Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh God, Where Art thou

"Oh God where art thou, and where is the Pavillion that covereth thy hiding place?"

This question was asked by the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith while he was being held in the jail in Liberty Missouri. He had seen the LDS saints suffer through many tortures and would shortly see Govenor Boggs of Missouri release an extermination order; ordering all of the members of the Mormon Church to leave the state or stand to be executed.

There are times in the past when I have felt like asking this same question of the Lord. We are given commandments and we are promised blessings of the Lord for keeping these commandments.
We are told to pray over our food before partaking, so that we may thank God for the food he has given us. That became difficult when I was thanking God for the fourth night in a row for the Ramen that was set before me while I was in college.
We are told to pay tithing and trust the Lord with our monetary security. That becomes difficult now as a father figure when it seems that the choice is between giving to the church and providing food and rainment for your family.

As you might tell this past week has been somewhat stressful. As reported in my blog last weekend Margaret's grandmother died last Sunday morning. Losing her last living grandparent has not been as big of a burden as I thought it would have been on Margaret (She'd made her peace with it a few weeks ago). However, not being able to be in Florida this week to give support to her Mother and Father has caused her to be stressed and to worry about their health and well being as they have to deal with all the details that come with planning a funeral and try to find some time to grieve in between.

Then, there's the saying that death never takes only one. That very same Sunday my mother called to inform me that Dan Stowel had been severely sick and had gone to the hospital where they found an aggressive cancer in his pancreas. He passed away this morning, less than a week after the cancer was discovered.

Dan Stowel, and I don't think he ever knew this, was someone that I looked up to as a role model. After my dad left home and my mom began taking us to a church with a larger youth group Dan Stowel and Russ Simpson were the two men who saw not the angry 15 year old teenager that most people saw, but rather a young man, hurt and confused, who needed a righteous male role model in his life. While Dan didn't have any children our age, he would often invite my brother and I, with a few other friends over to his house to swim in his pool, hang out and watch movies, play video games and talk about life and it's issues. Dan was not a perfect man and he did not pretend to be, which made me admire him even more. I remember a time when Dan and his wife were having a hard time and he left home for a few weeks. He never did tell me what the problems were, but what he said to me has left a lasting impression. I asked him because I could not understand what would cause someone I held in such high regard to do such a thing, and he said that he was sorry it had gotten to that point, and it never should have, but there comes a time when you have to stop fighting before you can start fixing. I saw in Dan a man that knew he didn't have to be perfect. He simply knew he had to be Dan and do his best. God didn't want perfect. He wanted Dan, and He used Dan and his love for music to help further his ministry.

While thinking of these things tonight and worrying about money and the job market and whether or not I would be offered a job I had applied for, and putting Timothy to bed, and thinking of how much money that Timothy has cost us in the last two years, I let my mind wander to what life would be like if we had waited a little longer to have Timothy. It was at this point that I took him into the bathroom to brush his teeth, he pointed in the mirror with a big smile and said "Teeth" as excited as he could be about the taste of the Shaklee Spearmint Toothpaste.

I realized then what joy he brings into my life each and every day. Just this morning as I was watching pieces of the presidential debate while eating my cereal, Timothy opened up the entertainment center and pulled all of the CDs out of the rack. When I realized he was being awfully quiet, and that usually means he's doing something he's not supposed to be doing, I walked around the corner into the living room. Timothy saw me coming and stopped with the look of "Oh crap, I'm caught" then after a pause, where you could almost see the wheels turning in his head, he smiled real coy like and began to put the CD's back on the rack, almost like to say, "look dad I'm helping".

It is times like these and other countless moments of joy with those we love that help us to remember that money sometimes is nothing more than a piece of paper in your wallet (or not in your wallet as the case may be) and that while sometimes unexpected and tragic, death is always a part of life, not the end thereof. We can spend our time on earth worried about temporal needs (and sometimes should in order to make sure that we are able to provide for those we have stewardship over) but it is those things that surpass the temporal into the eternal that we have reason to joy over.

In the revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants Sec 121 Christ responds to Joseph Smith's prayer saying

"My son, peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high...
...Thou are not yet as Job..."

My hope and my prayer is that I may always remember that my afflictions shall be but a small moment, and that I may be the example to my son that Dan Stowel was to me.


Mama Llama-Karen said...

Dearest John,
Oh how we know what you are going through. 14 months of no job, the constant looking, thinking "this ones going to be the one", just to get the letter in the mail. The scripture you quote is what kept me going. Sometimes the small moments seem to us to go on and on. Yet, when we can see the tender mercies of the Lord in our lives (like you have done) it seems doable.
One of the hardest things that took the longest to get through my head was the whole "Blessings" thing. After I was baptized, I had an understanding that all would be well. Being part of Zion meant blessing galore. I realize now that I have had blessings galore, just not the kind (like money, working cars, good for you food, new clothes, and even new furniture! :0 )I had been raised to think were important and necessary.
Now I look at my children, and the joy that fills my heart makes it all seem so small and un-important.
Yet, I understand the burden you have, as does Steve, to provide for your family. Something I see you providing in generous amounts is the love you have for Meg and Timothy. That is something for which I am certain they both love and appreciate. Far too many wives and children go without that as husbands spend all their efforts on acquiring money and things, thinking that those are the things most wanted and needed by his family.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your budding wisdom. I think you're awesome!

JennAdam said...

We also understand what you're going through. Neither of us are working currently, and we live off of Adam's Social Security and food stamps. We have a stockpile of Ramen noodles right now. We ate them yesterday, in fact.

But they keep reducing the SSI and food stamp amounts we get each month. Adam's Medicaid benefits are being cut, and I'm still uninsured. So now the money we have coming in is less than our rent alone. Add the utility bills and other expenses, we are slowly bleeding dry.

The only thing keeping us above water is Adam's dad, who gives us money and owns the car we drive. He always said, and continues to say, "we won't let you get evicted or starve." Little did he realize that promise would cost him thousands of dollars.

Our thankfulness to him is immeasurable, as is our thanks to our Heavenly Father. Regardless of everything, we have not given up hope for a better and brighter future.

Mandy said...

John and Megling,

My heart goes out to you both. We've been experiencing money and job issues as well, and last week I attended the funeral of a 28yo friend I grew up with who died of liver failure. All this to say, you're not alone. Thank you for reminding me I'm not either.