Thunker’s Weblog


Hello? God?

Robert Wheadon-126x150

 

In March 2011, the coast of Japan was struck by a horricfic earthquake and  subsequent tsunami.  Most of us will remember the media coverage of the of nuclear reactors in danger of emitting radioactive material, and of thousands of Japanese killed in the combination of quaking earth and devastating waves.  Almost 16,000 people are reported dead, with another 2,500 still missing.  Whole families were wiped out, with many other families touched by the devastation with the loss of a father, mother, brother, sister or other family member.

Japaness culture honors the memory of their dead.  With such a sudden loss of life, many Japanese were left grasping for ways to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Shortly prior to the earthquake and tsunami, a Japanese gardner named Itaru Sasaki, was grieving the loss of his cousin.  In order to maintain a connection with his departed cousin, Itaru set up an old-style telephone booth in his garden.  The booth  has an aging rotary telephone inside, disconnected, sitting on a wooden shelf.

At times, Itaru would go outside, enter the telephone booth and dial his cousin’s telephone number and just talk.  He didn’t care that no one was on the other end of the telephone.  Using the telephone booth allowed Itaru to express his feelings, his grief and his sense of loss.

Itaru Sasaki lives in the town of Otsuchi, which lies on the northeast coast of Japan.  The earthquake and tsunami destroyed the town and the majority of its inhabitants.  Soon after the earthquake and tsunami, people began to come to Itaru Sasaki’s garden, first from the survivors of Otsuchi, and then from all over Japan.

Grandmothers bring their grandchildren to call departed grandfathers.  The grandchildren speak into the telephone and tell the silence on the other end how they are doing in school.  Brothers enter the booth and break down, trying to express their grief and loss of fathers, mothers and sisters.  Wives enter the booth to talk to husbands who were swept away in the 30-foot waves.

Otsuchi Phone Booth

Even though these conversations are decidely one-sided, thousands of Japanese have come to Otsuchi, to what is now called, “The Wind Telephone.”

I think that we all have such longings and yearnings to connect with family, or friends, or shadows of our past that nag at our memory like evening shades.  This desire also surfaces when we yearn to connect with heaven.  We all have those times.  When things out of our control come crashing into our  worlds, these circumstances can drive us to our knees and plead to God for help, strength and peace.  King David, in the book of Psalms 54:2 echoes those times:  “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.”

In Psalms 39:12, David prayed, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”

Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, practiced the act of prayer.  In Luke 6:12, we are told, “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”  Jesus prayed all through the night, it seems in a search for inspiration, for the next day is when he called his twelve apostles to follow him in his ministry.

Of course, we only will seek the help of heaven if we believe it is a source of relief and safety.  Just as we might confide our fears or difficulties with a trusted friend, do we look heavenward for help?  Only if we believe that help and solace are found there.

In Luke 9:18, the Savior asks the apostles, “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?”

Even if we only harbor the smallest, most minute portion of hope, we can always send up a cry for help, for inspiration and for peace.  I promise you that if you are still, and listen with your heart, that heaven will come, like rain on a cool Autumn evening, to quench the fire of your despair and provide you with soul-lifting strength to go on.

Remember, be kind, make good memories and come back soon. 🙂

 

 

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Hi-na-nee
August 18, 2017, 2:07 am
Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, faith, LDS, Mormon, religion, trials

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Hi-na-nee, (הנה אני) is a transliteration of a Hebrew word.  It translates into the English phrase, “here I am.”  The phrase only occurs four times in the Bible, all of them in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah, the Lord assures Isaiah that He is present.  Two other occurrences are in 1 Samuel with King Saul.  The citation I would like to discuss today is found in Genesis 22:1.  It says:

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (try) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

This is the story of Abraham being commanded to offer Isaac on Mount Moriah.  I don’t want to go into that story today, but I want to talk about Abraham’s presence of mind, even before he was informed of the trial before him.  Before Abraham knows what God wants, he says, “Here I am.  I’m ready.  Put me in the game, coach.”  It’s an attitude I don’t think many people possess.  I know I don’t.  The reason is that God could introduce anything!  When God calls, it usually doesn’t mean we are soon to be the happy recipients of $10 million dollars or win a year’s supply of Dr. Pepper.  I have found that when God calls it is usually to help me grow as a person.  And I’m rather stubborn when it comes to personal growth.  I like the way I am.  I make a mean batch of spaghetti, can throw a decent Frisbee and belt out a passable rendition of Love, Love Me Do by the Beatles.  How much better can I get?

If you ask God, apparently quite a bit.  And it’s the same with all of us.  Remember that one of the main reasons we are here in mortality is to better ourselves, to polish our souls, to buff the imperfections out and return to heaven.  Yet only if we so choose to let the Lord work in us that way, because He will never violate our ability to choose.  And yet, He even opens the way to turn towards Him when we choose poorly.

How do we get all shiny and ready to return to our heavenly home?  Usually by the things that we suffer in mortality.  Trials usually come in three forms: 1) Self-inflicted.  These are sufferings that result from our own dumb decisions.  There are consequences to our mistakes.  Yet I know from vast experience that every consequence from my mistakes has made me better and wiser and stronger.  2.) Out of the blue.  These are trials that come under the heading of health crises, lightning strikes and just plain accidents.  3.) Sufferings caused by the decisions/actions of others.  These are also trials that are not due to our decisions, but are due to the decisions of others.

While these definitions are pretty solid, they are also irrelevant.  The source of our sufferings is more a talking point for us than for God.  Our Heavenly Father is much more interested in our attitude and actions when trials occur.  To develop ourselves and our souls to be like Abraham requires godly faith and trust.

In Hebrews 2:13, we read: “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”

The English theologian, C.S. Lewis wrote: “There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take His advice.”

The point here is that no matter what happens in our lives, whether our health fails, or a loved one betrays us, or our car stalls in rush hour traffic, how we react to our trials is a key to continue our path of becoming like and understanding our Heavenly Father.  The apostle Peter got it right when he wrote: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:7

I’m going to remember what Abraham said when God called him.  He said “Here I am.”  I’m not going to remember what Abraham didn’t say.  Abraham didn’t say, “What now?!” or “I’m busy!”  Abraham simply said, “hi-na-nee, Here I am.”

Be kind, make good memories and come back soon.

 



Grace

Robert Wheadon-126x150

I’ve been reading the last few weeks on the topic of grace.  It’s a topic over-discussed, or it’s a topic where only fools dare to tread.  It’s no surprise, then, why I’m jumping right in.

The time-worn debate centers around whether faith or works grants us access to God’s grace.  Let me settle that debate right away and declare the correct answer is “Yes.” All better now?  Me, neither.  Let’s explore a little more and define some things.  I am defining grace as God’s ultimate gift to us, His children.  This gift comes in two parts.  One part is the gift of resurrection.  It is a gift given to all humanity.  All of Heavenly Father’s children will be resurrected through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The second part of the gift is exaltation.  Exaltation is the gift of living the life God lives.  It is being saved in God’s kingdom where He reigns.  Both parts of grace are granted to all of us through Jesus Christ’s atonement.  I sometimes get the impression that in our current world, Jesus Christ has become merely a spiritual friend, a cosmic counselor, or someone we mention in prayer because we were taught to.  Yet Jesus Christ is so much more than that.  He is the Only Begotten of our Father.  He voluntarily provided the way and means for us to return to God.  He has done everything for us.  He has provided the only path for us to overcome mortality and not be chained forever to the grave through the resurrection.  He has also paid the penalty we incur when we sin and distance ourselves from heaven.  In Ephesians 2: 5, 7-8, Paul wrote:

“5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

Because of verses like this, some systems of theology have understood half of what is involved with grace.  And the half is true.  Grace is free, granted by a loving Father through His Son.  But what about works?  Aren’t we supposed to keep the commandments and earn our way into heaven?  That sounds good, except it’s impossible.  It takes a simple, honest question to see how incompatible that idea is with truth.  Can we atone for ourselves?  Can we pay the price justice demands when God’s command is broken?  Can we call down mercy from heaven for ourselves?  If we were totally honest, we would know that is not in our skill set.  The grace offered by Jesus Christ is essential.  What about repentance, though?  Isn’t that how I earn heavenly gold stars and walk back into heaven?  Don’t worry.  That’s coming up.  Now it’s time to address the works part of this theology.  Just to make sure the confusion on this issue is clear, let’s look at what Paul and James write about grace, faith and works.

In Galatians 2:16, Paul writes:

“16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

In James 2:14, 17-18, 20-22, 24 we read:

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

 

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or tell me I’m completely off base.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.