01 April 2016

Line by Line

As the election season rolls on, we have to make reassessments.
Perhaps our earlier convictions are modified by events.
Republicans, facing an important election, need to consolidate support.
In this blog I have expressed unwillingness to support Donald Trump.
Looks like I was wrong.

Friends of mine may doubt my sanity, but I don't think I could vote for Hillary.
On the other hand, Trump will probably moderate a lot when he wins the nomination.
Others may doubt this, but I have to disagree.
Looking at his background, Trump is the guy to right the ship.
Seems pretty clear at this point.

31 March 2016

A Wandering Path

I was very moved by this article- http://features.texasmonthly.com/editorial/the-reckoning/. It is a lengthy profile of a woman, Claire Wilson, who was shot by sniper Marc Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966.

Her life, and how it was affected by that horrible tragedy, is full of sadness and beauty. I was especially impressed by the faith she found afterward.
As a person of faith, I'm heartened by the strength and comfort she found in seeking a relationship with  God in her life. I have tried to do the same during difficult times in my life, though I don't think my trials come close to what she has experienced.
I'm glad that I could learn her story, and in some small way mourn with her. That is the commitment I have made as a Christian, "to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."
I pray that she can find continued hope and peace.

16 March 2016

Fear not

The outcome in today's Florida's primary was very frustrating.

I'll say what I've told my kids in the past few days:

I believe in our institutions. 
I believe in checks and balances.
I believe in goodness.
I believe the American people are more alike than it seems, especially when you strip away false dichotomies and political semantics.

No matter what happens in November, and who wins, I will go to work, exercise, enjoy my family, attend my church, and serve my community. 

I love my country. I am so fortunate to be an American, right now, today. My best days are ahead of me.

02 March 2016


I spent last night in Tallahassee, FL, about a 10 minute walk from the State Capitol. I had a feeling in my short time walking near the statehouse that I have also felt in Washington DC. Government, it's buildings, monuments, it's scale, is impressive. But it also depresses me a little. 

Walk down the streets surrounding the Capitol and you find, not only government buildings, but lobbyists, trade groups, and hundreds of other organizations that feed like remoras off of government. I'm not saying we don't need such things. There are causes that I care about that rely on such entities to accomplish important things.

But I wish we didn't need them. I wish government played a simpler, more straightforward role, instead of so much of it being self-perpetuating. Wouldn't it be nice to start over? To dissect the apparati of government, both official and ancillary, and just keep what we "really" need? I truly believe that similar feelings fuel a lot of the fervor for Donald Trump. Of course there are elements of racism and bigotry among his supporters. Prejudice is common, and comes in many forms. But it's clear that a lot of people are just sick of bloated and unresponsive government. They want more, hence the love of Trump (and to some extent Bernie Sanders). It's not about policy. Peggy Noonan explains it really well here.

I have empathy for these folks. But I also believe in politics, and compromise. I will never get everything that I want politically. Maybe I shouldn't (don't tell my wife, but I'm not always right). I have found movements like the Tea Party (and people like Ted Cruz) unpersuasive because their unwillingness to comprise builds greater division and ultimately less productive outcomes.

In case I need to say it, I don't support Donald Trump. I believe he is the wrong choice for president of the United States. However, it does seem likely that he will be the Republican nominee.
I am among the many who have been surprised by Donald Trump's political success. I thought he would hit a (lower) ceiling, or that he would say something inflammatory and lose support. Of course, he has said many, many inflammatory and offensive things, with only positive impact on his levels of support.

You don't have to search hard for commentary on Trump and his "unfitness" for office. I've enjoyed a few, including this one:

Is Trump a Fascist? (Douthat, Dec 2015) 

I've heard some say that Trump's rhetoric is an electoral tactic and that he will change if elected. That might be true. I think Trump is an opportunist (not an evil thing by itself) and I don't know that he believes everything that he has said. But I believe that voting for someone because they might end up being less hateful and extreme is a terrible rationale.

Politics matters, and I agree with David Brooks' column from several days ago. Politicians change. They say what they need to say to get votes, but in the end we usually end up with the person we thought we had supported. Maybe they disappoint us, as Bush did with domestic fiscal policy or Obama has with his executive orders, but they were still clearly the people they had been when they ran for office. 

Would I want to work with or for Donald Trump? No. Would I feel comfortable as the counter-party in a business deal? No. So in addition to everything else he has said and done, for that factor alone I would not support him.

I've been supporting Marco Rubio since an event I attended in June 2015 (photo proof below). 

He's not a perfect candidate (there isn't one), but of all the candidates he is the one that I feel most comfortable supporting. I am a Republican, and Sanders' economic fairytales and Clinton's ethical track record make them both unacceptable for me. There are other Republicans I could support, such as Kasich, but Rubio seemed best positioned and I thought his youth was a strength. Although he is often identified with the Tea Party, I watched his senate campaign closely. I noticed that he did not refuse Tea Party support, but he also did not claim the Tea Party title for himself. His stance on immigration is politically problematic, but meaningful immigration reform is impossible without some level of compromise. There's that politics thing again.

He has to win Florida to have any chance at the nomination. I don't know if he will. If he doesn't, it will mean that Trump did and the nomination may seem inevitable at that point.

I don't like politics, and often don't like politicians, but by voting for someone I am expressing a wish to hire them for the job in question. Politics is the job, and I wouldn't hire Trump. I hope you don't either.

P.S. I have little patience for people who threaten to leave the country if Trump is elected. I have faith in our institutions and the separation of powers. If you don't, perhaps a move to Canada is a good choice. In my opinion, it's a cowardly one.

16 February 2016

Envision Alachua

I attended a meeting this evening on a major proposed change to the Alachua County comprehensive plan, spearheaded by Plum Creek through its Envision Alachua initiative. I had hoped to be able to speak to the County Commission, but as the 71st person to sign up it became clear it would not occur tonight. I hope to be able to make comments on Thursday.

I'm not an expert on these issues, so I doubt anything that I write here will be very profound.
The Envision Alachua initiative has been through an incredible public process, included many revisions and changes, and the proposal is now being considered for transmittal to relevant state agencies for review and approval.

I support the Envision Alachua plan. I believe it to be a viable plan for providing economic growth opportunities and the potential for more geographical economic balance to our community.

I live and work in the wealthiest part of Alachua County. We have some of the best schools, lowest crime, and highest home values, all focused in the western part of the county. This seems unlikely to change, and to some extent the rich will get richer. But what about the rest of the county? I don't believe that my good fortune absolves me of concern for the rest of my community.

What will it take to provide the eastern side of Alachua County with the opportunities enjoyed by those who live in the west? What about communities like Hawthorne, which are clearly dying, if we don't think creatively about future economic growth and development?

In Plum Creek, Alachua County has an interested private landowner that is willing to meet broad requirements to develop lands they own, providing significant conservation lands in exchange for concentrated development. It has been mentioned that the openness and thoroughness of the Envision Alachua initiative is almost unprecedented.

The main controversy is that the proposed development area will exist outside of existing urban clusters, as determined by the current comprehensive plan. Much of the opposition to the proposal is because it is against the rules that the county created as part of its state-mandated comprehensive plan. So Plum Creek is asking the county to amend those rules for the specific sectors it has identified. These sectors are where the development will occur, large areas in currently rural parts of the county.

Other opposition seems to come from concerns that Plum Creek will sell their land to developers once the sector plan is approved. So what? This is the right of a landowner, and just because Plum Creek is large, and a publicly traded company, they have become some kind of corporate boogeyman upon which the fears of some can be projected.

For economic opportunity to balance across the county, we need eastern development to serve as a magnet for jobs, commerce, and families. This plan presents that opportunity. And Plum Creek can't do that independently. Of course they will sell parts of their land to home builders and other entities interested in developing those parcels.

Nothing is guaranteed. I'm a business owner, and although we plan for the long-term, we understand the need to adapt policies and strategies for what actually occurs. They have done a remarkable job of planning, allowing for the real-world adaptation that will be necessary in the future. Much of the opposition of county staff comes from Plum Creek's inability to state with certainty things that can't be adequately foreseen, like transportation and infrastructure needs, not to mention the timing of jobs and commercial activity.

I wish I could post David Coffey's remarks, given at the conclusion of Plum Creek's presentation. He expressed so much of what I feel Envision Alachua represents: definite conservation of land, improved economic opportunity for the most depressed area of the county, and the chance for long-term growth which could provide economic viability for Alachua County for the remainder of my life and much of my children's lives.

15 September 2015

Don't Yearn for Bern

I have plenty of reasons to select a different candidate to support than Bernie Sanders. On some level I admire his ideological consistency, as it seems he has not altered his beliefs to seek higher office. So good for him, but not good enough for me.

The greatest reason that I see for supporting other candidates is his spending plan and the impossibility of paying for it.  The Wall Street Journal has a nice analysis of the spending proposal and the dramatic deficit it would create.


There are ALWAYS unintended consequences of government action. We should carefully examine the potential pitfalls of any legislation, and Sanders' proposals are full of them.

He will continue to find support among progressives who felt let down by a president they consider too moderate, too friendly with Wall Street and corporate America.

29 March 2015

Motes in the Sunbeam

I had a chance to spend time with an old college friend and he inspired me to resume my blog. Today's post is a spiritual sequel to this post from last year:


I wrote that after a visit to Washington DCA reminded me of the amazing things that man has accomplished. It also reminded me that we are dependent on God for these abilities, whether we recognize it or not. I concluded that post with this quote, from an article written by Truman G. Madsen:

When man measures himself against the infinity of the cosmos he is almost nothing, "hardly a mote in the sunbeam." But when he measures himself against Christ, who overmasters all of these worlds and world systems, and realizes his kinship to Christ, all diminutives become superlatives. The more man comprehends the vastness of the universe, the more he recognizes his own dignity and worth. The cosmos is God's temple. But man is his offspring--a living temple, given dominion over the rest.

During Spring Break last week, we enjoyed very contrasting experiences. We spent three days in a state park, disconnected from the digital world. It was a time to enjoy nature and appreciate our amazing world. Then we drove to Cape Canaveral to watch a rocket launch and visit the Kennedy Space Center, fully immersing ourselves in the technology and achievements of the modern era.

Despite the seeming differences in these two experiences, I came away with greater appreciation for the greatness of God. The excellence demonstrated by the achievements of our space program are significant and that excellence glorifies God because, in the end, it comes from Him, just as does the Suwannee River. And I marvel at them and give thanks to the Lord for the wonders of this world.

29 November 2014

The Sacrament of Studies

My father shared a wonderful article with me, from the most recent copy of Brigham Young University's Humanities magazine. In his introductory message he shares a profound message about the role of study and education in bring us closer to God.

The PDF of the magazine is found at this link:


Among his ideas is that we should decide what we take with us from our studies- not everything is of equal worth. Interestingly, being more attentive and excellent in our studies makes us more focused and attentive in prayer. It does this because difficult and focused study develops faculties that can help us focus on holy things, if we choose to.

He also mentioned the mission of BYU, which makes it uncommon, even unique, among large universities:

...to assist individuals in their quest for perfection for eternal life.

I am very thankful that my faith in God was strengthened during my time at BYU. I do believe that excellence in vocation can lead to excellence in worship, and vice versa, because the abilities required for each are so complimentary. I am often struck by people whose temporal accomplishment is as impressive as their attention to worship. And I don't mean wealth or income, which is not directly related to spiritual attentiveness.

I think his thoughts are very interesting, and worth your time.

27 October 2014


I've done a poor job of keeping to my resolution to write a weekly post, so this is my attempt at repentance.

One of the unique aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the volunteer nature of so many jobs in the Church. We have no paid clergy, so regular members are called upon to serve in a wide variety of roles, including sunday school teacher and youth leader. Members even serve in pastoral roles, such as bishop, and with that role comes the responsibility to care for a congregation of church members. 

Recently, my Church responsibility changed. I had been serving as a counselor to our bishop. I was asked to serve in a role called High Councilor. This means I will represent our Stake President, who oversees all of the congregations in a given area, as assigned and when needed.

My primary assignment is to work with a Spanish-speaking congregation in Ocala, which I am looking forward to very much. I spent most of my missionary service in a similar setting, and I love working with my Latin brothers and sisters in sharing the gospel.

I share this to provide my witness that God works with and through man today. We believe that these different responsibities, or callings, are given through inspiration from God. We are then able to participate in the Lord's work and He blesses us for every small effort that we make.

29 September 2014

The Power of Service

A while during our weekly Family Home Evening (FHE), which is a special time set aside for sharing, learning, and fun. We had some really nice discussions, with Millie sharing a nice story with us.

We usually have a treat at the end of FHE, and while we were doing that had some more time to talk. Lacy told me that Millie had resolved a situation at school where a girl in her class was not being very nice to her. At Lacy's suggestion, Millie shared some candy with her and told her that she would like to be her friend. Today they talked at lunch and now they are friends.

I asked Millie how she would deal with a similar situation in the future, and her answer was "Share my candy?"

I told her that sharing her candy was an example of serving other people. I was grateful that Millie could see the impact of service on how someone viewed her. I believe that by serving others, we serve God. Even if our motives were as simple as hers. Even if they aren't entirely pure, such as a little girl trying to win the favor of another, doing kindness to others can hardly be seen as a bad thing, and can often change someone's heart. 

28 September 2014

Primary Programs

The  children's Sunday School in our church is called "The Primary." Once a year, the primary takes over the group worship service (sacrament meeting) to provide music, scripture, and testimony. Today was that day, and it did not disappoint.

I have always loved children, and this is usually one of my favorite sacrament meetings during the year. The kids are cute and talented. Sometimes a younger one does something wacky that provides some humor. 

Today I was moved by the spirit that I felt during the program, especially while they sang. Or maybe I should say that I was moved by the Spirit that I felt.

I enjoy reason and logic, and they are part of my daily life and work, but they are not the basis of my faith. My faith is based on repeated experiences where I have felt the influence of God through the Holy Ghost. I felt that same influence today, while the children sang sweet and simple songs about the plan that our Heavenly Father has for us.

It is my belief and testimony that God does have a plan, and that each of us can play an important role if we are receptive to the message and faithful to the witness(es) that we receive.

Today's program had a simple theme: "Families are Forever." That is the blessing that I aspire to most of all, that I can live with my family, forever, in the presence of God. This is the highest goal of His Plan, and I am grateful for the many children that shared that with us today.

02 September 2014

Defender of the Faith

I recently read a really wonderful obituary. The love of this individual's family was evident, and I couldn't help but mourn with them in their loss. I had never met this person, but learned important things about her through their remembrance. Foremost was love of family, but something else stood out:

A lifelong Catholic, she was a staunch defender of her church and her faith.

What a great tribute. I hope that people can say that of me, that I was a staunch defender of my faith.

I believe in absolute truth, and that truth comes from God. This is increasingly unpopular in some circles. I don't think it's a stretch to say that moral relativism is more and more common. It is very unfashionable to say that what I believe is correct, not just for me, but for everybody.

For me, this is part of being a defender of my faith. To defend my faith and belief in absolute truth does not mean that I or anyone else can take away someone else's right to make choices about how they live their life. Not everyone understands this, and some take their beliefs to immoral ends, as in Syria. None of that should change how I defend my faith, so I will do my best to continue.

23 August 2014


This picture captures some of my thoughts this evening.

We had a set of missionaries in our home a few weeks ago. They asked us to participate in a special social media event, to share with others why we have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. We agreed, and these verses from the Book of Mormon provide a framework for what I am feeling:

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Moroni 7:45-47

I read these to Isaac and Joseph tonight before reading Isaac his bedtime story. I was immediately "convicted by the Spirit" because tonight was one of those nights that belongs in the "Joe's Bad Parenting Hall of Fame."

The specific incident doesn't matter. What matters is that my behavior did not emulate what is depicted above. In His life, and in the time after His resurrection, Jesus Christ personified the attribute of charity. He showed perfect love, and this was especially evident in His teachings and treatment of children.

As a parent, I have the privilege of teaching and raising my children. I love them more than I can adequately express. Sometimes I allow my concern and frustration, sometimes about unimportant things, to overshadow and overtake the admonition to have charity. I reject that perfect, patient, not easily-provoked love in favor of righteous indignation and the demands of justice (as I see it).

What a hollow and foolish choice. In the end, it leaves you empty, because you have forced out love in favor of fleeting and unfulfilling ambitions, like my desire to modify Isaac's then undesirable behavior.

I'm not much for airing out my failings and errors in a public setting. For one, it would take too much time, but also because I like to share positive things about me and my life. However this experience can serve a higher purpose for a few reasons:

1. By recording it, hopefully I will be better able to avoid repeating it.
2. It will help me explain why I follow Jesus Christ.

The key, important aspect of #2 is that Christ is divine, the Son of God. I have a deep conviction that this is true. This conviction includes my belief that His life and His attributes are worthy of emulation. I want to try and be like Him. In fact, He has told us to be Perfect, even as He and his Father are perfect.

Part of that perfection is Charity. I follow Christ because I want to possess charity, as explained in the scriptures. I want to feel and express that perfect love, for all people, but especially for my family. I want to be a constant source of that love, so that my children never have reason to doubt my love for them, and in turn, God's love for them.

I follow Christ because the only way to gain that attribute is by accepting my need for his grace, won through the atonement that he carried out for all men and women. His suffering on our behalf was universal, even if man's acceptance would not be. He endured all things. How much simpler it should be for me to endure those small things that my wonderful children occasionally inflict upon me? 

Still, despite the simplicity, I fail and again. So I follow Christ because each and every day I do something that requires repentance, and repentance comes only in and through the atonment wrought by Jesus Christ.

I follow him because I have to. I am grateful that I am able to, and I thank Him for the charity that he has shown for me, in spite of my many failings.

Here's to being at least a little better tomorrow, for Him and for them.

12 August 2014

The River

Last Friday I went camping and canoing with some of the scout from our congregation. We drove to Ocala to paddle a 7 mile stretch of the Silver and Ochlawaha rivers. It was a beautiful day, and the cool, clear, and peaceful river promised a nice trip.

Having some experience in a canoe, I was very confident. We had no difficulty managing the river, aside from the occasional collision with a tree or log extending into the water. About three hours into the five hour trip, the boys we were with became lodged on a log. We floated up behind them to bump their canoe forward.

We succeeded, but in the process came to rest parallel to the log, which extended straight across the river. Somehow our canoe was pushed upward a bit, and in second we had lost balance and fell into the water, tipping the canoe over.

In my last post, I wrote about control. In this canoe, I had some control. Our streamlined hull cut easily through the water, and our paddles gave us the ability to steer. The feeling of control these things provided evaporated when we hit the water.

The current quickly filled the canoe with water, and we were powerless to set it right. In fact, the canoe when from a sideways position to completely filling. At that point it turn completely upside-down and when under the log, emerging on the other side right-side-up, but totally swamped.

We gathered our things and passed them to the boys to place in their canoe. We then spent several minutes positioning ourselves on the log so that we could try and lift it out of the water. This was very difficult, as we had to manage the current, then pushing our bodies forward, and the extreme weight of the filled canoe. In time we tipped it enough to be mostly emptied so that we could continue our trip.

Even then, there was a small amount of water in the canoe, which made every shift in weight more extreme, increasing the potential for another tip into the water. When we could find another bank, we pulled the canoe out to empty it, finally able to continue as normal.

How quickly my confidence left me, when I was faced with the might and inexorable flow of this calm and placid river. It couldn't have been moving more than 1.5 or 2 mph, but the volume of the water was more than we could overcome, at least until we found a way to plant ourselves on more stable footing.

The security of the canoe was largely an illusion, and I won't soon forget that. It made me think of something that the prophet Lehi said to his wayward son Laman:

O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
1 Nephi 2:9

In life I am often that canoe. I rely on my own power and strength. I trust our technology and know-how, sometimes discounting the real power, which is in the river.

As Lehi urged Laman, I want to be the river. For me this means trusting in God, in His power, and in His constant and unwavering guidance. My own strengths, while perfectly adequate much of the time, will fail me if I don't recognize the power of the river. The river does not always impress, but it has the real power.