library door ajar

From The Journal Of A Bishop

TheDiscipleMD

Journal Entry: 1992

“…I’ve also had the experience of meeting and counseling with many members. It is amazing the diversity of backgrounds and experience of the brothers and sisters. It is also heart-rending to feel of their pain. It is a humbling experience to know you are just a man and cannot change some of the problems that exist in their lives. Many times people are expecting answers to problems when they are the one who hold the key to fixing them. I have learned to love all people through this personal experience of sharing. It is easy to judge others on their actions when we have no concept or understanding as to what is behind their behavior or why they act the way they do. Most everyone is carrying scars from relationships gone bad, hurts from life’s experiences, or suffer from feelings of overall worthlessness. Many of these feelings come from what other people have done or said to them throughout their lives. Most of us need to have the fortitude to forgive others for their faults and try to accept them in a true loving manner. This doesn’t mean we reinforce incorrect behavior, but at least we need to be sympathetic and understanding of their situations. As a Bishop I try to get all people to recognize that they can control their life and if they wish to be happy they need to start with themselves. It is certainly not easy, but no one can change unless they first do some changing from within. I can honestly say that I hold no ill feelings toward any member of the congregation and I have come to understand who each member is, and why they act as they do. It still doesn’t eliminate the frustration of dealing with members when they don’t follow through, but it helps me to be forgiving and I try to look at myself and see that I too have problems that need to be worked on. There are days that I love being a Bishop and there are other days when I wish someone else had been called. I think we all feel that way about all of the roles we have in life, be it, father, husband, brother etc.. But like the other titles, the blessing of being the Bishop far outweigh the sacrifice. It has been a great blessing in my life. ”

Since the day I wrote those words in my journal, my experience has broadened but my thoughts on the subject are about same. Most often we do not know the burden that others carry in their lives. It is easy to draw conclusions about who and what other people are about. Seldom do we see the “total” movie of others lives. Instead we see snippets and draw conclusions. It is so easy to do because that is all the information we have available in front of us. However, once you get the opportunity, as a Bishop often does, to sit down and talk with someone who is willing to open up to you their life, more often than not, you gain a greater appreciation for them and the manner in which they have dealt with adversity. I can honestly say, that after having experienced private time together, I always felt more love and appreciation for that person and their families. I believe that when we take the time to get to really know others, we find our bond of brotherhood becomes closer, our empathy grows, and our charity is enhanced. That’s a good thing!

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Joy Can Be Found!

TheDiscipleMD

I have often wondered, in the spectacular moments of the birth of our children, how my wife could endure such pain, yet yearn to repeat such an experience. The Savior too saw such an experience in childbirth and exclaimed:

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

His lesson was that joy is something that is enjoyed to its fullest, only when it arrives as the result of hard work, long-suffering, and love unfeigned! It is rarely at the forefront of our righteous endeavors, rather, it settles ever so silently into our lives till it blankets our souls and gives peace to our mind. It brings peace, harmony, and unlimited charity to our hearts. We yearn for more of it!

To quote David Brooks:

“Joy is not produced because others praise you. Joy emanates unbidden and unforced. Joy comes as a gift when you least expect it. At those fleeting moments you know why you were put here and what truth you serve. You may not feel giddy at those moments, you may not hear the orchestra’s delirious swell or see flashes of crimson and gold, but you will feel a satisfaction, a silence, a peace-a hush. Those moments are the blessings of a beautiful life.” (“The Road to Character”)

The most joyous moments that I have found in this beautiful life, have been when I have been following and applying the teachings of Jesus Christ. Joy is something! Joy can be found! Joy is faith and belief in something greater than ourselves! Joy is Jesus Christ!

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Ushering ‘Authority’

TheDiscipleMD

It is an interesting thing to watch a man’s authority “go to his head.” I witnessed such a scene this a few summers past at a Orioles baseball game. According to his usher badge his name was “Bob.” He was in charge of the lower section of the stands where we sat to see the baseball game. It was a bit comical to watch as throughout the game he strutted around his assigned sections looking for something, anything, by which to exert his authority over the crowd. One fan stood up and cheered only to be reprimanded by “Bob” for blocking the view of other fans. The thing was, it was clear that the fan wasn’t blocking anybody’s vision of the game. The man protested and a somewhat heated conversation ensured. But “Bob” had made his point, he was in charge. I watched as he marched around the sections telling fans to put their feet down from the row in front, or other “dangerous” activities. It appeared to me that Bob really enjoyed his work. But it seemed that what he most relished about his job was the power he held over the fans. Yes, it appeared to me that Bob loved his job a little too much. Watching him “enjoy” his job reminded me of a scripture. It is found in the Doctrine and Covenants of the church, section 121, which says in part:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as son as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (vs. 39)

I don’t know why it is, but from my experience there is no truer statement. As the old saying goes, “power corrupts” and absolute power’ absolutely corrupts! You can see it in business, politics, the entertainment industry and in the sports arena. This “exercise” of unrighteous dominion has existed long before the foundation of this world. The history of the world is replete with examples of such abuse of power. From the beginning of time there have been wars between men over “wanting” of this authority. The desire by some to “exercise” unrighteous power over others has existed long before the foundation of this world. We even had a war in heaven over the desire of Satan to exercise dominion over us.

The scriptures state, regarding power:

“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews of heaven” (D&C 121:45). When we live this way the great promise of the Lord is that:

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall slow unto thee forever and ever. (vs. 46)

How wonderful it is that those who use their “authority” righteously, will have an everlasting dominion. And it didn’t require any compulsion, just Christ-like characteristics of “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned. By kindness, pure knowledge and without guile.”

In watching “Bob” that night at the ballpark, I learned again, how careful we need to be in using whatever authority we have been given. May we remember to use it righteously in our homes, jobs, and at church.

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Our Common Ground

TheDiscipleMD

Many  years ago I was perusing the obituaries of the Washington Post and came across one that caught my eye. I was reminded of this obituary as I sat pondering my life on a birthday I celebrated several years ago.   In celebrating birthdays of younger years I had been most excited for milestones ahead. Lately I have stopped counting milestones and have waxed more pensive on the meaning of my life. Although I am still young by most standards, I have experienced the death of loved ones and the journey has taught me that the road of life, which once seemed so long, is much shorter than I had thought.  As you watch the door close on the lives of loved ones, you begin to see things differently; hopefully, more clearly. You begin to understand that life is but a blink of the eye in the  journey through the eternities.

And so, that day,  I was drawn back to the obituary I had read many years before.  It was then that I read the obituary of a woman who seemed of  no consequence in the world. I didn’t even remember her name. I didn’t remember her age. I didn’t  remember anything about what was written of her life. What I did remember, that day, were two words found surrounded by the facts of her life. It read, “Devout Mormon.” I remember how I had sat back at my office desk digesting those two words. I was quite impressed with the simplicity of that two-word statement. I came to the conclusion then, that if that was all that could be written of my life upon my death,  I would be satisfied.

Some might think that strange. However, encompassed in those two words are found all the righteous teachings of my life. It was as a ‘devout Mormon” that I have been taught all the principles of Christianity, of fatherhood, of being an honorable husband and person. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints might not be a perfect organization. But as I examine my life I attribute whatever good I have done, or will do,  to the teachings found therein.

A few months ago my wife and I visited an old cemetery in Pennsylvania.  The headstones marked the graves of souls long since departed from their physical resting place.  Each tombstone bore a name and the time they lived on this earth.  I thought of that “Devout Mormon” from the obituary past. I didn’t think I would find any “Devout Mormons” there and I didn’t.  But I did find some, “Devout Christians”, as many of them bore the symbol of the cross on their markers.  My wife and I walked through the entire cemetery. I was wet with perspiration when we were done. As we reached the car I gazed back across the vast rows of headstones; monuments to no name people, from no-name towns from a long forgotten time.  And it made me think!

I had my wife take a photo of me standing there in the cemetery. Perhaps it is because someday I know I will join them.  Perhaps it is because I share with them common “ground.”  Perhaps someday a stranger will look at my tombstone and wonder about my life. Perhaps he will brush back the dirt and weeds to read what it will say on my gravestone. But I won’t be a no-name person from a no-name town from a forgotten time as the world sees it. No, I will live again, as do all, because of the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. He remembers them, me, and you! We are all sons and daughters of a living God who offers to us eternal life and the opportunity to live with Him forever.

Just before I pulled out of the cemetery parking lot to leave, I once again gazed out on the vast sea of tombstones. I didn’t feel any sadness; just hope! Then we drove away and got some ice cream!

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