Saturday, April 23, 2011

Go, Go Power Rangers!

So, back in the day, I was obsessed with a certain TV show. I had to watch it every day! I had toys, shirts, and would pretend to be the people on the show and fight the bad guys. I'm sure everyone may age (ish) remembers this show, and watched it (and if you say you didn't, chances are you're lying!) That show was the Power Rangers. Specifically, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Coolest show ever! It was always the same: the Rangers would be doing cool teenage stuff, then they'd have to go fight some monster that Rita Repulsa, then later Lord Zedd, then a combination of the two would throw at them. When they thought they'd beaten the monster, Rita/Lord Zedd would just make it GIANT, so the Rangers would have to get their Zords, then pull together to make the Megazord (I don't even know if they ever just had their individual Zords fight...), then they would beat the now giant monster with very jerky movements, while really inspirational music would play ("Go, go Power Rangers!"), the monster would fall over and (for some reason) explode! And the day would be saved once more. It was also always funny how the kids would wear clothes that were the same color as their Ranger color, Jason always in red, Kimberly always in pink, Billy in blue, Trini in Yellow, and Zach in black, then later Tommy in green... then white.
But of course, this wasn't all done on their own. I mean, they were all just teenagers in high school with seemingly nothing special about them (except they all just happened to be martial arts experts). They needed some kind of driving force. Someone had to choose them, then tell them what to do, then warn them when Rita was on the loose again. Cue the giant floating head. Zordon is a rather mysterious character, with quite the back story (I won't get into it... Just know that he used to be a wizard, and got trapped in a time warp). For several reasons, he's seen only as a giant, white floating head in a tube. He's kept in what's called the Command Center, which is pretty much the headquarters for the Rangers. He calls the shots, while his faithful robot sidekick, Alpha 5, does the upkeep. Somehow, he's always in the know as to just what Rita/Zedd are up to, and right before they make their attack, Zordon calls the Power Rangers to the Command Center where he prepares them for the task at hand. We of course learn in the movie that Zordon, outside his power tube thing, is a withered, white old man, bald and wearing an interesting grey outfit... he kinda looks like Darth Vader, at the end of Return of the Jedi when Luke takes his helmet off. Zordon is how the Rangers are able to keep Rita Repulsa from taking over the world! (Why she always just attacks California, specifically Angel Grove, instead of branching out and attacking where the Power Rangers aren't, I don't know).
Ok, this may be kind of a stretch, but bear with me. Think of the Power Rangers as prophets. They protect us from the evils of the world. They tell us what we need to know and do in order to properly follow our Heavenly Father. They warn us of evil, and help us to stay on the right path. But, they can only do so much without someone behind the scenes, warning them of evils and teaching them what to know and do. They need someone to help them out. They need a Zordon. Heavenly Father fills that role, of telling the prophets how to help and protect us. He tells them, they tell us. Zordon tells the Rangers, they save us. We all need the prophets' advice to help us live the best way we can (whether modern day prophets, or those found in the scriptures), and the prophets need the Lord to tell them what to tell us. Thank God we have prophets to help us in our life!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Your Masterpiece

Imagine your life as a big canvas. It's blank, and you've got plenty of paints, brushes, and everything else you need to paint a masterpiece. You're the artist, here. You make the painting what you want. Each decision you make, each path we choose, each sin we commit, or good deed we do is another brush stroke.  Often times, we find ourselves painting something we never expected. While we may have wanted to paint a self portrait, we find ourselves painting someone else. Or are we? When we find that the painting we're making isn't what we intended, maybe it's not because we're messing up: maybe we're trying to paint who we want to become instead of who we are now. As we work on our painting, it's important to realize that sometimes, we're taking on a pretty big project and will need some help. There are others out there who are pretty good critics, and can help us know the best way to paint our portrait. They can help us find just the right color we need, or what kind of brush we should use. They can help us decide how things should be situated, what kind of lighting to use, and how we should be positioned in the painting. This help can be very beneficial to us. People want us to have the best painting possible, and that's what they're doing: helping us. If we accept their help, we can improve our painting. And of course, there's one who knows exactly what we should be painting. He knows the potential we posses, and how good of a painting we can paint. He knows what it should look like, and He knows how you can make it look that way. That is, of course, our Heavenly Father. We're making our picture to present to him. Do we want it to be a beautiful masterpiece, or a stick figure drawing? As we progress, and use the right colors and brushes provided us, and avoid those dreary colors and old brushes, we can paint the ultimate masterpiece of our lives: something we can be proud of, and something our Heavenly Father can be proud of, and hang in His mansion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sticks and Stones

How many people do you know who, after getting arrested for nothing, stand an unfair trial on trumped up charges, are beaten, then released, rejoice? Probably a few people would. But who would rejoice, not because they were free, but because they were able to go through all that? Who would be happy to have experienced that? I can think of plenty of people who would be happy that it's over, but not happy that they were imprisoned, beaten, and inches from death. But, that was just what Peter and the other Apostles did. After being arrested, the Spirit of the Lord allowed them to escape the prison, which further enraged the Sadducees. They were then taken before trial, where the council were trying to think of how they could condemn them to death. Then one of the Sadducees, named Gamaliel, spoke some reason to them, reminding them of people who had popped up and convinced people that they should follow them, and after they had died the people left, then he said "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." He tells them, hey, if they're just talking, who cares? But, if they're actually men of God as they claim, killing them won't end well for you. The council agreed, allowing them to continue on their way, so sure that Jesus wasn't the Christ, and that this would all eventually just go away. But, they couldn't just let them go. They beat the Apostles, and still forbade them to preach in the name of Christ. So, off the Apostles went "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." 
Wow. Who would be so happy about such a terrible ordeal? Who would walk away from that thinking "Yeah! We got to suffer, be beaten, imprisoned, and almost killed... all for Jesus!" I know when someone yells at me, flips me off, slams a door in my face, calls me a wicked man, condemns me to hell, calls me a blind leader of the blind, or any other mean thing that happens to me on my mission, I get upset. Well, I laugh, but I'm still a little upset. I certainly don't rejoice that I was able to be yelled at or whatever for the sake of my Savior. That's something I need to work on. 
"10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
Is this something that you do? When someone says something negative about your faith, about the Church, or about the truth that you know, do you rejoice? Are you glad that you were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name? It is a sign of patience, a Christlike attribute, to be able to bear these adversities. It is also a sign of humility that we take these things in stride, realizing that our friends, our brothers and sisters, are lost and don't know the truth. If they persecuted the prophets and apostles of old, and even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and they all bore it with gladness, with patience, and even rejoicing, why can't we do the same? We're not being stoned, beaten, wrongly imprisoned, tortured, or crucified. We're just having some mean words thrown at us. We all know the old adage "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Well, as corny as it is, it's true. When we're given the opportunity to suffer shame for His name, let us rejoice in it! 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Clint "Deuce" Dempsey

So, I'm a big soccer fan (for proof, click here). I've been a fan my whole life, have been a Colorado Rapids fan for their whole life (since 1996), and been a Chelsea fan for several years... Though now I'm leaning more towards Fulham. And that brings me to my point: Clint Dempsey. If that doesn't make sense, I'll explain: Clint Dempsey plays for Fulham. There, all explained. He also plays for the US National Team and is a total stud. He was the first American to score 10 goals in a season in the English Premier League. So, now it's established that he's awesome. But how do you think he got so awesome? Do you think he just woke up one day, and said, "I think I'm gonna play soccer!", walked over to Bob Bradley and told him to put him on as starter on the National team, then walk over to Mark Hughes and say "Hey, put me on as starter on Fulham"? Well, he very well might have, but they probably would've told him to beat it. No, he worked hard, probably since a very young age. He probably had a ball at his feet for hours a day. He went through struggles and trials, let downs and disappointments, and probably just a whole bunch of rough times. He grew up in very rough environments in a financially depraved home, but he worked hard all his youth. He did well in school, and at an early age he joined the Dallas Texans, a youth team, and excelled. Due to limited finances, he was forced to let it go for a while, but thanks to the help of teammates, he was able to rejoin. Later, he joined the Arsenal youth team (hey, no one's perfect), but had to, again, move on because of a severely ill cousin. He did very well on his college team, and in 2004 he was drafted 8th overall in the MLS Draft to the New England Revolution. After 3 years with them, he moved over to England to play with Fulham FC and excel. Now he's one of the best American players (if not the best) in the world.
But, none of that could have happened without hard work and dedication. Everything worth doing is worth doing well, and Dempsey is a great example of that. As we work hard towards our goal, we will see success. This applies to all aspects of our life, including in the Gospel. As we learn more about it, and work hard in staying faithful, we become better at it, and we grow in skill. Everything we do will prepare us for trials we may face. We need to constantly be willing to work hard, even through hard times and difficulties, and never give up. No matter what happens, it's important that we work hard. Let's all be Clint Dempseys of the faith!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Each and everyday, we learn more and more. If we don't, it was kind of a waste of a day. Think about your main hobby or skill. Odds are, you're probably pretty good at it. And why is that? Because you practice. Now, think back to the first day you ever tried that: the first time you picked up your instrument, or sat down with some crayons and a piece of paper, or the first time you tried kicking a ball. You probably weren't very good, were you? I remember the first time I picked up a bass. I didn't know how to tune it, how to hold it, what the strings were, or anything... Flash forward about 10 years, I'm pretty good. The first time we come into contact with something that requires talent or any effort whatsoever, we're not going to instantly be champions. I'm sure Shaun White wasn't throwing down 1260 McTwists his first day, just like Clapton was shredding when he first grabbed a guitar, or Clint Dempsey rocking the field when he first started soccer. The point is, we all need to go through a learning process before we can reach our desired level.
The same can be said about the Gospel: You're not going to get everything all at once. You can't just assume to pick up the Book of Mormon, read it all, go to Church, and in a week be a scriptorian and know all the ins and outs of the Church, its history, and doctrines. That's just not going to happen. Understanding, comprehension, and testimony come over time, but they come as you exert effort. As you do the things you need to do, these things will come. It's good to read the Book of Mormon and go to Church, just realize that it's not going to be an instantaneous thing. All things come with time, and, as we've all heard, practice makes perfect. And no one is at the epitome, probably not even the Prophet. He still needs guidance from the Lord to help him, so why should we think that we're anywhere near the top? Everyone needs to keep growing and learning, and need to work hard to do so. As we exercise our spiritual muscles, they grow and become stronger. So let's keep pushing along, practicing our religion, and growing in strength, knowledge, and testimony! Practice, practice, practice!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Heroes in a Half Shell

Remember the show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Or the movies? Or games? Or toys? Of course you do, it was huge! You couldn't go anywhere in the '90s without seeing a backpack or t-shirt or something with those lovable turtles on them. TMNT was definitely one of my favorite shows growing up. Awesome movies, too. It was always the same: Raphael would lead the team, but something wouldn't work out well, which would upset Leonardo, being the hot head that he is, and he would strike out on his own. Eventually, through the efforts of  Donatello, the more intelligent of the group, the problems would be resolved, and the team would once again work together and accomplish their goal. All of this would of course go on while Michelangelo road skateboards, ate pizza, and said things like "radical!" or "cowabunga!"
The group, as we all know, started off as just ordinary turtles, before wandering into some radioactive ooze in the sewers (naturally). This radioactive ooze then cause them to mutate into giant, humanoid turtles that could walk on two legs, talk, crack jokes, and apparently even had opposable thumbs allowing them to hold weapons (though only 2 other fingers). After this, they were adopted by Splinter, a wise, sage-like rat who had also become overly sized due to the radioactive ooze. He was a martial arts expert, learning his art from his original owner, Hamato Yoshi, by mimicking his moves while he practiced (again, naturally). Splinter, now capable of speech and being quite hyper intelligent (especially for a rat), taught the turtles all he knew about martial arts. They became very proficient, and lived in the coolest bachelor pad you could want, made even cooler by the fact that it was all located in the sewers of New York City. The logical next step would be to become vigilante super heroes. Of course. This they did, and defended the people of New York from the evil villainy of Shredder and his soldiers, the Foot Clan.
As we start out our life, we are just small children. We can't walk, talk, or even feed ourselves. We're helpless little baby turtles. But, as we grow, we learn new things, we progress in our life. Eventually, there comes a time when we all need to make some very profound decisions, and grow up. We all must choose to find out if the Gospel is true (whether you'd been raised in it or not). We must all step into that radioactive ooze. When we do so, we grow. We become (in a very metaphorical sense) giant, walking, talking, fighting, skateboarding, pizza eating, crime stopping turtle ninjas. We become better; we have a focus and drive; we have determination; we know who we are, where we came from, why we're here, what we're doing, and where we're going. All we have to do is step into that ooze (it's really a lot better than it sounds).

Note: Shredder, Splinter and the turtles' archenemy, is just a regular guy, albeit a martial arts expert, donning some sweet armor. No radioactive ooze in his origin!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spiritual Scoliosis

So, first off, I'd like to make a shout out to my stomping grounds, Fort Collins, Colorado. Today, in the first session of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced three new temples, one of them being in Fort Collins, Colorado! I can hardly contain my excitement. A temple in my hometown! Awesome!
Now, with that out of the way, I move on the spiritual upliftment.
This is the actual X-Ray of my neck
So, after a back injury (kinda), I went to the chiropractor the other day. It was kinda cool. There were times when the doctor would push on my arm, and push it right down. Then, he would pop my back, and try again, and this time I'd be able to keep my arm up (therein lies a nice little analogy, and maybe I'll touch on that later). After this, he took x-rays of my spine. When he put them up to look at, I thought I saw something weird about the view of my spine. Sure enough, he came back, looked at them, and said "oh." Not something you really want to hear from a doctor. He then let me know that my spine was crooked, something I had kind of noticed myself. It was an interesting experience, seeing my spine leaning to the right. Also, from the side view, my neck forms a 4 degree angle (not sure exactly how it's measured) when the average is 28 degrees. Awesome. So, where my neck should be curved it's straight, and where my neck should be straight it's curved. He explained to me that the reason for scoliosis is while you're still young, the bones are still cartilage. Eventually, the start to calcify. If, during this stage, you do something to offset balance, such as wearing a backpack primarily one one arm (which is my guess as to what I did), then more weight will be put on that side of the spine, causing it to curve, in order to make sure the head is straight. Because of this unbalanced weight distribution, my neck now has a nice rightward slant.
A yoke is something used to distribute the weight of the cart between two animals pulling it, be they oxen, horses, or whatever. It serves two purposes: 1. it keeps them even, so the cart will go straight, and 2. it balances the load out so they're both bearing the same amount. In Matthew 11:29, the Savior says "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." We're all weak, and can't handle the rigors of this life alone. If we try to handle it on our own, there will be an uneven distribution of weight on just us, and it can cause some problems (for example, a curved spine). We are tender, and just coming into our own, and need all the support we can get. It would be unwise to try to manage on our own. We need to be able to balance out everything, evenly, so we're able to keep straight and upright. A yoke requires another participant, and who better to have help you than the Lord? He's strong, and able to take on anything, and would be the perfect candidate. He's strong enough that He can take most of the weight on His own shoulders, and bear a majority of the load, making it easier for us. In all we do, we should make sure we are yoked to the Savior, making sure our burden is lighter and evenly balanced, and avoiding spiritual scoliosis.