Life is a Journey

Someone dear to me is struggling through a great challenge.  I admire her for the tremendous courage she shows each day.   Here is my analogy of life for her and for all those who need a boost of encouragement in the ongoing battle.

Imagine a woman climbing up a very tall hill.  At the top of the hill, just over the rise, is her home.  She walks towards it, knowing that in that home there will be complete rest, peace and joy.  There she will be reunited with her loved ones, her Father, and her Elder Brother.  She looks forward to that day so much.

Meanwhile, though, she has to keep walking, and the journey is long.  There are bumps in the road, rocks, snakes, and other obstacles that keep popping up.  She’s been wounded before, and she has many scars from her climb.  She’s lonely and cold and scared.  That’s a normal part of the journey, though.  Everyone encounters these things.  But this woman has an added challenge.  She faces a headwind that blows against her, day after day, minute after minute.  It is cold and relentless, and she wishes with all her heart that the wind would cease.  But the only promise she has is that when she gets home, there will be no wind.  This wind is very discouraging to her:  no matter what she does, it keeps blowing.  She does what she can to counteract its effects.  She wears a warm coat, gloves and a hat.  She has a nice, strong staff that she leans on.  She stops and eats hot, nourishing meals along the way.  When she sees others in need, she stops and helps them, and all these things help her and give her courage.  But still the wind blows.

This woman has great courage.  She keeps going.  She keeps putting one foot in front of the other, day after day.  Not only does she face the normal obstacles and this awful headwind, but she encounters people along the way who don’t want her to get home.  Their main goal is to stop her from continuing her walk, to give up.  They taunt her, criticize her, and tell her she can’t do it, and their cruel words torment her.  Sometimes she can’t seem to help listening to them.  They seem so logical, so persuasive.  After all, what does she know?  Maybe she should give up.  Maybe her home really isn’t just over the rise.  Maybe she really doesn’t have the capability to get there.  Maybe she should just lie down and quit.

But little does this woman know, there are others who walk with her.  Even though she feels so very alone, she isn’t.  There are other people walking beside her, cheering for her, encouraging her, praying for her, and strengthening her.  They were sent by her Elder Brother to help her, and they are there, every step of the way.  She is never alone.  And if she will call out to her Father, He will give her the strength and ability to finish her climb.  He knows what a choice person she is.  He allows her to face the challenges she faces because He knows she can do it.  When she finally gets home, he is going to put his arms around her and hug her, and tell her how proud He is of her, because she has faced the worst life could throw at her, and she didn’t give up.  She has conquered, and she has become a glorious being full of peace and light.

So I would tell this woman to stop listening to the voices that tell her she can’t do it.  Instead, listen to the ones who say she can, the angels who walk beside her and are always ready to comfort and help her.  I would tell her to make sure she wears her warm clothing that will shield and protect her against the power of the destroyer.  I would tell her to eat the hot, nourishing bread of life that is found in the scriptures, and to cling to the rod that she holds in her hands.  And I would tell her to keep on reaching out with compassion to the others she encounters along the climb, because when she helps them, she is also helping and strengthening herself.  Her love and compassion for others keeps on growing in proportion to how she serves them, and by serving them, she is serving her Father and showing her love for Him.

I would also tell her to keep singing battle songs — Yes, battle songs, for this climb is a battle, and we all need the courage that singing gives us.  Songs like Let Us All Press On, and How Firm a Foundation.  When those negative voices start to tear away at her, I would tell her to sing aloud.  She shouldn’t worry if she can sing well or not.  The point is, if her whole soul is singing, then the evil side can’t overcome her.  Most of all, I would tell her to keep on trusting in her Father, who believes in her, and to call on the Savior for help, for He will walk beside her and sustain her.  When it seems that all hope is gone, He will be there for her.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:35-39)

Keep on fighting.

(Photo by Daniel Nicolas)

 

 

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The Gift of Language

This month we celebrate Thanksgiving, and we stop and think about what we are thankful for.  I have been blessed so much, and just one of the things I am grateful for is language.

 And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration;

 And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.  (Moses 6:5-6, Pearl of Great Price)

The gift of language was given to Adam and his family.  They kept a book of remembrance.  Isn’t that wonderful?  They wrote it so the important things would be remembered, and they taught their children to read and write.  It contained their genealogy, their priesthood lineage, and a record of the events of their lives.  Think about how precious this is.  How I wish we had more information about Adam and Eve and their children!  But what if we didn’t have any? The only reason we have what we do is because they received this amazing gift of written language from God, and they preserved their stories and names to pass on to their descendants.   The records came down to Noah, and then down to Abraham, and then on to Moses, who included it in his writings.  It’s a lesson to me to make a record of my life for my descendants too.  (I hope they enjoy my books!)

I am thankful for my computer which allows me to write so much faster than I would be able to on paper. I am thankful for words, for the beautiful gift of language, for the meanings, and history, and richness of words from many languages.  I love words.

Language.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Patterns

One day when I was at the temple, I stared at the beautiful stained glass window for a long time, trying to figure out the geometric pattern the artist had used in his or her design.  But I couldn’t quite figure it out.  It didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  And then I realized that I couldn’t see the whole pattern.  I was seeing only a small piece of the whole picture.  There was more to the design both above and below and to the sides that was not visible to me.

Our lives are like this stained glass window, with lines of light and dark, of joy and sorrow, of good times and trial running through it.  We can’t see the whole pattern.  Just when we think we have it figured out, something happens that shakes us up.  The only way to get through these times is to remember that we don’t see the whole picture.  We see only our mortal lives, and we only understand a small portion of even that.  We can’t remember what it was like before, and we have only small glimpses of what it will be like after.  All we can do is trust the maker of the window, that He knew what he was doing.  If we go to Him, He will help us through the hard times.  And someday we’ll get to see the whole picture, and it will be beautiful.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (KJV 1 Corinthians 2:9)

Living Water

Water runs all through the scriptures in a joyous, never-ending flow.  The Israelites were a people living in a desert, and water was precious, life-giving, and sought after.  If we will plant ourselves beside the Lord, He will bring life and nourishment to the parched deserts in our lives, and healing to the barren places in our hearts.

 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.   (Psalms 1:1-3 KJV)

(Scene from Krithia, Greece)

River at Krithia

Come Unto Me

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

28. Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.
29. ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν:
30. ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν.

(See www.greek Bible.com and www.blueletterbible.org)

These verses are rich in symbolism.
Yoke/Ox – The yoke was a wooden crosspiece with two bow-shaped pieces that enclosed the head of each ox, which was then attached to the plow or wagon, allowing the animals to use their strength to pull the load or plough the land. For centuries, the ox was an essential animal for farming. He was patient, hard-working, and strong. Farmers took good care of their oxen, for their success depended on them. The yoke we are to take upon us is the covenant with Christ. We are not forced to enter into this partnership. He invites us – Come, all ye who labor and are heavy laden. The reward is rest for our souls or peace – that peace which passeth all understanding (Philippeans 4:7). The yoke is also an allusion to the cross.
The driver/farmer is a symbol of Christ. It doesn’t do him any good to have two oxen who won’t work together, or who try to go different directions. When we give our wills up to Him, he can get us going in the direction we need to be going. He can see the road ahead, or the path we are to take. We can trust His guidance.
Burdens – We all have sorrows, trials, and grief that we struggle with. The fact is, we do a poor job of trying to pull our burdens by ourselves. We become weary, tired, and exhausted. But when we come to the Savior, and take his yoke upon us, when we give ourselves willingly to Him and his work, then our burden is made bearable. His yoke is easy and light.
It is interesting that the word in Greek that is translated ‘easy’ means kind, easy, better, goodness; also useful, fit for use; also, manageable, mild, pleasant. The gospel is so easy – simple – that a child can understand it. It is doable. Our burdens are lightened by having the Savior pulling beside us. They become bearable because of Him. We find purpose and meaning by doing His work.
The Savior is also symbolized by the other ox. Think of two oxen pulling side by side. We are the weak ox, unfit for the work, but He, on the other hand, is strong and capable. He is also gentle and humble. He is going to be patient with us as we work beside Him. By pulling side by side in this partnership, He is taking on our burden and doing most of the work, but suddenly, with His help, we are able to do it. He makes the burden easier and lighter for us. And by continuing on in this way, we learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We slowly become stronger and more capable, more able to bear our trials, for with his help we can do all things.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. – Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

Footprints in the Sand

I love this poem which expresses the truth that we are not alone, ever.

‘Footprints in the Sand’
written by Mary Stevenson in 1936

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

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Photography by Daniel Nicolas