Monday, November 4, 2013

The Cain Syndrome

Genesis Chapter 4

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.

And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

It is not clear from the text why the Lord had respect for Abel's offering, but not for Cain's. But from what we know about the Lord's character, we can assume that He is not being unfair, and that He loves Cain every bit as much as He loves Abel.

There have been times in my life when I have felt like the Lord has "had not respect" to my offerings, when all my efforts and sacrifices have not been enough to secure the blessing or outcome I desired. At such times, it is easy to fall into what I am calling the "Cain Syndrome": we become resentful and angry at God; we give up trying to please Him, and may even rebel against Him out of spite.

When we are tempted to feel this way, perhaps we should consider the following points:

  1. Perhaps the Lord, knowing our potential far better than we do, wants us to try a little harder, dig a little deeper, or hold on a little longer, before granting our desires. This may seem cruel, but those of us who have children know the difference between sincere effort and a token one. If all our wants were granted after just a half-hearted try, not only would it cheapen the reward, but we would be robbed of the opportunity to grow and be stretched into greater beings. It's so easy to say this, and perhaps it is not appropriate or helpful to say to those who are currently struggling under burdens or bondage that seem indefinite. I recently read the remarkable account of a man who spent over 10 years in prison for his faith in and conversion to the restored gospel. How inspiring that He did not succumb to the same temptations that Cain did!
  2. Perhaps we are trying really hard to give the Lord something that He has not asked for. I do this a lot. Sometimes we are so terrified to give what the Lord asks for, that we go to great lengths to give Him something else in the hopes that it will compensate for that which we cannot bear to relinquish or place on His altar. But it does not work this way. A good example of this is the behavior of King Saul in 1 Samuel Chapter 15. There is great wisdom and purpose in the Lord's directions and commands. Rationalizing or substituting our own judgment for His is the opposite of trusting Him. There is a time for us to make judgment calls and exercise prudence (see Alma 22:22, for example), but it should be done humbly and prayerfully, always with the willingness to do whatever the Lord requires.

Perhaps you have some thoughts on this matter. If so, please share them by commenting on this post below.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Poem: Worth While

It is easy enough to be pleasant
   When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is the one who will smile
   When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble,
   And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth
   Is the smile that shines through tears.

It is easy enough to be prudent
   When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin
   Is luring your soul away;
But it's only a negative virtue
   Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honour on earth
   Is the one that resists desire.

By the cynic, the sad, the fallen,
   Who had no strength for the strife,
The world's highway is cumbered to-day -
   They make up the sum of life;
But the virtue that conquers passion,
   And the sorrow that hides in a smile -
It is these that are worth the homage on earth,
   For we find them but once in a while.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox in "Poems of Cheer"

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Witnesses of Christ

These men bear strong and serious witnesses of Christ. That is what they are "called" to be: special witnesses of Christ. Many embrace these men as their spiritual leaders, their guides to Christ and to God.
2017-05-04 UPDATE:My current feeling is that they are mostly well-meaning men, teaching and reinforcing a narrative that is powerful and works for many. I no longer feel the Church narrative is "true," but it certainly is powerful for those that embrace it and take it seriously.

Henry B. Eyring, April 2013 General Conference, "Come Unto Me"

Boyd K. Packer, April 2014 General Conference, "The Witness"

Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2013 General Conference, "Lord, I Believe"

Here's another one from Elder Richard G. Scott:
May the Lord strengthen your resolve, your exercise of faith, and your use of growing character so that you may be the instrument of good He wants you to be. I testify that He lives. As you worthily seek His help, He will guide you in your life. I testify of that with every capacity that I possess. Jesus Christ lives. He guides His work on earth. As apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have experiences that are very sacred that allow us to bear our testimony of His name and of His power. I do that with deep conviction. Jesus Christ loves you. He will guide you in your life. In times of great challenge, when you are perplexed about which turn to take, kneel down and ask your Father in Heaven to bless you, and let your faith in the Savior and His Atonement be the rock and foundation of a successful life, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Studio C: Mona Lisa

This made me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt!
I'm posting this here so I can remember to show it to my kids.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SQL Developer UAC Weirdness

I am running Windows 8 with Classic Shell's start menu. Today I installed the new Oracle 12 client on my workstation, along with SQL Developer. I then attempted to start SQL Developer from the shortcuts in my Classic Shell start menu, but doing so always elicited a Windows UAC prompt.  I tried a few things, but the simplest solution ended up being to navigate to the directory of sqldeveloper.exe and create a shortcut to it right there in the same directory.  Then copy this shortcut to the Start Menu.  Result, no more UAC prompt when selecting it from the Start Menu.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rumi - The Question

One dervish to another, What was your vision of God's presence?
I haven't seen anything.
But for the sake of conversation, I'll tell you a story.

God's presence is there in front of me, a fire on the left,
a lovely stream on the right.
One group walks toward the fire, into the fire, another
toward the sweet flowing water.
No one knows which are blessed and which not.
Whoever walks into the fire appears suddenly in the stream.
A head goes under on the water surface, that head
pokes out of the fire.
Most people guard against going into the fire,
and so end up in it.
Those who love the water of pleasure and make it their devotion
are cheated with this reversal.
The trickery goes further.
The voice of the fire tells the truth, saying I am not fire.
I am fountainhead. Come into me and don't mind the sparks.

If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.
You should wish to have a hundred thousand sets of mothwings,
so you could burn them away, one set a night.
The moth sees light and goes into fire.
You should see fire and go toward light.
Fire is what of God is world-consuming.
Water, world-protecting.
Somehow each gives the appearance of the other.
To these eyes you have now what looks like water burns.
What looks like fire is a great relief to be inside.

You've seen a magician make a bowl of rice
seem a dish full of tiny, live worms.
Before an assembly with one breath he made the floor swarm
with scorpions that weren't there.
How much more amazing God's tricks.
Generation after generation lies down, defeated, they think,
but they're like a woman underneath a man, circling him.
One molecule-mote-second thinking of God's reversal of comfort and pain
is better than any attending ritual.
That splinter of intelligence is substance.
The fire and water themselves:
Accidental, done with mirrors.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tender Mercies

But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1:20).

I've been at my new job for over 2½ months now. It's been a very difficult experience for me, being placed in a demanding position yet not knowing enough yet to meet even small requests. I've been trying to learn as fast as I can, because I don't like feeling incompetent. Sitting in my office all day each day, staring intently at my computer monitor has taken its toll on me in more ways than one. This week it has been on my right eye, which is hurting from all the strain. It's happened to me before. My solution was to buy a pirate-like eye patch at the pharmacy and wear it for a few days to give that eye a rest.

But in our recent move, my eye patch has gone missing. I looked for it at the house last night, and arrived at work this morning hoping I had brought it there with other things from my last job, but I couldn't find it. I knew I would have a really hard time working effectively today without an eye patch, so I left to go to the pharmacy to buy another one. As I did, I thought confidently, "Heavenly Father will help me get an eye patch."

When I arrived at the only pharmacy in town, it wasn't open yet. If I had thought about it before I left, I would have known that. I left my car running at the curb and went to the door of the pharmacy to check their hours. They open at 9am, as I had thought. I didn't want to have to come back later, and I didn't know anywhere else in town that would carry eye patches.

As I stood there, a lady came to the door of the pharmacy, opened it, and asked if I needed anything. I said I did, but that I knew they didn't open until 9:00. She asked if I needed anything from the pharmacy (they have cards and gifts there too). I asked if they sold eye patches. She said they did, and let me in and showed me where they were. I promptly purchased one, thanked her, and drove back to work.

I knew immediately that it was a miracle, a "tender mercy" from the Lord. In retrospect, I believe that my confident thought that Heavenly Father would help me find another eye patch was not merely a passing thought in my mind, but rather an inspired thought from the Holy Ghost. (We don't always know the source of our thoughts, but it is up to us to judge what we believe to be good and what we will act on.) I was filled with gratitude that Heavenly Father was mindful of my problem, and that He helped me find a solution.

Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives (Thomas S. Monson, Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Consider The Blessings," October 2012).

Why does God not help me solve all my problems this way? some may ask. But I know the answer, because I have children of my own. I want them to learn and to grow, and to experience the joy of their capabilities and capacities developing and unfolding. Not all learning and growing experiences are pleasant (though neither are they all painful). If I answered their every question and supplied my children's every want I would be doing them a great disservice. It is the same with God and us. He is literally our Spirit Father, and we are literally His children. By this definition, we are capable of becoming like He is. The ramifications of this are, at present, scarcely fathomable to our mortal, finite minds. But I know that He watches over each one of us with an individual care and attention that far exceeds what a mortal parent could do even if that parent were to hover over their child constantly, which no mortal parent can. He is always accessible, never distant, and cannot forget us.

Again we ask: why does God not help me solve all my problems this way? Actually, I think that He is willing to. Here is another account of a similar miracle. Ether 2:22-3:6 contains a scriptural account of the Lord helping someone solve a problem. He wants to help and indeed, in His Omnipotence, it would be easy for him to remove all struggle and obstacles from our lives. Rather, we have access to His Grace through our faith, our repentance, our best doable efforts, and our patient trust in both Him and His Timetable. He will help us as we strive to do what's right and seek His will above our own.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Emotiscape No. 1

     So for the first time in his life, he found himself in a supportive and accepting environment. You would think that his problems were over, but unfortunately, the trauma had lasting effects. Though people treated him with kindness, he disregarded it as superficial. It was not enough to remove him from his abusive environment; the emotional and psychological wounds were still open and bleeding. And while surface kindness and respect do no harm, neither can they heal. No one could convince him that he was either understood or lovable, and this belief caused him to perpetuate the environment of pain that was the only world he could conceive of.
     Until James came along...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Powershell Regex For Extracting List of mp3 File Downloads

All you need for this script is the URL of the web page displaying all the LDS conference talks, like this one.
  1. Paste the URL address into the script where it says $url = ...
  2. Open up your Windows Powershell ISE.
  3. Paste these script lines into the editor:
  4. Execute.
  5. All mp3 files will start downloading to you documents folder to a subfolder called 'Conference MP3s'
Sorry but I can't claim credit for developing these techniques. I'm just a fairly patient Googler, and put this code together with what I found on the net that worked for me.

Accuracy of script output is not thoroughly tested or guaranteed. Let me know what your mileage is. Feedback appreciated.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Talefolk - Prayers

At first, he prayed things like, "God, are you there?" "Why me?" "Help me!" and "Please give me."
Then he started saying, "God, thank you," "I don't understand, but I trust you."
Eventually, he prayed, "Lord, not my will, but Thine be done," which is actually two prayers, one to renounce his own will, and the other to seek to bring to pass God's Will with all His heart, might, mind, and strength.
After that, he stopped saying His own prayers, and started planting seeds. In time they would sprout and bloom into the prayers God wanted him to pray. And the funny thing was, he wanted to pray them to.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We're in Crossville. We had to swipe the card again. Cost $154

Saturday, January 26, 2013


"You know those cards you get from people telling you how much they love you and appreciate you?  You're supposed to save them and get them out every once and a while and re-read them.  Same thing with the pictures your kids draw for you."  

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Martin Handcart Company at the Sweetwater

This article is about those who came to the rescue of the Martin Handcart Company at the freezing Sweetwater on November 4, 1856.  It is long but worth the read.