Sunday, December 24, 2017

#LightTheWorld with Luminaries tonight in Rose Park

This evening will conclude the Rose Park Stake's efforts in the #LightTheWorld effort as we follow the examples of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  After much preparation, dedication and sharing of personal testimonies, this evening, we do an outward example of that effort by placing luminaries in front of our homes and also sharing it with neighbors.  It is a small gesture that represents a much larger commitment as we share our testimonies with others.  I've written about it earlier in this blog, but invite any who are interested to join us.

Thursday evening, we invited members and neighbors alike to come to a wonderful event held in our parking lot of our Church Building that included music, propane fire pits for warmth as well as food. We not only were able to interact with each other but to also pick up a kit for the creation of 10 luminaries to place in front of our homes.  We likewise encouraged those taking them to also take one to share with a neighbor.  This was an idea, that came from our Stake's Cultural Arts specialist last year, Joni Astorga.  When she presented the idea, I questioned it somewhat, but then realized it was exactly the right way to end a month long effort.  She was receptive to the spirit and the Lord knew I was too set in my ways!  We learned a lot on the production side of things since last year, and while we were challenged with rain on Christmas Eve (when does that ever happen in Utah!), I was very touched by the faith of the members of the Rose Park Stake.

If you happen to live nearby and would like to participate, feel free to stop by my home or give me a call.  Or better yet, ask your neighbor, who is a member, if you can have one too.  We have some extras and would love to have them used.  The weather looks more encouraging and most of all, with our without luminaries, our light shines as an example of that commitment to follow his path.  Merry Christmas to you, Carlton.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

#LightTheWorld - What's really important in life when it's all said and done

I've written about my father, Robert M. Christensen but when I looked at this particular video, it reminded me of a wonderful dream he had shortly before his death that I included previously, but felt I wanted to share it again.  It continues to have deep meaning to me when I let the things of the world hold me down, I'm reminded time and again, what truly matters.  The older I get, (I turn 52 later this week), the more I am reminded what I can't do without, my family, my faith and my service in God's kingdom.  Sometimes after the pettiness of politics or undertow of the workplace, I come back to a place that says, this is what I want in the end.  I am grateful for employment and the opportunity to provide for my family and hopefully take care of Cathy when I'm gone, but in the end, it's the items in this dream that really matter.

From the Autobiography of Robert M. Christensen:

"On my first visit to the hospital in August of 1975, after being informed that I had a potentially terminal illness, I lay thinking over my life, my future and my family. A remarkable vision was given to me at that time. I first saw a large pile of goods, and I recognized them as my own physical possessions. With them were other worldly goods which I dealt with every day in my work at ZCMI. Suddenly, they disappeared from my view, and I did not feel the slightest desire to look for them or to inquire as to where they went. My vision then showed me three things: one was my righteous family, the second was my knowledge, understanding and testimony of the restored gospel, and the third was the work that I had accomplished in the building up of the kingdom of God. Then, as though the person were standing at my side, a voice spoke to me and said, “This is what life is all about. That’s all there is that is important. That’s all there is to life.” I was then filled with a very comfortable feeling that the Lord had accepted my work and my life.

I want my family always to remember this story, and to place their values on the spiritual rather than the material things. I hope they will live their lives in such a way that theirs will be the riches of eternity. I want my family to know that I know with all my heart that God lives and is willing to bless us constantly through our lives, and that he wants each of us to succeed in living the gospel so that we can return and live with him in the Celestial Kingdom. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, that he is the Lord of this earth and that he stands at the head of this church today. He reveals his will to his prophets and to every righteous priesthood holder and member of the church who seeks for divine guidance.

I have a great belief in the Holy Ghost, and on many occasions in my life, the power of the Holy Ghost has descended upon me and given me the knowledge and help which I needed in accomplishing the Lord’s work. I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church upon the face of the earth. And it is only by membership in the church that we can receive the ordinances of salvation and the principles and doctrines which are needed for entry into the celestial kingdom. I believe in living prophets and that as members of the church, we need to follow the living prophets. While we glean much wisdom and guidance from the prophets of old, it is the living prophets who show us the way to go today. I leave this testimony for the guidance of my family, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#LightTheWorld - A Testimony of the Book of Mormon

While serving as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in Fukuoka Japan during 1985-86, I was assigned to a suburb of Fukuoka, in an area known as Ijiri.  I was serving as a zone leader when they asked me to speak and bear testimony at a fireside for new or investigating members.  

Pondering what I might say, I knelt down and prayed, asking the Lord for help.  I was timid about it, that while conversant, my Japanese was certainly not the best.  I had spent 9 months previously working in the mission home as Financial Secretary, and speaking opportunities were not quite as abundant.  As I knelt to pray, I saw a picture in my mind of the Japanese Book of Mormon.
Japanese Book of Mormon
 I had a very distinct feeling that I should testify of it, and when I finished my prayer, got up to write down a few thoughts, so that I could remember what I needed to say.  As I began to write, a very distinct impression came to me and a voice which said, "A testimony comes from the heart, not a piece of paper" to which I replied, "but you're not giving it in Japanese".  However I knew if I trusted in the Lord that when the time came, I could speak.

A few days came and the meeting started, and my turn came to speak, I held the book in my hand and began to testify of its truthfulness. (It of course fit in one hand, mine are pretty large!) I felt the words flow from my mouth in a manner that I never had before and spirit guided me in the words that I should say. My companion later remarked to me that he had never heard me speak like that before and a few weeks later, during a testimony meeting, a member commented how she had been in that meeting, heard the testimony and had chosen to read the book again.

More important, I was reminded how the book is true.  How I love it's teaching as it is another testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ and that by reading it, we become closer to him and our Heavenly Father.  As we do so, the Holy Ghost will testify to you of its truthfulness, to which I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

#LightTheWorld Fast Offerings - A way to respond to the Savior's call to feed the poor

There are many wonderful ways to respond to the Savior's call to feed the poor.  Many organizations do much good in answering needs around the world.  One of the most simplest and cost effective ways, is through a monthly opportunity, known as Fast Offerings.  In the Old Testament's book of Malachi 4:8-10 it reads:

8 ¶ Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

We often think of it just as tithing, but the Lord expects us to do more.  However in doing it, he offers an incredible blessings and promises.  In a true fast, we abstain from eating two meals in a 24 hour period and offer the equivalent of that cost of food (or more if we choose) as an offering to our LDS Bishop to use in caring for the poor as he sees fit and within guidelines set by the Church.  Through coordinated systems, offerings are first used in our local congregation and if there is more than needed, used elsewhere.  In some cases, if the needs are greater than donations, the Bishop can use excess fast offerings from other congregations in the needs of his own.  It's a beautiful system where you look to your own resources, that of family, and then food and basic necessities.  Much good comes from it, and most if not all families at some point are blessed from it, but certainly in giving to others.

A friend of mine, Bishop Dean L. Davies gave a wonderful address in General Conference a few years ago about both the responsibility and blessing of the the Fast, which I've included above.

There are those not of our faith, who are helped as well as donations to the Humanitarian Fund of the LDS Church go worldwide, including communities locally who are suffering from disasters and other challenges.  Those donations, while separate, also aide in the challenge issued by the Savior and can be made here.

Tomorrow is Fast Sunday, and today I made my donation for fast offerings as well as the Humanitarian Fund in preparation of that day.  How grateful I am for both the opportunities and blessings that come from such a sacred opportunity and charge from the Savior to care for the poor.  It's not the only way I choose to do it, but it is without question, divinely inspired and a blessing in my life.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Family - A blessing in my life!

Family photo, taken before my birth.  Since I was born after
the death of my brother, we do not have a complete photo
It's been a little while since I last penned something on this blog, and I thought with Thanksgiving today, it would be appropriate to express thanks for my family.

My Mother Verda Mae Christensen.  She was my cornerstone for much of my life.  Helped me through some of my most difficult challenges and reminded me that I should always be looking to help another.  She was my neighbor, my friend and my teacher.

My Father - Robert Christensen.  He taught me to love the simple things in life.  I idolized him and he taught me to love and serve in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I still shed a tear or two from his death when I was 10 years old but he continues to teach me by memory and in some case, sweet and tender moments that remind me that life is eternal.

Elliott who became the Patriarch of our family.  He has been there at every turn of life, including how I met my wife.  He covered my student insurance when I didn't have a job, was a witness for my marriage and ordained me a High Priest when I was called into our Bishopric at age 25.  I am always grateful for his constant guidance in life.

Clayton who while world famous and well known by many notable people, has been a mainstay for me in many ways.  His generosity is endless and during a period of college while doing an internship in Boston, he gave up his car to me for 10 weeks while I put 5000 miles on it for work.  While his health challenges have been overwhelming by most of our standards, he continues to get through it and continue the work he was put here to do.

Milton is the brother I truly never met.  He passed away at age 11, six months before I was born, but I have been touched by stories of him and how much his life effected our family.  A year ago, I walked in our youth trek for him and while we never have been able to have a son, we contemplated naming that son after him.  I know my parents are grateful to once again be with him as they continue to do the work for our family.

Maribeth has blessed my life on many occasions and is a survivalist and has amazing optimism.  She made Cathy's wedding dress, working all night one weekend even though she had a heavy teaching load at Rick's College.  Maribeth was always one for adventure and it's been hard to watch her struggle with health and it's toll but she continues to skirt death and do what she can.  She is a loved teacher who put the student first and despite some institutional issues that made that difficult, she pushed forward and has never given up.

Spencer is a favorite in our household.  Well loved by our girls and we always look forward to having him stay with us.  He is often helping others around him in his Houston home, whether in natural disasters or just being a friend.  He works hard to provide for his family and loves his sons and new granddaughter.  I can always depend on Spencer for a good joke and interest in my latest project and I often take advantage of his generous nature to get his help.

Bradley was my best man at my wedding and has been by my side in nearly all my growing up years.  He works really hard to make things beautiful in this world with his nursery.  Brad often looks to the good in people and errors on the side of giving them the benefit of the doubt.  Frequently does quiet and generous acts to help others and while not perfect, knows God and strives to do what he can to follow him.  If I want the real truth to life and politics, just spend 15 minutes on the phone talking to him!

Nancy has been my constant through my whole life.  She loves her kindergarten students, her grandchildren and of course her family.  She has been an accomplice in my life to crazy projects like the sewing of my kangaroo costume and numerous art projects including graduation announcements for my children.  She was my neighbor for many years and has not been timid in using photo shop to place me in many historic events.  When you're doing a honk-n-wave for your campaign, make sure Nancy is there.

Everyone of my family have different traits and strengths and have blessed my life in so many ways.  My heart if full of gratitude of being born in a family as wonderful as mine.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I like lights - Every Holiday Deserves a Celebration!

I have this fascination with holiday lights.  In fact, I usually do lights for not only Christmas, but Valentines Day (President's Day), St. Patrick's Day, Easter, 4th of July (Pioneer Day - State Holiday), Halloween,  and Thanksgiving.  Even during Christmas, I swap out my nativity scene on the front porch with a New Year's theme for a variation.  On top of the holidays, I've also been known to put up lights for the Olympics, and occasionally, I even set up a lighted "U" for the University of Utah vs BYU Football Game.  Definitely on the obsessive side, but fun nevertheless.  This love affair, really started with the Christmas after my father died in 1976 (see related post).  He usually put up some lights, although not very extensive.  However in that Christmas following his death, I realized as a young 10 year old boy that if I didn't do it, that they might not get done that year.  Those early years were far from a spectacular spectacle, but they did add color to the holidays.  I also didn't understand too much about electrical loads and it is a wonder the house didn't burn down!
Cathy and I owned the house next door to the family home at
830 N 1500 W, which is really where the obsession started
We really have only lived in two houses in our 27 years of marriage, and they just happen to be next door to each other.  I think we would really stick out on the street but our neighbors across the street, Dennis and Linda McKone also have lights for exactly the same holidays.  I've teased new neighbors that the owners association (of which there is none) requires their participation, but for the most part, with the exception of Christmas, it has been Denny and Linda's home and ours.  It's technically not a competition but Denny always seems to get his up a day or two ahead of me.  He usually does his in good, sunny weather, I'm usually out there at 10 p.m. at night often in inclement weather trying not to kill myself.  My daughters have a favorite activity each holidays, which is to report to me that Denny and Linda already have their lights up.  The one time, I thought I bested them, it turned out Denny had been in the hospital and when I realized it a few days later,  I felt pretty bad about doing that victory dance.  They have been wonderful neighbors to us.
Denny and Linda McKone's House
A few years ago, we installed a solar system on our house.  It has helped defray costs, but doesn't do to well in the winter when snow sits on the panels.  As you can see from the usage history below, December/January is my highest utility use time.  It's ok, it brings me a lot of joy, but not too efficient!
I have been slowly converting lights as they wear out, to LED, but it's a gradual process, I do have a lot of lights!  Earlier, I wrote a blog about Christmas decorations that people gave me for my backyard.  One of those items are the old Christmas wreaths from Bountiful, UT.  Needless to say, they are beautiful but not very power efficient.
Christmas Wreaths purchased Surplus from Bountiful City
by my friend, Fred Ross
Dennis and Linda McKone's Home - We watch each other's
Fireworks on the 4th of July

Annual 4th of July Ice Cream Social and Fireworks

While lights just were put away for July, they will be back in October.  If you need a little holiday cheer, just be sure to drive down 1500 West in Rose Park.  Eventually that Homeowners Association will force compliance from the rest of the neighbors!
St. Patrick's Day


Monday, June 19, 2017

Shingle Oil - Great option for Fences!

Painted a few weeks ago, shingle oil brought out the natural colors
Of all the things I didn't plan to write about in my blog, was the use of shingle oil for fences if you want to maintain a natural color.  A number of years ago, our neighbors approached us about sharing the cost of a fence, but they wanted to go with a cedar board, rather than some other material.  My concern at the time was care and painting of it, but they have been some of the best neighbors ever and we did need a new fence.  They initially painted their side with Linseed Oil, which we did too, and it looked nice, but really only lasted a couple of years.  I probably delayed putting another coat, about two years too late, and water stains had taken it's toll.

A few years ago, I was in Home Depot to get some other things, and decided I should buy a 5 gallon container of Linseed Oil to coat the fence.  As I was asking the clerk where to find it, a professional painter was nearby and overheard the conversation.  He approached me and indicated he had purchased two 5 gallon containers of shingle oil for a client, and then they had changed their mind.  He then told me that if I wanted to come by his house (which was nearby) that he would just give them to me.  I asked, "Shingle Oil, what's that and can it be used for fences?"  He said, he couldn't see why not, it would just be a natural straw-like color and it preserves a wooden roof, so he couldn't see why it wouldn't do a fence.  I thought to myself, I could always try a far corner and if it didn't work, I wasn't really out anything, so what did I have to loose, so I went and picked them up.  Linseed oil is around $75 for a five gallon container, so it had the potential of saving me a small amount of cash!
A couple more years went by and I had delayed doing anything until this spring, when I pulled the first bucket out, and decided to give it a try.  I was actually impressed with how well it applied with my sprayer, didn't seem to be as messy as linseed oil and as I read about it, the information indicated you could go as much as 10 years between applications.  Also the information indicated that fences were one of the applicable uses.  As I was doing my fence, the same neighbors who had originally proposed the fence, were talking with me about how their side needed to be done.  They had just had a baby girl so I indicated that I would be happy to put the same stuff on for them.  They mentioned that when they did the Linseed Oil, it took nearly two 5 gallon containers for them, so I went about trying to find somewhere locally who sold it.  I had one of the free 5 gallon containers left, but needed to buy one more.  I tried the hardware stores, paint stores and even roofing companies, but no one carried it and even sounded puzzled when I asked about it.  There was an online option out of California, but I had scheduled Friday afternoon off to do the job and hated to leave it half complete.  I decided to do a search on Chevron product distributors and came across a company on California Avenue here in Salt Lake City, Kellerstrass Oil Company.  The guy that answered the phone was super nice about it, didn't have the 5 gallon containers at this store right now, but had a truck coming down from Ogden and would have it by afternoon for me.  It turns out he threw a couple more containers on the truck, just in case I ran out and needed more!  Their price was pretty comparable to the online price, or about $94 with tax for the 5 gallons.

Since my neighbors offered to cover the cost of the new container, I started with it, and nearly did the whole job with it, but had to open up my free container to finish the job.  With my daughter Sarah's help, we finished it in about 4 hours and rendered a little service.  If you have one of those wood cedar fences and are keeping the natural look, you should consider Shingle Oil as an option.  By the way, just save yourself some time, and just go to Kellerstrass to get it!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#PrinceofPeace - Finding peace through compassion

It is difficult to watch this video without reminding ourselves of similar circumstances within our lives where either our own children, or those who are close to us have suffered something similar that reminds us how tender life can be.  I think we each try and take that challenge and do something with it to bless the lives of others.  It never fully takes that pain away, but it does help us channel it in a way that can bless the lives of others.  As the Savior has said, when we lose our lives in service to others, we really find ourselves.

My older brother Milton, who passed away
in 1965
In July of 196 when my older brother, age 11, was in a his final days here on earth, suffering from aplastic anemia or a form of what is now Leukemia, was in his hospital bed and could not speak because his tongue was swollen.  He wrote a note to my mother, who was three months pregnant with me.  Because of the circumstances, they had not told Milton about the pregnancy and my birth date would not be for another six months.  Milton wrote a note to my mother and asked, "Who is that child sitting in your lap?"  My mother initially dismissed it to his sickness, to which he later wrote, "you don't believe me, do you?"  Mom later realized that what Milton probably saw was me, who was not yet born, and to whom he wouldn't see in this life.  Nevertheless, it reminds us that families are eternal and the blessings of being a family come both in this life and the life to come.

While we are blessed in this life by the compassion of others, we are also blessed with peace on this Easter Sunday with the knowledge that we will be resurrected and can be with each other for eternity.  While I do not know the day I will see my older brother, I do also know that he lives and I will be with him one day, along with my family, my wife Cathy and our children.  I am grateful for the peace this brings in my own life.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#PrinceofPeace - Finding Peace through God's Word

I would be the first to admit that I'm not as avid of a reader of the scriptures as I would like to be, but every time I do read from it, I'm strengthened.  It does mean that I do need to read it more and be more consistent.  We have four basic scriptures in the Mormon faith, the Bible - Old and New Testament, the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  Each are separate accounts of how God has loves everyone of his people, giving them guidance through a prophet of God and encouragement through life's trials as well as admonishment or warnings of things to come.  If one is learning about the Church, I would definitely start with the Book of Mormon, which is the keystone of our religion and testifies of Jesus Christ.  There is a promise in it that if you do read it, pray, you can receive for yourself a testimony to it's truth.  I have done that and many others have done it as well.  While written many years ago, it really testifies of today.

One such scripture in the Book of Mormon is from chapter 34 in Alma, it reads:

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

36 And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell; yea, and he has also said that the righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out; but their garments should be made white through the blood of the Lamb.

37 And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;

At first blush it may seem like you have no choice and you are doomed, but just the opposite.  If you do your best in this life, access the atonement of Jesus Christ in your life and prepare to meet God, then the actions you take, only benefit you in the life to come.  It doesn't help you much if your thought is doing something at the last minute and hope you get buy.  Really God knows your heart and while we might pretend we are something we are not to change the impression of others, we simply can't hide it from God and it will be evident.  Why put it off.  Why not enjoy the full blessings of this life, in living our best to be with God.  He doesn't expect us to be perfect and I am certainly not.  I love the peace that comes through God's word.

Friday, April 7, 2017

#PrinceofPeace - Peace coming through faith

It's pretty difficult to not shed a tear when you watch this video.  I think we all have struggled at times with a circumstance either in our lives or with others that we love, that despite their faith, the trial seems so unfair.  Recently, a couple who are good friends, after many years of waiting were expecting a beautiful baby girl and all seemed to be on track.  However circumstances changed, the baby was delivered way too early and only lived for a short time.  We ask ourselves in circumstances like this, why must they suffer so much, when in some case babies come and aren't cared for yet live a life of struggle and sadly abuse.  With the agency that God has given us, also comes the bitter-sweet moments of our faith, which help us endure the outcomes.  Some are very joyful outcomes and others of great heartbreak.

Even in those most difficult of circumstances, we feel our Savior's love and in fact does bring us peace.  It isn't that the pain has gone away, but we realize a much deeper love than a sheer moment in this life sometimes brings.  Sadly tragedy does come to each of us, and sometimes in the most unexpected way.  While there are no guarantees on how our lives turn out, and it would be easy to let fear keep us from moving forward or trying anything new, we also do not grow without the exercise of faith.  With that faith, however, we also gain more joy and peace.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

#PrinceofPeace The true answer for the questions that bring us lasting happiness

It has always been challenging in life to watch others who desperately are looking for answers to happiness or solutions to life and look everywhere else but towards the Savior, Jesus Christ.   It's not that their efforts aren't genuine nor their efforts substantial, I even have to remind myself when frustrated with a circumstance that I am looking in the wrong direction for an answer.  I've even watched some very good people who live one aspect of their life in one way and apparently their beliefs in a different way.  The true answer is that they should really be the same.  I definitely know I'm not perfect, nor has there not been moments in my life where others might say the same.  It is for that reason alone that I'm grateful for the Savior's atonement that provides me an avenue to improve.

As we approach the Easter Season, I am reminded the greatest gift he could give us all is a knowledge that he wants us to be able to return to our Heavenly Father, to be with him and to be forgiven of our sins if we just repent and come unto him.  There is much good in the world, much of it silent in nature and done with kind gestures even from strangers to strangers.  The world is in need of more kind gestures, a spirit of peace and one in which we follow the Savior's path.  While not recognized in his earthly life the way others might expect, the Savior taught us true selfless service and with such a genuine way that his example will always be our pathway home.