Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Economy of Heaven: 'Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread'

Mormons excel at what one writer calls the "the sacrament of helping other people move." In our nearly nine years of marriage, my wife and I have moved six times. In each instance we've had strong hands from our local congregation (as well as our extended families) lighten our moving load.

Our most recent move was this summer, into our first home. We knew our parents and siblings wouldn't be able to provide all the help we would need for a quick move, so we announced our plans at Church so members could schedule time to help us.

When the morning of the move came, only two people from our congregation (in addition to my parents, brother and sister-in-law) came to help. This bothered me. How could it be, I wondered, that only two of the hundreds of people in our congregation had time to help us move furniture and boxes?

As the day unfolded, however, I could clearly see how God was blessing us with what we needed on that day. My brother and I unloaded the truck quicker than I expected and we finished by early afternoon. My parents brought us pizza and soda soon afterward (timely sustenance and refreshment), and both they and my wife's parents provided key help in many other ways.

As the blessings of the day became more apparent, a portion of the Lord's prayer repeatedly came to my mind: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11, emphasis added).

I learned something of the economy of Heaven that day—namely, that God will always bless us with what we need, but not always with what we want. Perhaps He won't send the whole congregation when two faithful neighbors are enough to help get the job done.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Finding My Place in Christ's World

Sometimes God answers the unasked question.

This spring, as my wife and I began the labyrinthine process of buying a home, I started to re-read the Book of Mormon (I'd been focused on the other portions of the Mormon canon the past three years and was hungry to re-engage with this sacred text).

I hadn't finished the book's third chapter before the Holy Ghost taught me with undeniable clarity that my focus on material things was misguided.

You see, I wanted to buy a big-screen television (60 or 70 inches wide) for our new home. We've never had a TV larger than 12 or 15 inches during our 8.5 years of marriage, so the purchase of a new home seemed an appropriate time for a TV upgrade.

When I came to the account of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel and Sam trying to obtain the brass plates from Laban, verse 26 of chapter 3 spoke directly to my spirit:

And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban.
Those italicized words were the message. They couldn't achieve their objective (obtaining the brass plates, or scriptures) without letting go of their possessions. Applying this verse to myself, I can't achieve my objectives (being a husband to my wife and passing on the tradition of faith in Christ to my children) without relinquishing my desires for the shiny things of this world. 

We have been in our home for five months, and 1 Nephi 3:26 continues to guide me. Sometimes I wander into the trap of thinking our home isn't big enough for our growing family or isn't good enough when compared to the elegant homes of our neighbors. I know these thoughts are absurd (and no doubt cultivated in the rich materialist soil of American culture), but such are the temptations we confront in this world.

I like the way C.S. Lewis says it in The Screwtape Letters: "Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him" (p. 132). 

May we all find our place in Christ's kingdom. This will take more than casual searching, however, because He tells us His dominion is "not of this world" (John 18:36).