Sunday, August 31, 2008

Greetings from St. Paul Minnesota!!!

Just a quick post to update you on our trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. We made it safe and sound to our destination yesterday evening and are staying in the fabulous St. Paul hotel just a stone's throw away from the Excel Center and the Mississippi River. It is awesome to be here with Dulcinea and we are enjoying each other's company sans children. (Thanks for taking care of our little ones Mom!)
I will be posting throughout the week - mostly on my Adams and Jefferson Blog as well as a blog for the Arizona Republic (more information on that to follow). My blog posts will be almost entirely political in nature, because I don't think I will have time to make two entries each day and I have some obligations for political commentaries. For the tourist perspective of our journey, please check out Dulcinea's Blog.In the meantime, here are three pictures of our journey so far.

Dulcinea and I in the Sky Harbor Airport

The Welcome Sign at the Minneapolis Airport

A View of the Mississippi River from our hotel room window.

McCain-Palin '08!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Adventures

The last few weeks have been interesting ones. I have spent two Sundays with my family, sitting on the bench with them and pretty much spending the entire day with them. I thought it would feel real weird, but it feels like I never left. (OK - not having meetings all day long did feel a little weird) Watching Bro. Griner on the stand is cool and it is neat to look back on the bishopric as an experience that I have had in my life.
I am now serving as Secretary in the Stake Young Men's Presidency and am real excited about the opportunities this calling will give me to learn and grow. We have a fantastic presidency, and I will learn a lot from each one of them. This is going to be great!
I was also called to be one of the two Gospel Doctrine teachers in our ward and gave my first lesson this past Sunday. I have always wanted to serve as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, so I am going to enjoy this and learn a lot in the process (we've got a great class).

Day after tomorrow my wife and I fly out to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. I was elected as an alternate delegate earlier this year and am in awe about this opportunity to see and participate in one of America's greatest political events. It is also going to be really cool to spend a full week with my wife. I'm sure we'll miss the kids, but we have never spent more than three consecutive days with just the two of us since we were married almost 14 years ago (including our honeymoon). It is going to be like one giant, enormous date with Dulcinea! Cool!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Patriot Guard Mission

Yesterday I rode with other Patriot Guard Riders as part of an honor guard escorting a fallen Marine to his final rest. It was an emotional, moving event and I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in rendering honors to a local hero. Standing in the blistering heat for 4+ hours made me reflect on what the last few months of this Marine's life were like and the discomfort he endured in Afghanistan so that I could be free and safe here in the States. I couldn't help but imagine what it was like for his parents when they received the news that their son was gone. My heart was completely full of gratitude for this wonderful young man, his family, and the brave men and women who are still in the fight over there "in the sandbox."

When I got home last night, I held my own son close and thanked God for Lance Corporal Juan Lopez-Castañeda and his parents. As a father I would be proud to have my son serve, but I don't know if I could bear to lose him. My heart goes out to the Lopez-Castañeda family.

God Bless our military and their family members!

For a short video on yesterday's ride click on the following link:

For information on the Patriot Guard Riders go to:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An end and a beginning

My four and a half years in the bishopric of the Cornerstone Ward concluded this afternoon. Karl Griner was called into the bishopric to replace me and he will do an absolutely fantastic job of it. I am excited for him and his family as they begin serving in this sacred calling.

One of the greatest joys of this calling is the association with the other members of the bishopric. The bonds of fellowship in that group are sacred and powerful. There are a lot of things I am going to miss about this calling, but far and away the biggest thing I'll miss is the brotherhood. I am grateful that I can still associate with these great men but I recognize that things will be different now and I am sad about that.

Most of the feelings I have had today are too personal and too sacred to share on this blog, but it reminds me of other times when I have left a calling I have loved to move on to a different sphere of service.

At the conclusion of my mission, when I was experiencing some of the same feelings I have right now, I got an insight into a scripture that had puzzled me for years. In Alma 29:1-3, 6 it says:

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and acome unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

6 Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to aperform the work to which I have been called?

I couldn't understand why Alma considered it a sin to desire to declare the gospel with angelic zeal. But then I realized it was because he desired something more than the calling he had, and that he should be content and grateful for the privilege to serve.

I am grateful for the time I had to serve in the bishopric. The time I had was more than I deserved and I was richly blessed far beyond any contributions which I may have made during this stage of my life.

I am especially grateful to Bishop Lindblom and Bishop Huber for their kindness and consideration to me and my family during our service together. I learned so much from them both. They are outstanding men of God, and I am better for having served with them. I have a deep and abiding love for both of them that will be with me for the rest of my life. I am also profoundly grateful for the wonderful friendship I have established with Jon Albright. I have always come away from our conversations uplifted and enlightened.

Above all else I am grateful to my sweet wife and our children who have supported, encouraged, loved, and prayed for me during this time. The main reason I received this calling was because of the magnificent woman I am married to. Thanks Dulcinea!

And now a new stage of my life begins. Next week I return to the bench with my sweet family to enjoy our sacrament meetings together. I also begin a calling that will take me outside of my comfort zone, create new associations to enjoy, and bless my family in new and exciting ways. It is so great to be involved in this work!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Finding Silence in the Kingdom of Noise

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis makes an interesting observation about noise in a fictional letter between a senior devil and a new tempter:

"Music and silence - how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since Our Father entered Hell ... no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise - Noise, that grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile - Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anywhere like it."

Noise - as described above, is more than just a loud cacophony of discordant sounds. It is all thoughts and distractions which make it impossible for us to hear the sweeter and more important melodies of life that constantly surround us. This noise is found in many forms and, interestingly enough, assumes the quality of being noise not so much by the sound it makes as much as by the setting it is found in. What might be beautiful and uplifting in one setting becomes noise in another.

In my own life, several examples come to mind. When I have been surrounded by unsettling circumstances, listening to classical music or hymns calms me down and helps restore a sense of peace in my life. If I am trying to study something or read my scriptures, the same music that calms me down distracts me and makes it impossible to get the in depth knowledge I am seeking. I also enjoy watching movies and find that they relax me, but if I watch a movie on Saturday night it makes keeping my thoughts focused on spiritual things almost impossible on Sunday.

For some time now I have been bothered by the effect that noise has in my life and the way that it seems to invade my thoughts regardless of where I am or what I am doing. This morning a song that I haven't heard in years suddenly started playing in my mind and I have had a devil of a time getting it to shut up! It is not a bad song, it just isn't what I want to be hearing in my head on Sunday. A couple of weeks ago I had a similar experience in the Temple. An innocuous song I had heard earlier in the day kept playing over and over in my mind when I should have been focused on where I was and what I was doing.

One of the more insidious aspects of noise is that it becomes addicting. Whenever I get into a car I turn on the radio. When I get home either the kids are already watching TV or I turn it on myself. In my office I like to have music playing in the background. If a newspaper or magazine shows up in my office I have a hard time focusing until I have read them. The experiences of distraction I have had seem to illustrate just how consistently I allow noise to be a part of my surroundings.

All of this seems innocent enough, but what is it costing me? When noise becomes my natural environment, I struggle to hear the whisperings of the spirit. If I favor noise to human interaction, I am missing out on the conversations and experiences that will bind me closer to my family. And, the more immersed I am in noise, the more my inner core becomes attuned to the frequencies of the world. When I stop to think about all this I am convinced that noise is one of the many subtle tools that Satan uses to create distance between us and our Heavenly Father.

All of us are like the soundboard of a piano, reverberating and amplifying the sounds that we are associated with. By putting ourselves in close proximity to our Heavenly Father in our thoughts, actions, and surroundings, we can tune ourselves to the appropriate heavenly pitch we are meant to echo and reflect. Fortunately for us, these divine influences surround us every bit as much as the noise does. The difference is that we must be properly tuned to hear and experience them. Once we learn to identify these uplifting influences they can become so powerful that they eliminate the distractions of worldly noise. (The difference between the sounds of Heaven and the sounds of Hell are that one relies on true power and the other on volume.)

To be properly tuned we need to recognize the role of noise in our everyday life and eliminate its influence as much as possible. This doesn't mean that we can never listen to our favorite music or watch movies again (unless they drive the Spirit away by their very nature). It means recognizing when these influences become noise and then being prudent with our time and resources. The natural result of this exercise will be to fill our time with worthwhile activities that are more in line with what our Heavenly Father wants for us, and this is the second half of the solution. These worthwhile activities will expose us to heaven's sounds and make them easier to hear and recognize.

If we do not eliminate noise from our life we risk becoming as Laman and Lemuel who were described as "past feeling". On the other hand, as we eliminate noise we will begin to recognize that our Heavenly Father is not an absent parent. He is always there for us, as long as we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand. We will then join the ranks of those who realize that "every bush is aflame with the light of God, but only those with eyes to see take off their shoes."