Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Prayerful watching

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Morning Session from the April 1974 Conference.
I loved Howard W. Hunter's talk from this session, titled "His Final Hours." You might think a talk like this one, basically just summarizing and adding comment to lengthy passages of scripture, wouldn't have many new insights. But I found the opposite to be true: Elder Hunter's tender retelling of the Savior's final hours felt deeply meditative and personal, almost like another witness being added to stand alongside Matthew's, Mark's, Luke's, and John's. Which I suppose is exactly what it was. Hearing the familiar events summarized in new words made some new things stick out to me, such as when Elder Hunter observed:
As [the Pharisees] turned away [Jesus] added a plea: “… and [render] unto God the things that are God’s.” As the coin bore the image of Caesar, so these and all men bore the image of God, their Heavenly Father. They had been created by him in the likeness of his image, and Jesus was to provide a way for them to return to him. Yet, “When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
I had never before made the connection between the coin which bore Caesar's image, and ourselves being in the image of God. I hadn't thought about how "rendering to God the things that are God's" means giving OURSELVES back to Him.

Maybe my favorite part of this talk, though, came as part of a story I know so well and have had so many lessons about, I wouldn't have thought I could get any new insights about it! And Elder Hunter just mentions it almost in passing:
[Christ] spoke of virgins attending a wedding, some of whom had sufficient oil for trimming their lamps while others saw their meager supply depleted because the bridegroom tarried longer than they supposed. Thus Jesus taught his disciples to watch and pray; however, he taught them that prayerful watching does not require sleepless anxiety and preoccupation with the future, but rather the quiet, steady attention to present duties.
I've been thinking a lot lately about learning to WAIT. The scriptures so often advocate waiting, watching, "holding our peace." I know that such patience is more than passively sitting around, but…it can involve some passive sitting around, it seems! I have been wondering how to navigate the path between "reaching and trying and stretching for what could be" and "being at peace and content with what is." How do we know when revelation is slow in coming because we aren't doing enough—or when it's God's will that we…just wait?

So I love this doctrine Elder Hunter picks out of the parable of the ten virgins. I assume he got it from the part that says:
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And of course! I had never noticed this! But there it is! ALL the virgins fell asleep. Perhaps the foolish ones were falling too much on the side of not worrying; perhaps they ought to have been staying up all night trying to do something about their low oil, I don't know. But Elder Hunter seems to imply that that was not the right way for any of those waiting for Christ: "Prayerful watching does NOT require sleepless anxiety and preoccupation with the future." Certainly the wise virgins weren't just frittering away all their time till the bridegroom came. But they also weren't unduly fearful about what was to come. They weren't lying awake at night imagining all the bad things that might happen to their children someday, or thinking about how many things they were failing at, or fretting about all the things that were getting neglected in their busy lives. They gathered their oil. They slept. Then they arose and "trimmed their lamps."

I'm sure Elder Hunter wasn't saying that urgency is never necessary, but I love his reminder that "more anxiety" does NOT necessarily equal "better results." It just struck me how peaceful it all sounds. And it seems like such a great pattern to follow when we are attempting "prayerful watching"! Like the wise virgins, we can prepare and do our best, paying "quiet, steady attention to [our] present duties," as Elder Hunter says. But after that (or even amid that)—we can wait calmly, content and at peace. Sleep. And then when the call comes, we can "arise" with enthusiasm and do what is necessary to get even more light from our lamps.


Other posts in this series:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Labor Day in the Canyon


There may be traditions we let fizzle out from time to time, but by golly we don't ever miss our Labor Day Campfire! If you don't like seeing dirty children you should perhaps click away now.

I brought the camera hoping to see some pretty leaves or trees or rivers, but it turned out all I wanted to take pictures of was the aforementioned dirty children. They just fascinate and delight me! I was comparing the pictures of Abe last year and this year and marveling at how much he has grown. He's a man now! And this might just be my favorite picture of him ever:
I spent most of the evening just sitting quietly by the fire and watching everyone play, and taking pictures, which is what I love to do. I kept saying, "Don't look at me! I just want to observe you in your natural states!"—after which, of course, Abe vowed to turn and look directly at me and smile grinningly in every picture. He was pretty good at it, but I did manage to catch him unaware a few times.

Seb, on the other hand, vowed to make a different silly face each time I turned to him. We never should have let him read all those Calvin and Hobbes books.
There were just a few small patches of leaves starting to turn red and orange, among all the decadant end-of-summery greens.
We hunted for insects, of course, and found a few good ones. [Note Abe the Mad Smiler at the left of the frame.]
Boys off on an adventure
Ky shows his feelings about fire
A rare nearly-normal smile. Given by accident, obviously.
Ah, that's more like it.
Cutest sidelong glance.
Singing something.
Sam and Teddy walked to and fro. Teddy loved it…for a time.
His little tum!
Junie dancing, of course
Goldie was very absorbed in drawing and writing with this rock. So…she's really going to stick with using that left hand, then? Sure looks like it.
Eeek, I can't stand it! So cute!
Writing with sticks was fun, too.
And then people started to look dirtier and dirtier…and it just went downhill from there.
Hah! Abe manages to smile even through a mouthful of hot dog.
We take roasting things very seriously in this family.
These boys can roast a fine marshmallow…
but I still won't settle for any s'more except a Sam-crafted s'more.

There was a kind of morbid fascination in watching Goldie eat s'more after s'more, knowing I was going to be the one bathing her later.
Smoke! Blech!
There was much fire-poking.
And then Teddy got his stick taken away and felt very put-upon.
Putting on his Yoda jacket didn't really help.
But giving him graham crackers did!
(Abe! Smiling!)
Oohs and ahhhs as the fire blazes up
The sky grew darker and the leaves and clouds grew brighter against it. I love these little spiraly clouds in rows.
Sam made a scary face in the camera flash, and then of course everyone had to give it a try.
Some were scarier than others.
Malachi, for instance, was truly terrifying. 
Daisy…not so much.
The scarer, unaware of his own peril
And, so you don't have nightmares about those scary faces, I'll leave you with a more peaceful scene. It was a beautiful night and a lovely way to end the summer!