The Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I don’t’ know when this song first had an impact on me, it’s meaning has changed over time as I have heard it year after year. In the last few years, it has changed from a song of dispare to a song of great hope and joy! I love to hear it and in my church, the organist really makes it wonderful and uplifting!

In my own life, I have moved through this opinion of the world and mankind in it. I remember a time when I was not interested in the affairs of those around me. It was typical of me to avoid others and not care what happened to those around me. At one point I didn’t even care about my siblings. Over the course of several years, my life took me into hard times and an actual and spiritual all desert.

It took a a few small acts from friends and family to soften my heart. Then I was presented with a choice … the choice between dark and light. The choice between walking the path of faith of the path of rebellion.

I was attending church with a very dear friend of mine, a guy who was and is an example to me. During the sermon, the pastor spoke about making New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t remember most of his sermon, at the very end, he said; “If there is only. one resolution that you make this year, make it to become more like Christ.” It was in that moment a decision had to be make. I was acting like the Israelites and halting between 2 decisions. It took me 3 days to make a decision about what path I would take.

As this year comes to a close, the twentieth year since that day, I have reflected upon the path my life has taken. I have often reflected on the decision I made and all the good things that have come from that day. I am ever so grateful for my wife – Lauren, my 4 boys, the faith that has developed, my education, the experiences, the books, the friends, my home, and job. All the good things that have come into my life, have come from that day.

The relationships with my siblings and parents have improved, my friendships have grown and more friends have come into my life. My gratitude abounds and my desire to share that gratitude and abundance continues to grow the more abundance and blessing flow into my life!

My hope and desire for this New Year is that you will be able to see and experience the blessing and abundance that is there for each and every one of us!

iron wil

Mourning a Soldier and a Nation

Carried in HonorsThis last week on Thursday, I attended the funeral of my great uncle Paul. He was interned in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. I knew before I ever arrived that I would cry. The service that is rendered to our solders, sailors, airmen, and marines always moves me. The beauty and simplicity of the service and the sharpness of those carrying the casket and rendering honors is so powerful! When my grandfather died in 2003 and we attended that funeral in PA; I was moved to tears during the 21 gun salute.

After the service, I walked back to my car before my wife and kids. I needed a moment and there I sat and cried because I am so concerned for our future. I am so worried about what may come in this next election and I am worried that we will not have the moral courage and fortitude to stand for truth and righteousness. I fear that we will fail in our efforts to make America the powerful world leader it once was. That we will never be able to be the standard bearer for freedom and peace.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun TzuThe Art of WarThis is often said in simpler words, A warrior prepares for battle hoping he never has to fight. This is best symbolized in this clip from Hero, if you have not seen this film it is a beautiful story and will help to frame the context of this clip.

I brought this up, because for several years (The Cold War), we were able to stand on principles (no matter what party the President was) and set the example and worked to provide real peace and friendship throughout the world. Now, we are mocked by many of our enemies and ridiculed by some that were once our friends. This saddens me because I know we are better than this, I know we have what it takes to stand tall and be the change we “wish to see in the world“.

There are 2 prophets in the Book of Mormon what mourn for and pray for their people Nephi (the son of Lehi) and Enos. They both prayed for and wept for their people. While I am not a leader in the political sense and the only real group I have authority over is my family, in that moment of my life; I understood in a very personal and visceral way what they must have felt. I know that we as a people have the courage, faith, and love of each other to rise above the hostilities and bigotry that has been promulgated by the media, politicians, and groups in the public eye that are more interested in getting their way than understanding others.

Louisiana and the citizens there stood tall and proud as they helped each other survive the floods … and we heard so little about it in the media … unless you got off the beaten path and find the local news for those cities or you follow a lesser known news website that covers things the MSM (Main Stream Media) likes to ignore. I have faith and hope that we can restore our virtue and honor as a nation and stand again as a beacon of hope for a lost and fallen world. We are the last great hope for humanity and if we let those who don’t believe it then we will fall down never to rise again.

iron wil

A Refiner’s Fire

Melting_crucibleLife brings with it many troubling and terrible things. There is pain, death, and accidents that deprive one of limbs and abilities. In fact, there is a statement that goes, “it is amazing what one can live through”. The human body, mind, and spirit are quite resilient and powerful and while God allows us to face the trials of mortality He has a specific purpose in mind. We can’t always see what He is doing while we live in the moment; however, if we walk by faith the path we have been given then when we come out on the other side we can see the miracle that has taken place.

Granted we can’t always see it right away and sometimes we can’t even begin to heal from what has happened. This year my heart has been bruised because 3 wonderful young adult friends of mine have been called home. These are kids that I taught in church or babysat for friends. In January, my friends Stephen Altorfer and Dallin Hilton died in a car accident on their way back to university. I’m just a friend and even now as I see these men as young boys in church my heart is filled with pain and sadness. I can’t even fathom the pain that their parents are bearing. I am tearing up just writing this post. Then a few weeks ago my friend Eliza Bailey died in a car accident, a beautiful young woman with a future of hope and promise. Again, I can’t imagine what her parents are going through. My heart aches for all 3 of these families and I have marveled at how they have handled this pain and loss. I am inspired by their faith and optimism; they know that families are forever and they will be reunited again.

As I contemplated what to write, these thoughts came to mind and then this scripture from Malachi Chapter 3 also came to the forefront of my thoughts. “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (1)

Yes, He will purify us and prepare us for His kingdom if we willing follow Him. Christ knows what we can endure and He knows that when we are at out most painful and horrific moments in life, that He will carry us through if we put all our love and trust in Him. (2) Faith in Christ is not for the faint of heart, the weak willed, it is a course that will be filled with trials and then great blessings and glorious vistas! Over the last 20 years, I have had my share of tribulation and I have reveled in the moments of wonder and glory! I know that there is a long life ahead (or rather I hope) and there will be many more things to come. I look forward to getting to know my God in my extremities, for that is how I will be prepared to return home to Him.

In those experiences, He will be purifying me and shaping me into the type of man He wants me to be. Here is synopsis of how a gold/silver smith knew the metal he was working with was ready.

“The best example I can think of to illustrate this principle is that of the work of a gold or silver smith. the gold smith heats the gold into liquid form until the impurities rise to the top and can be skimmed off. The gold is then allowed to cool and harden back into a solid state. The gold smith repeats this process of heating, removing impurities, and cooling until, after several cycles, the gold has been made free of all impurities. How does the gold smith know when the gold is pure? If when he looks at the liquid gold he can see his clear reflection in it, he knows the impurities are gone. there is nothing left that might obscure his image.

That is how it is with God and us. God uses the heat of trials to burn away the impurities in our lives, if we allow Him. Each time we submit to this process, and it is a process, God’s reflection in our lives becomes clearer and more radiant. As our impurities are removed, we better reflect His glorious image. But notice that times of purification happen when the gold or silver is heated to liquid form, when it is going through the fire and in a less stable state (for all you science buffs) – not when it is cooled and solid. We must come to the end of ourselves realizing that, like the hot liquid, we have no shape or strength and can do nothing in ourselves. It is the Lord that gives us form, after we have been purified. It is the refiners fire that removes the dross from the silver.” (3)

Lastly, I would like to close with this scripture: Alma 5:14 and 19 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

iron wil

References

  1. Malachi 3:2-3
  2. Footprints, the poem
  3. “Through His Eyes”, By Francine L. Bouwense, page 110
  4. Alma Chapter 5: verses 14 and 19

Principles are Immutable

“If a principle exists it must be immutable, for that is what a principle is – a truth standing apart from the mood of the times” Jeff Cooper, Principles of Personal Defense (1972)

I have been trying to express this concept in this blog for several months. It seems the world continues to push “new values” that have through time continued to fail. The traditional or Judeo-Christian values have been under fire since the 1960’s when drugs and free love, a reaction to WWII and the Korean War, became a cause celeb among the youth of America. While other powerful movement’s also happened during these years, few have caused so much trouble for our nation. The attack on values, morals, and religion has severely hurt our country. I know that some feel we are better off with less religion; which is funny since 89% of Americans say they believe in God. (1) Oh, not as many attend or affiliate with a church as we have in the past; however, when 9/11 landed in our face there was a brief revival and uptick in people attending church again.

We are immortal beings having a mortal experience and this life is a place of testing and trials to see if we will grow and overcome our weaknesses and faults. Church is not a place for the healthy, for in God’s eyes we are all sick. It is a hospital where we minster to each other. To often we let our mortal selves get in the way of our immortal selves since we are not perfect and we are constantly failing/sinning some way. Now, don’t get discouraged. I have been practicing and striving to improve for 20 years and I know that while I have made good progress I still have a long way to go to meet the standard that Jesus Christ set. Our problem, is that we want the perfection now … and it doesn’t come until the next life.

We do not join Christ in His glory until after we die and are judged. Heaven is the only “country” where one has to learn to live the “law of the land” before we can enter the kingdom. The beautiful thing about living a life of principles is that when we are making progress and improving; we are living those laws or commandments to the best of our ability … which is what we are being asked to do. Christ makes all the difference, He paid the price for our freedom and only by applying to Him can our balance be paid in full. While I am a firm believer that my faith is the correct one and the we have the most pure doctrine; I also know that everyone living to follow Christ is just as blessed and benefits by His divine intervention in their lives. He loves all of us, no matter who we are or what we do.

We show Him that we love him by living a life grounded in the traditional principles and values that are taught in many faiths. If you look and study you will find that many of the same doctrines and principles are shared among many faiths. I encourage you to live a life of principles for surely we will be able to stand before God one day and know that we have lived the best life possible.

Be your best self and then you will begin to see the difference between a principled life and an unprincipled one.

iron wil

1) U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious