Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

May the love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your loved ones, during this season, and always.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Power of Truth

I am prone to negative self-talk.  I do it so often that I'm not even aware of it most of the time.  And the things that I say to myself are very painful.  But being aware can bring powerful experiences.  I had one last night with the power of truth.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." -John 8:32

I was able to reframe one negative thought by first looking at the truth and then turning the thought into a positive statement.

Lie: I am a sucky husband.
Truth: I am a good man who is the best husband he can be at this time, and is doing all he can to become a better one through therapy, learning, reading, and change.
Positive Statement: I am learning how to be a better husband.

Before any of you get thrown off by the "Positive Statement", let me say that I have always been very skeptical of the positive affirmation stuff that gets thrown around so heavily these days.  But a positive truthful statement has real power to it.  Saying the truth and the positive felt like a ray of light shined on me inside.  I indeed felt free from the negative voice, and the oppression and gloom it brings.  The truth was like a breath of fresh air, even a lungful after holding my breath for a long time.  It was like a bright light shining in the darkness, and allowing me to see clearly again, even if only for a few minutes.

The peace that this experience brought makes me want to try it again, and start weeding through the negative and deceitful thoughts that so often run through my head.  Words and thoughts have real power.

If you also struggle with negative self talk, I encourage you to give it a try.  If you truly feel like you struggle (as do I), don't say, "I am a good husband."  You won't believe it, and it won't work.  Instead, say, "I am learning how to be a better husband."  That is true, even if only by virtue of you being here.  The very fact that you are reading a blog about personal and marital healing means that you are learning how to do better.

The closer we come to the truth, the more clearly we will be able to see things as they are.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The tragic shooting in Connecticut this past week has been on my mind, as I'm sure it has been on many of yours.  As I see these and other challenging situations faced by people across the world, it is sometimes hard.  I wonder if there is anything I can do to help.

 And there is.  There is something all of us can do.  It is as simple as kneeling, folding our arms, bowing our heads, and praying to our Heavenly Father.  There is great power in prayer.  I know that He hears each and every prayer, and He blesses those for whom we pray.

And prayers need not be only for distant situations or unfamiliar people.  Some of those who need our prayers the most live in our own home.  And the example we set will be noticed by our children.

I had a poignant experience with the power of prayer and the way our children follow our example.  Just before dinner last night, my son started having stomach pains.  It was bad enough that he skipped out of dinner and went to lay down on the couch.  As my two daughters came to dinner, my oldest announced that she had been in her room praying for her brother, and that her little sister had been in there with her listening to the prayer.  At this point, my son piped up from the couch that he had also said a prayer for himself.

My heart was filled with deep gratitude and joy for my children.  It is a great comfort for me to know that my children know where to turn when they are facing challenges, or when a family member needs extra help.  This will be a great blessing to them, all of their lives.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Miracles of Technology

We truly live in an amazing day and age.  I recently traded in my old cell phone that I've had for almost three years for a smart phone.  It has been a lot of fun to tinker with it and check out the various apps that are available for it.

One of the first ones that I downloaded was Gospel Library, which was created by the church.  After installing the app, I went in to the program and downloaded the scriptures.  It took about five minutes total.

Think about that.  Five minutes.

Five minutes to get the revealed word of God onto a device the size of the palm of my hand.  A device that wasn't connected to anything, but received the information through the air!

Five minutes to get scriptures that took thousands of years to collect in their current form.

Five minutes to have access to the words of the prophets from all ages and dispensations.

It helped me to realize and remember what a great blessing it is to live in a time when great advances have been made to both technology and truth.  We are the recipients of a precious gift.  We have access to God's word in ways that weren't dreamed of, even when I was a child!

Let us be sure to use these tools wisely.  Technology is a powerful tool, but only if it is used correctly.  Let us use our increased access to the Word to become more familiar with it.

It would help all of us to spend a little less time in Angry Birds and a little more time in the scriptures.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

And God Said "No"

As I have progressed in my healing, I have started actually looking at my own needs and wants, instead of pretending that they don't exist (which doesn't work out too well, by the way).  I have prayed and pondered about many of them, and I have asked Heavenly Father for some of them in prayer.  I have received many good things, and I am taking better care of myself than I have in years.

But that doesn't mean I've received everything that I've asked for.  Sometimes Heavenly Father has a different answer for me.

Sometimes God says "No."

Are those my favorite prayers?  Definitely not.  But they are, perhaps, some of the most valuable ones.

I asked for something particularly difficult a week or so ago, and waited to see the results.  Several things happened during the week which made God's answer very clear to me.  And the answer was "No."

Usually, I pull a toddler act at this point.  You know the deal, cry, throw yourself on the ground, have a temper tantrum, the usual.  And it works about as well for me as it does for the typical toddler.

I've tried to take a different approach this time.  Not for all of the "No" answers, but for this particular one.  I have tried to humble myself before God and accept His will, even though it is not what I wanted.  I've tried to accept His will in prayer.

And it has worked out okay.

In fact, my eyes have been opened in the days since I attempted to pray with humility to accept His will.  I've seen several other things that have shown me why His answer to me is a "No" at this time.  And I'm okay with it.

As hard as it may seem to be, sometimes a "No" is the most loving answer for everyone involved.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

There Is Beauty All Around

Yes, I named this post after the first line of the popular hymn "Love at Home".  I know it's a little bit past Thanksgiving, but we should be looking for the beauty around us all year long, not just at the end of November.  I've been known to be ungrateful in the past, and I felt to post about some of the many sources of beauty that the Lord has placed all around us.

Let's start with some of the easy ones.

There is beauty in our Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  There is beauty in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is beauty in the atonement, which makes it possible for all of us to return to the presence of God.  There is beauty in repentance, which allows us to overcome our mistakes and choose a better way.

There is beauty in the scriptures.  There is beauty in the Holy Bible, both the Old and the New Testament.  There is beauty in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  There is beauty in the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  There is beauty in having a living prophet on the earth.  There is beauty in the Twelve Apostles, the other General Authorities, and our stake and ward/branch leaders.  There is beauty in the Aaronic and Melchezidek Priesthood, authority given to man to do the Lord's work on earth and help provide salvation to His children.

There is beauty in nature.  There is beauty in the grandeur of God's creations.  There is beauty in the mountains, the forests, the deserts, the plains.  There is beauty in the sun, the moon, the stars, and all of the planets that move in their regular motions.  There is beauty when our Creator paints a sunset in the sky each night.  There is beauty in the animals and the plants.

Now let's move on to some of the ones that sometimes feel like blessings, and sometimes feel like something else.  There is beauty in our families.  There is beauty in our parents, most of whom did their best to raise us as honest, upright people.  There is beauty in our spouse, even when we don't always get our way.  There is beauty in our children, each one a unique and precious soul learning their way here on the earth.

There is beauty in good, honest hard work.  There is beauty in being employed and providing for your family.  There is beauty in coming home content in a job well done.  There is beauty in having a roof over your head, no matter how humble it may be.  There is beauty in having enough food on the table and clothes on our backs.  There is beauty in modern conveniences, washers and driers, microwaves, computers, hot and cold running water, and indoor plumbing.

But we can go further still.  Some blessings are harder to see because they are more hidden.  There is beauty in pain, as it helps us to grow.  There is beauty in mistakes, which help us learn.  There is beauty in loneliness, for it helps us to appreciate friendship better.  There is beauty in sorrow, as it can open our heart to even greater joy if we allow it to.

There is beauty in trials, for He that is faithful will be with us every step of the way.  There is beauty in suffering, which helps us to find patience in the Lord's will.  There is beauty in delayed blessings, which teach us to trust His timing (no matter how hard that may be).  There is beauty in the darkness inside each one of us, for it humbles us and helps us to remember how very much we need Him.

Look for the beauty all around you, and you will surely find it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Put On Your Own Mask First

I assume most of you have travelled on an airline at some point in your lives.  At the beginning of every flight, they have a safety briefing.  As part of the briefing, the flight attendant demonstrates how the oxygen mask should be used in the event of cabin pressure failing.  They also indicate that you should put on your own mask before assisting others.

I remember feeling a bit put out about this when I was a child.  Why should I suffer needlessly in the event of an emergency?  Shouldn't my parents help me with my mask first?  It just didn't seem fair!

With age comes wisdom (hopefully).  I now understand why my parents would need to put their own mask on first.  If they failed to do so, they would risk their own safety, and would then be unable to help me or anyone else.

It is the same way in our own lives and in our marriages.  When I am tired and worn out from doing too much for too long with too little help, the last thing I feel like doing is being kind to my wife and children.  When I've been burning the candle at both ends, I am less effective at work, as well as less pleasant to be around.  When I've stayed up late for one too many nights, I don't particularly feel like going to church, or volunteering for the next service project.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point sufficiently clear.  One of my favorite sayings is, you can't draw water from an empty well.  It's also difficult to draw feeling from an empty emotional bank account.

Also, this energy can't come from outside of you.  It is something you need to develop on your own.  The parable of the Ten Virgins comes to mind:
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."  -Matthew 25:1-9
Usually, this parable is used to describe spiritual preparedness, but I feel that it applies equally well to emotional energy and self-care.  The five wise virgins were not being stingy with their oil.  Indeed, the kind of oil can't be shared.  How can you share experiences that renew you and fill you up?  How can you share the benefits of exercise, good nutrition, and adequate sleep?  Each must find this kind of emotional oil for themselves.

If you are like me, and are running low on oil, I challenge you to make some time now to do something about it.  Notice that I said make time, not take time.  If you wait for the time to come on your own, you will never do it.  You must make time for it.  And don't give me the excuse about it being "selfish".  As my wife's therapist says, "Taking care of yourself is not selfish.  It's smart!"

I will provide a few suggestions here.  Obviously, I don't know you, and I can't tell you what will bring renewal and refreshment for you.  But this can hopefully at least get you started thinking:
  • Get into nature.  There's something about God's great outdoors that is refreshing to the soul.
  • Play with a child.  Nothing can help refresh your viewpoint like seeing it through a child's eyes.  If you don't have your own children, borrow someone else's for an hour or two.
  • Spend some time on a favorite hobby, or develop a new one.
  • Listen to inspiring music, or play some if you are musically inclined.
  • Read
  • Go to bed early.  Really, it can be done!
  • Have a "no technology" day.  I did this for a whole week on a vacation earlier this year, and it was wonderfully freeing!
  • Get a massage
And above all, if you can't think of anything else, pray!  Heavenly Father and Jesus are concerned about you, and they want you to take good care of yourself.  The other people that you desire to serve will still be there when you get back from taking care of yourself.  And there will be more of you to give to them because you have taken good care of yourself.  Put your own mask on first, and then help others.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Christmas Season

Over the years, I've noticed a disturbing trend.  As a culture, we've started to drift away from Christmas in the month of December.  Instead of "Merry Christmas", it's "Happy Holidays", "Happy December 25th", or some other politically correct nonsense.  One of the most absurb that I can recall is a fellow who invited a group of his friends over for an "Annual Winter Solstice Celebration".

Listen, I'm all for not offending people.  But it's gone too far, and has gotten ridiculous.  Christmas begins with Christ!  If if were not for our Savior, there wouldn't be a Christmas, nor would there be any reason to celebrate.

I believe that our country is still composed of a majority of God-fearing Christians.  Let's make sure that Christ continues to come first in Christmas.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Can Ye Feel So Now?

As I was pondering what to share today, the scriptures in Alma 5 came to mind.  The prophet Alma had just resigned his position as chief judge over the land so that he could devote himself completely to the work of the ministry.  His first stop on his missionary journey was the capital city of Zarahemla.  The people there were in a bit of a rough spot, and were not keeping the commandments of God as they ought to.  Alma later describes his personal feelings during this time as ones of "wading through much affliction and sorrow" (Alma 7:5).

Reviewing the chapter, Alma begins by reminding the people of how their fathers had been blessed by the Lord.  He then proceeds to ask them a large number of questions, inviting them to look upon their own hearts and ponder their commitment.  One of the questions in particular spoke to my soul as I pondered the current state of my marriage:
"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" -Alma 5:26
How many of us experienced a change of heart when we got married?  How many of us felt to sing the song of redeeming love on our wedding day?  I would wager that most (if not all) of us felt this way.  While I was dating my wife, I felt my heart turn toward her.  On our wedding day, I was overwhelmed with joy, love, happiness and the Spirit.

Now to Alma's question.  Can ye feel so now?

How are the feelings once the honeymoon period inevitably ends?  What about when you are tired and grumpy from caring for an infant at all hours of the day and night?  What about when work drains the very last drop of energy from your body before you get home?  What about when there are disagreements with no easy solution?  What about when challenges, trials, and heartaches come knocking at the door?

Can ye feel so now?

It is so very easy to get swept up in the day to day of our lives, and forget why we got married to our sweetheart in the first place.  I understand.  I've been there.  It's a hard place to be.  Sometimes the song of redeeming love and the change of heart can feel very far away indeed.

Can ye feel so now?  If not, there is a way back.

As always, the Lord has answers.  After Alma asks this important question, he directs us to prepare.  He then directs us to the One who can best help us to prepare, even the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.  Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;"  -Alma 5:33-34
The Lord is ever ready to come to our assistance.  And the way to do so is simple (I say simple, not easy).  It is to repent, and return unto Him.  It is to go back to the basics.

Not feeling those loving feelings?  Go back to the basics that brought you those feelings in the first place!  Love is an action first, and a feeling second.  Become a student of your spouse.  Get to know them again.  Spend time doing enjoyable things together.  Pray together.  Study your scriptures together.  Laugh.  Play.  Get back to the simple things, and you can enjoy the simple blessings that are promised to the faithful.

Can ye feel so now?  If not, you can feel so again.  Begin today.  Pick one small thing, and do it.  You might be surprised at the results!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Thread, White Thread

I don't like discomfort.  Pain is something I try to avoid at all costs.  Sometimes I think I would enjoy a life of "vanilla peace".  You know, the kind where nothing bad ever seems to happen and things move along smoothly.  However, as nice as it sometimes sounds, that sort of life is not really the pattern for growth.

I have slowly been learning to face my pain, rather than run and hide from it.  It has been uncomfortable for sure, but it has also been remarkably healing.  And I've learned several things.

First, the pain is not unbearable.  The same God who promises that I will not be tempted above that which I can bear also does not allow me to suffer pain beyond what I can bear (although sometimes I wish He didn't trust me so much).

Second, I've learned that the pain passes.  In some ways, it is like a large wave of water in the ocean.  The wave will wash over me, and then it passes, and I have some moments of calm before the next wave comes in.  In the past, I was afraid that the pain would be overwhelming, and it wouldn't leave me.  I'd be stuck in it.  But it turns out that is not the case.

Third, I've learned that there is peace on the other side of the pain.  This point was the one that I did not see coming.  I figured that working through pain would leave me exhausted (which it indeed does on many occasions).  But there is also peace from the Spirit once the pain has passed.  In some ways, there is more peace on the other side, because the pain, having been heard and felt, no longer blocks the flow of the Spirit.

Finally, I've learned that as much as I enjoy the white threads in the tapestry of my life, the black threads are just as valuable in creating the entire picture.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


They have been doing construction at my work for the past couple of months.  Removing the old cubes and offices to make room for newer ones (I won't say improved, because I liked the old ones better, but I digress).

We were given plenty of notice when they were about to begin the first set of construction.  Still, I was surprised when I came in on a Monday morning to see a wooden wall blocking off the entrance to the section they were working on.  I was more surprised when I checked from another side, and found that the entire area had been gutted.  I had walked through the area on the previous Friday, and everything was normal, as I remembered it.  I was amazed at how quickly they could take everything down.

Building up the new area took the better part of a month.  I have actually moved into the new area temporarily, until they finish my final location.  The construction company has subsequently finished the second area, and moved on to the third.  I took a quick glance at the third construction area the other day, and saw that it was in the freshly gutted stage.  All of the cubicles, offices, and even the carpets are gone.  But the area is not entirely bare.  There are a handful of thick metal beams going from floor to ceiling, which support the level above.  These beams (I don't know the official construction term) form the framework upon which the new offices and cubicles will be built, and are an essential part of the structural integrity of the building.

In a previous post, I talked about the foundation on which marital and personal healing should be built.  Today, I want to talk a little bit more about where we go after we get a firm foundation.  As always, the Lord has given us direction on this through His holy prophets.  I will be taking my comments from the Family Proclamation:
"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." -The Family: A Proclamation to the World
If you have not yet read this inspired document, you can read the entire proclamation here.

Any of these principles could fill several blog posts.  Perhaps I will do a series on them at some point.  But for now, I wish to focus on two things:

1) These principles are based on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is our foundation.  The teachings and principles that He gives to us are the framework.  Once we have our foundation, we need a strong and solid framework on which to build the rest of our marriage or personal life.  The teachings of the Master provide us with this framework.

2) Since these are principles, they are unchanging by their nature.

One of the great comforts I find in the Gospel is its unchanging nature.  Life changes and moves at an ever increasing pace.  Philosophies and teachings change almost as often as the weather.  Things that were once accepted by the greater community are being challenged, derided, and even sometimes discarded.  In the midst of all of this chaos, it is comforting to know that what the Lord has given us is unchanging and eternal.  A principle that is true today was true yesterday, and will be true tomorrow.  Thus, we can build our framework without fear of it becoming outdated.

Although I have focused my comments today on building and healing a marriage, these same principles will also do wonders in personal healing.

Take a moment or two today and review this list of principles.  Pick one that speaks to you, and strive to make it a bigger part of your life.  I promise that the Lord will bless you as you do so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lord, Is It I?

This year has been a year of healing and change for me, as well as one that has been eye-opening in many ways.  Earlier in the year, I ended a long-standing relationship with computer games, a relationship which was keeping me in the dark about a great many things.  The computer game addiction is worth a whole series of posts, which I will eventually do.  But today, I want to focus on what I have seen in the months since I quit playing computer games.

I have seen a Mark who is not quite as innocent a victim as I have painted myself out to be.  It was very easy to point outward to other things as the reasons why there was a lack of closeness in my relationship with my wife.  She is tired from taking care of the kids all day.  She has had a rough day.  The kids are making me feel tired.  It's been a long day of work.  And on and on and on.

I played the martyr card early and often.  I wasn't blatant and obvious about it, but it permeated the way I interacted with my wife, and to a lesser extent, my kids.  I allowed myself to believe that circumstances were beyond my control, and that I would be the super-husband and super-dad, forever working and ever underappreciated.  Even though I didn't see a way to change, I would be faithful to my covenants.

Now there is some truth in those statements, right?  Of course I should be faithful to my covenants.  There are times in life when I will need to step up and provide a little bit of extra.  But the statements are not fully true.  And the most dangerous kind of lie is the one that is mixed with a careful portion of the truth.

As I have become more aware over the past few months, the Spirit has gently indicated that I might want to reconsider some of my views.  I have prayed for my eyes and ears to be opened.  And I have seen more of the truth, even though some of it has been painful:
  • The truth is that the responsibility for my happiness and closeness is not "out there".  It is inside me.
  • The truth is that while circumstances are sometimes beyond my control, my attitude is always under my control.
  • The truth is that I can be faithful and pleasant at the same time.
  • The truth is that much of my own loneliness, and the delay of promised blessings in my relationship, are due to my own choices.
  • The truth is that my choices have caused great pain, not just to me, but also to the lives of those who I love, foremost among them my beloved wife.
There is pain in the truth.  And yet there is also power.

For if these things are external, there is no hope of changing them.  I am truly stuck.  But if they are the result of my choices, then I have the power to choose differently.  There is still time to change my ways.  There is time to do the right thing, for the right reasons, with the right attitude.  There is a word for this.  It is repentance.

The disciples who were with Jesus in his earthly ministry give us a good example of how to do this.  At the Last Supper, Jesus announced that one of His disciples would betray Him.  To their credit, the apostles did not nudge each other and whisper, "I'll bet it's old Judas.  He's sure been acting strange lately."  Instead, they were sorrowful, and asked earnestly, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:21-22)

Rather than looking around me at all of the things that are "causing" me to behave a certain way, I want to live with a "Lord, is it I?" attitude.  Is there contention in my home?  Distance?  A lack of promised blessings?  What am I contributing to the problem?  What is my part?  What can I change?

Lord, is it I?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Atonement

Today's quote is compliments of President Packer, from the most recent General Conference:

"No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, 'Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.'" —Boyd K. Packer, "The Atonement", Liahona and Ensign, November 2012
As one who often feels guilt for my past actions and inactions, I am deeply grateful for a loving Savior who made it possible for me to be healed, and also to choose differently in the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Simple Question

I'm feeling a bit frazzled today, so today's thought will be a short one.  It is taken from a recent post from Corey over at Simple Marriage.  The post there is even shorter than this one, so I will share it in its entirety here:
Would you want to be married to you?
Please take a few moments to seriously ponder this question.  Oh, and if you are like me, you might want to do your pondering with the Lord in prayer.  This question should bring thoughtful reflection, not shame.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Do we "deserve" love?

I had a rough patch the other day.  As I was driving somewhere, I was pondering what more I needed to do to deserve love.  The Spirit stopped me with a soft, yet direct question: "Is love something that is deserved?"  I thought about it some.  Does Jesus love me because I deserve it?  What about my children?  Have they done something to deserve my love?  Is love a commodity that can be earned?

The truest and highest form of love is unconditional.  This is the kind of love that Heavenly Father and Jesus have for us.  As we read in the New Testament:
We love him, because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19
Ideally, this is also the kind of love that we show for our spouse and children.  That is, unconditional love.  I am not there yet, but I am striving to get there.

There is also another person that needs our unconditional love.  That is ourselves.  This one is even harder for me.  I struggle mightily to love myself, especially when I make mistakes.  And yet, the love that I feel for my family and others flows from the love I feel for myself.

I hope that I may draw closer to the Lord.  His love is unconditional and unending.  There is a limitless supply for all who will come unto Him:
Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  2 Nephi 9:50
May we feast upon His love, and then share it with those around us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

We need the family more than ever

Part of what lead me to create this blog was my discovery of the Christian marriage blogging community.  There are many wonderful people out there who are blogging about marriage and family, and are teaching the truth according to the principles found in the Bible.  Some of them are listed in the sidebar, should you be interested in reading them.  I highly recommend them.

Today's post is from Canadian writer Sheila Wray Gregoire's website To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.  She speaks about the increased need for strong families in today's world.  Here is an excerpt from the article:
"And so we need, more than ever, to have strong families. We need a buffer from the storm, and that is why God gave us each other. We need to commit to loving our families, commit to nurturing and growing our families, and commit to showing others what a true community looks like.
Two thousand years ago the Christians were able to do that because they loved each other, and through that love they were strong enough to help others."
You can read the whole article here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seeking for help

I injured my shoulder about a month and a half ago moving furniture.  It's been a little bit sore ever since.  Not sore enough to cause a lot of pain, but enough to be uncomfortable.  Enough to remind me that it is there.  Today I finally made an appointment to go and see the doctor, since it doesn't seem to be getting better on its own.

Although my immediate pain is physical, this also applies to emotional, mental, and spiritual pain.  Sometimes we have hurts that aren't so visible or obvious.  They don't hurt enough to stop us in our day to day lives, but they do make us uncomfortable.  They prevent us from functioning fully.  And just as a doctor can help me with my shoulder, loving leaders, mentors, friends, and the Holy Ghost can help us with our less visible pains.  We need others to help us in our need.

And above all, let us remember the Master Physician, who has the answers to all of our pains.  He knows exactly what you are feeling, because He experienced it Himself.  As Isaiah wrote:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:3-5
Come unto the Savior, and find sweet peace and reassurance at His feet.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More about foundations

As a follow-up from last night's post about foundation, this scripture came to mind:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  Helaman 5:12
Jesus is the only sure rock and foundation, for both our personal lives and our marriages.

Friday, November 2, 2012


The other day, I was thinking about the movie "The Mountain of the Lord".  Specifically, I was thinking about the part of the movie where Johnston's army is approaching the city.  This requires the saints to bury the foundation of the temple to prevent the holy ground from being desecrated.  After the immediate threat of the army has passed, the foundation is exhumed so that the construction of the temple may continue.

Unfortunately, the foundation is discovered to have cracks in it, which will not support the weight of a granite temple.  Despondent, President Young vows not to move from the spot until he knows what he is to do.

Later in the day, Elder Woodruff comes to visit with President Young.  Elder Woodruff suggests a new plan of action.  The new approach will create a stable foundation, but will also require that the entire existing foundation be removed.  Nine years of labor have already been been put into the temple construction, and it will be necessary to start all over again.  This is indeed what is done.

There are several things that can be taken from this experience that apply to our marriages:

 1) Sometimes it is necessary to start over

Undoubtably, it was heartbreaking to throw away nine years of toil, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears.  And yet the purpose of the temple was to stand through the Millenium.  If they had continued to build on a damaged foundation, how long would it have been until the temple collapsed?  Then the foundation would still need to be removed, along with everything else that had collapsed on top of it.  They would have only been delaying the inevitable by trying to build on a damaged foundation.

Are there parts of our marriage that are build on a damaged foundation?  Have we built, expecting the other person to "complete us"?  Did we marry solely based on feelings of infatuation that have faded?  Are we relying on our own efforts too much?  Are there more serious issues, such as pornography, abuse, or an affair?  Are our marriages balanced precariously on a broken block of stone, nearing the point of collapse?

In many cases, a marriage may be on strong footings, and need only a small amount of renovation.  But sometimes all of the broken pieces need to come up so that a sure and strong foundation can be put in its place.  If you feel you are in this situation, please don't delay.  A broken foundation will not get better on its own.

2) Sometimes we need the help of other people

President Young was the prophet, and had spent a considerable amount of time praying and pondering on what to do.  But it was not until Elder Woodruff came and spoke with him that he was able to move forward with what needed to be done.

We are not sent to this earth to be alone in our struggles.  Prayerfully consider where you can turn to for help.  A loving bishop or a kind, supportive counselor can provide a listening ear and a helping hand.  You may also be able to find a mentor couple, who may have had similar experiences to yours.

I would be cautious about going to family or friends.  While they do care about you, they may be too close to the situation to provide an objective point of view.

The Lord knows your situation better than I do.  If you ask Him, He will direct you to someone who can help.  While the Lord can certainly meet all of our needs, He often works through other people.  He understands that sometimes we need to see the ear that is listening to us, and feel a physical hand of comfort on our shoulders.

3) Remember who your foundation is

I have saved the most important point for last.  We often look to others to be our foundation, whether it is our spouse, parent, friend, or leader.  While all of these people can be helpful, they cannot provide us with what we truly need.  The scriptures teach us where our foundation is to be found:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.  Ephesians 2:19-20
Whether your foundation needs only a few bricks replaced, or a complete removal, be sure that you are built on the chief cornerstone.  Jesus loves you, and He very much wants your marriage to succeed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Soul Hungered

Today's post is based off of the story of Enos from the Book of Mormon.  Enos had a righteous, loving father who taught him the scriptures and the joy of the saints.  Enos recounts the following experience he had while out on a hunting trip:
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.  Enos 1:4
Enos later spoke to his Lord about his people, the Nephites, and then his enemies, the Lamanites.  But that is not where he began his spiritual quest.  It began with himself, and his own relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Only after his own guilt had been swept away was he able to reach out to those around him.

So it is in our lives.  I have tried to reach out to others in the Lord's way while carrying an inner emptiness.  And wouldn't you know it, it hasn't worked out particularly well.  It's not that my actions or even my desires are bad.  They are not.  I truly desire to help and bless other people.  But I must first fill my own bucket with water before I can contribute to another's bucket.

Having tried almost every other way, I have come to the conclusion that I must build and strengthen my own personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  I need to come unto Him first and foremost.  I need to ensure that He is more important to me than anyone else.  Honestly, the thought is a little scary for me.  Even though I know that He knows everything about me, I feel nervous being that vulnerable before Him.  And yet, I also know that I cannot move forward to where I want to be personally or in my marriage without His help.

My soul hungers for a connection with Him.  I yearn to have my inner emptiness filled with His great love.  The following scripture comes to mind:
Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.  D&C 19:23
May the Lord fill me with peace and love.  Not only for my sake, but that I can then pass on these gifts to my loved ones in my family, as well as others to whom the Lord would have me minister.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spiritual Nourishment From the Scriptures

"Immersion in the scriptures is essential for spiritual nourishment.  The word of God inspires commitment and acts as a healing balm for hurt feelings, anger, or disillusionment."

—Quentin L. Cook, "Can Ye Feel So Now?", Liahona and Ensign, November 2012

I can't think of a better way to sum up what is needed for both personal and marital healing.  There is great power in the scriptures.  Even holding them helps me to feel better.  More so when I open them and immerse myself in their contents.

I once heard it said that if we want to talk to God, we should pray, and if we want to listen to God, we should read the scriptures.  May it be so, and may our spirits be well nourished!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Invincibility Is Not Good For Your Marriage

"I am strong and tough.  I can handle whatever life throws at me on my own.  I am self-reliant.  I don't need anyone else.  I am invincible!"

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  I know that I tell myself things like this all of the time.  I think there are many of us out there (especially men) who want to feel strong, powerful, and in control all of the time.  But I will let you in on a big secret.

It's a lie.

It really is.  No matter how much we may feel otherwise, no matter how much we don't want to admit it, we aren't invincible.  We are very mortal, weak, and sometimes even fragile inside.  That can be a hard blow to take.  The old ego doesn't like being told things like that.  But invincibility is actually a stumbling block in marriage.

A person that is invincible is also a person that can't be touched.  It's no fun trying to get a reaction out of a brick wall.  Sometimes he becomes a person that runs through or knocks over everything he comes in contact with.  That's no fun for those who have to live with him.  And being based on a lie, pretending to be invincible takes a lot of energy to maintain the lie.

And if we were truly invincible, we would have no need of the Lord in our lives.  And that kind of pretend invincibility is the most damaging of all, because it cuts us off from the only one who can truly make us strong.

I think most women would prefer a weak, occasionally stumbling man who is humble and repentant, to one who is "perfect" and untouchable.

Now I hear you saying, Mark, that is easier said than done!  I understand.  I created my own illusion of invincibility to protect myself from some deep hurt in my past.  But the shell it has created has pushed my wife away, and robbed both of us of the closeness that God intended us to have in our marriage.  Opening the shell is very uncomfortable.  In choosing to be vulnerable with my wife, I also have a fear of being shredded.  But that vulernability is the very thing that can bring us closer together.  When she truly knows me, she can love me for who I really am, rather than having to work around a shell.  This vulernability is still new to me, and it is still very uncomfortable.  But the closeness it has generated, even for a short time, has been well worth the risk.

So if you think you are invincible, or that you need to be, might I suggest that you think again?  Take some time to pray about it.  Ask your spouse which he/she would prefer: an invincible spouse or a vulernable spouse.  You might be surprised at the answer.

A New Approach

After some pondering and prayer this week, I've decided to set up a new approach in presenting content on this blog (at least for the time being).  I see two main parts to the healing I am working on currently.  First, I am working on healing and improving my relationship with the Lord.  Second, I am working on healing and improving my relationship with my wife.  Both of them are similar in some ways, but they are different enough that each deserve some "air time".  Also, I imagine that there are individuals who are struggling with one or both areas in their own lives.

So I am planning on posting at least twice a week: one for personal healing and one for marital healing.  I may also toss in an inspirational quote or a link to other blogs here and there, but the main focus will be on the two types of healing I am working on in my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blowing off the dust

Perhaps a daily posting schedule was a tad ambitious.  Many things have happened since I last posted here.  My wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary.  Our children had birthdays.  We started attending couple therapy.  I gave up playing computer games.

Each of these could be worthy of their own posting, and perhaps I will post about them individually in the near future.  But for now, I wanted to clear off the dust, remove the mothballs, and bring this blog back to life.

I follow a number of Christian marriage blogs, and I have learned many useful things from them.  As I have reviewed them, I've noticed two things.  First, most of the bloggers are women.  I think women are wonderful, and value their perspective.  However, I would like to hear more from the male persepective.  Secondly, there are very few blogs from an LDS perspective.  Again, I have learned many things from my other Christian friends.  However, I feel that there are many others of my faith who may be in a similar position to mine, and would benefit from the viewpoint of a "fellow Saint".

Most importantly, I have felt the whisperings of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to start up my blogging again.  Whether male or female, sharer of my specific faith or fellow believer in Christ, it is my prayer to bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to those who are struggling in their marriages, and hope to improve them through the Lord.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inspirational Quote

From time to time, I come across a quote that really speaks to me.  I found this one a few months ago.  As someone who struggles with mistakes I've made in the past, it was a breath of fresh air.

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." - Carl Bard

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


In a healthy marriage relationship, both partners are helping to meet the needs of the other.  In an unhealthy marriage, both parties fend for themselves.  That's where I'm at most of the time.  I also feel that while I can sometimes offer help to my wife, there isn't much coming back the other way.  Early in the marriage, she couldn't.  Now I think she might be able to once in a while, but I have learned to fend for myself.  It is a very lonely feeling, and a lonely place to be.

It's the same at work.  People come to me for help and advice.  But I usually have to do my things without outside help.  At least it feels like that sometimes.

But I do get help from others at work.  And once in a great while, I received some help from my wife at home.  I wish it were more frequent.  But ultimately, that is something that I cannot control.  I can only do my best, and leave the rest in the Lord's hands.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I have three small children, ages 8, 6, and 5.  I love them dearly.  I'm glad they are a part of my life.

And sometimes it feels like they are sucking the life out of my marriage.

Children are natural born consumers.  They will consume everything you give to them, and then some, if given the opportunity.  Our children are energetic, which makes them higher maintenance than the average.  Our youngest child is also very passionate and stubborn, and frequently stirs things up with her older brother and sister.  Some days when I get home, there isn't much left in my wife's energy bucket.

Being raised as an only child, it is difficult for me sometimes when the children pick at each other.  I tire of the yelling, screaming, and etc.  I also don't always bring home a lot of energy from work.  But that is a post for another night.

Monday, January 2, 2012


One of the great challenges that has always faced my marriage is sleep...or the lack thereof.  My wife is a very light sleeper, and I am a very loud snorer (or so I am told.  I don't remember for myself, as I am typically asleep at the time).

But a deeper challenge has been my own commitment to a reasonable bedtime.  I have been unable to set a consistent bedtime and arise time, and stick to it.  It has been a source of immense frustration to me, as I know I would do better as a husband (and father) if I were sufficiently rested.  I don't really want to wait for the kids to go to college before that happens.  But then again, that is just an excuse.  The sleep issue is with me, not my wife or children.

As I have pondered and read, I have come to wonder if lack of love supplies is causing my self-induced insomnia.  As if I am staying up late in an attempt to fill a void in my life.  Whatever I am striving to fill, the way I am going about it now is not working.  As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results.

The Lord is the One who can fill the void inside.  I need to be reminded of this frequently.  I was not raised in the Christian faith (although my mother did teach me good values and standards).  I still forget to call upon the Lord for strength or comfort when needed.  This is something I wish to improve on, as He repeatedly tells us to ask, seek, and knock.

I would write more, but I am tired, and I think that a good night's sleep would help more than blogging would.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Past, Present, and Future

In order to get somewhere, we must first know where we are.  I intend to post as the Spirit directs.  At the moment, I feel that I should post on where I currently am in my personal walk with the Savior, as well as in my marriage.  I imagine this will take several days.  As much as I might wish for things to be different, I must work with reality.  Especially since I once heard it said that if we fight against reality, we only lose 100% of the time.

I have been pondering where I live most of my marriage.  I determined that I spend most of it in the past or the future.  Neither is a particularly good place for building the marriage.  The past is filled with regret for poor choices, unforgiven offenses (both real and imagined), and outdated information.  I am not the same person that I was in the past.  Neither is my wife.  Both of us have grown and changed since we got married.  Attempting to work out of the past is futile, as many of the assumptions that live there no longer apply.

The future is an equally bad place to live.  I can set things however I wish in the future, without effort or consequence.  However, it is like a dream and an illusion.  Also, sometimes anxiety and depression kick in, making the future look dark and bleak.  This can lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy, and also makes it difficult for me to even want to try.  Whether good or ill, the future is not the place to live either.

That leaves the present.  This is the only moment that I have any control or influence over.  The past is gone, and cannot be recalled.  I can hopefully learn from it, but then it needs to be left in peace.  The future is a dream, and one that is by no means guaranteed.  The Lord reminded us of this in the Bible with a parable:

"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" -Luke 12: 16-20 (KJV)

It is good to set goals for the future, but the present is the only way to reach them.

So to strengthen my marriage, I need to learn from the past, plan for the future, but live in the present.  Each day I am given a new opportunity to do the things the Lord would have me do to strengthen my marriage.  I can no longer afford to live anywhere other than where I am today.