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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Christmas Journey

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The following is the draft of the talk I gave today during our Christmas Sacrament meeting. I'm hesitant to post it since I don't ever read my talks, and what I actually said varies from this text but the ideas are the same. My prayer is that the spirit of the journey of Christmas long outlives December. Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2009

The Christmas story is relived each December in celebration of Christ’s birth but it’s really a story for the whole year.

The beginning of the story has always struck me - announcing the newborn Messiah by scaring people. I imagine the shepherds of the story, settled in for the night. Chatting around a fire, keeping watch or sleeping soundly when suddenly “an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2:9)

The first words of Christmas and not Joy to the World, Hosanna, Hallelujah. The first words of Christmas are “Fear Not” These words show how unexpected, out of place, and unnatural this occurrence was. The reality of the moment was even bigger than the shock of the poor shepherds. With the birth of the Savior everything was going to change. What was promised would now be fulfilled and nothing would be the same.

The shepherds teach us that at the heart of the story of Christmas is a journey. Not a journey of one night, or one year or even 33 years. The story of Christmas is the journey you begin the moment the Savior is born into your life. It is the journey you walk with family. The journey you take with friends, it is the journey all believers take together. And ultimately it is the journey you walk alone, with your Savior.

It is the road to Emmaus. It is the road to Damascus. It is the road to Bountiful. It is the Trail of Tears and the trek to Salt Lake. Scripture records again and again the journeys of believers of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Mary and Joseph, Saul...Paul, Ammon, Nephi, Pioneer saints the list goes on.

It is the record of those who heed the call to “Come follow me” and try their very best, to actually follow Him. Yet like Peter who offered his life for the Savior’s sake only to deny him thrice a short while later, we fall all too short only to have the Lord as he says in Isaiah whisper - “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)

So how do we Journey to Christ? We can learn a lot from the shepherds. Finding Christ is about changing, becoming. It’s about getting up from the place where we are comfortable and stepping outside of ourselves. Doing things we wouldn’t normally do, often in new places with new people. The journey of the shepherds was quick. Scripture says “they came with haste.” Finding the newborn babe lying in a manger.

Few of us in this room are actual shepherds, or have had angelic visitations, yet we all have heard the whisperings of the Spirit. The call of the Savior to be more like Him, to follow Him - to come unto Him. Really doing that requires change. It requires us to, like the shepherds, move from where we are comfortable much closer to the manger.

I have a long list of character traits, quirks, idiosyncrasies - OK, flaws that as a disciple of the Savior I should change. One that I’ll admit publicly is my tendency to over focus. If I have something I’m doing, working on or thinking about I tend to block the rest of the world out. More than one of you have scolded me for ignoring your friendly waves as you drive by. On more than one occasion I have been standing next to a person I know and not noticed - I’m just living in my own little head world. This would be useful if I were say a brain surgeon, but as a housewife, it’s not so useful. I am constantly chastising myself for missing an opportunity to do something good, not taking notice of a person in need, realizing after the fact some great window of opportunity that had closed.

A few years ago I was reading the Ensign and came across an article that struck me to the core. It was the story of a woman at the grocery store at Christmas time, with her two young, tired and unruly children. She was checking out and trying to decide which line to get in - the line with one person who had a full cart or the line with three people with only a few things each. She chose the line with the one person and as the lines progressed she felt quite pleased with her choice.

The story continues: And then, over the sound of the store’s cheery holiday music, I heard the checker in the other line talking loudly, too loudly. I glanced over as my hands kept working.

“No, I’m sorry,” the checker was almost shouting at the old woman, who didn’t seem to understand. “That card won’t work. You are past your limit. Do you have another way to pay?” The tiny old woman blinked at the checker with a confused expression. Not only were her hands shaking now, but her shoulders too. The teenage bagger rolled her eyes and sighed.

I thought to myself: “Boy, did I choose the right line! Those three are going to be there forever.” My mood was positively smug as my checker began scanning my food.

But the smiling woman directly in line behind the elderly lady had a different reaction. Quietly, with no fanfare, she moved to the older woman’s side and ran her own credit card through the reader.

“Merry Christmas,” she said softly, still smiling.

And then everyone was quiet. Even my rowdy children paused, feeling the change in the atmosphere.

It took a minute for the older woman to understand what had happened. The checker, her face thoughtful, hesitated with the receipt in her hand, not sure whom to give it to. The smiling woman took it and tucked it into the elderly woman’s bag.

“I can’t accept …” the older woman began to protest, with tears forming in her eyes.

The smiling woman interrupted her. “I can afford to do it. What I can’t afford is not to do it.”

This story made my heart leap - this was exactly what I wanted to be like! I copied the story, carried it in my purse. I read it almost daily for weeks and in my prayers offered pleas to help me see as He would have me see. To notice others that needed to be noticed. While I was kinder, calmer and more deliberate nothing huge happened. I was standing in a checkout line getting the last of my shopping done. Working furiously on the lists of things I had to do inside my head, I was feeling quite overwhelmed. The man behind me gave a few exasperated sighs and then said “Come on lady” I looked up and noticed an elderly woman trying to find her debit card. She kept saying, I’m sure I put it in here. I have enough to pay.

Because I’m not that quick it took a few moments (I’m sure God was saying to the angels “Wait for it...wait for it...) when AAAAHAAAA!!! This was exactly like the situation in the story! This was exactly what I had been praying for! I sidled up to the woman, put my arm around her as I swiped my own card and with tears in my eyes said “Merry Christmas”

It is true. He will hold us by the hand and help us.

Wise men

The wise men also teach us something about the journey to Christ. They are an interesting inclusion in the story of the Nativity. Most scholars agree that the wise men arrived at Joseph and Mary’s home years after the birth of the Savior. Matthew records “and when they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him”

To do what they did they had to be men versed in scripture, to be watching for the signs and men motivated to act upon them. A hundred new stars could appear in the sky and I would have no idea. Yet these men were so certain of this sign they dedicated their life to following and finding the Savior that they might worship him. We don't’ know their names. We only know they came from the east, but the Christmas story is not complete without them.

I’ve reflected on the impact wise men have had on me. While there were probably more than three wise men in the group seeking the Savior, I think it’s an interesting number that I see reflected in my own life.

Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet when I joined the church. I loved him, and following his words and counsel directly blessed my life in powerful ways. Each subsequent prophet and First Presidency have been amazing guides that have drawn me closer to the Savior as I have listened to them and heeded their counsel. My own three wise men.

Similarly, I have been blessed by Bishops and Bishoprics. In this room are men who have served as the wise men of wards, men who are currently serving and other men who will serve one day. None of these men have been perfect - yet when I have chosen to sustain them, to pray for them and to follow them my life has been infinitely blessed. I am forever grateful to have the blessing of having wise men to guide me on the journey of my life. As I have followed them I have come closer to my Savior.

The wise men brought very specific gifts. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. While these gifts are somewhat foreign to us today, they were very symbolic and clear to those of the Savior’s time. Gold represented Royalty, the Savior’s divinity. Frankincense was a resin used in temple worship and represented His priesthood. Myrrh was another resin used in burial rites, a symbol of His mission to overcome death. Their testimony of the Savior’s mission is found in the gifts they bestowed.

Likewise, our testimony of His mission is found in the gifts we bestow. What will we do with our lives? On our journey? At the end of each day are we closer to Him? At the end of our days will we be like Him? That all depends on how we journey.

Listening to the Spirit

Everything important depends on our ability to listen to the Spirit. The fact is, I’m not so good at it. I’ll say a prayer, get an 'outside my comfort zone' prompting, and then have been known to go back and say “Now Heavenly Father, if this is really, really, really you...” More than once the answer has been “Aselin, it is really, really, really me.”

Trying to become more like the Savior is a big challenge because in so many ways we are nothing like Him. It takes courage and stamina. I’m sure this is why there are so many journey stories chronicled in the scriptures. They act as metaphors for the spiritual journey every true disciple is required to make.

It is the journey to make our lives less about ourselves and more about Him. It comes in baby steps for most of us. God knows this. All he asks of us is effort. Real effort. The author of the Grocery store story finishes her thoughts with:

I could not afford my current, self-absorbed frame of mind.

I could not afford to have my children learn lessons of compassion only from strangers.

I could not afford to be so distant from the spirit of Christ at any time of the year—especially during this great season of giving.

I could not afford to let another stranger, another brother or sister, cross my path in need of help without doing something about it.

I’ve been tremendously fortunate in my life to witness other people giving their lives to His purpose.

1998 the year Connor was born our Relief Society in Layton, Utah put on a Christmas program. One of the presenters asked if she could borrow Connor for the program. I agreed. As I sat in the cultural hall at one of the round tables having been fed Costco lasagna and jello I waited for the program to start. It was a musical program, and Connor was the baby Jesus. He was wrapped in an almost translucent white blanket. The spotlight beamed right on him as the sisters sang hymns of Christmas. What happened in that room was magical. As sister after sister took my baby in her arms and sang her testimony of the Savior I wept. As a mother you could want little more than to have others feel the love you feel about your children. More surely than I ever had before, I knew how Heavenly Father wants us to feel about each other. We’re all His children.

I’m sure each of us has a story of someone who loved you, or your children in a special, unconditional way. We each have amazing tales of generosity and love from the sisters.

The reality is, we are all on this journey together. As we come closer to Christ, we start to see each other more as God sees us. We are slower to find fault, quicker to lift up, quicker to give a hand. And as we continue this Christmas journey all year, may we be like the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. May we, like the shepherds, fear not. May we walk with the wise men, may we more fully follow him.

For the full "Hero at the Grocery Store" by Stephanie Meyer click here

Dear Abby

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

As all of my readers know, I hold myself up as a paragon of wisdom in this crazy world. The vacuum created by the passing of Dear Abby sucked me right in and I readily dispense advice to any needy soul. Yesterday the following plea came to my attention:

Dear Abby,

There's this certain blog I've been reading. Now that you are dead and I don't read traditional print media that carries your daily column written by an alive someone who pretends to be you, this blog offered me the anticipation I needed to get my tired bones out of bed and turn on the PC every morning. This blogger is every bit as good as you ever were. Unfortunately, this blogger has given up! What do you suggest I do?




Dear Miffed,

It makes perfect sense that your world has been turned upside down by the absence of your favorite blogger. A good blogger is hard to find. Everyone knows that bloggers are lazy, attention seekers who will drop their loyal readers for shallow pursuits. So "Miffed" I am sure that the absence of your blogger is all your fault. Have you fanned this blogger's ego by commenting on their posts? Have you submitted to any subliminal messages hidden in the blogger's posts, for say, a pastrami sandwich? If your blogger is not sufficiently attended to then silly things like final exams, children and holidays crush the blogger's creativity. So, remember, be good to your blogger and you will likely see their return.


"Not the alive someone who pretends to be Abby in print media"

(See, I'm a natural!)

Because of the volume of requests I get for my life coaching skills, and my general magnanimous nature, I want to share some other wisdom I got off the Internet to get you through the holiday season. Everyone knows if it's on the Internet then it must be useful AND true.

Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop.

Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.

For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives; then you'll be afraid to cough.

You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

Remember: everyone seems normal until you get to know them.