Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Week Twenty-Eight

WEEK TWENTY-EIGHT January 13, 2013

We have been wrestling for some time now seeking direction about what we can pray for as missionaries. Clearly any prayers requiring the subverting of another’s agency, such as praying someone will accept the gospel message, enter the waters of baptism, or even listen to the message of the restored Gospel, implies limiting another’s agency either by blocking alternative thoughts or enlisting some compulsion beyond the scripturally specified enticing. Too often it seems we override this truth with a rationalization built upon it being in the best interest of the individual we are praying for. But Elder Dallin H Oaks statement, that “a missionary's goals ought to be based upon the missionary's personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others” (“Timing.” BYU Devotional Address, 29 January 2002) defuses such rationalizations even when we think they are consistent with God’s will. Happily we have settled upon a theme that gives us comfort, allows us to supplicate the Lord with faith and energy, and still fits within the framework necessary to sustain the freedom of choice agency advocates. So for us, along with prayers that the Lord will accomplish His purposes through us, regardless of whether we become aware of those purposes or not, we pray that those whom we meet and teach might understand the truthfulness of the message to which we bear humble witness.

Some months ago in meeting with Brother Four, the former Evangelical minister who has moved from South Carolina to California, following a couple of hour discussion between us, I had asked him to pray about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He had agreed to do so but when I texted him a few days later to inquire about the result he said he had not prayed as he had promised having decided to be “non-denominational in his beliefs.” I replied that I was non-denominational in my friendship and wondered if he felt the same. He assured he that he did.

Well following a wonderful southern dinner with he and his wife on a Saturday evening and a spirited gospel discussion he commented privately to me, “There are some things I would like to discuss with you alone. Would you be willing to meet with me?” I told him I would, wondering what he had in mind with Sister H coming to the conclusion that he was going to ask for money, and we set a date for Monday morning at 10 a.m. at his home. That morning Brother Four said that he was feeling at a dead end no longer having a congregation, preparing and performing his ministry, and generally feeling left out. I pointed out that we could take care of that quickly with his baptism and give him all the work he could handle. He laughed. On top of those feelings two weeks ago he was laid off, his car was broken down and he needed a hernia operation. He laid out an elaborate plan involving the various churches in the area to feed all the homeless and hunger in southern Orange, County. We spent considerable time evaluating how to do so, who would have to be involved and who I knew in the church that we would have to run the plan through. I promised to contact those individuals and to do his part. As we concluded I extended the invitation for him to inquire of the Lord to learn if the wonderful spiritual experiences he has enjoyed these many years weren’t his for the Lord’s purposes of preparing him to receive the further truth of the Restored Gospel? He looked me in the eye and said, “Yes, I will do that.” We joined hands and prayed together followed by a long-lasting hug and tear in both our eyes. He walked me to the car. As I was getting in I reminded him of his promise to offer that prayer and he said, “That is something my wife is hoping for.” Later in the day Thomas sent me an article he wrote entitled “A Firm Foundation,” asking that I read, take notes and get back to him as soon as possible.

I contacted the appropriate mission personnel extracting a promise for all to complete their assignments but ten days later learned that the key service individual in our mission had yet to do so even after explaining how crucial our followup on this would be for this brother. Interesting in visiting with the Stake President later I learned he had the same idea and was working through some red tape and if he can pull it off there will be such a feed in March. I told him about Brother Four and he promised to let me know if it was coming off and include Brother Four in the process. Later I discovered an interfaith food pantry sponsored by the Santa Margarita Stake and two other interfaith activities that I shared with Brother Four.

The California Irvine Mission choir, all 80 strong, performed the Sacrament meeting in the Aliso Creek Ward Sunday. There were a lot of smiling faces and teary eyes including the Twenty-first family who was there with us. Overheard the following two comments: One older gentleman in the HP group said, "I had a lump in my throat the entire Sacrament meeting." One sister told me, "I don't know why I put on mascara. I cried the whole meeting."

Speaking of the Twenty-first family we left copy of the Book of Mormon for Children on their doorstep for their 4 year old to learn about the Book of Mormon. When they returned from their Saturday trip they texted us how grateful there were for the book and announced that Emily had already read the first chapter. The father than confided to me, “It was easier for me to understand too.”

Heard from the high councilor over missionary work that he and the stake president were pleased with the focus on inviting I had put in the email to the bishops. Always good to know you are on the same wave length as your priesthood leaders. Shared with the bishop of the Lake Forest Ward: In my study this morning came across this quote very close to Einsteins: "To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done." (Elder Richard G. Scott, "Finding the Way Back," May 1990.)

Received a request from our niece for some information on Heavenly Father which she wanted for a Relief Society class she was teaching the next day. I sent what I could that evening. However the next morning early I had a prompting to send something about visualizing God before visiting Him in prayer which I put together and sent not knowing if it would arrive before she left to teach her class.

One of the things I have learned that greatly assists me in approaching God in prayer and allows me to feel what is going on about me, is to visualize God as I approach Him. Because our mortal sojourn is primarily for us to learn to walk by faith, our memory of our pre-life existence has been largely forgotten. But we don’t have to remember what God looks like to visualize Him. In your mind’s eye, make Him look like what you want Him to look like. Further in your visualizing, place Him and yourself in some environment that is comfortable to you. You might see yourself visiting with him under a spreading tree on the 18th hole of a golf course, sitting and communicating with Him on a floating cloud, on the beach looking out over a beautiful vista, in some mountain glade or on top of a mountain peak. It is all up to you. Use your imagination. For some reason, such visualization fixes our thoughts, keeps them from wondering, refines focus and sharpens our ability to feel.

In approaching God in this way, you will find yourself focusing on the “little things” in life more clearly. You will recognize that God is truly in your life from these “little things” and come to see what He does for you, in a very intimate way, on almost a daily basis. These “coincidences of life” I treat as packets of sunshine and happiness that my Father in Heaven bestows upon me regularly to remind me of His love for me individually and His interest in my life and living. What I do is look for these packets of happiness each day and really enjoy them and then give appreciation and gratitude to Heavenly Father each time I recognize them. I have been doing this for so long now I never see anything as a coincidence anymore. Everything is always a love note from my Heavenly Father. This expression of love emboldens and fortifies me against the world’s onslaught and helps me maintain perspective.

Clearly that brief message was something the Lord wanted her to have in her mind during her class for I received from her this note—“In opening my lesson I asked if anyone wanted to share experiences praying to Heavenly Father that are similar to Joseph Fielding Smith, who according to his grandson ‘prayed as though he was talking to a friend’. A sweet elderly sister commented that she pictured Heavenly Father as she prayed to him. What a great segue into the info you sent me. I shared your thoughts and we had conversation. Went great from there.”

Had to bear down in boldness with Brother Two who is struggling with moving ahead in receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. We had quite a discussion Sunday evening following our meetings and other discussions and the next morning he called to ask what he had to do to set up an appointment with the Bishop. This is a wonderful young man whom the Lord needs on the battle line.

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