Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fish teeth and I-Pods

Hey everyone and greeting from sunny Colorado. I just spent the last 30 mins talking to Don in Iraq. He is on a much bigger base now and has access to phone and email. He is doing great and will be here for the month of April. He is winding down his tour and really ready to come home and as he said “beat my butt in the racquetball court”. He is celebrating his two month anniversary of not smoking and is now working with a Navy captain on base to conduct church services. He has asked us to look for a car for him and we’re hoping for some kind of military discount. He’s got a boat load of pictures to show us and stories of goofy things he’s eaten. He said Lewis and his are doing better although they are still reeling from losing the baby. April will be a great month and a busy one for the house.

While in the temple on Wed night I was working the new name booth and talking with a real nice guy who said he was a mining engineer. Well he was being modest; he really is the CEO of a gold mining company operating around the world. I told him about Dave graduating from BYU – Idaho in April and the CEO wanted Dave’s resume. I called Danica the next day around noon to tell her of the hoped for opportunity and she responded immediately and emailed the resume. Dave called him the next day and did an impromptu interview with the CEO and the VP. It appears that they may be putting together an offer for Dave to work there permanently. They have mines in Mexico, Australia, Indonesia, and other exotic places in the world. It could be a great deal, because the family would be here in Colorado…YIPEE!!! Grandkids!!! It is funny because within in the hour from when I had called Danica was going to cash the check from the other company which would have committed Dave to them. I love the temple for lots of reasons.

I did get some bad news this week. The doctor’s group I was working with for their 401 K business decided to go with someone else. My contact there really didn’t know what he was doing and it caused a lot of problems and I lost the business. So we pick up from where we are and move forward. I’m still holding out hope for the AmCheck deal, which is alive and well.

I had a great dive at the Aquarium yesterday. It was my first time in the “Reservoir” which is a cold fresh water tank. It looks like a mild mannered lake with lots of calm friendly fish. Not so. It was a mad house. The fish knew it was feeding time and they were piled up where we get into the water waiting for food. They are very aggressive and hungry. We were feeding these Garr (fish with a very long needle nose mouth, full of sharp teeth) and they weren’t shy, but the food (another small fish) would hang out their needle mouth and the other fish would attack the slop over and it was wild. They constantly were pecking at my hands and several kept biting my scrubbing rag as I tried to clean the windows. The worse was a large fish that bit the back of my neck and got its teeth caught in my hood. It jerked me back until it let go. I jumped at first and then started laughing. It is hard to jump when you’re suspended in water. The fish would come up and run right into my mask looking for something to bite. It was so fun and helped me forget about the lost sale.

Next weekend is Stake Conference and we will get a new Stake Presidency so I will fill you in on all the details when that happens. I got to teach priesthood this week and wanted to share a story I told the quorum. I know a man in another stake, who left an excellent teaching job on the east coast to move to the Denver area, but teaching doesn’t pay nearly as well here and they are struggling financially. His kids were sad about leaving their friends and he ran into some marital problems. Unfortunately he was also disfellowshiped from the church and very discouraged about life piling on grief after grief. He loves music and under great financial distress his wife sacrificed here and there to buy him a slick new I-Pod. He was elated and downloaded a ton of music to enjoy. It was an oasis from his struggles. Then someone at school stole the I-Pod and he was devastated. He pleaded with his classes to return the music – it was a gift and he didn’t care to punish anyone he just wanted his I-Pod back. Then after two weeks of pleading it wasn’t returned to him and it really sent him into severe disappointment. The I-Pod was the last straw and he decided to stop going to church and wanted to give up.

He got up that Sunday morning thinking he wouldn’t join his family at church, but that didn’t seem right and so he went to church. Just as he entered the building the bishop pulled him aside and handed him a large envelope. The bishop told him that someone in the ward had felt impressed to put this package together and give it to the bishop. He told the bishop that someone in the ward needed it, but didn’t tell the bishop what it was. The bishop prayed about it and decided to give it to my friend. My friend took the package outside and opened it to find a brand new I-Pod inside. He just sat out on the church steps and wept big tears to realize that the Lord loved him and had heard his prayers. There is so much power from listening to the whisperings of the spirit.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Between a Rock and A Hard Place

It is one of those cold and snowy Sunday afternoons that make you so glad to have a warm house, indoor plumbing and food in the refridge. We had a good church service this morning and then had lunch with Nagum and her brother Sam. He just got here from Lebanon this week and he is looking for work in the States. Bryce has helped us out by distributing his resume around and Sam is so impressed. His view of Americans before he got here was of a country of wild parties and swingers who hated the thoughts of family and never went to church. Well after spending a few days with Kizzy’s brood, attending church with us, and seeing all our family pictures and hearing us talk about the kids; it has changed his mind. He said his friends back in Lebanon would never believe him about this new view of Americans.
It has been an interesting work week. Last Sunday I was nearing the end of my rope. For over a year now I have worked to get away from doing expensive, time consuming, and frustrating dinner seminars at $50 a plate steak restaurants. I have been working diligently to cultivate other lead sources to keep the business growing and the growth has been so slow. I’ve had a lot of near misses but keep plugging along. Well last Sunday I was faced with an empty calendar and nothing firm in my immediate future, so I did what any good latter-day saint does when under stress – I made some green Jell-O. No, I fasted and prayed that somehow I would be able to figure out some marketing ideas and be able to sleep again through the night.

On Monday I got a CPA to partner up with me to do financial planning for his clients. Then on Tues I met with a large Employment Services company and in the course of our conversation we talked about joining forces, me finding a home in their offices, and growing their 401 K business. That deal is the one I’ve been working for this past year. There are a number of problems but we have taken a big step closer to making it happen. I just need to hang on until a few things get ironed out. I was able to sleep for the rest of the week after that meeting. Then this week is when I hear if we are the selected vendor for the doctor’s office 401 K. So keep me in your prayers. Mom likes it a lot better when I’m not so worried about work and can sleep at night.

I finished reading a book this week and would like to share a few ideas from its story. It was written and narrated by the author Aaron Ralston, who I sure you remember hearing about a few years ago. He is a 27 year old adventurer from Colorado who was hiking alone in the Utah canyon lands and had an accident where a large boulder fell on his wrist trapping him in a remote unknown slot canyon. He had his accident on a Saturday afternoon in April when it still gets very cold at night in the Utah desert. Over the next couple of days he tried valiantly to get out of his situation. He tried a pulley system to lift the rock and also tried to chip away the sandstone to pull his hand free, but nothing worked. He didn’t have much water and virtually no food. On the second day he wasn’t paying attention and spilt half of his water. He was freezing at night and unable to ever get comfortable during the day. He though of cutting off his arm but his attempts failed.
On the third day he decided to pray for help. He gave a simple but straight forward prayer, but was disappointed that it wasn’t answered immediately. He concluded that God wasn’t listening, didn’t care, or couldn’t see him. He continued on in his misery. He was starting to hallucinate as he was running out of water. He resorted to drinking his own urine. It was now Wed and he was preparing himself to die during the cold night. He figured that the rescue teams would probably find his truck and locate him on Friday and he didn’t think he would last that long. That night he had a striking dream that he described as more of a vision. He was in a pleasant family room wrestling with a small 3 year old blond boy. He realized that the boy was his child and that somehow he would make it out of there alive. Living in his current state was so brutal that he wanted to die, but after that vision he had hope and decided he would live somehow.

On Thurs morning he reached for something that had fallen and suddenly realized how he could free himself. He would wrench his arm so violently as to break his arm bones and then cut through his flesh and free his body. It was excruciatingly painful to do it, but he did it. Then he was mad at himself for not thinking of it sooner. Why didn’t God tell him that answer two days ago? With his freedom and a silly tourniquet on his arm he hiked a little further, repelled down a 70 ft cliff face and started the 7 mile hike to his truck. He was so weak and woozy that he nearly fell off the cliff and then almost dropped the rope over the cliff by accident. He found a depression in the rock at the bottom of the cliff full of water and was able to drink some as he started the hike. His arm was bleeding badly and the water wasn’t enough to keep him sane. When he was only about a mile from his vehicle he was ready to give up and die when some other hikers found him and were able to notify a helicopter that was in the area to do some searching. Aaron wouldn’t have lasted more than another few mins when the copter picked him up and got him to Moab and a hospital. And a sweet reunion with his family.

I was struck by this story because of the way his prayers were answered. When we find ourselves in deep peril or just typical daily problems we cry out and expect a quick answer. If it doesn’t come it must be that God isn’t listening or doesn’t care. Aaron prayers were heard. If he had broken free of his entrapment anytime earlier he would have bled to death on the way to his truck or if that idea to break his arm had come later he would have not made it because he was too weak or trapped out of sight of the sky. God answered his prayers at the optimum time and his life was saved and changed. God does hear our prayers and is aware of our pain and dire circumstances and he knows when and how best to answer our cries for help. Sometimes the answer from heaven requires us to cut off something of ourselves and put our self in line with Christ like discipleship. That can be painful as well, but the reward could be a blessed eternal life.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Family Picture 2007


It has been a good news week for the family. Congrats to Bryce, Marcia, and Sam for the healthy birth of Lucas Koseki Barrand. What a great looking addition to the family and I bet Marcia is happy to have him out and kicking. The other good news is that Don is headed home in April and that will be a relief. He will be able to be here for Tiana’s return in April as well.

I got caught up in the political season and attended our local caucus meeting Tues night. They usually have about 5 people there and there were almost 50. Half of them were ward members and so it was like a church meeting. The vast majority were voting for Romney and that was the best part of the evening other then the meeting only lasting 30 mins. I could get used to short meetings. Too bad the country is not ready for a Stake President to become “the President”. I hated to see it but McCain and Huckabee did some shady dealings in West Virginia and without Romney in the race it is going to be a tough election year for me.

I had a neat experience at the temple the next night. I was working the initiatory booth and had several young elders come through. As I pronounced the incredible blessings on their heads, I imagined that they were you, my family members, my kids and the temple got very personal. Those promises and anointings hold the keys to a happy life and a glorious eternity. Deeply I felt that desire to be surrounded by all our family in the eternities and felt a profound longing for a fulfillment of the blessings available only in the temple. No sweet fruit of the vine is more desirous nor worthy of our efforts than to feel the love of the Savior towards all of you, my children. I saw mom after the temple and she was so beautiful. Life is good.

Let me share a little bit about the name Lucas. They were early settlers in Massachusetts in the late 1600’s. Just like in “The Last of the Mohicans” Indians raided their settlement and stole several of the children to sell to the settlers in Canada as slaves. When my great grand father John T Lucas was 17 he was so passionate about the Union side of the Civil War he slipped south across the border and joined the Union army in Ohio. He was in the military until he had too many bouts of diarrhea and was discharged. He wandered for a few years and then in the late 1860’s was a buffalo hunter in Kansas where he met and married Emma Elizabeth Olds. They married on New Year’s Day in 1871 and then moved to California. They had 8 kids and John Lucas rose to the high standing political office of county water commissioner. The family moved to Washington State and he received a land grant from President Teddy Roosevelt. While in Washington he invented a special plow called the “Lucas” plow to handle the soil in southern Washington State. The family was well loved and my grandfather Robert Levi Lucas was one of those happy farm boys. Descendants of John T still lived in that part of the country and still farm but they use more modern plows that the one John invented.

Mom and I attended a baptism last night of Jennifer Brown. She attended Highlands Ranch High School with Chris Farr. Chris had recently dated her and that is what prompted her study of the gospel and baptism. Chris has moved on in his dating habits. Tiana I know that you are the master of creative missionary techniques, but Chris does OK, which is strange because he is totally inactive and doesn’t live the commandments. He has dated and nearly married three girls now who have all joined the church. I can’t endorse his tactics but he has had success.

The fun part of the baptism was watching the missionaries and picturing you guys in action. Leading the music, giving a talk or prayer, or being a witness the missionaries were all running around and deeply involved in a very spiritual experience. It brought tears to my eyes to know that you are blessing the lives of so many with your efforts.

I finally figured out how to work the scanner so I could include a few pictures that would add to the previous blog. This is a family picture of John Thomas Lucas, wife Emma and 8 kids. Robert Levi Lucas is standing back center. They are in-period costume just like we do every year.

This is a still of Robert Levi Lucas who is my grandfather.

This is Robert Levi Lucas on his wedding day with his new wife Dora Isabelle Stebbins. Dora was raised in Vermont and came out to visit her Uncle Ash in Washington State and met Robert on a farm. They fell in love and she never went back to Vermont.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

New house?, New Prophet and a New Zone Leader

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!!! Which means a whole bunch of new commercials to watch if we were watching the game. I’m wondering if they broadcast the game over in Iraq for you Don. It is rough from here because I think about all the good munchies around during the game and it makes fasting that much more challenging.

Mom and I have been looking for a new house all week and have come close to finding one that might work. Of course I want a great deal and mom wants a view, and that doesn’t work. The house we like has a great view, but they haven’t come down to our price.

I had an interesting experience diving yesterday. When I arrived I saw on the board that I would be diving with Lynx and it sent my mind whirling. I pictured this gorgeous blond in a very curvaceous wet suit with a nice looking buoyancy compensator. Who else would have a name like Lynx? Well Lynx was a hillbilly guy with most of his teeth and a wicked comb over. And yes Lynx is his real name given at birth and he talked with an accent that only Tiana would understand. He is from the mountains of Appalachia.

I dove in the Sea of Cortez and loved it huddled close with these two nurse sharks that thought I had food. There was also this 300 lb grouper was getting a little too friendly. I got to clean around the tunnel and it was so fun to wave to the little kids and see the families exploring together. Dads were carrying their tired kids on their shoulders and the moms were pointing out fish to their tots interested only in the multicolored waste basket. It remind me of going places back east with the summer fun club and the absolute blast we always had as a family (including Gettysburg).

I’m so sorry that I missed President Hinckley’s funeral yesterday. Everyone was talking about it in church. He has really run the church for almost 20 years and has been such an incredible representative of the Lord. His sense of humor and outreach to the world elevated the church and created many friends among non-members. He was able to call us all to repentance and make us laugh along the way. I picture the Savior having a very similar personality with the ability to speak the harsh truth, inspire the spirit, and motivate toward righteousness. I love President Hinckley and know he was a true prophet of God.

I’m scared for this Tues when this country will take a sharp turn to the left with their political choices. My heart hurts that we couldn’t see Mitt as the front runner to defeat the Democratic challenger. Maybe in 2012. I haven’t given up yet but it doesn’t look good. I’m planning on attending the caucus here and voting for Romney and I hope and pray that more Americans will do the same.