Sunday, July 8, 2012

Spiritual Sunday .....because you asked

I feel more than a little weird with this post, but after some careful consideration and kind feedback from others, I've decided to go ahead and pull the trigger.

Splenda Daddy and I were asked to speak today in our church.  After the ordinance of the Sacrament, members of the congregation are asked on occasion to speak (always beforehand so they can prepare).  Talks should be regarding doctrine and gospel principles.  Most often speakers use talks from our church leaders to supplement as well as scriptures.

When Splenda and I were asked to speak, we were allowed to choose our own topics.  I know right?  Little dangerous for this little mkitty to be given that much liberty.

Anyway, we did it.  I felt good about it.  And, most surprisingly, several kind people have asked for a copy.  That seems odd to me, but I am humbled.

So below is the transcript of the talk I gave.  Yes, I took too much time.  I short changed Splenda Daddy and his turn.  I owe him.

The purpose of this post is to allow the few friends who have asked for a copy to have it without me having to send emails, to journal it for posterity, and if it happens to inspire someone else, give them a sense of relief or answer a question they may have, then well, that's icing on the cake.
It is in NO WAY intended to be for any other purpose.  (I don't care to toot my own horn.  Unless I pull a BQ and then the whole damn world will hear about it)

And lastly, this is for my Mom.  If she had been in the US - she would have been there to support us.

Given July 8, 2012

I’ve had so many thoughts, ideas and impressions that it’s been difficult to put anything together with any kind of coherency.  Late last week and early this week I started querying friends and family for ideas on a topic for today.  The most common theme suggested was to use running or racing as an analogy for a gospel principle.  Um, really?  Been there, done that.  We all know that is my modus operandi and really, if by now, you STILL don’t get that running IS basically life itself, than I don’t know how to help you.

My best friend offered the idea of speaking about the parable of the Prodigal son. I asked Corbin what he thought might be a good topic for me to speak on.  Can you guess his suggestion?  Basically the same thing.   He reminded me of all the wonderful experiences our family has had over the past year.  I also asked him to share some of his story and the lessons learned along his own journey back to the gospel.  So between him, Elder Ballard, President Uchtdorf, President Hinckley, and Elder Andersen, I am going to try and convey the message that Heavenly Father wants me to convey and that you will HEAR what He wants you to hear.

In April 2012 conference, Elder Ballard compared the Liahona to the modern GPS:

“Now brothers and sisters, we have available to us a tool even more remarkable then the best GPS.  Everyone loses his or her way at some point, to some degree.  It is through the promptings of the Holy Ghost that we can be brought safely back onto the right path, and it is the atoning sacrifice of the Savior that we can return us home.”

I don’t know that there isn’t a person here that hasn’t experienced the loss of a family member, friend or child in the gospel or themselves for that matter.  Based on the whole plan of free agency, we are allowed whether or not we want to accept and live the gospel principles or not.

Elder Ballard further said:
“So what can we do to not become lost?  First, may I suggest that we prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home.  Remember President Harold B Lee’s counsel that “the most important ….work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” and President David O. McKay’s timeless “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  Organize your personal lives to provide time for prayer and scriptures and family activity.  Give your children responsibilities in the home that will teach them how to work.  Teach them that living the gospel will lead them away from the filth, promiscuity, and violence of the Internet, media and video games.  They will not be lost, and they will be prepared to handle responsibility when it’s thrust upon them.”

I know that I have read that sentence several times and I still sort of stop on it.  He just said they will not be lost and that they will be prepared to handle responsibility.  What about those of us who have a wayward child, spouse, other family members or friends?  We did what we were commanded to, the best way we knew how, and yet – right now they are still lost?

I read a quote somewhere, maybe even Facebook, that says something like “True Faith is not just faith in the Lord, but faith in the Lord’s timetable”
I can testify that those are TRUE.WORDS.

But how do we get through the times when we feel lost ourselves or are heartbroken with someone else’s decision to not live the gospel the way we feel they should?  How do we handle the strain it places on relationships and our own frustration and often anger? 

Sometimes these differences will cause huge rifts in families and friendships that instead of bonding us closer together for strength, we find that we have not only allowed someone else’s free agency to divide us, anger us, but also slide us into becoming judgmental and critical. 

President Uchtdorf said in his April conference address:
“Since those first days the spirit of envy and hatred has led to some of the most tragic stories in history.  It turned Saul against David, the sons of Jacob against their brother Joseph, Laman and Lemuel against Nephi and Amalickiah against Moroni.  I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge.  Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves.  When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment.  Of course we know this is wrong.  The doctrine is clear.  We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him.  Christ’s atonement is infinite and eternal.  Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions.  We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others.  Jesus taught: ‘Forgive one another, for he that forgiveth not..[stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin’ and ‘Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy’
 Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable – when applied to someone else.  We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges.  And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.  But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate.  Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one.  We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.”

And going further into the issue of judging others, President Uchtdorf said in the same April address:
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon.  When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple.  We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.  God is our Father.  We are His children.  We are all brothers and sisters.  I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick.  I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw.  It was attached to the back of a car whose drive appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson.  It read. ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you’”.

In October 2001, President Hinckley said of the story of the prodigal son in Luke Chapter 15 “It is large enough to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example?”

President Uchtdorf also says:
“Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect.  People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger.  In this mortal life it will always be that way.  Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances.  Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things.  That is the Lord’s way. ………Let go of judgment…….Love one another…..Forgive one another…..The merciful will obtain mercy.”

So now what?______________

We realize that everyone has free agency to choose, we are allowed the same privilege ourselves.  When loved ones choose differently, we’ve been counseled on how to behave and react.  So now what?

The bottom line will be our own discipleship.

In Elder Andersen’s conference address titled “What Thinks Christ of Me?” he says:
“Jesus’s call ‘Come follow me’ is not only for those prepared to compete in a spiritual Olympics.  In fact, discipleship is not fully comparable to a lengthy marathon.  IN truth, it is a lifelong migration toward a more celestial world.
Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life.  Together we can lift and strengthen one another in the great and important days ahead.  Whatever the difficulties confronting us, the weaknesses confining us, or the impossibilities surrounding us, let us have faith in the Son of God, who declared, “all things are possible to him that believeth’”

We question ourselves.  Have we done our very best?  And how do we realize it, release the grief of others choices and let it go?
A few years ago, I had an experience where I finally understood what this meant, and I happened to write it up in a blog post:

Lately, our prelude players have been young men and women who are working on their piano/organ skills.  The young adults or teenagers play the prelude music and then someone more experienced takes over for the accompaniment of hymns.

Today, I was VERY early.  Like 40 minutes early.  I found a bench up near the front and settled in for some scripture reading and perusing my material for an upcoming YW lesson.
At about 15 minutes before the start of the meeting, I watched as the D family made their way in.  The eldest son is J, whom we first started interaction with when he was 12 and in our Sunday School class.  He's now in his mid twenties, completed a service mission in the Salt Lake area, and has become a fine, upstanding and remarkable young man. 
Oh yeah, J is blind.

I watched as his parents lovingly and carefully escorted him up the chapel aisle, and assisted him up the three steps to the stand.  They guided him gently to the organ and helped him sit.  He took a few minutes to orient himself, and they guided his fingers to the right keys.  Within a few minutes, the chapel began to fill with beautiful, perfectly played music.

J's dad returned to the congregation benches, while Mom sat down in a choir chair near the organ.
Watching J, not only immediately softened my heart, but I began to think about some recent events and my feelings about being a parent.

When our babies are born, we have such high hopes and aspirations for them it doesn't matter what religion you are, or IF you are religious, we all have ideals, values, and morals we want our children to learn and to embody.  We want them to be honest, full of integrity, educated, and to be contributing, functioning members of society.  If we do happen to be affiliated with a particular religion or faith, we tend to want them to choose likewise.  We know how happy it makes us, and we as parents, want the same, nay, BETTER for our kids.  We want them to be sublimely......... happy.

What happens when your dreams for your children don't become realized?  What happens when all that you have hoped for, prayed for, taught them, aspired for them, goes by the wayside?  Until a parent experiences that disappointment for themselves, I don't think it can be understood.  And even then, each of our experiences are different and unique. 

As friends or acquaintances, we try hard to understand.  We attempt to convey our sympathies and offer words of encouragement, but too often, we miss the mark.  It's easy with our mouths to say, "that's too bad about your kid" while nodding sadly, but in your heart you are really saying 'my kid(s) will NEVER do that.'  You might even convince yourself that you are immune.  You're doing all the right things.  Family prayer, scripture study, family nights, individual time with each child.  You are supportive, you attend every parent/teacher conference, you drive the carpool, you're the friggin PTA president for crying out loud!  There is no way that anything other than perfection will cross your door.  Your biggest challenge will be to decide which college to choose out of the several your kid has been accepted to.

To that I say, POPPYCOCK.  I'm refraining from using the BS word since it's the Sabbath and all, but really.  Crap. And trust me, I know.

Just as J's parents walked beside him down the chapel aisle, guided him up the steps and towards the organ, even helping him position and place his fingers, they eventually had to step away and let him play on his own.

As parents we do all we can.  We teach, we show by example, we correct when necessary, but at some point, our kids are on their own.  We can only sit nearby at the ready in case further assistance is asked for.  That's it.

We can no more accept the credit for a "well-turned out" offspring than we can the blame for the one who is not measuring up to her/his full potential.

So why do we beat ourselves up about it?  Why do we allow ourselves to feel the sting of disappointment over something we never really had control over to begin with?  Why do we continue to compare ourselves and our kids against others and their supposed success?  Am I the only one to do this?

Well,  no more.  I've finally come to the realization that for a small period of time, albeit an important one, I was a central figure in my children's lives.  They looked to me and their father for guidance, reassurance, instruction, and love.  We provided it and anything else we could, in the best way we knew how.  Then, they became adults and we are now merely background players.  We are friends who offer support, encouragement and advice if they want it,   but now, they are poised at the keyboard and their fingers will do the playing.  Not mine.

I relinquish not only any false sense of control I had, but also any guilt or pride with the results.  They are not MY results.  Once, they were my babies, my little boys, my wrestling teenagers, and now my best friends, but ultimately they are fellow adults who are making their way through their lives just like I am.  We enhance one another, enrich each other's lives and bring joy and happiness to our family as a whole, and most certainly are forever intertwined........ but we are not a direct reflection of each other.  That is simply not in the plan.

Instead, I am going to sit back and relax.  I'm going to enjoy my sons, enjoy my granddaughter and look brightly to the future and whatever it may bring.  I've cut the chain of guilt and regret, and instead have started a new chain of acceptance, love and happiness. 
And, when the occasion does arise, that I hear one of my babies call out 'Mom?', I am going to be grateful I get to answer.   

On that day, I realized that Heavenly Father had accepted my best efforts and that He knew I had tried my hardest.  The “faith in the Lord’s timeline” became much clearer to me.

As many of you know my son Corbin made choices, experienced challenges and learned some life lessons in a most difficult way. I previously mentioned that I had asked him to share some of his story, his journey, from his point of view.  I figured, I have shared mine, and I wanted to hear his:

Over the last 8 years, I have gone from slowly leaving the gospel and the church, to completely living away from it. Now, I have brought the gospel back into my life and the life of my family over the course of this last year. 

Back when I was slowly falling away, it was hard to me to accept that my parents were responsible for holding standards of living within their home. That’s what good parents do. I would go to church with them every Sunday because I had to, and while I was there, I learned that our gospel is essentially based on the fact that we are supposed to exercise our agency. Make choices for ourselves.  However, because the things that I wanted to choose to do did not always go hand in hand with the church, the parent-child routine kicked in and all we did was fight. 

I was confused. I looked at my parents as hypocrites, although they were not and would never intend to be as such. They kept telling me I HAD to stay in the church to be happy. HAD to be home at 1200. HAD to live temple worthy. Yet, their whole notion went against exactly what I learned in church. The plan is for each of us to choose the gospel for ourselves or not choose it. 

I felt I wasn't given much of a choice as a teenager, so I attempted to gain what I thought was control by doing what I wanted to do. Kind of like being pushed into a corner when you are trying to leave a room to get fresh air. I was going to learn by experience, rather than instruction. This was a very humbling and challenging experience to say the least. As most know, I had a child out of wedlock, married because it was expected, got divorced and basically lived the lifestyle of the self destructive. It was apparent that I was only pleased on temporary occasions and not truly happy. 

During this whole time that I was away from the gospel entirely, my parents and I eventually apologized and made promises to not treat each other the way we did before and chose to become better friends. We decided not to judge each others lifestyles, nor did we support them. Whenever mom gave me money just as a kind gesture or whatever her loving intention was, she always told me, "Buy what you want, just no beer or smoking stuff." It showed me she trusted me in a sense, loved me in a sense and didn't judge me. 

Because of this example, I really began to look at my parents differently. I saw them for the people that they are and not for the parents that they were to me growing up. They are the most incredible people I know. My father has wisdom that most people would pay for and my mother has strength and character that you can’t teach to anyone.   After ending a toxic relationship I was in, I decided other changes should happen to. I evaluated my life and decided the Marine Corps is what I absolutely needed to do for a number of reasons. Personally, morally and financially. I would mold Corbin Catmull (The Marine) from Corbin Catmull the self-destructing, unhappy, in debt, undisciplined, high level potential that I was. What triggered this? Simple. My family’s example. 

My parents became my friends, yet they maintained living their lives the same as they always had. “The Gospel is strong in this home, we hit the church on Sundays. Uphold our callings and responsibilities in the church and then comes the rest.” 

For those who wonder, "Will my kid ever decide that the church is what is the best for them and come back to the gospel?" 

Here is my answer for you. It doesn't matter. The plan you agreed to come to this earth to fulfill did not have a part that said, force your children and judge your children to understand the gospel and live in its standards. Rather, it says to love, support, honor, help, teach and lead your children. 

One of my favorite leadership principles is found in the Marine Corps and it has really helped my marines trust me when I have been required to lead and be responsible for them. It states, "Know your Marines and look out for their welfare." If you know your children, befriend your children and lookout for your children, they will trust you. Just as I did with my parents. They applied these principles without knowing them.

By no means do I say my parents should have let me do what I wanted all the time without discipline or structure. I realize that I should have respected their home and responsibilities as parents. However, when they found the perfect balance of Justice, Judgment, Decisiveness, Integrity, Dependability, Tact, Initiative, Endurance, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Enthusiasm, they did this in every area of our relationship. 

 Every day I was away from the gospel I spent wishing that I could just be happy. It’s up to us using OUR OWN agency outlined in the Plan of Salvation, to determine if that happiness will come through the Gospel and the church. If one doesn't choose that, it’s still all part of the plan of free agency. 

Please know that I share this NOT as a pat on the back or a TOOT my own horn, in fact, I have cut a lot out of his kind words for Splenda and me out of it, so his message could come through.  And that is a message of hope and understanding.  I think he’s made a profound statement when he tells us that it doesn’t matter.  The plan we chose was a plan of free agency.

As parents, please NEVER, EVER give up.  Love your children no matter what and unconditionally.  Your love and approval of them as human beings and children of God should not hinge on whether or not they are living the gospel the way you think and feel like they should.  Heavenly Father’s love for us is unconditional; we need to learn to love in the same manner.  Without criticism, or cruel judgments.  Just love.

As a youth or even an adult who feel like they may be “lost”, you are never too far to come back.  You are never so lost that it’s too late.  The prodigal son spoken of in the parable in Luke was at his darkest hour and deepest pit when we returned to the outreached and loving arms of his father.  We too, no matter where we are on the road can return to a loving Heavenly Father who accepts us with love, compassion and mercy. 

As we happily welcome our own “prodigals” we further exemplify the discipleship that is spoken of in this article I had found and posted on my blog a long time ago.

Author Unknown
"I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.

I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure.

I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.

I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded.

I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven.

My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary.

I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus!
I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!"

It is a blessing and a miracle for which I am eternally grateful for seeing my own “prodigal” become this kind of disciple.

**Words in red belong to the brethren whom were quoted**
**Words in blue belong to Corbin**
**The Anon post belongs to Anon**
**The rest are mine, and are copyrighted


Suz said...

Wonderful post.

Natalie said...

Absolutely incredible talk! You (and Corbin) gave me a glimpse of the Catmull parenting and how we can change things for the better at our house. I needed to hear this more than you know!!! Thank you for sharing this. A serious answer to prayers! Love you Catmulls!!!

Pedaling said...

so glad a few people asked you to post this. I felt "it" you know...that spirit thing as I read.

no worries, you really don't come off as tooting your own horn...not at all. your heart is in the right's evident.

really, thanks for sharing.

tammy said...

So glad you posted it. It's hard not to take our children's mistakes as our own failures. I often feel like I'm not doing enough.

Great talk.

Sue said...

I loved this so much!! I have had many of your feelings. What a touching, and inspiring talk for anyone who is raising a family.

Thanks for posting this. I wish I could get all my 5 sons to read it.

Great reminders for all who parent!

Wife Of A Salesman said...

I am so happy you posted this because the entire time you were speaking I was thinking about how I wished my sister was there listening to you. I was even going to ask you for a copy of your talk to give to I sent her the link to your blog and I hope she will read it. You, Dave, and the youth speakers did a great job and I really needed to hear all those talks. Thank you, Thank you.

karen said...

What a wonderful talk! I only wish I'd been there in person to hear it. Great job. I don't love to give talks myself, but I'm grateful I've had the experience because I'm not really afraid to get up in front of people. It's given me some invaluable learning experiences.

Garden of Egan said...

I wish so much that I could have sat in that chapel and listened to this talk.
Thank you for sharing it.

Struck a nerve in me that needed to be struck. I'm still struggling but I will go back and read this post again.

And again.

Love you.