Monday, December 22, 2008

Soundtrack to Life

Several years ago, Brian Harris (a friend from college) shared an idea with me that I have since adopted with particular friends. Brian called it a soundtrack for your life and the idea was to record a cd with the music that would be your life's soundtrack and to swap the cd with a friend who has done the same (I still have the cd that Brian burned for me). Needless to say, it was a great way to learn of different bands and get a little insight to a friend's tastes of music. There was a list of rules that Brian came up with, which I have modified slightly when I have done this same swap with other friends over the years.
It has been a while since I have shared this idea with any of my friends, so I figure that I would send it out to all of my friends, acquaintances, and anybody who happens to be reading my blog. Feel free to read through the purpose, the rules, and to share what you come up with for yourself.

The purpose of the soundtrack is to expose friends to new or different bands and discover one another's taste in music. One should not try to analyze the lyrics to figure out the person as lyrics may or may not reflect the person's own life. For example, some songs may be included that have a particular sentimental value, may be what one was simply listening to at a particular period of one's life, or may even be chosen for the lyrical content, but that can only be discovered by asking the compiler of the soundtrack, not by attempting to analyze and figure it out on one's own. Each individual has his or her own rationale for compiling the songs that he or she chooses and it may be extremely different from your own.

1. You may choose any songs of your choosing for your soundtrack, but an artist can only appear once on your soundtrack (for example, I could not have two songs by The Smiths, but it is perfectly fine to have one song by The Smiths and another by Morrissey--who is the lead singer of The Smiths but later branched out on his own).
2. All songs must fit on 2 cds.
3a. Burn a disc with your soundtrack and swap it with a friend who has done the same.
3b. If you are swapping with someone from a distance and do not wish to mail the cds (or if you would like to swap with me, but don't want to burn discs or get my address, etc.) you may simply send the playlist with the name of the song and the artist. This will allow for the person to look up the music on their own if they like.
4. Swap the cd and playlist with your friend.
5. If you like, you can ask your friend why he or she chose a particular song for the soundtrack, but the friend reserves the right not to share that information if they do not desire to do so.

So, if any of you would like to create a soundtrack and swap it with me, I would be delighted. You may either burn me a cd and I will do the same for you, or you could simply type up your playlist and send that to me through whatever means you prefer (mail, facebook, email, or in the comments posting). Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

CD #1
1. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons--Nat King Cole
2. Game--Beady Belle
3. Brother--Annuals
4. Under the Milky Way--The Church
5. All of My Heart--ABC
6. Immature--Björk
7. Over the Water--The Cardigans
8. Wake Up Soon--The Beloved
9. Unlovable--The Smiths
10. I Feel My Savior's Love--The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
11. A Long Term Plan--Acid House Kings
12. Lullaby--The Cure
13. A Praise Chorus--Jimmy Eat World
14. Young Folks--Peter, Bjorn & John
15. Reflected--Ronderlin
16. Galapogos--Smashing Pumpkins
17. Temptation--New Order
18. 24 Hours--The Sundays
19. Sæterjentens Sondag--Ole Bull

CD #2
1. Different Names for the Same Thing--Death Cab for Cutie
2. Only Got One--Frou Frou
3. Fidelity--Regina Spektor
4. I Feel It All--Feist
5. The Next Step You Will Take--Club 8
6. Running Out of Reasons--Magne f
7. What Else Is There?--Røyksopp
8. Unsound--Savoy
9. Seasick, Yet Still Docked--Morrissey
10. Figures--The Whitest Boy Alive
11. Summer's Evening, Op. 71, No. 2--Edvard Grieg
12. The Late Sea--Bernard Herrmann
13. The Secret Life of Daydreams--Jean-Yves Thibaudet
14. I Don't Like It Like This--The Radio Dept.
15. Birthright--A-ha
16. Släpp In Solen--Ingenting
17. Summer on the Westhill--Kings of Convenience
18. Road Trippin'--Red Hot Chili Peppers
19. The Great Salt Lake--Band of Horses
20. Astri, Mi Astri--Alte Sponberg
21. Half Acre--Hem

Friday, December 19, 2008

Should it Stay or Should it Go Now?

So, I have grown out my beard once more. I have been growing it long enough to where it looks good, but is at the point where it is either going to grow all-crazy-like or I have to groom it. So the question becomes: Is it time to shave it off? Here are the options as I see it:
1. Shave it all off and go with the clean look.
2. Shave it all off but keep the sideburns.
3. Shave it all off but keep the mustache (I imagine that would be hideous, but I've never done it before. . . hmmm. . .)
4. Shave it to look all white-trash (I'm thinking handle-bar mustache, or something of the likes).
5. Keep the beard, but groom it.
6. Keep the beard and just let it grow all gnarly.
7. Some option that somebody else can think of that I have not written.

So, now that the options are before you, I would like to know what you think. Leave a comment with your suggestion/request. :)

* p.s. I'm thinking I am going to grow my hair out. I've never tried long hair (of course, when I say grow my hair out, I don't mean really long--just longer than I have ever had it, which would be a mid-length cut for a guy).

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Actor for Whom I Have Respect

As much as I enjoy entertainment such as plays, movies, and music, I am not the type of person who follows the entertainment media. As such, I really know little to nothing about various actors' and musicians' personal lives. Typically, the few that I learn a little about makes me like them less. The ideology, the politics, the attitude, the lifestyle, and etc., of many of these individuals that hail from the entertainment world tend to rub me the wrong way--it is often better to simply enjoy their acting or their music and let them to their own private lives. I'm sure that such stars would rather be left alone and I would rather not listen to their personal "expertise" on how one should live life.
Imagine then my surprise to find myself reading an article about an actor today. Of course, it isn't that surprising considering that the source by which I stumbled upon the article was realclearpolitics. I enjoy this website as it offers articles dealing with politics from various political persuasions (it is nice to see how democrats view republican issues, how democrats see democratic issues, how republicans view democratic issues, how republicans see republican issues, how independents. . . well, you get the picture). Needless to say, as I was perusing the site I saw a headline that caught my attention: Gary Sinise: A Man for all Services. I've always liked Gary Sinise as an actor but truly know nothing about Gary Sinise, the man. How interesting that his name should appear on real clear politics. I decided to click on the link and read the article, bracing myself for more disappointment with some looney actor with crazy and condescending political views. . . but no, quite the contrary. This was a story about a man, not an actor, who is doing what he feels is right, not to obtain positive press or personal glory, but because he is a human being and has compassion for other human beings. I was refreshed by this article. What a stand up guy who, whether he intends to or not, is living a Christlike life. There is no guile or pride seemingly in his actions. He isn't seeking the praise of men or the spotlight, but is simply taking a sincere interest in the lives of others. If only more people could get beyond the politics and the selfishness and do good because it is right.
I really like Gary Sinise, the actor. I especially like Gary Sinise, the man.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is This Really What It Means To Be Getting Older?

As a child, I recall having had fanciful and adventurous dreams when sleeping. The colors, actions, smells, events, and etc., were all so vivid, so real, and so unordinary. I suppose that it corresponded with childlike imagination. So imagine my surprise and disappointment when the other day I awoke from a dream that certainly had adventure, but was lacking. . .
In my dream I was watching the Portland Trailblazers play the Seattle Supersonics when a fight broke out between the two teams. Not an ordinary fight, by any means, this one cleared the benches, involved fans, and lasted exactly 59 minutes. How do I know this? Because in my dream I saw it all. . . as reported on the news. . .
How sad is that? Is this a sign that I am getting old? No longer do I have adventures in my dreams (if I were young I would have been at the game and involved in the fight). . . instead, I dream about watching the news and experiencing adventures through the media. . . How pathetic!

I demand a new psyche!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Guesswork, Darkness, and Confusion--The Age of Modern Man

I am amazed at all of the wonderful technologies that exist in the present day and am dumbfounded when I think upon what more may be created and obtained by future generations who will look back upon our present technology as primitive. We live in an age of seemingly instantaneous information. As soon as something happens, it can be published throughout the world via video, internet, cell-phone, or any other device of your choosing. This is truly amazing! Yet at such a time in the history of humanity we are faced with more philosophies, ideals, and interpretations, that mankind is left with too much information to truly sift through it all in an attempt to discover truth. We have advanced so much that we are seemingly blinded by our own advancements. We often refer to "dark ages" of history, extreme darkness being a form of blindness. Anyone who has been in a cave and turned off the flashlight understands true blindness. But the same can be true of too much light. How many of us have had the experience of being blinded by light, literally being caught looking into an oncoming car's headlights, a powerful flashlight in our face, or staring at the sun. In so doing we too become blind. So it is with our information age. We have so much information readily available at our fingertips that we do not see things clearly. With all that exists we are left to guesswork, darkness, and confusion.
With our trust in the power of modern man to deliver us from the "dark ages" of humanity, we are really proving to be just as ignorant, if not more so, than the people from history whom we so often despise with our rhetoric. We claim that mankind needed the guiding influence of God anciently, but we are advanced enough now to no longer need God. Those who believe in God believe that God revealed Himself and His will to humanity anciently, but far too many believe that He has said all that He needs to say and will say no more. On the contrary, humanity needs God now more than ever. With the prevailing wisdom (or lack thereof) that the modern world has to offer with all of its relativism and endless philosophies, the voice of God in the modern world is more precious than ever. There are so many voices that interpret the word of God from times past so differently that opposing viewpoints are expressed as if it is the will of God. This can be seen clearly in two opposing articles concerning religion and gay marriage as seen in this Newsweek article and this blog that was written in response to it. I cannot believe that God would contradict himself in revealing truth to mankind.
There stands then two essential questions to both an individual's quest for truth and the knowledge of humanity at large: (1) Is there a God? (2) Does God speak to man? If "no" is the answer, then it really doesn't much matter which philosophy we choose to buy into. Granted, such philosophies could improve or degrade the quality of life both for an individual and for humanity at large, but in the end we all die regardless of mortal conditions. If "yes" is the answer, then it does matter which philosophies we choose to buy into as there is a being who knows more than we do and can see the larger picture which we fail to see. If God exists then there could be nothing of greater value than to have him speak to us.
I profess that God does exist and that he does speak to us. The problem is that we, as human beings, either do not want to listen to what God has to say (after all, it would be like a teenager listening to his or her parents--the teenager knows that what mom or dad has to say is valuable for the teenager, but that would require living according to mom and dad rather than living for the teenager's own desires. Likewise, human beings do not want to live according to God's will but according to their own will), or we are so caught up in the noise of the world that we cannot hear His still, small, voice that speaks to the heart and mind rather than to the ears.
The fact of the matter is that God has spoken to His children through two means since the beginning of man's mortality upon this earth: God chooses prophets through whom He speaks to people generally, and God has blessed us with the Holy Ghost, through whom He speaks to us individually.
While the Newsweek article that I referenced above has many flaws within it, I feel that it is a great example as to why we need revelation today (revelation meaning God's will revealed to man). The world is in need of revelation from God to man--real revelation, not the pretended revelations that we have heard throughout history where man attempts to justify his own will by saying, "God wills it!" No, that is not true revelation. Just because a person says that something is God's will does not make it so. There is a pattern to the revelations of God and it is our privilege to educate ourselves on this pattern, learn to recognize it, and apply it in our own lives.
It is obvious, according to the Bible, that God has spoken to man from the beginning. Upon creating Adam and Eve, God spoke with them, giving His commandments to mankind (see Genesis 1:27-28). But God did not reveal all things to Adam and Eve and merely expect the rest of humanity to live off of their words alone while God remained silent. Changing times and changing conditions necessitated new instruction and guidance from a loving Heavenly Father. We learn in Deuteronomy 8:3 that "man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. . . " and more prophets were called as the mouthpiece of the Lord by which the people should live. Amos 3:7 states, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." The Old Testament contains the revealed word of God to the people of that day and age, but revelation did not end with the prophets of the Old Testament. Revelation continued with the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, "I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). And how did Jesus know what the Father had done? It was revealed to him by the Father. And while Jesus came to fulfill the law, he did not exempt revelation from that time forward, for we see that revelation continued through his apostles and disciples. While Jesus was yet living he spoke to Peter regarding revelation: ""Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). After Christ's death and resurrection, Paul asks the Corinthians: ". . . What shall I profit you, except I speak to you. . . by revelation. . ." (1 Corinthians 14:6). Furthermore, Paul tells us the means of revelation when he claims: "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. . ." (1 Corinthians 2:10). This is further supported by Paul's admonition to the Ephesians wherein he states: "How by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. . ." (Ephesians 3:3-5). It is obvious that both the Old and New Testament is valid only as it professes to be the revelation of God to man. How grateful I am that people have recorded these revelations and published them in the Bible, but in truth, the Bible is meaningless in my life and in any other person's life unless God reveals to us personally in our hearts and minds that indeed it is a book of revelation to mankind. If we fail to recognize this fact then we fail to grasp the importance and the validity of the Bible and it becomes ineffective in the lives of those who read it. Without it being revelation, then it would merely be another book of wisdom, but not the word of God. Yet it is the word of God, and we have the promise that if we will read, ponder, and pray about it that God will reveal that truth to us individually.
What is disturbing in our relationship to the Bible is our understanding and interpretations of it. Many people profess the Bible as the ultimate authority on any given issue. While it is the word of God, it is not the ultimate authority. God is the ultimate authority and the only means by which we know God's will is through revelation. The Bible itself is founded on the authority of revelation; therefore, revelation trumps everything. I know that some Christians may be upset by this statement, but think upon it. Did not the Pharisees and scribes in the day of Jesus bend the Bible (the Old Testament scriptures) to a gross interpretation of the revealed word of God? Is it not just as easy for us today to bend both the Old and New Testaments to a gross interpretation? Is this not seen on a daily basis as we are exposed to so many contradictory professions that people support through the use of the Bible? And how did Jesus refute the Pharisees and scribes who proclaimed the scriptures as the ultimate authority? Jesus quoted scripture, then added information based upon revelation in order to interpret it correctly. Hence, the Bible alone is not enough. We must each receive revelation ourselves to interpret the teachings of the Bible. Not a pretended revelation, but the real and living Holy Ghost testifying and helping us with our interpretations, and revealing new insights to meaning. And when personal revelation is not enough, God has given us prophets to speak to mankind generally. God has done this both in Old and New Testament times. If so then, why not now? Do we not need the voice of the Lord anymore? Quite the contrary--we need the voice of the Lord now more than ever. Think on this. I know it. You know it. And God knows it. Hence, God has provided prophets for us today to provide modern revelation to all of humanity. You may access the words of these prophets at this link and read and discover for yourself if it is true. You do not have to take my word for it. God will reveal to anyone who humbles themselves, studies, and asks if it is true. Just as God will reveal that the Bible is the word of God through revelation to us, God will reveal who are his living prophets.
I am ever grateful for the principle of revelation. I am thankful for prophets and apostles from the Old and New Testament who have recorded their revelations and dealings with God so that I can learn from them, apply their teachings in my life, draw nearer to my Heavenly Father, and receive revelation for myself. I am grateful that God has revealed such truths to other peoples and that they have recorded the revelations that they have received in their time and location. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon, which works hand in hand with the Bible in revealing eternal truths. And I am grateful for living prophets today who receive revelation from the Lord and instruct those who choose to listen in the way of eternal life.
A few more scriptures that support the concept and importance of revelation can be found in the Book of Mormon. In Jacob 4:8 we read: "Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. . . And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed to him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God." Furthermore, in verse 13, Jacob continues: "He that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be. . ." Nephi offers some beautiful truths on how the Lord instructs each person through revelation according to their own knowledge, understanding, and desire: "For behold, sayeth the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have" (2 Nephi 28:30). What a blessing that we have the Holy Scriptures to offer us guidance and to have the words of prophets both dead and living to instruct us in the Will of God. Nevertheless, we do not have to rely solely upon the words of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or living prophets alone. Surely, these sources are only valid in our lives if we have received revelation that indeed they are of God and that God approves of them. Hence the greatest revelation of all is the direct revelation that comes from God to us individually. Nephi stated it well when he said: "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:5). God does not want us to live by blind faith, but by revelation. While we may not always receive what we want from God, I promise that if we are humble and patient, He will reveal what is necessary for us in His own wisdom and due time. There is no reason that in the age of modern man we should be living in a state of guesswork, darkness, and confusion. The choice is our own--God has granted our freedom to choose which course of life we wish. But the only way we can return to live with God is if our will is to learn and do God's will, which can only be made manifest through revelation.

You may access more information on modern prophets at the following websites:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This Question was a First. . .

As a high school teacher I receive many questions each day at work. Some questions apply directly to what we are studying and others come from some far recesses of the human brain which is full of cobwebs, chains, and is boarded up with a huge "Off Limits" sign. While I love questions that are thoughtful and directly relate to the subject at hand, the random questions have their own merit, at times, which I can appreciate (more so if they are asked before or after class). One such question was offered up before class today. . . this question was a first for me. . .

[Scene: Mr. Hall's classroom. Mr. Hall is at the back of the classroom, stapling updated grades to the wall. A student approaches]

STUDENT: Mr. Hall, I have a question for you.
MR. HALL: Alright, let's hear it.
STUDENT: You're Mormon, right?
MR. HALL: Yes.
STUDENT: Is the Mormon Bible the same as the Bible?
MR. HALL: Yes, Mormon's use the same Bible as Christians.
STUDENT: But I thought you have your own Bible?
MR. HALL: We have the Book of Mormon which we use in connection with the Bible, but we have the exact same Old and New Testament that you will find in any Christian church.
STUDENT: O, good, 'cause I've got a question.
MR. HALL: Alright. . .
STUDENT: Does the Bible say that it is okay to smoke marijuana?
STUDENT: Yes, it does!
MR. HALL (With a dumbfounded look on his face): What?
STUDENT: God tells Adam and Eve that they can partake of any tree other than the knowledge of good and evil.
MR. HALL: Yes, God says that they may eat any fruit from the trees in the Garden of Eden other than the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He says nothing about marijuana.
STUDENT: But God says we can partake of any tree.
MR. HALL: He instructed Adam and Eve that they could eat of the fruit of the trees. God did not say they could smoke it.
STUDENT: Yes He did.
MR. HALL: No, He didn't. You need to read your New Testament, particularly the words of Paul, which tells us not to do anything that will harm our bodies.
STUDENT: But marijuana doesn't harm our bodies.
MR. HALL: Yes, it does.
STUDENT: No it doesn't.
MR. HALL: Well, the bell is about to ring and I need you to take you seat.

[End Scene]

So, let me clarify a few things before people get their underwear all tied up in knots. First, for those of you who may be thinking, "Why is a teacher discussing religion in school?" Well, I was not the one who brought it up. I was simply answering a student's question, which is okay to do. Additionally, it was not during instructional time, nor presented before the class. Furthermore, I was not promoting any religion--I was simply referring to a belief-set that the student had acknowledged of his own accord. Alright, now that I have covered my butt from any progressive radicals who wish to perform a witch hunt and get me fired because of their misunderstood conception of "Separation of Church and State," let me continue.
While I know that this particular student will never read this blog, I do wish to present a brief case to support my position in the event that any of my readers might actually agree with the student's position that the Bible says it is alright to smoke marijuana.
The Biblical reference that the student uses to supposedly support his position is Genesis 2:16-17, which states: "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Notice, the operative verb is to eat, not to smoke. Furthermore, we must understand that this commandment was specifically given to Adam and Eve, not all of humanity, and it applied specifically to the Garden of Eden, not the world at large. I have no idea what type of plant-life was growing in the Garden of Eden, but I don't think that marijuana was one of them. And even if it was, I do not believe that they were eating or smoking it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but, yes, according to the Bible, Adam and Eve actually spoke with God--it wasn't a pipe-dream!
Furthermore, the New Testament is replete with scriptures speaking of the virtues of temperance and soberness (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 14:21; Titus 1:8; Titus 2:2, and etc.). Granted, when read in context many of these scriptures are referring to specific people or callings, but many can be extended to people at large. Needless to say, as much as one may wish to bend the Word of God to justify sin and destruction, the reality is quite the opposite. Stay off the MJ and any other drugs and you will probably get a better interpretation from your scriptures.