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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Grace

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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.



Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Welcome back!  The title of this post is a quote by Ray Bradbury.  In my last posting, I shared some thoughts on choices and what drives our choices.  I postulated that the deep desires of our heart drive our choices and those desires are the true yard stick of where we are on our way back to God.  We are all found in different places on the yard stick.  And where we are in our becoming like God doesn’t matter.  It is our overall direction we are traveling that matters.  Sometimes we move closer to God, and if you’re anything like me, your movement is one baby step forward and two leaps back.  That’s okay.  That’s how it is supposed to be.  Again, if we are trying to be like God, then wherever we are on the yard stick is fine.  It’s the direction we are trying to travel that is the important component.

Behind this whole yard stick metaphor lies the motivation of our efforts.  What drives us to want to be better people?  Guilt?  Love?  Duty?  Habit? Reward?  I think the answer is “all of the above.”  And all of our choices are not driven by the same motivation.  For example, the choice to eat derives from a biological need.  We don’t eat out of duty or promise of reward, though I certainly, at times, will reward myself with chocolate cake.

Aristotle defined choice as, “a deliberate desire.”  Aristotle’s use of “deliberate” means that our desires are things that we have contemplated and thought deeply on.  We have deliberated on what moves us.  We may not always be deliberate in our choices, but the desire preceding our choices is something we are very familiar with.

Have you noticed how many things God wants us to do are the reverse of our natural inclination?  Jesus teaches if we are asked to walk a mile with someone, instead of saying we are too busy, we are to walk two miles.  If someone steals something, like a coat, instead of throwing the perpetrator in jail, we are to offer that person our cloak, as well.  If someone offends us, we are taught to not only forgive one time, but 70 x 7 times.  (You do the math.)

In Mark 9:36, Jesus taught his apostles about humility and serving with intent.

“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

All of these examples show how God’s ways are not our ways.  I think one of the clearest gospel tensions is found in John 14:15.  Jesus teaches:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

We have read and heard that verse our whole lives, but has the message in this short verse struck home?  The verse is saying that obedience is a sign of our love of Jesus Christ.  That concept is largely foreign on several levels to us as we were raised on the principle of individualism, independence and the worth of self through building up the self.

Obedience is bowing our will to another, ceding our wants to the desires of another, and changing our heart to match the heart of another.  My goodness!  That sounds like the soul of Christianity!  Obedience, when fostered with godly love, loses all of its negative colors.

James Kugel, a Jewish biblical scholar, helps reinforce what God is trying to help us to understand.  Prof. Kugel recently wrote how Exodus 32:16 has an interesting interpretative possibility.  In the Talmud, the rabbinic commentary on the Jewish scriptures, it states that the word for carved, harut, should be herut, or freedom.  The verse, which describes Moses bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai, would then read:  “And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, freedom upon the tables.”  This gives the sense that the Ten Commandments were not given as a law of iron, but as a law of freedom.

So, now let’s go back to John 14:15.  “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  Again, we are back to desires and motivations for our choices in life.  What it seems we should be working on is divine love, demonstrated through obedience of God’s law.  And what is the Savior’s definition of God’s law?  In Mark 12: 30-31, the Savior clearly and lovingly teaches:

“30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

Thanks for taking a moment to read my thoughts and feelings.  Feel free to provide feedback or questions.  It is all appreciated.

Be kind.  Make good memories.  Come back soon.

 

 

 

 

 



Eenie, Meenie, Miney…

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Decisions, decisions…

Every day we get to make choices.  In fact, we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day.  From whether to get out of bed or not to the choice of what to have for lunch, choices are part of our daily lives.

Choices play a tremendous role in the lives of religious people.  We have a binary relationship with choice, assigning it either a good or bad based on the Ten Commandments.  Many of us then lead our lives held up against the divine checklist and measuring our goodness, self-worth and social standing by our compliance or non-compliance.

I believe in Heavenly Father’s plan for us, choice has always been one of the biggest parts of His plan.  And choice has been with us since our very beginnings.  The story of Adam and Eve totally revolves around choice.  Eat the fruit or not eat the fruit: that is the question.

We are all familiar with the ancient prophet-general Joshua’s statement on choice.  The Israelites were clearing Canaan to inhabit that land.  The people in Canaan were pagan, worshiping a host of deities.  Joshua puts a choice before Israel in Joshua 24:15:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The choice put before the Israelites was not a new one.  After Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Lord gave a similar choice to Israel.  In Exodus 20:3, the Lord states:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Coming out of Egypt with its polytheistic culture of Ra and Osiris and the host of other deities, Israel was very familiar with the practice of worshiping multiple gods and in having the Creation revolve around stories of these gods.  Polytheism was the cultural and religious norm, not the worship of a single deity.  All of the ancient civilizations were polytheistic.  The world of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Egyptians all revolved around polytheism.  And Israel lived among, traded, bartered and fought with all of these peoples.

Monotheism was a bit odd for the time and a sharp delineation between the Israelites and all of their geographical neighbors.  And the theme of God pleading, commanding and reminding Israel to remember Him flows through the scriptural record of Israel’s choices.  In the Old Testament, Israel’s greatest failing is their choice to forget God and worship something or someone else besides God.

If we move forward to the New Testament era, the principle of choice permeates the teachings of the Savior, as well.  What is really interesting here is that the context of choice changes.  While the Old Testament focuses on choosing between idols of stone and wood and the living God, the teachings of Jesus take choice to a deeper level of understanding and application.

For example, in Luke 10 we read of Jesus asking the lawyer what the law says about gaining eternal life.  Instead of listing out the commandments in Exodus 10, the lawyer encapsulates the intent behind the commandments.  He says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:27)

And Jesus’ response corroborates the lawyer’s answer.  “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28)  There is no surprise in the Savior’s response, as if the lawyer’s response was a new theology or anything.  The lawyer’s response was one already accepted in that time.  And with the lawyer’s response comes a new component in what should motivate our choices: love.

Instead of making choices based on fear that heaven will send bolts of lightning down on us if we err, the teaching is that we are not to be distracted away from God through our love for Him.  We see this in Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse is really a reiteration of Exodus 20, where Israel is told, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The cultural context has changed from polytheism to individual desire.  But the desires, whether worshiping an idol or taking our focus away from God and putting them on the mammon of materiality, are identical.  And it is here we learn about an aspect of sin and one way in which God views sin.

N.T, Wright, an Anglican biblical scholar at the University of Edinburgh, states it this way. “That’s how sin happens.  It isn’t just that there is a bunch of rules and we ponder, ‘Shall I keep them or not?’  In actuality, [we’ve] been secretly in love with one or more…idols.  [We’ve] been worshiping the creature rather than the creator.” (Lenten Devotional, 2017)

Sin is indeed the failure to do what God has asked us to do.  Yet before the act, before the misstep, before the deed, there is the choice and what desire drives that choice.  And that is what God is after.  He is not after a group of people stuck in a lock-stepped march back to heaven.  He wants our hearts to bend towards Him as he reaches for us.  He does not want us to get distracted with our idols of this age.  Whether it be politics, career, relationships or school, He wants our actions to be driven by choices that are driven by love and desire for Him.

And how do we develop this love for Him and not for the things of our world?  You’ll have to come back next time to read my thoughts on that.

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

 

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To Wait or Not To Wait…

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One of the things I lack is vast amounts of patience.  I’m ready to jump on board with any technology that allows me to access data faster or research information.  I want things now.  I don’t want to wait too long for my book to come from Amazon, or wait in line at McDonald’s for my Big Mac.  It’s supposed to be fast food, right?

Obviously, I need some improvement.  By learning patience, I will save myself from getting all bound up in feelings of frustration, annoyance and outright anger. And I might master my soul…

In Luke, the Savior said:

19 In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19)

In New Testament Greek, the word “possess” also has connotations of control over or mastery, as well as acquire or win.  If you drop one of those related terms in place of “possess” you gain a clearer vision of the verse and the Savior’s message here.

As a parent, I get to deal with patience quite a bit.  As a parent, patience becomes the antidote I preach to my children when they want something in the moment.  Like me, sometimes they just want something now.  And children become very adept at vocalizing their immediate want very early in life.  In response, I’ve become very adept at telling them, “Be patient.”  I’m not really teaching them patience when I say that.  I’m teaching them the universal parental signal to be quiet and quit bugging me.

However…..

Real patience contains ingredients of humility and faith.  As children of God, how many times have we sent our wants heavenward in prayer?  Have we prayed over children, spouses, family, jobs, or direction in life?  Of course we have.  Have our prayers been immediately answered how we desire?  Of course not.  When the heavens seem silent and answers are far away, it is very hard to hear the words, “Be patient.”  It takes large dollops of faith and humility to place ourselves in God’s care and say, “Thy will be done,” rather than rage when our mortal will is not accommodated.  And yet this is one of mortality’s lessons.

It helps me realize the importance of patience when I think of the perfect patience Heavenly Father has with His children.  We stumble and fall like so many toddlers learning to walk in this life.  And still, He is always patient, always there, encouraging us to keep trying, keep reaching for His light and keep walking that narrow path back to Him.

Our amount of patience can also be a means of measurement of our amount of charity.  Just before the Savior presents the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responds to a lawyer.  The lawyer asks the conditions to gain eternal life.  The Savior responds with a question:  What does the scriptures say?  The lawyer astutely answers from the law of Moses – Love God and love your neighbor.

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

I think the practice of patience with those in our lives helps us obey that commandment in a much richer and Christ-like manner.  If I am patient, I am not busy passing judgement.  If I am patient, I am less concerned about my own personal agenda and more about the needs of others.  If I am patient, I will try and see life with the view of others rather than my own myopic vision.

Joseph Smith wrote: “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” (D&C 67:13)

The practicing of patience is a divine attribute of our Heavenly Father.  We should practice patience, as well.  We are trying to become like God, one small, stumbling step at a time.  Let’s be patient with ourselves, our fellow travelers in life, and faithfully patient that all is in God’s hands and He is guiding us home.

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



What If I Don’t Want To?

Robert Wheadon-126x150

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,                                                                                                     I shall not live in vain;                                                                                                                                     If I can ease one life the aching,                                                                                                                Or cool one pain,                                                                                                                                            Or help one fainting robin                                                                                                                     Unto his nest again,                                                                                                                                         I shall not live in vain.”                                                                                                                                   (Emily Dickinson, VI)

Emily Dickinson is one of America’s greats.  Her poetry is sensitive, thought-provoking and emotive.  I love this poem of hers, as it expresses so many of the desires of seekers of truth.  Being concerned with lifting the burdens of the weary, easing the souls of the downtrodden and caring for the casualties of this world is a job not for the half-hearted.  It is, however, a job for the meek.

Meekness is not for the timid. You have to be tough to be meek.  Yet, in society, the word portrays weakness, softness, and lacking in worldly worth.  A meek person is seen as afraid of whatever shadow might appear and cause one to tremble, shudder and hide.

The word, “humility,” gets tossed around with frequency in conjunction with meekness.  I believe humility brings us closer to the true nature of meekness, but not all the way.  The two traits are siblings on the same strait and narrow course.  Yet, why even talk about the meekness?

Well, there is a lot riding on this word.  Remember the Savior’s words in the Sermon on the Mount?  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5.)  That is quite a weighty promise, especially if the promised inheritance is a divinely cleansed, celestially blessed earth.  I’m not sure I want the planet in its current state.  The future, though, is promised to be bright! (Revelations 21:1)

So, let’s examine meekness and why practicing meekness is not for the weak-kneed.  At it’s locus, the quality of meekness is enshrined in the hearts of the teachable.

Meekness is at the center of a disciple’s life.  Without the willingness to use our faith to look heavenward as our trials, cares and concerns seem to be crashing all around our heads, we tend to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” (Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”)  To possess faith requires meekness;  we humbly accept that God will wipe away our tears and bear us up to a brighter day.  It is recognition that we cannot return to heaven solely by our own merits, but through the sacrifice of God’s Son, that shows the power of meekness.  To know that God is God and we are His children allows us to put ourselves aside and put our trust in Him.

It seems meekness is one of those things that, like most things, we work at and learn over a lifetime.  And we need to.  We like to hang on to things and not turn them over to God.  We think we know better, gifting ourselves with more wisdom than spiritual insight would allow.  For example, we love our material possessions.  It’s not a new problem.  It is a persistent one, though.  Remember the young man’s encounter with the Savior in the New Testament?  The young man approached and asked what we all ask:

“…what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (Matt. 19:16)

The Savior responded initially with counsel to live the ten commandments.  And then:

“20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:20-22)

I am not suggesting we all sell everything we have and head to a hermitage.  Rather, here then is the question to ask ourselves.  What are we too prideful or even afraid to give up to continue our journey towards Jesus?  For the young man, he wasn’t willing to divulge himself of possessions, of which he had many.

What do we hang on to?  Do we hang on to pride, or selfishness, or of taking offense?  All of these attributes keep the doors of meekness and humility closed.

We all ask what do we need in order to gain eternal life.  Are we willing to accept God’s answer and act upon it?

God has given each of us agency, the freedom to choose light or darkness.  And God would have it no other way.  There is no divine cattle-prod forcing us onto the path.  We have to want it enough to choose it and choose Him.  Meekness is advanced discipleship.  Meekness is thoughtfulness.  Meekness is listening for God’s strong, yet quiet whispers to us each day.  Meekness is trying to maintain a perspective on eternity rather than the short-sighted view of mortality.

Once, a lawyer in the law came to Jesus and asked Him the same question that the young man had posited.  The lawyer said:

25 ¶And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

The answer supplied by the lawyer, of loving God and neighbor, is both motivational and directional.  Yes, we are to love God and others and demonstrate that love.  The two commandments also focus us away from ourselves and towards God and His children.  That is meekness.

Meekness concentrates us on daily discovering what God wants to teach us, rather than our myopic, limited view that we already know it all.

So, time for a wake up call!  Let’s get meek!IMG_0196

Be kind, make good memories and come back soon.

 



Keep the Change

Robert Wheadon-126x150

“…had been so terrible that none of them ever spoke of it now, but the bitter steel had sheared into their hearts, leaving scars that would not heal,” (Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.)

I am a big fan of Thomas Wolfe’s novels.  His kneading and molding of the English language is a joy to read.  He paints rural America in the late 19th to early 20th centuries with a full palette of adjectival colors and images.  Some readers find Wolfe’s characters too morose or depressing due to their impoverished conditions.  I find them true to their time and condition, desperately trying to claw their way out of poverty or totally crushed by their conditions.

Much of his fiction portrays characters shackled in poverty, but possessing dazzling personalities of erudition and emotion.  In his novel, “Look Homeward, Angel,” we are introduced to the family clan father, Oliver Gant, who lives his life in the small, rural town of Altamont.  He pursues his trade of being the town’s sculptor of headstones, but without ambition.  His wife, Eliza, possesses a more ambitious acumen.  According to Eliza, Oliver’s business is not successful because people don’t die quick enough.  It’s not a volume business.  In Eliza’s pursuit of wealth, possession of property  and more property is the path to a comfortable, genteel and respectable life.

Oliver is a tortured soul.  He regularly rails and revolts against what he perceives to be the inequities of life.  Getting blindingly drunk, he raves at the cosmos, his wife, and a seemingly deaf, uncommunicative God.  Frustrated in his world of Fate’s chains that bar him from greatness, Gant devolves into the town drunk.  His whiskey-fueled temper is held in fear by his wife and pity by the townsfolk, who support him home when he passes into unconsciousness in the street.

Oliver’s life, in Oliver’s view, is a long series of offenses against him, like a poor hand of cards that is continuously, eternally dealt him.  It’s a game he cannot deal himself out of.  He has been scarred by his life and unable to forgive Fate.  For the reader, Fate in this situation is really consequence.  Oliver’s manner of living has produced many of his woes.  Blaming Fate is much easier, though, and requires much less soul-searching.  To quote a staff journalist in a recent issue of the National Review, “Character is Fate.”

However, character is not something formed in concrete, unchangeable and solid.  We often think of character as being just that:  it’s who I am.  The truth, though, is quite the opposite.  Our traits are malleable, changeable and improvable.  And God, with great purpose and mercy, made it that way.  The change process is called repentance and is one of the most profound gifts we have from Jesus Christ through His atonement.

For those whose hearts search for, reach for, and are “pointing our souls to him,” (Jacob 4:5), repentance is what God has given us to achieve “a change of heart,” (Helaman 15:7).

We focus so much on what we are not, we many times fail to understand what we are becoming.  As followers of Christ, the path is strait and narrow.  It is also long.  In our frenetic daily efforts, we concentrate on immediate results, where God is taking the long view of eternity with us.  He not only sees us as we are, but also as we are becoming.  That is why I consistently ask myself, “Which direction am I facing today?”  Am I making a thoughtful effort to turn towards God today?  If not, why not?

Our process of becoming like Christ is not merely the cessation of sin, but the conversion of the heart.  It is not merely the eradication of the world’s influences, but the replacement of those influences with the bits of heaven we encounter along the path that assist our souls in becoming purer, our intentions more holy and our actions more charitable.

Repentance, motivated by faith in Christ, is the process given us to not merely return to heaven, but it is the process to change us so we are comfortable when we get there.

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Repentance is not easy.  It’s not supposed to be.  Changing our character is a process that can take us to the depths, yet with the promise of raising us to the heights of our soul’s potential.  Don’t be discouraged with daily stumbles.  Like a toddler learning to walk, our daily stumbles and continued efforts will eventually enable us to walk clearly in God’s path.

Garrison Keillor, the American radio story-teller and folklorist, closes his broadcasts with a simple benediction.  When I hear it, I can hear God giving us the same counsel.  He says:  “Be well.  Do good work.  Stay in touch.”  Let’s do that.