Monday, December 31, 2012

Summaries of Jack Rushton's "Observations"

When I learned on Christmas morning 2012 of the passing of Jack Rushton just before midnight on Christmas Eve, I felt both joy and sorrow- joy for Jack and sorrow for his family. Since Jack’s love, example, and inspirational teachings have repeatedly blessed my life and helped me to become a better person during the decades I have known him, I wondered what I might do to help ease his family’s sorrow and show my love for this great man and his family. Having already read many of his blog postings that have inspired me over the years to strive, with God’s help, to become a better version of myself, I thought that providing a synopsis or summary of each of Jack's blog entries or “observations” might make their valuable content more easily accessible to both family and blog guests alike. This is my belated Christmas gift to Jack Rushton and the Rushton family. I love you, Jack. Thank you for all you have done for me and countless others.

With much love and gratitude,
One of Jack's many friends

Summaries of Jack Rushton’s "observations" on his “IT’S GOOD TO BE ALIVE” blog  
(click on underlined hyperlinks to be taken directly to associated blog entries)


Thursday, March 28, 2002
Do The Best You Can With What You Have
If we measure our success in life by how we compete and compare to others we will be using a false standard.  Only as we maximize that which we have been given, that which is uniquely ours, to the highest degree possible, will we ever know the peace of mind and self-satisfaction that is the essence of true success.


Monday, January 15, 2006
What Lack I Yet?
At the commencement of a new year, Jack ponders the application for himself and the reader of the New Testament account of the rich man who asked the Savior what yet he lacked and the Book of Mormon account of King Lamoni's father being willing to give away all of his sins to know God.Focusing on a single area of improvement can yield better results than a overloading ourselves with attempting to bite off more than we can chew.

Monday, January 23, 2006
In our professions, as students, in our church callings, as parents, and citizens of this great nation we must never be so negligent and sloppy in what we do that we could ever be rightfully sued for malpractice.

Monday, January 30, 2006
Be Not Only Good, But Good For Something
Jack expresses his appreciation and admiration for those who develop talents and skills to create or repair tangible things.

Monday, February 6, 2006
Message to Garcia
"...there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust,
to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing..."

Monday, February 13, 2006
Stephen Hawking
Jack discusses some of the accomplishments that world-renown scientist Stephen Hawking has achieved despite the limitations imposed by Lou Gehrig's Disease. Jack is able to relate to Stephen Hawking's attitude of not dwelling on his few limitations but rather focusing on the many things he is able to do and the many aspects of life he does enjoy. Jack teaches that if our minds are sound and our spirits healthy that even though our bodies may not work as we would like them to, life can still be very good.

Monday, February 27, 2006
A Merry Heart
I have discovered through my life's experience that a "merry heart" is like medicine and that a broken spirit does "dry up the bones". 
If our spirit is broken we must seek with all our hearts the healing power of the Savior which can mend that which is broken like nothing else can.

Monday, March 6, 2006
March Madness
Jack relates some of the symptoms of him having been infected with "March Madness" basketball playoff fever.

Sunday, March 19, 2006
Good Luck? Bad Luck? Who Knows?
At any given moment of our lives it is extremely difficult to accurately judge whether the things that are happening to us are "good luck" or "bad luck".  Usually only the passage of time will reveal how good or how bad some event or nonevent in our lives has actually been. One of the things we need most in life, and often must struggle to obtain, is an eternal vision accompanied by complete trust and faith in the ultimate goodness of God and his love for, and desire to bless each one of us.

Friday, April 7, 2006
"I Had No Idea That Life Was As Short As It Is"
After attending funerals for family friends JoLene Varner and Dave Jones, Jack ponders on the thoughts of sacred and secular authors who caution that none of us knows when our fragile lives may end and we are called upon to account for our use of the time and talents given to us

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Fear vs Faith
Jack shares several examples from the scriptures and his own life where succumbing to fear instead of exercising faith has resulted in regret, sorrow, and forfeited blessings.

Friday, May 5, 2006 Observation
Our Appearance and Homes Should be a Reflection of the Light We Have in our Lives
Cleanliness and orderliness and being in control of one's life are an important part of what life is all about. These things communicate better than words what our true character really is.

Saturday, May 6, 2006
I hate to admit it, but at this time in my life, and in my particular physical condition, eating has become my favorite indoor and outdoor sport.  Not being able to do much of anything else physically, I love to eat!...Jo Anne has helped preserve the quality of my life through her wise choice and amounts of food she allows me to eat.  I consider her my personal fitness trainer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Gloria de Alvarado
Jack tells the story of the conversion of Sister Gloria de Alvarado during his mission to Guatemala and the subsequent life of service by both herself and her posterity.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Joseph William Johnson
Jack relates the story of meeting African pioneer and patriarch Joseph William Johnson

Sunday, June 11, 2006 Observation:
Building Self-esteem and Self-confidence in Youth
Jack praises teachers and those who volunteer to help youth develop self-esteem and self-confidence.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 Observation
Being Content With The Things Which The Lord Has Alloted Unto Us
How fortunate is the man or woman who is content with that which is "allotted" unto them. 
If we truly seek the welfare of Zion, it matters little where we labor or how popular and well-known we may be.

July 5, 2006
Jack emphasizes the importance of parents teaching their children to strive for self sufficiency.

Friday, July 14, 2006 Observation:
Plimsoll Mark
Jack educates the reader about the history of the Plimsoll maximum loading mark on the hulls of ships, as and then points out how this same principle of not running faster than we have strength applies to individuals. He shares the methods employed by various persons, including major league baseball players, general authorities, and even Jack himself, to unstring their bows and relax an appropriate amount after much work.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Jack shares the story about the time his wheelchair ventilator experienced a complete systems failure, resulting in a near death experience while his beloved Dodgers were losing another baseball game.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Small and Simple Things
Jack shares personal experiences to remind of the importance of regularly doing the little things that add up to the sum total experience of our lives.

Friday, August 18, 2006 Observation:
Camp Sheanee
Jack compares and contrasts the experience of pampered children of rich families attending summer day camps designed to entertain them and provide them with one fun activity after another with the real purpose of life being to provide us experiences, which at times are difficult, but never the less ultimately for our good if endured well.

August 30, 2006 Observation
Blackstrap Molasses

Jack discusses the health benefits of blackstrap molasses and how this concentrated, nutricious supplement is similar to the Holy Scriptures, which if feasted upon, will eliminate "mental malnutrition" and "spiritual anemia.

Friday, September 8, 2006
ICU Stay

Jack relates the pros and cons of having been rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening, bleeding ulcer. Life is precious.  Each day is to be savored.  The most common things are really very special. A loving Father showers us with tender mercies.

Thursday, September 21, 2006 Observation:
Cuffed Trachea
Jack draws upon personal experiences to teach the importance of being able to communicate with others and expresses his gratitude that the communication medium of prayer is always available.

Friday, September 29, 2006 Observation:
Jack relates personal stories about the blessing of beautiful sunrises after long, cold nights.
He also shares messages from the scriptures about Christ being the light of the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006 Observation:
Sword of Damocles
Realizing that I am "living on the edge" and under the dangling "Sword of Damocles" helps me to appreciate and value each good day I am given.  It motivates me to make the best of every day of life I am granted.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 Observation:
Jack reminisces about, and expresses gratitude for, his parents (who were married on Halloween) for inspiring him to develop multiple interests during his formative years,
which have been a great blessing in his life, especially after he lost his physical mobility.

Friday, November 10, 2006
The scriptures can renew our spiritual memory by helping us remember the things of greatest importance.

Friday, November 21, 2006
Isn't It Incredible What 26 Little Letters Can Do?
I have been blessed in my lifetime to have been exposed to some of the greatest books ever written which certainly have shaped my thinking and even my behavior I believe.

Monday, December 4, 2006 Observation:
The best is none too good for us.
Jack counsels us to avoid mediocrity and to seek out the best in art, literature, music, movies, and entertainment in keeping with who we are and who we are striving to become like.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Be Still...
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said that the Savior's command to "not let our hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" is probably the most frequently broken commandment the Lord has given to us.

Sunday, December 24, 2006
I bring you good tidings of great joy

Jack reflects on fond memories of past Christmas Eves. He also teaches that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the way to true joy for all those who are willing to exercise faith in him and come unto Him with full purpose of heart.


Sunday, December 16, 2007
Ministering Angels
Present day disciples of Jesus Christ are the earthly angels who should rise to the occasion and minister to the needs of those who are within the circle of our influence.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Happy New Years
A New Year’s Greeting

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Rejoicing In Christ Through Sacred Music and Scriptures
Jack shares the spiritual experience he had while listening to Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song "Because He Lives" performed by Nathan Brown and John Lu while accompanied by Roylee Brown.

Saturday, January 5, 2008
Because He Lives
“Because He Lives” song mentioned in previous post was actually composed by Sally Deford.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
The Blessing of Christmas Letters
Humorous and thoughtful comments regarding Christmas cards and family newsletters. Jack makes particular mention of correspondence from, and the inspiring lives of, his Uncle Clyde Rushton and his Uncle Howard and his wife Renee.

Monday, January 21, 2008
Free Ride
Photograph of Jack and his granddaughter Sabrina enjoying wheelchair ride through nearby park on Thanksgiving Day 2007.

Friday, March 28, 2008
The Law of The Harvest- We Reap What We Sow
Jack comments about college basketball’s “March Madness” tournament, making particular mention of teams from BYU and UCLA. Jack notes that one reason UCLA’s freshman center Kevin Love is so successful is because, even though he is not as athletic as some other players, he has mastered the fundamentals of the game of basketball. Extrapolating on author Matthew Arnold’s "All art earns freedom through discipline" quote, Jack relates how BYU professor Ralph Laycock helped him advance from 23rd chair to 2nd chair in BYU’s symphony band by focusing on the fundamentals of clarinet playing and long hours of practicing perfectly. Jack then relates this formula for success to Christ’s Law of the Harvest.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
March 14, 2008, Observation
Jack compares and contrasts others' impressive attention to “canonized scripture” early in life to his own late discovery of, and love for, the beauty and power of the LDS Standard Works acquired during his mission to Guatemala. Masterfully teaching from the conversion story of the Lamanite king recorded in Mosiah 22, Jack reminds that each of us needs to repent of all our sins and submit our will to God in order to receive eternal life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008
Powdered Milk
Humorous stories of Rushton family frugality including drinking powdered milk, preparing brown bag sack lunches instead of purchasing food from restaurants, decorating their home with used furniture from LDS Institutes of Religion, buying long lasting Sears Tough Skin jeans, and using discount coupons.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
An Ensign to the Nations
Joel H Johnson’s story of the writing of the LDS hymn "HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP" as told by his wife Margaret Threlkeld Johnson to her grandson Bernard A. Johnson.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
"I Wish it Were Yesterday"
Using a line from the movie “Westside Story” and his own paralysis inducing accident, Jack discusses the tendency of the natural man to dwell on wishing that consequences of difficult events in life could be avoided by returning to what we believe to be better days from the past. He relates several scriptural examples of this futile and counterproductive attitude. He concludes by encouraging all to learn from our own and other’s past, but “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ... and endure to the end”.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
May 10, 2008, Observation:
A heart felt tribute to the smart, sensitive, kind, compassionate, and hard-working women in Jack’s life, especially his wife, Jo Anne.

Saturday, June 14, 2008
It was the Best of Times. It was the Worst of Times.
Using the famous “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” opening statement from Charles Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities” novel, Jack teaches how life is often a compound in one, with what we can perceive to be both very good and very bad occurring together. He shares how the loving kindness of special caregivers at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital made his “worst of times” 6-month rehabilitation also a “best of times” with cherished memories of the kind and thoughtful service rendered to him.


Saturday, January 24, 2009
We Should Nourish Our Spirits By Thinking On These Things
Teaching from the scriptures and from personal experience, Jack reminds us that while our physical bodies are a valuable gift from God that we should care for, our most important stewardship is to nourish our spirits with the things of God.

February 2009
Giving Up Something Good For Something Better
Progressing to a higher state of living oft times requires us to sacrifice something good for something better.

Monday, March 30, 2009
Living Our Religion Will Help Us Rise Above Mediocrity And Excel In Our Professions
Referring to quotes from Brigham Young and Brent North, Jack teaches that living gospel principles and striving to be our best will help us rise above mediocrity and excel in our chosen professions.

Friday, November 13, 2009
The Precious Present

Jack reflects on how his circumstances have helped him realize how important it is to enjoy the moment -- "the precious present" -- and to not live so much in the past or in the future. We need to be grateful for the particular season we are experiencing in our lives and not be in such a hurry to just get through it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Blood for an Enemy
Jack shares an email from his son John (a military Emergency Medicine Critical Care Doctor) documenting the great efforts made to save the life of an enemy combatant in Afghanistan. Jack notes that this willingness to treat others better than they would treat us is one of the principles that helps make America a great country. He shares and comments on quotes from former LDS Church President Gordon Hinckley and Winston Churchill about the importance of eschewing pessimism and thinking positively despite the many problems facing us, including being engaged in “a battle to the death with a very evil ideology that would rob us of everything we hold dear”.

Saturday, November 28, 2009
The Great Debaters
Jack reviews and recommends the 2007 movie "The Great Debaters" starring and directed by Denzel Washington. He emphasizes the truthfulness and importance of an often repeated statement from the movie made by Dr. James Farmer Sr. to his son James Farmer, Jr, the head researcher for Wiley college’s debate team: "We have to do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do!"

Friday, December 2, 2009
Wisdom Teeth
Jack’s teaches from his own experience with suffering, from dental ordeals to decades of living as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, that the natural man tends to be totally self-consumed with his own problems and pain. Great writers and the Gospel of Jesus Christ all teach us that we are all interconnected with one another and we should therefore care about and care for each other in spite of our own problems.


Thursday, January 21, 2010
The Importance of Knowing Who We Are
January 19, 2010, Observation:
Scriptural doctrine which teaches and reassures that each individual is a child of God helped Jack endure dehumanizing experiences he suffered with his self-esteem and self worth intact.

Saturday, February 6, 2010
Are You Listening?
Intently listening to another person, especially those who are most near and dear to us, is a vital part of developing and nurturing relationships.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Jack shares the story of British Admiral Lord Nelson inspiring the captains and sailors of Britain’s underdog fleet to each do their duty in order to defeat the superior combined navies of Spain and France at the Battle of Trafalgar that prevented an invasion of England by Napoleon. God also expects each person who has taken upon themselves the name of Christ to do their duty and endure well until the end.

Saturday, March 27, 2010
March Madness
Several LDS Church presidents share Jack’s love of basketball. Jack relates how one year he literally risked his life to watch the annual NCAA basketball tournament.

Monday, April 5, 2010
“In our professions, as students, in our church callings, as spouses and parents, and citizens of this great nation we must never be so negligent and sloppy in what we do that we could ever be rightfully sued for malpractice.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Jack’s life long love of basketball eventually taught him that the discipline, hard work and determination needed to play good defense is equally important as the more recognized and publicly lauded accomplishment of scoring lots of points on offense. The is also true of the critical, but private preparations needed to defend ourselves from the enemy of all righteousness so that we may more ably serve and bless our fellow beings.

Sunday, July 25, 2010
Tender Mercies
Another near death experience generates additional gratitude for miraculous tender mercies when the Lord mercifully intervenes in our lives in answer to prayers. Jack relates yet another story where the tender mercies of the Lord helped them postpone major mechanical problems with their van until they could return home. He bears testimony that “the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen because of their faith to make them mighty even under the power of deliverance.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Jack rejoices in the publishing of his book entitled "It's Good to Be Alive!" that contains a selection of his best observations of the past 8 years.

Sunday, August 8, 2010
A Bad Day
The story of a veterinarian caring for a severely injured dog and Jack’s own experiences with the consequences of his paralyzing accident set the stage for the sharing of former LDS First Presidency member Hugh B. Brown’s talk, “God is the Gardener”.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It is important that we seek to develop well rounded, balanced lives, and to also endeavor as parents to provide our children with every possible opportunity to “increase in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010
Is There Anything Else I Can Do for You Today?
Jack teaches the importance of giving service in the Church and in our families with an attitude of seeking to know “is there anything else I can do for you today?".

Saturday, August 14, 2010
As scientists continue to debate the many ‘how’ questions regarding the creation of our universe and the earth on which we dwell, it is reassuring to know that the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and latter-day revelations contain the answers to the more important questions regarding ‘why’  God, through his Son, created worlds without number.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010
What Will You Take with You?
Jack relates how his experiences have taught him that there is nothing more important than preparing ourselves in mortality for eternity than by filling our minds with the content of the scriptures and also to "to seek learning by study and faith out of the best books."

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Piano Lessons
Jack explains how he learned to play the piano, which ability was a blessing to him throughout his life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Praise -- Potential Poison
In true Jack Rushton humility, he teaches that any praise or notoriety he receives is actually due to his imperfect efforts to point others towards the Light of the World as a beacon for others to follow, even Jesus Christ the Savior of the World.

Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Billy Shaw Incident
“The Savior's message of agreeing with our adversaries quickly and then turning the other cheek is absolutely true but not always easy to do. It takes great self-restraint not to verbally or physically fight with others; of course nothing good ever comes from it. Love and kindness toward other people will usually help us to avoid confrontations and enable us to live in peace and harmony. If all else fails however, go for the nose!”

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
If Its Not One Thing It's Your Mother
“I am convinced that mothers have the greatest influence for good or evil on their children than any other factor in this world. I shudder to think what I might have been like without the teachings and influence of a wonderful mother.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010
A Plumber With Integrity
“The quality of integrity is much more important than great intelligence or other talents or abilities. It will compensate for a multitude of other weaknesses. To just DO IT and to be men and women of our word is to be a blessing not only to ourselves and our families but to all who know us.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Sacrifice of a Hang Glider
Stories of sacrifices by Church members to help raise money for the building of the Irvine Lake Street stake center.

Monday, September 13, 2010
Spiritual Integrity
“Enduring well and trusting in a loving and kind Heavenly Father, will not position us to necessarily receive great worldly wealth, but as we are tried in the refiner's fire we will eventually become what the Lord sent us here to become.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010
Jo Anne
An inspirational tribute to the Elect Lady of Jack’s life, Jo Anne.

Friday, October 15, 2010
What Happened to Your Face? Page
“What I do believe is that after many years of living what we truly are becomes etched on our countenances… I have seen the face of Christ in your faces, in your deeds, and in your exemplary lives."

Thursday, November 4, 2010
“Many of our lives are spent on detours which I believe are orchestrated by a loving and kind Heavenly Father.”

Friday, November 19, 2010
Jack ruminates about the many ways hands have blessed both his life and the lives of others.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
All People Make Me Happy
Jack reviews and recommends the book AMAZING GRACE: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. 

One of the few things we can take with us from mortality into eternity are the cherished relationships we’ve cultivated with others, which is what also makes the temporary separation from departed loved ones so difficult.


Monday, January 31, 2011
Hope – Adrenaline for the Soul
“I believe there are at least two different levels of hope that are operative in our lives. There is the hope that no matter what the problem is that there is a way out and that things can get better. And then there is a higher level of hope which the Scriptures call "A perfect brightness of hope." This perfect brightness of hope is faith and hope in the atonement of Christ and in the great plan of happiness. Fortunate is the man or woman who has both levels of faith/hope alive and well in their lives.”

Friday, February 11, 2011
If We Don't Try We Don't Do
“I believe there are times in all of our lives when we are tempted to give up or give in because things that confront us are just too difficult to deal with. Of course if we quit trying we quit doing and the "why are we here" question becomes very relevant in our lives. On those occasions when I have been tempted to give up and feel that all is lost and quit trying and doing I remember my Grandmother Halley Wilkin Young. Her example gives me courage to keep trying and doing.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Work and the Glory
Even though Jo Anne jokes that she does all the work while Jack gets all the glory, he believes that Jo Anne is both "The Work and the Glory," and "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder!" Jack relates to the Apostle Peter losing focus while walking on the water and then pleading for Christ to save him when he began to sink.

Monday, April 11, 2011
Heap Big Smoke but No Fire
Jack reiterates his appreciation for companies and people who are reliable, both in the present day and as examples from history.

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Putting off the Natural Man
“It will probably take a lifetime and more to completely put off the natural man through the atonement of Christ the Lord and become a saint which can only happen as we continually yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit each day of our lives…. through constant repentance and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost we can ultimately be converted from a natural man to a Christlike state.”

Saturday, May 7, 2011
Broken Bows
“…most problems and challenges we face in life are really only broken bows. Like Nephi, we must not sit and murmur and weep and wring our hands in despair and frustration, but work through our challenges and problems with an attitude of faith and hope, discovering that "the only way out is the way through".

Saturday, July 16, 2011
It's Good to Be Alive Again… And Again
Jack shares yet another near death experience. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of hope, it was the season of despair…". "Be patient in afflictions for thou shalt have many, but endure them, for lo I am with thee even unto the end of thy days."

Monday, August 1, 2011
“The true test of our "loving kindness" as well as our "long suffering," it seems to me, is in the relationships we have with our spouses, children, and those with whom we interact in our own little circle of acquaintances on a day to day basis.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011
"Is It I?"
We should all strive to overcome the tendency of the natural man to blame others in order to avoid responsibility for our mistakes and instead "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" and sincerely seek to understand and resolve our part of a problem.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Even If Paul, Not I (Even If All, Not I)
“Et si omnes ego non”
Using examples from the scriptures and his own life, Jack teaches the importance of remaining true to correct principles even in the face of peer pressure or persecution.

Monday, October 31, 2011
The Defiant Power of the Human Spirit
The willpower of the human spirit to persevere in the face of adversity is aided by acknowledging the truth that "no matter how bad you think your life is, there is always someone who has it worse than you, and because of that, we should count our many blessings and be content with our lot in life, whatever it may be.”

Monday, November 14, 2011
"I Saw That All I Had Made Was Good."
Jack shares his admiration and appreciation for all those who create, maintain, and repair the physical inventions of this world that so bless our lives.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
He Really Likes Me
Jack uses the lyrics to a song from the musical “Man of La Mancha” to express his appreciation for the devotion and unwavering support from Jack’s beloved eternal helpmeet Jo Anne and everyone’s advocate with the Father, our Savior Jesus Christ.


Friday, January 6, 2012
What Lack I yet?
“All of us…are lacking in something which is keeping us from following the Savior with more devotion, putting Him first in our lives, and being his true disciple. Growth will only come to us as we recognize and honestly admit to ourselves, however hard it may be, what we lack and take the steps to overcome and deal with that weakness.”

Friday, January 6, 2012
I May Never Pass This Way Again
Jack reminds us all that, especially at Christmas time, “truly celebrating the birth of Christ and his subsequent mortal mission, it seems to me, can best be done by committing ourselves to follow His example of compassion, love, and desire to bless even "the least of these our brethren" who surround us on every side.”

Friday, January 6, 2012
Grandpa's miracle
Jack shares an essay that his 12 year old granddaughter Annie Rushton wrote describing her grandfather’s miraculous recovery earlier in the year from a hopeless diagnosis of a brain-damaged vegetative state.

Monday, January 23, 2012
Do What You Can with What You Have, Where You Are
Jack again shares his love of the scriptures, of biographies of great Church leaders, as well as inspiring historical figures. “Although my body is mobility impaired, through the magic of reading, my mind knows no limits. Through reading I have become acquainted with some of the greatest people with the best minds that have ever lived, and have vicariously experienced many of the world's most important events in history.”

Monday, February 27, 2012
The Rougher the Course, the Greater the Reward
“Mortality and its many challenges we all have faced, are facing, or will face – it can be a rough course for most of us – is a necessary part of Heavenly Father's customized curriculum for each one of us as a prerequisite to be given the greatest reward possible – the gift of eternal life!”

Monday, March 26, 2012
Don't Blow Your Lead
Just like talented sports teams that blow large scoring leads by becoming complacent about executing the fundamentals of their game, once righteous individual members of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that have been born in the covenant to righteous families can fritter away their blessings by becoming complacent, lazy, soft and cease doing the fundamentals that had brought to them their big lead – getting up early, searching the Scriptures, praying, striving to keep all the Commandments and seeking to serve others.

Thursday, March 29, 2012
How Is Your Vision?
In classic Jack Rushton master educator style, he intertwines his wonderful sense of humor throughout his sharing of his own repeated struggles with deteriorating eyesight (that would qualify as a sore trial for even otherwise healthy individuals) that has given him an increased appreciation for his remaining gift of sight, as well as a desire to continue his efforts to avoid spiritual blindness by seeking to see more clearly with spiritual eyes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
The Passing of a Great Servant of God
Upon learning of the death of his friend, fellow patriarch, and spiritual giant Joseph William "Billy" Johnson from Ghana, West Africa, Jack remembers Brother Johnson's amazing pioneering efforts to plant and harvest gospel seeds among the people of Africa and his visits to the Rushton home.

Friday, May 4, 2012
"Look with Optimism, Work with Faith"
Another classic Jack Rushton motivational speech. Jack talks about his efforts to match pace with his wife Jo Anne’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to look with optimism while working with faith to overcome and endure the many trials and hardships of their lives. Jack shares both personal and historical examples of severe trials faced and overcome through a positive outlook, determination to never quit, and calling upon God for his assistance while doing all in our power to succeed.

Friday, May 25, 2012
"Tell Me Something Good"
Jack reminds all of us, through the sharing of many examples, to exercise our God given gift of agency to recognize  and value the good things in our lives, especially if we are struggling with major challenges in our lives.

Sunday, September 16, 2012
"Dad, the Cookies Didn't Turn Out!"
Jack reminds us that there is great power in words to bless us, to sustain us through trials, and even to change lives. This is especially true of the Word of God found in the scriptures.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
"Here Comes Jack…"”
“It would not be a bad idea on occasion for all of us to, with a sincere heart and real intent, ask Heavenly Father, "What lack I yet?" I am sure the answer will be different for each one of us, and even different at different times in our lives”. “Something I have been trying to overcome for years, and thankfully I am making progress the older I get, is to put people before my personal projects, programs, agenda and timetable.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Way out Is the Way through
“Over the years I have learned that it is much easier to teach great truths and principles than to live them. Most of our students did not internalize the fact that "The way out is the way through." It was hard for me to accept the fact that so few were able to do this. Many years later, because of what happened to me one August day at Laguna Beach, I was given the opportunity to implement this philosophy in my own life. I found that it was easier said than done and caused me to have greater empathy…”. We must accept about our situation what we can never change, and then explore and discover every capacity, ability, and talent we have left, and magnify them to the highest degree possible.

“…all those who would come to truly know God and come to understand that the way out is the way through – through God. To come to know God, to have "the wicked spirit rooted out of our breasts" requires coming face to face with ourselves and being willing to "give away all of our sins of commission and omission" to come to know God. There is no other way. Ultimately the way out of the "natural man" condition we all inherit because of the Fall is "through" Christ and his atonement. As Nephi so beautifully taught, "And now behold my beloved brethren, this is the way and there is none other way nor name whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God…"

Jack completed his mortal probation on Christmas Eve 2012. This humble and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ is finally free to soar outside the confines of his unresponsive mortal body to spend Christmas Day with his beloved Lord and Savior. Jack concluded his mortal probation with flying colors and has left an example and a legacy to lead and inspire his family and generations of descendants, and for them to seek to emulate. Although the family and friends he leaves behind will truly mourn the temporary loss of his presence, most assuredly he has enjoyed a joyful reunion with friends and family who have already preceded him in returning home to that God who gave us all life.

It is most fitting that Jack’s last public blog entry ends with scriptures that testify of Christ and the transforming, sustaining, and saving power of his Atonement that provided both Jack and Jo Anne with the faith, hope, and charity needed for them to endure well Jack’s 24+ years of life as a paralyzed quadriplegic. Even more importantly, it has helped them both become even better disciples of Jesus Christ than they already were before.

It is evident to those who read Jack’s “observations” and blog entries that he primarily intended them for the benefit of his beloved family and posterity, but he was kind enough to also allow non-family members to become grateful recipients of his wisdom and masterful teaching skills. Because of Jack having taken the time and great effort to lovingly and painstakingly document his thoughts, experiences, and how he employed the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to help him through adversity and sore trials that most of us will never fully comprehend, the sphere of his influence will continue to ripple outward from one person to another, from generation to generation, blessing the lives of countless individuals.

Not surprisingly, the last word of Jack’s last blog entry was “God”, to whom he has now returned with the promised greeting of, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matt 25:21

For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. D&C 76:5-6

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Way out Is the Way through

The Way out Is the Way through

In the 60s I was given the opportunity to accept an assignment by the Church Education System to teach seminary full-time at the Utah State Industrial School, in Ogden, Utah. The Utah State Industrial School was in reality a coed prison for disturbed juveniles. At that time in the state of Utah it was the last effort the state would make to help teenagers who had committed serious crimes against society or who were self-destructing through addictive behavior of one kind or another. These young people had been in and out of foster homes, and juvenile detention centers, with the Industrial School being the last step prior to becoming legal adults, at which time far too many of them would suffer violent deaths or end up being incarcerated in the state penitentiary at the Point of the Mountain located between Salt Lake City and Provo.

I had heard from those who had taught at the Industrial School Seminary how challenging it could be. I felt however, I should accept the assignment which I reluctantly did. In retrospect, it was a life altering experience for me. I shudder to think what I would have missed out on had I not had this incredible growth experience as a young teacher.

I was fortunate to be assigned to teach with Charlie Beckert. He was very gifted in working with these disturbed kids and was a valuable mentor in helping me get over the culture shock I experienced as I began my three years teaching seminary in this new environment. Charlie had taught there several years before I arrived, and along with other teachers who had preceded him there, had developed what they called "The Reform School Philosophy." It was a number of precepts or short truthful statements designed to help teachers and students successfully survive this experience. The precept I found most valuable for the students and later in my own life as well, was, "The way out is the way through!"

Most of the students I worked with during my three years at the State Industrial School Seminary were unhappy, depressed, miserable, and very sorry they were in this juvenile prison. They were not sorry for what they had done to get them there, but only sorry that they had been caught. Most would never take ownership for the misery and unhappiness they had brought upon themselves. In their minds, it was always somebody else's fault they had lost their freedom, e.g. parents, teachers, police, judges and etc.. In their defense however, I must admit that almost all of them were the products of very dysfunctional parents and families and were not given a very good head start to a decent life. Given any possible opportunity, they would try to escape from the School. It was quite a secure facility but you could run when the opportunity presented itself if you really wanted to. Each escapee would inevitably be brought back in much worse condition than when they ran, and in most cases would have to begin a new and longer rehabilitation sentence and program. Therefore, we tried to instill in their minds and hearts the truth, "The way out is the way through." The way to freedom was to bite the bullet, and instead of running, accept the fact they had problems, had violated the law, and then work through this challenging time, accepting all the help the State School provided by way of teaching and counseling, so as to once again be "free."

Over the years I have learned that it is much easier to teach great truths and principles than to live them. Most of our students did not internalize the fact that "The way out is the way through." It was hard for me to accept the fact that so few were able to do this. Many years later, because of what happened to me one August day at Laguna Beach, I was given the opportunity to implement this philosophy in my own life. I found that it was easier said than done and caused me to have greater empathy for my juvenile delinquent friends than I had when I was their teacher and counselor.

For the first few years after my accident I tried everything I could do to run from the fact that being a quadriplegic on life support was a permanent condition. The neurosurgeons had told me three days after the accident that I would never get anything back because my spinal cord was not just bruised but was severed – in medical jargon, "a complete injury." I could not admit to myself that I would be in this condition forever. I tried every remedy I could possibly find to cure my paralysis, and of course, none of them worked. I was very discouraged not being able to make any physical progress, and I must admit that my mind and spirit were beginning to become as paralyzed as was my body.

Thankfully, the day finally came that I was able to follow the advice of a good physical therapist friend who told me, "Jack, you must accept about your situation that which you can never change, and then explore and discover every capacity, ability, and talent you have left, and magnify them to the highest degree possible." He was telling me what I had told my juvenile delinquents many years before that the only way out was the way through. The day I was able to admit to myself I would be paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and as long as the Lord permitted me to live, was the day I began to work my way out of depression, despondency, despair, and abject misery.

As I have looked for a manifestation of this principle in the Scriptures I have found it operative in the lives of many down through the ages. Two of the most obvious are Moses and the children of Israel at the Red Sea and Lehi and his family crossing the Arabian Desert and the ocean. In each case their destination was their Promised Land. Neither group could have found their way out of, and through their extremely challenging circumstances, without the "tender mercies" of the Lord and their realizing that the only way out was the way through with HIS HELP.

One manifestation of this principle which is not so dramatic as the two mentioned above, but which I personally can identify with easier, is found in the Book of Mormon. The great Lamanite king, the father of Lamoni, having been taught the gospel by Aaron comes face-to-face with what he must do to have the "wicked spirit" he felt inside him "rooted out of his breast" by coming to know the God of Aaron. At first he is willing to give up all his riches to come to know God, and then his kingdom, but Aaron teaches him that he must do far more than just give up his riches and kingdom – that is not the way out of his sinful state. The king must do much more according to Aaron, who told him "… if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins… [then] shalt thou receive the hope which thou hast desired… the king…did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying…O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day." [Alma 22:16-17] I believe that the experience of the king must ultimately be the experience of all those who would come to truly know God and come to understand that the way out is the way through – through God. To come to know God, to have "the wicked spirit rooted out of our breasts" requires coming face to face with ourselves and being willing to "give away all of our sins of commission and omission" to come to know God. There is no other way.

Ultimately the way out of the "natural man" condition we all inherit because of the Fall is "through" Christ and his atonement. As Nephi so beautifully taught, "And now behold my beloved brethren, this is the way and there is none other way nor name whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God…" [2 Nephi 31:21]


"Here Comes Jack…"

"Here Comes Jack…"
October 2, 2012

Since my accident over 20 years ago now, I seem to dream all through the night. This wasn't the case before my accident. I think it may have to do with the fact that I can't move my body so my mind is often times overly active. One important thing I have learned over the years as I pray before going to sleep is that the Lord will bless me with a deep sleep and beautiful and sweet dreams, and even reveal his will to me for my life if he would desire to do so. Those prayers have been heard and answered more often than I am sure I deserve.

Several nights ago I had a dream I can't get out of my mind. I believe I learned a great lesson from it. In the dream I was walking which isn't always the case with me anymore in my dreams. For years in my dreams I was always walking and doing quite nicely without life support. The past several years however, when I dream I normally am in my wheelchair and on life support. In this dream I was approaching a group of three or four men who were about to get into a car and drive away. One of the men I recognized as a dear friend who I had not seen for many years. I can remember how happy I was to see him once again. I actually began to run toward him to embrace him, and then with a little bit of a scowl on his face he muttered under his breath to the men who were with him, "Here comes Jack Rushton, I hope he doesn't take too much of my time!" His words were like a dagger going into my heart. I was just devastated by what he said. He knew I had heard him and he tried to feebly make excuses for what he had said. However, nothing he could say was able to erase the pain and embarrassment his words had caused. I woke up at that point, grateful it was just a dream, but wondering how it it had ended.

I suppose however, that justice was served in the dream. I do believe something I have been trying to overcome for years, and thankfully I am making progress the older I get, is to put people before my personal projects, programs, agenda and timetable. I hate to admit it, but sometimes when people unexpectedly drop in to visit, I have to make a conscious effort to give them my full attention and not secretly inside wish they would go so I could continue on with my "important" project.

The confrontation Jesus had with the rich young man has always pricked my conscience and caused me to do some serious pondering and questioning about my own life. "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments." [Matthew 19:16-17]. The young man asked, "Which?" Jesus then quoted to him the 10 Commandments. "The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." [Matthew 19:20- 22]

I don't believe the Savior is telling all of us to give away all of our earthly possessions to the poor and then come follow him. I do believe he is telling us, or at least me anyway, to seriously ask myself the same question the rich young man asked Him, "What lack I yet?" As I have asked that question many times during my lifetime I have received a variety of answers, but I must confess that one of the main things I have lacked over the years is an unwillingness to give of my time as freely as I think I should. Giving money has never been a problem with me, I suppose because I never have had a great deal of it. Had I been blessed with the "small fortune" that Tevia sang and prayed for in "Fiddler on the Roof," perhaps I would've been like the rich young man. But my time? That has always been one of my most precious possession, and the most difficult to freely give to others. Thankfully I am making some progress in that area of my life.

Of course, Jesus is our example in every aspect of our lives. As a teacher and as a counselor for many years of my life, I have always been impressed by John's record of Jesus teaching the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well as he and his apostles traveled to Galilee through Samaria. It was late spring or early summer and Jesus and his apostles were undoubtedly very thirsty, tired, and hungry. It was 12 PM, the time of day when the sun would be extremely hot in the Middle East especially at that time of the year. The apostles were sent by the Savior to the nearby village to get something for them to eat. You know the story very well as recorded in John 4:1-26. A single Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water at that time of the day which revealed that she was undoubtedly avoiding the company of the other women in the village who would have come early in the cool of the morning to draw their water. Revealing his prophetic powers to her, he bears witness that he is the Messiah. "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." [John 4:25-26]

The thing that has always impressed me so much in John's account, beyond Jesus' great object lesson and teaching regarding "living water," is that he would take the time to teach with all his heart and passion, this rather sketchy Samaritan woman of apparently little consequence. Whenever I feel I am "too busy" to give my full time and attention and the best I have to the one or two people I may be visiting with, "especially those viewed as of "little consequence" in our society, I think of the Savior and the Samaritan woman at the well, and I am embarrassed and immediately try to repent.

I suppose it would not be a bad idea on occasion for all of us to, with a sincere heart and real intent, ask Heavenly Father, "What lack I yet?" I am sure the answer will be different for each one of us, and even different at different times in our lives. I believe the challenge, at least for me anyway is to really listen and then obey.

Yes, I do believe that justice was served in my dream when my good friend said, "Here comes Jack, I hope he doesn't take too much of my time!" Hopefully I will continue to make progress to overcome this weakness, and in my heart of hearts while visiting with another human being, never have the thought come to me, "I hope…… Doesn't take too much of my precious time!"


Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Dad, the Cookies Didn't Turn Out!"

September 16, 2012
"Dad, the Cookies Didn't Turn Out!"

A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday evening, I was in my bedroom waiting to go down for the night. Jackie poked her head through the doorway, and in a matter of fact tone, said, "Dad, the cookies didn't turn out!" Those words went like a dagger into my heart! Now, I have learned to deal with paralysis and living on life support but to not have Jackie's warm chocolate chip cookies with ice cold milk on a Sunday evening is just almost more than I can endure. I consider it to be true adversity and bordering on "Quad Abuse."

Jackie, our youngest daughter, her husband Nathan Brown, and their two daughters, Halley, and Coralee, have been living with us for several years while Nathan completed his BA degree at Cal State Fullerton which he has now accomplished. I'm afraid they will be moving on soon. We will miss Nathan and Jackie, but we really wish they could leave the two little granddaughters behind. They have sort of woven themselves into our heartstrings.

Beginning as a young girl Jackie began to make great chocolate chip cookies. Her skill has only increased with the passage of time. I don't know a lot about many things but I am a connoisseur of chocolate chip cookies. I know when I am eating a superior cookie and Jackie's are gold-medal good. Maybe you can now better understand the pain I felt that Sunday evening.

As I thought about Jackie's statement about the cookies not turning out, and the way it made me feel, I began to contemplate how powerful words are in evoking an entire spectrum of emotions within us, ranging from unhappiness, frustration, fear, terror, despair, and depression, to joy, peace, hope, faith, and etc. We are all either speaking words or hearing words most of our waking hours. There are a few words I can speak to Jo Anne that I am sure are very frustrating or depressing, like, "It's going into extra innings!" Or, "Can you believe it, it's gone into overtime!" I also get the feeling that I am testing her patience a tad, when I call her for the umpteenth time to come and reboot my computer. Jo Anne is not a great sports fan and after one BYU football game several years ago in which both teams scored over 50 points, she commented, "That's an awfully lot of home runs isn't it?" I agreed with her that it certainly was an awfully lot of home runs.

At times, while shopping with her, endlessly going up and down the aisles, I finally get up enough courage to foolishly ask her if she knows what she is looking for. With a frown on her face which communicates to me what a dumb question I have asked, she says "I'm not sure, but when I see it I will know it." This statement always elicits a feeling of hopelessness in my heart. I guess justice is served however, for my "extra innings," and "overtime" statements.

Jo Anne is one of the most creative speakers of the English language that I know. Sales persons in shoe stores get a glazed look on their faces when she announces, "Show me the least inexpensive shoes you have." At a family gathering, I believe a grandchild made quite a profound statement and Jo Anne said, "I believe that is what we call a "Double Nintendo." Her statement continues to live on in the family memory and was the highlight of the evening.

Recently I was reading an article written by Susan Smiley, PhD, about the power of words. One of her ideas I felt to be so very true. "I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others. I never thought about a word being 'alive' but then I thought of words spoken 3,000 years ago, written down and passed through many generations, and they seem quite alive when read or spoken today, having lived 3,000 years. As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me."

As I read her statement I couldn't help but think of the words of Alma as he left his position as chief judge of the Nephites to go out among his people to hopefully reclaim their souls. "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to clead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God." [Alma 31:5] I thought of how powerful a single word or short sentence of Scripture can be in communicating eternal truths that can create feelings of "awesome wonder," comfort, faith, peace, joy, and even sorrow at times.

For example (and there are literally thousands of course that could be mentioned) what a feeling of gratitude wells up in my heart when I read the brief sentence, "Here am I, send me!" [Abraham 3:27] Never have so few words impacted the lives and destiny of so many. And then I am equally filled with "awesome wonder" and gratitude even while not fully comprehending "… and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." [D&C 19:18-19]

There are many one sentence or one line passages of Scripture that have nourished, sustained, and filled me with a "perfect brightness of hope" over the years. I'm sure this is the case also with many of you. Below are just a few that have been such a blessing in my life. "I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be content." (Philippians 4:11) "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13) "… Without me ye can do nothing." [John 15:5] "… I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…" [2 Timothy 4:7] "… Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ… Feasting upon the words of Christ…" [2 Nephi 31:20] "… thine afflictions and adversity shall be but a small moment… And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…" [D&C 121:7-8] "Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many, but endure them, for lo I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days." [D&C 24:8]

By now I have probably worn you out, but the powerful words I have quoted mean everything to me and have helped sustain me through a difficult journey. There are many others as well that have blessed me, but I have probably worn out my welcome by now. Yes, there is great power in words to bless and to even change lives.

If any of you feel so inclined I would enjoy, and I am sure benefit from, some special one-liner or one sentence statements from the Scriptures that have personally impacted your lives. If you have read this far thank you for your patience, love and support for so many years.


Friday, May 25, 2012

"Tell Me Something Good"

May 25, 2012
"Tell Me Something Good"

One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. His opening lines in "A Tale of Two Cities," I believe, captures the essence of what most people have experienced from the beginning of time. "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the season of hope. It was the season of despair. We had everything before us. We had nothing before us."

Life ebbs and flows for all of us. I think the universal challenge we face is while in the midst of those "worst of times," and our "seasons of despair" we all inevitably experience, is to realize it can also be the "best of times," and the "season of hope." It all depends on how we choose to look at and interpret what is going on in our individual lives.

A number of years ago, Barbara Johnson wrote a beautiful little book entitled "Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional." I believe it was her way of saying what Dickens said in the opening lines of his book. So much depends upon how we choose to look at our life's experiences.

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Larry Barrett, sent me an article written by Michael Jordan Segal. Mike Segal works at a level I Trauma facility trying to encourage the patients who live there, most suffering from serious and life-changing physical, emotional, and mental problems. Mike himself had been shot in the head as a younger man, had been able to recover completely, and has devoted his life since then to lifting and encouraging the patients in the trauma center. Whenever he sees one of the patients, instead of saying hello, or how are you doing, he says "Tell me something good!" One elderly gentleman who was quite far gone looked at Mike when asked that question and in a weak voice said, "Peanut Butter." Mike pushed the gentleman a bit to encourage him to tell him something good about himself. The patient replied, "I want to eat a peanut butter sandwich." He apparently liked peanut butter! Another patient responded to his question by saying, "I woke up."

There is so much wrong with all of us and with the world that I think Mike's question is so very important. I am sure we have all had days when it would take a lot of soul-searching and introspection to come up with an answer to someone who would say to us, "Tell me something good." I was in a rehabilitation hospital a month or so after my accident, flat on my back, and starring up at the acoustical tile on the ceiling and counting the holes. Suddenly my older brother, Darrel, appeared at my bedside and looking down at me said, "Jake, now that you can't do anything, what do you like to do the best?" No, he didn't say, "Tell me something good," but at that time in my recovery the only "something good" I could get out was, "I like to breathe!" My answer was about as profound and insightful as "Peanut Butter," but it was truthful.

The other day I had occasion to be talking to a woman who is having some serious health issues. She is not that old and is really struggling to deal with what is happening to her. During the course of our conversation the thought came to me to try Mike Segal's question on her. I said, "Tell me something good." With a surprised look on her face she thought for just a second and then said, "I can walk." She then began to tell me some other good things about her life. Even if it may have been for just a minute or two I could tell that her telling me something good made her feel good.

I believe a challenge many of us face is to be able to tell ourselves something good about ourselves. Most of us are painfully aware of our weaknesses and most nauseating characteristics, and especially in our individual seasons of despair we need to look for something good.

I believe this is why I love so much being able to give patriarchal blessings. To me, a patriarchal blessing is a gift of love that Heavenly Father desires each of his children to have. In the blessing he reveals to us who we really are and what our infinite potential is as his sons and daughters. I have been privileged to give blessings to nine-year-olds and 89-year-olds and all ages in between over the years. A wonderful thing happens as I give the blessing, in that regardless of their chronological age in mortality, they are seen and blessed in that moment as infinite and eternal sons and daughters of God – they are ageless. The Lord, through patriarchs, truly does "tell us something good."

In our "worst of times," it might be helpful to read our blessings to be reminded of how the Lord sees us. The Scriptures are replete with examples of great men and women, who if asked "tell me something good," in the midst of their difficult and dire circumstances might like Job, whom I have chosen to represent them all, only be able to say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth!" However dark our circumstances may look to us, when asked, "Tell me something good," if it isn't peanut butter, or just waking up, or walking, or breathing, hopefully like Job or Nephi, the "something good" we should always be able to tell is, "Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation." [2 Nephi 4:30]


Friday, May 4, 2012

"Look with Optimism, Work with Faith"

May 4, 2012
"Look with Optimism, Work with Faith"

Over the years I have been blessed by Jo Anne's ability to "look with optimism while working with faith. At times when I may feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and the hurdle before me is simply too high to clear, she seems to always be able to look forward with optimism working hard with unwavering faith to resolve the problem.

I will never forget the night we arrived in Provo for me to speak at Education Week beginning the next day. We had traveled all day from Southern California and it was approaching midnight when we finally pulled into the hotel parking lot. We all were absolutely exhausted from the long trip. We had made arrangements in advance for our medical supply company to deliver a hospital bed to the hotel. The night desk clerk was very sleepy and when we inquired about the bed he had a sickening blank look on his face. He seemed to know nothing about a hospital bed. My heart sank not knowing what we could possibly do without the bed. Jo Anne quickly woke the night clerk up however, I don't think you would want to know how, and he soon found the hospital bed that had been delivered before he came on shift. He got the bed on an elevator and eventually into our room. The bed had some problems – I won't go into detail – but they looked insurmountable to me, and again my heart sank. Within a few moments however, in her nightgown, on hands and knees, with pliers, screwdriver,, and wrenches, she attacked the problem and it was soon resolved. I like to carry that picture of Jo Anne in my mind and in my heart, because to me it captures the essence of her faith, optimism, and practical approach to solving seemingly unsolvable problems. Not only does she look with optimism, she also knows she must WORK with faith.

I am not totally bereft of the qualities of looking with optimism and working with faith, although I don't think I measure up to Jo Anne with regard to those attributes. The Lord has given me many opportunities during my lifetime to exercise my agency to choose to look with optimism and to work with faith when faced with difficulties. I know that all of you have also been given many such opportunities as well. I think it is part of the Lord's tutoring and customized curriculum for each one of us.

A few years ago I developed a bad pressure sore – an infected ulcer – on my bottom. When it was finally discovered, the doctors indicated it would take months for it to heal. The main cure for a pressure sore is not to sit on it which meant I would be in bed, 24/7 for as many months as it would take for the sore to heal. It turned out that it would take almost 8 months for it to properly heal. When I first got the news from the doctors that I would have to stay in bed in order for the pressure sore to heal, I just felt that it was too much. It was hard enough to be paralyzed and not be able to move any part of my body, but now to not even be able to get out of bed was such depressing news I didn't think I could handle it. I was tempted to assume the fetal position, close my eyes, and just lay there in misery with the hopes that soon I could pass on into the Spirit World.  Thankfully, those feelings only lasted a couple of hours.

As I lay there I was reminded of an experience I had on my mission that prepared me, without me realizing it then, to endure and make the most of being paralyzed. After two years in Central America, working most of the time in Guatemala among the Mayan Indians, I became sick with infectious hepatitis. Today I would have been sent home because of the nature of the sickness. I had six months yet to serve, and desperately wanted to complete my mission. My mission president sent me to a private hospital in Guatemala City, the mission had just started to use. Under the expert, loving and competent care of Dr. Herrera I was immediately placed in isolation because I was infectious – no roommate, no TV, just me. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I would be in bed for the next 43 days without my feet ever touching the floor. The doctor lent me a little radio and showed me how to tune in the only classical music station in all of Guatemala I believe. My mission president sent me books to read, including the Scriptures. I prayed, listened to classical music, read constantly, and was blessed with the ability to discipline myself to do so.

The hospital stay was a turning point, not only in my mission but in my life as well. I was blessed to be able to choose to look with optimism and work with faith during those 43 days of total isolation from the world. When I finally left the hospital I had a fire burning within me to teach the gospel. Thankfully, that fire has never been extinguished. The last six months of my mission exceeded anything I could have ever envisioned with regard to teaching opportunities and convert baptisms. Now, many years later as I lay in my hospital bed, paralyzed and unable to move any part of my body, I remembered my Guatemala City hospital experience. I determined that I would make of this experience in bed with an infected pressure sore, a growing and spiritual experience like I was able to do as a young 20-year-old missionary.

My family helped to rig up my laptop computer in such a way that it was positioned above my face so that I could see the monitor, and with my headset and microphone attached to my head, I was able to use my voice recognition software to work on the computer. I would start working about 10 AM every morning and work until around five or 6 PM. I refused to watch TV until after I had completed my work on the computer for the day. It turned out to be one of the most productive times in my life, as a "normal" walking around person, a paralyzed person in a wheelchair, or a paralyzed person in bed. I read the Scriptures, many other good books, researched and wrote numerous observations, and felt very close to the Lord. I learned firsthand once again how important it was for me to exercise my agency to look with optimism and WORK WITH FAITH!

I don't about you, but whenever I happen to watch the news on cable TV or on one of the major networks, this world seems to be so dark, wicked, filled with violence, and desperate people that it can make me depressed. I begin to wonder if there are any good people left, and if there are, where are they, and what are they doing? North Korea and Iran are threatening everybody with the development of nuclear weapons and missiles, terrorists seem to abound, the Middle East is a tinderbox waiting to explode, Afghanistan seems to be going nowhere good, the economy is horrible with unemployment skyrocketing. Will the United and when States suffer more major terrorist attacks? Will these attacks involve us or our loved ones -- and what about the price of gas and the Los Angeles Angels paying Albert Puljos more money than any human being is worth to play the game of baseball, and him, during the first month of the season, not hitting one home run and not hitting the size of his hat! What is this world coming to? Also, in this election year we are being flooded by a tsunami of words from politicians, putting one another down, saying mean-spirited things about one another, and not often in a very civil manner.

In reality though, I suppose our experience today is not much different from the experience of people of almost any age. I suppose the Christians living in Rome during the reign of Nero felt things probably were not so rosy, and then how would it have been to have been a Jew living in Germany or Eastern Europe during World War II? There has always been darkness, wickedness, violence, and perilous times for most people from the beginning of time. Peace and security have been the exception and not the rule.

In my reading of the Scriptures, biographies of great leaders, as well as of history itself, I constantly look for principles of an eternal nature that are common threads woven into the fabric of history and the lives of great men and women. One principle I see in the lives of individuals that I would truly consider to have made a major contribution in building and preserving a free society, where men and women and families are able to worship God according to their desires and beliefs, is that of optimism and WORKING with faith. Throughout history, both scriptural and secular, these character traits have been possessed by great leaders, and been powerful forces in helping them to overcome the pessimism and evil of the world.

I personally believe, for example, Winston Churchill was the savior of the Western world as we know it because of his ability to look with optimism and WORK with faith. The essence of his life I believe can be found in the shortest speech he ever gave. In August of 1941 when things were very dark and there seemed to be little hope of defeating Germany, standing before the student body of the school he attended as a boy he said, "Never, never, never, give up!" Through his indomitable spirit, ability to look with optimism and work with faith in a most desperate time for all of his countrymen, he was able to inspire them with hope and the will to fight on.

I am also very impressed with George Washington. I once read a book about his life which was titled, "George Washington, the Indispensable Man!" As I have studied his life as well as that period of history, he truly was the indispensable man. Without him I doubt this country as we know it would have come into being. Like Winston Churchill, he never gave up in the most adverse circumstances. As badly as things were going for the colonists in 1776, the one constant in all of this adversity was George Washington. He never gave up hope or lost his vision of why they were fighting this war. Through this very difficult time of adversity and affliction however, Washington was learning lessons that coupled with his work ethic and optimism, would ultimately enable him and his citizen Army to prevail over the English. David McCullough, in his final assessment of 1776 and of George Washington, wrote: "Experience had been his great teacher from boyhood and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience... Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up... without Washington's leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed." ("1776", pages 262-263, David McCullough)

Of course, Churchill and Washington's are just the tip of the iceberg of great leaders from the beginning of time who possessed these vital character traits. As you permit your mind to wander through the pages of the Scriptures and history, you will, and of course, have already found great leaders with whom you can identify and desire to emulate. Are our days more difficult than theirs? I believe that regardless of the time in which we happen to occupy our space on this earth that there will always be opposition and hard times which must inevitably be overcome with an attitude of hope, faith, and hard work.

One of the most optimistic people I have observed during my lifetime is the former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley. We would do well to follow his great example of working with faith perseverance and optimism in these troubled times it is our lot to experience. "There never was a greater time in the history of the world to live upon the earth than this. How grateful every one of us ought to feel for being alive in this wonderful time with all the marvelous blessings we have.…" [Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, August 14, 1999] "

I see so many good people everywhere—and there’s so much of good in them. And the world is good. Wonderful things are happening in this world. This is the greatest age in the history of the earth.… We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. … You can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen [Gordon B Hinckley, from Ensign, June 1995, 4]. It's good to be alive!