Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolute in our Resolutions

Where has 2008 gone? It seems just yesterday that Quinn and I were getting pumped up to start a blog as one of our resolutions. We had visions of changing the world with our bi-monthly posts of wisdom. Ironically, I feel the person who has benefited the most from "phil good" has been myself.

In addition to fulfilling my resolution to start and continually contribute to this blog, I succeeded in other goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I failed in many others. With the start of 2009, I must admit I am excited to ponder upon the ways in which I can make much needed improvements in my life. As I was studying resolution making this past week I came across a few principles that I believe will help this year's resolutions make a greater impact on my life. First, the importance of goals. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

I am not Elder Ballard, and therefore do not know what principles of goal setting he was referring to, but here are some principles I have come across.

Proverbs 29:18 states "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." By beginning with a vision of the desired outcome, we can begin to form goals that are the stepping stones which lead to a fulfillment of that vision.

By having a clear vision, goals become more than something to give us short-term feelings of accomplishment; they give us purpose and direction in the present. In the past I have failed at goals, not because I gave up or did not put forth effort, but because the goal itself was lacking. I have found that quality goals have certain attributes. Quality goals are:

1. Specific
2. Realistic
3. Challenging
4. Measurable

If the goal is too general, we are unable to focus our efforts. If the goal is unrealistic, giving up becomes an easy rationalization. President Ong taught me that you should achieve your goals 50% of the time. If you accomplish your goals 100% of the time, they are not challenging enough and you could be growing more; less than 50% of the time, the goals may begin to be discouraging. Finally, if our goal is to be more humble, but we have no concept of how to measure it, we are unable to judge how our progress is going.

Although I am not sure what my 2009 resolution list will include, I hope that each of my resolutions encompasses these principles so that my efforts to fulfill them will lead me closer to fulfilling the vision I have for myself.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Holiday Crescendo

I find it interesting how the Birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25th. Biblical scholars around the world debate the actual birthday of our Savior, with little agreement except as to the fact that it was not on the 25th of December. Even though the current day set aside to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Messiah is not correlated with the actual event, the timing of the Christmas celebrations seem to have meaning nonetheless.

In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. The fourth Thursday in November marks a day when families join together, play football, prepare a feast, eat great food, enjoy company, and most importantly give thanks for the many blessings in their lives. Without the emphasis on giving thanks, Thanksgiving becomes just a day where people gather to eat fancily prepared food. However, with the emphasis on gratitude, people's attitudes shift. By being grateful, people become more aware of their inadequacies, recognize their reliance on others and God, and their attitude becomes more focused on "haves" instead of the "have-nots." As people make effort to count the blessings in their lives, they are often suprised by the sheer number and quality of the tender mercies they find.

As Thanksgiving ends, a more humble people (assuming that thanks was given) moves forward in life with Christmas just around the corner. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the Christmas season leads people to be focused on giving. For some, the giving is of the service type, seeking out those who are in need, and attending to those needs in the best available manner. For others, the giving consists of gifts, whereby people seek to find gifts that are able to somehow express the love they have for the recipient. For many, it's a combination of the two. Regardless of the means of giving, people find a way to look outside themselves and lift the burdens of another; such acts are chalked up to people being overcome with the Spirit of Christmas, which is actually the Spirit of Christ.

Christ came into the world, born in a manger. He was the Son of God, and yet His birth was without fanfare. The Creator of us all, He who stood at the right hand of God, was born in the most humble of circumstances. Those who know very little about the Lamb of God often know of His birth and His death; each event being an epitome of sacrifice. However, as one studies His life, it becomes apparent that His life itself was the essence of sacrifice for loved ones. Through His sacrifice He gave us all the ability to overcome death and sin; the former a free gift given to all, and the latter an opportunity for us all to take, if we so desired. Those who desired would need to develop faith in Christ, repent of their sins (or change from their sinful ways), be baptized by one with authority, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end.

The humility that accompanies Thanksgiving prepares people for the giving of Christmas. When someone recognizes how much of the good in one's life comes from another, the desire to give and serve others grows. By acting on that desire, one follows in the footsteps of the Savior, bringing about a faith in Christ. That faith leads to repentance or change, which we all strive to accomplish with something known as New Year's resolutions. I find it amazing that over the course of a few months, people, as a whole, begin walking in the path that Christ outlined for us in His gospel. Many people's resolution to change fail them, and goals which were so passionately decided on fall by the wayside. But for those who resolutely move forward their lives become better; they experience to a small degree the joy of the atonement of Christ, as they change their nature and fulfill more of their God given potential.

So although Christ's birth occurred on April 6th, the sandwiching of Christmas between Thanksgiving and the New Year's allows for a perfect holiday crescendo, which will hopefully carry us upward as we continue our journey into 2009.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gobble Gobble Gobble!

While I was a missionary I had the chance to prepare a turkey. Each year since then I have prepared a turkey on Thanksgiving and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a lot of work, but once finished, that bird provides good food for at least a week after Thanksgiving. I have realized that with all the fuss over getting the turkey just right, I do not find the chances to give thanks like I should. So here are some shout outs:

Thank you to my parents. I don't think I have any idea the sacrifices that they have made for me, and continue to make for me. If there's one thing that's a constant it's them putting the needs of their kids (and now Sophie) ahead of their own. They have taught me all the essentials to being successful in this life, and have given me a great example of how to apply that which they have taught. I can not imagine how different things would be if I didn't have my moms and pops.

Thank you to Tammy and co. She has always been a good friend, and one who is always willing to straighten me out when necessary. She has been a greart example of charity, and always made me feel like there is nothing I can't do. Growing up, she would lift me up when I failed and encourage me to try again. She was always willing to lend a listening ear, and helped me learn how to respect women and treat them right. Jeff, who is taking care of Tammy, and Sophie who is just a bundle of joy.

Thank you to the rest of my family. I have always been blessed to have a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles. I have always felt like I have had multiple sets of parents, as my uncles and aunts have treated me as their own. And I have learned a great deal from each one of my many cousins.

And finally my friends. Where would I be without you guys? And I know that it's more like charity work for you than anything else... so thanks for taking one for the team.

The funny thing about gratitude is that no matter how hard you try to express it, the more you do, the more you realize that you will never be able to adequately express gratitude for the blessings in your life. No harm in trying though.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth?

I have finals coming up in a couple of weeks. I am not prepared. And yet, somehow, I spent about 13 hours yesterday at the magical kingdom known as Disneyland. The rationalization was easy... all my good friends who also are unprepared for finals week were going too.

The die-hards wanted to get there at 9:00 am. The old man of the group tried to barter for 11, but the die-hards were girls; and since the seemingly grumpy old man has a soft heart, the plan ended up being to arrive there at 9:00. For the most part we were punctual; however, it was quite ironic that the mastermind behind this whole excursion was late because she just had to stop at McDonald's on the way. The slight delay did not hamper anyone’s spirits as Christmas themed Minnie ears were purchased and donned for the rest of the day, in spite of the pain that the kid sized head bands caused.

I was expecting to meander around the park, going to whatever rides came up, but apparently some members of our group decided to do some research in the days leading up to the trip. That research led to an intricate plan which involved going to the Disneyland rides first, and then switching over to California Adventure Land later. I was skeptical, but I think the plan paid off, as we avoided lines until the late afternoon when we made our way back over to Disneyland. Not only did the research give rise to our attack plan of the park, but it also made each of us scour the park looking for people dressed in all blue, because they had bagfuls of “Dream Passes.” When we eventually found the smurf-like dream pass carrying people, we found out they could not be swayed by any of our stunning good looks.

Shortly following our disappointment with the stingy, rule-abiding smurfs, we went to the Hollywood Hotel of Terror (I may have butchered the name of that ride.) Interestingly enough, one of our most experienced guides, who was visiting Disneyland for the third time in a month, thought it was an actual hotel and had never ridden the ride before. Between laughing about that little factoid, and the large piece of turkey stuck to the old man’s shoe, the wait for the line didn’t seem so long.

The rest of the day was somewhat of a blur. We tried our hand at doing cartoon voices, with a scene from Aladdin. Apparently Disneyland brings out the kid in each of us, because although it wasn’t Caspie’s turn to do the voice over, she had to throw in a little improv of his line “in the rrrrrrrrrough…” at the end to one-up her sister. It worked. Speaking of grown-ups acting as kids, at the Turtle talk show, we sat on the floor in the front, and I was by far the most enthusiastic learner of Turtle, as I would say “dude” and “cha” with more vigor than the many kids present. With the exception of the ol’ man, all the guys came home with sore armpits because of the circle game that was started in the Space mountain line. But even without taking hits to his armpits during the wait, he somehow managed to not score any points in the Buzz Light Year shooting gallery. A big goose egg. That’s even more embarrassing when Caspie claims to have scored over 110,000 points. In the line to It’s a Small World we started an ongoing iPhone Connect 4 tournament, which was efficient at humbling me. When we finally got into see the beautiful scenes of ethnic nutcrackers singer, our token non-Asian friend made sure we all realized that her heritage’s display was bigger than all the Asian ones combined.

Even with all the rides, the day could not have been complete without good food. And some of us spent the majority of the day eating. It started and ended with dole whips. By the end of the night, we had learned that the correct pronunciation was dole whips, with the emphasis on the whips making it sound more like a squeak than anything else. Kent managed to consistently have food in his hand, and didn’t let the large turkey leg he ate just minutes before deter him from eating a bread bowl full of calm chowder. I think he had two of everything that Disneyland had to offer.

Surprisingly enough, with all the fun that we had, the night ended with two of the girls crying. I am not sure if it was the high-pitched squeal that somehow came out of my mouth as Mickey defeated the wicked dragon of Fantasia, or the beautiful scene of snow falling with fireworks blasting, or if it was the fact that a day with friends was coming to an end, but they cried. I think it was a more happy teary eyes thing than anything else (I know that was one of the girls, the other I am pretty sure was balling, although I have no proof.) With people crying from joy at the end of the day, how could it not be the happiest place on the earth?

Although I must admit yesterday was quite magical, I also must admit that spending all day with friends makes anywhere a happy, magical place. I think no matter where we were yesterday, had the group of friends I went with found a place to have good, clean fun all day, we would have made just as many amazing memories. Disneyland just happens to be a place where friends and families are able to do that. Before yesterday I was skeptical that Disneyland really was such a happy place; now I agree that it’s a happy wonderland. I just think it has more to do with the group you go with than it does the actual place itself, although the setting doesn’t hurt!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

txt msg = :)

Warning: The following story may be a slight exaggeration, but the principles are still true.

The other day, I was at one of my good friend’s birthday dinner. A group of us went out to a little Japanese restaurant to celebrate. Anytime you are able to get together with a group of close friends and enjoy some decent food is a happy occasion. However, while we were waiting for our food to come, something happened which made it an even more joyous evening. I received a text message.

Big deal, right? Actually it was. It was from this exceedingly happy, jubilant person, who either isn’t a texter, or just doesn’t text me. Either way, for me to get that text was monumental. Made my night. And now, here I am blogging about it.

Maybe I am the only one who upon receiving a text from someone, has smiled to myself; not because of the message that is there upon the little screen, but because that little message meant that person took the time to reach out to me. If I am the only one who has smiled at such a thing, then I guess I am weirder than I thought. But I would imagine that most of us at some point have gotten a text, a phone call, a note, a wall post, an email, or something of the sort that has lifted us up. And if we have felt that way in hearing from someone, that means that someone else has felt the same way when we have reached out. I don’t know about you but that makes me want to get the unlimited text plan so I can at least try to spread some joy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The 10 to 6...

I have been trying a lot of new things this semester. In addition to trying sushi, mochi, cooking, and all the other things that come along with medical school, I have been going to sleep at 10 and waking up at 6 (actually just started trying 5:30, as I want to start working out again.) It's a fairly unique schedule for a single guy my age to keep, especially in medical school, when you always have something more that you could learn. However, I committed myself to keeping this schedule during the weekdays, and I have done a fairly good job at it.

The reason I am doing it is because I came across a quote in the biography of our late Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. He is quoted as saying "If you go to bed at 10:00 and get up by 6:00 A.M., things will work you for you." I'm the kind of person that wants things to work out for me. So, I decided to experiment upon the Prophet's words.

The funny thing about following prophets, is that they really know their stuff. And considering that God is the one backing up what prophets say, it's a good bet that if you obey, the blessings will come. Although the experiment has only been going for a couple of months, I'm convinced that my life is better now than ever before. Obviously, there's a little more to that than just going sleeping the correct hours during the night, but that schedule has definitely helped me to put first things first, which in turn has led to progression. If you don't believe me, try it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grace of Christ

If there's one thing that I am grateful for heading into my test week, it's the knowledge that after all we can do, the grace of Christ kicks in to bridge the gap left by our inadequacies. With time ticking away, and the realization that gap won't disappear, the only way I get to sleep at night is knowing that I have done all I can.

P.S I was sent this sweet link to a Washington D.C. Temple Visitor's Center display. Check it out, it's pretty sweet.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You never know who's watching

This past week a couple friends and I were exploring the library and surprisingly found a study room without people in or a little note reserving it. So we unloaded all our stuff and started trying to gain some understanding of the 11 different subjects we are about to be tested in. After studying for just a minute, some people knocked on the door and mentioned that they had the room reserved; I looked at my watch and they had just barely made it before forfeiting the room. I was a little frustrated, as I had just started buckling down on my studying, but packed up all my stuff to go on another search for a good study spot. My friends and I migrated elsewhere and continued our quest for knowledge.

When we got to our new spot, one of my friends mentioned how she was shocked at the look on my face when our room got snatched from us. I asked what she meant and she said that she saw some anger in this baby face of mine, which she was not accustomed to. (Not her exact words, but you get the picture.)

Clearly that was not a life-changing event for anybody involved. However, it was a subtle reminder to me that people pay attention to many of the little things that others do. I know I have learned much from paying attention to the habits of those around me. Really makes me wonder what people learn from me.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Qualified to Succeed

Contrary to what my mother has told me from the beginning of my life, I feel completely not-special. Ever since arriving at the Keck School of Medicine, I have been accompanied by this strange thought that I am out of my league.

I am not one of the younger students, and yet everyone seems to have more relevant experience than me. I studied Psychology, not a hard science. I am from Utah, not from California (not that there is anything wrong with that, just that I have no idea where I am at all times, and have to start completely over with social things). I just finished my undergrad this last spring, not a couple years ago. I don't ask super-intelligent questions each lecture. And the list goes on...

After getting to know a few other students in my class of 168, I expressed how I was beginning to wonder why Keck even let me in. Some expressed feeling the same way, and everyone reminded me that I was admitted in, therefore qualified, that no mistake was made, and that the administration believed in each of us.

On occasion I have felt the same way in life. Everyone else has a better grip on life than me. Everyone else gets more out of Church than I do. Everyone else understands the Gospel better. I am the only one succumbing to the wiles of Satan. The journey is just too tough for me, and I am not equal to the task.

In those moments I am grateful for the hymn which teaches that I am a child of God. Just like the reminder that I was accepted to the school and therefore qualified, I occasionally need the reminder that before this life we all lived with God as His spirit children. We all have this opportunity on this earth because we promised we would do our best to learn of Him and to follow Him. We were qualified to come to this earth and fulfill our purpose in finding happiness, and we all have the capacity to return to live with Him. It is one of the simplest truths of the Gospel, and yet brings peace and direction in so many complicated situations. Simply put, knowing that I am a son of Heavenly Father helps me to remember the unlimited potential within me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where did Sophie go?

For the past 5 weeks of my life, I have had the choice opportunity to see this beautiful face almost everyday. Now instead of getting to be a manny for her I get to pack my bags and head onto USC to start medical school. Yippee.

Since Sophie's departure for San Francisco, I have realized how amazing that little booger is at bringing joy into the lives of those around her. It doesn't matter how many times I have seen her respond to inquiries about the location of her belly button; each time she lifts up her shirt to point at it, I bust up laughing. No one else does it quite the same. In fact, just showing her my belly button would be enough to get a laugh out of her.

Now, if for some reason my midriff is showing, no one is there to point and smile at my belly button. Saying dog to those around me when I see one just doesn't have the same effect without Sophie around. No one smiles. Making fun of Chinese accents would probably be offensive if I wasn't at least half Chinese. The big underbite smiles I occasionally flash just get me weird looks. Last month I felt like I was funny. Now I have just realized that Sophie was lending me the spotlight.

It's interesting how little kids are so much better at cheering the sad then we ever could be. Even with my psychology background with the extensive understanding of human nature it gives me (uh... possibly overstated), there's no way that I could light up a room like Sophie can. For Sophie, all it takes is a hearty laugh, a huge smile, a hug or kiss, or even just reaching her arms towards someone, and the recipient of her actions has never seen a brighter day. The more I ponder her ability, the more I recognize I could learn from her simple actions. What's more interesting is the insight that can be found in learning from the recipient of Sophie's love.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hip-Hop for Good

Music is a powerful medium. Like most things, it is not inherently good or bad. Depending on one's agenda, music can uplift and inspire change, or degrade and tear down.

Ever since I popped in Jurassic 5's EP cd in my car, I have been addicted to hip-hop. Over the years I have learned that much of hip-hop, especially the mainstream hip-hop, avoids the opportunity to inspire and uplift. At best, it simply focuses on girls, cars, and money (not the best, huh?); and at worst demonstrates how music can tear down, degrade and offend. But dig a little deeper into the hip-hop scene and some good wholesome music can be found. Braille is an artist who believes in Christ, and that belief is apparent in each of his albums. One song he talks about learning from the past and starting anew. Another drives home the point time is precious, and we must make good use of it. One is basically him pleading to God to help him always recognize the ways in which he can better glorify Him. The chorus (from Everything Changed on the Box of Rhymes album):

"…if there’s darkness in my heart
please reveal it...
if I’m blind to your truth
help me see it...
if I’m numb to your love
help me feel it...
never lose the feelin’ never forget when...
everything changed.”

Another artist, Rhymefest, collaborated wtih Citizen Cope to do Bullet and a Target, which is one of my favorite songs. The song tells three different stories, all driving home a point. A Tribe Called Quest would occasionally mock some of the tough guy attitudes, which I believe they did to deter people from petty violence.

The most powerful hip-hop song that I have come across is Constance, by Mr. J. Medeiros. The lyrics carry a powerful message against pornography, and the music video helps drive the message home. If you take the time to watch it, pay close attention to the lyrics. It tells both sides of the story; how pornography ruins the lives of those exploited to produce the filth, and how the filth corrupts the lives of those that come across it.

(The video is in the post below.)

Here's Constance

Mr. J Medeiros - Constance
Free Music Videos at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm a manny!!!

I am back at my sister's place in San Francisco. I went to church today with her and her family and was introduced in Priesthood as Sophie's manny for the next 2 weeks. I'm not sure if everyone laughed because of the witty "manny" comment of Jeff or because I'm a nanny. Both are quite comical, I guess.

Anyways, it has been an amazing week. Only one poopy diaper on my shift. If that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is! Besides opening up a diaper free from feces, one of my favorite part of each day is the bike ride I get to take with Sophie. She loves looking around at nature (especially when we see a dog) I get to exercise and get tan. What more could you ask for? This last Friday, before our daily bike ride I uploaded this series of talks onto my ipod. My Stake President recommended them to my Bishop, and my Bishop (my pops) mentioned they were insightful. So I got myself a copy and finally got around to listening to it. The series is called For all eternity, by John Lund. The Stake President prefaced recommending it to my pops by saying that no marriage counseling should be done before understanding the principles within these talks.

So as I was cruising along the canal that runs along Tammy's house, I was learning what it means to be able to communicate clearly, or as John Lund puts it, to be a "content communicator." Basically, he teaches to "own our words," which can be done by being held accountable for the words we say, opposed to the way in which we say it, or the other subtle hints that we may think we are communicating (but get lost in translation). Wise counsel.

In light of my new day job, I have learned another important lesson about communication. Sophie is, as of a couple days ago, 15 months. Her hearing comprehension is limited, and her speaking ability is even more so. But over the past few days, I have learned to understand her the majority of the time. It requires a little extra effort in listening in new ways, and a little patience on her part, but it has worked so far.

Seeing Sophie succeed at communicating really makes me wonder about all those times where I had misunderstandings with those around me. I can't really see a way to avoid responsibility for any miscommunications after what Sophie has showed me. Now if I could just remember this lesson the next time it happens...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The not so little ones...

I just got home from a stinkin' awesome trip. It started with a road trip with my parents, Jen and Jordan up to Seattle to attend Justin's wedding. Seeing as my bloggin' buddies have done an ample job of reporting on the happenings in Seattle, I will refrain from expounding too much. However, I would like to add that with all the fun that was being had in Seattle, the highlight of the weekend had to be the Temple wedding. To see Justin and Jessica, two people who I love, take the first steps towards an eternal family was a sweet experience, to say the least. I wish them the best of luck!

After Seattle, my parents and I drove north of the border to visit my mom's brother and his family in Vancouver. I was excited for the visit to Vancouver for the promise of good Chinese food that little Hong Kong offers, the good golf, but more so the opportunity to visit with family that I had not seen in nearly 6 years. In fact, the last time I had seen the family the kids, Natalie and Aaron, were just 9 and 12 years old. For some reason I was still expecting to see two little ones that I could throw around. That idea was dashed soon after we got to their house and I saw Aaron come down the stairs. All remnants of that idea were destroyed when we saw Natalie awhile later. She met us at the dike, proceeded to jump out of the car, ran up, and bent over to give my mom a hug. She only bent over a quarter of an inch, but still...

Vancouver is a neat city, with a number of cool touristy spots. However, the highlight of the trip had to be Natalie and Aaron. They basically gave us a 4 day long talent show, and I am pretty sure that was just the tip of the iceberg. Aaron gave us a glimpse of his hip-hop and R&B dance moves, showed us how to ace cumulative tests without studying, and owned everyone on the Wii. Natalie did a terrific job of humbling me, by playing just a couple of songs from her vast piano repertoire. And as ironic as it is for a Chinese girl to do traditional Irish dancing, she sent wood chips flying on her home made dance floor in the garage. In addition to that, she played some Chinese harp thingy, kicked my butt in badminton, and played the violin. Whatever they feed those kids up there, I need to find me a stock supply of that when I start my own family.

We were set to leave on Thursday morning, and as Wednesday night rolled around, I could not help but to think the Lo's had just given to us the entire week. Regina and Freddy, fought with my parents over every bill, and I think with my parents' not having any Canadian cash on them, won the majority of the battles. Aaron and Natalie gave us performance after performance, and were even willing to share their rooms with us. Thankfully, late Wednesday night, after all the parents were asleep, Natalie and Aaron snuck over to my room to chit-chat. Over the course of our conversation I was grateful for the chance to give a little back, as I was able to share my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After seeing how much those kids have accomplished, it was probably the only thing I had to offer them, but if there was only one thing which I could share, it would be that.

During the long drive home, I reflected upon the experience and recognized that as small and simple as my testimony was, the Spirit was present. I kept thinking how I could have explained more, or answered more questions, but I was reminded that it is through small and simple things that great things come to pass. Seeing as those two are no strangers to great things, I can only imagine what's in store.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Overcoming the Shanks

Tonight I was reminded the beauty of hitting golf balls in the evening. After a full day of running errands, the sun was still up, so I ran over to Cascades to hit a bucket of balls. I have been struggling with my golf game quite a bit lately, so in addition to the relaxing effect of hitting balls, I was hoping to get my game moving in the right direction. I stretched and hit the first few balls decently. I then proceeded to shank a couple of 8-irons. For those of you who do not know what it means to shank an 8-iron, feel free to check out this video.

Shanks, unlike its depiction in Tin Cup, is a lot less of a psychological problem as it is a slight movement of the head forward on the downswing. When your head moves forward, the club does as well, and instead of catching the ball on the clubface, you catch it on the hosel, and the result is quite despicable. Anyways, after shanking a couple, it became quite obvious that I was not keeping my head still. So for the next couple of shots, my swing thought was to see the ground after the ball had been struck. Simple enough, right? With that swing thought I was started buttering the ball. I do not think I have hit one shot all year as well as I hit some of the balls tonight.

When I got back in my car, I was pretty frustrated. This whole golf season, I have struggled to put together a decent round. I worked on my swing plane, adjusted my set-up, checked my shaft positions, and yet consistent ball-striking continued to elude me. All I had to do was focus on one simple thought that could be heard anywhere someone is learning to play golf: “keep your head down.” In fact, even people who just start golf give that advice to others who can not seem to make solid contact. And here I am, someone who shot 70 a couple times just last season, thinking that I am somehow above focusing on the most basic principle of good ball-striking. Funny thing is that one numerous occasions this year I have recognized head movement during my swing. Instead of focusing on redeveloping a good habit of keeping my head still, I just tried a quick fix that would always work for a shot or two, just long enough for me to think that I resolved the problem, and mis-attribute my next bad shot to something else.

Seems like in life Satan is pretty good at getting us to avoid the basics, and look beyond the mark. Instead of just focusing on faith in Jesus Christ and repentance, Satan gets us to be more concerned with irrelevant, and often times unanswerable questions. In the process, we miss the mark, stumble, and wonder how that can be when we are trying so hard. When we are finally able to see, we recognize the simplicity of the answer; and at least for me, the feeling is one of frustration at all the lost time when the solution was so simple. But seeing as life is a learning process, as long as we learn our lesson, it is not lost time, but valuable experience.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stop Being Polite

I recently read an interview that occurred at Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference. The interview was with a very prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Richard Bushman. The catalyst for them choosing Richard Bushman seems to be Mitt Romney’s bid for the Presidency, and the fact that all these reporters wanted to get their questions concerning Mormonism answered. All types of questions were addressed like: Would Romney be obligated to take direction from the Church leaders in Salt Lake City? What’s the deal with Polygamy? Why are Mormons so secretive about the Temple? Bushman gave some good insight, and I feel like he represented the Church extremely well.

The conversation at one point turned to how there are so many misunderstandings in the world about our beliefs. Stereotypes and clichés about Mormons exist to the point that it is difficult for people to come to a real understanding about who we are and what we stand for. The reporter asked if members were looking at Mitt’s campaign as an opportunity to break those stereotypes down, or whether we were anxious about the publicity we would be receiving. Bushman responded:

I don't think it was Michael Paulson, but someone from The Boston Globe was writing a story about how the Mormon Church is going to be affected by the Romney campaign. Exactly the question you asked. I thought it was a good question. My own feeling is it's very good to air all of the inner feelings. Sally's question was very interesting to me. You've been really influenced by Martha Beck. This image of the church as secretly ominous and oppressive is common. I think those things need to get out in the open. Mormons need to hear it, and the people who voice those questions need to talk to Mormons about it. As long as we're all polite to one another, there isn't going to be true understanding.

When I was reading the transcript, the last line rang true with me. As a missionary I often taught people who believed the core doctrine but had a concern with a specific principle that led them to start trying to avoid the missionaries. Those people who would eventually share their concern with us, would get the answer, overcome their anxiety, concern or misunderstanding and be willing to follow what they had found to be true. Those who were unwilling to share their concern typically came up with a plethora of excuses to avoid meeting with us; which would begin a game of the missionaries trying to guess what the root of their concern was. If we guessed right, we were able to resolve it and the people were able to join the Church. If we did not, we often had to move on to people more willing to have honest, open conversations with us.

I do not think that Bushman meant for people to be rude, and accuse us of such and such, but I do think that he meant as long as people are unwilling to voice their concerns, their questions, true understanding will continue to elude us. As long as people who continue to associate us with the FLDS, or who believe that we have horns, or whatever, continue to keep those misguided beliefs about us to themselves, they will never come to know the truth. I can not speak for all members of the Church, but as for myself, I would be more than willing to engage with someone who wanted to know if we had horns on our heads (we do not), or why we do not talk about what occurs within the Temple, or if we practice polygamy (we do not). But in order for that to happen, people have to be willing to ask; to start the conversation.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Springboards of Faith

I am currently in the great city of San Francisco… actually a suburb outside of San Francisco called Walnut Creek. Sophie, my niece, is in bed and so the cute entertainment of the trip is gone until the morning. Seeing as I have a moment away from laughing at her little dances in the kitchen, I thought I would get on my first post of the month.

Jeff, my brother in law, is the deacon’s quorum adviser. So today at church, I decided instead of going to Elder’s quorum, I would sneak off to hear the wisdom that Jeff would be sharing with the 12 year old boys. For the lesson, he had each of them teach one section of the 2nd missionary lesson. After each boy taught his section, Jeff would give some feedback. One of the boys mentioned how it was a lot more difficult sharing the lesson in front of the class than he thought it was going to be. Jeff’s response fit nicely into some things that I have been thinking about lately.

Jeff talked about how as a missionary, there will be times when you are nervous sharing the message. You often feel inadequate: your language skills are insufficient, and even if they weren’t your teaching skills are probably less than stellar. However, you have been set apart to be a representative of Jesus Christ. You have been given the authority to act in His name, and as you begin your mission you are blessed with the powers of heaven to be able to accomplish your responsibilities in the mission field. He mentioned how to help you remember who you are representing and the special call that you have, you wear a name tag over your heart, stating that you are a missionary for Christ’s Church. I remember putting that tag on each morning. You feel different with it on. It’s a strong reminder of who is supporting you in your work on a daily basis.

I have recently been studying Exodus and how Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Much like many young missionaries today feel, Moses was unsure if he would be able to fulfill the calling the Lord had given him. He slowly came to understand what it meant to represent the Lord. What I find interesting is that during the process in which Moses was coming to understand his calling the Lord had him continue to use his staff. Could God have turned the water to blood without Moses putting his staff in the water? Could God have parted the Red Sea without Moses having the staff? Could he have used something other than the staff to turn into a serpent? Without a doubt, I believe that the miracles could have been performed without the staff.

Looking at a more modern example, in 1820, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith. Over the next few decades, Joseph Smith would be the tool through which Christ would restore His church, His authority, and His doctrine. One of the first responsibilities that Joseph had was to translate the records of some ancient American prophets. Joseph was unlearned and knew nothing of translation, so God provided him with some tools to begin the translation, the Urim and Thummin. During the first part of the translation, Joseph used the Urim and Thummin, however as time went on his need to use the Urim and Thummin grew less and less. He would eventually be able to translate and receive revelations without the help of the tools that God gave to him.

During the two years that I wore the missionary tag, I would expect miracles daily. I would see miracles daily. I no longer wear the tag, however, the God who provided the miracles is the same God who is looking out for me today. It would be silly for me to believe that just because the tag is gone, miracles would cease to exist in my life. Just like it would be silly for Moses to doubt the Lord if his staff broke, or Joseph to panic if his seer stones were taken. When I first noticed the pattern, the first thought that came to my mind was that those were almost crutches upon which we could begin to develop our faith. However, upon further thought I have decided that these things are more like springboards for our faith. As we begin to see the hand of the Lord in our lives, we begin to understand the type of relationship that we are to develop with Him, and we are able to dive in to continue our progression.

In fact, I think that there are many more examples of these types of springboards in our life. Parents, blessings, leaders, callings are all avenues through which we often see miracles. However, the ultimate source of those miracles is still God, and His grace. By recognizing the Lord’s hand in all things, our faith in the Lord will continue to develop.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

End of April...

Two posts in one week is a lot, I know. But I recommitted myself to blogging at least twice a month, and so if you procrastinate the first post till the last week of the month, this is what you end up with.

And seeing as I am currently suffering the consequences of procrastination, I thought I would just share a couple of quotes on the subject and resolve to not do it again.

One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination, an unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities now.
Spencer W. Kimball

Two centuries ago Edward Young said that procrastination is the thief of time. Actually, procrastination is much more. It is the thief of our self-respect.
Thomas S. Monson

Procrastination, as it may be applied to gospel principles, is the thief of eternal life—which is life in the presence of the Father and the Son.
Joseph Fielding Smith

In reading those in my current state I have come to realize that what Nephi said is true: the truth cutteth the wicked to the very center. Ouch.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Learning from the little ones...

Those of you who know me know that I get to teach Sunday School about once every three Sundays. Today was one of those Sundays. The subject matter for the lesson was from Mosiah 1-3, which are some of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. Typically when I prepare a lesson, I work from the end backwards. I think of the commitment that I want to leave with the class, and then prepare the bulk of my lesson with that commitment in mind. By doing so I am able to have more direction in the body of the lesson.

The commitment I felt would be applicable comes from one of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:19.

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

I thought I would invite the class to try to learn more from the little children that they associate with. I then went about preparing my lesson, and was finished this morning around with a few hours to spare before Church started. With the extra time I had, I decided that I would re-read a talk that had a profound impact on my mission. I pulled out Qualifications for the Work, by Gene R. Cook. In the talk Gene R. Cook shares the following story:

I remember hearing of a case in the pioneer days somewhere in southern Utah where there had been a long drought and many of the crops were about to die. The bishop had called the ward together and asked them to fast and pray. The saints had done so. On a particular Sunday, the bishop asked them to come together in the afternoon to offer a final prayer that the rain might come.

As one family prepared to leave home, a little five year old girl said, “Wait a minute, Dad, I forgot something.” She ran into the house and came out with a bag.

The Saints gathered together in the church courtyard and offered prayer with all of the saints exercising their faith. Before the final “amen” raindrops began to fall, and then it came down in bucketsful. Everyone ran for the chapel. Interestingly enough, there were two people left in the courtyard—the bishop and the five year old girl. She opened up her bad and said, “Bishop would you like to share my umbrella?”

Would you think about that for just a moment? A five year old girl heard that they were going to pray to the Lord with all their hearts that rain would come. As far as the history shows, she was the only one—the only one—with an umbrella. That little girl had total faith that it would rain.

Turns out, that story fit in perfect with my commitment and so I shared it prior to inviting the class to focus on learning from little children how to develop the qualities described in Mosiah 3:19. I am thoroughly excited to learn from and try to emulate those pure, innocent qualities of children. So pure and innocent that Christ would exhort us to become like them. If any of you have little stories of things you have learned from the little ones in your lives, please post them. I figure I might not run into too many kids living in a singles ward at a university, so maybe I could learn vicariously through you.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Cold, Windy Desert of Sleepy Ridge

Last Saturday I got the chance to play golf for the first time this year. It was a cold day, and the wind was quite fierce. Those who know my golf game, know that I play a high ball, and the wind typically owns me. When I left to head out to the golf course, I was not expecting any adverse weather conditions. The area by my apartment, the weather was beautiful and the temperature was just perfect. When I got to Sleepy Ridge Golf Course, I stepped out of my car, and immediately thought of heading home. After a short conversation with myself, in which I convinced myself that it was the first round of the year and I would rather play golf in crappy conditions than have to wait another week, I threw on my mock turtleneck and my rain pants and went to start my round.

Seeing as I was one of only a handful of crazy people to play golf on such a day, I got to play by myself. The wind was such that when I was driving downwind, I would hit the ball somewhere over 400 yards and when I was hitting into the wind, I would only hit it a measly 240. I quickly decided that I would just enjoy the journey, and not worry about my score.

I ended up playing pretty well. After figuring out that the wind was about a 2-club wind, I played pretty much even-golf. Which, considering the conditions, and the fact that it was the first round of the year, I was pleasantly surprised. Now, instead of dreading to play golf when I see the trees bending with the wind, I am actually excited to go out and prove that my solid round last Saturday was not a fluke and that I can do it again.

What’s funny is that about a year ago, whenever I would play golf on a windy day and come home with a poor score, I would blame my sad performance on the wind. People would ask how I played, I would mutter my score, and then include a huge description about the horrible conditions. One day I realized that my excuses were stopping my progression. Instead of going out and working on the shots that windy days would require of me, I would choose to play golf on calm days. Instead of learning to hit a lower ball of the tee, I would just concede that I could not hit driver into the wind, and I would play a long iron, to try and at least control the ball a little bit. The fact that I would always blame the weather for my bad round of golf, stopped me from accepting responsibility and making the necessary changes to adjust my game. So sometime last year, I made a goal to stop making excuses. Whenever people would ask me why, I would use this example about how I used to always blame the wind for my hacker-like scores, and how that essentially prevented me from developing into a better golfer.

I recognize that one solid round in horrendous conditions does not qualify me to play in the British Open. I could not even say with confidence that the next time I go out with the breeze blowing I would be able to play with similar confidence or results. But I am glad to finally see that by getting rid of my excuses and being accountable for my weakness gave me the opportunity to grow and finally begin to overcome one of my many nemeses on the golf course.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"If I could be like Mike!"

Remember the commercial, with all the cute little kids playing basketball and the music playing in the background “If I could be like Mike?” I do. In fact, I still want to be like Mike. However, the other day after reading an article from ESPN The Magazine that was written about an interview with Michael Jordan, I changed my mind. In the article MJ compared how the NBA was when he was a rising star to how the NBA is today. He went from being Michael Jordan, a relatively unknown rookie out of UNC, to becoming known worldwide as MJ… mainly because he had a personality that fit the change that the NBA was making at the time. In his own words, the “stars lined up.” Once they had lined up, and the NBA realized what a special opportunity they had, the NBA partnered up with MJ and he became the face of the NBA.

In MJ’s opinion the NBA is now trying to find the next MJ. They are trying to recreate something that happened spontaneously in the past in order to create similar success. They are promoting up and coming stars as the next Jordan, and in essence, pressuring the players to try and fit the MJ mold. Jordan talks about how that is backwards, the NBA should allow the players to develop on their own, to be themselves, to allow their own personality to show through, and once they are established, then partner up with them. Makes sense, right?

I remember when I first went to the Missionary Training Center, I remember feeling as if I had to fit a mold. I felt as if I needed to completely reinvent myself according to the expectations of my teachers and leaders. I tried to do that, and I felt I was making some progress until after one teaching experience, I was told very bluntly how poorly I had taught. I felt like I did alright, like I had somehow filled the mold, the expectations. But in that experience, I realized there was not really a mold for a perfect missionary. I was an individual and was to allow my own personality to shine through as I did the work. I could let my personality show through when I taught, in fact, to be successful, I needed to be true to myself. Not that there were not changes and improvements that I needed to go through, there were and still are plenty to keep me busy, but the process was one that I needed to experience my own way.

The interesting thing is that the Scriptures admonish us to be like Christ. He is the perfect example, and He teaches us to be perfect, even as He and Heavenly Father are perfect. (3 Nephi 12:48) Some have felt a need to rebel against that, stating that diversity is good, and that if we all become like Christ we would lose many of the good things about ourselves. C.S Lewis gives an illustration that show how in our efforts to lose ourselves and become like Christ, we actually allow our own selves to shine brighter.

“Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light that same light would fall on them all and they would all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all reacting to tit in the same way (i.e. all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are.”

Turns out being like Mike is a completely different process than becoming like our Savior. One process stifles you, while the other sets you free. The only way in which we can be true to ourselves, to truly find out about who we are is to come in the light, the light who is Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

City of Brotherly Love?

In the everlasting fight to stay awake in class, I decided my only hope for today was to write my blog in my afternoon psych class. With the 45 minutes of sleep that I got this morning, I do not really know why I decided to show up to class, but I am here, and I might as well make the best use of my time.

This past weekend my roommates and I went on a road trip to San Francisco. We all had our own reasons for going: I wanted to see my sister and her family, Quinn wanted to see off his significant other (she’s going on a mission), Satish wanted to see Alcatraz and eat Ghirardelli chocolate, and Justin wanted to eat Chinese food. In addition to accomplishing all of the above, we were also able to make 2 music videos, take numerous pictures that I am sure are worth a lot of money, and start a Rock Band… kind of.

Interestingly enough, although I loved every minute of the road trip, with the possible exception of arriving home this morning at five and having to wake up at six for a meeting, I realized I am basically still living the dream, and was living the dream before we even thought about the trip. It was not necessarily San Francisco that made the road trip memorable, it was the people that I was with that made it unforgettable.

It started with four guys driving across the country in a little VW Passat. When one of those guys is a crazy Indian man, you are almost guaranteed that something crazy will happen. In addition to him cleaning the windshield with his pants, he ended up ripping his shirt off. This made it almost natural to start recording a music video. Although we almost died around minute 3:18 of the music video, we ended up getting to San Francisco in one piece. Justin, Quinn and Satish went off to see Claire, while I got to stay and spend time with my niece, sister and brother-in-law. The entire weekend was magical, as we got to see Alcatraz, eat an overpriced seafood lunch, yell Chinese idioms at old people in Chinatown, and hear a future missionary share her testimony. The exclamation mark was put on the trip as we left Claire’s house. Justin, Satish and I broke out into a rendition of “Kiss the Girl” as we tried to shield the two love birds from the views of her family. She then proceeded to grab Quinn and pull him in to top off her canteen.

We came home at 5 in the morning, and although we were groggy, we talked about how we had lived the dream. After my head cleared from the fog that inevitably comes with no sleep, I realized that the destination of the trip was not what made it memorable. The memories were formed because of the people I was with. The trip was amazing because I went on a trip with my roomies, and visited people that we cared about. We could have gone to North Dakota and I would have come home with the same type of feeling. After that epiphany, I realized that if I would just stop taking for granted those who I have the opportunity to associate with on a daily basis, I could always be living the “dream.” It’s funny how friends and family mean so much to me, but they are so easily taken for granted. It is so easy to think that the ties that bond you together are so strong that consistent effort is unnecessary to maintain those bonds. But, as with everything else in this world, if you do not put effort and energy into your relationships they will deteriorate. BFF can only be forever if both people are willing to work towards that. Families can only be together forever if we support one another in staying on the strait and narrow path. If we do not care enough to maintain those relationships in this life and work towards helping people get and stay on the path, why would we even want to have the opportunity for eternal families?

So I guess I need to be a better brother, friend, son, uncle, and nephew. I guess I better stop taking for granted the wonderful people in my life. I guess I should do a little bit more reaching out. Maybe if I did, my life would become one big “road trip.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods won yesterday. Surprised? I wasn’t. For some reason it just seems like he always wins. He’s 32 and just reaching the prime years of professional golfers, and he is already considered the greatest golfer to have played the game. There is always some young and upcoming player that is touted as the next challenger to Tiger’s throne. But nothing ever materializes, and it just ends up being Tiger and the rest of the PGA Tour. He has all the money he could ever want; in fact, some think he will be the first billion dollar athlete. Over the years he has changed his swing, his coach, his caddie, his clubs, his ball; maybe the only thing he has not changed is his shirt color on Sunday. Through all the change, he continues to dominate.

I have often wondered what it would be like to get inside his head. To see what drives him. To see why he has not pulled a Michael Jordan and switched to baseball, just for something new and exciting. To see why he never sounds off when his competitors talk smack. To see why he still outworks those around him, when the gap between him and the next competitor is already nearly insurmountable.

Why is he an exception to the rule that you often fall to the level of your competition? How did he come back from his 1-over par 73 on Saturday to fire a 7-under for his largest come-from-behind win since 2000?

He is a freak of nature in all aspects. There is no other explanation.

Although I can not answer those questions and do not claim to understand what really drives him, seeing Tiger Woods continue to do his thing reminds me of something I have been taught my whole life. My dad always said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. It’s whether or not you are improving.” When he would say that, I used to think to myself “That’s what losers say to keep their confidence up.” But now I think I am starting to see the wisdom within it. Think about Tiger. He won by eight strokes a few weeks ago, but in the press conference he talked about how he was disappointed with many facets of his game. His honest evaluation of his performance compared to his view of his potential allowed him to determine ways to improve and develop.

But I am not Tiger Woods, and golf is not my number one priority; following my Savior is. Unlike Tiger, to be successful in my priority I do not need to beat out someone else. Seems a little more conducive to the whole “compete with yourself” mentality, doesn’t it? But being the prideful kid I am, I still struggle with that. I get complacent when I feel that I am one-upping my neighbor, and my progress slows. I get frustrated when I see someone else who is not struggling with the same things as myself, and stop focusing on what I can do better and think instead about why this guy thinks he’s got it all figured out. Dumb, huh?

What’s even worse is that even when I am in the right mind set, and only competing against myself, I will sometimes think “Well I did better at that yesterday, so today I failed.” That mind set almost seems to be true. But that thought comes up short. It is lacking the eternal perspective of my Father in Heaven. He never compares me to others, only to my own potential. He does not even compare what I do today with what I did yesterday, because He understands that today is not yesterday. He recognizes that my potential to do something today might be a little less than yesterday, maybe because I did not sleep well last night. But I often over look that, and that short sightedness can lead to discouragement and despair.

Tiger seems to get this principle. He can bounce back from days in which the public claims he did not play up to his “standards.” He seems to not make excuses, but to take into account all the factors that contributed to the outcome, and make changes where he needs to. He stays within himself, and he plays his game, regardless of what others do. I think if I were to approach life the way that I feel Tiger approaches golf, I would be more optimistic, recognize more ways to improve, and be happier as I understand that all I can give is all I can give. If it is not as much as I gave yesterday, so be it; as long as it was all I had.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

President Gordon B. Hinckley

When I was in Hong Kong serving as a missionary, I had the choice experience of shaking hands with President Hinckley. He had stopped by the Mission Home while we were holding a leadership training meeting and decided to visit with us for a minute. As he walked in the room which we were sitting, President Ong immediately turned the time over to him. I remember I sat about 3 feet away from him, watching intently and listening to every word which he spoke. When a man whom you know talks with God speaks it's always a good idea to give him your full attention. I remember him sharing about his previous experiences in Hong Kong, how the Lord spoke to him about where the Hong Kong temple should be, how it's always hot and humid in Hong Kong and how amazed he was that we were all looking sharp in our suits. He expressed how much he loved us, and more importantly how much the Lord loved us, and then he flashed that smile of his, bore his testimony and went on with his business.

After President Hinckley left the room, our mission president, President Ong, spoke. He did not return to what he was talking about before our Prophet had entered, but shared some of his thoughts and feelings about being in the presence of the Lord's spokesman. He shared about how when you looked into President Hinckley's eyes you could tell that he was a man who loved the Lord. He was a man who you knew dedicated his life to serving his God, and those around him. He was a man who could light up a room just by walking into it, and his smile and attitude to those around him was such that it could melt away any bitterness or hate. President Ong then told me something that I will never forget. He said that even without the mantle of the prophet, even without being called as the President of the Lord's church, President Hinckley would still have had that look in his eyes, that effect when he walked into rooms, and that ability to make everyone feel at home. He said that if each of us would be willing to give ourselves to the Lord in the same way that President Hinckley decided to give himself to the Lord, that one day we might be able to have that same influence on people.

Although, the above experience is my only personal experience interacting with President Hinckley, he has greatly influenced my life. His example, teachings, demeanor, love for others, love for life, and prayers have been a great strength to me as I strive to develop a close relationship to my Savior. And although the prospect of not hearing his voice in this life again is quite saddening, when I think of his reunion with his wife Marjorie, I can not help but to smile. In addition, I know that the voice of the Lord will continue to come down to His people through the next prophet that will be called. The work on this side of the veil will continue to go forward, and the work on the other side of the veil now has another great leader to help its cause!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Greeks asked one question upon the funeral of a companion. Did he live with passion?

Last night I watched a movie that I do not think I would recommend to anyone. The only reason that I mention it here in my blog is that it reminds me of a book that I read a few weeks ago that I highly recommend to everyone, For One More Day, by Mitch Albom. Both the movie and the book focus on second chances. Basically, the protagonist is given a set amount of time to be with someone they love. I thought about how I would react if I knew that I was given a set amount of time to be with someone that I loved, and how that knowledge would affect the things that I did, the way I interacted with them, or even what I thought about them. It seems like any given person put in that situation would act differently... and as I thought about that, I decided that should not be.

The reason I say that stems from a conversation that I had with my mission president a long time ago. During an interview that I had with him, he shared with me a principle that has changed my life. Knowing that I played piano, he began to describe two different types of pianists. He described the pianist who plays without emotion, who makes sure that every note is played exactly how the sheet music dictates, with every crescendo and decrescendo occurring at precisely the right time. Then he described the pianist who also works hard at getting the piece as close to perfection as possible, but as he goes through the process, he makes the piece part of himself and puts his soul into playing the piece. He shared how the latter type of pianist is the type that can change the world through the music he plays because he plays the music with a passion. He went on to promise that if I would live my life with a passion, I could be successful in anything. I believe that promise is true and that it can apply to everyone.

The tough part then becomes defining how to "live with a passion." I have my own personal idea, which has been influenced by my membership in the Church and my understanding of the atonement of Christ. In fact, I do not believe that I could live passionately without the Gospel and the atonement of Christ, which I'll explain in a minute. But first, defining living passionately. For me, one aspect of living life with a passion means to be willing to take chances, to fail, to try something that is not a sure thing. Too often I find myself being comfortable with the status quo, comfortable with only playing with golfers I know I will light up, only taking classes I know I will ace; but with that type of attitude, I will never know my potential, I will never grow, and I will never experience failure. It may sound like a good lifestyle, to always succeed, but it's not. Another aspect is to be like the second pianist, and be willing to let people know that you put your heart and soul into the things you do. I think it's human nature to try and protect yourself, and not let people know how much you care about something because if you do, and you fail, you will look like a fool. Who cares? It is in those moments, when you put everything out there and still came up short that you learn something about yourself. And it is only when you put everything into something that the victory can be sweet. I am struggling to put into words some of the other principles that I feel are essential to living with a passion, but as they come I will add them, and I would appreciate anyone's comments about how you live your life with a passion.

Now the reason that I could not live life with this attitude without the Gospel boils down to the fact that I fail a lot. I put myself out there a lot, and get rejected; I come up short on a countless number of goals that I set for myself; I shoot for the stars and end up in the same place I started. Sometimes it's quite discouraging, especially when I feel like I failed in the only chance that I would ever have. That's where the atonement of Christ brings great comfort. Everytime I fail, I sit back and evaluate myself on two principles. First, I ask myself if I had pure motivations. If I was trying to accomplish something to better myself, to reach righteous goals, then I move on to the second principle. I next ask myself if I tried my hardest. If I can answer positively to that question, then I know I did all I could do, and I am ready to try again. If I am able to answer yes to both those questions, then I know that I am qualified for the grace of Jesus Christ. That basically means that if accomplishing that specific thing is important to my eternal progression, meaning if it is necessary to me returning to live with God, then Christ will provide a way to overcome my inadequacies and achieve what I need to. And if it is not essential, then there's no harm in failing, or coming up short. By living with a passion, and by understanding the atonement of Christ, I have found that I can live without regret, always looking forward to the next time that I can wear my heart on my sleeve and see what happens.

Returning to the book and the movie. If I was told that I only had a short amount of time left to be with someone I cared deeply about, I guess that I might change my schedule around, to ensure that my time was spent wisely. However, I hope that the way in which I had been living my life and the way in which I would interact with the person would be the same; which I believe could only be the case had I been living my life fully, with passion.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Creator of Circumstances

Life is good... or is it? Today I was listening to Quinn teach Sunday School and we talked about the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon. The story is basically about a family who is commanded by the Lord to leave Jerusalem and embark on a journey through the wilderness. All members of the family go through the same hardships, some complain and others don't. For those who complained, they probably thought life stunk and eventually it did. For the others, they simply went about making the most of their situation, and life ended up quite lovely. It's funny how much our perspective and attitudes can affect us.

Considering it's getting late, and I have started this post over like 3 times and haven't liked anything I have written, I am going to keep this fairly short. And instead of trying to come up with my own thoughts I am just going to share someone else's thoughts. Although this is directed specifically to missionaries I think it applies to any situation. Elder Ballard said:

Success does not depend on the message, but on the messenger. We each learn that failure and excuses go together, so we must learn to get away from excuses. Dull or slow months are for dull missionaries, so remember that sharp missionaries don't have any.

Do not be a missionary who complains about his unreceptive people, his constant refusers, his companion, his leaders, and his burdens. Instead be a missionary who can be placed in any area and in any set of circumstances, and be relied on to set things right. Become a CREATOR OF CIRCUMSTANCES instead of a creature of circumstances.

This is why SUCCESS is not LUCK. It can be predicted and followed each day into a successful week, year, and mission. Live one day at a time as though it were a building block. Do each day what should be done that day, and do not under-work, because that brings on the "bad luck" and slumps.

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve... A desire does not come from practical knowledge, but it comes from compulsions and obsessions. Desire leads to a goal, and it is the starting point of all achievement. The power of definite desire is beyond all practical goals that USE NO EMOTION. We need to get involved emotionally in our goal to baptize. Who will baptize next? The mission field is successful only to successful missionaries.

Live life with a passion. Only by doing so can you see your true potential. Only by going for something you might fail in can you ever achieve something special.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Beginnings

I'm back in Provo. After a few week stint in both San Francisco and in Arizona, I have returned to what my friends and I often refer to as P-town, the Provs, and sometimes when we are speaking Chinese "Po-vo." When I walked into my room and realized what a pig-sty it was, it dawned on me the wisdom of my mother who always cleans before vacation, thereby buffering the harsh return to reality. One day I will learn.

Church today was quite uplifting, as usual. As is the tradition in the Church on the first Sunday of the month, the time in Sacrament meeting was open for anyone who desired to stand up and share with the congregation principles of the Gospel. Typically, these meetings are very spiritual as people share the thoughts and feelings that have been close to their heart. With today being the first Sunday of the year, much of the meeting centered around the fact that after reflection on 2007, New Year's resolutions had been made in order to bring in more growth and development in 2008. One comment that I especially liked was that the New Year is basically a time that society has built in the calendar for us all to repent, make changes and commit ourselves to a higher standard.

This past week I have been trying to reflect upon 2007, trying to see the areas I need to develop, to change and to strengthen. I decided that I would make my goals today, which I have done. But during this process I have wondered why human nature is such that we wait until the New Year, or new semester, or a new season to reflect and set a new course. I recently read Tuesday's with Morrie, in which I found this quote:

Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.
Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi seems to have a better idea about our potential to change, and our potential to have new beginnings than we have in society today. Why do we think that change will be easier tomorrow than it will today? Why do we believe that after we graduate, or after we get a promotion, or after we get married life will somehow become better, we will be happier and we will just be the person that we want to be? Maybe I am the only one who has thought like this, but over time I have realized that I have never been changed by an event in my life. I have only seen a change in myself that comes because of a decision to change. The way I see it, the best time to make that decision is in that moment when the epiphany comes to you. So although I am excited to begin working on all the goals that I wrote down today, the goal that I am most excited about is to be constantly accountable to myself and the Lord and be willing to follow the promptings that come when I least expect it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gilbert with the Garners

I don’t think I have ever had to defend the state of Utah as much as I have had to this past week. Arizonians seem to think their state is better than mine. Although I gave my best effort to shut them down by talking up the great state of Utah, I don’t think I got through to anybody. And now I am sitting here at the airport wondering why I booked such an early flight home.

Sunday night I arrived in Phoenix and got to see Arizona’s version of Temple Square. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, freezing, wondering if Quinn lied to me about the temperature. I soon figured out he didn’t lie, he just didn’t tell me about the chilly nights. After the temple, we went back to Quinn’s place where I was introduced to his family, and quickly learned about one of Brother Garner’s passions – board games. We had a pretty big group together and played a couple games. By the end of the night I had made a number of enemies en route to my title as the “Best Bean Trader.” I woke up the next morning to an invitation to go to dim sum with the Garners. With the exception of Quinn’s knack for ordering way too much of the same dish, the meal was great.

The rest of the day was a blur. It was New Year’s Eve, so naturally, we watched football and partied. In fact, we went to the Insight Bowl which also got us into the “biggest party in AZ,” the Tempe Block Party. The highlight of the night had to be the Bare Naked Ladies concert; not because we knew the music, because we didn’t, but because we were by far the biggest idiots in the crowd. That’s quite a feat considering that there was a lot of booze there, and we were some of the few not drinking. The next day, after losing half of it because I had to get caught up on sleep, was a good encore. We went to see I am Legend, which I loved (although I recommend going with people who don’t laugh when they get scaredJ) and then packing as many people into Quinn’s hot tub as we could. To finish off the week, I got to play some golf and go to the Mesa Temple with Quinn and Cameron for a session.

After my week with the Garners, I realized that his family is quite different than my own. In fact they are unlike any family I know. Then again everybody’s family is unique in their own right. The thing that struck me was that despite all the differences between our families, the feeling I had in their home was one of love, respect, faith, compassion, work; basically all the qualities found in the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a document put out by the leaders of my church on the importance of families. With the world deemphasizing the importance of the family, with divorce rates increasing, and with fewer kids having a set of parents to raise them, this document becomes increasingly more important. Regardless of a family’s situation, the proclamation outlines many key principles that if applied will bring great blessings of peace and unity to a family. And so as I finish this post from my home in Utah, I realize that although we are watching basketball instead of playing board games, although I’m the only child home, although my parents are from two cultural backgrounds we can have the same feeling and spirit within our home by trying our best to live the principles taught by today’s prophets.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's 2008!!!

Happy New Year!

Apparently blogging is in now... So much so that Elder Ballard, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member, talked about the possible positive consequences that can come from blogging in his commencement speech at BYU-Hawaii. Elder Ballard happens to be someone I trust, hence the birth of "phil" good.

And so this year will begin, with me trying to tackle one of my many New Year's resolutions. Although I do not know what will be the fruit of this blog, moving forward with one of my resolutions has already helped me to feel good this 2008.

Elder Ballard's comments