Thursday, October 28, 2010

When Life is a Downward Spiral...

Sometimes life feels like this video.  You know it is going down hill, and it is going to be a long hike back to the top.  But, instead of stopping, we just keep on going.  Closing our eyes to the consequences of where we are headed, wherever that may be.  Now of course, the reason I didn't stop running down the stairs was because I wanted to visually capture how tall the tower was that we had visited in Reading Pennsylvania.

However, in life, it feels like there are those things that keep us from stopping, and turning around, from repenting, and returning back to the clearer vision that comes from higher ground.   Sometimes it is fear of how difficult the trek will be.  Perhaps it is pride.  Sometimes it is just the momentum we pick up as we get used to a destructive activity or lifestyle.  I know that for me, Satan convinces me to believe that I can turn around after one more step, after one more level.  He promises me great pleasure and ease "if only I go a little farther."  Unfortunately, I just end up at rock bottom, out of breath, hope, and sometimes desire. 

The miracle of the whole thing, is that Jesus Christ is real, and his power to change us is always accessible.  We have never fallen too far, too often, or too hard.  I've experienced his healing power again this week, and I am back on top.  Yes, the power or repentance is real!
-Elder Blackburn

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quick, Easy and "Cheap as Dirt" trip to Egypt!

I really like this picture.  I was driving down the road and saw that there was a town called Egypt, Pennsylvania and I had to get a picture.  I got much more than I bargained for, and there are many many elements of this picture that I enjoy and I think relate to the gospel:

1)  There are always temptations trying to get us to turn off from our destination, and many times they say "it will only be a small detour.  1 mile here or 1 mile there."

2)  There are warning signs of what may lie down each road.  One will lead to a world of flowers (strange women) and the other to a world of cars and houses (materialism).  If we take the detour, other temptations will only get stronger and closer.

3) God has his own sign from the spirit urging us to "Keep off the Shoulder" or in other words, to "Stick on the Path"

4) One of the signs is broken... I'm not quite sure what this one could mean... but it just makes the picture that much better.

Life is a road trip, and God has laid out our roadsigns through his Spirit, scriptures, and modern-day prophets.  However, Satan has also laid out his signs meant to distract and delay our progress.  Luckily we continued on our way, despite how luring it was to go to Egypt.
-Elder Blackburn

Friday, October 22, 2010

Addiction Recovery Program

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a program built around helping individuals recovery from addiction.  Properly named, it is the "Addiction Recovery Program" or ARP for short.  It is very effective, and is very similar to the Alcoholic's Anonymous 12 step program.  I was very impressed with its deep application of the atonement. I feel like it can and should be used by everyone, inside and outside the church, because we all have addictions and habits, in one form or another.  It is really just a program built to help us repent.  I liked the program so much, that I wrote a song that puts the steps in order:

Honesty, Hope, and Trust in God to Bless.
Discern the Truth, and Then I must Confess

A Change of Heart, Will Spark Humility,
To Seek Forgiveness, For Others and for Me.

Restitution, I will Find a Way.
And I'll Improve, by Accounting Every Day.

Personal Revelation, I Can See,
That Service Guarantees Recovery.

In order to get the full effect though, you need to sing it to the hymn:  The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close # 37

Actually, the only way you can get the FULL effect is if I sing it, and we haven't figured out how to record it and put in on the blog....  But it is prettty sweet...  I guess you can hear it if you come to one of the sessions! Every Sunday at 6:00 P.M. at the Reading chapel! (3344 Reading Crest Ave.
Reading , PA   19605)  See you there!

-Elder Blackburn

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"This is worse than waiting for Christmas!"

Elder Blackburn here.  My dad just had a fun experience yesterday, one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  He got to experience zero gravity by getting on a jet along with a other school teachers in Utah. I didn't get to hear much about it, simply from the fact that I live across the country, but I can just imagine how he felt.  I loved the story that the news reporter gave with it, because it quoted someone saying "This is worse than waiting for Christmas,"  which I can just imagine coming strait from my dad.   I love my dad, and one of the things that sets him apart from others is what happens when he gets excited.  You can just see it in his eyes, and it is just like a little kid during Christmas.   The enthusiasm of the anticipated, and the joy of the rewards of patience.  For my dad, his joy has always been a simple and pure excitement for things that he loves.

In this world of greed, I have found that those who are able to love and yet be selfless, are few and far between.  I have never in my life, seen my dad fall into the trap of letting his desires override his considerations for others.  He rarely does things for himself, but is always seeking for the happiness for his family.  The times I have seen him most excited have been when he was simply eager to bless us.  And so, when I think of my dad saying "This is worse than waiting for Christmas," I don't think of his anticipation to receive a gift, I think of his anticipation to give one to his children, because that is always what made him most excited.  I love my Dad
-Elder Blackburn

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Online Missionaries!?!

Hello Everyone! I am Elder Blackburn, and I am companions with Elder Barnett.  We always go 2 by 2, and we have been together since September 28th or so.  Elder Barnett has graciously allowed me to join in on his blog and share some of my stories and experiences.   It has been a cool experience watching the online world take off, and realizing how many missionaries there are who have a part in it.  I saw this site and was just blown away!   But perhaps the most miraculous experience was "running into" Elder Sabin. 6 months ago,  I was in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. I had been serving my mission there for only 1 week when my companion and I got a text message showing that there was someone in the area who was interested in learning more about the restored gospel.  This man had been online, and had started chatting with an Elder Sabin, after visiting  Over a very short period of time, this man came to know for himself that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true, and wanted to come to church.  Elder Sabin sent his information to us, and we promptly went to see him.  To this very day, he continues to study and learn and is preparing for baptism.  I remember being so excited to learn that people were being found and taught online.  I never would have guessed that I would actually get an opportunity to have similar experiences of my own.
-Elder Blackburn

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Track Practice

I was thinking today about a principle that I was taught years ago my a friend, Kyle.  As a youth Kyle's father was a track coach at a Jr High School a few towns away from his home.  He and his friends decided to join their own track track team at their local school, in response to the gentle encouragement of his father.

When he went to practice his first day, he saw a circle cut into a grass field.  His coach explained that this circle was the size of a normal track, and that he had measured it out so that they could practice at their school instead of traveling each practice to the nearest track at the local high school.  Kyle and his friends decided to run together a relay, and timed their very first practice race.  Their coach was excited to see that their times were very good, and he expressed very energetically that he had just witnessed a bunch of naturals join his team.

As Kyle returned home each night of practice, his father was equally impressed and encouraging, for the times recorded by his son and his friends were already getting close to surpassing the times of his own team.  And soon they were.  As their first real race got closer, Kyle and his friends were confident that they would win, and they were, fueled by their excitement.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thoughts about P-day

I am here in Reading, Pennsylvania.  It is quite the place. I love it.  I am always inspired by good people everywhere trying to make a difference in each others lives.  My companion, Elder Barnett and I are getting to know some fantastic people, and having fun on the way.  On our preparation day, we get to spend a few hours to do some cleaning and washing and shopping and stuff like that, and I was thinking about how it relates to our own lives.  How often do we clean up our act.  How often do we open up those dark, cobwebbed corners and let in some fresh air.  How often do we go through the cleansing experience of repenting and cleaning up the scum that has accumulated from all our poor choices, many of which were choices of simple negligence?

Let us all take the time, and sometimes, courage, to re-evaluate our lives and restore the natural beauty our character should have.  After all, we are all children of God.

-Elder Blackburn