little people, whether I used sunscreen or not. But not during the summers of 2011 or 2012 (yet), even though I get similar exposure to the sun, like last weekend. Something has changed in my terrain, probably from eating a lot of raw vegetables, that keeps me from getting sunburned.

And finally, a word about alternative sweeteners. I stay away from man-made "sugars" like Sucralose and aspartame. I do not trust them to be safe, though there are official claims to the contrary. I do occasionally use stevia to sweeten fresh-squeezed lemonade (I love lemon anything!) or homemade frozen desserts made with coconut milk, but still I use very little at that. And sometimes I'll use a little fresh fruit to sweeten an otherwise bland dish.

It is amazing how good things taste when sweetened with stevia, fruit or fruit juice when you eat almost no sweeteners in foods. Then "normal" things sweetened by sugar almost taste like they burn your mouth when you get away from them for a while.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not against sugar. I don't think it is a sin to eat things sweetened with sugar. It just that I have made a choice to stay away in order to protect my health, loose weight and feel better. That's all there is to it. And it works.

It's not for everyone to leave sugar out of their diets, but for me, it has made a huge difference.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cowboy Wisdom

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Once upon a time I used to do some cowboying; not so much anymore. Throughout my life, I have heard cowboy wisdom. Some of it I've heard from the mouth of a cowboy, some I have read, some I have experienced. I have a hankering to share some of it today.
The less a man knows the more he'll tell you about it.
Have you noticed that sometimes folks like to prove how much they know and in the process they prove how much they don't know? They also like to prove how much you don't know while they are at it. I have run into this a lot, especially in the horse business. I just smile now, and don't let any of it stick. It's better to let others point out your strengths rather than to point them out to others yourself.
Always pick up your hay strings. 
I heard this one from one of our old ranch managers, Norm Hartz. Some farmers and ranchers just throw their hay strings into the dirt after they cut a bale of hay. I've had to cut those strings off of the paddles of a manure spreader a time or two in my day. (It's tedious.)

It is better to take care of your hay strings when you first cut them off the bale rather than down the road. It also pays to take care of your business when it comes along, like apologizing when you should and off loading your baggage before it piles up too high in, er, the manure wagon.
Never hire a man who wears gloves. 
I heard this at the funeral of a cowboy who died in our ward a few years ago. His name was Dale Castagno. To me it means don't trust someone who won't get their hands dirty and calloused doing real work or who runs away from pain when duty calls for it.
You can't be a cowboy unless you carry a pocket knife. 
I heard this when I was a boy from an old hand named Ralph Keen. I didn't have a knife on me at the time, but I went out and bought one right after that. I still have that knife. It's a Buck knife. It has a broken blade, but I still carry it in my pickup. Nowadays, I carry a small pocket knife to work each day, and carry a larger one with me on the weekends (when I wear jeans). Nobody knows I've got one on me until it's needed. It comes in handy.
Reward the smallest try.
This is something the great horseman Ray Hunt used to say. It means when your horse shows the slightest effort to do what you are asking it to do, praise the horse, give it a break, rubs its neck, pull our a treat from your back pocket. It really works with horses; in fact, I was using it just yesterday with a horse. It also works with kids. And husbands. And wives.

If you have some cowboy wisdom you want to share, I'd love to read it. Please comment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why Do We Feel Rebellious? (Part 2)

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This is a continuation of my last post on rebellion.

I think one of the things that precipitates rebellion is the way we are treated by others and how that makes us feel, especially by those who are closest to us, like our parents or wives or husbands.

Think for a moment about the hypocritical parent. Well, we are all hypocrites to a degree, but I mean the proudly hypocritical parent. This kind of parent who espouses an ethic and then regularly and knowingly goes against that ethic. This kind of parent can really mess with a kid's wiring.

I am not talking about a parent who is sincerely striving and yet makes mistakes. I am not talking about being weak and trying to overcome a weakness. I am talking about the unapologetic, chin-out, belligerent parent who can't be wrong about anything.

Think about the effect of this, for example. A child attends church and hears that swearing and cursing and taking the Lord's name in vain is against the commandments, and they go home and hear their father or mother, who espouses the same faith, swear and curse regularly, without apology or repentance.

Nothing dislodges a child from the faith of their parents like this kind of hypocrisy. When a parent behaves this way, whom a child admires and loves and clings to and believes, it really messes up their ability to hang on and endure in the faith.

And Satan, who is as real as you and me, knows this. It is one the tools he uses to disrupt families and break them apart. To me it is one the saddest things. One the of the very saddest.

I have at times been hypocritical. But I have also been repentant. I have admitted mistakes to my children, and they have forgiven me. I have tried to do better, and they have helped me to be better.

It makes a difference if you are willing to change, willing to try, in the eyes of your children or spouse. It also makes a difference if you are unwilling to change, unwilling to try. A willing heart makes a big difference in the longevity of families and marriages. An unwilling heart leads to the destruction of relationships, of respect and trust.

Bear with me. I'll get to the positive part soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life after Sugar

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Last year, a byproduct of getting sick, really sick, was that I went on a new diet, a diet of mostly vegetables. Some of you know this already.

I've stuck to the diet for over a year. One of the things I gave up was sugar. Not 100 percent. Maybe more like 96 percent.

I think I used to be addicted to sugar. I am pretty sure I was addicted to Dots.  

And I feel so much better without it. Wow. Getting away from sugar really helped me to understand what it was doing to me.

When I would eat an intense amount of it, like around birthdays or holidays, I would feel sick from it. Mostly lethargic. And depressed. Even from drinking just one can of soda. Blah. It gave me what some people call the "sugar blues."

But the taste of sugar still haunts me.

Um. Last Sunday, at a family birthday party, I confess, I had two scoops of Tillamook Ice Cream. I don't think I have had ice cream, real ice, for a long time, maybe over a year. It was like taking a drug. But I felt yucky afterwards, not just from the sugar but also from the milk.

Last week, a friend of my wife posted on Facebook what happened to her after she gave up sugar, including soda (and its high fructose corn syrup). At that point, when she posted her story, she had been off sugar for 81 days. She got her blood tested right before starting her "sugar fast" and then right after. Her blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, and liver enzymes, which were all above the healthy ranges are now normal. And to top it off, she lost 25 pounds.

And all she did was go off sugar. That's it. Nothing else. No other changes in her diet or lifestyle. She didn't even exercise.

I am beginning to believe that sugar is a lifestyle choice I can do without.

And I'm going to a free event next month where my wife works to learn more about why it's a good idea to leave sugar behind.

By the way, I want to reiterate: I am not 100 percent off sugar. My goal is to eat really healthy 95 percent of the time, but to allow myself a diversion every once in a while.

I can say with fervent zeal, though, that I am no longer addicted to sugar.

But I still think longingly about Dots. Am I still addicted to them if I think about them from time to time?

I also really love Neccos. And chocolate. But I love feeling better and functioning better than anything I can eat.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Do We Feel Rebelious?

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Have you ever felt rebellious? I have. Have you ever been rebellious? I have. This doesn't make you or me a rebel. But you will probably relate to what I am about to say.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of rebellious behavior, especially in teens. Back when I was a bishop, I worked with some rebellious teens, and even some rebellious adults.

I've been thinking about this one for months. I am going to share some of what I see as the causes of rebellion. You might have the same or similar list; I hope you'll add to this list in the comments below.

Here goes.

I think the point where it often begins is (1) feeling lost, or bad about ourselves or (2) leaving contaminated desires unchecked, or (3) feeling forced, or (4) out of touch with who we really are.

When we feel socially awkward (and who doesn't feel that way sometimes?) and like we don't fit in and that we don't have friends, we tend to seek companionship among those who likewise feel like outsiders. We start to identify with contemptible company, with those who don't have confidence in themselves or in the healthy guidance of peers or parents. We find dumb role models. And we do dumb things. Sometimes really dumb things. Which leads to feeling dumb about ourselves, like we don't belong.

And nothing seems to speak louder to anyone than the need to belong and be accepted.

If we don't feel accepted in our own homes or at church, it is natural to seek it elsewhere, And depending on where we seek it, it can lead to withdrawal and rebellion. (On the other hand, not feeling accepted at home where the home environment is unhealthy can also lead us on a positive path.)

When we don't feel at home when we are at home, we feel like rebelling. 

With our rebellion and mistakes comes shame and unless we have the wisdom and courage to deal with our mistakes in a responsible way, we will tend to run from our shame. And if we try to cover our shame, we will also bluster with pride which also produces a natural byproduct, contention. Pride and contention are kissing cousins. Shame and pride often send us further down the road and separate us or isolate us from safety and from loved ones.

With youth comes puberty and a new blossom of desire which we hardly understand and which rarely anyone sits down to explain to us. (I personally believe that these desires are wonderful and good and normal and healthy, but must be guided, directed and protected.) Without help, we don't know how to handle our desires. They can become overwhelming to us, and without trusted guidance, we wander and experiment. Which can lead to shame. And more rebellion. And then separation and isolation.  

And then there is the well-intended but overbearing parent. Maybe you had them; maybe you are them. The helicopter parent, the forceful parent, the threatening parent, the negative, the belittling, the untrusting parent. This parenting style does more to cause rebellious feelings than anything, I think. This parenting style is motivated primarily by fear.

I don't know what it is, but it makes you mad. You feel like your agency has been tromped on. It makes you want to yell and scream and hide in your room or at your friend's house. And run away. And drink. And smoke. And take drugs. And on and on. It makes you feel dishonored and not trusted or respected.

Respect and trust are very important in relationships. In fact, respect and trust are at the foundation of every healthy and sustainable relationship. Without them, relationships die. Love dies. And you cannot hold what you do not love or does not feel loved.

(My parents had plenty of problems on their hands [including me], but I am very grateful to say that they were not of the negative, belittling, or helicopter type.)

Being out of touch with who we really are, children of a loving God, opens us to a host of ills. As Kjerkegaard said, and I paraphrase, the only sin is to not be who you really are. Not understanding who we are often leads to not being who we are. It is the saddest thing. The further we stray from our true natures, the harder it is to hear the voice inside of us that tells us the truth about who we really are.

There are lots of reasons behind rebellion. I've only mentioned a few. We can be part of the solution, for ourselves and others. I'll write about that soon.

(If you have ever felt or been rebellious, well, you are a normal human being.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Living in the Past (Part 2)

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I have really appreciated the counsel and advice that I have gotten from family and friends since my post on living in the past earlier this month. That counsel has helped me draw some new conclusions that have already helped me a great deal.

First of all, I admit that I am a pretty sentimental guy. I have trouble letting go of things that remind me of my happy, fun past.

For example, when our girls were in nursery and would come home with their pictures and art projects, I always tried to write the date on the back and to keep their cute little projects in files and boxes. I still have tons of these. And I still have all the Ensign magazines I have received since January 1976. I have a real hard time throwing those sacred words away. I can't bring myself to do it. And I still have horse equipment that I have had since 1971, and I still use it.

See what I mean by sentimental? Over the top, I know.

I have a tendency to hang on to memories and mementos to the point that I don't move forward like I should. It's like I stay stuck in those happy memories, as if the present can't be just as happy. But I've realized this week and woken up to the fact that it was a lack of faith that was tripping me up, a lack of faith that today and tomorrow can be just as happy and special as yesterday was. 

What I am trying to change going forward is this: Instead of letting positive memories be an anchor to the past, they need to be a staircase to the future. I can still cherish my past, but I can't stay stuck on that staircase.

I also realized that letting go of the past feels too much like grief. But I need to take a different tack. Things don't grow unless you let them go. For example, your children can't grow unless you let them go. Does it have to be grief to let them go? Why can't it be joy, the joy of watching them rise above your own life? So I am trading in my grief for joy. It's the only way to go.

Finally, I am accepting and I am having faith that today and the future can be—no, must be—better and happier and more joyous than anything in the past. For example, the early days of our marriage were so happy and full of hope that I look back on those days fondly, but I now believe that the present days of my marriage can be full of more hope and joy and fun than I ever experienced in the past. 

So thank you again to my family and friends for shaking me loose from my funk. Today is a great day!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Have Faith in America

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“Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail.

“This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the New Jerusalem. . . . This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple.

“We are living in a time of great crisis. The Country is torn with scandal and with criticism, with faultfinding and condemnation. There are those who have downgraded the image of this nation as probably never before in the history of the country.

“I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. . . . It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through.

“We must be on the optimistic side. This is a great nation; this is a great country; this is the most favored of all lands. While it is true that there are dangers and difficulties that lie ahead of us, we must not assume that we are going to stand by and watch the country go to ruin. We should not be heard to predict ills and calamities for the nation. On the contrary, we should be providing optimistic support for the nation.

“You must remember . . . that this church is one of the most powerful agencies for the progress of the world, and we should . . . all sound with one voice. We must tell the world how we feel about this land and this nation and should bear our testimonies about the great mission and destiny that it has.

“If we do this, we will help turn the tide of this great country and lessen the influence of the pessimists. We must be careful that we do not say or do anything that will further weaken the country. It is the negative, pessimistic comments about the nation that do as much harm as anything to the country today. We who carry these sacred responsibilities must preach the gospel of peace, and peace can only come by overcoming the things of the world. Now, we must be the dynamic force that will help turn the tide of fear and pessimism.”

(Excerpts from a talk given by Harold B. Lee at a Ricks College Devotional Assembly, “Have Faith in America,” October 26, 1973; see printed in two sources: Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee, 340, 350-351, and The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 365-366.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Living in the Past

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The other day, while we were on a road trip, I said to my family, "I miss being a Primary teacher."

Then my wife said, "And you also miss being the bishop, the elder's quorum president, and Scoutmaster."

And she was right. I have trouble with this. But it is interesting now that it is easier for me to let go of the difficult and regrettable things in my past than the good things. It wasn't always that way.

I think until the time I was called as a bishop, I had a real tough time letting go of negative things in my past. I carried them around in an emotional backpack. But I can tell you the moment that all stopped. Really.

When I was called to be bishop, our stake president, President Kenneth Jones, held a letter in his left hand and said to me and my wife, "I have a letter here signed by President Gordon B. Hinckley authorizing me to call you to be bishop of the Mapleton 12th Ward." It was a life changing moment for me. It was the moment that I stopped living in my I'm-not-good-enough past.

But since I was released as bishop, an interesting pattern arose, the pattern of living in my happy past.

Another thing my wife said to me recently is, "You often say things like 'When I was bishop....'" She was right about that, too. I have to work consciously to let go of this. It's not always easy.

It's not that I want to be bishop again. Our new bishop is doing a wonderful job, and I often think to myself, "Why didn't I think to do things that way?"

I feel very strongly that I was released at the right time. Within a few months, I collapsed physically. I've needed time to heal and recuperate. I am grateful that I've had that time.

And we've been enormously blessed since I was released. It was as if a huge wall of opposition was suddenly broken down. Since that time, I have been doing better physically and financially, more than I have in the last decade. I've never enjoyed a job as much as my current one. It has been amazing to see what has unfolded since I was released.

I still find myself living in the past, though. Not just when I was bishop, but I think almost daily about living on our family ranch when I was young, about when our children were young, day dreaming about the times when we used to be able to go on vacation as a family (we haven't done that much in recent years). And on and on and on and on.

Anyway, will you help me? I need your advice. I'd love to hear from you about what I should do about this. I don't have an answer. But maybe some of you inspired people who happen to be fasting today will have some advice for me.

As always, thank you for reading.