Friday, September 19, 2008

Harvest Moon

Just in case you ever wondered what a harvest moon is - there's your answer (the full moon nearest the time of the autumnal equinox). Now, you may wonder, "How did Rodger know that?" Aside from the fact that I'm "the smartest dad in the world," this is a small story of the true value of sport.

Developing team building characteristics, learning to work hard, taking personal and group responsibility, experiencing the exhilaration of being your best, overcoming fear, growing incrementally stronger (I could go on) have always been the upside of being involved in sport. I've been a fan - but no longer count myself as such (with the possible exception of BYU football). By accident I discovered another advantage of sport.

Tuesday night I had to cut some pictures I had printed. The paper cutter was downstairs. I rarely watch TV anymore but figured since I was in the room there may as well be some background noise, and it turned out to be baseball. Baseball is not a fast game. It has long, actionless intervals during which announcers need to fill dead air. On this particular night, the moon began to rise over some stadium (I believe Pittsburgh) and one of the announcers began to explain why the moon appeared so large and what a harvest moon is. That motivated me to get up, grab my camera, go outside and take the above picture. Suppose it's no wonder why sport is such an American staple.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Mower and Straight Lines- A Parable

There was a middle-aged man mowing his lawn on his riding mower. It was late in the season. There hadn't been much rain. It was late in the day. The sun was low in the sky casting long, sometimes confusing (though beautiful) shadows. Although the lawn was generally not long, the few spots that were made it look scruffy, so it needed a trim. It was even a bit dry and brown in some spots but would definitely look better mowed.

As the man mowed he noticed how hard it was to see where he should go. The reason it was hard to know where to go next was because it was hard to see where he had been. Since most of the grass was not long there was no clear path created by mowing it.

The man thought if he slowed down and mowed more carefully he could do a good job and not miss any spots. This worked for a while but the man became concerned how much time it would take to mow since he had so many other things that needed attending in his life. He wished for a way he could go faster and still be sure not to miss any spots.

Then he turned a corner and the sun shone just right on his path, not for a long time but long enough to realize that the path he had cut before had been a straight line and if he just went straight, no matter what happened to the light, he would mow exactly where he should. This was a great insight and he was happy and confident - for a moment.

Then in front of him loomed the darkness of the shadow cast by the huge Copper Elm. The man could not see anything under the tree. It was impossible to see the right path. He began to fear. Immediately the man thought of straight lines - if he could just keep his line straight in the darkness, when he emerged in the light he would still be on the right path. He began to feel confident again and looked up. It was then he saw the light beyond the shadow and the straight line of the path leading from the shadow into the light. In his mind he could connect the lines on each side of the shadow, because they were straight, and drive through the darkness without fear, knowing he would be on the right path when he got back in the light. And that's just what happened.

When he was done he thought of the importance of making straight paths. He'd never much thought that knowing where he had been could help him know where to go next, on the lawn, or in life, but now he knew the straighter the path he forged the easier and better it would make life in the future. He thought about how sometimes he had to walk into the darkness, with faith, knowing the light would reappear and how sometimes he had feared. Now he knew that if he were walking straight paths, there would be no fear in the dark because he could stay on the right path until the light reappeared. He thought how this applied particularly to him, in his middle-age, a little late in life just as it had been late in the season for the grass. While a lot of new grass was not growing, it still needed to be tended to and the very fact that it wasn't growing so fast made it actually more difficult to see the path, but that life's pace could be kept brisk if he were walking in straight lines. He thought, as he was drifting off to sleep, how nice it would be if the grass just never needed to be mowed, then he wouldn't need to worry about paths at all, but figured as he drifted off to sleep, that won't happen because there definitely won't be any astroturf or turf of any sort in heaven. He was content.

Musings on Macro-relevancy and Paying Attention

One of the issues associated with being released from a calling is"relevancy." Having been released as bishop two years ago there's a nagging and continuing question of whether I'm contributing. Of course any feelings of irrelevance are relative, not objective, since the experience of being a bishop will never disappear (and doesn't seem to even fade that much). With me, the feelings are not exactly new. I still remember talking about doing "big" things around Papa Bob, wondering, for example, how fixing people's windshields was making much of a contribution to the world (why couldn't I have become a doctor instead of a businessman), and he would consistently ask, "Are you doing your hometeaching?" And, it really does come down to that. God's world is a world of individuals. HE would never hesitate to leave the flock and go find the one, so the whole feeling of "macro relevancy" is flawed in the first place. For example, I'm so impressed with Byron Shaffer, the bishop who preceded me. He finds people to visit and just does it, no assignment, usually no stewardship, just out loving people one at a time, and that's enough, for him and them. Still, it doesn't make relevancy go away for me, flawed or not. (Another of my many life problems, making irrelevance seem relevant.) Anyway, since being released Jeanne and I have tried to keep doing worthwhile things - we still provide our basement for seminary every morning and I make it a point to take the students to school. And that brings me to "life lesson" of the day.

Several days ago, backing out of the garage with a car full of seminary students on the way to school, Ian Raleigh, who was sitting in the front passenger seat commented as we exited the garage, "Wow, that was close." He was referencing the distance between the sideview mirrors and the wall of the garage door opening.

There is generally about two inches on each side if you are well centered, but I tend to come as close as possible to the drivers side, knowing that if it's inside two inches all will be well on the passenger side.

"I've got it mastered," was my response, immediately picturing the scratches on each of the sideview mirrors from coming too close, "as long as I pay attention," came the addition. The words seemed profound as soon as they came out. Does that ever happen to you? You say some seemingly innocuous thing only to have your own words strike you like a hammer?

Ian and I spoke all the way to school on the gospel lessons associated with backing the Honda Pilot out of the garage. We decided no matter how good you got at keeping some commandment, you still have to pay attention. No matter how secure you feel in your understanding of the Gospel, you still have to do the "pay attention" things, like read the scriptures and pray and go to church, etc. And, we decided that sometimes you SCRATCH the mirrors, it just happens, even when you are seemingly paying attention, and at times like that you realize there will be a little pain associated with getting them fixed (money for paint jobs, repentance for sins) because no scratched mirrors can get into heaven. They can be made perfect though, whether at the body shop or through Christ's atonement.

Hope that helps somebody out there, it's helping me right now. Thanks Ian. Thanks God.