Living On Borrowed Time

Something that often helps keep me on the right track is reminding myself that I’m living on borrowed time, that for all I know, I could have died any number of times and that I owe my ongoing existence to God.  This keeps me from being too lazy or too selfish, and I think helps me stay pretty grateful for life.

For example, two summers ago I was at Lake Powell in Utah.  I thought it might be fun to swim across the channel where our boat was docked.  For some reason, I didn’t tell anyone I was going out, and I didn’t put on a life vest.

About ten minutes into the swim, I realized I might get a cramp or kick some debris in the water or otherwise lose the ability to swim.  It was a pretty tense twenty more minutes until I made it to the other side.  (I’m not a strong swimmer, and apparently I’m not very bright.)

I guess something could have happened and I could have died, but that’s just one instance I know about.  Who knows how many times we’ve escaped a doom we’re not even aware of?

So any more time we get after those things–any time we have at all, really–can’t be squandered.  It’s precious, and we owe it to ourselves and to God to make something of it.

But this view also takes away fear.  If we’re living on borrowed time, then we have nothing to lose: every minute is just an extra bonus minute we’ve been gifted with.  So there’s no reason to hold back in service or sacrifice or any worthy goal, because our days are gloriously extended by a loving Father who lets us exercise our will to make the most of them:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?  

Mosiah 2:20-24

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Sacrament Talk: Pioneer Faith Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

I had the privilege again today of speaking in another ward’s sacrament meeting, on the topic of “faith of our fathers.”  I tried to take a slightly different approach to the subject, mostly trying to connect it to the Savior, scripture, and basic gospel doctrines.  I think it turned out pretty well:

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This is the time of year when we build inspiration and faith by focusing on the great lives of our pioneer ancestors.  Whether or not we have great grandparents who pulled handcarts across the plains, whether we were born into the church or were baptized yesterday, as Latter-day Saints, we all get to draw from this great well of pioneer devotion and sacrifice to fill our hearts. 

This is not the only dispensation where pioneer stories have been helpful in strengthening the Saints.  In Alma chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma gives a great talk where he does the same thing.  First he introduces himself and explains that he’s there to speak to them with authority from previous leaders, like any visiting authority in the church today.  Then Alma reminds them of the hardships faced by those previous generations who had founded their church, starting in verse 5:

I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also.

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Not With A Bang, But A Whimper…And Then A Hymn Of Praise

My Thanksgiving weekend, like much of my life, was a little soured by my tendency to obsess over those problems that often cause me grief.  I fretted further that November, perhaps my favorite month, was going to end with stains of stress on it.  But I hope that I’m learning a lesson to ameliorate that bad habit in the future.

Last night I went and looked up my journal entry for Sunday, April 11, 2004, which reads in part, “I’ve had two big moments of panic recently, both of which have confirmed that the Lord knows best and is watching out for me….Thank you, Lord, and help me to have more faith and trust, and less worry and sweat.”

The ellipses there explain what the two problems were.  I can remember how much they bothered me, and how relieved I was to find deliverance, but I still worry a lot about all the trials that come my way.  I wonder what I should have done differently, I blame myself, I imagine how much suffering lies ahead because of them. 

But I’ll try to remember the lessons of the past; as I once read, we almost always overreact to things, and nothing is as important as it first seems.  No doubt that when I look back on the present troubles, I’ll be surprised at the way in which a loving God brought me and my family through. 

If my journal hadn’t given details, I wouldn’t have been able to even remember what the terrifying tribulations had been in April 2004.  I suppose that, four years from now, those things that wrench my heart will also be just so much water under the bridge. 

I need to be grateful:

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.