Monday, September 7, 2015

On a Mission - Week 0 : ready or not

Ephraim Hanks - "ANGEL of MERCY" by Clark Kelly Price
Well, my dears --

Yes, last week's message was Week -4.  And now suddenly we're at Week 0?  Time is elastic certainly, but this is not a case of quantum strangeness.  Nor is it so much changing my mind as having my mind changed.

Because yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, Fast Sunday, a day of prayer and meditation, and in the midst of all those good feelings of peace and uplift after a strugglish week came the reminder that if I really wanted to be like the Martin-Willey handcart hero, Ephraim Hanks, who brought the first hope on the trail to my own great-great+ grandparents, then like him I needed to say, "I'm ready to go now."

I'm never really going to be all the way ready until I start moving forward.

Just like any bike ride I set out just going pedal-pedal-pedal, with only one or two days' worth of food, insufficient muscles, and only more or less adequate maps.  It's as I get my wheels rolling, as I start working up the hills that my strength grows, that I find along the way better maps, farmer's markets, and perfect-maple-bar bakeries to supplement my provisions.  

And if there are flat tires along the way -- that's why I carry a patch kit and make sure Fritz is always there to hand it to.

So, enough with wearing my baggy grey Senator Palpatine hoodie and dragging around despairing and full of anxiety!  

not a good role model
Enough with bemoaning the weedy state of my yard and my mind and the uncertainty that looms on every side! 

I begin my 18 months of conscious everyday commitment to living like God owns my life: Today. 

What is my mission? 

I don't know yet.  I thought I would figure that out before setting out to do it.  But now I am beginning to think that my mission is to figure out what my mission is supposed to be.

Certainly it includes coming closer to Him, learning His gospel better, and enjoying more fully the life He's given me -- and talking more openly about what I find on my way.

I know that it also includes taking care of my family.  I've found this week Julie Beck's approach to the mundane daily chores of caring for a family redirecting my aim from the anxiousness of not knowing where we'll be and how and when, to the heart of what I need to be doing:
it made a difference to me to know that I wanted a house of order. It became a priority to make a place where the Spirit of the Lord could come. Cooking meals for my family took on added meaning because I needed a place to teach and gather and have the Lord’s Spirit there. 
I want to give this idea a more robust physical existence in my own life. 

But beyond that, all I have so far is a sense that my mission is to make myself ready to serve.  

"I Will Go" by Julie Rogers
I loved reading this week about how Ephraim Hanks was fishing at Utah Lake and stopped overnight with friends in Draper on his way back home to Salt Lake.  In the night he heard a voice:

"The handcart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?" Ephraim wrote, "I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary-sized man in the room. Without any hesitation I answered, 'Yes, I will go if I am called.' " This message was repeated two more times. 
"I now hastened to Salt Lake City," Ephraim continued, "and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last handcart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days, I spoke at once saying, 'I am ready now!' The next day I was wending my way eastward over the mountains with a light wagon all alone."
I think it's no coincidence that just as he was quick to hear God's voice and quick to put himself on the road to helping where he was needed, the Lord was not slow in answering his prayers for help:

I camped in the snow in the mountains. As I was preparing to make a bed in the snow with the few articles that my pack animal carried for me, I thought how comfortable a buffalo robe would be on such an occasion, and also how I could relish a little buffalo meat for supper, and before lying down for the night I was instinctively led to ask the Lord to send me a buffalo. Now, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer, for I have on many different occasions asked the Lord for blessings, which He in His mercy has bestowed on me. But when I, after praying as I did on that lonely night in the South Pass, looked around me and spied a buffalo bull within fifty yards of my camp, my surprise was complete; I had certainly not expected so immediate an answer to my prayer. However, I soon collected myself and was not at a loss to know what to do. ... 
The following day Ephraim killed another buffalo, "impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow; then cut up part of its meat in long strips and loaded my horses with it."
Ephraim Hanks finding the Martin handcart company
It was that evening (Nov. 11) that he saw the Martin Handcart Company in the distance — "like a black streak in the snow. ... I reached the ill-fated train just as the emigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The sufferers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, 'Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat;' another would exclaim, 'My poor children are starving, do give me a little,' and children with tears in their eyes would call out, 'Give me some, give me some.' At first I tried to wait on them and handed out the meat as they called for it, but finally I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later both my horses had been released of their extra burden — the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts."
When Ephraim found the helpless immigrants, their food supply was nearly exhausted. A half-dozen deaths were occurring daily due to the bitter cold and hunger. They had been without help for 36 days and even the strongest were beginning to lose hope. 

I want to live like Ephraim Hanks.

I want so badly to know where we will be -- if we'll stay here or get a job elsewhere.

Even without knowing, though, my life is good.

And this Sunday taught me again that putting myself on the road, putting my hands out there to be the Lord's hands, fills me and lifts me up - volunteering to fetch a young family who needed a ride, taking a shrieking 3 year old and letting her mother go to women's class for once.  I want my life to be more full of the filling and uplifting acts of friendliness and less of the depleting doubts and worry.  And I think living with a mission-sense of service is an important part.

Yesterday, to quiet the three-year-old shrieker, I carried her up and down the hallways by the Primary room and told and retold the stories of Jesus shown in each of the pictures.  Every time we passed this one --

I looked up at that beckoning hand and then looked down at that little disconsolate face, telling her through the streaked window of her attention, "Look, here is Jesus.  He is saying, Come. He is saying, Follow Me."

She would stop her crying for a minute, then start again.  Back and forth I walked that hallway, stopping over and over at this picture, telling her (and myself) this same story about Come, about Follow Me.

And so here I am, trying to untangle myself from the nets and splashing through the shoreline mud and straggling up to get on the road where His footsteps are.

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