Saturday, April 29, 2006

Day 25: Stars

Last night I lay on my back gazing up into the clear night sky unpolluted by the lights of civilization. Before I dozed off I picked a small section of the sky and tried to count the stars. They could not be numbered. Twenty times or more I woke, rolled over, glanced at the stars wondered at their quantity, their distance, their randomness, their order and tucked down into my sleeping bag again.

Who put them there? Did they do it just for us stargazers or is there some grander scheme?

Day 24: A Compass

I've recently been teaching orienteering skills to the boys in our scout troop. As I worked with them it struck me how amazing the compass is. It has been around for thousands of years with relatively little change in its features and function. It is incredibly reliable and consistant.

The information presented on a compass is transparent, there is no guessing. Things are either at a certain bearing or not. If someone came down this path before and told you to go due North for 500km to hit the mark you can be assured that the course is set and constant for all who follow.

How nice it would be if we could be so transparent in our course - letting all that cared to observe us see exactly where we are going. How nice it would be if the paths we navigate through life could be marked with the same precision as a compass course. How wonderful if we could rely on direction given to us as completely as we can a true compass.

We each have an internal compass. The direction, the constancy, the transparency is there within us but for some reason we refuse to look. Somehow we look outward for our direction, we question our true compass.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Day 23: Mountains

I have always lived at the base of mountains except for two years of my life when I lived in an extremely flat portion of Europe. Mountains give me a feeling of security. I feel vulnerable when they aren't around offering shelter. Mountains offer direction. I remember as a small child learning which way was east or west not by the sun, but by the mountains. The big mountains were to the East, the small mountains were to the West. For a period of time we lived on the other side of the mountains. I wasn't very old but I remember realizing that these mountains which were now on the West were the same mountains that used to be on the East. Having them close by helped me feel secure, helped me know where home was.

When I see the snow-capped peaks rising up above the valley, the first rays of the sun breaking out across the valley, or the pink reflection of the sunset on the Eastern slopes, I'm overcome with gratitude. I wonder about the master artist that could create such grandeur and beauty. The creations of man seem insignificant in comparison. I feel gratitude for the creator of these mountains, their majesty and beauty.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Day 22: Strolls Along the Beach

I love the feeling of walking along the beach. The feel of the sand, the salty air, the rhythmic waves and the treasures that wash up on the shore offer tranquility and peace. There's something about watching fresh footprints disappear in the surf and the feeling of the sand eroding out from under your feet as the undercurrent pulls back into the ocean that never loses its mystery.

I associate beaches with family fun. I associate them with peace and crispness.

My favorite time at the beach is sunset. How many times has the sun sunk down into the ocean sending its rays shooting out for miles and miles across the waves? Perhaps millions and yet each time it is the firts time. Each time it is new. Each time is a one of a kind.

A walk along the beach has the power to push all cares away and leave behind just those things that are dear. The waves come in and go back out washing away the sand and leaving behind the treasures in my mind.

Day 21: I'm Grateful for My Ancestors

Over the past few years I've started to get into genealogy. Not that I'm a great genealogist, I just really feel a draw toward my ancestors. I've had many amazing experiences as I've worked to find them and learn about them. It gives me a greater sense of who I am. It is mentally challenging and spiritually fulfilling. In some ways it also is an expression of my gratitude to those that have paved the way before.

This is Deodat Brewster. He was born in 1789. How cool is that? He is a direct descendant of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower. Deodat is my 4th Great Grandpa which means my family has been in the United States for a long time.

This is an artist's sketch of Deodat's home in Wisconsin in 1873.

I fully expect to meet my ancestors after this life. The more family history I do the more I look forward to meeting them.

Day 20: Spring in the Front Yard

We've put a lot of work into our flower beds. Each spring I forget how spectacular the front beds look as everything bursts into bloom. This picture is about 2 weeks from the prime of our spring color. Nearly every inch of our front beds will be covered with whites, pinks, purples and yellows. The lilacs will come into bloom and just as that all fades the first round of roses will come on. At last count we had about 45 different rose bushes throughtout the yard. I'll have to post about roses when the time comes.

I think part of why I love the front yard in the spring is the work my wife and I have put into it to make it come about. We love working together in the flower beds. There is nothing quite like the feel of good soil in your hand.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Day 19: Little Hands

I'm grateful for these two little hands. They are small and delicate. They have the most interesting gestures and they find the most amazing things. They fit snuggly into mine. They reach to me for security and I feel secured. They reach out for comfort and I feel comforted. They reach out to be lifted up and I am uplifted. These two little hands offer so much that is good.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Day 18: Bagpipes and Tulips

Bagpipes and tulips may seem like a strange combination. But as I walked through the annual Tulip Show at a huge garden this evening and heard a piper in the distance playing Scotland the Brave, it all seemed to fit together nicely. What is it about the bagpipes that reaches into the deepest part of me and stirs my soul. Am I the only one that gets teary-eyed whenever I hear them? Perhaps it is the generations of Scottish blood within me recognizing something about my true nature. Somehow the reverberation of the pipes seems to be a natural part of me. The bagpipes make me feel like I've come home after being away for ages. Only it is a home I've never been to.

A few years ago I spent a day in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was probably there less than 24 hours. As I walked around the streets during lunch It seemed as if I had a sense of the generations that had gone before. They seemed to be all around me and again I felt at home.

I love the bagpipes. Somehow their chant is a natural part of me. They pierce my heart. They make me feel more alive. They help me understand more about who I am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Day 17: General Conference

I've almost finished listening to General Conference again. It is really an amazing thing. It is so rejuvinating, so instructive, so full of the Spirit of the Lord. I really enjoyed Elder Nelson's talk about marriage. Elder Eyring's talk about becoming like a child to survive the challenges ahead was also very powerful. I love to hear from President Hinckley and President Monson's talk during the Priesthood session was hilarious and uplifting.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity we have to listen to Apostles, Prophets, and other leaders of the Church. I used to work around the house on Saturday while I listened to the Saturday sessions. For the past several years I've stopped doing that because I just want to listen. This year I was supposed to be coaching the girls basketball team during the afternoon session. There was no way I was going to miss conference so we all stayed home to watch it. I mentioned it to someone later in an off-handed way and they thought I was joking about not wanting to miss conference enough to skip basketball practice. I'd give up just about anything to be able to listen to conference.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Day 16: High Speed Corners

Do you remember when you first realized that you could go really fast around a corner on your bike? Then you made a little course with three or four corners perfectly spaced so that you could take each corner with maximum velocity. You were totally one with the bike.

Today while driving down the street I saw a little girl who seemed to have discovered the joy of high speed corners. The wind was blowing through her hair and stirring the streamers at the ends of her handle bars. The late afternoon sun made the glitter paint on her bike sparkle. She zipped down the sidewalk, turned sharp across her lawn, careened through the carport and cornered back onto the sidewalk over and over again. She radiated excitement and joy. For a moment I was seven years old racing behind her feeling the elation of high speed corners once again. Watching her was almost as good as discovering the thrill for the first time myself.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Day 15: Choral Music

This morning while doing the dishes I was listening to a combined Choir from Brigham Young University sing some spiritual music. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the song and the depth of the message it carried that I soon had tears streaming down my cheeks. There is something powerful about a great choir singing great music.

Want to hear this song? Here's a link to the mp3. The song is 8min 45sec into the mp3.

Here's a link to the lyrics.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Day 14: Family Home Evening

Each Monday night (or at least most Monday nights) we have family home evening. We do different things. Usually we start and finish with a song and a prayer, have a spiritual lesson of sorts and sometimes play a game and have treats. Other times we may do an activity, go on a drive, to a movie, to Grandma and Grandpa's house, etc. I love being with the kids, learning and playing together.

Recently for family home evenings we've been working on memorizing The Articles of Faith. Our oldest finished memorizing them tonight and the second oldest is nearly done. The third child isn't quite ready to memorize them but enjoys reciting them with us and the 4th child can't talk yet.

After working on The Articles of Faith we played charades. Man do we have some hams in the family. Then we had our closing song and prayer and Mom read the last chapter of Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis, to us. Sure there was some craziness and even a few quarrels before we were finished but all in all we had a great time, learned together, and strengthened our relationships with each other.

I'm grateful for family home evening.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Day 13: He is Risen!

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6)

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 32:32)

And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did aworship him. (3 Nephi 11:15-17)

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness. (Alma 9:9)

I am grateful that He is risen!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Day 12: My Neighbors

I love my neighbors. I'm not just talking about the people that live on both sides of me. I feel an ever increasing love for everyone that lives near me and with whom I work or socialize. It is an amazing thing to mourn for those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, to rejoice with those that have cause to rejoice, to love your neighbor.

Recently one neighbor lost a son that was born premature. He lived 3 hours and then passed away. I've shed many tears and offered many sincere prayers for them. I don't worry about their premature baby, he's moved on to a great place. I feel the grief of those that are left behind. Similarly I rejoice that another neighbor has finally found a job after being laid off 6 months ago. I am also amazed at the new baby girl across the street and feel a thrill each time I talk to the proud father and mother.

Why? Because we are all spirit children of the same Heavenly Father. As my heart increases in love for Him and His Son, He fills my heart with love for all of His children. This is especially true of those in my neighborhood. I believe that many around me feel this same way. I'm constantly amazed at the love, concern, service and sacrifice that my neighbors offer to each other. I am grateful for my neighbors.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Day 11: Weeds

It may seem strange to feel gratitude for weeds and yet I am deeply grateful for weeds. I've learned a lot from weeds over the years. I have a healthy respect and awe of them. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are amazingly resilient. Others are rather easy to control and get rid of. So why the gratitude? Weeds represent the opposition. Somehow I enjoy my flower beds more because of the energy I have to exert to overcome the weeds.

Among the more resilient of weeds in this part of the world is a monster called bind weed. It is often mistakenly called morning glory which is not a weed but a beautiful flowering vine. Bind weed is almost impossible to irradicate. Sure you can pull out the green stuff above the ground. You can try to pull out the roots. You can spray it with any number of weed killers. You may get on top of it for a season but it always seems to come back. Sometimes with extreme diligence over a period of years you can get rid of it. It has been in my quest to rid my yard of bind weed that I've realized how much bind weed is like the vices and addictions in our lives.

You can pull out the bind weed and the surface of the flower bed looks clean for awhile but if you leave even the smallest bit of the root structure behind (and it is almost impossible to pull out all of the roots) it will regenerate into a new plant. What was once a single plant becomes a dozen as each of the small pieces of the root system regenerate. So it goes with the vices in our lives, we can remove the surface signs of our sin but unless we get out the last bit of the root structure we run a high risk of the vice coming to the surface again. About the only way to get rid of the bind weed is through constant vigilence at removing the plant when it surfaces and planting other stronger plants in the bed which will eventually dominate and prevent the bind weed from being able to establish a hold.

So it goes that in the weeding of souls we must dig deep, suffer some pain, and get all of the roots.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Day 10: Robbie at baseball

Tonight I took our oldest to baseball practice. This is the first time he has ever played baseball and only the second practice. He has never been inclined toward sports - atleast not until the past year.

Toward the end of practice I overheard the following conversation as two of the boys on the team watched Daniel take his turn trying to pitch the ball (the first time he's ever stood on a pitchers mound and tried to pitch a ball...).

Boy 1: "That boy has a hearing disorder."
Boy 2: "So, what does that matter."
Boy 1: "I just thought maybe you didn't know. I'm not racist or anything."
Boy 2: "He's doing a great job."
Boy 2: Yelling at the top of his lungs - "Way to go! Great pitch! Keep up the good work!" As the ball stops in the dirt well short of the catcher.

Boy 2 is named Robbie. On Day 10 I'm extremely grateful for boys like Robbie.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Day 9: My Truck

OK - I like my truck. It's not fancy but it is comfy. I fit in it and it takes me interesting places.

Something about pulling a large load through lots of mud makes you feel accomplished. For instance, load the bed with gear and water drums then pull a trailer with outhouses on it through a totally muddy four wheel drive trail.

Last summer Truck and I slid off the road with some big river rafts and a canoe trailer. As if that wasn't bad enough, I had 5 teenage girls in the cab with me screaming "We're going to die!!!" If only I had pictures of that one.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Day 8: Becky & Lori & Sue & Cristee

Tonight we went to an AG Bell get together. Kind of a reunion for families with kids that are deaf or hard of hearing. We have two that fit into that camp. The children recited poetry, told stories and displayed art work. Our oldest recited a poem and displayed an art project. Two of the teachers (Becky & Lori) we worked closely with during pre-school years at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind were there with their current pre-school classes.

As you would expect, reciting poetry is extremely hard for deaf and hard of hearing pre-schoolers. Each new sound, syllable, word or phrase is a major milestone. I quickly recalled all of the hard work teaching our oldest simple words that most children pick up naturally. Working over and over on the word until they recognize it and can reproduce it well enough to recognize it as the word. Then recording it in the notebook of words. Each sound, each syllable, each word and each phrase dearly prized.

I remember the great tears of gratitude that came as I pulled away from the pre-school for the last time. There were so many who had given so much to help our oldest become ready for a mainstream classroom. Even now I find words inadequate to express the gratitude that I feel for those that loved and taught our child. There are of course others that should be mentioned but on Day 8 I am particularly grateful for Becky & Lori & Sue & Cristee. Thank you! A thousand times thank you!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Day 7: Tin Whistles

I've always liked music and received much joy from all types of music. When I was younger I spent a little time playing the piano, trumpet, and bassoon. A few years ago my wife became enchanted with tin whistle. I bought her one as a gift. After we fought over it for a while I bought me one for a gift. We now have about 30 or so different tin whistles. We love to sit out on the the back patio swing on summer evenings and play jigs, aires, and reels together while the kids play in the yard.

I keep one in my truck to play as I commute to and from work. There is always one close at hand at home and we rarely go camping or on vacation without taking a few of our favorites along. Perhaps our passion for the tin whistle comes from our Irish roots. There is nothing quite like playing a spritely jig with your sweetheart.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Day 6: Peach Blossoms

These are peach blossoms from a tree in my back yard. They are amazing in their delicacy. They are stunningly beautiful. Nature is about to discard the gray gowns of winter and blossom into spring. Peach blossoms are like the first glimpse of new-born skin - a reminder that things which were dead for a season will rise again in beauty in the warmth of the sun. A powerful reminder of their creator.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Day 5: Church

Today I went to a baptismal service where a boy and a girl from our neighborhood were baptized and confirmed. I took one of my children with me that will be baptized at the end of the year. The closing song that was sung at the service was, "I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." What a great song! It was the perfect conclusion to the service. I remember reflecting back on the day I was baptized by my dad. I don't remember all the detail but I do remember feeling very serious about the promises I was making with Heavenly Father. I also remember as a newly baptized member of the Chuch how amazing it was to feel pure and clean.

It hit me again (as it has many times before) what an amazing priviledge it is to be a member of the Church that Christ himself described as "...the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth..."

I'm grateful for church and all that it offers. I love going to meetings each week. I love serving in the Kingdom. I love the doctrine. I love the congregation. I love the Ward, Stake, and General Conferences. In fact, just last Saturday during the afternoon session of conference I was supposed to take two of my children to basketball practice. I couldn't stand to miss conference however so we ditched basketball practice. This might not seem like that big of deal but I'm the coach!

On day 5 I'm grateful for church.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Day 4: God the Father

I'm grateful for my Heavenly Father. He lives. He is literally the father of my spirit. He loves me. He wants me to become like Him. He wants me to be happy. He has provided everything that I need to become like Him and to be happy. I love Him and long to see Him again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Day 3: Mom and Dad

Day 3: My parents rock! I mean sure, I'm grateful for all the usual stuff. They brought me into the world, fed me, sheltered me, taught me, yadayada. I'm also grateful for some unusual things that I won't mention here. But what is it about my parents that makes me profoundly grateful?

I could name many things I've learned from my Dad but here's something for which I'm most grateful. My Dad taught me how to work, and work, and work. He didn't just teach me how to work hard, he taught me to love work. He also taught me unselfish service. When I was young I had no vision for what he was teaching me. Here is a classic example of the types of work and service Dad inflicted upon his boys (for which I am now extremely grateful). Get up at 5:30am on a Saturday morning in the middle of the winter. Drive an hour to a dairy farm owned by a church and used to produce dairy products for welfare efforts. Volunteer to muck out the stalls. The lists of hard work and meaningful service go on and on. At this end of the spectrum I fully appreciate the value of hard work and service. Not only do they allow me to provide well for my family and serve others but they bring me fulfillment and meaning. Thanks Dad!

I'm grateful to Mom for teaching me to trust in God and to forgive. And to do both always, unconditionally. I can't begin to describe what I've seen my mother go through and still trust in God and forgive when no one (other than God) would have required it. Her faith in God is living and constant. This same faith and willingness to forgive that I now possess atleast in some measure is the anchor of my life. When all the world around me is in commotion I am at peace. I have a never ending source of happiness and a constant freedom. Life has purpose, meaning, direction. Things can be measured in black and white. People can be forgiven and loved. Thanks Mom!

Day 2: Children

I love children in general. For day 2 of 365 days of gratitude I want to talk particularly about my four children. It amazes me how deeply and differently I love each one. Life has so much richness as seen through their eyes. They are each brilliant - I mean truly brilliant - in very unique ways. Each seems to have an unbounded potential. Each adds to our family exponentially.

Here are some of the things in particular that fill me with gratitude for my children.
  • they love to read
  • they love to laugh and play tricks on me
  • they give great hugs
  • they fit very naturally on my lap and by my side
  • they often say what everyone is thinking but would never verbalize
  • they love me - I am a hero in their eyes
  • they love their mother
  • they love each other
  • they take care of each other
  • they make great forts
  • the edges of their imaginations seem to ripple out across their world
  • they are amazingly resilient - they bounce back
  • they are beginning to understand what it means to be a lady or a gentleman
  • they keep life fresh
  • the boys are all boy and the girls are 150% girl
  • they sleep so peacefully - how many moments of wonder I've had just peaking in their rooms at night
  • they give me something to live for, to work for, to hope for
  • they are pure
  • each has a different color of eyes - there seems to be no end to the depths of their eyes - I've often tried to find it
  • they are trusting, meek, submissive
  • they remind me of their mother
  • they are mine

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Day 1: I'm Grateful for My Wife

Here is my wife standing on the beach in the sunset. She is someone I feel gratitude for everyday. We often feel that we are the happiest couple on this earth. We wish that others could experience the joy that we feel together. Each of our almost 14 years brings us to new heights of love and understanding. I have a nick-name for her that I'm not sure even she knows. In my mind I call her Mrs. Suddenly. She is Mrs. Suddenly because it never ceases to amaze me how everyday something she does or says - some slight new movement or laugh adds to her beauty. These things happen very suddenly. She is suddenly so beautiful to me. That's why in my mind I call her Mrs. Suddenly.