Sunday, March 28, 2010


For as long as my memory goes back into the depths my lengthening life I have enjoyed watching movies. For most of those years it didn’t seem to matter whether the movie was good or bad, I just enjoyed escaping into the make believe world being portrayed on the big or little screen. One of the saddest times of my life was when theaters phased out the double feature format, even though I had come to realize by that time of life that they seemed to always pair an ‘A’ level with a ‘B’ level movie. This disappointment was added upon those which came with the discontinuance of Newsreels, Serial Adventures and Cartoons. I do have to admit to the natural censorship which seems to occur as one ages, and I no longer find myself going out of my way to watch a horror movie and haven’t really been able to get into the attraction which vampires and werewolves have these days as they draw many to the theaters.

Since I didn’t intend this week’s thoughts to be on the history of movies, let me get to the point. Not long after it came out in theaters in 1987 I was introduce by my children to a ‘happy ever after’ movie called "Princess Bride." Over the years our family has worn out one video of this movie and I suspect the second copy will one day have to be replaced by a DVD. I have to admit to having fallen under the ‘unforgettable spell that lives in my heart’ which the producers promised as they promoted this film.

"Princess Bride" is a story of love between a servant boy, Wesley, and his master’s daughter Buttercup. He always responds to her every request with the simple sweet sentence “as you wish.” This wonderful story begins in the innocence of youth and ends with the greatest kiss ever recorded. Now that I’ve spoiled the ending for you, let me tell you of some of the things which happen in between. As a young man Wesley leaves Buttercup in order to seek his fortune so that he can provide the life for her he feels she so richly deserves. With a good-bye kiss they vow the eternalness of their love for one another. Years pass and when Wesley returns to his home land he finds Buttercup promised in marriage to the local evil prince. There are many adventures which pass before the greatest kiss, where Wesley is continually keeping Buttercup safe from the designs of the evil prince and other life-threatening circumstances, but the part of the movie I want to call to your attention is when the evil prince electrocutes Wesley into a ‘mostly dead’ condition. His life hangs very near death until his recovery takes place based on the firm foundation of his ‘Love, True Love’ for Buttercup.

I don’t think I gained an understanding of True Love from this movie, but in a very strange way it does help me keep the meaning thereof in focus. Over the years I have developed a personal definition of True Love which goes something like this: True Love is something we give, not something we receive – True love is given to others when we do all in our power to help them become the very best they can be – All other talk of love is just a variation on the theme of selfishness.

After you have pondered on the meaning of this definition of True Love, let me illustrate some of those counterfeit variations by writing down some of the expressions we hear using the word love when we, in all honesty, should admit we are manifesting some degree of our selfishness. “If you really loved me…” “I am sick and tired of always having to be the one to say I love…” “The spark of love has grown dim and cold and maybe if…” “You seem to be asking me to give up my love of self in order…”

Annually, sometime very close to the beginning of spring, we commemorate another act of True Love that, although it has been depicted on film many times, is for many a story which is far from fantasy or fiction. This story also has a Hero who demonstrates his True Love not just for one or a tiny chosen circle, but for all mankind. He spends his life telling of a path, which if followed, will bring to any who wish to trod thereon a life of abundance filled with progress generating trials, moments of exhilarating happiness, personality altering stewardships, uplifting and sustaining fellowships and ever increasing light to help them through times of cloudiness and darkness. He then gives His life in an ultimate act of True Love so that although we may be ‘mostly dead’ we have the possibility of having a life eternal filled with everlasting True Love experiences.

It is evident that for me He who is the author and actuator of this ‘Love, True Love’ we have been stumblingly trying to express is the redeemer Jesus the Christ. I know He has taught and demonstrated that all expressions of True Love can only be to ‘thee’ and not to ‘me.’ Through Him I am coming to know that I can approach True Love only as I move away from selfishness and towards selflessness. Because of His example I know I must try to concentrate more on stewardships and less on personal successes.

Most of the time I am overwhelmed by the miles and seeming millennia which still lie ahead on my quest to inch closer to living a life filled with the True Love demonstrated by the Atoning example of Jesus the Christ. It is His Spirit which gives me the brightness of hope that I was brought into existence by a True Loving Heavenly Father who instilled within me the potential to increasingly be capable of being a giver of Love, True Love.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The fragile little flower looked pleadingly at the gardener. “My leaves are tender and my petals soft. Please plant me where the sun is not so hot and where I will be protected from the evening wind.”

The sturdy little pine looked squarely at the gardener. “The safest spots are now taken. Therefore, plant me where I may daily feel the sun, where the wind and rain will frequently freshen my branches.”

The end of the story of the fragile little flower and the sturdy little pine is well known. The frail flower will not a winter of life spend, while the pine will stand as a sentinel for many generations yet unborn.

How often do we see nature bearing witness to this truth? The over-protected shrivel and perish, while that which has to fight for daily sustenance survives and grows stronger with each conquered trial. Few are the animals which, once having been domestically pampered, are able to live in the rigors of the wild.

There may be some validity in supposing that in man’s realm this law of nature also exists. Hall of Fame baseball players come from the ranks of those rare hitters who not only have success when the opposing pitcher makes a mistake, but who are able to dominate against their adversaries best efforts. The masses that can only visit these honored halls and wonder why they are not among the celebrated few, need look no further than the stats that indicate their successes came only upon the mistakes others made.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to that person who steps off the well-beaten path into uncharted areas where they frequently encounter new challenges and discoveries. The masses toil and are content with their daily wage, never varying their steps from the crowded well-paved way, repeating well worn patterns which provide them with what will turn out to be a short lived feeling of safety and security.

Some are born with intuitive knowledge. Some will learn the great secret later in life. Many will never quite understand. The race of life is won by those who are willing to take a chance, knowing that entering the race opens the possibility of stumbling and losing. When there is no goal, if there is no opponent we can call it exercise, but never a race. For most of us the winning will not come because we finish first, but from the effort we have made and the endless new experiences we have along the way. Henry Kaiser said, “75% of the things he tried ended in failure. He built his empire on the 25% which were successful.”

As we look upon our seeming vacant lot of life and compare it to the lush green pasture of our neighbor, we ought to look at our sparseness as a blessing filled with opportunity and challenges. We should recognize emptiness as a void wanting to be filled. As we are digging, planting and nurturing upon our field it won’t be long before we are able to see the difference in the growth of our stature when compared to our neighbor who lounges lazily on his lawn. We would all profit if we would awaken and view each vague, uncertain dream as a doorway leading to a future of brightness and discovery.

There will be many who periodically look over the rim of their rut and then quickly slump back into the seeming security of sameness. There will be the fortunate few who rise each day filled with enthusiasm whose minds will immediately be filled with such thoughts as ‘this is a glorious time to be alive, a marvelous age in which to live.’ They will plead with the Lord to be guided and helped as they step into uncharted areas where they will find growing and strengthening experiences. They will acknowledge and accept the reality that along this path they will encounter buffetings which leave them temporarily bruised and broken, but provide them with the strengthening opposition that will enable their progress to loftier levels.

We should remember in gratitude He who has provided us with this adventurous and challenging time in which we live which provides us with sufficient wind and rain to strengthen and freshen our lives.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Last week in my Thoughts for a Sabbath Day I made a reference to sharing from our sparse stock of sheaves. It wasn’t long after sending out the emails with this phase included that I was made aware not everyone had plowed the same fields of life that I had. I will now attempt to put us all on a level playing field and bring us all into the same realm of reference.

Somewhere back in my personal history which during the last few years has become increasingly more difficult to put in any chronological order, I was introduced to a poem by Clarence Cook entitled Abram and Zimri which I will now either introduce you to or remind you about.

Abram and Zimri owned a field together
A level field hid in a happy vale.
They plowed it with one plow, and in the spring
Sowed, walking side by side, the fruitful seed.
In harvest, when the glad earth smiled with grain,
Each carried to his home one-half the sheaves
And stored them with much labor in his barns.
Now Abram had a wife and seven sons,
But Zimri dwelt alone within his house.

One night before the sheaves were gathered in,
As Zimri lay upon his lonely bed,
And counted in his mind his little gains,
He thought upon his brother Abram’s lot,
And said, "I dwell alone within my house,
But Abram hath a wife and seven sons,
And yet we share the harvest sheaves alike!
I will arise and gird myself, and go
Down to the field, and add to his from mine.”

So he arose, and girded up his loins,
And went out softly to the level field,
The moon shone out from dusky bars of clouds,
And trees stood black against the cold blue sky,
The branches waved, and whispered in the wind.
So Zimri guided by the shifting light,
Went down the mountain path, and found the field,
Took from his store of sheaves a generous third,
And bore them gladly to his brother’s heap.
And then went back to sleep and happy dreams.

Now the same night as Abram lay in bed,
Thinking upon his blissful state in life,
He thought upon his brother Zimri’s lot
And said, “He dwells within his house alone,
He goeth home at night to a cold house
And hath few other friends but me and mine.
For these two tilled the happy vale alone;
“While I, whom heaven hath very greatly blessed
Dwell happy with my wife and seven sons,
Who aid me in my toil and make it light;
And yet we share the harvest sheaves alike,
This surely is not pleasing unto God.
I will arise, and gird myself, and go
Out to the field, and borrow from my store,
And add unto my brother Zimri’s pile.”

So he arose, and girded up his loins,
And went softly down to the level field.
The moon shone out from silver bars of clouds
And trees stood black against the starry sky.
The dark leaves waved and whispered in the breeze.
So Abram, guided by the doubtful light,
Passed down the mountain path, and found the field
Took from his sheaves a generous third,
And added them unto his brother’s heap:
Then he went back to sleep and happy dreams.

So the next morning with the early sun
The brothers rose, and went out to their toil
And when they came to see the heavy sheaves,
Each wondered in his heart to find his heap,
Though he had given a third, was still the same.

Now the next night went Zimri to the field
Took from his store of sheaves a generous share
And placed them on his brother Abram’s heap,
And then lay down behind his pile to watch.
The moon looked out from bars of silvery cloud,
And cedars stood up black against the sky;
The olive branches whispered in the wind.

Then Abram came down softly from his home,
And looking to the left and right, went on,
Took from his ample store a generous third,
And laid it on his brother Zimri’s pile.
Then Zimri rose, and caught him in his arms,
And wept upon his neck, and kissed his cheek;
And Abram saw the whole, and could not speak;
Neither could Zimri, for their hearts were full.

When I first read this poem I little suspected the continual impact it would have on me throughout the rest of my life. Frequently I feel my heart skip a beat and warmness fill my breast as one scene after another remind me of the two brothers weeping upon each others necks. I would like to share just a few of the recent events which shone out like silvery clouds and took me once again to that happy vale where Abram and Zimri toiled side by side in their level field.

I see a 10 year old boy get out of his seat and go to the front of the chapel to aid his little brother who is having difficulty remembering what he wanted to say.

I see a lady filled with grace standing in front of tables filled with books wondering what child or adult would enjoy reading this or that book while eschewing the temptation to add to her personal stacks.

I see a military unit dedicating their off duty hours in an effort to bridge the gap of animosity between occupiers and the occupied, by adding generous heaps, to the lives of ‘enemies’ in an attempt to make their war torn existence a little more comfortable.

I see a mother sacrificing her basic needs for the happiness or comfort of her children.

I see a teacher holding up candles in the silvery night so that a brighter light will shine on his student while contentedly remaining in the shadows all the while.

I see a doctor taking her skills to a strange land to pour out aid, comfort and healing upon those who forever more will no longer be strangers, but will be so filled that they cannot speak.

I see a lawyer whose own barn never seems to be full because she refuses to ask for payment for her services from those she perceives to have life challenges greater than her own.

I see a plumber who keeps his vintage truck limping along, but is always the first to answer the call of the widow who has a leak or a stoppage without any thought of ever being recompensed.

I see a young girl walking a path which is barely visible in order to make sure the new girl in class has at least one friend.

Over and over on my daily treks I see people taking from their sparse stock of sheaves a generous third and adding to their neighbor’s heap. There are times I feel like I have been caught up in their arms and wish to kiss their cheek and I cannot speak. I am truly grateful for the constant reminders of the happy vale in which I dwell.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


There are three questions found in the scriptures which I would like to use as a springboard for my thoughts today.

The first is in Genesis 3:9 where He who knows all things calls to Adam and inquires “where art thou?” It was obvious to me that He who knows the movements of the universe would surely have known where Adam was hiding. Some time ago I was struck with the idea that perhaps the Lord wanted Adam to take inventory of where he was during that moment of his probationary passage.

The second is in the Pearl of Great Price in Moses 4:15 where we find the Lord asking Adam “where goest thou?” in place of the “where art thou?” which is found in the Old Testament. Here we find that the all knowing Being who surely knew Adam’s end from his beginnings was asking about his next step. Once again it seems to me He wants Adam to think about what was going to be his next step now that he had partaken of the forbidden fruit.

The third is found in Job 1:7 and again in the second chapter of the same book. Both times the question is addressed to Satan. The question is “whence comest thou?” A very interesting question, but I want to deal more with the answer than the question. It is another question we could use to help us see the need for constant introspection, since where we come from has a great effect upon where we are. However, Satan’s reply is very interesting. He replies “from going to and fro upon the earth.” We find this same ‘to and fro’ used by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians when he uses the expression to indicate one who is continually driven by every wind of doctrine, in these words identifying a life of indecision and vacillation; identifying one who not only doesn’t know where they are, and therefore can have little or no idea where they are going, but also one who has little hope of reaching any kind of meaningful destination.

I believe the Lord wants us to be constant in the measuring of our current status and where the next step we take will lead us. I believe he wants us to know that by not being diligent in taking inventory we will likely become wanderers upon the earth, shifting here and there with no real progress taking place. I believe if we are not ever alert to where we are and where we are going we will probably awake on the morrow finding ourselves in a ‘Groundhog Day’ existence or even worse, further from our goals than we were the previous morning.

Let me give you some examples I am thinking about which will probably reveal more about where I am and where I am going than where anyone else might be or where they might be headed.

When I take a step into the area of self satisfaction and begin to glory in my own works have I not moved significantly away from humility and recognizing God’s hand in all things?

When I begin to recognize ‘my nothingness’ have I not then started on the difficult journey which should only end when I have been ‘striped of all pride’?

When the concern for my own comfort and enjoyment causes me to become indifferent to the needs of others and I then withhold my ‘widows mite’ do I thereby distance myself from being a loving neighbor?

When I take from my ‘sparse stock of sheaves’ and add to my neighbor’s does not my love for him increase and cause a small breach in the wall of my aloofness which I have built between myself and many of my Heavenly Father’s children?

When I allow dust to accumulate on the ‘best books’ do I not leave underdeveloped the marvelous God given gift of being allowed to gain intelligence and thereby put a cloud of ignorance over a portion of my progression?

When I invite the inspired words of the authors of the ages to plant themselves upon my mind do I not take one more small ‘step into His light?’

When I allow unforgiven acts to fester cankered sores on my soul am I not adding to my list of enemies to whom I increasingly find it difficult to demonstrate charity?

When one act, whether intentional or unintentional against my self esteem is ‘forgotten and forsaken’ do I not find I have increased in my ‘Christlike love?’

I am convinced that there are no steps which we take in mortality which don’t affect our eternalness. During this mortal passage we will be on a constant journey from where we are to somewhere. From where I am I will either become something more or something less than what I was prior to the taking this next step. Sad indeed will I be if after a year of not noting my daily steps I awake and find that I have spent the last 365 days going ‘to and fro’ and I find myself in a traumatic nomadic furrow.

Therefore let us be ever aware of the voice of our All Knowing Heavenly Father ringing in our ears. “WHENCE COMEST THOU?” “WHERE ART THOU?” “WHERE GOEST THOU?” May we then take the necessary daily inventory which will guide us along the correct path leading to the fulfillment of the purposes of our short journey on this earth.