Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Climbing Hills

On the Saturday before Easter I had reached a breaking point with Spring fever, I was suffering serious symptoms and I was close to not making it. Fortunately my wife gave me the medicine I needed as the whole family got out of the house and went for a hike. I had told my kids that we were going to go climb a volcano. They were a little nervous to say the least. In fact we had driven around the "R" mountain (or the north Menan butte) before and they were a little nervous. This time we were going to climb right up the thing.

We started out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. A full Camelback on Matthew and my backpack full of water bottles and granola bars. This was gonna rock like Metallica. Then we left the friendly and paved confines of the parking lot. My body was like "see this is why its a bad idea to become lazy between hunting seasons!" I had to agree my body was right. We were off however and we trudged along. Soon the gravel path gave way to the sand at the foot of the hill, then the sand gave way to the hard pack and rock and we were really in for it. About a fifth of the way along Rex my 2 year old says that his legs are tired, and , since mom already has the Colbster strapped to her Rex goes up and unto my shoulders for the duration (to my bro in law Neils who will soon be humping away on those awesome marches in boot camp I FEEL YOU!) so my 10pound pack becomes a 50 pound pack just like that.

As we were hiking we were talking and the kids were excited about Easter eggs and candy and were becoming a little tired and cranky. The Camelback somehow became heavier as more water was drained from it(??? Matthew ???) and I was toting my own dromedary hump as Rexy was the one drinking all the water. Soon there were some remarks made amongst the kiddo's and as I am the mater of negative reinforcement because I can't ignore it I began to lecture the kids. It is at this point that we reach the top of the hill. I look around and I am touched by the beauty of the surroundings, I'm proud of my family for our accomplishment, and I'm laughing to myself because the kids realized that the "volcano" is filled with rocks and sagebrush and not lava which I think they were kind of expecting.
I ask the kids if they understand what we "celebrate" or remember on Easter. Of course Matthew has the answer (he always does) and tells us all that it is the resurrection of Jesus. I tell him that he is right and then I explain a little about "good" Friday and the crucifixion as well, and explain that this weekend especially we need to show kindness to each other and serve one another. At this point Eliza correctly reminds me (she always does) that Jesus would want us to do these things every day. We start back down the hill talking a little more kindly, even though the kids are still tired.
In my mind I am thinking about climbing hills and the Savior. You know that Jesus climbed hills? He climbed not for fun, not for exercise, not for a hobby. He climbed hills to suffer and die. He climbed the mount of olives to take Upon Himself the sins of the world. While there He bled from every pore and shook violently as His body was racked with the pain of my sins, and yours. He climbed another hill shortly thereafter, this time not with a heavy pack to carry and water to drink. No, He carried a cross, and when He was thirsty he was given vinegar to drink. When He reached the top of this hill, I'm sure He took in His surroundings. I don't know if He was touched by the view or not. I do know that He was touched by cold hard nails that secured Him to the cross He had just borne up the hill. I imagine that as all this was unfolding He did feel a sense of accomplishment, and I know how He felt for all of us. Climbing those hills might have been the hardest thing that Jesus will ever do, and yet He did it, because of love.
Please try and remember this the next time you are struggling up a hill, I know I will.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This is why I created this Blog anyway

It says somewhere in this blog that I made it so I could write and share my thoughts and opinions to any who care to read them. So I wrote a talk for church that was supposed to be for 10 minutes, as it turns out I had about 3 minutes to give it so it was considerably condensed. I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to post it here. Read, enjoy (or not), comment, and have a great day!

On Tuesday night at mutual I called on Bishop for a favor and he graciously relented and helped me fix a small problem. A little while later as I was watching the young men and women (and a few leaders) carry out a battle of epic proportions in the gym the Bishop came to me and asked a favor of his own and here I am today. I was told long ago that it is best to start with a joke when addressing a large audience to put them at ease. I thought of a joke I could tell, but my sense of humor is pretty dry. I really excel at physique humor. That is different from physical humor like Jerry Lewis or Jim Carey. Physique humor is when you look at my physique and laugh- so there you go; I told you I have a dry sense of humor.

Bishop asked me to use Elder Uchtdorf’s address from last fall’s General Priesthood meeting entitled “Lift Where You Stand” as a guide for my talk. Obviously, I could not speak on the topic better than he did so I am just going to read his entire talk verbatim and then bear my testimony and sit down. No really, as I read through the talk and starting making notes I felt that I had more than enough material for a ten minute talk about half way through the second page. So I hope that you will bear with me as I try to give you a little of my own insights mixed with Elder Uchtdorf’s talk.

Elder Uchtdorf started his talk with this story:
“Some years ago in our meetinghouse in Darmstadt, Germany, a group of brethren was asked to move a grand piano from the chapel to the adjoining cultural hall, where it was needed for a musical event. None were professional movers, and the task of getting that gravity-friendly instrument through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible. Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. There were plenty of ideas, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They repositioned the brethren by strength, height, and age over and over again—nothing worked.

As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, a good friend of mine, Brother Hanno Luschin, spoke up. He said, “Brethren, stand close together and lift where you stand.”
It seemed too simple. Nevertheless, each lifted where he stood, and the piano rose from the ground and moved into the cultural hall as if on its own power. That was the answer to the challenge. They merely needed to stand close together and lift where they stood.

I have often thought of Brother Luschin’s simple idea and have been impressed by its profound truth.”

It is funny that a task of physical labor could spark the thoughts of a spiritual principal, but with the gospel that is often the way things happen.

Lifting by the definition I could find in our little home dictionary is to bring to a higher position, to rise. I wonder have you ever tried to lift something from below, or from a lower level than the object you are trying to lift? I personally believe that it is technically impossible to “lift” from below; at that point I think you are really pushing. In Gospel related matters I think that pushing goes contrary to what we are trying to accomplish. Pushing seems to me the way that Satan wanted to accomplish the exaltation of man. While the Savior and our Heavenly Father wanted to lift us up as we needed and asked.

About 16 years ago in the mission field I learned a great lesson from my mission president that relates to this principle, and has stayed with me all this time, about lifting others. He related a story about Peter and John and a beggar at the doors of the temple in Acts chapter 3 we can find this story:
1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
2 And a certain man alame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an aalms.
4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have agive I thee: In the bname of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
7 And he took him by the right hand, and alifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Thinking about this scripture I can see Peter and John at the steps of the temple and peering down at this poor man and reaching down and LIFTING him up. I think that this scripture illustrates an important principle, Peter was lifting from higher ground. Physically he was higher than the beggar and could lift him, and spiritually Peter was at a high enough place that he could use the power of God to heal this man of his debilitating condition and raise him to a higher level. To lift other’s I believe we must ourselves be at a higher place. To relate back to Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, Peter stopped where he was and lifted, and by giving of what he had to give Peter was filled by the power of God and was able to heal the man lifting from one state in life to another higher station.

Elder Uchtdorf continued:
“Although it may seem simple, lifting where we stand is a principle of power. Most of the priesthood bearers I know understand and live by this principle. They are eager to roll up their sleeves and go to work, whatever that work might be. They faithfully perform their priesthood duties. They magnify their callings. They serve the Lord by serving others. They stand close together and lift where they stand.”

When my family moved back to Rexburg about four years ago we just showed up one day with our big moving truck and our heavy furniture. We did not call ahead to request help. We did not know if the members of our ward who had been there before would still be there. And I did not like to bother others to help carry my burden. I had some family that could come to help somewhat and we would make do. We started to unload the pieces we could and before I knew it our work crew began to grow, soon there was Brother Gibb, Brother Rowe, Brother Hart and others I can’t remember right now who were moving our furniture and boxes and many hands made a lighter burden. We had a High Priest’s moving in company to lift where they stood and help my family greatly. Four years before Elder Uchtdorf’s talk these brethren understood the principle that Elder Uchtdorf taught and although their years of lifting heavy objects had gone on they lifted and served without complaining and with great strength. This is in accordance with the gospel and the Father’s plan.

In contrast to that, Elder Uchtdorf states that there are some who won’t lift where they stand or serve when and how they are called. He states that there are those who seek to lead and those who seek to hide. Those who seek to lead are those whom seem to feel that their abilities exceed or overreach the callings they are given. In the mission field I knew missionaries who sought out positions of leadership, they wanted to be a district leader, a zone leader, or an assistant to the president. Some I wonder if they obtained those positions whether or not they would be happy, maybe they would think they should be mission president? Sometimes people have a calling where they feel that they cannot be as influential as perhaps they would be someplace else in the church. It is sad because often these same people waste their abilities and opportunities to serve pining away for what in their mind would be bigger and better things.

Then those who seek to hide. I am reminded of the parable of the talents and the servant who hid his talent knowing that the master would expect much from him and did not want to lose the talent given him. In the long run by not seeking to magnify his talent the servant lost it anyway. Elder Uchtdorf spoke of a report given to President Benson of members of the Church turning down callings because the members were too busy and didn’t have the time. President Benson said that members of the Church have a responsibility to serve in callings because the rest of us have the need to be enriched by their abilities and talents. I think many of us feel that we may not have the strength, wisdom, or abilities to serve in certain positions to which we are called. Let us remember the parable of the talents and not hide but magnify that which we have be given. As we lift where we stand as Elder Uchtdorf teaches us then we will be given the strength we need.

Elder Uchtdorf continues:
“There is a better way, taught to us by the Savior Himself: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”2
When we seek to serve others, we are motivated not by selfishness but by charity. This is the way Jesus Christ lived His life and the way a holder of the priesthood must live his. The Savior did not care for the honors of men; Satan offered Him all the kingdoms and glory of the world, and Jesus rejected the offer immediately and completely.3 Throughout His life, the Savior must have often felt tired and pressed upon, with scarcely a moment to Himself; yet He always made time for the sick, the sorrowful, and the overlooked.”

A favorite scripture of mine exemplifies the Savior’s willingness to serve and lift others under less than favorable circumstances and the examples of friends seeking to lift a friend out of a lowly station in life caused by illness to a greater station. In Mark chapter 2 we find this example:
“1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was ain the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he apreached the word unto them.
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was aborne of four.
4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be aforgiven thee.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak ablasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the aSon of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, aArise, and take up thy bbed, and go thy way into thine house.
12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”

Here we see how service has and can be given by seeking to raise up others wherever and in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. I think the key in this situation was the desires of the men to help their friend. Christ knew the desires of their hearts, and felt their faith, and lifted their friend from his physical and spiritual depths. He is always ready to lift, wherever He or we, may be.

Finally I think of my Savior being lifted up, this time by men and in a cruel fashion. Lifted up upon a cross that He had been staked to and left to die as a common criminal. And yet He did that which was far from common. He continued to lift others right where He stood, upon Golgotha. He lifted His mother Mary commending her care unto another that she might not suffer in His absence. He lifted those who crucified Him, those who mocked and scorned Him, those who cried out for His death by forgiving them and asking His Father to do the same. He lifted from all of us the unbearable weight of the chains of sin. And as He lifted up His own body to a glorified and immortal state, He lifted us all out of the grave that will one day claim us.

It is my testimony that we need not make things harder than they are. Much like the men struggling to lift the piano we often struggle ourselves with the weight of our callings, our perceived shortcomings, our family crisis (such as they are). In reality all we need to do is stand tall wherever we may be in life, reach down, and lift. In doing what we can wherever and whenever we can the Lord will magnify our efforts and the seemingly immovable objects will be lifted. Jesus Christ is my Savior and He lifts me daily, I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Come, let us go up unto the mountain of the Lord

Today I was able to go to the temple right after work. It was great, it could have only been better if I had my sunshine with me, but she is where she needs to be right now. (Sidebar, she really is my sunshine, since she's been gone its been cold and snowy...) I wanted to go as soon after work as I could so I wore my churchy clothes to work, anticipating the reactions and questions of my co-workers. I actually like to dress nice every now and then and wear a tie and what not, but when I do I get a lot of grief about brown nosing, being gay(???), etc... I usually respond by saying I have a job interview and walk off. I work in a wonderful but sometimes weird place.

Anyway I was enjoying being dressed up, I was trying to mindful of where I was going and mind my p's and q's. I was saying extra little prayers in my mind, listened to the BYU-I mormon lite station (they need to get Punjab to say KAAAYYYYBEEEEEWWWHHHHYYYYEYYYYYYEEE, like he does on KYOT smooooth jazzz), and generally I had a great day.

I got off work a little early so I could catch the 5:15 PM session without totally having to run (we're always late). I was on time and still at the back of the room. The Rexburger's are doing well at keeping the temple full (I've heard rumor that they might ask a stake to start going back to the IF temple). Being at the back was a blessing because I had a lot of time to contemplate and look at the design of the temple and the beauty of the murals. Whilst lost in contemplation (and trying not to melt, curse you thin skinned old people!!!) I had a tender mercy moment when I saw a single sister enjoying the temple session. I can't really get into detail here, but it struck me how the Lord uses regular people as angels to bless the lives of others. It reminded me of a great scripture regarding widows and the fatherless. The Lord really cares for each of us individually and puts in place opportunites for us to be blessed and to bless others. I was a little sad because I was there without my wife and then I saw this sweet sister there without a husband at all (don't ask me how I know, its priviledged information), and how there happened to be a single brother there to help this woman and me by his example.

Going to the temple is always a great experience, but today just seemed to be extra spiritual. I felt like I had many insights, a good boost, and I got to give a little service myself to a 131 year old chap from Yorkshire (not as good as Lancashire, but its Wuthering Heights teritory). I am so grateful to have these kinds of opportunities and blessings. To be able to see the temple from about everywhere I go in Rexburg. To have a family sealed in the temple and so richly blessed by the Lord. And to have the knowledge that He is watching over everyone and providing blessings as often as He can. Life is good.