Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why I don't pay for Dance anymore!

The other night someone asked me "Why do you pay so much money for your girls to dance?" 

Well I have a confession to make, I don't pay for dance. Personally, I couldn't care less about dance. I grew up in a family of 4 boys and no girls. The "Nutcracker" was something you did on a dare off of the high dive at the pool or something you unpleasantly surprised your brother with. Up until the day I met my wife if I were asked to go to Swan Lake I would have asked if we were water skiing or fishing.

So if I am not paying for dance what am I paying for? I pay for those moments when my daughters become so tired they want to quit but don't. I pay for those days when my daughters come home from school and are "too tired" to go dance but go anyway. I pay for my daughters to learn to be graceful. I pay for my daughters to learn to take care of their body. I pay for my daughters to learn to work with others and to be good teammates. I pay for my daughters to learn to deal with disappointment, when they don't get that part they hoped for, but still have to work hard at the part that they received. I pay for my daughters learn to make and accomplish goals. I pay for my daughters to learn that it takes hours and hours and hours and hours of hard work and practice to create something beautiful, and that success does not happen over night. I pay for the opportunity my daughters have and will have to make life long friendships. I pay so that my daughters can be on stage instead of in front of a screen...

I could go on but to be short, I don't pay for dance, I pay for the opportunities that dance provides my daughters to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far I think it is a great investment! 

I am sure that other parents get similar questions. "Why do you pay for competitive baseball?" "Why do you pay for Quarterback training?" "Why do you pay for club soccer?" "Why does your kid swim year round?".... I just think it is important to realize what we are really paying for. 

Shad Martin, Especially for Athletes

Visit http://www.especiallyforathletes.com/ to see the difference that E4A athletes and dancers are making in the world and to have the E4A team come visit your team or company.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sacrifice brings forth the Blessings of Heaven

East Meadows Ward Conference, August 23, 2015

Brothers and Sisters,

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address you today at our ward conference. I am standing here today exactly 14 years from the moment that I was kneeling across the altar from my wife, being sealed to her for time and for all eternity. Words cannot express how grateful I am for her, and for the Savior who has opened up the way for me to be with her and my girls for eternity.  I want to express my love and appreciation for you, for all of you! I know that you spend countless hours in building the kingdom of God here in the East Meadows Ward. I have thought deeply, and prayed fervently to know what the Lord would have me say to you today. I feel like the Lord has answered my prayer and given me direction in my preparation.

Today I would like to speak about how “Sacrifice brings forth the Blessings of Heaven”

To start brothers and sisters I would like to ask a question:

Do you believe that the Lord will bless you if you obey Him? I want to ask that again and I want you to really think about it for a second. Do you believe that the Lord will bless you if you obey him?

I believe brothers and sisters that the honest answer to that question will ultimately determine whether or not we will be willing to sacrifice.

First I would like to speak to those who sincerely question in their heart of hearts whether or not the Lord will bless them if they obey him. You may be like the man with a suffering son who when the Savior asked him if he believed “said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The Lord performed a miracle in the life of his boy and helped his unbelief. I would invite you to put the Lord to the test. He has said, “I the Lord am bound when you do what I say, but when you do not what I say ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10) He has said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). He has said through James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, and ubraideth not, and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5) He has said through the prophet Alma, “if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, … it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:27-28) He has said through Moroni, “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  (Moroni 10:4-5)

I testify with all of my heart that if you will experiment upon his word, and do his will, and ask with a sincere heart and real intent, that in his time and in his way, he will manifest the truth of it unto you.

Brothers and Sisters I am about to testify to you of something with all of the power that I possess and with all of the tender feelings of my heart. I want you to know my motive for doing so. I do not testify of this for my own good, and not even for the good of the ward, but for your own good. I want to testify of this truth to the youth, to the children, and to the adults. I testify of this humbled by the fact that I hold sacred keys to help guide this ward.  This is what I feel to testify of to you today:  If you will sacrifice what the Lord has asked you to Sacrifice, he will make more out of your life than you can…I want to say that again. If you will sacrifice what the Lord has asked you to Sacrifice, he will make more out of your life than you can.

Though I feel that have countless examples from my own life, and though I can relate countless examples from the lives of members of this ward, I would like to relate a simple account that I heard recently in a training I received on the Sabbath day that touched my heart and which illustrates powerfully the principle I am trying to testify of:

Sister and Elder Beecher, a missionary couple who served in Africa wrote the following:
“We live in a very poor part of Kenya on the border of Uganda. One of our branch presidents … is a farmer living on an extended family compound. He is a young man with a small family. …
“… He has members of his branch who tell him … that they cannot come to Church on Sunday because … they are afraid to leave their homes for fear their neighbors will steal their crops. … [This] is a very REAL concern. … In fact, people … wait to plant when the other neighbors plant, so they lessen the chance for their early harvest to be taken. …”
“[They also say] they cannot come to Church on Sunday because they must work … because they are so poor.”
“[The branch president] continued, ‘I tell them, “I leave my home every Sunday and stay at Church for long hours of the day. I do not work on the Sabbath. When I return home, I have often found that my neighbors have stolen my [corn], my chickens, their eggs, my fruit because they are hungry and they have no food. Still, I find that when it comes time for harvest, I am blessed because my land produces more than theirs—even though they work each Sunday. My land produces more, and I am blessed because I keep the Sabbath Day holy.”’
“Hearing [this branch president’s] comment, [another branch president] said, ‘I can attest to the same thing. I have 2 acres of [corn]. My neighbor works 10 acres. He works every Sunday. I do not. When it comes time to harvest, I have plenty. My neighbor comes to me for food because he hasn’t enough. I, too, am blessed for living the law of the Sabbath.’” (Neal and Jackie Beecher, email message to R. Kelly Haws, May 24, 2011)

The person who shared this story continued: “The Lord’s ways are higher than our ways—and so is His arithmetic. It is different than ours.” (Chad Webb, S&I Broadcast, August 2015)

I know brothers and sisters that this is true.

I know you are busy, so am I, but I would like to invite you to sacrifice some time in order to do some things that the Lord has asked us to do:
·        Give the Lord the Sabbath day. Let everything you do on that day be a sign unto him that you remember His sacrifice and are grateful for it.
·        Sacrifice the time necessary to magnify your calling
·        Sacrifice the time necessary to do your home and visiting teaching and to have home and visiting teachers visit your family.
·        Sacrifice the time necessary to do family history and temple work
·        Sacrifice the time necessary to study the gospel with your family

If you will do so Brothers and Sisters I know the Lord can do more with the time that is left over than you can do if you were to sacrifice none of your time in order to build the kingdom of God. I know that some may be too busy to do these things, but brother s and sisters if you are too busy to do these things maybe you are too busy. It might be wise to council together as a family about what you can eliminate in order to fit these essential things into your life.

Elder Richard G Scott has said, “Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do, or so many challenges pressing upon you, that it is hard to keep focused on that which is essential? Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people, those who are committed to a worthy, righteous life, who want to do good and intend to make the most of this life.  His tool is distraction. He would have good people fill life with "good things" so there is no room for the "essential ones."  Have you unconsciously  been caught in that trap?” (Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy [2007], p. 10-11; emphasis original).

If you have been caught in this trap brothers and sisters I would counsel you to counsel with the Lord individually and as a family. I know he will direct your paths for good, and prepare a way for you to keep his commandments.

The same principle can be applied to tithes and offerings, 10 minus 1 does not equal 9. The Lord blesses us with what we need and more. I have a testimony of the fact that the Lord will enable you to do more with 90 percent of your income than you can do with 100 percent your income. From where I sit brothers and sisters and with what I have noticed, there is not one person in the congregation who can afford to not pay tithing and offerings. The Lord has invited each of us to, “Prove me now herewith … if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10).
I would like to end where I began and ask once again: Do you believe that the Lord will bless you if you obey him?

I testify that He will. Our church is led, and our stake is led, and through many sacred, undeniable experiences I have learned that our ward is led by the creator of the universe, by the God who brought the children of Israel through the red see on dry ground, by the God that helped David defeat Goliath, by the God that was born in Bethlehem, who grew to heal the sick, raise the dead, and who taught with power. We are led by the God that suffered and bled from every pore and laid down his life and took it up again on the third day. We are led by the God who took an obscure fourteen year old farm boy and through him established a church that will continue to “go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

The same God that did miracle after miracle, from the time Adam down to our day, can and will work miracles in our lives, and in our family’s lives if we are willing to do what He has asked us to do and to sacrifice what he has asked us to sacrifice.

None of us are perfect brothers and sisters, this talk has pricked my own conscience. I have things that I must change. It is my prayer that each of us can check ourselves and have the faith to repent if repentance is needed. I know that the Lord will forgive us and bless us as we seek to do so.  I pray that each of us will sacrifice what we have been asked to sacrifice, because I know “that sacrifice truly does bring forth the blessings of Heaven”.  I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Be Yourself or Be miserable: A Back to School Message

All around the country kids are heading back to school. I remember those days well. It was a new start, a fresh start. This year was going to be different. I was not going to procrastinate, yea right :) I was going to get really good grades, I was going to work harder at everything I did. I loved the clean slate feeling of the beginning of the school year.

I also know that as some kids go back to school they are hoping that this year will be different. Last year was not what they hoped it would be. Some may have felt like they were invisible and unnoticed, they were lonely. I want all of the youth I know to know that you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father, or to your Savior, or to those who love you most. God has a special plan for you. Sometimes Junior High and High School can make you feel like that is not the case but it is. With that being said I know that the pressures to fit in and to be recognized are real. I felt them. Sometimes when you feel this pressure you resort to trying to change yourself in order to fit into a certain crowd. This may be OK in some cases but I wanted to give three cautions to all the youth that I know and love as you head back to school:

Caution #1 

If you try to be someone you are not you will be miserable

Sister Patricia Holland, wife of Jeffrey R. Holland wrote the following. Please take time to read the whole thing it is magnificent:

“Our Father in Heaven needs us as we are, as we are growing to become. He has intentionally made us different from one another so that even with our imperfections we can fulfill his purposes. My greatest misery comes when I feel I have to fit what others are doing, or what I think others expect of me. I am most happy when I am comfortable being me and trying to do what my Father in Heaven and I expect me to be.

For many years I tried to measure the oft times quiet, reflective, thoughtful Pat Holland against the robust, bubbly, talkative, and energetic Jeff Holland and others with like qualities. I have learned through several fatiguing failures that you can’t have joy in being bubbly if you are not a bubbly person. It is a contradiction in terms. I have given up seeing myself as a flawed person because my energy level is lower than Jeff’s, and I don’t talk as much as he does, nor as fast. Giving this up has freed me to embrace and rejoice in my own manner and personality in the measure of my creation. Ironically, that has allowed me to admire and enjoy Jeff’s ebullience even more.

Somewhere, somehow the Lord “blipped the message onto my screen” that my personality was created to fit precisely the mission and talents he gave me. For example, the quieter, calmer talent of playing the piano reveals much about the real Pat Holland. I would never have learned to play the piano if I hadn’t enjoyed the long hours of solitude required for its development. This same principle applies to my love of writing, reading, meditation, and especially teaching and talking with my children. Miraculously, I have found that I have untold abundant sources of energy to be myself. But the moment I indulge in imitation of my neighbor, I feel fractured and fatigued and find myself forever swimming upstream. When we frustrate God’s plan for us, we deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions and a serious schism settles in our soul. God never gave us any task beyond our ability to accomplish it. We just have to be willing to do it our own way. We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become.” (Portraits of Eve: God’s Promises of Personal Identity, Patricia T. Holland, LDS Women’s treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today’s Woman {Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997}, 97-98

Caution #2   

Be yourself...but be your best self

I love that quote from Sister Holland. I think there is another principle imbedded in what Sister Holland taught. We also deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions if we do not try to be our best self. Sometimes people use the "I am just being myself" line as an excuse to be less than God intended them to be. Don't fall into that trap either. Be yourself but be your best self.

Teenagers can't stand hypocrites. When someone acts like they are good when they really are not it seems to drive them crazy. "Realness" is definitely a valued commodity among the youth. With that being said, the more common but less talked about form of hypocrisy is acting like we are less than we are. We dumb ourselves down spiritually, or we try to act like we are not as talented as we are, or we don't give our best efforts to things that we could really excel at.  Hiding your brilliance is not humility it is a form of hypocrisy. Not developing your God given gifts is a form of ingratitude.  Don't do this. You be you, but be your best you. That is what will make you happy.   

Caution #3  

If you focus too much on yourself you will not be happy

The Lord Jesus Christ taught, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). “I believe,” said President Thomas S. Monson, “the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”

I was touched by something Sister Susan Tanner, former General Young Women's President, taught. She said the following:

I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

What an incredible concept. The way to feel good about yourself is to help others feel good about themselves. If there was one thing I could teach my daughter, who enters junior high this year, it would be that the way to feel and be truly beautiful is to spend your days trying to help others feel beautiful. If you go to school trying to make others think you are beautiful, talented, smart....it usually backfires.  

I hope that all of you have a wonderful school year. I want you to know that everything that will truly make you happy is on the straight and narrow road and that when you make mistakes your Savior is there to help you get back on the road. May you have a fun, successful, fulfilling, and blessed year!