Thursday, July 2, 2009

A choice land

Last week in Church, the Sacrament Meeting talks were somewhat patriotic. They focused on our rights and responsibilities as Americans and as God-loving Church members. In one talk a fairly common quote referring to "a land choice above all others" was used. He went on to discuss the phrase "choice land" and finally said that maybe there's another way we should also consider it... a land of choice. Perhaps that ability to make choices is what makes us consider America a choice land. It's been an interesting thought to turn over in my mind.

Part of what set my frame of mind to be especially receptive is a chat with an old friend from High School. Brenda is a big fan of a man named Christopher Hitchens. I haven't studied what he has to say very closely but in chatting with her and making a quick perusal of his Facebook page (, I think that he may present a pretty accurate picture of our current political state. He seems to be enough of a Washington insider to know the difference when our politicians are actually telling the truth and when they still have a bit of BS to wipe from the corner of their lips. In what I read, my only 'problem' with him is that he is so full of vitriol. I prefer rational solutions to simple hate mail.

Which isn't to say that I have a lot of real and lasting solutions to offer... As just one person I know that I'm somewhat limited in what I can do to save the world. But I can reach out to one person. I can help my neighbor. I can smile at a stranger. I can take a picture of a tourist in front of some local attraction so they can take it home to show their friends. I can let someone in front of me in traffic. I have a friend who, speaking of missionary work, says they are out to save the family of man one person at a time. Kind of like the starfish story that's been retold so many times it's almost cliche...

A man was walking along the beach when he saw another man wading into the surf picking up the starfish that littered the beach. An especially large amount of them had washed ashore and the man was picking them up and throwing them back in the water. The first man approached him and told him that his job was too big... there were simply too many starfish washed ashore for him to make a real difference. He bent, picked up another and tossed it back out to sea saying "Made a difference to that one."

Of course reading Mr. Hitchens entries also reminded me of what I think is truly the cause of our difficulties in America. We are a nation built of fundemental Christian values, yet we've allowed Christ to be removed from our public consciousness. We've become a nation of selfish individuals, each more intent on having his/her desires filled than working for the common good of all. We are more interested in the monetary value in suing someone who has offended us than in repairing relationships. We continue to institutionally care for both our young and old while complaining about the decline of family values. We reward those who do wrong - both individuals and large corporations. Call it God's wrath pouring out on us if you wish. But whatever label you attach, I think it boils down to one simple fact - we've brought this on ourselves.

And if there is a solution to be had, we have to be the ones to find it. In my life, learning and living God's will plays an important part in the solution. I want to see His hand at work in my life now so that someday I will have the ability recognize His face because I already know Him.

I was recently reminded of a story from the New Testament that illustrates this idea. It's that of the disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after the crucifixion. Somewhere along the journey they are joined by a man they do not recognize. He inquired as to why they were so downcast. In reply they asked where he had come from to not know about the death of the prophet that so many had believed was come to save the Jews.

Continuing on, he expounded scripture... prophesying and explaining what had been fulfilled. It was only after they had stopped for the evening and asked him to stay on with them that they discovered his identity as the risen Savior. 'Did our hearts not burn within us?' they asked each other.

How often have we read that story and wondered how they did not recognize Christ? These were His associates in life and would have been well versed in His teachings, manners and mission. How could they not know Him well enough to recognize Him?

I ask myself, am I sure I know Him well enough to not make the same mistake? And as I work to make sure that I do, I think I will find my own solution to the problems of the world.

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