A Family Night Of The Heart To Remember!

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Many years ago my father and three sisters came to visit me and my brother.   As always, I was sad to see them go but I was left with additional memories of great times spent together. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have had consistent contact with my family. Many people do not. Some of that has to do with the effort by all parties, the other on proximity. My siblings, father and I spent a number of night telling old stories and reminiscing about our younger days. We also spent time talking about gospel principles. One night we had the intention of playing a game of hearts. We began the evening with that intention, but the cards never ended up being dealt. Why? Because, as I stated at the end of the evening, “We came for a night of hearts, but a “family night of the heart” broke out instead!”

Of course, what I meant was that we had come to play a game, and ended up sharing stories from our heart. It is, or can be a marvelous thing…a family.  You can share with them things that you would never share with anyone else. You can say things you would never say, anywhere else. You laugh at things that no one else would think is funny. You cry over things that no one else would understand. You can talk for hours, or at least I can, and never get bored, although most of what you are talking about is what most people might consider “drivel.”  You can draw strength from the other members because you know they love you, regardless of your imperfections. In short, you share a love for each other that transcends it all. Or at least, in my mind, that is the way families were meant to be.

I speak often of families, yet I understand that many do not come from the ideal home. In speaking with many individuals over the years, it is evident that coming from a “model” family is becoming less and less the norm. Yet, as I have often stated to them, “Perhaps you can’t change the dysfunctional family you were born into, but you can establish one in the future that isn’t.” Years ago Neil A. Maxwell said something similar, but much more eloquently when he proclaimed:

“If we will hold fast to the Church’s proclamation on the family, we will see that we hold the jewels, as it were, that can enrich so many other things. Let the world go its own way on the family. It appears to be determined to do that. But we do not have that option. Our doctrines and teachings on the family are very, very powerful, and they are full of implications for all the people on this planet.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Insights from My Life,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, pg. 7).

With each passing year I am more and more convinced of the sanctity of the family unit as revealed in these latter-days by living prophets and apostles. May all of us continually work on improving and enhancing our own families, so that when times get rough, they will be there to give strength and support. I know I would have had fun playing a game of Hearts that night, but I can’t help but think that my life was more richly blessed when a night of hearts broke out instead.

Who Was Jose Hernandez?

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He said his name was Jose Hernandez and he gave me his address. I knew both the name and the address were false the moment he told me, yet to be polite, I wrote both his name and residence down in my small notebook.

It was a typical day on the streets of the city for a couple of missionaries just outside La Plata, Argentina. My companion and I had been talking with people all day when I approached a middle-aged man and asked him if we could talk.  He listened for a short bit, then told me he would be happy to have us come by. He then gave me his name and his address. As he walked away I laughed to myself because the name he gave me was the same name of a small obscure town that was about 5 miles from where we lived. I dismissed the exchange and the encounter would have gone down like so many others I had experienced in the months before and after. Then several months later…

It was a rather difficult day for me and my companion and my notebook was now empty of people who had expressed interest in our message. The only name left was Jose Hernandez. I looked at my companion and said, “I know this is probably a wild goose chase, but let’s check this address out in the city of Jose Hernandez.”  We had to take a bus out to this rather obscure town, then walk a mile or so on a dirt road to get to the center of town. I had never visited that pueblo in the months I had been assigned there.  We finally found the address that had been given to me and clapped outside the humble door, rather than knock, as was the custom.  Imagine our surprise when the lady of the house who answered the door, looked at us and said, “Are you missionaries of the Mormon church?,” and then invited us in.

I was transferred out of that city that very week but within a month four members of the household accepted the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and were baptized in His name. The man who had given me this family’s address is still unknown and remains anonymous to this day. As a twenty year old missionary I finished the entry in my journal that day, dated, February 8, 1977, with these words:

“This family is fantastic and I know the Lord opened the way to find them. He helps us if only we will look hard with real desires.  Miracles never cease!”

I believe the Lord works miracles in bringing the gospel of Christ to those who are prepared and have a sincere desire to find the truth. Small miracles happen daily in our lives. Sometimes they come in strange ways, like being given a false address that turns out to be the home of someone who is searching for light and truth.  Who was Jose Hernandez? For me, he represents every tender mercy that God can give to man and that small miracles can be produced by Him, under any circumstance, place or time. “Have miracles ceased?…Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7:29)

When My Chevy Monza “Ragged Out!”

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“For want of a nail the shoe was lost; For want of a shoe the horse was lost; For want of a horse the rider was lost; For want of a rider the battle was lost; For want of a battle the kingdom was lost; And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”(Nursery rhyme).

This simple nursery rhyme reminds me of one of my life’s most embarrassing moments. A couple of years after my wife and I were married, broke and desperately trying to keep my head above water, I went to put oil into the engine of my fairly new Chevrolet Monza. I discovered that somehow the oil cap to the car had been left off. As I poured oil into the car I looked around to see if there was something I could temporarily use to stop the oil from spitting out of the engine. Being at a gas station there were plenty of oil rags around so I put a rag into the top of the engine to temporarily solve my problem. If I would have had any money I would have driven a mile or so, stopped off at a parts store and bought an oil cap. I’m sure it didn’t cost much but having “nothing” I gambled that it would be OK. A few days went by and while driving to work one day I felt a sudden surge in the car. I didn’t think much off it but by the time I reached work the car had a loud ping and a horrible tapping sound. As I opened the hood to the car, smoke billowed out and to my great consternation I discovered that the rag had been sucked into the engine.

Long story short, the  now shredded rag plugged up the engine, destroyed it,  and it cost me $2500 to get a new “used” one.  If not for a benevolent employer who loaned me the money I would have had to junk the car. And so, back to the nursery rhyme, for want of a dollar the car was lost. Perhaps for want of the car the job was lost. Perhaps for want of the job the house was lost. For want of a house the marriage was lost. And so you can see that small things can sometimes lead to catastrophes.

So it is with the small things of the gospel. Most of the commandments seem so small but “for want” of these things there can be tremendous long-term consequences.   For “want” of small things like prayer, scripture reading, church attendance, sabbath observance, Family Home Evening, etc. we can find that we are suddenly faced with large problems that come from an accumulation of small needs unmet.  “For want” we can lose the kingdom!

And so if we do the small things, then “… if ye do this with a pure heart, in all faithfulness, ye shall be blessed; you shall be blessed in your flocks, and in your herds, and in your fields, and in your houses, and in your families.” (D&C 136:11).  We are encouraged by the prophets to do the small things so that costly break-downs don’t befall us and our families.  We would be wise to heed their counsel.

An Invitation To The Wedding

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Several years ago my wife and I attended three different marriage receptions for friends of ours on the same weekend.  Receptions are wonderful occasions for the entire family of the bride and groom. Often,  huge expense is incurred in order to celebrate the union of the couple.  Having married children, I know of the painstaking time and energy it takes to come up with a final guest list. It is an honor to put someone on that list and an honor to be on someone else’s list. Consequently, one should make every effort to be available to attend because you know how badly you wanted others to attend the wedding reception of your child. In other words, a party with no guests, is well……..not a party!

So, it comes as no surprise that the Savior used a “marriage invite” as a parable to teach a lesson. Perhaps you remember the story.

“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.”(Matt. 22: 2-6)

The king sent out not one, but two invitations to the marriage of his son. And those he invited, his friends and those he loved, RSVP’ed twice that they weren’t coming. It wasn’t like his friends were out-of-town; they just felt like it was more important to work on their farms, or businesses. They didn’t want to lose any work time! In fact, they were so rude they even shot the postmen who were delivering the invitation. The king was furious. So, as the story goes…

“… Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good; and the wedding was furnished with guests. (verses 8-10).

The king couldn’t hold a “reception” without guests. So, in his anger he decides “to heck” with his supposed “friends”; he tells his servants to invite anyone who will come, even the common beggar off the streets. In conclusion the story is summed up with the statement, “For many are called, but few are chosen”. (vs. 14).

So what is the point of the parable. Jesus was talking about the gift of the gospel being presented to His chosen friends, the Jews. They got the invite to enter the kingdom of heaven. But as a people they rejected it. They had more important things to do than to listen to the “messengers”, the prophets. They not only RSVP’ed that they weren’t interested, they killed the messengers, the prophets. So, the Lord sent out the invitation to the lowly “gentiles” of all nations to come to the feast; to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And many have!

But more important is the personal message that his parable has to teach us. We have received the “invitation” to the wedding. How much value do we place on that invitation? Will we take the time to attend or do we have “more “important” things to do. Heavenly Fathers loves us all. The invitation is out to each of us to be at the feast. It’s up to us, not only to RSVP that we want to be there; but that we are willing to sacrifice in making the journey to get there. Whatever sacrifice we need to make, the Lord’s  feast will be worth it!

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