Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kinobody Bodyweight Program - Watching the Actual Program

As I've been using the program for a couple of weeks now, I have obviously watched all of the 'how to' videos that show the workouts you are supposed to do and how to make them progressively harder.

When I imagined what they would be like, my imagination borrowed images from the commercials of Greg doing one armed pull-ups with great lighting and perfect flow.  I assumed the gym used in the video would be well laid out, Greg's lines perfectly crafted, memorized and delivered, and the editing impeccable, making the production easy to follow and understand.

Well, you don't write a lead up paragraph like that unless what you experienced did not meet your expectations.  The videos seemed very low budget, like, maybe the tripod held the camcorder while he worked out with whatever was lying around in his home gym and the editing was done over a couple of hours and a few beers.

I am fairly certain it was done in his home gym, as the yard outside the windows did have a similar look to the yard of "The Mansion" that is in the commercials and the ceiling was not very high. The way he explained exercises and went from one to another reminded me of that time when you were twelve and you wend over to your buddy's house who had been working out for a month on the weight set his dad just bought.  The explanations were haphazard and when he went to do some of the exercises he seemed to be looking around for equipment that would "work", but that he didn't really intend on using for the particular exercise until that moment.  Probably the most disappointing part of all of this was when he went to do the "One-armed pull-up" that, in my opinion, seems to be the signature piece of the bodyweight program.  He says in the video that he just worked out the day before, so he probably wouldn't be able to do it.  And, true to his word, he pulled himself up some, but couldn't complete it.  Again, it's my twelve year old friend saying that he can do it, but that he's just really sore that day.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong impression, Greg can do a one-armed pull-pull up.  I've seen him do it in other videos.  My issue:  You're a professional here, man.  Take a day off of lifting, so you can perform everything you need to when it comes to making the video we'll actually be watching.  Don't just give us the "This is sort of what it looks like.  You get the idea." because we didn't pay for sort-of, we paid for the whole shebang.

Speaking of she-bang, there was another part of the production that made me cock my head and squint my eyes.  There were two specific times when he explained a part of an exercise where you would need to thrust your hips forward... just like you were thrusting into a girl.  I'm not making this up, I wouldn't make this up, he actually felt the need to put that in when explaining how to perform an exercise.  Now, maybe I'm being a prude, or overly sensitive, but I don't really want to mix sex into my workout.  I'm just working out, I don't need to think about a sexual act... just sayin'.

While the production was a little low budget, I must give it some positives though.  Each exercise and its progression is its own track.  Meaning that if I forget what comes after regular push-ups in the progression, I only have to watch three minutes of movie to find out, rather than trying to scroll through an hour and a half of film.  It's also nice that the program is digital and fully accessible to me for the rest of my life.

Overall, I'm disappointed in the production, but I think it's a good system.  I still feel sore and feel like I am gaining strength slowly, but surely, I just wish they would have spent a little more time making a polished set of videos... where sexual references weren't made.

As for my progression:  This last Saturday I weighed 188.2 pounds (85.36 kg), which is a total weight loss of 45.6 pounds (20.68 kg).  It was a pound lost at the end of a week where I did pretty well at staying within my calorie goals.  I'm doing well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kinobody Body Weight Program - Needed Equipment

I thought for a while about how to organize this blog.  I thought about all the things I have already learned in the first week and wondered how best to put them all into one post, so the information was easily and quickly found and digested.  Then, I realized that it wasn't really possible, and that I would need something to write every now and then.  So, I've decided to make the title of each post what someone would be looking for if they were debating if this was the right program for them, then I'll spend a few paragraphs on the title subject, and finish off with my progress.

When looking into the program, I noticed that I couldn't find a list of the equipment I would need.  Of course, there are plenty of pictures and videos of Greg doing handstand push-ups on the beach and one-handed push-ups with his feet up on park benches, but what if I didn't have a park near me?  What if I couldn't do a handstand push-up on the first day (let alone own a beach)?  Did I have the stuff I would need?  How much would that stuff cost?  Where would I find said stuff (Amazon, duh Paul)?  No matter what, I knew I would likely need 'stuff', no matter how many times Kinobody advertised that all I needed was my own body weight.

So, here it is:  the list of 'stuff' you're going to need.

Some way to do pull-ups.  I started using a door-frame pull-up bar before I started Kinobody.  I used this bad boy.  It works pretty well, though if you get it, you'll want to tear off part of the box to put on the part of the bar that rests just above your door-frame.  There is some padding, but even at only 210 pounds (or so) I dug some pretty good holes into my wall.  A few pieces of cardboard stops this.  The pull-up bar will only take you so far in the system though.  Eventually, you know, when you're awesome, you'll be doing muscle-ups.  This is a pull-up where you get up high enough that your arms take over and push you up until your arms are straight (think of how your body looks when you're hopping a fence, just before you put your foot on the top of it).  So, the door-frame pull-up bar will work up until you need to do muscle-ups, then you'll need something that will allow you to go arms length above the bar without hitting your head.

If you can't do three pull-ups/chin-ups (this is me folks, so don't be too embarrassed) you're going to need a bar at waist height for rows.  I'm currently using some handles that are more like chest height and then putting my feet on a chair.  At any rate, you're going to need to find something to fit this bill.

A floor you're okay with laying on and putting your hands on.  Greg uses a mat of some sort; I use the cement in my garage and wear an old shirt that I don't mind getting dirty.  So, whatever you need to do to get a floor that's lay-on-able.

You'll need a ball that can hold your weight, or some other thing that can hold one hand off the ground while the other is on the floor with your body in push-up position.  A basketball, or medicine ball, or soccer ball would all do, I think.

Right at the start you're going to need a chair or bench that will hold your weight and stay in the same place while you use it to brace on.  I was using a couple of lawn chairs, but found they move too easily, so I bought a flat bench that I'll probably review later when I've used it for a while.  In the beginning this will be used to put your hands on while you lower your butt toward the floor, and to put your feet up on for incline push-ups when you start doing them.  If you're like me, you'll also be using this for putting your feet on to make a bar at waist height.

And that's it.  If you have all of these things you should be good to go.  If not, you'll either be buying stuff, or thinking of ways to use what you have instead of these things.

As for me, I weighed in at 189.2 pounds (85.8196763 kilos) on Saturday (Saturday is generally my weigh in day.  I weigh myself every day, but only keep track on the lowest days, and that is usually Saturday).  I hit my calorie goals every day the week leading up to Saturday, and hoped to lose a little more, but so it goes.  The workout routine has made me extremely sore.  I assume this means good things, but read that being sore isn't necessarily the only indicator that what you're doing is working.  At any rate, I felt pretty good on my walk Saturday morning, even if a little sore.  Just need to keep grinding.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why I'm Starting to Blog Again

I decided to blog again, because I saw a hole in the internet's vast sea of information (which was surprising considering how many cat pictures, and fail movies are already out there).  Back in the end of April I weighed 233.8 pounds (according to the "slightly above average priced at Wal-Mart" bathroom scale that sits outside my shower), so that's 106.0499 kg for all of my non-English system using friends... that number honestly means nothing to me.  I was thirty then (oh, the good ol' days) and stood at a towering 5'11", again that's 180.34 cm, and again, that number means very little to me.  At the time, I looked at myself and said, "Self, you're not as in-shape as I wish you were.  We might want to do something about that."  Which was the very dramatic start to me trying Myfitnesspal.com again (I lost fifty pounds while using it about five years ago).  I decided it would be a lifestyle change for me.  The first time I used it I played it like a video game where I weighed food, only did cardio, and did my level best to hit that 1200 calorie a day mark (if you get below that mark myfitnesspal won't project your weight loss in five weeks because at 1199 calories you are simply starving yourself and that might backfire... they have a whole warning paragraph about it).  After getting below my goal of 200 pounds (you do the math on where I started) I realized only eating 1200 calories a day was unsustainable, and really not very much fun, so I decided I had 'beat' the game of weight loss and could move on to other games.  Not surprisingly, I did not keep the weight off.  And so I found myself at thirty almost weighing as much as I had back when I tried the first time.

I went along my merry weigh (pun, get it?) until I got to about August, or September.  I was down to 219 pounds (99.33672 kg), but didn't really look different.  I reflected on the first time I lost weight and had noticed the same thing back then:  I lost weight, but didn't feel like I looked any different.  And, let's be honest, none of us are really doing any of this for our health, it's all about vanity, and my weight loss was not stroking my ego, so I decided to do something I hadn't ever done in my life (that's me being completely honest) I decided to watch what I ate AND exercise at the same time.

At first I mostly just walked in the mornings, but I began looking online for workout programs.  Because of some ingenious advertisement placing and the fact that Greg O'Gallagher (the creater) looks like he just got off the set of Baywatch, I started looking into Kinobody.  I took that quiz (if you've looked into Kinobody, you know which one I'm talking about) like, ten times and always got the Warrior Program as my 'best fit', but I was skeptical, I mean, how in the world could they know the best program for me after six questions (before anyone leaves a comment, I know it was a marketing ploy)?  But, Greg did say a few things I liked.  He said you would need a caloric deficit to lose any weight (love me some honesty), but he also said it was meant to be a lifestyle change, so no cutting out whole types of food, or anything like that (which fit right into my lifestyle change mindset).  He promised results, but not overnight results (again, a little honesty is nice).  And he said to look online for things he put out for free to see if he was full of it, or not.

So, I took him up on his offer.  I looked online and tried a few things he talked about.  One thing Greg is big on is intermittent fasting.  This is where you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and then eat a big dinner, with fruit as snacks for in between meals if you need them.  He's also big on drinking coffee before lunch to suppress appetite (as some of you know, I'm LDS, so I wasn't able to follow this piece of his program).  I also looked deeper into the programs he offered and I saw there was a bodyweight program.  This was huge for me, as I really don't have time to make it to the gym, nor the money for a weight set.  On top of that, I hurt my back a while ago and have re-injured it a couple of times trying to lift since the initial injury, so I'm a little wary of weights.  He talked about a few things I didn't know what meant, but I did understand pull-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, squats, and trying to work on big muscles first and only lifting three times a week.  So, I put together my own hodge-podge regimen and took off, with calisthenics on M, W, and F, and a walk or jog on T, Th, and S, with Sunday off for the Sabbath.

I've been pretty good at keeping up with this for the last three months and weighed in a couple of days ago at 189.8 pounds on that same high-quality scale.  The quick employment of my desktop calculator says that means I've lost 44 pounds (19.95806 kg) overall and 29.2 pounds (13.2449 kg) since starting to exercise.  Honestly, the best part about exercising is that I can see more tone, which feeds that ego and makes me want to keep trying.  Also, if you look at my Myfitnesspal tracker for weight, you can see slow and sort-of steady weight loss before trying out some of Greg's ideas, and then a quick and steady drop off after.

So, I put him to the test and his advice really did help, or at least it seemed to.  True to my word, I paid my money and am starting the Kinobody Bodyweight program.  Which really brings me to why I'm blogging again.  As I looked over the internet I found a few people who reviewed the program, but all of them seemed like workout website guys... you know, ones that might be paid by Kinobody to 'try' their program, who started the program with six-pack abs and then made sure to eat a lot less for a few days so their abs would pop in their 'after' picture?  What I didn't find was a review from a normal guy who started out in less than stellar shape and showed his results after trying the program for several months.  So I thought, hey, I'm a normal guy, well, normal-ish, I'm in less than stellar shape, I'm trying out the program, why not give people like me what they want?  And if no one wants this, at least maybe this will keep me on the program so I can at least, for myself, see if it works.  On top of reviewing Kinobody, I think I'll also do a few reviews on products.  Right now, I'm thinking protein, as that took some research, and I've found some good ones.

Anyway, if you're like, "This sounds awesome!"  go ahead and leave me a comment about how awesome it sounds for some encouragement.  If not, then, you know, be cool about it.  At any rate, I'm kind of excited to track progress and see how much this actually works.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Plotting Murder

As soon as I slumped down into my seat I knew I was going to kill him.  I'd never seen him before, or at least, if I did I couldn't tell him apart from any of the others I'd seen, they all look the same to me.  He noticed me too, I could tell because he twitched nervously, obviously trying to decide if he should make a break for the door.  He didn't though, which was a mistake because that was probably his only real chance at escape and survival.

If I'm being honest, I can't tell you how many of them I've killed.  I've lost count over the years.  Every one I've seen I've taken a stab at, except for a brief stint where I found Jesus, and just tossed them outside without killing them.  It's funny how even after finding religion prejudice usually nestles right back into your heart, you know, once you get tired of trying so hard.  At any rate, his kind isn't supposed to be here.

As I sat there, staring into his beady little eyes, I reflected on who I was, who I had become.  There I sat, plotting murder without any reservation or remorse.  He was created by the same God as I was, wasn't he?  As revolting as he was, even if his presence alone made me sick to my stomach, God formed him and sent him to this earth.  Didn't that deserve some kind of respect?  Some kind of empathy, or kindness?  Probably, but God wasn't there, not in that room, not in my heart, not for him anyway.  He was going to die.

The most disturbing part in that moment though, was how cooly I went about it.  I didn't even try to put him out of his misery.  I let him sit there, nervously, probably sensing he was going to die, while I finished my business.  And as soon as I did, I stood up, walked over to him, squished him with wadded up toilet paper, threw him in the toilet and flushed.  I didn't even have a hard time sleeping that night, so engrained was my depravity.  I don't suffer spiders in my bathroom.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What Really Needs to be Done About Same-Sex Marriage

I've been mulling over this post for a few weeks now.  It all started when I woke up on December 21st and heard that my state, Utah, would be allowing same-sex marriage, not because the people decided on it, but because a federal judge decided not allowing it was unconstitutional.  I'll admit that my first reaction was one of annoyance.  I'm a pretty big supporter of states' right to govern themselves, so when I hear a member of the federal government decides to infringe upon states governing themselves it gets my dander up.  But, as I always do whenever my dander gets up, I started looking at why.  Why did this get my dander up?

My main issue with the judge's actions is that I don't see marriage as a right.  If we were denying life and liberty to a group, then I would be more than happy for a federal judge to step in and defend that group.  It's why our founders set up the United States as a republic, not a democracy.  But marriage isn't a right.  A right is something owed to someone simply because they are human.  Marriage, in the eyes of our government, is nothing more than a business deal between two people and the government, and I don't see business deals as rights.  The government, and more importantly, the people who fund that government, deserve to have a say in who the government goes into business with.  So, the judge had no business getting into the business dealings of Utah.

Some say that it's unfair of the government to go into business with some couples and not with others.  That makes sense, it is unfair, but the government isn't calling these deals partnerships, or conglomerates, or any other amoral name, they are calling it marriage, a very morally charged word for a lot of people.  Some may say this shouldn't matter, but it does.  The government has set itself up as a moral compass, and, as sad as it is, many Americans don't think for themselves and just follow the compass.  "If it's legal, it's okay."  A good example is alcohol and marijuana.  Both drugs do essentially the same thing to people (a good case could even be made that marijuana is less dangerous), but which one do we tell our kids to never touch and which do we tell our kids to use responsibly?  The government has put itself up as a moral compass, it's working, and so it is in each individual's best interest to vote to make that moral compass look as much like theirs as possible, no matter which side of the debate they're on, or why they believe what they do, because that's how they believe our country will be better.  I don't like that we're all trying to push our morals on each other, but that's what the government has set us up to do.

And morals is what the fight is really about.  Both sides try to say it is about insurance benefits and tax right-offs, but that's not REALLY what is being fought about.  Otherwise, when those against same-sex marriage said homosexuals could enter a legal partnership so long as it wasn't called marriage, homosexuals would have jumped at it.  It's not about that though.  It's about one group thinking love is love and should be respected and considered equal, while the other thinks romantic love should have some rules, so that it doesn't get perverted.  And I'm not here to judge either side of that.

I have my own beliefs, but I've found that they are torn.  As most of you know, I'm LDS.  If you don't know my religion's stance on same-sex marriage, you can find it here.  And while I largely agree with it, I also have some sympathy too.  I've put myself in the place of homosexual LDS men and it's not a fun place to be.  If I were homosexual, these would be my choices as an LDS man.  1.  I might not get married at all.  I honestly can't imagine what my life would be like without my wife.  She's my sounding board, my shoulder to cry on, my partner, my friend, my confident, my cheer-leader, and so much more.  I would only be a fraction of what I am now without a spouse.  I wouldn't want to choose that.  2.  I could marry someone I'm not particularly attracted to.  If roles were reversed, I'd be asked to marry a man.  I don't want to marry a man.  The idea of seriously holding hands with them, holding them, spooning with them, and kissing them does not interest me in the slightest, and I haven't even started thinking about sex.  It'd be weird, to say the very least.  3.  I could marry someone I am attracted to and either choose to believe the doctrine as it stands and believe I'm living in sin, or stop believing in at least that part of the doctrine.  I'd be uncomfortable every Sunday as people passed judging glances at me and my spouse.  People would make rude remarks both behind my back and to my face.  And that's all before we decided to adopt a baby.  No matter what, they have a tough row to hoe, and I can't pretend I don't believe that's the case.

On the other hand, I do believe homosexual acts are a sin.  That means I believe homosexual marriage is not something to be condoned, and because the government has forced me to push my morals on others, I have to say, with my vote (if the federal government believes in states deciding anything anymore) that homosexual marriage is immoral, and I believe we would be better off without it in our society, just like the opposing side is trying to push their morals on me and my family.

So, because I hate cognitive dissonance, I've thought a lot about what we should do about it.  At first, I thought the government should get out of these partnerships all together.  I granted that it would be difficult, but it would be worth it.  We would have to figure out a different scheme for family insurance, wills, who gets to see whom in the hospital, who makes medical decisions, etc., but it would all be worth it in the end.  This was a little idealistic though.  It would take so much work that we would never get started on it.

Instead, and I think this would honestly solve everything, the government shouldn't call ANY of these partnerships marriage anymore, and the ones that are marriages should no longer be called marriages by the state.  They should be called by an amoral name like partnership, or maybe we'll get creative and call them something else.  We'll make them just as much of a pain in the ass to get into and out of as they already are, so they are stable units (what I believe the government is trying to accomplish by being involved at all).  The government can look at and change all the tax right-offs, etc. that come with these partnerships, so it can be financially feasible (though I highly doubt it's going to make that much of a difference anyway).  Insurance companies will be given the choice whether to acknowledge these partnerships or not (and hopefully companies will be kind enough to their employees to choose insurance companies that will).  And it can stop being a moral issue all together.  People can choose to make these partnerships as religious/secular, sexual/asexual, faithful/unfaithful as they see fit, and we can all get out of each other's business.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Talk I'm Giving this Sunday (Wish me Luck)

In my church we don't have paid clergy, and every week two or three people are asked to speak in our main meeting.  I've been asked to speak this Sunday, and this is what I've prepared.  It seemed like it would be a pretty good blog post, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone.  Hope it all makes sense.

Good afternoon.  I can't tell you how grateful I am to have the opportunity to speak to you and to be standing with so many people who believe as I do. For today's talk I'll be pulling from three speeches that have greatly helped me find comfort and happiness in my life.  "Come, Join with Us" by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Lord, I Believe" by Jeffery R. Holland, and one that might never have been spoken from an LDS pulpit until now: "This is Water" by David Foster Wallace, a professor and novelist.

I'll actually start with paraphrasing a little story he told.

There are these two guys sitting in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness.  One is religious, the other's an Atheist, and they start arguing about the existence of God with a special intensity that comes after a certain level of inebriation.  Finally, the Atheist gets frustrated and says, "Look, man, it's not like I haven't tried the whole God, and prayer thing.  In fact, just a few weeks ago I was stuck in that terrible blizzard and I couldn't see a thing, so I dropped to my knees and cried out, 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost and alone in this blizzard and I'm going to die if you don't help me.'"  At this, the religious guy says, "Well, there you go, you must believe now, because here you are, alive."  The Atheist just scoffed, "No, man, God didn't save me.  There was a group of passing Eskimos who happened to be walking by and found me, and helped me get back to camp."

It's really easy for a big group of believers like us to laugh at this Atheist.  It seems obvious in our minds why the group of Eskimos happened upon the Atheist in the blizzard, but I'd like to discuss today the idea of belief, where it comes from, and posit to you the idea that the Atheist really isn't so much different than you or I.

Faith is described in Hebrews as, "...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  So, faith is something that comes from things hoped for, not necessarily thing known.  But what is the substance Paul speaks of?

I think Alma lets us know when he lays out how to develop faith, " 27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge."

So, first we choose to believe, then we work as if what we believe is true, and see what comes of it.  The work is the substance.  The work is the evidence.  The work is faith.  Our acting on our beliefs is what faith is, but when I was told to "talk on whatever you want" (a decision the Bishopric may regret after hearing my talk) I didn't choose to talk about faith, I chose to talk about its predecessor:  belief.  Because I think understanding that principle has helped me come so much closer to God, closer to the church, and helped me understand those not of our faith.

The best way I know to illustrate this principle is by telling you a few vignettes of how I came to believe.

When I was young, I went to church every Sunday.  On one particular Sunday, when I was ten or so, my teacher gave a lesson on the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I don't remember what they said, or even who they were, but I remember thinking, "Jesus, who could have stopped it, chose to die for me."  Even talking about it today gives me a feeling like nothing else dose.  It's a rush of emotion, a shortness of breath, a gratitude.  I remember going home in tears and explaining what happened to my parents, who showed me some of their favorite hymns about the atonement, and shared with me that they had similar feelings.  It was my first remembered experience with believing.  I believed, that day, that Jesus chose to die for me.  It's a feeling I'v never gotten rid of.

When I was fourteen, or so, I felt something similar to one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes:  
"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go."  I was supposed to get a cavity filled, was in the waiting room, and felt I had nowhere else to turn.  So I begged God that I wouldn't have to get my cavity filled.  As it turns out, my name was supposed to be on the calendar, I mean, my mom set the appointment, but my name was not there, and they were packed.  I didn't get my cavity filled that day, or the next time we went in and I prayed.  The third time, I didn't pray, and got it filled.  I believed that God answered my prayer, not once, but twice.

In my teenage years, I won't say I 'fell away', but the whole God and Jesus thing just didn't appeal to me.  I still went to church and I never really stopped 'believing', but, let's just say the 'substance for my hope' wasn't very compelling.  At this time I also suffered some pretty serious depression.  I honestly thought no one loved, or cared about me.  It was at this time that I went to get my patriarchal blessing.  Patriarch Peay put his hands on my head and the first thing he told me was that God was aware of me and that He loved me.  I felt a warmth surround me.  An unseen pair of arms, and I sobbed in the Patriarch's living room.  In that moment, I believed in God.  It seemed obvious to me that He was there.  How else would the Patriarch know to say that, let alone how would I feel arms around me, but not see them?

I wish I could say I turned that belief into action, but if I did, I'd be lying.  I went through the rest of high school believing God existed, but not really acting on it, not until I turned 19 and finally started thinking seriously about going on a mission.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to go.  If I'm being honest, I didn't see a difference between our church and other Christian churches.  Why would we spend two years talking to Christians about our church?  Why would God want me to go?  So, I prayed about it. I mean, if God can get me out of dental work, He should be able to let me know if He wants me to go on a mission, right?  And there came a strong thought to my mind:  You know it's right to go.  So, go.  In my opinion, a thought that never would have come to my mind.  So, I went, and I found out why our church is different.

I have lots of stories like this, but, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to tell you about just one more.  A couple of years ago my incredible wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  I was a father.  And, as I held our baby in my arms, and looked into her great big eyes, I felt as if I was looking into the face of God.  There was a warmth, and a joy, and a gratitude that was very much out of the ordinary.  She had her own personality, and curiosity from the moment she came into this world.  I believed, in that moment, more than in any other, that we lived before we came here.

Like I said, I've had many other experiences that have led me to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Doctrine of the LDS church, but I do only have so much time.  These experiences, and the fact that I can't seem to keep my mouth shut, led me to get into a great many arguments on the internet with Atheists.  I knew what I was saying was true.  I'd had experiences, that proved, at least to me, that they were true, and if those Atheists would just take Alma's advice and experiment then they'd believe too.  I did this for years, until I finally started listening instead of talking.

And that's when I found "This is Water".  David Foster Wallace laid out, with the story I told in the beginning and others how belief is a choice.  That the reason why people of different denominations can't seem to get along is that they are absolutely certain that the way they see the world is the right way and everyone else is completely blind.  That the big choice we can make in life is what to believe in.  Now, considering I'd read Hebrews and Alma many times, I probably should have already known this, but I didn't.  Paul and Alma had already explained to me that what I believed in could only be seen through the actions of others who believed in it, that they were things I hoped for, and that it was my choice to not 'cast them out by my unbelief'.  It was my choice to believe, and that proving God to anyone was futile, because our belief was a choice.  We choose to assign meaning to our experiences.

For example.  Maybe I only felt those things when I was ten because that's what I was supposed to believe.  Maybe true or not, once we think about someone giving up something amazing for us we feel a sense of love and gratitude.  Maybe "You know it's right to go.  So, go."  Is something I would think to myself.  And, I know this is going to shake some of you, maybe there was just a scheduling mix up twice in a row at the dentist because they were in the middle of training someone and she's the one who made the appointments.  You know, maybe the Eskimos would have passed by that guy whether he prayed or not.

This idea stuck with me and made me wonder if I could stay in the church.  I know that's shocking, but this was my logic:  if I don't really know.  If I can't really know, then how can I keep doing this?  How can I give ten percent to an organization that I don't know is God's?  How can I raise my girl with a set of doctrines that I can't prove?  As President Uchtodorf said, "Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question."  Only, my question wasn't about something that happened, it was about the whole thing.  Was any of it true?  Was there any way I could know?

For several months I listened to "This is Water" over and over again, I finally, really heard something else he'd said, "...in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship--be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles--is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you...Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out."

I didn't "know" the church was God's, but there were things I did know.  I knew that when I went to church, when I followed the doctrines, when I believed, I was slowly becoming the man I hoped to be. Brielle's family is probably tired of hearing about him, but I want to be like my Great Grandpa Paul.  He was giving, loving, hard working, community minded, and kind.  And, he was almost completely deaf by the time he died, but in his later years he kept going to church, and one Sunday someone asked him what the talks in church were about that day.  He said he didn't know, he couldn't hear.  Then why do you go, the person asked.  He answered, because that's where my family is, and where my family is is where I want to be.  I may not know, but like him, with my family, moving in a direction to be the man I want to be, is where I want to be, and this church does that for me.

That wasn't the end of my journey though, because, like my mouth, I can't seem to get my mind to quit going either.  And I heard so many people say in Fast and Testimony meeting that they "knew".  They "knew" so many things that I couldn't say that I knew.  Did I belong in an organization with so many who "knew"?  It was literally a few weeks after thinking this that I heard Elder Holland speak in General Conference.  "I said I was speaking to the young. I still am. A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field. I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest."

It was okay that I didn't know.  I believed, and not only was belief enough, it was a precious thing.  People had done great things because they believed, and I could too.  I belonged in this church even if I did not know.  And I believe that I always will belong, so long as it keeps helping me become the man that I would like to be, and even more importantly, the man I believe God wants me to be.

Now, I'm a big believer in the "so what" of talks.  Meaning, I've given you a bunch of scriptures, quotes, and my own ramblings to glue them together, but so what?  What am I hoping to really convey?  If someone were to ask me, "What should I get out of your talk?"  What would I tell them?

If you're someone who hasn't had these questions,  please don't think that my questioning came from the devil, because I can tell you that my resolve to follow the teachings of the Savior is stronger than it has ever been, because I questioned.  Because I realized that I cannot prove my belief to myself or anyone else, and that means that no amount of evidence against the church will keep me from living in this way, because it is so good for me and my family.  I'm not saying you need to start questioning, just that it helped me.

If you're like me, know that you're not alone.  I can't say that I know either, and, at least according to Elder Holland, that's okay.  You and I, we belong here in this church.  Like I told a friend who, after finding out his wife was pregnant, was thinking about maybe getting back into the church, but wasn't sure if he really believed:  True or not, the gospel teaches a good lifestyle.  Doesn't it help a family to stay away from drinking and drugs?  Doesn't it help a family to take one day out of the week and spend that day almost entirely together?  Doesn't it help a family to believe their relationships last longer than just this life?  Doesn't it help a father to believe that the effects of his parenting will last long after this life?  110% true or not, it's a good place for us to be.

And for all of us believers, I hoped that my journey through doubt will help us see those of different beliefs with a little more understanding.  As President Uchtdorf said, "One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations."

I wasn't offended, or sinful, or lazy, but questioning.  I sincerely wanted to know what I should do, and there are thousands like me.  Some come to my same conclusion, and some come to others.  My own journey has led me to listen to their stories.  All of them were good people doing what they felt was right, and I couldn't help but respect that.

Which is what made this quote from President Uchtdorf stand out so much to me: "In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."

I believe there is a God.  I believe that He watches over and loves us.  I believe families are ordained of God, my evidence for that comes mostly from my wife, whose faith is so much stronger than mine, but has been so very christlike and patient with me and my questions.  I believe this church was created by God, mostly because whenever I follow its teachings I get closer to being the man I hope to one day be.  I believe that Jesus is our friend and savior.  Whenever I say it, whenever I think about it, I get a feeling that I simply cannot deny.

And it's in His name that I leave this with you.  Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

His Name is Bingo

June is eating her french toast sticks while I sit on the computer, when she walks up to me.

"My pet is right over there."
I look into the living room where she's pointing.  "Right over there."
"What kind of pet is it?"
"A doggie."
"What's its name?"
"Bingo" I seriously didn't even see where this was going.
"That's a good name for a dog.  What color is it?"
"It's gray."  Her hands are now stretched out as if she has her hands on a little Jack Russel.
"Oh, yeah.  How big is it."
"It's BIG." Her hands get wider and higher.  "He's very tall."
"Oh, he seems tall."  My hands go up with hers.
"Yeah.  And will you sing with me?"
"What?  What do you want me to sing?"
"Sing it with me."
"I'm sorry hon, I really don't know what you want me to sing."
"Once a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o.  B-I-N-G-O.  B-I-N-G-O.  B-I-N-G-O.  And Bingo was his name-o."  To which she ran back to her breakfast.

Punked by my two-year-old.  I've got to work on this before she gets to be a teenager.