Saturday, August 24, 2013

One of the 90 and 9

My oldest daughter asked me the other day why Christ spent all his time searching after the one lost sheep. “What about the others?” she asked. “What if you are one of the 90 and 9 who never did anything wrong? The scriptures don’t tell us how He feels about them.”

Well, to my daughter who rarely does anything wrong, let me open your eyes to some truths you may not have thought about.

Every shepherd spends hours tending his flock. He is there when the lambs are born and he watches them frolic and grow. When it comes time to take them out of the fold so they can feed and drink he knows where the very best pastures are and where the best and safest access to water is located. That is where he takes them.

Like all flocks, the sheep do tend to disperse on the trail and, again, in the verdant pastures. Some will wander too far one way and he will bring them back. Sometimes all he has to do is call and the sheep will respond to his voice. Other times he may have to go out and physically direct them back to the best grasses and safest waters. Sheep are timid animals so he can’t use force or the whole flock will flee. He has to gently and lovingly move them back to where he has brought them…to the very best pastures and purest waters.

So, when one of those sheep takes off in forbidden paths the shepherd knows that sheep isn’t going to find better fields. There are no better fields. He has brought them to the finest places available.

Well, he could sit there and let the lost sheep succumb to the dangers of those other places but, in his mind and his heart, he can’t. He has watched that sheep grow up from frolicking lamb. He has smiled at the sheep’s personality and he knows the sheep’s value and potential. Because of that, he frets about the lost sheep until he is compelled to leave the 90 and 9 and go find it.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make.

While he is gone that little flock of sheep are on their own but they are not forgotten. Now, every step of his journey, he is also worries about the 90 and 9 he left behind. It’s a reverse effect. You can’t forget the one while it is gone and you can’t forget the 90 and 9 while you are gone.

The shepherd continues searching for the lost sheep and hopes he can accomplish his mission before wolves come in and scatter the rest of his beloved flock…or destroy the one he is seeking.

Back in the pasture most of the sheep have noticed he is gone but they trust he will return. Why? Because he has always been there when they needed him. So they graze calmly and quietly side-by-side. They share the rich grasses he has provided for them, letting others in the flock nuzzle in close as they graze. Sheep rarely kick or fuss with each other in the pasture because they have learned to get along. They are truly a banded family.

Because of the shepherd, they also know the outer edges of their pasture and most don’t stray beyond it. When a few do, the calls of the older sheep will lure them back.

They know the location of the pure, sweet water and follow the path he marked down there and back. They don’t try any other way…not because they are dumb but because they are smart. They know and trust if this is the path designated by the shepherd this is the best and safest path to take.

If any danger or concern presents, at least one of the sheep will call out an alarm and the rest of the flock will be alerted.

Their willingness to comply, to do the right thing, to be trustworthy and helpful and stick with the flock ALLOWS the shepherd to leave in search of the lost one.

He couldn’t leave if he was constantly forced to contend with the rebellions of the entire flock but, because there are daughters like you, he is able to go out and save people you may know and love some day.

Even when you are alone he knows you will do the right thing and that is a great thing to have—his trust. Not everyone does.

And, just because you can’t see him right now doesn’t mean he has forgotten you. His thoughts, his heart and his prayers are turned to you even as he searches for the sheep that never should have strayed in the first place. He doesn’t want to leave you alone. He doesn’t like to leave you alone but he is grateful he can. He is so thankful he will come back and find you right where he placed you, grazing peacefully in the middle of the wilderness, safe and unhurt.

And one day, I promise you, you will also be thanked by the “one” he found and rescued because you were one of the 90 and 9. You were one of the ones the shepherd could trust enough to leave alone and go rescue the “one”.

It takes a very special, reliable and trustworthy lamb to be one of the 90 and 9. You, my dear daughter, have gained a very honored and treasured position.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More on Tamar

"Sister, thanks for your superb article. One point I would like to know more: "the Jews tell us she had been prophetically told she would be the one to fulfill the promise"... may you quote the source for me? I'm interested to document this."

Dear Brother, Sorry it has taken so long for my response but the answer is not as clear as one single reference nor as condensed as one sole moment in history. To better understand this we need to go back even before Tamar.

We know from the scriptures that Jacob would father nations and that kings would come from his loins (Gen. 35:11). Ancient Jewish sources tell us that it was even known he would father 12 sons and Leah assumed each of his wives would give birth to three sons apiece. That is why, when Judah, Leah’s fourth son was born, she exclaimed “This time I will praise the Lord,” for she had now been given more than her fair share (Tanhuma, Vayeze 9).

The birth of Judah was also, for her, an additional reason to praise the Lord for she realized that Jacob did not just fulfill his duty or quota of three sons with her but continued to treat her as his wife in every respect and love her and come to her even when he did not have to.

So who was Leah and why was she important to your question?

Leah was the oldest daughter of Laban and, in Gen. 29:17, we read that she “was tender eyed”. While explanations of that term are varied, the Jews believe this description was given in praise since the Torah does not speak disparagingly of the righteous….neither does the Bible.."

Ancient scripture beyond the Bible tells us that Leah was a righteous woman. In fact, some records tell us Leah and her sister were twins (Seder Olam Rabbah 2). Adding to that are other ancient records that tell us Leah’s eyes were tender from weeping for she was supposed to marry Esau, Jacob’s older brother. The two families were related and knew each other and some records tell us the marriages between the brothers and the sisters had already been arranged. In Rabbah 70:16 it is recorded that Leah prayed “May it be His will that my lot not fall in the portion of the wicked Esau.”

In the weavings of life, ancient Jewish records and Rabbinic writings tell us that Esau did not care about his covenant marriage any more than he did about his birthright and married two of Ishmael’s daughters instead.

Remember that Ishmael, through his mother Hagar, was of Canaanite heritage. Canaan was the grandson of Noah through Ham and his wife Egyptus. Through a series of choices, Canaan and his children were eventually denied the priesthood. Therefore, those of Canaanite descent did not have the blessings of priesthood authority for themselves or their children. Instead, the priesthood authority was given by Noah to Shem and his children. Through his righteousness, Shem and his children were blessed to know God. In fact, Shem was promised that the Shekinah was to dwell only in the tents of Shem (Yoma 10a; Tan., Noah, 21; Gen. Rabbah 37:9, comp. Jubilees 7:9).

So what is the Shekinah?

Shekinah is a Hebrew term that means the physical manifestation of God among the people. Additional definitions to the term would be an intermediary between God and His people or a presence dwelling among the people.

As Christians we know and understand that Skekinah to be the son of God, himself—even the Savior Jesus Christ. Christ would come through Shem’s lineage. In fact, after the flood and the blessing, Shem’s name became synonymous with the son of God and Shem was often referred to in ancient writings, as Shemu-el or Elohe Shem and it was often said that “Shem is blessed of Yhwh."

So, knowing all this—knowing that both Jacob and his brother Esau were descendants of the righteous Shem and knowing the eternal promises given to Abraham and Isaac—Leah knew that this Savior, this intermediary would be born through that family's priesthood line. When Esau rebelled and married outside of the covenant, taking Canaanites to wife, this prophesied Savior could not come through him but only Jacob.

Not that Leah was gunning for position in world genealogies. She wanted a man who honored the priesthood and his heritage. If a prophesied Savior would appear sometime later, in the Meridian of Time, to be God’s Shekinah on earth, so be it; but Leah wanted a good man now. To that end her father Laban (and some ancient writings tell us her sister Rachel) worked together to assure she would be able to marry the righteous Jacob.

Then, after the marriages, the children began to come and each of their names indicated greatly their prophesied roles. Though we do not know how they knew who would do what--whether that knowledge came through blessings, visions, visitations or other divine communication--Jacob and Leah did know that royalty—and the King of Kings—would come through Judah’s lineage.

Fast forward that a few years to the life of Judah. He left his family—and his divine responsibility—and married a Canaanite. In fact, the wording is filled with powerful symbolism…”Judah went down from his brethren.” The Torah tells us he not only lowered himself but he separated himself from his family as well. Trying to distance himself from them and his guilt over what they did to Joseph may have caused some of that. Guilt does cause us to sink down and turn away from loved ones.

After Judah turned to paths he should have avoided and married a Canaanite, all three of his sons: Er, Onan and Shuah, were ineligible for the priesthood. Through his marriage choice, Judah had ended his sons' chances of progressing eternally and playing a role in bringing forth the prophesied son of God. That still happens so often today!

Now, many assume from the Biblical account alone, that Tamar was also a Canaanite simply because it fits snuggly with the information about Judah settling among the Canaanites and says nothing about a second move. But other ancient writings tell us that Tamar was not a Canaanite. She was a descendent of Shem and had righteous parents, her father being a priest. That is why, when Judah heard she was pregnant, he called for her to be burned. Only the children of priests were burned for adultery. All others were stoned (Lev. 21:9, Deut. 22:17-24). That pronouncement of punishment meant Tamar was not a Canaanite but, rather, from the chosen bloodline.

As the daughter of a priest, raised in the gospel, she knew of the priesthood limitations on Er, Onan and Shuah because of the choices of their father.

So why, then, did she marry into the family?

That we do not know, but we do know that she saw the great role the family would play and that she prayed with the Lord and pleaded "May it be Your will that I not leave this house empty” (Gen. Rabbah 85:7).

Tamar also understood that only Judah—at this point—could continue that prophesied line of royalty. Judah could try to flee his responsibility, could even act in pseudo righteousness by keeping the laws that served him best while doing other things his own way—but he couldn’t flee from God. That is why, when Judah recognized the truth of the situation later, he exclaimed “She hath been more righteous than I.”

Several Midrashic accounts tell us that before Tamar joined Judah in that legal marriage union she wept--not only for her own unfulfilled marriage but for the loss of the promised line. She was so grieved over the loss that at least one ancient account tells us the Lord comforted her and sent the angel Michael to intercede on her behalf (Tanhuma [ed. Buber], Vayeshev 17), announcing that kings and redeemers would come forth from her tent (v. 16, Gen. Rabbah 85:8).

She knew the truth all along. She knew Judah was the prophesied father of the royal line, the continuation of the promises given to Shem; and she knew, too, what the Lord had told her. Despite all the setbacks, all the years of frustration, the broken promises and seeing a chosen and righteous man live beneath his potential, she still lived a righteous and virtuous life. She trusted the Lord and that decision eventually brought Judah back around to the truth.

It is said that, on learning she was with child, Tamar pronounced with joy,“I am pregnant with kings and redeemers” (Gen. Rabbah 85:10) and, for certain, she was.

For more on this story, see Did Judah Sin with Tamar?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Bucket List...sort of

The other day my oldest daughter asked me what was on my “Bucket List.” I told her nothing. She didn’t believe me.

“Don’t you have anything you want to do or see before you die?”

“No, not really. I’m perfectly content to be living just like I am. I don’t need to see or do anything else to be happy.”

She still wasn’t sure she could accept that. After all, having and completing a “Bucket List’ is the popular thing to do in today’s society. Well, today the thought came to me that I don’t have an earthly “Bucket List” but, in the next life there are some things I want to see and do.

I want to stand in front of Jesus Christ and have Him be pleased with my efforts. I want to express my appreciation for His sacrifice and my deep and abiding sorrow for the burden my sins and weaknesses added to Him.

I want to personally go up to the Prophet Joseph Smith and express my gratitude, appreciation and admiration for all he endured on my behalf.

I would love to sit down in a meeting with Brigham Young and listen to that man speak, and learn from him. I would thank him and tell him my great love for Church history came, in part, because I studied his words.

I want to meet Captain Moroni--a man I have long admired for his courage, intelligence and compassion. I would thank him for the way he has inspired me and so many others.

I think it would be great to walk into a reunion of the stripling warriors, feel of their commitment and courage, and visit with their leader, Helaman. I would want to thank them for their willingness to step in and risk everything.

I would love to find out what made Teancum tick. He was so bold.

And who wouldn’t want to meet such a great and forgiving man as Pahoran and tell him how touched they were by his words to Captain Moroni?

Nephi is another man I would love to meet—Nephi and his brother, Sam. We read so little about Sam but Nephi obviously loved him deeply. I want to tell Sam and Nephi that I admired their brotherly relationship—that the quietness of the record actually spoke strongly to me and I appreciate their example.

Same with the Prophet and his all his brothers; including Alvin. We know so little about Alvin except that he had great faith in his younger brother and I want to express appreciation for that example of confidence.

From more modern times I would love to meet General Robert E. Lee. He was one of the greatest men in U.S. history and did so much good for our nation yet he is too often misunderstood. I would like to tell him I have so admired him and appreciated his sacrifices.

I would love to meet the angel who physically reached through the veil and saved my life on my mission. All I saw were his hands but I want to know who those hands belonged to and what personal connection he had to me. I want to thank him.

I want to see my grandmother and grandfather together. My grandfather died when I was an infant. During the next 40 years my grandmother never stopped loving him or missing him. I imagine they are very happy to be together now. That is what I imagine a happy marriage is like and I want to thank them for the image they have painted for me.

I also never met my husband’s grandparents but I would like to. The last act of his maternal grandfather in this life was to share a prayer with his wife as they served a mission together. After the prayer he told his wife he loved her, kissed her gently and collapsed to the floor from a sudden heart attack. Two years later she called her children together, told them their father had come to her and said he was coming to bring her home in two days. She told her children she loved them, gave them final words of love, advice and testimony and died two days later. What a great example they were to their children and their grandchildren and I want to thank them for that example and the way it has influenced my marriage.

And there are other people I would love to meet, others I would love to thank for influences they had on me that they didn’t even know. Still there are others I want to ask forgiveness from.

So, I guess I do have a list of things I would love to see and do, but they are more sacred and personal than visiting a foreign city or trying some extreme sport. .

Monday, May 27, 2013

A friend of mine, who is active in another religion, e-mailed me to ask my opinion on the Church’s endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America ruling to allow homosexuals into the organization. She also wanted to know how I felt about the Church’s stand and whether or not the Church ordained homosexuals to the priesthood. Here is my response…

As for your questions about the Church and homosexuals, the Church has long been concerned about homosexuals and have spoken out on their behalf. I remember almost 30 years ago reading a tremendous talk by Boyd K. Packer, one of the 12 Apostles of the Church, wherein he spoke with kindness and concern to those in the Church struggling with same-gender attraction. It was a talk ahead of its time.

Do not mistake the Church’s love and concern for homosexuals as approval for their lifestyle because that is not the case. I, the Church’s leaders, and the main body of Church members, see those struggling with same-gender attraction as beloved sons and daughters of God and our spiritual brothers and sisters who need love and not rejection. We teach and truly believe that God’s love and Christ’s example charges each of us to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another.

As for the act itself, the Church has said their “doctrinal position is clear. Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality but never cruel. His interest was always to life the individual, never to tear down.”

In the political arena, the Church is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, but it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.

Within the Church, we have always recognized that attraction to the same sex is not inherently sinful, but engaging in homosexual behavior is. That is the difference. Acting out on those desires is in conflict with God’s commandments (based on scripture) that sexual relationships are to be reserved for those who are married and marriage is between a man and a woman.

HOMOSEXUALS AND THE PRIESTHOOD. Do we ordain homosexuals to the priesthood? I guess that depends on how you define homosexual. Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church’s teachings of chastity and morality are allowed to take part in services and serve within the Church. They can—and do—enjoy full fellowship with other Church members, including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God. It is when they fall and break the commandments that they lose blessings. We don’t withhold opportunities and blessings based on what ‘could’ happen. If that was the case, none of us would be worthy to partake of spiritual blessings for all of us are susceptible to sin.

Obviously, no matter what I or the Church say, some will disagree but, as the Church states, “we hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position and not on distortion or selective interpretation.”

BOYSCOUTS: As for their view on the new BSA ruling, the Church said, “Young men…who agree to abide by Church standards (are) welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate. This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and it is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.

“These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and includes abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and protecting and strengthening boys and young men.

“The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior….As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.”

So, to sum up, I agree with the Church’s stand that, “Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most….The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all of God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

While I can, and do, deeply love those around me who struggle with same gender attraction I don’t approve of acting on those desires and committing homosexual acts. I also do not condone hatred, bigotry or discrimination against them or anyone else who looks, acts, believes or sounds differently than I do. All of us have thorns in the flesh and crosses to bear. The sin is in breaking the commandments of God, not in wrestling with the weaknesses of the flesh and bearing our personal burdens in life well, walking in harmony with the Lord’s teachings despite the many pulls on us. Those who do walk uprightly in the Lord’s path deserve my respect. Would that I could bear my crosses as well as so many others do.

The Church has a tremendous Web site, if you're interested.

Well, I’m off to make banana nut muffins now and—hopefully—have a barbecue. We’ll see what the clouds are threatening to do!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ye are the salt of the earth--so why not sugar?

Christ teaches, “Ye are the salt of the earth” and he tells us “Have salt in yourselves” (see Matt. 5:13 and Mark 9:50). Yet most of the earth craves sugar. In America each individual consumes an average of 156 pounds of sugar per year and we eat less than two pounds of salt every year. That's a big difference.

Crystallized, granulated sugar was around at least 800 years before Christ so the Savior definitely knew about the sweet commodity, yet he told us to be like salt, not sugar. Why, especially when sugar can taste so...sweet?

Anciently, salt was used to preserve food and keep it from spoiling. It was used at every temple sacrifice to preserve the sacrifice from corruption, to symbolize divine protection from corruption, and to give enhancement to the flavor and smell of the sacrifice. In fact, so essential was it to the sacrificial ordinances that salt became the symbol of covenants (Lev. 2:13, Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chron. 13:5).

It was used to greet each newborn child, being rubbed onto their bodies to tighten and protect the skin.

Salt also became the symbol of fidelity. In fact salt, untarnished by worldly contaminants, last indefinitely.

For all those reasons, we can see why Christ would have asked us to be the salt of the earth.

Yet, there are some other reasons we may not readily know.

Salt is a natural mineral while sugar is not. Salt is necessary for life. Sugar is not.

To become sugar a natural source such as sugarcane or sugarbeets, must be cooked and processed and boiled into a syrup to which lime is added. As the sugar crystallizes in the syrup, it is skimmed off, dried and even bleached with sulphur dioxide to produce a false white color.

In fact, sugar looks so similar to salt that, for the untrained eye, it is difficult to visually tell the difference. In many ways, salt and sugar are like wheat and tares.

One way to tell the difference, though, is that sugar dissolves easily in water and salt does not. Try this experiment. Add 1/3 c. of water to two clear glasses. Into one glass add two teaspoons of sugar. To the other glass add two teaspoons of salt. Stir them both equally. You will see that the salt does not readily dissolve in the water and will color the water white. Sugar, on the other hand, melts easily in the water and quickly disappears from view. This resistance to dissolving is one reason things float easier on salty water than on sugary water.

In life, Christ does not want us to melt easily in the influence of the world. When life stirs us up, he wants us to remain separate—white and pure, able to influence those around us rather than being influenced by the world and quickly melting away from view.

Another interesting truth about sugar is that it becomes sticky, whereas salt does not. The hydrogen molecules in sugar bond to other molecules and form a weak glue. Once you get sugar on your hands all sorts of things seem to stick to, dirt, etc. And that stickiness spreads. Touch something after handling sugar and it gets sticky, too. Then that object also begins to attract dirt and grime. Spill something sweet and it takes great effort to clean it up and remove all traces of stickiness.

Salt, on the other hand, actually cleans away dirt and grime.

But for me, one of the greatest reasons Christ may have asked us to be like salt is that fact that salt crystals are always the same. In fact, so consistent are salt crystals that you can actually mix sugar and salt together and still separate them based on sight alone.

Look at salt granules up close (if you have a magnifying glass that is even better). Salt always forms perfect, uniform cubes--like tiny boxes. Sugar, on the other hand, forms all sorts of different shapes and sizes from small to large, to rectangular to fractured.

Christ wants us to be consistent throughout our lives: to be true to our covenants and not fractured or of random conformity like sugar. Like the straight, clean sides on a cube of salt, the Savior wants us to be straight and honest in all that we do and live a clean and consistent life so that, no matter what side is viewed, we still project the same true character…that people can pick us out from the worldly sugar crystals around us.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Do you smell popcorn or soy sauce?

This morning, within about three minutes, child number four walked into the kitchen and said, "It smells like kettle corn."

A minute later, child 6 walked in and said, "It smells like raw meat."

Then came child number 3 who said, "I smell burned popcorn."

Child number 5 came in and said, "What smells like caramel sauce?"

Standing at the kitchen sink I smiled at how differently their noses worked. Then I just had to announce my own thoughts, "Well, I smell soy sauce."

Who was right? All of us. I made caramel corn for church this morning and burned some of the kernels. I also was in the process of making a soy sauce-based marinade for the meat we would be having for dinner.

It made me think, again, how all of us notice different things in life. Just because one smells popcorn and another smells soy sauce at the same time doesn't mean the other person is wrong. We're just wired different and pick up on different things.

In life, two people can see the same incident and each notice very different things. One may notice someone's grief, another may notice someone's need, while another may key in on someone's ability.

I love what we can learn from Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

"For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shal say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

"And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body is it therefore not of the body?"

These verses tells us we should not voice our own self-doubt and think we are not important because we can't do things others can!

Paul goes on to elaborate more when he says, "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."

We are also not to fall into the trap of self-importance and undervalue the help and abilities of others.

"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him....that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."

Family members all have different abilities they bring to the home and each of those different abilities is, in its own way, a gift. And each gift would be missed if it was lost.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Think God asks for too much time?

If you have teenagers, you've heard the complaint before--Church takes too much time!

So I got calculating. This is what I discovered.

There are 168 hours in a week. The Lord asks that we spend 3 of those hours in church. That gives us 165 hours left. By the end of the year, if we haven't missed a single Sunday, we will have given Him only 156 hours out of 8,760. That's just 6 days a year to the Lord!

During the years we go to seminary and Church, the amount of time the Lord asks us to give Him each week is 8. That totals 416 hours a year, or 17 days annually.

Now, if we attend seminary faithfully and go to Church every Sunday, by the time we are 19 years old, we will have given the Lord a 19-year-total of just 166 days—not even half a year! To give Him just 730 more days to serve a mission seems like a very small price to pay…especially when we truly look at how short that time is over an 80-year life.

By the time we come home from a full-time mission at the age of 21, we will have given the Lord a total of 896 days out of 7,665 days, or just two years and five months. Not bad.

What about life after a mission?

Well, if we go to Church every Sunday for the rest of our life and do nothing else, at the end of those 80 years or 29,200 days--we will have given the Lord a total of 1,256 days or less than one more additional year. That comes to a grand, life-time total of three years and 5 months—and that’s after serving a full-time, two-year mission!

(166 days before a mission +730 days during a mission +360 days after a mission [6 days a year x 60 years=360 days] = 1,256 days total)

If we serve in extra callings during the remainder of those 80 years and give up an average of 5 hours each week in addition to the 3 we spend each week in Church, our total sacrifice will rise to 1,976 days or 5 years and 3 months of 'full-time', faithful service!

(166 days before a mission +730 days during a mission +1,020 days after a mission [17 days a year x 60 years=1,080 days] = 1,916 days total)

Five years to serve God and return Home with honor?

He really doesn’t ask us for very much of our time, does He?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Keys to 27 years of marriage

My husband and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Even now I find it hard to believe that we have spent more of our lives together than apart. The time has gone by so fast. It seems like we were married only a month or two ago, but six growing children tell us it was a bit longer ago than that.

I don’t profess to be a marriage expert by any means but I have noticed some patterns in successful marriages. When these patterns are strong, the marriage is—but when these patterns are weak, the marriage seems to struggle.

Make love often. What sets marriage apart from all other relationships? It’s making love. Don’t believe me? Let me lay it out for you, then.

Before marriage you can spend as much time together as you want. You can worship together all you want. You can attend the temple together all you want. You can serve others, study the scriptures, pray together, eat together, work together, shop together, play together, make major purchases together…even live together under the same roof. (Ever travel and spend time together at the future-in-laws home before marriage?)

The only thing the Lord asks us to reserve for after marriage is our sexual relationship. That is the foundation that sets marriage apart from all other relationships, whether that marriage produces children or not.

And if that is the foundation the Lord has given marriage, then it is up to us to make sure that it becomes a strong and secure foundation. We do that by making love often...not just when we want to but just as importantly when our partner wants to and needs to, too.

Swallow criticism. Years ago a female relative told me “I think you are wasting your life by staying home to raise your child. You should be going to school and pursuing a career.” I was too stunned to respond but later, that night, I wept over her words. I wanted to lash out at her, chew her out, be as sharp and vicious with her as she had been to me. I couldn't undersand how could she be so mean and critical!

Even after 23 years I have never forgotten her words--but they no longer upset me because I also have never forgotten my husband’s response. He said, “Terri, It is hard for some people to understand why a person as smart as you would choose to stay home and not pursue a career. It was her way of telling you she sees your intelligence and potential and thinks you should be using it.”

His words soothed me but, more importantly, they made me think. If this relative had approached me and said it the way my husband had, she would have made her point without hurting my feelings. In fact, she would have made me grateful she shared her observation with me.

I learned from that experience there is always a way to express a feeling, hope, concern, thought, even a disappointment, without hurting the other person. Swallow criticism and find a kinder way to express yourself.

Laugh often. One day my husband and I were having a difference of opinions yet we were still laughing together. My son, home from his mission, was sitting between us at the kitchen table. As we resolved our differences and joined together in a final burst of laughter I told our son, “I really hope you can marry a woman you can laugh with even when you are in the middle of disagreeing.”

Laughter will bring brightness to heavy situations. Laugh when the work is hard and tiring and when emotions are tense. Laugh when you want to grumble. Laugh when you want to quit. Laugh when you want to blow up. Laugh together in the car, in the kitchen, and especially in the bedroom.

But never, ever laugh at the other person. I tell my children all the time, ‘it’s only funny if everyone is laughing.’ If even one person is not laughing, then the comment or joke was inappropriate no matter how funny you may think it is. Learn to find humor that everyone can enjoy.

Focus on the Lord. Even if your spouse doesn’t want to focus on the Lord, make sure you do.

When you feel hurt or angry, misunderstood or underappreciated, focus on the Lord. When you don’t like your spouse very much and you are wondering if you should call it quits, stop focusing on their failures. Focus on the Lord instead. Keep the promises you made to Him to honor your marriage. Focus on what He would want you to do, and say. Focus on becoming the best husband or wife you can possible be and trust that the Lord knows what your spouse needs more than you do. Stay focused on Him and follow His promptings.

When you stay focused on the Lord, you will improve as a person and as a spouse…and that will, with time, improve your marriage. As you focus on the Lord you will find you will criticize less, laugh more and make love more often.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Isaiah's Parenting Passage

Years ago my brother asked me to share with him one of my favorite scriptures. I don’t remember which one I referenced at that time but I do remember the scripture he shared with me. Isaiah 61:1-3

Now, not many people even read Isaiah, let alone find a favorite scripture among his writings, so I was intrigued. I asked him to explain why. Because of his explanation this passage of scripture is now one of my favorites as well.

This passage is a Messianic passage, meaning it is referencing the Savior and his role. My brother said we are told to become like the Savior and, if we are truly trying to be like Him, we will follow the example He set and do as He does. "That means this passage about the Savior applies to me as a husband and a father," he said. "This is what I need to become."

And, as he read the passage and applied it to his role in life, I realized it also applied to me...and to everyone no matter what roles we carry.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;” Good tidings—good news. We are to preach the good news of the gospel to our families and friends. Leave the doom and gloom to the world and teach and reteach the blessings the Lord has instore for us.

“...he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted,” This, my brother said, is one of his most important roles as a father. When his children have their hearts broken by life, he is to use his priesthood and his understanding of the gospel to help heal their hearts.

“ proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” This phrase caused my brother to get a little emotional. As a parent and a man he was seeing how choices can imprison those we love. Yet, he said, when his children sin--and they will--he is not to throw them into a verbal or emotional prison with his response, criticism or belittling. If he is to be more like Christ, then he is to give them the key to repentance, help them see they can repent and change, and teach them in a loving and personal way the blessings that will come into their lives for staying close to the Savior. He is to help them open the prison doors and escape the captivity of their choices.

“To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;” In this phrase the Lord is announcing a full year of acceptance and blessings and only one day of any kind of punishment. As a parent, my brother said he must always remember that 1:365 ratio. He smiled and said, “That tells me I only have one day every year I’m allowed to be upset. I have to keep my grumbling, harshness and complaining to under 24 hours. It puts it in prospective for me. Is getting upset about it really that important in the big picture of time? Probably not.”

“ comfort all that mourn;” This, he said, is self explanatory. It is his calling to comfort his wife and children whenver they are mourning...not analyze whether they could have done something better. He is called to comfort them—not pick them apart. There are other times for teaching, but at the moment of their mourning he is to follows the Savior's example and give them comfort and hope. Period.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes,” This, he said, was one of his favorite phrases in the passage. When the fires of life burn the self-confidence of a family member or friend, or when doubts plague them into feeling they are of little value, a Christ-like person will point out their strengths and inner qualities. He will help them see beauty where others may see only ashes. In the midst of their trials, he will help them notice the ways they are growing and thriving and succeeding every day. He will give them beauty for ashes.

“...the oil of joy for mourning,” My brother said he is to use prayer and his priesthood often to bless his family and bring joy into their lives. The oil of joy should also be what he carries whenever he is around them. Families are a tremendous joy and blessing.

“...the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;” When life weighs them down, he is to make sure his words dress them in praise and hope.

“...that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” My brother knows that if he fulfills his role as a Christ-like husband and father, his family will become trees of righteousness—strong, with deep roots and well-spread branches and the Lord will be glorified for that planting.

That passage of scripture is a good touchstone for all of us. Since that day, years ago, I have never forgotten the gift my brother gave me by sharing one of his favorite scriptures with me.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Out of the mouth of babes...

Mom and Dad, I want to share with you what your teenagers said in Sunday School class today. As part of our lesson I had them randomly draw pieces of paper with different scripture passages listed on them. Then I had them silently read that story and share something new they learned from it.

Your son—the one that you think may not go on a mission but pursue an athletic scholarship instead--randomly drew the story of Gideon selecting his troops for a battle against the Midianites. (Judges 7). After reading it, do you know the impression he shared?

“I found it interesting that Gideon started out with 32,000 soliders but the Lord said that there were too many soldiers--because if they fought the Midianites with that many, they might say ‘Mine own hand hath saved me.’ So God told Gideon to tell the soldiers that anyone who was afraid needed to go home and 22,000 men went home. That was alot who were afraid and left.”

Then he said this, “But, I guess that’s probably a good thing they went home, because if you are afraid you’re a liability to all the rest; and the Lord can’t really use you because you don’t have the kind of faith He needs you to have to work a miracle. If you want to see miracles in your life, you can't be afraid. You can't let fear chase you away. You have to have faith.”

And your daughter, who has life-long health issues, randomly drew the second half of Gideon’s story about surrounding the enemy with trumpets and lanterns. She said she immediately thought of how a trumpet is on top of the temples and the light of Christ rests inside them, and if we remember to declare His truth with a trump of God and let our light break forth from deep inside us where we sometimes want to keep it hidden, then we can conquer the enemy—no matter how numerous they are or how small we are. "The temples will help us surround our enemies and win our battles."

And your other son, the one who is struggling with peer pressure, drew the story of Peter walking on the water. (Matt. 14) This is what he said:

“I found it sad because Peter got distracted by what was going on around him and lost his focus on the Savior. If I was in the presence of the Savior I wouldn't want to look anywhere else but at His face, yet Peter didn't do that. He started looking at the waves and the storm and everything that was going on around him. Even Peter found a way to be afraid in the presence of the Savior, and that’s when he started to sink. I think, sometimes we can be like that. We can be right there, right where the Savior can reach out and touch us, but we forget that and we start looking at everything else. We should always look straight at Him and then we won't be afraid when He asks us to do something, even if it seems overwhelming, like walking on the water.”

And your son, who is so quiet that you find it hard to see inside his soul, was asked to share a new impression about the story of Eli and the boy Samuel (1 Samuel 3). “I thought it was neat that each time the Lord called him, Samuel got up and went to Eli. He didn’t just lay in bed and call out and say, 'what do you want, Eli?' He actually got up out of bed and went to Eli’s room. You have to be a very faithful person to get up and go every time you’re called—especially when it's the middle of the night and you’re tired and doing something else, like sleeping. So that tells me Samuel was faithful and very willing to do what was right even if he was tired and wanting to sleep and I want to be like that.”

(By the way, I found that quiet son of yours at the church the other day because he was following an impression that he needed to go there, even though he didn't know why. Yes, he is already showing signs of being faithful like that and is willing to go and answer the call of the Spirit, even if he doesn't fully know why.)

So, Mom and Dad, you’re teenagers are doing great! If you ever want to know what is stirring down inside their souls, all you have to do is ask me, their Sunday School teacher. I will tell you you are raising some great children. They are aware of the individual struggles they are facing and they are finding the Lord's voice in the scriptures as it speaks to them. So, keep loving them. Keep praying for them. Keep teaching them and doing what you are doing. It's working!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Alma 29--a promise, not a platitude

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

"Yea I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

"But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

“I ought not to harrow up in my desires…”

How many times have we used this passage of scripture to soothe ourselves through a disappointment? We say, look at Alma. He understood disappointment. He knew what it was like to accept and be content with less than what he originally wanted.

But that kind of look at that passage of scriptures causes us to miss what Alma was really pointing out...

Alma said, I ought not to harrow up in my desires. Harrow means to be distressed or broken up. He is saying he shouldn't be distressed or broken up over his desires not being realized right then. That is an interesting comment...but it is true.

You see, Alma was stating that he wished he could take the gospel to all the earth and cry repentance unto every people as “with the trump of God.” He wanted to teach the whole world about the plan of Salvation and how to change and come unto Christ…the gospel was that important to him!

But he was one little missionary in the Americas…probably only spoke one, maybe two languages, could only preach where he could walk. How in the world was he going to get his message out to the whole world and to every people and language, like he wanted?

Yet, despite the physical limitations of his life, Alma trusted the Lord--He also understood the plan in its eternal sense and that is why he boldly declared… “for I know that he granteth unto men accord to their desire.”

Now look at this picture with the angel Moroni and tell me whether or not God ignored Alma's wish?

Alma 29 is one of the most wonderful, powerful and exciting testimonies that God does grant unto men according to their desire! He does hear and answer prayers—it just takes time sometimes, but God granted Alma his wish!

Alma's message IS going to all the world, in over 100 different languages—to places he never could have dreamed about! His voice is still declaring repentance and the plan of redemption. In fact, the Lord granted Alma his wish in such detail that, for years, there was an image of a trump of God in the mouth of an angel on the cover of the Book of Mormon!

God is much more generous and loving than we can even comprehend. He stands so ready to grant us the righteous desires of our hearts!

"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you..." (3 Nephi 18:20)

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.” (D&C 6:7-8)

Alma did much good in his generation…and he is still doing much good generations later.

Alma 29 is a wonderful testament to Alma's righteous heart, and to God.

It is also a wonderful promise for us. In time, God will grant unto us according to our righteous desires.

And that is worth waiting for!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

When marriage hurts

Years ago, during a difficult time in her marriage, my niece called me. As we talked she asked if I ever had second thoughts about my marriage. I answered her with complete candor. “If I had known then what I know now I never would have dated him, let alone married him!”

My answer stunned her and she asked, “then why do you stay married to him?”

“Because,” I responded, “if I could know now what he will be like ten, twenty or thirty years in the future I may find myself saying I never would have wanted to marry anyone else.”

So often we get so caught up in the immediate world around us, tinted and splattered with dirt from the past that we have a hard time looking forward toward the beautiful colors awaiting us on the horizon…and that includes the beauty of marriage.

All of my children know one of the most important decisions they will make is who to marry. But I have also told my children that is just the easy, first decision. Each one of them, at some point after their marriage, will have to seriously decide whether or not to stay married.

It’s a test that all marriages must face it.

Some marriages and spouses will have to answer this question only once. Others seem to have to answer it on an almost daily basis.

The test, I tell them, isn't about whether or not they can get married. Any two people can do that. The real test is about deciding to stay married when things go bad...especially if they go really bad. When the immediate world around them gets dirty, when the mud from past decisions seems to cover their entire view, will they keep their eye on the horizon? Most importantly, when it’s hard to want to keep their promise to their spouse, will they keep their promise to the Lord?

There will be times when all of us will be disappointed by our chosen partner—deeply hurt, let down, offended or even ashamed. That is part of marriage. It is learning to deal with the deepest emotions of every kind, the good and the bad, when our hearts are so closely tied to the outcome.

There may be times—even long periods of time—when we don’t respect our spouse, don’t love our spouse, don’t even like our spouse. What then?

I love Proverbs 31, but verse 26 is especially poignant when marriages are struggling. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

It doesn’t matter how someone is treating us. What matters is how we treat them. When we are hurt, let us try to respond with kindness. When we are disappointed, let us try to announce our appreciation. When we are let down, let us find ways to give sincere compliments.

“Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm…even so the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things.” (James 3:4-5)

When the words and actions of our spouses seem fierce, unforgiving, even harsh; when we feel the storm is too great to pass through, let us remember to find tiny ways to verbally express our love and appreciation to our spouses. And let us share with others, and the Lord, the things we appreciate and admire about our eternal companions.

The power of kind, gentle and soothing words is immeasurable...and we may find it can eventually turn even the largest, most storm-locked ships.

Remember, Christ also used words when he calmed the raging seas. And what did he speak?


Friday, January 25, 2013

When Naaman, the leper, went off the clock

Have you ever met a Naaman?

The story of Naaman is an interesting account with a lot of backstory. Naaman was the head captain for the king of Syria. Syria was a neighboring enemy of Israel and battles between them had see-sawed their borders for years.

Naaman was known as a great man, honourable and mighty in valour…so honourable that "by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria.” Think about what that meant to Israel...through Israel's sins and Naaman's valor, the Lord let Syria gain the upperhand!

Yet, Naaman's life wasn't all metals and honor. He had a personal problem—leprosy. In fact, this problem was bringing him a slow, torturous death.

During one of his forays into battle against Israel, Naaman had brought back at least one captive for his wife, a little maid. A young girl. Now, I am sure that being taken captive was very traumatic for that little maid. She found herself a slave in the enemy’s house but there must have been some honor and greatness in the way they treated her because this little maid showed concern for Naaman’s condition and told her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.”

How many of us wish healing on our enemies?

The little maid's statement intrigued not only Naaman's wife, but Naaman and even the king of Syria. In fact, the king was so desperate to save his favorite captain that he sent Naaman to Israel with a personal letter pleading for Israel’s help in healing this great captain who had led battles against them. Syria’s king also sent ten talents of silver (750 pounds), along with 6,000 pieces of gold.

Now, we don’t know how much those 6,000 pieces of gold weighed. We do know a shekel, a type of ancient coin, weighed just over 15 grams. So, to be conservative, let’s say those gold pieces each weighed 10 grams. That would be about 132 pounds of gold.

I just checked the market value today and gold is at $1,661 an ounce and silver is running at $31.40 an ounce. That would mean 132 pounds of gold would be worth $3.5 million and 750 pounds of silver would bring $376,800. The king of Syria sent, from his own coffers, almost $4 million dollars to buy Naaman’s health from his enemy. He truly loved Naaman and put his personal reputation (the letter) and his pocketbook on the line for this man.

So Naaman arrived at the enemy’s palace and Israel’s king—worried a failure to save Naaman’s life could cause new battles to erupt between the two countries—rent his clothes in despair and asked, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive?”

Letters, the threat of war, millions in gold…none of it could save Naaman.

But this story isn’t about worldly enemies or earthly bank accounts. There is a spiritual story going on with this that is greater than all the power and wealth in the world.

You see, Naaman didn’t know about the Lord or his prophets; yet only the Lord’s chosen servant had the power to save Naaman’s life.

That is true today. Millions of people in the world are slowly and spiritually dying because they don’t know the truth…that the Lord speaks to men through prophets.

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

And we know that He is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” (Heb. 13:8) so it just stands to reason that prophets would still be the way He communicates with man.

But people today don't know or understand that truth anymore than Naaman did. Like Naaman, they are dying and nothing they are doing is going to bring them peace or healing, even if they do have $4 million in their bank account and stand in palaces and mansions.

So, that’s when Elisha showed up. He went to the palace, where everyone was in an uproar, and told the king to send Naaman to his house. He could have healed Naaman there, so why didn't he?

That is key…Naaman had to redirect his search. He had to go looking for a prophet of God.

“So Naaman came…and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.” (2 Kings 5:9)

“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10)

We all know what happened next. Naaman got upset! Here he sat in front of a humble abode with all this wealth and power…in the middle of enemy the risk of being captured and killed...sent by the directives of two world kings…and the prophet sends out an errand boy!

Naaman's anger was most likely a result of his pride. He thought he'd done enough. He thought he was enough.

Naaman wanted a "miracle", a show…a striking of the disease and a calling on the Lord that would drive the leprosy from his body in one fantastical instant while he just stood there and watched.

But the Lord doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t put on stage shows. He quietly starts His miracles only when we are finally ready to work and receive that miracle in our lives.

Naaman wasn’t ready. He didn't want to go bathe seven times in the River Jordan. He didn't want to take part in his own miracle. He even grumbled that the waters in his own country were better than all the waters of Israel. Irritated, offended, not willing to do what the prophet instructed, Naaman left--willing, instead, to die for his decision.

So, I ask again...have we ever met a Naaman?

Have we ever been like Naaman—wanting the Lord to perform some fantastical miracle without us having to do anything? Or maybe we grumble because we think our lifestyle is better than what the Lord proposes.

That’s when his servants stop him and point out a simple truth…that truth is simple. If your life is at stake, why won’t you do what the prophet asks? Just try it. Test the words of a prophet. See what happens.

These were servants who spoke the words that changed Naaman’s life--not his family, not a king, not even his officers...but plain, simple servants who obviously risked Naaman’s reaction to kindly speak up, with concern, and say something about prophets.

And Naaman heard them.

So “humbling himself, he went forth complying and lo! the blessing directly followed.” (Lorenzo Snow)

Therein lies another great spiritual truth in this story… “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
(D&C 130:20-21)

Blessings are based on obedience…not timing!

Naaman walked away from a testimony of a living prophet unready, at that time, to obey and comply. Later, when he was finally ready, he returned and did what the prophet asked and the scriptures tell us "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean...and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel."(2 Kings 5:14-15) He still received the same promised blessing.

There are many Naaman’s in life. For a variety of reasons they walk away from the counsel of the Lord’s prophets. Yet, in time, when others say the right things to them, those words of the prophet will return to their minds. They will feel compelled to “wash and be clean” and, when they do they will receive the same promised blessing.

Yes, the blessing may come later in their life, and they will suffer in the meantime, but this one truth is clear and simple: the Lord’s blessings are based on obedience…not the clock.

Isn't that nice to know?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Intruder

At 5:30 this morning my second son turned on the hall light and poked his head in our bedroom door. This is a son who hates getting up early for any reason, especially on a Saturday morning. My husband asked him what was wrong.

Worry filled his voice.“I just saw someone in my room and they walked up stairs.”

“You must have seen one of your brothers or sisters,” my husband responded.

“No, I checked on them and they are all in their beds sound asleep.”

Still groggy and not wanting to wake up too much, my husband pulled the covers over his shoulder. “Then you must have been dreaming.”

Not about to concede to that explanation, my son protested. “No, I wasn’t dreaming. I could hear someone breathing and that’s what woke me up. Then I saw the shape of someone beside my bed. I watched them walk up the stairs. That’s why I’m up here.”

I got out of bed and went to help my son, who was obviously upset by the situation and was checking every closet and room in the house.

When I joined my son in the early morning sweep, he told me he wasn’t dreaming or making it up. I already knew that. That's why I was up, too. I knew he had seen someone in his room.

My son again told me he had heard breathing and opened his eyes. That’s when he saw someone moving around his room. Then my son gave me a bit more information. The person stumbled over something before leaving the room and heading upstairs.

Stumbling over something was a key piece of evidence— That is not something you randomly make up.

Though I knew he had actually seen someone in his room, I did not feel alarm. Still, I wanted to be sure my family and home were completely secure, so my son and I checked the rest of the house together. As we quietly searched the house I told him I didn’t think it was a prowler because it was 5:30 in the morning and that was an usual time for a prowler. Besides, our dog was up and needing to go outside and if there was a stranger in the house, he would have reacted to it.

Comforted by my help, our concluded search and (I hope) my words, my son went back downstairs to bed. I decided to stay up and study my Sunday School lesson.

About 8:30 in the morning our youngest son woke up. He came out and sat at the kitchen table to visit. As he chattered away he asked if I wondered why he was sleeping in his own bed last night.

"No," I answered. (I honestly had not wondered why he slept in his own bed.) "That’s where you always sleep.

My youngest son shook his head and told me his older brother had invited him to sleep downstairs with him last night after he got home.

“So I laid in my bed and tried to stay awake until he got home but I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up again it was five in the morning."

The timing caught my interest. Maybe he had seen or heard someone, too.

My youngest chattered on. "I guess I didn’t hear him come home so I went downstairs to his room.


He continued. "I lay there for a while but I didn’t bring a blanket so I got cold. That’s when I decided to just come back up stairs to my own bed but I tripped over his shoes when I was leaving."


My youngest looked at me, concerned. "He really needs to pick up his shoes because I tripped on them when I went downstairs, too. Anyway, that’s why I was sleeping in my bed this morning.”

Story finished. Mystery solved.

The intruder was my youngest son, eager and anxious to have a “slumber party” with his very cool, older brother. So anxious and exited to be invited and considered one of the “big boys” that--even at five in the morning--it was still important enough to him that he went downstairs to spend time with his brother. Even though the night was almost gone and his brother was asleep, my youngest still wanted to be with with his beloved, older brother.

I was touched by all the love that simple little gesture showed.

I was also touched by the love of my older son who, when thinking the house was in peril by the intrusion of a stranger, got up and checked on his brothers and sisters first, before doing anything else. Then he, on his own, spent time checking the entire home to make sure no threat to his family remained.

All in all, I thought it was a perfect way to wake up early on a Saturday morning.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cleaning house: should we be perfect or faithful?

We were talking in church today about preparing ourselves to be worthy to stand before the Lord either at His coming or when we leave this life. One woman made an interesting observation.

“It’s like when friends show up at your house unannounced and the house is a mess. If I’ve been watching a movie, I feel guilty and embarrassed but, if I have been running around working to take care of other needs for my family or my friends then, if the house is a mess, I will have an entirely different feeling. I may not like the messy house. I may feel embarrassed about them seeing the mess. I may wish things were different but I won’t feel guilty. I won’t feel like I am a failure because I will know I was busy working hard at other things that needed my attention.”

She likened that to meeting the Savior. She said when we face Him in the next life, if our spiritual house is messy because we’ve been lounging around watching movies, so to speak, and spending our time in leisure, worldly pursuits, we will feel guilty.

But, if we’ve been running around serving others, fulfill our callings, and trying to do good things to the best of our ability then when those messes are seen by Him we may feel embarrassed. We may wish things were different but we won’t feel guilty. We will know we were working hard throughout our day.

I liked that analogy. We don’t have the time or ability to solve every problem in this life and clean up every messy spot in our personal world. We will all die imperfect in some areas but those who have dedicated their lives to working as hard as they can at the things the Lord has asked them to do will know their time of labor was well spent.

In the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ never claimed the Lord said, well done thou good and perfect servant.

Instead, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:21)

He is not asking us to be perfect servants. He just wants us to be faithful ones, to do our best, and not waste our time--so we won't feel guilty when we face Him. Best of all, if we try our best to be faithful, I know the Lord is the kind of friend who will say, ‘you’ve been so busy doing other things, let me help you with the rest.’

That is the kind of Savior I know and love.