Friday, November 16, 2018

Leading Saints, Ministering, and Panel Discussions

It has been somewhat of a whirlwind couple of weeks. Two weeks ago I was privileged to be able to be minister for a day at Wilbur Community Church, you can read about that here. It was such a neat experience for my family.

On Wednesday of this week I was interview by Kurt Francom over at Leading Saints regarding what changes I've made in my own leadership as a result of their site and podcast. Then after some discussion about me writing for This Week in Mormons, he asked if I wanted to possibly come write some articles for Leading Saints. How cool is that? Seriously though, if you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this podcast and site have so much to offer and you should check it out here.

This Week in Mormons covered one of my latest pieces "Do we truly preach of Christ." in their podcast this week. You can hear the podcast here and they talk about my article about the 47:30 mark. I am thrilled to be writing for them and thankful that Geoff has given me this opportunity to be a part of their team.

Coming up I will be participating in a panel discussion for Spokane Faith and Values on "Breaking Out of Our Own Echo Chambers." Tracy, the editor, asked me to participate after I wrote an article called "We Need to Bridge the Divide."

Friday, October 26, 2018

This Week in Mormons, Ask a Latter-day Saint and more....

There are a lot of good things happening lately! I was recently asked to help out with the "Ask a Latter-day Saint" column on Spokane FAVS. This column receives questions from readers and the Latter-day Saint writers for FAVS do their best to answer the question. I wrote a response to the question: Is there a doctrine against a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reading and using Dianetics: Themodern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard to improve their study ability and mental clarity. You can read my response here.

Then there is the news that I have started writing for This Week In Mormons. If you haven't been to their website, you should check it out. There's lot's of good commentary. My first article "The Convert Files: Does a Mission define you as a Latter-day Saint?" dropped on Friday the 19th. This is such a cool opportunity. Crystyne (my wife) and I even made an appearance on their podcast as they spoke about my article. You can hear that here at around the 34:30 mark.

You might be asking, how will your columns be different for the two organizations? For Spokane Faith and Values I will continue to write about the interconnection of faith groups, increasing spirituality and goodness, as well as commenting on local and national news stories from a Latter-day Saint's perspective. With This Week In Mormons, although I will probably give commentary on news stories of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I will be focusing a lot of my attention on the life of a convert, as well as the culture vs. doctrine discussion we often have within the context of our Church.

Another cool thing that happened was that I was unexpectedly given a mentor pin at an Eagle Court of honor for one of the young men that I work with at church. It's awesome to see that you can make a difference in a kid's life, even when there are times you think you aren't reaching them and you may want to pull out your hair.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Parenting is easy - Spokane FAVS Commentary

In my latest column for Spokane FAVS, I discuss parenting. I take a dive into some tips we can use to help us on the parenting adventure. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Firmer in the faith of Christ

Many of you may have noted I've spent more time writing articles for Spokane Faith and Values and in creating more spiritually inclined blog posts. I haven't given up on writing my novels, that work is still rolling forward (sometimes slower than others). I remain committed to writing entertaining books that the whole family can read without worrying about the content. That has always been the goal. In the mean time I have felt very strongly to use what little platform I have to bring some uplifting and brightness to a world that seems intent on wallowing in darkness. The only way I know how to do that is through my faith. Heavenly Father has blessed me with the ability to communicate with others, and I would be squandering that gift if I didn't share the light that I have in my life with others. I know that may not be appealing to some, but my hope is that the principles and topics that I write about can be universally applied to help us move forward and become better.

To that end, after reading in the Book of Mormon, I came across a verse in Helaman. Now, if you are unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon. The Helaman in this particular section was a Chief Judge of the people of Nephi (a ruler and religious leader of the people). But one particular verse stuck out to me, because I am always seeking ways to firm up my own foundation as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This comes from Helaman 3:35

"Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."

Helaman marks out the way for us to draw closer to God, increase the firmness of our faith and sanctify our souls in the following:

1. Fast often - What is often? Well that is up to the individual. And what does fasting have to do with connecting with God? Do you mean I have to go without food? Ughh, I hear you say. Trust me, I love food as much as the next guy, just ask my waistline. Here's the thing, depriving ourselves of food without spiritual preparation and prayer is just starving ourselves. But sacrificing something with a prayerful intent to draw closer to our Heavenly Father, will help us use the enabling power of Christ to help us overcome our mortal pains and weakness and thus strengthen the bond between us and Christ.

2. Pray often - What is often? Does it have to be a formal prayer? While I think that formal prayer
(prayer that is spoken out loud both in private and in public) is essential, it also essential that we carry a prayer in our hearts. Pray over everything. In all things give God thanks. That is a prayer. By praying often we are solidifying our connection with our Heavenly Father, through his messenger, the Holy Ghost, thus allowing us to continually receive personal revelation and direction for our lives.

3. Fill our souls with joy - Sometimes this is hard, or may even seem downright impossible. Life sometimes seems like it's only goal is to beat us down. We can feel like we are a participant in Super Punch Out, and King Hippo is about to deliver a KO. We need to do our best to eliminate those things in our life that do not uplift and brighten us, things that seem intent on dragging us down. Take a moment each day and think, what sunshine did I feel in my soul today? What were the joys? Then increase it to twice a day? Then every hour? Even in the darkest hour, if we look hard enough, there will be light, even if it is just a pinprick. And give thanks unto God for those joyous moments. And then what do you know, you are fulfilling #2 on the list.

4. Fill our souls with consolation - In this instance, I think Helaman is referring to the comfort that can only come when we allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to fill our hearts and begin to work its transformative power within our lives. In the pits of our despair, when we feel like a failure or not good enough, when we think we are beyond love, we can have comfort if we call upon the Savior to lend us his strength.

5. Yield our hearts to God/Wax strong in humility - Too often our pride can get in the way of us fulling saying, "Not my will, but thy will be done." It is human nature to think that we know the best approach to handling our life, but that isn't always the truth. The sooner we humble ourselves, yield our hearts to God, and fill it with the pure love of Christ, the sooner we can become sanctified through the administrations of the Holy Ghost.

I know that life can seem daunting and even applying the principles of Helaman can be hard. Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to be perfect now. After all, it is his plan that we come to earth to be tried and tested, to experience the pains and joys of mortality, so that eventually we can become perfected. Notice I said, eventually. Perfection is a process. It is a mountain we must climb one step at a time. It will seem daunting as we move forward, but the good news is that we don't have to climb it alone. Christ can and will stand beside us, encouraging our often sluggish and painful steps, helping us ascend to our highest potential. I hope that you can take something, even it is small, from Helaman's counsel to draw closer in your personal relationship with Heavenly Father.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Don't get burned

"We need to keep ourselves out of places and away from things that can burn us."

On one particularly warm July Sunday, I was sitting at home after church, when my pager went off, alerting me to a brush fire located on Rattlesnake Ridge, an area just north of where I lived. I responded to the station, adrenaline coursing my veins. I was a fairly newly minted lieutenant and as I arrived I realized I would be the officer in charge of our company. When we arrived on scene, we were initially charged with working on the western most flank of the fire, or what we called Division Zulu. This particular fire was hot, I remember because it melted the rubber on the bottom of my boots. Along with the nearly 100 degree weather that day and planes dropping water on top of us, I knew our job was not going to be easy and our safety was paramount. Our task was to dig part of a containment line around the fire.

After finishing our assigned task, we were asked to assist another firefighter from another engine company in placing a progressive hose lay around the fire. This is at least 600 feet of hose or more, which we deploy in an effort to lay a wet line around the fire. As we moved along I thought we were moving rather quickly and not getting enough water coverage to lay down an effective wet line. I stifled those concerns however and deferred to the other brush company officer who was on the nozzle. In all honesty, I became complacent and was just going through the motions.  We moved quickly around the steep and rocky cliff, trying to get around to the head of the fire, but as we made it about 500 feet out, we realized that we had lost all pressure. Our water flow had ceased.

Imagine our surprise, looking down at the hose, expecting water, only to find nothing. It was a bit of a gut check.

As we radioed back to the division supervisor, we realized something potentially dangerous. The fire had passed through not only our hand dug line, but our wet line as well, burning through our hose. We were alone on the edge of the cliff with no water.

This came with the stark realization that I was not living up to the standards or expectations of a company officer.  My inability to maintain my situational awareness and speak up when something was wrong could have caused injury to myself and my crew, or worse it could have been fatal. Luckily the intensity of the fire had died down at that point and we were safe from danger. But the lesson was seared into my memory, just as surely as the fire had seared the trees and landscape right before my eyes. From that point on, I determined I would raise my standards, I would not become complacent.

When we become complacent in our journey in the Gospel or in life, or do not understand the responsibility and gifts that have come from Heavenly Father, we are not only risking the spiritual lives of ourselves, but potentially those whom we may have contact with, or stewardship over. We live in dangerous and perilous times that require us to maintain our situational awareness and raise our standards.  We cannot afford to become spiritually apathetic or complacent. We can’t afford to not speak up when something is wrong. And lastly, we need to keep ourselves out of places and away from things that can burn us.

President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “We cannot indulge in unclean thoughts. We must not partake of pornography. We must never be guilty of abuse of any kind. We must rise up above such things. Rise up… and put these things behind you, and the Lord will be your guide and stay.”

President Hinckley’s counsel applies to all disciples of Jesus Christ. The Lord asked His disciples what manner of men they should be and then answered, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am”

We are called to live a higher law. We cannot afford to become complacent or apathetic. It doesn’t matter the speed at which we travel down the Gospel path, just that we are attempting to move forward.

It is important to remember that the Savior stands next to us and will help us if we truly aspire to raise our standards to become like him. His strength will buoy us in times of struggle and strife. His love will lift us if we reach out and take his hand. If we follow his example and are led by the Spirit, we will stay out of places and situations where we could get burned, and bring us instead to a place of safety and refuge. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11 attacks isnpire us to serve one another - Spokane FAVS Commentary

Do you remember where you were on September 11th, 2001? I do. I remember the profound impact that day had on me. In my latest column on Spokane FAVS, I talk about how the attacks on September 11th can be a good reminder about how we are supposed to serve each other.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Spiritually Protecting Your Home

I know I'm not alone, when I say that I worry for my children. I worry about their health. I worry that they will do well in school. I worry about the choices they make or are going to make. I worry that they will be safe in the dangerous world we live in. Frankly, sometimes I look at the world around me and my heart sinks, I have a sense of foreboding and angst that I am sending my children out into the lone and dreary world, and I can't be with them to guard them from the perils and pitfalls that await them. I've done my best to assure the temporal safety of my family, as many have done and are doing, and while this is all well and good, I should not forget to worry about their spiritual safety. None of us should. We need to provide for the spiritual protection of our homes and families, just as much as the temporal protection.

In October 2013, Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talked about the key to spiritual protection, and it peeked my interest. Quotes Elder Packer, “We live in perilous times; nevertheless, we can find hope and peace for ourselves and for our families. Those living in sorrow, despairing at the possibility of children being rescued from where the world has taken them, must never give up. Be not afraid, only believe. Righteousness is more powerful than wickedness.”

He encourages us that children, who are taught an understanding of the scriptures early in life, will come to know the path they should walk on, and they will be more apt to stay on the path when they are faced with tough decisions. He also goes on in his talk to say that those that stray will have the ability to find their way back. We are called to provide a gospel-centered home to give our children the most firm foundation we can build. It is incumbent on us as fathers and mothers to make sure that this happens.

We know from experience that there will be those of our children who will stray, who will cause us much heartache as we watch them experience their mortality through their agency. We yearn to protect them, yet want them to exercise the freedom to choose. How do we blend those two? It is a question I have often asked myself.

First, we need to remember not to despair. Though the road seems dark at times, the gospel teaches us to be happy, to have faith rather than fear, to leave darkness and turn toward the light of Jesus Christ. It may seem difficult as a father or mother who wants to protect his children, to watch them make unwise choices, but imagine how Heavenly Father feels when he watches his children make unwise decisions as well.  By teaching our children correct principles, providing a Christ-centered home, and helping them walk down the gospel path, we are giving the best spiritual protection we can offer.

I think we can all agree that our road will not be easily traveled as parents, and the Apostle Paul warned about the trials of our time and the days yet to come. 

Let us take heart, for even in the midst of our trials, our loving Savior reaches out to us, offering his hand and helping us to bear our burdens, overcome our grief and struggles, and to calm our fears. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Understanding Faith Crisis

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this quote and upon the crisis of faith that we face in our country, or more specifically within our own lives. These crises often arise due to trials and struggles that we endure while in this mortal existence.

To some, the quote from Thomas Jefferson on faith, and about questioning the existence of God, might be antithetical to talking about a faith crisis. But I think we can derive a lot of truthfulness in what Jefferson is saying. Agency, or the ability to make our own choices, allows us to question. And questioning in itself isn’t inherently a bad thing. Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to fear him. On the contrary, he wants us to love him, and sometimes even the most devout of us have questions. Especially when we face trials and uncertainties in our lives.

God doesn’t fear our questions, and neither should we. But those questions should lead to studying, our studying to pondering, and then our pondering to prayer. Most important of all, that prayer needs to lead to listening to the still small voice and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. When done in the proper order and under the direction of the Spirit, our questions can lead to a deepening of our faith and our testimony. It is only through honest spiritual questioning, and then experimenting upon the Word, that we can come to know that God does exist, and that he is very active in our lives.

But let’s also talk about what Jefferson isn't saying. He isn't saying doubt God, but to question with sincerity. From a Latter-day Saint’s perspective, sincere questioning by a 14-year old Joseph Smith led to a stunning revelation from a loving Heavenly Father, which ultimately led to what we call the Restoration of the Gospel. When we ask questions honestly and prepare ourselves to openly receive personal revelation, we can receive a deepening of our testimony and a more full conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Life is uncertain. Life often throws the proverbial monkey wrench in our way. We all struggle with questions and sometimes even doubts. But according to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should, “Doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.”

In October of 2015, Mexico came under the threat of Hurricane Patricia, one of the largest hurricanes ever recorded at that time, with sustained winds of 200 mph. This Category 5 hurricane by all accounts was going to cause extreme damage to Mexico, leaving death and destruction in its wake. However, within twenty-four hours, Hurricane Patricia was downgraded to a Remnant Low. Why? Because as Patricia made landfall, the hurricane hit the rugged mountains in Mexico's interior, which ground down its progress, causing it to lose steam.
There was still damage from the hurricane, however, those unmoving and unyielding mountains helped to reduce the toll on the citizens of the affected cities.

Today we face our own hurricanes, huge storms that threaten to destroy and tear us apart, trials of our faith which by all accounts we have no way to defend against. But if we fix ourselves firmly in the truth and an unshakable belief in God, we can weather these personal storms. We won’t be spared our trials, because trials are here to shape us and mold us, to make us better people. But we do have the blessed assurance that after the bluster and threatening of destruction, after the rainfall, the sun will come out again. That warm sun that will help us to see that we have weathered the storm, and though we may have not come out unscathed, we have come out as someone stronger.

Let’s face it. Life isn’t always easy. There are many of us whom struggle with our testimony. There are many more who have sincere questions. I truly believe that if we follow the simple formula of questioning - studying - pondering - praying - listening,  and then planting in ourselves a firm belief in the power of God, that most, if not all concerns and fears will be washed away in time. Then we will come to greater appreciation for the love for God.

As strange as the concept may seem, we need take heart and rejoice in our trials. They will help us draw closer to Christ. They will hopefully make us realize we need help.

And my friends, there is something remarkably freeing to realize that you can't do this life by yourself, but you can with the help of Him who experienced all things.

In Philippians 4:13 we have the greatest promise of all to help us through this mortal existence, "I can do all things though Christ which strengthened me."

Monday, August 20, 2018

Stop thinking life is supposed to be easy. It's not. - Spokane FAVS Commentary

Just like muscle needs stress to grow, our spiritual "muscle" is stunted if we are not facing adversity and opposition. In my latest column on Spokane FAVs I discuss the necessity of discomfort in our spiritual growth.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Addicted to Outrage - Spokane FAVS Commentary

Everytime you turn around there is another controversy. There seems to be always something people are getting angry or offended at. It makes me wonder if we have become so addicted to outrage that we constantly need another dose, another hit, to make us feel good. But where does that leave us in the end?

In my latest piece on Spokane FAVS, I discuss our addiction to outrage.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Uncivil War We Wage - Spokane FAVS Commentary

Does the world feel a little less civil to you. If news coverage is any indication, than our most basic interactions have devolved to shouting down and offering demeaning comments to each other. In my latest piece, I talk about the not-so-silent war raging in our communities and in the nation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Chris Pratt Talks God, Faith at MTV Awards - Spokane FAVs Commentary

Embed from Getty Images

In my latest Spokane FAVS piece I cover Chris Pratt's MTV award speech.

Monday, June 18, 2018