Friday, August 25, 2017

To Disobey a King

A couple of weeks ago, I taught the Sunbeams (the 3 year olds at church) about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Do you remember them?  

About 600 years before Jesus was born, just after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar , king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and took captive many of Israel's finest citizens. Among those were four young men from the tribe of Judah: Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah..  In captivity, the youths were given new names. Daniel was called Belteshazzar, Hananiah was called Shadrach, Mishael was called Meshach, and Azariah was called Abednego.
These four Hebrews excelled in wisdom and knowledge and found favor in King Nebuchadnezzar's eyes. The king put them into service among his most trusted wise men and counselors.

When Daniel proved to be the only man capable of interpreting one of Nebuchadnezzar's troubling dreams, the king placed him in a high position over the whole province of  Babylon. And at Daniel's request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as administrators under Daniel.

As was common at the time, King Nebuchadnezzar a huge golden image and commanded all the people to fall down and worship it whenever they heard the sound of his musical herald. The awful penalty for disobeying the king’s order was to be thrown into a blazing furnace.  

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were determined to worship the One True God only and thus were reported to the king. Bravely they stood before him as the king pressured the men to deny their God. They said:
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

Furious with pride and rage, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound and cast into the flames. The fiery blast was so hot it killed the soldiers who had escorted them.

But as King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the furnace, he marveled at what he saw:
"But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." (Daniel 3:25, ESV)

Then the king called the men to come out of the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged unharmed, with not even a hair on their heads singed or the smell of smoke on their clothing.

Needless to say, this made quite an impression on Nebuchadnezzar who declared:
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God." (Daniel 3:28, ESV)

Through God's miraculous deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that day, the rest of the Israelites in captivity were given freedom to worship and protection from harm by the king's decree.

And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego received a royal promotion.

Some things I like to learn and remember from this story – 

Isn’t that just crazy?! To make something and then to worship it?!  But sometimes I think we do that with our “things.” We don’t bow down and pray to them, but we give them all our attention and thought instead of thinking about being kind and obeying Heavenly Father.  Having and enjoying our stuff sometimes seems more important to us than praying, studying scriptures, serving, doing our chores, etc. 

I taught this story to the Sunbeams in a lesson about obedience.  But! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego DISOBEYED the king.  Why is that a good thing to remember?  We should be careful to obey Heavenly Father and righteous leaders, but when someone in authority tells us to do something wrong, we should obey Heavenly Father and not the other leader.

That leads me to think about when the Spirit told Nephi to kill Laban (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 4).  Nephi had been taught that killing was wrong.  So he checked back with Heavenly Father and told Him that the idea of killing someone really bothered him.  God told Nephi why He wanted Nephi to kill Laban.  Nephi was in the habit of praying to and LISTENING to Heavenly Father so that he knew the voice of the Spirit form his own thoughts or the voice of Satan.  I am sure he had a spirit of confirmation when he prayed about this.  This whole conversation took place in just minutes or seconds.  We need to learn to talk to and LISTEN to Heavenly Father so that we learn to know his voice. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that Heavenly Father COULD save them from the fire, but they did not know if He WOULD.  They said “But if not”.  I hear something like  “Even if we suffer in this life for obeying God, we will obey Him and Him only, trusting in His love and justice that all well be right EVENTUALLY. “  We need to learn to trust and obey Heavenly Father even when it seems to cause us trouble here and now.  

I hope we can learn to be more like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  

by the way - the kids loved it

Friday, August 4, 2017

thoughts on litter

A scrap of paper lying in the hallway creates a nearly irresistible urge to pick it up.  You would think that I must be a wonderful house keeper with a spotless home. Unless, of course, you know me.  Then you know that my home is not quite bad enough to be on “Hoarders” but …..  


Going past my building I notice a lot of litter in the landscaping.  I do not stop to pick it up.  

It doesn’t take a lot of time to pick up one or two items.  When there are several, it takes more time and energy.   

And my house?  A LOT more time and energy.  Plus decision making.

Striving to live a righteous life is like that sometimes, too.  The more there is to work on, the harder it seems to be to do.  Instead of being overwhelmed by it all, we need to learn to to just do one thing at a time. It IS possible. So I tell myself.  Now I need to listen.  and DO.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The best funeral

It seems that I have been to many funerals. I have sadly been to funerals where the officiator clearly did not know the person or his family. Did not say the name correctly. Said nothing personal. I have been to celebrations of life. LDS funerals tend to be positive times of shared memories and testimonies of the Plan of Happiness and Salvation that assures us that death is not the end. When my great-uncle Esque died last December,  I attended probably the most personal and joyous memorial of all.

The officiator was warm, gracious, skilled, personal. We very surprised to learn later that he was not their long time friend and pastor, but that Kathryn had only met him after Esque died.

My Great Uncle Esque passed away on Dec 17th - a week before Christmas and 11 days before his 85th birthday. His wife Kathryn was not dismayed about the timing. They had celebrated together earlier.

Esque was the baby brother of Aurora Frost who married Gillette George McGinness, my grandparents. He often told my children and I of the love and kindness my grandparents showed him and brother Tom.

We were asked to wear bright colors as we rejoiced in his life rather than mourned. Some of his favorite music played before the services began. We were invited to share memories if we so desired. Person after person spoke of his kindness, work with California State Police, what a gentleman he was, and the great love he shared with Kathryn. Notable – his mother-in-law who is weeks younger than he is. Naturally she had some concerns when her daughter became involved with him, but he won them over with his love for Kathie and qualities of character. His neighbor almost could not speak as she wept – how many people even know their neighbors – let alone weep at their funeral? - She spoke of him as a dear friend and surrogate grandfather for her little girls. He was an expert marksman. I remember when he was in bomb disposal. A man of courage and dedication, generosity, and always good humor. As one of my sons said, when you visited with Esque, you always left with a smile.

The officiator eventually had to say, “This is the last one.” Then we enjoyed a slide show that began with a newspaper clipping of when their mother saved Esque and Tom (and Esque's Micky Mouse) from a fire and included him handsome in his uniform, and many other pictures from his life.

The service concluded with the Lord's prayer.

Esque was buried with other of my relatives half a mile from my house at St Mary's Cemetery during the worst part of a rainy, windy storm. Mourners huddled and shivered as Esque was honored by the military, the grave was blessed, and the casket lowered.

Later we met at The Cheesecake Factory where the hostess exclaimed, " I love Esque!"

Kathryn has been strong and brave. She chose to celebrate life and love.

not just for the aged

Last night I attended an End of Life Planning Seminar with The Swenson Law Firm 

Sam Swenson esq taught us about the various kinds of end-of-life planning with their pros and cons.

What I learned -
who needs end of life planning?  Pretty much EVERYONE who has rights/responsibilities.  Unless you are ok with the government making decisions regarding your possessions and dependents, legal battles, long probate
Everyone also needs (oh crud! I forgot the name) but the thing that authorizes someone to act for you if you cannot.  And possibly a separate document in which you say what life prolonging measures you do or do not want when things are dire.  It is a wrenching thing for the family to have to decide life or death.

Shocker - if I finally wrote a will and left my house and pennies to Miriam, the government agencies who have supplemented her health care would show up with a hefty bill and possibly take her off services and she would have to sell the house to pay them and  struggle to re-apply.
A Living Trust seems like the best way to go. 
Do It Yourself End of Life Planning may have unintended consequences because while they are pretty good in some ways, they don't know your situation,  the law for your state etc.
Here's what everyone should do
1. Write down their objectives - what do they want to happen when they die
or when they are incapacitated. (number 2 will help you figure it out maybe)
2. Inventory Assets and Debts
3. Select a professional to help.  Someone who know the laws and ins and outs.  Who can ask you questions and answer questions.
4. Have Legal Documents Prepared
5. Change Titles ! - it is no good to create a trust if you do not change the ownership legally
For you local people.  the Swenson meeting was NO pressure.  Just information. (and nice snacks.and not boring)  He will do an up to an hour FREE personal consultation during which he will not allow you to pay him or sign an agreement.  NO pressure.  They will send you  something if you want to hire him.  (not the thing they are sending me hopefully soon. That is just a worksheet to help you know what you have and what you want.  The agreement would be after the consultation)
I am pretty late to this party.  But I think everyone should consider it if you haven't already.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The challenge; choose 3 scriptures that represent you

The challenge; choose 3 scriptures that represent you.

The first one that I thought of is Mark 9: 23 “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Elder David A. Bednar expressed it well in October 2016 General Conference: ” I wonder if the intent of the man’s pleading was not primarily to help him believe in Jesus as our Redeemer and in His healing power. He already may have acknowledged Christ as the Son of God. But perhaps he needed help to believe the Master’s healing power indeed could be so individual and so personalized as to bless his own beloved son. He may have believed in Christ generally but not believed Christ specifically and personally.
We often testify of what we know to be true, but perhaps the more relevant question for each of us is whether we believe what we know.”

Elder Bednar said,”Is it possible to exercise faith in Him, follow Him, serve Him, but not believe Him?
“I am acquainted with Church members who accept as true the doctrine and principles contained in the scriptures and proclaimed from this pulpit. And yet they have a hard time believing those gospel truths apply specifically in their lives and to their circumstances. They seem to have faith in the Savior, but they do not believe His promised blessings are available to them or can operate in their lives. I also encounter brothers and sisters who fulfill their callings dutifully but for whom the restored gospel has not yet become a living and transforming reality in their lives. We come to know the Lord as we not only believe in Him but also believe Him and His assurances.”

It is as if this apostle knows me personally.

I identify a lot with Martha. Luke 10:38 “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

I often think that if Mary was  a bit more like Martha and helped, then Martha could be more like Mary and listen. I feel for Martha being left to serve alone. But Jesus didn't seem to think so. Mary probably helped before Jesus arrived. I think Martha was maybe a Martha Stewart type. It wasn't enough for the dishes to be clean, they had to be polished. Providing good, wholesome food wasn't enough, it had to be cut into shapes and look decorative. Needed tablecloths and floral arrangements. It was a way for Martha to show how much she loved and appreciated Jesus. Not bad things at all, but time consuming and eventually overwhelming for even capable Martha. Now, I am no Martha Stewart type by a long shot. I just know overwhelmed when I feel it which is a lot. I think Mary was more take care of the basics, keep it simple, and take time to BE with Jesus. I agree and identify with that, too; I just have trouble even taking care of the basics and start feeling overwhelmed and left to serve alone. Breathe, Martha. Let some of it go and feed your spirit.

Ok, the challenge might be limiting it to 3. But who say we have to? What will who do to me if I don't?

I love King Lamoni’s father. After being told about God, he prayed with great sincerity. Alma 22:18 “O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.” Am I willing to give away all my sins to know God? It's a good deal, but not easy.

A scripture I wish represents me, but I really need to work on it - Alma 56:48 “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”. I need to strengthen my own faith and testimony and to share them better with others, especially my children.

Corianton in The Book of Mormon, the woman taken in sin and brought before Jesus, Saul/Paul, and all of us - in need of forgiveness and grateful for the Atonement.

I could go on. The more I think about it, the more amazing and wonderful it seems that so many scriptures relate directly to me. But this is already unreadably long.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Elephant's Tale

Early in October I saw a Care2 Petition decrying the treatment of Packy the elephant at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.  Having spend part of my childhood in the Portland area, indeed I was there (in the Portland area, not the zoo itself) when Packy was born, and having visited the zoo since then when visiting relatives in the area, I was surprised and questioned what the petition claimed.

So I wrote to the zoo: "I grew up in the Portland area although I now live in Sacramento, CA.  I remember the excitement waiting for Packy's birth. "When is our Belle going to ring?" I have always held the Oregon Zoo in high esteem.  I was quite surprised to get a Care2 petition to save Packy from his sad life on a concrete floor without adequate exercise.  Please tell me what Packy's living conditions are and how he is doing. Thank you"

Today I received their response:

"Thank you for reaching out to the Oregon Zoo. We share your concern for Packy’s and all animals’ wellbeing, and are happy to address concerns.

"Unfortunately, some misinformation has been circulated about Packy’s condition and care. We’d like to provide you with accurate information, and we hope that it provides reassurance that animal welfare is our top priority.

"At 54, Packy is the oldest male of his species on the continent, and one of the oldest in the world. He was born at the Oregon Zoo in 1962, and lives here with his herd.

"Packy has tuberculosis, and so to prevent transmission to the other elephants, he must be physically separated from them. However, because they’re nearby, he can still smell and communicate with his family.

"TB has been documented in elephants for more than 140 years, in the wild and at zoos. As with humans, it is usually controllable with medication and often does not manifest in visible symptoms. The zoo routinely checks the elephant herd for TB as part of a comprehensive health program.

"In September, the zoo reported that a routine trunk-wash culture for Packy came back positive, indicating the presence of active TB. This was the first positive culture since Packy’s initial diagnosis in December 2013, and is an indicator that the current regimen has not successfully treated the infection. Zoo veterinarians are working with other experts to determine next steps.

"This result has had little impact on Packy’s day-to-day life: He has not exhibited clinical signs of TB, and has continued to play outside, dip in the pool, and get lots of attention from caregivers.

"Caregivers are thrilled that he has been exploring the full run of Elephant Lands — the habitat that reflects a new era in elephant welfare, and was informed by decades of learning from Packy about what elephants need to be both mentally and physically healthy. Packy ventured into the Elephant Lands South Habitat for the first time in July; he’s already identified a favorite log for pushing and scratching. In September he took his first dip in the 160,000-gallon swimming pool, bobbing for apples and yams. During the summer he was in the habit of bringing trunkfuls of water from the pool to get the mud wallow wet enough to fit his enormous body.

"Due to his advanced age, Packy has been reluctant to lie down. Caregivers have worked to get him into the pool in order to relax his joints. Now, not only has he played in the pool, but also this month he was spotted snoozing in the pool! Caregivers say Packy appears to be more agile. When he’s in the pool, he plays like he’s a calf again.

"As you probably know, Asian elephants are highly endangered in their range countries — threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, and is proud to play an important role in conservation. We support a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants, and recently established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.

"Thank you for reaching out to the zoo. Packy is a treasured member of our community, and we appreciate your concern."

I believe the Packy and his herd are well treated at the Oregon Zoo.  I also think that I need to be a little more skeptical about other Care 2 Petitions that come my way as I am, admittedly a bit of a sucker for wanting to do something to help animals in distress, especially when it is as easy as electronically signing a petiton.