27 July 2014

Happy birthday Joseph!

9 Years ago my life changed when I became a parent. This boy was born to Lacy and I, under unexpected circumstances (profiled here: http://blog.spotd.net/2009/02/josephs-story-july-august-2005.html).

Having a child is a truly transformative event. I have never felt a greater understanding of what I think God must feel for us than at the births of my children. The physical miracle of pregnancy, the utter innocence and simple needs of the infant, and the unconditional love that I had for him are all evidence (to me) of our Heavenly Father's hand in our lives.

Echoes of that feeling have returned on many occasions in the last nine years. To say that birth is the most impactful demonstration of it shouldn't detract from these subsequent manifestations of God's love. The difference is a matter of degrees.

When a child is born to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is the privilege of that family to have their child blessed and to have their name formally recorded on the membership rolls of the Church. Normally this blessing is performed by the father, if he is an authorized and worthy holder of the priesthood.

I was able to perform these blessings for my children, and I am grateful for that. In Joseph's blessing, given just about 107 months ago, I blessed him that he would be kind. I mentioned it more than once. I have seen this spiritual gift in him so many times over the last 9 years. I think anyone who knows him, knows that he has a kind and empathic heart. I believe that promise was inspired by the Holy Ghost, and I credit my Father in Heaven for it.

I am so proud of this part of Joseph, which is not highly prized in some sectors of our culture. Among the people that I love and care about, it is appreciated, another thing that I am thankful for. Someday his kindness will make him a better husband and father than me. Someday his kindness will give others license to adopt more kindness in their own lives.

I love this boy. I read some earlier posts on his birthdays (this one from his 5th birthday has some nice photos of his baby/toddler years- http://blog.spotd.net/2010/07/happy-5th-birthday-joseph.html). I am so glad to be his father, and humbled by what he teaches me.

I love you Joseph! Happy Birthday!

20 July 2014

This time ISN'T different

I enjoy volunteering with an organization called Junior Achievement. One of its main objectives is to teach financial literacy to young people. I often include a comment about how young people today are not satisfied to wait until later in life to enjoy the standard of living enjoyed by their parents. I have always assumed this to be a more recent phenomenon, especially given the reputation of the younger, supposedly less patient generation. Then I read this:

One thing … that I would like to call attention to--young people, when they marry, are not satisfied to begin with a little and humbly, but they want to receive just about as much as their parents have at the time they, the children, get married. … They want to start out with every convenience under the sun to make them comfortable. I think this is a mistake. I think they should begin humbly, putting their faith in the Lord, building here a little and there a little as they can, accumulating piecemeal, until they can reach a position of prosperity such as they wish to have.
-Joseph Fielding Smith

That statement was made in 1958. Apparently this is nothing new, and teaches us something about human nature. As a rule, we are impatient, and often unwilling to take the slow and steady approach that seems more likely to lead to long-term happiness.

Societal norms have changed, and not for the better, but our challenges are not that dissimilar from those of the past. I once heard a talk by famous biographer David McCullough. He said that with regard to history, we often say "this time is different." Usually, it isnt.

11 July 2014

Dealing with the Unexpected

I'm writing this from the First Class section of a very short flight from LAX to San Diego. I didn't expect to be here. I received one of those complimentary upgrades sometimes bestowed on frequent fliers.

I am a bonafide frequent flier, proudly occupying Delta's lowest medallion tier, the exalted SILVER.
This grants me a few perks that I consider valuable, particularly the free luggage allowance that comes in handy when flying in a family of five at least twice a year.

I didn't expect an upgrade. You might recall that I occupy Delta's LOWEST tier which means I am often way, way down the list of lucky customers. When I travel by myself, I always hope for an upgrade, but don't count on it.

I certainly wasn't planning on it today. We are en route to visit Lacy's family, all five of us. Is Lacy with me? Or the kids? No, and this is the subject of this post.

I wasn't aware of the upgrade until we passed into the jetway and our boarding passes were scanned. When I book a family trip I usually uncheck the upgrade request box, for obvious reasons. It's possible that I forgot this time, because when the agent scanned my ticket I was given the seat 3D, first class on a little CRJ700.

Lacy and I talked about it as we walked. What would we do? Should we ask someone to switch? Some confusion caused by a separated family in front of me meant that we probably just needed to make a choice and Lacy told me to go upfront, that she would be fine with the kids.

"Uh oh," I thought. The flight attendant informed me that this flight would only take about 20 minutes in the air, so I distributed what I hoped was an adequate number of electronic devices and waited for the boarders to allow for my movement from the back to the front of the plane.

Since taking my seat, I have had the chance to think about some things. We've been together constantly since leaving our home for Orlando at 6pm last night. We stayed in an Orlando hotel in one room, woke up at 5 this morning, and have been on the go ever since. The idea of a break from this long day with 3 children (not Lacy) was very pleasant, right up until it happened.

I'm on this vacation to be with my family. It can be extremely tiring, but I always treasure this non-stop family time. When else can I spend all day with my kids and my wife, except during family vacations? Saturdays and Sundays are busy with activities, church responsibilities, and other commitments. It's only by leaving our home that we get to break the busy cycle and spend time together.

I welcome breaks. I enjoy work, and my office, and moments of peace. I especially enjoy spending time with Lacy, just the two of us. I also love my kids. They are my greatest blessing. They are growing, and I getto enjoy them a little bit longer, especially in their current state, where hand holding and public hugs and quality time is not yet forbidden by adolescent preferences.

Now that I have this break, I don't want it. 

My main objective in arriving at my in-laws home was going to be a rest, I've been a pack mule all day, and I thought I deserved it. Now I want to know what we can do to have some fun, as a family. So I'm grateful for the break. Glad that I can reflect on my opportunities and blessings and glad that I can share these thoughts. It wasn't the break that I expected, but it is the one that I needed. Hopefully I am a better father and husband for it.

Also, I hope Lacy is still speaking to me by the time we land. I'll doublecheck the box next time.

06 July 2014


As a native Floridian, I've been well-schooled in emergency preparedness. The advent of hurricane season each June brings other traditions, including our congregations periodic review of our emergency preparedness plan.

While watching a film the other day, I was struck by this phrase "Movimiento es vida." In English, "Movement is life." Preparedness is about activity, labor, engagement. Not sitting and waiting, but acting. Prepare- that word is at the heart, and it is active. The same principle is true for spiritual preparedness.

The danger is no less significant. There is an adversary who wants to derail our spiritual progress. If we are not active, moving, we risk the loss of our spiritual lives. Effective spiritual preparedness is really a simple thing, which is why we take it for granted. When speaking to his son Helaman, the Book of Mormon prophet Alma gave some straightforward and appropriate advice. He is relating to his son the story of Lehi and his family. Lehi was given a special compass that functioned in accordance with their righteousness. It was a simple spiritual equation, but still they faltered at times:

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
47 And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live.
Alma 37:44-47

He makes a brief allusion to the story of Moses and the fiery serpents in that last phrase- "See that ye look to God and live."

In that story, the people of Israel have grown wicked and the punishment they receive is to be stung by serpents. Moses is told to prepare brazen serpents and to show them to the people. Those who exercise faith in God's word by obeying the prophet and looking at the serpents are healed. Because it is so simple, some failed to do it and died.

Spiritual preparedness is simple, at its heart. Read the scriptures. Pray sincerely. Serve others. Meet with the Saints to hear the good word of God. We overlook the easy (simple) answers, but those are the most important things for us to adhere to. We have to move, be active, feeding ourselves with the words of Christ, communing with God in prayer, and helping other do the same. It is simple and clear, but still a challenge given the constraints and challenges of our lives. 

Still, we must remember Alma's advice. Don't be slothful because of the easiness of the way- Look to God and Live!