Living in God’s Country

Two campers with gear hiking through Bear Moun...

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With a title like the one that I have chosen, I might just be leading you astray… a least a little bit.  Maybe not.  Your thoughts on what God’s country is could very well be what I am thinking about right now.  Likewise, they could be very different.  But even so, I still understand why you would think that.

Many people in the United States, especially during the first half of the month of July, refer to the whole country as God’s country.  There is a feeling of patriotism, loyalty, and superiority that bring along an attitude of this land being divinely set apart to be a land above all others.  For other people, those feelings of patriotism and superiority last all year long.

I’m not saying that people feeling that way are wrong.  In fact, I share in those feelings.  But that is not what I am focusing my topic on today.

I have travelled all over the United States.  In pretty much every place I have been I have met people that love their hometown (or some location not far from their hometown) so much that they refer to it as God’s country.  I take that back.  Even on my trips to southern California or the New York City area there has been someone that has referred another area of the state as God’s country because it is so beautiful.  They don’t say it about anywhere in SoCal or NYC, but I have heard it said about the upstate areas of those two states.

Montana is where I hear it the most.  And I think I have to agree more with those folks than with others.  Have you been to Montana?  Specifically, have you been in the western half of Montana?  That is some great looking real estate.  Let me clarify… If you like wide open places with mountains and valleys and a cowboy feel to them, Montana has some great looking real estate.

But so do Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada… all for the same reasons.

If you have been to Hawaii, you might think of it as God’s country.  Well, maybe if you worship the Sun god, or the Sea god.  Maybe it is because you are a guy and worship the Hawaiian Tropic goddesses.  But I won’t count Hawaii right now (even though I have been to Maui and thought it was beautiful) because it isn’t part of the 48 contiguous states.  And for the same reason, Alaska isn’t included.  If someone wants to send me on an all-expense paid trip to Alaska so that I can experience the state, I will be glad to add it to my list.

I live in Utah.  I have lived in Utah my whole life, minus two years that I lived in Brazil, and 18 months that I lived in Houston, Texas.  Tomorrow I will be going on a backpacking trip in some of Utah’s mountains.  I will be going camping in God’s country.

I enjoy the mountains.  If I could buy one, build a cabin and live there for the rest of my life, I would be in heaven… or at least a little closer than the rest of you (hello, the elevation difference alone put’s me closer to heaven). For me, camping in the mountains is the most enjoyable way for me to enjoy all of God’s earthly creations.  There is flora and fauna (I still remember the term from my 4th grade Utah History class), there is clean air, and other than the sounds of nature, there is quiet.  To me, this is the place where I can feel more at one with God, where I am more in tune with Him, where I can feel more of His influence and watchful eye.

From a religious point of view, mountains are sacred ground to me.  And they must be sacred to God too because of how much he used them while interacting with man.  For example, Moses went up onto a mountain and received the Ten Commandments.  Abraham was told to go up onto the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Mountains were an integral part of religious teachings as shown in the Old Testament.

I will be going on this hike with five other adults and six teenage boys.  My son is one of them.  The fact that there are teenage boys coming along may cause it to not be as serene as it could have been, but this campout is for them.  They will get to experience something that not many teenagers get to experience.  It will be good for them.  It will be good for me to be with them.

If you don’t have mountains near where you live, find a place where you can experience the tranquility that the back country wilderness can give you.  Spend some time and rid yourself of stresses that come from life.  Try to become a little more attached to nature.  Get yourself away to your own version of “God’s country”.  It will do you some good.  And if you want to load a fifty pound pack on your back, camp out for four days, and do it with a teenage boy, you will get an even different point of view about life.  I just hope it is a good one.  As for me, I will enjoy this opportunity.  And when I get back, I may just write a travelogue and let you know what you missed… or have to look forward to.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

The influence of school pride…

BYU's logo

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I am writing this blog as I listen to the basketball game between Brigham Young University and San Diego State University.  It has been billed as possibly the most important college basketball game in Utah.  Ever.  Since the beginning of time.

BYU enters the game ranked 9th in the nation while SDSU enters the game ranked 4th.  SDSU has not lost any games this year and BYU has only lost 1 game.  Added to all of this, the Marriott Center (where BYU plays their basketball games) is sold out…22,700 people in attendance…and loud each time BYU scores a basket.

By the time I finish writing this blog the game may be over.  But I thought that this game would make a great basis for my newest posting.

I am an alumnus of BYU so I am most definitely hoping for a BYU win.  A win for the Cougars would likely help them move up in the rankings, but even better, it will likely help them improve their NCAA tournament seeding while also putting them in the drivers seat to be the conference champions.  I would love to see this happen.  Not that it hasn’t happened before, in fact it has only been a short few years since the last occurance, but to happen this year could be really exciting as the team actually has enough talent to go further in the NCAA tournament than they have for 30 years.  Any BYU alum would enjoy seeing this.

So the question is this.  Why is it that with the team being so good this year, the MC isn’t coming close to being sold out for each game?  After all, Jimmer Fredette (BYU’s star player…you know you have heard of him and if not, just Google him) will be graduating as will Jackson Emery (BYU’s all time steals leader) who have been impressive in their play this year.  You would think that fans would want to see them play each chance they can.

Is this common at other schools?  And what about at different levels (high school and pros)?  Tonight my high school basketball team played our cross-town rivals.  There aren’t any star players on either team but the gym was pretty packed…on a night where they are competing with the BYU game.

With the two high schools there is still a lot of school pride.  In fact, tonight there was so much of it that there were quite a few police officers in attendance to prevent any potential fighting between students.  They went to the extent of making students from my high school exit from the opposite side of the school as those that were hosting the game.

I am not saying that there should be such high levels of school pride that there is a chance for a fight between competing fans.  What I am suggesting though is that there is too much “bandwagoning” with fans because there isn’t enough school pride.

I know that this isn’t the case in all areas of the country.  You only have to go to Texas to know that school pride runs deep.  I worked for a company in Houston where more than 50% of the employees were alumni of Texas A&M.  If you weren’t an Aggie fan, you heard about it…even if they lost to the team you were rooting for.

Do we lose that spirit once we have left that school?  For some the answer is yes.  For the rest I have the following question: Did you ever have any school pride?  Maybe school pride is something that is only felt by people that enjoyed following the sports teams at that school.  After all, I don’t know too many “bookworms”, “nerds”, or “geeks” that had much school pride…or liked sports.

I can tell you that my school pride is still intact…for my high school and college.  I must admit, the school pride I feel for my high school is mostly because my daughter plays for the sophomore girls basketball team.  But I still enjoy seeing them win, especially against the rivals.  My school pride for BYU?  HUGE!!!  If I could only get a job working for the university…  Oh well, I guess school pride isn’t for everyone.  So for those that don’t have much, if any at all, what do you root for?  What does your association with that school mean?  And most importantly, what is wrong with you?

Oh, by the way, BYU just beat SDSU with a final score of 71-58 and Jimmer scored 43.  There is a lot of school pride in Provo right now.

Just another view from a Palmtree.