Do We Want Deity To Be Our Personal Genie?

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As a young boy I read the story of Aladdin’s Lamp. As you know Aladdin was a poor young man who came into possession of a lamp that when rubbed, produced a Genie who fulfilled his every wish. More recently some of you might remember a TV show I used to watch as a kid called “I Dream of Jeanie”, the story of a Jeanie who fulfilled the dreams of her master, Tony the astronaut.  These stories of magic Genies who fulfill our every want and desire are fun to think about. Unfortunately some of us confuse the make-believe role of a “Genie” with the role of a loving Heavenly Father.  Somehow in our mind some of us see Him as the maker or  one who is responsible for fulfilling all our dreams. When the fulfillment doesn’t come, we become disillusioned or come to believe that He doesn’t love us. After all if He did, he would fulfill our “sincere prayer” or wish. On occasion I hear people say that Heavenly Father will answer our prayers if we only ask. They then tell a story of a prayer that has been fulfilled for them. Without proper context the listener is left with the impression that all prayers are answered…except theirs! This must mean somehow that they are “unworthy” or “unloved” by the Father. After all, He answers everyone’s elses prayers.

I like the story of the little boy who lives next door to the little girl. As he kneels by his bed one night he prays that the next day will be sunny because he has his birthday party planned outside that day. The little girl next door has just planted a small garden in her yard and prays to Heavenly Father for rain so that her plants may be nourished and grow. One of the prayers will go unanswered.

We do have a loving Father who hears and does answer our prayers but not always on our time or in our way. If we want a “Genie” we need to read about Aladdin and his lamp, or watch Tony on TV. If we want a Father who looks after us, listens and blesses us according to His knowledge, then we can approach Him in solemn prayer and offer our thanks and desires.  He will bless us in ways that will stretch and mold our character.His goals are sometimes not our goals. He has the aerial view as opposed to our short-sightedness. Perhaps Garth Brooks captured it correctly when he sang:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs

That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers (Garth Brooks, Unanswered Prayers).

We should not be discouraged if some of our prayers don’t seem to be immediately answered. I know my children want and desire many things. How foolish I would be if I took the role of “Genie” in their lives instead of  the role of Father. The “genie” is meant to please, but the father’s role is to teach. May the Lord bless us in our righteous prayers and may we remember that our prayers do penetrate the Heavens. We have a Father who loves and listens to our concerns. Have patience, faith, and hope in Him. but most importantly, have trust in him who is knows each of us individually and knows what we need to become like Him.

A Drink of Ice Tea In the Summer of “66”

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It was a typical hot, muggy Maryland August afternoon in 1966 when my friends and I, all about 10 years old, got together at the Wieneke’s “ballpark” to play baseball. All the regulars were there, Rich, Dave, Darrel, Harold, Chip, Brian and many others. We had been playing for a number of hours when Mrs. Wieneke called to us, telling us that she had cold drinks for us and that she would put them on the back porch table. We soon stopped playing ball and made our way to the back of the house. There on the table was what appeared to be lemonade. The glasses were filled to the brim with ice and my thirst was ravenous. As I picked up one of the glasses, it became apparent to me that it wasn’t lemonade after all but cold ice tea. I don’t know what came over me. I guess you could say the spirit was strong but my young flesh was weak. I gulped down the delicious drink like a dying man stranded in the desert. Nothing was said at the time, but I knew the other boys were very much aware that drinking tea was against my Mormon religion. We went back to playing baseball and the day became, in history, like any other day in the life of a ten-year-old boy. It was uneventful and soon to be forgotten…or was it?

I had never forgotten that day in my mind, because it was the only time that I had knowingly broken the “Word of Wisdom”, my religious health code of honor. I had long since placed the “Ice Tea Incident” in the Siberian outskirts of my memory. The memory of my breach was still there in my mind, but best banished to the cobwebs of my remembrance. Nine years later I sat in my living room enjoying the last night at home with family before leaving the next morning for my full-time church mission to Argentina. Suddenly the doorbell rang and when I opened the door, it was a number of my childhood friends that I had grown up along with other high school friends.  I invited them in and we sat around talking about my upcoming mission. They were supportive and asked a lot of questions. After a while, we started reminiscing about the “good old times”, about lost loves, high school teachers, sports etc. As we talked about childhood experiences, one of my friends, I can’t remember which, said, “Hey Scott, do you remember the time you drank that glass of ice tea at the Wienekes?” He didn’t say it accusingly; he just said it! A couple of the guys laughed. I don’t know if it was noticeable, but my face felt like it went beet red and I quickly changed the subject. Nothing more was said about the “tea” incident. I guess that one sentence said it all.

Eventually my friends departed and I was left with the haunting evidence that I had failed as an example that summer day so many years before. Yes, it was only a glass of ice tea; nothing too serious. And after all, I was only ten years old! Still, I learned a very valuable lesson that night. Nine years had come and gone. Nothing was said at the time I drank the ice tea; no nothing at all until that night. But it is still remarkable to me that another kid would see me drink that tea and remember it nine years later! What does that say about the power of example?

Christ said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14) Indeed, I learned that last night home that people closely watch our actions. If we have high standards, they expect that we will uphold them. May we remember who we are at all times and in all places! You wouldn’t think that a ten-year-old boy, drinking one glass of ice tea, would have any real significance in anyone’s life. Apparently it did for at least one of my friends. He clearly remembered a “slip” I had made, on a long ago hot humid afternoon in the summer of “66”.

 

Walking The Great Bridge of Brooklyn With My Father

“The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, as the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

Originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, it was dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge in a January 25, 1867 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become the iconic part of the New York skyline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.” (Wikipedia).

I had heard of the Brooklyn Bridge but never thought much of it till my Dad came a few years ago to visit me and my brother. He had the visiting of, and walking across of, on his ‘bucket list’ of things to do before leaving this world. So we made it a point to do so. My Dad had read “The Great Bridge” by David McCullough and had an appreciation for the bridge that neither I nor my brother had gained. I have since talked to a couple of people who have read McCullough’s book, and they too were impressed with its rich history and cultural significance.

My father, brother and I arrived at the bridge late afternoon. The skies were overcast and the 1.3 mile hike across the bridge became 2.6 when you took in the return. We parked our car on the Brooklyn side of the bridge in a parking garage.  We stopped to get a bottle of water and then started our journey. I don’t know what I expected but the hike wasn’t anything I thought it would be. There were hundreds going over “The Great Bridge”, most on foot; some on bikes. A sort of walkway made of wood had been erected over top of the traffic to make the hike accessible and non-perilous to the general public. Most were dressed like they were walking in the mall. Crossing the bridge were people of all ages, although it looked to me like my Dad was one of the oldest. (84 at the time) It was rather crowded at times, with people passing you going the other way and bikers whizzing by. The cars and trucks thundered beneath our feet, but at times you couldn’t hear them at all due to the construction of the walkway. By all accounts, I guess you could call it an ordinary” walk, except….! One, of course, was the magnificent view! The skyline of Manhattan in all it’s beauty with the Statue of Liberty in the distance and the ghosts of Ellis Island whispering “Come one, come all” whispering in the wind is something you don’t forget. Then there is the beauty of the bridge itself that stands as a monument to the ingenuity of its builders.

However, I guess what was most “un-ordinary” about the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge was the fact that I was walking it with my father. He not only took on the bridge with determination, he hiked across it and back as if on the legs of a thirty year old. He is a marvel; not just in a physical way! My brother and I were talking just last month about his life. Raised on a small farm, he became converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ as a teenager and never looked back. He married my mom at nineteen in the Salt Lake Temple, then left his new bride to go on a full-time mission for the church. Upon returning from his mission the ensuing years found him returning to school, graduating and leaving for Washington D.C. (George Washington University Law School) with nothing but a hope and a dream. Within ten years of marriage he had eight kids. As my brother, (both of us have five kids), once said regarding that issue “What a man!” All the while my Dad labored to support and raise a family he was finishing his law degree, and serving faithfully in the church. No small task for a young man of thirty! Still years later he would take upon himself two additional children that were in need of a good home. And the truth is I don’t know the half of all the good works he has done. He isn’t one for boasting!

So, on that day, on that bridge, I saw the beautiful handiwork of man. But of more import was that I got to walk across it with the great handiwork of God; my father. As we walked together, I discovered, that I wasn’t walking “over” the “Great Bridge”, I was walking “with” it. It is my father who instilled in me the “literal and genuinely religious leap of faith” that has embodied his life. For because of him, I have spent my life in pursuit of the things of God. In the end, that is all I will be able to take with me! My faith, my hope, and my dreams are founded in the Plan of Salvation, of which my Father taught me. My Father has since passed!  If you haven’t yet, before it’s too late; find a bridge, and walk it with your Dad.

So to you Dad, thank you for your kindness and goodness, but most of all, for your example of faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that has blessed the lives of countless individuals! The Brooklyn Bridge will always be ours!

Ignoring ‘Plane’ Instruction!

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Flying is statistically the safest form of travel. So, it was interesting to me when a friend of mine related this harrowing tale.

He said that he was once on a flight where a goose was sucked into the engine, upon takeoff, of the commercial flight he was on. The plane had to turn around and attempt to land at the airport they had just left. The passengers were all informed that they needed to prepare for a crash landing. My friend told me how strange it was to think that his life would end by dying in a plane crash. “So, this is the way it ends for me”, is what he thought. But, fate was on their side that day and they were able to land safely, without incident, surrounded by a runway of emergency vehicles. He then told me that the passengers were escorted off the plane and within a short time they were loaded onto another plane. But this time he said, he noticed a remarkable difference in how attentive the passengers were to the flight attendants explanation and demonstration of what to do in case of an emergency. In the previous flight, the attendant had stood in the aisle giving her emergency “talk,” while the uninterested passengers fidgeted with their ipods, magazines, and other items. No one seemed interested in anything being said. In fact, the attendant appeared to be nothing more than an annoyance to the passengers. But now, on the second flight, after the scare, everyone’s eyes were transfixed on the attendant as she gave the instructions on how to secure their seat belts, on how to use the drop down oxygen masks, and where to find the nearest emergency door for escape. The message hadn’t changed, but the people’s minds had been opened!

It is easy to ignore “plane instructions”, when they seem so, well, unimportant. I know that I have seen these attendants instructions as an annoyance more than once while flying. Often it takes a “scary” experience for us to take them seriously. For some, though, the second flight or chance never comes. The plane goes down and the “plane instruction” given at the beginning of the flight, if ignored, ended up being fatal. So, too is our spiritual life. We are on a journey; we are given “plain instruction” from apostles and prophets. They instruct us on how to handle emergencies during our flight here on earth. They teach us how to survive in a hostile world and how to best escape when faced with spiritual death. Often we don’t listen because it seems so….so “unimportant.” After all nothing is going to happen if I live my life in accordance to the gospel principles.

As we experience life, we come to understand that tragedies happen to good and righteous people. Emergencies do come up and when they do we want to be as prepared as possible. Sometimes tragedies cannot be avoided. We can listen and follow all the instructions and still fall victim to the agency that exists in this world. But we can often avoid sorrow by listening to the “plain instructions” given to us by our priesthood leaders. In so doing we can find comfort in knowing that we have done all that we can. Then we have to trust in the Lord and His promises.

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