Tag Archives: Savior

“Some Assembly Required”

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Bolts, washers, and end caps ready for packaging.

Probably every adult reading this has had the experience of buying something that needs to be assembled according to “simple, easy” instructions. And many have had the experience of getting part way through the task only to find that a key component is missing.
The parts list says: “Eight 5/16 X 5 ½” bolts. Eight ¾” washers. Eight tan plastic bolt end caps.” Now where was that last bolt? Let’s see . . . one, two, three, four . . . seven! Only seven 5/16 by 5 ½” bolts! Now how am I supposed to finish this???
Sound familiar? The absolute worst time for this to happen is on Christmas Eve. (I can remember making a metal shim out of a piece of copper so a bolt would stay in place and I could finish putting together a little boy’s tricycle before morning.)
Maybe all the bolts are there, but one hole is in the wrong place. Or maybe the bolt is just too big to fit.
So we mentally curse the dunderheads at the factory who left out that one bolt, or drilled the hole in the wrong place.
Well, this afternoon I found myself on the other end of the process. In fulfilling a volunteer service assignment, I ended up working in a furniture factory putting together the hardware packages—bags of bolts, washers, and bolt end caps—that go with a piece of assemble-it-yourself furniture. It is precisely the kind of work I never could have done for a living. It seemed mind-numbing at first. Back when I was 16, I had the opportunity to visit a Chevrolet assembly plant in Wisconsin. Workers standing on the assembly line used air wrenches to tighten the same two or three bolts in the car frame, then stepped away until the next frame moved into place, and repeated the same process over and over and over. Never! No matter how much it paid, I thought, I could never do that hour after hour, day after endless day. (Maybe that is why robots are doing so much of the work in factories these days.)
But this afternoon I learned several things: the work is not as mindless as it looks; I can make the assignment challenging; and my mind can accomplish others things at the same time.
The supervisor showed me how to do it: Line up eight bolts in a specially slotted board, count out eight washers and eight end caps, put them all in a plastic locking bag, roll up that bag and pack it into a storage bin, then start over. He opened a new box of bolts for me and left me on my own. Soon I was experimenting with different ways to do the job more effectively or quicker. Some things worked well, others didn’t. I found the system that worked best for me, got into a rhythm, and built up my speed. Before the end of the shift, I met the goal I had set for myself—use up that entire large box of bolts and start on a new one.
After some practice, I found I could multitask; my body and part of my brain were doing the job at hand while another part of my brain was turning over and fleshing out some new ideas.
Life can be like that. Certain tasks can seem mundane, boring, even useless, though they must be done for us to move forward. We can curse them and put them off, or we can accept the challenge, find our own ways to simplify and overcome them, then move on to things we feel are more productive.
But in meeting the challenge, we grow, and God makes us more capable of doing the things He wants us to do, the things that are most important for us to do on earth.
That is the way we move toward the perfection the Savior expects of us (see Matthew 5:48). We will never reach it here on earth, but here on earth is the place to learn how to go forward in eternity.

Among Believers

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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Our worship service was a bit different last Sunday. It involved seven people balanced on the edges of beds or on hard chairs in a small hotel room in St. John’s, New Brunswick. We came from three different countries and four different faiths.

What the seven of us had in common was belief in Jesus Christ and a desire to worship Him on the Sabbath. We met in that hotel room at the invitation of a Presbyterian minister from Illinois traveling with our tour group. He followed the order of worship he would have followed at his pulpit back home that day.

Those of us in that room could have found doctrinal differences, I am sure, if we had chosen to discuss them. Instead, what we found together was comfort in the knowledge that through the Lord Jesus Christ we all may be forgiven of our sins and become better followers of His.

In several cities during this trip, my wife and I have seen many people who appear to be wandering aimlessly in life. They seem to know how to fill their days with activity, but not how to fill their lives with growth and useful experiences.

Lunenburg 27Jn16_02991BAnd yet we have met others who find fulfillment in giving of themselves. In our tour group, these included the outdoorsman who has spent many years in lifesaving on Australian beaches, and the teacher who uses music to help young people through their educational and emotional struggles. The minister and his wife are also among those people who purposefully give to others. While he and I might have differences on theological themes, I have to admire his willingness to share the knowledge of God with others. In that he is an example to me.

In high school, an agnostic friend of mine once said that Hell is every church’s gift to every other church. He was too cynical, I think, and too inexperienced to see how good can draw people together no matter what their backgrounds. I believe in a loving, caring Heavenly Father who will reward every one of His Children for the good we do, no matter what church we attend.

On a personal level, some doctrinal differences matter very much to me. I dare not minimize the principles of faith to which I am committed. Belief in those principles has shaped every crucial decision in my life. Trying to live those principles is making me a better disciple of Christ. I will hold them dear even as many in the world abandon them, and even if my beliefs are challenged and mocked.

Lunenburg 27Jn16_02982BBut I do not believe that God reserves His blessings only for those who share my doctrinal views and my church affiliation. Experience teaches that there are many upstanding people of other churches—or of no church—who are intent on doing good to those around them. Surely God will answer the prayers of any of His children who desire righteousness. Often we mortals simply need to work on understanding the wisdom of His answer, be it “Yes,” “No,” or “Follow the counsel I have already given in my holy scriptures.” Sometimes the answer may be, “Are you ready to follow the direction I will give you through my Holy Spirit?” Jesus Christ wasn’t just leading us on when He taught that if we ask in faith, we will receive (Matthew 21:22).

So on a Sunday far from home, we were grateful to be among a group of believers—people who believe in asking for His blessings, and who have the faith to receive.

The Heaven I Hope to Find

 

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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.

Paris 1Se14_1000586That 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.

 

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)

 

 

 

Beautiful Flowers in Disguise?

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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.

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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.