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That’s Life At It’s Best!

TheDiscipleMD

Shortly after my father turned 18 years of age, he read the editorial page from a church magazine where George Albert Smith quoted the following scripture:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these (material) things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6: 33).

Then for emphasis President Smith added, “Remember to seek the kingdom of God first not last.” The force of this thought has never left my father and he and my now deceased mother attempted to implement this concept in their life and that of their family. My father once gave this sound advice to his children when he wrote:

“The materialistic society in which we live requires that this principle be part of our thinking on a daily basis to have proper priorities in our life. The poet Wordsworth rightly observed many years ago:

“The world is too much with us;
Late and soon
Getting and Spending,
We lay waste our powers.”

Seeking first the kingdom of God means, of course, that on appropriate occasions it has priority over personal desires, professional work, personal relationships, and even family members. The important question to answer is, “What does our Father in Heaven want us to do?” Hugh Nibley once wrote:

“I have always been furiously active in the church, but I have…never held an office or rank in anything; I have undertaken many assignments given me by the leaders of the church, and much of the work has been anonymous. No rank, no recognition, no anything. While I have been commended for some things, they were never the things which I considered most important—That was entirely an understanding between me and my Heavenly Father, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, though no one else know anything about it.”

My father concluded his written remarks:

“Once we understand what seeking first the kingdom of God means within each of our circumstances, we should pursue it with vigor. A wise writer has said: “Each morning we must have unfinished business that causes us to get up from our resting place with enthusiasm to further our goal seeking journeys. That’s life at it’s best.”

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Running To The Right Place

TheDiscipleMD

I don’t remember how old I was, but I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight when I awoke late one night and imagined that the doorknob to my room was turning back and forth. At the time, I happened to be sleeping in a room with my brother that had two doors, one each on opposite sides of the room. I felt my eyes grow wide and I could hear my heart pounding as I saw that doorknob move back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I was so scared! I knew that someone or something was on the other side of that door and that it was going to do me harm! I dared not move. I never once thought of the safety of my brother who was sleeping in the other bed. No, I was totally consumed with the thought of escaping through the other door. The other door led to the hallway, which led to the safety of my parent’s room. Dare I, I thought, risk it? My head was pounding and my heart was beating uncontrollably when I leaped out of my bed and made a mad dash of it. I just knew “it” was going to get me. I quickly opened the “safe” door, and raced down the hallway with “it” close behind me. Somehow I made it to my parents’ room where I knelt by my mother’s bedside. There I pleaded with my delirious Mother for protection by letting me get into her bed. My groggy Mom opened the covers and let me in. I quickly fell fast  asleep. I had escaped the “boogieman”! Now, all these years later, I can still remember the emotion I felt as I imagined that doorknob moving. Never mind that it didn’t make sense that someone would stand outside the door, turning it, back and forth. For a little boy, the terror of that night was real! The lesson I remembered from that night was that, when in time of trouble, you better know where to run to find safety. I had run to the right place! I had run to the safety of my parent’s arms.

I am reminded that this life is full of “doorknobs” that move and sounds that go “bump” in the night. Throughout life we will face challenges that will be frightening and daunting. Maybe even scary! But we should know to whom we should run! In 2002, Elder Lance Wickman of the Seventy gave an inspiring talk entitled, “But, If Not.” In it he said:

“It is common in our secular world to say that “seeing is believing.” Whatever value this little maxim may have in the mundane affairs of life, it is an alien presence when we turn to the Lord in the dark hour of our extremity. The way of the Lord is best defined by a different maxim: “Believing is seeing.” Faith in the Lord is the premise, not the conclusion. We know He lives; therefore, we trust Him to bless us according to His divine will and wisdom. This childlike confidence in the Lord is known in scripture simply as the “sacrifice” of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (D&C 59:8).

I was always impressed with the response of Peter to the Savior recorded in the sixth chapter of John after the Savior had preached “hard” doctrine regarding being a true follower:

” Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?…For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him… From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (vs 60, 61, 64-68).

We must be childlike in “running” to the Savior in our most extreme moments! We too must submit ourselves and say, “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” This can be hard when trials fall upon us, but it is the right thing to do. I ran as a little boy that night so long ago, from fear to peace. So too, as adults, we should know to whom to go when faced with real life fears. It is the Savior! He will offer comfort and peace in our most trying times. He will provide us with protection from the fears found in this life. In His arms we will find safety!

 

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Shimming Across the Potomac!

TheDiscipleMD

In 1980 I was working in Washington D.C. at a food wholesale outlet. At the time I was living in the outskirts of D.C. and was driving a 1966 Ford Mustang. This Mustang was unique in that the gas gauge was broken and I never knew how much gas I had in the tank. Being newly married I was always long on dreams but short on funds. Consequently I always pushed the car to the limit before I would fill it up. Needless to say, I ran out of gas on a number of occasions. One morning as I drove to work my car started to sputter and much to my consternation I once again found myself stranded on the side of the road having once again run out of gas.  However I was only a couple of miles from work so I quickly abandoned my car and started to run to work in hopes that I might still make it on time.

I was confident that I could make it to work on time if I hustled.  My mood quickly changed as I approached a bridge that ran over the Potomac River. It was my only way to get to the city and on to work. At first glance it appeared to me that I could easily cross it.  The bridge was only about 100-200 yards in length. However as I surveyed the task at hand I noticed that there were no shoulders on the bridge for pedestrians to cross, and the two lanes that ran across it were filled with speeding cars.  I made a quick assessment that I could cross it by walking on the concrete side of the bridge, which measured about 4-5 ft wide. Having complete faith in my athletic abilities I jumped on top of the bridge and started to walk across it. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I was in deep trouble. With cars zooming by me on my left and to my right I could see that a fall from that distance into the Potomac would kill me.  With no room for error, my nerves were further shaken when a passing motorist yelled out his window “Jump, Jump!”. He must have thought I was attempting suicide and although I wasn’t I was beginning to think that only a fool would attempt such a stupid act. With death facing me on both my left and right, I lost my nerve and sat down on the bridge with my legs apart. I started a slow shimmy across the bridge with cars zooming by on one side and the Potomac looming on the other.

Over time I made it across the bridge with my life intact. But looking at my watch it was clear that I was going to be very late in reporting to work. I started to sprint to work and arrived a few minutes later only to be chastised by the owner for my tardiness. I remember thinking to myself “He has no idea what I did to get here. If he knew I had risked my life just to be here he would not have reprimanded me.”

Sometimes we judge others because we don’t have the knowledge that many have “shimmied across the Potomac” just to get to church or  in fulfilling an assignment. For some, just getting out of bed each morning is equivalent to “shimming across the Potomac”. We need to be loving  and learn to accept the offering of those around us and not be so critical.  The Savior taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matt 7:1-2).

Remember,  the day may come when we find ourselves “shimming across the Potomac” either spiritually or physically. We will want the love, kindness and understanding of our fellowmen to support us during those times.   Let us be kind and patience because often we don’t know what others are going through.

 

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Seldom Do ‘Good Memories’ Come From Unrighteous Living

TheDiscipleMd

A number of years ago I spent the day visiting, with a number of my siblings, our “childhood.” Our elementary school, old ball fields, the homes in which we lived. We visited old neighbors, ate at old “watering holes” and visited the high school in which nine of us graduated. Most of all, it was a day of sharing memories.

Memories are a strange thing. They have very little meaning when you are young, but as one grows older, they grow sweeter, more powerful, and more precious. And so, my siblings and I spent the day reminiscing, laughing, talking, telling stories, but mostly sharing feelings of love and admiration for those who have affected our lives so profoundly.

“Someone who was a little more poetic than theological said, “Memory is the one Garden of Eden out of which one need never be cast.” Good memories are real blessings.” (Joe J. Christensen, “Good Memories Are Real Blessings”, 1989, Nov. Ensign).

Most of us have been blessed with “good memories” and I believe that they are “real blessings” in our lives. They remind us of the joy that can be found in life and also remind us that many of our good memories revolve around family. Good memories also come from righteous decisions that we make. When we recall “good memories” they almost certainly revolve around righteous acts and thoughts. Seldom do they come from unrighteous living. When we re-live and share memories they conger up the good parts of our lives and make us want to make more “good memories” that we can share in days to come. They become “food storage” to our souls. Food to be used in the lean times of our lives. They nourish the soul, buoy up our spirits and give us hope for the future.

May we live our lives such that as the years pass, we can look back on the choices we have made and find strength and joy in them. Most certainly, “Good Memories are real blessings.”

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