Snapshots of Life

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The still, small voice with increased volume

Sometimes God speaks quietly, almost imperceptibly to the cluttered and busy mind, and sometimes He speaks loudly! Today was such a day. Whereas I once was blind, now I see. A long awaited answer has come with clarity and resolve.

Be still, my soul the Lord is on thy side.
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul thy best thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Thank You Father!

Monday, March 12, 2007

"How Great Shall Be Your Joy"

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life,...and if ye abide in my covenant, shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

In my opinion, these are some of the most beautiful and profound words in all of scripture. I received news today that the Zarrelli family from Naples, Italy will at long last make the trip to Switzerland to the nearest temple. There they will receive their endowment and be sealed as an eternal family. Aside from enduring to the end and receiving eternal life, this is the consummate desire of every missionary for his/her investigators. It is an answer to many prayers!

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

I do not suggest that I brought any souls, particularly the souls of this family, to Him. The whole process was pure miracle. They were prepared and the Spirit bore powerful witness to their humble hearts. However, I was able to be an instrument in His hands to teach this beautiful family the principles of the gospel. I'll never forget that. Now they are going to the temple. My joy is already overflowing, I can't imagine what it will be like with them in the kingdom of our Father. You have no idea how tempted I am to book a flight! Who cares about the money - this is once in eternity!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The End Result

I decided to post this since most people weren't able to hear it. Thanks for everyone's help and suggestions, it's a hard topic to cover in 7 minutes. I'm sure there is a better way to post this but I don't know how. To those who are on.

Increasing in Wisdom and Stature, and in Favor with God and Man
Talk given in Stake Priesthood Leadership Meeting, March 4, 2007

I am sincerely humbled to stand before you to carry out this assignment this morning. I take it very seriously and consider it a sacred task, as so many of us have come seeking to be inspired and uplifted. The topic I have been given is: Finding balance in our lives. I have earnestly sought the guidance and direction of the Spirit as I have prepared these remarks and similarly seek it now. I pray that the message shared today will be His personalized message to each individual heart.

I ask the question, what is a balanced life? Perhaps we can compare our life to a masterpiece played by a great orchestra. The sections of this orchestra are family, work, church, education, social activity, recreation, and so forth. Each section contributes to the cumulative sound of an inspiring symphony. The instruments are the various activities, responsibilities, privileges, and tasks of each of those sections. We are the musicians at every chair, playing every instrument. Surely, at times one section will play more quickly and loudly than others. The demands of family may need more attention than recreation, or school more than social activity. Sometimes there will be solos of one section or one instrument with diminished attention to all other parts, such as during full-time missionary service. We all know that at other times there is a demand for every section and every instrument to play a part in swelling the strains. Though the masterpiece to be played is unique to each of us we have a musical score to guide us – it is more perceived than it is scripted, though surely our foreordained mission is the foundational melody. We exercise our agency in “wisdom and in order” according to the circumstances of life, the principles of the gospel, and the direction of the Spirit. We look to God our Eternal Father to be our conductor. When we fail to follow the score, are poorly practiced, or ignore the guidance of the conductor, our life becomes something a kin to the sound of a junior high concert. In this light, balance becomes much more about harmony among the various parts of our life than equality or symmetry.

The fruits of a balanced life are peace and serenity. When we have harmony and balance in our lives we are far less likely to be overwhelmed and overcome by stress, fatigue, depression, temptation, and discouragement. Furthermore, balance invites the Spirit of the Lord into our lives. Pres. James E. Faust has said, “It is much easier for those who have a righteous balance to yield ‘to the enticings of the Holy Spirit’…and become someone much more enlightened.” Of course, as we learn day by day to better understand how the Spirit speaks to us and then follow its quiet promptings we will be much more likely to have appropriate balance in our lives, thus demonstrating a wonderful trajectory of progression.

How do we achieve a balanced life? Elder M. Russell Ballard gives meaningful counsel to members of the church, particularly leaders in the church, stating, “The key, it seems to me, is to know and understand your own capabilities and limitations and then to pace yourself, allocating and prioritizing your time, your attention, and your resources to wisely help others in their quest for eternal life.” It seems to me that the management of our time and the prioritizing of our many options and activities are two particularly important skills in achieving a balanced life, remembering always that it is “not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared, “Our management of our time tells us so much about the management of ourselves.”

The strategies, programs, and techniques of prioritizing and time management are countless. Most can be useful and beneficial when chosen to meet our individual circumstances and personal styles. But, by way of testimony I offer this one truth. The Savior taught, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your rememberance…” (John 14:26). I have found in my very limited experience that the times when I have felt most balanced, I have been praying for guidance in exercising good judgment and asking the Lord to point out the areas of my life that are in most need of attention. Here I urge caution because the Lord surely answers those prayers, but always such experiences are tutorial and bring needed harmony to life.

Jesus was a perfect example to follow of one who lived a balanced life. Luke records, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). Here we gain a wonderful insight into the life of the Savior as He grew. He was perfectly balanced intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Certainly no one ever lived that was wiser than Jesus of Nazareth, for He is also Lord of the Universe. No one has understood the world and man as He did. No one has known the truth and doctrine and taught it so beautifully and profoundly than did Jesus, even as a young boy, so that “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:47). But we know that “he received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace.” (D&C 93:13). Though our progression on this stairway of graces leading to a fullness is much slower than that of Jesus’, we nevertheless are beckoned to follow the same pattern – to “continue from grace to grace” in knowledge and wisdom.

The scriptures tell us very little about the physical stature of the Lord but we know He was likely a carpenter, hard working and physically strong. From holy writ we do learn a great deal about His stature as a man, or His character. He withstood every temptation (Luke 4). He willingly forgave those who trespassed against Him personally (Luke 23:34). He focused on His mission and faced it with courage, for He “set [His] face like a flint” against His smiters and “hid not [His] face from shame and spitting.” (Isa. 50:6-7). Indeed, He partook of the most bitter of all cups in the most unselfish act in the history of time and all eternity (D&C 19). Will we relinquish our own will and face our own Gethsemane with similar stature?

The word of God leaves little doubt that Christ was loved and favored of the Father. Nephi records that God “loveth those who would have him to be their God.” (1 Ne. 17:40). Jesus often “withdrew himself into the wilderness” or into a mountain to pray and commune with His Father (Luke 5:16; 6:12). He did good on the Sabbath (Luke 6:9) and found himself as frequently as possible in the temple (Luke 19:47). He humbly acknowledged that “there is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. 19:17). In the constant service of His fellow being He was always in the service of His God. For His perfect love and unyielding devotion the Father spoke through the veil of Heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). Just as surely as God spoke those words to His only begotten, He will whisper them to his faithful saints that love Him and keep His commandments.

Nowhere in all eternity is there one who compares to Jesus in love and compassion to his fellow man. His immeasurable mercy was not only seen in raising the dead, and giving sight to the blind, but also in touching the leper and teaching the Samaritan. Though He was thronged by the multitudes, He healed individuals. To the outcast man with a legion of devils – homeless, naked, and alone – He not only cast out the evil spirits, but asked, “What is thy name?” (Luke 8:30). He mingled and ate with publicans, sinners, and Samaritans and even with murmuring Pharisees. He wept for His friends (Jn. 11:35). Above all, He laid down His life that all might live. He suffered that He might succor. He faced a crowd of contempt calling for His crucifixion, but even still drops of blood were spilt for them too. Nevertheless, the crowd of the meek and humble recognize Him as their Messiah saying, “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord…Hosanna in the highest.” (Mark 11:9-10). Can we not also be like Jesus – compassionate and meek in building relationships with our friends, family, and associates – and thus find favor with our fellowmen?

Elder Maxwell was wont to say, “The perfect adoration is emulation”, a profound invitation to follow the pattern of the Master. In our imperfection and weakness He truly is “the way, the truth, and the light” that leads to a balanced life!

I bear testimony of a kind Father of perfect love and understanding. He is a God of mercy and of miracles. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I love the priesthood of God and testify of its power in my life and the life of those I love. God grant that we may increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man, as we strive to live a balanced life!