Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review - A Storyteller in Zion by Orson Scott Card

I waited way too long to read this remarkable collection of thought and counsel.  I have long loved Card's fiction, in fact Ender's Game is my all time favorite Sci-Fi novel.  I hadn't begun to give Card the attention I'm now persuaded he deserves.  I always stayed away from Sunstone and Dialogue magazines because they had a reputation for seeking to correct the church.  I remember when Booklogged read this I thumbed through it and saw that some of the essays were written for one or the other of those publications.  I guess I judged Orson by the company he kept.  Ironic, since his articles republished in this volume were written to take critical writers in Sunstone and Dialogue to task.  I ignored Card until one day I heard that he'd turned up on Rush Limbaugh.  Rush Limbaugh?  No kidding.  I knew Orson was a dyed in the wool Democrat and the seeming incongruity was irresistible.  I'm no Democrat.  I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh either.  In fact more recently I can also declare that I'm no Republican either.  I went to Limbaugh's web site and found the circumstances.  I was one up on Rush, at least I'd heard of Orson Scott Card.  If you followed the link you've discovered that Rush was thrilled with a newspaper piece Card had written.  He was clearly astonished by his honesty, candor and clarity of thought.  That is exactly what I love about this book!

I haven't read a book that opened my eyes to new possibilities like this one in a long long time.  It was published in 1993.  How I'd have benefited had I read it 17 years ago.  Card is clearly a well trained intellectual and his work is thought completely through.  His discourse on art, Zion, homosexuality, relationships and more is truly brilliant.  I recommend every Latter-day Saint read his work.  You'll get a clearer view of who we are and what we mean.  If you don't find his separation of substance from fluff as refreshing as I did, I'll be truly surprised.  Never has anyone spoken my language more eloquently.  While I have examined many of the concepts and principles Card elucidates, I certainly have not thought them through to the magnificent, eloquent conclusions he arrived at. 

I haven't read another LDS writer whose loyalty to the Church was more apparent, nor whose gift for making perfect sense of it's teachings more exalting.  Church members on both the left and right of today's political spectrum would do well to clarify their positions through the lens of Card's honesty.  Get it.  Study it.

Five Stars

Monday, September 27, 2010

Confessing Other People's Sins

Yesterday, I felt troubled while sitting in Gospel Doctrine Class.  For a while I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that had me unsettled.  Then I realized that everyone who commented was busy confessing someone else's sins.

We were discussing Isaiah and the teacher had listed several scriptures on the board.  As we examined each one we tried to interpret what that ancient prophet witnessed and then recorded about us.  Much of it had to do with the sinful way in which we of the Latter-days were predicted to behave.  A person would be asked to read a verse and then imagine how it was fulfilled in our day.  Many of those interpretations included examples of how someone they knew or had seen, had actually done the "disgusting" thing Isaiah was describing.  It seemed to me that many of the comments were offered in a tone of thankfulness "that I am not like other men."  (See Luke 18:10-14)  

It is possible that I am judging a bit harshly.  I think I was most sensitive to the situation though, because for the past six years I have been worshiping at the Detention Center.  There, when we speak of transgression and sin, we speak openly of our own weakness and our personal need for repentance, improvement and understanding.  By contrast the Gospel Doctrine Class seemed to be quite certain that they were on firm ground and that someone else was in need of repentance, improvement and understanding; but most certainly not themselves.  I am not naive enough to think that in a congregation of 80 souls no one was personally in need of Isaiah's warning, including myself.

Quite frankly, if I were to have recorded the comments and let you listen objectively, you might have thought you were listening to a group of Zoramites.  Listen to Alma's description of them from chapter 31 of the Book of Alma.
 27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.
  28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.  
Sounds an awful lot like the scriptures we were discussing in Isaiah.  Now I'm not in the business of condemning anybody.  I'm the weakest of the saints.  I look around my ward and find that I love and admire each of my fellow worshipers.  What disappoints me is that we go to church and pretend we are not the ones the scriptures were written for.  We speak in class as if we have already made it and that the lesson is surely for some one else. Oh, and heaven forbid that our 9th Ward brothers and sisters might be led to discover that we have problems like everyone else!

It seems to me that a big part of the problem is the admonition that we all take so seriously - to be a good example.  We take that to mean that we are expected to present ourselves as perfect Latter-day Saints and breathe a sigh of relief because doing so enables us to "justifiably"cover our sins.  I personally don't think that is what the Lord had in mind.  Alma was a good example!  A good example of a flawed and rebellious person humbling himself, repenting of his sins and receiving the blessings of the Atonement in his life.  When he sat in Gospel Doctrine class it is likely that he repeatedly told the story of his redemption and reminded his fellows that it was not until he cried out, "O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me..."  (Alma 17:16)  that he received a remission of his sins.  Now that's a good example!

I wish that my Gospel Doctrine Class or High Priest's Group meeting were more like an LDS ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) Meeting.  How close we become as we share our experience, faith and hope in an atmosphere of honesty, testimony, humility and kindness.  We speak of our weakness.  We weep as we share our experiences of recovery, repentance and redemption.  We find hope because we see example after example of real people who have real problems and get real forgiveness and find real happiness.  We plead for mercy and feel the gracious companionship of the Spirit in each of our meetings.  How is it that with our fellow Saints we are so reluctant to be that honest with one another.  How much closer to Zion would we be if we were.

Now lets revisit Luke, Chapter 18:

  10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
  11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
  12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
  13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
  14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one  that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Sound familiar?  It should.  I am going to work a lot harder at confessing my own sins and not those of another.  I have enjoyed the blessed privilege of being allowed to sing the song of redeeming love.  Why?  Because I, in great weakness needed to be redeemed.  Part of the reason it took me so long to enjoy that blessing is because I actually thought that my fellow travelers in the Kingdom were doing so well all on their own.  Hardly anybody bothered to show me how redemption was obtained.  Surely they weren't all pretending to be righteous out of a duty to be a good example were they?  Surely some among us have actually humbled themselves and received Christ's infinite mercy in their otherwise broken lives.  If you are one such, please share your story with us?  We all need to be shown how it is done.  We're tired of pretending.  We really want to change and to be able to rejoice in that newness of life that we hear so much about.

After Alma described the Zoramites he prayed these words:
 35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. 
This is also my prayer.  The members of my ward are indeed precious to me.  I need them and I hope they need me.  I pray that together we will be humble, open and willing to share our stories of weakness and need and how the Lord in His mercy has allowed us to stand on His merits when our own were so pathetic.  Let us confess (no gory details necessary) our sin and weakness and acknowledge the means of our rescue so that we might be like Paul, "an example of the believers." (1 Tim. 4:12).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

First of all it is needful to recognize that this is a young adult novel.  Most of the reviews I've read were written by young adults all of whom (that I read, at least) were highly critical of the book.  I am not a young adult.  I loved it!

Reading young adult fiction, as an adult, I don't expect the mature or sophisticated writing that can be expected of one written for older audiences.  Still, I thought it was very well, very interestingly written.  As for story, plot and substance the whole series is very deep and thought provoking.  There's the  trouble the younger set has with the book.  By their responses, they wanted it to be a romantic, happy-ever-after tome where everything turns out to be sweetness and light; so they bellyache about all the conflict and disappointments that are so pervasive in Collin's work.

Apparently, the books, and this one in particular, are too deep for their intended audience.  I thought Mockingjay was superb!  Better than that I thought it to be important.  The critical message of the story, to me, was that just because one side is clearly bad, does not mean that their opponents are good.  I think this is lost on most of the audience.  This is no surprise because it is lost on most Americans right now as well.  Likewise, it is true that just because you think yourself to be good, that doesn't necessarily mean you are on the good side or that your opponents are automatically and legitimately classified as bad.  

Way to go Suzanne Collins, for dealing with real issues and daring to show that, even in the face of loss, sacrifice, tragedy and overwhelming odds, right, though unpopular, is right!

The Hunger Game series is serious fiction and well worth reading.  The series finished strong.  Mockingjay was the best of the three volumes and made it plain the author had created a well thought out story from beginning to end.  

Five Stars.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Things Change

I tossed another ball into the Kid's Canal last week.  This time it was a tennis ball.  It didn't fair as well as my previous voyager.  I followed it just a hundred yards before it got hung up in some low hanging branches.  I decided to leave it be and see what happened.  For a week or so it was stuck in the same place.  Then, last Thursday I found it was gone.  It being fall, the water level had gone down and released it from it's sticky prison.  Not many yards down the stream though, I found it stranded in an eddy.  It went around and around from Thursday until some time after my Saturday stroll.  I know that because this morning it was no longer treading water in that minuscule vortex.

Again, I found the ball stuck among some exposed roots some distance on down the stream.  As I watched the ball struggling against it's obstacles, while being encouraged by the current; I realized that this is much like life.

Sometimes we move along quite nicely only to find ourselves stuck in a problem situation.  We try and try to move on, but we're stuck.  I thought it was encouraging to realize that inevitably something changes.  Something outside ourselves that frees us to move on.  Just like the tennis ball, our progress is influenced by our environment.  Maybe you can't find a job and then out of the blue the economy improves and washes you out of the roots of unemployment.  Perhaps, you'd like to continue your education, but you're spinning round and round in a house full of pre-schoolers.  Suppose your house just burned down in Herriman and you're camped out in the High School gym.  Snags?  Yes!  But things will change, they always do.

My tennis ball may be stuck there all winter.  I'll keep you posted.  It may even get frozen in the ice.  But I guarantee that if I'm patient, it will move on.  I have no idea how.  I may not even witness it.  Jeff might float by in a tube and take it home.  High water next spring might do the trick, who knows.

I have several people in my life right now who are stuck in some pretty difficult situations.  There is no doubt, however, that things will change.  The key is patience.  God will see to it.  Things will change.  And sure enough, they'll move on.

Post Script:  

It's now one day later.  I seriously thought the tennis ball would be hung up all winter.  Those were some serious roots!  So imagine my surprise when today it was gone.  I looked as I walked all the way to Main Street.  No sign of it.  I decided to extend my walk and went on along the canal to 5th South.  Just before the bridge at the Cinema, there it was!  Merrily bobbing along without a care in the world.  I had only hoped to see it if it had hit another snag, there were plenty to encounter.  I imagine my little tennis ball moving on to meet its destiny.  So it is with each of us.  I remembered what Elder Munday said at Stake Conference on Sunday.  "How many of God's children does He want to bring home?"  "All of them."  It was nice to see the ball moving pleasantly past it's snags.  Gives me hope that I will too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Garden Tomatoes

Our tomatoes did lousy this year.  The weather couldn't make up its mind, the plants got nipped and finally quit trying.  It was so sad watching them languish away in the garden.  So pathetic next to the Spuds that did so well. We went to the Farmers Market and discovered that we weren't the only ones.  Hardly anyone has tomatoes this year.  Such a tragedy.

We can put a man on the moon, but we can't come up with a grocery store tomato that tastes like anything but polyester.  Buying a store-bought tomato is about at ridiculous as licking a photograph of one.  So, we look forward all year to August and September and real tomatoes.  We grow a garden for no other reason really.  I wonder how the nutritional value stacks up between flavorful and plastic tomatoes.  Why is there even a market for the artificial ones?

With that off my chest, I'm writing to celebrate that Kristi and Ronnie and their tomatoes got it right!  They brought us a bag and we rolled out the bacon, cottage cheese, Doritos, toaster and whole wheat bread and had a feast. These were the nicest, plumpest, reddest, firmest, tastiest tomatoes ever!  The fact that I haven't been eating them fresh from the garden this month, made them better than ever!  I guess scarcity has its virtues and last night the fact was made abundantly manifest.

As much as I like a good BLT, I think I like sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese better.  The combination, though wildly different, is as wonderful as peaches and cream.  Have you ever tried Doritos and cottage cheese?  That's terrific too!  Doritos, cottage cheese and fresh garden tomatoes, now that's the ticket!

Another summer time treat will be my feast today.  I like to take a nice piece of tasty whole wheat bread, anoint it with a touch of Miracle Whip, slice some tomatoes on top, pepper it to taste, then cover it with a nice slab of Tillamook sharp cheddar and broil it in the oven until the cheese starts to bubble.  Yum!  I'm sure I'd like it with Killaree Irish Cheddar too, but I like the orange yellow with the tomatoes, over the pale cream color of the Killaree.  Don't ask me why.  Maybe it's like the white margarine they once sold in the store.  It just didn't look right.  I remember for a while they even gave you some yellow die you could knead into it if you couldn't take the color.  White, it looked like you were spreading lard on your bread, which they do in Austria they say.  Doesn't that sound delectable.  My mom used to spread bacon grease on her bread.  At least that tasted good.  Yellow or not I don't eat margarine anymore anyway; it just isn't natural.  All those modified fats and not nearly as tasty as butter.  Who said, "I can't believe it's not butter?"  I can!   Any way eye appeal is half of a good meal and there you have it.

Now none of this is all that great for my health but the other day I got a note that put things in perspective anyways.
 The Japanese eat very little fat, while people in Mexico eat lots. Both groups suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. Africans drink very little red wine, while the Italians drink large volumes of the stuff but both these groups too have fewer heart attacks. An epidemiological conclusion might be that you should eat and drink what you like: speaking English seems to be what kills you.  
I like that, but I hate my paunch.  So I'll still keep walking and usually watching what I eat.  I'll try to learn another language.  But in the end, I'll probably not change my diet significantly.  Who wants to get old enough to die of prostate cancer, when you could go quickly with a heart attack.  One of my all time favorite movie quotes comes from Jack Nicholson's character in Bucket List.  In the hospital undergoing chemotherapy, he has just finished barfing his guts up in his hospital  toilet.  Braced against the sink, he looks himself in the mirror and says, "Somewhere, some lucky bastard is dying of a heart attack."

So, every now and then, I'll eat my tomatoes adorned with bacon or cheese.  I'll relish the flavor and thank God for being so nice as to give me taste buds and for making food that tastes so wonderfully good.  And, I won't worry too much about it or my inability to do it credit in my dangerous native tongue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review - The Utah UFO Display by Frank B. Salisbury

When I was a teenager there was a rash of UFO sightings that stirred up my home town and also quite seriously consumed my own thoughts.  I was so interested in it that I spent night after night outside watching from a great local vantage point.  Months passed and I never saw a single thing that was even remotely unusual.  I could hardly contain my disappointment.  Several people I personally knew and respected had remarkable UFO experiences; some on nights when I had been out earnestly watching.

I remember going to work and hearing the rumor mill churning about Valda Massey or Garth Batty having seen something "last night."  I remember groaning from the exhaustion of an all nighter and having missed a sighting that happened right on my watch.  It didn't help that I could see Valda's house clearly from my vantage point.  I began to feel gypped.

There were, of course, thoughts of hoaxes.  Still, as I said before, I knew and respected these people.  Then when Estel Manwaring had her remarkable UFO experience, the jury came in.  I trusted Estel with my life!  There was no way she was confused or lying.   I happened to see Estel at a funeral a few weeks ago.  We hadn't spoken for quite some time and had some catching up to do.  For sometime now, I've been considering writing about the phenomena and thought I'd start by interviewing Estel, and Valda and Garth.  I took the opportunity at the funeral to bounce some questions off Estel.  She responded with the same certainty she had 45 years ago.  The story hadn't changed.  Estel was not ashamed to stand by her guns.  She wasn't the least bit hesitant to state her case.  Valda's son, another close friend is just as adamant about what occurred at their house that summer.

I've written about this before.  In UFO Summer I tell the story of a hoax a friend of mine and I played to assuage our disappointment at having been left out of all the fun.  I also poked a little fun in Why Not Me?
I have also read the exciting book The Hunt for the Skinwalker:  Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah.  I wasn't reviewing books at the time so I'll comment a bit on it here.  I've been to the Skinwalker Ranch; delivered packages there.  There again, I never saw a thing out of the ordinary.  After the book came out, some nephews were in town for Thanksgiving.  I had not read the book yet.  They had.  I told them that I could take them there and before I knew it we were in the car.  Four of us.  We left about 10:15 PM and drove the 25 or so miles to the ranch.  They say it's remote; a bit of a joke around here.  Remote would be like the three hour drive on a dirt road to Main Canyon Ranch, not a mile off a well traveled, paved highway.  Anyway, we drove the mile off the highway and approached the locked gate at around 11:00.  The gate is around a bend, behind a hill.  The instant we arrived a set of headlights came on at the ranch house and headed rapidly our way.  No point in conflict; we hurriedly turned around and got out of there.  Still, nothing unusual; though I was sure surprised that after all this time the place is still under 24 hour guard.  Apparently, they're still very protective of the place.  They claim the ranch is a portal to another dimension or perhaps the entrance to a wormhole that delivers strangers from across the universe.  After years of scientific study Bigelow's NIDS group has proven nothing.  Of course, they've disproved nothing as well.  Frank Salisbury's done better than that on a far smaller budget.

I was thankful when I found The Utah UFO Display:  A Scientist Brings Reason and Logic to Over 400 UFO Sightings in Utah's Uintah Basin.  I was thankful because, I didn't really want to take the time to do all the research.  I can't imagine that Frank Salisbury, with all the other stuff he was involved in was able to find the time.  I'm thrilled to have all of these incidents recorded and cataloged.  Kudos to Junior Hicks whose Herculean effort to interview and record so many sightings is truly amazing.  Without his thorough work, Salisbury's book wouldn't even exist.

Salisbury went to great lengths to educate his audience in the scientific method.  He never considers a single incident without critical thinking.  Still at the end, he comes to the same conclusion as I have, that the only reasonable conclusion is that the phenomena cannot be utterly dismissed.  It is clear that what these people experienced was real.  There remains the unanswered question as to what it all is and what it all means; though the author presented more original and plausible hypotheses than I've ever encountered before.  While the book didn't answer most of my questions it did leave me content with my lot.  You see, Frank Salisbury and Junior Hicks have one major point in common with me; neither of them have had any sort of personal manifestation of UFO activity either.

The best part however, is that the book settled the issue for me.  I no longer care if I ever have such an experience.  Without spoiling Salisbury's most significant conclusion, may I say that this book has made the mystery and quandary of UFO phenomena a non-issue for me.  Why?  You'll just have to read the book and see for yourself.  I recommend it highly for doubters and also for jealous types like me.  If UFO's are already a non-issue for you - don't bother.

Four Stars.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here!

L/R - Ronnie, Kristi, Katie, Aly, Jenny, Megan, Cheya, Myke, Jeff and John
Alyson came home for the weekend so we updated our family photos.  We went to Grandma's and took the pictures by the Mulberry Tree and out by the cow shed.  We also all got a picture with our wonderful Grandma Rae!
L/R - Ronnie, Kristi, Aly, Megan, Cheya, Myke, Jeff, Katie, Jenny and John

Knot Heads

Grandma Rae then going left, Jeff, John, Ronnie, Kristi, Cheya, Myke, Katie, Aly, Jenny and Megan

I can't adequately express how thankful I am for my wonderful, beautiful family!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Its A Small World After All

It was the fall of 1972 and I was about to enter the US Navy.  The war was continuing in Vietnam and I expected to serve in the Western Pacific.  In fact I had requested it when I enlisted.  I had wanted to return to the Philippines and the wonderful people I'd served while on a mission there.  When I enlisted I was single and had expected to be so for the foreseeable future.

Then one day, about three weeks before I was to report to Boot Camp I happened upon the girl of my dreams. We went on our first date and really hit it off.  In fact on that date, I felt impressed that I must marry her.  That notion was quite alarming to me.  Not because I was afraid of marriage; but because I'd put in for WestPac and expected to be away from home for the entire two years of my enlistment.  I couldn't imagine marrying this wonderful girl, only to leave her behind.

The day following our first date I had a notion that I'd like to see my brother.  Brad and I had been best friends all our lives and we hadn't laid eyes on one another for over three and a half years.  I'd gone on my mission in 1969 and he had left for his a few months before I got back.  Now I was bound for Vietnam, or so I thought, and might not see him for an additional two years.  I couldn't bear the thought.

With an attitude of nothing ventured nothing gained, I called his Mission President, President Rex C. Reeve Jr. and explained my situation. I told him that I had a regulation hair cut, plenty of white shirts and ties, the discussions memorized and a current Temple Recommend.  Then I plead, "Can I please come out to South Dakota and spend some time with him?"  There was a long silence on the other end.  Finally, he spoke and said he'd have to take the matter to the Lord.  I agreed and hung up the phone.  It wasn't two hours later the phone rang and it was President Reeve.  He had found a bother in the local area to be Brad's companion's companion and said I could come if I would be my brother's companion and serve as a missionary by his side.  I was ecstatic!  He made it clear that this was not a time to play around, but that he expected me to be a missionary and to follow mission rules.  I promised I would.

The next morning I jumped in the car and headed for the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, where my brother was serving.  It took twelve hard hours to drive there.  It was a difficult journey.  I spent almost the entire twelve hours in prayer.  I was determined that marriage was not the answer.  I had every excuse in the book.  It was too late.  There was not time for preparations.  There was not time to get acquainted.  Who in their right mind would marry a man she hardly knew and who was about to leave to war for two years.  The list went on and on.  All the way to South Dakota I plead with the Lord to excuse me from what appeared to be my destiny.  All the way, I got no relief from His expectation of me.

There was some respite upon my arrival.  A happy reunion!  And a wonderful opportunity to be missionary companions for something just shy of a week.  We worked hard and kept the rules, except one.  We couldn't get ourselves to go to sleep on time.  Too much catching up to do.  It was a very different mission than the one I had experienced.  Rather laid back.  The Elders wore white shirts and ties and blue jeans.  They drove a pickup truck.  Brad explained that we might be called upon to haul hay or do some other chores as we loved, served, fellowshipped and taught these wonderful Native Americans.  This was not new to Brad and I.  As young men our family had been called to serve a two year mission among the Ute Indians of Utah, not far from our home.  We loved the Indian people and do to this day.  Their great hearts, sweet testimonies and profound faith, coupled with a cheerful nature and terrific sense of humor, make them fond brothers and sisters of ours, for life.  I won't go into too many details except to say that these were precious days and a sweet gift from a kind Father in Heaven.  I will always be amazed and grateful that we had such a blessed time together as missionary companions.

One highlight, though, is the reason I'm writing this now.  My brother's companion in South Dakota was Elder Sion Latu.  He was from Tonga and a giant in body and in spirit.  I loved getting acquainted with him and after nearly 40 years, still have not forgotten his name.  I remember what a great cook he was and that his cooking not only represented quality, but quantity.  Easily, he ate more than I and my brother combined.  And we had great appetites ourselves!  Elder Latu was jovial and warm hearted and really made a big impression upon me.  I only got to see him briefly each morning and again in the evening but I loved being around him.  He had that famous Polynesian charm and talent and it was just a joy to get to rub shoulders with him.  Actually, I might have had to stand on a chair to do that, but you know what I mean.  On the other hand, most Polynesians I know are larger than life and should you actually take their measurements, you might be surprised that they are not as giant sized as they seem.  Part of me wishes I had such a personality.  Of course if such wishes could be granted we'd all be Polynesians!  Wherever you find them, they are the leaven of the loaf!

A couple of weeks ago I met a wonderful girl from the Islands.  Her name is Kika and she told me she was Tongan; though she'd only visited there.  I thought I might ask her if she happened to know Elder Latu.  I'd forgotten his first name - if I ever knew it.  I decided not to.  You know.  Different generation.  Lots of Tongans.  What are the chances?

Since then, Kika has visited my blog, and in a comment, she signed her name Kika Latu.  I wrote her a note and asked what I should have when we met.  Sure enough!  Last night I got my answer.  Kika is Sion's very own daughter!  It is indeed a small world after all.  Kika is a walking breathing tribute to her father.  Wonderful in every way.  I loved watching her play with the children and engaging with the others at our Book Blogger's Summer Social.  She may not be in the islands, but the islands most certainly are in her!

I feel so blessed to make connections from my remote and neglected past.  God is so good in that regard.  You'll remember another, quite similar post from this past spring - I Don't Believe in Coincidences and also Remembering to Trust or Meet Joe Hapi.  I was able to track down Joe through Facebook a couple of years ago!

All I can say is a little prayer to my Heavenly Father, "Malo 'aupito!"

Post Script:

I drove home with another prayer in my heart.  One of faith and courage and trust.  Qualities encouraged by my brother and received by contagion from Sion Latu.  I asked Sweetie out the day after my return and that night made a proposal of marriage.  Miracle of miracles, she accepted!  The next week I went to boot camp, came back at Christmas, and married her in the Provo Temple.  We spent the next two years together, stationed in San Diego, California.  We lived in a ward leavened with one third Polynesians.  Life is so good!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How's That For A Saturday

Yesterday, I was up early to help Betty with Whitey.  He was pretty stiff and uncomfortable and each time we turned him today, he seemed pretty sore.  It sure hurts Betty to see him suffer so.

Then it was down to Mom's to sit with her for the morning.  Steve had spent the night and was up photographing flowers when I arrived.  He'd been out to get the paper and found a great shot of his long shadow across the drive that turned out great.  Note to self:  Don't ever go any where without the camera.  Steve's eye is attuned to the photographic opportunity of every moment.  He has trained his eye to see beauty and interest in the smallest of things.

Steve had no sooner gone home to bed when Mom began to stir.  Determined to remain as strong and active as possible, she opted for the walker over the wheel chair.  She takes her time and is careful, but oh, how weak she's become.  I fixed her a little oat meal, but she only managed to eat a couple of spoons full.  I wrote and we chatted here and there.  She kept insisting that I go spend time with my family.  I kept insisting that I'd hear nothing of it.  Her cancer is taking it's toll and none of us want to be far from her side.

Wayne and Susan had been here for a week and left yesterday.  The previous weekend, Mark and Susan had attended to Mom's needs.  Before that two granddaughters and a grandson were here helping as well.  We locals enjoyed a bit of rest and some good company, but are happy to be back to taking our turns.  We cherish these inspiring moments by her side.

Alyson arrived in the night from Vegas.  She's here to spend a few days with family and to be near her grandmother.  She and Katie came to Mom's around ten.  After a chat, they announced they were headed to Jeff's volleyball games.  Mom insisted I go with them.  He played two and scored a few points.  His coach is my long time friend Raedean.  I was impressed with the number of volleys these 8 and 9 year olds could get going in a row!  Darn good little players.  Jeff's family had spent the morning at a 5K Fun Run in celebration of Josh Graham's Birthday.  Josh's widow, and our good friend Toni had organized it in his memory.  John and Jen had helped with the logistics and Jeff had walked and run the entire distance with Cooper and Josh's daughter, Celestia.  Keaton, Toni's oldest, honored his father by winning the race in 21 minutes!  I'd like to have participated as well, but had other priorities this morning.  Jeff's team won one and lost one.  Good times.

On the way back to Mom's riding in Aly's new Maxima we decided to swing by the Cemetery and see the newly placed headstones.  Annie's has been there a few weeks but none of us had seen it yet.  It is lovely and certainly represents Eric's great love for her.  Mom and Dad's arrived just a day or so ago.  Steve and Cheya took Mom up to see it yesterday.  She was pleased and remarked how nice it was to get out of the house for a bit.  We were pleased too.  I love how they listed their children on the back of the stone.  Dad's military plaque remains there as well.

Cheya had arrived at Mom's just before we arrived.  She'll have the afternoon and evening shift.  Mom is most comfortable with her.  Tired from a morning sitting up doing crosswords and trying to eat, she went back to bed.  We're all thankful for lap tops as our computers go back and forth with every trip.  I had done my morning's writing while there.  Cheya will continue her quest to scan family photos and identify the people and record the dates.

I headed for home and spotted Lynn selling melons on Main Street.  He does this every year.  He runs to Green River and brings back a trailer load of the best ripe melons around.  I got a nice one for $4.00.  He's trying to move them fast so he can get home to watch BYU play Air Force.

Back at home, I found John and Ronnie digging up John's backyard to replace the sewer line.  We did mine three years ago.  Thankfully, Ronnie is a master at operating a backhoe and makes that difficult task look like child's play.  I'm so glad to finally have sons and love rubbing shoulders and working along side them.  We have the rented hoe for the weekend.  Gratefully they only charge for the time that's recorded on it's hour meter.  Ronnie's skill cut that time way down.  We started digging last night by hand but our lots are over an ancient riverbed of cobble rocks making shovels nearly useless.  There still remained some shoveling at the ends of the trench.  I was grateful to the periodic breaks to run over and help Betty care for her ill husband.

The old Orangeburg pipe was in horrible shape.  It was completely plugged with roots and debris.  It had been installed at way too steep a grade and its a wonder it made it this long.  The pipe was brittle and about to disintegrate.  After cleaning things up and assessing the needs, we found a couple of sticky problems.  I walked down to Kirk's for some advice.  He did his the year after I did mine.  He came down and we deliberated over solutions for a while.  He had an idea and he and I went back to his place to make a special tool for the job.  How glad I am for good neighbors and friends.  That problem solved, John and I went to Lowe's for materials while Jen and Megan went for Pizza.  She took some down to Cheya too.  The rest of us, including Ronnie and Kristi, Aly, Katie, John, Jen, Megan and Jeff ate at our picnic table.  How nice to have our homes back to back.  Every grandfather's dream and I'm living it.  Ronnie and Kristi brought some tomatoes from their garden, so be began planning for BLT's for dinner tomorrow.  How good to have all our children together for the weekend.  Aly and Kristi have been to the store to buy matching T-shirts for everyone so we can take a family photo tomorrow.

Jen headed for the store for groceries while John and I got the pipe all hooked up with two new clean-out locations added.  We all celebrated with a flush!  Everything worked great and soon the washing machine and dish washer were catching up and John was in a much deserved hot shower.  We still have the trench to back fill, but at least the plumbing is back in service.

When I went over to Betty's to help settle Whitey in for the night, she announced that she'd made arrangements to cover my afternoon tomorrow so I could spend some uninterrupted time with the family.  What a sweet thoughtful friend she is.

You know?  I guess you'd look on a day like that and think, "What's so great about a life where loved ones are dying and sewers go bad and money runs out and daughters live far away and headstones are needed and muscles are aching and widows are mourning and the ground is full of rocks?"  "People, that's what's so great about it!"  "Neighbors and friends, teammates and coaches, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, grandsons and granddaughters, runners and walkers, workers and players; not to mention computers and adjustable beds and wheel chairs and backhoes and back rubs, and fancy new cars and toilets that flush!  That's what's so great about life!"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Little 9-11 Perspective

This day will long be etched in our minds, not only in America, but across the world.  It is right that we pause a moment and remember those who are fallen.  It is appropriate to place a wreath at a grave, to shed a tear and to mourn a loss such as this.  It is appropriate for those, whose business it is, to be about he business of preventing it from happening again.  It is also appropriate for the rest us, to put our hats back on, to roll up our sleeves and get back to the business of living.

Here is a quote from President Boyd K. Packer that illustrates what I mean:
I recall not too many years ago riding to the office one morning and turning on the radio as they were excitedly announcing that someone had placed a bomb at the temple. The front doors of the temple had been blown off. Remember that? Most of you don't because it is just not that important it isn't worth remembering. We were then using the parking lot north of the Relief Society building; and as I went to the office, I glanced across the street. There was a lot of action around the temple people, police cars, fire trucks, and everything. But I was late to a meeting; so I had to resist the temptation to go over and see what was going on. I was in meetings with combination of the Brethren all day. As I went back that night about 6:30 or 7:00, there was no one at the temple; but there were some big sheets of plywood over the place where the doors had been. Then it struck me. All day long in meeting with the Brethren, not once, for one second, was that thing ever brought up. It wasn't even mentioned. And why? Because there was work to do, you know. Why be concerned about that?
Samuel Johnson wrote something that I think has an application here that we ought to remember. A fly can sting a stately horse and make it wince, but one is still a stately horse and the other, well. There is the temptation always to get excited and, like the old Indian, jump on your horse and ride away in all directions. Don't, don't do that. Just stand steady. If there is anything that the youth of the Church need in perilous times like these, it is somebody who can stand secure and steady and serene, even when it's raining, and even if the lightning begins to strike right close. So my second suggestion is to stand steady; don't be in a panic; be secure. 
This came from a talk Elder Packer gave to Church Education System teachers in the Summer of 1970.  I encourage you to read the entire talk.

We live in troubled times but there isn't time to be distracted by the trouble.  There are people and systems in place to deal with the trouble.  Most of us however, have other tasks to do.  Let us be about those opportunities.  Let us be about carrying on with our lives.  Let us be about building the Kingdom of God.  Let's, you and I, resolve on this day, not to run off in every direction, flailing our arms in alarm and despair.  There is work to do.  Worthwhile things to be accomplished.  Things to build.  The best thing you and I could do to disarm the wreckers in the world is to ignore them and keep on building.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just When I Thought There Was Nothing Left To Write About... Along Comes Bobby McFerrin

I have a number of instruments made on the Pentatonic Scale.  Without going into too much detail; most of us are familiar with the Chromatic Scale.  The Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do Scale.  Most songs are written in that scale because of it's broad versatility.

The Pentatonic Scale, while in some ways more restrictive, is, in another very important way more liberating.  You see, in the Pentatonic scale, there are no sour notes.  Every note is in complete harmony with every other note on the scale.  I have a simple xylophone built on the Pentatonic Scale which I love to play.  It is called a Wing and can be found on line.  I love to finish a day playing it.  I make up the music as I go because, remember there are no sour notes.  It is so soothing and meditative to quietly make music with no conscious thought.  I've even been known to sleep while I'm still striking the keys.  There are two mallets, so you may also strike two keys at a time, guaranteed that any two keys on the instrument will harmonize beautifully.

Most Native American Flutes are also built to be played on the Pentatonic Scale.  I have several in a number of keys.  These are my favorite for meditation and winding down after a busy day.  A well made Indian Flute is easy to play and well worth owning.  Even a novice can play on the first day.  Again, because there are no sour notes.  Obviously, the sky is the limit on how well and beautifully they can be played.  You need to remember that you can't play Yankee Doodle Dandy or She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain in the Pentatonic Scale.  Almost all popular music is written in the Chromatic Scale.  Still, music of your own, random creation can lift and inspire you and can be unique as you are.

So, what has all this to do with Bobby McFerrin?  Watch this little video and see for yourself!

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Case Against Elitism

Robert Fulghum once wrote of speaking to a Kindergarten Class during which he asked the students how many could draw.  All of them raised their hands enthusiastically.  "How many of you can dance?"  Same response. "Who here can sing?"  Again everyone excitedly volunteered that they could!  Some time later Fulghum found himself before a University audience.  He asked the same questions,  "Who here can draw?"  Only a few hands went up.  "Sing?"  Very few.  "Dance?"  Hardly any.  Then this favorite writer of mine, posed the same question I am interested in asking, "Why?"  What has happened between Kindergarten and College to rob these students of their enthusiastic confidence?  I suppose the primary reasons are criticism and ridicule.  Does that tell us anything?  It should.

Another cause, in my view is opportunity.  In Kindergarten, everyone is issued a box of crayons.  Everyone is expected to sing and to dance.  Everyone is expected to want to.  No one is criticized for less than stellar performance.  Gradually, though, our schools and other cultural systems take license to criticize and ridicule and slowly but surely we weed out all but the finest.  Why do we do this?  Why do we insist on competition and comparison?   I think the fundamental emotion driving this phenomenon is greed.

Last night I watched the results of America's Got Talent.  It is thrilling to see the best of the best, doing their very best.  The whole concept of the show is to find the finest talent in the land.  I think they do pretty well at it.  There are some inherent problems in the format however.  It is not necessarily the act that has the best talent or who has worked the hardest that moves forward.  I don't think anyone would argue that Fighting Gravity had anywhere near the talent, depth of preparation or longevity of determination displayed by Studio One Beast Society; yet Fighting Gravity won.  Why?  Because they had a more unusual, entertaining, idea.  Level of talent, strength of preparation, magnitude of difficulty are all, in the end, trumped by what is most crowd pleasing.  They are also trumped then, by what will draw the most attendance and make the most money.  Greed.

It happens locally as well.  We begin with enormous numbers of children playing soccer, baseball, basketball, wrestling and playing football.  We begin with large numbers of children taking dance and other music lessons.  Then we promptly weed them out and eliminate opportunities to continue participation for all but the very best, or at least the most crowd pleasing.  I asked the kids at the Detention Center one day, "What could our community have done that might have kept you out of trouble."  More than half of the kids said, "They might have continued to make sports available to us."  Several said that they had lived for sports as children.  They'd played little league and soccer, but when they got older those opportunities were offered only to the All Stars, so to speak.  This, at the most critical time in their young lives.  The time when they are trying to develop their own personal identities, part of what they've always identified as - an athlete, gets jerked out from under them.

I think it is time we remodeled High School sports.  We hear, all the time, complaints about the expense of busing our teams all around the state to games.  We hear complaints that the process takes players out of the classroom an inordinate amount of time.  Still we don't do a thing about it.  Why?  Greed.  Sports, even at the High School level equates to revenue.  Couple that with the motivating dream of ascending to the College level and then on to the Pros and everyone, player, coach, parent has had their motivation tainted by greed.  The greed to money,  The greed of bragging rights.  The greed of superiority.  Elitism.

May is suggest an alternative model, that might actually satisfy all, even those who seek elite status?

How about building High School sports around an intramural program.  Anyone who wishes to play may be on one of the teams.  Coaches and parents will take a vested interest in broad participation.  The intramural activities could culminate in a tournament to give each team something to shoot for, something to motivate excellence.  Then at the end of the season an All Star team would be chosen from the best in all the teams.  The All Star Team would then participate in Regional and then Statewide tournaments where the best from each school could still have their day in the sun before recruiters and glory hungry parents and coaches.  There are problems with the model.  But they're surmountable ones.  They are also less surmountable than the problems with the current model.

An Intramural model would save considerable funds in busing teams all season.  It would involve significantly more children in sports with all the developmental advantages that has to offer.  And it would still provide advancement opportunities for the most gifted participants.  I will guarantee that there are children today who are not currently participating who are potential stars.  They would be much more likely to be discovered under an intramural based program than the are in the current scheme of things.

When I was in High School a group of us, who'd not qualified for the basketball team and who were weary of being expected to go the gym and worship those who had; decided to create and organize an new game.  We called it Szhungaelzee.  It involved kicking a roll of masking tape around a gym floor, like a hockey puck.  Instead of using sticks we used our feet.  We chose a night that didn't conflict with High School or Church activities and held a tournament.  Eight teams formed up and entered.  We arranged a location and adult supervision.  Still, the sports establishment in our community felt threatened and after three weeks of good clean fun, they pulled the plug on us.  We were shut out of every venue in town.  I bring this up to illustrate how clearly anxious we were to be participants instead of onlookers.  Why did they stop us?  Greed.  They feared that gate revenues at the High School games would plummet.

I've seen the same thing happen in Church sports.  Our Ward had enough interested young men who wanted to play basketball to field three teams.  Rather than distribute the talent equally among the three teams, or even to have an older, younger and youngest team; it was determined to put the best talent on the first team, the second best on the second team and the poorest players on the third team.  Greed.  Winning was more important than participation.  The result?  The second and third teams languished into non-existence, while the elite team went on the trounce all comers.

We need to reconsider what it is we hope to accomplish here folks.  We will probably always have the elite among us.  Does than mean everyone else must be relegated to the audience?  When Sweetie and I were in Newfoundland and Cape Breton we found a society where everyone participates.  What a refreshing culture to enjoy.  They have no spectators in their society.  Up until recently, they've had no television or radio.  They gather to sing and everyone sings!  Everyone dances!  Young, old, talented or not, beautiful or not, everyone is a participant, there are no spectators!  All who run may win the prize!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

About Love

In yesterday's post I made a comment that I haven't got off my mind ever since.
 Since I can't change him, I might as well love him.  The only way I can love him is just the way he is.  Otherwise I'm loving the figment of my imagination, which is ridiculous.
That's how it works when we write.  We make discoveries of thought that hadn't even occurred to us before.  Having made the discovery, and having it predominantly featured in my mind for the day; other observations began to emerge.  Other examples began to present themselves.  I began to examine all of my relationships.  Are there conditions I've placed that might interfere with the genuine quality of any of them?

I've mentioned before that I spend some time assisting a sweet neighbor lady in the care of her Alzheimer's patient husband.  As we moved him to a different position in bed yesterday it was obvious that he hurt.  I noticed that she began to cry.  It hurt her to hurt him.  She asked, "How long must he suffer so?"  The conversation stopped as we went about the business of caring for him.  Then, after several long moments, she looked at me, her eyes shining with conviction and said, "The more I serve him, the more deeply I love him."

That is the kind of unconditional love I was speaking of yesterday.  Her husband is incapable of responding to her love in any kind of meaningful way.  She cannot change him.  She cannot change that.  She cannot apply any conditions to which he might respond in order to qualify for her love.  Yet she loves him.

That is the crux of the matter.  She loves him.  She doesn't love the idea of him.  She doesn't love some fantasy of how he might be.  She doesn't love some future him.  Or some past him.  She loves him!

I once wrote an article called The Secret To Happiness.  It was on another forum. ( I'll have to look it up and post it here one of these days.)  In that article I concluded that happiness can only be experienced in the moment.  My catch phrase was that, "To be happy you have to get your heart, and your head and your butt in the same place at the same time!"  I still strongly subscribe to that notion.

Yesterday I discovered that the same is true of love.  It can only be experienced in the moment.  My dear friend's love for her husband cannot abide in the memories of the past.  The past has evaporated and while there are loving memories, they cannot fully sustain her present.  Neither can she draw sustenance from imaginations of her association with him in some conjured future.  While I and she fully expect that she will indeed have a wonderful future with him, and while we all expect that future to be glorious, free from Alzheimer's and other afflictions; today it is only in our imagination.  I contend that the only time she can truly love him is right here, right now, just as he his.  The verity of that notion lies in the evidence.  For that is exactly what she is doing.  Love is a verb, after all.

Were it not for that love.  I don't know if she could maintain the stress and drudgery of her care-giving task.  With that love, each duty is a pleasure.  I know this because I love him too.  Some of our duties are not all that pleasant, but love supersedes the mundane and unpleasant.

We do this for babies all the time.  They are adorable, but they are also difficult, time consuming, inconvenient and yet most of us find these duties easy and delightful - for love.  Gradually, though, some parents begin to imagine a more lovable child in some future arrangement; when he's potty trained, or can communicate with reason, or can keep up with me on a hike or can deliver himself to school.  If they are not careful they begin to love the one they've imagined instead of the one they have, in the moment.  Then the temptation comes to recreate the child into the imaginary one and the manipulation begins.

Often, I have sat in the Detention Center and realized that just years previous these were sweet, precious, untainted, unspoiled children.  In some cases it may have been just weeks or days previous.  Then I would ask myself, "What changed?"  Dixon says, "Its puberty!"  He may be right.  But, I'm beginning to think that the biggest factor, perhaps the only factor, was that someone had attempted to re-manufacture them in some other image than the one in which they were created.  Someone was trying to make them be something they were not and to some degree, had fallen out of love with who they were in favor of who they were supposed to be.  Or should we say imposed to be.

I believe that the moment we stop loving someone in the present and start loving our imagination of them in some future state; is the moment we lose them.

Betty has not lost Whitey, even in his sad and restricted state, because she loves him, even in his imperfection. Her love is not the idea of him in some imaginary, perfect, future state; hers is in the here and now.  The very fact that she does this, to me, ensures that she will one day enjoy a time with him beyond her wildest imaginations.

Dixon often says, "The past is history, the future a mystery.  Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present."

Let's give ourselves the greatest gift of all.  Let's give ourselves love. Let's gift ourselves the children and friends and neighbors we might have by loving them now!  Just the way they are.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It All Started With A Lie

I was awakened in the wee hours by a ringing cell phone.  With death approaching on two fronts these days, I can't ignore a phone call.  Bleary eyed and not yet fully awake, I had trouble first finding the phone and then getting it open to answer it.  By the time I did, the caller had hung up.  I pulled up the number, which was unfamiliar, and returned the call.  I got an answering machine.  I left a message indicating that I was returning the call and closed the phone.  Seconds later my phone rang again.

"Mike, this is Alan," a voice said in a jocular tone.  My brother got _______ __ and took a shotgun and blew his head off!  Me and Josh and Jan are headed out to Salt Lake.  We're going to find some shit and get wasted."  That was a lie.

Not that Alan wasn't telling the truth, at least in his words.  The lie was in his tone and attitude.  Alan was grief stricken but had no clue how to show it to Mike.  Their lives have been devil-may-care of late and Alan knows no other way to be, with Mike.  You see, I am Myke, not Mike, but Alan doesn't know this, yet.  He wants to know if I want to come along?  When I ask who he is, he sounds incredulous.  He can't imagine that Mike doesn't know who's talking.  I have to explain that I am not Mike.  Still unbelieving Alan seeks clarification, "You're not Mike Walsh?"

"No I am not."  Alan hangs up without apology.  Now, I know Josh Walsh and I happen to know he has a brother named Mike.  It isn't hard to put together that Alan is borrowing Josh's phone and has made a simple error in the directory, having chosen to dial the wrong Mike.

Unsettled and not quite ready to go back to bed I get on line.  On face book I find a message from Josh.  
Lost a friend I've taken Alan and Randy out to the desert
No mention is made of Jan.  Still, the message confirms the death of Alan's brother.  I saw Josh and Jan just a week and a half ago.  We had a great visit.  They seemed so happy together.  Josh's career is progressing nicely and his future seems bright.  Now I am not naive enough to think that Josh is out of the woods.  I see the photos on his Facebook page and it's pretty easy to see that his ways haven't changed all that much.  He still likes to party and get rowdy now and then.   Josh has made a career out of helping troubled youth.  Most are drying out from serious drug abuse.  He is compassionate and effective and a hypocrite.  On his off time, he's doing the same thing he's helping them overcome.  He assuages his conscience in that regard by avoiding the topic in his work.  His job, after all, is only to hold them accountable.  It has little to do with the details which are, under the circumstances of place, irrelevant.  Jan works with him.

Now, there is a possibility that Josh and Jan are going along to be Alan's designated drivers; to administer safely, Alan's means of escape.  I doubt it.  They've all lost a friend and they're headed out where they won't get caught and plan to deal with their overwhelming grief in the only way they know how.  At once, this behavior is going to soothe, for a moment, their sorrow, while allowing them to express their defiance.  They will curse the world and curse God and unavoidably exacerbate their common lot.

I have their number.  I thought of calling back.  Could I talk some sense into them?  I longed to do it but felt constrained by the strength of my experience.  Already they're in open rebellion.  All I will do, in an attempt to intervene, is fan the conflagration that is already raging out of control.  So I wait.  And I pray.  "Keep them safe for a saner moment when we can talk this over; please, dear Father?"  "Keep them safe."

I lie awake for hours wondering what has damaged these precious souls to the extent that they would react in such a destructive, inappropriate manner.  Alan's voice haunts me.  He sounded so much like he didn't care.  Like he'd given up on caring.  Probably didn't dare care.  Yet his actions are screaming the torture he's so desperately trying to hide.  They will get wasted.  What a waste.  And then they'll laugh and rage and curse and finally weep in exhaustion for their lost one, knowing they are just as lost as he.  They'll battle with confusion, anger, envy, blame, guilt and they'll come home weary, numb and empty.

All of this behavior is a clear manifestation of rebellion.  I can't help but wonder from what?  I have a notion that we never, naturally rebel from goodness.  We rebel as a coping mechanism in the presence of manipulation.  Someone, somewhere applied conditions to these young lives.  Conditions under which they were kept in servitude or bondage.  It all started with a lie.  The first lie came from the person applying the conditions.  "You are not acceptable unless you....."  "You don't deserve my love or approbation if you don't...."  You can fill in the blanks.  I guarantee that these are the kinds of messages that so repulsed, disillusioned, dismayed these young adults, when the were children, that they began their rebellious bitter course.  Now, you may say it can't be that manipulation is that universal a catalyst.  You might suggest that people rebel against God all the time and He is most certainly no manipulator.  And you'd be right on both counts.  The trouble is that in between God and man are people.  Children especially, cannot avoid projecting human attributes onto God.  If a child lives with manipulative adults he will, by default, surmise that God too, is a manipulator.  How do I know?  Because that was the view I took of God based on the evidence I was immersed in.  How do I know?   Because my number was on Josh's cell phone.

Josh and I are friends, not because we have a single thing in common.  We are friends because there are NO conditions in our friendship.  He was, is and will be, completely acceptable to me, just the way he is.   He's quite unfamiliar with this phenomena and is unavoidably attracted to it.  He manipulates and is manipulated by virtually all in his circle of acquaintances.  His parents manipulate him.  Law enforcement manipulates him.  His friends manipulate him.  So do his enemies.  And he manipulates them in return.

He hangs around me because for quite possibly the first time in his life, he's found someone who doesn't manipulate him.  It's not that I'm not tempted.  I almost called back, remember.  It's just that I've finally got it through my own thick skull that I can't change Josh or anyone else for that matter.  Since I can't change him, I might as well love him.  The only way I can love him is just the way he is.  Otherwise I'm loving the figment of my imagination which is ridiculous.

The rebellious already know that their course of action is a downward slide to destruction.  I don't need to point that out.  They do it because the alternative, a life of conditions and rejection is even more unthinkable.

I believe that their only hope is in the discovery that there are indeed those, who love them for who they are.  I want to be one who will show them that kind of love.  Not so they'll love me back, but so they might begin to superimpose that truth over their previously held false notions about the nature of God.

The lie is that their value is based on conditions.  The truth is their value is intrinsic and has nothing to do with their performance according to anyone's standards.  Accepting that truth, they'll find no further need to rebel or mistrust and will begin to correct their own course while growing in the warm, sustaining environment of love.  This is not rocket science folks.  Lehi said, "Wo be unto the liar for he shall be trust down to hell."  It is so because the purpose of the lie is to manipulate and the end result of manipulation is rebellion and a misbegotten concept of God.

It all started with a lie.
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