Living simply, living now

In regards to the concept in this post how by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.  I offer the following practical encouragement.

As a parent, consistently fulfilling the simple “can you play with me”, “can you read to me”, or “can you lay by me”, means more to that child, builds more love, as well as closer and more lasting relations, than any grand plan you’re likely to set in motion.

In business, consistently and successfully tackling the opportunities at your doorstep will generate more revenue, build more good will, and give you more traction than all of the big ideas that never come to fruition.

As a boss, the maximizing the little chances you have to build up an employee, encourage a peer, empower a worker, recognize effort, provide context, and share your vision, will do more to build morale and boost productivity, than nearly anything else you could have planned to do.

As an employee, consistently taking all of the little opportunities in front of you to go the extra mile, to take just a little more responsibility, to share the recognition, to add one more layer of refinement to whatever your doing, will do more to move you forward in your career and build fulfillment than most anything else you can do.

As a child of God, the little opportunities right in front of you to choose the right, to lift your standards just a little, to say no when you should say no, or say yes when you should say yes, to repent, to be just a little more humble, a little more compassionate, a little more understanding, and a little more proactive, will give you more spiritual elevation than you can imagine.

As a spouse, it’s consistently taking the immediate opportunites to say “I love you”, or tell them how nice they look, or recognize their efforts and achievements, to validate their concerns, to just be quiet and really listen, to communicate, to go on a date, and to be with them that will bring you the most enriching, fulfilling, and wholesome relationships.

In whatever you do, live in the present, and the future will shape itself.

Rusty

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Small and simple things

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Mother Teresa, a truly inspiring woman who dedicated over 45 years of her life to ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while proselytizing Christianity, once offered the following words of wisdom:

“In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.”

How very often we tend to look for the “grand plan”, the big things we can do to make a big difference, all while the small opportunities that are ever-present ever pass us by.  We look beyond the mark.

But big plans seldom work out, and big ideas seldom take off, whereas the little things, the more achievable things, the more straightforward things, the more immediate things, those things that are right in front of us, are those things that really matter and really move us forward.

It’s great to dream, it’s better to do.

After all, it’s usually the cumulative effect of so many little things, done persistently, and done well, that creates greatness.

“By small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.”  (Alma 37:6)

In our lives, whether in business or as parents, as we pay closer attention to making the most of the little opportunities that lie right in front of us, we will move naturally towards the dreams that matter most.

Rusty

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Thanksgiving… Giving thanks… what are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite seasons.  I prefer to think of it as a season anyway, and not just a holiday.  A holiday is just that, a day.  It comes and goes.  But thanksgiving (like Christmas and Easter) I prefer to make a month-long event, if not longer.

It’s a reminder that I have much to be thankful for.

So, I’d like to dedicate this month to several posts about gratitude.  What is it?  Why is it important?  What role does it play in my eternal progression?  And most importantly, an open and public expression of those things for which I am most grateful.

I’ll let this post serve as a sort of “summary” where I’ll post links to all subsequent posts.  But I’d also like to find out what YOU’RE grateful for.

Please, try for a moment and reflect upon your life, and let us know what you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving season.

Rusty

 

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Family Night Suggestion – Appreciating our uniqueness

This past Monday, the pointer on our family night spinner rested on me for this week’s lesson.  We were having some neighborhood friends over, and I felt inspired to teach a lesson based on one of my favorite blog posts (“It is what you make of it“).

I think the lesson was received well (it’s tailored for little kids), and wanted to share it with you, in case you find yourself needing a quick lesson sometime.

First, after our (rather rambunctious) song and prayer, I asked if anybody knew how snow is created?  Fortunately for me, nobody did, and they were all interested (it had recently snowed).

I animatedly explained how moisture in the sky builds up in the clouds, around little dust particles, and this moisture continues to accumulate (gesturing now with my hands) until suddenly the droplet gets heavy enough that it falls “aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh….kerrrsplat!” to the earth.

But, if conditions are just right, and its cold enough, that little water droplet freezes instantly, and as it does, it flattens and “crystallizes”.  These flat crystals then float gently down to the earth as snowflakes.

I tried to illustrate and describe just how miniscule one of these snowflakes are, and then asked them to try and visualize how many snowflakes it would take to cover the whole table.  And then how many to cover the whole yard, then the whole city, etc.  Then how many it would take to blanket that same area in 3-4 inches.  By now, they’re getting a sense of scope, appreciating for the first time just how many snowflakes there must be.

Then I make the point “Did you know, that out of all those gazillion snowflakes, no two snowflakes are the same?”  Every snowflake is entirely different, unique from one another in very special ways.

Then, I changed the subject entirely (keeping children on their toes is crucial to a well-orchestrated family night, LOL).

At this point, I took out our rather gargantuan box of jumbled legos.  These are legos from numerous long-gone lego sets.  I had everybody gather around the table, and then I scooped out a handful of random legos, and dumped them in a small pile in front of each person (adults included!).

“Okay”, I instructed, “Now what you have to do, is build something out of your legos”.  I explained that they must use every single lego (no lego left unused).  They could build anything they want, but every lego had to be used.

At this point, they all set to work, everybody absorbed in their own little unique challenges due to the mixed variety of legos they’d received.  As I had hoped, at least one of my kids got to a tough point in their building, and asked me for help.  I’d then say (for emphasis) in an over-loud voice “I’m so glad you asked me for help, I’d love to help you”.  (I’ll come back to this later).

After everyone had finished, we took turns showing off our creation, and for each person who successfully used all their legos, I gave them a treat.

After putting the legos up on a shelf for display, I then got to the meat of the lesson…

“How many of you ended up having lego parts that you just didn’t like?”  A bunch of raised hands.  “I know exactly what you mean.  Didn’t you find that there were some legos parts you’d been given that you just wanted to stash away, to hide, so that you didn’t have to use them?  I mean, think of how easy it would have been if you could have given away those unwanted parts, or even better, traded them in for parts you wanted even more!

“But, in the end, when you look at that shelf full of lego structures, isn’t it those specific parts that make each structure so unique?  So curious, so entertaining?

“Our lives are just like those lego structures.  Each of us are children of our Heavenly Father, and just like the snowflakes we talked about earlier, he has made each of us to be totally different, completely unique.  In doing so, we were each given our own bag of ‘parts’.

“These are the parts with which we must build our lives.  Sometimes we find we have parts that we just don’t want.  Parts that we’d rather hide, or even better exchange!  But these are the parts that Heavenly Father has given us, and he has done so because he loves us, and he understands exactly who we are, and what kinds of challenges can make us stronger.

“The ‘problem parts’ that we have help keep us humble.  The help us focus and pay attention on our lives.  And what’s more, they encourage us to turn to Him for help.  Just like Lacey got to a point where she didn’t know what to do, and asked me for help, and as a loving father, I was anxious to do so.”

I then shared my testimony to them, as I do to you, that we are indeed children of our Father in Heaven, that he indeed loves us, and that all the parts he has given us, both the wanted and the not-so-wanted, are ours, and were given to us for a wise purpose in Him.  We should accept and embrace those parts, work to build our lives to be strong, beautiful, and unique, and help others recognize the value of their less-wanted parts.  As we do this, we will find our relationship with our Father growing stronger, as we turn to Him for help, we will find that our lives don’t appear less-desirable, but rather MORE-desirable, and the time will come when he will embrace us for the lives we’ve built out of the parts we’ve been given, and then we too, shall earn a great reward.

I hope you can find value in this lesson, whether you share it with your family or not, for I firmly believe it is true.

Rusty

Putting the Lord first

There are these three churches that I drive by every day on the way to the gym that are of various Christian denominations (not LDS).  In front of each are those billboard signs, you know, with the name of the church at the top, and then changeable messages on the bottom.

I always enjoy reading what they have to say, and while sometimes they’re just plain corny, there are other times, like today, when they really hit home.

Today, one sign read:

“Give unto God what is right, not what is left.”

Every day we’re bombarded with so many demands, so many expectations, so many projects, so many desires.  It’s a non-stop stream of “things to do”, each demanding a portion of our day.  The natural result?  At the end of the day, we’ve only given back to the Lord what was left of our time, if any.

But this message encourages us place the Lord first, to prioritize into our lives those things that matter most, including those spiritual refueling elements like scripture study, private prayer, family prayer, and more overt acts, like service, missionary work, fulfilling our callings, etc.

I firmly believe that as we prioritize those things in our lives, all of the other things, become that much easier.  It feels less and less like a scramble, and more and more like a flow.  Our prioritization of spiritual things illustrates the magnitude of our faith, and as we show the Lord our commitment, he, in turn, magnifies our efforts across the broad spectrum of our other activities.

Try, for a week, putting those things at the TOP of your list, and see if you can tell a difference.

Rusty

 

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Life’s little pleasures

This morning I was lying in bed, trying to extract from the night every last minute of sleep possible, but I was slowly coming to consciousness as my kids began to wake themselves to go about getting ready for school.

I was pretending they didn’t exist for as long as possible when suddenly I heard the tremendously excited voice of my two year old in his bedroom across the hall.  Whereas generally he’ll lay awake in bed for a little while till I come retrieve him with a bear hug and daddy snuggles, today he burst out of his room shouting “garbage truck”.

Actually, it sounded more like “garage shuck”, but apparently he’d heard the garbage truck laboring up the hill outside, and just couldn’t bear the excitement any longer.

My 9 year old saw his enthusiasm, and brought him outside to witness this marvel of marvels first-hand.

Now, fully conscious, but not ready to give up the bed, I rolled over and tried to get comfortable.  That’s when I found that hidden spot in the bed where the sheets are still cool.  It was then that I realized how grateful I am for life’s little pleasures.

In a life of soaring expectations, overwhelming responsibilities, and profound business, sometimes it’s the simplest of things that bring you the most pleasure, if we will but take notice.

Rusty

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The sleeping sickness, a spiritual plague

Between 1915 and 1926, but especially in 1920, a plague swept the world.  They called it “Encephalitis lethargica”, also called “sleepy sickness” or “sleeping sickness”.

Those who contracted the disease would, among other symptoms, become very lethargic, with a severely delayed physical and mental response.  Many would eventually simply stop responding to stimuli, and would lie there in a coma-like state.

The cause of this disease is still, to this day, unknown.  It disappeared just as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come, although there are random cases that do still occur today.

But today we seem to suffer from a very similar disease, only this one, instead of attacking us physically, is spiritual in nature.  This plague, rather than slowing our corporal responses to physical stimulus, results in a severely delayed spiritual reaction to spiritual stimulus.

Those affected become spiritually lethargic, almost as though their spirit were asleep.  Confronted with even some of the most shocking moral and spiritual pollutants, elicits almost no spiritual or emotional response.  Almost as though they were “past feeling” (Eph 4:19, 1 Nephi 17:45, Moroni 9:20).

Today this plague is sweeping our societies and eroding our spiritual health, resulting in a world-wide increase of sin, corruption, and iniquity.  What’s more, it has become a self-feeding cycle.  Increased exposure to these things has led to an ongoing cycle of ever-increasing tolerance, as we become more and more accustomed to all new levels of spiritual apathy.

Fortunately, and unlike Encephalitis Lethargica, there is a cure for this spiritual plague – the everlasting atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we embrace him fully, accepting him as our savior, and strive with all diligence to be obedient to His commandments, as we make him a permanent part of our consciousness, and give him an immovable place in our lives, we begin to purge ourselves of this spiritual lethargy.  We become more and more tuned to his spirit.  We have more empathy and love for our fellow man.  We become more forgiving, less judgmental, and more Christ like.  We begin to receive his image in our countenance.

What’s more, this self-healing process of individual sanctification through the atonement of Christ is contagious.  For as we become true disciples of Christ, we spend more time endeavoring to do his work, to teach his gospel, to help other people, and to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

My we each make a place for the Lord in our lives, and experience the sanctifying nature of the Atonement for ourselves, that we too may become perfect, whole, and one.

Rusty

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