Friday, April 30, 2010

A Precious Journey

A few hours ago, my little brother Zack took his new bride to the temple and they were sealed for all eternity, to be forever husband and wife.  The sealer had some great things to say about the covenant they were making, and they were very precious as they stood and greeted all those who had come to share this day with them.  It got me thinking about their journey together.

Before I talk about that, I want to share a story that happened two nights ago.  Don't worry, I'll get back to Zack and Delta and it will all make sense if you are willing to wait it out.

Two nights ago, around 1 AM, I was sleeping soundly, my snore was like the gentle purr of a kitten.  (At least that's how I imagine I sound.)  Suddenly there was a tapping on my shoulder which awoke me.  Robyn occasionally taps on my shoulder at night when we've forgotten to pray or something.  I rolled over to see what she needed and said, "what?"  In response to that, she began tapping on my face.  Having someone poking you in the forehead is not generally the most enjoyable thing you could experience.  Add to that the confusion of being awoken in the middle of the night, you can imagine that I was not my normal happy, cheerful self.  I repeated, "What!?!"  The tapping continued with greater vigor.  Finally, in desperation, I yelled, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!!!!?" 

At this point Robyn woke up and discovered she was tapping on my forehead.  Her confusion over the situation was as great as mine.  She looked at her finger to try to figure out what was happening.  I asked, "Why were you poking my forehead?"

She struggled to explain a situation that she wasn't entirely clear on herself.  Finally she said, "I don't know the words."  I think she was trying to explain the dream she was having, but was struggling to put it to words.  At any rate, I just wanted to make sure she was okay, and didn't need me, and that I could go back to sleep.  So I just asked, "Can I go back to sleep now?"  She said yes and rolled over.

Throughout the time we've been married, we've had some fun adventures.  Many of them are like the one above, where we wake up the next morning and laugh about it.  Sometimes Robyn asks me, "Did that really happen last night?"  Usually the answer is yes, despite how weird the event usually was. 

Seeing Zack and Delta get married today caused me to reflect on the experiences we've had together.  We've only been married a little over a year and a half and yet we've already had so many adventures.  It made me excited to think of the adventures they're going to have. 

They may have trouble learning how to share a bed.  They may find that she talks in her sleep or that he snores.  She may discover that he's a big nerd.  She may have to be able to be touching him all night one night because they came too near a haunted house.  (Which violates the rules of sleeping, but it doesn't matter because I lover her.)  Maybe they'll have amusing experiences teaching sunbeams. Hopefully they'll have fun doing things like jumping in leaves or taking trips as grand as Hawaii or as simple as St. George.

Oh, wait, those are all adventures that we have had in the short time we've been married. They will have their own adventures. They will have experiences that will make them laugh. They will have experiences that will make them cry. Some things they will cry about, but will find hilarious a year later. They will learn to love in ways they didn't know existed. They will learn to know each other on deeper levels than they have ever before understood.

I remember when I was single or when we were dating. Marriage was the ultimate goal, and in a sense it almost seemed that marriage was the final destination. When the reality is that marriage is the genesis of a whole new life. A world of grand adventures. A journey together, where you get to be precious married people, who others roll their eyes at because you're so gooey and in love. I hope their journey is as amazing as mine has been thus far. I hope they have all the joys and excitement that they have been looking forward to. I hope they get to laugh at themselves, and the funny things they do.  I hope it's everything they've dreamed it would be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Creative Minds

Recently Robyn was called to be the Young Women's camp director.  This means that until June she goes into class with the Young Women on Sundays so that she can get to know them better as she puts together everything for camp.  What this means for me is that I'm in charge of the sunbeams all by myself.  I'm pretty sure this means the Lord wants me to learn one of two things:

1.  Children are much too scary.  I am clearly not qualified to have any of my own. 
2.  Children are a piece of cake.  If I can handle 6 sunbeams then having our own kids should be a breeze.  Especially since we get to have them one at a time, and I don't have to do it by myself.

I'm not sure which way it's gonna go.  For the most part it hasn't been too difficult, but I still reserve the right to flee in terror.

That being said, they are pretty cute.  I have a few stories to share that gave me glimpses into their creative minds.

Play Doh
I brought out the Play Doh for the first time this year.  The kids are getting a little bit more mature so that they don't make a ridiculous mess.  They were excited out of their minds to be able to play.  One boy was trying to mash his Play Doh as flat as possible, so he climbed up on his chair and kneeled on it.  I stopped him as fast as I could, but it was too late, the Play Doh was already bonded to his pants at a molecular level.  I told him he couldn't kneel on it anymore, he could only use his hands.
"Can I sit on it?" No
"Can I stand on it?" No
"Can I use my head?" No, your head is not your hands.

I almost said yes to the last one, just for my own amusement, but I decided against it.

Coolest Thing Ever
This actually happened a few weeks ago when Robyn was still with me.  Robyn was telling the story of the Savior walking on water.  She got to the point where he was about to walk on water and she said, "And then he did something really cool."  But before she could say what that really cool thing was, one of the children thought in his mind what could be the coolest thing that Jesus could possibly do.  He blurted out, "A backflip!"  Robyn was a bit taken aback and said, "Well, if there had been a need for a back flip I'm sure he could have done it."  She then explained that he walked on the water.  But the kids were disappointed.  He didn't even do a back flip.

It's amazing to me how their little minds work.  They aren't limited by the box that we "grownups" seem to be trapped inside so often.  Maybe we should try flattening Play Doh with our heads.  How can we know it's not effective if we don't try it?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Should Go to Australia

Now don't get your knickers all in a twist. I know I'm not talking about Australia yet. I'll get to my thesis in a minute, but first we have to start at the beginning. It's a very good place to start. When you sing you begin with "Do Re Mi". When you tell a story you begin with the first relevant event.

That first relevant event was last fall when I forced Robyn to have fun doing such things as jumping in leaves. You see, after we frolicked about joyfully, it came time to clean them up and put them in the garbage. The problem was that it was a mighty mighty pile. I compacted them as best I could, but there were only so many that could fit in the garbage. I repeated the process the next week after the garbage was picked up, but again I couldn't fit it all. Unfortunately, the week after that came the first snow. So there was snow on top of those leaves all winter.

Well, today I mowed the lawn for the first time this year. The pile of leaves had turned into a compost heap in my front yard. I mowed over the compost heap in hopes of the mower spreading it abroad and making it not look so scary. Well, that didn't really work either. The result looked like this.
 So I just bit the bullet and finished the job I started last fall.  I raked as much up as possible.  Even some of the stuff that had decayed and became dirt.  In the end it looked like this.
Now, if you look at this region of dead grass and various tiny arthropods, I hope you will see what I saw.  It clearly looks like the continent of Australia.   I know it's a little stretched but use your imagination just a little.  When I saw this, I knew it was a sign that Robyn and I should take a trip to Australia.  Now don't even try to debate the logic of making decisions based on rotted vegetation.  It is wisdom.

Anyone want to come with us?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Collatz Conjecture

Every so often I come upon a mathematical principal that I've never heard before.  In these times, as a nerd turned geek, it is important for me to quickly remedy the situation.  I can always turn to my good friends google and wikipedia to bring me wisdom and elightenment.  Recently, I had this experience.  I came upon this xkcd comic.

It refers to the collatz conjecture which states that if you take any number, if it is odd, multiply it by 3 and add one and if it is even divide by 2. And  you repeat this process you will eventually get 1.  I was intrigued.  This comic was written for nerd culture.  How could I not know about the conjecture beforehand?  I had to know if it was true.  Well, I wrote some javascript that tests the conjecture.  You pick a number and put it in the first box, then click run and it will show you all the numbers until it arrives at 1.  I may be the only one who even cares about this conjecture, but I feel much more secure in my life now that I know the conjecture to be true.

P.S.  Sorry, just like my other javascript posts it still doesn't work in firefox.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Amazing Gift

My wife has a truly amazing gift.  She can tap into the minds of children, she feels their needs and knows their wants.  She senses their insecurities and understands the roadblocks that stand in the way of their learning and progression.  I've mentioned before how her and I teach the Sunbeams (3 and 4 year olds) together in our church.  My job is mainly to be crowd control, as well as the assistant in getting her materials or playing music while she's teaching.  Her job is to let her gift flow.  These little children are captivated by her as she teaches them.  Yes, they are still children and get distracted, but they love to listen to her, and they love to excitedly tell their parents what they learned about afterward.

Of course, Robyn has selected a profession that fits very well with her gift.  She teaches second grade, and she loves those kids so much.  Each night at dinner she tells me her concerns about this child or that.  She tells me what she sees as their road blocks.  She excitedly tells me of their victories when they overcome something that has been difficult for them.

I don't have the opportunity to see her shine in her classroom setting because I am at my own job.  But recently, Robyn received an honor from her principal, who does get a chance to see her at work and evaluate her.  He nominated her as "The Burt Brothers Teacher That Does It Better" This is a contest sponsored by several local radio stations, and is designed to honor the teachers that really go above and beyond the call of duty in improving their classrooms and helping the children.

It is an honor for Robyn just to be nominated.  But I really want to see Robyn win.  If she wins, she gets to drive the above vehicle for two years (can you see Robyn in that awesomeness?) She also gets $1000 to buy supplies for her classroom.  Imagine all the great books she could buy to help give her kids an even greater love of reading.  Please help her win by going to and voting for her. (You will have to create a account if you don't have one, but it's free and you can uncheck the box that says you will receive emails.)

I am awed by her gift, and I would love to see her honored.  Thanks for your help.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Beautiful Symbolism

I love symbols.  To me, it's like solving a puzzle or breaking a code.  When you understand the symbols, it opens up a whole new world of understanding.  Many times, in the scriptures, we are taught in symbols.  One reason is that symbols allow people to learn at different levels.  You can learn something from the symbol while someone else may learn something much deeper and richer.

This weekend, the Christian world is celebrating Easter, a celebration of the new life that our Savior brought in his resurrection.  At the same time, the Jewish world is celebrating the feast of the Passover.  I don't know how the Passover is celebrated in modern day.  I haven't studied that.  But, I have studied my own religion extensively, and a part of that has been some deep study of the Bible.  I have unearthed some rich symbolism in the Passover tradition.  I thought I would share some of what I have found with all of you, in a celebration of our Savior's resurrection this Easter.  I will outline some of the aspects of the Passover and then explain what they symbolize by going over some events in the last week of the Savior's life.

The Lamb is Chosen
In the Jewish Calendar, the Passover started on the 10th of Abib (a month that ran through part of March and April) with the selection of an unblemished male lamb.(BD Feasts) (Exodus 12:2-5)

The Lamb is Slain
On the 14th day of the month, the Lamb was to be slain by the whole assembly. (Exodus 12:16)

The People are Saved by the Blood of the Lamb
The people spread the lamb's blood on their door posts, showing that they take upon themselves the blood of the lamb.  The outward appearance of the blood caused the destroying angel to pass over those particular houses, so that they were safe. (Exodus 12:7,13)

The Feast is a Memorial Ordinance
They are told to eat the flesh of the lamb and to continue to practice that tradition as an ordinance and a memorial forever. (Exodus 12:8,14)

They Offered their First Fruits of Barley
This was not practiced with the first Passover, but was later added as a tradition.  The day after the sabbath they were to bring their first fruits of barley to the priest who would wave it before the Lord as an offering. (Leviticus 23:10-11)

In some ways, the above practices may seem like strange traditions but I will now share with you some of the events in the last week of the Savior's life.  Beginning with the 10th of Abib.

The Savior is Chosen as the Lamb of God
At the Savior's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people clearly knew who he really was and had chosen him as their Messiah.  The Savior himself said that if the people were not shouting and rejoicing, the stones would immediately cry out because they wouldn't be able to hold their peace. (Luke 19:35-40)  But more important than the people seeing him as the Messiah, the Savior himself had taken upon himself that role.  In the same chapter he enters the temple and cleanses it, rebuking those who were there by saying 'My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.' (Luke 19:45-46) This is significant in that he called it 'my house' whereas earlier he had referred to it as 'My Father's house' (John 2:16)  He now had taken upon himself the mantle of the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Lamb of God.

The People are Saved by the Blood of the Lamb of God
The Savior suffered under the weight of the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The suffering was so great that blood came out of his pores. (Luke 22:44)  This blood literally saved all of us, paving the way to be cleansed as we take his name upon us.

The Feast is a Memorial Ordinance
The Savior celebrated the Passover with his disciples at the Last Supper.  When he did this, he taught them of the symbolism, saying that the bread represented his body and the water his blood. (Luke 22:19-20)  We continue today to partake of the Sacrament in remembrance of him. (Other faiths call it communion or the Lord's Supper)  We will continue to keep this as a memorial ordinance forever.

The Lamb of God is Slain
The Savior was brought before the whole assembly.  When Pilate declared his innocence, his unblemished nature, the assembly cried out "Crucify Him!"  He was taken to Golgotha where he was Slain upon a cross. (Luke 23:21,23,33)

The Lamb of God Rises as the First Fruits of Those That Slept
On the third day after Christ was slain, the day after the sabbath,  Mary Magdalene came to the Savior's tomb.(Matthew 28:1) An angel came to her and said, "He is not here: for he is risen." (Matthew 28:6) As Paul says he became "the firstfruits of them that slept." (1 Corinthians 15:20)

As you can see, the Passover was filled with rich symbolism that taught about the Savior long before his birth. Prophets have always tried to point us to Christ. (2 Nephi 25:26) This Easter we have a special blessing, in addition to celebrating the resurrection of our Savior we are able to listen to the words of the prophet in General Conference. I feel blessed to have the words of prophets both ancient and modern. I wish all of you a Happy Easter! May we all enjoy the new life that comes this time of year in Spring as well as the rebirth that comes when we allow the Savior into our lives.
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