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Living With Imperfection Or ‘You Missed A Spot!’

TheDiscipleMD

A few years ago I had the assignment of cleaning the meetinghouse along with a few other members. I ended up vacuuming most of the building. At one point, I found myself working next to a sister in our ward. She was cleaning the door windows of the foyer. On our meetinghouse there are double glass door entryways on each side of the building. She was kind enough to hold the inside door open for me as I vacuumed between the inside and outside doors. As I did so we chatted. After a few minutes of small talk she said with a smile, “I don’t want to act like I am your wife, but you missed a spot! She then pointed out to me a place in the entryway that I had missed. I smiled back at her and we both chuckled. It was almost as if we both knew what the other was thinking.

I finished the job and turned off the vacuum. Then I said to her, “You know, my wife used to do that to me all the time when we were first married. But she doesn’t do it anymore. She has learned to accept the “imperfect” job that I do and in so doing, I feel good because I really am doing the best I can. And she feels good because she has learned that is the optimum effort I have to offer. And over time, I am getting better.” She laughed and said, “I know, I used to be that way with my kids. I was always mad at them because they never seemed to clean their rooms to my satisfaction, or do chores around the house as thoroughly as I thought they should. And there was always contention. Then one day I just decided that it wasn’t worth it. I needed to be less demanding of perfection and more accepting of their attempts at excellence. In the end, the most important thing was accepting that having the cleanest house was not more important than having a loving relationship with my children.”

Instinctively, both of us knew that being impatient with others is not a good thing. Some might think that if you allow a “second-rate” job, you are encouraging “second-rate” behavior. But, I like what Neil A. Maxwell had to say regarding patience. He said:

“Patience… is…a friend to free agency. Inside our impatience there is sometimes an ugly reality: We are plainly irritated and inconvenienced by the need to make allowances for the free agency of others. In our impatience, which is not the same thing as divine discontent, we would override others, even though it is obvious that our individual differences and preferences are so irretrievably enmeshed with each other that the only resolution which preserves free agency is for us to be patient and long-suffering with each other”. (“Patience, Nov. 1979, BYU Devotional).

All of us desire patience from the Lord when it comes to our own lives.  And “patience” is a Godly attribute! In fact Elder Maxwell put it brilliantly in a way that only he can. He said:

“God’s attributes of omniscience and omnipotence no doubt made the plan of salvation feasible. But it was his perfect love which made the plan inevitable. And it is his perfect patience which makes it sustainable!”

Patience is an attribute of God! He lovingly waits for us to become like Him. He encourages and even commands. But when He does so, he does so with patience. He knows that our growth will come with time. All of us can benefit from developing a little more patience in this life, for others, for ourselves and with God. My experience in cleaning the building was just a simple reminder to both me and my ward sister, that it is more beneficial, and more Godly, to look for the goodness and efforts of others, rather than looking for the “missed spot.”

 

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Always Room In His Inn (with Jacuzzi)

TheDiscipleMD

A number of years ago my wife and I took a weekend trip to Pennsylvania. Our excursion was sudden and unplanned. We got into the car on a Friday afternoon with the intent of returning home to Maryland by Sunday. Upon our arrival to one of our favorite destinations, we attempted to get a hotel room. We stopped at a local hotel to inquire of rates only to find that they were full. “Odd”, I thought to myself, as it wasn’t a particularly busy time of year for the area. We stopped at another hotel down the road. They too were full. I walked back to the car and told my wife how strange it was that they were also full. We entered “lodging” into the GPS and got a whole list of local hotels and their phone numbers. Upon calling, one after another informed me that they were full. Finally I inquired of one hotel clerk, “Why is everything full around here. I can’t seem to find a room?” He replied, “There is a huge youth soccer tournament this weekend. You probably won’t be able to find a room within twenty miles of here!” And I found out that he was right. We spent the entire night driving around before we finally found a room at some Podunk motel, in a tiny town outside of Philadelphia many miles from our desired destination. It resembled the famed “Bates Motel”. At some point in your life, I’m sure that many of you have had a similar experience in finding “no room in the inn”.

All of us are familiar with the following verse of scripture.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7)

In recalling my experience that night in Pennsylvania I can relate, in a small way, to the frustration that must have been Joseph’s, when he found that the only place available for his expectant wife was a stable. I don’t know how many “Inns” Bethlehem had, but I’m sure because of the “taxing tournament” that was going on, rooms were at prime. Joseph, like myself, had to settle for accommodations that were less desirable than what he wanted for his wife.

Jesus Christ who was born in that stable, because there was “no room in the inn”, talked of housing often. But it was about housing of an eternal nature. He said, “In My Fathers house are many mansions:…I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) In the Doctrine and Covenants it is recorded, “For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father. (D&C 72:4)

I know how I felt that night when I couldn’t find an adequate hotel for my wife. I can only imagine the agony of Joseph when he couldn’t find a proper place for his wife to give birth to the Savior of the world. If I felt badly about a two-night accommodation that lacked, how might I feel if I am not worthy to provide my wife with one of our Fathers best mansions for the eternities?

The wonderful thing about our Father’s house is that there is always room for one more. We will never hear “I’m sorry, but there is no room in the inn”. If we live our lives according to the commandments of God, the day will come when husbands and wives will hear the voice of the Savior say, as he did to Enos, “Come unto me ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.” (Enos 1:27) On a personal note, I know my wife wouldn’t want anything less than a bath that is equipped with a Jacuzzi!

 

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An Eye-Opening Experience

TheDiscipleMD

It was my turn to read the “chart.” I had been pulled out of 6th grade for my annual eye exam. I walked down the school hallway to the exam room and was told to stand on the chalk line. After being given a plastic black spoon, I was told to cover my left eye and read the letters on the chart, beginning with the biggest one. I dutifully followed directions, put the spoon over my left eye and read the letter E on top of the chart. Then I squinted and thought I saw an F and T on the next line. I couldn’t read anything below that. I read the letters on the chart with the same result when I put the spoon over my right eye. I didn’t think much of it. I was told, “Thank you,” and I started to go back to class. But just as I reached the outside door of the room, I turned around and watched another kid from my class put the spoon over his left eye. He started reading all the letters on the chart, all the way to the bottom. I thought to myself, “Wow, that kid has some kind of eyesight.” It was shortly thereafter the news arrived that my fellow classmate wasn’t a “visionary” kid after all. He was normal. I was blind! That is, I needed glasses. I had no idea that I wasn’t seeing like everyone else, because I only knew how things looked through my eyes. The day I got my glasses is the day I realized that a whole new world was at my fingertips. I remember so distinctly standing outside and looking at the trees. They were not just gobs of green as I had seen them before,  they had distinct leaves. It was an “eye-opening” experience. I have never forgotten that moment. That is what clear and focused vision can give a kid; a new perspective on things.

In this life many travel, unaware, that they are not seeing all that this life has to offer. Sure they enjoy the shades of green on the trees, but they are not partaking of the crystal clear vision that comes with the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are missing the beauty of seeing each individual leaf! As a kid, I was enjoying my life and thinking all was well. I was never the same after putting on my glasses for the first time. I didn’t and wouldn’t have wanted to go back to my days of fussiness. I had been exposed to something better, a miracle you could say; a conversion to a better life.

Over the years as I have looked about, I have found nothing that gives clearer vision to the beauty of this life than the teachings of Christ. I know that others may be happy with their lives. How wonderful! But, can anyone really understand what they are missing until they put on “spiritual” glasses and begin to see the tiny beauties that are waiting to be discovered? Why would anyone ever want to go back!  I was always impressed with this scriptural story, found in the ninth chapter of John.

” Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight… Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9: 10-11, 24-25).

For many, like myself, the gospel of Jesus Christ has given clarity to our lives. It’s a clarity that is eye-opening and wonderful!

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The Divine Nature And Destiny Of Families

TheDiscipleMD

On more than one occasion I have posed this question to a class of students, “Is there anyone who wouldn’t like to come from a loving home with a father and mother who are married and love each other and love you?” The response is always the same. Silence! Not a hand goes up, nor does anyone look like they have been inclined to vote so. I have only posed this question to students in seminary, Sunday School, and other affiliated church sponsored classes so you might think that the question I asked was to a loaded audience. You would be partially right but the students I have taught in this area over the years have been from very diverse backgrounds. Most have been members of the church, but plenty have come from single parent homes or have come from backgrounds that teach differently. Some have had their “own” children out-of-wedlock or are contemplating doing so. But this question is one that seems to catch many off guard. I can see in their faces a moment of reflection. And in that moment I recognize that they feel, as we all do, that coming from that kind of home would give you secure and loving feelings. It would be wonderful if all were so blessed! Some come from such homes, but increasingly, many do not. I believe it is a God-given need to belong to a unit called a “family” because it is after the pattern of God. Our desire to belong to a family is from God Himself. (Book of Genesis)

The world often tries to form or mimic bonds inherent to families through man-made organizations. Clubs, gangs, teams, colleges, countries, even those with a common belief system called churches can be formed to imitate or counterfeit the true order of “families”. The need to be “loved” is a primary need of everyone and the “family” unit is the Godly manner in which it is primarily fulfilled. When all have deserted, it is family members who seem to stand-alone in sustaining and supporting its members. I am just one of many who share grave concerns regarding the attack on and breakdown of the family as defined by God through the holy scriptures.  A modern prophet said:

“We are building and maintaining more prisons than we can afford. The costs are enormous, almost beyond comprehension.

In an alarming percentage of the cases of those who are warehoused in these facilities, there will be found in their background a broken home where a father abandoned his family and a mother struggled in vain to handle the overpowering odds against her. Why all of these broken homes? What happens to marriages that begin with sincere love and a desire to be loyal and faithful and true one to another?

There is no simple answer. I acknowledge that. But it appears to me that there are some obvious reasons that account for a very high percentage of these problems. I say this out of experience in dealing with such tragedies. I find selfishness to be the root cause of most of it. I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle. How tragic the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking!” ( Gordon B. Hinckley, “What God Hath Joined Together,” Ensign, May 1991, 71).

Lucifer is trying with all his might to “counterfeit” the true nature of families. He can do that in many ways through the bonds of gangs, clubs, belief systems etc… I certainly don’t know the answers to all mankind’s great questions. Yet, I don’t’ have to hold a PhD in the social sciences to understand the basic order of life. When a man and a woman marry, and then honor and love each other and in unselfish love they rear children,  they are mimicking the nature of Godliness.  The God-given bonds of family are so evident in daily living that when some question its divine nature, I don’t know how to respond. It’s like tying to explain the nature of sunlight. I can’t explain it, but it’s all around, ever-present and life-giving. To deny its importance is to deny the existence of life itself. The family, as defined by the prophets, is the way of the Lord and no amount of social or political pressure will ever change its divine nature and destiny!

 

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