Friends Waiting on the Other Side

It has been two years since a dear friend of mine finally lost his battle with cancer.  Rare is the day that I don’t think about him and the beautiful mark he left on this world.

It has been nearly 20 years since his older brother took his own life, also leaving this world far too soon.

I think the thing that sucks most about getting older is that this list, which I have shared only a small part of, keeps getting longer.  While it sucks to lose the ones we love, how blessed are we to have known them here, and to know that we will see them again.

I know with all my heart that the people we love and cherish are on the proverbial “other side” awaiting our reunions with equal excitement.  It is not that either of us hope we end this mortal journey early, simply that the love we have for each other extends beyond the bounds of phyisical life, and rests in the deepest parts of our souls.

While it is true that love can be described through Neuro chemical reactions, there is a spiritual dimension that, while we don’t understand it, has a much more lasting affect on our relationships.  The joy that we experience with those special people in our lives is something that cannot be explained with words because it is truly beyond our mortal comprehension.

I guess this is just a really long way of saying I miss my friends and family that have already left this mortal world, and I look forward to the day where we will again be reunited.

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Hope is Often What Keeps Me Going

Life can be really hard sometimes.  

When we get really sick we don’t want to do anything but sleep until we get better.  When we struggle financially we often don’t see anyway to improve our situation.  When we struggle with problems at school or work, it can be easy to want to quit or at the very least pursue an easier course even if it isn’t what we really want.

Hope changes all of that.

Hope is amazing because it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be a tiny glimmer to make a big difference.  

When I was a teenager I did a lot of backpacking in the Uintah mountains in Utah where it rains quite a bit during the late summer.  It was not uncommon for us to go multiple days without seeing the sun.  

At those times it was easy to get down and not enjoy the incredibly beautiful areas we were hiking through.  Not to mention that the fishing also generally sucks when it is rainy like that. 

But then there would be a break in the clouds to let some sun through and everything changed.  You were instantly happier and more optimistic about everything.  Even the whiniest scout would start to smile and enjoy themselves.  

That little bit of sun didn’t always lead to bluebird skies, and sometimes it closed right back up and went back to raining, but what it did was give you hope.  It reminded you that the warm sun was still up there and it would come out again.

Sometimes that is what we need in life to help get us through.  We need a restful night of sleep where we start to beat off a sickness.  We need an unexpected $100 that gives us a cushion we didn’t expect to have. We need a problem to go away through finding a solution or having someone else find one for us.

Sometimes all we need is someone to tell us it is going to be okay and that they are there for us.  Whatever it is, that hope is life changing, and in some cases life saving.

I lost a dear friend when I was a junior in high school because he had lost all hope in his life.  I have spent the last 19 years trying to figure out what I could have done to give him some hope so that maybe I would be there to save someone else the next time I have a friend who has lost all hope.  

That’s the awesome thing about hope, it is always out there.  There is always a reason to be optimistic.  There is always some way that our life can improve, and there is always something we can do about it.  

It is easier when we have friends that can lift us up, but we can lift ourselves up as well.  We can decide not to let fear and doubt win.  We can choose to look for the good no matter how small it may be, because there is always good out there.

Life is really hard, and for some people it is extra hard, which totally sucks.  I am grateful for the people in my life that give me hope, and I pray that I can be the one to give others hope when they need it.

I Need More Places Like the Temple in My Life

For those of you not familiar with Mormons, we generally have two types of buildings where we go to worship.  We have our meetinghouses where we go on Sundays to worship and even during the week for other activities and events.  They range from large beautiful buildings to rooms rented over marijuana shops (yes it really was).

These buildings are open to anyone and everyone who would like to worship with us, and they are important to our worship and happiness.  They are where the vast majority of our services take place and there are thousands all over the world.

The other buildings that we utilize for worshiping are temples.  These buildings are much less common (only 157 currently operating in the world), and hold a more sacred place in our worship.  They are the place where we go to be sealed together for eternity as well as perform ordinances for those who have already passed away.

If you would like to learn more about the differences please let me know and I would love to explain more.  For the purposes of this post, those descriptions should suffice.

I had the opportunity to go to the temple here in Reno with my wife today and it was such a nice experience.  It was a bit rushed getting there, and we almost didn’t make it, as is often the case when you try and do something you know to be right, but we did, and it was wonderful.

There is such an overwhelming peace that comes with going to the temple and being surrounded by the spirit.  The busier my life gets the more important it is for me to take time for these spiritually rejuvenating events.  It only took a couple of hours, but it gave me time to refocus myself on what is most important in life and where I need to be putting my effort.

While temples are special, it is vitally important for us to find other places where we can also find peace and comfort and to commune with God.  Many prophets in the past would go into the mountains to find such places.  While we don’t need to have the types of experiences like Moses did, it is important for us to find places where we can clear our mind and refresh ourselves spiritually, whether we are religious or not.

For most of my life the mountains were always that place for me.  I could just sit up in the trees or around a fire and do nothing for hours.  It was always an amazing way to clear my mind and refocus whatever was going on in my life.

Once I stopped living in the mountains, the beach became that place for me, and unfortunately as time went on I kind of stopped looking for those places.  Thankfully, God has brought me back to the mountains where I can again go to find peace, like I did earlier this week when I went fishing.

Life is full of important stressful things that we need to do, but few things will reap more benefits than taking the time to be still, relax, and reset.  We all need that on occasion, but it is often the first thing we give up when life gets busy.

It was Good to Get Back to Church

For various reasons it has been a couple of weeks since I have been at church which is always a bummer, but is sort of the nature of my life.  Even more of a bummer is that it had been three months since I went with my family.

I know a lot of people would cherish a quiet meeting at church, and I do on occasion, but it was so nice to have my kids around me making a little noise.  I would say that it is probably because it is just one more reminder that I was home.

It was good to be back in church and be able to feel the spirit again.  It is always a little uncomfortable going to a new ward in a new place, but it is also wonderful to know that no matter where I go in the world I will hear the same messages and the same gospel.

As many of my fellow Mormons will understand, I was a little unsure about how Elder’s Quorum would go as they can be very hit and miss in the quality of their meetings.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a great meeting of a small group of men that spoke freely and openly with each other.  It is just one more proof to me that a great message can often come when you least expect it.

There were no ground breaking revelations or earth shattering experiences today, but it is always good to be where you know you are supposed to be with the people you love the most.

Knowing a Second Language Will Change Your Perspective

There are really two dynamics to this topic that I feel are important.  The first is relevant to me personally and the second is a bit more mainstream.

I learned to read/write/speak Dutch while I was serving a two year mission in The Netherlands and Belgium.  It is not a very common language since those two countries and a few former Dutch colonies are the only places that speak it.  I actually like that though because it is fun to know something a little more special.

I was actually reminded of my time there tonight while reading my scriptures and I came across a verse I had memorized in Dutch 15 years ago.  It was fun to see how  close I could come with my translation based on what I remembered.

One of the biggest things I did to help with learning the language in the early days of my mission was to open the Book of Mormon in Dutch and English and go through it a verse at a time trying to compare word by word.

As you might imagine this was a slow process and even spending significant time everyday it took months to get through the book.  One of the amazing things about this process was the insights I gained into a book I had read multiple times before.

While I think it is most powerful in a religious book like that, there is potential value in any book.  As you go through the book the words that are chosen when translating may cause you to think about a phrase differently.  

For example, the word “van” in Dutch can mean both of and from depending on the context.  So when you translate the phrase “liefde van God” to English you could translate it as love of God, or love from God.  While similar in context in does paint a slightly different picture.

This is one small example though I think the point is clear of the value learning a second language can have.

The other, and arguably more valuable aspect of learning a second language, is the value that you can gain from learning about another culture.  The only way to really learn a language is to be amongst the people and be a part of their society.  When you do that you can’t help but learn about their culture and gain a respect for it, even if you don’t agree with all of it.

The amazing thing about learning about the Dutch culture is that it is a serious modern melting pot.  In my two years there I met people from over 100 different countries and it changed my view of the world.  There are so many amazing people all over the world with amazing stories that never get heard.

It is so important for us all to step out of our comfort zone and learn about other cultures.  As fun as it is to do that in other countries, there is no reason you can’t get started right at home because we all have plenty to learn about each other.

Music Can be so Powerful

At church today one of the teenage girls and her dad sang one of my favorite hymns.  It is entitled A Poor Wayfaring Man of  Grief  and it has an incredibly powerful message.  

First I should give credit where it is due because this girl had an angelic voice.  Her dad did well also but she brought me to tears.

This song is all about how the service we do for others is really just service for God.  Whether you are a religious person or not, we have all felt the blessings and good feelings that come with serving others.  

While much of the world is concerned with what celebrity is pregnant or what some politician is saying, there are thousands of volunteers all over Texas and Florida serving those who lost everything.  They are the people we should care about and support, and they are also the people that will never look for that attention.

While the beauty and power of this song touched me deeply today, the message it shared is an even more important reminder of where my focus should be in life.

Beautiful Craftsmanship Awes Me

I have always really enjoyed working with my hands and building things.  Wood shop was always my favorite class because I just love the moulding of unfinished wood into something truly beautiful or even just useful.
I was recently witness to what may be the most awe-inspiring piece of wood work that I have ever seen.  It is a sanctuary of peace in Thailand that is made entirely of wood.  They have been working on it for 36 years and it still isn’t finished.

I would love to give you more numbers about how big it is or stuff like that, but there was very little information available there.  What I can tell you is that the craftsmanship and attention to detail on this thing is just insane.  
The pictures that I have included don’t even do it justice, but they give you a little idea of the magnitude of work involved in this project.  Even more impressive to me is that all of the carving is done by hand.  There were probably 50 or so people still working with hammers and chisels on various parts of the structure.

I find it hard to adeqautely describe just how awe inspiring it truly was.  I don’t follow the religious beliefs that this sanctuary reflected but I have great respect for the efforts involved to show their commitment to their faith.

I find equal inspiration from the LDS temples I have visited all over the world.  There is just something powerful to me about applying your craft in devotion to a higher being, whatever name you may give that being.
Great craftsmen have existed as long as there has been something to craft, and I will forever be in awe of their works.  That is why tonight I am grateful for beautiful craftsmanship.

What are you grateful for?