23 August 2014


This picture captures some of my thoughts this evening.

We had a set of missionaries in our home a few weeks ago. They asked us to participate in a special social media event, to share with others why we have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. We agreed, and these verses from the Book of Mormon provide a framework for what I am feeling:

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Moroni 7:45-47

I read these to Isaac and Joseph tonight before reading Isaac his bedtime story. I was immediately "convicted by the Spirit" because tonight was one of those nights that belongs in the "Joe's Bad Parenting Hall of Fame."

The specific incident doesn't matter. What matters is that my behavior did not emulate what is depicted above. In His life, and in the time after His resurrection, Jesus Christ personified the attribute of charity. He showed perfect love, and this was especially evident in His teachings and treatment of children.

As a parent, I have the privilege of teaching and raising my children. I love them more than I can adequately express. Sometimes I allow my concern and frustration, sometimes about unimportant things, to overshadow and overtake the admonition to have charity. I reject that perfect, patient, not easily-provoked love in favor of righteous indignation and the demands of justice (as I see it).

What a hollow and foolish choice. In the end, it leaves you empty, because you have forced out love in favor of fleeting and unfulfilling ambitions, like my desire to modify Isaac's then undesirable behavior.

I'm not much for airing out my failings and errors in a public setting. For one, it would take too much time, but also because I like to share positive things about me and my life. However this experience can serve a higher purpose for a few reasons:

1. By recording it, hopefully I will be better able to avoid repeating it.
2. It will help me explain why I follow Jesus Christ.

The key, important aspect of #2 is that Christ is divine, the Son of God. I have a deep conviction that this is true. This conviction includes my belief that His life and His attributes are worthy of emulation. I want to try and be like Him. In fact, He has told us to be Perfect, even as He and his Father are perfect.

Part of that perfection is Charity. I follow Christ because I want to possess charity, as explained in the scriptures. I want to feel and express that perfect love, for all people, but especially for my family. I want to be a constant source of that love, so that my children never have reason to doubt my love for them, and in turn, God's love for them.

I follow Christ because the only way to gain that attribute is by accepting my need for his grace, won through the atonement that he carried out for all men and women. His suffering on our behalf was universal, even if man's acceptance would not be. He endured all things. How much simpler it should be for me to endure those small things that my wonderful children occasionally inflict upon me? 

Still, despite the simplicity, I fail and again. So I follow Christ because each and every day I do something that requires repentance, and repentance comes only in and through the atonment wrought by Jesus Christ.

I follow him because I have to. I am grateful that I am able to, and I thank Him for the charity that he has shown for me, in spite of my many failings.

Here's to being at least a little better tomorrow, for Him and for them.

12 August 2014

The River

Last Friday I went camping and canoing with some of the scout from our congregation. We drove to Ocala to paddle a 7 mile stretch of the Silver and Ochlawaha rivers. It was a beautiful day, and the cool, clear, and peaceful river promised a nice trip.

Having some experience in a canoe, I was very confident. We had no difficulty managing the river, aside from the occasional collision with a tree or log extending into the water. About three hours into the five hour trip, the boys we were with became lodged on a log. We floated up behind them to bump their canoe forward.

We succeeded, but in the process came to rest parallel to the log, which extended straight across the river. Somehow our canoe was pushed upward a bit, and in second we had lost balance and fell into the water, tipping the canoe over.

In my last post, I wrote about control. In this canoe, I had some control. Our streamlined hull cut easily through the water, and our paddles gave us the ability to steer. The feeling of control these things provided evaporated when we hit the water.

The current quickly filled the canoe with water, and we were powerless to set it right. In fact, the canoe when from a sideways position to completely filling. At that point it turn completely upside-down and when under the log, emerging on the other side right-side-up, but totally swamped.

We gathered our things and passed them to the boys to place in their canoe. We then spent several minutes positioning ourselves on the log so that we could try and lift it out of the water. This was very difficult, as we had to manage the current, then pushing our bodies forward, and the extreme weight of the filled canoe. In time we tipped it enough to be mostly emptied so that we could continue our trip.

Even then, there was a small amount of water in the canoe, which made every shift in weight more extreme, increasing the potential for another tip into the water. When we could find another bank, we pulled the canoe out to empty it, finally able to continue as normal.

How quickly my confidence left me, when I was faced with the might and inexorable flow of this calm and placid river. It couldn't have been moving more than 1.5 or 2 mph, but the volume of the water was more than we could overcome, at least until we found a way to plant ourselves on more stable footing.

The security of the canoe was largely an illusion, and I won't soon forget that. It made me think of something that the prophet Lehi said to his wayward son Laman:

O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
1 Nephi 2:9

In life I am often that canoe. I rely on my own power and strength. I trust our technology and know-how, sometimes discounting the real power, which is in the river.

As Lehi urged Laman, I want to be the river. For me this means trusting in God, in His power, and in His constant and unwavering guidance. My own strengths, while perfectly adequate much of the time, will fail me if I don't recognize the power of the river. The river does not always impress, but it has the real power.

11 August 2014


I'm playing a little catch-up, so this post should be followed by another shortly.

As a reminder, the purpose of my renewed blogging is to share spiritual thoughts and ideas as they come to me, ideally on a weekly basis. This post is the fruit of several experiences, most recently the recently diagnosed illness of a friend.

I like control. I enjoy planning, and considering the things that can go wrong with my plans and preparing for those possibilities. When the plans or counter-plans go awry, I can become quite frustrated. It is one of my great challenges.

Occasionally we received reminders of how little we can control. Sometimes this comes as the result of a reversal of business fortunes, or as in this case, illness. My perspective on this particular instance is shaped partly by its distance. I am not the patient, so it is a little easier to consider an appropriate reaction. This sounds calculating, but it is really just a way of recognizing that my feelings are my own, and I have a very hard time criticizing anyone who struggles with news such as this.

When someone you care about has a trial, it is normal to ask why. In this case, there is no predisposition or family history, outside of normal probability. There has been no bad behavior, no action that would merit such a trial. This is usually the case, and we ask ourselves, "Why do bad things happen to good people."

The prophet Nephi (found in the Book of Mormon) was shown a vision and was asked about "the condescension of God" He gave this response:

I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
1 Nephi 11:17

When bad things happen to good people, I often remember this verse. I don't understand the purpose for everything that happens. I don't understand why children suffer, why mothers and sisters get sick, or why any number of sad and difficult things occur, but I know that God loves us.

And I also know that when bad things happen, to us or to those we care about, we have to focus on what we can control. We can control our response. We can control our relationship to God. We can love, and serve, and pray.

This was a comforting realization, one that I have had before, but also one that I needed to remember. It came to me as I fasted and prayed for the welfare of my friend and their family. We must never allow what happens to us to control us. We are able to move our spiritual selves to where our Heavenly Father has asked us to go. By doing that, He has promised to bless us with His Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives comfort, peace, and testifies of truth.

Our mortal perspective often impels us to turn away, to seek to blame. This is a reaction, and we were created to act, and not to be acted upon.

I was grateful for this reminder. Now the real task is to remember to turn to God even when things are going well, when we are not compelled to be humble. This is how we can prepare for the trials that come, so that when they do come we have no reason to doubt His love.