Saturday, June 30, 2012

Matthew 7: 7-11 Random Coincidence?

I had a very interesting experience last evening. But before I get to it, I need to provide you with a little background information. If you scroll a few blog posts down you’ll see that we recently moved to the Dallas, TX area. Whenever you move it gives you the opportunity to ask yourself, “Do I really want to lug, ‘that item’ again to a new place?” It’s a great opportunity to throw stuff away.

As is usually the case with our moves, I went first for work, and Wendy tied up loose ends at home and came later. In this instance the loose end was allowing our son, Colby, to graduate high school before moving. Anyway, we had dining room chairs that were well past their useful lives. They were broken, tattered, stained, etc. Wendy made the executive decision to leave them behind.

This presented unique challenges as we don’t really have any good chairs now. We had a couple of folding metal chairs, a couple of $10 plastic office chairs with wheels, i.e. we could sit, but our dining room was not what anyone would describe as aesthetically pleasing. It was functional, that was good enough to start with.

If you scroll further down my blog you’ll see that I was in Boston a while back on a business trip. I had a great time there. I had the opportunity to attend the ward where I was staying. A kindly man asked if I wanted to join him and his wife for dinner. I think they like their anonymity so I’m not going to post their names, but if you visit Boston and you run into them your lives will be blessed by the experience I can assure you. Anyway, when I got to their house I was informed that they had a tradition that everyone that ate there had to sign the table cloth. The man pulled out his table cloth (you do not eat over this table cloth), and laid it across the table. I looked at him dumbfounded. He chuckled and replied, “Yeah, I know. Just try to find somewhere to sign.” The table cloth was covered in signatures.

I asked them if they knew how many signatures were on the table cloth. He, being a mechanical engineer, was tracking that in an Excel spreadsheet. His wife said, “We’ve gotten a little behind in updating the spreadsheet, but there’s a little over 2,000 names on it.” Seriously, how cool is that?

It was a wonderful evening. They had invited over others as well and we had a great evening together. It inspired me. I went home and bought a table cloth. I do not know if I’ll come near the 2,000 signatures they have, but we’re trying.

Okay, so that’s the back story. I own a table cloth. The intent of the table cloth is to motivate me to go out of my comfort zone and invite people over for dinner. I’m an accountant, so I like my Excel spreadsheets, but I’ll never be accused of being an extrovert. I don’t have enough chairs to be inviting people over for dinner, and we haven’t found money in the budget yet to buy enough for our dining room.

Enter Matthew 7: 7-11:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

After our family scripture study we have been praying to be able to acquire some chairs so we can invite people over for dinner. My friends in Boston seemed to invite over people that were visiting or brand new to the ward. I thought I would do likewise. It really meant a great deal to me that they invited me, a complete stranger, over for dinner. I was on the road, missing my family, and they filled a need when I needed it most. Maybe I could do the same for someone else.

I think at this point I also need insert Ether 12:6:

6 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.

We have invited the missionaries over a few times since we’ve moved here, but we hadn’t yet invited anyone else. Last Sunday, I invited a friend from work to go to church with us and I would make them their favorite meal, Mac n Cheese afterward. (Coincidentally, I make a killer mac n cheese with Smoked Gouda, Aged Asiago, and Sharp Cheddar).

My friend from work became the 25th signature on the table cloth; I’m not quite to 2,000 yet.

Last night we had the missionaries over for dinner. Just as a side note, missionaries don’t mind sitting in rickety, broken down chairs. Anyway, I’m driving them home and as I’m doing so, we’re going through road construction and it looks like they’re about to close the road down. I realize that I’ll have to find another way back home. As I was thinking it dawned on me that the way I would’ve chosen wouldn't work also due to the construction, so I traveled home along a different route that I had never gone before. I was fairly certain I could get home that way, but I wasn’t sure until I actually tried it.

As I’m driving through a residential neighborhood, low and behold, I see several dining room chairs on a lawn with a for sale sign on them. It wasn’t a garage sell. It was after 8:00 p.m. and it was just chairs and a couple of pictures.

I raced home and got Wendy. I had no idea what they were selling for, but if they were just sitting on a lawn I was guessing the owners of the chairs were willing to deal. The owners were a younger couple that had to move. They couldn’t fit the dining room table and chairs into their new place and so they were selling a complete set of six dining room chairs and four other very nice chairs. For less than the price of what two of the chairs would’ve cost retail, we acquired all ten.

Coincidence that I was driving a path I never had before? Coincidence that the very items I needed were sitting on a lawn? Not even by a long shot. I think the Lord now expects me to invite people over since he found us some chairs. Who knows, come visit our ward and you might get dinner out of it too.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Nephi 18 – A Study in Contrasts

I have always been fascinated by this chapter of scripture. It shows a significant contrast in how Nephi and his older siblings, Laman and Lemuel, respond to calls from the Lord.

As we read in the previous chapter, Nephi was commanded to build a ship. He had never done this before. His brothers mocked him, and refused to help. Eventually the Lord required him to use a little divinely inspired percussive persuasion to get them moving. It was ONLY after this experience that they repented and worshipped the Lord.

I get the impression however, that they weren’t thrilled with the task of building a ship when they believed that their brother had no idea of what he is doing. This point is brought home in verse 4, when we read that it was ONLY after the ship was built and looked good that his older brothers “humbled themselves again before the lord.”

The point being that Laman and Lemuel would only repent after they saw a sign or received some blessing from the Lord. Nephi’s life is in stark contrast to that paradigm.

When Nephi was commanded to build a ship, his response wasn’t, “Love to Lord, but I have no idea how to do that so if you could find someone with a little know how, I’ll chip in.” He got to work, and by that I mean he dug the ore to build the tools he would need to build a ship and then built the ship.

So the ship is built. Everyone agrees that it is well made. They set off for the promised land. At some point in time in their journey, his brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives, began to be very rude. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it caused Nephi anxiety that it would cause the Lord to stop helping them on their journey.

Accordingly, he asked them to tone down their behavior. Did they comply? Of course not. They got angry at him and eventually tied Nephi to the mast of the ship. This is the part that really amazes me about Nephi. For most of us, at least for me, it would be human nature to say, “Really Lord? You had me go through so much grief just to get it built and now I’m tied to its mast by my ingrate brothers?” He was tied to the mast for 4 days. Stop to think about that for a while. There are certain things that the human body needs to do on a daily basis, like use the restroom. He was not untied for 4 days. Anything he needed to do during that period was done strapped to the ship’s mast. How humiliating. Are you with me here? He built the ship to save him and his family, including his brothers. He has done everything he can to serve those that hate him and would like to see him dead. Instead of griping about his situation, or cursing the Lord for the injustice of it all, the scriptures state, “Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”.

Awesome right? Here’s a person that had every right to complain…but didn’t. I try to think of this scripture often as I’m going through challenges and struggles. It helps me to remember that the Lord really is aware of what I’m going through, and He has his purposes for what He wants me to experience and become. I only hope that I can try to be a little more like Nephi as I’m traversing life’s difficult ocean of trials and tribulations.