Friends Graduation Portrait

Going through some more old photos, I stumbled upon this graduation portrait.  I cannot remember who orchestrated this, but I am glad we did it.  Thank goodness for great friends.  I loved high school and am happy to report this seems to capture some of that feeling.  I graduated in 1997 as did a number of these friends, but not all of us in the photo.

LLLL

Standing (l-r): Altan Hardcastle, Grant Patterson, Bryan Jensen, Jessica Aldridge, Paul Ross, Dustin McClellan.  Middle: Brenna Barnes, Kassey Harrison, Eva Schroeder, Kristi Barfuss (front), Aimee Jackson (back), Mandy Hunter, Jennie Lee Larson.  Front: Vanessa Holbrook, Aimee Aston, Ivan Hardcastle, Jodie Larson, Nicole Whitesides.

I could go through on where all these individuals have ended up but it would likely be outdated within a few months.  Plus, some might want to keep some of their information more private.  So I won’t write more.

Dusk memorization

I have always felt a bit of an affinity for Jacob.  Of all the books in the Book of Mormon, this one seems to feel the most familiar, the one that speaks most directly to me.  If there is ever a book I just want to go back and read again and again, it is his.  I thought I would share some personal stories that relate to some of the chapters I read this evening.
“But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart.  Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.  O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his life; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.” (Jacob 3:1-2).
These two verses have always stood out to me.  I am not entirely sure why.  They just always have.  Indeed, enough that I have attempted several times over the years to commit them to memory.  Oddly, I have not been able to retain them.
During the summer of 2004 it was my goal to memorize a new scripture every day.  I failed miserably but I made a valiant attempt.  There are probably 20-30 verses that by the end of the summer I had committed to memory.  These two were two of them.  The next summer when I started spraying lawns again, I started by trying to recite all the scriptures I learned the previous summer.  Only 3 verses from the previous summer did I really retain.  I will perhaps get to them in another blog.  They are only in the next chapter.
However, again in 2005 I set out to memorize the scriptures from the previous summer and to add some more.  I remember distinctly walking through the yard of the Oliverson Family in Whitney/Glendale area outside of Preston, Idaho.  They have a massive lawn which must be over an acre.  As I walked back and forth across the lawn, I recited these two verses over and over again.  I carried a note card in my pocket with them written on it which I had to reference often to begin.  By the end of the lawn I had it set to memory.
I have to paint some of the picture.  It is nearing dusk and I was worried I may not finish the lawn in time.  I did finish in time and went on to spray the Hardcastle residence as well.  The sun was setting slowly, and you cannot necessarily speed up spraying a lawn.  To do so would be to apply less chemical and cheat the lawn owner.
I worked my way back and forth across the lawn like a dutiful farmer.  I was pretty sure nobody was home.  With the pump running on the truck, I could recite the scriptures out loud with little fear of anyone hearing me.  I must have painted quite the picture in the sunset.
There are other stories similar to this one.  For some reason I cannot still recite the words to the verses, but I can tell you probably three locations on where I know I worked on memorizing the verses.  Odd isn’t it?
What do the verses say.  They seem to explain the individual basis of the gospel for every person.  Pray, with faith, and all will turn out for the right.  But that just isn’t enough.  We must not just pray with faith and hope it will turn out right.  Nope, we are to pray and to receive the word of God.  It seems to me that when we receive of the word of God and then feast upon that word, which is also the love of God (as Lehi and Nephi’s dreams tell us).  This is expressly available to all who are pure in heart.  I find myself in a longing for this.  Mormon or not, these words are true.  Look to God, pray, and receive of his love.  We may, if we will be firm in our minds and devotion, forever.  How beautiful is that?
All the rest come after that.  If we try to do it a different way, it will be incorrect.  You can be baptized a hundred times and without learning to commune with heaven, it won’t do much good.  After all, if we haven’t learned to commune with heaven, what good is the Gift of the Holy Ghost?  What good is the endowment if we don’t learn how to communicate with the angels now?
There was no miracle at the Oliverson Home, except perhaps in my heart.  Those verses have yet to be fully committed to memory, but somehow their intent and meaning burn in my heart.  That is more important anyway.

Interesting Days

It is strange how coincidence seems to play into our lives. Even I, a low staffer, an Idahoan, who is of very little importance in the realm of all men who have walked upon the earth have the privilege of meeting such amazing men. There are giants around us and we very seldom realize it. Most of those will never be  recognized or accredited for what they do. However, today I wish to pay tribute to the common man (men and women, you know what I mean…man is not without the woman, and woman not without the man). There are souls around us who affect us so deeply that they forever change our course. Most of them are the every day run of the mill who humbly go about doing their duty. Many men do what they can to get by, others in service to others oblivious and often doing more damage, but then there are those who know what they need to do and do it well. Those who seek to do what they do well, live their lives to the best of their capability who influence the most.This week I met a man by the name of Mehmet Ali Talat. He paid a visit to Senator Smith. He is the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It definitely is not every day that we meet the President of a small country. What is more, one that is a bit more questionable in the eyes of many nations. Besides that, he is a very powerful man. He came with his entourage and sat in the office for a while (the Senator was meeting with the President of Starbucks…how ironic) and then left to visit with the Senator in his office. I do not know the culture, I do not know the man, but he seemed very deliberate and almost unhappy. The whole group seemed almost dire in many ways. While I can boast that I met the man who leads another nation, he left little or no influence upon me.

The same day, I met a man named Bob Livingston. A representative from Louisiana that served in the house for over 20 years. If I remember right, he was even Speaker of the House of the United States for a short time. A powerful man in the United States who served for a third of most people’s lives. (While there are hundreds of people in the U.S. government and I have come to learn it is just another job, it still holds a mystique) He sat with me for a few moments and was so concerned about his blackberry he couldn’t even visit for a whole five minutes. Another man who influenced millions of lives, but in lasting tribute will have little more than name recognition to go with his face in my life. Do we recognize the influence we could have on people, but due to our own concerns and selfishness do not take the opportunity to reach out more often.

If you would not know it, I was giving a tour this week and while explaining the Capitol Ceiling (which is always accompanied with my looking around while explaining rather than peering up a dozen noses) and I recognized a man sitting on one of the benches on the outer parameter. I excused myself from my tour group for a moment to go say hello to the Governor of Idaho, my beloved home state. I walked over, shook the hand of Dirk Kempthorne, and introduced myself. He looked pensive and contemplative. I somewhat regret having visiting with him as he seemed almost melancholy, but I was thrilled with the opportunity. Here was a man who took a few moments to say hello and learn a little about me. He did not brush me off and seemed somewhat interested. This man, while definitely with his own thoughts, took a few moments out to focus on the one. He will have a much more lasting influence than the President of a small nation or Speaker of the House. Nevertheless, many don’t like the Governor, but he seemed much more willing to care about other people than the first two.

In that tour group that I excused myself from was a former Senator of the State of Oregon. Neil and Mary Bryant were a different breed though. They were engaging, willing to share of themselves and learn of others, and even reached out to meet others. They and their friends Neal and Linda Huston were fun to take on the tour as they were so willing to get along and be a part of society. They are good individuals who loved to learn. He tried to stump me on historical facts of the United States of the Pacific Northwest (which my knowledge is not very good, I just got lucky that I knew his answers). They were by far the best people I met that day. While not as impressive in stature of the world, they left an impression that will be much more lasting.

With all that said, I want to recognize some of those who have affected my life the most. Colleen Jonas. Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ. Milo Ross. Sandra Jonas. Amanda Hemsley. Brad Hales. Kathy Duncan. Ted Tateoka. Kevin Orton. Nicole Whitesides. Laurel Hepworth. Marie Lundgreen. Kathryn England. Anna Badger. Chris Horsley. Megan Duncan. Dustin McClellan. James Cazier. Tom Kunzler. Altan Hardcastle. Warren Crane. Gene Hansen. Lorn Duff. I am sure there are more, many more. Thank God for good souls who reach out and connect with people. Who care more for others than they do for themselves. May God forever bless those who have affected my life and may I return the favor to all I come in contact with.