Tag Archives: Heavenly Father

Fathers’ Day, Mom, and a Pair of Binoculars

Today is Father’s Day and I’m thinking of Mother. And this chain of thought began with a pair of binoculars.

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My widowed mother with her young son, circa 1948.

My father was taken by an accident when I was only 21 months old, so I grew up with a single mother. There were definitely times as I boy when I wished I could have a dad as my friends did. All I know of him suggests that my father would have been a great dad. But I learned—and I see this even more clearly now—that a loving Heavenly Father made up the lack for me. He strengthened my mother so she could do what two parents might normally do. He gave me two wise, loving grandfathers who were great examples of what it meant to be an honorable man. He gave me some fine uncles and others who did things for me that my father might have done if he had been there. My grandparents lived until I was in my thirties and forties, and I was privileged to learn, learn, learn from all of them. I still live by their lessons.

My mother made her way in a man’s world, doing it nobly and well. There were things she could not teach me about fathering and manhood that I have had to learn from experience. (And it was learned in part at my children’s expense. To the five of you: I’m sorry.) But from Mom I learned about moral, productive adulthood. What more could I have asked her to teach?

So what does a pair of binoculars have to do with this?

When I was 10, one of Mom’s friends let me borrow his binoculars for a short time. I quickly decided that I wanted a pair of my own. There is something about looking at the world up close that has always fascinated me. So that year I just had to have a pair of binoculars for Christmas, and I was not disappointed. On Christmas morning, there they were—a nice, new pair of 7×35 binoculars in their own leather case! I enjoyed using them wherever we traveled, or just out in the backyard studying the mountains east of town.

Later I found out from Mom that they had cost her $50. I had no way at the time to appreciate what that meant. But for perspective, she had left a well-paying job a couple of years earlier to go back to college and get a degree in something she could enjoy doing for the rest of her life. That Christmas in the mid-1950s, we were living in my grandparents’ basement apartment, paying them $20 a month rent and getting by on a little income from a small store my mother owned with her parents. The cost of those binoculars was a significant sacrifice for her.

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On a family vacation at 15.

My father was a wonderful man, by all accounts, and I hope to have the privilege of knowing him in some far-away future beyond this life. But in this life, my mother was forced to be the provider and guide and support—everything a parent needed to be. And often I asked way to much of her. She gave—without my really realizing all the sacrifices she made.

I still have that pair of binoculars, scarred by long use. They’re tucked away in a closet, inside what remains of their leather case. Today I have two or three newer pairs, for bird watching, travel, scenery. This morning I looked at the small pair I keep on the kitchen table for watching the cardinals, orioles, jays, and woodpeckers out back, and I thought of Mom. When I think of that older pair of binoculars, it is not without some guilt. I remember how much she gave and how much I asked when I was growing up. Now I wish I had been less greedy and less needy. But can we ever really know the sacrifices of parents until we are in that role ourselves?

Mom is with Dad now. She lived as a widow for 64 years. I hope they are enjoying the opportunity finally to work as a team. And I hope that some years hence I may meet them together and thank each of them for all they provided me.

But for now—thanks, Mom, for being Dad when you had to be.

 

 

 

Let Me Sing of Beauty

Nvoo SGK home20170513_009Sometimes I just have to give praise to God for the glories of this earth He created.

We have been very busy for the past several weeks in our service assignment for our church, but we have still had time to enjoy the beautiful things and creatures on Heavenly Father’s good, green earth.

The woods north and south of the place we live “are lovely, dark and deep.” (Homage to Robert Frost here.) We have seen deer watch us curiously as we are out walking, and Squirrel Nvoo 9My17_00438other creatures—including lots of lively squirrels—scampering nearby. The neighbor’s bird feeder draws cardinals, blue jays, redheaded woodpeckers, and other beautiful birds we can see from our kitchen window.

To the east, toward sunrise, there are houses with beautiful expanses of green lawn and fields with healthy crops coming up. One mile to the west, our street ends at the Mississippi River. Before the river, there are the restored homes and sites of historic Nauvoo, surrounded by bright flowers (including some that we helped plant last week).  More often than not, the evening brings a spectacular sunset across the Mississippi.

The works of man here are interesting, but the works of God are glorious. They bring these thoughts.

O let me sing of beauty

In creation’s wide expanse,

For thou art surely master

Of more than form and function,

Adding artistry in the shaping

Of the countless living things

That fill our ordered sphere.

How shall we see a leaf

And fail to recognize

Thy careful hand as artist

In its green pulse of growth?

Cardinal Nvoo My17_DSC00470How shall we see a cardinal

And not ask if brilliant red

Was somehow essential

To its graceful flight?

How can we see the river’s

Wide and surging power

And not see in its flow

The surging fount of life?

We live midst ordered systems,

Each driven by its laws,

Yet something more than order

Dresses and shapes creation,

Something more than function

Adds hue and pleasing form.

The delights of earth around us

Are products of Thy hand.

O let me sing of beauty

That is a gift from Thee.

“It’s a Matter of Perspective”

How many times have you heard the saying? Some lessons in life and some insights do indeed depend on your perspective.

COB Flower 12My16_00180Those who know me know that I always carry a small, good quality camera with me, especially when Mrs. S. and I are out walking or traveling. (My children would be surprised to see Dad without a camera.) This way, I can capture moments that may come only once.

Yesterday, the flower in front of the downtown office building, spotlighted by the sun, made such a moment. It was another of so many wonderful gifts from Heavenly Father, who has the scientific expertise to design complex, interlocking ecosystems that support life on earth and who endows them with beauty at the same time.

The impact of the flower when I saw it was momentarily stunning—arresting. I was on my way to a meeting, but had to stop and take time to savor this gift.

From the perspective in this photo, the flower is beautiful. If I were to blow up the photo, you would easily see that the flower has tiny imperfections and small damaged spots. But why focus on those? Why not enjoy the effect of the whole?

Why not look at things as Heavenly Father, or our Savior Jesus Christ, would see them? Do we not each hope that Jesus, who paid such an excruciating price to own us as our Redeemer, will see us as the whole that we can be rather than focusing on the many imperfections we carry? Indeed, through Him, the imperfections can be erased if we put our roots down into His doctrine and accept the light of His Atonement in our lives.

Ducks 13My16_00188On this morning’s walk, I literally “got my ducks in a row” in one photograph. Disturbed by our near approach, the ducks formed up and followed their leader to what they considered safer ground. It was a metaphor captured in megabytes. It reminds me of the Savior’s comment that He would gather His followers as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings to protect them, if only we would follow. What is there in our lives that prevents us from following? Can we get that obstacle out of the way?

Duckling 13My16_00196One fuzzy little duckling we noticed on this morning’s walk was having trouble making its way around the large rocks on the lake’s shore. For the duckling, they were huge boulders. It would have been no great difficulty to move the rocks out of the way—but would that have benefited the duckling? Sometimes I think Heavenly Father watches lovingly as we labor with obstacles in our lives. He knows that this will help us learn and grow stronger. He wants us to ask His help. When we do, He may not remove the boulders in our path, but He will surely guide us as we learn to overcome them. The trials that may be painful for us now will bring blessings in the end. I do not say this just to dismiss difficulties with a platitude. I have had my share of painful trials, but I have lived long enough now to see some of the blessings that have come out of them.

So many things truly are a matter of perspective. We look, but are we seeing the whole picture?

 

 

Comprehending His Love and Grace

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When we come to the Fountain of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, with humble and contrite hearts, His grace can open the way to heaven’s greatest blessings.

The theme was obeying God so we can fully enjoy all the blessings He is willing to give us. The speaker was a man who has been a leader in my church for 30 years, helping members in many countries know and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. The power of his spirit is compelling. I know that he knows what he is talking about when he speaks of the love of our Heavenly Father and the mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ.

He was speaking of the sacrifice of our Lord, who gave His life to pay for our sins—of the incomparable cruelty of crucifixion, of the unimaginable pain that we cannot know. He was speaking of the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ for us—the love that motivated Him to make His atoning sacrifice on our behalf.

Incomprehensible is the right word here. I cannot comprehend how He could love us so much, unworthy creatures that we are. And make no mistake, I think of myself as among the least of the least.

Each day the news media are full of the latest stories of depredation and corruption among the children of God. The local tabloid paper fills its first several pages with stories of murder, robbery, abuse, theft, conspiracy, collusion, and secret corruption that has come to light. But I do not have to go that far afield to be aware of mortal weakness. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see an example. Surely my life alone could never be worth such a sacrifice as He made. Perhaps collectively, we—all of humanity as a group—are worth saving, but just one—well, just this one . . . how could it be?

The speaker I heard today pointed out that we dare not judge, even ourselves. If the Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father, determined that the sacrifice was worthwhile, we dare not say otherwise. We dare not refuse or second-guess His mercy and His grace. We must understand that He finds us worthwhile, and we are therefore bound to respect His judgment and honor His sacrifice by obeying His commandments.

I pledge to try again. Despite weakness, despite my foolishness, arrogance, and pride, I pledge to try again. I pray that He will help me see the right course each day. I am too deeply grateful for His love to be able to express my feelings with words.

But I still do not fully comprehend His love—not in the sense of understanding how completely it envelops and penetrates me.

I must say with the hymn writer:

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me,

I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled, and died.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me

Enough to die for me,

Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me! (Charles H. Gabriel)