Friday, August 31, 2012

Judging Signs

So this week has been difficult keeping my goal as I have a lot going on at work. Exciting things, but a lot of work. I submitted one paper yesterday and am hoping to submit another one tomorrow. At this stage the papers are tedium, getting them into the correct format, a comma here or there, and filling out lots of information fields. Ugh. Hopefully I will have something more substantial this weekend. Till then I have been thinking about these scriptures in Helaman 9, which is part of this Sunday's Sunday School lesson:
2 [Five men sent to verify Nephi's words say] Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.


18 And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.

19 Nevertheless, they caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death—
Some were willing to accept a sign (the five men), others wanted to condemn Nephi anyways (the judges).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pres. Monson's Temple Advice

This is a pretty neat and funny story from Pres. Monson about a year ago (the funniest part is in bold).  It reminds me of my own bishop's push for our ward to get to the temple.
Many years ago in the ward over which I presided as the bishop, there lived a couple who often had very serious, heated disagreements. I mean real disagreements. Each of the two was certain of his or her position. Neither one would yield to the other. When they weren’t arguing, they maintained what I would call an uneasy truce.

One morning at 2:00 a.m. I had a telephone call from the couple. They wanted to talk to me, and they wanted to talk right then. I dragged myself from bed, dressed, and went to their home. They sat on opposite sides of the room, not speaking to each other. The wife communicated with her husband by talking to me. He replied to her by talking to me. I thought, “How in the world are we going to get this couple together?”

I prayed for inspiration, and the thought came to me to ask them a question. I said, “How long has it been since you have been to the temple and witnessed a temple sealing?” They admitted it had been a very long time. They were otherwise worthy people who held temple recommends and who went to the temple and did ordinance work for others.

I said to them, “Will you come with me to the temple on Wednesday morning at 8:00? We will witness a sealing ceremony there.”

In unison they asked, “Whose ceremony?”

I responded, “I don’t know. It will be for whoever is getting married that morning.”

On the following Wednesday at the appointed hour, we met at the Salt Lake Temple. The three of us went into one of the beautiful sealing rooms, not knowing a soul in the room except Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, a General Authority position which existed at that time. Elder Christiansen was scheduled to perform a sealing ceremony for a bride and groom in that very room that morning. I am confident the bride and her family thought, “These must be friends of the groom” and that the groom’s family thought, “These must be friends of the bride.” My couple were seated on a little bench with about a full two feet (0.6 m) of space between them.

Elder Christiansen began by providing counsel to the couple who were being married, and he did so in a beautiful fashion. He mentioned how a husband should love his wife, how he should treat her with respect and courtesy, honoring her as the heart of the home. Then he talked to the bride about how she should honor her husband as the head of the home and be of support to him in every way.

I noticed that as Elder Christiansen spoke to the bride and the groom, my couple moved a little closer together. Soon they were seated right next to one another. What pleased me is that they had both moved at about the same rate. By the end of the ceremony, my couple were sitting as close to each other as though they were the newlyweds. Each was smiling.

We left the temple that day, and no one ever knew who we were or why we had come, but my friends were holding hands as they walked out the front door. Their differences had been set aside. I had not had to say one word. You see, they remembered their own wedding day and the covenants they had made in the house of God. They were committed to beginning again and trying harder this time around.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Elder Packer: Trusting in the Lord

I found this quote in my email draft folder:
"The scriptures say that it will be given at the very minute that portion which shall be meeted out to every man. Thats very comforting. There's not much fear involved. Once you know the Lord, and know the process of revelation, [and ah] he never fails to tell you what to do." - Pres. Packer
I found it a while back from a video, which I have since lost. So no source, but to add to its authenticity I even included my transcription of his under breath pause speaking :) It wasn't a general conference talk, but one of those News Cast videos on where he is speaking to a smaller group. I don't think it says anything controversial, but I don't like giving quotes without a source. If anyone can find it let me know:

I do like the sentiment. Pres. Packer is a strong leader and his faith comes across confidently here. All we have to do is trust the Lord and eventually (could be decades) any revelation, personal or otherwise, will make sense.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Traveling while disabled

The BBC's Frank Gardner recounted some of his experiences flying while in a wheelchair (source). I do not use a wheelchair, but when I fly I usually ask for assistance (a person pushing me in a wheelchair through the airport) as I cannot stand very long and the lines are brutal. So far I am happy to report that I have not had the difficulties he has, but I have had a few instances where things have been difficult.

My favorite thing is to compare the service between airports. Some have a professional, dedicated service providing the assistance, and others use the normal staff of the airlines. The best I have experienced is in Detroit. They apparently hire a bunch of college freshman (from multiple universities) to push you through at a quick speed. They knew where they needed to go and were efficient (though still checking their phones :).

JFK on the other hand was horrible. I had a connecting flight with a 6 hour layover and they still barely got me on the plane. They forgot about me from the get go and after multiple requests and 2hrs they finally came to help me.  They transported me to a different terminal where I waited a few more hours. Then about 1.5hrs before my departure they switched the gate of my plane, back to the terminal I had originally come from. Again, after more requests for help, they got me to the plane just before boarding was about to end. Not happy that day.

Over all the experience is great and I can attest to Gardner's statement of "almost VIP status". It is nice to board early and skip past security and customs lines. But I have only traveled to developed countries. I get nervous about how it would be to other parts of the globe.

My other big worry is that now I have a big metal device in my back that will set off sensors. This could seriously delay security checks which are already difficult standing without shoes on, a cane, and my trousers almost falling down. Now I will have to have a metal detector survey my whole body while I stand looking like a weirdo.  I'll let you know how it goes next time I travel.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Artist and his Friends

Painter's Honeymoon by Lord Frederic Leighton
An artist had a stroke of inspiration; he would start a new painting. He wanted three of his friends: a gallery owner, a curator, and an art lover, to enjoy the project from start to finish so he invited them over, but refused to describe his vision in advance.

As he started the gallery owner decided he only wanted to see the end product, so as not to spoil the surprise. The remaining two joined the artist in his studio and watched as he mixed the colors he would use. He tenderly dipped his brush and made stroke after stroke. Some sweeping, some intricate, all intentional to his conception. Finally, he ended and left the paint to dry.

After it was done, all three companions viewed the painting and the artist tentatively asked what they thought of the work. The gallery owner, who had not stayed, thought it was good and worthy of an honorable place in his gallery. The curator was disappointed. For him the process was more interesting and the final product uninspiring. But the art lover had enjoyed learning about the process the artist used and it helped him to understand the artist a little bit more. He was able to glimpse the intensity and care the painter had devoted to a masterpiece.

This was my first attempt, in a while, to write a symbolic story. I view it like writing poetry, but I’m doing it as a way to express myself more than because I think I’m any good. 

Here, the story centers on an artist who is a symbol for the great Creator. The three friends all represent different kinds of people in the world. Some who believe in the Creator and his art/miracles and some that don’t see the miracles. Many who don’t believe, think that since something can be explained it is less miraculous, less indicative of a Creator. Others believe that God’s miracles can or should never be explained, only possible by supernatural law. 

The gallery owner represents those who honor God, and marvel at his creation, but are uninterested or unwilling to understand how He made the world. They are quick to assume a supernatural intervention that “designed” the world and that if it is explained it cannot be termed a miracle. The curator represents those who are interested in how the world is created and how it works. Unfortunately they believe that once something is explained in removes the divinity of it. The art lover represents those who want to see how things were created and gains a greater understanding of God through that knowledge. They understand God through faith and science.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Do not run faster than you have strength: How fast is that?

The BBC recently reported that a locally valued fresco of the Savior was "restored" by an 80 year old woman with "good intentions", but apparently with less talent than she thought. The kicker is that the original painter's granddaughter had just donated money to have it professionally restored.

Speaking generally, I don't think this is unusual for us humans. It is so easy to overestimate our own abilities: think American Idol tryouts. It requires a constant self-reflection and people whom we can trust who are willing to give us an honest assessment.

I find this in myself quite often. I was recently called to teach in the Elder's Quorum. I really enjoy sharing comments in class, teaching, and speaking at church and other venues, but I have difficulty assessing my actual abilities. I ask people I trust for constructive criticism after class, but at church the culture is one of only stating uplifting compliments. I understand this. We want people to feel comfortable no matter what their best is. It is sometimes easy to see through by asking the follow up question: "So what did you like specifically?" or a similar derivative. Which is (sometimes) followed by a waffle.

With our talents, abilities, finances, and resources we are told not to "run faster than [we have] strength", but sometimes we can't know that without a friend telling us what we can improve. It's just got to be done with the right balance of support and insight.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Google Maps Ads

OK, I think these videos are way cool!! Talk about a good use of technology to 1) help your fellow man,

 and 2) learn about our past.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

19 August Weekend Summary

This week has been a very good one for me. I think the blogging has helped me organize my time better and focus my stray thoughts. This post is going to be a summary of what I have done in my first "real" week blogging. I know now that I need to keep up this pace for the first two months or so to solidify the writing as a habit, but that after that a less rigorous schedule will help me from posting more inane things.

The first post was the background to my goal of posting regularly.

The second post was a quote from a new hero of mine: Asa Gray.

The third post expressed my reaction to the killing in the Sikh temple, and how that translated into a family home evening for us.

The fourth post was a short summary of what has happened since my neurostimulator was put in.

The fifth post was a few quotes from David Lack on evolution, randomness, and belief in God.

I will continue to look for good things to post about. I think to keep the ideas floating I will find some cool quotes and discuss why I think they are cool. I also have some analogies I have promised, but have not felt up to doing them justice just yet. Don't expect too much (I'm not meaning to raise expectations because they will likely be mediocre), they will be new for me, though important to me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Biologos Requotes from David Lack

Today I'm requoting some statements from

Behind the criticism that Darwinism means that evolution is either random or rigidly determined lies the fear that evolution proceeds blindly, and not in accordance with a divine plan. This is another problem that really lies outside the terms of reference of biology. It is true that biologists have inferred that, because evolution occurs by natural selection, there is no divine plan; but they are being as illogical as those theologians whom they rightly criticize for inferring that, because there is a divine plan, evolution cannot be the result of natural selection. -David Lack (source)
And from the same source:

Mutations are random in relation to the needs of the animal, but natural selection is not. Selection, as the word implies, is the reverse of chance. -David Lack (source)
I am glad to find that someone could put this so succinctly. It is an important concept that is misunderstood by non-biologists and "obvious" to biologists. It is good he has bridged that gap.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How I recieved a Material Miracle.

I have chronic neuropathic pain. This means that my normal day consists of significant amounts of burning, stabbing, nauseating pain in my lower legs. Not fun. To help with this I am on a significant amount of medication, for someone my age. At least I think so; I'm not too knowledgeable of other peoples' medicinal regimens.

Anyway, over a month ago I had a neurostimulator put in to help with the pain. This is a device that puts an electrical pulse on my spine in a place where it causes noise for my brain thus masking the pain signals. It has a rechargeable battery that receives its charge through a conductive pad I place on my skin. The recovery from the surgery part, which left me in the hospital overnight, went really well and took about three weeks. At that point I was basically receiving no benefit and some discomfort as my back muscles knitted back together.

Two weeks ago, yesterday, I met with a rep to program the device, as there are multiple leads that focus the current on different parts of my spinal cord. He gave me a number of different variations and I have been testing them and their intensity.

I feel no pain. I have extended times where I am pain free. I have actually held my older son without pain. The first time ever and he is three. I am able to go back to work regularly rather than lay in bed in the fetal position. I actually have to take it slow sometimes as my muscles are out of condition, but I can walk more than 200 yards without feeling like I have to sit and stay sitting.

It does not always work 100% and sometimes when the pain is really strong I have to increase the intensity of the stimulator to compensate. This makes my legs stiff and sometimes I am unbalanced. But to know that 1) I can take control of my pain and 2) it is not from popping a pill that will take effect in the next 30-40 minutes and most likely carry significant side effects, makes me feel incredibly empowered.

I am grateful to a God who can inspire man to help me. Many times the Lord works through men and my body now consists of things both God and man created. I feel I have received a material miracle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sikhism's Value

On Mondays, our family has weekly activities to give us an opportunity to teach our children the Gospel and other life lessons. We have young kids so the lessons tend to be very simple.

As a result of the shooting almost two weeks ago we had a lesson specifically on how everyone on earth is important and should be treated with love and kindness. We colored crowns to show that we are all important and that God loves and wants the best for us. He is equally the Creator of us all.

It struck me that this lesson was not inspired directly from my own faith, but by the memories of when I studied Sikhism in a comparative religions class. They have a richly symbolic and beautiful faith. A strong belief in and history of defending those that are less powerful. I think we can learn a lot from these people and we benefit by having them in our society.
All are created from the seed of God. There is the same clay in the whole world, the potter (God) makes many kinds of pots. -Guru Amar Das, Bhairo (source)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Asa Gray's Christian Calling

I am currently reading a biography of Asa Gray. I was turned on to it from a series of posts at The posts themselves are pretty good, but I have been more interested in who Dr. Gray was. Asa Gray was a professor of Botany at Harvard University and was a contemporary of Charles Darwin (and Emerson and Joseph Smith, some of my favorite people). Many consider him the first defender of Darwin’s Origin of Species in America. He was also an orthodox Presbyterian throughout his life and saw his science as truly important and not at odds with his faith. In fact neither really did Darwin, he just struggled for other reasons.

Many years earlier, when Gray first moved, theologically, from a more material rationalism to a more fervent orthodoxy he made the following statement about his Christian calling:
 Whenever I see clearly that my duty calls in any other direction I shall throw up science as a profession, if not without a sigh, yet without a moment’s hesitation. Meanwhile I feel that the labor of years would be wasted if I did not turn the knowledge I have acquired to the greatest account. (pg. 46 of the 1959 hard bound edition) 
That really resonated with me as I feel most people serve the Lord by being good at their profession and integrating their professional life with church life. By this I mean using those skills and influence obtained in the “secular” world to advance the cause of the gospel. Dr. Gray is a good example for this and I am really enjoying the 50 year old plus biography. I’m only part way through it and may return to themes I get from it. One is his example of living the Sabbath, important for this coming Sunday’s lesson.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A new future

So it has been a rough start for the blog. I have a goal to make it a habit of publishing regularly, the problem is I am afraid that regular, but not every day will make it difficult to establish a habit. In researching what it will take to establish a habit I thought first of the general statistic of 21 days. Apparently this was based off of completely unrelated issues (how quick an injured person could adjust to the loss of a limb). In 2009 some research showed that on average it takes 66 days, but depends on the task in question.

Well lucky for me I can combine the two :) I recently had spinal surgery and while I didn't loss a  limb I now have a neurostimulator with a remote that feels like a limb and I am slowly learning to rely (more on that soon). So hopefully somehow that will help me with my unrelated goal of blogging.

I think I was over-analyzing the blogging thing, I know now I needed to just relax, at least in my mind, lets see how well it translates to my emotions. As a result I think some of the posts will be sort thoughts (with bad spelling) and others will be more fleshed out ideas. Like a censored and sometimes extended journal. I do have a few analogies/parables I have been working on and hope to share shortly.

So here is day 1 of 66!