The Natural

I Will Not Fall Down…(Without Getting Up!)

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“My life didn’t turn out the way I expected”- (Roy Hobbs from the movie: The Natural).

All of us have things that come into our lives that we never expected. If they haven’t already visited us, they will in time. I remember going to the movie theater in Pullman, Washington in 1984 to watch the move “The Natural”. You know the storyline! A young man with great natural talent gets sidetracked from his goal of becoming the greatest baseball player ever. Early in the movie, this young prodigy says:

“You know what? Someday…l’ll break every record in the book. I know I got it in me. When I walk down the street, people will say, “There goes Roy Hobbs…the best there ever was.”

Many of us get “sidetracked” along the path of life. Trials and life changing events happen. Some wonderful, some tragic! When finally Roy Hobbs makes it to the majors, decades after a tragic event alters his plans, his new manager says to him:

“People don’t start playing ball at your age, they retire!”

Roy Hobbs doesn’t let his age deter him, he continues following his dream, and although he will never be…”the best there ever was”, he gains the respect of all who know him by his persistence and courage.

I have met a few “Roy Hobbs” over the years. Men and women I know who have been sidetracked from their dreams.  Some have come from homes that can only be described as “hell houses”, where abuse and abandonment are commonplace.  Some have had marriages fall apart or have experienced the untimely death of a child or spouse. Their dreams have been shattered! Sometimes I wonder how they have gone on with life. But they have.  Still others have brought upon themselves pain and sorrow due to the consequences of living a sinful life.  “My life didn’t turn out the way I expected” is not just a line uttered by a character on-screen, it is a common refrain that most of us say at one time or another in our lives. At times, finding joy can be as elusive as eating Jell-O with chopsticks! It’s there on the plate for the taking, but not easily consumed.  But I find comfort in the words of the Lord recorded in the 101st section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory. Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.”

Occasionally, I think all of us want to say, “Well that’s great that our joy will be full in the next life but I’m not living that life right now. I’m living this one and I don’t like it one bit!” When we find ourselves feeling sorry and saying these types of things, it’s usually “the natural” man poking his head out of our spiritual souls.  The Lord does tells us that in this life our joy will not be full, but we can still find great joy in the challenges presented to us while on this earth. The older I get, the more I see the great growth in my own life that has come through my trials.  There is something about overcoming adversity that builds godly characteristics. When you fall down, and then get back up, you become stronger. Your self-respect grows and your appreciation for the small blessings of life increase.

Like Roy Hobbs, some of our dreams may never come to fruition due to circumstances beyond our control. But we do control how we react to trials.  I think the promises of the Lord that “ye shall have eternal life” is worth fighting for!

Tim McGraw sang:

“No one wants to think about getting older, they try to push you out before it’s over, the same world that lifts you up can put you in your place…and I should probably go out quietly, but I’ve got something left, something left to say…I will not fall down, I will not fall down, I…will…not…fall down…without getting up…” (I Will Not Fall Down”, Tim McGraw)

We need not go out quietly! Let us allow the Lord to be the “wind beneath our wings.”  When adversity knocks us down, let us look to the Lord for strength so that we may get up again. While our mortal dreams can often be taken from us, our eternal ones are completely in our control because, with the help of the Lord’s mercy, we can get back up and claim them.

 

 

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The Chameleons

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In the history of most families, you will find a long list of animals that they have called “pets.”  One such pet that I vividly remember was a couple of Chameleon lizards.  As a young boy I recall being fascinated with these Chameleons. Why? Because they would change colors depending on their background. If you put them on a green leaf, they would turn green. If you put them on a brown stick, they would change to the color brown. They change colors, of course, to camouflage themselves from their enemies. Color changing is also used as a way to “deceive” their prey, which are mostly small insects. I recall putting live flies in their cage and watching their long quick tongues pluck them from the air. With its ability to “deceive and confuse”, the Chameleon is a pretty deadly enemy to have.

Speaking of our day, Spencer W. Kimball said:

“So many secular leaders today are like chameleons; they change their hues and views to fit the situation which only tends to confuse associates and followers who cannot be certain what course is being pursued. Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power.

In contrast, he testified of the steadiness and unchanging leadership of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus knew who he was and why he was here on this planet. That meant he could lead from strength rather than from uncertainty or weakness. Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant…Jesus said several times, “Come, follow me.” His was a program of “do what I do,” rather than “do what I say.” (“Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Tambuli, Aug 1983, 7)

Over my lifetime, I have often seen the “chameleon” nature of man. Follow any election cycle and you will see that most candidates are constantly “changing” positions depending on the audience they are addressing. They are “brown” on a subject matter one day and then “green” the next. They float along according to the prevailing winds. Unfortunately, many denominations of Christianity have done the same. They shape-shift in order to appease the wants of man. They rationalize away core principles of the gospel in hopes that their “change” will appeal to the masses. And the masses respond by voicing their approval! They claim it is important to “change with the times” and the “Chameleon” churches respond accordingly.

It was fascinating as a boy to watch those Chameleons change colors and observe their eating habits. But I venture to say that my fascination was not shared by the flies I put in their cage. No, for them it was death by deception. For us, spiritual death awaits those who are “deceived” and “fooled” by the Chameleon nature of secular leaders and many modern-day churches. Let us follow the “perfect” leader, Jesus Christ, a leader who is unchanging and everlasting.

 

 

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The God Of Hope!

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Going to the funeral of a loved one is a sobering thing. One who was so alive, now lies peacefully but silently in a coffin. Last week on the drive to work, I reflected, again, on the inevitable separation from loved ones that awaits me. I must admit that I came to tears. It saddens me, this thing we call death! I do not want to be separated from ones I love so much…and for so long. I miss my sister, my mother, my brother and brother in laws. I miss my in-laws! I miss being a whole family! I yearn to have those relationships renewed! I know there is only one hope! It lies in Christ, the Redeemer! I don’t understand how people go through this separation without this “hope” called the resurrection. Indeed, as Paul so powerfully stated to the Romans:

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)

It is this ‘hope’ that helps sustain and bring peace to my soul, and to millions of others. And incredibly, by the power of the Holy Ghost, joy can also be found. It is the joy that only comes through hope, and faith in Jesus Christ and in belief that a reunion with our loved ones will surely come to pass through the power of the resurrection. Truly, we have a God of Hope!

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When Regret Lingers

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It was early evening when I stood on my porch while surveying the yard work I had done that day. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the glimpse of a figure of a lone man walking down the sidewalk towards my house. He seemed to be laboring and hunched over as he slowly made his way past. His head was down and he seemed to be studying every inch of the concrete before him so as not to trip over a crack. He never saw me but I recognized him as a man in his fifties who had been in my house on occasion. He was a man who I found to be humble and full of goodness, yet he was a bit uncomfortable to talk with, so…I let him pass without saying hello. I was busy, tired from the day, and I just wasn’t in the mood for a ‘friendly chat.’

Later I found out that he passed away the same night I wasn’t in a friendly mood. I was left pondering about the fragile nature of life, but mostly regretting that I hadn’t taken the time to hold a last conversation with him. We never know when our conversation or actions with loved ones will be our last. The son of Gordon B. Hinckley once said:

“When I was a boy, my father often would use an interesting phrase when he was offering the family prayer. He would say, “Heavenly Father, please bless us that we may live without regret.”

A good motto for all of us should be that we live without regrets. We need to ‘seize the moment’ and take advantage of every opportunity to be a friend to all. For me, and this man, the time is now past and the opportunity missed. I just wasn’t in the mood for a ‘friendly chat that day and now my regret lingers!

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