Sunday, May 29, 2011

He Knows Your Heart

I had a good, long phone conversation with a friend yesterday.  It was good to catch up with her.

Something she said, though, got me to thinking - got me to think about how I talk to others, especially within the framework of the church and gospel.

By her own admission, this friend was a spiritual child, one who knew of God and had tasted of his goodness from a very early age.  Her parents broke up and divorced when she was in elementary school, and her mom kept physical custody of her.  She saw her dad on Tuesdays and Sundays, the only days available to spend time with him.

When she was twelve, a member of her bishopric asked why she hadn't been going to church on Sunday and primary on Tuesdays (this was in the 1970s, before the three hour block schedule we now have).  She told him that those were the only days she could spend time with her dad.  He then asked, well-meaning, I'm sure, what was more important - to spend time with her dad or go to church.

What would your answer be?

Her answer was that she felt it more important to spend time with her father.  He, the member of the bishopric, told her that the right answer should have been church.

Since that time, my friend has not returned to church, now doubts her testimony and has since engaged in some pretty self-destructive behavior.

It's this situation, and others like it I've both learned about and experienced for myself, that leads me to wonder what we inadvertently do to each other when we interact with others.  Because he made my friend, only twelve at the time, make a decision between family and church, he poisoned her thinking about what the gospel is supposed to be about.  Well meaning as he was, the damage was done.

Now, I'm a firm believer that, as we age and grow and mature, we must take ownership of our own decisions when we can (there are a host of situations the Lord is aware of where we may not be able to do that - our past, addictions, decisions and hurts forced upon us by others) - but you can see how easy it would be for a child, faced with the choices my friend was given, to grow up doubting the tender mercies of the Lord through His servants.

So, yeah, this got me thinking a lot.  It's helped me to see that I really need to be careful in how I talk to others, especially in the framework of the gospel.  We're all different.  We've all had different trials and family situations. Not one of us is exactly alike.

Therefore, I will try my best to see others as Heavenly Father sees them. I will try to refrain from unrighteous judgement and remember that He, God alone, knows their hearts.

And, in the meantime, I will pray for mercy to be with all of us, no matter our background, our upbringing or our situation now.

I hope you have a good Sabbath, full of His peace, love and grace.

Bro H.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Right Place - Right Time

One of my favorite lessons from the scriptures is that I want to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.

Sometimes that brings visions of grandeur.  Wanting to give every homeless person a warm, comfortable place to sleep.  Wanting to fill every hungry child's belly.  Wanting to save the world.

To be His instrument in these specific cases would require monumental resources that I just don't have.  Mother Teresa had it right when she said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

True enough.

I need to remind myself that sometimes the Lord doesn't need a backhoe, but a small digging tool.  He doesn't always require me to be a wood chipper, but rather a small hatchet.  He hasn't yet asked me to be the Sun, but He has asked me to be a sunbeam and to let my light shine.

Twice within the past 24 hours, He has asked me to help out in very small and simple ways.  Last night, the missionaries were trying to visit someone upstairs who wasn't home.  One of the elders needed to use a bathroom, and couldn't wait until he got back to his apartment.  I overheard him telling this to his companion so I invited them in.  He was very grateful, and relieved.

This morning, I happened to be outside when I saw a poor old gentleman digging through the Dumpster looking for aluminum cans.  I gave him two bags that I had collected from drinking soda at home.  There were almost tears in his eyes as he gently took them and said, "Gracias, papa".

Did I save the world?  No.  Did I help someone in a very small and simple way that helped move them forward?  Yes.

It's good to know I can make a difference in someone's day just by being in the right place at the right time.

Bro. H.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lead this Sheep

From my journal today:

Feeling good today. I love having the quiet time in the mornings in which to feed my spirit. Read Ether chapters 4 and 5. The Spirit pointed out to me that the phrase "lifted up" is significant to me.

The scriptures talk about being lifted up to dwell in the Kingdom of God. To me, this means it (the kingdom) is out of my natural reach. In order for me to reach it, I still must do all I can, but I will always fall short. I may climb and jump all I want, but unless Christ lifts me up to it, I will never be able to attain or reach it. No matter how hard I try, and try I must, it is utterly out of my own natural reach.

Also this morning, I was listening to "The Lord is my Shepherd" and realized a very helpful visualization. I picture myself walking on a path by still waters, green grass and just generally a very peaceful place in nature. I picture Christ leading me as He would a sheep, but also walking beside me with His arm around my shoulder, helping me and guiding me.

It was so peaceful!

Enjoy your day!

Bro H.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

Recently, I've been struggling with some advice a priesthood leader gave me.  I won't go into details here, because first and foremost, I take seriously the sustaining vote I gave him, and still give him.

I think we all struggle, from time to tine, with the well-meant advice others give to us.  Maybe it's just because of my exposure to the LDS culture, but maybe it goes beyond us Mormons.  The advice I want to discuss in this post has been given to me and to others I know.  Depending on how it's given, who it's given to, and where we are in life when we receive it, this advice can be either very helpful or very damaging.

I'm talking about those times when we feel down, depressed or have other mental or emotional issues that are very real and affect our lives in extremely profound ways.

And the advice?

"Get out and serve others."

Now, I heartily believe that service is critical to us as individuals, us as a people and us as the human race.  Selfless service to others does indeed help the server feel blessed and helps the served receive blessings of accepting service.

However, when one is clinically depressed or has a chemical imbalance or is at the point mentally, emotionally and physically where they need professional help, this advice can sound trite and trivial.  It compounds both our illness and our feelings of guilt.

Again, there is nothing wrong with service - or with the injunction to serve others as we have the means and can actually do some good.

But, if we don't have the means (and that means both financially, time-wise and mentally), then what?

I think we can take a lesson from the great King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon.  He told us we should give freely of our resources to the poor.  But, he also followed that up with the caution that we do not give beyond our means.  He said if we cannot give, we should say within our hearts that we would give if we could.

The same goes with service.

How often have I been guilty of saying or even thinking that if they (whoever is suffering) would just get up and out and serve, they would be fine?

Would I say that to someone who is having a heart attack?  Would I say it to someone who has a compound fracture?  NO!  So why in the world would I say it to someone who has an infirmity that is every bit as real and physical as someone needing CPR or a splint?

Exactly.  Sounds dumb, right?

So, starting today, I'm going to try to really think before I speak.  And I will pray for us all to serve when we can - when we honestly have the means, and let God be the judge of me when I cannot.

Have a beautiful Monday!

Brother H.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Watch this, Mommy!

Today is Mother's Day.  I would love to go visit my mama today, but it's a long way to the cemetery and I don't currently have (legal) wheels.  Still, it's a good day to pay tribute and tell you some of the things about Mama that are in my heart.

Mama graduated from her mortal probation on January 16, 2009.  She had been in a coma in ICU for most of the last two days of her life here.  It's interesting to note that she chose that particular day to leave us. Had she gone on either of the previous two days, either my brother or sister would have had life-long reminders of her passing on their birthdays for the rest of their lives.

That was mama - considerate to the end.

Whenever I think of mama, I think of all things good and beautiful.  She was a kind woman - one who lived the gospel of Jesus Christ to the end.  It was sad in the last several years of her life knowing how dearly she loved to congregate with the Saints on Sundays, but not being able to attend her worship meetings.  Still, she never lost faith.

When I was very small, I would play in the backyard of our home in Hunter, and occasionally call out - "Watch this, mommy!" as I did something particularly acrobatic or daring.  And she always did.  Whether she was doing dishes in the kitchen or weeding the garden, she always took time to look and watch whatever I was doing to impress her.  That kind of attention means the world to any child, and especially to this little boy.

As I grew older, there came a time in my life (as I suppose it does in many of our lives), when I was embarrassed to be seen with her.  I regret I felt that way, but knowing that nearly all teenagers put their parents through that stage of awkwardness helps soothe my conscience a little.  Yes, there were times when I asked her to drop me off down the street from a friend's house or a block away from the school.  But looking back, I can honestly say that I was proud to have Marian Lund Hofheins as my mama, and I was proud to be her boy.

It wasn't until the very end that I accepted her calling me the baby of the family.  Though deep down inside, I was and always had been a mama's boy, I would never freely admit it.

Funny how the passage of time and the death of mama has brought me back to the point of wanting to do something silly or profound and say, "Watch this, mommy!"

I am now proud to carry the titles she lovingly gave me:

Mama's boy
Baby of the family

I trust that she is up there, in the Paradise part of the Spirit World and is indeed watching over me.  I know she is helping me in ways that she could not possibly help had she still been here in that frail body so full of pain and anguish and confusion.  I believe with all my heart that she has been and continues to be rewarded for the fine example of Christian charity she actively showed throughout her life.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, I know that whatever I am doing, all I have to do is think, "Watch this, mama!"

And she will stop whatever she's doing, look out her window in Paradise, and smile.

I love you, Mama.  Happy Mother's Day.

Brother H.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lord Found Me Again

They found me again.  But this time it was a different companionship.  And I had a different attitude.  Maybe I was prepared.

It's been snowing here this morning.  Usually I go out the side door to smoke, but there's no shelter from the weather there.  So, I was standing on the front landing watching the usually-beautiful but this late in spring annoying snow, when two figures appeared and came down the stairs.  I thought (and actually said it out loud), "Uh oh. Here they come again!"

But this time I was smiling when I said it.  I really was glad to see them.

We chatted for a few minutes.  I found out one elder is from Washington State and the other is from Florida.  Both of them also hope for warmer weather soon.

I put out my cigarette and one of the elders asked if I wanted to quit.  Before I could stop myself, I said, "Desperately!"

He said the mission has a stop smoking program and they would be happy to come by another time to help me - to teach it to me.

I named a day and a time when I figured my roomies wouldn't be here and invited them back.

And, yes, I would have invited them inside, but they were here to see someone in the apartment across from me.

Seems the Lord is trying to get my attention.  He has it.  Time to move forward.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, right?  I am taking baby steps.  For the past few days I have begun and ended my day both with prayer and reading from the Book of Mormon.  I wish I could tell you how good that feels. The Spirit has been with me more and more.

I've missed Him.

Have a beautiful Tuesday - even if it is snowing where you are.

Brother H.