At great price, stand for what you believe

Is there a price too great?

The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial

Today a visitor to Washington, DC will easily walk down what is called the Mall, heading away from the Congress buildings past the Washington monument, the Whitehouse just off a block or two to your right, past the relatively new World War II monument, and down the length of the reflecting pond toward the Lincoln Memorial.  The walk takes you past close to a dozen buildings which combine to form the Smithsonian Museums, the Holocaust museum is just a couple blocks off the mall almost directly opposite the Whitehouse. To the left of Lincoln, the Korean War Memorial, to the right Vietnam. Just past the Lincoln memorial off to the left toward the Jefferson memorial the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and if you walk around back of the Lincoln memorial you can see across the bridge the elevated land of Arlington National Cemetery. General Lee, leader of the confederate army, owned the land and his house today is just above the John F. Kennedy memorial both of which look directly out over everything I’ve just described looking back toward the Congress buildings.

From the Washington Monument looking past the "mall" to Congress
From the Washington Monument looking past the “mall” to Congress

Keeping an eye on the nation sits Abraham Lincoln. Today (January 1, 2013) is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t wait until the war was won to state the outcome, the Battle at Gettysburg would occur 6 months later but the time had come to make the statement, there would be no more slavery in the United States of America. You can examine the original documents and read the transcript here.

The battledfield at Gettysburg
The battledfield at Gettysburg

It is pretty easy today, particularly for those of us in the world who are not American, to forget the price that people have paid all over the world for a measure of what might be recognized as freedom or even basic human rights.  The Civil war in the United States, revolutions in England, France, Russia, to name just a few highlight the courage of people to stand up and be counted for as individuals worthy of consideration.

Lincoln did not start this movement, and it certainly did not end with the American civil war but it serves as a somber reminder that even a nation identified as a bastion of democracy struggles to hold to its own Declaration of Independence as it struggles to bring to actualize the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There are over 11 000 books that is some way involve Abraham Lincoln at Amazon. There are only 52 million results on a google search for “Abraham Lincoln”.

When I consider Lincoln, I ponder what I believe about the ability to control my destiny, what I believe about the value of each individual, and what is required of me to ensure that the people I come in contact with are valued, respected and supported as they seek to be the best they can be.

Finally I consider that the struggle for personal human rights and dignity did not end with the civil war in the United States, just as the war didn’t end with the proclamation.

Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right”.  Sound advice, no easy path to follow.



Peace…be still

Amy at “Writing On Stone” Provincial Park in Alberta several years ago

A few years ago we took a trip to Writing on Stone provincial park in south eastern Alberta. The geological formation there is quite cool, and relatively unique in Alberta. The name comes from some relatively ancient markings on the wall of one of the outcroppings. That’s the geography but not the point, I don’t feel like I’m the only one who from time to time feels a lot more like the class hamster on the wheel. In our hyper connected world are we losing the ability to find stillness, the time for quiet reflection and pondering that can open our minds to alternate possibilities for the challenges of our day.

Not really trapped, but sometimes we are stuck between good and best use of our time.

I don’t think it was a big box office hit, another Costner baseball movie “For Love of the Game” where the main character’s ability to focus and, what the character refers to as “clearing the mechanism“. To me this really speaks to knowing  there are times where we need to be able to zone out the distractions, find the quiet spot and expand our ability to hear ourselves above the din that clamours for our attention.

I do not think I am talking about the calm before the storm, more about finding calm, perhaps looking for it in the midst of all that surrounds us in our life.  Steven Herrick wrote, “Men walk through tragedy, quietly, calm and precise on the outside, tearing themselves to shreds inside.” Herrick writes of a calm presence on the surface but inside that calm is absent. There are times for this type of calm, particularly when others are counting on you to lead, but it has a price and requires those possessed of it to find a different time where they too can truly come to a point of resolve, a calmness born of reflection that requires time to be still.

Paulo Coelho wrote in his book, “Warrior of Light”, “Occasionally, the Warrior sits down, relaxes, and lets everything that is happening around him continue to happen….Little by little, everything that seemed complicated begins to become simple.” (p.91)

It’s hard to step out of the rushing river that is our life, even harder to see that sometimes it’s really not a river, barely a stream but from our point of view we’re drowning. Take the time to find that spot and sit down, consider Mark 4:39 “Peace, be still”.

Supporting can be complicated…but worth it

So… as a parent I’m pretty sure there really isn’t one set of rules for what to do in whatever it is we tend to define as parenting. I suspect it’s pretty natural to cast your eyes over the fence at the proverbial neighbours kids and try as you might the yardsticks sneak into the back of your head. Marks, Athletics, Musical Talents, Friends, Teeth (braces/no braces), it can be a bit of a jungle out there as you go through the compulsory stages. In the end we want them safe, healthy, and happy…get those three down and then take what comes.

Amy, my youngest of 3 daughters and 5th of 6 children has a bit of a flair for the dramatic…and fashion….and photography…and life.

The challenge, or maybe it’s just my challenge, comes with that concept of agency and sustaining support for your kids when the choices they make run just a little to the left or right of what you had in mind as the best path (my view of best path) for their life. If you haven’t had a teenager yet, you’ll have to trust me on this a bit, then again perhaps you remember using the line, “You’re ruining my life….” or “It’s my life…” usually utilized in a discussion around the teen’s choices and the direct disharmony with your parental expectations. I can’t say no one’s life is ruined…sadly some decisions actually do lead to great tragedy, but I can say a lot of the decisions we bump and struggle through with our children while life impacting are not life ruining.

Having the patience to work through those without fighting in a manner that permanently scars the relationship, that can be a challenge. Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “When we are unduly impatient…we are in effect trying to hasten the outcome when acceleration would abuse agency.” This doesn’t mean we blindly acquiesce when choices run contrary with our personal beliefs, even beliefs we feel are family beliefs. It means that we need to take a much longer view at life, and the eternal nature of the family, as we continue to support and guide and allow for agency to run its course.

As parents we have a pretty good idea of what we believe.  Our faith, both in practice and as it manifests itself as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), provides a few foundational guidelines…some do and do nots in the expectations. Most people who have met a “mormon” know that we don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, no drugs, no coffee, wait until you’re married, even a few simple ones things like minding our language – a few guidelines to help us along the way. At some time in life each and every individual has to decide do I follow those expectations or not – either way its an exercise in agency.

As parents we have our agency as well, and one of the choices is to make sure that our children understand the expectations and hopes we have for them. The element of unconditional love works in concert with that of expectations, values, and the focus on the eternity. Then we have to give them the room to make their choices…hard as that may be at times.

I am tremendously proud of my six children – we debate choices and consequences all the time. I’d love for all of them to be right on the path my wife and I hope for them and yes I don’t mind saying that at times we’d like their path to be closer to our path and that’s why supporting can be complicated. The first student I suspended as principal was my daughter (not Amy) they all know we don’t get to choose the consequences of our choices.  They also all know that the sun will come up tomorrow and tomorrow we’ll have another set of opportunities and choices.

There is karma in all of this of course, the cycle does tend to repeat over time. As that young daughter I suspended grew older, married and had a baby girl of her own it appears her parents have become exponentially smarter…I suspect we haven’t but her point of view certainly has changed.  Complicated? Yes but continue the support, it will be worth it in the eternities.



Amy’s flair for the fashion world continues – she has lead a group of students at her college to develop a magazine for the 20 somethings…admittedly quite a bit outside my comfort zone, language and some content warnings – perhaps past what you’d see in Cosmo (I’m guessing) but proud of her just the same. Check it out here

Courage comes in all shades and colours

Courage is manifest in so many different ways. If we are willing to look around we can see honorable examples which can lift us in the observation to a higher place. Over the past 18 months or so it was my honour to have Doug Luckwell as a friend – I’ve known Doug for over 24 years – but the past 18 months or so Doug became a teacher and example in a different way as he and his family lived through the diagnosis and experience of what is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doug and his family determined they would ride this out at home, no hospital stays, and with the help of friends and family they’d make the best of a tough situation. As a result several of us had the opportunity to help Doug with his exercises and visit once a week for about an hour – Mitch Albom wrote of a similar experience in “Tuesdays with Morrie” (I recommend the book). As we worked through the exercises Doug would do the counting and the talking, we watched the Obama/Clinton and Obama/McCain debates together, discussed politics and even though Doug had never played football he always asked about my teams, players and how the games and practices had gone.

As the illness took over his body his fingers would curl up, we discovered that using a bantam sized football he could comfortably keep his hands open and his fingers comfortably positioned on the laces – he wasn’t able to throw but he enjoyed being part of the team. I shared some of Doug’s story and thoughts with the Football Alberta team in Hawaii and with the Warriors and Bronco’s. We are all reminded that what every day we have in life is a gift and we should us it wisely.

President John F. Kennedy wrote, “The stories of past courage can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.” It was a blessing to me personally to witness the tremendous courage Doug displayed as he took on ALS, he knew the outcome was inevitable but laughed right up to the last day I saw him when once again – like always that shoulder of his would pop – and I’d wince – he thought that was so funny.

I know that for the rest of my life I can draw on his example, as Kennedy said it provides me with a source of inspiration – I can only hope in examining my own life and soul it will provide the seed of courage I can develop in turn as I move forward each day. Thank-you Doug, I know you are in a very good place as in the twinkling of an eye your family here bid goodbye, and your family there said hello.



On January 2, 2009 Doug passed away in his sleep having shared with a number of his friends and most certainly his family an example of courage as he took on ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.