Old Bullets

My wife likes to claim I’m a packrat.  I like to explain that I am a collector.  One of the random things I like to collect are old bullets.  The photo shows some of my favorites: flintlock pistol balls from the English Civil War, Brown Bess musket balls from the US Revolutionary War, bullets and balls from the US Civil War and bullets from World War I.  The one I find the most amazing is a Confederate musket ball (second from the right on the top) that still carries the teeth marks of a soldier.  He must have been holding it in his teeth as he loaded his musket.  As I hold them in my hand I think how incredible it is that the wars that these were used in ended so long ago and yet the bullets are still here, virtually unchanged.

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Aren’t these like the unkind words we say?  I know that I am guilty of firing off words in anger, words that I usually don’t really mean, but that end up wounding those around me.  The arguments are long since over, but the words I’ve said still linger on buried in the hearts of those around me.

The worst are those that I’ve said to those people I love the most.  Those words, just like the tooth-marked musket ball, bear my personal marks.  Because I know those people so well I know just how to harm them the most.  Those are the comments that I regret the most and yet it seems that they are the easiest to say.

Thinking back in my life, I’ve never regretted not getting angry at someone.  I’ve only regretted saying or doing things in anger that have hurt those around me.  That’s why I’m striving to hold my tongue a little longer.

I’m also working on prying out those bullets that are lodged within my soul by forgiving others for unkind things they have said about me.  It seems that in most cases those that have offended me don’t even remember firing off those words and yet I have such a hard time letting go of those same words.  It’s as though I expect forgiveness for the things I say and do, but don’t grant that same forgiveness to others.  Of course, it doesn’t work that way – in order to be forgiven we must also forgive.

One of the aspects of the atonement that brings me the most peace is that it is not just for sinners, it is for those sinned against.  Not only can the Savior help us to put down our guns because He is the Prince of Peace, but He is also the Master Healer.  He is perfectly able to heal the wounds that we bear because of the wounds that He bore for us.

Mother’s Day and Gamma Rays

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The bottles above were both recovered from an old barn in New England.  They started out looking the same, but the one on the right was exposed to gamma rays.  It’s amazing to think about this process.  Gamma rays are just high energy photons – tiny particles of light.  When they interact with the glass molecules they change the structure of the glass and give it a nice lavender color.  But it’s not just one or two photons it’s trillions and trillions of photons, each making their indelible mark in the glass.  The process is invisible, but the results are permanent and they reach far beyond the surface of the bottle.

This reminds me of motherhood.  The process of being a mother is incredible – it’s a slow and thankless job.  I know that the hours are long and the pay is nonexistent, but as the son of a wonderful mother and the recipient of her boundless love I know what the effects are.  Her love, her example, and her endless prayers have permeated every aspect of my life and changed me for the better.  The faults I have (and the list is long) are my own, but all that is good and beautiful within me I owe to my mother.

So to my wonderful mother – thank you.  To my lovely wife, the mother of my children – thank you.  And to all of you mothers out there, whether you have children of your own or mother the children around you – thank you.  We may only celebrate Mother’s Day once a year, but my gratitude is constant and eternal.

Tiger’s Eye

Tiger’s eye is one of my favorite stones.  It comes in a variety of colors, but it’s the amazing patterns within the stone that makes it so beautiful.  The chemistry is also fascinating.  Tiger’s eye is almost entirely composed of silicon dioxide, also known as quartz.  Quartz is the most common mineral on the planet; in fact ordinary sand is quartz.  So how does it make such a beautiful gemstone.  Well, tiger’s eye starts out as asbestos (yeah, the same stuff that ruins your lungs and gives you cancer).  But quartz slowly embeds itself between the asbestos fibers and eventually all of the asbestos is dissolved.  In the process the quartz takes on the pattern of the asbestos.  If it weren’t for the original asbestos fibers, you would just have a pile of boring old sand.

Our lives are a bit like this.  The trials we face can either scar us and make us bitter or we can choose to let our Heavenly Father’s love work within us.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t face trials, but it does mean that those trials will slowly (sometimes very slowly) lose their power to harm us.  And when it’s all said and done we’ll be able to look back and be grateful for the trials we overcame.  Without those trials we could never become the strong, amazing and beautiful people we are meant to be.

Hofzinser card

I recently made a couple of Hofzinser cards.  These have been around for a long time, but I still think they are amazing.  They look just like ordinary playing cards (in this case a ten of diamonds).  But when you hold them up to the light, you see a completely different card (in this case a two of clubs).

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Have you ever had this happen to you?  You meet someone and judge the outward appearance and once you get to know them you find out that they are very different from what you expected.  Sometimes they are better than you anticipated and sometimes they are far worse.

We’re often so caught up with how others view us that we don’t stop to think about what the Lord sees.  When He holds me up to His light, what will He see?

The Parable of the Oh So Many Trees – Explanation

In this story we are the trees and the leaves are the good works we can do and the good influence we have on others.  Brother Spike represents Satan.  I try not to spend much time thinking about Satan and his mentality, but I think it’s important to understand his goals as well as his tools and tricks.

Satan is jealous of you and wants to destroy you personally as well as prevent the good you might do.  He tries to get you while you are young so that he can prevent all the good you will do in your life.

Even if he can get you just a few degrees off track while you are young you will get further and further away from the straight and narrow path.  This leads to personal apostacy.

Satan’s tools are temptation and sin (some of the most devious of which can be found online).  He also uses distractions and despair.  He will grasp at any branch of your life that he can reach, so we can’t allow ourselves to droop in despair.

Sometimes he will push against our trunks – the main focus of our lives – and try to topple us.  If our roots are shallow we will fall, but if we have allowed our roots to dig deep into a gospel foundation then he can’t bring us down.

Satan knows our weaknesses and he will try to exploit them, bet if we trust in the Lord He will strengthen our weakness (Ether 12:27).  If we stand alone it is easier for the devil to reach us, so it is essential for us to surround ourselves with others that have the same values.  We can support each other.

Remember your divine potential.  Remember that you are never alone.  No matter who you are and where you are in your life, no matter where your life has taken you or what you have done, your Heavenly Father loves you more than you can imagine.  He will strengthen you and help you to stand tall.

The Parable of the Mighty Big Rocks – Explanation

Brother Ike represents each of us.  Our lives are the yard that we strive to maintain and unfortunately we each have myriad sins and habits (rocks) that we are trying to remove.  Through the atonement of Jesus Christ each of us can be free of the burdens that weigh us down and cause us to stumble, but this doesn’t come without effort.  We are expected to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” James 1:22.  Christ changes the person, but only if the person is willing to change.

Most of us truly want to change, but how do we go about it.  Well, we have a couple of tools.  The first is the pickaxe of self-inventory, which allows us to dig deep and uncover not only the sins we may be hiding, but the motivations for those sins.  The second tool is repentance, which (like Herbert the Magnificent) is specially designed to root out those sins no matter how deeply they are ingrained in us.  Repentance never breaks and never wears out.

The wonderful wife in the story represents our Heavenly Father who desires with all of His heart that we change, but won’t force us.  He will cheer us on every step of the way and praise even the tiniest improvement.  He knows that this mortal life is short and that we don’t have much time, but He gives us every opportunity to come unto Him.  He also knows that at some point after this life, we will have to stand before Him and be judged.  We will condemn ourselves if we have chosen not to change in this life, just as Brother Ike would have to deal with the remaining rocks in the yard when it came time to mow.

Just as Brother Ike chose a seemingly small stone to remove, but found it more difficult than expected, we often try to change our lives in seemingly small ways (keeping the Sabbath day holy or trying to stop swearing) only to find that the sins are deeply entrenched and require some real effort.  When we do finally unearth a sin, it’s not enough to leave it lying around in our lives.  We must “roll it to the edges of the wilderness” by enduring to the end.  Just as Brother Ike did, we can use those stones as barriers to prevent ourselves and others from future sins.

As Brother Ike dug in his yard he sometimes found that the stones would overlap.  Often our sins are entangled.  Inappropriate TV or music may lead to foul language.  Indulging in alcohol often leads to immorality.  When we are trying to clear our lives of the sins that we bear, we should remember that even the smallest (the fist-sized rocks) matter.  Unlike stones, sins have a tendency to grow unless they are rooted out.  And when turn away from sin it leaves a vacancy that must be filled (hopefully with something good) or we will slip back into those sins.  Remember when Christ spoke about the evil spirits who were cast out of a house and then returned in greater force?

The swarming mosquitoes represent the many temptations that beset us.  They often distract us and keep us from doing what we need to be doing.  The temptations will always be there, but how do we protect ourselves?  Scripture study, prayer, church attendance, service, etc.  They are called Sunday school answers for a reason- they really are answers.

As much as we would like other people to get rid of our sins, that is solely between us and the Lord.  Others can help, but we have to make the choice.  We also cannot simply “buy another house.”  This is your life and your responsibility.  We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes, but it’s where we go from here that matters.

When the day of reckoning finally comes, we will stand before our Maker to be judged.  Despite our best efforts, we cannot satisfy the demands of justice.  We will have a perfect recollection of all our guilt and we will condemn ourselves.  As an unknown author once said, “Hell is the knowledge of opportunity lost; the place where the man I am comes face to face with the man I might have been.”  But through the grace of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed “after all we can do.”  We aren’t perfect, but we can be worthy.  We can kneel before Him at that day in gratitude and humility instead of crouching in shame.