Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chariot Of Fire

Once upon a time....There was a man named Eric Liddell.  Eric was born in China in 1902.  His family returned to their native home in Scotland in 1907.  Eric grew up in a religious home and excelled as an athlete.  He was a runner and played rugby.  He soon found with school that he didn't have enough time to devote to both sports activities so he chose to focus on running.  Eric soon gained national attention for his skill in the 100 and 200 metre runs and entered the 1924 Olympic games.  Because of his devote Christian beliefs, Eric dropped out of the 100 metre run, his strongest event, because the final was scheduled to be run on a Sunday.  He instead entered the 200 and 400 metre runs.  He took 3rd in the 200 metre and in the 400 metre, starting in the outside lane, Eric sprinted out of the blocks and set such an astonishing pace that two racers stumbled trying to catch him. He won the race with record time of 47.6 sec.  His athletic story is portrayed in the film, Chariots of Fire.  At the end of the film there is a short line that says he returned to China and died.  But his story does not stop after the 1924 Olympic games- In fact that is where his real story only begins. 
  Following the Olympic games in Paris Eric went back to China to do missionary work with his father.  There he was married and had 3 daughters, the last of which he never knew because events leading up to WWII caused his wife to take their children out of the country.  Eric, who chose to stay, was put into a Japanese internment camp.  Life in the camp was hard but Eric, as he had done his whole life, continued to live by the principles he believed.  He knew and trusted God.  He was assigned to teach science and oversee sporting and recreational activities for the children in the camp.  "He helped carry the coal for those who were older or disabled to ensure their stoves would continue to burn.  He did not let the fact he was hungry, imprisoned, or away from his family stop him."  He was always serving others.  Eric died in the camp due to an inoperable brain tumor.  "At his funeral, the Reverend Arnold Bryson, a close friend of Eric, said, 'What was the secret of his consecrated life and far-reaching influence?'  Absolute surrender to God's will."  Eric's last words were said to have been, "Complete Surrender"- a motto he used often in his sermons. 
If you ask this man if he was happy-through all the trials he faced, I think he would say yes.  This man put his faith in God and chose to serve those around him even when he himself was suffering. His attitude was one to emulate.  Even as he suffered severe headaches from his tumor he carried burdens and taught children- he brightened the lives of those suffering around him.  Even in the midst of his own pain and sorrow.  Not only was he a man who had gained the prise of the world through his athletic abilities, but he was also a man who let that go and gained the praise of children and the elderly.  He was a man who had the respect of his wife and children.  He was a man who will be, and should be, remembered by generations. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Courage Under Fire

Once upon a time there was a young man by the name of John. To many around, him John was just an average boy of 17. But to those who knew John well, he was a pretty remarkable kid. John had a rough beginning to life. He was born early and weighed only 1 lb 13 ozs. That early beginning set him on a path of lifetime health problems- one being severe scoliosis. Because of his back problem, John has worn a brace most his life and undergone back surgery to correct his curvature. He pulled through it with very little complaint considering his age and the intensity of that type of surgery. John, like any teenage boy, doesn't always think things through but otherwise has given his parents very little trouble. He gets descent grades, helps his four younger siblings, and has almost completed his Eagle Scout.

Besides all this, and probably the most important, John has a strong faith in Jesus Christ. He understands his religion and has chosen to live the standards that have been given to him by the church and his family. John is growing up and starting to understand the bigger picture of this life. Unfortunately, not all of his peers have attained his level of understanding. Having faith does not take away your problems.

One day while talking to one of his female friends, he casually asked her if she'd been on a date yet. He was simply making conversation and was not suggesting she go with him, but she responded in a way that would shatter any teenage boy no matter what his intentions. She said, "No, But I'd never you out with you!!" Any boy, or grown man for that matter, couldn't help but feel the sting from a remark like that.

On another occasion, John and his cousin had left school to eat lunch. (It is an open campus) And on the way, John felt his cousin, Mark was playing inappropriate music. John said, "Mark why are you listening to this bad music in your car?" Mark kicked John out of the car and made him walk back to school by himself.

Time after time John has been mocked and belittled by his peers. In public as well as in private. Mostly because he lives his religion. He is different physically and spiritually from his peers and their lack of understanding leads them to put John down in order to lift themselves a little higher. The catch is, they aren't any higher than they were before. But John is. They can mock him time and again..but his continued faith will pull him higher and help him go further on his life's journey.

High school ends. But small minds and cruel personalities don't just disappear at graduation. Those people will always be mean and small minded. But John will continue on to greater things. Because John knows who he is and what is important. He can stand tall when others would knock him down. He stands for a purpose and will be made strong through his trials. He will find his princess and she will love him for the man he has become. While the mean girls from high school will be stuck kissing toads in hopes of turning one into a prince. Things are hard now, but John is being shaped and molded for greater things. He will make his happily ever after- because people like John have the strength to shape their future and not just fit in to the pre-determined social mold. John is the Hero of his own story, and it's just beginning. I can't wait to see how this one ends...

*Names and Locations have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Only Skin Deep

Once upon a time....there was a young family living in Arizona. They are the Nielsons. In 2008 the young couple left their four children with family and, with a friend, took a small plane on a short flight. On the return trip, after refueling, the plane crashed. The friend did not survive and the Nielson's were badly burned. Stephanie was in a comma for three months and went through multiple major surgeries to repair her burned skin. You can View her video HERE

Stephanie has come a long way, she has shared her story with the world in hopes of changing a very narrow perspective on beauty. She says in her video, "I am Stephanie Nielson and I am not my body" We are all more than our outward appearance. Through her strength, courage, and perseverance she has changed lives of women all over the world. As she goes about her daily life she faces curious looks of strangers. She must reconcile the past with the present and prepare herself and her family for the future. Life has not been easy for her since her accident- but she is finding joy in the life she has been given. She is grateful to be alive, raising her four children and preparing to have her fifth. She knows, and is teaching her children, that beauty is more than what you look like- But more importantly it is your attitude and how you respond to challenges in your path. Life is what you make of it! Happily ever after comes to those who don't give up- those who keep pushing through their trials. Stephanie did not give up.

You can follow her blog at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Power of One

Once upon a time there was a young man by the name of Helmuth Hubener. He was born and raised in Hamburg Germany by his mother and step father. He was a happy young man. He came from an apolitical family, was a devoted boy scout and was, as was 2 previous generations, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, in 1935 the Nazi party banned scouting in Germany and required all youth to join Hitler Youth. Not so slowly Helmuth became dissatisfied with the direction things were moving. His new church leader, a convert of only 2 years, instituted a new policy banning Jews from attending his church services. Helmuth strongly disagreed with this new policy but continued to attend his meetings. (there were 2000 members of the church in Hamburg and only 7 were pro-Nazi, but 5 of those happened to be in his congregation) After Helmuth completed Middle school in 1941 he began an apprenticeship at the Hamburg Social authority. During this time in his life, Helmuth began to make friends. Friends with varying backgrounds, and they began to listen to enemy broadcasts-which at the time was a form of treason. that summer he found a short-wave radio in his own hallway closet and began to listen to the BBC on his own. From these broadcasts, Helmuth began to write anti-war leaflets and anti-fascist texts which he printed many copies of. These pamphlets were designed to show how skewed the local war reports were and to point out Hitler and other Nazi leaders criminal behavior.

In the fall of 1941, Hubener managed to involve two other friends. Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and Ruddi Wobee, who were both members of his faith. Together they distributed about 60 different pamphlets with typewritten information from the British broadcasts. They would pin them to bulletin boards and shove them in mailboxes and coat pockets. Anywhere they could put them without drawing too much attention.

In February of 1942, Helmuth decided to have his pamphlet translated into french and distributed to POW's but he was found out and denounced by a co-worker who had noticed his actions. He was arrested by the Gestapo and even though he was only 17 he was tried as an adult. He confessed fully to all charges and took the blame for his actions. Thus protecting his friends who had also been arrested. His friends were sentenced to 5-10 years imprisonment. Helmuth however, was sentenced to death by beheading and stripped of all civil rights. This allowed him to be mistreated while imprisoned allowing him to be beaten and deprived of any kind of bedding or blankets. He was not told of his sentence until the day it was to be carried out. He was executed on October 27, 1942

The day of his execution, Hübener wrote to a fellow branch member, "I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter... I look forward to seeing you in a better world!"— from a letter written by Hübener, the only one believed to still exist

How is this a happily ever after? Because he was right. God will be a just judge in this matter. Yes his life was ended early but what a life?! He didn't single handedly end the war but he did what he could to better educate the people around him. He was a hero. Using his knowledge to prevent his friend and family from being led astray by false reports. Not many 17 year old's today would even care let alone sacrifice their life. I look forward to meeting him in that better world!

(this is the condensed version. For full story please watch the documentary "Truth and Conviction")

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunshine after the Rain

Once upon a time there was a young woman named Norma Hansen. She was born in Provo Utah. She was raised during the depression with her family of five in a two room home. Her father was away from home most of the time, because unlike many families he had a job. A job that paid less than welfare but he believed in supporting his family himself. In spite of limited funds Norma grew up happy. She had many friends and even more boyfriends. However, when she was a teenager she lost both her grandparents and in October of 1941 her mother's heart began to fail. She was hospitalized for a month. Soon after, Norma was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and had to have surgery to remove her appendix and part of her intestine. Soon after she was released from the hospital, Norma and her boyfriend Bill heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Bill would have to leave for the war.

In June of 1942 Norma's mother passed away from heart failure. Norma was just 18. She and Bill had decided to get married but her father said it was too soon after her mothers death and would not be socially acceptable. So Norma and Bill eloped in July of 1942. Her father was not present for the wedding. A few days later the couple would report for duty in New Mexico. The living conditions were substandard for a family but the couple was young and in love. Norma became pregnant with her first child. while she was 5 months pregnant Bill was in a train accident- he lived but he was put on leave. Once the leave was up he was assigned to a base in Virginia and Norma went home to Utah to deliver her baby. The baby was breech and because of crude delivery methods, Norma was unable to move the lower half of her body for two weeks. Bill was still away so Norma took care of their son alone for the first year. Bill came home and a few years later she had another baby. The baby was taken out of the room after birth and died about 30 min later. Norma wasn't told until the next morning. Over the next few years she had a few miscarriages and two more full term pregnancies- both babies died from spinabifida.

Norma, after having six children and only having 3 survive, once said, "my time for child bearing and burying was over"

She lost her father and spent many years struggling with her crohn's disease. She also suffered from kidney stones and spent many hours on dialysis. There were times in her marriage to Bill that they struggled- he smoked for many years and their goals and standards were not in sync. They eventually worked through those problems and In her old age her husband Bill passed away from heart failure.

Norma did not have a fairytale life. She had probably more than her fair share of trials. She is the heroine of her story. Through it all she never thought of herself. She was always helping others. She was a nurse by profession and a mother to all. It was said of her, "you shall be blessed with a disposition of sunshine and happiness that shall make people feel that they are indeed blessed to have your friendship" And people did indeed feel that way about her. No one wants to read about a heroine who wallows in her sorrow. We want to read about a heroine who keeps fighting for her happiness. Norma was a fighter. She was a woman of faith- she never let her trouble get her down, at least not for long. She wrote in a book of hers, "When facing your Goliaths, know that help is only a stones throw away"

Norma faced her Goliaths, and she had many, but she did not complain. When someone was facing a problem she would say, "can you change it?" "If you can do something about it then do it. If you can't, then accept it and move on" She was an example to many. she faced her challenges and she still came out smiling. She left a legacy of people who lover her. who have learned and are still learning from her example. She was sealed to her husband for time and all eternity. I know she is with him again. I also know that she is with those 3 children that she lost so long ago. She is living her happily ever after...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Inspiration

I love fairy tales. They are full of adventure and romance- and escape from the real world. But are they? Who's to say that those tales are so very different from what each of us lives. I have come to realize that the only difference between our stories and theirs is length. You can finish a fairy tale in a couple of minutes or, if its really detailed, a couple of hours. But our stories, well, they span a lifetime. We begin our stories at birth. We each have been given this "life as a precious gift of 'once upon a time,' complete with our own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love."

"once upon a time promises something: a story of adventure and romance, a story of princesses and princes. It may include tales of courage, hope, and everlasting love. In many of these stories, nice overcomes mean and good overcomes evil. But perhaps most of all, I love it when we turn to the last page and our eyes reach the final lines and we see the enchanting words 'And they lived happily ever after.' Isn't that what we all desire: to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories: to triumph over adversity; to experience life in all its beauty; and, in the end, to live happily ever after?"

Well...isn't it? I know I've asked myself many times in my life, "do I end up happy?" "is there really a happily ever after?" For some you have probably already answered no. Life is hard. Life is full of sadness and cannot live happily ever after.

But again, I submit that we can. Think about your favorite fairy tale. "In that story the main character may be a princess or a peasant; she may be a mermaid or a milkmaid, a ruler or a servant. You will find one thing all have in common: they must overcome adversity" Is that not what each of us do on a daily basis? We face hard things and we overcome challenges in our path. sure, good doesn't immediately overcome bad, nice doesn't always conquer mean but it will in the end. Again, its an issue of time...our stories take longer to wrap up. But we become strong from the obstacles we overcome and we grow from the challenges we face. For each hero and heroine, "sandwiched between their 'once upon a time' and 'happily ever after' they all had to experience great adversity."

I think sometimes we let our fairy tales become tragedies because we fail to see the adventure in our own story. We are so busy wishing for someone Else's 'happily ever after' that we fail to enjoy the path leading us to our own 'happily ever after'. "how we react to adversity and temptation is a critical factor in whether or not you arrive at your own happily ever after." I hope to be able to share with you real stories or real people who began their 'once upon a time' not so long ago...some of which are still on their road to 'happily ever after' in hopes that each one of us will recognize our own real life fairy tales. Yes life is hard sometimes, but that's what makes a story interesting. "It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life's story will develop" Our actions and reactions will answer the question.."do I end up happy?" You alone can determine how your story will end...

YOUR 'Once upon a time' is NOW....

(All quotes taken from "your happily ever after" By Dieter F. Uchtodorf published by Deseret Book 2011)