In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Psalms 100 : 3-4
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hearing the music

Our local College Station congregation had a chance to hear from our stake president, the leader of a group of congregations, a few weeks ago, and he related an analogy that really struck me. 

He and his wife recently became "empty nesters" and realized that no one in their home can play the piano now. For years, he would sit in the living room and listen to each of his children practice and perform hymns, concertos, and other arrangements. But now, the music is gone and there is only silence. The piano that once brought joy and happiness into the home still remains, but the music and feelings of love that came with it are gone until the ivories are played again. 

Similarly, can we hear the music in our lives? What instruments bring you true happiness when played? Every day we are surrounded by these instruments (scriptures, prayer, etc.), but often they are left on the shelf to collect dust.

For me, I hear the music when I spend time with my family. When I put my wife, my daughters and their needs first. Or when I study the scriptures, or learn something new that I can directly apply to better my life.

We can all play an instrument. There are many different ones to be played, and each one gives a different tune. The important thing is that the music we play makes us better people and brings us closer to our Father in Heaven, so that we can be His instruments to do good.

Romans 6:12-13

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."

Are we hearing the music in our lives?

Leave a comment with what you do to keep the music playing in your life.

Thoughts from a loyal father, friend and veteran.

Randy Todd in front of a MC-12
Veterans Day is always a special time of reflection for me. My son, Randy is a Captain in the United States Air Force. He is currently deployed on his second tour to Afghanistan where he flies the MC-12 aircraft. My youngest son, Charlie is a member of the Mississippi National Guard and served a tour in Iraq. I served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. 

Along with the thrill of being a helicopter pilot, and later being involved in developing plans, I met many patriots and saw the faith of LDS servicemen and women. The first fellow LDS serviceman that was lost while I served was Doug Echler. He was an instructor pilot at Fort Rucker and a member of our ward while I was in flight school. He was transferred to Germany from Fort Rucker. While he was piloting a Chinook helicopter at an airshow in Germany the aircraft experienced a catastrophic failure. The aircraft crashed in front of the crowd. All on board were killed. The crowd included Doug’s wife and children. That was my first realization of how important it was to hold to the rod and live the gospel as a soldier. The reality was that life was precious and could end suddenly. Living the gospel everyday became more important than I had ever realized before.

I had the privilege of being involved with two major humanitarian relief operations. The first was in 1980 when many Cuban refugees came to the United States. The second was in 1999 when President Clinton accepted refugees from the conflict in Kosovo. I was an operations officer for the Kosovo refugee operation at Fort Dix, New Jersey. To this day I remember what a lump it brought to my throat to see a battle hardened paratrooper carrying a child who had lost everything. Perched upon the soldier’s shoulders the child beamed with a security and peace that he had been without for many days. The soldier’s beaming smile reminded me of the force for good that American troops are in the world.
Charley Todd, center, at his son Randy's commissioning
So, on this Veterans Day I am grateful for my sons’ service. I am grateful for those that went before and protected our liberty. My uncle recently passed away. He served in the Pacific during World War II as a United States Marine. He was to have been part of the diversionary attack at Iwo Jima, but the main attack was successful. He was spared that engagement. Later he was to be part of the invasion force for Japan. When Japan surrendered after Hiroshima and Nagasaki he became part of the occupational force. When he returned home he was called to serve as one of the first missionaries in Japan  In his later years he and my Aunt Pat returned to Japan to serve a mission at the Tokyo Temple. I thank my father, father-in-law, uncles, and friends for their service and I remember the flag draped coffins honoring their service.

But, the veterans that I wish to pay tribute to on this Veterans Day are men that I have known in the wards of College Station who showed me how to apply being a good soldier to being a person of love and faith.

Robert Wilson was a retired Colonel when I retired from the Army and moved to College Station in May of 2000. Everyone called him Colonel. He had the ultimate badge of credibility for a veteran – the Purple Heart which is given to those wounded or killed in combat. He was a fellow helicopter pilot so I felt an immediate affinity to him. He had purchased the Arby’s franchise when he retired and moved to College Station and had provided employment to many, especially to youth.

Colonel Wilson was the Deacon’s Quorum adviser. He combined a Colonel’s bearing with an unbelievable love for the boys. The Deacon’s Quorum President always was prepared for meetings. It was hard to believe that a 12 or 13 year old could take charge so well. The boys were the ones who spoke. Colonel Wilson just made sure they were prepared.

Eventually the injuries suffered in Vietnam and in a training accident robbed Colonel Wilson of his health. However even until the end he would always respond with “blessed by the Lord” when asked how he was doing. The Deacons made a poster/card for him on one occasion that simply said, “Get well, we will hold the fort down here.” They did, because of what he had taught them.
Charley Todd's youngest son, Charlie

My home teaching companion is a Vietnam Veteran. He was a United States Marine. He holds that singular badge of honor and credibility, the Purple Heart, just as Robert Wilson did. I am grateful that Michael Beggs goes home teaching and fulfills his Priesthood responsibilities, in spite of the pain.

As a veteran I take great solace and pride that it was a Centurion who was able to recognize that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I love the stories of Moroni and Helaman and of the Mormon Battalion. I thank all those who are serving and who have served. Please pray for our service men and women (and their families) for they are surrounded by physical and spiritual hazards and are always grateful for those who are appreciative for the things they do for us.

— Charley Todd, LTC (Retired)

It's a short flight.

This post was originally published here by Jessica Garlick Dyer, a graduate of A&M Consolidated High School in 2008. We post this with her permission. 

It was a cold, bitter day back in early March of 2013. My contacts had been in for way too long. My hair was up in a high tangled bun and we were still in our clothes from 24 hours before.

We'd been sleeping {more like waiting} in the Denver airport all night. At 6 a.m. on the dot I got in line at the customer service desk of United Airlines to attempt to get added onto the next flight home. Our flight the night before had been cancelled a few hours after our connection landed in Denver. It would be a miracle if we got seats on that flight, and it was a miracle that we were capable of functioning physically, emotionally, and mentally at that moment.

That day Travis had a midterm he needed to be back in time to take, and the fact that he hadn't been able to study all night in the below freezing airport didn't even phase us. All we were worried about was getting him in his classroom to take the test. Not to mention that the purpose of all the crazy back-to-back traveling across the country was for intense interviews for PhD programs. Our future was completely uncertain. And just 5 weeks earlier, I had given birth to our little girl, after being pregnant for just over 34 weeks. Travis held my hand while I endured labor, delivery, and then the worst drive of our lives---the one when we drove home from the hospital with an empty carseat installed behind us. And then for a couple weeks after that, Travis held my hand again as I felt the terrible pain---both the physical and emotional pain---that comes with tons of breast milk coming in, but not being able to let it out at all, but especially not having a little baby to feed the milk to.

Sitting in the airport that early morning I really wondered if life could get any worse. It just seemed like one thing after another. Not to mention the week before we ended up in the ER for Travis' leg and I could go on and on about little things that in the moment scared me out of my mind. Because after our traumatic experience with our baby girl, I then felt vulnerable. And to top it off, all I could think about was how in order to get a baby here to raise it would take at least 9 more months of agonizing fear, doubts, and worries {the list goes on and on}, where each day feels like a year, in order to bring a baby home with us. And then the realization came that it will always be hard for us to have a baby---pregnancy is now one of the greatest ways that our faith is tested from now on. And that is overwhelming at times.

This scripture from Isaiah has come to my mind often: “For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). 

Yet, while the refiner’s fire is the path by which we must go to obtain joy, it is just that—a fire—hot, uncomfortable, and dangerous. We do, though, have the ability to come out refined from the experience---not damaged.

Thankfully the woman at the customer service desk was in a semi-good mood. We ended up getting on the plane. We lined up to board, trying not to fall asleep standing up.

And that’s when I saw an older couple with a teenage girl who had disabilities try to get tickets on the same flight, it appeared that they had slept in the airport that night too; my heart hurt for them. I said a silent prayer they would get on the flight.

Once on the plane, I noticed the couple and daughter got seats, just in the row across from us. Right as they sat down, the cycle began: crying, silence, questioning—repeat. This was the process that the tall teenage girl, with blonde hair and glasses, with some sort of mental handicap repeated to her father. She talked very loud and used childlike phrases. Some people stared and acted annoyed.

She was scared. She had no choice but to be on that plane to make the connection in Salt Lake to eventually get to her destination. When we first boarded, the plane was neat to her. She stared out the window watching the crew de-ice the plane. But then, as soon as the plane left the solid concrete ground for the air, she panicked.

She sat in the window seat and talked the entire flight, repeating over and over, practically yelling, “It’s a short flight, right dad?” She repeated this all the way from Denver, Colorado, to Salt Lake City, Utah. She stammered these words through tears and then the next second through confidence, then back through tears. Sometimes she would start to cry hysterically and then her dad would calm her down and she would go on to repeat all these emotions in the same cycle.

I sat in awe the whole flight---watching, listening. This girl's father, ever so patient and calm, reassured his daughter every few minutes by answering her question with, “yes, it’s a short flight,” over and over again. Though, there was no doubt in my mind that it had to be what felt like the longest flight ever to him. He let his wife sleep the whole flight, while he took care of his daughter, constantly calming and reassuring her. How tiring it must have been.

My mind was racing. This man and his wife are taking care of their daughter for what I assume would be 24/7 for the rest of her life. He never gets a break. But oh how patient he was. He was noticeably exhausted, yet he never once raised his voice, got upset, or ignored his daughter. I felt humbled and ashamed to have ever felt tired or sorry for myself, or having ever talked impatiently. This man was handling his own furnace of affliction in that moment so well, ultimately as Christ would have responded. 

I was reminded that morning what it must be like for our Heavenly Father to watch us panic in a time of trial, only to console us with perfect patience and compassion. And I was also reminded how everyone has trials as I watched in awe a father so patiently and lovingly be in control of a very stressful, trying situation. I watched him care for her realizing that he and his wife would have this responsibility for the entirety of their time on earth. How hard it must be. 

"It’s a short flight, right dad? Yes, it’s a short flight.” Over and over again, crying.

When I felt the plane skid on the runway in SLC I was relieved. Not for me, but for this girl and her dad. The flight was over. And then, as soon as we landed, in a voice I can still hear in my mind, the girl exclaimed to her dad with so much excitement: “It was a great flight! It was short flight, huh dad?”

And her father agreed, “yes, it was a great, short flight.”

I have a feeling that's how we'll all respond when our individual flights on this earth are over. It’s hard not to know what hard things are around the next turn. But this Travis and I do know, that because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are enabled to do what we need to do in this life to become more like Him. That knowledge brings power, no matter how smooth or bumpy our flight gets. 

And in the grand scheme of eternity, it really is just a great, short flight.