Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day / Living

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the beloved United States. It is one of the days we recognize and remember our soldiers' service. Today especially my thoughts turn to my brother, Austen, who is serving in the army and is based at Fort Bliss, Texas. I admire his desire to serve his country and his willingness to be a part of the army. To be a part of something bigger than yourself, to give yourself, to put aside your wants for the betterment of a larger cause is noble and great. I hope and pray he keeps himself true to the gospel and the things he has learned thus far.
I often lament seeing younger generations as they grow up. I don't say this to suggest that they stay young forever while I grow old nor do I wish to halt their progress in life. As I've observed people growing up behind me I've seen so many who kept the Lord's standards while living with their parents but as soon as they move away from home they let such a beautiful, though trying, lifestyle fall. I'm convinced that as a parent I need to be involved in my children's lives. They need to know how much I love them and that this love runs deep. They need to understand what the Lord has asked of all his children and that it is possible to do so. My family needs to know of the strength that comes in living a virtuous and righteous life. If you want to know for yourself what is right, Jesus said this "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine; whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). He didn't say to go out and defy the laws of God to know whether or not they're true, but the opposite. He wants us to live the laws of God, even if we don't have a testimony of them. In so doing we will learn for ourselves.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The first to arise from a suggested subject

This morning I felt a little writer's block and was tempted to, as I have done in times past, not write. Rather than not write, I asked a friend for suggestions. Her response was life's little surprises being answers from God. I had to think on this one for I've yet to recognize such in my life (sadly). I tend to look for the more direct (whispers, promptings, dreams, feelings, etc.) when it is just as probable to see the little things in my life being answers from the Lord. I don't diminish the mission of the Holy Ghost in any way in this post. Rather, I magnify the work of the Spirit. After all, the spirit is described as a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12) and "the Lord God doth work by [small] means to bring about his great and eternal purposes" (Alma 37:6-7).
A mission companion of mine shared a small experience that really demonstrates this principle. He and his trainer were teaching a woman that wanted to be baptized but lacked the answer she wanted. She had faith that the Lord would give her the answer she was asking for and she had faith enough to follow that answer. So that Saturday night as she said her evening prayer she asked the Lord to give her a pink rose if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were the true church. The next morning she went to the chapel as had become her custom and was greeted by a sister who handed her a pink rose and said, "I'm not sure why, but I felt like you could use this flower." She had her answer, was soon after baptized and, by the latest account I had received, was getting ready to go to the temple to be sealed to her new husband. It is a small thing to give a person a rose, but it was the answer she wanted.
This weekend, starting on Friday, I noted a small change in my attitude and countenance. I awoke but didn't feel like doing much, not much at all. I spent most of the day just lazing about the house. I did have my hair cut and I had lunch with family but nothing really productive. Saturday I sat some more and went to the guard shack to sit even more. My faith in being active and pro-active began to slacken. Not that I no longer believed in leading a pro-active life, but I failed to live accordingly therefore my faith slackened. My grip on the principle loosened. Today while in my singles ward meetings, I was taught, fed and finally reminded that I need to be active and pro-actively choose the Lord. The teacher was well into the Sunday school lesson when I entered, but the Holy Ghost edified me. The lesson was based in the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, particularly the great miracles that occurred as a fulfillment of Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
I felt the small sensation that often is a spiritual confirmation that this is something I need to work on or that comes to testify of the truth that I learned in that moment. My faith is rekindled and growing, not because of some grandiose manifestation, but because I felt and understood by the spirit what the Lord wants me to do.
The lesson finished with Joshua 24:15 "Choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." This biblical reference was coupled with a German saying, "et si omnes ego non" (even if all, not I).
One more demonstration will suffice I think. I select this time, a small segment from the song "All the Proof I Need" by Jessie Clark Funk. "...and I have pleaded for forgiveness/ and all I received was a smile..." I've personally been there. Pleading, begging for forgiveness isn't fun or enjoyable. It's rather painful to admit to having done wrong and then feel real, Godly sorrow for it. The sweet, soft healing is worth the whole of it. The smile that slowly caressed my face after was breath taking. I would go through such repentance to feel forgiven and healed every time I do something wrong. The pain is well worth the joy that comes thereafter. "And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36:20).
My writer's block seems to have dissipated as I pondered and reflected on these things. I know there's so much for me to learn and I'm glad the Lord is infinitely patient with me while I learn and progress. He is there. He answers prayers, often in small ways. "In the Lord's economy, why send thunder when a whisper while suffice?" (Neal A. Maxwell). A baby's laugh, a bright sunrise, a kind word, a gentle hand are all methods the Lord uses. The little things truly are powerful answers.
Just a small side-note: this post came about because of a suggestion. If any of you, my followers and readers (followers being those who through Google "follow my blog), would like me to address a topic leave it as a comment below. I'll be happy to learn and grow with you while I search out answers, reasons and support for something.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Got Faith?

Having faith in the Lord is having faith that He speaks through his servant, the authorized prophet of the day. Numbers 12:6 records that if there is a prophet among us, the Lord will speak unto him in dreams and verse 8 says that he spoke face to face with Moses. This is the Lord's way of leading the people as a whole. We are all entitled to individual revelation if we are living worthy of it. In countless eras the Lord has spoken to his prophet on the earth so that we might know His will. Those who have understood, studied, and kept the words which were relayed to them through the prophet have been blessed. Those who have not, have sadly lost faith and fallen. Their peoples have fallen spiritually and soon followed a physical fall. Look at how many times it happened to the children of Israel. Examine how often it happens in The Book of Mormon. Both book are replete with examples. Two should be enough, but let's look at more modern history. In the early days of the Church (1830's forward), as often as the people obeyed the word of the Lord given through Joseph they were blessed. When they did not, they did not progress and sometimes this lead to the loss of property and persecution (not always the case though, since many were faithful members).
With so many examples, or, as the prophet Alma called them, witnesses, how can we have room to doubt? Why are we so slow to keep such things? Personally, I've been particularly passionate about the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. It pains me sometimes to hear others say that these are suggestions or just counsel and we don't have to follow them. "WHERE IS YOUR FAITH?" I would love to scream sometimes. Following the counsel contained in this pamphlet has helped me to keep "clean hands and a pure heart" (Psalms 24:3-4). The promised blessings of the Spirit being strong in my life, having guidance when needed, and eventually leading me to eternal life burn so strongly that I do not doubt. I practice and I live these things as best as I can. Are there a few things that I can work on? Of course. I'm still on the earth so I haven't been translated and it follows then that I'm not yet perfect.
My advice: study this booklet. It is as relevant to all of us as are the holy scriptures. It is modern scripture.

Among other things, this week we had a small public works emergency in Saratoga Springs. It resulted in us shutting some waterlines off, informing the affected area that they were to boil their drinking water, installing chlorinators, and purging the system until we could detect chlorine coming out. I got some overtime out of this. Certainly, it was a stressful time, but the alarm is passed.
Yesterday was the Multi-Stake Young Single Adult Conference. I love these conferences. While initially my involvement with the singles was social, I've learned to set that aside. Last year at the conference I wanted to come out with at least one phone number. Yesterday, I didn't care. I wasn't there looking for a date or seeking out a young woman. I was there to be nourished by the good word of the Lord. It was mentioned in one of the workshops that if we love God above all else, everything else will fall into place or fall out of our lives. I like that saying. It gives me hope and faith. If I put the Lord first the necessary things will fall into place while the unnecessary will fall out of my life.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers' Day to all the moms out there.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's time for another six months in review

Last week when I posted on my blog the fact completely fled my mind that I had then been home a year and a half. As has been my custom, I shall write a brief review of that half of a year.
Frankly, I thought not that I could grow more nor did I surmise that my situation could change in the manner it did. I worked in the fierce snow and freezing cold. On a couple of occasions my gloves and hands were wet during the whole day of work. The wind howled and dragged me some 20 feet while I held onto a sheet of plastic. I decided that I no longer wanted to go ice fishing. After working in this bitterness, who would really be willing to sit on a frozen lake under the same conditions? Yet through this hardship I struggled to hold my tongue and not murmur. There were many out of work at the time and eventually I joined them.
I became one of the 10% of the American population without work. Luckily I had a "vacation account" with my union and family to offer moral support. I spent several days working on the farm with several purposes in mind. Firstly I wished to help my father since I had an abounding measure of free time. The second reason was to occupy my time. Finally, doing work has always made me feel like a contributor to society. Even the most menial of employs yields to me satisfaction that I have done something.
A new challenge arose when I felt compelled to stay in Saratoga Springs more than I had been. The trips to Salina and elsewhere diminished. Sadly I began to idle away my time playing video games, watching TV and sitting on Facebook. I spent some two weeks in this vegetative state. While at institute a friend asked for my help in her classroom. I gladly accepted to do what I could to help out. This possibly saved me from myself. Leaving my home and doing something to serve others reignited that flame which produces in my restlessness and dissatisfaction with mediocrity. With the flames growing out of the coals I looked for work. When in disappointment I found the construction companies had whom they wanted for the job I looked elsewhere. I put in several applications online and in person. When the call came for me from the city's public works department I became elated. I accepted the work, despite the much lower pay. Work is work. It may not be the greatest work but there is worse to be done. I'll not complain.
Dating also took a new twist for me in the last while. Some time ago I decided that I wanted to marry within two years of returning from my mission. During the most recent period I engaged in more casual dating, or simply going on a date to get to know someone without expecting anything more to come. Interest in one or two people came but also left. I cannot exclude mention of the episode which brought forth my four posts on relationships either. This small era produced questions and doubts and eventually answers and understanding. I received two valuable pieces of advice in this transitional stage: 1) you cannot put a date on getting married while you're still single; 2) when I find someone I want to be with I need to mold myself to fit into her life (while, of course, not sacrificing my standards of conduct). Since then I've become a little more relaxed about dating.
All this considered, I've learned and grown in those six months. One last item worth mentioning. While volunteering at the elementary school my love for reading was rekindled. Since I began volunteering I've consumed the following books: The Give, Gathering Blue, and Messenger all by Louis Lowry; The 39 Clues by Gordon Korman; and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.