Sunday, February 28, 2016

Furnace of Affliction

Life is complicated, life is not fair, and our life experiences can stretch our hearts, minds, and souls to a breaking point.  Those times feel like the “furnace of affliction” Isaiah speaks about.  Frequently, these times are not the product of poor choices made, but rather, choices made by others, or simply the result of being mortal.

Death of a loved one, a heart attack, cancer and chemotherapy, broken bones, abuse and betrayal put me into that fiery furnace.  I wondered if I would survive!  The intensity of the furnace consumed my life.

However, my epiphany in this personal furnace of affliction changed my life.

Life seems to follow the seasons, growing and flourishing seasons are followed by dying and cold seasons, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change it.  However, the growing time always comes after the cold and dead season, so there is always hope for the coming of Spring.

The sun literally does come out tomorrow, we can trust that event, and each new day brings blessings if we look for them.  There were days in my furnace journey I defined blessings every day and wrote them down:  the sky was blue, I saw a flower, I felt the companionship of a friend, a quail walked across the lawn just as I looked out, water came out of the tap, lights went on with the flip of a switch.  Simple things that made my life easier were happening all the time when I looked for them. And recognizing them cooled my flaming soul.

In the uncontrollable furnaces of our lives, we are still in control.  We can choose to curse God and resent the experiences, or we can choose to plant seeds of hope and nourish them.  Some seeds only grow after forest fires.  We develop patience as we watch for the seeds to break through the soil and struggle to move toward the sunlight.  As the seed grows, and is nourished by good, deep soil, soft rains and sunshine, it develops strength to share with others.

Being proactive in the raging heat brought more calm and peace.  What could I do?  I could make a phone call, send a note, bake bread and share, take flowers, make soup, share veggies from the garden, spend time listening, give of time and resources to others.  And I felt greater peace and calm in my furnace as I increased my random acts of kindness to others.  I could do something every day to positively impact another person’s life.

I have been through several furnaces during my life, and though burned and scarred by some of them, I have learned that I will survive, that I will learn, that I will control much of what happens by being proactive.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lead Into Gold

Over two years ago, I sent a Book of Mormon to an inmate who belonged to a gang when he was arrested.  That book completely changed his life.  Recently, I received a letter from him that included the following:

“There’s a style of Asian art [kintsugi] where the artist fixes a broken bowl or a broken flower pot with gold.  So instead of glue or some other adhesive, the artist uses gold to put the pieces back in place.  This creates something beautiful because every crack, chip, and jagged edge is now golden.

“In my broken places, God has given me gold.  That’s how the Atonement fixed me up.  So when I say ‘God has turned my mess into a message’ I’m sincere because, really, I’m a new man in Christ.”

I love that analogy, because I think of God and Jesus as alchemists, turning our lead into gold.  In fact, I see the Atonement as not so much repairing the broken places, but as creating a whole new pot or bowl.  I mentioned this to my friend and he agreed.  Eventually, that pot or bowl—you, me—can become gold.

Dave Trottier

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Adversity - Yoked Through Love

Lately I've been thinking a lot about adversity. I know it's foolish or short sighted to think about the rotator cuff surgery I am facing as adversity, but to me that's what it is.  It's a kind of adversity that won't last too long. I've faced adversities before that have lasted decades. Some kinds of adversity I have been struggling with for perhaps a life time! Today a scripture from the Bible came to my mind:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

This is a very well known New Testament verse. But do we know what it means? I think, perhaps, that we slip on past the details and slide into the notion that Christ's way is the easy way, or, at the very least, the easier way. This seems like an almost seductive notion. But that makes no sense at all, so how does this verse address adversity?

In biblical times the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to be linked and coupled with the effort of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one to bear could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke.

Some of us know this bit. We remember this from a lesson on the pioneers, or from an episode of Little House on the Prairie, or maybe from reading some Louis L’Amour westerns. But somehow we get the idea that the creature in the other bow is Christ. That Christ is the other ox. But Christ isn’t the other ox. It’s His yoke; He owns it. In this metaphor, Christ is the driver.

So who’s in the other bow? We are taught from a very young age that we are the Lord’s hands, that God accomplishes His work through us. WE are, every one of us, yoked to each other—with Christ’s yoke. We are yoked through covenant, and, more importantly, through love.

So it’s no surprise that nearly every church or Bible lesson is a discussion of histology: the knitting of souls, one to another, like cells into tissue, tissues into organs, organs into systems, and the systems into the organisms—children of God, knit together into the Body of Christ.

How are we knit together? One of the things that knits us together is how we react to adversity. Do we take on the Yoke of Christ? Or do we take another path? Do we “mourn with those that mourn”? Do we “comfort those that stand in need of comfort”? Do we “stand [in the place] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”? (Mosiah 18:8-10) Adversity really is part of God’s plan for our eternal progress. It’s a personal crucible that burns away our impurities, that points up the cracks in our shells. But it’s more than that, really. Adversity is an opportunity for us to seek out others, and together build the Body of Christ.

Lee Williams