Friday, December 4, 2020

Like me

What? Celebrate Christmas during the pandemic? Hasn’t the coronavirus impacted enough of us already? That is the question.

On Friday December 4, the LightTheWorld calendar showed the following encouragement:

Jesus’s birth brought hope. Watch
The Christ Child, screenshot a
moment that gives you hope, and
share why on social media.

Now this was not an easy choice. There are so many wonderful possible selections one could make: Kneeling at the feet of the small boy. Three wise men offering their gifts. Kingdoms to come, Mankind to save, Worlds without number. How can one picture represent all of that?

So I thought carefully about this exhortation and came up with the following favorite pic. It appears right at the beginning of the video and is not probably the selection you chose. There are so many others: The star in the night. Mary riding the donkey for miles. No room in the inn. The birth of the Child. The shepherds visited by angels in the field. Kneeling before the Christ Child. With all this to choose from, how could I select a picture of a man beginning his work day in a field? It seems simple and unimportant, maybe even sacrilegious when compared to these other choices.
Well, I don’t see it that way, but that is a fair question and deserves a proper explanation. I speak for myself and in no way intend to diminish or look down on the wonderful images of that transcendent night and life-changing experience. In fact, that’s exactly why I love this picture so much. You see, I grew up on a farm and the things we often take for granted today have more meaning because I know what it’s like to do without them. And despite His enormous influence for good and providential mission in behalf of all mankind, He chose to come as a small infant in dire circumstances and live a humble, simple life on the land and work with his hands.

And He suffered challenges on earth so that he could understand my perspective and have empathy and compassion on me. ME!

The Son of the God of heaven and earth and everything that is in them came to earth as a helpless babe in a manger, and though angels testified of Him and stars shone brightly to witness of the birth, He became like me to lift and raise me in my miserable and wretched state. And He did all this for me.

My daughters are in that phase of their lives giving birth to their beautiful children. It is hard. It’s difficult. It is physically and emotionally painful, even to the point that they walk near the shadow of death, but they do it anyway. And my sons love and support their wives and are faithful fathers to their children despite many challenges of our day. And they all do this nonetheless with smiles on their faces and courage in their hearts despite the tremendous challenges.

Joseph cared for Mary and the baby Jesus without the foreknowledge of how it would all work out in the end. His faith carried him through insurmountable challenges.

The gospel of Jesus Christ provides peace and comfort, even joy right now.

What? Celebrate Christmas during the pandemic? Absolutely! We can celebrate the Son of God every day. Maybe that choice is hard, lonely, and has its challenges, but we can do it for Him, because He did all this for us.

There is no question that I will happily and grateful recognize this gift. It is my privilege and yours.

No question at all.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

The most memorable Christmas on record

It is funny what things are cataloged as memorable in our minds. Most times, the occasions are not what you would expect all along, I suppose. But the unforgettable experiences rise to the top of our recollection. And so it is when I call to mind my most memorable Christmas.

We had big, extended family Christmas parties on my dad’s side of the family when I was a boy. He had three sisters and their families were large just like ours. That’s where I came to know and love my cousins. For the most part, I have great memories of the Christmas dinners and Santa Claus visits. We would get all dressed up for these activities. There were literally dozens of us at these family get-togethers. Though most of my cousins were considerably older than me, they were accepting and friendly and made me feel important and loved. I was a pretty small kid back then, but I always felt included and valued. Most my memories of these parties occurred at Margaret and Lynn’s (aunt and uncle on dad’s side). But I remember that one year we held the event out at the distribution center in south Salt Lake. That year, Kim, Jeff, and I dressed up like Alvin and the chipmunks and performed. These get-togethers have continued off-and-on throughout the years and still happen even today with an annual Stucki Cousins Family Reunion and family website. Santa Claus would make his appearance and distribute gifts to each of us children. I was young enough at the time it was all magical and mysterious. Somehow, I think I knew my Grandma Stucki was behind all of it. One year we did it at our house, and I was the ten-year-old jolly old man.

Mom and dad used to dress me up like Santa when I was a child to deliver the family Christmas gifts to our friends, as well. I’m not sure I really liked doing that, but my family was persuasive and our friends complimentary, so I couldn’t refuse.

Life had been hard for several years and the abundance we were accustomed to diminished some. But though some might say we were in dire straits, we never wanted for the essentials. I think mother and father handled the pressures so it didn’t trickle down to the younger children. Certainly, the other children knew the challenges we were facing, and I’m certain I was not oblivious to the need, but perhaps I did not comprehend the magnitude of our predicament. Castle Valley for us was a fresh start, and it happened to fulfill a life-long dream for my mother and what she and dad wanted for our family. So rather than a rash decision, the move was an answer to countless prayers and one of the great blessings in my life.

We had worked through the summer, and for a good part of that time lived in a tent, but after a while we built and moved into the bunkhouse. That was a lot better. It was down below where it was much cooler during the hot summer. We built a truck top kitchen and started a bathroom facility, so we were moving up in the world. I never thought of it as destitution. It was an amazing adventure and our choice. But when I think about it now, it’s nothing short of amazing that Mom and Dad and all the kids went for it. When school started we found ourselves still living in the bunkhouse. The fall brought cooler nights and eventually freezing temperatures. The cabin home was coming along, but it wasn’t going to be finished by Christmas. Yet as it was completed, the roof was installed, and we had our own shower for the first time in six months (which was wonderful), once we moved into the partially finished home.

We had always had so much for Christmas in years past, but this year was going to be different. Mom and Dad had been giving up everything to secure the farm, build a home, and pay for improvements. It left precious little for gifts. We knew that and had accepted the fact that there would be no Christmas presents this year. We already had so much anyway–perhaps not in worldly measures–but in love, family, good land, food, and the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mom and Dad sincerely appreciated the bounty the Lord had given us and taught us to recognize and thank the Lord for all our blessings.

One evening early in December we were sitting in the single heated section of the house, and there was a loud knock at the door. Before we could get up to answer it, a vehicle sped up the snow packed driveway and off into the night. When we did open the door, a large cardboard box sat on the porch. We pulled it inside and opened it. To our surprise, there were presents, and food, and canned hams, and much, much more. That year for Christmas we were the recipients of a sub-for-Santa project and because of others, we ate delicious foods, opened gifts, and thanked an unknown giver for presents we could not have purchased ourselves that year.

I remember that occasion with a good deal of emotion and still don’t know the benefactor. But that is not so unlike all of us that are recipients of gifts we don’t deserve and don’t really warrant on our own.

Everything we have been through, the memories bring back you.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Christmas Room

Forward .. when we were going through mother's things following her passing, I was given the task of foraging through her papers. I learned a ton about mom from this task: she printed everything, kept instructions and booklets for purchases, wrote meticulous notes, and even designed mechanisms to help her remember when her memory began fading. The list of her children and grandchildren enumerated with names and calendar of important dates were just a couple examples. In all these papers, clippings, envelopes of data, and invoices of everything, there was one item slipped in a plastic cover. It was a reprint from FOCUS ON THE FAMILY / DECEMBER 1999 of The Christmas Room by Gillette Jones.


When I arrived at my daughter's on Christmas Eve, her children ran to the door with shouts and kisses. Then, struggling with my bags, they took me to the guest room. I stopped short at the door, staring at the sign that hung there. In red and green crayon it read "The Christmas Room." My throat ached for a moment, as I remembered...

OUR daughter Barbara was only 9 when she began to realize that we were quite poor. In Barbara's class there was one girl who took special delight in tormenting her. Joan came from the wealthiest family in town, one of the few that hadn't been affected by the Great Depression.

Joan was outgoing, Barbara quiet and shy. Joan was all ups and downs: one minute befriending Barbara, treating her to candy, giving her a toythe next, bragging extravagantly, teaching Barbara to be ashamed of our house.

We kept hoping Barbara would overcome her shyness and make other friends, but she continued to tag after Joan.

Christmas was coming. I knew ours would be a lean one indeed, unless we used a great deal of imagination. Early in November we started planning. Barbara helped me look for recipes that were inexpensive. We colored Epson salt and put it in pretty bottles as bath salts for her grandmothers. We took scraps of velvet and transformed ordinary boxes into jewel boxes for grandfather' stickpins. We dreamed up pincushions that looked like miniature hats and pot holders in the shape of teapots.

We spent hours in the little spare room laughing at each new touch of  imagination. The lumpy old daybed became littered with gay scraps of paper as we cut pictures from last year's Christmas cards to decorate our packages. We had a wonderful time.

One day Barbara went to Joan's house after school and returned looking sad. 

"Whats' the trouble?" I asked her.

"Oh, nothing." She hesitated, then said, "Mom, I told a fib today. But that Joan! She's always talking about her guest room and the company that sleeps there. Today she asked, "Where does your company sleep?"

Barbara went on. "I told Joan we don't have much company, and her eyebrow went up. Mom, I just couldn't stand that look again. So I told her, 'We have something you don't. We have a Christmas room.'"

Her feet shuffled. "I didn't mean to fib, but you should have seen how surprised she looked. I never saw Joan stuck before. She really didn't know what to say."

"But, dear," I said. "We do have a Christmas room. But if it will make it more official, we'll make a sign for the door."

She brightened. "Oh, could we?"

"We'll do it today."

The sign was barely dry and hung when Joan arrived. She rarely came to our house, always preferring her house where there were lots of toys. Now she stood at our door asking to see the Christmas room. Barbara looked at me. "May I show her?"

"I guess so," I answered. "If everything is wrapped, it is." Barbara went to check while I explained to Joan. "The room is full of surprises, and we can't let any secrets get out."

Barbara hurried back into the room. "It's okay." Joan would probably see only a small dingy room, a cracked ceiling, and a homemade sign on the door. She would not see the specialness that room held for us.

They were gone so long, I finally went and peered in. Joan was looking at our paper creche figures we had cut out.

"We have China figures," she said. "Imported." I started to speak, but just then Joan moved to the packages that were on the daybed. She touched them one by one, lingering over the one with the paper sled on it. Barbara had done that one from colored paper, filling the sled with miniature packages.

Joan turned to Barbara. "We don't have surprises. I always know everything."

"How?" Barbara asked. "Do you peek?"

Joan shook her head. "They ask what I want, and I get it."

Barbara said impulsively, "I'll give you a surprise."

Joan shrugged. "If you want."

Barbara nodded solemnly, before I could stop her.

During the next week, we tossed ideas about. At last, we settled on giving her one afternoon a week at our house, helping make surprises. I wasn't sure she would think it was a present. She did come however.

The first time, we made cookies and wrapped some for her mother. The next week, it was fancy matchboxes for her father. The week before Christmas, Barbara gave her a box to open. Joan tore at the paper, but when she had the lid off, she didn't know what it was. Barbara looked disappointed. I tried to force gaiety into my words, "It's cornfor popping."

When the corn was popped, Joan remarked, "I could never make this. It's too messy for our house."

I glanced at Barbara, but she was busy showing Joan how the corn could be dyed with food coloring.

"Later, we'll string it for the Christmas tree," she explained. Joan worked at it, occasionally holding up the colorful string.

"They'll never hang this on our tree," she snorted.

"Would you like to come hang it on our tree?" I ventured.

Her sudden tears alarmed me. "Could I?" she asked.

"I can never help trim ours. I might break things." Then, she pushed back her chair. "I'd better go now."

She got her coat and hat quickly. In the Christmas room she hesitated, wondering whether to actually take home the things she'd made for her parents. At last she picked them up. We watched her leave, clutching her small surprises.

Barbara turned big eyes toward me and whispered, "I used to be jealous of her."

THAT was long ago. It had been important at the time, but I'd thought it was long forgotten. Now once again I stood facing the Christmas room.

I stepped inside a pleasant room, not at all like our homely old spare room. On the window seat were packages wrapped with special touches of childish imagination. The children ran to them.

"I made this!" Ronnie cried proudly.

"You're going to love mine, Grandma," Paula shouted.

There was no financial need for Barbara to do with her children what we had donebut I was glad she had. She'd been young that year of the Christmas room, yet she must have known that a Christmas room is room for people, a room in the heart. ■

From Christmas in My Heart #8 (published by Tyndale House/Focus on the Family). Reprinted by permission of Joe Wheeler and Christian Herald, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Better than ever

In my household, running is a big deal. I myself am a walker, but even then I am not as diligent as my wife. She walks on a regular schedule and has been doing so for years. But it is really my children that are the runners. One daughter runs religiously every morning. She did ten miles today before I was even out of bed. Others in the family are similarly impassioned. Another daughter and her husband run frequently with the baby in a stroller and the dog on a leash. I have seen them and others perform this feat for years. Other children ran track when they were in high school. They never feared pushing through the last leg of the relay when the coach and team needed the most effective surge. That’s why they exercise. The moment for which they had trained regularly and endured all this pain was the very reason they exercised in the first place. And their diligence paid off then, and it is paying off big time now.

Maybe you’re not a runner. I understand that, but you no doubt have other passions for which you give your all: drama, education, auto mechanics, family, art, history, rodeo, outdoors, or other interesting quests or exciting activities. Whatever your passion, you are faithful to your goals, and you find joy in that pursuit.

That is good and right and the way it should be, but I am going to make a claim that may sit funny with you when you first hear it. Okay here goes:

Whatever you do and whomever you do it with—the gospel of Jesus Christ will help you do it better. And it is guaranteed to bring you more happiness along the way. Period.

Do you believe that? There are many illustrations of this principle:

Example 1 - The Atonement is “the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Mediator,” Ensign, May 1977, 56).

Example 2 - “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

Example 3 - “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel“ (Elder Boyd K Packer Conf Rpt Oct 86, p20).

I purposefully took these quotes from long ago to demonstrate the accuracy of their prophetic claims. Now I have had the benefit of putting their words to the test. And looking back with hindsight, were the assertions made accurate? Did the predictions prove correct and factual? While you consider those questions, let’s take a look at some other people whose views coincide with my own.

Effectively, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the fuel that makes this world go around. President Gordon B Hinckley once said the following in the context of the other churches around the world:

“Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.”

I believe that this statement is not limited to churches only. The gospel of Jesus Christ can add to and exalt everything it touches. That too is not new. That is the power of Jesus Christ.

There is power in ordinances. As we make covenants with Jesus Christ, live in accordance with those principles, and renew our ordinances regularly, we are empowered beyond our natural abilities and find hope, solace, and peace in our lives despite the uproar all about us.

I recommend thee unto God, and trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved.” Moroni 9:22 Temple recommend* (baptism, repentance, commandments, ordinances)

 1. Power in the word of God
 2. Power in the gift of the Holy Ghost
 3. Power in the priesthood
 4. Power in the house of the Lord
 5. Power in the atonement
       a. Have faith
       b. Repent and obey .. The happiest people I know repent regularly and obey
       c. Diligently seek

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. Isaiah 40:28

I the Lord delight to honor those that serve me. Doctrine and Covenants 76:5

Wow. Did you read that? Did you hear what the Lord just said? “I the Lord delight to honor those that serve me.” What does that really mean.

The God of heaven and earth delights to honor those that serve him. That is a pretty good position to be in. It all comes down to whether we believe in that promise or not.

I believe it.

And I Nephi did go into the mount oft…

True Doctrine, Understood, Changes Attitudes and Behaviors

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Tough times are worth it

We all face difficult challenges, and they come in every possible way. Physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. Definitely, my memory of a most difficult struggle was unemployment. It sounds trite, I know. But it consumed every day. People I never even met or those that briefly spoke with me made decisions that directly impacted my life and that of my family. Gratefully, I was not facing this struggle alone at the time. Though it was still hard, I felt better in the fact that I was not doing it all by myself. 

At the time your mother had a friend who got one job after another. She didn't like the job she had been hired for, so she quit and would get another job. All the while I am thinking "I can't even get an interview. What is wrong with me?" I got involved with LDS Employment, which became an incredible resource and support system. I still have dear friends today from my numerous interactions there. Nonetheless, rejection is a daily occurrence in the job hunt. And I thought there was no end in site.

Your mother consistently supported me, though it was difficult for her as well. You children were longsuffering. Steven counselled me, and together we rehearsed some interview situations in an effort to help. It did help. All the efforts made a difference, but it did not come quickly or easily.

One time, I figuratively sat down and said to myself "I am not tied down to a job anyway. What would I do if money was no object?" and that is when I began a few hobbies that I am still enjoying today.

When I finally got my job at Oracle, it wasn't through LDS Employment. None of you provided the opportunity for me, but it all helped nonetheless. And now I have the awareness of looking back with hindsight, and I see how fortunate that I have been. It's kind of like the experience we had in Castle Valley. That too was hard and monotonous and challenging at times, but given time it has become one of the most valuable opportunities of my life.

So I have decided that challenges are opportunities for us to grow and develop ourselves beyond what we are comfortable with. Nobody goes to the gym expecting to just sit back and watch. We bust through exercises that really hurt and endure countless repetitions that are painful and demanding. And we do it consistently, because we know that in the end, it will all be worth it.

That's just the way we should face the obstacles that confront us in life. In a few words, life is not the goal or final destination. Life is a means to an end, and we are busting through it for the same reason we exercise .. to get to a better place and a finer outcome. We might enjoy the ride. There is nothing wrong with that. But life is not the end we have in mind. Whatever the cost, the future that is in store for you and your loved ones is so much better than what you can even now conceive.

"The challenge is not so much closing the gap between our actions and our belief, the challenge is closing the gap between our belief and the truth." You might have to read that again. I had to read it a half dozen times.

But I think I have it now. The outcome of this life is so much better than what we can possibly imaginehundred times betterhere and now.  

In the end, it will all be worth it. I can promise you that.

I love you, dad

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The sweet spot

One of my most exhilarating experiences is familiar and comfortable. Though not common, it is regular. I know you have experienced this as well. What you call it, however, may vary some.

Let me explain with an example. I love the thesaurus. That statement may not surprise you, since it was made by the author of this article. As a writer, I have come to love the thesaurus. Weird.

Well, maybe. A thesaurus is an essential tool for me at least. I use it every time I write. For example, let’s say I want to discuss the euphoria I feel when I begin composing prose. Euphoria?  You ask how anyone can feel that kind of emotion when writing is involved. I get it. Your memory of composition may include the final history test in which you were asked to draft a position on the significance of the year 1861 to the civil war and clarify the multitude of idle rights then that nearly pulled this nation apart. My point? I used the thesaurus at least a half-dozen times to compose that last paragraph, and it made my task of writing easier, better, and more delightful for both the writer (me) and the reader (you).

What does that have to do with anything? You ask. I answer. Absolutely everything is influenced by our attitude when it comes to effectively handling situations. But what makes composition a life changing experience is what occurs outside of one’s control. And this is not exclusive to the publication industry. It happens everywhere—all the time, rhetorically speaking—and yet I don’t think it can be forced. Mathematicians feverishly try to find the answer that is right at their fingertips, and the brush of the artist flows like a hot knife through butter. Every touch, every stroke improves the outcome and the completed painting is providential. The batter that hits a home run with every swing may be another manifestation of this sweet spot. Some call it tender mercies, divine guidance, or pure knowledge. Others refer to it as in the mode or in the groove or perhaps luck…there are many ways to refer to this unlikely situation when everything just clicks.

During that moment, you can’t make a mistake. Every move is perfect. Every note is better than the last. You never want it to end. You are at the top of your game…then suddenly, it’s over. You try to get it back. You follow what you were doing all along, but despite your desire, motivation, and intensity, you are on your own and the fleeting ecstasy of that perfect harmony and rhythm is now gone.

I remember this happening once on the golf course. Now I am an amateur golfer at best. My colleagues are all much better than me, and I am ok with that. But there was a time my son invited me to join him and his friends for a round of golf. My boy and I had never golfed together up to this point. I approached the green and tried to look like I knew exactly what I was doing. I didn’t. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass my son in front of all his friends, and since we had never golfed together, he had no idea what to expect. I put the ball on the tee and prepared by taking a couple practice swings. OK. I am ready and stepped up to the tee to give it a go. My first drive was 400 yards. Nobody was more surprised than me, but I tried to look unimpressed.

“Dad! I had no idea you had that in you.” The euphoria lasted for maybe the first nine holes, but I wasn’t as extraordinary on the back nine. Still for a moment, I was riding high and on Cloud 9.

Does that sound familiar? When this kind of thing happens to you, is it startling? As I said one cannot force this to occur, but for me it happens regularly when I write. I first experienced this when I was in college. The instance was after an all-nighter trying to get a paper done. It was an “all-nighter” because the words were not coming together. I struggled to get my thoughts down on paper. Honestly, I struggled to collect my thoughts at all, and then it happened. I guess I had finally demonstrated enough effort because in the final moments before I had to get my paper completed and turned in, the light broke wide open and the paper came together seemingly on its own. To me it is pure knowledge coming from above. Instead of composing verbiage by combining nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like, complete sentences fill my mind in succession and my task is to capture them as quickly as I can before they are gone. It may last ten minutes or an hour, but it is typically fleeting and comes and goes on its own terms. I don’t understand it completely yet, but my personal opinion is that at times for reasons not entirely clear, we have heavenly help that increases our ability and makes us better than we can be on our own.

I have seen this happen for my son, when he is composing music. From somewhere he combines notes, tempo, and harmony in such a way that it thrills the heart and mind. The task is therapeutic for him as well. But when he performs in front of an audience, he is at his best. With a band and vocals, he is in his element. I will always remember the times we went to the Velour to watch him perform. I was probably the oldest person in the theater, but that was OK because he wanted me there, and that is exactly where my wife and I wanted to be. For a period of time, we had the privilege of supporting my son on his music journey. And we still enjoy today the albums he produced at the time. But the ride is not over. It continues even now and is still happening in earnest. The stage and the music have changed, however. Now his performance is in his home with a family. His band includes two incredible little boys, a beautiful baby daughter, and loving wife. But the music they make together is better than anything he has ever produced before, which is really saying something.  Even he doesn’t realize the amazing feat he is accomplishing. Realization and appreciation take time, perspective, and patience.

And those are some things one has in abundance at my age. For me, it is easy to see the paybacks of authenticity, esteem, discipline, and endurance. You see, I have the benefit of hindsight and experience, something dearly acquired yet easily overlooked. But you and I both will eventually have it in spades. We all will, because a kind and loving Heavenly Father prepared a plan that ensures success for every one of us that is willing to follow his lead and accept the reward he has already won for us and all those that humble themselves and endure to the end—all of us.

And like the rod of iron, our loved ones give us something worthwhile to hold onto every time we consider the beautiful family we have now and the importance of eternal families in the world to come. My grandchildren do that for me every time I admire them.

And if your family circumstances are not perfect and far beneath what you were hoping for now, realize that too is temporary and sometimes fleeting in this life, but exhilarating, comfortable, and familiar is what waits for you in the world to come. You are already headed in the right direction. Hope, repentance, faith, and success all start with desire. In this crazy world of ours, that is what we control.

Righteous desires put us on the path that leads to the happiness we are all seeking. And meanwhile, we can work toward an eternally happy family that seems to have it all together—and because of Jesus Christ—hope for the day when there are no more troubles and everything just clicks.

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” – Joseph Smith

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Spring cleaning

I know. With summer ending and fall in full swing, the title of this email sounds like it is several months late, but we all know things often take longer than expected. A year ago we were telling Gma to throw away those boxes of paraphernalia bumping around in her garage for several years now. I would smile to myself when I saw the old things she was keeping…then I helped your mom with a little spring cleaning of our own.
We were straightening up the bedrooms and preparing a craft room upstairs. I carried mattresses, made beds, situated stacking units, and emptied the hallway. We got a lot done. All was going well when your mom reminded me that she had some things I needed to bring up from the basement—destined for DI. “No problem,” I called to her. We were really making headway. I went downstairs to get the junk and carry it upstairs.
When I entered the room where she was working, I found my stereo and speaker system had been placed in the middle of the room.
packed boxes

“We can’t get rid of this,” I said half serious. I had tried in vain to get you children to use this system, and I was seriously thinking I could still convince my youngest. I mean it has an Acoustic Controlled Amplifier AX401 with direct coupled power stages. Admittedly, the Stereo Cassette Deck is not really practical, but even that has a high density head and dual motor transport mechanism. Same thing goes for the Automatic Stereo Turntable system. But let’s not forget that it also includes a Quartz Lock Digital Synthesizer with 30 station preset and FM Stereo/AM-FM radio tuner. Plus, the 5-disc cd player with 4 times oversampling digital filter is really impressive. Your mom just rolled her eyes.
Desperate for someone to understand, I said “At least Emily could use the cd player.” Calmly mom responded “She doesn’t even own cds anymore.” Sheepishly, I carried the components upstairs. The stereo cabinet was a little awkward and heavy, so I asked my Emily to help me lift it into the back of the car. I appreciated being able to share my feelings with someone who could really understand. "When I was young, I would have loved this system," I said. Further, I explained that in my day this was the optimal music equipment. And it seems somebody should still want it. I thought of my brothers and sisters and their children. Looking for sympathy, I continued. “Do you think any of your cousins would like this?” I asked her as we situated this classic piece in the back of mom's car. That's when Emily looked straight at me and somewhat startled pulled out her earbuds and asked “What did you say dad?”
At that moment I thought of my sweet mother-in-law and the boxes in her garage. I realized she was probably keeping those things so she could give them to us and her grandchildren someday. And it’s not that easy for any of us to give up things, even when they are out-of-date and absolutely impractical.
And I wondered how many other little habits or debaucheries we hold on to when we really ought to rid ourselves of these vices and cleanse the inner vessel for good. It can creep up on us. It happens to us all. We are less patient, understanding, and loving than we should be. Our favorite habits and comfortable shortcomings are hard to abandon. Yet we can all be more committed, obedient, kind, and thoughtful. We should rid ourselves of our favorite behaviors that are less than admirable and replace them with upstanding characteristics that mimic our Example.
It makes perfect sense to all of us when we are talking about technology. It should also ring a bell when we are talking about habits.
Mormon men
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I love the parable of the Prodigal Son. Sometimes, what is really important and relevant in our lives is pushed to the side in preference to less admirable behaviors, responsibilities, or selfish desires. This parable has application in all our lives today, just as much as when it was originally spoken more than 2000 years ago. I can relate. 
Another favorite scripture story I really enjoy occurs when the crowds surrounding the Savior make him somewhat inaccessible.  Friends of a man stricken with palsy break open the roof into the chamber where Jesus is teaching. Then, my favorite part of the video occurs. After lowering the man from the roof, the men drop the ropes, in effect showing their faith in the Lord's ability to heal this man, which the Lord does. Jesus frees him by first forgiving him and then saying "Arise. Take up the bed, and go thy way into thine house." This small man does something giant with the Lord's help. He stands up on his own, lifts his bed, and carries it away.
Palsy is paralysis, which is accompanied by involuntary tremors. I think I know something about that.   
Many years ago, I too was dropped--this time on the pavement--into a situation from which I could not free myself. But through good doctors, mindful friends, and a beloved family then and today, the Lord raised me up and has given me hope, happiness, and freedom well beyond my own ability. I know of his power because I have experienced it.
Though his words were spoken to men long ago, his message still resonates for all of us.

Regardless of our circumstance, the solution is the same. I know something about that as well.   
Access to the Lord and his gospel can free us from the vices of our day and provide power, help, and forgiveness.
That's all part of the plan.

I love you, dad