Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why Do We Need Failure?

Today I got to thinking about why is it so common for monumental success to be proceeded by significant failure. I know some might argue that monumental success isn't always proceeded by failure, but I'd argue that while that might be true it's the exception and not the rule. When it comes to mortals, we always experience failure before we experience success. So with that concern out of the way...

Why is it common for one to experience failure before success, or rather longterm success? I don't know that I'm totally qualified to answer this question as I've only had minor failures, nothing major...yet. However, I think that failures, set backs, trials, challenges all cause us to take a deeper look at what is real and really important. To the person who has never lost money invested, it may be learning that money lost isn't the end of the world, even if it's everything they had. They can start again free of all the dead weight and restrictions their previous gains had put on them. The challenge demands creativity and ingenuity.

For most of us the lack of life demanding more out of us will mean we don't put forth any extra effort. Maybe it's just facing failure and realizing it's not that bad if you get back up and face it. I suppose the only time failure is really scary is when we fear it too much to get back up and face it again. When we choose to roll up in a corner and suck our thumb and replay how bad it is in our heads. That's when success doesn't follow failure.

I guess I need to revise my question to clarify that just experiencing failure doesn't mean that we'll see success.

We need to have learned something from the experience that we call failure. We need to learn what we don't really need to fear. We need to learn what leads to true failure and what leads to true success.

From a spiritual perspective, one could be tempted to give up when sin seems too big. Yet, true repentance when we sin brings us closer to our God and Savior. I know that when I really repent I feel greater confidence because I know better the Savior in whom I trust. That being said I don't recommend that anyone seek out failure as a means to success. Rather, I suggest that failure is not to be feared. It will show up without a doubt. And when it does, regardless of who or what invited it, the real characterization of failure comes from our response.

Do we give into it and allow it to have dominion over us?
Do we focus on placing blame on who or what invited it's arrival?
Do we shake off the fear that could blind and bind us?
Do we focus on a solution to the challenge that brought failure?
Do we go to work with all the creativity, ingenuity and perspiration we can muster?

I think that is exactly why monumental success is always proceeded by failure. Because failure can purify us of worthless fears and enhance all that is good in us if we let it.

I'm sure grateful for the challenges/failure opportunities I have had in my life so far! I'm fortunate to have been taught what has come out in this post today. To be honest I couldn't really tell you where it came from ...directly! I have a pretty good idea where it originated ;)

Now the challenge is to remember it quickly when failure rears it's head again so that instead of tripping on it as a stumbling block I can just step up on it to climb closer to my ultimate destination!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Speaking in church

So last week they asked me to speak at church. Then Monday or Tuesday I noticed the email with the topic and gave it a good read through. Fortunately we have church at 1 so I had time to finish up this morning. This week was very chaotic as I had a couple weeks worth of work condensed into one week. Well, I printed it off right before we ran out the door. I felt good about it but not sure if I could keep to a written discourse. I feel more comfortable speaking from the heart than from a written script. So I knew I'd vary from what I wrote, but I wasn't sure how much time I would have. They said plan for 15 but since there is another person speaking you never can be sure exactly how much time you'll have. That and I usually can feel the difference when speakers go too long, so I don't want to do that. Well, the first speaker had to go 20 to get in what she had planned and it was good so I'm fine with it, but I knew I was going to be pressed to make it work with the time I had. To be honest, I can't think of a time I gave a talk (or a lesson) where I didn't feel like I had way more material than time. I guess that's better than being short on material and long on time...that's always a bit awkward. So, people said they enjoyed my talk, so I guess I didn't go too incoherent as I spoke. Here's the written manuscript I was going off of. I don't think anyone reads this except maybe The Kid every now and again, so I guess this is for you to enjoy Brandon! THE TALK: I’d like to start by asking this question: Would you be willing to help me with my talk today?

  1. Offer a silent prayer in your heart that I’ll say what God would have me share with you that you may be blessed to hear what will be of service to you in your quest to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.
  2. Think about how anything I may share applies to your life. Allow your thoughts to go where the Spirit may direct them.
  3. Thank Heavenly Father for what you get out of today.
Have you ever, in the deepest recesses of your heart asked yourself any of these questions at some time in your life?
  • Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?
  • Will God tell me what I should be doing?
  • How can I overcome this challenge that has plagued me for so long?
  • Why would God allow this to happen?
  • How can I become more like Christ?
  • How can I have greater peace in a tumultuous world?
  • How can I know if I am hearing the God’s answer or just what I really want to hear?
Today, I intend to share with you definitive answers that God has provided to these questions. I want you to know that as I prepared this talk, I was frequently overwhelmed by the Holy Ghost and a very real and profound sense of God’s great love for you and me. When I was younger I remember the impact of the words of the prophet Ezra Taft Bensen as he read Doctrine and Covenants 84:57 which says : "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—" And then he said that the condemnation had not been lifted and that we needed to read the Book of Mormon more. More recently President Gordon B Hinkley, our current Prophet challenged every member of the church who could read to read the Book of Mormon by a specific date. Elder Bednar, in an address he gave February 7th 2007 said: "Reading a book of scripture from the beginning to the end initiates the flow of living water into our lives by introducing us to important stories, gospel doctrines and timeless principles." The scriptures, or rather the words of Christ as given to us through his Holy Prophets, are a reservoir of living water that will give us eternal life. In 3rd Nephi Chapter 26 verses 9-11 Mormon quotes Christ and Mormon's response when he wrote: 9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. 10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. 11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. Reading the scriptures from beginning to end is like exploring the surface of a large body of water. Once we have read a book of scripture from start to finish we are ready to study by topic. A topical study of the gospel in the scriptures gives us an appreciation for the depth of the scriptures. I turned 8 in November of 1982. At my baptism I received my very first set of leather bound scriptures. This set of scriptures was more special than I realized. Boyd K Packer said of this edition: "With the passing of years, these scriptures will produce successive generations of faithful Christians who know the Lord Jesus Christ and are disposed to obey His will. The older generation has been raised without them, but there is another generation growing up." He was talking about me. An 8 year old with his first set of scriptures. He continued: "The revelations will be opened to them as to no other in the history of the world. Into their hands now are placed the sticks of Joseph and of Judah. They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forebears could achieve. They will have the testimony that Jesus is the Christ and be competent to proclaim Him and to defend Him." This new set of scriptures delivered tools that facilitate study of topics in a book of scriptures. The topical guide and index give quick access to various scriptures on similar topics. Today we have another valuable resource for topical scripture study in the Preach My Gospel manual. Studying by topic may include searching for answers to questions like: What is faith in Jesus Christ? Why is this the first principle of the gospel? Reading the scriptures from start to finish and studying the scriptures topically are both prerequisites to what Elder Bednar termed “Searching” the scriptures. Searching the scriptures for connections, patterns and themes broadened our perspective and understanding of the plan of salvation. Elder Bednar said: "In my judgment, diligently searching to discover connections, patterns and themes is in part what it means to “feast” upon the words of Christ." What does Elder Bednar mean when he refers to Connections, Patterns & Themes? A Connection is a relationship or link between ideas, people, things or events. Some connections you may have already identified or considered are:
  • The relationship between the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ
  • Mercy & Grace
  • A Broken Heart & A Contrite Spirit
  • Immortality and Eternal Life
  • Justification and Sanctification
  • Sheep and Goats
Searching the scriptures for connections and evaluating the similarities and differences with sincerity of heart opens up the conduits of revelation and inspiration. Recently my children and I memorized D&C 130:20-21, which says: " 20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." This connection between obedience to eternal law and the receipt of correlated blessings from God is a connection. As we explored the relationship of obedience and receiving blessings we learned much that we would have otherwise overlooked. We learned that we would be foolish to expect to receive the blessing of health if we neglect to live the law of health. Frustration that might be in our lives as we don’t understand why things are the way that they are in our lives is brushed aside as we recognize that God operates in accordance with perfect laws designed and irrevocably set to insure that true and eternal joy is entrusted to those who honor God’s laws. We also learned a pattern… A pattern is a plan, model or standard that can be used as a guide for repetitively doing or making something. We learned that if we want to receive a blessing we must discover and obey the law upon which that blessing is predicated. Now, my children and I know that the scriptures are full of patterns that illuminate laws and blessings which spring from them. Because we searched out this connection, which revealed a pattern, as we search the scriptures we will be looking for that pattern of law and blessing! In my previous stake the stake president shared another pattern that has significant application. In 2nd Nephi 32:8 it says: "For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray;" This yields the pattern: For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to _________ ye would know that ye must _________; Another example of this pattern comes from the words of Christ when in John 7:17 he said “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” This pattern teaches us how we can gain a testimony of any part of the gospel…live it. Themes are overarching, recurring, and unifying qualities or ideas, like essential threads woven throughout a text. Examples from the Book of Mormon: "If…the children of men keep the commandments of God he doeth nourish them and strengthen them and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he as command them 1 Ne 17:3 Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ. 2 Ne 31:20 Men are, that they might have joy. 2 Ne 2:25 In the strength of the Lord thou canst do all things. Alma 20:4 Wickedness never was happiness. Alma 41:10 As we read, study and search for connections, patterns and themes in the scriptures we will receive greater knowledge or in other words greater light. This greater light that comes into our lives as a result of searching the scriptures comes from Christ and forsakes the adversary’s power to influence us. (D&C 93:37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.) Elder Bednar said: We should not be dismayed or discouraged if answer to our petitions for direction or help do not necessarily come quickly. Such answers rarely come all at once. Our progress would be hindered and our judgment would be weak if every answer was given to us immediately and without requiring the price of faith, work, study, and persistence. God will teach us what we need to know as we turn to Him through prayer, faith and persistent searching of the scriptures.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Year Older And Another Year...

Well, I guess if I waited for another few days I could have this be an annual post. So much has happened and I don't know that I'll catch it up. I do want to record some thoughts. I won't rewrite the story as Susan has done a good job of recording the tale of Joshua, the pencil and the hospital. I'm very grateful to all my extended family. Everyone showed great concern and care and was so helpful. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry at all as the whole ordeal went on. Being sick and not being able to be there for Joshua and Susan was really hard. Having Trent and Dad go and give Joshua a blessing was really great. Having my siblings call or come by and see how I was doing was great. I found out today that a bunch of people in our new ward were fasting and praying for Joshua and our family. That was really neat considering how at peace we really were considering the serious nature of his injury. I've heard of studies that say that prayer doesn't matter and it has no effect on anything. Honestly, I'm not surprised at their findings. I went to college as a science major. I understand how studies really work. I also understand the mentality of a majority of the people in academic sciences. So, to know that a 'study' said anything is really pointless. My personal opinion in most cases has more merit and credibility than most studies. The reality of prayer is evident in my own personal experiences with it and the outcomes I've witnessed. Ha ha ha, I'm so random. Don't read this blog if you're looking for any continuity of thought. I get on a tangent and really stick to it until I realized I'm on it then quickly jump to the next! What I will say is considering all that's going on with my little family and my extended family and in my life in general right now, I feel exceptionally peaceful. I'd be a fool to claim any credit for that peace, as I know myself all too well and that my personal failings wouldn't afford me peace. However, my faith in Christ (if you don't understand this, you can...if you want) gives me peace as life appears chaotic about me. OK, let's see if I can get this out... It appears that a majority of what I worry about, when I worry, is pointless. What I mean is, worrying about it did nothing to make it better and most of the time the thing I allow myself to worry about isn't as important as it appeared to be at the time. I'm still just a kid, so this is a lesson I hope I can begin to use in my life now. I guess the ability to quickly evaluate what's worth attention, effort and energy is one of the most valuable. It presupposes that you would be really clear about what you want if you have the ability to evaluate quickly and act appropriately. I was at a seminar my brother Trent put on yesterday on short sales for real estate agents. The long and short of the seminar, which was quite good and presented by a bank insider, was that banks make decisions based on the cold numbers and nothing more. However, the people that work at the bank make their decisions based on emotion. So if you want to get a bank to accept a short sale offer then you have to work with the people at the bank in a way that caters to their emotions while presenting an offer that has the cold hard numbers that they are looking for. What's that little stint doing in this post? Well, I think it totally relates to the concept of first making sure that what I invest my time and effort in is based on something real. Then I've got to pay attention to the emotional part of those around me. I guess it could sound like I'm suggesting you 'manipulate' those around you to get to the real objective. I guess if your life is very self centered then that would be correct. However, I believe that life doesn't go on in a vacuum. I believe that my life is intricately weaved with the lives of everyone on the earth now and in the future and that my life is also tied to those who have gone before. While this doesn't make my perfect, I try to consider this when I make decisions and when I think about how others respond to me. I've had people invest money in business ventures that have not panned out. I've invested money with people in ventures that have not panned out. Both of those scenarios could eat a person alive or cause someone to go into denial and become jaded. I've looked at it like this. I've always given my all. I've always done the best I knew how at the time. I try and listen to the inspiration made available to me and clear out any 'noise'. Then I trust that everything went as it needed to go to help the most people, in the best way. God doesn't 'make' things happen to manipulate His children on earth, but I know that He will guide those who are open to be, do and have what they need to help the most of His children return to Him while honoring their choice. I have fought against what I could not control. I'm trying not to do that any more. Doesn't mean I don't try really hard to move things the direction I'd like them to go, but once I've done all that I can do I trust God's wisdom to be at work and look forward with faith to the resolution of what I don't understand. Seems to be a delicate balance between what I can and ought to do and what I can't and ought to accept. I guess everyone is learning that in their own way. I really think that's one of the BIG lessons that we're here to learn. God couldn't make us become like Him and return and live with Him. It would completely destroy the point of the matter. While God honors laws that are unchangeable and eternal, there is no one making him do so. He honors the laws because He knows that is what must be done from His own experience. He has sent us here to learn of our own experience what is good and true and live according to that because we've learned for ourselves that it is best. Not because God rules my life against my will. But rather, because I'm learning from falling or kicking against what is good and true that living in harmony with what is good and true brings me real happiness. I know I've got a good way to go before I'm like God, but knowing that is where I want to be and that through Christ's atonement, some how, all my short comings will be overcome and the final product of my life will be what matters gives me real peace. ha ha ha...I was interrupted and lost my train of thought. Oh, well. Write what I can when I've got it to write. Not working on a book here, just putting out what's on my mind. I recently found out my Grandfather has colon cancer. If you know him, you know he's pretty steady. Very methodical and consistent in most all of his life. Generally speaking, he's just a good man. He has his funny quirks that make all his grand children laugh. He's had white hair as long as I can remember. He was in the Navy during World War II and I love to hear his stories about the war. He probably hates when I start on my questions, as I have a million of them for him and Grandma about what life was like when they were younger. Hey, they've seen a lot! Growing up during the Great Depression, World War II and on. He loves baseball. Kind of a bummer that I didn't ever really get into baseball, so when he starts talking about the standing of a team I just nod my head and pretend like I have a clue. I don't know, it's kind of surreal to think of him passing away. I don't know if that's odd to say considering he's still alive, but I guess I never thought about it. He's been a real constant in my life. There are things I don't understand about him, but I guess that's true of anyone. I'd like to know why he quit coming to church. What he really thinks about life and what it's all about. Why he thinks he's here. OK. I'm done.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Create a Masterpiece of Your Life

Arnold Bennett is quoted as saying: “The real tragedy is the tragedy of a man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort, who never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature. To lie down and moan and whine about limited opportunities is the part of weaklings. To grasp the opportunities at hand and walk forward is the way of the strong.”

It is fascinating to me that so many independent sources have arrived as of late with the same basic message. Create a masterpiece of you life! The latest messenger came in the form of a talk I was asked to give at church about living the abundant life. The formula I found was a three part formula.

  1. Drink deeply of living waters
  2. Fill your heart with love
  3. Create a masterpiece of your life

That's it. First you have to center your life to a fixed and true point. It is impossible to navigate this earth without fixed and true points to set your bearings to, I can't imagine why we'd think we could navigate our lives without first setting our bearings to a fixed and true point. Christ is that fixed and true point as far as I see it. By drinking deeply of His words we can find peace in a tumultuous world. I find faith and hope because of Him. Both faith and hope are necessary if you want to be able to live the abundant life for very long.

As I have experimented on this formula I have found that out of a study and pondering upon the words of Christ, a desire springs up in my soul to want to love others as he loved and loves. I find myself trying to give others the benefit of the doubt. Finding patience for their follies and errors as I hope others will afford me the same luxury. As I fill my heart with love, love's sister gratitude shows up, because where love is gratitude will flow as well. Gratitude sets the stage for the creating of one's masterpiece.

To me creating a masterpiece of your life starts with getting clear on exactly what it is you want your life to be. Of course, like any masterpiece you can think of, the goal will be revised and refined as the process progresses. I believe that at a very young age we get a glimpse of what our life could be as we dream. Then we let our perception of reality build a fence around our lives, cutting us off from the dream that at one time seemed so sure. So, breaking down fences seems to be the first order of business, once we've revived our dreams. Gradually we can, with God's help, tear down the layers of growth that years of neglect built up around our lives. That hedge that seems to make it impossible to reach our dreams, can vanish quickly and much more easily that we at first may have though possible.

The biggest deal to me seems to be semantics. For some reason we pick up the goofiest meanings for words that shape our perception of what is possible. Addressing how we define key words can be the first step to clearing the cobwebs and sharpening the tools that will allow us to cut through all the false evidence appearing as real (or f.e.a.r.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Desire to Reality

As we put out our desires via thought mixed with faith we send our desire to God. He shares with us via inspiration what we can do to bring about our desires and inspires 0thers to do and or say those things that will bring our desires from the unseen world into the seen world. The truly incredible part is that God may have granted that inspiration that we need to others centuries before we took thought to put out our desire. This atests to the facts that past, present and future are before God and that time is not linear to God. Here's a little illustration of the process. I can't take any credit for this idea. Susan threw it at me after church, but she said it was OK for me to write it out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Decreeth Unto them Decrees Which Are Unalterable...

Since Susan and I watched The Secret both our minds have been working to validate the claims and methods proposed in the show. The other day my dad mentioned that he had come across these verses in Alma 29 some time back that seemed to speak to the topic. So as timing seems to always be impecable, two days ago we read Alma 29 as the natural course of our family scripture study. I found the 'set up' fantastic. Alma 28 and 29 almost shouldn't be separated at all. At any rate, let's take a closer look at the first few verses of Alma 29.

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! 2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. 3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. 4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. 5 Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience. 6 Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? 7 Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth? 8 For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. If you see what I'm talking about...share your insights. I'll hit this post with a follow up...later.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Perception vs Reality

Last night we watched the 2003 A Wrinkle in Time. While I can't really say that it's as good as the book, which seems to be the case 99% of the time, there were a few good parts to the movie. One of them was when Meg is with Aunt Beast and Meg comes to the realization that what is and what seems to be are different. So often in life we get distracted from what is by what seems to be. This is true in all areas of life. For example, when I start to worry about money and where it will come from I've been distracted by the perceived lack in the world. When I am able to clear the fog of perception with the realization of reality then all worry and concern is dispelled. The reality of life is that there is abundance available to us all. The fact is that there is more than enough for everyone. That's it...Inspiration wasn't really here at this moment, I was forcing myself to write. I have something I want to write about but it is resting in the corner of my mind for the moment. When it awakens I'll revise this post.