I am the Youth Sunday School teacher in my ward, so I have the privilege of teaching the young men and women between the ages of 12 and 18. They are a small group, but they have such wonderful testimonies of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ. They also have many questions as they come to learn more about God's plan for each of them. This morning I shared an Easter lesson that consisted of four short videos with discussions before and after each to help them focus on the purpose of our Easter celebrations. I am going to share all of them here for those who may be interested.
[I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting this morning about grace and repentance. I ended up focusing mostly on the doctrine of grace, however. What follows is a fairly accurate transcript of my message.]
“For His Grace Is Sufficient”
Sacrament Meeting Talk - 21 February 2016
In December 2002, I was a newly called missionary serving in the Hesperia First Ward in Hesperia, California. I had entered the mission field after just three weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had a strong mastery of the Scriptures, I had memorised the first two missionary discussions (this was back when the missionary discussions were sequential and the content was expected to be memorised and delivered the same way by all missionaries to all investigators), and I knew I had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After a few days of tracting with my trainer, Elder Ben Tracy of Worthington, Ohio, he decided it was time for me to do my first door approach. I remember exactly where we were: 18780 Wisteria Street, the last house on the right facing Covina Avenue. I had followed Elder Tracy’s advice and picked up the newspaper as an act of kindness. We knocked on the door and a woman answered. I handed her the paper, I told her who we were, and I asked how she was doing. She replied something non-specific and then nothing. I blanked. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to bear my testimony to a stranger, how to share the wonderful truths of the Gospel that I knew to be life-changing, or how to invite someone to listen to our message. Elder Tracy tried to recover for both of us, but it didn’t work and we left without even really telling her who we were or why we were out and about that morning. I was embarrassed, disappointed, and confused.
Elder Tracy took all the rest of the door approaches that morning and then we went home for lunch. After eating, he decided to take a nap and I sat on my bed, searching the scriptures and wondering how I had let things go so horribly wrong. And then it came to me: I had not trusted in the Lord to fulfill his end of a promise found in Doctrine and Covenants 84:85, which was my mission’s scripture motto - “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” I had only trusted in myself.
That afternoon I made a personal covenant with the Lord. I asked Him to forgive me for my pride and promised that I would spend the rest of my mission treasuring up the words of life and asked that in return He would give me the words to say so that never again would I leave the presence of someone on my mission without them knowing who I was and what I was doing. It was in this moment that I believe I first truly began to discover the awesome power of the grace of Christ in my life. I had had fleeting experiences with His grace before, but this was the first time that I can recall actively seeking His “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love” (Bible Dictionary, “grace”).
Throughout the many years since that fateful day, I have pondered again and again what it means to rely on the grace of Christ. I have wondered what His grace actually is and what its role in my life is. In Moroni 10:32, we are given this amazing challenge with a promise: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” What does it mean to be “perfected’ in Christ and to deny ourselves of all ungodliness? Does this mean that our Father in Heaven expects us to be perfect, to be godly, to be like He is? Well, yes and no. Yes, he expects it of us because what else can He do? How can He, as our loving, merciful, kind, and just Father, expect us to be anything less than perfect? In the same vein, how can Sis. Filmore expects the sisters in our ward to do anything less than 100% of their visiting teaching? How can Bro. Alvey or Bro, Reger expect the brethren in our ward to do anything less than 100% of their home teaching? To expect less than perfection is to expect that we will both knowingly and willingly neglect to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. I don’t believe any of us would want to do that, and I don’t believe any of them will want us to do that.
At the same time, God is all-knowing. This means that He knows we are going to fall short. He knows that being perfect now is not something we will achieve. Fortunately, He is not focused on just the here and now; he is also focused on the eternities. As we strive to become more like Him, as we strive to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, and as we strive to be perfected in Christ, we will find ourselves closer to that goal. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” God has given us the ability to infinitely persist in striving to become like He is, and yet, no matter how perfect we may be in our efforts in keeping the commandments, we still fall short.
In fact, we will never be able to do it on our own. As King Benjamin taught the people of Nephi shortly before he died, “I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” And why is this? Benjamin goes on to explain, “And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2: 21, 23-24).
So if we know that none of our efforts will ever be enough to get us to the state of perfection that God expects of us, and we know that we will always be indebted to Him for all that we have received, are now receiving, and ever will receive, how can we possibly make the bold claim that God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man? How does He redeem us and make it possible for us to life with Him forever in His holy presence? Once again, we turn to the Book of Mormon for answers. In 2 Nephi 25:23, Nephi, writing to us in our days, explained why he and his descendants were keeping records of their dealings with God: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
Despite all of our best efforts, after everything we may do or can do to be reconciled with God, the reality is that there is only one way for it to happen: in and through the grace of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. It is through this grace that our faith has meaning and purpose. It is this divine grace, this power that it is mighty to save that we find ourselves able to overcome our weaknesses and shortcomings as we sincerely repent and ask God for His help. It is through this grace that the ordinances of the Gospel take effect in our lives. It is through this grace that we are able to receive Gift of the Holy Ghost and have Him as a constant companion. It is through this grace that we are empowered to endure the many trials that we encounter in our lives. We can’t do it alone. We aren’t meant to do it alone. We have to learn to rely on the Saviour in all things.
It is especially through our trials that we learn that, as Moroni promised us, His grace truly is sufficient for us. We are never going to be perfect in all things. But we can be perfect in some things. Moroni challenged us to not only be perfected in Christ and deny ourselves of all ungodliness, but also to love God with all of our might, mind, and the strength. It can be easy to do this when everything is going well. It is much more challenging when everything seems to go wrong, but it can be done. Last week in Elders Quorum, Bro. Mack taught a lesson about dealing with adversity. Some of the brethren in the quorum suggested that adversity often comes for one of two reasons: either we did something wrong or someone else did something wrong. I would like to suggest that there is one other cause of adversity, and it is the one that can be the hardest to deal with. It is the adversity that comes simply as a result of living in an imperfect world. With my wife Gretchen’s permission, I would like to share a personal example of such adversity we have had to deal with since we got married.
My wife and I are unable to have children of our own at this time. We discovered this during our third year of marriage after experiencing three miscarriages in 18 months. Over the course of the past several years we have had dozens of tests and doctors appointments, multiple surgeries, and three failed attempts at in vitro fertilization. Many tears have been shed, many prayers offered up to the Lord pleading for His divine intervention, many hours spent learning all we could about infertility and some of the medical conditions we have encountered, including polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, sub-clinical hypothyroidism, varicoceles, fibromyalgia, and, most recently, sleep apnea; all have resulted in no change in our current circumstances. In these moments, we have had to continually make a choice: we could do as Job’s wife suggested and “curse God and die” or we could follow Job’s more righteous example and faithfully proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold” (Job 19:25-27). I can testify that it is because of the grace of Christ that we are able to bear testimony of the reality of the Saviour’s Atonement and that despite our adversities, one day we shall see Him and His promises come true.
I do not know when His promise to us will come true or even how it will come true. What I can say, and I believe Gretchen would agree, is that as challenging as it has been to have to deal with infertility, we have seen blessings come through this adversity, too. Through this adversity we have learned to truly lean upon the Lord and not rely on our own understanding. We have learned to trust in each other as we have also learned to trust in Him and in His grace. And we have been able to use our experiences to help others going through similar challenges. I continue to be amazed at the number of friends and family members we have who are also experiencing the challenges of infertility. Countless times, we have been able to offer solace, comfort, and advice to those who are going through what we are going through. We are able to speak up for those who are not comfortable discussing their challenges with others. Lastly, we have been able to bear witness of the reality of the the grace of Christ in our lives. As we have learned to trust in Him, we have discovered that His grace truly is sufficient for us and I promise it is sufficient for each and every single one of you as well. I bear witness of this and pray that each of you will be able to find evidence of His grace in your own lives. I so testify in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Like many young boys, I joined the Boy Scouts of America as an eight-year-old child. I rose through the ranks, earning my Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and Arrow of Light, with a variety of other awards and recognitions along the way. I continued my journey in Scouting by joining Troop 229, the Boy Scout troop sponsored by my church. There I quickly earned the rank of Scout and then Tenderfoot.
And then my journey stalled. For about five years. I went to Scout Camp, I attended troop meetings, I earned merit badges, and I went on campouts and hikes. I helped with Eagle Scout service projects and other service projects that we did as part of being Boy Scouts. But because I didn't know how to swim, I didn't advance in rank. Then I realised that I only had a short time before my chance to earn my Eagle would pass me up.
So I talked to my mum and worked out a plan to take swimming lessons through the nearby Peoria Park District. (That way I wouldn't have to take lessons with all of my friends' younger siblings.) So at sixteen years old I was learning how to swim with a group of five-year-olds. I learned to swim, to dive, to tread water, and to float. (Well, not so much "float" as "sink slowly.") I was then able to pass of the swimming requirements for Second and First Class and was able to quickly earn those ranks.
Then I kept on plugging away, earning more merit badges, going on more hikes and campouts, and going on a High Adventure to the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I earned my Star, then my Life, and then, joyous joy of joys, I was able to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. I completed all of the requirements just before my 18th birthday but didn't have my Eagle Scout Court of Honor until March 2001.
I continued to support the Boy Scouts of America through my words and actions but I was not affiliated with any Cub Scout packs or Boy Scout troops until September 2010 when I was asked to serve as a Webelos Den Leader. I was elated! After nine years, I was finally given an opportunity to work with the Scouting program again! I was Webelos Den Leader (and Assistant Cubmaster is essence if not title) for three years before I was asked to serve as the Cubmaster for Pack 111. I have continued in that role to this day and hope to do so for many years to come.
As a Boy Scout, I learned the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. They have always served as a foundation for many of my choices. I believe in the Scouting program and love the values it instills in our young men. (I am also a strong supporter of the Girl Scouts, but that is a different topic altogether.)
I've been thinking about the Scout Oath a lot lately and what it means to me. And now that I am more than 500 words in, I am finally getting to the point of this post: What I mean when I say the words of the Scout Oath.
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
"On my honour..."
My word is my bond. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. A friend recently suggested that if you can't commit to doing something 100%, you shouldn't commit to doing it. While I am not expecting perfection, I am expecting perfect effort.
"... I will do my best... "
This is very much what I was saying above. I promise to give my best effort. To me, however, the most important part of this is the personal possessive pronoun: my. My best effort is the best that I personally can do. It isn't what my big brothers can do. It isn't what my parents can do. It isn't what my sisters can do. It isn't what my friends can do. It is what I myself can do. If I have done my best, nobody can ask me to do any more than that.
"... to do my duty..."
I have responsibilities as a son, as a brother, as a husband, as an uncle, as a nephew, as a friend, as a Scout, as a leader, as a teacher, as a member of the human family. Do I take those duties seriously? Do I strive to do my best to do them? What are my priorities in performing them?
"... to God..."
I believe in God. I believe He has a plan and a purpose for me. I believe that I do not know all things that He knows. I believe that He expects me to do my best but that He also knows that I will mess up because I am a fallible human. I believe that He knows I will mess up, that He wants me to be able to mess up because it is in so doing that I learn and grow. And I believe that He wants me to live my life in such a way that others see my faith reflected in my actions.
"... and my country..."
I am a citizen of the United States of America. I have a duty to actively participate in society. I believe I have a civil duty to be aware of the issues going on around, to make my voice heard, and to be a voice for good. Part of that duty includes voting in elections. I also serve as an Election Judge for my county. I hope that I have left my friends in other countries a positive sense of what I stand for as an American, even if others in my country do not comport themselves as well.
"... and to obey the Scout Law..."
What is the Scout Law? It is a list of twelve character traits that all Boy Scouts (and now Cub Scouts) strive to live up to: trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, thriftiness, bravery, cleanliness, and reverence. (I could expound on each of these but that, too, is a topic for a different post.) Suffice is to say that I earnest strive to do my best to exemplify these traits in my dealings with others, my dealings with God, and my dealings with my self.
"... to help other people at all times..."
Recall my post a few weeks ago about helping people move? I really mean it. If I am available to help, I will help. Sometimes that help is manual labour. Sometimes that help is a listening ear. Sometimes it is providing tech support for those with whom I work. Sometimes that help is giving a ride or watching somebody's children. Whatever the service needed, if I can render it, I will.
I am also inspired by the story of the Sweetwater Rescue, an event that took place during the Mormon Migration west during the 19th Century. Members of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies were caught in winter storms after getting a late start on the trek west to join with the Latter-day Saints in the Great Salt Lake Valley. President Brigham Young, upon hearing of their dire conditions, called upon the Saints in the Valley to go rescue those on the plains. Teams of oxen were hitched to wagons loaded with food and clothing and off they went. The members of the rescue party, upon finding members of one of the handcart companies trapped on one side of the Sweetwater River, bravely waded the river time and time again to bring the weary travelers across to the other side. (The traditional telling of this story focuses specifically on three young men, C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball, but recent research suggests that there may have been as many as 20 men who helped perform this heroic deed. However, I do not allow that to detract from the heroism of these three, who did what so many others did and answered a call to help others.)
"... to keep myself physically strong..."
As with every other point of the Scout Oath, this, too, is about what I, myself, can do. My promise to keep myself physically strong includes a commitment to keeping my body free from harmful substances. I am a drug prevention specialist and an advocate for healthy lifestyles. I recongise that different people have different definitions of what "healthy" means, and I am okay with that. For me, this commitment includes having a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and trying to get an appropriate amount of sleep.
"... mentally awake..."
The greatest way I can keep myself mentally awake is to constantly learn. Lifelong learning is not just a slogan or a motto for me. It is a reality. I read, I listen, I act, I participate, I discuss, I challenge, I question, I wonder, I learn.
"... and morally straight."
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have a moral code that I strive to follow. Morality is not just about sexuality, although I fear that many people limit it to that. Morality is doing what's right because it's right. I recall reading a selection from a favoured author about notion that the ability to make choices is what makes us capable of morality. If we could not choose, if we could not act for ourselves, we could not be moral. To be morally straight is simply to follow one's moral code. If you have a different moral code, I would expect you to follow that. For some people, their codes are complex. For others, they are simple. (One friend told me in high school that his code was simply "Don't be a jerk.") I recently read a book related to education in which the author suggested that the prime directive for a classroom should simply be this: "You may do whatever you want, as long as it does not cause harm to anyone else." It sounds simple, but as you contemplate how one may cause harm, you realise that this rule is quite all-encompassing.
As a Latter-day Saint, I consider myself a Christian. And thus I turn to the words of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, to know the greatest commandments He gave: first, to love God with all my heart, might, mind, and soul; second, to love my neighbour as myself. An author I read years ago said that these two great commandments can be distilled to one single command: love. When I act, am I acting out of love? If so, I am acting morally and staying straight on my path. If not, I have need for change within.
So there you have it. That is what the Scout Oath means to me. This is what I strive to teach my Cub Scouts and hope that they will take with them as they grow older, advance to the Boy Scouts, and/or move away and associate themselves with others. It is my firm belief that if they do so, they will make the world a better place.
My friend Ben Spackman has been engaged in a long-term blogging project of reading the Holy Bible and writing commentary. He has an advanced degree in ancient cultures and focused his work on Near Eastern cultures and scriptures. So, of course, he blogs as Benjamin the Scribe, adopting the title used in the times of Jesus Christ by those who read the scriptures and wrote commentary. I have often used his posts as a guide to my planning for my Sunday School lessons, to help me better understand the scriptural passages I will be teaching and to just further my own personal scripture study.
In one post, he wrote about the Saviour's parable of the Good Samaritan and challenged the reader to put the main characters into modern terms. While I was not home that week and wasn't teaching, the lesson was being discussed in the ward we were visiting and I found it quite timely. I've been thinking about this and decided to try my hand at a modern retelling of this well-known story. I will use the account from the Gospel According to Luke as my guide.
"And, behold, a certain Sunday School teacher stood up, and questioned him, saying, Master, what should I do to inherit eternal life?
"He said unto her, What is written in the Bible? How do you understand it?
"And she answering said, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind'; and 'thy neighbour as thyself.'
"And he said unto her, You have answered correctly: do this, and you shall live.
"But she, willing to justify herself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
"And Jesus answering said, A certain Elders Quorum President went down from Chicago to Champaign and stopped at a rest area near Kankakee. While there, he was attacked by ruffians, who beat him, stole his car and wallet, and departed, leaving him half dead.
"And by chance his Stake President was passing that way: and when he saw him, he continued on without stopping, because he had a meeting with an Area Authority Seventy in Springfield.
"And likewise the Relief Society President in his ward was also traveling to Champaign to visit old friends, and when she was at the place, she came and looked on him, but quickly continued in because it was not seemly for a woman to be alone with a man who was not her husband.
"But a certain Evangelical minister who frequently railed against Mormonism in her sermons, as she journeyed, came where he was: and when she saw him, she had compassion on him,
"And went to him, and administered first aid and called for police and an ambulance, and had him brought to a hospital emergency room, where she filed a police report.
"And while the man was in surgery, she took out her Platinum Visa card and gave it to the receptionist, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatever the cost of his medical expenses, charge it on my account, I will pay it.
"Which now of these three, do you think, was neighbour unto him that fell into adversity?
"And she said, She that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto her, Go, and do likewise."
It is so easy to say that we are too busy to help or that it isn't appropriate to do something. But is that the message of the Gospel? Is that the challenge that Christ gave his followers? Or did he radically suggest that we set aside our assumptions and our cultural norms, that we ignore the status quo, and we serve and help those in need, no matter what their circumstances and no matter how inconvenient it may seem at the time? I tend to believe that it is the latter. Reflecting on this parable and putting it into modern terms helps me think about what I can do to be a better disciple of Christ. Not because it will earn me rewards in heaven, not because it will bring about the admiration of family and friends, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
Over the past fifteen years or so, I have had the opportunity to help a lot of people move. Most of these moves have taken place while I've been living in the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy area (what I like to call Chambanavoy). There are a lot of college students around these parts and they make up a very large portion of my church community. For some reason, Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) are notorious for asking each other to help load and unload moving trucks/vans. During the hundreds of moves I have helped with, I have discovered that there are ten types of friends helping with the move that you are inevitably going to see. I decided to write a blog post about them. (And probably becasue I spend more time reading articles on Cracked.com and BuzzFeed, I decided to use their writing style.) My experience has been that most of these friends are guys, and so I am using the male pronoun here. Please note, however, that women are just as capable of doing these things as men.
And so, in no particular order...
1. The Supervisor
This is the guy (and it is almost always a guy) who is moving out. His job is simple: make sure everybody knows what they are supposed to be doing. He directs the others to specific rooms, reminds them that the boxes labeled "fragile" really do need to be handled with care, and he assigns a friend to help out in the truck. Speaking of which...
2. The Tetris Master
This is the guy who spends the whole time inside the moving truck. He knows how to fit the boxes together to maximize space. He can see a box arriving from the front door and knows exactly where to put it so that it fits in perfectly with the other boxes. He is also the guy who appreciates the help of an apprentice but really wishes the others would just drop boxes and the front of the truck and then go away. Unless they are bringing him water. Or pizza. Which brings me to...
3. The Foodie
We all have that friend. He says he is going to help with the move and he does. Kind of. Sort of. He carries a box or two and helps move the couch. But most of the time? He's just there for the free food. He spends more time around the pizza or donut box than he does around the moving boxes. He also has sage advice to dispense to everyone who will listen and shares stories about moves years past that he helped with. Except that "helped" still means "carrying a box or two before finding the free food." Unlike...
4. The Veteran
This guy has been helping move people out of their homes since the Israelites fled Egypt. He's got the work gloves, the back brace, and the industrial dolly to prove it. He will help move the heaviest things just to prove he's still got it, but he is satisfied to spend most of his time dismantling furniture, taking down curtain rods, and good-naturedly complaining about the boxes of books that he is carrying down three flights of stairs. He also keeps everyone's spirits up as the sun moves higher in the sky and the temperatures reach levels that make Death Valley look like a paradise. Unlike...
5. The Complainer
Yes, he will help you load the truck. Yes, he will arrive at 8 am and stay until you finish. Yes, he will move the piano, the washer, the mattress, and the boxes of books. Yes, he will suffer the heat, the cold, or the rain. Yes, he will miss out on sleeping in on his day off. Yes, he will miss that football game. And yes, he will make sure everybody knows it. This is the guy that you are glad to have there helping, but you really wish he would just stay home instead of complaining. Then again, maybe it is good that he showed up, unlike...
6. The No-Show
Your friend said he would be there to help. Your family's home teacher promised to put it in his calendar. That guy that you've never actually talked to before last Sunday came up to you to confirm the details of your move. And then he didn't show. You were really counting on him, too, because you helped him with his move and you even made sure you had a bottle of Dr. Pepper just for him! You'll get a note from him the next day on Facebook with apologies for not making it. He had the stomach flu. His kid had the stomach flu. His car broke down. He had a family emergency. There is some excuse and you don't want him to feel bad, even though you were counting on him to be there. Alas, he was a no-show. Fortunately, your best friend was there to be...
7. The Juggernaut
This is usually your best friend. He's been there through thick and thin and he's not about to let you leave without one last show of true friendship. He's the first to show up, sometimes arriving early, and the last to leave. He makes sure every last corner of your house is empty and everything is exactly as it is supposed to be so you can get your security deposit back. He will take a break when you order him to, but other than that, he's right there grabbing boxes, moving that awful piano, unhooking the washer (and getting sprayed by the residual water in the process), and is making sure your wife's heirloom mirror and priceless paintings are well-padded and secured. He will even let you take his bungee cords with you. Which is good because you have to watch out for...
8. The Scavenger
You know you are going to have to leave something behind. No matter how well you planned, there's going to be something that needs to just go in the dumpster or get donated to Goodwill. And that's exactly what the Scavenger is hoping for! He's there to snatch up that extra floor lamp, take that bucket of cleaning materials, and load your frozen veggies into the cooler he conveniently has in the trunk of his car. He's there to perform the unsavory task of claiming your belongings to make sure they "find a good home." Sometimes he simply takes advantage of the situation. Other times, he comes with a list. As grateful as you are for his help, you wish he'd left the list at home and brought...
9. The Kids
There's that guy you know who has some teenagers and their friends who are always hanging around his house, eating his food, watching his TV, and generally making themselves a part of the family. Well, what better way to instill some good old fashioned values than by bringing them along to help with the move? Besides, it will give his wife an opportunity to hang out with your wife one last time. Fortunately, these are good kids. They carry the smaller boxes and bring water to the guys in the truck. Or they team up and prove that they can carry that awful piano on their own. (But thank goodness their dad is right there to supervise!) And because they usually arrive later than the others, they are there to gives the others a rest break. The Kids often eagerly look forward to working with...
10. The Missionaries
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am fortunate to live in an area where we have full-time missionaries assigned to our congregation. These young men (usually between the ages of 18 and 25) are paired up and work together to teach others about our church but also to provide service in the community. And because moves give a pleasant break from routine, they will always show up, even if they have a teaching appointment right before or right after. (You just wish they wouldn't show up in their nice clothes, since that means they aren't going to be doing the dirty work for you.)
So, who are you when your friends ask you to help you move? Did I forget someone that ought to be added to this list?
Gretch and I have had a subscription to Netflix for a few of years now. We started with free trials that we accessed through different debit and credit card accounts. After deciding we really did like using Netflix, we actually subscribed and have used it as our sole source of television programming. This has become a nice way to have background noise during the day when we are doing other things, a way to relax in the evening and watch shows together, to relive old memories as we share favourite programs, and a way to learn.
I'm not quite sure when it happened, but at some point Gretch decided that we should watch documentaries on Sundays after church. Through these programs, we have learned about the natural world, history, science, discoveries, architecture, design, and all sorts of other things. Some of the documentaries have been so grossly biased that we dropped them before finishing. Others were just awful, such as one about UFOs.
Today we started watching a documentary program that has been in our Netflix queue or list for several years: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I know that Dr. deGrasse Tyson is something of a controversial figure among scientists. Some write him off as "pop scientist" and others feel that his lack of research calls into question his legitimacy. (According to his curriculum vitae, his last publication was in 2008 and was a part of a large group of researchers.) However, I have come to recognise the importance of having someone who can be a face for modern scientific research and a voice for scientific theories.
It has been fun watching this show and just learning about a bunch of random topics about the universe. Some of it has been stuff I knew before; some has been putting together bits and pieces of things that I hadn't quite understood in that way. And some has just been fun to think about and talk about with Gretch.
So that is how we spend our Sunday afternoons. Of course, we also read, nap, spend time with family and friends, and prepare meals. But the biggest part of our non-church Sunday routine on Sundays is definitely watching documentaries together. So, tell us, what do you do with your family on Sundays?
Again, I know that this post isn't actually going up on the Sunday before Christmas. In fact, it is going up the day before (Christmas Eve). I decided it would be better to space out the last three posts in the series but actually get them done instead of posting them back to back and having nobody read them or have time to really think about the message.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent, I like to reflect on messages of peace. We live in such a turbulent world, and it has been turbulent for such a long time. This Christmas season, as I ponder on the tragedies happening at home and abroad, I find myself asking the same question asked in the hymn by Emma Lou Thayne.
Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.
I keep seeing photo slideshows in my Facebook newsfeed, highlighting the past year for different friends. The headline is "It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it!"
The thing is, for me and Gretch, there has been a lot of heartache, a lot of sorrow, a lot of loss, a lot of pain. Many things we had fervently hoped would come to pass didn't and things we thought were going well weren't. It could be really easy for both of us to write this past year off as one of the worst ones we've had together. That may be why verse two of this hymn is so poignant to me. It is an acknowledgement that things don't always work out the way we want when we want how we want.
Isn't that the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? In the Book of Mormon, there are several chapters from the Book of Alma that record sermons Alma, the son of Alma, delivered to the people of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Ammonihah. I would commend all of these chapters to you, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on a few specific passages:
Alma 5:26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? Alma 7:11-12 And he shall go forth, suffering pains andafflictionsand temptationsof every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he willtake uponhim the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon himdeath, that he mayloosethe bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how tosuccor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:23-24 And now I would that ye should behumble, and besubmissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye havefaith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works. Can you sing the song of redeeming love? Do you believe that Christ suffered all things so that he could ease your own burdens? Do you have faith, hope, and charity? If you can answer yes to these questions, then I would suggest that you can find peace, even in the midst of trouble and sorrow. I know I have. The past year has been really rough on us, but there have been amazing things, too. Those are the things I choose to focus on. Where can I turn for peace? The only place where peace can truly be found: in the arms of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And if He isn't the one you turn to for peace, I truly hope that you do have someone or something in your life that is your anchor, your guide, your stay. After all, we all need someone to lean on!
Hi! We're the Valencic family. You're probably wondering about our blog's name. Well, We're a small family of two, plus a rabbit (and two birds, but they're just kind of in the background- second class citizens). Alex and Gretch have been married for five years. Alex teaches fourth grade, loves politics, reading books, watching movies, picking up random knowledge, and bacon. We love watching TV shows, you could say that we are Netflix junkies. We love sci-fi shows, our favorite being Doctor Who. We also love watching documentaries on all kinds of subjects. We're both geeks, but Alex is the super Geek.
Gretch spends her days painting, illustrating, designing, crocheting, and doing many other forms of art. She has a really big love for dinosaurs and will some day publish a graphic novel with dinosaurs in it. But that's not where the dinosaur part comes from! For many years now our family (mostly Alex and siblings) have made fun of Gretch's short arms, calling them her T-Rex arms. They call her G-Rex. Normally this kind of teasing would bother her, but she kinda likes it, so it's stuck. (P.S. her ASL name sign is based on the Swedish sign for dinosaur.) That's where the Dinosaur part comes. Myla is our Bunny. She's two years old and has a surprisingly well rounded personality. We got Myla because Gretch desperately wanted an animal companion that could help her with some emotional issues. She is a confort to Gretch and we spoil her like a baby. She's more than just a pet to us. So that's where our Blog Title came from! This is our family and this is our life.