Regarding the most important things in life

This week I was reminded of an important principle that I wanted to share.

As I mentioned earlier, we just had a baby (what an awesome experience).  After delivery, once mom and baby had rested a little, I came home to retrieve our other 5 kids to bring them to the hospital to see their new baby brother.  Of course, they were all quite excited, and as you know, excitement can quickly get out of hand and cause… “disturbances”.

We had just finished resolving one of these, when I thought I’d take a “parenting” moment.  Since my kids love to draw, I talked to them about how exciting it is to sit in front of a blank piece of paper, knowing that you can leave your mark on that paper, and how by drawing on it you can turn it into anything you want.

I then began to describe how a little baby is a lot like a blank piece of paper, and how our actions leave our mark upon them.  I talked to them about how much their new little brother would admire them, and watch them, and learn from them, and about how important it is that they be mindful of their actions and their words, because the baby would mimic them.

After a moment of silence I took as “absorption”, I was smiling at my spontaneous and seemingly profound analogy, when my three year old girl timidly spoke up and said “But Dad, we really shouldn’t draw on the baby!”

After reassuring her that the resulting outburst of laughter throughout the vehicle was nothing personal, I was reminded of something important.

I was reminded that often, even though our message might not be received by all (or often by any), it doesn’t nullify or diminish the importance of delivering it.

How often in the scriptures we’ve seen instances where a prophet was commanded to deliver a message, even when in His foresight, the Lord new it would be rejected.

One of the most common principles in marketing is frequency (which I explore a bit here) and perseverance.  Often you have to run an ad a dozen or more times before it’ll be acted on.  Someone might see it regularly in fact, and ignore it every time.  Every time, that is, except the one time when it hits them because the circumstances are just right.  Something in their life has prepared them for the message you’ve been delivering all the while.  They see your headline and because their situation in life has changed, now you’re not only relevant, but imperative, and they act.

The one thing life guarantees is change.  So for those of us who endeavor to teach, in whatever capacity, never lose hope, never stop trying, and never let discouragement spoil your vigor.

For you never know when the lives of those who hear you will be divinely aligned in just the right way to prepare them for what you have to say.

The real failure is not in speaking to unhearing ears, but in not speaking when one might be listening.  The real failure is not in the seeds that fall among thorns, but in casting no seeds at all.

Rusty

P.S.  If you know a teacher, consider sharing this with them.

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NBC has an article I found today about a man named Greg Pike, of Santa Barbra, who trained his cat, dog, and rat, to all get along.  He did it to prove that nothing is impossible in life.  He says that if animals can be taught to get along, so can people.

Amen Greg. 

We’re often so caught up in proving ourselves right, or exerting dominance, or clinging to past prejudice, that we simply fail to get along, dooming ourselves to far more misery and hatred than is necessary in life.  Such long-standing hatred and intolerance erodes is corrosive to our happiness and erodes our ability to enjoy the present… to enjoy life.

But if we let go of our differences, or just accept them for what they are, or if we can learn to appreciate the strengths in each other, or at the minimum the blessed nature of variety, then peace can take a greater portion of our life, and the world will be a better place.

Rusty

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Life seems to have become so focused on how much more you can take on.  How much more you can do.  How much more you can acquire.

But all too often, we mistake complexity for progress.

Whereas complexity merely spreads us thin, dilutes our efforts, and leaves us nowhere farther than before (just distributed amongst more places), progress is where we find ourselves moving forward in general, toward some predefined goal.

If all we do is take on more and more projects, tasks, responsibilities, ad infinitum, then all we’ll do is face an increasingly insurmountable set of obstacles in our life.  We’ll be doing more, but accomplishing less.

Businesses face this problem as much as people do in their own personal lives.  Families, societies, organizations, and individuals alike must ask themselves if they’re trying to do too much.

But how do you discern distractions?  How do you know if adding something to your “agenda” is helping you progress along your path, or merely taking your eyes off your goal.

I’ve found that dilemma is often overcome by one specific thing… clarity of purpose.  The clearer your purpose, the more stark each opportunity will be in whether it propels you toward your destination, or inhibits your progress by diluting your efforts.

If you truly want to be remarkable in something, then learn to focus your energies.  Figure out what you want to do, or who you want to become, and then measure all things against that. 

As you focus your life, as you simplify, you’ll find that not only can you move faster, but you’ll enjoy the ride so much more.

Rusty

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Keep a-Goin’
Frank L. Stanton

If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin’!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a -goin’!
‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine
When the fish ain’t on your line;
Bait your hook an’ keep a-tryin’—
Keep a-goin’!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin’!
Though ‘tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin’!
S’pose you’re our o’ ev’ry dime,
Gittin’ broke ain’t any crime;
Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime—
Keep a-goin’!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin’!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin’!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like surgin’, sing—
Keep a-goin’!

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As an addendum toWhat do Mormons really believe, Part 4

We live in an amazing time.  Empowered by unprecedented technology, and with billions of dollars being spent on research in every imaginable arena, scientific breakthroughs are seldom even “newsworthy”.  Today “proof” and “evidence” are commodities.  We’ve become reliant upon them.

“Prove it!”  That’s our mantra today.

But I think, in a way, this obsession with proof has crippled our ability to just believe.  Today, unfound belief is a weakness.  You’re often considered a fool for believing something that isn’t proven, even when we’re continuously “unproving” things that were heretofore “proven”.

But there’s real and tangible power behind belief that even proof cannot equal.  For belief requires strength, not weakness.

To believe, you become vulnerable, a state the natural man avoids at all costs.  So to have faith, to believe in things that cannot be seen or proven, you must overcome the natural man, and in so doing, you transcend the spiritually crippling shelter of the “prove it” mentality.

When exercised regularly, your faith becomes a powerful muscle that can be used to affect great change in your life, and in the lives of others.

I fear that too often we underestimate the power of faith, and our actual ability to change the course of events by righteously exercising it.

As Mark 9:23 states “… all things are possible to him that believeth”.  Faith can move mountains, and if it’s strong enough to do that, then it’s strong enough to move the smaller obstacles that confront us all throughout our lives.

When Jesus and his apostles were traveling by boat, being tossed in the storm, they woke Jesus, fearing they’d be overturned and cast into the sea.  So Jesus spoke, and calmed the storm, then seeking to teach his disciples, accused them of having too little faith.

So often in our lives we feel threatened, as though on the verge of being cast into some sea of despair.  But the message our Savior is to all of us – have faith.  Be of good cheer.  Do not doubt.

“Behold the fouls of the air:  for they sow not neither do they reap,  yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?”  (Mathew 6:26-30).

God has given us the power to do many mighty things, if we will but believe.

“Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things” but to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21).

Therefore, let us all be found enveloped in an ever strengthening capacity to believe.

Rusty

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Have you ever met one of those people who just always give?  They give and give as though that’s all they care about.

My wife is like this.  Regardless of how tired she is, or how much she’s already given, or how busy she is, OR how late it is, she is always giving.  Giving to our children, giving to me, giving to her friends, giving to the church, and even giving to people that she doesn’t even know.

There are lots of stories of these kinds of people, like this, and this, and this, and countless others.  These people seem to have a particular mindset – I call it Abundance Mentality.  It’s as though they feel like there’s this undiminishable reserve that there’s always enough to give.  Always.

I contrast that to the far more frequently encountered Scarcity Mentality.  Here we feel like we’ve got no more to give, or that we didn’t have enough to start with, or that we’re too busy/tired and we’ll give tomorrow.

The key thing to realize is this. This is not a difference in the availability of resources. It’s a difference of perspective. It’s another illustration of how we can control life, simply by choosing to perceive it differently… of how perception truly does shape reality.

So, do you know someone with Abundance Mentality?  if so, please share, so that we may all be inspired by their stories, that perhaps we can all give a little bit more.

Rusty

Ongofu - a Mormon Blog (air pollution)

Yesterday, CNN had an article entitled “How air pollution hurts your kids’ lungs“.  It describes how many of our children suffer from asthma – a condition where your airway constricts, making it very difficult to breathe. 

The article describes how substantially our kids are affected by environmental pollutants because their lungs are not yet fully developed.

In today’s environment we’re surrounded by pollutants that make it difficult for us to breathe.  Not all of them are physical; indeed, the most dangerous ones are not.

We’re surrounded by pollutants to our mind, to our spirit, to our emotions, as much as to our health.  Each of these makes it difficult for us to breathe the sweet fresh air of life and spirit.  They cloud our judgment, fog our vision, and threaten our eternal well-being.

Not surprisingly, if you go to Google and search for “Air Purifier”, you get 3.6 MILLION results.  We’ve gone to great lengths to create mechanisms to clear the physical impurities of the air around us.  You can buy them for your house, your car, and even your work area.

Yet how much effort do we invest in purifying our environment of the host of other pollutants that threaten us? 

Are there such “purification” systems in place within our homes? 

Our children are more affected by environmental pollutants do to their underdeveloped lungs.  So too are they extra prone to being adversely affected by the spiritual pollutants that so mercilessly bombard them outside the walls of our homes.

Therein lays the urgency of creating environments of “fresh air” for our youth (and ourselves).  These reliable safe havens, such as our own homes, where they can be free of the fiery darts of the adversary are vital to their eternal well being, and are indisputably part of our stewardship as parents.

May we purify our homes, our conversations, our relationships, our minds, and our actions, that we and those we love might more regularly partake of the fresh air of life and spirit.

Rusty

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A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!–
for the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

 Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul. 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

 Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

 In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, –act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again. 

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still persuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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In association with “It is what you make of it” and “The Builders“, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, here’s another beautiful poem supporting the same point.

Life Sculpture
George Washington Doane

Chisel in hand stood a sculptor boy
With his marble block before him,
And his eyes lit up with a smile of joy,
As an angel-dream passed o’er him.

He carved the dream on that shapeless stone,
With many a sharp incision;
With heaven’s own light the sculpture shone,–
He’d caught that angel-vision.

Children of life are we, as we stand
With our lives uncarved before us,
Waiting the hour when, at God’s command,
Our life-dream shall pass o’er us. 

If we carve it then on the yielding stone,
With many a sharp incision,
Its heavenly beauty shall be our own,–
Our lives, that angel-vision.

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In relationship with this post (What are you building?), the following poem is both enlightening and inspiring.

The Builders
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All are architects of fate,
Working in these walls of time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
each thing in its place is best;
and what seems but idle show
strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
our todays and yesterdays
are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
think not, because no man sees,
such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house where gods may dwell
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our live are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Brokensatairways, where the feet
Stumble, as they seek to climb.

Build today, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall tomorrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

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