Sunday, December 26, 2010


As the earth made its revolution around the sun, month in and month out it was a peaceful meadow, a beautiful glen of repose and solitude where one could go to calmly ponder about the mysteries of life and the eternities. As the buds and fresh leaves began to appear, the meadow lost its peacefulness as celebrants gathered for that special season dedicated to renewal and re-creation. The glen became the center for activity and jubilation for the ancient Greeks who gathered to symbolically commemorate in joyfulness, life springing forth once again after a long and dreary winter. Many of those gathered paused periodically to think upon personal hopes and desires for growth and prosperity. While others, totally captivated by the dazzling and dizzying atmosphere created by the music, dancing and raucousness, attempted to take full advantage of these few moments which gave them a respite from the heaviness of their usual routines.

One of the tenants of the Law given through Moses to the children of Israel was the observance of the Sabbatical Year. The Sabbath of years, one year of seven, was to be a year of forgiveness for many, a year of beginning anew for all. What a glorious year where forgiving and being forgiven of all of one’s encumbrances became the resolve. That ancient sabbatical year was filled with rejoicing as the tribes of Israel felt their spirits lifted, generating renewing strength and a freshening of vitality as the yoke carved by poor choices, poor management or more clever minds was lifted from each individual shoulder. This jubilation spread from person to person, from city to city until it filled the whole nation of Israel with a hope which brought an increase of productivity and prosperity. The Year of Jubilee helped many to ponder upon how to administer their lives better. Sadly the clever minds eventually found ways to avoid the losses which came when they would release a neighbor from bondage and the Year of Jubilee became another time of celebration which had lost its meaning.

As Jesus the Christ proclaimed the good news he made sure that each individual would be assured the right of new beginnings and renewals, times when his followers would be able to lay down those parts of their lives which were old, tired and burdensome and replace them with new, fresh and stimulating desires and aspirations. Paul taught that the ordinance of baptism was a type of burial and resurrection, a time when the neophyte disciples had the chance to begin again as if they had been reborn, a time when the bondages of sin and self-destructive practices could be shed, a birth which breathes freshness and vitality into lives freed from their burden-laden pasts. The Savior instituted the Sacraments of the bread and the wine so that on a very frequent schedule his adherents could refresh and renew this process of shedding their accumulated burdens and be able to walk lightly away on a straighter path, refreshed by this remembrance of Him and their desires to be faithful followers.

Annually, many of the earth’s inhabitants conduct a ritual of renewal which in some households has taken on the dimension of being mandatorily observed as if it had some religious significance and must be done to ward off the demons which might cause them to have a devastating year. This ritual is heralded not by a new moon, nor a new heaven, not even the changing of nature’s garb. We simply look on the wall and discover that the calendar is tattered and used with no new pages filled with days for our future. We take it down and as if all those days on its pages had no significance, we discard it and hang in its place a fresh new calendar filled with days where our lives will evolve or revolve minute by minute. Just like the celebration of the day of our birth we go to great lengths to make this changing of the calendar a momentous occasion, but like our birthday when we arise the next morning we find the routineness of life filling that day and the next and the next.

To some who gathered in the glens of ancient Greece the annual celebrations of spring truly became a meaningful moment of renewal. Marking the beginning of a year of diligence and dedication to the completion of their pondered resolutions which would enliven their lives and make them more than that which they had been. Others will dumbly go through day after day dreaming of buds and new leaves heralding the time when they can once again find momentary respite in the meadow.

Those individuals, cities or tribes who strictly adhered to the laws of the Year of Jubilee, reaped the benefits of renewed stimulation, freshness and strength. Universally they lifted the burdens from one another’s shoulders, beginning a new era of vitality and prosperity which spread and grew until bad decisions, bad management and clever minds once again built up the burdens which hamper continued progress.

Those converts who lay down their old lives in the waters of Baptism and renew their convictions frequently by partaking of the Sacraments of the bread and wine and then demonstrate their devotion by walking the path of discipleship will be renewed, rejuvenated and refreshed as if they are continually reborn into a life of hope unburdened by abandoned destructive behaviors. Returning to those old personal paths of perpetuating prideful behavior makes all who once felt renewed to feel old and burdened with sadness and worry.

As we replace last year’s calendar, which helped bring some order to earth’s inhabitants with the universal acceptance of the regularity of a seven day week, with the hanging of the bright new calendar it would be well to complete the ritual by looking at those pages containing the untapped wealth of 365 days with gratefulness. Before we discard the tattered and used calendar we might pause for a moment or two of grateful remembrances for all the opportunities and challenges we have experienced as we crossed off the days on its pages.

This ‘New Year’ gives us all the opportunity to examine our lives, spending ample time remembering with gratefulness those experiences which have brought us to where we are in life and being open to those changes which will increase our level of integral happiness, holding on to that which is best and enlivens our lives and discarding that which is bad and deadens our lives. The ritual of the calendar presents us with another one of those moments when we have a chance to start to rid ourselves of destructive habits too long practiced and in their place inculcate into our lives long-desired edifying attributes.

May the Lord bless us that as we go through our individual celebrations of jubilation we will find a peaceful place where we can lay the foundations for a happier, more productive and meaningful life. At present we can only hope and pray for a time when the desire to edify, build and strengthen one another flows from person to person, city to city, nation to nation until it edifies, builds and strengthens this fragile planet we occupy. Will I be the one to take the first step or will I spend another year waiting for another to begin the liberating jubilation?

Scriptures: Proverbs 28:20, Alma 4:10, Alma 37:41, Mosiah 1:17, Luke 16:10, Matthew 25:23, Doctrine and Covenants 98:12

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Little-Will was lying very still on his bed in room C108 of the Children’s Hospital. Of his 11years of life, this was the fourth Christmas Little-Will would spend his special double-day in a hospital bed.

His name was really William, but he didn’t realize it himself until he started to print his name in the first grade in Mrs. Brown’s class. Everyone had always called him Little Will – but it was usually said as if it were one word, Lilwill. He remembered when he returned home from school that day and after he had answered his mother’s questions about what he had learned that day, asking her if his name was really William. She had told him that William was the name they had given him when he was born on that most wonderful Christmas day. She also said once again as she always did that he was the best Christmas present she had ever received. His mother told him that it would be best if he printed William on his papers at school.

The first time he spent Christmas in the hospital on Christmas day was the day he was born and he didn’t really remember a lot about his zero birthday. His mother always told him how wonderful it was to be able to celebrate his birthday with Jesus. One of his favorite pictures in the picture book was the one of his mother dressed as Mary holding him in the manger his father had built on the church lawn. He was one year old and not really a baby like Jesus, but it was still a favorite picture and his mother told him it was her favorite of all of his birthdays. As he looked at his mother sitting near his bed he felt like he was once again wrapped warmly in her arms, just like in the picture.

He didn’t remember a lot about the Christmas he had spent in the hospital when he was four. One thing he did remember was that his father had brought a Christmas tree to his room. The tree was small and he was excited when his father put all the little ornaments on the tree. Next to the tree his mother had placed a little manger scene with little animals and miniature people holding and looking at baby Jesus. That was the year his father had started to tell the family the story about the shepherds who had heard the angels sing and how they left their sheep on the hill and went to see baby Jesus. Father always ended the story by saying we all needed to be ready to leave whatever we were doing and go unto Jesus when the angels would sing in our hearts. After that Christmas, even though they always had a big Christmas tree in the living room at home, the small tree was put up in the middle of the dining room table with the miniature manger scene right next to it.

Lilwill loved being home for Christmas and his birthday, but for some reason, as he was lying in his bed, he remembered the Christmases spent in the hospital with his family gathered around his bed as being very special and clearer in his mind.

On his seventh birthday Lilwill once again found himself in a hospital bed with his family surrounding him. Father had brought the small tree with the little ornaments and had placed the miniature manger scene. Like always as Lilwill looked at tiny Mary holding the baby Jesus he could feel his mother’s warm and loving arms around him even though she was reading the Bible in the chair closest to his bed. That was the year his older sister, (he never understood why she wasn’t called Big-Katie, but it was always just Katie – that is unless she didn’t come after mother had called several times and then it was Kathleen) first told the story of the wise men. Katie had read the story last year, but this year she told the story and Lilwill liked it much better when she told the story. The star always seemed brighter, the journey much longer, Herod much meaner and the gifts more wonderful when Katie put her specialness into the story. Lilwill really liked it when she would end the story saying the gifts the wise men brought were fit for a king. Lilwill always had to swallow hard so that he wouldn’t cry when he saw the tears start to roll down Katie’s cheeks as she finished the story saying she hoped her life would be fit to give as a gift to her King.

Now on his 11th birthday Lilwill found himself once again in a hospital room with his family surrounding his bed. This year his mother’s face seemed to shine like the star in Katie’s story. This year he didn’t have to imagine that he was wrapped in the warmth of his mother’s arms, because, what seemed like every few minutes, she came to the side of his bed to give him a loving hug.

As his father stood next to the miniature tree with the tiny ornaments surrounded by the small manger with the little animals, shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, and told the story of the shepherds watching their sheep at night, Lilwill thought it was an angel who spoke when his father said those beautiful words, “we all need to be ready to leave whatever we are doing and go unto Jesus.”

This year Katie had told about the shining star and was just beginning to talk about the long journey of the wise men when the tears started to roll down her cheeks. By the time she got to the part about hoping her life would be a gift fit for a king she could hardly say the words between the deep breaths she was taking. Lilwill knew that swallowing hard wouldn’t help him keep the tears from falling from his own eyes and rolling down his own cheeks, but for some reason it didn’t really seem to matter.

As the family was finishing the last verse of Silent Night, Holy Night, Lilwill was once again born on Christmas Day and he faintly heard these sweet words, “Lilwill thank you for your life which is indeed a gift fit for a King.”

Scripture Search: John 18: 37, Job 14:14, 3 Nephi 1:13, John 11:17, 3 Nephi 27:13, Romans 14:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Sunday, December 12, 2010


One of the scriptures I reread and review often in my mind is the first part of the 10th verse of the 46th Psalm. Be still and know that I am God.

As I have pondered on the relationship between quiet contemplation and coming to know God it seems obvious that the hustle, bustle and rowdiness which dominate our lives and most celebrations have a definite tendency to push our minds toward thinking about or knowing everything but God.

There are few who, while sitting in a jam-packed screeching stadium on a Sunday afternoon, ever have contemplative thoughts about Deity pass through their minds. Perhaps sometimes a blasphemic phrase might be uttered, but I don’t think that is what the Psalmist had in mind. It seems that while dancers are being deafened by decibels unknown to man, they will seldom take pause to ponder upon the reality of Eternal Beings. Sadly, this antithetical celebrating seems most evident as we approach and then commemorate the birth of the Son of God.

I wonder as we crowd into the confusion surrounding Black Friday Weekend how often will we pause to think of Joseph and Mary trying to find room in an inn of crowded Bethlehem? Will we be so occupied in getting that last stuffed talking thing before they are all taken that we are kept from pondering upon them finding refuge in a grotto stable? How often do we pause and try to grasp the irony which surrounds us, as we forget to keep His Day Holy, elbowing our way around the mall on the third day of that weekend rather than occupying a pew in a nearby chapel, in order to buy that last electronic devise which will be another instrument which will occupy our minds and distract us from contemplating Divinity?

I wonder as we scamper, strain and struggle to staple strings of lights to the highest peaks or while trimming the tree or arranging the Christmas village are we reminded of that wondrous star which pointed the way to the Prince of Peace? Do worries about burned out bulbs or broken ornaments or missing pieces so distract us that we are unable to concentrate on the testimony born by that heavenly body on that silent, holy night? Do I reflect upon how I have rejected His guidance in the past and deliberate on diligent dedication to that task in the future?

I wonder as we rush about trying to make the house spotless to assure a comfortable and pleasant stay for the fast approaching arrival of family and friends if we consider the conditions of that most Holy Family as Mary labored to bring Immanuel into mortality? As we see one more cabinet to dust or one more closet to straighten do we allow our minds to momentarily meditate on the mission of that newborn Babe?

I wonder as we fill our days with shopping, wrapping, more shopping, finding room to hide and store purchases, more shopping, more wrapping and tending to every stressful detail are we ever suspended in awe as were those angelically entertained humble shepherds in that quiet field so long ago? As I look at my contrasting abundance and multiple instruments of entertainment do I ever deliberate the truth that these blessings exist because He exists? Do I suspend my scurrying long enough to evaluate the extremeness of my blessings? Am I so blinded by the blissfulness which often attends the buying of the glittering and gleaming that I am distracted from pausing to give grateful tribute to Him from who all light flows?

I wonder as we try to enter the living room overflowing with gifts on Christmas morn do our minds contemplate the coming of the Wise Men to that humble family bearing their gifts fit for the King of Kings? As we rip the paper from package after package do we pause even momentarily to remember Him who brought the greatest of gifts to all mankind? Do I, even for a few seconds appraise and marvel the opening of salvation brought by my Savior?

I wonder as we turn our kitchens into arenas of culinary excellence do we consider the meager repast Mary and Joseph partook of as the Child lay in a manger and the cattle lowed? As we partake of the abundant feast, piling our plate once and again, do we ponder on the poverty which surrounded the Promised Redeemer as He came into the world, to save the world? Does my appreciation for who He is and what He did increase in harmony with the swelling of my feast fed frame?

It seems evident that those same deafening distractions which hamper our contemplation of Jesus the Christ during the celebrating of His birth are also found throughout the year. If we do not conscientiously seek those silent times and places in our lives, we can easily forget Him and how much we should love and appreciate His life, mission and saving sacrifice.

I pray that during this harried season and throughout the year we will seek moments when we will be silent and search out the Savior; be calm and contemplate upon the grandeur of the Lord; Be still and know that He is God!

Scriptures: 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Isaiah 57:19, James 3:18, Isaiah 14:7, Isaiah 32:18, 1 Peter 3:4

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Some responses are ‘way too easy to predict:

No matter how good someone looks – a flaw will be found

Whatever anyone does no matter how sincere the intention – someone will find some fault

No matter how perfect the temperature is – there will be those who say it is either too hot or too cold

No matter how beautiful the melody – someone will say that Christmas music started too early or they are already tired of it and it isn’t even December.

It is this last predictable phenomenon which I want to write about today. I admit that I am writing this before having destroyed my resolution to be temperate at the Thanksgiving table, but I have already heard or read several comments about someone being in such and such store and they were ALREADY playing Christmas music, giving this pronouncement the same inflection they would if aliens had invaded the planet and were demanding we give them the earth’s entire parsnip (or something we might actually miss if it were taken away) production or we would all be destroyed.

I find it interesting when we consider all the noises which fill our lives during the vast majority of the days of any given year, such as: the woofers from the pickup sitting next to us at a red light – the bickering blaring from political partisans – raucous roars from fanatics – and countless other squealings which uninvited unceasingly bombard our personal space.

Many who somehow find themselves in a somewhat silenced minority, welcome the peaceful and pleasant sounds which deliver the traditional carols and hymns to our environment and aren’t really very excited about the invasion of modern attempts to add to the music of the season in a way which often gives no respite from the hearing-destroying decibels which surround us throughout the rest of the year.

I long ago cast my lot with those who find the traditional carols and hymns of Christmas to be a welcome relief and therefore do their best to extend the soothing season as long as possible.

I gratefully welcome these limited days when to some degree:

The rattling of swords and rumblings of tanks – are softened by the soundings of joy by saints and angels, removing curses, making blessings flow

Music being rapped, screamed and bellowed – is being replaced by choirs of angels singing in exaltation, stimulating thoughts of adoration

Sarcastic, debunking, yelling talk show hosts – are momentarily quieted by joyous strains prolonged, reminding all to bend their knees with the shepherds of long ago

Spinning words of political proponents – are stilled by silent nights bringing love’s pure light

Crude slogans spewed by sports participants and supporters – silenced by the lowing of cattle joined by stars looking down from Heaven quietly proclaiming He is forever near and forever loves us

Constant clamor of congested highways – is calmed by glorious songs of old played on harps of gold, floating Heavenly music

Blaring televisions – are hushed as morning light praises the King and brings peace to men on earth

Bustlings of big box stores – are made mute by angelic hosts proclaiming a chance for second birth

Cramed calendars and agendas – are replaced by sharing the delight of wise men of old, spreading holy peace in all the earth

Screeching sirens – are made soundless by the beginning of the joyful song, never to cease, all glory to God on high

Sky invading crafts’ sonic sounds – are softened by angels singing strains sublime of redeeming love far away on Judea’s plains

Therefore, let the first Noel continue both day and night so that all may hear bells peal loud and clear, a chime sublime of peace on earth good will to men.