Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 247, September 14

Christmas ideas for decorations and gifts are festooning stores.  The Hallmark Channel is advertising special holiday movies.  And I am already planning gifts for three new grandchildren, two of whom will be around at Christmas, one who will still be growing inside his mother.

Do I mind this early preparation for Christmas?  No.  I see it as extending the celebration of that most holy of days, the birthday of our Savior.  Though the prophets have told us that Christ was not born on December 25, it is the day we have set aside for that celebration.

And then I wonder, why do we not celebrate this miraculous event all year long?  If His birth, His ministry on earth, His atonement are truly the most important events in the earth's history, then we should be celebrating Him all year round.

Notice I say "celebrating Him" rather than "celebrating His birth."  That was deliberate.  Our lives should celebrate Him.  Our comings and goings should celebrate Him.  Our words and our listenings should celebrate Him.

Naive?  Perhaps.  But if we bring Christ into our lives on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, it can change us.  It can change the world.

Joy for today:  celebrating Him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day 246, September 13

"The difference between the top money winners in the PGA golf tour and the bottom money winners can be as little as one stroke a day."--Steve Miller, former PGA tour player

(In case you didn't pick up on it, this goes along with yesterday's blog.)

One stroke a day.  I'm probably never going to be on the PGA golf tour--strike that, I'm never going to be on the PGA golf tour, but I can relate to the one stroke a day part.  For a writer, that could translate to an extra hundred words a day.  For a sprinter, that could mean an extra half mile a day.  For a piano player, that could equal one extra hour of practice a day.  And so on.

What is your one stroke a day?  Do you want to be able to improve your organ playing so that you can provide music at your church services?  Can you squeeze in an extra hour, or half hour, or even fifteen minutes of practice a day?  Do you want to participate in a 5 K race?  Can you spend five minutes of your thirty minute walk jogging instead of walking?  Do you want to ---?  You fill in the blank.

Joy for today:  taking one more stroke today.  And the next.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 245, September 12

"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all."--Michelangelo

Have you ever said, "I'd give anything to be able to write (sing, play the piano, paint, sculpt, etc) like he does?"

I have.  I've said it about nearly all of those things--writing, singing, playing the piano, painting, sculpting, and the etc-ing.  You know what?  I was lying.  Because I wouldn't give anything to do those things.  I wouldn't give the time and effort and energy and just plain hard work to gain the mastery that others have achieved in their chosen areas.

I have a friend who plays the piano and other instruments beautifully.  I peck at the piano, but I don't practice it as I should if I wanted to have mastery of it.  I have tried painting and decided I was a no-hoper there, so I stopped trying.  And so it goes.

For most of us, mastery doesn't come from genius, but from hard work. It's when we are willing to put in the work, the sweat, the time, that we achieve true mastery.

Joy for today:  working.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 244, September 11

9/11 is an infamous day in the history of the United States.  For me, it has a far more personal meaning:  it is my parents' anniversary.

My parents met in Washington, DC during WWII.  Those two young people fell in love.  My mother followed my father to California, where they were married.  There was no long white dress or sit-down dinner or even a buffet following their wedding.  My mother wore a simple yellow suit, my father his naval uniform.  Soon after they were married, my father was shipped to the Pacific Theatre, where he was wounded aboard a ship which was torpedoed.

Though he was given the option of being sent home, he refused to take it.  (The Red Cross urged him to go home, seeing as two brothers had recently died.) Instead, he stayed there and helped write letters to the families of those men who were killed.  He kept up correspondence with those family members for many years.

My mother worked, saving money for when her sweetheart would return home.  She lived modestly, sharing the small home of my father's sister and her family.

Months later, my father returned to the States.  He needed further treatment for his wounds.  After this, he enrolled in college, then law school on the GI Bill.  Even with that financial aid, he and my mother worked long hours while he went to school, he as a short order cook and she with the Department of Engraving and Printing.

The word entitlement did not exist then, at least not in their vocabulary.  The very idea would have baffled them.  There was work, sacrifice, service, and more work.  They did their best to pass these values on to my sister and me.

Joy for today:  remembering my parents.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 243, September 10

Three days ago, we attended a special Stake Conference at church.  (Stakes are geographical divisions of church membership.)  The primary speaker, Elder Baxter, spoke on, among other subjects, finding joy and acceptance for ourselves.

He admonished us to give ourselves credit for the good and praisworthy things we do.  Too often, he said, we fall victim to Satan's trap of beating ourselves up, of believing that we are unworthy of the Lord's love.  This is not the Lord's plan.

In particular, Elder Baxter chastised women for criticizing and denigrating ourselves.  We are better than we believe, he maintained.

Joy for today:  loving myself as well as others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 242, September 9

Yesterday I mused about becoming.  Sometimes in my prayers, I say something like "Please help me become kinder."  Or, "please help me become less judgmental."  And so on.

The trouble is, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I don't want to do the work to become.  I just want to be. The writer in me recognizes that the word "be" is a passive word, while the word "come" is an active one.  If I "come," I am in motion.  If I "be," I am stationary.   That same writer knows that using an active word is just about always better than using a passive one.

So there I am.  Stuck between passive and active, between being and becoming.  Being doesn't take much thinking.  I can lie around like third base.  Becoming, however, takes some thought and some doing.  Becoming takes wanting to be more than I am.  Becoming takes wanting to be what the Savior wants.

Joy for today:  wanting to become.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 241, September 8

"In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something ... The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become.  Charity is something one becomes."--Dallin H. Oaks

I love the idea of becoming something.  I especially love the idea of becoming charity.  How do you suppose we go about that?  How do we become charity?

If charity is defined as the pure love of Christ, then it would follow that to become charity, that we become like Christ.  That is a daunting prospect.  Become like Christ?  Does that mean I have to give away (well, really, get rid of as no one wants them) my sins?  Does that mean I have to banish mean thoughts from my mind and unkind words from my lips?  Does that mean I have to give up those nasty feelings of jealousy, greed, and envy?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Okay.  Maybe I don't really want to become charity after all.  Maybe I just want to stay me.  But then I'm not becoming anything.  I'm just staying.  Becoming takes work.  Staying only requires maintaining the status quo.

Yes, this is going to take some thought, this becoming. And, more, some action.  I'm leaning toward staying. But I don't really want to stay me.  I want to become ... more.

Joy for today:  becoming.