Saturday, September 13, 2014

Government spending and frugality

For three long years I have been going up and down this country preaching that government—federal, state and local—costs too much.  I shall not stop that preaching.  As an immediate program of action, we must abolish useless offices.  We must eliminate unnecessary functions of government.
We must consolidate subdivisions of government and, like the private citizen, give up luxuries which we can no longer afford.
I propose to you my friends, and through you, that government of all kinds, big and little, be made solvent and that the example be set by the President of the United States and his Cabinet.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President in 1932.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering How 9/11 Impacted My Life

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
—Genesis 6:11-13

I'm reminded of what happened 13 years ago today.  September 11, 2001 will not easily be forgotten. I found myself telling my ten year old about how drastically my life was changed because of that event. We discussed this before he went off to school. To my chagrin, he wasn't even aware about airplanes crashing into the twin towers. Why wouldn't teachers tell young kids about this? Because it's too horrific and could produce a negative impact upon young minds? Perhaps. 

I told him about how I was working as a cop with the Dallas police department when 9/11 happened. My time in the Armed Forces before becoming a police officer had burnt in me a deep love to hate terrorism.  I was studying terrorism books and counterterrorism measures before IED was a household name. 

Opportunities opened up because of a "new" security threat to our nation.  I felt I had what it took to protect others. Soon, I found myself back in the military -- this time the Army Reserves. Then, when the war in Iraq was about to begin, I was given an opportunity to protect US diplomats in the US-led "Roadmap to Mideast Peace." This was a contract with the US State Department. A small group of us were tasked with escorting ambassadors and US personnel into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I lost three coworkers in Gaza City. 

The Federal Air Marshal Service offered me a position, which I initially turned down. At that time, there was great need for plainclothes, undercover federal law enforcement officers who would fly on commercial airplanes. We were tasked with shooting and killing anyone who tried to hijack any more planes. I told my son, "I lied for a living. When someone asked me what I did for work, I lied."

"Why?" he asked.

"Because what if that person was a terrorist or what if a terrorist sitting near me would hear that."

We wanted the element of surprise.  I still remember being told by several instructors to shoot anyone six times in the back if they ran towards the cockpit, and then to shoot them six more times when they fell to the floor. 

Iraq with the Army Reserves most definitely impacted my life, and the life of my family. All wars are controversial. Violence is and should be repulsive to civil and moral people. Despite the political beliefs or support of intelligence records, the bottom line is US soldiers, airman and Marines were tasked to fight. This has affected warriors and their family members in incredible ways.  

I remember when my good friend was killed. He and I served together in a tight-knit tactical unit years previously. Now we were both in Iraq together, but in different units. My wife knew Johnny too. 

There is nothing glorious about violence. Violence can be addicting, and it's necessary in order to win lethal confrontations, but violence is horrible. I can't stand violence although I know how to be violent. I've been trained to be. But violence and war is not natural. No one should have to endure it. Violent television, movies and video games are an insult to the spirit of God. 

I pray my children will not have to learn war or be involved with anything violent, but the world is violent. People are violent. There are evil people who do horrific, evil deeds. They need to be stopped. Warriors are needed to stop them. Thankfully, everyone doesn't have to be a warrior. Would that I could "retire" from the work of death and destruction and enjoy the rest of my years in peace. But, it is not so. I feel I still need to help protect those who do not have the capacity to protect themselves. Someone needs to be a protector, so while I know how, I will. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Work of Death, my newest book

My latest book, the first in "The Work of Death" series, is now available on Amazon ebooks. Check it out here:

Virtue is So Beautiful

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
  --Proverbs 31:10

Monday, July 21, 2014

My newest book, Together Forever

My latest book, Together Forever: Important Life Lessons for Families and Future Generations, is available here on Amazon.

Together Forever is about families, laughter, and pivotal life lessons. Originally written as bedtime stories to tell the author’s little girls, Together Forever morphed into a fun collection of interesting life experiences. Some of the stories are silly and fun, while others are more thought-provoking. Overall, these important life lessons are cleverly entertaining and capture the attention of the earnest in heart. Readers will come away with a renewed interest in discovering the blessings of family history and the rewards of life that does not end at death.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Neal A. Maxwell on Suffering

"God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I'm not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like." 
(Neal A. Maxwell, “But for a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, Sept 1, 1974.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Never give up!

Many people misquote Winston Churchill.  They think he said something brief like, "never give in!" Well, he did ... sort of. Sir Winston Churchill actually said something much more motivating than that.

The year was 1941.  Churchill was giving a speech on October 29th at Harrow School. The incorrect versions of his never give in-speech suggested he was at Oxford or Cambridge. Nope.  In fact, Churchill made annual visits at the school until 1961.

Here are the amazing words of Winston Churchill.

"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Now while the picture accompanied might seem a little, well, flippant, yet it has powerful meaning nonetheless.

Even when you think you're defeated, remember ... never give in!  Never give up!

Potty Talk, my latest article posted on Iron Mike Magazine online

I write on occasion for, an online magazine. Here's my latest: Potty Talk.

Now, by the title, you'd think the piece would be about vulgarity and foul language. Nope, not really. It's more of a story and infusion of enthusiasm, positive thinking and hope!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Race -- "Get up and win the race!"

On occasion I awake with these words coursing through my mind: "Get up and win the race!" It comes from this great poem I read by D.H. Groberg about 25 years ago.

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they shout and plead
there’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.
 And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
 my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene,
for just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
and each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hopes of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
was running near the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”

But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands, flew out to brace,
and mid the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.

So, down he fell and with him hope, he couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs, he slipped and fell again.

He wished that he had quit before with one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face,
that steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”

So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last,
if I’m going to gain those yards, he thought, I’ve got to run real fast.
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
but trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.

Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye,
there’s no sense running anymore—three strikes I’m out—why try'
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away,
so far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win that race.”

With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “you haven’t lost at all,
for winning is not more than this; to rise each time you fall.”
So, up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit,
he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner as he crossed, first place;
head high and proud and happy—no falling, no disgrace.
but, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, last place,
the crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.

And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproved,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they still shout in my face,
but another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Obey the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy -- an Olympic miracle

Obedience to the Sabbath Day is one of the Ten Commandments. 

The following is from a talk given by Elaine S. Dalton, given to BYU students in January 2013.

The movie Chariots of Fire is the moving story of Eric Liddell, the gold medal winner in the 400-meter track event in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Liddell was not only a gifted athlete who held to his convictions, but he lived out his faith to the very end as a Christian missionary in China. He was such an incredible athlete that his goal was to get to the 1924 Olympics in France and run in his best race—the 100-meter race. He trained hard to get in top shape, and his country of Scotland was sure that he would win a gold medal for them. There was just one problem. The heat to decide who would make the Olympics was on a Sunday, and Liddell would not run on Sunday. Due to this conflict he chose not to run in the 100-meter race. Instead he qualified for the 200- and 400-meter races because those heats were not held on Sunday, but no one expected him to come close to winning. Just prior to the start of the 400-meter race, he was given a piece of paper on which was written words from 1 Samuel 2:30: “Them that honour me, I will honour.” Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand and held onto this promise tightly. And, to everyone’s surprise, he won the gold medal and broke a world record. Listen to what his character in the film Chariots of Fire said after winning a previous race:

You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape—especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe your dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Never Quit -- my latest article on Iron Mike Magazine online

Here's a link to my latest article: 

Here's the poem I included that's worth reading:
“Don’t Quit”
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will.
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with the twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out:
Don’t give up through the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse,
that you must not quit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hold On, the Light Will Come

I had a vivid dream this morning that I remembered well when I awoke. I also believe dreams can have significance. 

In my dream I saw my friend, Aurelio DeLaRosa. Aurelio was blown up by a grenade in Panama. After getting out of the US Army, he got into law enforcement and has helped countless individuals. As a veteran of war, he understands more than most the difficulties veterans can have. In my dream, he gave me a great, big, comforting hug. 

I miss seeing my friend.

I asked Aurelio to share his story in my anthology (a collection of many writings from multiple veterans), Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights & Inspiration (available on Amazon). You've got to read Aurelio's words. What an amazing story! 

In addition to seeing my friend in my dream, I also played a song on the piano. I heard the words of Michael McLean's "Hold on, the light will come" over and over and over again. In my dream, I also played the music on the piano. I don't play the piano. In fact, I can hardly spell it.  I haven't played for many years, but when I was 17 years old, I could play that song. It's interesting how that song made it's way back into my dreams this many years later. 

As I think about the worries and the struggles and the trials each of us are called upon to endure, I can't help but to consider the twin blessings of hope and endurance. Those who give up hope relinquish something marvelous that can help them carry on. Sometimes we just need to keep going and have hope that "joy cometh in the morning." 

Here are some lyrics to “Hold On”:

...If your world is filled with darkness, doubt and fear, 
Just hold on, hold on, the light will come...

If you feel trapped inside a never-ending night
If you’ve forgotten how it feels to feel the light
If you’re half crazy thinking you’re the only one. 

I recently read a great article titled “Trials, Tribulations, and Trust in the Lord” by Elder Bradley D. Foster. I highly recommend it. 
He quoted a leader of another Christian faith, Dr. Ray Pritchard, who wrote, “Sometimes we will face things for which there is no earthly explanation. In those moments we need to erect a sign that reads, ‘Quiet: God at Work.’ Meanwhile, hold on, child of God. Keep believing. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Let God do His work in you. The greatest tragedy is to miss what God wants to teach us through our troubles.” (in his book, Why Did This Happen to Me?)
I don’t know why I had the dream I did. Perhaps I needed to learn that lesson -- the lesson of holding on. Perhaps my daughter needed to hear that message. (I shared my dream with her this evening.) Or still, perhaps someone reading this needed to hear it. 

Life can be trying at times ... but hold on, the light will come. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

When the going gets tough ... keep going!

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."

—Roger Bannister, the first man to break the 4-minute mile

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lara Updike: In debate about same sex marriage, we need a 'conscientious objector' status

Many Americans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and elsewhere are waiting to learn whether federal courts will require same-sex marriage to become law in their state. For me, as a resident of Washington State, gay marriage is a done deal. I am waiting to learn whether people who adhere to a traditional morality will be able to live according to their conscience.
Last month there was a great uproar in Arizona over modifications to a law that would have provided a legal defense for people who refuse to provide services on religious grounds. The bill was killed in a storm of controversy, with protesters, pundits and politicians talking about Jim Crow laws. The controversy didn’t draw much attention to why the bill was proposed. It had nothing to do with separate lunch counters. Rather, it was an attempt to create a conscientious objector status for people who don’t want to participate in or lend their creative powers to same-sex celebrations.
Many Americans have been sued for refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies. A couple who run a bed and breakfast in Vermont; they paid $35,000 in fees and promised to never again host a wedding or wedding reception of any kind. A baker in Oregon had to close his business. A photographer lost at the New Mexico Supreme Court. A florist in Washington State is being sued by her Attorney General. Also in Washington State, a judge who asked his colleagues to whom he might refer gay couples should they ask him to officiate at their wedding was officially sanctioned by the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct and agreed to never perform any marriages.
There are other similar cases. The most troubling of all began in January. A man filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination because a Catholic School withdrew its job offer upon learning he was married to a man. Though the employer is a religious organization, he has been arguing that the position in food service has nothing to do with religion.
These conflicts boil down to the fact that marriage is not a private activity; it is a social institution. It's a title granted by the community that places obligations upon all community members. Friends and relatives are expected to attend the wedding and offer gifts. Family members are expected to accept the new spouse as one of their own. Acquaintances and colleagues are expected to invite the spouse to social events. Single people are expected to leave the spouses alone. Employers are expected to provide the spouse with insurance. Courts are expected to ensure certain spousal privileges and enforce certain spousal obligations.
In short, everybody is expected to recognize and show deference for the marriage, the idea being that it’s a building block of society and thus deserves our support. In the eyes of social conservatives, though, same-sex marriage is not a building block of society. It’s an affront to our consciences. We believe homosexuality defies the purpose of our creation and offends our Creator. Yet the obligations that homosexual marriages place upon community members are also placed on us.
How are people of traditional faiths supposed to act in this environment? Should we abandon a core tenet of our religion? Should we shut up and pretend we agree? Should we employ our creative skills toward something we find fundamentally immoral? Or should we retreat to a different neighborhood? A different state? A different livelihood? It makes sense to permit conscientious objector status to activities that offend our moral values.
I hear people express hope that the fuss will soon be over, that soon all Americans will accept same-sex marriage. This thinking is naïve. In the coming decades a significant portion of religious Americans will accept homosexual marriage. But the most faithful will not. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and others are governed by scriptures. That is why, unless they are prepared to burn or rewrite these books, progressives need to be satisfied with only a partial victory.

People of traditional faiths don’t think chastity is an incidental or private virtue. While homosexual people are afraid of being treated as blacks were during the Jim Crow era, people of faith are also afraid of being treated like second-class citizens. Our religious heritage is out of step with the new majority. We may be pushed out of certain industries, ostracized from certain circles, and confined to a legal ghetto. This is why individuals must have a right to deny offering services. It is the only way for our legal system to allow both gays and people of faith to live outside the closet.

Lara Cardon Updike is a writer for the Family Policy Institute of Washington State. She lives near Seattle with her husband and four children.