Friday, December 31, 2010


Looking back on the past year, I marvel at the magic of it all!  What great blessings have come; what great miracles have occurred.  It all seemed so impossible and yet, one day at a time it unfolded in the most marvelous fashion.  I do not deserve such blessings, but I sure do enjoy them.  I would be terribly remiss if I were not to acknowledge them.  Too numerous to list; I'll not record them now.  I've tried to do that as I went along.

As I mentioned, I've tried to live my life one day at a time.  Oh, the blessed gift of a day!  Every morning the sun rises for me, I am presented with a day full of opportunity and potential.  Have I used them all to the fullest?  Of course not.  Have I done the best I could?  Pretty close.  Have I accomplished everything I had hoped?  Not nearly.  Does that discourage me?  Not any more.

I think that is the greatest lesson I've learned this year.  The discovery that there are hundreds of desires I have that I'll have to sacrifice in order to enjoy the most important things, has been huge for me.  Choosing the most important things has made all the difference in this past year.  I suspect that my life will always be replete with opportunities in such abundance that I cannot possibly experience or enjoy them all.  I have long held that for me the biggest decisions are not between right and wrong so much as between better and best.

This past few months have brought great challenges in that regard as well as great revelations.  I currently have a lot on my plate.  I facilitate two 12 Step groups at the Detention Center and one for alumni of that facility.  Those tie up my Monday and Tuesday evenings.  I am High Priests Group Leader in my Ward.  We meet Wednesday evenings and, of course, on Sunday.  I have a calling to clean the Temple every Wednesday night from 10 to 12.  I go Home Teaching every Thursday evening with a very dear, physically handicapped, friend and companion.  Friday night is the 12 Step meeting that keeps me on the sober side of life.  Additionally, I have a calling to coordinate the advancement process of each potential Eagle Scout in my Stake; taking them from Eagle project approval, to their Board of Review.  Each of these opportunities is a great blessing to me.  A blessing I cherish.

Now, when you couple all of those opportunities with other important family, career, neighborhood, community and fraternal stewardships you begin to see that my life is full, busy and rewarding.  There was a time when all of this would have been completely overwhelming.  Interestingly, it is becoming less and less so.  That fact is fascinating to me and caused me to stop a moment and consider it here.

I am a people pleaser.  I love to make folks happy.  The consequence of that has been very damaging in my life.  In a world full of manipulators, I found myself marching to the beat of a cacophony of drums.  That noisome effort very nearly destroyed me.  Of all the blessings that have come from working the 12 Steps created by Alcoholics Anonymous and adopted by the LDS Addiction Recovery Program; perhaps the greatest is this:  In turning my life over to the care and keeping of God, I can allow Him to set my priorities.

Each morning, first thing, I spend an hour with God.  I study the scriptures, write in my journal and spend time on my knees.  Additionally, I then immediately follow that with an hour walk.  That is a great deal of time in a busy schedule like mine; but it is essential time.  During that time I try to let God set my priorities for the day.  Most days it is easy.  Some days, I really have to struggle to discover His will.  I don't think the struggle is ever with Him; but rather with myself.  The struggle is whether or not I am willing to do His will.

Now, there are a number of distractions from that focus.  Most of those come in the form of conflicting wills.  There are a number of people in my life who would gladly set my priorities for me.  Having their own agendas they are wont to influence mine to their own advantage.  These people are manipulators.  Some of their objectives are benign and innocuous and others are down right malignant.  The malignant ones are quite easy to dismiss, the others sometimes require a good deal of prayer.

Having been highly manipulated most of my life; and having caused my self great harm by allowing myself to be manipulated; and discovering that the lion's share of my recovery is contingent upon appropriate management of my manipulators, I have had to really focus on letting God manage my priorities.  Let me give you an example:

I have a supervisor in my calling as High Priests Group Leader.  He is a man I greatly admire.  He is very nearly the finest teacher I have ever encountered.  One of the great desires of my heart is to emulate his teaching power and skill.  This man also has a very imposing presence and so I consider him with a good deal of awe.  As he is a hero of mine, it is the most natural thing in the world to try to impress him.

As part of the training he has given me, I was informed of the need to provide him with a monthly report on a few facets of the performance of my High Priest's group.  I failed to submit that form in a timely manner and he called to remind me that it was late.  I scrambled for an excuse which resulted in a lie.  I have not confessed my prevarication to him yet, but I must.  That of course, will add to my discomfort, but if I am to continue on the road to recovery, there is no other option for me.  It is not enough to confess my dishonesty though.  For the process of confessing to be effective, I also need to understand my motivation for lying and to discover the best alternative to the wrong choice I made.

First of all, I lied in order to keep myself in my supervisor's good graces, despite my noncompliance with his wishes.  That is the most common motivation for lying is it not?  It certainly is mine.  Having grown up in a highly manipulative environment, I learned quickly to fight fire with fire.  Lying too, is manipulation you see.  Having learned that dishonest management tool from my youth, it has become a habit - a bad one.  The only way I'll ever overcome that tendency is to confess it each time I do it.  I hope eventually, that will make it so that dishonesty is not my automatic response to every sticky situation.

Here's how I've resolved to deal with this particular sticky wicket; or what I should have said, and soon will have to say:

I'm sorry Brother So-And-So, I was dishonest in my response to your query about the report.  In seeking an excuse for my tardiness I lied to you.  I am ashamed of myself, apologize, and hope you can forgive me.   To make things right, I need to be honest about my failure to produce your report.  The truth is, your report just didn't make it far enough up my priority list.  I suspect this will dismay you but that is the fact.  I have a lot on my plate and so far there are too many, more important, things queued up in front of your report.  I expect you will direct me to give it more priority, but you don't get to set my priorities for me, that is something I must do myself, under the direction of my Father in Heaven.  Every day there are dozens of things I would like to do that don't make it on my list for that day.  So far your report has been one of them.

Now, Brother So-And-So, the lack of priority I have assigned to your report has not been just an arbitrary decision.  I have carefully considered each item on my priority list.  I consider your report to be of low priority because I have judged it to be of little value to me and to my mission.  Obviously, you consider it to be of value to your mission, but I am called to magnify my own calling, not yours.

Now, I have considered the mandate to "return and report." For the short term, that alone is adequate reason to diminish the import of your report.  As I have yet to go, I am clearly, unable to return.  For the long term, I am not persuaded that the report is of any constructive value.  In fact my analysis shows it to be a manipulative tool, which by its very nature I must resist for the sake of my continued sobriety.  I suspect this will offend you, so let me explain.

I can think of three possible reasons you would expect this task in addition to the regular quarterly report I will provide as outlined in the handbook.  One might be that you are an individual who likes to be in control and who desires to micro-manage my stewardship.  A second possibility is that you want me to take the time to analyze my own performance every month hoping that seeing my short comings on paper, I'll feel guilty enough to try harder next month.  Or, thirdly, you are just too impatient to wait three months between reports.  In each case, I consider the report to serve your needs and not my own or those of the group I lead, which therefore makes the report, by definition, manipulative.

Now, that being said, a clear part of my therapy is to handle manipulation appropriately.  That is to say that I must condemn the practice but not the practitioner.  I bear you no malice in your effort to manipulate me.  In point of fact, I invite you to persuade me that you are not; though you need to know that such persuasion may require a good deal of patience, long suffering and unfeigned love supported by a distinct lack of guile.

I also hold myself responsible to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not someone is using manipulation to get me to do it.  In this particular case I do not consider reports to be the wrong thing by any means.  I just don't consider yours to be productive because if focuses on what we have not done, instead of what we have.  It appears that the motivation then is to shame us into doing better next time.  Shame is a major condition of addiction.  The sting of shame makes a great lash, but no one wants to be very close to the wielder. Shame is of the evil one.  The Savior is not in the condemnation business, but rather the invitation business.  I perceive no tone of "Come (out of shame and) Follow Me" in this report.  Therefore, I have yet to be persuaded that this report is important enough to supersede a number of things God seems to consider to be more important.

Elder Maxwell once analyzed different styles of Leadership and offered a few paragraphs on manipulative leadership.  He was able to point out a few advantages to that approach, but to my mind the disadvantages he cited far out weighed the advantages.  I will not be leading my group with manipulation.  I will not be giving orders and compelling compliance.  To my mind, manipulative leadership is not leadership at all, it is merely management.  I have a strong aversion to what is commonly called MBO, management by objective.  In every case I have examined MBO is highly manipulative because objectives - goals, are imposed upon subordinates in this model.  I will be setting my own goals, thank you.  I will be assisting the members of my group to set their own as well.  I will be asking for sacrifice and inviting my brethren to make and keep commitments, but those commitments will not be imposed upon them.  When I conduct interviews with them I will be focusing on them, their needs, their desires and hope to facilitate their hopes and dreams, not my own.  I will not be expecting them to magnify my calling.  I will be teaching them correct principles and I will allow them to govern themselves.  These are fine men.  Men of honor and integrity.  They have every intention of building the Kingdom.  My role is to assist them in accomplishing their task, not to brow beat them into compliance with my own wishes, or my own objectives, or yours.  If I am truly an instrument in the Lord's hands they will hear is voice in my invitation to come follow me.  Hearing that voice, I am confident they will respond.  The sheep need a shepherd, not a sheep herder.  The sheep you've entrusted me with have already proven they will follow.  If I am driving them from behind, how can they follow?  Who can they follow?  If they require a leader, let me lead.

The fact that one who supervises me expects a report such as yours implies that he has set objectives for me, rather than allowing me, in concert with my Heavenly Father to establish my own.  Well did Lehi say that men were meant to act and not be acted upon.  Please rest assured that I intend to act.  I will hold myself accountable.  I will continually consult with God and seek His favor.  I am utterly dependent upon Him for the very breath I breathe.  I am utterly unable to accomplish the great task before me without His grace and good pleasure.  I will do His will to the best of my ability.  I invite you to teach me correct principles and I expect you to let me govern myself.  Please do not be offended if my perception of God's will does not include your little report this month.  Next month?  Well, we shall see.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowman Snow!

It is indeed a rare thing where we live to get snowman snow.  Usually we get powder so light and fine that it won't pack into a snowball, let alone a snowman.  Not so this year.  It is perfect for shaping and sculpting into all kinds of fantastic shapes!  Couple that with unseasonably warm weather and you have the perfect snow year for children.  It has rained a good deal since the 15 inches of snow fell in our yard.  The grandchildren have played in it for hours all week.  They've built forts and snowmen, even a hippo.  Little Jeff, who'd rather play Nintendo than anything, has completely forgotten about being a gamer and has practically lived outside!

The other day I took them to see their cousins, all older.  Wow!  The fantastic creations they produced in their yard  were truly inspiring to these impressionable young minds!  There was a monster big enough to eat Sam.  And a pile to slide off that was higher than the ladder used to climb to it's top.  There was a peeping snowman looking into the front window, with his weedy hand pressed inquisitively against the glass.  Also a space ship and a large Kilroy looking creature climbing out of the field.

I wonder if Jeff and Megan will ever have such fun in the snow again.  Usually this time of year is too cold for such fun and as I said, the snow a poor medium for artists and warriors.  This is by far the best I've ever seen it and I'm 60 years old.  I don't think I'll point that out to them though.  They're enjoying it well enough.  I'd hate to make them anxious that it might never happen again.  While it is true that this is the best they'll ever see, it is also a distinct possibility that it is not.  There is no sense worrying  either way.  We've been given this gift, lets fully enjoy it while it's here.

I hope it does get a lot colder soon for the sake of Ryan's luge.  Most years there is enough snow that he builds a giant luge in his backyard.  This year there is enough, though its been too warm to sustain it so far.  One year it was three stories tall.  Kids could slide down it's banked curves as it descended in serpentine fashion around their yard.  Sliding on snow saucers the kids have a ball!  One year he even built a chamber within the pile and standing in there you would see the kids rocket by on the slide as it too passed through the foundations of the luge.  Considering that it is composed of snow and stands in a relatively flat suburban backyard, this luge is really quite an accomplishment.  Ryan often borrows snow from all over the neighborhood.  He uses upturned milk crates for steps up to the precarious launching platform.  To keep it strong and fast he sprays it down with water in the middle of the night.  Hope it works out this year.

Another big bonus was a snow day!  On Monday is snowed so hard and more was predicted so they let school out early on Tuesday and cancelled Wednesday all together.  I can't remember ever having a snow day around here.  Most of us have four-wheel drive vehicles and the City, County and State are well prepared to clear the roads.  When it snows around here we just head on out like we do on any other day.  This kids missed their class Christmas parties on Wednesday, but are looking forward to late presents after the first of the year.  Kids, Moms and Teachers alike were heard rejoicing at an unexpected day off before the Holiday.

I just walked out to bring in some firewood and noticed the neighbor's grandkids, newly arrived from California, playing in the snow across the street.  Glee in their voices and ambition in their countenances as they too, joined in the fun of snow art and construction.  For all of us it is "the most wonderful time of the year!"
Sam, are you being swallowed or barfed?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Joyful and Triumphant!

This morning I sat in the freshly decorated living room to read my scriptures and do some journaling.  As I enjoyed the symbols of the season my eye settled on a Jim Shore recreation of Joseph and Mary's journey to Jerusalem.  How arduous that effort must have been.  I imagined that Satan must have danced alongside the entire trip, celebrating his latest coup.  How clever to have enticed Caesar Augustus to call for a tax at this critical moment in history.  What genius he must have congratulated himself for at having orchestrated this dusty, arduous mass migration of all of Israel to their cities of origin.  The streets and lanes must have been clogged with travelers.  Satan must have been giddy with anticipation that he'd assisted Joseph and Mary in arriving late enough that the Inn was filled to capacity.  What carnal delight he must have felt to have caused the Son of God to be born in a disgusting stable.

Then I began to think, what if.....    What if Jesus had been born in Nazareth in the comfort of his parent's home?  Or what if he'd been born in the crowded Inn surrounded by clamor and unwanted attention?  What if he'd been born in a palace?

Surely Satan, in his self centered, egotistical way, imagined that the Son of God would want to be born in lavish, royal conditions.  So how could he imagine that he was fulfilling prophecy, magnifying the purposes of the Lord and assisting in the very thing he hoped to thwart.  How he must have gnashed his teeth when he discovered that he had fully played into the Father's hand.  He did the same thing in Eden and he does it still today.

Look through the scriptures and you will discover that the lessons and experiences of each story were made meaningful by the opposition eagerly provided by a voracious opponent, Lucifer.  Laban's refusal to surrender the Brass Plates, Nephi's broken bow, Limhi's captivity, Alma's rebellion, Pharaoh's refusal to release his Israelite slaves, the Mormon's being driven from Missouri and then Nauvoo; example after example of the role of opposition in the growth, development and eventual deliverance of God's children.

Never once, in recorded history, has the journey to the Promised Land been an easy one.  Israel's journey took 40 years and the loss of an entire generation.  The Jaredites' journey was similarly long and arduous, fraught with peril, labor and seemingly unsurmountable obstacles.  Consider Lehi's journey with his family; or that of the Mormon Pioneers, or the Willie and Martin handcart companies.  Satan was there taunting them with obstacles and opposition every step of the way.  We admire all of these because in the end, they overcame the opposition and in the strength of the Lord emerged strong and victorious.  Push-ups would be of no value at all were there nothing to push against.

I look back on my own journey, one strewn with obstacles and afflictions like addiction, depression, and manipulation, not to mention the flooded basement and other disasters too numerous to mention.  In a poignant way, my morning musing taught me that those too, are the source of growth and meaning in my life.  So often all I could hear were the peals of Satan's laughter at my set backs and sorrows.  But today looking back from a perspective of redemption through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Satan's taunts are silenced by an overwhelming emotion I can only call joyful and triumphant!  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have mixed feelings about this Wikileaks business.  On the one hand, I have no problem with keeping secrets that protect our troops and national security.  On the other hand, it appears that the bulk of these classified documents are not of that nature.  It looks like most of them are simply embarrassments resulting from indiscretions and prejudices expressed on the part of fools in our diplomatic corps.  Those are appropriately exposed; tell us the truth about our State Department; and should result in rolled heads.

I have no problem with our secret keepers being exposed for the things they do that have lead others to regard us as Ugly Americans.  The politically manipulative shenanigans they do in the name of advancing American interests are wrong and ultimately destructive to our position in the world.  Problem is, I have little hope that this exposure will change a thing.  So far damage control has been riddled with a lot of spin and very little apologetic humility.   It is especially concerning since attempts are being made to remove the threat of dark deeds being brought into the light.  Attempts being made to censor the internet in order to prevent further embarrassment (in the name of security) are going to intrude on our access to the truth.  If we are not careful the government will gladly further erode the guarantees of the First Amendment.

During his campaign President Obama promised transparency in the government.  So far Wikileaks has provided far more transparency than Obama has.  

During all of this I am also displeased with the government for their inability of manage their own affairs.  This current batch of leaked documents has been blamed on an Army Private.  In what world is a Private given access to classified documents?  Holy Cow!  This kind of incompetence in Federal affairs is rampant across the board.  Such revelations are not only embarrassing to them, but to me.

Well did Jesus say, "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."  Free press should be about telling us the truth.  I strongly suspect that the main stream media has abandoned that notion, much to the satisfaction of the political machine.  No wonder everyone is ganging up on Wikileaks.

I believe in abiding by the law.  I believe in protecting our National interests and most especially, our troops in the field.  I don't not believe in seeking to hide our own sins and much of what we've been shown are clearly in the category of sins being hidden.

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Try RockMelt!  It the best browser yet!  Much like Chrome, but much more versatile.  You can surf the web and never miss a thing on Facebook at the same time.  It is handy, intuitive and fast!

So far you can only get it by invitation.  If you'd like to be invited comment below with and include your email address and I'll sent you one!  You'll love it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Want to Do a Flash Mob?

I'm investigating the production of a Flash Mob in the Vernal Area.  If you are interested leave a comment.  I need about forty serious participants plus a production crew.  I think it will be a ball.  I'd like to use it to benefit the Food Pantry for Christmas.
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