Thursday, December 25, 2008

Guest Post from J.L. -- For Christmas

This is a shorter version of a longer post that will be at:

Visit there to get the full impact.

I saw myself standing before God to be judged, and he wept.

He shook his head at me in disappointment.

He asked: How could you have broken my trust this way? Why did you not care for my beloved child? How can you return her to me in this state -- bruised, broken, neglected, unloved? I gave you dominion over her so you could bring her back to me whole and beautiful. She was your responsibility. Do you hate me so much you would betray me in this, and break my heart so?

I crumbled to the floor sobbing. Overwhelmed with suffocating shame. I didn't mean it. I didn't know. I didn't know I was the one entrusted with her. I never saw Your child, Your beloved--I saw only this broken wretch fallen before you.

I would not have done this .... and He comes to me and enfolds me in his arms and We weep together.

We are, each of us, precious children of God whom he has entrusted to us to care for and to love.

For this Christ came in to the world on Christmas day, for God's love for each of us.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Forgiving in order to heal, how do you do it?

i've actually been wondering all night if you might have a post on this topic. specifically, when one *wants* to forgive, and has even said the words "i forgive you", and then tried to carry on as though forgiveness has actually taken place, but nothing has changed on the inside. what can you do? how does one invoke the atonement? for big things specifically (in my case). all i want for christmas is peace and freedom from this multi-decade hurt. i've recently had the chance to vent and the person who hurt me listened, apologized, and then wrote me a letter further apologizing and asking me to forgive them for all the ways they hurt me and it's impact on my life. i have (in the past) said I forgive them, and tried to have them in my life as if all was well. but it wasn't. isn't.

so how does one move from this point to a healthy place. how does that mysterious atonement work?
is there a magic word i need to utter? some level of despair i have to attain? some amount of humility and contriteness i have to conjure up before i can finally be free?

That was the question I was asked.

There is no magic word that I know, though the things that tend to help some people are the process of praying for God to bless the other person and the process of keeping a journal and writing it all out. Buy a simple wire bound spiral notebook, if nothing else, and write about everything, pour your heart out in words.

They pray every night to God to bless the other person and to aid you in forgiving and moving past.

That is where I would start -- and I'm hoping that people who read this blog will chime in and add their thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trust in God

This time of the year is mixed for me. I had two Christmas times in a row where many presents went unopened and the lights on the house were taken down by friends. The strongest images from both are the funerals of my daughters.

At times it slips my conscious awareness. Both Courtney and Jessica became sick just before Christmas. Courtney died on December 26, Jessica died on January 26. They were both born in February.

And then Robin ... Now Rachel, who is coping with Tourette's and other issues. Not to mention, the whole house has had seasonal illnesses. My parents and my wife skipped having dinner with me on my birthday because they were too sick, now Rachel and Heather have whatever it was. Sometimes the issues are overwhelming, sometimes all that overwhelms me is how precious my children are to me.

To trust in God. What does that mean? Can I trust God to keep me from pain? Will God keep me from discomfort, sorrow, loss or death? Will God keep me from the full range of life and from more than I think I am ready for? No. In fact, I am pretty certain that at the end, there will come a day when God does not keep me from death.

Then what should I trust God for? What can I trust God to do? That is a question that everyone has to face, what can we really trust God to do and not to do.

A few notes.

Other people's death's may affect us, but those deaths are between them and God, not between us and God.

Best part of my birthday was seeing Heather. Her flight was a little delayed, but she made it safely home. With everyone who was sick, I ended up with just Heather and Rachel at dinner (though we brought back a meal for Win and a selection of desserts for my parents). Everyone is still a little sick today. I had to take time to drive them home from Church early so they could be tucked back in bed.

But today has really been a good day as well. Silly to be so glad to have a child's birthday (on the 21st) and to be so delighted just to see them breath. But I am.

Other recent posts on trusting and understanding God:

Not to mention, the day after Christmas, I'll have a post at Mormon Matters that touches on some of these topics and my favorite related scripture:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NKJV

That is our trust, especially in this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Relationship Advice -- Absence ...

I was reading a relationship post about a relationship with God, and realized it takes more than just maturity and patience and then thought about relationships with others when we are absent for a while.

With your parents and siblings you probably learned about absence by going to camp or away on a mission or off to school. If you use that for your model when work takes you out of town from a wife or husband and children for a month or more, you will make serious miss-steps.

There is a period of roughness, anger even, that goes with being reunited with a spouse and children when you have been gone. Young children are transparent. They just get angry when you come back (though they get over it in a day or so). You need to expect the same emotional waves to affect older children and your spouse and be ready for it, to just patiently take the time to re-engage.

Think of it as shifting into gear after starting a car that is cold. Do you skip using the clutch or letting the car warm up? If you do, things grind.

Anyway, just thought I'd post a comment on that, since most of us will have a time in our lives like that, when we are away for a month or two. I've been lucky, but my dad was in the Air Force and had TDY assignments, Viet Nam and Korea.

Not to mention, sometimes we feel emotions in regards to God that we aren't comfortable with and need to work through, just as when others are absent.

BTW, this comic made me think of my wife:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Recent Books ... and looking for recommendations

The Pyjama Game: A Journey into Judo by Mark Law (Paperback - Jun 2008)
Buy new: $13.33
7 Used & new from $12.95
Usually ships in 2 to 4 weeks

Just finished this book.

A fifty year old newspaper reporter/journalist decides to begin Judo. But his story is also the story of Judo and the story of Judo in England. It was really good, as you might suspect by the fact that the used copies are almost as expensive as the new ones.

I'm now reading a book we got for free from the lending library at the hotel we stayed in during our visit to New Orleans (and it too, is a great book):

Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story by Peter Morton Coan (Paperback - May 1, 1990)
Buy new: $14.95
35 Used & new from $3.11 (with all the free copies, I'm surprised it isn't cheaper).

Please recommend a new "good book" to me now that I've pretty much finished these.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in New Orleans

I had to to to New Orleans to teach a class, so I thought I'd extend my stay a day to see the city, especially since Win was able to come with me. Luckily I brought a sweater and a liner as well as my jacket and she has a heavy coat, as we went walking in the snow, rain and wind.

She's asleep now, recovering. My voice lasted through the two and a half hours of lecture I had to give, though my new cold acted up a little.

Wonderful people, wonderful place. I like the hotel, quiet and warm.

Hoping that my flight doesn't get canceled -- I had a couple extra people in the class as their flights out of New Orleans were canceled due to icing conditions.

Rachel will be sad she missed the snow, she stayed with her grandparents who live a couple houses down the street from us. She had school.

But life never fails to offer some interesting surprises.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our Yearly Christmas Letter

More or less, the final draft will probably go out this week-end, but I'm sharing it on-line now ;)

In the "can do" tradition of Texas, the Marsh family presents a “do it yourself” or “choose your own options” Christmas letter. Many of these options make for a better year than we had, or at least a stranger one, but don’t let that stop you when you make a pick


(a) Decided engineering was a better major than neuroscience;
(b) test drove a 30.06 at the rifle range;
(c) Is getting a concealed weapons permit class for Christmas
(d) Is now taller than her dad;
(e) Is practicing walking in a long skirt and wearing her hair in tight braids as she prepares to move to West Texas;
(f) Now works for KBYU;
(g) Went horseback riding in Washington State.


(a) Wants to work in a think tank when she grows up;
(b) Was baptized this year;
(c) Started fourth grade;
(d) Got a perfect score on the State Music Theory test;
(e) Got a superior rating at the sonatina festival;
(f) Begs daily for a cell phone;
(g) Keeps asking for a rifle of her own.


(a) Got a rifle for father’s day;
(b) Had a presentation from his material made to the Shanghai People’s High Court at the University of Wisconsin and is cited in the C.F.R.s;
(c) Was invited to join a group blog that drew comments;
(d) Went to New York City to do a short appearance on Fox TV;
(e) Had a Daddy/Daughter date at the rifle range;
(f) Experienced his car bursting into flames after he was rear-ended;
(g) Joined the (Jeff) Green Party.


(a) Completed five quilts this year;
(b) Volunteers in the nursery at Church;
(c) Has multiple firearms registered in her name;
(d) Functions as a social director and transportation agent for Rachel, drawing the line at more than twelve activities a week;
(e) Racked up twice the frequent flyer miles as the rest of the family;
(f) Looks better in blue fox than mink;
(g) Has worked hard to work less this year.

Vincent the polydactyl cat:

(a) Brought us a bat as a gift;
(b) Delivered a baby rattlesnake to Steve;
(c) Left a freshly killed mouse in Steve’s shoe;
(d) Developed a catch and release program of live birds for the house;
(e) Still forgets where his food bowl is;
(f) Found his way home after Rachel took him for a tour of the neighborhood;
(g) No longer thinks chicken is tuna.

We visited:

(a) Salt Lake City;
(b) Yellowstone;
(c) Spokane;
(d) Galveston;
(e) Orlando;
(f) Colorado;
(g) King Tut.

Whatever answers you chose for us, we had a great year and hope you did as well or better than we really did. May each of your coming years be creative and fun.

The Marsh Family

Sunday, December 07, 2008

More on "having too much stuff"

There are several ways to deal with people so they don't feel that they are being asked not to love you when you ask to avoid "more stuff." My daughter's best friend had a birthday party where all the presents went to the local Children's Medical Clinic. Everyone was good with that, the parents loved it, the kids were happy to go roller skating and they got to give presents.

For me, I've a paralegal and a secretary, etc., at work, and they understood that it would make me happy, so they were good with it (I gave them amber earrings for Christmas -- my wife's idea -- staff that result in my being happier end up with jewelry as she notices the difference in how I'm doing). My eight year old, I let her wrap up some things for me that I already had (because I've shrunk so, I'm replacing some of my work shirts -- from 17.5" to 16" trim cut -- a big difference).

For other family members, I've told them that as tough as things are this year, instead of spending money on me, they should spend more money on their own families. That works out.

So far it is going well. Yes, I have a lot of dress shirts wrapped up under the tree that I'm not going to get to wear until after Christmas (unfortunately, Lands End is really pulling back on its trim cut/etc. [they keep changing the name of it] shirts, but that means that they've been dumping them through the discounted overstocks section -- I got a lot of shirts for under a hundred dollars). But it works.

I'm also getting some gifts, a new frying pan from my wife, computer gear, etc. I'm giving some jewelry, people rarely think they have enough (matching earrings is what Rachel gave her mother and older sister, and she is getting a pair as a gift to her from the cat). But I also gave the local library several large loads of books. I went through and got rid of a lot more. I've realized that a lot of things that I was holding on to, if I really, really find myself needing them, there is always the used book section of

It has taken several waves, but I'm now probably more than a thousand or two books lighter, about five bookshelves worth. I still need to finish up reorganizing things, but it is a real improvement.

Anyway, hope that answers how I'm implementing the concept and how it is being received. So far, so good.

Great links:

Friday, December 05, 2008

One silly thing about having "too much" stuff

I don't want stuff for Christmas or my birthday. In a way it makes it harder to shop for me, but in a way it is easier -- all I really want is to see people and be happy with them. I can't say that is such a bad thing.

On a more serious note, I've been reading:

It has been fascinating.

A core message (other than breaking ADD into different types, based on brain scans) is that for those who have ADD that without help they can't control it, it isn't their fault, but that there is hope.

The brain scan categorizing of it is interesting, as is the fact that 30-40 minutes a day of vigorous exercise and taking a multivitamin can really help a lot of people. Oh, and that caffeine is bad for you. So was the correlating of different brain scan results to the vast differences in what types of medication and/or nutrition approaches work best (or are actually harmful) for which people.

Interesting material.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Possible Future for American Health Care

After consulting a citizens group, the institute decided that the nation should spend the same amount saving or improving the life of a 75-year-old smoker as it would a 5-year-old.

The article is about what is happening in England, and how their lead is being followed by other countries. Basically, it is triage of what is available from the state system (all started by a panic over the price of Viagra) and how it means limits on things such as dialysis and expensive cancer treatments.

There are two current issues:

First, total expense.

Second, "highly expensive life-saving drugs for terminal illnesses."

But, the question tends to spread to two other areas (as it has in some countries):

First, not allowing people to pay for things themselves; and,

Second, adding in quality of life and similar factors.

Admittedly, they have good points, for example the article talks about a niche drug that started at less than a dollar a dose and quickly had its price raised to $260 a dose as it became more popular (but no more effective or any more expensive to produce). In the United States, such niche drugs account for almost a quarter of the nation's drug bill (24%) -- the foundation of the unfunded entitlement drug benefit that many have called the worst threat to America's security in our generation. for the entire article.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blog Rankings

I'm surprised by them. Alexia has me much higher than I would have expected:

LDS Solo blog rankings as of 29 Nov 08

Blog or Website Name Alexa Rank
1 Believe All Things 273809
2 Connor's Conundrums 602034
3 - LDS Temple Study Blog 690203
4 Mormanity - A Mormon Blog 709108
5 Ongofu - an LDS (Mormon) blog 941145
6 A Soft Answer 1000784
8 Thoughtskoto 1137941
9 Mormon Inquiry (old site) 1195791
10 Messenger and Advocate 1476247
11 Beetle Blogger 1643417
12 Sixteen Small Stones 1663633
13 Dandelion Mama 1836386
14 Voice Of Deseret 1983159
15 Latter-Day Commentary 2012519
16 Mormon Metaphysics 2046854
17 Day of Praise 2126100
18 What Mormons Like 2271610
19 Reach Upward 2300200
20 LDS Anarchy 2366179
21 LDS CIO 2462835
22 Mormon Insights 2629240
23 Stephen M (Ethesis) 2,863,409

The same is true for the group blog I'm involved with:

LDS Group blog rankings as of 29 Nov 08

Blog or Website Name Alexa Rank
1 By Common Consent 321798
2 Times & Seasons 406767
3 Feminist Mormon Housewives 453287
4 Mormon Matters 498,611

Something that surprised me is the fact that many blogs I read often were not higher in the ratings.

Well, I'll have a "real" post coming up soon. Just some surprises, at least to me.

Thanks to for doing all the work.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An interesting conundrum

I just realized that while I don't consider the lack of financial prosperity to be a lack of God's blessings, I am very grateful for the prosperity that I have been blessed with.

It was wonderful to have Heather home for Thanksgiving, to have Win's brother Ted able to drive over, to see my parents and to have guests. Too much pie, not sure why the local supermarkets topped out at 13 lb turkeys, but we also had a ham, sweet potato casserole that I actually ate and some people had seconds on ...

God has been good to us. My wife is a CRNA, I'm blessed with my employment (I don't blog about it as there isn't much to blog about -- I'm sure people would get bored with "I love my boss, I love my co-workers, and I look forward to work [though I also can't wait to see my home too -- I drive home for lunch at least three or four times a week]"). I'm pleased with how both my daughters are doing in school.

Amused, sometimes (Rachel was afraid they were going to make her jump another grade so she started sandbagging math. Only Rachel would think 85s are sandbagging, or immediately jump her average to a 98 when she learned that another promotion was not in the cards). But pleased and very grateful.

There is much to be grateful for, and much to give thanks on this Thanksgiving. Now, if I could just get the cat to quit giving me gifts over his gratitude for tuna, life would be complete (I know, I should treat a warm, dead mouse in my shoe as the loving gesture I'm sure the cat intends, but I'm just not that excited about that sort of surprise -- reminds me of a lolcat I liked -- A cat is looking surprised and the message is that if you don't want a surprise breakfast in bed, can he please have the dead squirrel back?).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What do you do about Parrot Heads?

If you don't know, that is the nick name for Jimmy Buffett fans. My eight year old has picked up the habit, and rather solidly, as in get up and put Jimmy on continuous play to go to sleep to, borrow her mom's ipod for traveling in the car, etc.

Her birthday party (we celebrated it with a friend last week, though she does not turn nine until later) at the roller rink? Jimmy Buffett as a solid sound track (I even ended up tipping the DJ extra to ease his pain).

I guess there are worse things in life ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding the Spirit

The first talk of the Priesthood session reminded me of a man I met on my mission. His wife had died and he told us of all the things he had done in worship and prayer to seek God's help. He complained of how he had come up so empty. The list he gave us consisted of various forms of emotionalism.

He was Catholic, but obviously had gone somewhere else for comfort (and, bless his heart, seemed to be blaming his priest). I was struck by how he was substituting emotional processes for spiritual ones. I have seen that process many, many times since. I consider it a terrible mistake.

Too often I see a reach for Pathos (or even Bathos) as a substitute for the Spirit. It is a common thing (as are other reaches for emotional states) as a replacement for the Spirit of God. I have met people who thought they were the same thing. The terrible flaw is that the approach leads to shallow or non-existent roots and it fails people when they need God the most.

In grief, the Spirit brings comfort and faith brings healing. Emotionalism seems to do nothing positive for people, and as a substitute for the Spirit actually seems to harm them. It may seem harsh, but I think in general we should avoid bathos as we would any other false spirit. At least if we seek healing or to find God instead of a pale substitute.

I know, I went far afield from the speaker's thoughts, but we came back together as he called for repentance, even if we thought of the need to repent of different things.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Provident Living -- Or surviving the next three years of the Depression

I was talking with people whose opinions I respect, and the best estimate I got from anyone on when we will turn the corner on the recession we are in is that it will happen in about three years. Since I had been reflecting on general conference and the message that we should:
  • Avoid unnecessary debt (or expenditures)
  • Make our homes a sanctuary
  • love others and make a difference for them
  • receive a new heart
I reflected on those points again.

It is interesting how the progression goes from avoiding entanglement in the world to loving others to being reborn and transformed by God's love. At home we have been trying to apply all of the lessons.

We passed on buying some land this summer. If the deal went well, and over a ten year horizon it would have, it would have been money we did not need. If it did not, the loss and trouble would have been very entangling. We've also been cutting expenses here and there. Got rid of cable television, changed our phone service, will continue to make other changes. Generally trying to have less stuff (Rachel has so much she doesn't know what to do with it, in fact, for her birthday she has asked people to just give the gifts to a charity).

We've also worked more at keeping our home a place for our children and their friends. It is good to make people welcome, which helps us to reach out and embrace others.

All in all, I at least, have a long way to go. But it is good to think about things, to try to apply them, and to learn to grow. Grief and loss can close your heart. These things seem to help us heal. It has been long enough, I need to open my heart more.

So, you would rather understand more about what is going on in the material word?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The forbidden word

The forbidden word

While in Santa Fe, N.M., I spoke about how lawyers can help their clients make ethical decisions. While it may seem odd, this was my first piece of advice: Don't talk to your clients about ethics. Why? I have tried a lot of cases in the last 28 years, and I have sat through a lot of jury selections, waiting for my case to be called. I can spot rookie lawyers when they ask the jury pool, "Can you be fair?" I watch the potential jurors, imagining a cartoon bubble appearing above their heads: "Of course I can be fair. In fact, I am the fairest person I know." You get the idea. It’s the same when you use the word ethics. Once you say something is an ethical issue, the person to whom you are speaking has the same reaction. Instead, talk about "integrity-based decisions" or "the brand identity of the company being at stake." But never, ever, blab about "ethical decisions." The listener will shut down. The listener will not listen. Your point -- no matter how well taken, no matter how well intentioned -- is lost. We all (including yours truly) think we are more ethical than we really are, we are thinner than we really are, we are better looking than we really are, and we are not as bald as we really are. It’s just human nature.

Click on the link, read the entire post, well worth reading.

So what are people debating?

This position ends up sounding like a form of pseudo-Calvinism in which heterosexual tendencies are a manifestation of inscrutable divine providence.

To consider the implications of the current debate on the eternities there is more than just concluding that it is a matter of divine providence.

To get to answers, start with the question of "what is sex?" After all, some species have more than one sex,
slime mold variants may have as many as fifty or sixty sexes, though the most famous has only thirteen.

If the term “gender” is used the same way as the term “sex” (
and it may or may not have that meaning in some situations, even most), perhaps any discussion should start with the question of what sex is.

The answer is not as obvious as some people think. Sexual identity is a basically a key for which members of a species can produce off-spring with which others (in the slime mold example, in a group of 13 slime molds, a mold probably can produce off-spring with 10 or 11 of any group of random molds, whereas in a group of 13 random humans, odds are one can produce off-spring with only 6 or 7).

Sex is a way of breaking communities up into groups that can form stable reproducing units.

However, given how irrelevant sexual unions as we understand them are likely to be in the eternal world (or why no one considers it adultery for married people to remarry others after the death of a spouse), but how important interlocking networks are (the sealing power of Elijah that turns hearts to each other, lest the world be void), there may be much more going on as well (or why
I think polygamy is irrelevant [and yes, that is a series of essays, not just one]).

But where does this leave gays and why would an LDS prophet have said that he thought we would have to have civil unions for gays? Not to mention, where does this leave reproduction and is it sexual in the eternities, especially as it deals with light and truth that has become intelligence ready to be born into spirit. If spirit does not come
ex nihilo, what is the implication for sex and gender?

I don’t have anywhere near the answers others do. That is probably because I don’t really fully understand the questions. But I know at least that I have more questions to ask.

My problem is I started in favor of having gays I knew get married, or at least have church weddings, and treating marriage as an issue of letting people "worship how, what or when they may."

I've been discomforted by those who have dealt with this issue by being extremely hostile to the church I belong to, and by the arguments I've seen -- I confess that most arguments pro and con are bad enough that I find myself agreeing with whoever was on the other side of the last argument that I read.

I then read a comment on the topic at that got me thinking about what marriage really was, together with a post that attacked the idea that marriage had anything to do with exclusivity -- that marriage should have any prerequisites or qualifications. It made me remember people who felt they should be able to marry their animal life mates, and who saw marriage as having nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with companionship and trust.

Which has all in all, gotten me thinking and further from conclusions than I once was. Though I am somewhat convinced that everyone is debating the wrong issues, looking at the wrong things.

I do, however, still think that everyone who wants one should be able to have a wedding at any church that is willing to celebrate with them.

See also Nate Oman's thoughts at:

Friday, November 14, 2008

On the gay marriage debates

Something I have noticed on the Gay Marriage debates is what causes people to change their minds, and it is generally social proof.

  • Those most likely to change from opposed to in favor of gay marriage know gays in long term, monogamous, committed relationships.
  • Those most likely to change from in favor to opposed meet gays seeking benefits who are either not in exclusive relationships or who are hostile to a religious or heterosexual group.

From studying conflict resolution, I find myself often just as interested in how the process of conversion works as any other part of a conflict.

But I started reflecting on what marriage was and what it has become.

At one time, sterility was a basis for annulment. marriage was a child rearing procreative driven economic partnership. In some cultures love was considered inappropriate, in others, impossible vis a vis marriage. Marriage was something far different.

But what is it now? As far as I can tell, there are two competing models.

  • There is the "forsaking all others" model, marriage as a celebration of pair bonding. Monogamous marriage.
  • There is the "marriage is a pathway to entitlements" model, marriage as a title that conveys a benefit. Often seen in "open" or social marriages (such as green card marriages where the parties have no contact and nothing in common).

I'm not going to argue what marriage should be, only state that I think that, perhaps, gay marriage may be the wrong frame for the debate as to what marriage is and should be.

See my longer post on the same topic, simulposted at Mormon Matters.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dallas Observer is an article in the Dallas Observer about keeping the faith.

Interesting to compare it to Naiahdot's experiences with the West Texas Polygamists and which covered the legal angles.

The Observer is known locally for carrying the "real" news in Dallas (the Dallas Morning News is an excellent national newspaper and is the true state newspaper of Texas, but locally it tends to miss the real stories).

This was a different article for them.

Mormon Matters had the article on the sidebar briefly (I think, the Prop 8 stuff kind of washed it away), and a mail server problem took off-line for a day or so (sigh, though if you typed in the numbers instead of the url it came up. what a handful -- and not obvious from the page that popped up for visitors on November 10, when I was spending most of the day in bed sick).

Anyway, I wanted to point the article out, which has the virtue of being finished (Naiah's essays on her experiences are still not up on-line). You can also still visit Voices for the Children and see just how that has morphed.

I feel for children, though I worry about what is best for them in the long run.

I'm glad Jesse Hyde found his own way. Worth a look. If you have thoughts, contact his editor at

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jim Brown

I was talking with a dear brother at Church again. Jim Brown is his name. I find him inspiring (or, honestly, I wouldn’t mention his name here). He always gives me hope, encouragement and thought. He makes it easier to go to Church when I’m tired or feel I would rather be asleep or reading something that speaks more directly to me.

It helps to have a Jim Brown in your life and in your Church. Someone whose wit and charm cuts through the fog, whose example reminds you to work harder and be more diligent, whose good cheer and humility inspire, guide, and yes, sometimes shame one into being a better person and striving to do more and to take better care.

It makes it easier to hear him when he tells me I’m wrong or should think twice. Which is something I find that I still need to do.

When I was younger I would think I was making progress, then find myself pruned back and in need of growing again, making progress at the rate of a miniature bonsai tree rather than something a little more robust (in a hundred years a miniature bonsai might be lucky to net 3 or 4 inches of growth, seems to me to be a very slow way to make progress). I’d always hoped to improve enough that I wouldn’t need the pruning, the work and the starting over quite so much.

I’m only glad that since I still do need to keep improving and need to be pruned over and over again, I have people like Jim Brown to make it easier.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Being Loved

I was talking to a dear, dear sister about someone she admired and loved with all her heart. How the other woman made her feel comfortable, unjudged, graciously accepted and cared for. Never demanding, never critical, never intruding. How she longed for a mother like that.

What I did not tell her is that the woman’s own daughter longed for a mother like that as well.

It gave me pause. At some time our children become adults who we have to trust, give space and accept. In many ways, we need to approach them as we would strangers.

Yes, there is certainly a time to guide, to nurture to encourage and to harass. But more as we might with friends we know well, rather than as with children who should obey us.

In some ways that time comes when our children no longer need to turn to us for support. But there are times we need to lead into that relationship, just as there will be times when independent children need more from us.

We will all err and make mistakes, one way or the other. Everyone knows spoiled brat children who are indulged. Whose parents forgive and tolerate any trespass – especially those trespasses against others (like the parent whose six year old child runs about fanging and biting other children and adults at church, just not his mom, who coos and accepts the behavior with a “boys will be boys and I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, but isn’t it so cute?”).

But everyone also knows the child who is never good enough, always being poked and prodded and “encouraged” to do better. (Just gave me a flash back to a speech class I took. “Yes, you were the best in the class again, but I just know that you can do better, so I’m giving you another B+ for the assignment” – when I was giving it everything I had. I’ve known people who lived that, not just for a semester, but for their entire lives).

It is a hard thing to feel that you have never lived up to a your mother (or father)’s standards, desires, hopes or goals. That you have always been measured and been found wanting. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin is a harsh sentence.

In the example I just encountered, the mother told me “see, she doesn’t think I’m judgmental, I hope she will explain that to my daughter, to show her just how wrong that child is.” I sighed (to myself) and thought, “ah, but if only you could not judge your daughter, she would see just how wonderful you can be.” It was more than I could accomplish, though I’m sharing the story here in the hopes that it might help someone else and that I might learn something myself.

I know that sometimes I’m too soft, too indulgent. I know that sometimes I spend too much time trying to prune and nurture my children as well (kind of like a garden that is either not weeded enough or that is overworked). But I’m hoping to learn by others examples and to find a better balance before it is too late and I’m left hoping that strangers will talk to my children and tell them that I’m really not so bad.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Note from a friend for my father

You, the xxx and hhh all have interesting points of Views of growing up and service [by family members] in Vietnam than I do. I just remember watching it on Walter Cronkite, and knowing some friends of my parents were serving over there. Your Dad lived and breathed it. I know it was way different than anything I can remember if that age.

In June when I was last in Saigon, (yes the locals still call Ho Chi Minh City Saigon) I walked out of the Notre Dame Cathedral ( a moving experience for a not very Methodist, Methodist) and down to the Opera House I walked a block over to a main thorough fare. As I stood on the corner and closed my eyes I could transplant every Vietnamese face with an American Face and open my eyes. In my mind I could have been standing on Canal Street! I retraced my steps. I never saw a soldier. I never saw an armed police official. I saw stores, shops, Lexus, Toyotas, Kias, and Fords. I saw people buying stuff and wearing normal clothes.

My wife's uncle did 3 tours. He was a 5'3" tall 124 lb Marine. 3 tours as a tunnel rat. I told my wife's uncle this same story. I told him 32 years after the "fall of Saigon" its damn obvious we won the war. So if you happen to talk to your dad about that time. Tell him you know this young'un in eastern NC. Tell him I have been twice. Tell him I was welcome with open arms. Tell him we won that damn war.

I went over and told my Dad. He has been doing better recently, still awake at 8:30 p.m. and very coherent. The message made him smile, though he said it was a terrible thing we were sucked into the war, he was glad that we were reconciled at the end.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SLD Update

I've been told that as I close on three years using the Shangri la Diet, I owe an update. Officially, my weight went from 245 lbs down and then stabilized at about 189 for a couple years. That is pretty much true, though the past few months my weight has slipped. It is now 168 or so, though I plan to stop the slippage.

My exercise program and the unrelated rotator cuff rehabilitation are both going well. I'm still making progress in about 90 minutes a week [link]. I eat a lot of yogurt, some fruit, eggs and flax bread, simple and short food.

So, I still drink extra light olive oil, it still surpresses my set point, and keeping my weight down is still an automatic process that doesn't take any will power, like breathing. I'm still gaining strength (though I'm by no means strong yet), in a way that leaves me lots of time for better things like long walks with my wife. Especially at this time of year, there is nothing better.

I'm almost 53 and just about where I had planned to be when I turned 35. So, do I have anything to be proud of? Not really. But I'm happy to be here, even if I'm a little late.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Overcoming Through Christ: Grace v. Works misses the point

My prior post may have been too short to make the real point. I may also have used the wrong words. What KH said made me realize that it is not a conflict between grace and works. Instead, it is a matter of trust ("trust" may be a better word than "surrender"), reliance and active faith.

Grace is a power greater than ourselves that responds to our trust and surrender. It requires our reliance and it requires active faith. Is active faith or exercised faith "works"? I guess, kind of. Does grace demand that of us? Absolutely. Grace demands reliance and faith. But it is the power of God that saves when we can not save ourselves. Obviously that is something greater than we are.

Thus we overcome the world by faith in Christ, and in turn are overcome by the grace of God. But we start unable to overcome the world, to overcome our weaknesses, by ourselves. So while we must act, it is not the acts that save us, it is a power greater than we possess that brings salvation.

That is the key point, and why the grace vs. works argument misses the point altogether and creates a false perspective.

At least that is what I'm thinking right now.

Quoting an excellent example:

"God, I offer myself to Thee -- to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Having Overcome Through Christ

I was teaching a lesson on the plan of salvation and Kevin Hinckley made the point that the phrase "who aovercome by faith" [50–70] is a matter of surrender, not accomplishment. That is a profound merger of a twelve step concept (KH was a professional counselor and now volunteers his time to coordinate a twelve step program for the Church locally) and the concept of grace.

I'm still digesting that thought, one which subtly sidesteps the question of works and grace for a question of faith and surrender.

There are two basic twelve step concepts here. The first is that life is beyond our control and our weaknesses are more than we can handle; that of ourselves, we can not do it.

The second is that through repentance and surrender to God, we can be saved -- if we follow-through with the necessary effort and changes (though they would not put it that way). It is packaged much differently, which has made me wonder about the differences the approach makes.

Summarized, the initial steps are:
  1. Admit or recognize that you are powerless
  2. Come to believe that a power greater than yourself can save you.
  3. Make a decision to turn your life over to God.
  4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory.
  5. Admit to God, yourself and another human being the exact nature of your wrongs.
From an LDS viewpoint that would be:
  1. Realize that works alone can not save you.
  2. Have faith in Christ
  3. Act on the faith by deciding to turn your life over to God
  4. Be honest, look at yourself through a lens of honesty
  5. Confess your sins
  6. Repent
Etc. (after all, there are twelve steps -- and I'm only paraphrasing them).

Wikipedia summarizes the full twelve steps as follows:
  • admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;
  • recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
  • examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
  • making amends for these errors;
  • learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
  • helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

A twelve step program is a process of the knowledge and works that must be accomplished in order to rely entirely on grace.

That we may overcome through Christ is how a religious person might put it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Am David/North to Freedom

I Am David

I Am David (2004)
Starring: Roberto Attias, Elisabetta Bartolomei Rating: Format: DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

North to Freedom

by Anne Holm (Author) "David lay quite still in the darkness, listening to the men's low muttering..." (more)

4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Win and I just saw this again, thanks to Netflicks, for the first time with Rachel. She had never seen it.

When I was very young, my teacher read this to us. It was published originally in 1965.

The movie shares much with the book, though it has its differences. It was moving. Loss, love, endurance, hope.

For a quick joke.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nocona, other reflections

There is a small town in Texas, Nocona (home of Nocona Boot for the real cowboys out there) that had a park with all of the old playground equipment that has been taken out of every other park.

We used to take Jessica and Heather there and let them play. It was a drive (made a nice day trip) and we had to watch them like hawks (there is a reason that all that stuff has been taken out of parks).

I was back for a deposition. They've revitalized the park, much of the equipment is gone.

Still had teeter totters, some of the climbing equipment, but the rolling barrels are gone, so is the large flower for climbing (just a pole with flower pods sticking out from it that went about twelve feet into the air) and some other things that were dear to my heart (even if I never actually let the kids play on them).

They really spent time and money cleaning things up, repainting and putting in new style plastic equipment. Life is change.

Had someone ask me if I believed in racism. I'm a lawyer. I do trial work. I'm not sure "believe in" is the right term, but I see people reacting differently on the basis of race and class.

It has been interesting to learn about and discover, and at times, the two combine in ways that are often toxic or harmful.

Just thinking about that tonight.

Final note.

My eight year old was really happy about an activity and some things we had done together. She looked at me and said, "You know dad, you are the best dad I know. Why, on a scale of 0 to a 100, with a bad dad being a 0, I'll bet you are at least a 75." I told my wife about it yesterday, she is still laughing about it tonight.

Rachel still thinks she has given me the best possible compliment ever.

Me, I just remember that she may be very, very bright, but she is still eight years old. ;)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

esōteron tou katapetasmatos -- interesting links

A great post at:

Esoteric, then, in its original biblical meaning, refers to the teachings and practices done within the veil of the Temple.

As was

my word should be good enough. If someone asks me to do something, I should be able to say, "Yes," or "No," and have that be enough.

A poem


“Why did it take billions of years for God to create the earth? Why not just millions of years, or even better, why not just one second?” It often comes down to the idea that God commands and waits until he is obeyed.


The Bible is Where the Wild Things Are

Cutting out cable televsion

We had a merger and a swap and as a result, our cable company was taken over by one that refuses to carry conference. They then wanted to jump our rates. The guy seemed outraged when I called to cancel, as if they had some right to force us to stay with them.

The new company required that we get cable TV if we wanted to get cable internet. While we were at it, we went with Sunrocket. When they went out of business we switched to our cable provider. Well, their rates went up and we just don't watch much TV. The phone was switched to Vonage and we just cut the cable and went with Netflicks. For about seven dollars a month we can get most of the children's programming, all the movies we feel like watching, and we can go to for any television shows we really want.

Which basically meant my wife watched House twice ;) and I saw part of my first Heros episode (hey, now I've seen the show at least once -- and I like it).

Our bill basically dropped by two thirds, for what has turned out to be better service, all in all. I'm surprised how much better the sound is with Vonage.

So, we go shopping for food once a week, and if we don't have it, we just wait for the next week. Each week I look for something around the house to fix. Each week we try to reduce expenses and find a better way to do something.

But this week or so, the way to improve things has been cutting out the cable television, and everyone is happier.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mormon Matters Posts

I'm also at a group blog, Mormon Matters. Some of my posts there have included:
I've other posts there as well, but these cover the core of my perspectives that shape how I view the world as a context for the trials and difficulties that people sometimes face.

Next, I'll blog on how we cut out cable tv and other things we've done to save money.