Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Man in the Muffler

Steven Crump spoke in church to his own congregation, today.  He is their bishop, after all.  The service was short and packed with lots of Congregational Choir numbers, multiple keyboards and a familiar flute.

The Bishop started his remarks with an analogy:  "Suppose you were invited to the Birthday Party for your Best Friend?  He had already given you so many gifts and you wanted to give him what he really wanted--would you know what kind of love that is?"

Then he told us a simple story that happened on a Chicago bus.

The girl was 17 and it was Christmas Eve.  She had worked all day for too little money.  So had her mother. The older woman had to work as a char woman in a highrise by the river.  Both mother and daughter would arrive home bone tired and fall into bed.  There was no money for gifts or tinsel or anything related to most wonderful time of the year.  Two months earlier her father had left their mother and the divorce was pending with acrimony all 'round.  She felt her angry father had stolen their family.  

With that hopeless thought in mind, she boarded the bus for the long trip "home" and not much to look forward to that Christmas....or any Christmas eve in recent memory.  She recognized the bus driver.  The only comfort the whole day would be to sit near the front and put her thin shoes on the floor where the manifold of the engine warmed a small spot on the floor in front of her faded, hard bus seat.  As her cold feet were warming to the heat of the motor as they jerked along she noticed him.

He was a well dressed man in Pendleton wool and a natty vest who stood behind her on a strap-- .  He carried his last minute Christmas gifts for some lucky person in a little shopping bag with the name of .a big Department store in glitter on it.  He looked safe enough and she could see the bus driver glancing protecitvely in his rear view mirror.  

He approached her and asked politely if he could sit next to her on the seat. It was the first time she got a good look at his face.  Above the top of his well wrapped muffler/scarf his eyes were kindly and shined with genuine concern.

"Please forgive me," he said, "but you looked a little tired.  Have you had a hard day?"

Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized it was the first kind thing anyone had said to her in many years...and she was only seventeen.  She mumbled something about being OK..and thanks for caring enough to ask when he began to get up.  He pulled the cord and rang the bell as the bus slowed to a stop and he got off, turned and stood looking at her through the open door.

Then she saw the little fancy shopping bag on the seat of the bus.

"Hey, sir, " she shouted at him through the door, "you left your package on the seat."

"No, that's for you -- and Merry Christmas!!  

The door slapped shut and the bus resumed it's stop and go down Lexington Avenue.

She didn't want to take it...but the bus driver said she should..Couldn't leave anything on the bus.  

When she got home, she told her mother about the kindly man...first one she had ever seen that close in her entire life and they opened the bag together.  There was a brightly colored foil candy box with expensive pralines and cream made with white chocolate and the biggest nuts either of the women had ever seen.  The daughter gently draped the red cashmere scarf around her mother's shoulders and for the first time in months they both smiled.

The pretty music box played a tinking version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and as they listened to it over and over again they began to believe that one day their troubles would be far away.

Now, twenty years later she still keeps her late husband's wedding ring inside the delicate little music box with little love notes from her little children now grown."

Bishop Crump concluded with his prayer that we as the man in the muffler should take the challenge pass on the spirit of the Savior to others during this time of year..and all year round."

Merry Christmas 2011

"I wish there was something more I could do." he bagan, "but this is my stop."



Friday, October 14, 2011

Change, Forgive & Contribute!

A Three Word Formula for Success!
Ever since I heard Hugh Nibley's comment that there are only two things we really can do on earth:  REPENT and FORGIVE, I've made those verbs two of the three MISSION STATEMENTS of my personal creed.  The third verb: CONTRIBUTE comes from President Marion G. Romney who taught that Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy on the earth.  He also taught that service is the very content of the Building Blocks used to build your mansion on high*.   

CHANGE by any other name is Repentance.  

I have always enjoyed the comparison between Joseph Smith and his once close friend Oliver Cowdrey.  Joseph wrote that Oliver generally considered himself to be nearly perfect, and marred by the unpleasant experiences of life.  "I, on the other hand," he continued, "am a rough stone hurtling down the mountain.  Every obstacle I come in contact with knocks off another of my many rough edges and makes me a smoother shaft in the quiver of the Almighty."  

Change is best when it grows from within rather than imposed from without .  In Brazil, I wrote in my journal that, "The 'Call to Repentance' is like the Call to Supper to nourish yourself with a change that does everybody good, especially you. The result is always rejuvinating.  See TMB post: The Parable of the Bicycle ATONEMENT Change is the part of "The Plan" that involves Do Overs until we get it right! Elder Dallin H. Oakes told a General Conference audience that, "most sin is like specks of dirt that get washed away in the laundry."  Remember, PERFECT doesn't mean flawless.  Elder Russell M. Nelson taught that PERFECT means COMPLTE--as in completed ordinances, completed requirements for eternal life.

FORGIVE means to resolve differences, unburden yourself (and others) of the friction between you and another and just "let it go!"  It means JUDGE NOT THAT YE BE NOT JUDGED.  Mother Teresa, the inspiring nun of Calcutta said, "I don't know how people can judge others.  It leaves so little time to love them." That is the spirit behind the D&C commandment: "I the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but unto you it is required to forgive all men."  Grudges should not be part of your life because they only hurt you--rarely the person against whom the grudge is being held.

CONTRIBUTE means the fulfillment of President Kimball's teaching that, "We pray to the Lord for help, but the answer usually comes from another.   

Plan from now on to be a prayer answerer!  One young mother Rosie and I know well often bakes a dozen shredded apple pies and then prays to know who in her neighborhood "needs a little tangible encouragement."  As they cool, she and her family pile into their van and make anonymous deliveries as inspired from above.  What a great lesson to her children!

King Benjamin worked in the fields to sustain his body and gave his spare time to his kingdom and the Lord.  It's a good balance that keeps us grounded. He changed, forgave and contributed.

NOTE:  The late Sterling W. Sill advised forward thinking saints that they should come to church with a little talk for Sacrament Meeting, inspired, researched, and written fresh for that Sunday, just in case called upon. This is my "contribution" for this Sunday, just in case. 

NOTE 1: Bishops used to call up folks from the congregation to fill time--but after a few fainting spells and the odd heart attack, it became official church policy not to do that any more.    (Of course there's nothing stopping the Bishopric living on the edge to call a dozen faithful to prepare "just in case" for a two and a half minute contribution--with that done, the conducting officer could seek inspiration and call on four or five of the folks to come up and share--that would work.  In fact we do that kind of thing every month in what is called Testimony meeting.  

NOTE 2: A non-member author wrote about dropping in on an LDS service on the first Sunday of the Month and being a bit confused, "I wasn't sure who was in charge, there were officers on the stand, but members rose out of the audience on their own accord and spoke extemporaneously, often confessing their faith with tears.  At first I thought the minister was sick and these valiant members were helping out by substituting for him to fill the time of the meeting.  Afterward I asked around and was amazed to found that this congregation does this every month of the first Sunday--and so does every other Mormon ward and branch.  If that's what they mean by a "Lay Ministry" I'm intrigued!"

NOTE 3:  Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. -Mark Twain


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Come, Dream with Me...Outloud!

Hiking or not--Dreaming Together is Great!

One of the fun "build our marriage" exercises we do together when Gramma Rosie is in pain, is a mind diversion we call "Dream with Me...Outloud."  Often these moments happen in the car as we drive together shopping.  Rosie doesn't drive, so I often get to play Prince Phillip to her Queen Elizabeth, and truly be "an husbandman"

We invented this very practical imagination game when our Jeff and Sally were little.  It goes like this:  "If you had a million dollars that you had to spend in 30 days--where would you go, what would you do and who are two or three people you'd do it with?  Sound intriguing?  Five year olds have to really think about the issues involved..and then it seemed more like work than fun!  Rosie took the bait and began to spin a project out of her imagination that really sounded pretty good.

"If I had all that money," she told me that day, "I'd pay all our bills--and then I'd find some land where we could build some modest homes for elderly folks who had nowhere else to go."

I immediately began suggesting names.  The best I could come up with as a working title was: "Happy Dreams Acres!"  For the next few minutes her painful teeth, gimpy tummy, consistent migrane and bum knees and hip were overcome by visions of helping folks like us who had rented or gone homeless most of their lives.  I gently asked about compensation: "Oh, they'd pay a little rent, but only what they could afford," she said.  By then we'd made it to the store and bigger, more immediate issues became for the moment, upper most in her mind.

When you find yourselves in some kind of want, pain or lack of funds, consider this alternative.  We've always taught each other than a Dream is a wish that you write on paper and review the progress of occasionally.   "Happy Dreams Acres" may never happen, but we can always talk about it during a lull in the action.

Diversion of the practical kind is good for married teams and their teammate children.

One third world mother strapped for grocery money would come home late at night after foraging through the neighborhood and announce that the family would chew the beet greens she brought and sing hymns.  Sometimes it was just hymns without the greens.

Dreaming outloud with someone you trust and love can wipe away negative emotions and guide the brain to build often practical castles in the air.  The advantage is that encouraging the process builds hope and guides futures.

President Merrill of the Monterey Bay, California Stake in 1970 counseled us that parents should bring their babies to church.  Not only does it get everyone into a good habit, if the babies cry--no matter.  "You can only hear one thing at a time!" he told us.

On the other hand I have treasured Brigham Young's clever advice from the stage of the Salt Lake Theater in the early pioneer days before Social Hall Avenue was ever built. "Crying babies are like good intentions:  They should be carried out!"

The great truth in all this is that the human mind can really only concentrate on one thing at a time.  Contrary to what modern behavioralists tell us there really is no such thing as effective multi-tasking.  Most good things are consecutive--and if a good husband can divert his wife constructively with a way to harness her creative thoughts to build their family, it will be good for both of them.

Emeritus GA Elder Joe J. Christensen, former President of Ricks College once told a Priesthood Session of General Conference:  "Make the time to listen to your spouse; even schedule it regularly. Visit with each other and assess how you are doing as a marriage partner.  Brother Brent Barlow (prominent LDS Marriage Counselor) posed a question to a group of priesthood brethren: “How many of you would like to receive a revelation?” Every hand went up. He then suggested that they all go home and ask their wives how they could be better husbands. He added, “I followed my own advice, and had a very informative discussion with [my wife] Susan for more than an hour that afternoon!”  (To Build a Better Marriage," Ensign, Sept. 1992, p. 17) 

Communication--keeping the thoughts, like water flowing between us... that's what the Dream Outloud exercise is all about--and if it improves her disposition and supercedes her pain medication--all the better!  


Monday, October 3, 2011

Steak Center Restaurants: Never a Dry, Boring Meating!

Think Ward Dinner...every night!

There is an idea floating around Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Idaho and California for a chain of non-pretentious Mormon-themed restaurants called "The Steak Center" (Where There's Never a Dry, Boring Meating!).

Each Steak Center will have one enormous dining area with basketball hoops at either end and folding metal chairs and long tables covered in plastic tablecloths.

The Steak Centers will not have hostesses, but greeters -- men in their seventies will meet you at the door and talk like they have known you all your life.

The main menu items for lunch and dinner will be: 
Porterhouse Rockwell Steak
Primary Rib
Poor Wayfaring Pan of Beef
Parsley P. Pratt Funeral Potatoes
Eliza R. Snow crab (in season)
And It Came to Pasta
Kraft MacaMoroni and Cheese.

Breakfast items will include:
Pearls of Great Rice
Frosted Minivans

Also available:
In Our Lovely Desserts
Fast Sundaes
Gadianton Cobbler
Laman Meringue Pie (just sinful!)

The waiters will be 12- and 13-year-old boys wearing white shirts and their fathers' ties.

At the end of the night the customers will be asked to help fold up the chairs and tables and vacuum the floor.

Franchises are selling faster than Sunbeams on Skittles! Get yours while they last! 

--Guest post from David Dean

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gratitude for Counsel from a Scribe to a Pharisee

Scribes had no authority.  Pharisees acted like they did.

Dear friendly, faithful, righteous Pharisee Nicodemus (not his real title or real name)

Just a note to thank you for your gentle suggestions over the years of our ongoing friendship.  I especially am grateful for the time you take reviewing writing like this very post.

  Kate Lehrer and  her husband Jim exchange their writing all the time, supporting each other and helping to polish the other's work, however, she told Diane (and the audience) that she gets upset when Jim spends some time reading a chapter or an article she has written and says, "That was good, hon."  Jim Lehrer, the anchor of the PBS News Hour, formerly the McNeil Lehrer report appeared on one of the best radio shows I know of: The Diane Rehm Show, between 9 and 11 AM Monday-Friday on NPR.  His wife of 51 years, Kate, a novelist tagged along.  Jim has written 28 books and just published his latest book on his marathon record moderating 11 presidential debates--he says it's like walking on the edge of a very large, very sharp knife.

"I want to hear some real feed back!  What he liked, what I could do better!  Otherwise we're both wasting our time."

I write you that to write you this:  One of the reasons I have come to treasure our friendship, Pharisee, is that you care enough to give me that kind of uplifting feedback on a regular basis.

The first time you did it happened when you came up on stage after our first night of Missionary Boxer and suggested we build an intermission into the second night for the benefit of folks who had a hard time sitting through 90 straight minutes of show.

I was overwhelmed with every detail as writer, producer and head cheerleader for the production.  I didn't take your counsel then--and we probably could have--but --well, I could make lots of arguments in favor of  "plot flow", extending the show length by 20 minutes etc.  

I have never told you, but I appreciated your counsel then and have never forgotten it.  The next time I write and produce a show, the "Pharisee 'Sit Tight'  Break" will likely be included. (Of course playwrights know there's quite a difference between writing a one act play and a two or three act production!

President Packer tells the story about a Stake Patriarch in Brigham City who mentored him as you mentor me.  How wonderful to know someone with more experience who is willing to gently coach and give good counsel!

When President Harold B. Lee clarified the Savior's words in Luke that the Kingdom of God is within you--he indicated that what the Savior meant that the King James translators missed was the idea that the Kingdom of God is AMONG you!

WIth the increasing ability to sense and pay attention to the nudgings of the Holy Ghost, every member of the kingdom has the potential blessing of good counsel from "above" and good counsel from priesthood leaders and  wise senior folks who care about them-- the many emminese grises* (good grey heads) who unselfishly  are informing the rising generation.

(Noun, 1. eminence grise - (French) a person who exercises power or influence in certain areas without holding an official position)

Joseph Fielding McConkie, a wonderful professor of religion at BYU made the point that one of the many reasons the Lord commands us to attend Sacrament Meeting is that in such a community of counselors and counselees, each brings slightly different gifts of the spirit to the community.  As we gather, if we're gentle and observing we get a chance to enjoy most of the gifts of the spirit.   What an uplifting thought.

Therefore, thanks for sharing your good counsel with me on a regular basis.  You may not think it's much-- a word or two here and there, a little mid course correction, pulling back a little much enthusiasm while still encouraging more and better ideas suited to the situation and the process or just a suggestion.  I treasure every one.

Gratefully, thanks to you I am your better informed Scribe,

Jon Robert Howe

PS - In the computer world, a Wizard is some one or in Microsoft programs, some thing that knows a bit more than the user and is willing to share.  As I teach computer classes or the odd church class, I always try to follow your good example and be a good Scribe, a better Wizard and like you, a believing Pharisee who helps and guides whereever he (or she) gently can.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sacrifice: Stay up Late with your Family, if you have to!

Endure to the End?
Our son works late, so I've cashed in my Lark credentials for the same Wise Old Owl qualifications my wife enjoys til early, early in the morning of the next day. Years of working early morning radio news, rising at 4:00 AM has made this shift in my personal time clock less than easy. 

My sweet Rosie's health is such that she has such a hard time getting to sleep and and a hard time getting up before early afternoon.  Like a newborn, her sleep and wake clock has been turned upside down.  

Elizabeth Anderson, a fifth grade teacher friend of our family in Wyoming in the 60's, once told me that every hour before midnight you get to bed is worth two hours of extra sleep.  I haven't enjoyed that bonus in years.  

My wife's prime time starts about 10:00 PM.  If I went to bed at 10 PM,  we'd have precious little quality time to speak of.  I'd miss my son completely.  He gets in about 11:30 PM when he's not out doing his Midnight Gardening with a flashlight and a harvesting basket. On one hand it's cooler, on the other hand he misses the little veggies you can't see easily in a narrow flashlight beam.

President Henry B. Eyring counseled parents of late sleepers and late workers to stay up and visit with them on a regular basis.  "If you're tired when you get up and go to work next day, please, do what I do." he said.   "During my lunch hour I inform my secretary, put a "Do Not Disturb hanger" on my door. Then I lock it, clean off my desk and pull out the blanket and pillow I keep in the closet and take a quick nap.  That and an apple keep me alert and focused for the rest of the day.  As long as you don't do it behind the wheel, napping is good for you!"


Monday, September 5, 2011

The Best Church Instructors Know How to "Play the Organ"

Organ playing as a metaphor for
Great Teaching
In 1969 I was called to teach the two seventies and three high priests of the Washington D.C. Singles Ward.  John Miller, our stake patriarch took me aside soon after I was called and taught me a most valuable principle of church class leadership.

"A church class is like an organ recital." he began.  "In the academic world, the professor knows so much more than the students that they come to be taught.  

In the kingdom the instructor is the focus of discussion, yes, but if he is wise he will follow these step and harness the inspiration in his fellow students:

1. Prepare Thoroughly:  Study, Pray, Seek Inspiration, Simplify and Condense.

2.  Come Humbly:  Understand that the class has nothing to do with showing off your skills or intelligence.  They are your fellow student and while you are the focus, your task is a simple one:  create the atmosphere of love and trust so that each member will feel comfortable sharing.  The following steps are key.

3. Cite THE Scripture:  In the limited time you have, just the right scripture will make all the difference.  Of course you can use other scriptures to fortify your point, but don't get caught up in using so many scriptures that you neglect "Playing the Organ" 

4. Pose a Great Theme Question:  Phrase it so that it sparks some interest and thought in members of the class.  It should recall experiences and motivate sharing for the next step.  Don't underestimate the power of your silence at this point.   One great instructor I know told the group, "Well, that's all I've got! and that he was going to depend on them for the rest of the class, then he backed away from the microphone.  He was only about six or seven minutes into the class but he had phrased the Theme Question question in such a way that the class immediately picked up on it.  He spent the rest of the hour just calling on members to "help him out".  It takes maturity and a good sense of what works!  It is the essence of step 5.

5. Play the Organ:

This wonderful, wise 80 something brother had a twinkle as he shared this simple formula for great church teaching.

I had to ask, "What do you mean, 'Play the Organ' ?

"Every brother  in the class (and in the auxiliaries, sisters, too) have deep opinions." He continued.  "If they've studied the sciptures as they should, they'll have corresponding life experience that can inform and inspire the other members off the quorum.  

"Each man represents an organ key, and it's your duty to create an atmosphere that will help them feel comfortable to share their inspiration and edify one another.  As the instructor you, too can learn from them and be inspired with their truths in a mutually satisfying and spiritual experience.  That's what "playing the organ" means.  Touching them as you would touch the keys in a magnificent recital."  He knew me well enough to know that I played the hymns for priesthood once in a while.

Church "instruction" is less about facts and much more about feelings as we build testimonies in church classes.  It's all about edifying one another when a skilled and loving teacher knows how to, "Play the Organ"..


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1st YouTube Parable of H2W Talents, Crafts & Fine Arts!

If you put your light under a bushel, it will go out!  (or the basket will catch fire!)

Sharing your light will help it grow brighter! Here's 2 minutes and 36 seconds of sharing brighter and brighter talents.  Here's what our ward did with everyone who didn't skip town for family reunions on the weekend of the 24th of July. Nearly 100 presenters and Variety Show Committee members participated!

When more YouTube H2W fun is packaged and produced from Michael Fugal's terrific video shooting of that night, you'll receive notice (if you send back an email with comments to:

The Holladay First Ward of the Salt Lake Holladay Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints produced a Variety Show and Fine Arts & Craft Fair on July 22, 2011.  This is the first of several YouTube Productions sharing that Pioneer Days Celebration.  This first 2 minute 36 second "sample" features a welcome by Brent McPhie, Second Counselor in the H2W Bishopric and twelve young women  singing "Sippin' Cider through a Straw".  The spinning wheel crafter in the beginning of the sequence is Shannon Fugal. Pictures of many of the other participants in the talent show are displayed during the singing.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Enduring List

Evidence of the Power of a Kindly List
One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. 'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'As you can see, Mark treasured it.'

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists!'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again. (of course they would on the other side)

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be.

So tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.

From Carol McLean

Monday, August 8, 2011

What does God to for a Living? He leads Committees!

The first verse of Genesis, the first Book of the Old Testament reads, "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth."  Joseph Smith translated one word differently in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible--from "God" to "the Gods"

The creation of this mortal experiment station between Jupiter and Mars was not a one man job.  It took a bunch of us.  I say us, because Joesph Smith taught that we all helped--all of us who earned the right to take bodies and go through the obstacle course that is mortality.

"I don't even step on an ant because I don't know what part I took in helping to create it!" Brother Joseph is reported to have taught about the process of creation.  (See Abraham 3:22-24, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pages 74-75.)

What's the BIG IDEA(S)?
Over the last two months, I've learned more about the way our Heavenly Father does business.  The Bishopric asked me to work with a committee to produce our Variety Show and Arts and Crafts Fair--and what a committee.   I learned that when you call great people, you get great results and I had the blessing of working with the cream of the ward.  I thank them for the fun success we enjoyed with everybody -- An audiece of nearly 100 and more than 80 participants on stage and on tables around the edge

When we were collaborating on the stake musical, I was convinced that God was a playwrite.  Then we worked on the Variety Show together and I changed my mind--God is a talent scout and a producer.  Of course geologists say he was one of them for His glorious mountains, educators claim His primary skill is the teaching ability behind the great parables.  In this discussion a Lawyer boasted that before the creation of the earth and the great teaching of the Savior, God most resembled his profession-----creating chaos!  (Ref Scott Turow Time magazine)

Everyone on the committee pulled their weight and more--but one sister gladdened my heart.   We brainstormed a stage full of strings playing a fun number.  I personally counted on the whole Hilton Family who boasts three talented, hard practicing sons:  two violins and a cello, however they let me know they were headed to a family reunion out of town that night.  The idea began to fall apart, then I called Natalie Niebaur one of the best and brightest violinists in the ward.  I explained the idea and hoped she could pull together other string players in the ward including a rumored ukelele player in the elder's quorum.  Her response bouyed me with her enthusiasm. "Of course!  I'd love to!" she said and she did!

What a great plan of happiness that puts us in position to learn as we rub shoulders with one another in a great effort to build the kingdom.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What you SEE is what you DO!

Great care is taken by our Heavenly Father and his leaders on earth to guide children of light to seek more light and avoid darkness.

Then President Marion G. Romney quoted this verse:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, 
As to be hated needs but to be seen; 
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, 
We first endure, then pity, and then embrace. 

(Pope, Essay on Man, epistle ii, lines 217, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,
 London: Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 383).

This is more than an ANTI PORNOGRAPHY post.  My intent is to share a principle that works in our lives that can work in a positive way.   Avoiding violence, noise, confusion, doom, sadness and yes, images that promote sin is just part of it.  I hope you'll take away the idea that whatever you expose your eyes and brain to inspires wishes, desires and goals that unavoidably determine what you do.  What you SEE really is what you GET! 

I heard an eye opening interview on NPR recently about hoarders.  The point of the story (well done) was to explain how psychologists have discovered that people who hoard junk--and can't seem to throw anything away function visually.  A coffee table or sofa becomes the repository of things they need to pay attention to--dirty laundy, unfinished food, utility bills all get piled up, where these unfortunate souls can see them.  Sorting and chucking is far from their capability.

Years ago I heard about an elderly couple who disappeared.  Neighbors worried about them more than usual because they didn't see them for months.   When authorities were notified and broke into the home the stench was over whelming--not just because of the two dead souls who lived there.  Police had to call in cadaver dogs.  Every room was filled nearly chest high with garbage and keepsakes.  Even the front room had little trails like scouts build in deep snow.

The story clicked with me.  A dear sister was recently released to the sorrow of her counselors, advisors and especially her dear Young Women.  One of my assignments is to gather information for the Sacrament Meeting program including the name, picture and brief profile of each youth speaker.  Young Men have an opportunity every other week, except Fast Sunday, alternating with the Young Women.

To the Young Men Presidency's credit, they follow the process carefully and with enthusiasm.  Two weeks before a young man speaks, he is called, in private and, hopefully, inspiration and charged to pick a gospel topic he feels strongly about.  I am given the name, contact him, often at church a week before and help remind him by taking a nice picture in often shirt and tie, gathering the important details of his young junior high life, writing the profile and sending it to him for approval well before my printing deadline.  It all works like clockwork--like it should.

Not so with the Young Women in our ward.  After months of waiting for a call, sending gentle, loving reminders and a list of young sisters who have spoken this year, I get nothing.   We leave the spot in the program vacant.  The Bishop asks me, gently, what the problem is and we both shake our heads.

Trouble is, this good sister has been fabulous with the young women--mostly because she is one of them.   To be fair, she has a large family of her own who love her dearly, and while she's going through nursing school in her fifties, running a catering company out of her miraculous kitchen and working full time, our former YW President is never on time, frustrates up tight camp directors and folks who don't know and love her with a laugh and "I'll get to it"

As happens too late in these matters, I figured out "the method" that works with her--and the hoarding story on public radio turned the key for me.  For the last few weeks I show up at her opening exercises and sit in the back.   (One developmentally challenged young sister came back once and said, "Welcome to Young Womens......why are YOU here?   With a completely straight face I told her I was thinking of joining.)

The YW President, by our previous agreement, seeing me in back--and darting around in a jolly chaos, guiding one young woman to write the opening agenda, skiddywampus on the white board while another practiced leading the opening hymn stopped everything to meet my need.

"Brother Howe is here to get the next Youth Speaker---who spoke last time?"  (She has never been bound down by mere mortal tools like clip boards, records, watches etc.)  The Young Women know and call out the name.  "Oh, that's right--well," she laughs, "You get to pick the next youth speaker!"

Not the most conventional method--but on reflection it has a certain charm to it.  In this way all the Young Women at once know they'll have a turn. Often they call out names of those in their group who haven't spoken yet this year (We have nearly 30 young women, so most of them will get a chance, if they want to)

One downside is that several young women stay away because they know they might get chosen. That's why the private, inspired, encouraged model is important.   The friendly, tough call out method is for the valiant, the brave, the courageous.   Wall flowers and shy little sisters who want to fit in must submit to the process or, sadly, avoid it.

At the end of it, I invite the young sister chosen into the hall, snap her picture and jot down a few facts about her life and I'm ready to write it up, insert the picture and go forward with the rest of the program.

By showing up and being seen, I got what I needed and the now released YW President didn't have to worry about it.  Unconventional?  Yes, but the result is still pretty much the same.  As I write this I do not know who will replace her--that may happen in a few weeks, but she has helped me learn the truth again that What you SEE is what you DO!  The right kind of visibility is important for such kinetic leaders.

I coach a young man in our ward who has a marvelous set of "pipes"  Just in the ninth grade, moving on this fall to High School, he has a voice that any opera singer or radio announcer would envy.  As part of our process, I encourage him to write down his heros and analyze why they are heros to him.

It's part of our 100 goal exercise taught to me by a wise leader named Rodney Brady.  He is a Harvard Phd who helmed the largest conglomerate of radio and TV stations in the Intermountain West.  On a seat next to mine in a quick hop from LA to SLC he shared his secret to success.  His debate coach in high school challenged him to write down his 100 goals on 3x5 cards, organize them and set about achieving them.  As a result of effectively setting goals for his life in high school,  he now flys his own plane, serves on the national board of the Boy Scouts of America, organized and served as President of a big pharmaceutical company and served as a college president.

In that hero exercise, the young man with the "pipes" listed the YW president as one of his heros.  When I asked him why he said, "Because she cares about me!"  At a youth conference at Lake Powell earlier this summer he tried and tried and tried again to ride a wave board behind a power boat.   He told me how the YW President sat in the back of the boat shouting encouragement and suggestions.  He never did get it--but came to appreciate and grow in admiration and love for this marvelous leader.

To some, her method is a bit scattered and a little screw ball--but it's just those qualities that make her loved.  One member of the Bishopric introduced her as a speaker in church by saying, "The Young Women love her because she is one of them!"  She gets it done right away, as long as she can see the problem before her.  She will be missed!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Pride falleth before the Teaching!

How teachable are you -- and how do you know?  The Holy Ghost only gently nudges those who are humbly "listening" for the subtle feelings and gentle impressions.  Those who are too proud or too busy or too distracted, stop their own reception.  

Who needs a Farmer's Market?
Case in point:  Today, we celebrated Pioneer Day at our house by taking an early harvest in our little garden and baking Grampa Milo's Round Tuit bread (Honey Wholewheat bread baked in 46 ounce juice cans and a few clean mushroom soup cans for some tiny friends who like their own little round loaves, "Just their size!")

This recipe was originally developed by my sweet mom, Grandma Delma for her retired husband to have something fun and nutritious to do.  I remember the aroma of this delicious healthy treat--and this is the first we've re-created it in nearly thirty years.  By the way, it makes great toast!

Grampa Milo's Round Tuit Bread
Hope you get around to it!
Our son Jeff "Chef" is, for good or ill, quite a proud and often arrogant soul who has taught himself most of his culinary skills without much advice, especially from his mom and my sweet chef, Gramma Rosie.  Jeff made a single batch of Grampa Milo's Round Tuit Bread a couple of weeks ago in our kitchen--and it turned out just fine. The aroma kept calling my name.   I just couldn't wait and ate four or five slices while it was still quite warm.  For the next 24 hours, I paid the price.  I'll wait til today's batch is cool so my digestive system can cope with slightly less input.  Avoid chugging hot bread. Your lower GI will thank you for it.

Jeff did well, but his Mother decided he needed some baking coaching whether he wanted it or not. 

If he was resistant, she was locked in lecture mode, as if our 35 1/2 year old son were 9 years old and experiencing the complex baking process for the first time.  Some folks can be tone deaf to their own effect on others.  Some folks need to learn to bob and weave, suggest rather than command etc.

The more she dictated the more he squirmed and pulled away in impatient agony.   She kept at it--and after a while he mellowed and took it with more grace.  He will admit he learned a few new things!

The lesson to me is clear--if we pull away from the whisperings of the spirit in rebellion, the signals will cease.

Learn to be teachable.  Ditch the pride and you will grow with the best directions you ever felt!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Handcart Angel Responds to Prayer

In his Pioneer day talk at Sacrament Meeting at the Holladay Second Ward this afternoon, our great stake president Richard S. Boyer shared a modern day handcart experience.   We were all spiritually fed with a story that can be credited to a Riverton Wyoming Stake President Scott Lorimar.  He often spoke to the youth groups who came throughout the summer to reinact the handcart "pull" over rocky ridge on the Martin Handcart Company trail in his area.

One of the stories he tells the groups of eager "Trekkers" concerns a young man who really didn't want to go on "Trekk" but his mother and his bishop prevailed and he ended up on the trail pulling a handcart by himself up a long hill--and hating it.

One of the techniques that leaders use to help their youth feel the effects of the "real" pioneer experience ivolves tapping a young man or woman on the shoulder to signify that they are "dead"   They may continue walking with their group but they cannot pull or speak encouragement.  

The young man in the story. was alone in the front, but many of his team had been tapped out.  A slender young woman, age 12, was the only other one on the cart and she was pushing from  behind.  The young man couldn't have been more upset.  At first he strongly considered just lifting up "the ring" of the cart and letting it roll back down the hill, but he knew that display of temper and frustration would result in the cart rolling over his only other team mate and cause her serious injury.   His only other choice was to bow his head as he strained at the handcart and pray.

He did pray--silently to himself, begging his Father in Heaven to get him some help.  As he said a quiet amen, he noticed an older man, very tanned, in trail worn clothes slipping under the double tongue of his handcart.  Softly, the man who seemed to come out of nowhere whispered to him, "I've had a lot of experience with this--let me help you."

After the modern day story of handcarts, our speaker quoted a well known journal of a member of the Willey Handcart Company who said he knew that there were times when he could go no further and he could sense angels pushing his handcart--and the cart pushing him.

Food for thought, yes?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Parable of the Conductor's Baton

Imagine that you play an instrument in a symphony orchestra and that you are about to play a composer's acknowledged masterwork, led by a wise and powerful conductor.  The music begins and swells as you play your part with the other strong players. Slowly the lights dim on stage as they have done in the hall--and a brilliant spotlight falls on the conductor as he leads the second movement.

Then a tiny,  powerful pin spot focuses on just the baton as it does its work.  The only other illumination comes from the glow of the small lights on the orchestra's music stands as the music climbs to a crescendo and the symphony concludes.

The conductor takes his bows to thunderous applause as the lights come up, turning to you in the orchestra, he honors all of you as he motions to take your bow--and then the conductor acknowledges a well dressed, older man in the front row.

As he stands, a reverent hush comes over the audience and the hall, that has rung all evening with soaring majestic music and a standing ovation. Suddenly it is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  The reverent silence honors the composer, our Heavenly Father.   His score was planned and written long before the performance.  With his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, on the podium, these two members of the Godhead are mostly invisible to us---but if we cultivate the gift, we can sense the baton--the Holy Ghost, guiding and nudging our lives according to the design of the Father and the direction of the Son.

Source:  President Richard Boyer, Salt Lake Holladay Stake Conference  5/22/2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Corollary to the Parable of the Bicycle - ATONEMENT

 BYU Education Professor Brad Wilcox told a BYU Education Week audience about his follow up to the Parable of the Bicycle.  When he served as a student ward bishop one of his members, Gary (not his real name) scheduled an appointment to confess his sins.  Bishop Wilcox encouraged him to be as complete as he could and he did.  The Bishop forgave him, used the Parable of the Bicycle to illustrate how the Atonement could work in his life if he continued living sin-free and encouraged him to continue attending church.  He did for several weeks--and suddenly disappeared.  

Bishop Wilcox sought him out at his apartment when the young man confessed that he had, “fallen off the bicycle”-- in fact he’d crashed the bicycle beyond repair.  Bishop Wilcox put his arm around him and calling him by name, taught him about forgiveness--the corollary to the Parable of the Bicycle.  “Gary, Heavenly Father loves you so much.  He knows that sometimes you fall off that bike, maybe even crash it--but the good news is he has warehouses full of bicycles he’s anxious to keep on giving you when you honestly repent.” 

Another of Brad's  excellent talks online video:

2 Nephi 25:23 “ is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”


The Parable of the Bicycle - ATONEMENT

In his book Believing Christ, BYU Religion Professor Stephen Robinson tells how he discovered a parable of the atonement.  As a struggling young divinity graduate student in the Boston area, young father he sent his six year old daughter to do chores and save her pennies in a fruit jar when she begged for a new bike.  After several weeks he had come into some money, so he took his daughter to the bike store with her chore change bottle.  She found the bike of her dreams--a pink and white mini bike with colorful streamers.  

Then she read the price tag.  Her face fell when she counted out her chore change.  She only had 61 cents.  With all the love of a tender parent he knelt down and with his arm around her said, “I’ll tell you what. You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” He had to drive home very slowly because she would not get off the new bike.  That’s how the atonement works--We do all we can and he makes up the difference. 

2 Nephi 25:23 “ is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SCRIPTURE STUDY cuts the Static

Immerse yourself in the SCRIPTURES

Scripture Study Drives Away the Junk
To show how studying scripture cuts through the static in life, fill a medium white bowl 3/4 full with water.  Explain to your listeners as you sprinkle pepper on top of the water that little things (Static, Junk etc.) that happen to you; that get in the way of studying the scriptures.  (Before you begin put a few drops of dish detergent on the tip of your finger)  Now, to show you how the scriptures cuts through the distractions of life, my finger represents immersion in the scriptures.  Put your finger into the water.  The surface tension will be broken and the pepper will go to the edge of the bowl. 

Original Idea: &feature=related



Salt & Pepper Symbols

To demonstrate how repentance and the atonement works, spread a cup or two of table salt over a colored dinner plate explain that this represents your body and spirit when you are born--pure and clean. Then drop a pinch of pepper in the middle of the salt. Explain to your listeners that the pepper represents sin.  Imagine how long and tedious it would be to remove the pepper like sin from your life by yourself grain by grain.  Take a  plastic spoon like the kind you get from a fast food restaurant and rub it back and forth in your hair or a strip of fur to generate static electricity.   Pass the spoon over the pepper--and most of it will jump up and stick to the spoon. Ask,  “See how quickly the spoon lifted the pepper? This represents the atonement and how the Savior helps us remove sin and it’s influence from our lives, if we obey his commandments and ask him.”

Original idea from Jenny Smith LDS Object Lesson 2:
Atonement / Repentance / Forgiveness


Multiple Piercing Earrings: Quick to OBSERVE

On May 10, 2005, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke at  a BYU Devotional about learning to cultivate the spirit of discernment by being quick to observe  (Two great quotes from President Cannon and Richards in detail on the TMB Website with Elder Bednar’s telling of the girl with multiple earrings)  This is the single most requested BYU Devotional on line.  He tells about a young man who was interested in a young woman.  When the prophet invited women of the church to remove multiple pierced earrings and the young man watched.  When she didn’t remove them, but kept them in, the young man lost interest because she was not quick to observe.

Elder Bednar:   "Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. This young man cared for the young woman very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. Now this relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.

"The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe. 

"Now before I continue, I presume that some of you might have difficulty with my last example. In fact, this particular illustration of the young man being quick to observe may even fan the flames of controversy on campus, resulting in letters of disagreement to the Daily Universe! You may believe the young man was too judgmental or that basing an eternally important decision, even in part, upon such a supposedly minor issue is silly or fanatical. Perhaps you are bothered because the example focuses upon a young woman who failed to respond to prophetic counsel instead of upon a young man. I simply invite you to consider and ponder the power of being quick to observe and what was actually observed in the case I just described. The issue was not earrings!

Why the Spiritual Gift of Being Quick to Observe Is So Vital Today

"Let me now address the question of why the spiritual gift of being quick to observe is so vital for us in the world in which we do now and will yet live. Simply stated, being quick to observe is an antecedent to and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and for me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark.

"Much like faith precedes the miracle, much like baptism by water comes before the baptism by fire, much like gospel milk should be digested before gospel meat, much like clean hands can lead to a pure heart, and much like the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are necessary before a person can receive the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, so being quick to observe is a prerequisite to and a preparation for the gift of discernment. We can only hope to obtain that supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction if we are quick to observe—if we both look and obey.

"President George Q. Cannon, who served as a counselor to four presidents of the Church, taught powerfully about the gift of discernment:

One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits—a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. . . .
Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it. [Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 1:198–99]

"Can we recognize how crucial this spiritual gift is in our lives today and how being quick to observe is a powerful invitation for the blessings of discernment?

"President Stephen L Richards, who served as a counselor to President David O. McKay, has provided additional instruction about the nature and blessings of discernment:

First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate . . . between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them. . . .
. . . Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. . . . We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin. [CR, April 1950, 162–63; emphasis added]

"As we integrate the teachings of Presidents Cannon and Richards, we learn that the gift of discernment operates basically in four major ways.

"First, as we “read under the surface,” discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others.

"Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves. Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people and situations, but, as President Cannon taught, it is also about discerning things as they really are within us.

"Third, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others.

"And fourth, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us. Oh, what a blessing and a source of protection and direction is the spiritual gift of discernment!