Thursday, September 7, 2017

All Things Bear Record of Me: The Basement

I substituted as the teacher in the Gospel Doctrine Sunday school class a few weeks ago.
It was in our new ward and I was a bit nervous. It's been several years now since I've been blessed to teach in one of the Lord's classes. And one thing became immediately apparent.
Things have changed.

This time I rolled into the room on my trusty electric cart and one of my lovely daughters had to write the lesson essentials on the board in her very neat, teacher-writing style.
Then she turned the chalk sideways and surrounded everything she had written in MY usual chalky-cloud border.
I didn't even have to ask for the clouds. She just drew them.
It was very touching.

I taught the lesson.
Afterwards, my other lovely teacher daughter volunteered gently that I had done everything essentially wrong.
She pointed out that this class is designed to include discussion. The instructor serves as the moderator who skillfully leads comments to touch on all doctrinal points outlined in the lesson.
Goofy stories about rocks were not discussion.

I agreed that class involvement is indeed a much better way to foster learning. I also have a feeling that both of my lovely teacher daughters are far more skilled than I in the logistics of this sometimes unwieldy teaching technique.

This brought to mind how wonderful it is to see your own children grow up to become mighty instruments in the hands of the Lord. Even when their skills far surpass your own in every way. Maybe especially when they do.

I would like to point out though that a major influence for one of those skilled daughters was the exceptional fifth grade teacher she was blessed to have in elementary school. We all know how important a favorite teacher can be. It was this one's influence that started her on the path of excellence that lasted a lifetime.
I was happy to have been that teacher and gratified to see the results.

Also, even though telling the goofy rock story was wrong, a person from the class did kindly ask for a "copy" of one of the other goofy stories I told.
Unfortunately I don't have copies of my stories. I keep them in unkempt, disorganized files in my head. And now I've noticed in alarm that pages are getting lost on a daily basis.

This particular story I heard decades ago. I've no idea where. It's not mine, of that I'm sure. But as soon as I heard it I began sharing it with my students. I've been telling it for years with unspoken gratitude to the author.

I'll attempt to remember it now for the nice lady who asked.

-------------------
The Basement
-------------------
Michael, a renowned professor of mathematics, lived with his family in a lovely home very near the university where he taught. His closest friend James, was a physicist who also taught at the university and lived with his family just two doors down the block. These two learned men had been associates for decades and their wives and children had also become close friends.

Yet, while the two men had a great deal in common, one major difference between them had caused much discussion over the years. The renowned professor of mathematics was a Christian and his friend was an atheist.
Many talks well into the night had not convinced either one of the other's viewpoint. But they were still friends in any case and over the years had become almost like brothers.

Well, one evening the two families were to have a barbeque at Mike the mathematician's home. The guests arrived. Children greeted each other noisily and ran out back to the festivities. Wives said hello and were off to the kitchen. Mike greeted his friend and headed out to the grill where he was creating his renowned hamburger masterpieces.
As he hurried out back to prevent burning he hollered over his shoulder, "Hey Jim, will you go down to the basement pantry and bring up a bottle of my famous barbeque sauce? I'm running low out here."
"Sure, but don't ruin dinner until I get there," was James's reply, as he opened the downstairs door.

As James turned on the light and descended the stairs he was stopped in his tracks by an amazing sight.
There on a large table, almost filling the entire room was the most intricate, astounding model of the solar system he'd ever seen! There were no words to describe it's beauty!
All of the planets appeared in correct relative size and color. The detail was unbelieveable. Jupiter's stormy eye swirled! Saturn's individual rings seemed suspended and glowing. Every planet had the correct number of moons, all revolving in precise mathematical orbits. He could see craters on the earth's moons in their proper place and size. There was even a ring of asteroids that whirled between the inner and outer planets!
All this revolved around a center light representing the sun which was incredibly bright and seemed suspended from nowhere!

Jim stood, mouth agape in astonishment until he heard Mike hollering for
sauce from above.
He bounded up the stairs, without the sauce, to pummel his friend with questions.
He started even before he reached his friend and the grill. "Mike, where in the world did you get such an astounding model!!! I've never in my entire life seen anything so incredible!! It should be in the Smithsonian after a world tour!!! Does the university president know about this? Come on, tell me everything!!!

He waited as he looked at his friend who was still turning hamburgers and hot dogs.

"Oh, you mean in the basement?" Mike asked casually.
"Well, it was the strangest thing. Mary and I had just gone to bed last night when suddenly we heard this terrific explosion coming from the basement. We both rushed down in a panic to see if we needed to evacuate the kids. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, there it was! We stood there watching it for the longest time before we could tear ourselves away and get back to bed. Beautiful isn't it?"

Jim looked at his friend as if he had lost his mind.
"Oh, come on, Mike! Do you think I'm an idiot! Nothing that intricate, detailed, and mathematically precise could come out of an explosion! Someone of astouding intelligence had to think this up and make it!!!

Mike locked gazes with his good friend and said, "Jim, that's what I've been telling you for years."
       


                                                                   
*Note
Lovely youngest daughter read this post and pointed out that I was in error once again.
I wasn't her favorite teacher. I was mean to her. Plus I didn't teach properly.
Mr. Honsigner and Mr Cheney were never mean to her. And they knew cool stuff.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Tender Mercy

It's been quite a while since I've scribbled any new thoughts.
I have an excuse though.
My mind always did wander, but lately it's been off meandering around in some strange and foreign lands.
It keeps getting lost in unfamiliar landscapes.
You see this old retired teacher now finds herself in the first months of being a widow. After 51 years of being married I've been left behind.

Here I am, sent back to school to master a difficult life lesson, and being forced to pay attention to boot!

Whatever I'm supposed to learn from this experience must be critically important too, considering the sheer number of Father's children who are faced with a similar lesson plan.

So, even though I often find myself gazing wistfully out the window, daydreaming about past picnics on the beach, I'll pray to be a good student.

When my mind wanders off I'll send it back to the classroom where I must have said a thousand times to some teenaged kid meandering on paths of their own....

 "Hector! (Or Lucinda, or whomever) Will you please pay attention! You're smart, you can get this, but you need to focus or you won't pass Algebra! This is your last chance, Hector! If you don't pass Algebra this time you won't graduate! Focus please!"

Well you know what they say about paybacks.

In any case I'm surely not alone in deep water.
Virtually all of Father's beloved children are faced with these really hard life lessons at one time or another. The ones that knock the breath right out of you.
I can understand that too, because as a parent I know what a disaster it would be for my children to grow up in complete ease, without any difficult challenges.
What a mess they'd be, right? Weaklings for sure.
And heaven knows that the mightiest warriors are needed for today's battles.

Still, these past months, something that's been especially hard for me to see is my beloved children struggling under the burden of their own sorrow.

But now I have a new appreciation for Heavenly Father's perfect grit.

That he allowed his innocent Son to suffer so much was an amazing act of love for all the rest of us.
Mercy cannot rob justice and the Atonement was a perfect act of mercy and justice.
I can only imagine how much it cost Father to allow.

So, as I try to understand all that's in this "widow" lesson plan, I'll pray that each one in our family will move through their own grief, growing and figuring out important eternal principles as they do.

One thing I've learned is that Father doesn't leave us alone out here. I know that we're surrounded by his helpers, day and night, seen and unseen. I live with two of them.

And Larry himself came to help me a few months ago when I needed help most.

It was right after a beautiful Thanksgiving at our son's home. The first without Larry.

All of our kids, most of the grands, nieces, and many various other posterity were there. Everything was lovely and everyone was doing their best to be of good cheer.

We "West-sider" family had also used this day to bring baby gifts to shower our sweet Meg who was about to deliver our first great-grandbaby.

In addition, some of my wonderful family had given me a very precious gift.
It was a once in a lifetime labor of love that I will cherish always.

It was one of those "diamond days." This time filled with love and sadness at the same time.

Yet in the midst of all these bIessings I felt myself beginning to sink into a deep, paralyzing sadness. It was as if I were slowly falling into a dark hole.

It was the start of the holiday season and Larry wasn't here physically.

He always loved the holidays. For the first time in 51 years we wouldn't be together for all the happiness.
I was learning that the incomparable blessing of eternal marriage and knowlege of truth doesn't stop the aching of missing someone who's away.

After we left our son's home that afternoon I managed to tell the girls that I thought it would be best for me to skip Christmas this year.
I didn't think I'd be able to bear it without their father.
I hoped they would understand if I stayed at home by myself through all the rest of the festivities.
I didn't want to ruin everyone's happiness with my selfish tears.
They responded with quiet. Maybe they were praying.

Late that night something happened that changed everything for me.

Heavenly Father sent Larry with a message.
I feel it's okay to share it with you in hopes it may help someone else.

Most likely in a situation such as this you would expect a message from the other side to be filled with words of great comfort, gentle love, and encouragement.

But this is an exact quote of what Larry said to me. I recognized his irritated tone immediately.

"Knock it off, Babe! You're gonna ruin Christmas for a bunch of people on both sides of the veil if everybody has to worry about you! All I did was die! You know I like Christmas. And you know I love you and I'm waiting for you.
And, another thing. You have to quit wanting to come here all the time. You can't come here until you finish your mission."
Then he was gone. He didn't even say goodbye. He seemed to be in some kind of a big hurry.

Everything began to change then.

The dense, paralyzing fog started to lift. I found myself back in the realm of regular widow sadness. I'd already learned that giving service to others, no matter how small, helps with that.

I'm so grateful for the Lord's tender mercies.
It's amazing to me that He cares for each one of His children personally, knowing the exact nature of their needs.
I'm also grateful to know that Larry is so busy while waiting for me. I know he's growing in knowlege every day and has many opportunities to serve.

I have a message of my own for him. From this side. I send it with my love.

"Thanks Babe. It is Babe isn't it?"

He'll understand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

That Famous Old Snake Story

There's a famous story that's been around a long, long, time. It's about a snake.
You may have heard it. 

Most likely, hundreds of teachers, including myself, have told it to the young people in their charge. 
I don't know who the original author might have been, but they have my gratitude. I'm grateful because one or two of the young people who heard the tale in my class said that it made them think. 

Thinking is a wonderful thing in a teenager.

So, just in case you haven't heard about snakes, or know a kid who's fooling around with one, here it is. 

There once was an Indian people who made their home on the vast plains of a beautiful land. Majestic mountains stood guard in the distance. 
This tribe had many honored traditions handed down from generation to generation. Among those traditions was a right of passage that all the young braves and maidens undertook as they left childhood and became adults. 
It involved a sacred journey.  
This is the story of one.

A lovely young maid stood at the edge of her village at dawn on a summer's day. It was her fifteenth birthday and now it was time to make her way into adulthood. Her family and friends surrounded her to wish her well. 
The sun rose as she walked across the golden fields, until finally at midday she reached the sacred mountains. This was where she was to make the difficult climb to a lofty overlook. She began to make her way over the jagged rocks and after several hours at last she could see the secluded ledge. It was large, sheltered from the wind, and faced beautiful vistas of the valley below.

When she reached the ledge the maiden sat to rest, and then to contemplate her future and her place in it. She watched as the sun set and the stars began to appear. She prepared a place to sleep and built a fire for warmth and to prepare her food.  The night passed with the young woman deep in thought, surounded by the beauty of the stars and sky.  
Dawn broke and the maiden prepared to return home. As she did, there came a rustle fom some brush and nearby rocks. Turning toward the sound, she saw a large rattlesnake beginning to coil and raise it's deadly head. 

In fear she began to slowly back away. She was grateful to see that she was just out of reach of the deadly serpent. 
But then an amazing thing happened. Something she could scarcely believe. As the snake raised it's ugly head from its coils it began to speak to her! 
"Lovely maiden," he hissed, "There's no need to be afraid. I mean you no harm. In fact, I need your help." 

In astonishment she listened as the snake continued.

"You see, I find myself unable to get down from this ledge and back to my home on the plains below. The sharp rocks make it impassible. But, if you will carry me down with you I will repay the favor with great gifts."
The snake hissed on, "Wondrous gifts await you, I promise! You'll see colors you've never imagined, hear sounds never before heard, and feel amazing sensations that defy description!" 

The young girl stepped back and said in disgust, "No, never! You're a deadly snake! You'll surely kill me."

"You can trust me, young maiden," he went on. "I'd never hurt you! Believe me. To prove it, I'll even give you a special treasure. I'll bestow great confidence and beauty upon you! Everyone will find you irresistable! I promise."

So, enticed by his silky words, the maiden lowered her hand to the ground. 

The snake slowly slithered up her arm and draped himself around her shoulders, his huge head poised to whisper in her ear. 
She shuddered, but then began working her way around the sharp rocks. All the while the snake repeated his golden promises. 

At last she reached the base of the mountain. She lowered her arm so the snake could slither off, glad to be rid of him forever.
Just as his tail slipped off her fingertips, the great snake turned its head, as if to say goodbye. 

Instead he lunged, sinking his venom filled fangs deep into her neck.

She screamed. 

As the maiden writhed in agony and fell to the ground, she called out in disbelief, "You lied! You promised! You said you wouldn't hurt me!"
The snake was already slithering away. But he paused just long enough to turn,

"Really, you foolish girl." he smirked, 
"You can't possibly be suprised."

As he slithered off he hissed with an evil grin, 
"You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

Think about it. 
Thinking is a wonderful thing.