Monday, December 21, 2009

`At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'

`Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

`Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

`And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge. `Are they still in operation?'

`They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, `I wish I could say they were not.'

`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.

`Both very busy, sir.'

`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. `I'm very glad to hear it.'

`Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, `a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink. and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'

`Nothing!' Scrooge replied.

`You wish to be anonymous?'

`I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. `Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'

`Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'

`If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, `they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that.'

`But you might know it,' observed the gentleman.

`It's not my business,' Scrooge returned. `It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!'

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge returned his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

This Dickens quote is one of my favorite quotes and reminds me that the taxes I pay are strictly forced transfers of wealth which do nothing for my soul and that regardless of how much I pay in taxes it is MY responsibility not the governments to care for the poor and needy.

This past weekend, because I speak Spanish, I volunteered to deliver Christmas for the children of 10 of the poorest Hispanic families in a neighboring city. 40 of my neighbors in an affluent area sponsored 45 of these families. It was a massive effort of true charity with thousands of man hours and dollars being willingly spent on behalf of those without.

I cannot accurately describe the conditions that some of these people live in. The shanty town of 20’ single wide trailers that were on old, narrow partially dirt roads were set in hodge-podge fashion. Trying to find addresses was difficult because the numbers on trailers which sometimes were painted on the trailer, did not appear to be consecutive. The newest trailer was at least 50 years old. Inside the trailers it was dark and cold and dimly lit. The carpeted floors were threadbare from too many years of wear.

The vehicles outside the trailers were old and worn out and it looked more like a auto salvage operation than operating family cars. The children seemed happy though, as they played with sticks and small rubber balls. One of them accidently hit my new bright red suburban with a ball, causing no damage, but they scattered for fear they may have. I did not see one child riding a bike that day nor did I see any chained up or in the trailers I went in.

In the day time it was a little scary as I wondered how many gang members and drug dealers might be living there and my tensions grew as darkness set in. The streets were short and narrow with no room to turn around. I had to back out of almost every one. One car placed strategically behind me would have stopped me from leaving and put me at the mercy of any foe. Fortunately, my worries were only that and not reality.

Since it was not Christmas Eve or day we tried to help the parents hide the presents from the children but how do you hide a bike in a small trailer? Many had asked for them and many received them.

The tears of gratitude from the parents and the children’s faces of excitement as they peaked from around corners to see what Santa had brought were more than my heart could take. Tears still well up as I consider the service of love I gave that day.

Correct principles— The gov’t needs to let us give to the poor from the goodness of our hearts. We don’t have the same feelings of love and compassion when the government forcefully extracts our taxes to give to the professional welfare bums. We could and would give more to help the poor if the gov’t would stop taking our money from us.

Moral of the story: Do not be content like Scrooge to think you are doing good by paying taxes. That is neither charity nor love and you will not receive the joy that true giving brings.

During this season of good will, please do a random act of service for someone in need. You will never regret it.

Have a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Traditions

We started doing something for Christmas 28 years ago that has become somewhat of a tradition for us.

Ann and I were married in 1979 and we quickly added two children to our home so she quit her job teaching high school at Bingham High which meant the steady income and great health insurance stopped for us. I was finishing my MBA at the University of Utah and had started two businesses not knowing which one would pay off in the end. The carpet cleaning business had a steady cash flow but it would never make a lot of money and it required a lot of labor, lots of hassles with equipment breakdowns, picky customers and also employee issues, like one employer, my younger brother, Jr. Mr. Utah, who could not find addresses well. The mortgage business was extremely difficult then because home mortgage rates were 12-15%. Anyone with an assumable loan of 10% counted their blessings. The housing and stock markets were far worse than they are today so it was hard to sell homes or anything for that matter. It was a time of financial distress for many worse than what we face today.

In addition to the fledgling businesses, in order to pay the bills I was a relief driver for Metz Baking Co. (Old Home bread) during the summers and I started work at 4 AM and got done at about 11 AM. From that job I went to work at the mortgage business and at 5 or 6 PM I would go off to MBA school or study.

Ann taught piano lessons to bring in a little extra income. We lived on a strict budget of $1,100 per month. Our house payment was $656 of that. We shopped the sales and seldom splurged on any extravagant extras like butter, fancy breads or name brand cereals. Prized possessions in those days were cereals like Captain Crunch which had no generic version and cost twice as much as the Toasted Oats.

Ann tried to make as many things as possible for Christmas in order to stretch our budget. Homemade pajamas, dresses or pants were a large part of Christmas. Homemade candies were our typical gifts to friends and family. Our total budget for Christmas was $600 and we felt blessed to have that because many of our friends and neighbors were out of work and had nothing for Christmas.

We decided that we needed to help those around us who would not have anything for Christmas and so we took one half of our Christmas money and used it for those less fortunate than we were. We got three $100 bills and put each one in a Christmas card and an envelope and took care in how we wrote the names on the envelope or any special message inside because we did not want anyone to know who their anonymous benefactors were. We would leave the Christmas card with the money in it on the doorstep or in the door of the recipient so that they would easily find it when they came to the door. Then we would ring the doorbell and run for cover so that we would not be detected in our act of kindness.

Although Christmas was short on gifts at our home it was a time of great joy and love for us and our children. We were blessed with the true spirit of Christmas. In time, we were blessed with more money and we included a box of food so that the family could have a complete Christmas dinner with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pie and all the trimmings. Often our list would double to six families rather than three.

Sometimes these people would share with us the tender story of their special Christmas miracle of receiving an anonymous box of food and money on their doorstep. We rejoiced with them at the tender mercies they received from the Lord without ever letting them know that we had done it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Selfishness in a Macro Perspective.

Part 1 of a multipart introspection on selfishness.

Selfishness is usually viewed as a negative quality to be overcome. Is it possible that our individual selfishness can make society better? If so, is selfishness overrated as a human vice?

It appears that we are born into this world as selfish individuals and that this human quality is reinforced and cultivated throughout our lives. We learn early to manipulate those around us by crying and then quickly realize that a huge smile, hug or kiss can melt parents, grandparents and even strangers’ hearts so that they do what we want them to do for us. They give us candy, smile at us, says nice things to us, play with us and act silly for us and we reward them with our cuteness or punish them for their negligence with our tears or screams. If we cry they feed us, change our stinky diapers and take care of any aches, pains or bruises. We care about no one but ourselves as little children.

As babies grow into children, is it no wonder that they throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their own way? They have been #1 and have been able to manipulate their parents and others to get their basic wants and needs. Sibling rivalry is a manifestation of that innate selfishness where we do not want competition for our parents attention and resent our little siblings for horning in on the monopoly we thought we had with our parents. Actually, anything that competes for our caretaker’s time like work, siblings or church causes feelings of resentment because it means that they believe in the fallacy that we are not the center of the universe, that there may be something more important than us. Our selfish desires get thwarted when competition arrives and we learn to react in a manipulative manner in order to regain our rightful throne of selfish indulgence. Children learn manipulative behavior which usually appeals to their parents sense of preserving the peace (crying) or vanity (this baby loves me because it is smiling at me). Thus learned manipulative behavior embraces both positive and negative reinforcement as children strive to maintain their “center of the universe” status.

As we grow and develop through childhood and teenage-hood, good parents try to help us unlearn the lessons of selfishness and help us understand that certain behavior is acceptable or unacceptable in society. However, society not only accepts the theory that each of us is selfish by nature and nurture, but society also reinforces our selfishness by building its economic systems around it. Our current free market society is based on the notion of individual selfishness with self imposed moral restraints. Thus our lives are spent in the selfish pursuit of earning money in order to spend it on ourselves.

Excluding a few rare exceptions such as the city of Enoch, during the existence of man on this earth, a free market society has proven to be the only efficient economic system. It is efficient because it is self regulating. It requires the selfishness of each individual in pursuing what is best for them. As each selfish person works individually in their own best interest, society as a whole enjoys the best outcome. It allows for failure when wrong choices are made and those wrong choices are eliminated quickly because the cost of failing is borne by that individual. On the other hand, the free market allows for large personal gains when one makes a right choice. Thus each individual learns quickly what works to make them money so that with this money they can selfishly indulge themselves. The failures are quickly erased from the system and the successes are quickly rewarded which in turn spurs new risk taking to individually gain the desired reward. Consequently, society as a whole benefits because as issues develop new opportunities for personal gain present themselves and selfish people apply their intelligence and efforts to solve the problems so that they can personally reap the reward that an appropriate solution provides. As problems are solved the bright, hard-working are rewarded for their efforts and society is rewarded with a fast resolution to the issue it was faced with.

Socialism and communism are inefficient because they assume that an elite few know better than everyone else what is best for everyone else. History shows that no one person or small collection of persons, know what is best for society nor do they have all the answers to resolve the issues as they arise. Furthermore, the elite few have little desire to solve the problems encountered by others because they already have what they want—power and money. Communism works for the ruling class because it satisfies their selfish desire for power and wealth. The ruling elite in communism are able to retain power and control because everyone else has nothing and no incentive to have anything. Since there is no incentive for workers to work for a ruling class, communism can only survive through terror and fear of a heavy handed government who thinks nothing of executing anyone who opposes it. Therefore, with little incentive to change a system that already provides for their selfish desires, those responsible for making societal decisions in communism have no reason or incentive to make them. Thus, the market under communism responds slowly to change and often does not reflect the needs of the masses but rather the needs of those few making the decisions.

Both communism and socialism have as their fundamental belief a redistribution of wealth that someone creates through their own hard work or outstanding effort. Our own selfishness tells us that it is not fair to take from those most productive members of society and give it to others who are not because it squelches the individual desire to work hard and reinforces the laziness of the one who does not. Why work harder than the next person when we are going to get the same thing anyway? Why should I expend my time and efforts to produce more when the bum next to me is not doing anything and he gets the same thing I do?

Take away our selfish desires to better ourselves and to be better than our peers and all of society drops down to the lowest level—the laziest person in society. This happens because our selfish incentive changes from doing more to get more for ourselves, to doing less than others because we get the same as they do anyway. Thus our incentive is to get the same as everyone else but to do it with less work. Thus a rational person quickly realizes that if society prevents you from getting more than someone else, then the only way you can get ahead is if you put in less work for the same thing. Our selfishness causes us to work harder than others if we will personally benefit from it and to work less if we will not. It is the same thing principle of selfishness either way. Thus socialism and communism has a leveling effect on everyone because it brings everyone down to the lowest level, that of the laziest person, because our selfishness gives us incentive not to work to get something.

That is why communism and socialism do not and will not ever work to improve society and it cannot make society prosper like the free market does. It is an historical fact.

Since society is made better when we each look out for our own best interest, then is selfishness a good thing? Since we seem to be born with selfishness and have an innate aptitude for it, is there anything wrong with it? Has selfishness been given a bad rap?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Should one feel guilty for what they have?

Ann gave me a very special graduation present—she’s pregnant! Not really, my new baby is a loaded, bright red, 2007 Corvette. I was able to find it on the internet from a dealership in Bloomington, IL. The owner had driven it for a year and put 5500 miles on it. It was victory red but what really caught my attention is the black and red interior and leather seats. It is a gorgeous car and it has all the extras with upgraded wheels, exhaust and the black opaque top that comes off for a convertible feel. It even has the heads up display which puts the miles per hour and other information on the windshield for easy viewing while driving. It has 408 horse power and is very “peppy” to drive. It corners extremely well because it is so low to the ground. It averages almost 20 mile per gallon and most of that is in town driving. It is a lot of fun to drive even though it is out of character for me to own it. Not a bad deal for $42,300. The only negative is that it had a front license plate holder that they took off of it and there are some light scuff marks in the paint from that. I think I can buff them out but have not tried yet.

All my life I have been ultra conservative and this car is so impractical because it only has two seats and therefore it limits when I can take it because I do still have a family to think of. But since I still have a new suburban the same color I just trade off what I drive depending on how many people are going with me and what I have to pick up.

I love the wind in my face and the feeling of road supremacy since there are few cars that are faster and have as much power as my Corvette. If I need the power to pass someone I have it. However, it is a light car made out of fiberglass so it is not safe if a bad accident where to occur. Totally opposite of my heavy suburban that would keep me safe in an accident with any other car.

The bottom line is that I love driving the car but I still get that gnawing inside me which is why I never purchased one before, which says, “should you spend so much money on yourself when there are so many people that have so little that you could donate the money to? Am I being selfish for using the money on an item that has such limited use? Am I entitled to such a luxury after having worked so hard and having been so generous with my money all my live? Is it OK to splurge this once on myself since I donate a lot more than the cost of the vehicle each year to charitable/religious causes? Am I required under the law of consecration to deny myself of all worldly things and give all that I have to the poor and needy or do I only need to be ready and willing to do that if called upon to do so?

One thing I have learned in life is that it is easy to give everything you have when you have little but it is much more difficult to give everything you have when you have a lot because you spent a lifetime working hard and sacrificing so that you can get to where you live a comfortable life.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why was my life spared?

I did it. I made it through law school! I received my diploma on 8/2/08 in a graduation ceremony in Los Angeles, CA at the Skirball Center (a Jewish College). However, I came very close to not graduating even though I had finished all the work and received acceptable grades due to an error in judgment while in the ocean at Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

But first, I need to follow up on my first blog a year ago. I did not have all the stress of Pioneer Trek and vacations this year just before my finals and guess what? I did not do as well in my classes and on my finals. This is further evidence that the Lord really did bless me last year for accepting the calling to be a youth leader for Trek. Even though I did not want to accept the calling because of school I did it with faith, believing that He would bless me for my obedience and I truly was blessed.

Even though my grades were not as high as my third year, I was able to end with a cumulative GPA of a 3.02 which put me in the Honors society. I was one of 13 to graduate with honors out of the 74 in my graduating class. My first year GPA really helped the cause because it was a 3.7. I was able to get that without even worrying about grades. I focused on learning and took most of the tests during the year without extra studying and then used the answers to help me learn the material. However, that year I read every page from every book and briefed every case. I did everything asked of me and spent tons of time studying and not much with my family. My dear wife asked me to be a better father and husband even if it meant dropping out of law school. Our compromise was that I would spend ½ the time or less the second year or I would quit. It amazes me that I was able to make it through three out of the four years of law school without opening a book! I focused more on the grade and doing what was necessary to pass the class rather than absorbing knowledge. I could have done a better job in learning and getting grades but the sacrifice of my family was not worth it.

Actually, as I look back on my undergraduate and graduate studies I guess I really didn’t open the books much then either and even worse, seldom attended classes unless it was required to pass. I found that it took twice as much effort to get a 3.9 or 4.0 than to get a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA. Since I only needed a 3.6 to keep my scholarship I did ½ the work and then spent my time starting businesses, working and getting my real estate, insurance and stock broker’s licenses.

So when my children give me a hard time for only getting a 3.0 GPA in law school because they get 3.9-4.0 I just smile, knowing I did my best under the circumstances and that I am sure pleased that they do so well in school. It saves me a lot of money in tuition and gives them the satisfaction of a job well done. As a matter of fact, the only college tuition I have ever paid was when I went to the BYU extension in SLC during the summers I was at BYU because my scholarship would not pay for classes at the extension. However, because I went to the extension every summer during my undergraduate years I was able to graduate in three years. I will never forget receiving the letter from BYU AFTER I graduated asking me if I were going to use the fourth year of my four year scholarship. I remember thinking, “let’s see, I graduated from BYU and am in my final year of MBA school at the University of Utah, no, it is not likely that I will use that fourth year of my scholarship but thanks for asking and thanks for making me pay at the BYU extension.” The small tuition I paid at the BYU extension was worth the year’s time I saved of full time school. Also, by graduating early I ended up in most of the same MBA classes with Alma Hansen which lead to him becoming my business partner 27 years ago. The hand of the Lord certainly can be seen as I look back on my life.

Now, back to the beach. All of my family except Sherrie, Lee, and Annalee attended my graduation. They could not come because of a greater cause--Sherrie was pregnant and had Lucas Edward Anderson on 7/23/08 in Houston, TX. We packed everyone else up in my new, victory red suburban and Ann’s Tahoe and drove to Rosarito, Mexico which is about 20 minutes south of San Diego and Tijuana. My World International Vacation Club (WIVC timeshare) has condos in La Paloma condo project just south of the famous Rosarito Beach Hotel on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It is beautiful because it has its own swimming pools and beach (but all beaches are public in Mexico so anyone can walk anywhere along any beach without trespassing). We have been going down there as a family since 1985. Our maid, Crisante, remembers her first year working there was 15 years ago and that Josh was a babe in arms at the time. She seems really pleased to see us each year. I must be leaving too large of a tip for her or she really appreciated the Book of Mormon we gave her one year. She mentioned that she keeps the thank you notes we have left her over the years and that she appreciates those.

We left Friday, 7/25/08 in the late afternoon and drove to Primm, NV and stayed the night at Whiskey Pete’s. We slept in, ate at their restaurant and drove to Rosarito on Saturday. We had a wonderful time in three, 2 bedroom condos. Vance, Jennie and Mylah had their own condo, Robbie, Meri, Jared and Alex had theirs and Ann, Aimee, Josh and I were in the last unit. Everyone had their privacy in a nice large condo. We were able to get wireless internet in the condos for the first time ever this year. Well, at least out on the patio most of the time. They also, now have telephones in the units so we feel like we are connected to the rest of the world which has not been the case for the past 23 years. Although the only time we used the phones was to call each other. We turned our cell phones off because it is $1.50 per minute to use them down in Mexico.

We have a tradition of going to La Fonda to eat which is on the coast between Rosarito and Ensenada. It is a great Mexican restaurant on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We usually see dolphins and surfers there in the ocean. They usually have a real Mexican band sometimes mariachi, but always entertaining. They usually have chickens walking the restaurant floors cleaning up the crumbs left by the diners but they were noticeably absent this time. We usually go from 4-6 PM on a weekday in order to get the early bird specials and we got a kick out of their sign a few years ago because they put “Early Birb Special” on it.

Ann seldom goes into the ocean even in Cancun where the water is warm but she went in this time so there was a little pressure on me to go in also and show her how a real boogie boarder does it. I usually do not go into the cold ocean of Rosarito because I am spoiled by the warm Cancun waters. However, it was warmer weather on July 30, 2008 and the water seemed warmer so I went out to have some fun and boogie board in the ocean. I was out for only a few minutes when I was watching for a wave to come in and about 10 yards away I saw a dark triangular fin moving in a straight line parallel to the waves heading north up the beach. I was in about 4 feet of water and watched silently as this fin which was a little larger than one foot high out of the water and about foot wide at the base, slowly went by. I thought about it and realized that there were no birds or dolphins in the water in that area and that it might be a shark. It appeared larger than the dolphins we had seen earlier in the week so I yelled out “shark, shark, get out of the water, take the next wave to shore.” I yelled it again and Aimee, Vance, Robbie and Josh acknowledged that they heard me so I took the next wave that came by and when the ride ended I got up in shallow water and saw that no one was out of the water yet because none of them had caught a wave. I began to frantically shout and wave and they started swimming to shore. Aimee was completely panicked and the others were a bit frightened by the prospect of a shark. Fortunately, none of them drowned in their panic to get to shore nor was anyone attacked.

Aimee said that she had seen a similar thing of the larger dark fin swimming straight in the ocean earlier in the day as she ran for an hour along the beach. Never once did it jump out of the water and the fin was not curved like the dolphins were. We looked it up on the internet when we got back and it seems more probable that it was a shark than a dolphin. However, since no one got attacked or eaten we do not know for sure. However, I am grateful that we all made it ashore safely even though that ended our fun in the water that day.

The next day on 8/1/08 we saw dolphins and birds in the area so we thought it was safe to go out again and boogie board. Earlier that day we watched some real pros surf and boogie board. They took those 10 foot waves and had a great time with them. All we were catching were the tail end of the smaller, closer-in waves which were fun because they would propel us all the way to the beach but it just wasn’t the same as what the pros were doing. The waves were about 10 feet high further out so I decided I would swim out and catch a couple and have a lot of fun just like the pros.

I walked out until the water was so deep that I had to get on my board and paddle to where the big waves were breaking further out. As I was getting close to where I had seen the waves break I was thinking about how much fun it was going to be. Then to my surprise and horror a big wave formed and it appeared that it was going to break right on top of me. I could do nothing but turn my board around and hope that it crashed behind me and sent me forward for the ride of my life. Well, I was almost right except that it what would happen next would be the ride FOR my life.

Confirming my worst fears the wave broke right on top of me and a 10 foot crashing wave hit me with such force as to knock the wind out of me. It rolled me several times underwater with more force than I had ever felt before. My borrowed boogie board was torn from my grasp and the worn safety strap on my wrist was torn from my body. I was completely disoriented, out of air and did not know which way was up. I opened my eyes and saw only sandy water all around me. I reached out with my arms and legs and there was nothing to touch but water. Being claustrophobic and out of breath I panicked and was about to take a deep breath underwater knowing that if I did so my lungs would fill with water and I would die. I thought “I have no choice, I have to take a breath because the air was knocked out of me, even if I am underwater.” Then I frantically thought, “I must swim to the surface.” I was just about to frantically swim not knowing which way was up in a last ditch attempt to get air into my lungs.

Then to my amazement, a pleasant, assuring and calm voice told me to relax and be calm. He said that I had held my breath for longer periods of time and that I should just relax. “Be calm, you will be fine, you can do it. You don’t need to swim, just relax and you will float to the surface.” I don’t know why but I trusted the voice and immediately relaxed and calmed down. I knew he was right. I became calm and relaxed and felt peace that I would make it to the surface in time for the oxygen I needed.

I reached the surface right when I could not hold my breath any longer. My lungs burned as I exhaled and gasped for the dense air just above the water. My attempt to fill my lungs with air seemed futile and I could not breathe deep enough to get the amount of air I needed. My second attempt at gasping for air was meet with a small wave coming over me resulting in me swallowing water instead of getting the air I needed. I prayed for a calm sea until I could get the air back into my lungs and was blessed with it. I had no strength left. The lack of oxygen completely depleted my strength and all I could do was to try and float and get oxygen into my deprived lungs through short, shallow gasps of air. After a minute of floating I realized the danger I was still in. What if another large breaking wave hit me again? I knew that if that happened I would not have the strength to make it through because I was in deep waters and my strength and oxygen were both depleted. My life was still in danger and I needed to do something quickly to get out of danger.

I looked up hoping to find my boogie board because I did not know how much longer I could even float in my weakened state. Surprisingly it was only 10 feet away. I told myself that I had to get to it or suffer death. I asked the Lord for the strength to get to it and for a calm sea until I did. Fortunately, it was not pushed away with the motion of the gentle waves and I was able to reach it and pull myself up on it before my strength completely gave out. It was upside down but I didn’t care because I was floating and safe for the moment. After resting for several minutes on it, Vance yelled out to see if I was OK. I assured him that I was and after regaining my breath and some strength I slowly paddled to where I could finish walking to the beach.

I do not know whose voice I heard underwater that day but if I had started swimming I likely would not have gone toward the surface and I would have run out of air and died. Had the voice had not calmed me down I would have continued panicking and I would have taken a breath under water which was sure death.

I have never lacked air to the point that I did that day and have never had my lungs burn as they did. I know that I wanted that breathe of air more than anything else. It reminded me of Socrates and the young man who wanted to be his student so Socrates took him out in the ocean and held him underwater until he was almost dead from lack of air and then let him up and told him that when he wanted to learn as much as he wanted that breathe of air to come back and see him.

I will never know how long I held my breath that fateful day but I know that I have never held it that long before and hope to never be in that predicament again. That was the end of boogie boarding for me for a long time.

The question that remains unanswered is why was my life spared when others in similar circumstances have died? Who was the voice that knew me intimately and had the power to calm me when I was extremely panicked?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Burden of Physical things

I believe it was Nelson Mandela who said, “We are not physical beings seeking a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a physical experience. “ I feel that one of the greatest burdens I bear is ownership of physical items because they burden my soul and tie me to this earth and prevent me from achieving my spiritual goals.

We often become so involved in obtaining and possessing physical things that we do not realize what they are doing to our spirit. Many desire these “things” and put their acquisition ahead of those things that matter most. There is a certain excitement in getting a new home, car, savings account, retirement fund, nice clothes, etc. However, as desirable and enjoyable as they are to acquire and possess, they cannot bring true happiness because they do nothing to satisfy our spirit. Many confuse their spiritual yearnings and seek to satisfy it through materialism. However, the acquisition of material things will never satisfy the soul.

Anything physically new will be old in a very short time. Look at the rusty old truck next time as you drive down the road. One time it was shining and new and beautiful. It is a reminder to me that nothing physical lasts forever. Besides, nothing we own here on earth is really ours. We leave it all behind when we die anyway.

Was this the problem that the young rich man had when Jesus complemented him on his faithfulness and obedience to the commandments but then said that he lacked one thing? Was he so burdened with material things that although pious in every outward way his soul was cankered? What was the solution that Jesus offered? Sell all that he had, give it to the poor and come follow Him. What was the result? The young rich man couldn’t do it. Why not? Is it because he had too many possessions?

Is it possible that the greatest test we face in this life is to be wealthy? Is it really harder for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?

Monday, August 6, 2007

First blog

Blogging is new to me but since my wife started one I thought I had better keep up. I have almost no time to do one since I am still in law school but that will change in a year when I graduate.

Last year was my 3rd year out of a 4 year law program. It was a killer. This year seems like a breeze so far comparatively. Who knows, maybe it will get worse since I have only been in school for 3 weeks!

I have Federal taxation this year which appears to be fairly easy since I am a CPA and have been doing people's tax returns for 29 years. It is a little different angle though because the class is based on the IRS Code rather than the Publications issued by them interpreting the codes.

My first year of law school I read EVERY page, briefed every case, did every little assignment and ended up with an A- average grade plus I passed the first year bar exam in California my first time taking it. Only 20% of the takers pass it. However successful I was it was too much time away from my family so the 2nd and 3rd years I did not read any of the books assigned. I literally did not even open most of the books I purchased (which cost about $800 per year). My grades went down to a "B" average which is acceptable to me for the time I put in.

The first year I was awarded "distinguished scholar" award. The 2nd year brought no awards and the 3rd year after spending 100 hours on my defendant's brief I received the "best defendant's brief" award and in a mock trial on the same issue "distinguished orator for defendant" award. There were others from other classes/teachers who obtained the same awards but I was the only one to receive them both.

However nice the awards, it about killed me trying to get the job done because it took so much of my time. My other classes suffered but I was blessed and did well on my finals.

I was blessed because I accepted a calling to be a "Pa" of a pioneer trek family which included my wife Ann as "Ma" and 10 14-16 year olds. Truthfully I did not want to accept the calling. I do not like to camp and walking 13 miles a day in the dust of the plains in Wyoming is not what I consider a thrilling use of my limited time. When an appointment was made to meet with Ken Parr I figured it was for pioneer trek and looked at my schedule for 6/18-20/07. Great, it was during my finals and I was pretty certain that Concord Law School would not allow me to change my finals dates. I felt badly that Ann REALLY wanted to go and be a part of the trek experience. I told her and Ken that I would ask permission to have my finals dates changed.

Concord said that it was not advisable to change the finals and that it would likely affect me negatively to do the trek right before the finals. My finals counted for 50-70% of my grade in each class so it was very important to do well on them to raise my grades. Miraculously, and to my chagrin, they gave me permission to change the dates of my finals.

The other complication was that we were going to Rosarito, Mexico as an extended family vacation the week before Trek so it would be hard to study while I was driving and vacationing on the beach.

As I prayed about the dilemma I was faced with I told the Lord that it was in His hands and that I was exercising my faith and being obedient to Him in accepting the calling. He promised me that I would do well on my finals if I exercised my faith. In all honesty it was a trial of my faith because I had not put in as much time during the year in those classes because of my Legal Writing and Analysis (LAW) class and I needed the extra time to study for finals so that I could do well on them and save my grades. I felt that I might even get "D's" in some of my classes if I did poorly on the final exam. I resigned myself to accepting "D's" because sometimes the blessing the Lord gives us is the ability to accept the natural consequences of our actions.

However, the Lord has shown me miracles during law school like the distinguished orator award and finishing the multiple choice portion of the first year bar exam when I was only 1/2 way done with the exam after 2/3 of the time had elapsed. The Lord definitely heard my prayer at that time and I was led by the Spirit to "feel" the right answer as I sped through the reading of long, complicated questions and answers. It was a miracle that I finished the exam and more so that I passed it. To feel which answer is correct rather than to apply one's knowledge on a difficult law school exam is certainly not a technique often used or recommended.

The end result with my finals is that again the Lord blessed me and prospered me as I exercised my faith in Him such that I did well enough to get an "A" in one class and "B's" in the rest.

We must be willing to take that step into the unknown in order to show that we have the faith necessary to produce miracles before we can be blessed with one.