Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Hallelujah! Well, it finally happened. In 2002 I was lying in bed wondering what I could do in my paralyzed condition to be a more effective husband, father, and grandfather. Suddenly a powerful impression came to me that because of my computer and wonderful voice recognition software could write to my children and grandchildren share with them my perspective feelings about life. I started writing that day and over the years have written approximately 200 observations about life. My children and grandchildren have always been my target audience but over the years many others have also begun to receive these observations over the Internet by e-mail.

In January Cedar Fort/Bonneville Books, having read some of my observations, asks if I would work with them to produce a book. I did and the book was published today. The book is titled "It's Good to Be Alive!" It is comprised of a selection of what the publisher and my wife, Jo Anne and I feel are the best of the observations written over the years. There is a lot of humor in it as well as pictures and those things that have helped me to deal with 21 years of paralysis and living on life support. I think you will enjoy it.

I got word today that it will be available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, Deseret Book, and Seagull. You can get an overview of the book by going to my website: www.jackrushton.com

Excuse me for being so excited but for an old paralyzed guy on life support this is a great day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tender Mercies

Tender Mercies

A couple of weeks ago Jo Anne and I were out in the van running some errands. On the way home she said she needed to stop at Stater Brothers and buy some milk. I kind of wanted to go right home but she promised to buy us an Almond Joy to share (she knew they were on sale that day) if I didn't give her a hard time. I am a sucker for Almond Joys so I gave my hearty consent.

We have cell phones with Bluetooths so we can be in constant communication while she is in the store and I am in the van. Knowing she was only going to be in the store for a few minutes we opted not to activate the cell phones. We should have known better -- do you think the Lord forgives stupidity as well as sin? We were listening to a very interesting book on CD so Jo Anne left it on while she dashed into the store. No sooner had she walked away from the van and entered the store when I heard a sickening noise from the ventilator and it stopped instantly. There is no way to describe the abject terror I experience when I can't breathe. I believe it is compounded in my situation because I can't move either. This has happened to me five other times during the past 21 years and thankfully each time I have come back before I have taken the journey into the happy hunting ground, although one time I did go into an eight hour coma. When I can't breathe I go through three stages before I pass out -- sheer panic, resignation, and what I call the twilight zone. The resignation comes quite quickly after the panic. I realize that nobody can hear me and that Jo Anne is not likely to return immediately to save me in time. I basically quit fighting and wait for the inevitable. Interesting as it was, I was beginning to lose track of the storyline of the book I was listening to; a telltale sign that I was not getting enough oxygen to the brain. Finally I slipped into the twilight zone which is really very peaceful and almost euphoric. In that state I could no longer hear the book. I believe from my own experience that it is extremely easy to die, and after the initial shock that brings on death, whatever it may be, it is really not an unpleasant experience from that point on. I think it is the living that can be hard and demanding!

I have no idea how long I was passed out, but suddenly it seemed I was dreaming or was in heaven or maybe somewhere else, because I was hearing someone speaking to me. As I became more alert I realized it was my book on CD, and I was actually breathing -- hallelujah! As mysteriously as the ventilator had quit pumping air into my lungs it began, all on its own, to start working once again. Just about that time Jo Anne came running back to the van with the milk and the Almond Joy. Believe me it was a joy to see her face again. Glancing at me she said, "You don't look so good!" After a bite of the Almond Joy I got my strength back and told her what had happened. We both felt it truly was another "tender mercy" from the Lord -- a miracle. Some would say it was simply an electrical and mechanical glitch of some kind. We feel the Lord was watching over us, but must be losing patience with us as we seem to be working our guardian angels overtime.

We would never want to be guilty of the sin of ingratitude and do believe, "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things..." [D&C 59:21]

We believe my life has been preserved countless times because of the "tender mercies" of the Lord. We would be most ungrateful to just assume that what we have been experiencing for 21 years has been "luck" or simply "coincidental."

A number of years ago I was to speak to a large group of youth in a city about 30 miles from our home. It was a Sunday evening and as usual we were running a little late. Just as we entered the parking lot we heard a strange noise coming from beneath our van. As we pulled into the handicapped parking space the noise increased and as Jo Anne tried to put the van in reverse to reposition it a little bit she was unable to do so. Apparently something horrible and maybe terminal had happened to the transmission and it looked as though we were stuck there for good. I panicked knowing that I cannot get into just any vehicle because of the size of my wheelchair and my life support system. Here it was Sunday evening and what would we do, and how would we ever get home safely? I told Jo Anne I just didn't know how I could possibly speak to those young people knowing the situation we were in, and that we should immediately go to work and try to solve this problem before it got any later. She has much more faith than I have and said, "Jack, there is a large group of young people that have come here to hear you speak tonight. You go on in there and do your best and somehow things will work out." I wanted to believe her, but just didn't know how things could possibly work out. However, I decided to go forward, trusting in her faith.

As we entered the chapel the stake president introduced himself to us. I mentioned to him the problem we were having with our van and he told me not to worry about it and that he would make sure we got home safely that night. That was comforting to me but I still didn't see how it was going to happen.

We had a wonderful and edifying experience with the youth. I was able to put vans and transmission problems out of my mind while I spoke, but as the meeting came to an end my heart began to be troubled once again. What would we ever do to solve this problem and get home safely?

Just as the meeting ended and people were getting up to go home, a man who had been sitting with the youth approached Jo Anne and me. He said that the stake president had told him of our problem and that he thought he could help us out. He told us that normally he would not have attended a youth meeting like this because he had other responsibilities that night, but he felt impressed that he should come to this meeting. He informed us that he was a troubleshooting mechanic who worked exclusively on the transmissions of Dodge minivans which is what we were driving. He said he had just returned from a trip to repair some Dodge minivan transmissions, and that all of his tools were in his van which was outside in the parking lot. He immediately went to work on our transmission and was able to put it into a "failsafe mode" which would enable us to get home. The only problem is that we couldn't slow down once we got on the freeway which was no problem for Jo Anne -- believe me! This wonderful man and his wife followed us all the way home. As we pulled off the freeway and slowed down, the transmission began to make some very interesting noises. As we pulled up in front of our home and Jo Anne applied the brakes as she normally does -- no halfway measures -- the transmission fell out onto the street with a gut wrenching series of screeching and grinding sounds.

Wasn't all of this just a coincidence and good luck? I don't believe so! As so many of you could, I could relate countless experiences like the two I have recorded in this observation. Like you, I experience the "tender mercies," of the Lord on a daily basis. How foolish it would be to not recognize the hand of God in our lives.

What does the phrase, "the tender mercies of the Lord," mean? Nobody said it better than Elder David A. Bednar, "... The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ." [Ensign, May, 2005]

Our daily challenge is to recognize these "tender mercies" in our lives and thank the Lord for them.

I believe the words of Nephi "... I... will show unto you 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." [1 Nephi 1:20]

And so it is!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pioneers- Foot Soldiers of the Lord

The other day Joanne was asking my son-in-law Nathan, how to get on eBay. I had the feeling she was going to see how much she could get for a "quad." It was worse than that; she was trying to find if there was a sip and puff vacuum cleaner or lawn mower for sale on the Internet. She was thinking that maybe I could be more productive around here and carry more of my own weight. Thankfully she was unable to find anything, for which I am so grateful and I am reduced once again to a life of reading, writing, pondering, and meditation. Well, someone has to do it!

At this time of the year my thoughts seem to always turn to the early pioneers of this dispensation. A definition of the word "pioneer" that strikes a chord with me is from the 16th century French and Latin which in English meant "foot soldier." [Merriam Webster online dictionary]
As we know, the pioneers we honor at this time of the year were truly "foot soldiers." They were the infantry, the Marines, constantly in harms way and braving inclement weather and every other kind of adversity imaginable to guarantee themselves and their posterity the freedom to worship God as they desired and had been commanded so to do.

I would like to explore with you in this observation two questions that I have thought a great deal about over the years regarding these pioneers.

The first question is, "Why did the Lord allow his covenant people to suffer the way they did?" And the second question is, "How were these early pioneers able to endure what they did without giving up or giving in?"

Why the suffering first of all? It's interesting as you read the history of the church that the Saints always seemed to be required to do everything the hard way. They seldom, if ever, were able to make their travels in the summer, picking daisies and wildflowers along the way, but always it seems were required to move at the most difficult and challenging times of the year.

S. Michael Wilcox has called our Heavenly Father, "The God of the fourth watch!" Several times during his ministry he came to the aid of his disciples to literally save their lives and to keep them from drowning. However he always came during the fourth watch which according to Roman time would have been from 3 AM to 6 AM. Why didn't he come to them, let's say, sometime during the second watch at maybe 10 or 11 PM? That would have been convenient for everyone. Perhaps he even could have brought with him pizza, root beer, or at the least some hot chocolate. But no, he let them struggle through the cold and stormy night, filled with fear and anxiety, and finally probably feeling they were going to perish.

I believe the answer to my first question was given by the Lord to Joseph Smith in liberty Jail when he told him regarding his personal suffering, "... know this my son that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good..." [D&C 122:7]
I have come to learn however in my life, as I am sure you have in yours, that all the bad things that can happen to us will not be for our good unless they drive us to our knees and humble us, increasing our faith and making us more dependent upon the Lord to seek the blessings we need at his hands. If this doesn't happen, our personalized adversity may well drive us away from God and make us bitter, unhappy, and miserable.

I have learned that there is a price to be paid to come to know God, and that price is often our own personal adversity and challenges we are called upon to endure. Our loving Heavenly Father allows us to struggle to increase our faith and in doing so to come to know Him. President James E. Faust said it so beautifully in his classic talk, "faith in every footstep." Using the handcart pioneers as an example he said.
"All must pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. Yet this is part of the purging to become acquainted with God."  (James E. Faust, "Faith in Every Footstep", Ensign, May 1997]
But what about the second question? How were they able to press forward and not look back, or give up or give in to the terrible adversity that came to them as "foot soldiers" of the Lord? Before trying to answer that question, let me preface it with the experience of my great, great grandfather and grandmother and their four children, who were part of the Martin handcart company. The Martin Company was the last handcart company to make the trek across the plains in 1856 and was trapped in the early snow and freezing temperatures of Wyoming in November. There were 575 men, women, and children in this company. 135 of them died in Wyoming from starvation, exposure, and freezing temperatures.  Many lost parts of their extremities due to frostbite.

Robert Mattinson III, my great grandfather, recorded the following incident in his journal about the death of his father, Robert Mattinson II: “Provisions were scarce, and we were cut down to one pound of flour a day.  After that, my father began to weaken but never failed to do his share of the work and help pull the handcart.  He worked all day with little to eat, and when night came, he gathered wood to build a fire, set up the tent, then went to lie down.  When he was called to supper, he could not be awakened.  He died that night, but we could tell nothing about his death, only by the breathing and rattling of his throat, as we had no light.  He was buried the next morning near Deer Creek.”

Miraculously, Robert's wife, Anne, and my great grandfather, Robert the third who was an older teenager at the time, as well as the other three children, were saved by the rescue party Brigham Young had commanded to be sent out to bring home these suffering Saints.
They made it into the valley and eventually settled in Payson, near Provo. My great grandfather, Robert the third married and one of his daughters, Annie Frances Mattinson, married a handsome young man by the name of Fred Rushton and they eventually became my grandparents. Words cannot express the feelings of respect, admiration, and love I have for these wonderful men and women for not giving up and giving in. Their example gives me courage to press on as well and never give up or give in.

Why they didn't give in or give up I believe is best answered in a statement made by Brigham Young just after the Saints left Nauvoo in 1846. With many of the Saints stranded in Iowa after having crossed the Mississippi River and other Saints stranded in Nauvoo unable to leave because of poverty and sickness, Brigham Young counseled the Saints: “Now is the time for labor. Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable” (in Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sept. 28, 1846, 5).

And so what was it that gave those early Saints such strength?  They had made covenants with God, and those covenants burned like unquenchable fire in their hearts.
Elder M. Russell Ballard has told us that "Sometimes we are tempted to let our lives be governed more by convenience than by covenant... But there is no spiritual power in living by convenience. The power comes as we keep our covenants."  As we look at the lives of these early "foot soldiers" of the Lord, we see that their covenants were the primary force in their lives. "Their example and testimony were powerful enough to influence generation after generation of their children." [Elder M. Russell Ballard, May 1999, Ensign]

It seems to me that our challenge in our generation is to make sure the fire of the covenant is burning like a flame unquenchable in our hearts. As we do everything in our power to make sure our lives are governed by covenant and not by convenience, spiritual power will be ours to sustain us through the difficulties and challenges of our lives. And one day, perhaps our children and grandchildren for generations to come might be able to talk of us with admiration and respect, and will have gained strength from our examples, even as we have from those early "foot soldiers" of the Lord.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

June Roses- 4th of July Memories

June Roses -- Fourth of July Memories

President Monson is fond of quoting lines from great poets. One line he frequently quotes that has come to mean a great deal to me as I have grown older is, "God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives." [James M. Barrie. ]

 Inasmuch as the 4th of July is almost upon us once again, let me share a memory -- a June Rose in the "November", hopefully, of my life a long-ago time in a faraway place. I apologize to those of you who have previously read this same memory I shared with some of you a number of years ago..

This June Rose is of a typical 4th of July celebration in Ely, Nevada, White Pine County, circa 1948. Of course I cannot remember one specific 4th of July after all these years, so what you are getting is a composite or the essence of the memories of many fourths of July from my boyhood. I would have been ten years old in 1948 and the following is what would have constituted the 4th of July for me at that time.

We looked forward to the 4th of July almost as much as we did to Christmas. White Pine County was dominated economically by Kennecott Copper Corp.. The mine was in Ruth, the smelter was in McGill, and the big city, Ely, was sandwiched in between the two. Ely had a population of about 7000, but largely existed and prospered because of the money generated from those who worked for Kennecott. I mention this only because Kennecott subsidized the July 4th celebration, as well as Labor Day. The money they put into it made of it a special day.

Prior to July 4th, we always were able to get all the firecrackers we wanted. I can't remember any other kinds of fireworks around the house, but as the sun came up on the 4th of July we would be out in front of the house with our friends shooting off firecrackers. We would put them under tin cans, which we would blow up into the sky and other dumb things I'm sure. Anyway, we thought it was fun and a great way to begin the day. About eight or nine in the morning, I would get dressed up in my band uniform and go to the grade school to board the bus, along with the other band members, to drive down to Ely - five miles away. Ruth, Ely, and McGill grade school bands, along with the White Pine County High School Marching Bobcat Band, the pride of the County, would march in the big parade down Aultman street, the main drag through downtown Ely. The bands were the main attraction but Kennecott would decorate some of the big earth moving equipment for the parade; the American Legion men, and various Scout troops, and a few cowboys and Indians on horseback made up the rest of the parade. There must have been some floats as well, but I can't remember them. The bands would assemble on the football field behind the City Hall and Fire Station, and at the appointed hour the much anticipated parade and celebration would begin.

The main gathering point along the parade route on Aultman street was the corner of the Bank Club, the Hotel Nevada, the Silver Dollar Saloon, and the Family Liquor Store. There we would play our best numbers to the accompaniment of firecrackers being set off by little kids scurrying through the legs and out of the grasp of parents and other adults. My mom and dad would be there to pick me up at the conclusion of the parade and then the real fun began.

At a park directly across from the high school, they would be giving out free ice cream and having nickel scrambles for kids 12 and under. They would get us in a big group and throw fistfulls of nickels into the air and the aggressive kids would come away with pockets full of nickels. I admit to being rather timid and never did prosper on the nickel scrambles. This would take us up to lunchtime.

Mom always outdid herself to make sure we had plenty of fried chicken, potato and macaroni salad, homemade rolls, and homemade cherry pie. I'm sure there were other things that comprised the lunch, but I only remember those things that I loved the most. After lying in the shade for a while, almost everybody in the County it seemed would gather at the football field and park for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. There would be races for every age group in which the winners would be awarded $5. The highlight for me however, was the men's 100 yard dash - the prize being $50. Every year that I can remember, my dad entered the race. He was fast, but there was always one man in the County that could beat him. He was an unlikely looking runner and you would never have bet on him based on his appearance. He had a big barrel chest and stomach, but he could flat-out move. I would stand at the finish line and he and my dad would be out in front of everyone else by a pretty good distance, but as they crossed the finish line dad was always two or three steps behind. Through all the years he never saw that $50. Sad to say his nemesis in the race drowned in Cummings Lake, but by then dad was too old to run.

Later in the afternoon there would be professional boxing and wrestling matches in the middle of the football field. I don't know where Kennecott imported these gladiators from, but before the days of TV in our town, this was truly high adventure. Looking back on it now, what professional boxer or wrestler would come to Ely, Nevada on the 4th of July? They must have paid them very well, is all I can figure out. Anyway, one of the wrestlers was the villain, and being naive and unsophisticated as we were, we all hated him and cheered for the hero, who always wore white trunks and had blond hair. We saw some blood during the boxing matches which seemed to whip some of the old miners into a frenzy of excitement. It would be hot sitting there in the sun but nobody was about to leave. After the fights, the ring would turn into a stage with a complete vaudeville show. There would be magicians, hypnotists, and a variety of singers and dancers. Never to be forgotten is the Fourth of July that my youngest brother, Kim, was actually hypnotized by the visiting hypnotist and was turned into a zombie for a while. Thankfully, the hypnotist was able to eventually break the spell. The entertainment would last until almost dark and then much of the County's population would go to the County Fairgrounds for the fireworks display.

I can remember how happy and content I felt riding home in the back of our 1936 Studebaker after a long day, exhausted, but knowing that the 4th of July had been a great and special event.

Please forgive the ruminations of an old guy who is getting older, but it is wonderful to have good memories of a time gone by never to return. What price can you put on happy memories? They truly are June Roses, and they are priceless.