Greater Love Hath No Man Than This…

Memorial Day is our opportunity to honor those individuals who gave their life in the service of our country.  It is a day to celebrate the freedom which has been paid for with blood.  It is the day to remember that God alone leads this Nation and will continue to lead this Nation as we remember Him…or in the words of George Washington, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Today is my tribute to those who have “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and are now “dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings” (High Flight).

As we celebrate this weekend, it is worth remembering the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Another speech worthy of our study is Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech given 23 March 1775.  Somedays I worry that the passion, dedication, and patriotism demonstrated by Patrick Henry has gone from our country…then I visit one of our Military cemeteries and I see Patrick Henry’s commitment etched in stone on marker after marker.


At my 20th class reunion, they shared a video tribute to the thirteen classmates I went to school with. Today, I want to share my thoughts regarding these men who sacrificed all so I could raise my children in a free country.

One of these men I knew very well…David Weber.  I’ll never forget the day he died…28 January 1994.  Dave loved to fly and was sitting back seat of a tow plane when the pilot suffered a massive heart attack and sent the plane into a nose dive.  Dave tried to recover the aircraft, but was not successful.  I went to his funeral in Star Valley, Wyoming–met his brother who was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Eric Das.  He was shot down over Iraq on 3 August 2003 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his Weapons Officer, William Watkins (they were the 27th and 28th casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried in Arlington).

das-watkins-funeral02
General Jumper, Chief of Staff, USAF, salutes at the funeral of Eric Das

Ed Wooten.  He never knew the impact he had on my life. Our interaction was but a few short weeks, but those few weeks changed the course of my life and solidified my commitment to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Scheer and I spent 6 weeks together in Basic Training and then a year together in our first Squadron, the Phantoms of 24.  He died on 25 Feb 2004 when his A-10 crashed while on a training mission in Alaska.

BEAST
Jon Scheer is in the back row, second from the left

I didn’t know Frank Bryant while we were at school, but his death was particularly poignant for me.  He died 27 April 2011 at the hands of an Afghan in the middle of staff meeting at Kabul International Airport.  Like Frank, I sat in many staff meetings in Afghanistan in that same area during my deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.  I walked an through several Afghan National Army bases and was concerned at times for my safety.  Perhaps I should have been even more concerned than I was.


Let us never forget the men who died to keep us free.

Furthermore, let us ever live with honor, courage, and love in their memory.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Advertisements

Leaves of Three…

poison ivy
Image from www.kidshealth.org

Many people recognize poison ivy by the phrase “leaves of three, leave it be.” On the campout yesterday, one of the young men was looking at a plant and said “I see a poison ivy plant, it has three leaves…wait a minute, I think this might be a 3-leaf clover.”  I asked him if he knew how to tell the difference and he started to describe the physical characteristics of poison ivy.  When he was finished, I told him an easier way was to pick the plant, rub it on his skin and wait a day.  If he was itchy, it was poison ivy.

 

So how can we recognize danger when it comes into our life?  How we can know when something or someone is trying to lead us down the wrong path?  There are four things we must do:

  1. Know where we want to go
  2. Recognize the signs of evil and danger
  3. Demonstrate courage to chose the right
  4. Have the tenacity to endure to the end

First, we have to know where we want to go. The purpose of this life is to gain experience, receive a mortal body, and demonstrate our willingness to follow the commandments of God.  Along the way, most of us will have the opportunity receive an education, have a career, marry, and raise a family.  All of these things can help us on the path back to our Father in Heaven.  If you don’t know what you want out of life, it is impossible to make choices to get there.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.'”In Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road. She asks the cat “Which road do I take?” To which the cat replied “Where do you want to go?”  – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Second, we have to recognize the signs of evil and danger.  Satan desires one thing–to frustrate the work of the Lord.  He does everything he can to destroy the creations of God.  However, he doesn’t typically work in bold, in-your-face manifestations.  Instead, he is very subtle and sly.  He is a patient being…able to bide his time to strike his fatal blow.  Nephi describes Satan’s efforts like this: “[Satan] will pacify, and lull [man] away into carnal security…and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 32:21 emphasis added).

natural rope linen flax braided 5mm cord string decorational white bleached color photo buy (1).jpg

Nephi describes these efforts of Satan as a flaxen cord.  A flaxen cord is a cord made of many small threads.  Think about how easy it is to break a single piece of thread.  Now consider the difficulty in breaking a rope consisting of 20, 40, or even 100 threads.  This is how Satan leads us to hell…one sin at a time.  If we do not recognize the danger signs of sin quickly and break those things which would tie us down, we can soon become overwhelmed and feel helpless.  You have to recognize the signs of evil and danger.

Marijuana is sometimes called a gateway drug.  It doesn’t have the same effects as crack, meth, or heroine…but it can lead to abuse of these drugs as addicts become used to the effects of one, lesser drug, and give it up for progressively stronger drugs.

Likewise, happily married men don’t typically decide one day to have an affair.  Instead, they are lead gradually to that fatal act by first viewing “harmless” pornography or casually observing other women (remember David and Bathsheba). There is danger in “just looking”!

Third, we have to demonstrate the courage to choose the right.  Joshua famously declared “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).  It is easy to make this declaration from the safety of the pulpit or our home.  Do we have the courage to make this declaration reality in our lives? When we leave our home each morning, are we ready to “serve the Lord” all day and in all things?

It gets even more difficult to choose the right when others around us…particularly those we respect…are making poor choices.

Fourth, we have to have the tenacity to endure to the end. Paul records in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” True success in life isn’t about winning individual battles, true success in life is about finishing the course…it’s about winning the war.  Satan would see us destroyed by sin; led to that action by subtle temptations and poor choices.  We have to share the same passion to defeat Satan that the people of Limhi showed in their fight agains the Lamanites.  “…They fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight” (Mosiah 20:11).

This life isn’t going to be easy, but we conquer evil by:

  1. knowing where we want to go
  2. recognizing the signs of evil and danger
  3. showing courage to chose the right
  4. having the tenacity to endure to the end

 

How do we do this?  How can we follow this prescribed course?  It goes back to the Sunday School answers…

  • go to church
  • read the scriptures
  • pray
  • listen to your parents
  • follow the teachings of Jesus Christ

I don’t want to over simplify, but it really is this easy.  If you want to know the voice of the Good Shepherd, then you have to study the voice of the Good Shepherd.  If you want to return to live with your Heavenly Father, then you have to practice living a celestial life now.  If you want to be happy tomorrow, then you need to try to be happy today.  Our actions are all interconnected.  We determine our future by every action we take in the present.

Mother, Mum, Mommy

Peterson_gathering.jpg
A Hen Gathers Her Chicks (image from ldsmag.com)

Some of these blogs are easy to write and some are more difficult.  You would think this topic would be easy to write about…mothers.  It’s difficult because words fail to adequately describe the importance of mothers in our life. As a child, the most important woman in my life was my mother.  She was always there to protect me, take care of me, and teach me.  I like the image of a hen gathering her chicks…it reminds me of my mother and how she was always there to take care of me.

 

I will never forget a visit my mother made to my home while I was stationed in South Korea.  We took a day trip to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.  Our guide briefed us “if you hear gunfire while we are in the DMZ, you need to run to the bus immediately.  As soon as most of you are here, we will leave.”  Notice he said most, not all.  I was immediately tormented.  What if something happens and my mother isn’t in the group that makes it to the bus before it leaves?  Fortunately, our visit was uneventful–there was no gunfire.

IMG_3997Now, some counsel for my children.  At some point in your life, you will leave home and
venture through life on your own.  As you do so, I admonish you to never forget your mother.  You will have many friends come and go.  You’ll have roommates that will be become best friends…and then fade away.  You will even find other woman who stand in the role of a mother-away-from-home.  But you will never have another mother.  She will be a constant in your life.  She should hold the preeminent place of honor in your life. The First Presidency said, “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels” (Conference Report October 1942, 12-13, quoted in Strengthening the Family).

I appreciated what one of the speakers (Keith Chapman) said at church yesterday.  He said he knew the mothers in our congregation were good women because of their fruit.  He sees the goodness of the mothers reflected in the lives of their children. I know the mother of my children is a good and honorable woman because I see it in her fruit…I see her goodness in our children.

Let me now give tribute to the mother of my children. She is the giver of life to my offspring.  She is the nurturer of truth to the future.  She is the defender of virtue and the teacher of honor. She is the vessel of beauty that brightens our home. She is the light of the spirit that leads our family to eternity.

In all my life, I’ve only been ready to fight someone once.  One time in 40 years, I’ve taken my coat off, thrown it on the ground, and prepared to throw a punch.  The occasion…someone offended my wife.  I’ll never forget the change in the man I was facing when he realized that his arrogant position was no longer tenable in my life…something was going to change.  Fortunately, he raised his hands, backed down, and walked away.

Captain Moroni called his people to battle with these words on the Title of Liberty: “In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” (Alma 46:12).

Let no man offend the mother of my children lest he desire to receive my wrath and my fury!

The Importance of a Budget

Few things are more exciting than getting your first job.  There is a feeling of independence, maturity, and responsibility that comes with donning a uniform, clocking in, and serving others.  One of the most exciting parts of getting a job is getting a paycheck! Your own money!  It is easy to spend that paycheck on things that make you happy (this is the voice of experience speaking).  I submit that buying things that make you happy is a legitimate part working; however, with a paycheck comes some obligations. I’d like to share my thoughts on how to best use those precious pay checks.

You must have a budget.  You must write that budget down on a piece of paper (or on a spreadsheet in the computer).  A budget in your head is nothing more than a dream! US News and World Report states 5 reasons you need a budget:

  1. To set and reach financial goals. Once you understand the overall picture of your finances–specifically, identifying how money flows in and out of your life–you can better see how to reach your financial goals.
  2. To spend according to your priorities. If you’re in the dark about how much you spend and where you spend it, changing you habits will be difficult. And even if you’re financially comfortable, a budget can help you identify unnecessary expenditures and deduce ways to redirect funds towards your priorities.
  3. To build wealth. Once you have a clear view of your overall financial picture, you can shift your focus to aggressively eliminating debts and building wealth.
  4. To plan for retirement. Though technically an aspect of building wealth, retirement planning is so vital to your future that it warrants special attention. A recent Harris poll showed that 34 percent of Americans have no retirement savings, and many of those that do have a retirement fund don’t contribute enough.
  5. For peace of mind. If you don’t have a budget, you might not know whether you can afford a new flat-screen TV, a new car, or any other major purchase. In fact, if your finances are one big mystery, your mere desire for an item might alone justify the expense.

US News and World Report

Spend less than you make.  Consumer debt will lead you down a path of bondage.  Remember that “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). You will never become wealthy (or have feel the associated feeling of financial peace) if you spend more than you make.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 7.04.44 AM
screenshot captured from www.moolanomy.com

Pay an honest tithing.  “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, 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” (Malichi 3:10).  Tithing is a temporal commandment with temporal and spiritual blessings.

quote-bednar-nauvoo-temple-1173257-mobile.jpg

What is an honest tithe?  It is 10% of your interest and increase.

Elder John A. Widtsoe explained: “Tithing means one-tenth. Those who give less do not really pay tithing; they are lesser contributors to the Latter-day cause of the Lord. Tithing means one-tenth of a person’s income, interest, or increase. The merchant should pay tithing upon the net income of his business, the farmer upon the net income of his farming operations; the wage earner or salaried man upon the wage or salary earned by him. Out of the remaining nine-tenths he pays his current expenses…etc. To deduct living costs…and similar expenses from the income and pay tithing upon the remainder does not conform to the Lord’s commandment. Under such a system most people would show nothing on which to pay tithing. There is really no place for quibbling on this point. Tithing should be given upon the basis of our full earned income. If the nature of a business requires special interpretation, the tithe payer should consult the father of his ward, the bishop.” (emphasis addedEvidences and Reconciliations,2:86, quoted in D&C Student Manual)

Save for a rainy day. You should save at least 10% of your paycheck for a rainy day. When you are younger and have less financial obligations, you could easily double that savings to 20%. Many financial experts agree that a wise steward will have 3 months of income saved for a rainy day.

Prepare for future obligations. There are some things you know that you will want to do with your life: college, mission, car, trips, etc.  If you save for these events, then you’ll be able to accomplish them without acquiring debt. Again, I lean on the magic number of 10% for this area of the budget.

Have fun (and be responsible).  You worked hard for your money…now enjoy it! Buy a book, see a movie, go on a date.  Do something that makes you happy.  Money won’t buy happiness, but it doesn’t hurt to have some lying around.


One of the financial experts I respect is Dave Ramsey.  Here is a graphic from his website regarding a good budget breakdown:

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 6.50.31 AM.png
screenshot captured from www.daveramsey.com

Notice the column for charity comes first (that is tithing).  Second is savings (always pay yourself before you pay “the man.” Next is housing at 25%, then utilities, transportation, and medical. At the end of the month, you’ll still be left with 33% of your budget.


Resources