Monday, December 9, 2013

Exhaustion Mixed with Exhilaration

Post Number: 65
Review of Yesterday's Progress
     Daily Points Left: 44 of 71 (Goal: 21)
     Weekly Points Left: 49 of 49 (Goal: 49)
     Pedometer Reading: 3528
     Meetings Attended: None Scheduled
     Exercise Completed: None Scheduled

Today was a real mix of exhaustion and exhilaration. There was a power outage in Kuna at 3 am. Since I rely on a CPAP, I was awoken to a sense of suffocation. That made for an exceptionally long day since the power wasn't fully restored until after 5 am. When the power came back, I was already working on things for the day. I stayed up. And while I had to work to be patient, I do believe the work paid off. Not saying I was not impatient. Not saying that impatience wasn't expressed. Just saying I caught myself before expressing that impatience numerous times. This made a few of the food decisions a little harder, eating four links of sausage instead of two. Eating seconds on the ham. But I did okay in that I still had more than 31 points left over.

One of the keys to yesterday exhilaration is that I spoke in our sacrament meeting today. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach one another. Our leader, called a bishop, doesn't sermonize every week. Members from the congregation teach each other during the sacrament meeting. MBWM and I were asked to speak yesterday. Normally, she is nervous, and it shows. Yesterday, she was a shining star. I enjoyed my speaking, grateful for the chance to speak. It wasn't my finest writing, mostly because it was written over the last three days instead of the last seven. Although I read and studied the topic all week, I didn't write anything down. In fact, I lost a day to trying to figure out the software for my business website. A day better spent on writing my talk. But that distraction aside, I enjoyed the chance to speak. I have included my talk below, if you are interested. Warning: It is long. MBWM says it took 32 minutes to give. I rather felt for my audience after hearing that. But for me, the time was worth it to have such a wonderful, spiritual experience.

Another spiritual opportunity was my church's Christmas Devotional today. It was incredible.

But incredible as things are, I must prepare for the start of the week, which portends to be busy.

Yours in the special, spiritual quality of the season,


P.S.: I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. - Author Unknown

Here is a copy/paste of my talk. It was on the topic of Home Teaching. I have found Home Teaching to be truly unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among Christ's believers to complete Christ's injunction to, "Feed His Sheep". Sorry about the lack of references. I'm usually better about that. At least I made links for the references.

Home Teaching Can Make Us One
Sacrament Talk – Sunday, December 8, 2013

My dear Brothers and Sisters, I am grateful for the chance to speak before you.  In most aspects of any relationship, you attract as you are. And in my relationship with my beloved wife Merianne, that is certainly true in many respects. But in public speaking, where my wife cannot wait to sit down, I cannot wait to stand up. The problem, then, is not getting me started; it’s getting me stopped. And since I am used to teaching 4 and 5 hours classes, I sometimes have to be stopped.

The topic I was given for today I have taught many times in Elders Quorum. I had and hope I still have a real zeal for this topic. Now, having zeal is not the same as being good, consistent, or in other respects superlative. Zeal simply means eager and determined to accomplish this task. I had been a member for only two months the first time I taught it. I am going to speak about continuing your work as missionaries since leaving the mission field.

We know the Lord is hastening the work. This week, there is a link on the church’s home page to an article called, “15 Real-Life Examples of Sharing the Gospel” in the Youth section. I want those of you who have served in the mission field to take a moment and remember the characteristics of a mission. My most disappointing day in the church since I've joined was the day I learned I was too old to serve a mission for the church as a youngish single adult. I had to rely on the Elders in that far away ward to explain to me the characteristics of a mission. What stands out to you? A very short list of the answers I have heard then and since include:
  • Having a rigorous schedule. 
  • Reaching out to strangers. 
  • Serving with a companion.
  • Studying the scriptures.
  • Feeling the Spirit in abundance.
There are so many other entries I could put, but I don’t want to focus on what I haven’t experienced. I want you to focus on what you've experienced while I ask the question that will complete my introduction: How is serving as a Home Teacher like serving as a missionary?

Did the Elder nearest you have a slight change in posture or demeanor, sisters? That is a common response that I have witnessed when teaching on Home Teaching in Elders Quorum. This is not to say that the Elders don’t have a genuine love for Home Teaching or for the members of the families they Home Teach. It is not that they are fighting the council of their leaders, the brethren, or the church. It is not that they haven’t learned from all of the stories, examples, and lessons from all of the priesthood manuals, Ensign articles, and conference talks that we have read, listened to, and watched over the years. It is not that they lack understanding as our role as under-shepherds to the Great and True Shepherd as we seek to feed His sheep: His rams, His ewes, and His lambs. It is not that they fail to understand the meaning, value, and duties of stewardship in this, the Lord’s Church. It is not that they don’t have a testimony of the Savior. The reaction of the Elders does not speak to any of these. The Elders Quorums I have taught knew and understood all these aspects of Home Teaching. This common reaction is just a minor vestige of the natural man expressing himself to the one-hundred and twenty seventh time that Home Teaching has been presented.

But it must be something we collectively need to hear because President Monson taught on it in the last conference in Priesthood session. He emphasized President Benson’s injunction that “We can do better.” I am excited to present on Home Teaching and how I believe I can do better. I enjoy Home Teaching. I am always excited during Elders Quorum lessons when reviewing familiar concepts and learning new aspects of Home Teaching. I know I need to repent. I have only had my Home Teaching list for one month and I have not managed to get out to Home Teach with my companion yet. I suspect there is a small expression of Heavenly Father’s sense of humor in having me bear witness of the irony as I teach on Home Teaching prior to actually accomplishing any Home Teaching in this ward. But that is okay. President Monson teaches:
If any of you has slipped into complacency concerning your home teaching visits, may I say that there is no time like the present to rededicate yourself to fulfilling your home teaching duties. Decide now to make whatever effort is necessary to reach those for whom you have been given responsibility.
This type of teaching inspires me to rededicate myself to Home Teaching, now and whenever I have been less than zealous in the past. And with heartfelt intentions, I apologize to my Home Teaching families and promise to strive to be a caring and thoughtful Home Teacher. And to my companion, I will apologize in advance if my zeal gets tiresome. I experience the joy of Home Teaching with the depths of my spirit, the breadth of my heart, and all the prowess of my intellect as I grow my testimony of my Great and True Shepherd by doing His work in His Kingdom.

His Kingdom is wide. And the priesthood brethren in this ward have assigned friends to care for as their individual and collective responsibility in caring for the Kingdom. And our work is to be one in a string of brethren to bestow blessings upon our new found friends. Listen to Christ:
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. – John 3:35-38
While this scripture is usually used in reference to missionary work, it applies to Home Teaching very well. To apply this to Home Teaching in my case, my Home Teaching companion has labored to sow the seeds of relationships with our families. And I shall be able to reap as I join him in his efforts. I shall reap introductions to, familiarity with, and an understanding of each member of the family so I can learn how best to serve among these new-found friends.

In explaining my stewardship to care for these friends through Home Teaching, I hope the Spirit will guide my words to say those things that will be in accord with what the Lord has asked of me this morning. Let us delve deeper into what the prophets have to teach us on Home Teaching. For what Home Teaching is and how to bring it to pass in the Lord’s way, I start with a quote from President Monson’s talk, “True Shepherds.
The wisdom of the Lord has provided guidelines whereby we might be shepherds to the families of the Church, where we can serve, we can teach, and we can testify to them.
 The Lord has given explicit guidelines through his servants, the prophets. Here are the words of four prophets of the Lord sharing the guidelines of the Home Teaching. President Monson’s guidelines provide descriptions that lead us into better understanding of how Home Teaching is to be performed among the saints.
A home teaching visit is also more likely to be successful if an appointment is made in advance.
In performing our home teaching responsibilities, we are wise if we learn and understand the challenges of the members of each family, that we might be effective in teaching and in providing needed assistance.
Home teaching is more than a mechanical visit once per month. Ours is the responsibility to teach, to inspire, to motivate, and where we visit those who are not active, to bring to activity and to eventual exaltation the sons and daughters of God.
Here he outlines the goal of Home Teaching, “To bring […] to eventual exaltation the sons and daughters of God.” That can be either a heart-rending idea or a spirit-lifting ideal. And then he provides simple reminders that Home Teaching starts with the basics of setting an appointment and grows into building relationships.

The second set of guidelines comes from Joseph Smith through Doctrine and Covenants Section 20.
Watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;
And see that there is no iniquity in the church. 
And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty. 
And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
These guidelines give us the vision of what Home Teaching is. To succeed in the mission of the church to invite all to come unto Christ, these guidelines from Joseph Smith the prophet describe how to perfect the saints. We perfect the saints by meeting with them in a way that invites the Spirit, uplifting them as Christ would succor them, and teaching them the Gospel. These are more than responsibilities; these are blessings. Picture the joy that would come to a family that felt of the Spirit that brings Christ’s atonement into their lives as they apply the Gospel because their Home Teachers brought it with them.

There are more guidelines that come from President Benson’s talk, “To the Home Teachers of the Church.” While I have listed his key points, there is so much more information in the talk that will bring light to the heart and strength to the spirit. Here are the three fundamentals from this prophet’s talk.
First, know well those you are to home teach. Really know them! You can’t serve well those you don’t know well.
The second fundamental to effective home teaching is to know well the message you are to deliver in each home. And know that it is the particular message the Lord would have you give to the families and individuals you have been asked to serve.
May I now suggest the third and final ingredient to effective home teaching—and that is to truly magnify your calling as a home teacher. Do not settle for mediocrity in this great priesthood program of home teaching. Be an excellent home teacher in every facet of the work. Be a real shepherd of your flock. Make your home teaching visit early in the month, allowing enough time for additional follow-up contacts as necessary.
In these guidelines, the prophet is asking us to do much more than the process of Home Teaching. He is asking us to build a relationship where we will want to teach, testify, and exhort our friends to live the Gospel and our friends will want to rely on us for strength, service, and priesthood blessings. This takes work. This takes time. And this will be an ongoing effort. But think of the blessings of the Home Teaching effort where the Home Teaching relationships extend out beyond just one set of Home Teachers and the families they care for. Imagine that I Home Teach one family to the extent described by President Benson. That priesthood father Home Teaches another family with the same intent. That next priesthood father Home Teaches another family with the same intent. And so on throughout the entire ward. That is the vision I have of successful Home Teaching in a ward. This is what knits a ward together. Then when a crisis arises, be it one individual, one neighborhood, or the entire community of Kuna needing the strength that the Lord would send, the well knit ward will have the ability, direction, and experience to rise to the challenge.

And there are more challenges coming. Those challenges are here and increasing while we navigate our way through the trials and tribulations that are upon us. I am quite sure of it. There was a lesson taught in my prior ward from the Teaching of Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 16, “That We May Become One”. In that lesson, the teacher asked about the chaos and confusion in our country today that seeks to divide or destroy the saints. Two people spoke of same-gender marriages as an example of current challenges. And then the teacher pointed out that is the trouble we know now that is inviting the saints to be contentious. There is surely greater trouble brewing. But rather than focus on how he knew that, I would rather focus on what President Snow teaches on how unity is necessary to overcome these troubles –
We should be bound together and act like David and Jonathan as the heart of one (as taught in 1 Samuel 18:1), and sooner let our arm be severed from our bodies than injure each other. What a mighty people we would be if we were in this condition, and we have got to go into it, however little feelings of friendship we may have in exercise at the present time. I can just tell you that the day will come when we must become united in this way if we ever see the presence of God. We shall have to learn to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We must go into this, however far we are from it at the present time, yet no matter, we must learn these principles and establish them in our bosoms. Now this I can see clearly, and that is the reason why I talk about these matters in the style in which I do, for I wish to plant them in the minds of the Saints, and to have these things among their every day feelings.
And how will we be able to “plant” the “feelings of friendship” so deep that we are “bound together […] as the heart of one”? While there are numerous tasks that rest entirely on the individual, such as the keeping of covenants, I would suggest that a collective task to bring to pass a “heart of one” that falls on individual shoulders is Home Teaching. Home Teaching will take us quite a ways into the becoming one.

Becoming one as a ward, stake, and church is an incredible blessing. Other blessings are spoken of by the prophets as well. President Monson instructs, “Home teaching answers many prayers and permits us to see the transformations which can take place in people’s lives.” And I would add, many times, the people doing the serving see those changes before the person undergoing the change sees it. And that can be a blessing for all concerned as the one witnessing the changes confirms the difference in the one being changed.

Among the blessings I count for having been able to witness them I include being able to provide comfort to those in need of comfort. I have baptized the son of a single mother. I have been called to the home to pronounce priesthood blessings. I have donated my belongings to those that had a more dire need than I for specific items. I have received comfort and guidance from the Lord simply for being willing to Home Teach. After Home Teaching, I have a sense of contentment and serenity that comes from serving in the Lord’s Kingdom. His Spirit bring these feelings and confirms I am serving well as His under-shepherd.

All of these blessings and others that I have received for being willing to Home Teach started when my testimony began the first time I learned what Home Teaching was. I had not learned what Home Teaching was until I was being taught in my first new member lesson. It was being taught by my Home Teacher, Brother John Price, first counselor in the singles ward. While he was bearing witness of Home Teaching, the Spirit bore witness to me of the truthfulness of Home Teaching. I commented that this was a distinct emblem of the Lord’s True Church. I am still certain that Home Teaching is part of how the Lord keeps His sheep cared for, watched over, and attended to.

I want to tell a story to describe another blessing that comes about. There is a story, probably adapted from the myth of Sisyphus, that I want to tell in my own words. I desire this mostly because I didn't want to take the time to perform yet another web search for this talk. There is so very much tangential information when searching the web or even searching just the church web site.

There was a man that lived in his simple home at the bottom of a valley. He enjoyed his life as he lived his faith. One day, Christ comes to him. The man, recognizing His Savior, asks, “What can I do for you, my Lord?” Christ tells him that his task this day is to take a pebble to the top of a nearby hill. Seeking to be obedient, he took the pebble to the top of the hill. The man returned to his house glad that Christ’s request had been so easy. He had completed it without much exertion. He was back to his house well before dinner. The next week, Christ returned and pointed to a small stone. Christ instructs the man to take it to the top of the hill as well. Again, delighted in the simplicity of the task, the man transported the rock as requested. Home again in joy from faith fulfilled, he returned eager for the next task. The next week, Christ pointed out a fairly large rock. It was a little difficult to carry because of the combination of weight of the rock, distance to the top, and steepness of the hill. In spite of the difficulty, the man completed the task. In joyful thanksgiving for the opportunity to serve His Lord, the man returned home, getting there a little after dinner time. A little fearful, the man greets the Lord the next week. The Lord informed the man, “I have one more task for you, but I shall be gone for quite awhile. Are you willing?”

The man assures Christ that he is ready and willing. Christ points to a boulder larger than the man’s simple shack. Christ says, “Push that rock.” Christ then leaves. Full of faith, the man sets to work. He pushed at the boulder all day. And that night, he went to bed a little frustrated.

The next morning, his strength restored and his faith undeterred, he set about pushing the rock. And again, he could not move it and went to bed worn out and frustrated.

“But surely, the Lord wouldn't ask me to move something I cannot move.” And again, full of faith, he pushed against the rock. And again at the end of the day, he went home with the boulder un-budged. But he goes at it again for days, and then weeks. But after a few months, he begins to lose faith, not in the Lord, but in himself. After that, he sometimes left the task early. And then on a particularly rainy day, he simply doesn't head outside. Then he remembered that the Lord only came to him once a week, so he only shoved at the boulder once a week. And then he worked on it only once in every two or three weeks. After all, he had many other responsibilities.

The man continued his work around his house. But without saying a word, the boulder would remind him of the Lord’s request. In time, he sorrowed of what he would have to say when the Lord returned. He started pushing it every day again. Not always all day long, but he worked at it. After many months of daily habitual pushing, the man was interrupted. He was surprised to see Christ at his side.

“I am sorry, Lord. I was unable to move the boulder.”

“It was not My Will that the boulder be moved. My Will is that you be strengthened by pushing against the rock. Come, move of this rock.”

He looked at a rock that was the size of one that had earlier wearied him. He lifted it with ease. He knew he was ready to complete any assignment Christ would give him.

And what a blessing that would be! To know that regardless of the assignment, given through an inspired priesthood leader or through direct inspiration, that I could complete any assignment Christ would offer me because he prepared me in advance.

This is not to say that I won’t balk at a scary assignment. Reading in Exodus, we learn
And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. – Exodus 4:1–5
The Lord had a purpose for Moses. The Lord provided a way for Moses to complete his assignment by overcoming Moses’ concerns. Thinking for myself, if I was asked to pick up a deadly serpent by the tail, I’m not sure I could do it instantly. But I would like to believe that, like Moses and his snake-staff, Nephi and his beheading instructions, David and his Goliath, and other examples, I too could be strong in my faith and carry through.

And what I am being asked to carry through on? Visiting people, befriending them, assisting them in carrying out their own responsibilities, being available, and more. Let’s compute this out. In setting up a mathematical exploration, I will chose values that may be exaggerated to emphasize the results in drawing a conclusion. Here is the set up:
  1. I have three assigned families
  2. I am with them for Home Teaching one hour each month. This may be an exaggeration, but that’s how these set ups work.
  3. Let’s imagine that I am with them an additional one hour a month for additional concerns: setting up the appointments, rescheduling cancelled appointments, raking the yard, cleaning out a shed, driving a kid to an appointment, providing meals during sickness, giving priesthood blessings, and so forth. This one hour a month is probably an exaggeration because most months, I won’t be called on for additional assistance.
  4. This means that I am called upon two hours per family per month by three families during twelve months. That is 72 hours per year
  5. There are 8760 hours in a year. But we’re not going to stop there.
  6. Let’s say I am asleep for an amazing ten hours a day. Again, an exaggeration because most mornings, I feel like I was fortunate to get six hours. Ten hours of sleep makes for 14 hours of being awake.
  7. This means that there are 5110 waking hours in a year.
  8. For 72 hours in a 5110 hour year, that mean the Lord is asking me to serve in Home Teaching for 1.4% of my waking year. If you are only sleeping 6 hours a night, it drops to 1.1% of my waking year. If you look at all of the hours available in a year, the percentage drops to eight tenths of one percent of my entire year.
  9. But we can go the other way with the available, waking hours. Let’s imagine you argue that you have a job since you need to work. Let’s pick 60 hours per week using the 10 hours per night of sleep. Again, an exaggeration. That means you are Home Teaching during waking, non-working hours for an incredible 3.6% of your year.
Now, I merely include this simple calculation because (1) I like math and compute these types of calculations regularly. For fun. And (2), I read an article that was titled Names, Not Numbers written by Christopher C. H. Wills. Here are his closing thoughts.
Reports are of great worth to General Authorities in monitoring the growth of the Church worldwide and in highlighting areas of need at different levels. But the most important use of a report is at the local level.
When every secretary and clerk accurately record attendance, at the end of every meeting the names of all those who did not attend are known. And when the names are known, a caring secretary, a concerned leader or teacher, a loving friend, a home teacher or visiting teacher can take action. Nobody should be absent from a meeting without somebody recording it and caring enough to ask why. Is it sickness—of body or mind or spirit? Is the person on holiday, or has he or she moved?
As members of the Church, we can all show genuine concern for everyone around us and act to save souls. Then truly we become caring under-shepherds—followers of the Master Shepherd, who cared enough for us to give his life for us.
Home Teaching falls upon the brethren to provide that caring as we sow without reaping and reap without sewing. Home Teaching is missionary work performed from within the Kingdom of God. Home Teaching is the lesson that provides us with a depth of joy as we throw ourselves into this opportunity of service. Home Teaching is the assignment that allows me to keep my Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.

I believe that all of these inspired, covenant-keeping men have taught me how to be a better Home Teacher. Where I am lacking, I will build strength. Where I am reluctant, I will rely on faith. Where I am behind, I will renew my zeal. Where I am amiss, I will repent.

I bear witness that I hold the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. I know that the priesthood was restored in these, the latter days by Joseph Smith as an essential part in restoring the Gospel. I know that covenants have the power to protect us and those we serve when we keep them. I know that the priesthood is called upon to be under-shepherds organized around the program of Home Teaching. I bear witness that Home Teaching is inspired of God. I know that Christ, the Great and True Shepherd, relies on His priesthood bearers to keep watch over His Flock. How can we as Christ’s representatives leave the ninety and nine as He did to seek the one as He would unless we are keeping watch? I have been blessed for being willing to be actively engaged in Home Teaching. I bear witness that the Lord Himself, who is at the head of this church, sent those blessings. I bear witness that Home Teaching is the Lord’s Will to strengthen the bearer and the receiver. I bear witness that he has chosen who will serve Him as leaders from President Monson to Bishop Sievers down to every last Home Teacher in the church. And I know that the Lord has succored me when I have humbled myself before Him, He has taught me when I have been willing to listen and heed His Words, and most importantly, He has forgiven me through the atonement when I repent with a broken heart and contrite spirit.

May we in this ward strive to be one with each other so that we will build Zion by using Home Teaching to its fullest. For the Lord has said, “Let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—the pure in heart; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.” (D&C 97:21) I stand before you to bear witness that we all are in need of rejoicing as a Zion people.

I leave this with you in the name of my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Messiah, in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Captain of man’s salvation, the only begotten of the Father, the Holy One, even Christ the Lord. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment