Tag Archives: challenges

Where Will You Sink Your Roots?

Yllwstn 16Se14_0084Sometimes the difference between thriving and dying is in where we sink our roots.

True, the trees in Yellowstone could not control where their seeds fell. But we, unlike the trees, can control where we sink our roots. We do not have to extend them down into the poisonous lake.

I know people who have chosen to sink their roots into bitter, poisonous waters. They are bitter or angry at other people or at God, whom they feel let them down. Perhaps something that they wanted—fervently desired—did not come to them. Or perhaps some evil—something we call tragedy—befell them. They blame someone else, or they blame God. The way their lives have turned out is all His fault because He did not give them what they hoped for or wanted, or He did not keep them from some trial. They sink the roots of their thoughts deeper into the bitter waters.

Often I have wondered how their lives might turn out if they chose to draw nourishment from other sources.

Many years ago, there was a job I wanted in the organization where I worked. When the opening came, I thought my experience and background suited me perfectly for it. I could imagine myself making great contributions in that position. I even prayed for God to help me get the job if it was His will.

The position went to someone else. At the time it was a bitter pill to swallow. I wondered if I was simply not good enough to be considered.

I lived to see how the position and that department changed, and how it would not have been the right place for me. Had I been hired for that job, I would have missed out on other opportunities that came later—special blessings the Lord had prepared. I would never have achieved some of the things it was my privilege to accomplish.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the Lord’s faithful followers as His vineyard, its people carefully nurtured (see, for example, Isaiah 5:7, Luke 13:6-9). There is a fuller treatment of the theme in the Book of Mormon—Jacob chapter five. It tells of a husbandman who plants some of his olive trees in unfavorable, rocky ground. Still, with His careful nurturing, they thrive.

I was born with a very visible birth defect that was a source of some taunting and bullying when I was a boy. I grew up without a dad because my father was killed in a car accident when I was 21 months old. My widowed, working mother’s income was for many years below the government’s poverty line, and as boy I sometimes wore hand-me-down clothes.  (To be honest, we were never “poor”; my mother faithfully tithed her income, and the Lord blessed us, literally opening the windows of heaven [Malachi 3:8-10] at times.)

But my challenges are small compared to those of many other people. My challenges are important only to me, and only because of growth they have brought. Through them, my Father taught me. I mention them only to make this point: Each of us could identify things in our lives that we might consider unfair–instances where we believe God or others slighted us. We can choose to drink deeply of the poisoned waters by brooding about those things.

Why not choose to look instead at the ways our God has nurtured us with richness of opportunity and experience? Sometimes that opportunity came disguised as a challenge.

Instead of lamenting the forbidding soil from which we sprang, why not choose to bear abundant fruit anyway, responding to the tender, nurturing hand of the Master of the vineyard?


Beautiful Flowers in Disguise?


The photo was taken in September, but the scene is still the same in January.

Sister S. and I went walking in Guatemala City’s embassy district this morning, where the flowers blossom year round and we can listen to birds calling in the trees. They don’t call this the Land of Eternal Spring for nothing.

We agreed that next January, when we are back in the cold north country, we will probably look back fondly on these walks.

So rarely do we recognize today’s blessings as we occupy our minds with what is to come—what we expect, what we fear, what we long for. So rarely, it seems, do we live fully in the moment. (But perhaps I should speak only for myself.)

A French philosopher—typically, his name escapes me—once said that we rarely look at our wristwatches and clocks to find out what time it actually is. More often, we want to know “how long until”—how long until lunch, until the meeting, until I can go home to my spouse and family, etc. We are not so much concerned with this moment as we are with what we expect to happen in some dreaded or longed-for future moment.

The Savior, I think, was the master of living in the moment, the example of taking advantage of the blessings and opportunities that are before us right now. Jesus performed many mighty miracles—calming the sea, for example, and walking on the water (Matthew 8:23-27, 14:25-42). But He was the Master of the moment also in quiet, intimate actions—as He taught the Samaritan woman (John 4:55-26), as He bade the little children come to Him (Luke 18:15-17).

It may not be given to many of us to do miracles, but we, too, can be masters of our small moment when we take advantage of the opportunities before us and the blessings around us each day.

It takes wisdom and awareness to focus on the blessings and opportunities at hand. Sometimes it takes wisdom and awareness beyond what I possess.


Flowers bloom year-round in the neighborhood where we’re living.

It is a blessing to be able to walk among blooming flowers and calling birds here on a January day when there is severe winter weather in the area we call home. Because I look forward to going home, it took me a while to see that.

It is a blessing to be able to bring good into other lives. But it takes awareness to realize that this person standing in front of you is a child of God with hopes and dreams and challenges, and that you possess what is needed to help him or her with some of the challenges. Sister S. is better at perceiving this than I. She is especially good at knowing how to help children. It comes intuitively to her. Perhaps that results from living more fully according to the Savior’s example.

It is a blessing sometimes to face challenges—a truth I acknowledge only grudgingly.  And yet the growth that comes from these challenges is undeniable.

I have not yet arrived at the point where I can embrace the challenges in the same way I enjoy the flowers along our way on the morning walks. But perhaps someday that will come too.