Thursday, December 29, 2005

We'll Sing the Songs of Zion

UPDATED -- See Updates Below:

I just ran across a new web site you might find interesting via Mark Hansen's Blog.

If you like LDS music, you might want to tune in to KZION - a 24 hr/365 days a year Internet LDS "Radio Station". It is based out of St. George, Utah, and is commercial free. It is funded by donations. Here's an excerpt from the KZION Home Page:
"More than a music format, LDS Music is a lifestyle designed for all audiences that enjoy great music from an LDS perspective. At we're not afraid to mix it up a little, delivering music from many different genres and musical styles. We dedicate Sundays to Sabbath appropriate music.

KZION is made available under the donationware principle. That means it's offered free of charge, and if you find it valuable, you are invited to Support this work by donating. All donations go directly to the operation of KZION."
I've been listening to KZION at work the last couple of days, and it seems quite nice. To listen to KZION, you will need the Windows Media Player, and for best results I would anticipate you would need a high-speed internet connection, and a fairly good amount of RAM memory in you PC.

So if you are looking for a good source of LDS music, you might want to give KZION a try.


Maren points out a couple of additional alternatives for great Internet music listening:

BYU Radio offers Two Channels: A vocal channel, which plays vocal music, and occasional talks and LDS news items, and an Instrumental Channel, that plays LDS instrumental music only. -- (Great for listing to when preparing talks or lessons!)

Maren also recommends another music service called Pandora builds a "virtual" radio station for you. You type in an artist name, or a song title, then they search their music database and will then stream similar music by similar artists. I tried to type in a couple of LDS artists, but they weren't in the Pandora database. Then I typed in "Gordon Lightfoot", just for the heck of it. They did a search, and then started playing a Gordon Lightfoot song, next came a song by the Beatles, that was in the same vein. This was followed by a Cat Stevens tune, and tunes from other artists that I wasn't familiar with, but were of the same genre. I really enjoyed the songs that Pandora pre-selected. If there was an occasional song that I didn't care for, you can just click the fast forward button on their player, and it immediately goes to the next song. Pandora has the capability to program several "radio stations" for you, each with its own unique flavor. -- The Good part is that there are no commercials. If you want to store your radio stations, you can sign up for a free membership.

Thanks Maren for your excellent suggestions!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Blogiversary

This month Marks the 1st anniversary of my blogging experience. My first post was actually on December 17th, 2004. This will be the 140th posting on this blog. I have posted an additional 27 posts on my two "sister blogs", The Gospel Study Page, and Our Family Heritage, for a total of 167 posts all together. Sometime today, this blog will have received its 6,000th hit. To all of you who have visited The Whole Note, I thank you for stopping by. I especially would like to thank all those who have shared your thoughts and feelings with me in comments. Many of your comments have been thoughtful and inspiring. Its nice to know that someone is actually reading this stuff, and that at times it resonates within others, and that once in a while, it even does some good. I think I take the most satisfaction in knowing that.

My original intention for this blog was to provide a way to keep our dispersed family (scattered all across America) informed of our doings. To a large extent, this blog has succeeded in that regard. My hope would be in the future to get more of my extended family members into blogging as well. That would be fun!

This blog has also provided me an outlet for sharing my impressions and feelings as well. I have always enjoyed writing, and having this blog has given me a reason to write more often.

Along the way, I have become "acquainted" with some fellow bloggers with whom I share many common values and interests. It has been fun to "meet" these people, and share comments back and forth on our blogs. It has been an enriching experience, and I value the on-line friendships that have developed.

At times as I have been out for a walk on my street, I have perceived that at each home, there are struggles going on within. Daily battles being fought in each home, often in "quiet desperation." The Internet provides a way for some of those desperate struggles to be openly discussed in a way that is just not possible in face-to-face communications. Often times I have seen fellow bloggers gathering around someone who is suffering and struggling, with words of encouragement, hope, and faith. I have seen such communications coming with the true spirit of charity and love, with a desire to uplift and to build one another.

I have seen many kinds of struggles this past year. There are struggles between good and evil, and the consequences that come from our choices. But many of the struggles and challenges I have seen this past year are those which do not necessarily come because of sin or poor decision making. Rather, they are the tests of mortality that we are called upon to endure. The things that try men's (and women's) souls. I call these kinds of challenges "Random Acts of Mortality" . These types of struggles can include health issues, a loss of loved ones, employment problems, financial crises, relationship problems, and mental illnesses. Some parents struggle with special needs children, with the financial, psychological, spiritual and emotional demands that entails, along with the need to be an advocate on behalf of your child with the schools and various public agencies.

Then there are those whose struggles are way more than I could ever imagine coping with. I don't know if I could face up to the challenges that they have shouldered. I know its not right to compare ourselves with others, but to those who struggle, and still are fighting the good fight, you have my deepest respect. There are those of you who struggle with some of the same kinds of issues that I and members of my family struggle with. It has been inspiring to see how you have dealt with these issues, and the faith and courage you have shown in facing them. You have set a good example for me, and have bolstered my faith. My hat's off to you.

May each of you receive the choicest of the Lord's blessings in the coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Church In The News

Many of us don't get a chance to watch much Sunday Morning TV, with church meetings and family obligations. On Sunday, December 18th, the CBS Sunday Morning Show, with Charles Osgood, aired a piece called Mormons in America, which featured a family in Virginia who have recently converted to the LDS church. It just so happens that this family lives in my Brother Doug's ward in Centreville, VA.

Doug had apprised my mom and dad ahead of time when the piece would be airing. They were able to record it on their VCR. Later, on Christmas eve, we all watched the video tape of the program, and were quite impressed with the article. They included video of sunday school and primary classes held in Doug's ward. In a couple of scenes, we were able to see his daughter (our niece) Lizzy! Now she's famous -- been on national TV, you know!

I thought the report was really quite fair and balanced toward the church. They had a couple of church history facts wrong, but the substance of the report was good, and maybe even favorable toward the church. You can read the transcript here. Its always interesting to see how the church is viewed from those who are outside of the church.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A New Kind of Magic

I have been trying to come up with an answer to a perplexing problem for weeks now. How do you tell your kids what they need to know about Santa Claus, now that they are getting older. Our 12-year old son was told 2 years ago about Santa, but he loved the magic of Christmas, and the story of Santa so much, that he had re-convinced himself of his childhood beliefs. He was just sure that he had seen Santa's shadow, and that he had heard reindeer on the roof. He could recall seeing a red blinking light in the sky, and was sure that it was Rudolph. Bryan turns 13 in a couple of months, and it was high time that he disabused of these notions. But how to do it in a way that will not leave him feeling let-down, and still have some fun with the magic of Christmas?

On the other hand, our 10 year old daughter, Amy, had pretty much figured out things for herself. She started asking some direct questions, and so we started to give her some direct answers. Our answers to her were gentle, and the kind that let her come to her own (correct) conclusions.

(Note: You can View more of our Christmas Photos Here.)

After our annual family Christmas Eve gathering, Amy told us that knowing what she now knows, made her feel more grown up. She also said that things make better sense now, and that she doesn't feel so "kiddish" any more. For her, feeling more grown-up was a good thing. She liked being in on the secrets, and being included with the adults. It made her feel more a part of the adult world (but please, not too much of the adult world too soon, I hope!).

After weeks of trying to figure out what to do, a flash of inspiration hit me. Why not incorporate the kids into the Santa Claus experience? The quickest way to help Bryan to understand the truth about Santa, was for him to becomeSanta. Only he didn't know about it yet. I had some last minute shopping to do on Saturday (Christmas Eve), and I took Bryan with me. Along the way, I dropped some subtle hints. We got some gifts for the grandparents, and a nice gift to Dawn Ann. Then we had to wade through the mob at the grocery store, and get our supplies for Christmas dinner. While we ate our lunch, we heard a report on the radio about the true origins of Rudolph, which stem from Montgomery Wards in 1939. That had to make an impression too.

At the grocery store, I made a point of dropping him a subtle hint that we needed to get some things to put in the Christmas stockings. (Santa has always filled the stockings at our house before). So we got some treats and stocking stuffers at the store.

I had been looking for these little "Smoosh Me" pillows. I looked all over for them, and finally found them at the grocery store, of all places! We decided to get one for Mama, Amy and Bryan. I let him pick out the colors himself. These would become presents from "Santa" as well.

We hid away the gifts we had purchased in the trunk of the car, for later retrieval. Later after we returned from our family Christmas Eve gathering at my mom and dad's house it was time for the new magic to begin! Amy went to bed right away (with a wink). Bryan and I told mama that she had to stay away from the living room (there was elf work to be done!).

We got the gifts out of the trunk of the car and brought them into the living room. As we were outside retrieving the gifts, I told Bryan that this year he would become one of Santa's helpers. He gave me a quizzical look, and the wheels of his mind started turning. I asked him, who do you think Santa is? The truth began to dawn on him. He asked, is it you? Then I gave him a wink and a nod. Bryan responded by saying, "I thought I saw his shadow once, and I heard noises on the roof too!" I said, sometimes our minds can play tricks on us when we want to believe in something badly enough. I explained that it is kind of like Harry Potter, that it is fun and wonderful and magical -- but it's still make believe.

When I made the Harry Potter reference, his mind suddenly clicked back to the previous conversation that he had with his mother, where she discussed the nature of Santa Claus with him two years before. Now everything was becoming clear to him. It also was dawning on him that we were letting him in on one of the secrets of life, and that we wanted him to participate with us, like a grown up!

A new smile slowly crossed his face -- his sneaky, mischievous smile. He was going to get to sneak around the house, and do it LEGALLY too! ( A talent which he comes by quite naturally, I might add!) Bryan was full of excitement at the prospects! We wrapped the presents that we needed to wrap for mama! Then we got all the goodies out and filled the stockings with care. Finally, we placed the "Santa" presents under the tree. After we were done, I got the camera and tripod out to take some photos of the tree, including some photos of the "Christmas elf" as well.

After Bryan went to bed, I went to get Amy. Mama was surprised that I would wake Amy up, but I told her that the two of us had a deal. I had arranged with her to put some extra little stocking-stuffer gifts into the Christmas Stockings. It was her little way to play Christmas elf too! We hid our little surprises in the stockins, and then she went back to bed, with a wink and a smile.

We had all agreed on a 7:30 am wake up time. Being Sunday, we had church at 10:00 am. However, no one got up at 7:30! At 8:00 we knew we had to get going so that we would have time enough to open presents before going to church. So we actually had to go wake up the kids for Christmas morning! That was a first!

Once they were awakened, it didn't take long for them to get all wound up and ready to go. There were surprises for everyone! As things worked out, there was no one person who knew what all the gifts were for everyone else. Not even mom and dad!

This year we found a different attitude with the kids, now that they were in the know, and were willing accomplices with St. Nick. Instead of focusing so much on what they were getting, they were actually looking to see the reactions of others to whom they were giving. They still got nice presents, and enjoyed them, but their Christmas morning experience was enhanced because now they were as much concerned about the happiness of others, as they were for themselves. A natural outgrowth of this has been an increased amount of appreciation for what mom and dad have done, and more gratitude for what they have received. Both of the kids have come to us individually and expressed their gratitude, several times today.

Next year it will be Amy's turn to play chief house elf. (We started calling Bryan "Dobby" after the house elf in Harry Potter - to which Bryan just smiles.) Amy's already looking forward to her turn next year. We'll probably let them take turns every other year from now on.

Hmm. . . I think we just started a new Christmas tradition at our house!

Christmas Worship

Today, by coincidence of the calendar, we attended church on Christmas today. Many other churches have special worship services on Christmas Day, regardless of what day of the week Christmas may fall upon. (Midnight Mass, for instance - Actually someday I would like to attend a Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeline, just to have the experience.)

In our church, however, the only time we attend worship services on Christmas day, is if Christmas day falls upon a Sunday. This year we had that happy coincidence.

I like having worship services on Christmas, because it helps to reinforce the importance of Christ in Christmas. In our ward, we had a combined Christmas service with the other ward that meets in our building. We had a combined ward choir, and each Bishop took a few minutes for some comments.

I thought the service went very nicely. It took quite a while to administer the sacrament to the extra-large congregation. The chapel, and all of the overflows . There was a nice balance of congregational singing, and choir numbers as well. I participated in the choir, so I got to sing all the songs! Great!

The choir performed three songs, all of which I had performed before with previous choirs. They were:
  • Still, Still, Still
  • O come, O come Emanuel
  • Away In a Manger
The arrangements for all three of these numbers were quite nice.

I have a recording of the same version of Away In A Manger, that I performed with my high school choir. You can listen to it here:

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In high school, we made a choir album (recorded on a vinyl LP) of our "Concert Choir". I converted all of the Christmas songs to digital format, and posted them on my audio blog. You can listen to them here.

I met a new cousin today at church! He is from the "other" ward, and was the choir director of our combined choir. His name is Mark Bradford. After the meeting was over, I thanked him for leading the choir, and asked him if he was descended from William Bradford, of the Mayflower. He said that yes, he was. So I shook his hand and said: "Howdy cousin!" as I am descended from William Bradford as well.

We enjoyed attending the church services. Rather than disrupting our Christmas celebrations, it enhanced them. We were able to spend some quality time thinking of the life and mission of the Savior, and what he means to each of us, and the joy that he brings to us.

Sometimes I wish our church had Christmas Day worship services every year. In lieu of official church services when Christmas does not fall upon Sunday, we will need to make sure we have our own devotional service as a part of our Christmas tradition each year. -- Sunday or not.

Friday, December 23, 2005

200 Years Ago Today

Way back in ancient times (1975-1976) we were celebrating the American Revolution Bicentennial. They ran these little 60-second radio spots highlighting events in history that led up to the American Revolution. The title of that radio series was "200 Years Ago Today". Each day they would highlight an event in 1775-1776 that that occurred on the same day of the year as the current date. Each broadcast would begin with the words: "200 years ago today . . ." Its hard to believe that was 30 years ago! However that 30 years helps to put some things into perspective.

Today we celebrate another bicentennial. Two-Hundred Years ago today (December 23, 2005) the Prophet Joseph Smith was born. We know that the USA had only been an independent nation for about 30 years when he was born. We were reminded in the First Presidency fireside tonight that many of Joseph Smith's ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, and were patriots. Thirty years later, after the Revolutionary War was over, the constitution and bill of rights had been adopted, the time was right for the next step in preparation for the restoration of the gospel.

A little more than 24 years after his birth, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The significance of the birth and mission of Joseph Smith should not be overlooked. The church he organized has grown significantly. What was once only an American church, centered in the Rocky Mountain West, has become a worldwide church. Now more church members live outside the United States, that within it. The influence of the church will continue to grow and gain momentum. I believe that the growth rate will accelerate at the rate in which the members of the church are able to accommodate growth. The Lord has said: "My house is a house of order, and not of confusion." If the church were to grow too fast, it would outpace the capability to provide proper leadership. Overgrown membership without solid leadership could lead to a state of confusion.

For us, it means that we need to do all we can to cultivate those leadership qualities, in both ourselves, and those around us, that we may be prepared for the growth that is to come. You can see why church leaders plead for more senior or "mature" missionary couples to serve in leadership training positions. They can go into the places in the world where leadership is weak, but membership is growing quickly. There they can help steer the course of the church where leadership is needed the most.

I am grateful for Joseph Smith, and the restoration of the gospel that came through him. I remember two experiences in my youth that helped me to gain a testimony of that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

First, as a young man, I had the assignment to play the piano for the opening exercises of priesthood meeting. I did this from age 14, until I went to college at BYU. My piano talent is not that great. For me to get a hymn ready to play in church, I have to practice it over, and over, and over again. However, that was not necessarily a bad thing. Because each time I would play a hymn, I would also silently repeat the words to the hymn in my head -- over, and over, and over again. (Essentially it amounted to pondering the words of the hymn, while I was practicing it.)

I remember having special spiritual feelings while I practiced "Joseph Smith's First Prayer", or better known in those days: "Oh, how lovely was the morning," in the old Blue (pre 1985) Hymnbook. I felt the presence of the spirit as I played that hymn. I found that I would play it on my own, even if I didn't have to play it in church that week -- just because I loved the way it made me feel. Looking back on it now, I realize that it was the Spirit testifying to me that the events of the first vision were really true! Joseph did go into that grove to pray! He did see the Father and the Son! He did receive instructions from them!

Later, in the weeks prior to leaving for my mission to British Columbia, Canada, I memorized the first discussion. In those days, the first discussion was excerpts of the Joseph Smith story, in his own words. As I memorized his words, I again received a manifestation from the Spirit that what I was memorizing, and what I would soon be declaring to the world, was true!

It is a testimony that anyone can have, if they will study and learn. Ponder and Pray, and listen for the witness of the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of these things.

It all started 200 years ago today, the day that Joseph Smith was born. His work and legacy continues on today. I would expect that we will have a series of bicentennial celebrations over the next few years. (The First Vision in 1820. The organization of the church in 1830, etc.)

While we do not worship Joseph Smith, as some have erroneously alleged, we do respect him, and honor him for the servant of the Lord that he was.

I close this post with the words of John Taylor, who was a successor to Joseph Smith:
"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it . . . He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (John Taylor in Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mary Did You Know?

Update: I have written more about this song. You can hear my favorite version of Mary Did You know, and read the lyrics here.

This morning, in my blog reading, I came across a relatively new Christmas song, "Mary Did You Know". Like Kimberly, I have grown to love this song.

I first heard this song performed by Kim Bracken during the Christmas Season of 2004. It was on one of those FM 100 Christmas compilation CD's (Volume IV). I found it very moving, but didn't think much more about it until last week. Then last week Hugh Hewitt featured it as "bumper music" on his nationally syndicated talk show. Each time a segment of the show would begin or end, he would play a different rendition this song.

Ever since then, I can't seem to get this song out of my head!

On Sunday night, I was cooking dinner, and whistling the tune as I was making my way around the kitchen. After dinner, while the kids were doing the dishes, I picked up a recorder, and figured out the melody. I have found that usually, if I can whistle a tune, I can play it on the recorder. Later on, I sat down at the piano, and began creating my own piano arrangement of it.

It seems this song has universal (at least among Christians) appeal. There are more versions of it than I can count. Today I did some research on the song, and found that it was published in 1991, and is well on its way to becoming a new classic. You can read about the history of the song, and about the lyricist (Mark Lowry) and the composer (Buddy Greene) here. You can listen to a version of the song performed by Lowry and Greene here . ( Note: This is a web page that plays the song automatically when you go to it. I found it works best with a high-speed connection, and Internet Explorer.)

Which version is best? I suppose that is all a matter of taste. Both Lowry and Greene, the creators of this song are Contemporary Christian Musicians (CCM). Their CCM version, while nice, has a few too many runs and flourishes in it for my taste. I have heard some recommend the Clay Aiken Version. I'm sure he does a nice job, although I haven't heard it yet. It appears that many Christian and Country artists have recorded versions of the song.

As for me, I guess it comes down to the version that I first heard, and that first moved me. I still like Kim Bracken's version, even though she is still a relatively unknown Utah, LDS musician. Her version is powerful -- yet plain and simple. With its elegant simplicity, Kim Bracken's version focuses more on the subject matter, than drawing attention to herself.

Like a humble offering to a king.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hello Broadband!

Christmas came a few days early at our house! Santa made an early delivery, and we had a broadband internet connection installed via our local cable company. After the cable company installed the cable modem, we installed a wireless network into our home. We purchased a combination Router, Firewall, and Wireless Access Point. Our laptop already had a WIFI adapter built-in. For our desktop, we got a USB attached wireless network adapter.

We no longer tie up the phone line for hours to be on the internet -- no more having to forward the home phone to the cell phone if we were expecting an important phone call. The router allows both computers to share the cable modem connection at the same time. Another benefit with the wireless network is that we can take the laptop anywhere in the house and still have an internet connection -- without cables! This will be particularly helpful for our homeschool. All these benefits are nice, let alone the major increase in speed. Downloading programs, or updating the windows operating system happens in seconds, instead of hours. For our Windows 2000 computer, we would often have to leave the computer on all night, with the phone line tied up to download the needed updates.

With the high-speed, always-on internet connection, we found that we had a greater need for internet filtering and parental controls. On dial-up, the slow speed prevented access to a lot of things. We found our 12-year old son innocently playing a game of checkers on-line at a game site. The checkers game also included a chat room on the sidebar. We told Bryan that we did not want him engaging in chat rooms, fearful that he might be tricked into giving out personal information. So we began a search for filtering and parental control technology. Some of these things we can block out with the hardware firewall. But even blocking certain activities with the firewall still won't block out harmful content. (Unless you want to make your own list of all of the thousands of undesireable websites, and then enter them all into the firewall, and then keep the list current and updated all the time. -- No Thanks, that's what you pay for with web filtering software.)

I searched a number of advisory websites. First I went to Kim Kommando's web site for her recommendations. Next I went to Consumer Reports for their review of internet filters and parental controls. Click here to see the Consumer Reports recommendations. Safe Eyes was the top recommendation from Consumer Reports.

After reading several reviews and recommendations, we have installed a free trial of the Safe Eyes filtering system. There were several things we liked about this system over the others. First, you don't have to download updates to banned sites (or "black list") to your computer(s) every few days. The the black list is kept on safe eyes' web site. Second, it is very flexible. Now each member of the family must enter their own unique user id and password to have any access to the Internet. Each person can have a unique profile of the types of web sites they are allowed to access, and the types of activities they are allowed to do on the internet. You can also set up designated time periods when each user is allowed to have access to the internet. Another thing we liked was that you pay one fee, up front for use of the software. No annual subscription fees to renew each year. Also when you purchase Safe Eyes, you are licensed to install it on up to three computers. So we can install it on both of our computers, without having to purchase it twice! Finally, Safe Eyes seems to have a minimal impact on internet access speed. I don't notice much, if any difference in speed with the filtering program in place.

In setting up the profiles, you can block certain activities on the internet for each user, if desired. For the kids, we were able to block chat rooms, email, peer to peer transfers, FTP, and instant messaging. We were also able to block a host of web sites for the kids including por*ography, adult content, games, gambling, auctions, violence, weapons, murder/suicide, school cheating, and several other types of web sites. Even for the us adults, we still blocked anything indecent, or immoral. Other things, like auctions, we allowed access to mom and dad. (Ebay comes in really handy sometimes, especially around Christmas!)

I have just installed it tonight, and set up the user profiles for each member of the family. We will have to try it out for a few days and see how we like it in practice. In theory it sounds great! I'll give a report in a week or so when our 15-day trial period runs out. Just from what I have seen thus far, I anticipate that we will be purchasing this product. However, we want to see it running in practice for a few days -- the proof will be in the pudding.

Of course, the best web filter of all is parents. The computers will be in public places in the house, and there will be a parent nearby when any of the children are on the internet. Still, having this protection brings us a level of relief, now that the internet is more accessible to us than ever before.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Light of Christ

During the Christmas season, we commemorate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is interesting that one of the symbols we use in our celebration are Christmas Lights. Each of these tiny lights, can help us to remember Jesus, who is the Light of the World.

In my latest talk, I was asked to speak on the Light of Christ. Here are some exerpts from my talk. You can read the full version here.

A Gift to All Mankind

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. (D&C 84:46-47)
There is a lot of meaning is packed into these two verses:

1. The Light of Christ is given to every person that comes into the world.
It does not matter what their race, religion, wealth, or social class may be. It doesn’t matter if they live in a free country, or a country dominated by avowed atheist dictators. It eveb doesn’t matter what they believe. The light of Christ is given to all of God’s Children, everywhere on earth. This gift has been given to all mankind from the time of the Garden of Eden, down to our present time, and will continue as long as the earth shall stand. There has never been a time on the face of the earth, when the light of Christ was not present. The Light of Christ still remained present, even during the deepest, darkest times of apostasy, when the fullness of the Gospel was not found on the earth. God has never abandoned his Children on this earth, at any time. His light has ever shone forth.

The Light of Christ existed before we were born, and it will be with us for every moment of our lives, and it will continue after we have died. It is ever there.

2. Those who hearken (which means to listen, and to obey) to the light of Christ will be enlightened.
Inspiration and enlightenment comes to all those who will listen to the light of Christ. This enlightenment can come in many forms. It can come to the inventor, the scientist, the painter, the sculptor, the composer, the performer, the architect, and the author. The result of this enlightenment can produce great, and even inspired things for the blessing and good of all mankind.

Think of the advancements in science, medicine, communications, technology, and transportation that have come about in the last 100 years. Think of the great writers, composers, and artists who have been inspired by the Light of Christ to lift and inspire mankind to the glory of God. Think of the religious reformers who prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel. All of these have been inspired by the Light of Christ.

3. Those who continue to hearken to the Light of Christ, will be led back to our Heavenly Father.

As a person continues to listen and obey the Light of Christ, they will eventually be led back to the presence of the Father.

Think of 14-year-old Joseph Smith, who hearkened to the voice of the Spirit as he became interested in religion, and desired to know the will of God concerning which church to join. Remember as he was studying the scriptures how he was not only influence by the Light of Christ, but by his obedience to the light which he had already received, he was then moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost – which in turn led him to the Sacred Grove where he would receive his miraculous First Vision. There he would behold the presence of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and was given the answers to his questions, and was further instructed by them.

The Light of Christ, is also known as the Spirit of Truth. Those who seek after that spirit, and cling to the truths that they learn, will eventually be led back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Truth Vs. Error

The Light of Christ is not only given to us for enlightenment, and to draw us toward the Savior; but also is given to us to discern right from wrong.

Sometimes this manifestation of the Light of Christ is called a moral sense, or our conscience, The Light of Christ will always direct us to make good choices, and to avoid evil, unless we subdue it, or silence it.

Each person enters mortality to obtain a physical body, and to be tested. We are taught in that in order to be tested, there must be an opposition in the choices that we make. On the one hand we have the Light of Christ, which inspires us to do good; and on the other hand we have Satan and his followers, which tempt us to do evil. These two forces are set in opposition to one another. We are in the middle, between these to forces tugging at us in opposite directions. We have been given our moral agency are free to choose for ourselves which course we will follow.

Can We Lose The Light of Christ?

If you were to close your eyes on a bright, sun-shiny day, you would not see the light. The sun, however, continues to shine, as always. The only reason you cannot see it is that you have closed your eyes; and by so doing, you have shut down your ability to perceive it.

The same is true with the Light of Christ. We couldn’t hide ourselves from the Light of Christ – even if we wanted to! We can, however choose to ignore what we see, or cloud our spiritual eyes and minds so much with disobedience and wickedness that we can no longer perceive the light.

A Spark In The Dark

Perhaps you know someone who has fallen into this condition of spiritual blindness. Perhaps it may even happened to you or me. It happens, even to the best of us, if we are not careful. We can lose the light we once had, and can fall into sin and transgression.

What if that has happened to you, or to someone you know. Be assured that the Light is still there. There is no depth so low, no darkness so deep that cannot be penetrated by the Light of Christ. God will never abandon us, no matter how far we may have fallen. The light, and life of his love is ever there. His arms are stretched out still. There is none that he will turn away, if we will but come unto him.

Those whose minds have become sufficiently darkened may find it hard to believe in Christ, and that he is trying to reach each one of us.

In a recent Ensign article, Elder Boyd K Packer gives the following example:
“Man himself, with all his limitations, can convey messages through fiber-optic cables. A single tiny fiber of glass, smaller than a human hair, can carry 40,000 messages at the same time. These can then be decoded and turned into sight and sound and color, even motion. Man can do that.

A laser beam, where there is no wire or fiber at all, can carry 100 billion bits of information in a second.

If man can do that, why should we marvel at the promise that the Light of Christ is in all of us and that the Holy Ghost can visit any of us?
It should not be difficult, therefore, to understand how revelation from God to His children on earth can come to all mankind through both the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 8)
Even in our darkest hour, when we may feel so unworthy, and so unwanted – know that our Savior, and his light are still there for you. It is Satan, and not Christ that tells you that you are worthless, unwanted, and unredeemable. Do not listen to him. Believe in Christ, that he is, and that he can save you.

Know that his power is great. For he is mighty to save. He has taken upon him the sins and pains of the whole world. He has suffered these things for all -- that they might not suffer. He has broken the terrible bonds of death – that we may all live once more. He has triumphed over all things. And though each of us are weak and lowly, still, because of his love for us, he desires to draw all men unto him, that he may lift them up, and return them to the presence of the Father. And for this, all he asks is that we follow Him, and keep his commandments.


During this season of gift giving, let us remember the that the greatest Christmas gift ever given was when the Father sent his Only Begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. In return, the greatest gift that we can ever give is to love and serve God, and our fellow-men – the two great commandments, walking in holiness before him. May we show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father by giving him our gifts of love and service during this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Baby, What You Goin' To Be

In a previous post, I discussed how my all-time favorite Christmas music is Handel’s Messiah. I consider it to be in a class itself.

That's not to say that Other Christmas music is unimportant to me. After the Messiah, perhaps the next most significant Christmas song to my wife and I is “Baby, What You Goin’ To Be”, by Natalie Sleeth.

Here are the Lyrics to this Song:
Baby, Lying in a manger, slumbering so sweetly,
Whatcha gonna be?
Baby all the world is watchin',
all the world awaits to see,
what will you be?
Baby sleeping in a stable, underneath the heavens,
whatcha gonna say?
Baby, did you bring the Good News?
Did you come to light our way?

Oh, look, see the cattle asleep, see the shepherds beside,
See the Wise Men, they bow unto you.
Are you the one who was meant to be Master?
To bring in the Kingdom too?
Alleluia Baby, Hope of all the people,
what you come here to do?
What you come to say?
Baby, can you be the Savior?
Come to save the world one day?
Baby can you be the Savior?
Come to save the world one day?
Baby lying in a manger,
will you save the world one day?
I have sung this song with a number of Choirs over the years.

My first experience with this song came as I was singing with the Mormon Youth Chorus. I remember that we had prepared it as a part of our Christmas concert that was performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I learned both the bass and the tenor parts, but I sang bass in the performance. This song has multiple movements among the parts. At various points in the song, each of the parts, in turn, (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) has the melody.

When it came time to sing the two lines: "Come to save the world one day? Baby can you be the Savior?" I found myself struggling to retain my composure. I felt a deep spiritual connection that I was not only just singing about something that happened long ago and far away. But rather, something that was meant for me. Here. Today!

At the time, I had been struggling in my spiritual life, and I was filled with a hope that this Savior came not only to save the whole world, but to save ME as well! Could it be true? Was there a Savior even for me, in all my feelings weakness and sin?

Have you ever felt like you were a lost soul? That you were not worth Saving? As I sang this song, and later listened to a recording of it (over and over, again) I felt the assurance of the Spirit to my heart and soul that the Savior did, indeed, come into the world for me. This assurance gave me hope, and with this hope, I was able to make some needed changes in the direction of my life.

Even today, it is still difficult for me sing this song without tearing up a bit (or a lot).

Baby, What You Goin' To Be is also a special song for my wife. Shortly after we were married, we found ourselves in the Murray (Utah) 23rd Ward. We sang this song as members of the ward choir.

We had a wonderful choir director, Sister Frances Vane. She was a professional musician, and was well known in local musical circles. She had an endearing way to make it incredibly fun to participate in a ward choir. Frances was in her mid-80's at that time. One day, I gave Dawn Ann a kiss after sacrament meeting as we separated for classes. Frances caught us in the act, and with twinkling eyes, a wagging finger, and a pretend scowl on her face said, "No kissing in the chapel!" Unfortunately, a few months after the Christmas season, Frances passed away. We really missed her. Even today, if I give my wife a kiss in the chapel, I have to look up to the heavens, and say, "Sorry Frances", with a smile on my face.

That Christmas, in Frances' ward choir, we rehearsed and sang Baby What You Goin' To Be. It so happened, that Dawn Ann was carrying our first child, Bryan during that Christmas Season. She was about 7 months along at the time.

Expecting a child herself, Dawn Ann found that she could identify more with Mary during that Christmas season, than ever before. She thought of the Love that Mary had for her son, and the knowledge she had that he would be the Savior of the World. Dawn Ann also wondered if Mary knew that to become the Savior, that one day he would have to be sacrificed as well. What would it be like for us to lose our only son?

As all new parents, we couldn't help but reflect on what our baby was goin' to be. Of course, she knew that our baby would not be the Savior of the World, but she was filled with the hope and wonderment that all new parents have as they consider the possibilities for their child. During that Christmas season, and during that song, we were filled with all of the hopes and dreams, and possibilities of what our child might one-day become. Once again, singing this song with dry eyes became difficult, if not impossible.

The words to this song, while wonderful, cannot reflect the depth of meaning it carries without the beautiful music composed by Natalie Sleeth. You can listen to a rendition of this song by the Tabernacle Choir by clicking the player below:

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Calling GF Handel . . . George, Are You There?

Now that the holiday season is in full-swing, I started reflecting on some of my favorite Christmas Music. For me, the music is one of the things that makes this season so special.

I would have to say that Handel's Messiah is my overall favorite piece of Christmas Music. I once got to be a part of a group (Choir and Orchestra) that performed the entire Messiah from beginning to end. I even have my own copy of the score! On other occasions, I have been privileged to sing selected choruses from the Messiah. Unlike my friend Woody, I've never been a soloist. (Hats off to Woody!)

The Reason Why the Messiah is my favorite piece of Christmas music is because of its sheer power to testify of the Divinity of the Son of God. I find this music to be powerfully inspiring, with the ability to uplift and give comfort. Normally the Messiah is thought of as music appropriate for the Christmas and Easter Seasons -- which in deed, it is.

For me The Messiah is much more than holiday music. The Messiah is also a spiritual 911 call.

When I am feeling burdened by life, or by my own mistakes, I can play this music and find inspiration. Through the music of the Messiah, I once again feel the hope that comes to us as we realize we have a Savior who loves us, in spite of ourselves, and is willing to take upon himself our burdens. In fact, he already has.

Because of the hope and inspiration this music brings to me, and to many others -- I'm quite sure that Handel received inspiration from above when he composed this music. He was also inspired as he attached words of scripture that truly testify of the reality, divinity, and the eventual triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In answer to my earlier question--George, Are you there? -- I can only say that I have the Messiah on CD, loaded into my computer, and even on my MP3 player. I can play the Messiah at almost anytime, and anywhere -- including right now!


It's a little on the chilly side here today!

We had a "commuter special" snowstorm come through the valley last evening. It started snowing at about 3:00 pm, and continued until about 9:00 pm. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get home, when a normal commute is about 25 minutes.

I decided to shovel/snowblow the walks and driveway last night so that I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. It was a good thing too! Last night it was about 20 degrees when I was out working on the driveway. We had about 8 inches of snow at our house. This morning, after the storm passed and the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped down to 7 degrees.

So I get here to work this morning, only to find that there is only 1-2 inches of snow here. There is something unfair about all of that! I guess it all depends on the whims of the "Lake Effect" from the Great Salt Lake.

Meanwhile, I think I'll see if I still have some hot chocolate mix here in my desk.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cowboy Up!

Prologue: As I was growing up, I spent every summer of my life with my grandparents on their Cattle Ranch in Randolph, Utah. From time to time, I will share experiences from my cattle ranch days. The following is a story about my memories of participating in a cattle drive, during which I was a real, live cowboy.

In the Northeast sky, the black of night was giving way to shades of gray. It was still so early that not even the rooster had crowed. Even though it was summertime, there was still a cool crispness to the morning air – at nearly 7000 feet elevation. I was still buried under grandma’s quilts. Sleeping in the same room (and maybe even the same bed) that my mother had slept in when she was a child. I was 12 years old. Suddenly I was awakened by the creaky floor as my grandfather’s footfalls came towards the bedroom. “Come on, David – Let’s go!”

I quickly got dressed and went outside. There was now the faintest shade of pink along the Eastern skyline. Even though we had a big day ahead of us, we still had to do the “chores” – Milk the cows, feed the chickens and pigs, and gather the eggs. We had to bottle-feed the “bum” calves and lambs who had lost their mothers. The chores had to be done twice-a-day, without exception, 7-days a week, 365 days a year. The chores had no weekends, no holidays, no vacations. It didn’t matter if it was hot or cold, summer or winter, rain or shine, the chores always had to be done. Such is the lot a rancher.

While we were up doing the chores, grandma had risen as well. She had cooked us breakfast, and had fixed us sack lunches to take with us on our big day. For today, we would drive the cattle to the “Forest”.

We had begun our day so early to take advantage of the cooler part of the day, and to cover as much ground as possible while the animals were still fresh.

Next we saddled up the horses and loaded them into the back of the truck. We also packed our lunches and water jugs into cab. Then we drove to the corral where the cattle had been penned-in the night before. We unloaded the horses from the truck, opened the corral gate, ushered the cows from the corral, and began the drive. At this point, it would still be another half-hour until the sun would rise over the Crawford Mountains to the East.

In this type of a cattle drive, there would be several horses and riders, a well-trained cattle dog, and the truck following along behind on the or trail. The truck served as a modern-day chuck wagon. We would be outfitted with a hat, long-sleeved shirts, Levi’s (or bib overalls in grandpa’s case) and a good pair of boots and spurs. Each of us would also have a whip of some kind should the livestock need a little extra encouragement -- nothing abusive, just a little tap every once-in-a-while to remind the cows that this was a journey -- not a camp! We would usually carry some hard-tack candy in our shirt pocket, along with a small piece of rock salt. The candy would help keep our mouths moist (important in all the dust that was kicked up) and the salt would help us retain water. We would get a drink occasionally when we were near the truck.

Typically we would have a rider on each side of the herd, to keep them pointed on the trail. We would also have two or three other riders bringing up the rear of the heard and pushing the cattle along.

In a large cattle drive, of perhaps hundreds of cattle, cows and calves would invariably become separated. One of my jobs, when I was younger (say between 10-14 years old) was to follow along behind the herd to make sure none of the calves got left behind. The calves were still young and very inexperienced – some 2-3 months old. This was usually their first-ever cattle drive. Their instinct, once they were separated from their mother, was to turn around and go back to where they came from – back to the point where they were last with their mother.

The calves, and sometimes the cows too, would stealthily their way to the outer edge of the herd, and then, when they thought the time was most opportune – they would bolt out from the side of the herd, and then try to double-back to the point form whence they came. The cows would also try to bolt if we were crossing a particularly steep or difficult part of the trail. Like most of us, they would rather go down-hill than up. My job was to chase after the calves, or any other escapees, catch up to them, and turn, or “head” them back to the main body of the herd.

Cutting Horses
A well trained horse was an invaluable tool when performing this task. Such well trained horses made it possible for even young and inexperienced riders to get the job done. The horse would know how to accelerate after the calf, and would know just the right point to turn and “head off” the calf. I was usually given one of the gentle old mares to ride on the cow drives when I was a boy. They had many years of experience with this sort of work. All I had to do was to point the horse in the general direction of the straying animal, and the horse would practically do the rest. At first, I pretty much just held on to the saddle horn, and tried not to fall off the horse! Over time, it seemed like the horse actually trained me how to do this job, until I was quite proficient in my own right at driving and “cutting” cattle. I also learned how to move with the horse, so that falling off was no longer of concern.

Cutting cattle involves not only heading stray animals back to the herd, but separating, or “cutting out” individual animals from the herd (for medical attention, branding, weaning, or other purposes. Horses that specialize in this kind of work are called “Cutting Horses.” There are actually cutting horse competitions, which is a whole other take on equestrian sports. (No chasing foxes, or jumping fences or ponds here -- but something actually useful!) Heck, I would much rather see cutting horse competitions become an Olympic event, rather than the current equestrian events.

Cattle drives are not quiet rides through the woods. When I was younger, and I would tell people that I had spent the Summer on my grandpa’s cattle ranch, they would swoon at the thought of just leisurely riding horses all day out on the range. There is nothing leisurely about a cattle drive. There is a lot of noise. First there is the constant bellowing, or “mooing” of the cows and calves trying to locate one another when they became separated. Second, there were the sounds we made as well. We would constantly holler, whistle, and make hissing sounds to keep the cattle moving. The person driving the truck along behind the herd would make generous use of the horn as well to keep them moving. Combine the noise with the dust, and the manure, and you have something quite different altogether from the idyllic what my city friends could ever imagine.

Cool, Clear, Water

Occasionally we would come to a stream. We would pause there for a few minutes, and let the cattle and horses rest and drink. Sometimes we would come to a spring along the way. We too would get down on our bellies, and sip the Cool, Clear Water (Think of the Sons of the Pioneers song here!) as it bubbled up from the ground. I’ll tell you NOTHING could taste better after all the heat and dust that we had endured. We would wash our faces in that cold water, and maybe even dunk our heads in the water to stay cool for a little while.

At some point along the way, we would eat the lunches that grandma had prepared for us. Sandwiches, chips, some home made cookies, – and best of all, a bottle of grandma’s home-canned peaches. I’ve had some nice meals in my lifetime. Some of them at some very nice restaurants. But I don’t think any meal has tasted better to me than those lunches on the cattle drive when you were so hot, tired, and HUNGRY.

After a few hours on horseback, your hip joints become kind of displaced. It really felt good to dismount, stand up and stretch, and straighten out your legs for a bit. Although walking felt good, your knees would be a little wobbly from having stood up in the stirrups so much.

Then we would mount up again, and keep those doggies movin! (Think of the Rawhide TV show theme song here!)

The End of the Trail

Eventually in mid to late afternoon, we would arrive at our destination – some 10 hours later, and at a gain of 2500 feet in elevation. We would open the gate that separated the BLM land from the Forest land, and herd the cows through the gate, and close it behind them. Of course, the cattle would immediately head/run for the watering hole. The cows and calves would bellow and moo until they found one another, then they would pair up, and the calves would have their dinner, courtesy of mama.

We would let the horses drink, then we would tie them up to a nearby tree and let them graze for a little while in the tall forest grasses. Meanwhile we would refill our water jugs from the fresh, clean, and cold water from Longhurst Spring, and perhaps have another sandwich courtesy of grandma. We would lie down under a tree, watch the puffy white clouds move across the deep blue sky, and listen to the wind rustle through the leaves of the aspen trees.

Let's Head For The Barn

After resting up a bit, we would load the horses in the truck, and begin our descent off the mountain, and back home to the ranch. Upon arrival, we would unload the horses from the truck, take them to the barn, and remove their saddles. The horses were then turned loose in the corral, and they made a beeline for the watering trough. After they had their fill of water, we would turn them loose out into the pasture.

It always amused me that after a long, hard ride like that, that the first thing the horses did after being turned loose, was to find a patch of bare, dry, ground, and roll around in the dirt on their backs. I suppose it was a way for them to scratch their backs, and to get rid of the feeling of the saddle blanket. Then, as horses do, they made their way out to the green grass, and started grazing away, with their tails a-swishing.

As for us, we still had the chores to do, once more. After that we would have a nice dinner prepared by grandma.

Then came the fun part – the “tick check”. Everybody had to strip down and check each other for wood ticks. Having been around the cattle all day, and having brushed up against the same sage brush and trees that the cattle had been brushing up against, there was a good likelihood that we may have picked up a wood tick or two. Usually the ticks would embed themselves where your clothing would fit tightly, mainly under your waistband, or around the top of your socks. On more than one occasion, I found that I was host to a wood tick after a cattle drive, and the same with my companions. We removed the ticks right away. If we had a stubborn one, we would get grandma to help us. She had been a Registered Nurse in her day – and she had her ways.

Following the tick check, we would have a bath or shower, and go right to bed. We were sooo tired. It had been such a long day. Usually the insides of your knees, thighs, and calves would be rubbed raw by being on horseback for so long. Oft’ times you would have saddle sores on your behind as well. Worst of all were the knees. They would really ache, from spending so much time standing up on the stirrups and bouncing on the horse all day long. The knees acted as shock absorbers for the rest of your body.

Finally we would lie down to sleep. As I closed my eyes, my minds eye could see nothing but cows and calves, dust and manure. I could still hear the bellowing and mooing as if it were right there before me. But soon – very soon, fatigue would overtake me, and I would be fast asleep. – Until, that is, I would hear the floor creak once more. It was time to do chores – Again!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

First Snowfall

(Click on Photos for Larger Images)

Today we woke up to 8-10 inches of snow. Fortunately, it worked out well for me that I didn't have any early morning (6:30 am!) church meetings this Sunday. In fact, the first church meeting I needed to attend was my own ward at 11:00 am. (My wife, Dawn Ann, was wistful this morning that we only had 4 more Sundays until our ward would go to the dreaded 9:00 am block schedule -- "Pretty soon we won't be able to sleep-in any more on Sundays." I jokingly harrumphed, "Speak for yourself my dear!)

It had started snowing last night, so I knew what to expect this morning. I tromped out in the snow to our shed to retrieve the snow shovel. After taking a couple of swipes at the snow, I could tell that the type of snow we received would be prime snow for the snowblower! That's good news. A year ago last fall I had the snowblower serviced, and had it all ready to go. I never used it at all last year! In fact, after I removed a year's worth of stuff that had been piled on the snowblower, I found the service tags still attached.

About this time, Bryan came out in his new snow suit. I told asked him to get his snow shovel and start clearing off the porch, while I got the snowblower going. After filling up the bone-dry gas tank, it started right up. The snow was deep enough, and powdery enough so that it didn't plug up the chute very much. During the last few years, the snow we have received has been so heavy and wet (and only a couple of inches deep) that it rendered the snowblower practically useless. You would spend more time unplugging the chute than it would take just to shovel it! Hence last year's lack of use. Last year we got a lot of moisture, but it was mostly in rain or slush. In fact, I haven't used the snowblower much over the last several years because we've been experiencing warmer and drier winters in general.

Not today however. We had prime snowblowing conditions! And Bryan just couldn't wait to get his hands on it either! After I cleared the driveway, I let Bryan tackle the sidewalk. We live on a corner lot, so we have lots of sidewalk to shovel. Bryan started out OK on the snowblower, but the snow stuck to the wheels which prevented them from turning (Our snowblower is not self propelled-- so if the wheels stick, you end up "sledding" the snowblower along its way.) It turned out to be a little harder work that Bryan had anticipated. He did alright when it was going downhill, but I needed to take over for going uphill.

Bryan has really been getting more and more helpful these days. During the summer, he mowed at least half of the lawn each time we cut the grass. He has been helpful with shoveling snow, and now he's learning to run the snowblower. It's great to see him grow and progress.

After doing our yard, we loaded the snowblower and shovels into our truck and went over to an elderly widow's house nearby to do her walks and driveway. We fired up the snowblower, and got her taken care of pretty quickly too. Then we drove back home, and carved out a track in the snow to the chapel (about 4 doors away from us) . It was nice to have a clean walkway to get to church.After we were done, there was just enough time for Bryan to make a snow angel, just before we had to dash in to get ready for church.

Even though Bryan is 12 years old now, its still nice to see the little boy in him too. Enough little boy that still paints a big grin on his face while playing in the snow!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Hanging Up The Christmas Lights

Friday's job (other than sleeping in as late as we wanted!) was to put the Christmas lights up on the house. I keep vowing to do this job in the balmy weather of October before Halloween, but it just never seems to happen that way. Last year, I waited until Thanksgiving, and weather did not cooperate. Whenever I had time off (holidays or Saturdays) the weather was too inhospitable to be on the roof.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving day the weather was perfect. Sunny skies, temperatures in the 50's and no wind. Today, however, the skies were cloudy, we had a strong South wind (which means a storm is coming) and it was quite chilly. It was dry, however, and I knew that if we didn't get the lights up today, that chances were we would miss getting them up again this year. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow!

We got our lights out of storage, and the gutter/shingle clips with which to attach them. We all climbed up on the roof (that is me, Bryan and Amy -- and major bravery points for Amy!) only to find that our 10-year-old gutter clips were now so brittle, that ever time we tried to attach one to the rain gutter, that they snapped in two.

I had remembered seeing some gutter clips at the local Harmon's grocery store just inside the front entrance. So we made a quick trip to the store, got the clips and came back.

The new clips worked just fine. Bryan really wanted to help, so for the first time I let him attach the gutter clips, and then attach the light strand to the clip. I insisted on doing the work around the corners of the roof, which are much more dangerous. I was proud of Bryan being such a great help. Amy also helped by keeping us supplied in gutter clips, and bringing a new strand of lights to us when we were ready for them.

We got all the lights up and then just spent a few minutes admiring the view from the roof. While we were up there, I took a few photos. Here is the view looking toward the east from my rooftop: Click on Photos for larger images. Also, you Can see more photos from Thanksgiving Weekend Here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Day 2005

We had a nice Thanksgiving day. We were invited over to Grandma and Grandpa C's house. My Mother, and my brother Mark, did most of the cooking. When we arrived, the turkey was still in the oven.

This year, Mark bought a new cooking gadget called the Turkey Cannon. This device is supposed to result in faster, more evenly, cooked of the turkey. In addition, the turkey is supposed to come out more moist as well. You can fill the cannon with liquid of your choice (we used white cranberry juice) which steams the turkey from the inside as well.

Fresh sage, rosemary, and a few lemon slices were stuffed into the cavity of the bird. Then it was impaled placed on the Turkey Cannon. The exterior of the bird was also rubbed with herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary, and time (Yes! just like the song!, And no, Simon and Garfunkel were not there.)

So, what was the verdict on the Turkey Cannon. Well, there were mixed reviews. Personally, I liked the way the Turkey turned out. It had a nice flavor, and I found it to be very moist. Even the white meat! (Ordinarily I have to slather on lots of cranberry-orange relish to handle the dry white meat, but I didn't have to this time. In fact, my white meat was nearly all gone from my plate before I realized I hadn't had any cranberry relish with it at all yet!)

I guess I'll never know whether the extra moist bird was attributable to the Turkey Cannon, to the use of Mark’s fancy meat thermometer. They took the bird out of the oven at 160 internal degrees. Mark tells me that the little plastic popper that comes with the turkey doesn’t usually pop until about 180-185 degrees internal temperature. I think this amounts to a conspiracy hatched by the Norbest legal department exercising undue control over the turkey cooking directions. I’m told that 160 degrees is quite adequate for meat safety concerns. The 180-185 degrees required to set off little the plastic popper may give the company an added layer of protection from salmonella law suits, but only at the expense of a more moist, flavorful turkey.

After the Turkey Cannon experience, my mother is of the opinion that she prefers her turkey the way they did it in the previous couple of years. Last year they soaked the turkey in a brine solution for a day or two before Thanksgiving. Then they cooked it, along with the herbs, inside of an oven bag. She felt that the turkey was even more moist with the bag, than with the Turkey Cannon. And because the roasting bag seals in all the steam coming from the bird as it cooks -- that it actually cooked faster. This year's bird was fairly large sized (22 pounds), which according to mom, made it difficult to position the bird onto the Turkey Cannon. The Turkey Cannon can also be used in a barbecue grill as well as the oven. Mom thought that might be nice way to cook a smaller bird in the summer. Maybe we’ll give it a try in warmer weather.

Mean while over at Carol’s blog, I’m afraid I apparently sparked an interest in the Turkey Cannon. Carol had quoted a humorous poem about flying/exploding turkeys. I made a comment that perhaps the Turkey Cannon might have been to blame for the problem. Go read the post, and be sure to check out the comments.

Meanwhile, while we were waiting for the turkey to cook, we played some games together, and put together a couple of jigsaw puzzles. Mostly we just relaxed, visited with each other, and had a nice time together. We didn’t even have the TV on before dinner.

Once the Turkey was cooked, it was time for the marshmallows to be toasted on the candied yams. Then the rolls got their turn in the oven. Finally it was time to eat, and we had a nice meal together.

After dinner and cleaning up, the kids had turned on the TV. We watched the some of “A Christmas Story” for a little while, and chuckled at Ralphy’s antics while our food was settling.

Finally, we spent some time learning about our newly discovered Mayflower ancestors. I read the biographical sketches I had found on the internet for each of our seven ancestors who came to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower. It was a fun time of discovery for each of us. It was nice to remember them on this holiday. It brought the history and meaning of the holiday much closer and more personal for each of us.

Before we left, we were treated to some of grandma’s pumpkin pie, with fresh whipped cream, courtesy of Dawn Ann. It was very good too, and a nice way to close out the evening.

We came home, rolled into bed, and settled in for a long winter’s nap.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mayflower Ancestors

Looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been doing some research to find any of my ancestors who were passengers on the Mayflower.

Until recently, I knew of only one Mayflower Ancestor, William Bradford. After doing a little more research, I have found a total of 7 Mayflower ancestors from my family thus far.

Below is a list of the Mayflower passengers that I am descended from. Alongside each name, is the years of their life-span, and their age at the time they sailed on the Mayflower

Bradford, William 1590 - 1657, Age 30

Brewster, William 1560 - 1644, Age 60
Brewster, Mary 1567 - 1627, Age 53
Brewster, Love 1595 - 1634, Age 25

Cooke, Francis 1584 -1663, Age 36

Hopkins, Stephen 1580 -1644, Age 40
Hopkins, Elizabeth (Fisher) 1595 -1640, Age 25

If you click on a link, associated with one of these names, you will be directed to a brief biographical sketch of each person.

I recently read that there are now at least 30 million living descendants of the original Mayflower passengers living in the United States Today.

For a complete Mayflower passenger list click here. Once you see the passenger list, you can click on any passenger's name for information about that individual.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Piano Recital

Friday night (November 18th) both Bryan and Amy participated in their first piano recital.

I met the family at a local piano store's recital hall after work on Friday. They were all dressed up in their Sunday best, and looked so nice. Both of them had been practicing for months to be prepared. Bryan and Amy each performed twice during the course of the recital. They were pretty nervous, but were able to overcome the butterflies in their stomachs. (One little girl froze at the piano. Her mind blanked out on her, and she couldn't remember how her piece began. -- Poor thing.)

We were so proud of them. All their practicing really paid off. They had both their musical numbers memorized. Their performance was nearly perfect, with very few, if any mistakes!

After the performance, they were on cloud nine! They were so relieved to have the recital over with. With everyone all dressed up, we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner.

We decided to go to one of those Brazilian style restaurants -- where the gaucho guys deliver the various skewered meats to your table, which have been cooked on a rotisserie. The kids had never been to a Brazilian style restaurant before, so it as a new experience for them. We liked the beef chicken, and ham. However the pork seeed a little too salty. Our favorite was the grilled pineapple.

Saturday morning, the kids were still giddy and happy about the recital. They got up and first thing went to the piano and played their recital pieces again -- this time, just for the fun of it. Now that the recital was over, the pressure was off. It was nice to see them playing the piano, just for the pleasure of it. Hopefully that pleasure will keep then interested in continuing their piano studies as well.

On Sunday night, we visited Grandma and Grandpa C's house. We were celebrating Dawn Ann's birthday. The kids got to perform their recital pieces again for grandma and grandpa too.

I have previously posted a blog entry on how music also serves as a form of therapy for Bryan's learning disabilities. Bryan has been taking music lessons for a little over two years now. We feel that it has been a real help to his manual dexterity, and fine motor skills.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Gratitude -- More Than a Platitude

I spoke in church today. My topic was on gratitude, in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Here are some excerpts from my talk:

This week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a time for family gatherings and for feasting. Traditionally, a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, filled with the bounty of the harvest has been used as a symbol for our Thanksgiving celebration – symbolic of the many bounteous blessings we have received from our Father in Heaven.

For many, Thanksgiving, our other sacred holidays (Christmas and Easter) has lost its spiritual meaning. Now it is referred to as “Turkey Day”. Football games often receive more devotion than does God. The poor newspaper carrier has to deliver the largest, heaviest newspaper of the year on Thanksgiving day, in order to prepare consumers for the special sales taking place on the following day. Others like Martha of old, are so busy cooking, and making preparations, and getting everything set just so, that they can hardly wait for Thanksgiving to be over with. Lost in the shuffle is the better part of Thanksgiving – remembering our Lord, and the many blessings He has bestowed upon us.

Is there anything wrong with turkey, or football, or shopping malls? No, not by themselves. However, if they distract us from truly taking stock of our blessings, and expressing our gratitude to God, then we lose out on the true purpose and meaning of the holiday. In fact, we miss out on some choice blessings, if we do not have grateful hearts.

Why Are We Commanded to be Grateful?

Why does God want us to be grateful unto him? Does he want our praises and thanks for His benefit – or is there another reason?

Is it because he expects our thanks after all that he’s done for us? After all, we owe him, don’t we? I would suppose that might be part of the reason as well.

Heavenly Father does not just want to hear us say “Thank-You”. In his wisdom, He knows that if we will carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, that he can bless us in ways that otherwise would not be available to us.

In order to carry a spirit of gratitude in our hearts, it requires of us to be humble. If we are not humble, we will not acknowledge that the blessings we have been given are from the Lord.

Conversely, ingratitude is a form of Pride and arrogance.

Over time, if we fail to thank the Lord for his blessings, we start to believe that those things which we have are by our own doing alone, rather than having been received through the grace of God.

Keeping Score

A lack of gratitude can lead to a condition I refer to as: “Keeping Score”. This is where we keep track of how good someone else has it, and how lousy things are for us.

Keeping score always has at least two elements:
  • A comparison between us and someone else, and
  • A feeling that we are not being treated fairly.
Think of the workplace. Some tasks are more desirable than others. How many times do we roll our own eyes when asked to do an unpleasant task. How often to we complain, or hear complaints about how so-and-so always gets out of having to do the unpleasant tasks that we seem to always get stuck with. Do we hear or make complaints of how unfairly we are being treated? Are we keeping score?

Each of us would be less prone to keeping score, if we were more humble, and more gracious.

The Savior’s Example

Let’s look to the life of the Savior. Did he keep score? After a long, tiring day, when the little children were brought before him to be blessed, did he tell them go away? No! He invited them to come unto him. He took them on his knee and be blessed them. His disciples had figured that he had already done enough for one day, but the Savior’s response was to turn no one away. (See Mark 10:13-16)

When we call upon the Lord for his blessings, will he turn us away? Will he hang up a “closed” sign and tell us to come back some other time? No! He invites always to come unto him, at any time, and at any place.

When Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as he Hung on the Cross, was he keeping score? Did he complain about how hard his task was, compared to what was required of the rest of Heavenly Father’s children? No! He bent His will to that of the Father.

Then he took upon himself the sins of the world. Again, was he keeping score? No! For his was an infinite and eternal sacrifice, for which it was impossible to score.

Even though we can’t comprehend what he went through, we know that he did accomplish the work of the Atonement. And we know that he did it for us, because he loved his Father enough to do His Father’s will, and because he loved us enough that he was willing to bear all of our sins and burdens in our behalf.

If He could do all of that for us without complaint, without keeping score, how is it that we have such a hard time loving and serving one another ungrudgingly. When you think of what the Savior has done for us, it makes our whining and complaining and score keeping seem very small, indeed.

Passing Along Our Gifts

Perhaps the best way we can show our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us, is for us, in-turn, to give the heavenly gifts we have received to others.

We can give our children the gift of a good home. We can teach them, by precept, as well as by example the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can also reach out and share the gifts we have received to those around us who may not as yet received these great gifts.

How pleased and honored our Lord would be if we were to assist Him in His work of bringing souls unto Christ.

As we enter this holiday season, may we do so with grateful hearts, recognizing our dependence upon the Lord for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we ever hope to become.

As the gift-giving season approaches, may we remember that the greatest gift ever given was that of our Father In Heaven sending us his Only Begotten Son to be the Savior of the World. May we also reach out to our families and fellow-man, and give them the gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will last well beyond Christmas morning, but will last for a lifetime, and endure throughout all eternity.

The full text of this talk can be read here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pivotal Moments In History

As I prepared the previous post on the Kennedy Assassination, I began to wonder, in addition to the Kennedy Assassination, what are some of the other important, pivotal moments in our recent history? Here are some examples I thought of:
  • December 7, 1941 -- Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
  • May 14, 1948 -- The establishment of the State of Israel
  • November 22, 1963 -- The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
  • June 17, 1972 -- The Watergate Break-In
  • November 4, 1980 -- Ronald Reagan's election to the Presidency of the United States
  • November 19, 1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • September 11, 2001 -- Terrorists attack the United States
Each of these events, in-turn, have spawned other events which have turned the course of history. Each of them, in their own way, has, or will continue to have a lasting impact on world and national history.

I would be interested in your thoughts as well. Leave a comment, if you would like.

What are some of your thoughts regarding these pivotal moments?

Or you could contribute a pivotal moment of your own as well.

Texas Schoolbook Depository

Next week will be the 42nd anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.

In June of 2003, I spent a week at a convention in the Dallas, Texas area. I flew in on a Saturday, to get the best air fare possible. That left my Sunday free, since the convention didn't start until Monday morning. I decided to visit Dealy Plaza, the location of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This was a moving experience forme. Here are my thoughts after my visit, which I wrote in my hotel room later that night:

Texas Schoolbook Depository
-- Sunday, June 15, 2003.

Today I visited the Texas Schoolbook Depository at Dealy Plaza, in Dallas, Texas. This year, on November 22, it will be 40 years since John F. Kennedy (JFK) was assassinated there.

My Own Recollections

It was a moving experience to be there. I am old enough that I remember that day, back in 1963. I was a Kindergarten Student, at Jefferson Elementary School in Salt Lake City. The assassination took place on a Friday, at 12:30 PM in Dallas. By 1:00 that day it was announced to the world that JFK was dead.

I remember an announcement over the Loudspeaker at school. The announcement would have been made at Noon, in Utah because of the time zone differences. I remember how stunned and silent we were, when the announcement came over that Loudspeaker. School was let out early that day.

I don't remember how many days it was until school went back into session, but I think we were out until after JFK's funeral.

I remember being camped out in front of our little black and white TV set (with rabbit ears), watching the events as they transpired. I especially remember seeing the casket in the Capitol Rotunda.

I remember the funeral procession as it moved down the road to Arlington National Cemetery. I remember horses in the procession.

Perhaps on of the most poignant images for me was that of the president's son, JFK Jr, in his little short pants outfit, Saluting as the flag-draped casket of his father passed by. John Jr. would have be just about 3 years old on that day.

I remember Jackie Kennedy's strength and resolve through these most horrible circumstances. Her actions always seemed to be filled with such poise and grace.

Dealy Plaza

Upon my arrival in the area, I first walked up to the JFK Memorial. It is a large square structure, intended to have a tomb-like appearance. It has four walls, but no ceiling. The walls are comprised of several cement pillars, but they are constructed in such a way as only eight of the pillars actually touch the ground. The other pillars appear as they are floating, unsupported in the air.

Inside the tomb, is a large, nearly square, black, monolith. It too has the appearance of not quite touching the ground. On the sides of the monolith is the gold lettered name of "John Fitzgerald Kennedy".

I next walked over toward the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The sixth floor of the building is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired those fatal shots. I walked around Dealy Plaza, and took photos of the Plaza, and the Building.

Conspiracy Theories Abound

Outside the building were hucksters. They were conspiracy theory mongers. They were spouting diatribes against the findings of the Warren Commission, and the other 4 governmental investigations into the assassination.

They were trying to sell books, video and audio tapes and CD's, and magazines -- each purporting to tell the "real" story. As you would walk around the Plaza, while trying to contemplate the magnitude of the crime that took place there, and the impact that the assassination had upon our nation, and upon the world, the hucksters would assail your thoughts and contemplations. Just when you wanted to have a quiet moment to think and reflect, they would shove grisly autopsy photos in your face, and try to sell you their wares, and profit by attempting to convince you of the validity of the some conspiracy theory. After one such incident, I learned to avoid the conspiracy profiteers by waiting until they were occupied with other listeners (either willing or unwilling) and slipping past them before I could be flashed with another autopsy photo of the President's head.

The Sixth Floor Museum

I had my dark glasses on, and had parked several blocks away. I wanted to go into the museum, but needed to have my clear glasses first. So I walked back to the car that I had parked on a side street (free parking meters on Sundays!) and drove the car back over to the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Having retrieved my clear glasses, and freshened up a bit. I entered the museum at about 4:30 PM. (The museum closes at 6:00. Later I found that I should have allotted more time. I could easily have taken 3 hours there, instead of the hour-and-a-half that I spent there.)

The first 5 floors are still being used as government offices. The Sixth and Seventh floors are part of the museum (also an annex has been built at ground level, with its own elevator up to the 6th floor, which bypasses the offices that are still located in that building.)

The museum starts off first by setting the stage of the times in which this event took place. Such things as what the popular books, movies, TV Shows, and music were at the time. Many of these things brought back memories for me.

Next were the highlights of JFK's life, before taking office as President. There were pictures of him as a youth, in his Navy Uniform, and of his Wedding Day.

The Presidential Campaign of 1960 was also covered. It showed both JFK, and Jackie hard at work on the campaign trail. There were excerpts of his speech from the Democratic National Convention of 1960.

There were many photos and excerpts from his inauguration and the famous quote -- "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country."

The 1000 days of the Kennedy Presidency were reviewed with its failures as well as its successes. The legacies of the Kennedy Administration: The space program, the Peach Corps, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, The Civil Rights Act, and our military involvement in Southeast Asia (Vietnam).

I remember as I carefully weighed the programs and policies of this administration, I think as a whole, I would not have supported it. In, fact on that fateful day in Dallas, there were many here in this city who were not enamored of the president's policies. In the museum, there were copies of full-page ads taken out in the Dallas Morning News from those who opposed many of the president's programs.

Then the museum showed the moment-by moment events of that day, Nov. 22nd, 1963. The president had been to Ft. Worth earlier that day, and had flown over to Dallas before joining the motorcade. He rode in a black convertible limousine, with the top down. At several points along the parade route, the president had the vehicle stop, where he would get out to greet and shake hands with people. There were approximately 230,000 people lining the parade route that day. The president was en- route to a bi-partisan luncheon that day.

There were 2200 highly-coveted invitations sent out to the luncheon. The tables were set, and the crowd awaited, but the luncheon never took place. Just a few minutes longer, and the president would have been dining with his guests. The place setting for the president was left untouched. (That place setting, with the china and silverware are now a part of the museum exhibits.) JFK was near the end of the parade route when three shots rang out from the Texas Schoolbook Depository and rained down upon Dealy Plaza. The shots found their mark. The president was dead, and the Governor of Texas, John Connaly was also wounded.

The nation, and the world were brought to their knees. The young president, so vivacious and full of life was now dead. His wife, now a young widow, and their two young children were deprived of their husband and father. A nation was deprived of its president, and the world was deprived of the Leader of the Free World.

As I stood next to the window from which those shots rang out, I could see the sniper position that Oswald had staked out for himself. He had arranged some boxes of books to screen himself off from the view of others. He had also placed some boxes in front of him to use as a lean for his rifle. From his position, the president's motorcade would have been traveling away from him in a straight line. I could see now, how he could have accomplished his deadly feat. I also felt more inclined to believe that the conclusions of the Warren Commission were essentially correct. The findings of the commission may have been off on a few minor details, but they did the best they could with the information they had at the time. I came away from this experience believing that Lee Harvey Oswald was indeed the killer, and that the fatal shots came from his location. As far as we can tell, Oswald acted alone. We have no definitive evidence to the contrary.

I do not accept the premises of the conspiracy theorists. I will let this matter trouble me no longer. For me, this matter is resolved and put to rest.

The "What If's"

What does remain unresolved, and can never be resolved (at least in this life) are the "What If's". What if this assassination had never taken place -- What then would the world have been like? The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of those small hinges, upon which the course of history pivots from the due course of "What would have been" to what, instead, history actually became.

Would JFK have been re-elected in 1964? -- Almost certainly.

What would have happened in Vietnam? President Johnson was the one who really escalated US involvement in Vietnam. Perhaps President Kennedy would have brought about a different outcome, who knows?

Would the civil rights movement have turned out differently? Its hard to say. Johnson was able to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed largely as a memory to the Legacy of President Kennedy (and with the help of the opposition political party). Had Kennedy remained president, who knows when or if the Civil Rights Act would have been passed.

Would others have been assassinated as well, had not JFK been assassinated? -- The assassination of JFK plunged the nation and the world into a new round of violence and confrontation. There were those who saw how effective assassination was as a tool to achieve their political and social purposes. The example of the Kennedy Assassination could have greatly contributed to that mindset of violence. One can not help but wonder if Marin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy would have still met their same fates, had not JFK first preceded them in martyrdom.

Also with the assassination of JFK, it seems like the national innocence was lost. Many young people became lost souls when their young and energetic Idol/Leader, JFK was killed. I believe that much of the unrest of the 60's, the rebelliousness of the hippie and drug cultures, the anti-war, anti-American sentiments, even the so-called sexual revolution all have their roots in that fateful day in November of 1963.

When considering the "what-if's" it would be easy blame all of the cultural and society degradations we have seen on this assassination. Some of them probably would have happened in their own due time anyway. However, I see the assassination of JFK as a catalyst, that accelerated all of these trends into an explosive mix, that turned out to be the decade -- and the legacy -- of the 60's.

A Personal Interaction.

As I toured through the Sixth Floor museum, I was left mostly alone with my thoughts.

However, at one point, as I was viewing one of the displays, a Hispanic young man came up next to me. I could tell that he too, was moved by the experience of being in that place. His remarks to me were about Cuba, and how JFK had tried to take out Fidel Castro -- and that because if this "they" had JFK killed.

He leaned over and read one of the articles that were in opposition to Kennedy's policies, including the polices relating to Cuba. One of these statements indicated their disdain for the president leaving 7,000,000 Cubans trapped as prisoners on that island. Many thousands of Cubans had been killed and imprisoned, with may more being rounded up daily.

The young Hispanic man exclaimed, "7,000,000 people! Wow!", and he walked off, shaking his head as he mourned for the dead and lost Cubans. I am sure also, that as he walked way, he was totally convinced that Fidel Castro was behind the assassination of JFK.


It was a moving experience for me to visit the memorial, Dealy Plaza, and the Texas Schoolbook Depository. I began to realize that others would come away from this experience with differing impressions than mine. It is interesting how the tide of history turned on this single event.