Archive for August, 2007

Being Grateful for All Things

August 20th, 2007  |  Published in Mormonism, Spirituality

Welcome to Above Yourself, a blog about self-improvement and faith. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email. Many of the topics here are related to my faith in Jesus Christ and Mormonism, but all are welcome to share their own beliefs. Thanks for visiting!

It’s about three months earlier than I usually think about being grateful for everything around me, but some recent experiences have really caused me to realize how blessed I am for everything I have. I have a healthy family including a very happy little girl, a good place to live, and I have the chance to continue my education before my family grows too large. So in lieu of a longer post, I would simply like to post this quote from James E. Faust, an apostle in the Mormon Church who recently passed away:

In the closing moments of this conference, I come to this pulpit to speak about gratitude as an expression of faith and as a saving principle. The Lord has said, “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21.) It is clear to me from this scripture that to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7) is more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.

One of the advantages of having lived a long time is that you can often remember when you had it worse. I am grateful to have lived long enough to have known some of the blessings of adversity. My memory goes back to the Great Depression, when we had certain values burned into our souls. One of these values was gratitude for that which we had because we had so little. The Great Depression in the United States in the early thirties was a terrible schoolmaster. We had to learn provident living in order to survive. Rather than create in us a spirit of envy or anger for what we did not have, it developed in many a spirit of gratitude for the meager, simple things with which we were blessed, like hot, homemade bread and oatmeal cereal and many other things.

–James E. Faust, “Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, May 1990, 85

Meditation for Inspiration

August 15th, 2007  |  Published in Mormonism, Spirituality, Testimony

Several years ago, I had the chance to attend church in a city where I had lived when I was younger. I’m not sure why, but I remember a challenge that the teacher gave us that day in Sunday School: instead of jumping quickly into bed after praying, listen and meditate so that we can receive an answer to our prayers. The teacher that day explained to us that we should treat our prayers as a two-way communication with one of our closest friends; if we wanted God to be able communicate to us, we shouldn’t hang up on him after we’re finished with our side of the conversation.

I remember going home and trying this out that night. I was a teenager at the time, and my main focus seemed to be spending as much time as I could enjoying myself. Since my family was on vacation, I wasn’t in my normal routine so I had to really make an effort to not only remember to pray but to meditate for a time afterward. I remained in the same position for a few minutes until I became a bit uncomfortable. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t really meditating, I was just kind of sitting there.

After a while longer, I began to think a little bit deeper. I forgot about my previous discomfort, and I was able to clear my mind a little more. This kind of preparation allowed me to receive a very calm feeling all around me, and I began to realize that inspiration was only possible if we opened our hearts and really wanted to learn.

Since then I’ve had that same feeling many times, but it has only come when I have opened up my heart and slowed down my mind. I’m extremely grateful for that Sunday School lesson, when I learned how to communicate with my Heavenly Father.

Have you considered the effectiveness of your prayers, your efforts to reach toward Him from this mortal life? How close do you feel to your Heavenly Father? Do you feel that your prayers are answered? Do you feel that the time you spend in prayer enriches and uplifts your soul? Is there room for improvement?

–Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Improving Our Prayers,” Ensign, Mar 2004, 24–31

Making a 72-hour Kit

August 14th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

It’s hard to justify preparing for a disaster if we’ve never been in one, but news of events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes seem to come more frequently all the time. Preparing ourselves for these types of situations helps us focus on more important things during times of need and helps us rise above ourselves and help others. My wife and I have both experienced situations where we’ve been in extended power outages, and on a separate occasion my family had to evacuate our house because of a fire that came into our town. To help us prepare for situations like this, it’s important to put a some items together in a 72-hour kit. Below are some resources for putting together a 72-hour kit. If you are just getting started (like we are), I recommend buying some pieces of the kit each week so that the cost is spread out and the kit is easier to manage.

Building an Emergency Rope Ladder

August 13th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

Our friend Brian recently built an emergency rope ladder for to keep on the second story of their house in case of a fire. It looks great, isn’t too expensive, and was fairly quick to make. He describes a few steps of how it was made:

It cost me $20 in supplies. I got two 8 foot 2×4’s and cut them into 16 inch steps. Then I threaded the two 25 foot lengths of rope through holes drilled through each end of the steps and tied knots at 16 inch intervals for the steps to rest on. I’d be happy to give more detailed instructions if you wish to make one for your house. The major tricky part is tying knots as you thread the rope, while also tying the knots at even intervals.

Brian's Rope Ladder

It looks great! We could definitely use one of these around in case of an emergency.

Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Chain

August 10th, 2007  |  Published in Habits

Turning a goal into a habit is all about consistency. When we start to do something as part of our routine, it becomes a habit, but the hard part is to incorporate it into our routine. This can apply to our own personal daily goals or anything we want to start doing on a regular basis. explains Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret, which is as simple as a calendar and a marker. For example, if I my goal is to read the scriptures every day, I make a big red X in the box for today when I’ve accomplished that goal.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

When I started this blog, I made it my own personal goal to have one post every weekday. As you can see, once that chain got interrupted it became a whole lot easier to skip writing. I’ve now got a calendar and a marker near my desk so that I can more easily highlight my accomplishments. I’ve renewed this effort, because I want to see that chain grow.

I personally recommend using a paper calendar, but others may prefer a web calendar. Whichever you choose, make sure that your calendar is in a place where you can refer back to it easily.

A quick, easy-to-use task manager Joe’s Goals has added this functionality into its system. Read more about how they use Productivity chains.