Thursday, December 31, 2009

Campus Construction

"I've never had a bad day" --Elder L. Tom Perry

Taking a walk around the campus of Brigham Young University will clearly lead one to the conclusion  that it is--as we say--"under construction". This has been the case during my entire stay in Rexburg. This has involved yellow tape, fenced off walk ways, disagreeable clamor, and unwanted detours. It becomes especially difficult when you can see a shorter path to your morning class blocked off by one of those highly transparent chain linked fences--often, our destination is "right there" but there is purpose in the long route. For me, all these pesky disturbances have added up to...well, a bucketful of pesky disturbances. This was the case until something hit me. I was walking to class with a friend. She was commenting on the fact that this construction seems to never end. I paused and agreed. This was followed by my own unexpected response. I said, "Well, we are all under construction."

Yes, we really are under construction and we must rejoice in the fact. A few weeks ago I finished Fall semester. It was a perpetual whirlwind of success and failure, growth and depletion, of breakthrough and breakdown. It was my best semester to date. All the failure and breakdown had to do with me. They had to do with me "unlearning" certain thought patterns, work habits, and attitudes that were detrimental to any sort of positive progress. The successes and breakthrough stood in the cultivation of a new outlook on personal goals and personal capacities.

Of the many lessons I passed through--including the dignity of diligent work, using our personal gifts for the good of others, and the importance of seeking learning in all things--there stood an even greater message.

I am a Christian. Christ is our true source of self. An inspired Christian named C.S. Lewis wrote on this truth in his book Mere Christianity. Here is the message:
"The more we get what we call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become....It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own....Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self....The very first step is trying to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him."
Christ is our builder and Great Contractor. He knows what He intends us to be if we let Him have place. Lewis also shares this analogy:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing., He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
 Indeed, there will be yellow tape, fenced off walk ways, disagreeable clamor, and unwanted detours. Often we will be asked to take the long route but hopefully we will find Him along the way. We must be looking. And, along that way, we will change and be built into a place suitable for Him.

Going back to BYU-Idaho, then, if we look we can see that it is not being built up to show its growing status. Rather, it is under expansion for the sole purpose of allowing many others to come and gather and see. It is not under construction for itself. The same goes for you and I. We are not being built up unto ourselves; we are being built so that He can come in and do His work in us. That kind of construction is intended to be continuous.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Well-Worn, Red Bowling Shoes

"Wherever you go, you take yourself with you" --Unknown

Today, I saw a man walking while wearing a pair of well-worn, red bowling shoes in a campus building. To this, I was full of wonder. I say thank you to this man. I feel that he was fully able to wear any other pair of shoes but he wore his well-worn, red bowling shoes because he wanted to. Perhaps, we limit our inner-person from being fully illuminated because it gets shaded by normalcy. What is there to be afraid of ? We could be the vehicle of thought that certain people need--a fresh view beyond the daily humdrum. Be you. It's okay.

Tomorrow: where your well-worn, red bowling shoes. Make 'em think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others." --Cicero 

Did you hear about Jerry? He has cataracts. He's a little older, I suppose. Youth do not usually have to deal with that kind of ailment. They seem to be a product of the aged but I'll stop stereotyping because my dog is on the same cataract cruise line.

Jerry must be grateful. He is a free bird this year, literally. Jerry is a turkey. He won't be butchered  for the feast of men happening today. Jerry would probably be smiling--barring his beak and the peculiar, gelatinous, red-colored, flesh that surrounds it. Is that what creates that distinctive gobble sound?

Anyway, as we take a walk in Jerry's tracks, we can see that a being far above him has shone the light of providence and delivered him from his certain fatal destiny. No, Jerry will not land on a platter this year. Rather, the hopes of new life have dawned into sight for him. This is so, even amidst those pesky cataracts.

 For added perspective, the President of the United States pardoned a turkey named Courage yesterday from its would-be deathly dinner.  Apparently, the sentiment of his name payed off. Courage weighs 45 pounds and will spend the rest of his life in Disneyland, no joke--Google it. Needless to say, both Courage and Jerry are grateful. Thanksgiving has brought new life and the meaning of gratitude has taken on a new luster.

So, here it is, Thanksgiving 2009. What can we learn from our friends Jerry and Courage? Perhaps we can raise our sights above any grudges we hold or any flaws of our own and be grateful towards that Pardoning Hand that continually offers us new days and years to look toward, even amidst the cataracts of life. They may just be blessings we haven't looked to see into yet. Mercy extended begets mercy extended; sacrifice begets sacrifice; a smile begets a smile. Truly, gratitude is the lens cleaner of life. This virtue helps us really see all that we have been given and who matters most in life. It is quite the trail of discovery. You can't Google that, I promise!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Church Supports Nondiscrimination Ordinances - LDS Newsroom

Hey everyone,

Just thought I would post the link to this news release. The Church's support on these ordinances has brought mixed reviews--mostly among Latter-day Saints. This baffles me a bit. The passing of these ordinances represents the support of basic human rights. It does not, however, link to the support of the moral issues surrounding the group it addresses. The statement made by the LDS church clearly illustrates this balance. There is a link to the actual statement in the LDS newsroom page.

Those of the LDS faith who stand against the Church's support of these ordinances are missing out on some of the foundational principles taught by the Lord, Jesus Christ. The greatest of these is love. Love is the catalyst by which people change for the better. We should show love towards all by kindly living correct principles and reflecting correct moral values. We do not support practices contrary to Christian principles but we do support people and their potential to change and improve their lives as they desire to. Christ invites ALL to come to Him and walk His path.

It is no wonder to me, now, that in the recent General Conference of the LDS Church, that many of the remarks from the presiding Church leaders were focused on love and its practice in our lives. I will post a few of them but invite you to pay particular attention to the remarks of Elder Oaks in his "Love and Law" address. He directly addresses the relationship between public issues and religious positions. Here are the links to a few:

"What Have I Done for Someone Today" President Thomas S. Monson

"The Love of God" President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Our Perfect Example" President Henry B. Eyring

"Love and Law" Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"So long as we live among men, let us cherish humanity" --Andre Gide

Go with me to a job interview. It is here you sit, knee to knee, with a corporate superior (we'll call him Mr. Mo-Betta-Den-U). It is here you are resolute in making yourself known and telling this guy what you can do for his enterprise. You're set. The credentials scream "I'm your man!" and the resumé says, "Man, I look good."

The questioning begins...

"Well,  Mr. subordinate, (that's you), "tell me of your greatest strength."

You reply with a series of marketable answers followed by this concluding declaration: "I'm a people person."

It just seemed like a good thing to say--a good way to seal the deal, right? Yes, a good way to say "I'm a powerhouse with a bit of cliché on the side."

Say goodbye to all of your previously attained merit. Mr. Mo-Betta-Den-U has no need for a filler statement amidst your already-displayed worth to his company. Trust me, he has made the assumption and already believes that you are a people person.
What does it mean to be a "people person"? We say it often. I've heard it used on both sides of the people spectrum. I've heard those who use it in the context that they really like to communicate, soak in the power of personality, and cultivate worthy association. On the reverse, I've met some who tell me that they just don't like people. Interaction does not seem to be their forte. Their resort stands in the world of "me, myself, and a good strong video game" (bloggers don't count, wink). So, if one is not a people person, what is he? I've yet to come to a conclusion on this.

When it comes down to it, I believe in being a people person. I am simply issuing warning against one becoming a trite stereotype who loses originality, ingenuity, and impact in the face of overuse (see, "cliché"). I would argue that the people we regard as "people persons" do not readily recognize themselves as such. To me, a people person walks within the realms of reality carrying a smile on his or her face--but only if they desire to.

In my opinion, the world is full of people persons. Are we not all people? However, please remember to leave this fact out of that job interview!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Just a Reminder...

In the spirit of the Sabbath day, I had a thought light upon my mind just a few moments ago  from Neal A. Maxwell. He is known by many for his service as an Apostle of the Lord. Speaking to a group of priesthood brethren in 2004, Elder Maxwell referenced Psalm 147:5. It reads,

 "He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names."

In this vein, Maxwell bears this witness, 
"I testify to you that God has known you individually, brethren, for a long, long time (see D&C 93:23). He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars (see Ps. 147:4; Isa. 40:26); He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys! By the way, you have never seen an immortal star; they finally expire. But seated by you tonight are immortal individuals—imperfect but who are, nevertheless, “trying to be like Jesus”!"

Yes, to grasp eternity, that is the longing. To some it may be a new concept, to others a mystery, to others a question, and to others still, a farce. To you, dear reader, I implore: step out of the noise and forces of time and ask the questions. What is your beginning and what is your end? Listen for the eternal echoes and watch for light that gleams beyond the stars who have their times and seasons. The answer will press upon the very limits of mortal comprehension and transcend the boundaries of beginnings and ends. Eternity knows no bounds and, truly, lives within each of us.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Few Good Laughs...

I am a huge advocate for Calvin and Hobbes. I have been known to sit for hours reading the adventures of Calvin and his lively stuffed tiger, Hobbes. It makes me laugh quite loud at times. Watterson somehow captures the mentality and outlook of boyhood. I often remember those days through these comics.  Here are few strips to enjoy on this Saturday Morning. Click on the image for a larger view.

Monday, November 02, 2009


We are counseled in scripture to remember our fathers. Nephi invites us to have "a love of God and of all men" (2 Nep 31:20). Further, the great work of the latter-days is the turning of hearts, even that "the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers" (D&C 2:2).  Yes, we are all in this together.

As an example, a young Gordon B. Hinckley said the following upon his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

"…I have been thinking about the road that led here. I know that I have not come that road alone, and I feel very grateful for the many men and women—the great and good men who are here today, and the small and obscure, but, wonderful people, many of whose names I do not remember—who have helped me. It is the same with each of us in the Church. No man proceeds alone. We grow according to the help given us by those who teach us and lead us.”
 I would like to make the point that all of us, in our various situations, are the result, largely, of the lives that touch ours….It was Emerson, I think, who was asked what book had had the greatest influence upon his life, and he said he could no more remember the books he had read than he could remember the meals he had eaten, but they had made him. Likewise, all of us are largely the products of the lives which touch upon our lives…
 Indeed, there is great value in looking back through the corridors of our lives and seeing those who have been an influence. Who has made you? There will be many. We may not remember names and we may not remember faces. We may only remember a person's presence, a kind word, or an unspoken example. All in all, we are nothing without each other.  In turn, as we remember our forbears let us also carry a pioneering spirit that will make the way clear for our children that we may turn our hearts to them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh, Honestly

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don't know." --Mark Twain

It seems we live in a world where we feel we must know everything. Yes, we do live in the age of the Internet, Google, and the like. Yes, we do live in the age of podcasts, downloads, and automatic updates. In this setting, though, it is my claim that we miss the mark. Many are devastated at the fact of not being able to answer a question. Others probably could but do nothing about it. Still, others speak as if they know when they clearly do not.

Go with me to a house full of young adult males. Heck, come to my apartment. We have six of them between the ages of 20-24 barring any 30 year old outliers. Case in point: I was watching a basketball game the other night. My favorite team was playing. By favorite I mean FAVORITE. They are a team I have followed all my life. I have some knowledge about their history. However, they were losing the game. One of my roommates saw this. He quickly said, "This team (referring to my favorite team) sucks!"

He continued, "They don't have any good players and their coach is a fossil!"

I remained calm. I promise. I simply replied telling him that they have some of the NBA's top players and that the coach has one of the highest winning percentages in history--all with the same team. The conversation ended.

A second experience occurred the next day with the same roommate. He is exploring different education options. In his quest, he was asking me all kinds of things about Master degree programs, grad schools, and career possibilities in business. I did the best I could and answered him according to what I knew in the midst of my current undergrad status. My reply to the last three or four of his inquiries, however, was, "I don't know." His reply to this surprised me a little. He simply said, "Thanks for being honest instead of giving me some bull-crap answer."

I appreciated this remark because it taught me a lesson. The lesson is three-fold. First, if you don't know something, don't be afraid to admit it. Second, if you don't know something, go and find out about it! Third, if you don't know something, don't pretend that you do. There is no shame in saying, "I don't know."

Thus, in an information frenzied society we don't have to know it all. What would there be to learn if we did? Further, if we try to sound like we do, we will, indeed, be as a "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" ever talking but never really saying anything (see 1 Cor 13:1, 2 Tim 3:7). Words, words, words.

In short, share what you know if others are seeking it; confess what you don't know. What is your take on it? Because I don't know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thanks Bud...

I walk everyday and it has become a common occurrence, on these walks of mine, to suddenly make unplanned eye contact with someone three hundred yards down the sidewalk. What happens next is quite the phenomenon (take note of this on your next walk). The eye contact never holds. Also, nine times out of ten a cell phone comes into view. Suddenly, the person needs to reply to a text message. It is most common for each party to drop their head as if they have not yet seen the person, focusing their eyes on the ground ahead of them, then, at the last possible moment, shoot up with uncanny timing and say, "Hey" with a staccato nod.

Going into a full analysis of why this happens would demand another entry independent of this one. I find it amusing to break the trend of this minimized sociality with the daily masses. For example, at the outset of the three hundred yard eye contact, throw out a hearty wave. You can even cheese it up with a "greetings and salutations, fine sir!" That's always fun. In other attempts, I have held eye contact, voiced a greeting along with the person's name, only to be met with another staccato nod. Worse yet, there was no verbal message returned. The culprit: the i-pod. In these moments, the fruits of my minimal social effort gets munched by digitized media packed into debilitating ear buds. At least take one out and give me a holler. As a bonus, this would allow you to hear the sweetness of the breeze. Mind you, there are plenty of breezes in Rexburg!

When I do get a reply, other phenomenons occur. Perhaps you have participated in exchanges such as this one:

" Hey John, how are you?"
"Good, Travis. How are you?"
"Good. How are you?"

Can you feel the power of the programmed response coupled with awkward redundancy? It makes me laugh. Putting further spin on the above, I love the slang phrases of these times (can you sense sarcasm?). For example, I'll pass by John who quickly says "What's up, man?" I usually mechanically reply, "Not much."
Honestly, to this day, I do not have the slightest ability to answer this question naturally. In reality my response could go many directions:

"Well, the sky is way up," or "Not the stock market," or "hopefully your cholesterol isn't." You could have a lot of fun with this one. However boring and two-dimensional it sounds, though, I'm sticking with "How are you" and "Great to see you."

As a finale, tonight as I was leaving the campus gym it came time to turn in my rental clothes and equipment. At the counter, I realized I had forgotten to bring the back the basketball I had borrowed. The student at the counter--who lacked every customer skill attainable by a rational human--curtly told me that I need to go and get it. He misheard a previous statement I made telling him that I, indeed, would go and get it. So, with the meekness of a frightened child I went to get the ball. I came back and all was well. The short-fused guy at the counter said, with all the kindness in his locker room heart, "Thanks, bud." I then journeyed home in the freshly canned memories of being twelve again waiting for puberty to strike. I felt as fulfilled as a youthful boy scout who just received the thirteen merit badges he earned at camp. Maybe, dad would buy me an ice cream cone for my achievements--especially that astronomy merit badge I earned amidst permanent scout camp rain clouds.
So, to that much bigger young man at the locker room counter I reply, "What's up, man?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened - LDS Newsroom

Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened - LDS Newsroom

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And It Begins...

I must say, I've always wanted a blog. There must be something to it--especially if I'm up this late at night tinkering with settings and layout options. My friends have blogs. How come I don't have one? Well...I do now. So, welcome. I'm thoughtful at times. Look out! Reader beware. When I write I'm talking directly to you. Don't be afraid to make eye contact or raise an eyebrow. It makes it all worth it.

In short, I believe in progress. Look at the title of this thing. Even in our folly we can see the urging hand of progress beckon us onward and upward. President Henry Eyring has said, "If we are on the right path, it will always be uphill." This came from the same man who believes in pursuing the steady upward course. Such is life and so be it!