Sunday, May 5, 2013

When what He asks is hard...

Simon Barjonas, who would later be known as Peter, along with with brother Andrew, were fishermen by trade. Day in and day out they would toil together in the Sea of Galilee, throwing out their nets into the water and pulling back whatever they could. Sometimes they had good days. Other days weren't so good. This particular story happened right after one of the less lucrative nights of labor.

These fishermen, in order to get the best catch, would work during the night from dusk until dawn, so I imagine that it was sometime in the morning when Jesus of Nazareth came over to their boats at Galilee.

"And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And...he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught [catch or haul.]

"And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing." (Luke 5:3-5)

Simon was a professional, and he knew when the fish just weren't biting. Most likely he already had a very solid friendship and admiration for Jesus by this time, but still, what did He know about fishing?

If they had to launch off again from the shore, that means that their shift was done. The nets were being cleaned, they were exhausted and frustrated, and they were ready to go home. Letting down the nets again surely meant yet another empty net in return, plus all the cleaning that they would have to do all over again.

Before we continue, I'd like to tell a story that was told to me by one of my mentors and teachers several years back by the name of Blake Rogers. It's a story that explains the personality and intentions of an all-knowing, loving Savior. It's a story of a little girl whose favorite possession in the whole world was a toy necklace of plastic pearls. One day her father came in and asked her if she loved him.

"Yes, Daddy," she replied, smiling. "Very much!"

"Then will you give me your pearl necklace?"

The little girl's face dropped. She didn't understad why her dad would ask such a thing, and she recoiled, clutching her precious necklace. Her dad just smiled with understanding and left her to her playing.

For the next several days this scene was repeated, each time the daughter acknowledging her love for her father, but was each time unwilling to give up the necklace. Then, one night, her dad came into her room again.

"Sweetie," he said, kneeling beside her, "do you love me?"

"Yes, Daddy," she said. "Very much."

"And do you know that I would never do anything to hurt you, and that I want to you to be happy more than anything?"

"Yes, Daddy," replied his daughter, recognizing the question that was coming.

"Then will you give me your pearl necklace?"

Hesitantly, the little girl took off her necklace of plastic pearls and, with tears in her eyes, surrendered it to her father. But upon putting the toy in his pocket, Daddy immediately pulled out a gift for her: necklace of fine, genuine pearls.

"And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

"And when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake." (Luke 5:5-6)

Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
(Ether 12:6)

And prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the 
window of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall 
not be room enough to receive it.
(Malachi 3:10, emphasis added)

Pictures from:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When He is Sleeping

Picture, if you will, a boat. You are on this boat, in the middle of the sea, and a storm picks up.

A big storm.

The winds are going around you, making it very difficult to hear the other twelve on the boat with you and even more difficult to see with all of that rain and sea water blowing and splashing in your face. The boat is reeling to and fro and the water is starting to fill your little vessel.

And wouldn't you know it? Your master is sound asleep there in the back!

First off, you can't fathom how it's even possible to be asleep in these conditions. I mean, his pillow that he's laying on would be soaked by now, yet there he is, snoozing away! 

What do you say to that?

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, cares thou not that we perish? 
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, 
Peace, be still.
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
(Mark 4:37-39)

There will always be storms from time to time in our lives, sometimes more than we think we can possibly bear. We might feel alone, or that our prayers are going unanswered.

We might feel that the Savior is sleeping through our difficulties.

When we feel that way, let us remember this incident. Remember that the Master was indeed asleep during the storm, yet He was never absent. He was peacefully sleeping.

When we feel that way, let it be a message to us that we are safe from the storms. If Jesus is sleeping and we are with Him, what reason have we to fear? Maybe we should take it as a cue to calm down a bit ourselves and trust in His grace.

Be still, my soul. The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
(LDS Hymns, 1985, no. 124)

Pictures from:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Fourth Wise Man

This is a little story that I heard this passed Christmas form a good friend and mentor, Max Smith. Whether it's true or not, the moral speaks clearly. Though the holiday of Christmas is come and gone for 2011, let us always try to be more like the Savior in every way we can.

We all know about the three Wise Men that came to visit the Christ child. But did you know that there was a fourth one? See, the four of them had been watching the stars and studying the prophets for the promised advent of the Messiah, and they had agreed that when the sign came that they would all meet up with and travel together. They would each sell all of heir earthly possessions to be able to provide a suitable gift for the newborn King.

Well, the new sign came, and the four wise men began their preparations. The first sold all that he had in exchange for a large sum of gold. The second traded his belongings in for an ample amount of frankincense, and the third for a sizable portion of myrrh. The fourth was able to trade in his materials for three precious stones - a Diamond, a Ruby, and a Pearl.

On his way to meet the other three at their rendezvous, this fourth wise man came across an injured soldier laying on the side of the road. He wanted to help the soldier, but realized that if he did that he would most likely fail to meet the others in time for their departure. But, seeing the desperation that the injured man was in, he knew the right thing to do, and decided that it might not take that long anyways. He was able to bind the wounds well enough to but knew that he probably wouldn't last the night. So he strapped him to his camel and took him to a nearby village where an able physician could take care of him. Because the soldier had nothing of any monetary value, the wise man offered his diamond - one of the stones intended for the Christ child - to the doctor.

Sure enough, when the fourth wise man came to the designated meeting spot with the other three, they had already left. Feeling sad that he would not be able to share the journey with his friends, he rode on to Bethlehem as fast as his camel could go. When he arrived he found that Mary and Joseph had already moved out, their house abandoned and empty. Feeling even sadder at having missed the Babe, he hung his head and started to leave. On his way out he passed by a crying woman with a baby in her arms. He knelt down and asked her what the matter was.

"It's Herod," she said, sobbing, terror in her voice. "He's ordered his soldiers to kill every baby boy in the city!" The wise man glanced up in time to see two soldiers coming down the street. Quickly, he reached into his pouch and pulled out his ruby. Handing it to the woman, he instructed her to use it to save her child's life. Wishing he could have done more, he saddled his camel and left Bethlehem. As the soldiers approached the mother, she offered them the precious stone. They took it, admiring its beauty, and passed her and her boy by, unharmed.

For the next thirty-or-so years, the fourth wise man searched all of Judea, inquiring about what became of the Child born in Bethlehem. Finally he heard rumor that He had just been sentenced to death by Pilate, and that he was to be crucified on Golgotha. Wanting desperately to see Him for who he had searched for so long, he clutched his only remaining gift - the pearl - and ran towards the hill outside Jerusalem. As he was hurrying on, however, he came upon a Roman soldier dragging a crying girl of about eight years behind him. The wise man inquired as to what the matter was. The soldier answered, "This girls parents have failed to pay their debt, and because of this their daughter will be sold into slavery until they can repay." Without another thought, the wise man placed the pearl into the soldier's free hand.

"Here is the payment," he said. "You can let her go home." The soldier looked at the pearl, then the girl, and gave her to the wise man, pocketing his new-found prize. The girl, full of gratitude, embraced the wise man tightly, who returned the gesture. Having wiped her tears, he said, "Let's take you home."

The scriptures tell us that when the Savior died, there was a great earthquake. The ground shook under the wise man and the young girl. It shook so violently that a stone from the roof of a nearby building came loose and fell to the ground. Seeing that it was heading right for her, the wise man leaped to cover the girl from the falling tile. The force was so great that he died upon impact, leaving the girl unharmed. Realizing what had just happened, she struggled to free him from the stone, and as she did so she seemed to hear a voice whisper in her ear -

"Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just being.....

The Lord Jesus Christ did countless miracles for the benefit of mankind, His younger brothers and sisters. He taught us the ways of peace, love, hope, and faith. He taught us to look to higher Powers for when we feel in need. He healed the sick, calmed the seas, fed the hungry, and even raised the dead. Of course, His greatest miracle was His redeeming Atonement and Resurrection, which allows us the opportunity to repent and become like Him, permitting to return Home again, to which we will always be indebted.

I would like to focus on one specific miracle - one that we're all aware of and can most likely recite in fair detail. In Luke 8:43-48 we read:

"And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
 44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
 45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
 46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
 48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace."

According to Jewish law, whenever a woman had her regular issue of blood she became symbolically unclean and everyone else should refrain from contact with her for a small time. (Leviticus 15:19.) This woman never stopped issuing. For twelve years she was essentially ostracized from the rest of her kind. No one could touch her. She had no hope of marriage, family, or even friends to a degree through absolutely no fault of her own. For twelve years she went from doctor to doctor seeking some sort of cure. None could help, and the medical bills left her flat broke. 

Imagine what she thought when she heard of this Miracle Worker from Nazareth. Imagine her feelings as she heard the tales of Him casting out devils, healing all manner of afflictions, and gathering large multitudes so see His works and listen to His teachings. Apparently she heard enough to develop the faith necessary to approach this Jesus of Nazareth.

Imagine her courage as she snuck up from behind, knowing very well that physical touch with anybody was strictly prohibited. I imagine a single fingertip barely brushing the hem of the Savior's robe. Yet that was enough for her issue to cease immediately!

Jesus noticed. He stopped, asking who it was that touched Him. Peter responded by saying, "Master, look at all of these people. They're all around you and we've been rubbing shoulders this whole time. Why would  ask who touched you? We all have by now." But the Master replied of something different, for He felt virtue - or strength - leave Him. 

Naturally the woman was terrified as she approached Jesus. Technically she had just broken the law by touching Him. But falling down at His feet she explained the situation, to which Jesus replied, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace."

He never laid His hands on her head, or anointed her, or said "be thou healed." By these accounts He wasn't even aware that she was there until after the fact. And yet the woman was healed. All Jesus did was...well, He was just being Jesus. Out of what seems to be no more than the fact that He was going on, living in perfect uprightness, living worthy of His divine gifts, lives were blessed beyond measure. It was unconscious, and unexpected, and yet it was still just as great a miracle as we have ever seen.

How great would it be to reach a level to which we are blessing lives without consciously deciding to do so? The Holy Ghost speaks to us in whispers. Maybe if we live right we can become so accustomed to His voice that following it becomes just as habitual as brushing our teeth or taking a deep breath after the day is done. May we ever emulate our Savior in all of His actions, and maybe someday we can bless lives as He would by just being us.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's getting less subtle!

I am generally a fan of Ellen DeGeneres, as she is one of the few remaining comedians who keeps it clean, which is highly commendable. This blog, however, is in response to a recent Cover Girl commercial starring Ellen. The opening statement of said commercial was, "Inner beauty is important...but not as important as outer beauty."

As if the women of America today (in particular the younger generations) didn't have enough ragging on their self esteem and sense of individual worth, a role model and icon comes out and blatantly tells them that what they look like supersedes their character in priority. These poor girls' heads are already filled with doubts about how they look, and this advertisement seems to say, "Yes, girls, you ARE ugly unless you paint your faces enough. Your inner beauty comes in second place to your appearance, so don't waste too much effort in character development."

I have spent the last two summers as a youth counselor at a summer program designed to strengthen character for young people between the ages of 14 and 18. So much time is spent trying to convince young women and men what REAL beauty is, and that settling for less is not only detrimental, but emotionally fatal.

I really do believe that Miss DeGeneres doesn't have a desire to tear apart everything that anyone with a good head on their shoulders and real love and respect for women fight so hard to build - real self esteem.

Ladies, you ARE beautiful. You don't need to worry yourselves about what you look like. As men we really do appreciate it when you get all dolled up for us. We recognize that it takes a lot of effort and yes, you do look very pretty when you do so. But you know when else you look just as pretty? When we're out throwing a Frisbee in the parking lot after being on a bus for seven hours and your hair isn't quite in the same placement as you intended; When you're exhausted from working so hard in your studies and however many jobs you're working to make ends meat at college; When you decide to not "put your face on" that day because you were up all night taking care of a sick roommate and you just don't care. The list goes on. And, as Baz Luhrmann said, "Don't read beauty magazines - they will only make you feel ugly."

Continuing on that thought,  I would like to request something of the women of today: DON'T SETTLE!! In a very powerful way you influence what we as guys give out. It goes back to the principle of supply and demand. (Keep in mind that the male mind unfortunately will resort to the ever popular "nothing box" which will result a downward spiral to flat out inner ugliness that I find it hard to believe that any girl really wants.) Someone once said, "Chivalry isn't dead - it's just not required anymore." So, girls, REQUIRE IT!! If a guy isn't treating not how you want to be treated, then don't give him a second chance. Heck, don't let him get away with that first chance if you can. Listen to your friends and family who don't like him; they can see things you might not be able to. If he's not making it easier for you to live your standards then he's not worth it. Can I say that again, underlined? If he's not making it easier for you to live your standards then he's not worth it. If he's not making you feel better about yourself after every time you interact, he's not worth it. If he's out of chivalric shape and you guys are already friends then give him some time to get in gear, but please do it without the pressures and hormonal complications that being in a relationship with him will surely bring. It'll relieve a lot of stress from your roommates and other girlfriends, too. We can be trained. In a perfect world you wouldn't have to worry about teaching us how to act because we would do it of our own accord. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen all too often. With pleasant frequency, however, a simple vocalization of how you want to be treated will get much improved results quickly. If not, then you know to just move on. Be sweet, but not ditsy. Be assertive, but not manipulating. Be patient, but not blind. Let us open doors for you - we're not patronizing you, but rather trying to show you courtesy. Don't come out to meet us for a date if we honk our car in your driveway or text you that we're here. Acknowledge our efforts when we're doing something right - we're secretly more self-conscious then you may sometimes realize. Please don't get upset if we don't pick up on your hints - guys don't speak in hints. We just slug each other. Let us know openly when we're doing something wrong. And please, PLEASE realize that just because he asks does NOT mean that you have to say "yes."

A message to the men: BE MEN!! "Man," in this sense, is to be a true man. A man of honor, a man of integrity, a man of respect, a man of truth. We must be more concerned with how we are making girls feel with every word we say, action we perform, and direction our eyes look. Sexist jokes are NOT funny! Crude and vulgar "humor" is NOT funny! Taking advantage of the insecurities that girls are already struggling so hard to cope with for your own physical pleasure or upgraded social standing is just downright despicable. Be confident, but not cocky. Be strong, but not overbearing. Be gentle, but not a pushover. Open doors for girls - it doesn't make you a wimp. Walk street-side and offer her your elbow, even if you're not on a date - it's just proper. Try to clue into their hints, but make sure you understand right before you take action. Encourage them to dress modestly, and compliment them when they do. NEVER honk your car or text them that you're here when you pick her up for a date - you can walk all the way to the door and knock. It's not that hard, you big, strong, heaping mass of muscle. Carry a handkerchief around in case they start tearing up. Accept compliments graciously and give them freely. Never miss an opportunity to tell a girl that she's pretty. Even if they rebut, stick to what you said. Notice new things they do with their hair or new outfits. This will take some practice, but keep in good humor if you mess up - they'll usually forgive you if they know your effort is sincere. Look them in the eye when you talk with them. And please, PLEASE, if they say or motion "no," then DON'T!

The Lady and the Gentleman seem all but endangered species in these days. It doesn't have to be that way. As we constantly, diligently, painstakingly develop our character and inner beauty something wonderful will happen: that beauty on the inside will show on the outside. It's not something that can be measured or even explained. There's just a certain countenance - a light among those who are good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something dear to my heart: An Analysis

In all reality, almost every post I do of a serious nature will be dear to me, but I'll get it started with this subject.

I'm a musician. At least that's what I aspire to be. I'm not quite sure why yet. Maybe it's the beauty and majesty that accompany it. Maybe it's the intellectual and artistic endeavors. Maybe it's the ability that it has to communicate to a deeper, more moving manner than pretty much anything else I know of. Or maybe it's just how fun it is - to listen to, to create, to study, to reproduce. It could be a mixture of all of this. Either way, I digress.

Why do any of us do music? Why does it even exist? What's the point? It's just sound waves moving through the air at varying rates and frequencies. Who's to say what music is good and what's bad? Here are what I believe the different "categories" (for lack of better words) of the reasons for music.

1.) Artistic advancement. Music is a form of art. Along with architecture, visual art, dance and theater it has been an outlet for the artist to get whatever is going on in his or her head out. It has a way of matching the visual aspects. For example, compare baroque architecture - complete with all of its ornaments and frills, with a Bach fugue from "The Well-Tempered Clavier." Or, on the opposite end, compare Shoenberg's Suite op 25, Präludiu, with it's seemingly meaningless and completely random note choices to "Nude Descending a Staircase" by Marcel Duchamp (You can wiki it. It doesn't even look like anything at all, so you're safe.) To an untrained spectator either can seem absolutely obscure and pointless, but to one who studies they will show how precisely organized and articulate they really are. In my opinion, whether the idea originally conceived in the artist's head was meant to be understood by anyone in the outside world or not is completely up to them. That brings us further along in the "Why do we do music?" monologue in which I am now engaged.

2.) Emotional Communication. Dr. Jon Linford, Associate Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts at BYU-Idaho, stated "A composer can reduce what he's feeling to black dots on page, and then two-hundred years later an orchestra can take those black dots and recreate the exact same thing that he was feeling two-hundred years before. Now that's just magic." Emotions of elation (Saint-Saëns Sumphony no. 3, mov. 4), tragedy (Samuel Barber, String Quartet op. 11, mov. 2 "Adagio for Strings"), Anger (Shostakovitch, String Quartet no. 8, mov. 2), and peace (Beethoven, piano sonata no. 8, mov. 2). At least in my experience, listening to any of these works - or similar works - will always have a positive outcome. There's something about listening to your own emotions in audible form that is therapudic, will always make you feel better, even if it's not a happy song you're listening. However, because emotional manipulation through music is real and very effective, this usually only works when we're already feeling what we're listening to. If it's unexpected, emotions can be elevated in a negative way. For example, at the Paris premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," a riot literally ensued. Pop music does this as well - manipulates emotions. Therefore the counsel from the prophets: "Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay atten- tion to how you feel when you are listening. Don’t listen to music that drives away the Spirit, encourages immorality, glorifies violence, uses foul or offensive language, or promotes Satanism or other evil practices." (For the Strength of Youth, pg. 20.)

3. Entertainment. Pop music. Music written specifically to help the audience have fun, to enjoy their time. Easy enough. A simple, enjoyable category. 

4. Praise to God. Some would argue that this is part of the second category, but I find some differences. To communicate emotion is mirroring what you feel. To make music in praise of God is to take what you feel and completely offer it to the Almighty. What will happen - in my opinion - is when written for Heaven, Heaven will help the writing. It is, in a way, a sacrifice to be placed on the altar. The Lord, through His Prophets, has revealed a portion of His own feelings on music: D&C 25:12 "The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." Also, D&C 136:28 "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving." This, in my own opinion, is the highest form that music can take. As J.S. Bach stated, "Solo Deo gloria" (To God alone be the glory.)

I am a musician. Or at least I aspire to be one. I'm not quite sure why yet, but in my lifelong study of music, I'll find out someday. Until then, I'm content to relish every moment that I can be a part of it.