Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Subsitute Mormon Chaplain

The Substitute Mormon Chaplain provides a look at a man who is low on faith. The book relies on flashbacks to give the reader several inspiring stories that the 'Mormon Chaplain' experienced to have faith in God. The book serves the purpose of inspiring the reader to look back at their own life and analyze the experiences that have contributed to ones own faith. For those who are not familiar with the Mormon faith, many terms in the book will be a little bit confusing and undefined unless you are willing to do a little bit of research. Those with a basic understanding of Mormonism will be pleased and may draw on similar experiences where they could see the hand of God influencing their lives.

Overall, the book is well written and holds the interest of the reader. There are blessings ascribed to those who search to know how to follow God's will and obey commandments that they see as divine. Some will see a luck and chance play into how things are accomplished and others will attribute those things to divine intervention. Whatever the faith of the reader, this book does a great job at promoting obedience and faith building in a religious context.

I received a complimentary copy of (The Substitute Mormon Chaplain) as a member of the

Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit

to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grown Up Christmas List

A few days ago I wrote about a Christmas Mix that has really been meaningful to me during this Christmas season. One of the songs on that cd by Amy Grant is entitled "Grown Up Christmas List". In that song the verse goes like this:

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up christmas list.

I grew up listening to this song and have always liked these lyrics, especially as I become more grown up and form my own grown up Christmas list. Sure, they are a little cheesy, but the inherent message is meaningful to me. The list that Amy gives includes many things that she has no control over and will obviously continue to happen in great abundance. Lives will be torn apart, wars will start and everyone will not always have a friend, but there are 'wishes' that she and you and I can control and bring to pass.

As a young man I looked forward to Christmas so much. I knew that this was my one chance in the year to get new toys, clothes, essentials and no sleep. The no sleep didn't bother me that much considering all of the others bells and whistles (literally) associated with the Christmas season. One thing I could also look forward to was Secret Santa or the 12 days of Christmas. This is something that we would do to a neighbor who we would all decide on and needed some extra Christmas love. Each night for the 12 days preceding Christmas we would leave anonymous gifts on the doorstep, back porch, mailbox, bricks through windows (kidding) or anywhere else around the house that we had decided on. These small gifts all espoused the Christmas spirit. Kris and I would go with my dad, or in later years by ourselves, to deliver these gifts to the chosen neighbor. I always loved doing this and experiencing the joy that came with giving. I'm grateful for my parents who incorporated this tradition into our home.

Now, I don't look so much forward to the gifts or presents. I'm at a point in life where I can purchase any necessity or want whenever I need to. The waiting Christmas morning for gifts doesn't bring the anticipation that it once did, but the spirit of giving has always stayed with me.

Amy's wonderful song offers some things that I believe can be achieved by one's one volition. Some of her grown up Christmas list items are wishes that are on my grown up Christmas list too. As a member of the LDS church, I firmly believe that right will always win in the end. That is a grown up Christmas wish that I have and know will come to fruition. I also know that love will never end. The love that comes through Christ fills and increases as people all around the world try to do the deeds that the Savior did and love their fellow man. Love will never end, but it can end in our hearts if we don't seek to give freely and serve those around us. President Eyring, an LDS apostle recently said, "Threre are gifts to us that we can offer to others for Him. We do that by remembering Him and trying with all our hearts to do what He would do and love as He loves." We can love as we have been loved. The last wish from her song that I hope for is that everyone will have a friend. I can be a friend to all those who need one and seek to help those in need. A lot of these wishes are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you have a Christmas list this year, do your best to fulfill the items on the list and spread the joy of this time of year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Picture Diary of a Christmas Birthday

Aaron Lewis, my sister Rachel's wonderful fiancee had a birthday last weekend and we celebrated Sunday night. I like Aaron for a lot of reasons. 1) He'll be way more successful than me 2) He and I studied similar scholastic subjects and had many of the same professors 3) He makes my sister happy 4) He'll be way more successful than me and 5) He's a pretty good guy. For all of these reasons and more (like that he'll be way more successful than me) I decided to honor him with a caption picture diary of last night's celebration.

I know people have many different preferences, but all Aaron wanted was a small piece of meat for his birthday. I won't tell you how I felt about it (extremely unsettled), but to each their ownHere's Laura (Aaron's sister and my future cousin) sitting in her car while we went to town on all the food Aaron didn't eat (who just eats a single piece of meat on their birthday anyway?) Laura was in this car for 4 hours and 26 minutes (all times approximate)
Ok, here's what Aaron's plate really looked like (kind of). This is actually my sister's plate, but since they are getting married, all things in common right?
After dinner Aaron read us his mission call. This was a little strange because he's already been home for about three years and we all knew that he served in Colorado, but he really wanted to read it to us. Anything for the birthday guy.
4 hours 27 minutes and counting ........

After Aaron read his call, Kris read us a story that he had written about a young boy who met a young girl with beautiful long hair. Everyone thought (incorrectly) that the story was about Aaron and Rachel, but those of us who had eyes to see knew that he had just blatantly stolen the basic premise of Tangled.

Katie was absolutely captivated

Laura finally decided to join us. She had some obvious signs of hypothermia, but quickly regained full mobility. We were all grateful she decided to face the music and begrudgingly wish her brother a happy birthday.
Aaron didn't have a chance of blowing out all the candles, we stacked the deck (and the cupcakes) against him. It was a noble effort and by noble I mean failed. After the candles, Laura put her arm around Aaron. This was a nice sisterly gesture, but we were sure that Rachel did not like it one bit. Laura, Aaron is Rachel's now
Kris was really tired from everything that was going on . I don't blame him. Everyone was really tired of pictures and videos being taken all night (sorry guys), but those scowls all turned into smiles once they heard I was making a picture diary of the night.and here's one of those smiles right now. You're very welcome Rachel for documenting this great night. I hope you enjoyed Aaron's birthday.

Merry Christ(mix)

What makes a great cd mix? Is it the variety of songs? The theme of the cd? How catchy the songs are? How the songs make you feel? None of these, all of these? It is a tough question. I don't really know the answer to what makes a cd mix great or spectacular, but I recently received one of the best mixes I've been exposed to in a while and it has many of the qualities I find pertinent to good mixes:
1) It's Christmas music (I love Christmas music)
2) The music sticks with you (I find myself humming many of the songs when I'm not listening to the cd)
3) The music is very positive and makes me happy
4) I want to do good things (Christmas related) for others when I listen to the songs
5) They are fun to sing along with
6) Some make me laugh because they are cheesy/over the top (thank you Mariah)/strange (Busta Rhymes and Bieber??)/or talk about hippopotamuses (I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, is this a metaphor?)
7) It's Christmas music
8) The Killers are involved
9) The music reminds you of someone or something (the nostalgia factor)
10) It's Christmas music

Here are my short thoughts along with the singer/song of one of the best mixes I've ever had the pleasure of listening to:

1. Oh Santa. Maria Carey-Strong solid opening song from Mariah, catchy, fun, multiple Santa references, everything you want in a Christmas song

2. Mistletoe.Justin Bieber- I love when 5'4 teeny boppers call other people shawty (I know shawty means girl, it's still funny to me). This song does tug at the heart strings though, makes you want to procure some mistletoe immediately and find a special someone

3) Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas.Justin Bieber- More mistletoe references, more heart strings being tugged

4) Fa La La.Justin Bieber-Boyz to Men help out on this track, which is always a plus. Some easy rhymes in this one, holly/jolly, fa/la. Bieber isn't bringing it on this track like his other ones, Boyz to Men represent though

5) All I want is You.Justin Bieber-Christmas love songs can be very sentimental, I feel like Beiber opened up my chest and took these lyrics out of my heart. He has a special gift that Bieber.

6) Home this Christmas.Justin Bieber-Stay out of my heart and mind Bieber!!

7) The Christmas Song.Justin Bieber/Usher-Beautiful duet by these two. When I picture them singing this song to each other it makes it kind of funny. I would have picked a female to sing this song with. Thoughts of Usher and Bieber hanging out on Christmas Eve singing this song to each other is a bit of a stretch, but hey, why not?

8) Little Drummer Boy.Justin Bieber/Busta-YES YES YES. Listened to this song three times in a row. You can hear Busta in the background leading up to his verse making various references to fireplaces and saying 'yeah' a lot. Busta talks about food (no surprise), rapping (less of a surprise), and Christmas (big surprise). Thanks for this great tag team.

9) A Great Big Sled.The Killers-Do I love the Killers? Yes. They make a new Christmas song every year that comes out on Dec. 1 to support the RED campaign to help with the eradication of AIDS. This is my second favorite of their six Christmas songs. It offers nostalgia, catchy tune, Christmas, and it's the Killers. Love it.

10) Happy Birthday Guadalupe. The Killers-Very good Killers song. The first Happy Birthday/Christmas song (they do mention Christmas, decking the halls, wishing upon Christmas trees, and Mexican angels). So good!

11) Merry Christmas Happy Holiday. N Sync-Who would have thought that N Sync stood for In synchronization? Thank you google. (Joke, I actually did already know this). This is a great holiday tune.

12) My Only Wish.Britney Spears-This is one of my favorite songs on the mix. It is so catchy and happy. It reminds of a better Britney, a less tainted Britney. So that helps with the nostalgia factor. This song may have gotten a repeat or two.

13) All I want for Christmas Is you. Mariah Carey-Mairah+Christmas=guaranteed good time. This is also one of my favorite tracks on the mix. Very fun, very upbeat, very Mariah.

14) Last Christmas. Wham-The synthesizer song! That's how I originally referred to it upon first listen. Very 80's ish (probably because it's from the mid-80's) and that explains the synthesizers. I want to slow dance to this song right now.

15) Feliz navidad-Christmas classic, the mix would not be complete without this gem. I do think there are only 3-4 lines in this whole song, but that enables everyone to sing it.

16) Melekalikimaka.Bing Crosby-Many people didn't know Christmas existed in Hawaii before this song, Bing set the record straight back in the 40's. We're grateful to him.

17) Baby it's cold outside-Nice chill song about Christmas, I like it. I hadn't heard it in many years. I don't know how it would be as a karaoke song, but that doesn't really matter. But as you listen, think about doing karaoke with someone on this song. It's A Capella in many parts and would be quite interesting to sing this with someone.

18) Grown Up Christmas List. Amy Grant-My mom had Amy Grant's Christmas cd when I was young and would always listen to it. Very nostalgic for me. I like the message to this song and Amy does a good job. I think of one of my good friends who always tried to be friends to everyone when I listen to this song.

19) The Gift. Collin Raye-I had never heard this song before, but I really really like it. It makes me think of people who have been gifts in my life. There have been many.

20) Oh Holy Night. Mariah Carey-If you aren't looking at who is singing this song when it first comes on, you will think it is a man for approximately the first two seconds of this song. Just wait until the end though, DIVA time!! Awesome.

21) I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. Gayla Peevey-Speechless. I almost skipped this track and it turned out better than I thought. Funny song.

22) Suzy Snowflake-Great ending track to one of the great Christmas mixes. I want to do this for my next karaoke appearance. It will catch people off guard, it is a good song, and there's a great interlude where a dance number can be interjected.

So, there you have it. One of the best Christmas mixes around. These songs have helped me feel the Christmas spirit, experience an appropriate amount of nostalgia, and get my heart strings tugged at way too much. I hope you've enjoyed the track by track break down. Enjoy this Christ(mix) and have a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Companionship Inventory

It took a full three months on my LDS mission to experience my first real companionship inventory. For those of you who are not familiar with this terminology, a companionship inventory occurs when two missionaries discuss the positives, negatives, strengths and weaknesses of how the communication and relationship in the companionship is developing. Previous to this first 'real' inventory I had only asked my companion if he was good, to which he generally replied 'yeah' and we would go on our merry way. Guys are so easy to get along with sometimes. It wasn't until I actually sat down with a companion and hashed out everything going on that I saw the immense value that these discussions can have. Over the rest of the time on the mission I enjoyed these inventories to take stock of what was going on. I did hear some unusual and once or twice petty things that annoyed companions about me, but every time I received this information I was grateful to know so that I could work on it and become better. In the cases that I heard petty things, I would state my case and resolve the issue.

There are a number of reasons why I liked having this inventory once a week.
1) It only was once a week for a few minutes
2) Anything that upset me during the week allowed me to wait until we talked and usually by then it wasn't that big of a deal
3) I learned a lot about how I am perceived
4) I learned a lot about how other people perceived themselves
5) I learned to say encouraging things that I recognized as great qualities in others
6) I learned how to work well with people from other cultures
There are many great things that one can learn from similar experiences. This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some of the great lessons I learned.

I'm mentioning this because my sister Rachel recently told me how she and her fiancee have a relationship inventory on a regular basis. Many good things have come from this because of the regularity and frankness with which they can discuss their concerns. I think this is a wonderful idea. When you can talk openly, espousing the spirit of love with someone who you care about, great things will happen. Most good relationships will need great communication to be successful. This is a necessary skill that will help two people grow closer, get to know each other better, and sort out any misunderstandings. It can be just as hard to be open with someone as it is to hear what someone thinks about you, but it is worth it. A relationship inventory done correctly is a great tool for any two people serious about making a relationship successful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No Love in the Club: Part 2

The drive up to Park City was rather uneventful considering the initial shock of seeing a harlot walk out and enter my friend’s car. We talked a little about ourselves and started joking around more as we got closer to our destination. Fortunately for the scantily clad women with us we found a parking spot right in front of the club. The girls spent another ten minutes or so getting ready and debating over trivial tasks such as bringing in a coat (for the 15 foot walk to the front door), leaving a purse in the car (also, our car was 15 feet from the door), applying chap stick, and applying perfume. The combined time it would have taken a normal person to complete these tasks and make these decisions was 42 seconds give or take, our entourage complicated these simple tasks by deliberating for a full ten minutes of personal agony for me. As we finally approached the front door to the club, greetings were given to the bouncers and we were ushered inside. I was subjected to only a visual frisking at this point and made my way into the club.

As I entered the club bar area my mind reverted to the many episodes of Jersey Shore that I had watched in anticipation of this moment. I expected the following things from my club experience that seemed standard in every Jersey Shore club excursion.

1) At one point there would be multiple women dancing on tables or bars (Coyote Ugly also contributed to this delusion)

2) There would be at least two people beyond any point of coherence due to inebriation that would fall down at some point during the night.

3) Every bouncer that I came into contact with would give me mad props and I’d say something cool to them that they would immediately courtesy laugh at

4) A girl and guy making out with no regard for any other living (or dead) person

5) The wild card was that I would see a guy kissing two girls at the same time

Now these are all things that I legitimately expected to see at some point because of my avid watching of Jersey Shore. None of these is something that I necessarily hoped to see (who I am kidding, I wanted to experience all of these things), but I did fully expect to see something of this sort during the night. I will say now that I did not see any of these things happening during the course of the night and was a little bit upset by my misfortune. However, there were other things that I did see, but first I will go back to our entourage.

As was expected the girls that we arrived with quickly ditched us after we had been there for 15 seconds. They seemed to know everyone and started taking an insane amount of pictures. I fully believe that nearly 50 pictures were taken over the course of the next two hours. To put this in perspective, I recently spent a full 9 days in Europe and managed to take 28 pictures the entire week. This is most likely because it was freezing and I hated taking out my camera, but still 28 pictures in Europe. We were in a dark club with nothing cool to see at all. I couldn’t understand why the girls wanted to take so many pictures of themselves dressed in such revealing outfits. I can understand one or two pictures, but there were enough pictures for multiple albums. It was like they were documenting the fact that they had no self-respect for their future dead beat husbands and families. Congratulations to them.

One of the girls that we came with was expecting a boy that she had a crush on to be at the club that night. However, she often varied from her original desire to see him. Her reasoning went like this

1) hope that he comes

2) hope that he doesn’t come

3) hope that he comes so that she could ignore him

4) hope that another boy she liked would show up so the first boy would be jealous

5) hope that she could go home with the first boy

6) hope that she could go home with the second boy

7) hope that the first boy wouldn't show up

8) hope that she could dance on a table and kiss two guys at once

Ok, I made that last one up. But claiming that this girl was fickle, was a gross understatement. She was almost as bad as Brad on the Bachelor. Every time that Brad goes on a one on one date with a girl, he almost always gives them a rose and says that he is way into them and that he is excited with how things are going. This man can not pull his emotions away from rationale thinking at all. I guess now that I think about it, he is just like every guy, so I suppose that I cannot fault him too much.

About halfway through her deliberations the first boy did show up and proceeded to grab her friend’s butt, hit on various other girls, ignore her, and then eventually talk her into staying the night with him. This last part was especially excruciating. We had planned to leave at 12:00 because of some early morning church obligations for myself. The girls pleaded for 1:00 and my friend and I relented. At 1:00 the girls showed up and said they had to say goodbye to their friends. 1:20 came and one girl came by and said she had to find the other girls (we could clearly see them dancing on stage by the DJ as she claimed she couldn’t find them). At 1:45 we finally corralled them into the car and were about ready to go, but the one who had so many deliberations about the boy said that she had to go back into the club for a second. She didn’t answer our phone calls or come back out for 20 more minutes. This was the point when I started cursing her out to her friend, with my friend more than equaling my creative swears. Finally the girl showed up outside. She came to the car, said she was staying, and walked back inside. I was furious. Her plan had obviously been to stay much later at the club, but she had the gall to drag us along for such a long period of time with no intent of intimating what her true desires were. By the time we got home (a snow storm had just come in and slowed our drive home) it was 3:30 in the morning. Only Pauly D can change my idea of clubs now. I still think he is one of the coolest guys that ever graced the club scene and I pledge to continue my club affiliation vicariously through him.

There were a few things that I did enjoy during the night and here they are in no particular order:

1) A man that looked exactly like Billy Zane and for all I know it was his cousin or maybe even son, spitting image

2) A large woman in a bright red dress that we simply referred to as The Big Red Machine, I was mildly entertained when we talked one of the girls into getting her picture taken with The Big Red Machine

3) Drinking half of a red bull and feeling like my heart was going to explode, I would be an awful drinker

4) A kid getting tackled at my feet by three bouncers and one of them cuffing the kid and another taking a shot to his gut as they dragged him out of the club, no one knew what the kid had done, but it was funny

5) An older gentleman wearing crappy skate shoes from the late nineties and bobbing his head to the beat of the music for most of the night, I’m pretty sure he was so liquored up that he had no idea where he was

6) A cool kid walking by my friend and simply saying, “you’ve got a grabber”, we later learned that this was when a girl leaves and then comes and finds you multiple times throughout the night and often drags you along wherever she goes. Thanks cool kid!

7) An indian kid who looked like a gypsy shaman indian who was actually wearing a headband with a feather and indian looking vest

8) An Asian kid doing a sweet break dance before it was broken up by the bouncers

Let me now explain how this was my personal liberty jail. As Joseph received some of the greatest revelation ever known to man he was in a dark, awful jail with people who hated him. I wasn't in quite such a circumstance, but I did have clear thoughts as I sat in the back of that club. I knew that I was grateful for the knowledge that I had been given of the restored gospel and that I should do nothing that would disqualify from the wonderful blessings of a Christ centered life. I walked out of that place feeling empowered to choose the right and make the most out of my life in whatsoever situation I would find myself. I believe that sometimes the sweetest thoughts can come in places you would never think. This different perspective really helped me to see how great my life is and how great it is to have the gospel in it.