Sunday, December 1, 2013

Third Generation

Thirty years ago while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we taught seven discussions which introduced individuals to our faith. The last included a section about the importance of a good example. The sited scripture, the one used in almost any conversation about example, was Alma, Chapter 39.
Corianton had righteous parents. He was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ from childhood and attended church as a youth.  He knew the Lord. And yet, as a young man, he succumbed to the temptations of the world.
Isabel was a “harlot”, or a prostitute. She was no common whore, for she had a large following and did “steel away the hearts of many”.  Corianton was one of them.
Sex immorality was a grievous enough sin, but in Corianton’s case, it was made worse because he was serving a mission at the time. So tempting was Isabel, he forsook his labors to pursue her. This left his father heartbroken, enough so that he spent an entire chapter reproving his wayward son. Now more than two thousand years later, millions have read of Corianton’s misdeeds. He is the classical bad example, a screw up, every bit deserving his father’s righteous indignation. And yet, was he really any different than his father?
Alma was raised in the church, taught the gospel, but fell away as a young man and became “the very vilest of sinners”. The Book of Mormon reader loves Alma, not because of his sins, but because of individual he became.  His is a touching story, not unlike his father’s, Alma the “elder”.
As a young man, the senior Alma was the understudy of the wicked King Noah, who was no stranger to strong drink and a horde of women. We don’t know details of Alma’s transgressions, but it is no stretch to assume they were serious.  Again, the Book of Mormon reader overlooks his sins, and delights in the righteous man he became. His grandson, Corianton, isn’t given the same courtesy.
Ten chapters after being berated by his father, a repentant Corianton emerges, one dedicated to preaching the gospel and bringing souls to Christ. His transformation is subtle, most often missed. Chapter 49 reads, “… because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton,,..” Corianton obviously returned to the ministry.
Like his father, and his father before him, Corianton was a sinner turned righteous. I’m left to wonder why Mormon chose to spotlight the repentance of the father and son, but the sins of the grandson. May every Book of Mormon reader come to know the complete story of Corianton, that of a sinner made whole through the miracle of Christ.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

All About Charly

It was a beautiful spring morning. The blossoming trees offered hope that a dismal winter was over. New life was evident in budding flowers and grassy fields. It was Easter Sunday and the scene was befitting a celebration of the resurrection, of life eternal which Christ offers all. It was also befitting the celebration of a life yet to come, of a seed which will spring forth in the coming months.

Charly’s birth will be a miracle, as all births are, just as much so as the first resurrection which occurred nearly two thousand years ago. I pray that she will enjoy the best life has to offer, including love, happiness, and health. I pray that she might come to know and love Him, the creator of the world and savior of us all. May she be upheld by His love and His Spirit and know that Easter is more than eggs and candy. May she know the comfort of repentance and the joy of forgiveness. May she understand a cause far greater than self, one worth giving of her time, money and means. As a youngster may she enjoy singing Popcorn Popping.  As a young lady, may the concept of a forever-family have meaning. May she understand and appreciate the sacrifice of ancestors who went before, who were willing to give all.  May she appreciate Grandpa Isaac and others like him, who sacrificed self-interests, who loved their fellowmen more than self, who traveled the world to bless the lives of others. May she understand the Spirit which moved forbearers to tears at the hands of patriarchs. May she be taught and blessed with baptism and membership in His Kingdom. I pray sincerely that she will know the one book and its stories which can draw her closer to Him than any other in the world.

To you Charly, and to all my grandchildren, I pledge my love and devotion. For you I pray; may the very best in life come your way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Farewell to a Friend

Dread welled up in our chests when the veterinarian pulled into the driveway. At my side was my wife and two of our sons. We all had heavy hearts as we stood and watched the doctor get out of the car and join us in the garage. At our feet was our furry friend.

Sixteen years earlier we talked of getting a dog. It was a sunny California afternoon when Donna and the kids arrived home from the animal shelter and herded a bouncing medium-sized mutt into the back yard. I admit to some initial disappointment. This German shepherd/sheltie mix wasn’t the golden retriever I had hoped for. The rest of the family pacified me by saying, “Let’s keep her for a day or two and see how we like her.” Sixteen years later, she stood wobbly at my feet, hardly able to see or hear the veterinarian approach.

Before the good fortune of adoption by our family, she had been abused. It took several years before she trusted me enough to let me rub her behind the ears with my bare foot.  She had a few bad habits when she joined us, so we sent her to obedience school.  We should have saved our money.
She was named after Star War’s Yoda, based on the resemblance of her perky upright ears. But more often than not, she got called something else, including Babe babe, Bushy Butt, Yodster, Muttkin, Pooch, and twenty other monikers.

She came close to leaving us on several occasions, the first when she was over protective of our two-year old son, and took a bite out of a family friend’s leg. The second ocurred when she was hit by a car and severely broke her pelvis. She was pieced back together by Dr. Gary White, who was an exceptional veterinarian and even better friend. The patch job lasted for more than fifteen years. In that span, Yodie moved with us from West Coast to East Coast and back again, with two airplane rides across the continent.

She was a funny mutt.  One memorable Fourth of July  firework celebration sent the crazy pooch eating through the laundry room door.  Easter morning will forever bring memories of her feasting on a dozen eggs hidden in the backyard before the kids got outside to begin their hunt.  Snow will always be a comical reminder of this California-raised dog wincing when flakes fell from the sky and landed on her snout the first time.
When we moved to Portland we thought the end was near, but nearly five years later she was still fighting. In the end, we struggled with the thought of putting her down. Seventeen and a half years is 122 in dog years. Her sight went. Her hearing went. Her legs were going, but her tail still wagged happy. When her tail stopped wagging, we knew it was time. The veterinarian was a compassionate woman and had an excellent bed-side manner, but she couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down our faces as our trusted friend passed to a better place.

Thank you, Lord, for all creatures small and great, especially for a goofy dog who graced our lives.

Thank you, Yodie for your unconditional love. Tomorrow when I arrive home and open the garage door, I’ll miss your happy-tail greeting. So long, old friend. May you rest in peace.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Memories of a Chapel and the People Therein

Mormon Chapel, 1001 Ruth Street, Prescott, Arizona

Today in church, our good bishop called a 14-year old young man to the stand and presented him to the congregation for advancement in the priesthood. That simple act opened up a cache of memories of my own youth, of the chapel that was once so familiar, and associated names and faces. To this day the chapel still stands, a sentinel to my youth and upbringing in a very different time and place. As I listened to heart-felt testimonies during today’s meeting, images and voices whispered from the shadows of my past, including:

• Being introduced to our newly constructed chapel at the age of four (circa 1960) and watching from inside the building as construction workers graded the parking lot before paving.

• My mother’s horror during a rather dry sacrament meeting when she turned to find her five-year old son whittling on a pew, and a tearful forced march to the bishop’s office after the meeting to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness.

• A twilight evening after sacrament meeting when I "cracked my head open" on the patio after a head-on collision with another kid, which resultied in lots of blood and a river of tears, but insignificant damage.

• A unique children’s nursery with a large window adjacent to the choir seats, which allowed mothers to enjoy church meetings while tending to their toddlers, but provided quite a distraction to congregants trying to enjoy the meeting. (The nursery was demolished in a subsequent building remodel.)

• Getting baptized at the age of eight by my older brother in a beautiful font with a large mural of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus behind it.

• Of shooting baskets in the cultural hall on Wednesday nights with a volleyball, the one my mother got me for Christmas because she couldn’t afford a basketball.

• Standing in front of the congregation passing the sacrament, and biting the inside of my cheeks until they nearly bled to keep from laughing at some silly occurance that us deacons found hilarious.

• A ring of grey smoke slowly rising  in front of the chapel while a sacrament speaker rambled and the congregation looked on curiously. This was the result of one of six deacons on the front row inadvertently lighting a match he was fiddling with. (Names omitted to protect the guilty, but you know who you are Don Davis.)

• Having my scout master (Brother Blair) scream in my face and threaten to stuff my puny 12-year old body through a small window in the scout room after one of my youthful indiscretions set him off.

• Brother Ervin Davis throwing a lesson manual across the room when pushed to the limit by a room full of ill-speaking inattentive deacons.

• Smoke filling the edifice on a Sunday morning between meetings, after a young man tossed an old hat onto a high light fixture in the foyer and it began to smolder. (For the guilty party, revisit the burning match incident above)

• Brother Clark, very old and stubborn, determined to fast regardless of his doctor’s orders, resulting in him repeatedly passing out in the middle of Fast and Testimony meetings and having to be stretched out on a pew until he regained consciousness.

• Disc-jockeying Saturday night youth dances with my older brother’s state-of-the-art stereo system, and repeatedly inching the volume higher while Brother Turley insisted it be turned down.

• Sitting in the chapel with my teenage buddies during a Sunday meeting, improvising words to a popular hymn. “And should we die, before our journeys through, what the hell, all is well.”

• Playing dodge ball on mutual nights in the “cultural hall” and vying for position on the stage-side of the gym where the curtains dampened impact and prevented balls from bouncing back to the opposing team.

• The furious shouts of Brother Burris from his doorway across the street and the squeal of burning rubber while I spun doughnuts in the church parking lot in my ’57 T-bird in the late hours of the night.

• Early morning seminary at the church before walking up Ruth Street to start each day of high school.

• And finally, of a farewell talk in sacrament meeting before leaving on a full-time mission, in which the main speaker (me) was timed in a not-so-lengthy address of two minutes, thirty five seconds.

For the city of Prescott, Arizona, and in particular to the friends and members of my Mormon congregation, some who loved me and others that merrily endured, for the rich cultural soil which proved to be so fertile to a young man’s roots, I give sincere thanks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Writing a book is a grind. Maybe JK Rowlings can kick out a fat once every year. I’m not so lucky. I’ve got 253 pages to show for a year’s worth of effort, with about a hundred pages to go.

Writing fiction is hard work. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s all consuming. And now that I’m at mile 22 of this marathon, I wonder why I’m bothering. What’s to be gained? Occasionally I get a warm fuzzy feeling that it will ultimately be a good read. But then reality sets in. I flip-flop and chide myself for such a sophomoric attempt.

Perhaps most frustrating is that I'm writing because I have something to say. But conveying the message is more difficult than I imagined. I’ll keep plugging away. I’m determined to cross the finish line, if for no other reason than to say I did it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monte Carlos Analysis of Random blah, blah, blah

We have a family tradition of watching "Christmas Story" around the holidays. Every year we experience Ralphy's quest for an "official Red Ryder Carbon Action 200 shot range model air rifle".   He puts his heart and soul into a school assignment, "What I Want for Christmas."  When he turns it in, he sees his teacher in vision as she ecstatically clutches it to her breast and dances to the chalk board to write a huge "A", and, "plus, plus, plus, plus.. " Later in the movie when Ralphy  get his assignment back, he gets a demoralizing "C+" accompanied by the words, "you'll shoot you're eye out." 

Today when I presented my paper “Monte Carlos analysis of Random Thickness Errors in Triple Band Pass Coatings”, I didn't get any you'll-shoot-your-eye-out comments, but there wasn't the level of interest that I had hoped for. With close to a hundred in attendance from all over the world, other than a couple of "good paper" comments afterward, no one wanted to discuss it. That's not uncommon for these forums, but I admit to Ralphy-like dillussions beforehand.

On the positive side, I apparently now have an honorary doctorate, or at least the moderator of the session thought so.  He introduced me as "Doctor Fuller." If I would have adhered to the lesson on honesty I heard in church last week, I would have corrected him. Practically everyone else on the program had the title legitimately. On occasion people assume that I do too.

I was privleged to share the same stage as Professor Macleod, who presented one paper immediately before me, and another one after. I’m honored that he remembers my name.  He is the reigning patriarch of optical thin films and dates back to the 1950's when the technology was in its infancy. He's royalty in my industry.  Disciples nearly bow in his presence.  Despite that, he is a very down-to-earth humble man. He must be pushing 80 years old. I normally see him once a year at this conference. One never knows when it will be his last.

Over the past year I've put a ton of time into this paper, much more than I would ever admit to my boss. It was a solid technical effort, certainly better than some others I heard in the same session. But in the end, like previous papers I've written, it will be published in an obscure technical journal which no one will ever read. Such is life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nick D’man Fuller

Nick Fuller
On occasion, one’s grown children do something that make their parents take note and think, “maybe we did something right”. Such was the case last week when we got a call from our son.
Nick had been with his boss at a customer’s facility, an aircraft maintenance company, doing the “computer guru” stuff that he is so good at. The company obviously thought highly of Nick’s work, because when his boss left the room, he was approached. The company had decided to hire their own IT person and quit outsourcing. Nick was offered the job, which included a very lucrative salary and jaw-dropping benefits.
The experience was a far cry from his teenage years when he “thrilled” us on occasion with 10-inch spiked hair, a “fro” hairdo which was reminiscent of a hot air balloon, and his extreme determination to do off-road 4-wheeling in low-clearance 2-wheel drive sedans. It was even further from earlier memories of push karts and go karts, not to mention the trio of events of near electrocution, fingers in the garbage disposal, and an averted fall from a second story window which all occurred in a single day. No, this hardly seemed like the adolescent that I had to chase down years earlier in an open field next to a doctor’s office when a blood sample was pending.
After last week’s phone call, we were proud of our son’s accomplishments and success, and were happy for his new opportunity. We were very surprised a few days later when he texted and announced that he was declining the job offer, turning his back on the fat pay check, and staying with his old company. He chose to be loyal to a friend rather than jump ship. What parent wouldn’t be proud to have their offspring value principle and people over the almighty dollar?
Today, we proudly salute Nick on his 25th birthday, and thank heaven that he is our son.