Thursday, June 30, 2011

Growing the Hottest Jalapenos

Recently I have helped to start a small backyard garden. A friend of mine offered to give us some of his small jalapeno plants which started me thinking, "How do you get the hottest jalapenos?" After asking some people and looking around, I discovered something I didn't expect, the hottest jalapenos come from stressed plants. I learned that if you want hot peppers, you need to occasionally deny the plant water. By doing this the peppers take on a very hot flavor. Only by doing this can farmers produce the exceptionally hot varieties that are desired the world over.

After learning this, I realized that we are a lot like pepper plants. Our Heavenly Father is the farmer and he knows better than we do what will allow us to achieve our full potential and produce the best "peppers." At times we may not understand why we aren't getting everything we think we need (water) when in reality it is that denial that makes us exceptional. We could content ourselves with being an average plant, but with God's help we can become what he would have us be.

(If you enjoyed this story also read Elder Christofferson's talk from April General Conference)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Preventing the "falls" in our lives

The Fence or The Ambulance
Joseph Malines
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done.
But their projects did not at all tally:
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day.
For it spread to the neighboring city:
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is alright if your careful," they said,
"and if folks even slip or are dropping,
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below-when they're stopping,"
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old man remarked, "it's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, cried he.
"Come neighbors and friends, let us rally :
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley."
"Oh, he's a fanatic." the others rejoined:
"dispense with the ambulance Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could:
no, no! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why would people of sense stop to put up a fence?
While their ambulance works in the valley?"
But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

I have always loved this poem because it talks about the difference between preventing problems and fixing them. The teachings of Jesus Christ were aimed at prevention in order to help us avoid the pitfalls of life. These principles were taught to me by my parents and I am grateful for the influence they have played in my life. One "cliff" that I remember is the trap of drugs and other addictions. Yes I could see how close to the cliff I could get before falling or I could erect a "fence" far from the cliff to eliminate danger. Choosing instead to erect the fence, I made my own personal rule that I would not be around people or situations were drugs were present. By putting up this safeguard I was able to avoid those dangers and the pain that would have occurred from those actions. Applying this principle here and in other instances has helped to save and protect me throughout my life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recognizing God Everyday

All too often I'm afraid that I go throughout my life and never recognize all of the blessings that God has given me. How many times have I ended a day and asked myself, "How have I seen the hand of God reaching out to me?" I'm afraid I haven't asked that nearly as often as I should. It is at this time that I would invite anyone reading this to take a moment of introspective reflection and try to see where God has reached out or blessed them today. How have you seen or felt of His love or mercy? As I think of my day, I think of a time when someone said a kind word when I was in need of encouragement. I also think of when I would walk past someone and sincerely feel a desire to help them and everyone else around me. All of these feelings are God either blessing me or helping me to view others as my brothers and sisters. As He reaches out His hand to me, I hope that I will be able to in turn reach out my hand to lift someone else. After listening to President Eyring talk and testing what he said, I am amazed at the many ways that I have been influenced by God. Before, I always thought that God would occasionally help or lift me or that He would occasionally use me to help those around me. But now I realize that He gives me those opportunities every day, if I will take them. Please take this time to reflect on how your life has been influenced by God. By doing so you will draw closer to Him and understand how deeply and personally He loves and cares about you. We are all His children and as such receive the blessings of His power on a very personal and daily basis.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing at the Lord's Pace

During my time as a missionary here in Western New York, I have enjoyed trying to grow various plants. I first started out growing seeds from an orange I had for lunch and then later I tried many things ranging from mangoes to starfruit. I was always so excited when I would see the plant peek above the soil and start to grow. From this I could tell that the rest of the seeds I planted must also be able to sprout, and sure enough they would. During the next couple of days, I would marvel at the rapid growth the small seedling would make as it started unrolling leaves and gathering sunlight. After about a week, however, I would notice that the rate of increase would slow until it seemed as if the plant was doing nothing at all. At this point I would just place the plant in the window and leave it to its own devices. Slowly but surely the plant would continue to grow and develop. Through these experiences I have learned one important lesson: the plant grows according to its own timetable, not mine. As I thought about this, I was reminded of Alma's comparison of faith to a seed. He said, "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your hear, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves -  It must needs be a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me (Alma 32:28)." Just as Alma invites us to experiment by planting the seed of faith in our hearts, I also experimented with the seeds I would plant. The first indication that the seeds were "good" was shown when they sprouted. After that, I had to continue to water the plant but also realize that I could not dictate how fast it grows. So it is in our lives as well. We can have faith in Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith, but we must wait for the Holy Ghost to teach us line upon line, precept upon precept, until we grow and become the tree of which we are only now seeds. Our potential is far greater than our current condition and if we will but allow ourselves to learn and grow at the Lord's pace.