"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.