Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here We Come A Caroling

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this time of year, especially Christmas.
I love all the Christmas songs, the one that pay tribute to the Savior, "Oh Holy Night, Silent night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Little Drummer Boy," my list could on and on.  I even love the fun Christmas songs, like "Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Deck the Halls, Oh Christmas Tree" to name a few once again this list could go on and on.
I was raised in a little gold mining town in Nevada and each and every Christmas my parents and I along with some close friends would make up some goodie baskets and we would go a caroling all over town intermixing our Christmas songs starting with the fun ones and always ending with one which payed homage to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It was a magical time that I shall never forget.
Since I have lived in Idaho I have never participated in that type of activity until tonight.
I have been attending church in a small town in Nevada about 20 miles from our home with a true blue friend.  Well tonight was the night this small group of eight souls with about six kids made up some cookie plates and we went a "Christmas Caroling."  
We started out with the fun songs and then my friend suggested we should start mixing in some songs which paid homage to our Lord and King.
Funny thing happened, while practicing in the car we knew all the verses to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" but when the door opened and we began to sing, the words left our minds and we started la la la-ing.  We started laughing so hard we were in tears.

At another house we decided to sing Frosty the Snowman and once again in the middle of Frosty my friend and I started singing about Rudolph's red nose while the rest of the group was singing about Frosty; Again we were rolling on the ground with laughter.
Once we contained our laughter my friend turned and looked at me and simply said, 
"Isn't this best Christmas memories we are creating tonight."  I had to agree.
Tonight is a memory that we shall always carry within out hearts.
But the coolest thing was the smiles that radiated from the doorways of the those who were the recipient's of our caroling. 
This time of year is truly a "Magical time of year."
May we all feel of its magic is my hope and prayer and may we truly feel the true spirit of this wonderous season, for He truly is the reason for the season. 

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, 
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 
Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Friday, December 14, 2012

And The Heavens Wept


Posted on December 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Updated today at 5:12 PM
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- A man opened fire Friday inside the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in their classrooms and trembled helplessly to the sound of gunfire reverberating through the building.
The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said.
Police shed no light on the motive for the attack. The gunman was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother in Connecticut, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
The attack, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.
Panicked parents raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children. Students were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.
School children -- some crying, others looking frightened -- were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.
"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings.
Youngsters and their parents described teachers locking doors and ordering the children to huddle in the corner or hide in closets when shots echoed through the building. Authorities said the shootings took place in two rooms, but they gave no details on exactly how they unfolded.
A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher. A second law enforcement official said his mother, Nancy Lanza, was presumed dead.
Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned.
The law enforcement official who said Adam Lanza had a possible personality disorder said Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative, was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
All three law enforcement officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the unfolding investigation.
The gunman drove to the school in his mother's car, the second official said. Three guns were found -- a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car.
Lanza's girlfriend and another friend were missing in New Jersey, the official also said.
State police Lt. Paul Vance said 28 people in all were killed, including the gunman, and one person was injured.
Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.
"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."
He said the shooter didn't utter a word.
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter was in the school and heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said.
"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was fine.
Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.
"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.
Mary Pendergast, who lives close to the school, said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting, but wasn't hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.
Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."
The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.
"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."
On Friday afternoon, family members were led away from a firehouse that was being used as a staging area, some of them weeping. One man, wearing only a T-shirt without a jacket, put his arms around a woman as they walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to everything around them.
Another woman with tears rolling down her face walked by carrying a car seat with a young infant inside and a bag that appeared to have toys and stuffed animals.
The shootings instantly brought to mind episodes such as the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999 and the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead.
"You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken," Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis said. "You're at a shopping mall in Portland, Ore., and your life is taken. This morning, when parents kissed their kids goodbye knowing that they are going to be home to celebrate the holiday season coming up, you don't expect this to happen. I think as a society, we need to come together. It has to stop, these senseless deaths."
Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.
"The majority of those who died were children -- beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said.
He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.
"They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own," Obama continued about the victims. "Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children."
And it came to pass that the God he heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying:   How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth tears as the rain upon the mountains? 
And Enoch said unto the Lord:  How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy and from all eternity to all eternity?
And were it possible that man could number the particles of the would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever...and naught but justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
The Lord said unto Enoch:  Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands and I gave unto them their knowledge in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden gave I unto them man his agency.
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their father; but behold they are without affection, and they hate their own blood...and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands...
Wherefore Enoch looked upon their wickedness and their misery and wept and stretched forth his arms and his hear swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned and all eternity shook...
and as {I} heard this, I had bitterness of soul and wept for {the children and teachers who had been slain} and {I} said unto the heavens:  I refuse to be comforted...
then in my minds eye I seen each and every one of those precious children with angels surrounding them who took them directly to their eternal Father who had given them life and He in turn wrapped His great arms around each and every one of them as He welcomed them home.
May those same angels stay close the families that were left behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered life is my sincere prayer.  Oh how I look for the day when all my brethren and sisters will "truly love one another and choose their Father."  
Then there will be Peace on earth.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. 
He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. 
It was just another day to him.
 He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate.

 He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.

Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. 

"Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger.
 "I see you're busy, I'll just go."
 "Not without something hot in your belly." George said.

He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger.

 "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. 
Stew ... Made it myself. 
When you're done, there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell.

 "Excuse me, be right back," George said. 
There in the driveway was an old '53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. 
The driver was panicked.
 "Mister can you help me!" said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. 
"My wife is with child and my car is broken." 
George opened the hood.
 It was bad. 
The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. 
"You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away.

"But Mister, please help ..." 

The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. 
He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. 
He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. 
"Here, take my truck," he said.
 "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night.

He turned and walked back inside the office.
 "Glad I gave 'em the truck, their tires were shot too. 
That 'ol truck has brand new ."
 George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. 
The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it.
 "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start.

It cranked slowly, but it started. 
He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. 
He thought he would tinker with it for something to do.
 Christmas Eve meant no customers.
 He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator.
"Well, shoot, I can fix this," he said to himself. 
So he put a new one on.

"Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." 

He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. 
They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car anyway.

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. 

He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground.
 Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Please help me."

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention.

"Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. 
The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. 
He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.
 "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anything'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

"Something for pain," George thought. 

All he had was the pills he used for his back.
 "These ought to work." 
He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. 
"You hang in there, I'm going to get you an ambulance."

The phone was dead.

 "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car." 
He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. 

"Thanks," said the officer. "
You could have left me there. 
The guy that shot me is still in the area."

George sat down beside him, "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you."

 George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. 
"Looks worse than what it is. 
Bullet passed right through 'ya. 
Good thing it missed the important stuff though. 
I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. 

"How do you take it?" he asked.
 "None for me," said the officer. "
Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. 
Too bad I ain't got no donuts." 
The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

The front door of the office flew open. 

In burst a young man with a gun. "
Give me all your cash!
 Do it now!" the young man yelled. 
His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George, "You need to put the cannon away. 

Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused.

 "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. 
Now give me the cash!"

The cop was reaching for his gun. 

"Put that thing away," George said to the cop, "we got one too many in here now."

He turned his attention to the young man.

 "Son, it's Christmas Eve. 
If you need money, well then, here.
 It ain't much but it's all I got. 
Now put that pea shooter away."

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. 

The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.
 "I'm not very good at this am I? 
All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. 
"I've lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week."

George handed the gun to the cop. 

"Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. 
The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop.

 "Sometimes we do stupid things." 
George handed the young man a cup of coffee. 
"Bein' stupid is one of the things that makes us human.
 Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer.
 Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. 

He looked over to the cop. 
"Sorry I shot you. 
It just went off.
 I'm sorry officer." 
"Shut up and drink your coffee " the cop said. 
George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. 
A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. 
Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. 
"Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. 

How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car. 

Best thing since sliced bread. 
Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, "I don't know.

 The guy ran off into the dark.
 Just dropped his gun and ran."

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

"That guy work here?" the wounded cop continued.

 "Yep," George said, "just hired him this morning. 
Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. 

The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas boy ... and you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. 

That ought to solve some of your problems."

George went into the back room and came out with a box.

 He pulled out a ring box.
 "Here you go, something for the little woman. 
I don't think Martha would mind.
 She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. 

"I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. 

"I got my memories. That's all I need."

George reached into the box again. 

An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. 
They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell.
 "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

"And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? 

You keep that too," George said. "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face.

 "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."


 I'm closed Christmas day," George said. 
"See ya the day after."

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned.

 "Where'd you come from?
 I thought you left?"

"I have been here.

 I have always been here," said the stranger. 
"You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn't see what all the bother was.

Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree.
Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself 
and besides I was gettin' a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder.

 "But you do celebrate the holiday, George.
 You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry.
 The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists.

 The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself.
 "That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.

 "And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing.

 And when your days are done you will be with Martha again."

The stranger moved toward the door

. "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. 
I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. 

A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George ... it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."

George fell to his knees and replied, "Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus"

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Birthdays Past and Present

Forty-Seven years ago A little girl was sent from her heavenly home to her new earthly home.
Birthday's in her new home were always big celebrations where the home would be filled with loved ones and friends.  

As I grew older my mother become the queen of birthday parties.  
She would plan the most wonderful days filled with games, music and love.
The one tradition she started and continued with until the day she was called home was a "Strawberry cake."  That was the best cake I have ever had.

As my birthdays continued to roll around I noticed that the friend filled parties at the local pizza  joint or movie house changed into just family dinners with people that I loved the most.
As the hands of time continued to swiftly pass, many of my loved ones started being called back to their Heavenly home and friends were called to serve in other parts of the Lord's vineyard.   

Soon birthday celebrations were down to my mom, my poppers and my husband.  
Oh how I looked forward to our special yearly dinner. 
 Enduring memories were made each and every year.

In 1997, I broke our yearly tradition of dinner and instead embarked to Salt Lake City Utah where I spent my birthday with loved ones who had been called home and My Heavenly Father. 

It was the most wonderful birthday gift I could give myself.  
That forever changed my life.
Unfortunately, that was also the last birthday I would share in this life with my poppers, but that great day started our family on a wonderful journey that forever changed my families and I's life.

For my mom's 90th birthday I planned this wonderful night of food and talent with those around us that my mom had come to love because they had embraced her in their loving arms after my poppers had been called home. 

 It was a wonderful day for her and the best gift I could give to to her.  

When one gets to their 90's,they sadly find that all their friends have been called home.  
They find themselves in a home, where there is no special birthday cake made just for them, no family dinner and some don't even receive a birthday card.

This year I received one birthday card which got me reflecting on how everyone that knew and made this day so very special had passed through a doorway which I am unable to pass.

Fortunately I have a true blue friend that each and every year bakes me a birthday cake although this year she created a "Strawberry Pie" for my birthday.  
I have a loving husband that continues to make this day special by doing special things with me but my circle has been greatly diminished.

While listening to old conference talks President Monson shared this thought that got me to reflecting on how with age comes a loneliness that to many do not understood:

"From an 11-year-old boy:

 “I went to a lady’s house and asked her questions and sang her a song.
 It felt good to visit her. 
She was happy because she never gets visitors. 

Reading this particular note reminded me of words penned long ago by Elder Richard L. Evans of the Quorum of the Twelve.
 Said he:

“It is difficult for those who are young to understand the loneliness that comes when life changes from a time of preparation and performance to a time of putting things away. … 
To be so long the center of a home, so much sought after, and then, almost suddenly to be on the sidelines watching the procession pass by—this is living into loneliness. …

We have to live a long time to learn how empty a room can be that is filled only with furniture. 
It takes someone … beyond mere hired service, beyond institutional care or professional duty, to thaw out the memories of the past and keep them warmly living in the present. … 

We cannot bring them back the morning hours of youth. 
But we can help them live in the warm glow of a sunset made more beautiful by our thoughtfulness … and unfeigned love.” 11

As I watch the hands of Father Time quickly pass, I am saddened that there will come a day when there will be no Birthday card and my true blue friend will no longer be able to bake  or make me a special birthday treat. 

But I know that my Heavenly Father no matter the time will always remember this special day when He decided to send me to my earthly home and just like my Poppers I am and will always be His little Princess too.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The First Great Commandment

I have been listening to General Conference and once again I have been filled with wonderful uplifting thoughts to reflect on and made aware of areas where I need to work harder.
There were many talks that touched me deeply but one that truly struck a chord deep within my soul was Elder Jeffery R. Hollands talk.  It was so very powerful.

In my car I have been listening to past General Conferences tapes and I heard Elder Holland talking about Peter and his great love for the Savior.
Elder Holland I believe, has a great love and appreciation for Peter.
 Which now has inspired me to learn more about that great apostle.

In the talk, Elder Holland talked about the fear that came upon the disciples when they observed Christ walking upon the water towards them.
When Peter realized it was the Savior He immediately asked to come unto the Lord in which the Lord invited him to come.

 "Impulsive Peter was immediately out of the boat and started walking on water towards His Lord."  Impulsive struck me, because I too have an impulsive streak.
 I am in hopes my impulsiveness is as great as Peter's.

Elder Holland continued that as long as Peter had his gaze fixed upon the Savior the raging waves around him did not scare him; but once he took his eyes of the Savior he started to fear and and then started to sink and then cried out to his Lord, "Save me."
The Savior immediately took his hand and lifted him up and then admonished him, "Why did you fear?"

There have been many times in my life when I have heard that same question and had that same cry.
But back to what I wanted to share.
After the Savior was crucified Elder Holland shared these thoughts:

October 2012 General Conference
The First Great Commandment
By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord.
There is almost no group in history for whom I have more sympathy than I have for the eleven remaining Apostles immediately following the death of the Savior of the world. I think we sometimes forget just how inexperienced they still were and how totally dependent upon Jesus they had of necessity been. To them He had said, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me … ?”1
But, of course, to them He hadn’t been with them nearly long enough. Three years isn’t long to call an entire Quorum of Twelve Apostles from a handful of new converts, purge from them the error of old ways, teach them the wonders of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then leave them to carry on the work until they too were killed. Quite a staggering prospect for a group of newly ordained elders.
Especially the part about being left alone. Repeatedly Jesus had tried to tell them He was not going to remain physically present with them, but they either could not or would not comprehend such a wrenching thought. Mark writes:
“He taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.
“But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.”2
Then, after such a short time to learn and even less time to prepare, the unthinkable happened, the unbelievable was true. Their Lord and Master, their Counselor and King, was crucified. His mortal ministry was over, and the struggling little Church He had established seemed doomed to scorn and destined for extinction. His Apostles did witness Him in His resurrected state, but that only added to their bewilderment. As they surely must have wondered, “What do we do now?” they turned for an answer to Peter, the senior Apostle.
Here I ask your indulgence as I take some nonscriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange. In effect, Peter said to his associates: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. None of us could have imagined such a few short months ago the miracles we have seen and the divinity we have enjoyed. We have talked with, prayed with, and labored with the very Son of God Himself. We have walked with Him and wept with Him, and on the night of that horrible ending, no one wept more bitterly than I. But that is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So you ask, ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’” And at least six of the ten other remaining Apostles said in agreement, “We also go with thee.” John, who was one of them, writes, “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.”3
But, alas, the fishing wasn’t very good. Their first night back on the lake, they caught nothing—not a single fish. With the first rays of dawn, they disappointedly turned toward the shore, where they saw in the distance a figure who called out to them, “Children, have you caught anything?” Glumly these Apostles-turned-again-fishermen gave the answer no fisherman wants to give. “We have caught nothing,” they muttered, and to add insult to injury, they were being called “children.”4
“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find,”5 the stranger calls out—and with those simple words, recognition begins to flood over them. Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing on this very sea. On that occasion too they had “toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing,”6 the scripture says. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets, and they drew “a great multitude of fishes,”7 enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.
Now it was happening again. These “children,” as they were rightly called, eagerly lowered their net, and “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”8 John said the obvious: “It is the Lord.”9 And over the edge of the boat, the irrepressible Peter leaped.
After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”10
The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”12
To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”
Then, turning to all the Apostles, He might well have said something like: “Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees? As Herod and Pilate? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did not my life and my love touch your hearts more deeply than this?”
My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“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.”13 And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”14 Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword”15 to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live.
I testify from the bottom of my heart, with the intensity of my soul, to all who can hear my voice that those apostolic keys have been restored to the earth, and they are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand. I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.”16 That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well. To the youth of the Church rising up to missions and temples and marriage, we say: “Love God and remain clean from the blood and sins of this generation. You have a monumental work to do, underscored by that marvelous announcement President Thomas S. Monson made yesterday morning. Your Father in Heaven expects your loyalty and your love at every stage of your life.”
To all within the sound of my voice, the voice of Christ comes ringing down through the halls of time, asking each one of us while there is time, “Do you love me?” And for every one of us, I answer with my honor and my soul, “Yea, Lord, we do love thee.” And having set our “hand to the plough,”17 we will never look back until this work is finished and love of God and neighbor rules the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I listened to this talk and was overwhelmed by the passion in Elder Holland's voice.  It rocked me to the very core of my soul and got me to thinking would I be stammering when the Lord looked me directly in the eye and asked, "Lorie, lovest thou me more than these?"  Or could I like Peter look the Lord directly in the eye and answer, "Yay Lord, thou knowest I lovest thee"'
It is my hope that each and everyday my actions and examples show my Lord and God that I do indeed love him more than these. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Quest for Beauty

The other day I was watching "Taboo" and it was talking about the lengths and extremes women were going to do become, "beautiful."  Some were putting their very lives at risk to achieve their idea of "beautiful."
I was deeply saddened by the extremes these already beautiful women were taking to achieve the impossible.

As a youth I wanted to fit the media's mold of beautiful.  But try as I could I just could never measure up.
I have never had a desire to wear makeup and to this day I have never had any makeup applied to my face.
For one brief moment I tried mascara and eye shadow but kept sticking myself in the eye so it all went into the trash.
After my brother passed I went and had some glamour photos taken thinking they would cheer me up.  The make up person caked the make up on my face and as fast as she was putting it on I was scraping it off.
In the end the pictures were taken with no makeup and nothing extra done to my hair.
I must admit the pictures turned out very nicely.  I have had numerous compliments on those pictures.
I fried my hair trying to achieve the perfect look.  It has taken me years to get my hair to a healthy sheen.   No gels, sprays, curling iron or blow dryer have touched my hair in years, yet I get compliments on the beauty of my hair.  All I do is wash and go.
For many years I tried to achieve the "perfect" weight and all I got in return was feeling sick and unhealthy.  Now I am a middle aged pleasantly plump woman who is trying to lose some weight the realistic way.
No more yo yo crash diets for this girl and you know what I do feel healthy and have energy.

In 2003 I wrote an essay called "Our Quest for Beauty" I would like to share with you some of my insights I discovered while researching for that assignment:

One of my favorite songs is a hymn titled, "There is Beauty All Around."  At an early age I had been taught three important lessons concerning beauty:

 Lesson One:  "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is more to beauty than what meets the eye."
Lesson Two:  "Inner beauty, which everyone possesses is the most important beauty of all
Lesson Three:  Your inner beauty will shine through and create your outer beauty."

Author Ann Symonds in her article "Our Perfect Bodies " made this comment, "Beauty is everywhere if we just look for it."  She goes on to describe an encounter she had with an acquaintance of hers [who] by classical standards had a nose which was to wide, a flat face and a sallow complexion...but when she spoke--everything changed.  Her face lit up and she released a radiant energy...she exudes beauty in a way others who achieved mere physical perfection rarely do."
Sadly, our inner beauty seems to be the illusive phantom in our society's vision of "ideal beauty."
All one has to do is to turn on your television, flip though a magazine or just drive down the road and you will find yourself bombarded with images of society's models of "ideal beauty."
According to About-Face organization, "400-600 advertisements bombard us everyday in magazines, billboards, TV ads and newspapers.  One in eleven has a direct message about beauty, not even counting the indirect messages." (Something Fishy website)

One prime example that popped into my mind was the Victoria Secret advertisements.
Their models are portrayed as the ultimate sexual predators.  They are long legged and sensuous, (one 20 year old paid thousands of dollars to have her legs broke and re-pinned and stretched, just so they would give her a couple more inches of height; so she would be "beautiful.")
They have the sultry bedroom eyes, (12 years old's and younger are getting face jobs, eyes, noses, lips, so they will have the "perfect" face)
and long flowing hair.  They have every physical attribute that men fantasize about. (Sadly, fantasy and reality don't mix)
With campaigns like theirs it is no surprise that our society balks at the notion of women having a beauty that runs deeper than the skin.

Psychologist Harold A Frost made this statement,
"Women learn early and from diverse sources their family, television, movies and the fashion industry the message that appearance is of supreme importance and that dedicating oneself to the external being guarantees love, happiness and respect.
Unfortunately, the messenger does not tell us that instead of love, happiness, or respect, we find ourselves depressed, isolated and very self absorbed."
Mr. Frost then shared this sad truth a Registered Nurse and a single mother of three found when she tried to achieve the ideal beauty:

"If I could lose a few pounds, she reasoned I'd be happy, relaxed and  energetic; I would be a better mom.
(Instead) she became obsessed with food and dieting and increasingly depressed and isolated from her friends and co-workers.
She found herself losing her temper with her children and becoming less sensitive to their needs and

"Flawless beauties also have flaws, they have simply been airbrushed or touched up.  It is amazing what lighting can show or hide.  Thanks to imaginative lighting and well chosen poses, actress's and models appear perfect, endowed with abundant cleavage, narrow waists, slightly curved hips and smooth skin.
My friend Mary shared this bit of information with me, "Duct tape is not just for furniture anymore.
Many models wrap it below their cleavage to give their attributes a little extra lift."

A psychological study in 1995 found that women who spent three minutes looking at a fashion magazine caused 70% to feel depressed, guilty and shameful.

A recovering eating disorder victim wrote, "Look at the women's magazines!...Women are programmed to be concerned with external glamour.  It is no wonder women are starving themselves, getting silicone implants to increase their cleavage and paying plastic surgeons thousands and thousands of dollars.  One is left to wonder why only physical attributes define our beauty and her inner beauty is scorned?"

(Taboo interviewed a woman who had cleavage the size of a basketball and she wanted to go bigger even though her enhancements were killing her.
She just could not bear the thought of returning to her natural size.)

Jane Blackwell, head of the Eating Disorders Clinic in Salt Lake City made this observation:

"People are not built the same and can't look the same, but we act as if they should.
We criticize how we look in front of others.
We let boys comment about hating fat girls.
Why doe we comment about other people?
Are we supposed to be works of art to entertain each other as we walk along?
Not everyone is going to look alike.
Not everyone is going to be svelte."

(Elder Holland gave a really good talk addressing criticisms and our unruly tongue.
Really got me to thinking.)

Psychologist Kennith I. Paragament quoted Cushman,

"Culture, which once "completed" people, now leaves many with "empty selves."

Sadly our external beauty is so very fleeting.  Once Father Time gets  his hands upon us there is no amount of surgery which can recapture our vibrant youth, but if we focus on our inner beauty Father Time enhances that beauty.

Elder Neal A Maxwell made this observant comment,

"Think for a moment how different it would be if people took on that physical appearance which would reflect distinctly how well they are doing spiritually...Under such telling circumstances--when the outer person reflected the inner person--whom would we applaud?
And who would really deserve our pity?"

In your quest for beauty, I hope that you take time to see that "beauty comes in many shapes and sizes.  But perhaps most important it comes from within."