Having written two books now with a third on it's way, I am intimately familiar with that wonderful demon of creative souls everywhere: writer's block.
Oh yes, one day you are cranking out pages and pages of good stuff and the next....blank. Blank mind, blank screen, blank page. You're stuck and the more you try to force something out of the stuckedness the more stuck you become. Stuckity-stuck-stuck in Stuckville. I can just imagine Brian Reagan saying that, by the way.
But being "stuck" isn't just a mental state; sometimes it is a state of being stuck financially, romantically, spiritually, physically, etc.
I think we've all had times in our lives when the road seems closed, the Heavens shut, the way barred and the horizon darkened. We look at the seemingly-never ending path leading up the mountainside and we wonder how do we get passed the obstacles currently in our way. Whether those obstacles be fears, disappointments, heartaches, adversities, loneliness, or what appears to be a complete lack of viable options, our journey seems to be halted and we silently (or verbally...sometimes loudly) ask as Joseph Smith did in Liberty Jail, "Oh God, where art thou?" (D&C 121:1).
I don't think you or I are the first to ever ask that question (nor was Joseph). I wonder if Adam struggled when Cain killed Abel or if Jacob, or Israel, cried out when his sons brought in the "lost" Joseph's coat of many colors . I'm sure that Job did when all those awful calamities came crashing into his life. The scriptures are full of countless stories from the lives of God's greatest who faced what must have at the time looked like impossible odds at the time. When the weight of your current trials gets to heavy and you drop to your knees to plead for Heaven's intervention, take comfort in the fact that millions of souls have sought such help throughout the millennia.
One morning while eating breakfast (because over breakfast or in the shower are when the best ideas come to mind) I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks. It was a question that we all think we know the answer to, but the truth is I'm not so sure that we really do. And the more I thought about it, the stronger the significance of the question became.
Here it goes: what is God's job?
Now, I don't mean the whole creating worlds, organizing universes, forming stars, and so on. We know all that and those are the typical Sunday School answers that most people can recite in their sleep. But that's not personal to me, that's galactic management. No, what I wanted to know as I finished off my orange juice was, "What is God's job in regards to my life and my eternal salvation?"
With all the recent excitement about the upcoming Payson, UT LDS Temple Open House (which looks amazing, by the way), I can't help but think back to a small, yet testimony-building experience I had in March of 2009 during the Draper, UT LDS Temple Open House.
My Elder's Quorum was asked to provide some bodies to help with "security" on a particular evening for about five hours. Being young, fit and otherwise un-engaged (literally, unfortunately) I volunteered and found myself tasked with watching an area just inside the north-east temple doors. Not that there was much to do besides pass out water bottles, answer questions and otherwise help provide a friendly atmosphere for the Open House guests. As security gigs go, a temple Open House is pretty low-key.
After the final group made its way through the temple, we began to usher out the remaining guests and then had to complete a walk through of the entire temple to make sure everyone was out before we turned off the lights and locked all the doors. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and the other volunteers to wander the sacred and hallowed (even if un-dedicated yet) halls of this beautiful building. Anyone who has been or served in that temple can testify of the breath-taking art, the peaceful decor, the hope-filling lighting (best way I can think to describe that) and the strengthening peace found within its walls.
Last Sunday while teaching my Sunday School class to ten amazing 16-17 year old teens, we discussed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep conversion to his gospel with a unshakable testimony of his restored church. I know that this seems like a no-brainer for many of us, but over the past few weeks as I have been watching the news (once a journalist, always a journalist) I have felt a deep concern for Christians everywhere.
There are Lamanites in the land once more.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this moniker, the Lamanites were an main demographic found within the Book of Mormon, a volume of ancient scripture written by prophets who lived on the American continent (Mayan archaeologists could rightly call it "The Mormon's Codex". For the major portion of this work the Lamanites were violently opposed to the followers of Christ, known as Nephites, and filled with a hatred for Christianity that I see is deeply mirrored in the recent campaigns by the radically militant Islamic State (I'll use IS from now on) in the Middle East. And to any NSA analysts reading this because I'm writing about IS (quite negatively, mind you), please not that this article is all my own opinion and not any official stance for the organizations I work with. But if you would like to know more about what us "Mormons" believe, please visit Mormon.org.
This past week we celebrated Easter, or Holy Week, and remembered the life, death and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was wonderful to see so many people sharing their faith, their gratitude and their devotion on social media while simultaneously declaring their determination to follow the Lord and keep his teachings in their lives.
Sadly, somewhere within a matter of ten minutes to ten hours, those same people broke a commandment that they fail to keep every single day.
Whoa. I know, right? How judgmental of me to say such a thing, but I'm betting you break this commandment just as often. And now you want to reach through the screen and slap me across the face. That's ok; if I wasn't struggling with this same commandment this whole post would be a hypocritical pile of buffalo chips that the pioneers would have burned for fuel as they crossed the plains. But to prove that my words are not just smoke drifting away in cyberspace, I'll show you just how right I am. Yup, I went there....but for a good cause.
Several years ago a dear friend, Jonelle, surprised me with an autographed print of Greg Olsen's "O Jerusalem" painting. This majestic piece captures the quiet strength, even the eternal strength of the Savior's character, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Holy Land countryside (and no, Mr. Olsen isn't paying me to say all that).
But if you look closely, you can see something else on Christ's face. In my youth I almost wondered if it was defeat (after all, he knew his betrayal and crucifixion were near). But now that I'm older I understand the look in Jesus' eyes was something else entirely; it was acceptance. The hint of sorry in his eyes stems from the acceptance that so many people in Jerusalem would not listen to the message of peace and salvation that he desired so deeply to give them.
And as we look forward to this Easter season, I can't help but wonder if that same hint of sorrow still exists in the resurrected Savior's heart.
As I sit here looking out my office window at a beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah blue sky I can't help but smile. Life is such a marvelous and wonderful gift, and every day that we are alive is a new chance to create a powerful future. As we say in my non-profit organization, The Athlete Outreach Project, "there is always hope."
Yet even as I smile, I cannot help but sigh at the tragedies and darkness that fills this world. As a former journalist I know only too well the number of wars and conflicts that rage around the globe. I just spoke at a suicide prevention event and often study the statistics surrounding those struggling with mental illness. I have participated in countless cancer research fundraisers and visited cancer patients in the hospital on several occasions. I have seen marriages fall apart due to infidelity, abuse or just plain apathy. I have seen lives destroyed through the use of drugs or other addictive substances. I have visited with youth incarcerated for foolish choices and helped save at least one life from ending through an eating disorder.
Even as I write this I'm mentally reviewing the tough circumstances that so many in my own life face. I have one friend who survived a potentially fatal car accident only to have her ex-husband force her and her daughters out of their old home and onto the streets. I have another friend who just got out of the hospital after some major surgeries. I could go on and on and so could you, and that doesn't even include all the struggles we have in our own lives.
As a dear friend of mine reminded me this week, "We all get tired, we all get discouraged, and we all have days where we want to give up. But we can't. Life is too amazing. And we are not alone in it."
Growing up in Oklahoma, America’s Midwest, I saw firsthand the results of Mother Nature’s terrible might when tornadoes touched down. Entire neighborhoods were leveled, swathes of landscape flattened and lives were upended. Even as a child, while I lived in fear of these awesome and powerful monstrosities, I could appreciate the way their power was formed…by air.
Because, when you think about it, what are tornadoes but collections of air that rushes forth?
Over the past few months I have listened to dear friends tell me of the tornadoes in their lives. These tornadoes have leveled their confidence, flattened their joys and upended their hearts. But these tornadoes have not been like those I saw in Oklahoma; no, the tornadoes they spoke of were the words and actions of those around them who used the air that rushed forth from their mouths to hurt, to judge, to criticize, to gossip and to belittle.