Radiant Moments: A Thanksgiving Reflection

I began this Thanksgiving morning by setting myself a task: to describe my gratitude for specific things which are not controversial. (I have little taste for controversy today.) I thought first of the largest things, such as God, family, and country, but the very ideas of these are currently controversial. You may safely assume my profound gratitude for them, but I after a few moments I turned my thoughts toward smaller things. Granted, all things are smaller than the largest things.

So I made list of specific things for which I have felt grateful in recent weeks, and nothing is too small. A hamburger is not too small. But soon it was clear that I had sent myself on a fool’s errand, because even a hamburger is controversial these days. And I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, in a time when many consider everything to be political, that a hamburger is easily politicized too. (I am not grateful for this.)

So the following are only relatively uncontroversial. Some are only relatively small. They involve people, you see, and people are not a small thing – but we are smaller than God.

Now that I have made the list, I see that every item, in some sense and degree, is a moment. Today, as on many days, I am grateful for moments. Here are ten and a spare. They necessarily reflect my own tastes, opportunities, and associations, but perhaps they will call to mind some of your own moments.

In neither ascending nor descending order …

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Vertical and Horizontal Thanksgiving

A day to be grateful to all who bless our lives and for every way in which they have done so? If Thanksgiving Day were only that, it would be an important secular holiday. But what if it’s more?

(If you’re certain it should not be more or unwilling to consider that it might be, please just accept my earnest wishes for your happy Thanksgiving. You may not wish to read the rest of this.)

looking at stars

What if Thanksgiving is also a day to be grateful for everyone who blesses my life – that is, grateful to a higher power of some sort, who has caused my life to intersect with these people and their many generous acts and quiet virtues? What if today is for thanking a deity who put me in a place and time in which I have food to eat and work to do, some freedom to enjoy as I’m doing it, some faithful friends around me, and a comfortable place to lay my head?

What if this is a day to invite humility, gratitude’s plain and less socially acceptable sister virtue, to our happy feast?

What if Thanksgiving is inherently a religious holiday?

Energies: Potential (A Photo Tribute to Marching Bands, Part I)

Introduction — and My Marching Band Withdrawal

After four years with a mellophone player in the American Fork High School Marching Band, our household is marching band-free. For me there are some withdrawal pangs.

In those four years I visited band camp a few times; made a feature-length documentary about the band and a shorter video tribute to a retiring director, John Miller; dabbled at social media; wrote press releases, blog posts, and newspaper features; edited others’ newspaper columns about the marching band experience; and attended one competition after another.

I worked with parents and other boosters, directors, and staff from print and broadcast media outlets. I even sent the trumpet I played through my first year of college to Grand Nationals and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to be played, of course, by someone much younger.

Along the way I met more fine people than I can count — and not just band students. Virtually everyone I met seemed to know what I tried to remember throughout: We weren’t the story. The story was — is — the kids, their music, their show.

I am not a photographer, as you will quickly see, but I snapped some photos along the way. Here are a few from state and regional competitions in St. George, Utah, last fall. I offer them to help us get in the mood for marching band, if we’re not already, and perhaps also to relieve my withdrawal symptoms.

Tokens of Thanks

One of my first conscious acts on this Thanksgiving morning was to pull a folder from my file cabinet and thumb through it. It’s a file I started years ago. It’s full of thank-you notes people have sent me. (And yes, thanking me is the reverse of this day’s proper theme, but it leads there in its way.)

Many of them are from my years as an LDS (Mormon) bishop in American Fork, Utah, or from my time in a similar role in Ithaca, New York. This is not because bishops are the least bit more wonderful than anyone else, but because a pastor’s relationship with his or her congregation naturally includes being conspicuously involved in the difficulties of their lives, in both public and private ways — and because we get a lot of credit for splendid things done by others.

Some of my favorite expressions are not written at all. One man with whom I worked, as he endured severe, long-term trials, gave me a four-pound specimen from his petrified wood collection, because he wanted to give something but couldn’t think of anything else he had to give. Another gave me a wool hat which an Afghan tribal leader (I say warlord, to impress people) gave him as token of thanks for service to him and his people.

Guest: Jeff Rodeback – BYU Athletics and Keeping It in Perspective

Jeff Rodeback

After BYU’s disappointing first-round tournament loss Ole Miss tonight, I found myself wishing that BYU cared more about its big-name sports. Maybe then the Cougars would win more high-profile games.

But the fact is that BYU doesn’t care about sports. Tom Holmoe might disagree with me, but it’s true. BYU does not care about sports, at least not in the way other big-name schools do.

Shortly after Bronco Mendenhall became BYU’s football coach, I attended a meeting where he discussed the interviews he had before becoming head coach. His final interview was with then-Elder Henry B. Eyring of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Eyring’s job was to decide whether or not to hire Bronco.

In the interview, Elder Eyring didn’t mention football once. They talked about education, missions, the importance of the late teens and early twenties, the way BYU fits into the mission of the LDS Church, and just about everything else besides football. After that interview, Bronco got the job.

Fast forward a few years, and I was working for BYU’s police department. I wasn’t a police officer, but I worked closely with police officers and was heavily involved in security and traffic management on campus and at athletic events. Part of my job included writing parking tickets — and I gave plenty of parking tickets to well-known athletes.

Thankful Reflections on an Interesting Year

Today is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays – and perhaps you’ll forgive me if I parse that word as holy day. If we raise our aim above the purely horizontal, thanksgiving – or gratitude, if you please – is one of the highest acts of worship.

Usually on this holy day, I think of the big stuff, from infinite grace born of God to the spilled blood of patriots and the wrenching sacrifices of their loved ones. All of that is still there, still here, still the object of daily gratitude. But as this holy day has approached, I have reflected on smaller, more personal things. I hope this doesn’t sound too self-serving. In any case it has been an interesting year – and I know it’s not quite over yet.