Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Talk

I got to speak in church last Sunday, and I thought I would share a portion of it.

In "The Living Christ," the first line mentions Jesus' "matchless life" and the last line states "God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine son."  When we look at that "matchless life," we can see just what a "matchless gift" He was.  No other person could have performed the atonement.  No other person could have broken the bands of death to begin resurrection.  No other person could live as perfectly as He did.  No other person's teachings have had such a "profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth" (also from "the Living Christ").

Looking at the Christmas story, if I could trade places with any part in it, I would want to be a shepherd.  Think about it.  Herod didn't get an angelic visit because he probably wouldn't have believed or followed it (think Laman and Lemuel), so he had to have some rich guys similar to his station come to tell him about the birth.  And then, instead of seeing it as a blessing, he saw it as a threat.

Simeon had been told he would see the Christ before he died, and the moment he saw him he knew and testified.  Anna wasn't told she would see the Christ (that we know of), but she also knew and testified of him as soon as she saw him.  Maybe I should be happy to be like them, but I still want to be a shepherd.

When they come into the story they were doing the work they were supposed to be doing.  Luke 2:8 - "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."  When the Savior comes again, I hope I might also be at work, keeping watching over whatever "flock" I may have at that point.

Then they get to see an angel!  Luke 2:9-12 - "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Then the heavenly choir comes.  Luke 2:13-14 - "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  That has to be one incredible song, rejoicing in the birth of the Savior of the world.  I imagine it to be something like unto the music in Handel's Messiah, and as a matter of fact Handel wrote a song in the Messiah with those words, but I don't believe that man could capture the joy and beauty of the original.  I hope to hear it myself someday.

Regarding the words to that song, "the best way to get peace is by a personal obedience to the Prince of Peace" (Sterling Sill), which would include men giving good will toward one another.  Again, we have been given that "matchless gift."  If we don't strive to follow him, those blessings the angels sang about will never be.

Back to the shepherds.  Luke 2:15-16 - And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."  On top of everything else, the shepherds get to see Mary, Joseph, and the baby.

And after all, the testify of what they had seen and heard.  Luke 2:17 - "And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child."  Another great pattern to follow.

In Doctrine and Covenants 46:8 we are told to “seek … earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given," and verse 26 states, "And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”  Those verses normally refer to spiritual gifts, but the Savior is also a spiritual gift, right?  We should also "seek" after Him, remember why He was given to us, and do all this knowing it will benefit us personally.

A few other paragraphs from "The Living Christ:"  "We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world."
"Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: 'And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!'"
"He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scripture Gems

When reading my scriptures, I love coming across little "ooooh, I like that!" verses.  Thank goodness for cool apps like Citation Index where I can immediately look it up and see how church leaders have referenced it.  There are three I've found with zero commentary.

Alma 44:5 mentions "the sacred support which we owe to our wives and our children."  The first time I read that, I had to sit and think about sacred support for a long time.  Love that idea.  And actually, while googling for the scripture reference (call me lazy), I found this BYU-Idaho talk about it.

Genesis 24 gives the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac.  After being inspired with the plan to ask for water where the right woman will give water not only for him but his camels, he finds Rebekah.  In verse 27 the servant makes the comment that "I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my Master's brethren."  Wonderful reminder that when we are doing what we are supposed to, "being in the way," we will be led.  I can easily say that for myself, "I being in the way, the Lord led me" many, many times.

Genesis 32:10 is another.  Not only did Abraham receive great revelations and talk with God (Abraham 3:11), but so did Isaac (Genesis 26:2), and so did Jacob (Genesis 35:7).  Jacob's humility is a great example as he prays about his concern that Esau is coming to wipe him and his family out.

My friend, Mary, just posted about another ultra beautiful one on her blog with no citations - Abraham 2:16.

By the way, Jamie recently gave our family a challenge to read the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Jesus the Christ in one year.  My initial reaction was something out of a horror film, fast shallow breathing, rapid heart rate.  "I don't have time for that!!!!!"  (Though I never really said that, I was screaming it inside.)  When I looked closer at the first week, it was 3 chapters a day.  Pshaw!  That's nothing!  (For some weeks, especially since week 2 ended up being more than that...)  I have determined that even if I'm behind, I'm still going to stick with the weeks.  My main goal is to do the OT, D&C, and JtC, since we're already reading the BoM as a family.  Not that I don't like the NT, but I read the first four books within the last year or two, though I do want to work harder on the NT when it gets past those.  I'm especially enjoying the OT so far.  Who knew?  I think going through this book about the House of Israel helped immensely.  Plus, while reading the BoM with the family I'm noticing more references to those covenants.  Pretty interesting.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton was a great explorer with his eye especially on Antarctica.  After his first experience there, it became his goal to achieve the South Pole.  Three times he shot for that goal, yet he failed each time.  But were they really failures?

S. Michael Wilcox suggests that "His destiny seems to have been to teach us how to lead."  It is easy to categorize Shackleton as a true service-oriented leader.  Through incredible tests of survival, Shackleton always kept his vision of bringing every man home at the front of his mind, giving up his own comfort and personal goals for the benefit of the rest.

During his third attempt at the pole he was especially tried.  Their shipEndurance, became ice bound for several months.  After the ship was crushed by the melting and shifting ice, they were stranded on the ice for a few more months.  I know our family gets pretty stir crazy when sickness or something keeps us all home bound, so imagining months and months stuck on the same ship then even more on the ice - yikes!  Besides being sick of one another, dangers were everywhere.  "[Shackleton] knew how dire their plight was.  Almost every night, he shouted himself awake from nightmares in which he pictured one disaster or emergency after another.  Would the boats be separated when they took to the ocean?  Would he himself be incapacitated?  Would Worsley's navigational books be lost?  Would they run out of food?  One after another, disasters visited him and shook him awake.  Then, in the remaining hours of the night, he would form plans for meeting the crises he had dreamed of.  In spite of his anxiety, he tried to keep up the appearance of calm in order to maintain morale.  Although tortured by worry, he remained outwardly unperturbed" (Armstrong, 70).  Much of Shakleton's success came from his ability to look clearly at potential problems and plan accordingly, rather than succumbing to the fear of what could be.

When the ice melted enough that they could get to the open ocean, the 28 men were split between three lifeboats to paddle through terrible, freezing storms to Elephant Island, 346 miles from where the Endurance sank.  Upon arrival, realizing they couldn't stay there long, Shackleton took five others and climbed back into what was deemed the strongest lifeboat, leaving behind the rest of the men to go in search of help.  Shackleton kept a careful watch on the men, knowing he needed each to make their destination.  "When someone looked particularly bad, the Boss ordered a round of hot milk for all hands.  The one man he really wanted to get the hot drink into never realized that the break was for his benefit and so wasn't embarrassed, and all of the men were better off for having the warmth and nourishment" (Armstrong, 100).  I love that he cared for each man as an individual, mindful of their needs and aiding those without making that person feel singled out or weak.  He watched the individual, cared for all, and all benefited.

After another 15 days on the cold, stormy ocean, Shackleton and the five arrived at South Georgia Island, but for safety's sake, landed on the opposite side from where the whaling ships and factories were.  The boat was no longer in any shape to sail, so with two men too sick to continue, Shackleton left one man to care for them, and took two others with him over the unexplored snow-covered mountains, taking them an amazing 36 hours to cover 32 miles with only about 50 feet of rope and a carpenters adze.  (Seriously, this man never quits!)

One of the most beautiful parts of the story comes at this part of their journey.  "As they slogged their way through the snow, a strange feeling began to grow on each of the men.  The three discovered long afterward that they all had the feeling that there was a fourth.  'Even now again I find myself counting our party--Shackleton, Crean, and I and--who was the other?' Worsley wrote later.  'Of course, there were only three, but it is strange that in mentally reviewing of the crossing we should always think of a fourth, and then correct ourselves.'

"'When I look back at those days,' Shackleton added, 'I do not doubt that Providence guided us . . . I know that during that long march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it often seemed to me that there were four, not three.' At the time, however, Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean did not discuss it" (Armstrong, 110).  I think Shackleton's purpose was so true and so selfless, that he was supported through that by heavenly means.

Another incredible experience happened as they got closer to the whaling camp.  They found themselves at the top of a frozen waterfall.  "There was nothing to tie the rope to.  Worsley held it, while first Shackleton and then Crean went over the edge.  They went down the rope as sailors do, letting it slip through their hands and not putting their weight on it until just before they hit bottom.  At the top, Worsley bunched the end of the rope up and jammed it under some rocks.  If he didn't put his weight on the rope until the bottom, it just might hold.  Worsley stepped off into the air, plummeting downward with the rope whipping through his hands.  Shackleton and Cream caught him as he fell, and his full weight yanked on the rope.  It held.

"Startled, the three men stared up at the top of the waterfall and tugged on the rope.  It wouldn't budge.  It might have been frozen, but they couldn't understand what was holding it.  Shrugging, they turned and left their rope hanging where it was.  They didn't need it any longer" (Armstrong, 114).

When they finally reached the whaling station, their thoughts were not of their own rescue, but that the rest of the men were now saved.  Still, it took Shackleton four attempts to get to the men back on Elephant Island, where he found ALL were safe and alive.  "We knew you'd come back," one of the men said to him.  Shackleton called that the best compliment he'd ever received.

Many, many leadership lessons can be taking from Ernest Shackleton.  But I'll end with Shackleton's own words about it.  "It was like this," Shackleton said much later.  "The thought of those fellows on Elephant Island kept us going all the time.  It might have been different if we'd had only ourselves to think about.  You can get so tired in the snow, particularly if you're hungry, that sleep seems just the best thing life has to give . . . But if you're a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you've got to keep going.  That was the thought which sailed us through the hurricane and tugged us up and down those mountains . . . and when we got to the whaling station, it was the thought of those comrades which made us so mad with joy that the reaction beats all effort to describe it.  We didn't so much feel that we were safe as that they were saved" (Wilcox, 116).

I need to memorize part of that one.  I may not travel the Antarctic, but there are plenty of tired, hungry, just want to hide under the covers days.  But if you're a leader . . . 

Quote Sources:
Jennifer Armstrong, "Shipwreck on the Bottom of the World."