Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Parable of the Frozen Pond: Part 3

"How?  How can I break this ice?  It must be several feet thick!  I would need some kind of a mechanical drill to get through it. Or a flamethrower," you add on sardonically. The little you chuckles.  "You can't just break this ice.  We are so inclined to thinking of 'quick fixes' these days.  It takes time to freeze water, doesn't it?  Remember when we would fill the ice tray with Sprite in the summer, and how it seemed to take forever for it to freeze?"
 You nod, although a little perturbed at the reminder that you are both the same person.
 "It's the same with hearts!"exclaims little you. "They don't just turn to stone.  It is a process.  Day by day, thought by thought, sin by sin.  When subjected to enough trial, pain, and heartbreak, even the most stalwart hearts can harden, merely to protect ourselves from all the pain we experience in this life.
 "Just as the spring sunrise will thaw an icy pond, so will turning to the Son bring you a 'broken heart and a contrite spirit'. You have been in the dark too long, you have allowed your heart to harden, and grow cold.

 "First, let me ask: why would you want to change?  Why does the Lord "require the heart"?  What's the big deal with hearts, anyway?"
  The question hangs in the air.  You are thinking. 
  Why IS the heart such a big deal?  Why do the scriptures always talk about the heart?  Didn't they know it's the BRAIN that controls everything?  The heart is just a bunch of muscle!  In fact, it's probably good to have a hard heart.  That just means it's healthy and strong, right? You reflect inwardly.  But that can't be right; the Lord tells us time and time again that "heardheartedness" is a sin. 
 "Well," you respond, finally, "our hearts reflect what we desire, right?  I mean, anything with hearts is usually referring to love and stuff.  So the Lord says He 'requires' our hearts because He just wants us to love Him, right?" you venture hopefully.

 "Well, kind of." replies little you. "The Lord does command us to love Him, first and foremost.  But what then does He command us to do?"
 Suddenly a primary song from your childhood seems to ring in your ears.  As I have loved you, love one another....
 "Love our neighbors!" you almost shout with excitement. "The Lord commands us to love everyone, as ourselves!"
 "Right! You are officially caught up to Primary level.  That's good a start."
 Your face burns as little you continues, "Jesus doesn't so much ask us to love Him, but to love each other as He does. You see, almost all people are selfish and prideful by nature.  Love just doesn't come naturally, although some people have more proficiency at it than others.  Love takes work.  Love takes effort.  Love sometimes means opening ourselves up to pain, and giving selflessly to others."
 "We learn from the sermon on the mount that we should not only 'love our neighbors', but our enemies as well. For even the sinners love those who love them back.  Christ asks us to love everyone, regardless of how they treat you."
 "But that's impossible!" you blurt out, thinking of a coworker who has given you a particularly bad time. "How can we be expected to love people who are just so....unloveable?!"
 The little you looks at you, sadly.  "No one is unloveable.  That's what Christ teaches us.  When we see others as He does, infirmities, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, and all, it's impossible not to love someone.
 "Take Bob for example," little you continues, referring to the coworker whose memory had just incited you to anger, "he seems like an impossible person, right?  Constantly on your back, making fun of your haircut, quick to point out your mistakes and your flaws in your work. Loud, crude, obnoxious, arrogant, prideful, the laundry list of bad traits goes on. He doesn't care about anyone's feelings about himself, right?"
 "...Right." you answer after a short pause, not quite sure if you are being tricked or not.
 "Well let me tell you a few things you don't know about Bob.  He was born in a broken family; a family of five children who were supported only by his mother.  As the oldest, Bob got a job as soon as he was able, to help support the struggling family.  He was fourteen when he first got a job working as a farmhand.  He would work all day after school until sundown, every day.  By the time he got to high school, his mom became terminally ill with cancer.  She slowly passed away, leaving Bob to take care of his one brother and three sisters. He had to drop out of high school to work full time, allowing his siblings to go continue getting an education. Two of his sisters are teachers, one is a lawyer, while his younger brother is in school to be a heart surgeon."
 "Bob works with you at the grocery store because that is the best job he will probably ever be able to attain."

 The little you pauses, and you are surprised to feel tears again running down your cheeks.  That's not all, either, as you realize you are standing in several inches of water, up past your shoe.  The water, however, was not freezing, but warm and soothing, like a bubble bath.  You look around and see that the pond has started to thaw in select spot, steaming slightly in the soft sunlight.  You suddenly realize that sun is starting to peek through the clouds over the trees as well! Suddenly a ray shines on you, and you feel an upwelling of emotion.  Not of fear, irritation, or anger, but of love and understanding for Bob Rudger.
 The light becomes blinding, and suddenly you start to phase out of consciousness.  You hear little you's voice, growing steadily more distant, say, "this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also."

 You open your eyes with the sun shining in the window on your face. You smile. It's going to be a good day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Parable of the Frozen Pond: Part 2

 You start, looking up at the source of the voice.   You rub your eyes again, because you can't be seeing what you're seeing.
 It's you.
  But a you from a long time ago.  You can't be older than 10, yet there you are, smiling warmly, knowingly, at yourself.
 "Don't be afraid. I'm here to help you. Us."
 You don't know what to say.  You don't know if you can speak, anyways.  Thankfully, the young you continues, "There's something you need to know about this pond. It isn't just any pond.
 It's your heart."
 "We all have a heart within us, much like this pond.  It swells and ripples, some places are deep, and others are shallow.  The pond is deeper where we feel deep love for people, like our friends or family.  Other parts are shallow, like your love for a good movie or slize of pizza."
 "Sometimes the water is disturbed, roiling and crashing on the shore as you face adversity in life.  Emotions like anger, doubt, fear, and jealousy disturb the waters of the pond"
 "Other times, it is still as glass, reflecting the beauty all around it.  As the waters cease to roil, you can see the clarity of the water, and the depths beneath.  It is a beautiful thing to behold, and is a benefit to all who are near."
 "Your heart was once like this: free, clear, beautiful.  That's why I am here.
 "What is your heart now?"
 Having regained a little composure, you choke out a reply.

 "That's right," replies the little you, still smiling, yet a little somberly. 
 "You see, just as water can stagnate, so can the heart.  Just as a pond can freeze, so can the heart.  How does a pond freeze?"
 "Well, it has to be cold," you reply.  "Right?" you add on, uncertainly.
 "That's right, and now we're to the point of why I'm here.
 I'm here to teach you about the Atonement of Jesus Christ."

 "We are shaped by every decision we make in life.  Every choice, every action, has eternal consquences we can't begin to fathom. From the time you were little, you have been making choices that have slowly affected your pond.  As you stepped onto the ice, what did you see?"
 You ponder the question a moment before you answer. "I saw everything," you answer, "Everything I've ever done wrong.. Every hurt I've ever dealt.  Every sin I've ever committed."
 "Oh no," replies little you, "that wasn't everything. That was just a mere fraction.  If you were to behold every sin, wrong, and misdeed you had committed, you wouldn't be able to live with yourself.  Remember the story of Alma the Younger? He was 'harrowed up by the memory of his many sins', so much that he was unconscious for the span of three days! That didn't happen to you, did it?" the little you adds with a smile.
 "I guess not," you admit.
Your youthful doppelganger continues, "What you saw was to help you understand why are you standing on this icy pond.  It hasn't always been this way.  In fact, not too long ago, this was a beautiful place.  The water was clear, and the sun shone in its radiant warmth all the time.  At night, the stars reflected on the surface like a mirror.  Birds sang, and deer came to drink every morning.
  Your heart used to love. It used to bask in the warmth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
 There is no warmth now."

   Those words hit home.  You wipe the frozen tears from your cheeks and look up to the little you.  "Ok, you're right.  Maybe I've been feeling a little more impatient lately.  I know I can be a bit nicer and giving and stuff I guess. I know I've been skipping out on church too... but it's not my fault!" the words start coming faster now, and you feel heat rising in your face.  "I've been working all the time, and I don't get paid enough, and you've seen the people I work with!  I mean, no I'm not perfect, but I'm trying! I don't think I'm any worse than the next guy! And so what if my pond is icy?! Maybe I like having an icy pond!  There's nothing wrong with that! I like to skate!" you add on almost as an afterthought, oblivious to the humor of the statement.
 The silence that followed seem to hang in the icy air.
After what seemed like eons, your youthful voice breaks the silence. "You're right.  You aren't perfect.  And you aren't 'worse than the next guy'.  There are many frozen ponds in the world today.  It is a very cold place, bereft of the love and peace and warmth that can only come from Son.
 Too many are lost.  Too many have grown cold.  Too many don't even know how to find the warmth they seek. A heart that loves Christ, and his fellowman, is a precious commodity indeed.  You knew this once. You felt this once. The reason your pond is frozen isn't because the Savior has turned away.  His loving arms are always open to us.  You are the only one who can choose to come to Him, and He is the only one who can thaw your frozen heart.  That is why I'm here.
 Now let's melt the ice."

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Parable of the Frozen Pond: Part 1

It's been a long day.  You stumble in the door, wearied by the stresses of the day.  You reflect on everything that happened as you stagger to the bathroom to wash your face.   It was just one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  Nothing went right! Your thoughts simmer as you look into the mirror, seeing only a tired, disgruntled face looking back at you. You're tired of people. You're tired of work.  Your tired of responsibilities. You ask yourself out loud why life is so hard, a sharp edge of bitterness in your voice.  You make a personal goal to take tomorrow off, and not to talk to a single soul.  Yep, a good day of lounging on the couch, watching movies, maybe some ice cream... that will give you the boost you need to get back into the flow of things. 
 For now, you decide to collapse onto your bed, clothes and all.  Sleep takes you almost instantly.

You open your eyes, squinting, until your eyes focus.  You rub them, shivering.  You are standing in a tranquil forest glen, but the branches are empty and the trunks cold and bare.  A thick layer of snow is covering the ground, and the sky above is a deep, roiling gray.  There are snowflakes glittering through the air, one lands squarely on your nose with an icy bite.  Where are you?  As you look around, you see a trail.  Since the alternative is glomping through the snow, you decide to follow it.
 You walk for what seems like a few minutes, but perhaps a few hours, and you come to a clearing in the trees. A pond slowly comes to view, and the trail ends right at the bank of it.
 Now, your natural instinct tells you this is the end of the trail.  But you feel something inside you, encouraging almost, to step onto the ice.  You stand there, hesitant.  You've been on thin ice before, and that was an experience you won't soon forget.  The feeling doesn't go away, and you again receive the strangely comforting prompting to step onto the pond.  You take a deep breath, and step forward.

 For a moment, you think you must be dying.  Your life is flashing before your eyes.  But these aren't the memories you expected... You see yourself, young, stealing your little sister's candy and pushing her to the ground.  The image flashes forward to another of you, furtively, slyly, stealing a snickers bar behind your mom's back at the grocery store.  More and more flit before your eyes; fights with your parents, lies you told to your friends... hurt feelings, bitter choices, angry words.  As the memories progress, they seem to gain speed.  You are in high school, now leaving to college, being fired from your job, leaving your old apartment for a cheaper one, the memories flood on.  Then, as suddenly as they started, they stop.  You hadn't noticed that you had fallen to your knees during the onslaught.

 You are in the middle of the pond now, but you realize you are quite safe.  This water is frozen; probably several inches, if not feet, thick.  Still on your knees, you realize your face is bitterly cold, wet with tears.  What was the purpose of all this?  Why did you just relive all the worse memories of your life? Wasn't your life at least fairly happy?  Why can you only remember the worst parts? Exhausted, forlorn, your shoulders slump and the tears continue to track down your freezing cheeks.

Suddenly a voice cuts the icy silence.
"Maybe you'd like to know what this all means?"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nerd's Eye View: Episode III

Return of the Family

Everyone has a family.  We are all born from a mother and father, often with other siblings as well.  Families come in all varieties; while not all are what you would call the typical "nuclear" family, we all have one. Every family faces different challenges and different circumstances.  But, no matter the situation, the true blessing of a family comes from the support and love they offer each other through the storms of life.
 This is by divine design.  This is why the family is a universal unit. It doesn't matter if you are from America or a tiny island in the South Pacific, from Earth or a small desert planet in the Outer Rim Territories.
 There will always be families.

 Growing up, Luke's family were his Aunt and Uncle, Owen and Beru.  Although not his bioligical parents, they raised him, nurtured him, taught him, and provided for him.

Owen, a moisture farmer, was a little rough around the edges but had a good heart.  He taught Luke the value of hard work while forging a meager existance on the baked terrain of Tatooine.

  Beru, Owen's wife, shows a tender and compassionate heart as she implores Owen to let Luke go to school, rather than stay home at the farm as all his friends move on in life.  She was a voice of reason and kindness, and no doubt taught Luke the value of showing love to others.

 Luke never knew his birth mother or father growing up.  The most Uncle Owen would say about him was that he was a pilot for spice freighters.
 Then, one day, two droids appeared that would change Luke's life, and family, forever. Despite his training into Jedi, warping to all ends of the galaxy, mastering the force, saving a princess(/sister), blowing up a death star, hugging a wookie, etc... in the end what changes Luke's life the most are four simple words:

"I am your Father."

 We all know the story of the Prodigal Son.  A young, foolish son approaches his father, asking for all the money of his inheritance.  The father kindly, although I imagine somewhat apprehensively, does so.  The son, with all his newfound money, freedom, and power, "wasted his substance on riotous living."  As his money depletes, he finds all his fairweather friends leave him.  He is left to tend to pigs, starving even for "the husks that the swine did eat."  Happily, that is not where the story ends.  The son, humbled and weak, has a change of heart and returns to the father.  The father, who had love and faith in his son all along, embraces him warmly and lovingly.  His son is redeemed.

 What we learn from this galaxy far, far away is the story of the Prodigal Father. Darth Vader, originally a bright young boy named Anakin Skywalker, is seduced to paths of darkness in the course of his life.  When Luke learns of his father's identity, he knows, almost instictively, there is still good in his father's heart. Despite the continual bad choices (including, but not limited to, lightsaber battles) of Darth Vader, his son believes in him.
 Later on, when Luke's life is about to end at the hands of the evil Emporer, Anakin's love shines through the black metal and polyester, and he, at the cost of his own life, saves the life of his only son.
 His last words are,
"Tell your sister you were right."

 Families are built on sacrifice, love, and faith.  It doesn't matter who raises you, what color your skin is, or what galactic vector you reside in, the family has always been, and the family will always be. It is something that is sacred, beautiful, and must be revered and protected.  We mustn't lose faith in our loved ones who have lost their way, but have faith in them as our Father in Heaven has faith in us. And remember,
 we are all family.

May the Spirit be with you!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nerd's Eye View: Episode II

"Judge me by my size, do you?"

 We all have people that guide us in our lives.  Be they parents, friends, or mentors, it would be very difficult to fulfill our potential without a little help from somebody older and wiser.  This is by divine design; our Father in Heaven wouldn't leave us here without someone to teach us, guide us, help us, and, sometimes, reprove us, to help us reach our potential.  They may not be the strongest, they may not be the richest, they may not even be the smartest, but if we heed their counsel, we will be blessed.

 Yoda didn't have a big house.  He didn't need one.  He's approximately two feet tall.  His home, small, meager, and cozy, reflected his attitude towards life.  In his 900 plus years, he had learned that the measure of one's success does not lie in large, glittering palaces or flashy landspeeders.  Instead he chose to live on a planet so isolated and remote that it didn't even appear on the galactic map, so to speak.  Yoda's power and wisdom came not from impressive stature or possessions, but from sacrifice and humility.
  When Luke is mentored by our favorite green...whatever he is, he undergoes rigorous mental, physical, and even spiritual training to prepare him for what he must do.  When Yoda asks him to lift rocks (while doing a handstand, mind you), with a lot of effort and focus he is able to do so.  But when he is confronted with a problem as big as an X-Wing in a bog, he loses all faith in the apparent enormity of the task. "You want the impossible!" he exclaims. 
 As he turns away in frustration, he hears the sound of rushing water, and turns to find his X-wing being lifted from the mire.  Yoda, old, short, green, was excavating the ship; not by strength or wisdom, but by faith.
 "I don't believe it!" cries Luke.
 Yoda replies, "That is why you fail."

"And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."

 Whether we realize it or not, we face challenges like this every day.  God has called men to guide us through the (sometimes) murky wilderness of life.  These men, like Yoda, may not have rippling biceps, numerous degrees, or swiss bank accounts, but by their faith they can move mountains and direct us through our trials. What they ask may not always be easy, but if we listen and obey with faith, we too can accomplish the impossible.

"Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try." ~Yoda
"Do it." ~Spencer W. Kimball

May the Spirit be with you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Gospel: A Nerd's Eye View

 Star Wars.
 Those two simple words bring a flood of memories to me, and, I'm sure, to you as well.  What is it about this epic saga in space that causes people to dress in white plastic shinguards with suffocating helmets (in public), swing multicolored-retractable-plastic sticks at each others heads, and casually use in a sentence otherwise incomprehensible things such as, "let the wookie win"?

  Yes, if you are guilty of any or all of these aformentioned attributes, you are likely a fan of Star Wars.

 Star Wars has a place in my heart, not only because it warps me to a galaxy far, far away with planets, aliens, and ships from the nether regions of my childhood (and, admittedly, my adulthood as well), but because it magnificently touches on many things much closer to home.  Star Wars, at its core, is a story of family, choices, and redemption. It is a story that we all relate to, regardless of how many parsecs separate us from Tatooine.
My "CT-R2" :)
  In exactly that same vein, the gospel of Jesus Christ is something universal to everyone: one could even say "it surrounds us, it penetrates us, [and] it binds [us all] together."  The gospel can be applied to everything in life. And so I'm going to write a series of posts that combine two things I love, the Gospel and Star Wars, to show how we can see the spiritual side in that galaxy far, far away; and maybe even a little closer to home as well.
EPISODE 1: Light vs Dark
 In the course of the series, Luke is led to a choice to follow the Light side of the force and be a Jedi, or succumb to the power and temptations that the Dark side offers.  We hear from Nephi a similar dilemma:
"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." ~2 Nephi 2:27
 If we are to learn anything from the tragic story of Darth Vader, it is that if we allow our emotions to control our actions, we will surely succumb to the Dark Side of the force.  We all face that same decision in real life; will we choose to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or will we lose ourselves to the Father of All Lies?
 As with the force, you do not simply one day decide to go over to the dark side. Your actions lead you there, step by step, until you are held captive by the darkness.
 "yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever..and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell."
Satan entices us to do wrong, slowly, carefully, until we are bound down by his chains of hell. 
On the other hand, we know that God works in light.  Just as Luke chose not to give into temptation, but to stand for good and hope, we too can choose the right. Our lives are marked by choices; we either succumb, or overcome.  If we choose the right, we will find ourselves in the side we all want to be on.  We all want to follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
  I pray we will all remember Jesus Christ a bit more, and why we follow Him. Every decision is crucial to who we will become, and where we will end up. If we keep His commandments, and follow the path He has laid for us, we will become more receptive to the whispers of the Spirit. We will find it not only clear, but easy, to choose light over dark. We will become like the Master.

 If I may slightly alter the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi,
 "May the [spirit] will be with you."