My wife loves flowers. It’s a struggle to maintain a garden in the area where we live, with its short growing season, the hardy, fast-growing weeds, along with deer and other critters who like to dine on plants at her expense. But outside our door every morning, her flowers offer a day-starting burst of beauty.
It’s hard to decide which are more beautiful: Lilies? Irises? Columbine? It’s impossible to judge between them. I joke that I have a nodding acquaintance with flowers; I can’t tell you all about them, their names, their characteristics, but I can appreciate the beauty of every one of them.
My appreciation for flowers started early because both of my grandmothers loved flowers. Like others of their generation, they grew things they could eat, but they had to have flowers as well—definitely roses, but also irises, daisies, hollyhocks, and others.
Living in semitropical areas of the world introduced me to a whole different range of flowering plants. It convinced me that there is far more beauty in this world than I will ever have the opportunity to experience personally.
Some hardy flowers can be found almost everywhere. Sunflowers, growing in the harshest of environments, constantly turn their faces to the sun anyway.
Some flowers are unwelcome, and I don’t always understand why. Who was it that declared dandelions are weeds and must be eradicated? I understand that they’re pushy and want to take over too much space. That can’t be allowed. But have you ever studied the beautiful, divinely designed structure of their yellow faces?
Jesus used flowers to make a point about how much Heavenly Father cares for all His children, in one of my favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:28-33. “. . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; . . . Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
“. . . If God so clothe the grass of the field, . . . shall he not much more clothe you, o ye of little faith? . . .
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all of these things shall be added unto you.”
The magnificence of His flowers shows the love and care He put into their creation, but He cares even more diligently and tenderly for us, His children.
Do we appreciate His other children as much as we do His flowers?
There are powerful forces in the world today that work to divide us. Most of us see ourselves first as members of ethnic, gender, social, political or economic groups, before we think of ourselves as children of God.
That is the devil’s work. Jesus did not think of people in terms of divisions that separated them. In fact, He often condemned those who sought to put people in different classes. When we ask that the needs of our class or group be served first, we may be asking that something be taken away from the rest of humanity.
In His Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: . . . the meek: . . . they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: . . . the merciful: . . . the pure in heart: . . . the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:3-9). He made no distinction as to class, color, wealth, or popularity. He pronounced blessings on those who sought the things they saw in His divine example.
Modern revealed scripture offers this insight on our Redeemer’s loving generosity toward mortals on this earth: “he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . and all are alike unto God” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33).
The world would be better if we all stopped looking at people as members of ethnic, gender, social, or political groups and began looking at them as children of God with equal opportunity to come unto Him.
In the eyes of the world, every flower is not clothed the same. But in His eyes, there is beauty and value in every one.
How many times have you heard the saying? Some lessons in life and some insights do indeed depend on your perspective.
Those 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.
On 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?
One 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?
It was a shock to hear of Dennis’s death. The last time I saw him, some months ago, he seemed to be in better health and doing well. I hoped he would have long life because he has been such a good example and influence in his family, in his church, and in the community.
The shock was compounded, I admit, by realizing that he was only a year older than I am.
I considered him a friend, but it could not be truly said that we were close. Circumstances never permitted that opportunity. I admired him, and wished in many ways that I could be more like him. If anyone were to tell me that I shared some of his qualities, I would consider it a high compliment and an honor.
His passing is a loss for all of us on this earth, but I am sure he was welcomed home warmly in the kingdom of His Father.
I am equally sure he is prepared to go on serving among his fellow beings in that kingdom—among the other children of our Heavenly father who have passed on and are awaiting the great day of judgment that we will all face.
That is the kind of heaven I look forward to. If I can live obediently so that the atoning grace of Christ applies to my personal inadequacies, then I expect a heaven that offers eternal progress through learning and service. What else would heaven be but a place to build on what we have just barely begun in mortality?
Jesus Christ repeatedly called his disciples to service; many times the invitation was, “follow me” (John 12:26). Shortly before his crucifixion, he told his devoted apostles, “I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). Again, after his Resurrection he exhorted them to obedience and service (see John 21). He continued to instruct them through revelation, and even to call new apostles after His Resurrection—Saul, for example. Obviously, Jesus Christ’s work among the children of His Father was meant to continue after He wrought the promised Atonement through His suffering and death.
If we accept His invitation take up His cross and follow Him, we can expect to serve Him in this life and in the life to come. Why should we expect service to end simply because we go from mortality to immortality? It is the doctrine of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), that those who faithfully follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in this life will have the opportunity to continue serving in the hereafter. This was revealed to a prophet in our day. (See Doctrine and Covenants section 138, particularly verses 57-59.) I believe. God has given me my own personal witness.
This is the heaven I hope to find, one in which there will be opportunity to continue serving, if only I can live obediently until the end of my mortal life, “(showing) my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
As long as I knew Dennis, that is the way he lived. I imagine that one of his first questions on finding himself in his new surroundings would have been, “How may I serve?” I can only believe that our Savior and Redeemer would reward such a willing servant with opportunity.
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)