huckleberry finn praying

You Can’t Pray A Lie

TheDiscipleMD

“It made me shiver , and I about made up my mind to pray and see if I couldn’t try to quit bein’ the kind of boy I was and be better.  So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come.  Why wouldn’t they? It weren’t no use to try to hide from Him…I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because I was playin’ double. I was lettin’ on to give up sin, but way inside of me I was holdin’ on to the biggest one of all. I was tryin’ to make my mouth say I would do  the right thing and the clean thing, but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie. I found that out.” (Mark Twain, words of Huckleberry Finn)

And as Abraham Lincoln said:

“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”

And I might add: “You can’t fool God any of the time.”

Mark Twain, using a fictional character, expressed what all of us really know in our hearts. It is impossible to pray a lie. For, as Proverbs state: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is…” (Proverbs 23:7) And the Lord knoweth our heart.

In many ways it should be comforting to understand that the Lord knows our true identity. Because in knowing that we cannot fool Him, He is able to motivate us to become a better person, because he shares the secret with us of who we really are,  and in what ways we can improve ourselves.  All of us have probably learned, at one time or another in our lives,  what Huckleberry Finn found out when he thought about trying to fool the Lord by praying with an insincere heart.  We are just fooling ourselves! May we pray with full purpose of heart, and  be honest with the Lord,  which will allow Him to help us rise to the full potential of our true identities as sons and daughters of God!

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When Death Is Welcomed!

TheDiscipleMD

“Death would be welcomed” is what he said to me as I sat next to him on his bed the month before he died from pancreatic cancer.  My brother was in terrible pain and he grimaced in agony just saying the words.  My brother always had a positive outlook,  no matter what was going on in his life. So to hear him say that, was an indication of how much suffering he was going through.  I was reminded that, no matter the life we live, none of us are exempt from the natural laws of this world.

Over twenty years ago Boyd K. Packer said this:

“The very purpose for which the world was created, and man introduced to live upon it, requires that the laws of nature operate in cold disregard for human feelings. We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us. Natural law is, on rare occasions, suspended in a miracle. But mostly…like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda,  (we) wait endlessly for the moving of the water.” (GC, April 1991, “The Moving of the Water”)

All of us should take great comfort in the above statement. It provides for me at least, a reinforced understanding that this life is a testing ground and that the laws of nature are rarely superseded by the hand of Deity. Indeed, none of us would expect that after driving our cars off the side of a mountain road that the laws of gravity would be suspended and that somehow our autos would float to the ground below. That is why we drive on the road and not over cliffs in order to reach our destinations. Over the cliff is quicker, but on the road is proven to be safer.

We have faith for miracles, but more importantly we have real hope in the understanding of the Lord’s grand plan of salvation. In this life all of us suffer to some degree or another.  Some suffer a lifetime. In the above address by Boyd K. Packer, he makes mention of the pool of Bethesda in the Savior’s day. Mentioned by John in his gospel, the waters of this pool were said to have healing powers. Tradition had it that the first in the water after it ‘stirred’ would be healed of their infirmity. Many, because of their handicaps could never be the first in the pool. But still they waited and hoped. Be it allegorical or factual, many, as quoted by Elder Packer, “wait(ed) endlessly for the moving of the water.”

There are many, like my brother, who are only relived of their pain in this life, by death. As I sat next to him that day, and heard his cry, I caught a glimpse of his agony and also of his faith. Death is not the end and my brother knew it. His hope and faith was best expressed in something he said to my sister. “When I pass to the other side, do you think Mom will be the first one there to greet me?” he said.

For my brother, and for all faithful followers of Jesus Christ, it isn’t a question of there being an afterlife; when death is welcomed,  it is just a question of procedure.

 

 

 

 

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Jericho Roads

TheDiscipleMD

We all know the story:

“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds…and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:30-34)

Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial.”

Dr. King’s vision was grand and on a national scale. And while perhaps none of us have the ability to transform the nation and its social structure, all of us have within us the power to influence and bring about change on the Jericho Roads in  the neighborhoods and communities wherein we live.  We can help accomplish this by choosing to treat others as we would like to be treated.  Christ’s charge to love our neighbor as ourselves is a simple yet profound way of changing Jericho Roads where we reside. When is the last time we went out of our way to help someone in need without expectation of reward?

In the late 70’s I found myself stranded on a Jericho Road in a major downtown city.  My car had run out of gas on the way to work.  I had to abandon my car till I could procure some petro. By the time I could get back to my car it was several hours later.  The co-worker who brought me back to my car drove off and  left me standing next to it as I poured gasoline into the bone dry gas tank.  I jumped into the car and turned the key.  To my surprise the car didn’t make a sound. Not even a click.  “What?” I thought. I knew the car was out of gas so I couldn’t figure out why the car wouldn’t even turn over.  I got out of the car and  popped the hood.  Much to my surprise I found that someone had stolen the battery out of the car while it had been sitting on the side of the highway.  I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there staring at the empty spot that once housed my battery.  I can’t properly communicate in words my frustration level.

Just then a car pulled over beside my car. I put my hands up to block out the sun and spied  a Chey Van that was typical of the 70’s. It was beat up and painted in psychedelic colors.  The door opened and out stepped a  thirty something guy who could best be described as ‘Huggy Bear’, a character out of a police drama of the day called ‘Starksky and Hutch.’ He was wearing a fur hat and a big smile and looked every bit the part of a man who dealt in the peddling of the flesh.  As he walked towards me I wasn’t sure if I should run or embrace him.  He stuck out his hand and asked me what was the problem.  When I explained that my battery had been stolen he smiled and said, “This is a bad place to have your car break down. Let me see what I can do.” He walked over to his van, opened the sliding door and started rummaging inside.  I walked over to the van and looked inside.  The inside of the van was shag carpeted from the top to the bottom in a lime green color that shouted out to be noticed.  He pulled out some jumper cables and walked over to my car.  He then asked me how far I needed to go before I could get some help. “Only a few miles” I told him. “Great”, he replied. Then he did something that I had never seen.  He backed the front of his van up to my car and hooked his battery up by cables to my alternator. Then, smiling, he said, “You will be able to go a few miles running off the alternator.” He told me to get into the car and start her up, which I did.

I thanked him and watched as he pulled away.  He waved and I instinctively waved back. He wasn’t of my color, he wasn’t of my social class and he probably wouldnt’ have been someone who would have been part of my social circle . Yet,  as I got back in my car, I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that I had made a quick and unflattering assessment of my “Good Samaritan.” By his actions that day, he helped me see that, all of us, no matter what station in life we hold, can change Jericho Roads in the places wherein we live.  So all these years later I remember Mr. Huggy Bear, and I echo the words of the Savior when he proclaimed,   “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

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“I’m Sorry” Goes A Long Way Towards Healing

TheDiscipleMD

My second grade teacher was a tiny elderly woman named Mrs. Wells who despite her size held a commanding presence in our classroom. She carried a foot long wooden ruler, almost at all times, and wielded it freely in order to get the attention of the class. It was not uncommon for her to strike the top of the desk nearest to her, which often was mine as I sat in the front center row. Needless to say I was never found slumbering in class and she always had my undivided attention. Although she was stern, she also was fair.

One school day after my class had returned from lunch Mrs. Wells came into the class and slammed her ruler on my desk. She had a very angry look on her face and she proceeded to tell us that the first grade teacher, Mrs. Mayer, had informed her that someone from our class had torn down much of the 1st grade bulletin board display that was up in the hallway. Mrs. Wells then demanded to know who from the class had done it. She folded her arms and waited for someone to come forward. But no one did. The seconds seemed like minutes as the classroom was now silent. Mrs. Wells repeated herself and waited again for the guilty party or parties to confess. It was obvious that no confession was forthcoming. The silence became so uncomfortable that  I raised my hand and told her that, although I had not done it, I would be happy to clean up and repair the damage done to Mrs. Mayer’s bulletin board. Mrs. Wells accepted my volunteerism and assigned another young man to help me. As I walked down the hall to repair the bulletin board, I felt proud of myself for being willing to clean up the destructive act of someone else. You could say I was skipping down the hallway to the bulletin board which was directly across from Mrs. Mayer’s classroom.

The door to Mrs. Mayer’s class was closed but the door had a small window in it and I could see Mrs. Mayer in front of her class writing on the board. As my buddy and I started to clean things up, Mrs. Mayer must have seen us through the window and came out. I had barely turned around to see her when she angrily started to scold me. I never had a chance to explain myself because she never gave me an opportunity to speak. She pointed her finger in my face and derided me for being a bad boy and how could I have done such a thing. I don’t remember what the other boy was doing but Mrs. Mayer clearly had singled me out for the verbal thrashing. She finished her tirade and told me to go back to class. I turned and ran down the hallway with tears beginning to flow. As I entered my class Mrs. Wells inquired why I was back so quick and I burst into tears and blubbered out what had happened. I seated myself as Mrs. Wells flew out the classroom toward the first graders room. I don’t know what transpired next but I know that Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Mayer exchanged some heated words. Next thing I know Mrs. Mayer was in front of our class talking to us about responsibility and not being destructive. Even as a little boy I could see and feel that Mrs. Mayer was embarrassed by her actions but that she was not about to apologize to me and the other boy for her misplaced anger. When she left the room I still remember thinking to myself that I didn’t like her because she wouldn’t tell me that she was sorry. She never did, and I never liked her after that experience. I have long since forgiven Mrs. Mayer, but I find it interesting that I have never forgotten the experience. Perhaps it is because of the feelings that rush back into my mind when I relive it. I am sure that the ugly interaction I had with Mrs. Mayer could have been replaced with another; one that could have included an apology and a moment of forgiveness. Instead, I am left with the former, not the latter.

Is it hard for us to say, “I’m sorry?” We certainly don’t say it enough. I find it interesting that throughout my life when I have heard these words, I have always accepted them. Don’t you? In fact, there is a bond that exists with parties that have shared such an interaction. Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy told this short story:

“Once my father, in the heat and frustration of a humid July afternoon, overreacted to my youthful farming blunders and administered punishment which I felt was in excess of the crime. Later he approached me with an apology and a much appreciated expression of confidence in my abilities. That humble expression has remained in my memory for more than 40 years.” (Liahona, July 2001, “To Walk Humbly with Thy God”).

As we go through life, let us be humble enough in liberally saying “I’m sorry” and kind enough to say “I forgive you!” As you can see, the memories of Elder Jensen towards his Father are sweet, while my memories of Mrs. Mayer still are left unsettled some fifty years later.

 

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