"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Friday, December 18, 2015

Gifts

The week of Christmas has arrived. For me it is a week away from work and many of the other things that take my time. I have spent many hours shopping, purchasing, wrapping, and mailing in the hopes that the week of Christmas will be more simple, relaxed, and celebratory of the birth of The Savior Jesus Christ.

For He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is because of the gifts that Jesus has given us that we have hope in this life. It is through His example that we see true charity and try to become more charitable. It is because of Christ that we have something in which to have faith. It is The Atonement of Jesus Christ that we lean on every day of our lives, hoping that we can return to live with Heavenly Father, and believing that we are loved.

Though life can be challenging to us in so many ways, it is because of Jesus Christ that I can sometimes almost be grateful for the trials that have come my way. With effort I can ask the question 'What am I to learn from this experience," instead of asking, 'Why me?' The hope in Christ also helps me think about the many things that I have not had to experience. And I am grateful that cancer has not been my challenge. I am profoundly grateful that all my children are living and thriving through life's challenges. I am grateful for the faith that saw me through hard seasons with parents whose lives were waning before my very eyes. It is through The Atonement that I hope to be a better forgiver and even more to hope that I can be forgiven.

I wonder if there will ever come a time again when all the Christian world will really celebrate the life, mission, death, and Atonement of Jesus Christ. Will we ever give up the shopping, the spending, the attitude of this is what I want for Christmas, and really be disciples?

Will the stores really stop putting out the Christmas trappings before Halloween? Will consumers really be able to resist the advertisements? Will we ever put The Savior first in our lives for even the season when we celebrate His birth?

It is easy to be sucked into the newest gadget and gizmo. It is easy to think we can and have to do it all. None of us wants to feel we have failed our friends and family. And truthfully none of us wants to be forgotten. Some people give and give and give with no expectation of receiving. With a pure heart that is how it should be. But it is pretty easy to be offended when we are forgotten by others.

The example of Jesus Christ was one of giving with no expectation of receiving. So how do I make my heart more like His?

One of the stresses of the season revolves around the gift giving process. How much should I spend? What is enough? Will it offend someone if I do not spend more than this? Who have I forgotten? Will what I have given mean anything to anyone?

As I think about Christ and His gifts to us and the blessings of Heavenly Father, it is really clear that nothing that I can give anyone in this world can come close to measuring up to the gifts I have received. Jesus Christ gave all that He had to give. Heavenly Father also gave me all. All that I call my own is really His. God can take it all away at any moment. But sometimes my selfish side rear its ugly head and forgets that part.

All they ask in return from me seems so small in comparison. Then why does it sometimes seem so hard?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Past


Been thinking a lot about Christmas. Since it is just a week away, how could I not. I have pondered on the meaning of Christmas and thought about Christmases I can remember. I remember one Christmas log ago when I was a child, wanting to believe in Santa Claus and yet really believing that he was not real.

It had been a hard year for me. I had broken my right femur in a foolish bicycle accident, landed in the hospital for about six weeks in traction, and spent the fall in a wheel chair. I sat inside my third grade classroom in a wheelchair during recess, watching classmates outside, through the window. I was not able to participate in many things, as stairs were a huge handicap for me in the school building.

We had a foreign exchange student who lived with us that year. He was from Caracas, Venezuela. Luciano pushed me to school in the wheelchair in the morning and home again at the end of the day. He took the wheelchair and I up the steps at the beginning of the day and down the stairs when school was out. The rest of the day, I spent in the classroom, because I had no one to take me up and down the stairs. My mother came at noon and helped me visit the ladies room. Lunch was delivered to me in the classroom and I ate alone, because the cafeteria was down a huge flight of stairs.

Eventually, my cast was removed and I went to school on crutches. It was a trial to discover I could not walk at all. My right leg collapsed with my every efforts. But practice and hard work paid off and I was able to walk before Christmas. It had been a long five months!

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we did not participate in Midnight Mass at the local Catholic Church. But Luciano was a devout Catholic. And we went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with him. It was a new and different experience for me. I think that I realized then how different it must have been for Luciano to attend church with us. Though we both believed in God, we loved our own religions. That night I learned how very different our worship was to Luciano.

Christmas was on Sunday and I fully expected to see presents under our tree from Santa when we arrived home from Midnight Mass. I went to bed disappointed.

As a family, we attended our own church meetings on Christmas morning. It seemed long to me, partly because it was Christmas day, but also partly because of my puzzlement that Santa had not yet visited our house. Not a single new present had arrived during my night of restless sleep. Disappointment was real, but perhaps also fear that maybe there would be no more presents.

But Christmas is such a magical season and disappointment was dispelled when I walked into our home and saw presents galore decorating our living room. A very large teddy bear was tagged for me and a small, blue, rocking chair just my size sat under it. The three of us instantly fell in love.

To this day, I do not know how the magic of that day happened. Both my parents sat with us in church. I did not see them leave. I wonder still how Santa fulfilled his responsibility and chased away my fear and disappointment.

My Mother always loved Christmas. She spent grundles of hours in preparation and service. Somehow I believe she and my Dad orchestrated the magic that perpetuated my belief in Santa for another season.

For what other explanation could there have been?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lessons from The Life of the Savior

In the busyness of preparing for Christmas, it can be a challenge to do much of anything, except keep up with life as fast as one can. The whole meaning and purpose of Christmas can be easily lost in exhaustion, activities, financial woes, and commercialism. It can be really hard to remember why Christmas is important.

Long ago an angel sent from Heavenly Father visited a young woman who was not married in a far away land. The angel told this virgin something unheard of, something miraculous, something that might be hard to comprehend. The angel told Mary that she would become the mother of The Son of God. Mary was a remarkable woman. Scriptures teach us that she said to the angel, "Be it unto me, according to thy word."

Perhaps it is only remarkable to me that she answered so, because that is not what I think, when I know the Lord wants me to do something unheard of or hard to comprehend. I whine. I pout. I complain. And I avoid. I may need The Holy Ghost to remind me, pester me, and even nag me. I marvel at her attitude of faith and obedience.

No why me, Lord? No I am just too busy this week. No comments about how hard this would be. No words of 'are you kidding?'

Just simple obedience.

But when I think about that simple obedience demonstrated by Mary the mother of Jesus Christ, it really makes perfect sense. For her son, God's son, would also be perfectly obedient. He would come to this earth as an infant, helpless as all of us would come to earth. But He would rise to become a Master Teacher in His every word and deed. He would represent His Father and our Father, without flinching, whining or complaining. He would do all things that Heavenly Father asked Him to do.

Christ was obedient enough to tangle with Satan who tempted Him following fasting for days beyond my comprehension. I gripe and complain if I miss a meal. But Christ fasted for forty days and nights. When Satan suggested options for Christ's comfort and glory, The Son of God stood firm. He did not tangle with Satan. He cast Satan from His presence.

How often I wish I were as strong as that, to see Satan, or hear his lies, or see his tools and tactics and to simply shrug my shoulders and cast him away from me. But it is often after I have become ensnared that I recognize Satan for the Snake he is and then it is too late. I am caught in his web of deceit and must detangle myself, usually a painful process.

Jesus Christ had few earthly possessions. His mission was not things, but people. Another example for me to learn from for I am really good at acquiring things. I dream of things, I work for things, and then I spend hours and hours taking care of things. But I do not think I am that careful with people. I am often to busy to listen or serve or lift and strengthen another in great need. Too busy with the things to notice the people is so not what I would have seen Christ do.

God's Only Begotten Son worked miracles beyond my comprehension. Miracles may not have occurred every day, but then they may have. I am surrounded by miracles every day, yet fail to recognize, appreciate, and express gratitude for them. Some of those who lived when Christ did so many miraculous things also failed to be grateful. Sometimes I am just like the nine who were healed from their blindness, who went away and said nothing. NOTHING! How could that be, but is that a lot like me?

Christmas is a season to think of Heavenly Father and His willingness to give His Son to the world. It is about His Son who was willing to give His life as a gift for all the world. It is about following in His footsteps of obedience and service and gratitude and so much more.

As I think of Heavenly Father's blessings in my life and of the life and example of His Only Begotten Son, I am filled with overwhelming gratitude. And my desire to be more like Jesus Christ grows. I have a long way to go, but in Their patience and love, I find strength, and peace, and hope.