Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Is Your Vision?

How Is Your Vision?

On occasion Jo Anne has made mention of the fact that I don't look so good. People who don't know her may think this statement is evidence of "Quad Abuse." Actually, she is referring to a story her dad, a great storyteller with a wonderful sense of humor, used to tell about an old farmer.

It seems that the farmer had a horse he wanted to sell so he paid to have an ad run in the city newspaper. The ad read something like this – "Horse for sale. Young, strong, and healthy, but doesn't look so good."

Several days after the ad ran, a city slicker from the big city drove out to the farm to inspect the horse. He was just amazed at how beautiful the horse was and that the farmer must be crazy to be willing to sell it so cheaply. He bought the horse on the spot, thinking he had really put one over on this old hayseed. He made arrangements to have the horse transported to a pasture near his home in the city. Several days later he returned to the farm and angrily confronted the old farmer. He shouted, "Why didn't you tell me that horse was blind?" The old farmer calmly replied, "I told you he didn't look so good!" I don't think the old hayseed refunded the money!

I always like to think when Jo Anne tells people her husband doesn't "look so good," she is only referring to my eyesight. However, I'm not totally convinced that is the case.
I must admit that I am the Mr. Magoo of wheelchair driving. Jo Anne accuses me of driving my wheelchair by the braille system – the same system she uses in driving our van. I must admit that I have left my mark in many different and beautiful places. I will never forget the day I inadvertently puffed when I should have sipped and ran my chair into a beautiful wall in the Los Angeles Temple. The Temple matron was watching this scene unfold, and thankfully made me feel better by telling me I was still welcome. I thought she would take steps to have my wheelchair driver license revoked along with my Temple recommend. She probably should have done that, because in the ensuing years I have left my mark on the San Diego Temple, as well as the Newport Beach Temple. All of the wonderful Temple workers still make me feel welcome, which is a tribute to the eternal truth that "Charity never faileth."

My most embarrassing Mr. Magoo experience took place in the lingerie department at JC Penny's. My wife and daughter left me in the aisle while they disappeared into the jungle of femininity which was the lingerie department. As I sat there staring at the limitless and varied unmentionable female intimate apparel, people began to stare at me as they passed by. I got the feeling they thought I might be a tad weird so I gritted my teeth and maneuvered my wheelchair down one of the aisles into that feminine jungle. I successfully navigated my chair all the way to the far wall and then had to make a left turn. Not "looking so good" my chair snagged on to the pantry rack which was attached to another panty rack which was also attached to another panty rack and the entire display fell to the floor. I knew no one had witnessed the crime, so I did a quick left turn down the next aisle trying to make as clean and rapid an exit as I could from the scene of the crime. Again however, I didn't turn sharply enough and my chair caught on the bra rack. These displays were also connected together and all the bras in the lingerie department fell down on top of me. One of them got caught on my power switch and as I tried to get away the bra stretched the power switch to the off position. There was no getting away from this crime scene, and as I sat there awaiting – I really didn't know what – a salesperson came rushing up. She was about 80 years old and looked like the wicked witch in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." She had no sense of humor, and staring at me said, "Sir, would you just please leave – now!" Thankfully, at that moment my wife and daughter arrived on the scene but were not much help as they were rendered totally incapacitated by uncontrollable laughter. I have not returned to that store, nor do I ever plan on doing so.

My Mr. Magoo experiences began a few years ago, not too long after undergoing cataract surgery. The surgeries on both eyes were successful. In fact, I was able to see more clearly than I had for years. Then one day I noticed something like a little half Moon shadow coming down and covering the top of my eye. It didn't hurt and I thought it would just go away. It didn't! A couple of days later I mentioned what was happening to my son John. He was in medical school at the time and had just completed a rotation in ophthalmology. He said "Dad, you have a detached retina." He urged me to go to the ophthalmologist immediately which I did. Sure enough, I had a detached retina. Surgery was performed – the least invasive possible – but it was not successful. The second surgery went really well, but several days after the surgery I noticed that I couldn't focus well. I went back to the ophthalmologist who could see that the plastic lens that had been inserted at the time of the cataract surgery had become dislodged. He scheduled me to come to the hospital the next day so that he could fix it for me. He said it was pretty much a slam dunk procedure that would only take a few minutes. The surgery began, and three hours later I finally woke up. He somehow had lost the lens during the procedure. It had fallen into the back of my eye, cut into the retina, caused it to hemorrhage, and it was all he could do to stop the bleeding. He said however, that the lens was now in place and that I should be good to go. Several days later I noticed the shadow once again. We couldn't believe my retina was detaching again, but away we went to the ophthalmologist to have it checked out. On the way, our van malfunctioned while driving on the freeway, and we ended up inside our van on the back of a very large tow truck being towed to the nearest garage that could help us out. We never made the appointment with the ophthalmologist that day. Once he finally saw us he immediately realized the seriousness of the problem that had now occurred. He performed a midnight emergency surgery which lasted several hours. When I woke up he told me it had to have been the most difficult surgery he had ever performed in trying to attach a retina once again. I asked him if it would affect my vision and he sadly informed me that it would. Later with Jo Anne, he was weeping as he told her what had happened. He is a good man and I can't accuse him of malpractice. Because my neck is frozen in place he could never get me in the perfect position to attach the retina. Also, the upside is that it has given me a great opportunity to further develop the quality of forgiveness.

Well, I learned to get along quite nicely with just one eye. Then one day – you guessed it – the dreaded shadow began creeping down my one good eye. By then we had a new ophthalmologist – I wonder why – who performed once again the least invasive retinal surgery possible. It didn't work! The second surgery was successful but because I was down to just one eye now, the doctor felt it was necessary to fill the eye cavity with oil that would exert sufficient pressure on the retina to keep it from detaching again. I recommended Pennzoil 10/30 – I always had good luck with that brand – but he insisted on using special silicone oil. I'm still not convinced it is as good as Pennzoil. However, it has stabilized the eye, but the downside is that it distorts my vision. I no longer can read the written word, when I teach gospel doctrine I can only see the features on the faces of those sitting very close to me on the front row, during sacrament meeting I can't see who is speaking or make out who is sitting on the stand. One of the upsides to my limited vision, is that I never get nervous speaking in public whether it is to 10 or 1000, because I can only see a few people who are sitting directly in front of me on the front row. Thankfully, I am able to magnify the fonts on my computer to 200% and can read and see beautifully while I do so. I have a large 42 inch screen high definition TV in my bedroom and when I sit a foot away from it the picture is crisp and beautiful. Also, when I go to the movie theaters and sit in handicapped seating which is always close to the front, I can see perfectly.

So what? Well, the so what, from my point of view anyway, is that I have learned several valuable lessons about life from this experience. The Lord told Joseph Smith that all of the afflictions and adversities he had experienced had given him experience and would do for his good. [D&C 122] I think that statement is only true if our adversity and affliction draws us closer to the Lord and makes us appreciate more fully all of the rich blessings we have been given.I really do value the miracle of sight. What a blessing it is to be able to see. You may think what I am saying is absurd, but each morning when I wake up I open my one good eye just a little bit and when I can see the dark of night becoming gray and then eventually being able to see the bright sunshine streaming through my Windows, my heart rejoices! Of course I would like to see better, but I doubt anybody appreciates the vision they have been blessed with more than I do. This experience with my vision, or lack thereof, has been "for my good." I can't thank enough, a loving and kind Heavenly Father, for the miraculous and priceless gift of sight.

Because of my daily brush with impending blindness, I have been amazed at how many times during his earthly ministry Jesus gave sight to the blind. If you were to search the topical guide you would better appreciate what I am saying. He seemed to have great compassion for those who lived out their lives in darkness or semi darkness. I take great comfort in that thought. Jesus frequently used physical blindness as a metaphor for spiritual blindness. He does so in John chapter 9 – one of my favorite chapters in the Gospel of John because of my own battle with vision – when after healing the man born blind, he said to the unbelieving local Jewish leaders: "For judgment I am come into this world, that they will which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. [John 9:39]
The Jewish leaders knew he was referring to them and they were incensed. They, who thought they could see and know everything, were actually spiritually blind, which is a far greater and crippling malady than being physically blind.

My struggle with "physical vision," has ultimately "been for my good," in that I think my "spiritual vision" is more 20/20 than it used to be. How grateful I am to be able to see more accurately than ever before that which matters most, not with the "natural" eye, but with the "spiritual." Could Jesus give me my sight back? Of course HE could! But HE doesn't need to because HE has given me a far greater gift than physical vision – being able to see clearly and accurately with my "spiritual eyes," that which matters most.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't Blow Your Lead (March Madness IV)

It's March Madness once again – one of my favorite times of the year. I must admit I love basketball. It began when I was a young boy and my dad and older brothers dug a deep post hole by our back fence, planted a large post with a homemade backboard and a rim on it that my dad had one of his friends make, who worked in the machine shop for Kennecott Copper in our little mining town of Ruth, Nevada.

My brothers and I and our friends played basketball for years on that homemade basketball standard. It stood adjacent to the dirt alley that ran along the back of our home. In the summer we played in the dust. In the winter we played with our mittens and overshoes on and shoveled the snow from in front of the basket. In the spring we played in the mud – but we always played.

Over the years I have learned a lot about life from the sport of basketball. For example, this last week, I watched the Los Angeles Lakers get beat by two teams that have the worst records in the NBA – the Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards. In both games the Lakers had leads of 20+ points but by the end had blown their lead and lost to inferior teams with less talent.

How did this happen? The answer is quite easy really. They grew complacent because of their big lead, quit doing the fundamentals which had enabled them to earn their big lead, quit playing hard defense, hustling after loose balls: crashing the boards and rebounding ferociously, and frankly just started playing soft and lazy basketball.

The lesson for me anyway, is really the eternal lesson found in the Scriptures that we must endure to the end to win the game – be awarded the gift of Eternal Life. It is not enough to just have a big lead in an NBA basketball game, but to ultimately win, a team has to play hard for the entire 48 minutes.

Just as a basketball team must constantly keep doing the fundamental things that have given them their big lead in the game, so we must constantly keep doing the fundamental things that have given so many of us the big lead that we have been given in life.

What is that lead I am writing about? Many of us have been blessed with membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. Many little babies have been born in the covenant, have been raised by righteous parents, have had years of church attendance, family prayer, family Scripture study, family home evening, seminary and Institute classes, and have even served missions. This has given them a big lead in life, but far too many blow their lead just as NBA teams blow theirs.

How did they do it? They become complacent and become lazy and soft and quit 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.
Some of you have read or heard me quote B. H. Roberts philosophy that he strictly adhered to in writing the Documentary and Comprehensive Histories of the Church. "The constant recurrence to fundamentals is essential to perpetuity." Nations, the Church, and individuals, who have become great and productive, will not endure long, and they will inevitably blow their lead unless they constantly adhere to, and practice those fundamentals that brought them success and are so essential to continued success.

When I think of this eternal truth I am reminded of two incidents in the Old Testament. Of course, there are many more sprinkled throughout all the Scriptures. I think of the contrast between Joseph, who was sold into Egypt and David, who was anointed King of Israel.
Joseph was given a big lead early in his life. Jacob, a great and good man, one who had great faith in Jehovah, had taught Joseph well. Joseph was a favored son, but as a young teenager was ripped from the love and security of being with his father. However, Joseph never blew his lead in Egypt. Rejecting the advances of Potiphar's wife, enduring years of imprisonment in an Egyptian dungeon, he endured to the end with faith in God, and must have been prayerful and strived to practice as best he could, the fundamentals he had been taught by his father. His reward was to secure to himself his birthright and to become the father of two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who would ultimately become a numerous and mighty people given the mission to bring salvation to all of God's children, both living and dead.

David, a young man with great promise, anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel, knowing he had been called of God to this high and holy calling, blew his lead, and subsequently his life ended in a tragic manner. When he began to lust after Bathsheba, he, anointed of the Lord to perform a great mission, blew his lead. I have often wondered when did David, quit reading his Scriptures, seeking the Lord through prayer, seeking to serve his people, and becoming soft and lazy in his lifestyle? He, who could have had everything, lost everything because of his lack of adhering to the fundamentals of life he knew to be true and had faithfully lived for years, from his youth upward.

I suppose the universal test that comes to all of us is to endure to the end and not blow our lead. And how do we do this?

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore if you shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father, ye shall have eternal life. And now my beloved brethren this is the way, and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God." [2 Nephi 31:20-21]

Dad, Grandpa, Jack