Sunday, July 15, 2018

Something against fruit

This hilarious thing happened while I was in Atlanta. My colleagues and I took an Uber to the Ebenezer church and fell into conversation with the driver. Rather, my good friend Jim fell into conversation while I sat in the back, looking at the city.

I forget now how it happened, but they started talking about the local hookah scene, and how there was a shop that had let you smoke fruit. Jim - ever eager to toy with any idea, serious or fanciful - expressed enthusiasm to go there. It would be a cultural exchange for the faculty! Now, at our weekly meetings, I am generally his devoted sidekick, playing along with any scheme, but this one was not for me. I teased, "Jim, what are you getting me into now?"

After we arrived and I got out of the car, the driver said to Jim, "Your friend really has something against fruit!"

Jim and I doubled over laughing later as he told me. The thought that someone assumed it was the fruit and not the hookah smoking was so bizarre!

Jim explained to him that, no, his friend was a Mormon and they don't smoke or drink alcohol. The driver asked him what a Mormon is. Jim told him the proper name of the church, and it didn't ring any bells. Here was a fellow who had never even heard of us! Boy, I wish Jim had called me over then so I could chat with him! Jim laughed at my enthusiasm, suggesting I could have told him to keep the meter running while we drove around the town and teach him a discussion or two. That ... wasn't a bad idea!

Instead, Jim had given him a very brief introduction - having spent a fair amount of time with missionaries, other latter-day saints, and me, he has a decent knowledge base - and invited him to find out more at Not bad.

(Jim and I were playing prior to a forum/debate one day. Here's a video of how we thought about greeting our class on the first day in this one lecture hall.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Some Very Important People - ages 4-9

We just (JUST) got back from our whirlwind, 5000 mile drive to visit family in Colorado, Utah, Washington, and California. Here are a few people we love more dearly than ever. More posts and pictures will be coming up this weekend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Things My Kids Say - birthday time

JT: Dad, I hope you don't get as tall as the fan. You know why? I don't want the fan to chop your head open.
[as had happened to two Mylar birthday balloons in two days]


We had some girls over to celebrate Princess' birthday. Wanting the girls to have some them-time, I told JT we had super-secret party business to attend to (totally true). We ran over to the dollar store, where he had this little monologue:

"Dad, you know why I wish I was a girl? Then I could wear these!"

and he pulled out the most basic pair of black reading glasses - the very caricature of gender-neutral glasses. The store clerk rofled and told me it was best thing that had happened all day.


Daddy: Princess, I have an instruction for you. Your cousin and both brothers have had to go to the hospital this year. I want you to not need to go to the hospital this year. Okay?

She: Don't worry, Daddy. I would never jump off a cliff without a parachute. ... I wouldn't even jump off a cliff! ... Unless it was for sports. I don't even like sports! ... Really. I don't like sports.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Appreciating the Parables in Primary

When the Church asked us to have two adults in every primary classroom, that meant I'm joining my wife for sunbeams (3-4 year olds) every week until someone manages to scrounge up a second teacher. Today Joy asked me to prepare to share our Lord's parable of the prodigal son. The lesson was about recognizing our God-given emotions and so I had a set of pictures with a happy, sad, angry, or scared face to work with.

It was a new and very deeply moving experience for me. Not only retelling, but walking the kids through the emotions of the people - how sad the father was that his younger son had left, wondering if he would ever see him again, the joy of the return; the youth's fear as he wondered where his next meal would come from and his sorrow for the hurt he had caused himself, his father, and possibly others, his shame at who he had become; his brother's jealousy and anger. I was telling the story to them fresh and new - as far as they were concerned hearing it for the first time because even though I know JT has heard it multiple times before, long-term memory is not a 4 year old's forte.

It was powerful. I wept. Twice, just a little. I know those people our Savior described. I've seen those families or been those characters. I've tasted just a little tiny piece of their pain and rejoiced with them too.

How unmatched and glorious are these vignettes He has given us! And how glad I was to be in primary today!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A day with Martin (MLK)

Altanta's airport and zoo welcome you
For the second time some of my work in faculty development was featured at the Teaching Professor Conference, this year in Atlanta. I went up with three coauthors - some great people - and we happened to arrive a day early. So we spent Friday before the conference (June 1) started touring Martin Luther King Jr's old neighborhood. Given that the Civil Rights movement was not a prominent part of my early education, this was a very informative tour for me. I was glad I was with a couple people who were much more knowledgeable than I about the stories and history.

He was born on the same street where his church was, where he, his brother, his father, and his grandfather preached. The old Ebeneezer church is still standing, but they have built a new church and community center where worship services are held today so that people can tour Ebeneezer.

Monday, June 18, 2018

My daughter, the porg

Image result for porg star wars

Porg: the other, other white meat

Image result for porg star wars posterAs part of our Father's Day tradition (three years and counting!) Joy got me a Star Wars movie - the Last Jedi. The kids eagerly snatched it from my hands to study the front cover picture. John-Thomas spied with his eagle eye something ... CUTE! I showed them a couple clips of the porgs, most importantly of Chewie not eating one.

So now my two youngest are baby porgs. Every day they enjoy being "baby X..." - Baby kittens, baby mice, baby hamsters, baby crocodiles, baby horseys ... and now they are baby porgs.

So my little girl is curled up in a ball on the giant, pink, plush beanbag chair. "This is my egg. Baby porg hatched from this egg."

I informed her that porgs are most likely mammals, and therefore were born from their mommies' tummies, not in an egg.

She adroitly responded, "Daddy, sometimes the things in Star Wars aren't real life."

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fun things we did in May - bouncing, horsey riding, and murder

Beginning of May was a Tarleton party with this bouncy-house game I hadn't seen before. Four contestants are bungee-tethered to the outside. They run the center pit, pull out a little ball, and put it in the bags on their side to score a point. Whoever has the most wins.

The fun of course is watching your kids springing backwards as the tether yanks them around.

Then we had dinner with some friends of ours and the kids got to play with chickens and baby kittens and ride a horse.

... which apparently you can do with two broken arms

To celebrate our 13th anniversary, Joy and I went to a dinner theater, Mein Shaft. It's a comedy murder mystery performed in between and among the tables.

While we ate, the stars wandered around talking to some of the tables. Our favorite moment was when the Scotsman, played that night by Stephen Eyre, was chatting with us in character about how they don't let him join the celebrations anymore. I responded in one of my weirder moods, "Not since the incident with the goat, anyway."

Then during the play, we could tell he ad-libbed a few lines about how "A hundred noble Highland laddies lost their lives, and all fer a goat!" Our table erupted in laughter, to the confusion of the rest of the house (and probably the cast). He explained to everyone "it was an inside joke," and off they went for the rest of the play.

Joy particularly enjoyed his cheer. Several of the characters encouraged some audience participation, and he encouraged everyone to shout "Freedom!" with our fists in the air anytime he called out, "Will ye fight!?" Joy gave the most enthusiastic shouts of freedom, sometimes even without a cue! When he swore he would kill the card shark (who was standing immediately behind my wife), Joy cried out for freedom! Married 13 years, and I had no idea she was so bloodthirsty! He handed her his sword so she could do the deed, but she politely declined the privilege. That's the moment I most wanted on video.

Sadly we did not guess the murderer. They have four different endings (one for each of the suspects). A very fun evening. 

Glad to be a Dad

Disproportionate Value

I read a post this week about what a special moment it is when a speaker, teacher, or other performer focuses their attention on just one person in the audience:
The guy he called on stage experienced a moment of transformation and profound personal development and courage. And the benefit wasn’t just for him. Everyone in the audience shared in that moment and shared in his victory. There’s no way we could all have gotten up to that podium in the time available, but somehow, by just touching one person, the speaker touched all of us. ... Whether or not we are the ones being called on stage, we share in the same transformative moment when a speaker or performer chooses to bring disproportionate value to just one of us.
I thought of that idea in gospel terms. The prophets and apostles are some of those whom God calls on stage before all of us. They receive particular and especial tutelage and training, "disproportionate value" - in part because of their preparation and work before, but also because of what God then wants them to do for us.

Image result for god speaks to mosesGod spoke to Moses in the burning bush before he had done much of significance. He called Samuel as a boy. Samson and Gideon, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Peter and Paul, Joseph of Egypt and Joseph Smith and many others have been called up onstage to experience moments of "transformation and profound personal development." In many of these cases, God called them very much just out of the audience - He knew who they could become, but they were called well before they had done anything that would mark them out as special before that moment. I think particularly of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon, who saw first the finger and then spirit body of Jesus Christ before He came to earth, "and all this, that this man might know that He was God" (Ether 3:18). I thrill to reread these accounts of regular people, with whom "God spoke face to face as one speaketh unto his friend" (Exo 33:11).
Image result for brother of jared

Because God gives them this extra training, they in turn bring a great deal of value to others. Everyone in the audience shares in that moment, and somehow, by just touching one person, God touches all of us. The children of Israel may not have been ready for the promised land or to enter into God's presence the way Moses was, but all the people were blessed because God reached down and touched him. Seeing that God speaks to people of different nations, including Deborah and Samuel the Lamanite and Gerrit W. Gong, helps people of diverse backgrounds see that "all are alike unto God" (2nd Nephi 26:33) and He "is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).

Image result for jesus calls fishermenBecause of seeing His interactions with a few, we can have hope and faith in His dealings with us that are less public and less visible. We trust that we too can receive revelation for our lives and callings, even in our weakness. While there is a temptation to say, "Yes, but that Stephen the martyr, and I'm just Steve" we remember that each of these people were called up onstage not because of anything they had previously done. Moses was an outcast shepherd and Peter a fisherman. There is no limit to what God can do through and make of a pliable and humble heart.
Image result for joseph first vision

One of my favorite teachings of Joseph Smith is this: "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34]" (emphasis added).

What blessing and privilege, hope and faith, are ours because of the disproportionate value God bestows on a few publicly!