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Friday, February 25, 2011

Hold On

We all face trials in our lives, whether outside of ourselves or within.  Sometimes, the battles we fight within ourselves are more troubling and more scarring than the ones we fight on the outside.  I think the idea of recognizing our personal inadequacies, especially when they glare us in the face, can have a crippling effect on who we want to become and where we want to be if we aren't careful.

I was reading an article this morning from one of the leaders of our church, and he referenced Peter's experience in the Bible when Jesus was walking on the water toward them and told Peter to come out on the water and meet him.  He started to go, but became afraid and started to sink.  He cried out to Jesus, who caught hold of him and took him to the boat in safety.  Now think about that--Peter was an expert fisherman.  He'd seen plenty of storms before, and surely winds and waves fiercer, higher, and stronger than those on the sea that night.  So what was it that caused him to sink?  The scriptures say "he was afraid", and cite "little faith" and "doubt" as some of the factors (see Matthew 14 for the rest of the story). 

Now, if a great man like Peter was called "thou of little faith", that means I have a long way to go.  But Jesus understands.  He gets the fact that I'm an imperfect person and won't be able to live up to expectations all the time (especially self-imposed expectations!  Goodness knows I give myself a hard time about a lot of things..).  But that doesn't mean I don't try.  That doesn't mean I don't meet Him half way, or 10% of the way, or half-a-percent of the way.  Hold on.  He's coming to rescue you, whether it's the winds and the waves that have you worried, or it's the doubt, fear, internal struggles you've got.  Just hold on.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

*Comment below or on my facebook: How do you find the strength to hold on?

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part VI

Once I had gathered myself and the mingled, bitter-sweet taste of Shiloh's sacrifice for me had subdued enough for me to regain my faculties, I remembered where I was sitting: at the gates of the City of Promise!  A fluttering, palpitating surge of joy and fulfillment coursed through my whole body as I leapt upon my miraculously-healed feet and gazed in wonder at the luster of the place for which I had been searching for so long. 

"I'm here," I whispered to myself, still in disbelief. 

Images of my journey flashed before my eyes:  the night of the sandstorm that left me without shelter, but that had introduced me to the Wanderer's kindness; the day I nearly died of thirst, but was once again saved; when I had the opportunity to help Jesse and Ruth stave off the jackals and return Shiloh's kindness; the blazing sands and circling buzzards that had been my only company for so long; the vicious brutality of the bandits and the icy grip of fear that had clutched my heart as doom drew near, only to find my Savior once again rescuing me--as I reflected on how far I had come, the joy of my arrival at this blessed place grew ever more potent.

It struck me that all those who had gone and returned in vain must not have believed that the destination would be worth the trial to get there.  They must not have been changed by their experience, nor had they grown or become anything different than when they had left. As I reflected thus, my mind caught hold of another idea: perhaps the destination wasn't where the growth was meant to come anyway!  Perhaps, I thought, the reason this place was so blessed was because when men and women who ventured here arrived at these gates, they came tired, beaten, and spent, but they had learned the true meaning of love, of sacrifice, of the joy of selflessness. I had!  I had learned, out in the wastes, that to give of oneself is to receive; that when you strive when your arms are too weary and reach for the seemingly unreachable ideal, you grow to become something more.  I had overcome so much--only, of course, with the help of the Wanderer.  The joy had been in the journey.

I was lost in thought for quite some time, basking in the luminous joy and unspeakable gratitude I felt merely standing where I was.  Presently, I floated back down from my flight-of-fancy and strode through the ornately wrought gates and into the city.

It was so beautiful.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Disney Dose: Alice's Dilemma

Here's an insight on Elder Spendlove:  Elder Spendlove is a Disney FANATIC (and he doesn't like speaking in third person...so I'm gonna stop now)!!  I've been watching Disney movies, going to DisneyLand, singing Disney songs, and impersonating Disney characters since I was knee-high to a grasshopper!  I'm kind of a big fan.

So as I go about my day-to-day as a missionary, when inspiration strikes, oftentimes it takes a little of its color from a Disney movie and/or a correlation between a Disney movie and a life truth are immediately formed.  So I'll be doing a few posts that will revolve around Disney movies and the eternal significance therein.  (**NOTE:  Oh, and don't worry--I'll be finishing A Pearl of Great Price here pretty quick too.  Just gotta wait for those creative insights to strike.  But I promise--it will be soon).

SO!  With that drawn-out introduction, here's my not-so-drawn-out thought:

Remember that part in Alice in Wonderland where Alice is trying to find her way out of the creepy woods?  She comes to this fork in the road with a tree upon which is tacked all of these arrow signs pointing every which way.  She stands there for a second trying to figure out which way is right, when of a sudden the Cheshire Cat shows up and she asks (in so many words), "Which path should I follow?"  He then asks her where she's trying to get.  She says she doesn't know, to which the Cat responds, "If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter what path you take!"

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I am Doing a Great Work

It's funny how God points you in the right direction to what you need, even when you don't know you've been looking for it.  I was studying the scriptures this morning, reading 2 Nephi 9:52, which reads, in part, "Let your hearts rejoice."  I followed the footnote to Deuteronomy 26:11, but before I got there, my thumb stopped on Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  I've never really read any of those "little prophets" books in the Old Testament, but I remembered hearing a talk by Pres. Deiter F. Uchtdorf a few years ago about Nehemiah, so I detoured a bit from my "planned" activity and read up.

Essentially, Nehemiah was a Jew in the palace of a Persian king named Artaxerxes (bless you! need a Kleenex?).  Jerusalem had been wasted and the people carried off into other lands.  One day, Artaxerxes sees that Nehemiah is depressed and asks him why.  Nehemiah responds, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city...lieth in waste, and the gates consumed with fire?"  (Nehemiah 2:3) Having compassion on him, Artaxerxes allows Nehemiah and some of the Jews to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, the bad guys surrounding Jerusalem see the activity and are nonplussed.  They threaten Nehemiah and his brethren, but the Jews don't respond.  Finally, Sanballat, the leader of the bad guys, tries to trick Nehemiah into coming out of the city to "negotiate".  Nehemiah doesn't buy it.  His response really struck a chord with me today; he says, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down with you?"  (Neh. 6:3)

Nehemiah knew what he was there to do.  He knew his purpose.  And I imagine he also knew that the Holy City wasn't going to build itself.  He didn't get caught up in the thick of thin things.  Despite the threatening and the coaxing of his enemies, Nehemiah remained vigilant, fixed in his resolve.  But he was not without opposition: "For they all made us afraid, saying, 'Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.'  Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." (Neh. 6:9; emphasis added)  He trusted in God to be his protection--he didn't need to come down from his important task to squabble with his enemies or be distracted so that the work didn't get done. 

Because of his diligence, Nehemiah and the Jews raised the walls in an incredibly short 52 days.  Afterward, the same enemies who had tried to distract him "heard thereof, and all...that were about us saw these things, [and] were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God" (Neh. 6:16; emphasis added).

I testify that if we will stick to the tasks God has given us, and declare to our enemies (e.g. self-doubt, temptations, antagonists, etc.) "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down", we will find the surprising strength to overcome and to accomplish that which is our destiny.  So keep it up!  Don't despair!  be like Nehemiah!  You got this.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part V

Well, I will not bore you with the unimportant details of my day-to-day survival in the desert.  I will, however, say this:  the longer I traveled, the more I realized my utter dependence on the Benevolent Wanderer--or Shiloh, if I am to believe that was indeed him.  He had provided light and nourishment; and more than that, he had taught me that giving is receiving, that to truly find joy and companionship in the harshest of circumstances is to give freely of oneself and think not of the consequences.  What I learned out in the waste was more than any elder could teach me or what a lifetime of study could possibly afford.  Truly he taught me that greater love no man has than he who gives all he has for another, even to the point of giving his own life.  

...Perhaps you feel I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me relate one final tale from my wandering in the desert. 

Long after the experiences of home had become personal legend and the nights of the sandstorm and the jackals had become hazily distant memories, I saw, far in the distance, the glimmering outline of what appeared to be a city!  I stopped dead in my tracks.  Had I come to the end of my journey?  Was I within a day's travel of that blessed abode?  I checked and rechecked the details outlined in my now-tattered and falling-apart records of the ancients.  By all accounts, the sheen of the pearly alabaster walls and domes of gold that adorned the buildings, the sudden reappearance of the rivers and sparse greenery that had been absent for so long--as far as I could tell it all added up to one thing:  my journey was nearing its end!  I fell down on my knees and prayed to God, "Is this all real?  Am I hallucinating?  or have I finally wandered far enough from my home to that sacred and safe haven--the Land of Promise?  Please, Father--give me strength to at least make it that far!"  Deep within my heart, I felt a surge of joy; it was as if time stood still, or as if all the cares of the world were lifted off my shoulders.  I knew it was the place of my desiring.  I just knew it.


 I gathered my belongings, and, almost automatically, started into a quick jog, my eyes unblinkingly fixed on the dazzlingly white and beautiful city that lay beyond me.  My mind was aflutter with thoughts of what was in store for me there--peace, rest from my cares, a fountain of pure and clean water (a bath!), the fruit of the tree, that beautiful pearl of great price--Oh, it was almost more than I could stand!  How I longed to be there!  Yes!  Yes!  It was coming ever nearer!
 
As my mind continued to focus on the blessings surely awaiting me just inside those pearly gates, my euphoria was shattered by a faint whizzzz punctuated by an excruciating pain in my leg.  I was knocked off my feet, falling face-first into the sand, totally bewildered and unable to comprehend fully what was happening.  I clutched my leg, crying out in pain--I looked through watery eyes and discovered a black arrow protruding from my right calf.  I began to hyperventilate--I could not pull the barb out.  I looked at the staunch, seemingly disaffected city that was no longer drawing nearer; indeed, the distance seemed to expand endlessly in front of me.  I cried.  I heard laughing.  My heart sunk as I looked around and saw several dark figures wearing rough leather garb forming a circle around me--bandits.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talents--Gifts from the Master

I was just talking to my good friend Kiersten from Santa Rosa over facebook chat about our mutual love for writing and the way we both get the creative juices flowing.  We were talking about how things end up coming out on the page in a little different way than we would usually say it (mostly because thoughts usually come to me as images or scenes rather than in strings of words--luckily I've had enough opportunities to write that I have been trained to make that conversion).  Kiersten then said the following:
It's interesting too, to have people be touched by the way you worded it, then you really know that it came from God.
I thought about that and replied thus:
Indeed. It's like I'm a trumpet or a cello or something... people aren't there to hear the instrument, they're there to hear the Master play the instrument. "Our" talents are just ways God gives us to be manifested in others' lives.
I truly believe that.  You don't go to a concert to hear instruments--they don't make a lot of noise in and of themselves.  You go to hear the beautiful music made when finely crafted instruments find their way into the hands of master musicians (or your 6th grade son who is just learning how not to make his clarinet squeak).

Our talents are given to us so we can bless others.  Once again my mind turns to the Savior, our greatest example in everything good and worthwhile.  He had talents for listening, teaching, loving, and serving.  He was also a master story-teller!  Have you ever read the Parables?  They're genius!  Thank Heaven He shared His talents with us, so we all could know the Way (oddly enough, He even told a story about not burying your talents...).

So keep sharing your talents!  Bake a cake for your mom!  write a poem to your wife!  teach your kids to play ball or dance or tell jokes or ride a bike!  Our talents are not our own; we are simply instruments in the Hands of our Master.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

PS I wrote a series about this not long ago.  Here's the link if you missed it (or if you just want to reread it)

Image from: http://dkpresents.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/a-dozen-trumpet-masters/

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