Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nov 26, 2017 Bad days and good

What makes a bad day for us and how can we “make” a good one?  Friday this week was a difficult one for me.  We have been given permission to take the day off when the temple isn’t busy.  Since there was very little on the schedule, I decided that I would attend a couple of sessions as a patron to help accomplish some of the family proxy work that is waiting for me.  However, when I arrived, one of the shift leaders begged me to put on my jacket and serve as a worker because a bus had arrived late the night before and the 7 AM session was completely full.  He only needed me for that one session, he said.  Well………of course after that it was still very busy so I ended up working the shift and not getting anything done on my family file names, complaining the whole time to myself that I hated not having any control over my life, etc. etc.  It is always true that having unmet expectations is a guaranteed way to wreck the start of the day, and it is tough to recover from that in a way that feels like it was well spent.

During my morning run the next day, I was pondering how to make it a better day.  We expected many patrons and a long shift, so I had to be more creative than the day before.  Frankly, living here is difficult.  We have been here a long time.  It is easy to feel trapped.   I started counting the time left.  Then the inspiration came to me that eventually we would be working in the temple here for the last day.  Eventually we would be looking back.  So what if I tried to do this day how I would want to do the last day here - a pseudo last day?

That helped immensely.  I was able to see and experience things that were probably there the day before but that I couldn’t see,  because of my lamentation of what I couldn’t do.  One of my favorite things during the day was the privilege of giving the prayer in the endowment session.  To me this is one of the highlights of working in the temple.  Everything else is scripted, and it is important to play well your part, but in that short 2-3 minute group prayer there is an opportunity and challenge to try to capture the gratitude and needs of the group and express it to deity.

Just five minutes before I was to lead the prayer, a storm broke.  There are high windows in the room and the light had been dim when we entered.  We heard the whooshing of the wind, the heavy rain on the glass, and the rumble of thunder.  I thought, “How wonderful to be warm and dry, safe and protected within these strong walls.  And then the thought came to me that I should express gratitude in the prayer for the covenants made in the temple which keep us safe and protected from the storms of life.  Not from all trials and sorrows, but certainly from the unnecessary ones that we bring upon ourselves when we don’t keep those covenants.  

We went for a group shopping experience after work was done.  Saturday there is usually less traffic so it is a good time  to replenish the larder.  We had heard about a new “American” store and were able to drive there with GPS help.  Unfortunately it was closed and then we had to make our way back to other better known grocery stores.  The traffic was bad, and normally this would feel very frustrating, but  we saw part of town that was new to some of us, passed many funerals (big events here), and eventually accomplished the mission and made it to a nice restaurant for dinner.

After arriving back home we stumbled across a new BYUTV movie, “Instrument of War”, which was very well done (a true story) and had a powerful message about how love and music can make us resilient in the face of war and captivity and despair.  It was a sweet ending to a good day, and one that I would have felt good about being our last day here.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Nov. 19, 2017 Before Thanksgiving

We had some disappointing news this week with our son Hugh not being accepted into medical school and my brother Jack being flown to Alberta from Oklahoma for an angiogram and possible angioplasty.  These are two of my favorite people in the world and they were hurting.  I was sympathetic enough that several at the temple the next morning asked if I were ill and the matron suggested I go home.  There was little that could be done for them from West Africa but I knew if I didn’t make an attitude adjustment and get more sleep that I would in fact be sick.  I turned to the Conference talks, typed in “Gratitude” and spent the next several hours engrossed in searching the thoughts found there.  When I finished, my perspective had changed, my hope was restored, and I could rejoice in Hugh’s eventual resilience and Jack’s love for life.  Here are some of my significant findings.

We can lift ourselves and others as we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.  Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but is the parent of all others.      Gordon B Hinckley

Gratitude is a state of appreciation, an act of thanksgiving which causes us to be humble because we recognize an act or kindness, service, or caring which lifts us and strengthens us. Ingratitude is the attitude of being unaware or not recognizing when someone has helped us and not given thanks.       Robert D Hales

An ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating acorns but never looking up to see where they came from.

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.          Aldous Huxley

Those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from others.  Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted.  To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude in our hearts is to touch heaven.       Thomas S Monson

D&C 78:19 And he that receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him even an hundred fold, yea more.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nov. 12, 2017 Reflections on Acts 3

Last Sunday was our Stake Conference.  We weren’t able to attend the Saturday meetings because of our assignment, but looked forward to the Sunday session.  Elder Marcus B. Nash was the presiding general authority.  We really love Elder and Sr. Nash and have come to know them personally because we share the same home ward.  His teaching and speaking is always outstanding but this time he gave a never-to-be-forgotten general conference kind of talk.

His gospel text was Acts 3:2-9.  He established a pattern from those verses that made missionary work in my life not only possible but feasible.   When asked for an alms by the lame beggar, Peter replied “look on us”, or symbolically, look to the power of Jesus Christ. Then continued “such as I have give I thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk. Then he took him by the right hand and lifted him up.  And he entered the temple walking and leaping and praising God.”  
  1. I can live so the Lord can work through me
  2. I can give what I have, my understanding of the gospel.
  3. I can reach out my hand  
  4. I can lift
Elder Nash related a personal experience when he was an area seventy. In visiting a stake conference he asked the president to take him to meet with someone who was inactive and difficult to deal with. They went by appointment to the home of a former bishop who had been out of the church for 20 years. He wanted no contact with the church. When they arrived he was not home.  His wife opened the door, was unresponsive to their greetings,  and explained that her husband was on the way from the home of their adult child who lived down the street. They were not invited in but waited on the steps. When Elder Nash saw him coming, he was filled with love for this brother and ran to him, throwing his arms around him.  He told him that God loved him and that he loved him, that he was needed in the church and that he needed the church.

The brother started to weep on Elder Nashes shoulder and responded, “I have waited for years to hear those words.  What do you want me to do?”  “I want you to come to stake conference tomorrow morning.”   He replied “I will come and bring some of my married children”.  He did.

In the evaluation meeting following the stake conference, the presidency and the high council were all amazed at what had happened.  One of the councilmen spoke.  “Not to be demeaning, but I do not think that Elder Nash is so different from the rest of us. We could have had the same result if we had gone to this man with the love of God for him in our hearts and a sincere desire of our own to help him. It was not the power of Elder Nash but the power of Jesus Christ working through him that brought this man back.”  Acts 3:12, 16   This brother is now again in full fellowship in the church.

Unfortunately, we are not always strong like Peter and John in this example.  In fact sometimes we are spiritually lame or emotionally paralyzed.  But we can do as the man who could not walk.  We can act in faith and look on those who are strong in their testimony of Jesus Christ.  God reaches out to us through them in talks and written articles.  If we will let them, they will lift us up and help us until we can stand on our own to lift others.  And in being lifted up and lifting others, we will all enter the temple together walking, leaping, and praising God.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Nov 5, 2017

Autumn is the birthday season in our family.  Neal is the only one whose birthday falls outside the last quarter of the year.  Our thoughts turn to kids. Two weeks ago, Erin, Ben, Hugh, and Tal all met in Rochester, MN for a mini-reunion.  Our favorite drive-in restaurant (Roscoe’s) was closing for good and they decided to take a nostalgic childhood tour together.  They had a great time but missed Neal, who was working in Saudi Arabia.  

L to R: Jonah with Hugh, Ben, Erin, Tal

Our children and grandchildren continue to expose us to ideas and opportunities that we never dreamed of.

Erin and Michael enjoy San Antonio.  Besides keeping up with their four kids, he teaches at UTSA and is the HP group leader and she is involved in violin teaching and performing, as well as organizing the Seattle Suzuki Institute.  She is the stake primary president and volunteers with the SA Center for Refugee Services. 

Ben and Christy are at Clairemont, CA where he is working on his PhD in Mormon Studies and she is teaching at Harvey Mudd and publishing.  Ben continues to study, write, and lecture about Old Testament, context, creation and evolution, and LDS history.  His course work and Christy’s appointment end next year. 

Neal and Candice and their three are temporarily in Lehi, UT.  The best way for us to explain Neal’s permaculture work is to say that he is a farmer.  In Saudi Arabia.  In the desert.  The project of which he has been the director for many years is splitting into a charitable arm and a development arm.  He will be paid to get his MBA next year (somewhere) and then rejoin the project.  They enjoy Utah and skiing together at the moment.

Hugh and Kristi and their four are in Madison, WI.  He still works for Apple.  This is his last go round for med school application.  If he isn’t accepted he will likely start a master’s program in Healthcare Admin.  He is the elder’s quorum president and just finished his second marathon.

Tal also lives in San Antonio and is a private music teacher.  He and Erin collaborate in playing gigs at various functions.  We like his girlfriend, and he is happier than he has been in many years.

With Hadleys and Liljenquists

We enjoyed a dinner last evening with two other wonderful couples who work in the Area Office.  It is remarkable how each couples’ mission experience can be so unique. The Hadleys, in the middle, are in charge of Public Affairs. What you see on Mormon Newsroom West Africa is written by them. Liljenquists work in the legal department and with the Area web site and go home next Friday.  We miss those who have been released and love to get to know the new senior missionaries as they come.