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Monday, October 24, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life!

I just celebrated my 21st birthday this weekend!  Woohoo!  Now I'm officially, totally "legal"...whatever that means.. except I don't think I can rent a car yet.  Bummer.

I don't know about the rest of you, but for me birthdays are a time of reflection on the good times I've had throughout my life and the blessings God has given me each day.  I think back on all the October 22nds I've had (the night before my birthday-- B-Day Eve), and the mental playback that scrolls across my consciousness as I try to fall asleep (usually to no avail because I'm so excited for my birthday the next day).  This year, it seemed my entire life flashed before my eyes as I lay there in the dark, listening to the serene sounds of my companion sawing logs.  As I relived each year, I realized what a wonderful life I've had.  No matter the ups or the downs, it seems each year was filled with laughter, goodness, light, and growth.  How am I so blessed?  I don't think I'll ever fully understand the reasons.  But this much I do know:  God loves me, and He loves you.

Reminds me of a few scriptures in the Book of Mormon.  First, Nephi's simple declaration of God's love:
I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
I echo Nephi's testimony.  I can't account for all the things--good or bad--that have happened to me or others during my lifetime.  But I do know God loves each one of us more than we can comprehend and He has a purpose for our lives.  And what did an understanding of that love and a willingness to love God do for Nephi and his people?  Again, his answer is simple:
And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.
I know the blessings I've received in my life so I could "live after the manner of happiness" have come because of my faith in Jesus Christ and His ability to make me a better person.  Living the gospel--Jesus' teachings and example--is the only way to true and lasting happiness in this life and forever. 

My life has truly been wonderful.  I have been blessed with family, friends, opportunities to grow, and the light of the gospel.  I thank my Father in Heaven everyday for His goodness these twenty-one-derful years, and know His kindness will be my rock and support for the rest of forever.  I know the same can be true for you.  If your life has been less-than wonderful, it's never too late to find true happiness.  Start with prayer.  Then read God's word.  Above all, trust in His love for you and His plan for your happiness.  I know these things to be true, because it's a wonderful life!

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Act Well Thy Part

Check out this photo. 


Do you get it?

The first time I saw this I didn't really get it either.  But thanks to my wise and wonderful dad, I learned that each row, column, and diagonal's symbols add up to 18.  Example: Check out the top row.  The hand in the pentagon is 5, the X is a Roman numeral 10, and the triangle, of course, is 3 (and that's a magic number).  Add 'em up, and you get 18!  Now go down that left column--5 + 4 + 9 (don't worry about adding up the sides, it's 9, I promise) = 18!  Cool, huh?  So what does that mean, though?  You probably had to do little math squares like this in 4th grade, so what's so special about it?

Well, just think for a second if that little "5" hand got tired and decided it wanted to slack off and be a 4 instead.  It would screw the whole thing up!  Then the row, column, and diagonal wouldn't add up to what they needed to add up to, thus throwing off the balance of the entire 3x3 grid!  Or what if that little 2 (bottom row in the middle) got sick of being the low man on the totem pole and puffed itself up to be a 6?  Once again, numeric chaos.  Can you see how important it is for each number in the grid to be itself, and itself only?  Thus the admonition at the top:  "Whate'er thou art, act well thy part" (translation: whatever you are, act your part and do it well!). 

Hopefully you see where I'm going with this by now.  It's not just about numbers and cutesy little metaphors.  You are you for a specific reason!  Nobody else in the whole world could do what you do, say what you say, and be what you be!  ... I mean, are...(sorry, Vallejo days came back for a second)  God doesn't care if you're rich or poor, a dentist or a ditch-digger, living in California or Timbuktu!  You just make the most out of your circumstance, and God will fill in the gaps.  I've learned this firsthand as a missionary.  I've had many different assignments and chances to work with a bunch of people in many capacities.  And the lesson that rings true through and through is this little rhyme:  "Whate'er thou art, act well thy part."  I've come to the realization and testimony that I've been placed exactly where God needed me with exactly the right people at just the right time to experience, see, and participate in miracles.  It's just come down to me doing my part, and doing it well.

One last connection then I'll let you go.  You probably remember me talking about my experience playing Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat two years ago.  What if I had decided that I wanted to play a different part?  Or if one of the other actors decided they wanted my part?  Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for two Pharaohs to come onstage impersonating Elvis?!  Or two narrators singing all those stinkin' colors over and over again?!!  Again--chaos.  You have a specific role to play in your family, community, church, school, etc.  So act well your part.  People are depending on you!  And never forget how much God loves you and has invested in you!  You. Are. Loved.  Trust in Him.  He's your biggest fan. 

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

PS-- this talk is all about how much God loves you and how important you being you is to Him.  Check it out! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fight the Good Fight!

Last weekend was a semiannual conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Basically, twice a year the living prophets and apostles give addresses for two days of things that they feel inspired to share with members of the Church and the world.  One of the talks, given Saturday night by Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle, was possibly one of the most stirring I've ever heard.  For all intents and purposes it was a reiteration of the clarion call to keep fighting  the good fight and to not surrender to the declining morality of our society.  (I took tons of notes!)

I've thought about this battle a lot.  Paul's words to the Ephesians come to mind:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I meet a lot of people everyday, and I wonder how they're faring in the battle.  With some, the wounds are obvious; with others, it is more difficult to tell what demons they may be facing.  No one goes through this life untouched by strife or unharmed by the buffetings of the enemy. 

But lately, I've come to an understanding of a different tactic to which we often fall prey.  Satan doesn't usually come right out and attack us or parade around touting evil as good and good as evil (although that has unfortunately become much more and more common).  No, he simply distracts us, blinding us with a glittery new toy or money or job or car or house until we've forgotten that this life is temporary, and the things of this world don't go with us when we're gone.  We become wrapped up in the here and now and forget about who we are and where we're going. 

He doesn't beat us by hitting us with a bigger stick; he beats us by making us forget to fight. 

It's for this reason, I'm convinced, that the word remember is one of the most often repeated words in the scriptures.  If we've forgotten to fight or why we're fighting or that there is a fight at all, then Satan has free reign to drag us through the mud and lead us carefully astray; however, if we remember that it is upon the Rock of Jesus Christ that we must build our lives, and we "always remember Him and keep His commandments" that He gives us to be safe and free from the wiles of the devil, to read His words and pray to Him and never ever let something temporary become more important than something eternal, then we will come off conqueror.  We will win the fight, because in all actuality, the fight's already won.  We just have to do everything we can to be on the right side of the line in the sand every single day.

I invite you to reevaluate your priorities.  Are they God's priorities?  Are they eternal in nature?  Are they bringing you closer to Christ or closer to the enemy of your happiness?  I invite you to be honest and brave in rejecting the world's view of happiness.  It's difficult, I know, in this world of glittery things and tangible pleasures.  But I can promise you, as does the Savior, that as you "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness...all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)  So get back in the fray, fight the good fight, and follow Paul's counsel to Timothy: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." 

This fight ain't over yet, soldier.  We're in this till the end!


Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

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