Share Goodness: Part 3

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In part 1 and part 2 of this series on what’s good in the world, I shared shows, songs, and books I find positive and uplifting. Here is part 3.

Movie

The Book of Life, directed by Jorge R. Gutiérrez. The movie is beautifully animated and has a number of positive messages. It is a colorful presentation of aspects of Mexican culture. I appreciated the presentation of the eternal importance of family. Some of the images in this movie are potentially frightening. There are also challenging thematic materials and violence.

The movie is available to purchase in a number of formats. The soundtrack is also pretty great.

Music

Stand by Me – lyrics by Charles Albert Tindley. I love Seth Avett’s simple version of the gospel song.

Hang On by Guster. Many people struggle with mental illness – some mild, some severe. This song by Guster is about clinging to hope when all around is dark. If you feel like you can’t go on, hang on and seek appropriate medical or psychiatric care. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a website dedicated to dealing with mental health issues (mostly from a spiritual standpoint).

Lullaby by Peter Breinholt. The version sung with the One Voice Children’s Choir was recorded to raise awareness and money to help support Operation Underground Railroad, an organization dedicated to helping rescue enslaved children.

Books

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful novels ever written. The setting is South Africa during Apartheid but the overarching theme is sin and redemption.

Here are a few quotes from the book I enjoy (to save myself time, all were taken from Goodreads):

“Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering…. I have never thought that a Christian would be free of suffering, umfundisi. For our Lord suffered. And I come to believe that he suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering. For he knew that there is no life without suffering.”

“The Judge does not make the law. It is people that make the law. Therefore if a law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the law, that is justice, even if it is not just.”

“I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good for their country, come together to work for it.
I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they [white men] are turned to loving, they will find we [black men] are turned to hating.”

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”

Share Goodness: Part 2

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In part 1 of this series on finding and sharing what’s good in the world, I shared shows, songs, and a book I find positive and uplifting. I share more in this post.

Shows

Cinderella (2015). This live action retelling of the classic Disney animated film is beautifully written, filmed, and acted. I love this movie. One of my favorite lines is a repeated theme throughout the movie: “I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.” That I will be kind and that my children will be kind is a recurring petition I make in prayer.

Music

It’s Good to Be Alive by Regan Rindlisbacher. The delightful song is catchy and uplifting. It’s one of my family’s favorites. Her song is “about having a positive outlook on life, looking for the beauty in the world, and cherishing relationships with those we love.”

Handel’s Eternal Source Of Light Divine (officially known as Ode for the birthday of Queen Anne). There are a number of lovely recordings of the song; here is one I enjoy. The lyrics are a prayer for birthday peace.

Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone performed by BYU’s Noteworthy. This is a cover of Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace (Noteworthy’s cover is the better version, in my opinion). I love the purity of the presentation and the power of the music.

Books

The books I’m posting fall in the self-help category. That’s one of my least favorite book categories, which is why these books are notable (I actually like them).

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen. Clayton M. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He’s currently one of the most influential thinkers in the business world. The book has application to just about anyone of any age but will not be particularly interesting to anyone younger than 16. The book is “full of inspiration and wisdom, and will help students, midcareer professionals, and parents alike forge their own paths to fulfillment.”

Bonds that Make Us Free: Healing our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves by C. Terry Warner. This is not an easy read and won’t be of much interest to many people younger than 18 (and probably isn’t of much interest to most people 18 and older). If you want the shorter, more digestible version read Leadership and Self-deception: Getting Out of the Box, released by the Abridger Institute. Bonds that Make Us Free is the better book but is quite technical. The book provides guidance on “how we betray ourselves by failing to act toward others as we know we should — and how we can interrupt the unproductive cycle and restore the sweetness in our relationships.”

Share Goodness: Part 1

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I’m starting a new occasional feature on this site that I’m calling “Share Goodness”. This is taken from a social media campaign encouraged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Another inspiration is one of the slogans of BYUtv: “See the good“. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we accept truth and goodness from any source: “Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.” (Joseph Smith)

Rather than protesting what is bad, I believe in supporting what is good. After all, the Savior went about doing good (Acts 10:38). Instead of hearing, seeing, and saying no evil we can hear, see, and say good things. I hope to share some good things to see, hear, and read.

For the first part of this series I want to share a handful of uplifting songs, books, and visual media I’ve enjoyed recently. All are appropriate for families (at least my family), although some might be best for preteen and older. I won’t really provide reviews, I’ll just list things my family and/or I have enjoyed.

Shows

There are three I’d like to recommend with this first installment.

My family and I loved watching Random Acts on BYUtv. The show is described as: “Whimsical and heartwarming, BYUtv’s original hidden-camera show highlights the good in humanity through surprise service projects and pranks with a purpose.” If you haven’t watched it, watch it today.

The second recommendation is the show Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. The show is targeted to 8-13 year olds but is enjoyable for the whole family. I like it as much as my kids (maybe more). This is produced by Amazon and is available to view with an Amazon Prime subscription. It is also available to purchase. We haven’t watched all 3 seasons yet but really enjoyed the first.

The third recommendation is Just Add Magic, also produced by Amazon. The show is geared towards 8-13 year olds but has something for the whole family. It is available for purchase or is included with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Music

I could list hundreds of songs but I’ll start with two.

“The Ground, Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria too” by Ola Gjeilo. Here’s the link on Spotify. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed it as part of Music and the Spoken Word on January 11, 2015.

Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin. Here is the Spotify link. A lovely cover by two musicians I enjoy (Peter Hollens and Malukah) is on YouTube (and is available to stream and purchase). The lyrics for the song Baba Yetu are the Swahili translation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Books

I could list many good books I’ve enjoyed (although not all are appropriate for this site). I’ll start with The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling and her sister Brooke S. Passey. It’s an uplifting book full of positive messages. This one probably isn’t appropriate for (“interesting to” is probably a better term) kids younger than 10-12 but I strongly recommend the book for an interesting and unique perspective on the entertainment industry. Lindsey deals with some serious materials (her struggle with an eating disorder, for example), which is why I think it’s probably best for teenage and older individuals. I will, however, strongly encourage my children to read it (or listen to it, I have a copy of the audiobook) once they are teenagers.

Note: I did one post like this three years ago but it was focused just on sacred music. My hope is to continue posts like this where I share good (uplifting) books, songs, and visual media (movies/shows) I’ve enjoyed for years or just started enjoying. I won’t rate or rank anything I post. Most will be randomly selected and thus not posted in any particular order.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen [Video]

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This is outside the normal range of posts on this site but in the spirit of Christmas and because I enjoy good music I want to share a new version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen I discovered. It’s performed by Postmodern Jukebox, a fabulously talented group of individuals. The arrangement is far from traditional – the whole thing just works perfectly though.

Merry Christmas!

Music Moment: Mark Geslison and Geoff Groberg

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I love music. I spend hours each day listening to music. This also means that I am always looking for new good music. This is one reason I love modern music tools – iTunes Store, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and many other sites – they help me discover and love new music. While I appreciate music from most genres, I particularly enjoy classical (including modern classical music, meaning movie soundtracks), religious, acoustic (e.g., folk, bluegrass), and alternative/indie music.

Some sacred music that I’ve been enjoying is by Mark Geslison and Geoff Groberg. You can visit their website here. I just discovered their music within the past month on Spotify, a free (ad-supported) music service that started in Europe but is now available in the U.S. Three of Mark Geslison and Geoff Groberg’s albums are available on Spotify. You can also stream their music on their website (where there are links with purchase options on CDBaby and iTunes). Both Geslison and Groberg live in Utah (both are afilliated with BYU).

I’ve greatly enjoyed all their albums that I’ve listened to so far. Their arrangements of hymns are peaceful but not boring – that’s a difficult balance to achieve. While each arrangement is interesting, none comes across as flashy. That’s an approach to arranging that I appreciate with sacred music because it is easy to over-arrange hymns, making them something less than they were meant to be – songs to glorify God. While that can be done with flashy and showy music (e.g., many of Bach’s or Handel’s sacred works), there is something to be said for keeping hymn arrangements worshipful. Their music is perfect to turn on Sunday morning to help remind of the purpose of the Sabbath day. It’s also great to turn on whenever else you need a boost of calm (I’ve turned it on at work as background music too).

Most of the arrangements are played using piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, bass, fiddle, or flute (or a combination of those instruments). A few have vocals.

My favorite album of theirs is Emma’s Hymns, a collection of some of the hymns Emma Smith included in the original 1835 hymnbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the melodies are slightly different than how we sing them today (in such cases, they provide both melodies). On this album, my favorite song is Emma’s Lullaby (that link will play the song but please visit their site and purchase their music if you enjoy it and are able to afford it; I am not being paid to promote their work, nor have I been given their music – my site is non-commercial – I believe in supporting musicians, particularly LDS musicians, who make good music that I enjoy. This encourages them to make more beautiful music).

Kudos to Mark Geslison and Geoff Groberg for wonderfully arranging the hymns of the church.

Stand By Me

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Here’s a beautiful rendition of a beautiful gospel song, a plea for the Lord to remain nearby when traveling through the trials of life.

When the storms of life are raging
Stand by me
When the storms of life are raging
Stand by me
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou who rulest wind and water
Stand by me

In the midst of tribulation
Stand by me
In the midst of tribulation
Stand by me
When the hosts of sin assail
And my strength begins to fail
Thou who never lost a battle
Stand by me

In the midst of faults and failures
Stand by me
In the midst of faults and failures
Stand by me
When I’ve done the best I can
And my friends don’t understand
Thou who knowest all about me
Stand by me

When I’m growing old and feeble
Stand by me
When I’m growing old and feeble
Stand by me
When my life becomes a burden
And I’m nearing chilly Jordan
O Thou Lily of the Valley
Stand by me

Update

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I wanted to let my reader know that my rate of posts will likely remain slow for the next few months as I focus my efforts on finishing a book (as well as projects related to my career – time with family and church are givens). While I cannot put a firm timeline on my book, I hope to be publishing it as an ebook sometime next year. Much of the text of the book is done, I’m in the editing stages but it’s a slow process, especially for one with fastidious tendencies towards writing. Posts from this website will serve as the foundation of the book, which will consist of a collection of essays that are loosely connected with one another but with the hope that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.

I know that’s a cryptic description of the book but it’s too early to say much more about it. I just wanted to let the one person who does read my posts know that finishing my book has taken precedence over writing new posts for this website although I have many thoughts I want to write down so I’ll try to write when I am able.

Meanwhile, feel free to watch and listen to this lovely arrangement of the gospel tune Poor Wayfaring Stranger (lyrics below the video).

LYRICS:

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
While traveling through, this world of woe.
But there’s no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright land, to which I go.
I’m going there to see my father
I’m going there no more to roam;
I’m just a’goin’ over Jordan
I’m just a’goin’ over home.

I know dark clouds will gather round me
I know my way is rough and steep;
Yet beauteous fields lie just before me
Where God’s redeemed no more shall weep
I’m going there to see my mother
She said she’d meet me when I come;
I’m just a’goin’ over Jordan
I’m just a’goin’ over home.

I’ll soon be free from earthly trials,
my body sleep in the old church yard,
I’ll drop the cross of self denial and enter in my great reward,

I’m going, I’m going there to see my Savior
I’m going there – no more to roam,
I’m just a’goin’ over Jordan.
I’m just a’goin’ over home.

Over Home, over home…..I’m just a’goin’ over home.

Nearer My God To Thee

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One of my favorite hymns is Nearer, My God, to Thee. It has a simple but beautiful melody and powerful lyrics. It conveys the longing of being with Heavenly Father again; it conveys the longing of home. There is the desire to be close to God, regardless the cost – even if it takes our own cross to get us there (which it often does in our own way).

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Much of the hymn refers to an experience the patriarch of old – Jacob – had on a journey toward Haran. I’ll quote at length from the Bible (Genesis 28:10-22) and insert italicized commentary as appropriate.

10 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran [a major city that was possibly located in modern day Turkey].

11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it [this is a metaphorical representation of the connection and pathway between heaven and earth. In Acts 1:9-11 we read of Christ’s ascension in to heaven after His 40 day ministry to His apostles; there are several other similar instances in the scriptures: 3 Nephi 11:5-8; Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17].

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed [this is the Abrahamic covenant, a topic for a different time];

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not [Jacob saw God in his dream vision and when he awoke, felt the sanctity of the place].

17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven [Jacob feared because he realized he had been in the presence of God – a wonderful but sometimes fearful thought as well, particularly because of our sins. The place where Jacob slept because the house of God – a temple. Temples literally are the houses of God and the gates of heaven. Through temples can we pass into the presence of God].

18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it [This is a particularly interesting verse. Jacob took his stony pillow and made it into a pillar – an altar. He poured oil, probably consecrated olive oil upon the top of it to consecrate it and sanctify it unto God].

19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first [Beth-el literally means God’s house or house of God. Beth is house and el is God {Elohim would be the title and the plural}].

20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on [this can be viewed as earthly bread and raiment but can also be viewed as the bread and raiment {temple clothes} given in our Father’s kingdom],

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house [he dedicated the site as a temple]: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee [this is a reference to Jacob’s paying tithing].

That is the primary scriptural source for the lyrics to Nearer, My God, to Thee.

Here is a recent recording of the most known tune (called Bethany) used with the lyrics. This is Steven Sharp Nelson playing the cello (9 parts). The video was filmed and produced by The Piano Guys.

Memorial Day

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In honor of those who gave the last full measure of devotion – those who believed that “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet…the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” (Thomas Paine, The Crisis) – and in honor of Memorial Day, I want to share this video from Rob Gardner’s The Price of Freedom. Many fought and still fight to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America and around much of the world. On this Memorial Day take some time to ponder on the sacrifices so many made in order to preserve our freedoms.