I Like That!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bring It On

Everyone likes The Emperor's New Groove!

How many of you have seen Disney's hit movie The Emperor's New Groove? (**almost everyone's hands go up**)  Excellent.  Because that's one of my all-time favorites.  (I do a mean Kronk impression.  You'll have to ask me to do it for you sometime.  But I digress...once again)  As silly and ridiculous as that movie is, if you are looking, you can find applicable principles to govern your life.

Por exemplo:

One of the most oft-quoted scenes is where Kuzco and Pacha find themselves "tied to a log...careening out of control down a raging river of death!" (as little Tipo later puts it after having a comically-timed and strangely prophetic dream).  Then he says... you know what?  Just watch it.

Oh man.  SO.  Good.

The lesson?  We all face huge waterfalls with sharp rocks at the bottom from time to time in our lives.  That's life!  If it were all smooth sailing, how would we learn?  Of course, we don't try to get thrown around; but when we face insurmountable odds, we can have the steely-nerved chutzpah of Kuzco, knowing that whatever comes, God will make it all right. 


Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Video from YouTube...duh
Image from: http://digitalmediafx.com/Columns/JimHill/02getgroove.html

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Never a Truer Friend

Well, the Christmas season is wrapping up (or unwrapping, seen differently).  The gifts have pretty much all been exchanged; the parties are becoming fewer and fewer; the lights have perhaps lost a bit of that magical twinkle the get before Christmas; but the gift of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, still lives on!  His influence in our lives will still continue, undimmed by calendar days. 

I have been thinking recently about this gift to us.  I have blogged previously about how we can be "snatched" out of our misery, how we should pump up by living the commandments and focusing on Christ.  Today I wanted to talk about another aspect of Christ's gift to us (for truly the facets are limitless)--His ability to carry us when we can go no farther.  I often think about J.R.R Tolkein's masterpiece trilogy, The Lord of the Rings as it relates to our everyday struggles.  Now I'm not suggesting you have to bat away stray nazguls from your sedan before you go to work or fight off a horde of Uruk'hai (cat's out of the bag--I'm a geek...I do know these things) before you check out at the supermarket.  I am saying, however, that we all face perils and our roads are fraught with dangers that we often can't see.

I love the last scene in the movie The Return of the King where Frodo and Sam are trying to make it up the slope of Mt. Doom to cast the accursed ring into the pit.  At one point, Frodo is about to give up--the volcano is erupting, the burden on his soul is crushing down, and all seems lost.  He turns to Sam and expresses his disappointment and dejection at his seeming failure to accomplish his task.  Ever vigilant, a true friend to the bitter end, Samwise Gamgee looks Frodo straight in the eye, and declares, voice buckling with emotion, "I can't carry the ring, Mr. Frodo...but I can carry you!"  He musters his last ounces of strength and hoists Frodo up the mountain to the ultimate fulfillment of their quest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

...they can hardly contain their excitement too!

Well everyone, the Christmas season is coming to its climax (which, I realize, means this post will probably go unread by a large majority of the populace, but it is what it is..).  It's Christmas Eve!  In the immortal words of the Grinch, "Tomorrow is Christmas!  It's practically here!!" 

Tonight, many of us will have trouble going to sleep; we will have "visions of sugar plums (or Xboxes or cars or new clothes, etc.) dancing in our heads".  Or perhaps some will spend this evening shut up in their houses, unhappy and unimpressed by the feelings of the season.  Some may find sadness without loved ones; many will reflect on the supernal Gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  How will your Christmas Eve be spent?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Through New Eyes

Recently, one of the leaders of our Church, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, gave a talk at the Christmas Devotional about seeing Christmas through new eyes.  I loved it for several reasons, not the least of which was his reference to the Grinch's transformation; mostly though, I appreciated his wisdom and counsel to all of us on how we can refocus on what is most important about this time of year. 

He gave three suggestions on how to see Christmas through new eyes:

  1. Rejoice in the Birth of Our Savior
  2. Ponder His Influence in Our Lives Today
  3. Look Steadfastly for His Coming
I'll let you watch the talk to get his exact words about each of those.  I did, however, want to testify that if we will seek the Christ this season, as the wise men did of old, we will see Christmas, Christ, and ourselves through new eyes.  Says President Uchtdorf:

If we look for what is wrong with the Christmas season, we can surely find it. Like the Grinch, we can grumble and complain, becoming cold and cynical about what we see around us. Nevertheless, if we look for the good, we can see this time of year with new eyes—perhaps even with the eyes of a child.

The Grinch saw the good in Christmas when he learned to look past its worldly trappings. If we do the same, we can, with the Grinch, proclaim: “Maybe Christmas . . . doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”

Our heart may not grow three sizes as the Grinch’s did, but our heart will change. Our eyes will open to the miracles all around us—at Christmastime and throughout the year.

I add my personal testimony that we can be changed through the One Whose birth we celebrate at this time of year.  May His love fill your life is my humble prayer.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

PS Seriously, watch that talk!  or read the text version here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Sounds (/Noise) of the Season!

I have made an executive decision:  I will be mostly posting about insights from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! for all my Christmas-y blog entries.  There's so much to learn from Dr. Seuss' classic story (plus it's my favorite!).  Sound good?  Sweet.

Well, just a short one today about focusing on what's most important.  You'll recall with me that one of the Grinch's major beefs with the Whos' celebration of Christmas was "All the noise, noise, noise!"  He was so caught up in the hectic, helter-skelter of the season that he (and perhaps many of the Whos [Who's Whose Whos?]) lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
We too can fall into that trap.  I know I have!  In fact, even as a missionary I get wrapped up in all the running around and ins and outs and ups and downs and the noise, noise, noise!  But Christ Himself said, "Peace I leave with you"  and "I have overcome the world".  That, my friends, is the spirit of Christmas.  May we all focus on the things that matter most and invite the spirit of Christmas (which is the Spirit of Christ) into our lives this Christmas season.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Image from: http://jmkaye.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/grinch-noise1.jpg

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All Wound Up

I realize that many of you may be wondering why I haven't posted anything about Christmas yet, considering that it's now 9 days away!  Forgive me for being a Scrooge (which is really a misnomer because Scrooge ended up changing his ways and becoming a pretty okay guy... but I digress--again).

I was talking with my trusty companion, Elder Wright today about our life here on Earth.  We are all progressing or "marching toward" something while we're here; our purpose is to progress toward God and live with Him when we die.  I made a comment that we're like little wind-up toys, or like a toy train.  We all start out the same (though our circumstances vary, of course).  Our early choices and the influence of others kind of "wind us up" or set us on a certain track.  We are all marching toward one end of the spectrum, whether it's toward God or Satan is based on our choices.  Sometimes we get a little unwound--the choices we make determine who winds us back up, God or the devil.  We can always change, whether for good or ill, because of our free will.  Christ invites us to come unto Him and His Father with open arms; Satan deceives and entices us toward destruction with momentary pleasures.  We have the scriptures, the words of prophets ancient and modern, our families, and friends to motivate us and move us in the right direction.

"Elder Spendlove!  What on Earth does this have to do with Christmas?!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Will Choose Free Will!

Sometimes as missionaries we get little "freebies"--we were at this burger joint in Ukiah on Monday with a local member of the Church (I had an ostrich burger.  Yeah.  That just happened), and there was all this classic rock playing (Aside: as missionaries we don't listen to the radio or music that draws us away from Christ.), and I loved classic rock back home.  I was trying not to listen to it!  I promise!  Anyway, this song by Rush comes on and as I "wasn't listening", my ear caught hold of some of the lyrics, which are as follows:

"I will choose a path that's clear--I will choose freewill!"
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill.

In between bites of ostrich, I really pondered the meaning behind those words.  We as humans value free will.  We (LDS people) believe it is one of the basic reasons we're her on Earth--to use our free will to choose God instead of Satan; we use our free will to"come unto Christ and be perfected in Him", like I posted last week. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I love words.  They're kind of my thing.  Ask people who know me, and they'll tell you that sometimes I can get a little carried away with my words.  I especially love funny-sounding words that aren't onomatopoeic, like the word snatch (well, I guess depending on how quickly you snatch something it may be an onomatopeia...but I digress).

The Book of Mormon recounts a few young men who were sons of the king--and one of them was even the son of the prophet at the time--who went about doing some really bad stuff.  Eventually, they were rebuked by an angel of God, repented, and became great missionaries, bringing thousands of people to Christ.  As one of them later put it, "Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, polluted state?" (Alma 26:17) 

World English Dictionary defines snatch in like 13 different ways; my favorite two are the following:
  •  to remove suddenly: she snatched her hand away
  • to gain, win, or rescue, esp narrowly: they snatched victory in the closing seconds
I think these define snatch like the scripture above.  God, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, "removes [us] suddenly" from our choices that bring us misery if we let Him.  Also, He "gains, wins, rescues us, especially narrowly" from the grasp of sin and Satan.  He really has our back.  He snatches us just in time before we do something really stupid--I know that's been true in my life over and over again. 

I know that God loves us.  His Son suffered and died so you and I could be snatched from unhappiness in this life and the next.  "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that [snatched] a soul
like me!"

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Definition from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/snatch

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't be a GIRLIE Man!

"I am Hans"

"Und I am Franz"

"Und ve just vant to PUMP YOU UP!"

Many of us are familiar with the insanely buff pop icons Hans and (und) Franz from Saturday Night Live, with their outrageously bemuscled bods and their intolerance for any and all "girlie men".  As a young teenager (and even today, I'll admit), I wanted nothing more than to get as ripped as these two fictitious Austrian weightlifters.  But I wasn't willing to pay the price.  Instead of going to the gym, I'd play video games; instead of eating healthily and working on building lean muscle, I was into burgers and shakes.  Now I'm not saying all this to have you laugh at me or to hang up my dirty laundry for all to see--I merely mean to illustrate the point that you can't get something for nothing. 

God knows it's the same way--we are here to learn to become like Him, to develop His attributes ("godliness"), and be happy--and it doesn't come easily.  We have to work at it!  The Savior said, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).  Have you tried being perfect?  It's really difficult!  Even impossible!  But that's what He's commanded us to do.  So how do we get there?  How do we eschew weakness, strip the flabbiness from our spirits, and not be "girlie men"?  Here's what a prophet said:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God  with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ... (Moroni 10:32)

Obviously that's a lot easier said than done, but it is possible through the grace of Jesus Christ.  We have the scriptures and the prophets as our guidelines (like a weight-training book); when we are baptized, we have the Holy Ghost's companionship (He's our personal trainer); and we have our Elder Brother Jesus Christ as a model (the Perfect Paragon).  So don't give up!  Christ is going to PUMP YOU UP!  Let Him change your weaknesses into strengths!  And above all, in the immortal words of Hans und Franz: DON'T be a [spiritual] GIRLIE MAN!

Much love,
Elder Spendlove

PS for more about not getting bogged down by weakness, check out Elder Menasco's blog!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain Pt. III

As my Master chiseled and scraped, brushed and polished, I began to see myself how he saw me: worthwhile, important, magnificent, and something great.  As I mentioned before, the pain of the chisel never decreased, but I learned to accept it as my Master's plan and trust that his skillful hands would work untold wonders for my future.  Truly--and I understand this will sound terribly ironic--my heart of stone softened and I learned to respect, and far greater than that, to love my Master, the Great Michelangelo.  The great care he took, the joy he expressed at seeing me become glorious, his detail in carving every intricacy with precision--it all evidences his pouring his whole soul into making me his masterpiece, his work and his glory. 

It took him three and a half years of working daily and toiling arduously to finish me, but he did it.  In the early summer of 1504, I, David, was completed.  Standing erect in mighty majesty, I was a symbol of hope for the Florentine Renaissance, a budding revival of great human achievement that was endangered by the iron-fisted traditionalists of Italy.  Michelangelo explained to me as he worked that the man I depicted had been a courageous defender of the truth and of God's kingdom long ago.  As a boy, this David had faced a foe many times his size and strength.  I was created to remind the good people of Florence that no obstacle is insurmountable when we put ourselves in the Hands of God, the Great Creator and Master. 

We truly are our Master's masterpiece.

 I am living proof of that.  I was a hard-willed, stubborn block of stone, doomed to crumble in a dusty old warehouse until I was discovered by a Master.  Once I learned to act, to submit my will to his, and not just be acted upon, a world of understanding and hope blossomed before my eyes (so to speak).  No longer was I doomed to impregnable uselessness; no longer was I destined to be rubble; no longer was I consigned to the unfulfillment of my true potential.  This Master, this caring, honest, dedicated craftsman shaped my destiny forever. 

I hope my tale has brought to light the struggles that everyone's heart, stone or flesh, must endure.  Remember, my softer-skinned friends, we are all shaped by a Master.  He knows best.  When we love Him and serve Him and submit ourselves to His will, He will polish us and craft us, and, like a stone cut out of a mountain without hands, we will all become our Master's masterpiece. 

The End

Image from: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/artwork/michelangelo-sculptures7.htm

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

We're all familiar with the classic nursery rhyme about the three little pigs who face the onslaught of a terroristic wolf, only to discover that their preconceived notions of proper building materials are called into serious question and their lives severely jeopardized when he "huffs and puffs" and seeks to blow their shanty habitations down.  In the end, the eldest of the pigs safeguards his less-than-competent brethren in the house he built of brick, and they best the wolf by sealing off every possible entrance and even by lighting a fire when he climbs down the chimney. 

To some this may seem a lesson in reversing natural selection (take that, Darwin--right?), but I think there is an even greater lesson to be learned.  We are all faced with the onslaught of the evil one--Satan, Lucifer, the devil, whatever name you want to give him--every single day of our lives.  He is the Big Bad Wolf, seeking to blow our houses down and leave us prey to his insatiable appetite.  How then do we overcome this monster?  Is it by building our safeguards of straw or twigs--by simply saying we belive in Christ without actually following His commandments?  Of course not.  A Book of Mormon prophet named Helaman put it this way:

Christ it our Sure Foundation

And now, my sons, 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...when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down...because of the rock upon which ye are built...a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.        (Helaman 5:12)

That's the key right there.  We build ourselves upon Christ so when the devil huffs and puffs and tries to blow us down, we'll be the last man standing.  We build ourselves by keeping His commandments, great and small.  And that's it.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Image of wolf and pig from: http://allgraphicsonline.com/picture/11428/
Image of rock from: http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/rock.jpg

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain Pt. II

Well, I have to tell you, my determination really paid off.  Tell me how this sounds: I was abandoned, neglected, and rarely talked about for 25 years while the big wigs tried to figure out what to do with me.  And not only that, I was abandoned and neglected outside!  In the elements!  Sounds great, right?  You're right.  It wasn't great.  I remember thinking to myself, "Well, you really showed them up, didn't you?  All this rain and wind and snow and blazing sun are really doing wonders for my texture and durability!  What was I thinking?!"  And so for 25 long years I sat there, worthless, dejected and beaten by the storms. 

The turn of the sixteenth century (that's 1500 for all you math whizzes out there) found me less-than enthused; in fact, I had just about given up hope on ever becoming anything more than a poorly-formed, misshapen hunk of rock.  Then one day, the patrons of the cathedral where I was stationed came rushing in, shouting the name of some new artist they had found--"a real prodigy! a Master!" they had said.  Well you can bet how excited I was after being treated by the last "master" they'd sent my way, but I figured anything at this point would be better than what I'd been doing for the last two-and-a-half decades.  They acclaimed him as the most promising sculptor of the new age ("Renaissance", they called it), for he had completed a most beautiful statue the year prior, which they called La Pieta.  I was intrigued by their accolades, but held my peace until I could see firsthand who this man really was. 

They called him "Michelangelo".

I will never forget that September morning when that graceful young man approached me on the sculpting platform.  He was so different than the last man who had come to chisel on me that for a while I was simply stunned by his demeanor.  He didn't even touch the chisel that first day.  I will never forget this as long as I stand: he came up and greeted me, calling me his friend.  He then laid his hands on my sides, not in a probing, caustic way, but with the touch of a Master--I don't know how to explain it other than that.  He examined what had been done on my corner so long ago by the other sculptor, shaking his head and saying he had done me wrong.  Then he sat down, with his back against mine, pondering and sketching on paper how he would work his plan; every stroke of his charcoal, every look and every movement seemed to be calculated with divine precision.  He considered my every angle and niche; where my marbling was most durable and where it was weaker; and even some qualities I had not recognized in myself.  He spoke his thoughts, not to himself, but to me, as if he felt my considerations were important.  I tell you, I was so enraptured by this young man's care, that when he left that day, I longed for him to return.  It was an experience that caught me quite off-guard.

As the extra stone came down, so did the walls
 I had built around my heart
As the weeks passed, I began to see that it was not just his preparation that was calculated and caring, but his execution as well.  He worked his plan with great skill and precision, knocking off every bit of excess that I could not help but be grateful that the superfluous stone was gone.  As the chunks of extra stone came down, so did the walls I had built around my heart toward this Master.  Sure, the chiseling was still uncomfortable, but he made sure I was becoming something more, something worthy of the highest accolades and honors.  Oftentimes I would get frustrated, not knowing where his chisel would fall, and when it did, why he would strike there, but in time I learned to trust his skill and rely on his masterful plan; indeed, I began to see myself shaping into the form of someone graceful and mighty, as I never had before supposed.

Truly this was what I was meant to become.

To be continued...

Image from http://www.carraramarble.it/images_en/products/blocks/marbles_bianco_venato_standard.jpg

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain Pt. I

You might think this weird, reading a story written by a block of stone--Italian marble, to be precise--but that's what you're doing.  It has never been an easy life, as you might expect, but I hope my story helps you fleshier folks appreciate what you've got.  It's not much, but here it goes.

My home--Carrara Quarry, Italy

I was born over three hundred thousand... well, you don't want to hear about that long ago do you?  That's boring.  Mostly just lava and hot and... yeah.  Fast-forward to the year 1464.  I was discovered and roughly hewn from the warmth of Mother Earth in my home of Carrara, a marble quarry in the Italian Alps.  I was, needless to say, a little upset.  After being jostlingly carted to the city of Florence, I was taken to a large building where men of all shapes and sizes examined me over and over, feeling every bump and scrutinizing every surface (quite embarrassing, if you think about it).  They told one another of my great potential, how priceless and beautiful I was (my narcissism got the best of me there), how only the greatest sculptor, a Master, would be able to form me into the perfect statue.  They mentioned how I was to become a great and marvelous statue to personify some other man who had been dead for centuries.  All narcissism aside, that didn't exactly sound like my cup of tea. 

 "Great," I said to myself.  "They don't even care about what I want!  All they can think of is their selfish pursuits!  Well!  We'll see who erodes first!"

Finally, a man named Agostino was selected to "shape me up" into this statue or whatever.  I can still remember the first day he walked into the studio--he didn't look like much of a "Master" to me, but hey, I'm just an eons-old hunk of rock, what do I know, right?  He strode onto the platform, picked up his chisel and hammer, looked at me for a few minutes, and then BANG!! Right in my side!  Oh how it hurt!  and it didn't stop!  BANG, BANG, BANG! Oh boy, it still makes me cringe just to think about it.  I hated the chiseling!  It was so bad that first day that I said to him "Hey! what are you doing?!  you think that feels good?!"  But he wouldn't listen.  He just kept on chiseling!  So again I say to him "Hey!  Cut that out!... no don't cut that out of me, I mean stop!  It is really uncomfortable!!"  Nothing.  Day after day I pleaded, begged, and almost grovelled (not "gravelled", that's something different) for him to stop; despite my pleas, he still chipped, brushed, and pounded away at my beautiful marble, leaving a strange-looking lump where my corner used to be.  I wasn't altogether happy about this. 

So I decided to think very hard thoughts, hoping to toughen up enough to break that puny little chisel of his, or at least make him tired enough to want to stop.  Well, guess what--it worked.  Now, the historians will tell you a more complicated story about how Agostino needed some time off, then a man named Rossellino stepped in but couldn't quite hack it (no pun intended)... No.  I was the one who bested them.  I knew better than they what my potential was!  A statue?  No.  No man could be as majestic or glorious as I; no man would catch the public's gaze as could my brilliant marble sheen; and certainly, no "Master" could ever design a product as magnificent and breath-taking as a block of Carraran marble!

...Or so I thought. 

...They called him "Michaelangelo"...

To be continued...

Image from: http://www.artinfo.com/media/image/4154/BurtynskyCarraraMarbleQuarries.jpg
Historical info from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Michelangelo)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks!

The story is told in our family, that during the first winter in the New World, the pilgrims' food supply was so scant that the rationing of corn came down to 5 kernels a day for each person.  They relied on God to carry them through that terrible first year, and were eventually blessed with an abundance.  In memory of their state, each Thanksgiving our family takes 5 kernels of candy corn and enumerates our 5 most cherished blessings.  Indulge me, if you will, as I carry on that tradition here on my blog.

  1. Legs and arms that work--I run and do push-ups every day.  My arms and legs get tired.  But you know what?  At least I have legs and arms that have the possibility of getting tired!  I am so thankful for my limbs!  They grant me so many freedoms that I take for granted every day! Thanks, Father, for legs and arms!
  2. Food--I know this one is at the top of every world hunger activist's list, but for me, it is a big deal because I LOVE FOOD.  I don't know what I would do without it.  And here I am stuffing my face everyday when there are seriously people right here in Northern California, even who don't have enough to last one day.  I am thankful for food!
  3. Clothes--for those of you who know me personally, you know I'm kind of metro when it comes to my clothes.  What can I say?  I like to look good!  I am so grateful to have a closet full of shirts, a dresser full of socks, and more than one pair of good, solid shoes.  Especially now it's getting on into winter, it's nice to be able to wear clothes that keep me warm (and stylish). **note** Hair also falls into this category.  Someone very dear to me has recently had to lose all of her hair because of cancer.  I am thankful for my hair!
  4. My family--I've posted about them before, but I want everyone within the sound of my voice (so to speak) to know that I am grateful for such a great family.  On my mission I've seen a lot of families that are broken, dysfunctional, and downright destroyed.  I am overwhelmingly thankful, beyond words really, for parents who thought more about me and my 3 brothers and 1 darling sister than themselves, who didn't do drugs or waste their money on frivolous pursuits; for brothers who help me realize my true potential and strive for my personal best; for a sister who helps me learn tenderness and gentility; for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on, who pass on the great legacy of faith that I cherish, which helps me build my solid foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ.
  5. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--I cannot put into words what He means to me each day.  All I can do is live how He wants me to live and serve my fellow man.  I am forever indebted to Him for His love and selfless sacrifice on my behalf.
I am one of the most blessed people I know.  I have so much to be thankful for (this list is inexhaustive--I have simply named some of my choicest blessings) and so much to live for.  Thank you for being a part of my life and sharing these moments with me. 

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

P.S. Comment with some of your choicest blessings!  It will surprise you what the Lord has done! 

Image from: http://theformofmoney.blogharbor.com/ThanksgivingFirst.jpg

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Great Patronus

I understand that the new Harry Potter movie just came out, which would make me really excited to see it, except I am on a mission and as missionaries we don't focus on popular media, rather we focus on teaching the gospel.  Even so, I happen to enjoy reading the books and watching the films--one of my favortie parts in the books is where Harry learns how to cast the patronus charm.  As the story goes, this spell, the only one powerful enough to combat the Dementors--sepulchral phantasms that steal your happiness and your soul (you know, nothing too big)--gets its power from the caster's happiest emotions.  The spell is unique to each person who calls upon it, based on their happiness, optimism, and personal experiences.  If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know just how effective this spell was for Harry in combatting the darkness he faced.

As I've pondered this, there is a really cool truth there that, whether J.K. Rowling meant it or not, can effect each of us in a very profound way.  When we are faced with trials that want to steal our happiness or seemingly suck out our very souls, we can draw upon the light of truth and joy that comes from Jesus Christ.  He is our great patronus.  In Latin, patronus means "defender", "counsel", "advocate", and "protector".  I know Jesus Christ is our greatest defender, advocating our cause with Heavenly Father, Who is waiting to shower blessings and dispel the darkness.  I love my great Protector, my Elder Brother, my Savior and Redeemer.  I know He will help you as you combat your personal "Dementors".  As the Lord counseled Joshua of old: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid... for the LORD thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."  (Joshua 1:9)

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

Imeage from: http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/16300000/Patronus-Charm-harry-potter-16349306-539-358.jpg

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Fit for the Kingdom: Part II

More Fit for the Kingdom
by Chris Spendlove

"My son... rise, my boy." The knight resurfaced from the depths of a turbulent sleep. His vision came into focus upon the sadly smiling face of his beloved King. The knight had been brought back to the castle and was now lying in the bed of the King Himself! "Oh, my son... you heeded not my counsel and warnings. You have been gravely wounded by that old serpent. But I will make you whole." The King smiled as He said this, and laid a reassuring hand on the shoulder of the knight. The knight wept bitterly.

"O, my King! I have betrayed you! I have turned my thoughts away from the light and meddled with the things of darkness! Forgive me! I beg you...forgive me..." The knight covered his face in his hands--he was too ashamed to be looked upon by the King.

"I will make you whole, my son. But you must put your trust in me. You must not go astray again, and you must re-learn what it means to be a knight. It will be difficult and the poisons of the dragon will sting as they leave your body, but I love you, my son, and I will stay by your side until you are healed." The knight looked into the eyes of his King, and he knew that the King could not lie. He nodded, and embraced the King.

"I will put my trust in you, my Lord. I know that you can do many mighty works and can heal me of this poison and fix my broken body and spirit." The King laid the young man back down, and the knight presently fell asleep.

When he awoke, the King was still by his side. The King was preparing a balm to apply to the wounds of the knight. "You must know that you have lost the trust of the villagers," the King said gravely. "They have lost much in the dragon's attack, and will lose much more while you heal. They have suffered much, but I think they will learn to forgive you in time." The King smiled softly and applied the balm. It seared the knight's flesh, and he yelped because of the pain. "This will be uncomfortable," the King continued, "but it will save your life." The knight, still smarting from the balm, realized that this pain was nothing compared to the anguish that he had caused the poor villagers by his actions.

"They trusted in me," he said softly, "and I betrayed that trust by not being the man they needed me to be. I must repay the debt that I owe them--when I am well again, I will rebuild their houses, work in their fields, and serve them in their homes."

"And you must again face that dragon," the King reminded him. "You must show them that you are capable of defending them from the evils of this world as you did before. I will heal you, my son, but you must then do your part--protect the people, be the true and just defender you were born to be." The weeks passed, and slowly the knight regained his strength. Daily, the King taught him once more how to be a knight; the young man loved being instructed so, and he resolved within himself to be a bold defender. And if he was wounded in his efforts to defend the people, the King promised that He would heal the knight, as long as he would learn from the battle.

The day came when the knight was fully healed and ready to face the dragon again. "The dragon said he would come back to watch me die," the knight told the King. "Perhaps he will return today, thinking that I am soon to perish."

"You must be ever watchful, my son, for the day when the dragon comes. You must be prepared. I want you to have these," said the King, presenting the knight with a bright new set of armor, a sharpened sword of excellent craftsmanship, and a large shield, upon which was emblazoned the Crest of the King. "The best knights are those who get back up when they fall, who put their trust in their King, and face the challenges of life with hope. You have the makings of a great knight.  I love you.  I have confidence in you. Now go, my son, and be the defender you were born to be."

It was with confidence that the knight strode past the portcullis and out onto the drawbridge of the castle. The King had taught him to have hope, to put his best foot forward, and to keep moving forward in the face of opposition. The knight knew he had a solid foundation in the love of the King, and that no matter the circumstances, the King would be there to heal his wounds.

The villagers looked rather angrily at him as he walked through the town, and he heard them whispering under their breaths. The knight tried to offer apologies to them for the sorrow he had caused, but many of the townsfolk turned angrily away without a word. Others looked at him sadly, as if longing for the old knight to return, the knight who had defended them so bravely. "I will be their knight. I will use what I have learned from the King to protect these people from harm. It is my charge. It is my duty."

The knight spent the afternoon seeking to make amends with the people. As the sun set, the knight retired to his tent, seeking to get some rest in preparation for the oncoming confrontation with the dragon.

The morning came early; the golden fingers of dawn caressed the eyes of the young knight, beckoning him to rise. He polished his armor, sharpened the sword, and cleaned the shield with the same meticulous care as before, and headed out into the clear morning. No sooner had he set out, than the cry of "Dragon! dragon! who will save us?!" rang out from the square. The knight was ready. he had been anticipating this moment for weeks, had been preparing himself mentally, spiritually, and physically under the care of the King, and was now ready to prove himself to the villagers--he would show them that they could once again rely on him for support and defense. It was his duty.

The dragon roared with laughter as he spewed flames from deep in his gullet. "Where is you precious defender now?" he cackled, torching a cart of apples. "Your knight is dying! Fear, peasants! fear!"

"STOP!" shouted the knight. The dragon wheeled around to face the man in bright armor, sword ablaze with the morning sun. "I will defend these people, even if it costs me my life! Either you or I or both of us will die right here, right now!" The knight stared the dragon straight in the eyes, and, brandishing his sword with mighty conviction, rushed at the dragon.

"Hmph! Impudent boy! I crushed you once, I will crush you again!" The dragon reared up on his hind legs and barred his teeth.

Sword met claw, sending sparks into the air. The young knight fought not for himself, but for the safety of the people and for the honor of the King; he contended bravely against the evil dragon, using his shield to protect him from the dragon's fire and from the sharp fangs and claws. His sword was a piercing ray of light, scoring the black scales and flesh of the dragon with each stroke. The dragon was surprised at the courage of the knight--he had been so weak in their last encounter that the dragon underestimated the new-found bravery and conviction of his opponent. The dragon began to fear for his life as the knight blocked his swipes and parried with powerful blows to his neck and shoulders. Letting out a mighty roar, the dragon retreated toward his cave. "I will return, knight, and you will pay dearly for
this encounter!!"

The villagers slowly appeared in the doorways of their homes and shops. The knight was burnt in some places, scratched and bruised in others, but he was alive and well; his armor had served him well against the vicious attacks of the dragon. As he looked into their faces, the young knight could see gratitude in the eyes of the people. Slowly, they began to applaud their defender. As the cheering grew, tears welled in the eyes of the young man--it was for them that he had fought so mightily, and it was for them that he lived. The knight realized that day that his life was meant to be lived for others, and that there were people who depended on his strength and stability. He would, with the King's support, defend these
people until the day he died, because it was with His support that he lived, and it was because of His gifts that he continued to fight.

The dragon was gone, but, they knew, he would return. And when he did, the knight would be there to protect and to defend and to serve them. More importantly even than that, the King would always be there too, watching with unparalleled love, willing to stand beside the wounded and ready to succor the needs of His people. The knight knew that he had a kind, wise Friend in the King, and that, no matter the circumstances, the King would guide and protect him. He could go forward with hope and be the defender he was born to be.

The End.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Fit for the Kingdom-- A Short Story

This is an adaptation of a story I wrote during some particularly difficult times in my life.  I wrote myself into the character of the knight, but in all reality, we are each the knight in the story.  We all rely on our King for our support and our spiritual healing so that we can be the men and women He wants us to be.  I hope you enjoy this tale.

More Fit for the Kingdom
By Chris Spendlove

Once upon a time, there was a knight. He was a relatively new knight to the kingdom, but nonetheless willing to fight for his King and Country. His most valuable possessions in the whole world were a suit of armor, a sword, and a shield that the King had given him when he was brand new in the land.

Every day, the knight would polish the armor, checking for cracks and weak spots, sharpen the sword, lest he be caught off guard with a dull sword, and meticulously scrubbed the dirt and grime from his shield so as to keep himself protected in battle. He loved that armor, that sword, and the shield--he took such good care of them that the villagers, as they passed by on the way to the market or fields, would gaze in speechless wonder, and aspire to become gallant knights themselves.

"Once upon a time, there was a knight"

Everyone loved the knight, and not just because of his armor; he was kind to the children, chivalrous to the women, and helpful to the men. The villagers felt that they could always depend on him to follow through with commitments and to lend a hand in any and every endeavor. He was widely considered to be a very good knight indeed.

One day, as the knight was polishing his armor, he heard the cry of the villagers, and, poking his head out of his tent, the knight spied a ferocious dragon lumbering toward the village! The knight had been
warned that the dragon was a master deceiver, and even though one could plainly see he was a fire breathing monster, many had been tricked by his cunning. The knight hastily donned his armor, and, sword and shield in hand, rushed out to meet the dragon.

By the time the knight reached the village square, two peasants had already been devoured, a cart of grain had been upset, and a house was ablaze. "Oh boy," thought the knight. "This is one angry dragon! Armor? Check. Sword? Check. Shield? Check check." The knight rushed up to the dragon, brandishing his sword, yelling, "Alright, dragon! That's quite enough! You cannot be allowed to terrorize this village any longer!"

"But, my good lad," oozed the dragon--his voice was deep and rumbling, but he put on an air of sweet gentility. "I was only hungry. The food has been scarce around my cave, and I had no choice but to eat these villagers. Besides," he added, bending low next to the knight. "These two men were dishonest in their dealings! I have done your town a favor!" This startled the knight. Surely these men, who had been his friends, were good and honest men!

"You lie!" shouted the knight. "I knew these men, and, by golly, they were the most honest and true fellows you'll ever meet! Now, begone or I will use my sword--which is very sharp--and slay you right here!" Upon hearing this, the dragon became angry, but backed away (truth be told, he was a coward at heart). He eyed the knight's armor, looking for any crack or dent, and, finding none, he blew smoke from his nostrils and went away without another word.

The villagers rejoiced at the departure of the dragon. "You are such a brave and gallant knight that the dragon left without a fight! You truly are a great defender of the Kingdom! Three cheers for the brave knight!" That evening, a celebration was held in honor of the knight. "I suppose I AM a great defender, aren't I?" he thought to himself. The King Himself arrived in all His splendor to congratulate the knight. Later in the night, the King pulled the knight aside.

"My son," He said. "You have done well in defending our village against that old dragon. But be warned: the dragon will come back. He always does. He is a master of deception, as I told you before. He will invent new ways of destroying the people. And, if you are not careful in your preparation, the dragon will destroy you as well. He eyed your armor, didn't he?" The knight nodded. "I thought so. He was looking for cracks to get his awful claws into. Take care of that armor, my son. It will protect your life if you keep it in good repair."

The knight pondered over the words of the King. "Destroy me?" he thought as he lay in his bed that evening. "Did the King even see how well I handled the dragon? Clearly the King has never fought a dragon like this one before. Why, I'll bet I could slay that dragon without any armor on at all! Ha!" And with that notion, the knight fell asleep and dreamed of slaying hundreds of dragons.

In the weeks to come, the knight slowly became less diligent about cleaning his shield, sharpening his sword, and repairing his armor. In fact, the knight didn't wear his armor at all for a few days. When asked about his armor, the knight boasted that any dragon foolish enough to face him would be dead before he could say "Bob's your uncle." The villagers didn't quite know how to reply to the change in the knight's mien, so they just smiled and went on their ways. "Hm," he thought. "I wonder what's gotten into them?"

And, sure enough, the day came when that old dragon poked his ugly head into the village again. "Dragon! Dragon! help us, brave knight!" came the call. The knight reached for his armor, only to discover it was dirty, banged up, and starting to rust in some places. Slightly uneasy, the knight quickly strapped it on, grabbed his not-so-sharp sword and dingy shield, and rushed to the village.

The damage was worse this time: two houses had been leveled, their smouldering ruins littered with the bodies of the villagers, a cow had been slain, and much of the market had been pulverized. The dragon smiled slightly when he saw the knight run up, his armor in a state of disrepair.

"Well, well," he snarled. "If it isn't our gallant knight. How have you been? I am a fool to return when there is such a brave knight to oppose me."

"You've got that right!" retorted the knight, adjusting a loose strap under his arm. "I'm going to have to slay you this time, no questions asked."

"Surely you shall. But before you do me in, may I let you in on a secret? I'm not the enemy. It's that old King you should be after."

"Stop this! none of your lies! The King is good and just and cares for the welfare of His people!" cried the knight, brandishing his sword.

"Does he now? Is that why He sits on a golden throne and lets His people die? If He cared so much, wouldn't he come and face me Himself? risk His life for the good of His people? Some King, if you ask me," hissed the dragon. The knight began to ponder what the dragon had just said. He lowered his sword and shield slightly.

"No... you-you're wrong," the knight said half-heartedly. It DID seem like the King just sat on his throne, collect taxes, and make laws. Perhaps the dragon was right... The knight lowered his defenses.

Before he could respond, the dragon was upon him. He viciously ripped at the knight's armor with his claws and broke the weakened sword with his jaws. The knight struggled furiously against the might of the dragon, but to no avail. The dragon was merciless--he wounded the knight deeply with his claws and fangs. "I have not killed you," he laughed. "Not yet, at least. My claws and my fangs have a poison in
"I find it more enjoyable to watch you writhe in agony before you
perish. I will return..."
them that will destroy you slowly. I find it more enjoyable to watch you writhe in agony before you
perish. I will return to watch your last mortal moments." And, having left the knight in such a state, the dragon slipped away to his cave.

The knight slipped in and out of consciousness. Thoughts of despair resonated in his tortured mind: "How could I have been so foolish! I am no brave knight. I am worse than the dragon! And now I will die, a broken, foolish, incapable louse." The pains of the dragon's poison ebbed and flowed throughout his entire being; perhaps worse than the pain of the poison, however, were the pains of defeat, of losing the trust of the people, and, above all, harming the King. The King was a wise and loving monarch, and the knight had doubted Him. If only, if only he could somehow beg the King's forgiveness! But it was all over now. The knight, giving up his will to live, allowed himself to slip into unconsciousness...

To be concluded...

Friday, November 12, 2010

FAQ Fridays: The Word of Wisdom

I LOVE '80s music.  Love it.  My mom thought it was funny because the songs I was listening to when I graduated high school were the same songs she was listening to when she graduated high school.  One of the songs I love most is "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant.  As we drove up to my college, my mom and I were talking about the social scene back in 1983 when this song was actually popular. She remarked to me that she and her friends would get asked something similar to a line in the song that says, "don't drink, don't smoke--what do you do?".  I thought it was interesting that not only our musical tastes paralleled, but also our obtrusive aversion to harmful substances upon which most of our classmates were avidly experimenting (though 25 years spanned us).  What is it about Mormon kids that make them different in that regard?  Why don't we engage in those habits and vices? Are we just a bunch of "goody two shoes"?  We don't drink, we don't smoke--what do we do?

Are Mormons just a bunch of "Goody Two Shoes"?

You may have wondered why your Mormon friends pass up the cocktails at business parties, the coffee in the break room, and never seem to have a light.  It isn't just because we're the designated drivers; our feelings regarding the use of certain things are rooted much more deeply than that. 

We believe that our bodies are sacred gifts from God.  Paul says our bodies are "temples of God", where the Holy Ghost can dwell if we don't defile them. Heavenly Father wants us to take good care of them by not using substances that damage them or rob us of our ability to choose.  That ability to choose is one of the most precious tools He has granted for us to keep His commandments and be happy.  Kind of hard to do that if you're a slave to a bottle or a little white stick.  Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, God has revealed what we should and should not put into our bodies--we should avoid coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and harmful drugs because they damage us and take away that ability to choose; on the other hand, we should eat nutritiously, choosing grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat sparingly.  (**Note: nowhere in the Word of Wisdom are we forbidden to drink sodas or caffeinated beverages.  We are counseled by the prophets to abstain from things to which we may become addicted--caffeine is an easy one for many people.  Myth Busted)  We are promised incredible blessings of health, strength, knowledge, and above all, spiritual safety
if we remember to keep this "principle with a promise". 

I'm thankful for these guidelines because I have been able to enjoy a happy, healthy youth, free from a lot of the problems that early smoking, drinking, and use of drugs bring.  I am also thankful because it is evidence to me that God cares so much that it even matters to Him what I eat and drink!  That's so cool to me.  So I (and my totally hip mom--she's even on facebook, I'll have you know!) don't drink and I don't smoke.  What do I do?  I live a productive, active life, and I get to share these blessings with others.  If you are involved with these addictive substances, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help you.  He knows what it feels like and He wants to help you out!  Here's a site that may help if you're trying to quit.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove


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