How to Pray Sincerely when You REALLY Don’t Feel Like It

Image by More Good Foundation on flickr

The scriptures talk a lot about keeping prayer sincere – about praying with all your heart, with real intent, and that we should pray fervently every day. We know that an insincere prayer is not as meaningful or as beneficial as the heartfelt, faith-filled prayer.

So what do you do when it’s time for evening prayers, and you’re just not feeling into it. Of course it might help to just start praying, and see if you start feeling better about it, but if you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to be “fervent” when you’re exhausted or in a bad mood. What do you do then? How can you pray sincerely, or with real intent, if you’re just not feeling it?

Our Heavenly Father is a person. He’s human – albeit a perfect, all-powerful, omniscient human, but he’s a human being. He knows that we will not constantly have a burning desire to be constantly serving and demonstrating love. But He does want us to talk with Him, openly and honestly. Besides, the commandment is not, “Feel really spiritual inside so you can pray with real intent of heart.” The commandment is, “Pray with real intent of heart.”

If you can’t pray with all your heart because your heart doesn’t feel like praying, tell your Heavenly Father something like, “Father, I know I need to pray with all of my heart, and I know I need greater motivation than I do so I can do what’s required of me, but I’m not feeling it right now. Please bless me with that motivation. Please bless me with righteous desires. I don’t feel it, Father, please, help me to feel gratitude, love, and whatever feelings are necessary for my prayers to be truly sincere. Help me know what I need to do to have the motivation and love to fulfill my assignments in a way that is beyond just going through the motions. And if not, please bless me with the character to do what I’m supposed to anyway.”

Dating Goals

As some of you may already know, I’m getting a dating advice book ready for publication. My wife and I have a dating advice blog as well, which we’ve neglected a bit lately, but since I post fairly regularly on this blog, I thought I’d post the entries for that blog in both places. So here’s the entry for today!

Photo by Shelly Hathaway at shellyhathaway.com

Photo by Shelly Hathaway at shellyhathaway.com

One of the important lessons I had to learn quickly in dating is to not let fear of the future rule the present. I suppose I wasn’t unique in wanting to get just the right girl on the first try. As a teenager, I used to think to myself: wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I ever have 2 dates with turns out to be my wife? Well, that goal was spoiled in high school when a girl I asked out asked me to a school dance, and we never went out again.

So modified my goal: Wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I went out with twicewhere I did the asking both times, was the girl I ended up marrying? Well, shortly after my mission I went on a blind date with a girl, and it went well. I thought I might kind of like her, so I asked her out again. That didn’t last, though we did go on a total of three dates.

So I modified my goal again: Maybe the first girl I go on more than 3 dates with will be my wife someday. Well, a year or two after my mission, I met a girl who I liked, who liked me, and we hit it off okay at first – we even decided after “the talk” (we’ll discuss what ‘the talk’ is later), that we would consider each other boyfriend and girlfriend. A couple weeks later, we broke it off.

So much for my goals. I hadn’t yet held hands, kissed a girl, or fallen in love, so I thought about forming new goals around those things. But after that last failure, those kinds of goals suddenly seemed silly. The point was not to succeed without failure, the point was to succeed. I was looking for an eternal companion, and if that meant first holding hands with or falling in love with a number of girls I wouldn’t end up marrying, so be it. The Lord never said I had to get it right on my first try.

In fact, I think there is benefit in dating a good number of girls, and if in that process you find one that you think just might have a slight chance of being the one for you, don’t be afraid to encourage things to progress that way. That’s how relationships are formed, and once you find someone that meets your basic requirements, it will likely take risk and commitment to learn about the deeper aspects of the person’s life. You aren’t likely to find out a person’s dirt or gems on the basis of simple friendship. And once you do get close enough, and make simple commitments to each other, you will find out more about your date than you could in casual dating.

You need to learn as much as you appropriately can about a person before deciding to marry them. You won’t learn everything before marriage, but the more you learn, the more equipped you are to make that decision.

One day I attended a fireside talk by John Bytheway. His topic was “What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Single.” The whole talk was basically about single life and the dating game. One of the things he mentioned was that in his search for a wife, there came a time that he decided he would go on a date at least once a week.

I thought a lot about that resolution. By this time in my life, I had slowed my dating progress and was going out about once a month or so on average, and didn’t feel like I was getting much accomplished in the dating scheme. So I made a similar resolution (though not as intense): I would ask a girl on a date at least every other week. That was my rule.

For me, this was a very effective plan. For one thing, it got me going on dates often, and going on dates provided the social and emotional development I needed to be able to handle the whole dating experience. Of course, some of the early attempts at this program were rather humiliating, but with practice, asking girls on dates became far less traumatic.

Second, following this plan allowed me to focus on what I could control. My job was to ask a girl on a date. If she said “no,” then I was off the hook for a couple weeks. It never does any good for anyone to focus on what they can’t control. I could not control her response. I could only improve myself and try again with a different girl later. I’d try to give myself a better hairstyle or wear a different deodorant. I’d try working out a bit more and cutting back on my bad habits.

This pattern of every other week dating (and it wasn’t too long before I was going on dates at least every other week,) turned out to be one of the most fun periods of my life. I learned a lot, spent a lot, and met a lot of great people. Though it could be frustrating when these efforts didn’t seem to lead to any serious relationships, I was learning how to interact with girls, and learning what to look for – and look out for.

Date Ideas for Breaking the Ice

Breaking-the-ice

Jenni and I are writing a book together about dating, and one of the chapters discusses various types of dating ideas.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those categories of date ideas on this blog, such as creative date ideas, funny date ideas, educational date ideas, etc.  This is the section (so far) about date ideas to help break the ice.  Sometimes the hardest part of going out with someone is just penetrating the shell of awkwardness that is inherent in first (and sometimes second) dates. Here are some ideas that might help both of you feel more relaxed and have a great time.

  1. Do a group date. They’re not just for teenagers, and it’s easier to keep conversation alive in a group. If you really want to help your date feel comfortable, plan a double date and have a friend of yours ask out your date’s friend, and then go do something as a group. With their friend there, your date will be more likely to act natural and have fun. If you don’t want to line people up, just plan a group date of three or four couples. If you get enough good people together for a fun activity, everyone is likely to have a great time.

  2. Go to a mall, museum, zoo, or gallery. If you walk around a mall or gallery together, there is a lot to see, and a lot to spark conversation. Zoos and Museums have a lot to see, hear, and explore. Anywhere where there are many kinds of displays of different kinds will provide dozens of avenues for conversation. If conversation starts, don’t rush through it to get to the next display, but use the opportunity to learn about your date and to help them get comfortable talking with you. The conversations that you have will do more for nurturing a potential relationship than anything else.

  3. Do something athletic such as a sport together. Even something as simple as Frisbee can be a lot of fun on a date. If you are both decent at a certain sport, play it together. Sometimes doing something physically active can help both of you get your mind off the fact that you are on a date. When your body or mind is active and focused, your emotions are generally positive, and your experience together will likely be uplifting and fun.

  4. Anything you can do that will get both of you laughing; a funny movie, a clean comedy show – whatever it may be.  Humor breaks ice faster than almost anything.

Do you know of other date ideas that might help a dating couple get past that initial awkwardness?

A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Here’s a crazy idea – though it’s not exactly a whim, since I’ve had the idea floating around in my head for about eight years now. I’ve always been fascinated with the capacity music has to communicate feelings and convey messages in a way that is often more powerful and effective than written or verbal communication. What if we were to come up with a language that was spoken through music? A system that actually uses notes to communicate detailed information. It would have to be detailed enough that someone could translate the Bible into the language, and yet simple enough that it wouldn’t take years of training to get it. Not a code, exactly, but something between a code and a language.

In a sense, what I’d like to see is someone pipe a tune, and someone else understand the detailed message.

Some ideas have been explored along these lines. Probably the biggest is Solresol, invented by François Sudre in the 1800s, which is simply a language that uses words spelled with different combinations of notes in the basic piano scale. It has its own dictionary and grammar, too.

But I would like to see a language that is more than a code that uses notes for letters. Ultimately, the ending product has to be both beautiful music and a clear message. It has to be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as it it literary.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and make its written form as beautiful artistically as its sound is musically. So in other words, Continue reading

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 19

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 19

The Sound Method

talltabThis section of the Play by Ear, Write by Heart series may seem like the strangest, and may give you the impression that I have a bit of a mental disorder, but if you will take it seriously, and try it out, I’m sure you will find these tools as useful for you as they have been for me.  These methods are certainly not necessary, but they can be a bit of fun, and might even help you in creating original music.
talltabYour mental ear is quite powerful.  It is also very sensitive, and can be easily manipulated.  If you have ever been in a situation where you have been surrounded by a continuous and solid noise, such as a loud motor or fan, you may have noticed that any sound that you hear in the distance may be distorted and misunderstood.  If someone speaks to you while you are next to a loud motor, for example, you may hear something different than what they actually said.  This can be frustrating in terms of communication, but if you are trying to learn to write music by heart, a loud and constant sound can be a great tool.
talltab I should clarify that I am not speaking of loud music or loud rhythm.  Those will prevent the very thing you are trying to accomplish.  I am speaking of a constant sound, such as the hum of a vacuum cleaner or the crashing of falling water.
As you listen to the sound, listen carefully.  Listen intently and try to hear more in the hum than what is really there.  When you feel as though you might be able to hear echoes of other sounds emanating from the hum, let your mental ear play with it.  Imagine that you can hear music in the hum.  Imagine it with as detailed as you can.
As your mind begins developing a tune, repeat it over and over, until you feel confident that you won’t easily forget it.  Then, go to a piano and try to play it.   This may or may not work, but when it does work, it can be a fun way of inventing a piece of music.
talltab Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged when your attempt at playing your imagined music on the piano doesn’t sound nearly as good as you remember hearing it.
talltab Your mental ear has much more skill than your hands do.  Your mind can play entire orchestras with every little detail.  After all, consider a piece of music that you’ve heard dozens of times.  Can’t you hear the tune in your mind with all the little instrumental details?  That is your mental ear playing back a piece of music.  This same format can be used to write a whole new piece of music that has never been heard before by anyone.
If you can come up with a basic tune this way, allow yourself time to learn to play it.
talltab You’ll also find that a tune is MUCH easier to remember once you’ve played it on the piano (however inadequately), because sometimes when you come back to a piece you can remember the fingering better than the tune.  That’s all right, since as soon as your fingers do their work, your mind will recall the feelings and notes of your original music.

See more entries about learning to play the piano by ear and write original piano music

The Makeshift Degree: Adlibing an Education without Going to School

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Okay, so obviously the most ideal way to get an education in most fields is to go to college, and for many jobs out, it is required.  But let’s face it, there are so many fields out there.  If you’re like me, you have so many interests that it is impossible for you to get a college education in all of your interests.
Also, many people are not in a position to go to college at the moment.
Here are a few ideas for getting an education outside of the school system:

Internet Sources:

The Internet has an endless supply of phenomenal information in thousands of fields.  You’ve just got to know where to look for it.  Here are a few sites I like – (maybe not Ph.D material, but interesting stuff nonetheless):

  1. http://google.com – good ol’ Google search.  You can learn just about anything with that… *
  2. http://www.youtube.com/edu – you know about Youtube.  Well, this is a branch of Youtube that specializes in good educational material.  Not just anyone can get stuff on here, so it’s a big step up from regular Youtube, and it’s a fun source of learning in all kinds of fields.
  3. http://www.ted.com/ – again, not a place to earn a degree, but if you want to get excited about learning, this is a fun place to go.  TED is a collection of fascinating lectures (yes, lectures CAN be fascinating!) that give an interesting perspective on various fields.
  4. http://www.openculture.com/2007/07/freeonlinecourses.html – if you prefer getting your information from reputable colleges, here’s a directory of podcasts that are done by colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc.  Just putter around the site to find the subject you’re looking for.

Books

  1. Check the Thrift Stores: As soon as a book becomes obsolete (by college standards that can mean the book has been published for a year and a half and now the photos in the book need to be reorganized), the thrift stores such as D.I. fill up with college textbooks.  After I paid nearly $100 for an astronomy book in college, I found a stack of twenty of them at D.I. the next semester for two bucks a piece.  Ugh… but that’s good for people who are wanting an education outside of school.
  2. Libraries:  They’re still around, believe it or not.  In this “Google any question” era that we live in, this is easy to forget.  Pick a topic, go to the library, and read all you can on the subject.
  3. School libraries: Most school libraries are open to the public.  You may not be able to check things out without a student card, but you can read what you want while you’re there, and if you take your digital camera, you can get instant copies of pages you want to read more about.

This is NOT a comprehensive list.  Fill us in!  What ways have you found for educating yourself on different topics?

* Clearly there is a lot of junk out there, and one of the great purposes of education is to train you to recognize credibility and bias.  You need to learn to check the sources on information.  Just because it sounds legit, or the information is worded in an educated manner doesn’t mean the content is of any real value.  The best lies are coated in great disguises.  So check your sources!

Read more entries with tips and ideas!

My Musical Journey – What do you think?

Okay, ya’ll, I want your input!

If you REALLY don’t want to vote, just vote the “I don’t think I’ll vote this time!” one. There’s nothing required, and I won’t see who votes for what, so vote away! You can vote for more than one if want, too. Also, if you have ideas about that aren’t one of the options or if you want to expound on your response, either write in the little orange slot or just leave comments!

The Incrediblenet

The Incrediblenet

Isn’t the Internet amazing? From genealogy to gardening, from movies to email – the Internet has so many resources that it has made a great impact on our day to day living. While we must make necessary precautions to avoid the evil influences that can be found on this almost unlimited source of information, the good influences are more prevalent than ever before.

At least once a month, I discover a new website that absolutely impresses me. I’m sure many of you have the same experience. So let’s share what we’re finding. What are some websites or Internet resources that have really impressed you that other readers may not yet know about?

Here are two of mine:

Pandora.com
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to ordinary radio, so long as sites like Pandora exist. Pandora is an online radio station where you create your own stations (as many different stations as you want) from your favorite songs or artists. Once you type in a band or song, it will create a station based on that style, and then find other bands of the same style. As it plays songs, you can thumb up or thumb down the song to tell Pandora if you like it or not.
No matter what kind of music you listen to, it’s there. I have an LDS station, a contemporary rock station, a Celtic station, a piano solo station, an African traditional station, a country station, a soundtrack station, an oldies station, a native American station, an a cappella station, and about half a dozen other stations. I have friends with hip-hop stations, goth stations, and oh, I almost forgot, I even created a funny station. It’s really amazing. I can listen to it all day.

http://pandora.com/

Podcasting
I’ve known about the idea of the podcast for over a year now, but only in the past few months have I discovered that podcasting is its own entire realm of social media. You can find a podcast on any subject, and thanks to feed readers (such as Google Reader – which is built into every Gmail account), you can have a collection of dozens, even hundreds of regularly updated podcasts on your favorite subjects.
So why is this such a cool thing? Consider that you are interested in pottery. A rather obscure interest in terms of the Internet, don’t you think? Well there are a number of pottery podcasts. If you have a computer in your home, you can listen to your favorite pottery podcasts and hear interviews with some of the worlds greatest potters while you are doing the dishes or exercising.
If you have any kind of Internet handheld device, you can listen to your favorite podcasts while you drive, walk, or work. I listen to podcasts often at my job, because I sit at a computer for the majority of the time. My Google reader is automatically collecting podcasts on dozens of topics that I have chosen, such as the music business, gardening, humor, fiction stories, genealogy, writing, news, photography, science, and as of today, dogs. That’s probably only half of the topics I do, and in each topic, I have numerous podcasts.
If you don’t know where to start, either Google search “podcast directories” or simply “pottery podcast” or whatever topic interests you. Google is pretty good at finding stuff like that. While your at it, start your own podcast. How? Google the words “how to make your own podcast.” It’s really easy.

So how about you? Any sites or Internet resources that have really impressed you?