Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Day I Begged Ben to Pee on my Leg.

Yep.  It's true.  I'll get to it in a moment.  It was truly gross, but truly necessary.

So on our fourth day in Key Caulker, we decided to just snorkel around the island some more.  The Mayan ruins excursion had really kicked our butts, so we were in the mood to just hang around and swim a little.

When Ben and I woke up, we went outside to our bikes, put our seats into the little seat slots (we had to take our seats inside every night), and realized that the gadget that you use to adjust your bike seat up and down was stolen off Ben's bike.  Sheesh.  So we went back to Chinatown Market and bought a brand-new gadget, because without being able to adjust the seat up, Ben's knees were up around his ears on that bike.  And, as we've learned in a previous post, they wouldn't just replace the part. We were buying brand-new bike parts for these people.  We started to wonder if the relatives of the people at Chinatown Market were the ones stealing our bike parts so that they could make extra money.

Seriously.  The night before this happened, we went out onto our front porch to hang up some laundry and to read, and this Chinese guy comes out from underneath us.  We were a little startled at first, but then he was like, "Hey, I was just looking to see if someone was in the office.  My family is looking for a place to stay.  Do you know where the owners of this place live?"  We gave him directions, and he walked away, but he didn't have a suitcase or a bag or a backpack, or any family of which he was speaking...looking back, it was suspicious.

Anywho, so we went and got a dang gadget for Ben's bike, and then we set off for a little cafe that Nick and Kathleen just looooved, called Amore Y Cafe.  Then we headed over to Nick and Kathleen's place.  Do you want me to show you the road to their house?  Well, okay, if you insist.

A sign you see on the road:
The slogan in Key Caulker is "Go Slow."  You see it everywhere.  Not necessarily to mean "go slow when driving golf carts on the island," (even though they do advocate for that) but more, "Take it easy.  Why hurry?  Relax."

This is one of the cemeteries you see:
I thought it was interesting that the graves are all above ground.

This is the school on the island.  I feel bad the kids have to just play in dust for recess:
 This is a Rastafarian church that has fun signs and pretty plants all around it:
The island seemed very religious.  Lots of Evangelicals, Rastafarians, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

After we dropped some stuff off at Nick and Kathleen's place, we headed to the west side of the island to do some snorkeling.  Ah, but first, a choice picture of Nick:
Ben took it with his underwater camera, which makes it bend weird on the edges, and he also had his red light filter cap thing on.  (You're only supposed to use that when you are farther than 10 feet underwater,)  It's also a choice picture because Nick pulled his jammies way up over his belly button and posed.  He's so funny.  Sometimes I think he and Ben are the same person.  Nick wears jammies when he's snorkeling sometimes, to protect his legs from getting burnt.  Which is a seriously good idea.

It was pretty silty, but we saw some neat stuff, including the school of tarpon we had been feeding a few days before.  These guys are HUGE.  It was a little intimidating swimming next to them.  Here's the best video Ben got of them:
Oh, and in the above video, you'll see Ben dive down to this hole.  It has a cable that goes all the way down there, but Ben couldn't hold his breath that long.

The water was smooth during this time, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

We stopped for lunch in town, but I decided I had to have some coconut milk first:
I had some coconut milk from one of the coconuts that's brown and fuzzy when Ben and I were on our honeymoon and visited Cozumel.  And I remember how absolutely amazing it tasted.  This did not taste nearly as good.  Maybe because it was from a different kind of coconut??  Or is this what coconuts look like before they turn round and fuzzy???  I have no idea.  I wish I hadn't drunk that stuff, though.

And do you like my hat?  When Ben and I were walking around one day and I was wearing that hat, a Rasta guy yelled, "Hey, are you two from Sweden?"  We must have looked like it, with Ben's tall, blonde brawn and my floppy hat. :)

We stopped at some random restaurant.  Ben and Nick got the ceviche and Kathleen and I got the pizza.  And we regretted that.  I think the boys liked the ceviche fine, but the pizza was meh.  This orange cat kept standing next to our table and staring at us forlornly.  Nick would give him pieces of shrimp.  Kathleen and I tried feeding him pizza, and he was very snobbish about it.  He wouldn't touch the pizza.  He wanted the seafood.

Animals on this island are really funny.  They all have collars, but they kind of...roam free.  And many of them seem deeply, deeply depressed.  I don't know what they have to be depressed about.  What's the problem?  Plenty of tourists to mooch food from...a carefree life where you can run around all day, unimpeded...Maybe the weather is too hot for them??  Maybe that's the issue.

So then we decided to go to the south of the island.  There is this old fishing shack about 1/4 mile out or so: 
We wanted to head out there. 

Again, not a ton to see, but starfish here and there, needlefish here and there...  And the wind had picked up, as well as the current.  You had to really fight to get to where you wanted to go.  I'm really glad we made it to the old fishing shack, though, because underneath there were thousands of fish, including a really spectacular lion fish.  Ben took a really great video of it, but for some reason it won't load.  Huge bummer.

Despite having liberally applied sunscreen, my back had gotten crispy-burnt during our morning snorkeling adventure, so I wore a t-shirt while snorkeling the second half of the day, which was smart of me.

I started to get seriously seasick out there, so I told Ben I needed to get onto dry land, and I made a beeline for the dock at the shore.  The others explored a mangrove before heading in.  The current was crazy.  I would swim a few strokes, and then peek up and realize that I was pointed into the current instead of toward the shore.  So I would right myself, swim a few more strokes, peek up, and realize that I was pointed into the current.  That was weird.  I had to keep correcting myself. 

At some point on the way to the dock, I got stung by something.  I didn't see it, but I have a suspicion that it was one of these little guys:
I started to feel the stinging right before I climbed the little ladder to get up onto the dock.  It was on the right side of my right thigh.  It felt like millions of little needles poking me, over and over and over.  And I was sooooo seasick. 

After the others got out of the water, we walked the short distance to Nick and Kathleen's place, and I lay down on their floor to try to feel less nauseated.  Kathleen had some neosporin, and we put it on the stinging place on my leg, but it didn't seem to help.  She had some anti-nausea pills, though, and those helped a ton with my motion sickness.  Nick whipped up some virgin pina coladas, and those tasted good. 

The stinging felt like it was getting worse and worse, and then I remembered something I saw on Friends.  Something about, if you have a jellyfish sting, the properties in pee can take the sting away.  I'm unable to embed, but you can find the link to the scene I'm talking about here.  HILARIOUS.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I asked Ben to do the unthinkable - to pee on my leg.  We went out onto the porch, which has a drain and a faucet, and...yep.  He peed on my leg.  It was so, so very gross.  I washed myself off as soon as possible afterwards.  Bleeeeuuuuuughhhhh....

But you know what?  The pain immediately went away.  The redness started immediately dissipating.  By the next day, you couldn't even see a red spot or that anything had happened. 

So now you know.  If you get stung by a jellyfish, pee on yourself.  Or have someone else pee on you.

I'm not sure where we ate dinner that night, but once we got into town, Ben and I turned in our bikes.  Nick and Kathleen were leaving, so we wouldn't need the bikes to ride that long distance anymore.  Our hotel was only one block away from the center of town, so we knew we'd be okay without bikes.  And we were sick of replacing bike parts.

Then we headed home to do some laundry and sit on the porch and read.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Picky Monkey

Aight.  On to the third day of our Belizean adventure.

We had booked an excursion to go back to mainland Belize and visit some ancient Mayan ruins.  So we took the water taxi back to Belize City, then took a minivan for about half an hour to this one point on some river.  I can't remember the names of anything.  Sorry 'bout that...

And that drive in the minivan...whoa.  It felt like we were back in China.  No regard for lines on roads or space between cars.  No regard for the lives inside your vehicle.  I had to just close my eyes a lot and pray that we wouldn't die.  Riding in these circumstances reminds me a lot of riding on roller-coasters.  You're like, "I should be safe and fine.  I'm all strapped in."  But at the same time, you're like, "I could seriously die on this thing."  That's how I feel while riding taxis or shuttles in Belize and in China.

So we got to this river and got on a boat.  Ben and me:

 Nick and Kathleen:
The boat ride into the ruins - I honestly don't know how long it took.   An hour, maybe?  All I  know is that the seats were really hard, and my butt hurt a lot.  But I'm so glad we did the boat ride thing, because our guide showed us so much beautiful flora and fauna...and Merryweather.  (You'll only get that if you've seen Sleeping Beauty.  And if you haven't, what is wrong with you??  Go and watch it on Netflix.  Immediately.)

Our first stop - a local spider monkey's tree.  The guide told us to crinkle our wrappers, and that he would come down and take food from our hands.  So we got out anything crinkley we had and mooshed it around.  Sure enough, here came our monkey:
The guide got our boat way up close to this little guy.  Some little kids on the boat happened to have bananas with them, and they offered a banana to the monkey.  He wasn't interested.  So we tried chips.  Yep, he wanted the chips.  Kathleen and I both really wanted to feed the monkey, too, so we each took turns feeding him chips.  It was so cool!  After the monkey grabbed chips out of Kathleen's hand, she whispered, "I JUST FED A MONKEY!!"  It was really cute.  Here's me, feeding the monkey:

So cool!!  We saw literally dozens of different types of birds along the river, including a really creepy-looking vulture (is there any other kind but "creepy"?):
These birds were cool.  They're called Jesus Christ Birds, because they walk on water:
But not really.  They walk on lily pads.  Look at that little guy's feet!

I'm not not sure what this bird was, but it was magnificent:

I thought maybe it was an ibis, but ibises have more curvey beaks.  So I'm at a loss.  But it was neat.

We loved the water lilies:

I literally have 85 pictures (and this is after picking through them and picking the very best ones) of this excursion, so I'm trying not to overload you.  Just let it be noted that we have lots more amazing shots of the animals and plants on the boat ride.

Oooh, but you have to see this - it's a Mennonite village:
Apparently, these German Mennonites immigrated to Belize in the 1950's.  And they do their farming thing, and our guide told us that this little village alone produces 80% of the country's food.  We saw a few of them fishing on the river.  We actually saw some Mennonites on the plane to Belize and thought, "Weird."  But now we get it - they were probably coming to visit someone.  And we met some Mennonites on Key Caulker, as well.  It was my first time talking to Menonnites.  They're nice.
When we got to the site of the ruins, we ate a quick Belizean lunch - chicken thighs, rice and beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.  We were already so freakin' hot, but we had no IDEA the hotness that was in store for us.

There was a dude with us from Australia.  And he had curly, shaggy hair.  So naturally, I told this guy that he reminded me of Michael Hutchence from INXS.  And the guy (his name was Ben) immediately said, "May he rest in peace."  And I said, "I knew I liked you."
I spent the rest of the day with "New Sensation" by INXS stuck in my head.  And I may or may not have sung it out loud on several occasions.

So we had a short little walk to the first pyramid.  Our guide was soooo knowledgeable about the Mayan culture (he is of Mayan descent) and of the nature in the area.  He showed us these things called Grandpa's Balls (why do I remember all of the sacrilegious/gross names of stuff?) - the gooey stuff inside of them is used locally as glue.  The school kids use that stuff instead of Elmer's glue.
This is a rubber tree - our guide cut into it to let some of the rubbery stuff seep out:
These howler monkeys are everywhere, and they really do make a creepy howling noise:
I have loads more pictures, but I don't want to bug ya.  On to the pyramids.  Here is the first one we came to, called the Mask Pyramid, because of the faces carved at the bottom:

We hiked to the top, which wasn't too difficult.  Except for the fact that it was 104 degrees that day, and who knows how high the humidity was?  100%?  That's what it felt like.  For reals, yo.  I have not been this hot since I was in China.  And that's really saying something.  I do not do well with humidity.
 Kathleen, reaching the summit:
Our guide told us that it was an honor to be sacrificed at the pyramid, which we knew.  What we didn't know was that only the gentry was sacrificed.  Peasants were deemed not sacrifice-able.  Here is Ben, pretending to be the executioner, and me, pretending to be the enthusiastic sacrificee:

What is up with me and thumbs up in every single picture lately?  Weird.  And dumb.

Pyramid number two was huuuuuugge.  There was this rope to help you climb up and down.  That's how intense it was.  Our tour guide told us that the top of the pyramid is the highest point above sea level in all of northern Belize.  I immediately decided I had to climb this thing.
 Ben at the top. He's funny.

 This gives you a little idea of how steep it was.  I went down on my bumb. 
Then we stopped at a third pyramid.  This one was different, because it had the residence of the king and his family just across the clearing in front of the pyramid.  We got to walk around in these old ruins.  This was a bedroom, with a stone slab bed.  I lay down for a picture, and it was burning hot!:
Each king had 32 wives, so there were lots and lots of rooms for the wives and children.  I can't believe how well these ruins have held up.  Well, I mean, they were basically covered up with dirt for a long time, so I guess that has helped.  Our guide told us that all of these pyramids are from 1500 BC.  Holy cow.

So this is the third pyramid we saw:
 A close up of the design on the bottom left:
We weren't given the option to climb up this one.  Honestly, I don't know if I could have, at this point.  I felt like I was dying of heat stroke.

So then we had a long boat ride back to the dock, a long car ride into Belize City, and a long water taxi ride to Key Caulker.  Ben on the water taxi:
When we got back to our island, we went to eat at THE BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT I'VE EVER BEEN TO IN MY LIFE.  It's this dude and his wife from Milan, and the Italian food is authentic and a.maz.ing.  Here are some pictures from this place (we ended up going there two more times during our stay!!):

 Ohhhh so delicious.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Lesson - How can I recognize the difference between truth and error? - What I did.

Kay.  So.  I was out of town on Sunday the 14th, and the Sunday before, we had General Conference, so I'm sorry I don't have more lessons to show you for this month.  But I'll post what I have.  And what I'm doing.  (Have I started this Sunday's lesson plan?  Nope.)

1.  Introductory Story

I thought the following story was perfect for this topic.  It actually happened to me!

I was in ninth grade and in seminary.  After the opening prayer and devotional, our teacher stood up and said, "Wellll, I have a huge church-related announcement.  The church has asked that we, as seminary teachers, announce this and address any questions you have.  The announcement is this:  the dating age has been changed from 16 to 18."

There was a violent reaction to this announcement.

Everyone (okay, maybe just the girls - I don't think the 9th grade boys cared that much) started yelling and flailing arms around, yelling things like, "WHAAAAAAT???"  and "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!"

One girl named Jen - I'll never forget - cried in despair, "I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ALL THESE YEARS, AND NOW I HAVE TO WAIT FOR TWO MORE????"

Our teacher spent the rest of the class period calming us down and talking to us about the blessings of obedience.

And then, the last 5 minutes of class, he said, "Um, psych.  The dating age has NOT been changed from 16 to 18."

So, yet again, another violent reaction.  "WHAAAAAT?"  "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US???"

"I wanted to teach you something you'd never forget - if the church changes any of their policies or guidelines, it will be from the pulpit at General Conference, or it will be announced from the pulpit by the Bishop in your ward.  Seminary teachers don't have the authority to tell you about changes in policies or guidelines.  This is how people apostatize.  They get their information from the wrong source."

And you know, it did stick with me.  Twenty-one years later, I still remember that lesson.

He was such a great teacher. 

So I shared this story to introduce the topic, and my students really liked it. :)

2.  Making Connections - Questions about the Apostasy and Restoration

This lesson suggests that you ask the students if they have any questions about the apostasy and the restoration.  I knew that, if I asked that, I'd probably just hear crickets chirping.  So I prepared something, just in case.

And actually, when I asked that question, one of my boys raised his hand and asked something to the effect of, "If the gospel was taken from the earth, what about the priests who interpreted the Bible into English?  Or what about Martin Luther?  Or those other reformers?  Were they called of God?  Or were they just doing what they felt was right?"

Before I even opened my mouth, a girl in class piped up and said, "They didn't have the priesthood, but I think they were still called of God.  I think that God definitely guided them to do what they did.  But they didn't have priesthood authority, so the true church was not on the earth for all of those years."

I have such smart students.

Thinking that I would get few to zero questions, I looked up questions about the apostasy and restoration in the New Era.  And I found the answers in Preach My Gospel and also in the New Era.  I prepared these slips of paper for them to work on in pairs, and I gave them each five minutes to read and prepare to share the question and their answer:

Directions: Read the following question about the restoration. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

My friend says he would be interested in joining our Church if he just didn’t have to believe the Joseph Smith story. How do I answer him?”

One important way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation. They in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer. The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures.

Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets, or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy. When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the gospel.

Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His love for His children
by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.

After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth.

When the circumstances were right, Heavenly Father once again reached out to His children in love. He called a young man named Joseph Smith as a prophet. Through him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the restoration. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What do we mean when we say this is the only true church?”

In this vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination.” He stated, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they did not have the fulness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances. They had inherited a state of apostasy as each generation was influenced by what the previous one passed on, including changes in the doctrines and in ordinances such as baptism. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet through whom the fulness of the gospel was restored
to the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What is the Apostasy?”

After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What happened to the apostles?”

Following the Savior’s death, the Apostles spread the gospel, and the Church grew quickly throughout the Roman Empire. But almost immediately after the Ascension of the Savior, the Apostles began to be persecuted. James, the brother of John and one of the original Twelve Apostles, was killed by Herod (see Acts 12:1–2). Peter and Paul were also killed during New Testament times.
We don’t have records of the deaths of all the Apostles, but we do know that all but John the Beloved died and, after a time, ceased to be replaced. The keys and authority of the holy priesthood were lost with the deaths of the Church leaders. Without this authority, no new revelation, doctrine, or scripture could come.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What Happened to the Church?”

The Apostles were killed during a time when the entire Church was being persecuted. Nero, a Roman emperor, was the first to make laws to exterminate Christians, in about A.D. 65. Under his reign, thousands were cruelly killed. A second round of persecutions began in about A.D. 93 under Emperor Domitian. Succeeding emperors continued torturing and killing Christians. As a result of these persecutions, thousands of Christians were martyred. Many others apostatized.
In about A.D. 324 Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire. He made Christianity a legal religion, stopping centuries of persecution. His actions linked the church to the government, and corrupt church leaders began seeking power and the honors of the world.
Teachers within the church began to adopt false religious concepts from Greek philosophy and pagan religions. Gospel ordinances were corrupted, and false ceremonies were introduced. Even though the church still taught some truth, the true Church of Christ and the priesthood were no longer on the earth. And as Christianity spread to various parts of the world—including to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas—new churches were formed and grew. None of these churches, however, was the true Church, since the Lord had already taken priesthood authority and priesthood keys from the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What Happened to the Scriptures?”

The eighth article of faith says, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” [A of F 1:8] We know from the Book of Mormon that the scriptures that came from the Jewish people had many plain and precious parts taken from them (see 1 Ne. 13:23–29).
During the time of the Apostasy, precious doctrines were lost from the Bible through carelessness, uninspired translation, or deliberate efforts to erase the truth. A restoration of that lost doctrine and truth was necessary. The Book of Mormon and other scripture revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith brought back many of those plain and precious parts of the gospel.

3.  Cup Object Lesson

I was actually just looking for images about the apostasy and restoration for an activity that I ended up not doing when I ran across this object lesson, and I looooooved it.   

In essence, you talk about how Christ set up his gospel while he was on this earth.  Each principle he set up is represented with a plastic cup.  You build a pyramid while you name the precepts of the gospel.  The prophet and twelve apostles are the bottom level, and then on top of it are various other precepts, like faith, a lay clergy, baptism by immersion, etc.  

Then, you talk about how the apostles were killed, taking the bottom layer out cup by cup, until the whole pyramid falls down, explaining that, without the prophet and apostles, who have the priesthood keys, you don't have the church that Christ set up - the true church.

I also loved that, in this object lesson, you can talk about how, after the Great Apostasy, different churches formed with some of the correct precepts, but none of them were the true church, because they didn't have the prophet and apostles.  

The students really loved this object lesson, and so did my own children, whom I did this for in Family Home Evening the next day. :)  Seriously, go over to Chocolate on My Cranium and look for instructions, how to label the cups, etc.  It turned out so well.

4.  Beware of the Evil Behind the Smiling Eyes

The lesson suggests to have one of your students read this story by Neil L. Anderson before class and summarize it, but I couldn't get any of my students to answer their phones in the couple of days before class!  So I just printed it out and had them read it aloud, one student reading each paragraph:

I’d like to tell you of an experience of a faithful Latter-day Saint who is a good friend of mine. I’ll refer to him only as “my friend” for reasons you will understand.

Working as a special agent for the FBI, my friend investigated organized crime groups transporting illegal drugs into the United States.

On one occasion, he and another agent approached an apartment where they believed a known drug dealer was distributing cocaine. My friend describes what happened:

“We knocked on the door of the drug dealer. The suspect opened the door, and upon seeing us, tried to block our view. But it was too late; we could see the cocaine on his table.

“A man and a woman who were at the table immediately began removing the cocaine. We had to prevent them from destroying the evidence, so I quickly pushed the drug suspect who was blocking the door to the side. As I pushed him, my eyes met his. Strangely, he did not appear angry or afraid. He was smiling at me.
“His eyes and disarming smile gave me the impression that he was harmless, so I quickly left him and started to move toward the table. The suspect was now behind me. At that instant, I had the distinct, powerful impression come into my mind: ‘Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.’

“I immediately turned back toward the suspect. His hand was in his large front pocket. Instinctively I grabbed his hand and pulled it from his pocket. Only then did I see, clutched in his hand, the semiautomatic pistol ready to fire. A flurry of activity followed, and I disarmed the man.” 2
Later, in another case, the drug dealer was convicted of murder and boasted that he would have also killed my friend had he not turned around at that very moment.

I have often thought of the communication that came into his mind: “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.” This is what I want to talk to you about tonight.

- Neil L. Anderson, “Beware of the Evil Behind the Smiling Eyes,” General Conference, April 2005
And then I did what the lesson suggested - I asked the students what this story had to do with Satan.  They, being so very perceptive and smart, pointed out exactly what I hoped they would - that Satan is subtle in his traps.  He makes things seem grey instead of black and white.  He makes good seem things bad and bad things seem good.

*Kay, so we ran out of time at this point, which is weird, because the kids were focused and un-hyper (unlike Easter Sunday.  Dang.  They were crazy that day).  So I just closed by saying that Satan is tricky and has caused a lot of people to apostatize, and that how he has done that is by getting people to get their information from the wrong sources.  I testified that, if we follow the prophet and apostles, we will never, ever be led astray.  But, if you have more time, I prepared the following final thing:

5.  These Things I Know

 The lesson suggests doing this activity with a talk by Boyd K. Packer.  So I prepared it for the kids so that I didn't have to verbally give them directions and have them ask me to repeat the directions fifteen times.  (I taught in junior high school.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing directions down makes a teacher's life a looooot easier.) So here is what I had prepared:

Directions: Silently read this excerpt of Boyd K. Packer's talk from April 2013 general conference, “These Things I Know”. Look for key words or phrases that help you recognize the difference between truth and error. When you find these key words, circle them. When you are completely done reading the excerpt, go up to the chalkboard and write the key words down. If someone else already wrote a key word or phrase you had circled, don't re-write it.

Agency is defined in the scriptures as “moral agency,” which means that we can choose between good and evil. The adversary seeks to tempt us to misuse our moral agency.

The scriptures teach us “that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”5

Alma taught that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”6 In order to understand this, we must separate the sin from the sinner.

For example, when they brought before the Savior a woman taken in adultery, obviously guilty, He dismissed the case with five words: “Go, and sin no more.”7 That is the spirit of His ministry.

Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity.

All are born with the Light of Christ, a guiding influence which permits each person to recognize right from wrong. What we do with that light and how we respond to those promptings to live righteously is part of the test of mortality.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”8
Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.

Of all that I have read and taught and learned, the one most precious and sacred truth that I have to offer is my special witness of Jesus Christ. He lives. I know He lives. I am His witness. And of Him I can testify. He is our Savior, our Redeemer. Of this I am certain. Of this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

So, after the kids wrote their key words on the board, I was going to go through each word, one by one, and ask the student who wrote it why they chose to circle that word, and what that word teaches us about recognizing the difference between truth and error.  And then I was going to close with my testimony.

Good luck in your lessons this week, guys!  I honestly don't even know what lesson I'm teaching this weekend...I'm a big-time slacker.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ben's Adopted Fish Son

Sorry.  Busy weekend.  I'll post about yesterday's Sunday School lesson later on today, hopefully.

On to day two of our Belize adventure. 

When we woke up and got ready to head to Nick and Kathleen's house, we saw that my bike seat had been stolen:
We had locked our bikes up, but hadn't thought about taking our seats inside.  So we went to the Chinese market where we had rented them, and they said they didn't just replace stolen bike seats - we had to outright pay for a new one.  Sigh.  Ben, outside the market, waiting for me to get a new seat:
And don't you worry - there are more stolen bike parts stories in the days to come.

Then we headed over to Nick and Kathleen's condo.  Here it is - isn't it nice?  They stayed on the top floor and had a great view:

We decided to explore the west side of the island before going into town to eat breakfast.

A side note - the east side of the island has nice, wide bike paths.  The west side, not so much.  The path was teeny and had jungle all around it, and our bikes didn't have hand brakes - they had the ones you have when you're little, where you pedal backwards to brake.  So we're going on these windy, bumpy roads, getting hit in the face with palm fronds, and whenever Kathleen or I needed to brake, we'd instinctively squeeze our handlebars, realize too late that we don't have handle brakes and that we needed to lock our pedals backwards, and we'd scream and crash.  This happened a few times.  The men were way ahead of us. We were behind, just crashing and screaming.  It was kind of funny.  No major injuries occurred.

I took one pic of Ben and Nick on this dock, and then they asked me to take another with them sucking in their guts:
 Haha!  They crack me up.  Here's cute Kathleen:

Another side note.  It is so dang hot and humid in Belize.  And we were in the water all the time, so I just kind of wore my swimsuit and capris the whole time. 

View of the ocean from the west side of Key Caulker:
Then we went to see this crocodile we'd heard about.  You can see his little bumpy head sticking out of the water:
And then we headed into town to eat some lunch.  Because it was wayyyy past breakfast time.  I can't remember the name of this place, but it was near our hotel.
Nick had ceviche, which I had heard of but never knew what it consisted of.  Most of the places we went to serve ceviche in little bowls made from conch shells.  Because conch shells are sooo plentiful on Key Caulker.  They actually sell little conch serving bowls, but I didn't buy one.
 I love these kinds of things.  Haha!
We decided to snorkel in this area called The Split.  Key Caulker is divided in half by this little river thingey, and that's The Split.  We wanted to go across the split and explore around the north half of the island.  We hurried across, because there are boats that go back and forth, and we didn't want to get hit.  And then we had fun snorkeling on the north part of the island.

There wasn't a ton to see, as far as marine life, in this area.  The coral reef is about one mile to the east of Key Caulker, and that's where you get to see lots of bright coral and bright fish.  But it was good for me to get more practice snorkeling.  And we saw a few things.  A few starfish.  Ben saw a stingray.  I think Nick saw a barracuda.  Ben, with his underwater camera, picking up a starfish and looking at it:

Don't worry - we always put the starfish back exactly where we found them.

I've discovered that I am in love with starfish.  I want a pet one.  I like holding them.  And I like to feel their little suckers on my hands.  And I love how they slowly bend around your hands.  I just think they're so cool.  So every time Ben found a starfish, he brought it to me and let me hold it. :)

 Cute little suckers!!
We decided to get out of the water and walk around the north half of the island.  There wasn't much to see.  A few nice houses with fences and threatening signs on them.  One of the houses said something like "Beware of my 9 mm."  There are no shops or restaurants or anything on the north half. 

Ben and Nick decided they wanted to snorkel kind of on the east side of the north half of the island, but Kathleen and I were a little snorkeled out and decided to just walk back to the little beach area and sit in the sand and chit-chat while we waited for the boys. 

I'm glad we didn't snorkel with them over there, because they said the current was crazy strong, and that it was too silty to see much of anything. 

However, Ben and Nick's little snorkeling foray ended up not being a total bust, because Ben made a very special friend.  A little yellow fish.  This fish decided that Ben was his mama, and he stayed close to Ben for like half a mile, swimming right around his face the whole time.  We were wondering if it was because Ben was wearing a bright yellow swimming shirt (to keep from burning - it was the best thing we've ever done for Ben's fair skin).  At any rate, I here's a cute little video of Ben's adopted fish son:
So, so cute.  Our little yellow friend left us when we decided to swim back across the split to the south part of the island.  Maybe it was too deep or scary for him.  We were sad to see him go.

I'm not sure where we ate dinner, but afterwards, we went to Nick and Kathleen's to have virgin Pina Coladas.  They were sooo good.  And we got to watch the sun set:
It was getting dark, so Nick and Kathleen loaned us their bike lights so we could find our way back to our hotel.  Kathleen warned me about all the little crabs that scuttle across the road.  And you can hear them scuttling in the bushes on either side of you.  It's reeeally creepy.  Kathleen got a good picture of a crab going into its little underground hideout:
When we got to our hotel, I washed some clothes in the sink and hung them out to dry on the line on our front porch.  And then Ben and I read our books on the front porch for awhile.  We had a good light out there for reading, and the ocean breeze felt so nice.  This became our nightly ritual.  Do some laundry, hang it up, and do some reading.  I read the best book I have read in a really long time - it's called The Night Circus, and it's by Erin Morgenstern. 

Ohhhh I loved this book.  It was intoxicating.  I'd say it's in my top five books of all time that I've read.  Seriously.  I read it in, like, two days.  Couldn't put it down.
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