June 3, 2016

Thorns amongst the roses

Of late, I have been noticing more of the briar patches of life and the thorns that cause so much hurt in tender places.

Recently, I had a splinter or thorn in my foot. Unsure of what it was and pretty much not caring what was causing the pain, I was focused solely upon my foot's sole and the object of my suffering and how expeditiously I could remove it from further offending my person.

Rather in a contorted fashion, I hauled my foot up and twisted myself into a pretzel like position to more fully view the wounded area and determine the best way to get the painful alien from its uncomfortable locale.

As a disclaimer, I am not a limber as I once was. The joints are more prone to creaking and cracking than in previous days. So getting arranged to handle the situation required both patience and some pain. So much so that I temporarily forget about the pain in the sole of my foot.

Through various objects and some toenail clippers, I was able to open up a passage, and then, with tweezers grasp and remove the sharp little devil tormenting me. Only after application of soap and water and peroxide did I allow my body to unfold from the closed jackknife position I had assumed to treat the wound.

Still not sure where or how I managed to pick up the item that caused the discomfort. But since I walk around barefooted quite a bit, the risk is always present that there will come another day that my carcasses is perforated and punctured by another thorn in the flesh.

Contrasting this with spiritual things in my mind, I pictured the lesson of "Putting on the Whole Armour of God" that I've heard since infancy. Each carefully mentioned piece of the armour has a purpose and a duty to perform to prevent harm from coming to the wearer. Careless or inappropriate application of that armour doesn't necessarily prevent harm and can actually cause pain as it isn't affixed properly to protect the wearer.

David refused the armour of King Saul because it had not been made to suit his person and would actually shackle him in the battle yet to come with his personal Goliath.

Like our battles against thorns in our flesh, or our personal Goliath(s) in our respective lives, we must be armoured up or else we can be pierced by things both great and small.

Sometimes, the nick or wound happens in an instant and seems quite insignificant in comparison to great gaping holes. A tiny cut and a few droplets of blood don't appear to be that big a deal in the battle we face.

But each little opening allows the blood to flow drop by drop, weakening us and our resolve to continue in the battles fray. Much as it is dangerous, it can also become deadly as the tactic of "death by a thousand cuts" is one of Satan's favored ways to give us thorns in the flesh that can cause great harm without the interposition of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The thorns may well have to be dealt with throughout a lifetime, but without the Savior's divine love, mercy and grace spent in our behalf, we cannot manage to win the battle alone.

We gather thorns in life. We cannot appreciate the roses or berries of life absent those thorns. They are small but indispensable moment of instruction and honest self-assessment. Is the thorn because we acted in haste and brought harm to our person, body and soul? Or is the thorn simply part of the refiner's fire that is the mortal crucible of enduring to the end?

Some answers may not even come in this life regardless of faithful prayers and righteous living. This life is about both knowledge AND faith. We don't know everything and in fact, as the Apostle Paul, may have to continue acting in faith alone waiting on the hand of the Lord for our answers which may or may not be forthcoming.

So we press forward in faith not knowing how to do it alone.

We were NEVER meant to know everything and to self-atone.

We were meant to have the Savior and to get into harness with Him so that we gain all of his positive and loving attributes to lend strength to our own positive strengths and loving attributes, talents and native God-given abilities.

We are joined through covenant and can be made more than just the bearer of thorns in the flesh, but instead, someone seeking help to remove the thorns either in this life or in the next.

It is through Christ that our eyes are lifted beyond the thorns to behold and to learn to love the Rose of Sharon, the One who bore our pains, who endured the shame, the suffering and the loneliness of life for us and with us.

May 11, 2016

A Round of Bonus Aerobics

Today, we awoke to 69 degrees, sunny skies and the opportunity to get outside for our exercise. Jared, of course, is the coxswain to my oarsman duties of rowing his ship of state wherever we go. Punctuating the air with his encouragement, yelling, and even helping grunt as I push uphill on our more challenging route, he makes a fine coach. Well, unless he is laughing at my wheezing, in which case he's just being a stinker.

We got onto the back part of the route with the steepest hill and I managed to summit the crest of the hill and had to take a bit of a breather for a drink from my water bottle, plus my phone was ringing. Thomas called in since he's back on the road today so we chatted awhile as I pushed and pulled and in all other ways played my role as a modern day pioneer with Jared in the handcart.

It was so nice to hear the birds, see them flitting around, watch the squirrels romp all over the yards and in the tree limbs! So nice to have pretty weather! Finally arriving back at the house, I realized I needed to make a pit stop in the room of requirement - and do so post haste.

I just have to tell you, being covered head to toe in stinky, humid, nasty sweat makes that all important pit stop a wee bit of a challenge. The "wee" pun not intended.

As a disclaimer, I am not yet done with today's planned exercises, so I wasn't intending to hit the showers quite yet, so the sweat soaked body and sweat soaked clothing was gonna be interesting. Have you ever tried to remove and then put back on the soaking wet skivvies and gym clothes that still will be pressed into service for the remainder of your exercise venture? Think wet swimsuit but more of the fabric to hassle with while performing unheard of yoga moves that even the most ardent yoga master would have trouble bringing in for a landing.

I am reasonably sure that the gyrations and jerking and twisting counted as some kind of Pilates inspired, yoga pose filled, demonic routine that only the sweaty can truly appreciate. At one point in the bonus round, I was attempting to put the waistband of the undies where they truly belong and realized that approximately half of said undies was firmly tucked into the fold below one butt cheek and refusing strenuously to budge from their comfortable, warm, and moist resting place.

The other side which I had gleefully and with extreme prejudice jerked up into the correct location now has a slight tear at the stitching in the elastic waistband where my apparent strong arm tactics had rendered them unable to withstand the muscled might of a half nekkid woman attempting to clothe herself from the prying eyes and laughing throats of my son Jared and the greater world at large, which in this case would be the construction workers who entertain themselves by looking through my windows. No one needs to see this... Trust me!

FINALLY... After a full round of tugging, pulling, rotating, contortion filled movement, I emerged sweatier but victorious in the battle of the bathroom! I am absolutely sure this should qualify as a gold medal event in the Olympic games.

I have to say though that sometimes it's best to exercise alone at home because in a gym bathroom making all of those kinds of noises, slamming around with motions and then finally the shouted exultations of "at last, success!" would lead people to consider my mental status and prompt them to call the very nice and soothing people in the white coats who offer a fitting for a new jacket with extra long sleeves. "Hey," I gesture ever so politely, "It's not my color, peeps, so I think I'll pass."

So far, Jared has resisted the temptation to call out for the National Guard to save him from his crazy Momma, but the day is yet young.

God bless all those who attempt to improve their health and may their "Bonus round of aerobics" be as thrilling and fulfilling as mine was!

March 28, 2016

Breaker, Breaker

My son Thomas drives a big rig. He trained at school and tested to receive licensure for operating a semi tractor truck and trailer over the roadways of America.

It's not for the faint of heart, nor is it for people who are unable to direct the placement of a 53' box into spaces that require navigation and negotiation around and through narrow streets, blind corners and tight spots which use every bit of his training to achieve safely.

Often, considerable thought is spent about the people who drive the big rigs. When I was a child and into my young teens, our neighbor's sons were all truckers. They'd bring their trucks to the street in front of our house and allowed us to climb inside and examine it in detail. They'd show us about the CB radio, the air horns, the brakes and the sleeper cab so that we could see what a little part of their world was like.

I don't think people realize just how much our lives depend upon people like my son. You cannot name a single business that survives without the use of a big rig truck. It isn't possible.

The seed farmers use is brought to places for sales by a big rig truck. The bread on the store shelves is brought by a truck. The underwear on your butt is brought by a truck. The medicine you take or the essential oils you rub on your head is brought by a truck.

The nation's heartbeat is measured by the trucks going to and fro carrying the lifeblood of commerce.

During the 1970's, there were trucking strikes when convoys of trucks would slow down traffic and simply stop rolling in protest of high gasoline prices and low wages for the long hours they worked keeping everyone clothed and fed.

I wondered at the problem which I couldn't fully comprehend and listened to adults both praise and demonize the action.

Give some thought to those men and women behind the wheel. They are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers and truckers. They are often away from the people they love the most so that strangers can go to their local store and get what they need and want without a second thought.

March 11, 2016

Sissies need not apply

I live pretty close to a couple of cemeteries. Often, Jared and I find ourselves strolling through the one closest to us as part of our outdoor adventures simply because there is virtually no traffic unless a funeral is progress in which case we go the other way out of respect for those who are bidding a temporary goodbye to a loved one.

Another reason besides traffic considerations for going through the cemetery is to read the markers. Some are quite brief and others have a great deal of sentiment. A recent addition shows the deceased person's love of the Chicago Bulls basketball team with a marble basketball on the marker. Most impressive.

But the main reason I like to go through there is to keep a connection to those persons who were once living, breathing, vital beings who have now transitioned to the other side.

I do genealogy not just for my family members, although they ARE first, but also for those who are not immediate family. I say that because we are ALL family. God is our Father and no matter our address or station in life, no matter the earthly wrappings of our outward appearance, we are all alike unto God.

We are His children.

This life is kind of the place to examine those relationships both in the family into which you have been born in mortal life and the wider family to which we are all bound by the cords of divine lineage.

The way we treat each other here is NOT an extension of the love we had in our premortal realm. There, we knew who we were and who everyone else is to us. But then, we come here to this earth and a veil of forgetfulness is placed upon us so that this learning experience can be an honest effort without the Cliff Notes of the preexistence.

Life is hard. Sometimes by our own choices and sometimes by the choices of others it is made hard. Sometimes it is just hard because it is. Circumstances of mortal life will not always be easy, pleasant or perfect. The test is to see how we will handle that circumstance regardless of the method of delivery.

Will we be spiritually strong or will we throw away those feelings because they are not politically popular in the corruption of the world under which we dwell?

Frankly, sissies need not apply.

This life is hard. And it is, according to John Wayne, harder if you are stupid. By that he meant that it is made harder by choosing stupid but easy stuff over choosing the difficult but right things to do. There was a line from a Star Trek movie that said "Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing". When we learn that our spiritual progress means putting aside something even though we have the ability to do it because of the harm that may well come from making that choice to go ahead, we are learning to grow beyond being sissies for whom the world must pamper and coddle and cajole into being the steadfast sons and daughters of God that He can use to become coequals in the great process of doing His work according to His plan.

I'm sure that will not be a popular thought process for people who are hoping they can remain gospel weaklings and still be acceptable and accepted by God. The concept that the reward precedes the work has become pretty consuming in our world and it is producing people who are pretty useless.

It isn't that there isn't a spark of the divine within them, but rather that they are not recognizing or applying that divine gift within themselves to become more than infants in their progression. We cannot remain helpless and unfocused in our efforts to grow and mature into the trusted and useful tools in the hands of the Master.

To do so is to be a perpetual sissy ever fearful, never coming to grips with the purpose for which they have been created.

That doesn't sound very palatable to me.

I'd rather come into the kingdom bruised, scarred, and slightly battered knowing I had worked hard and tried to become something useful with all the gifts God has given and stand before him with the opportunity to hear him say "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" than to hear anything else.

I just hope this sissy can overcome self and learn more of Him before it is everlastingly too late.