jesus christ

It’s so interesting and comforting to me that God spoke to Job “out of the storm” (Job 38:1 and 40:6). Sometimes, I think it’s so easy to loose sight of God in the midst of the storm, just like Job did. In the middle of his suffering, He lost sight of who God is and focused more on his own circumstances than the power and sovereignty and might of God. He allowed the storm to shroud who God was and what that meant for Job’s life and suffering. And I know that we are no different in the midst of our own storms.

But God spoke out of a mighty storm, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. He spoke out of the storm and reestablished His might and sovereignty. But He also restored Job. He strengthened Job and restored his faith and trust in God. And I think that’s truly beautiful. Because I know God does the same for us, if we’ll be like Job and simply listen to Him and allow Him to shape us and restore us. 

Just because the storm is raging around you, that doesn’t mean that God has left you, quite the opposite. God is in the midst of the storm with you, and He’s longing to speak to you through it, if you’ll simply listen. Stop paying attention to the storm and turn your eyes to the One who commands the wind and the waves.

There’s this line of thought I’ve seen crop up fairly frequently in church classes and talks expressed in a few ways: “the gospel’s really about the small things,” “what’s really important is making sure you’re consistently doing the little things” “you know, it’s all comes down to those sunday school answers, right? say your prayers, read your scriptures, attending church…” All of these are saying the same thing: the gospel isn’t really that hard! All you need to do is find a couple of church-y things to do in the midst of the non-church-y things you’re busy with all the rest of the week, plop them on top of your life the way you pour sprinkles on a sundae. If you’re watching YouTube for a couple hours anyway, at least spend two minutes watching a Mormon Message. Make sure you meet your minimum quota of Jesus for the week and then anything else church-y you’re able to put in is just, like, bonus blessings!

The problem with all this is that there’s never going to be a minimum amount of Jesus we need in our lives or any real distinction between “church-y” and “not-church-y” beyond what we choose to arbitrarily imagine. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph that “all things unto me are spiritual and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal,” that each of our  words and deeds, no matter how seemingly mundane, have spiritual implications (D&C 29:34). As Christians, our lives aren’t diametrically separated into church-y and non-church-y things like oil and water are in a jar: instead, our discipleship to Jesus Christ is supposed to dictate the attitude by which we approach every area of our life. Each of us needs to experiment ourselves on what it means to be Christlike while working, how we might carry the example of Christ into school, or the time spent with friends and family, or our hobbies, and everything else life includes. We convert each of these activities in the course of our lives to be Christlike activities in all ways they can be so. This is, of course, much more difficult than sprinkling one or two overtly church-y things into an otherwise mostly secular lifestyle; I don’t want to pretend like I’ve mastered it at all. But this life-permeating mindfulness is what I think we’re asked to commit (to covenant) ourselves towards in the prayers said over the Sacrament: “that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (Moroni 4:3). 

There is no minimum level of discipleship or any easy mode to Christian living that pares what’s required by the call “come follow me” down to “come follow me by doing two or three church-y things a day this next week.” At the end of that path lies only the sad idolatry of mistaking the tools of worship for what we are worshiping. The command at the climax of the Sermon on the Mount is “be ye therefore perfect”–whole, complete, purposeful–not a partial Christian or a dash-of-church-y-ness-where-I-can-squeeze-it-in Christian, but a whole-hearted, entire, and complete disciple (Matthew 5:48). Christ’s good news should have an impact on everything we do, even where (especially where) we don’t expect it to apply (I find Lewis’ parable about the house a useful illustration of this). Yes, it is harder, and I don’t mean to disparage or discourage those who are still finding their footing in Christ and who find it helpful to at first grab hold of a few overtly spiritual habits to help gain their bearings. But if we are to be truly nourished and strengthened in the gospel, we must move on at some point from its milk to its meat and this–“having the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances”–is a crucial step in our progress (Alma 5:19).

Daily Bible Verse; September 24, 2018

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

 “Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

(Matthew 6:5-15)

The old gods return

Dust swirled slowly as it began to settle.

Usually there’s sounds after an explosion like that. Muffled, sure, but there’s usually the sounds of bricks slowly tumbling down the piles of rubble, moaning of the wounded, then comes the screams of grief from those still left in enough pieces to bear witness to the carnage. Every battle is like that when it ends. The calm of loss, the smell of dust and blood and burning metal. This encounter with the Xenos was no different.

I sat there, ears ringing, barely registering the destruction around me, my mind refusing to understand what I was seeing. I found myself fascinated by a splatter of blood on my pants that looked like a dragonfly. ‘How funny,’ I thought, ‘I’ve never seen one of those in the city.’

I looked up at the movement. The Xeno battalion was spreading out to check for survivors. I started feeling my chest, fumbling hands searching to see if I had even one grenade left. If I was going out, I was going to try taking one of these fuckers to hell with me. Even though I knew it wouldn’t work, I had to try. I was going to go out on my terms, not theirs.

The Xeno slowly stepped in front of me, lazily raising it’s rifle. And then another movement caught the corner of my eye and my gaze shifted. A human. Upright. Walking. Uninjured.

‘What the hell?’ I thought, wondering where this guy had come from.

He walked slowly, calmly over to the Xeno, and placed his hand on it’s arm as it turned towards him. And then it simply crumpled to the ground, lifeless.

A dry chuckle escaped his lips. “Guess they can’t tolerate ethanol in their bloodstream. Knew that trick was going to be useful one day.”

He smiled down at me. “Don’t be afraid child. I won’t leave you alone. Just rest, you’ll be fine in a minute.”

He then proceeded to unwind some kind of rope from around his robe. Robe. Who wears a robe these days? Ok not so much of a robe like I was used to, not like you’d see back home, more like something a Bedouin would wear, a voluminous wrap, dyed crimson. No, it wasn’t dyed, it was more a purplish red, but it was stained. With blood. Soaked and dried in blood. Xeno blood.

The rope belt dangled from His clenched fist as his expression hardened, a fire springing up in his eyes. His olive complexion grew even darker as his heavy brows furrowed together, lightning seeming to dance in his gaze as he turned his attention to the other Xenos rapidly beginning to encircle us. I glanced again at his hands, rough, calloused, scarred- workman’s hands, and the rope held so tightly, corded muscle rippling in his bare forearm, veins popping. Not a rope. A whip of some kind. A flail of knotted rope.

“Leave my children alone.”

When he spoke to the Xenos surrounding us, his voice was quiet, but it seemed to cut right through me, ringing in my ears like a thunderclap. The Xenos staggered back a step as though it had affected them the same way, but stronger. One dropped it’s weapon.

The air seemed to crackle with electricity as he fully turned towards them, this man alone, unbowed and unafraid, bristling with barely contained rage. He stepped forward, their rifles held ready. I sucked in what I was sure was my final breath. And then he moved.

The air seemed to crackle with electricity as he fully turned towards them, this man alone, unbowed and unafraid, bristling with barely contained rage. He stepped forward, their rifles held ready. I sucked in what I was sure was my final breath. And then he moved.

He moved so fast, so fast I only realized he had moved by the small cloud of dust his sandaled feet raised and the screams from the Xenos closest to him. With blinding speed, roaring inarticulately, this lone bearded workman, clad in robes dripping with the blood of our enemy, wielding only a rope flail, lashed out, crushing their visors, wrapping tendrils of that rope around limbs and tearing them apart, their blood fountaining burgundy everywhere, painting the dusty street like some monochrome Pollock. He spun, whirled, charged, crushed and tore to pieces the entire brigade in a matter of seconds.

I hadn’t realized I was holding that last breath until it was over. He stood alone in the street, corpses of Xenos scattered like confetti, and then I saw him do something that seemed so out of place, something I hadn’t seen anyone do since the first day the Xenos arrived. He bowed his head, and leaned against the white wall, now spattered claret, and wept. Quietly, no sobbing, not hysterical, but the slow quiet grief of a man who has known loss and sadness many times before.

I heard him whisper, “Forgive them, these had no idea what they were doing. I promised to save them.”

He slowly drug his feet over to me, shoulders slumped, tired, but tired of heart, weary of mind. He knelt down in front of me, looking down. I’d seen that look before. The look of a man who has resigned himself to do what needs to be done, no matter how much he didn’t want to.

“Are you all right?”

I simply nodded, too dumbfounded to speak.

“Good. Here, give me your hand, let’s get you up.”

“I’m, um, that is, I don’t think I can actually. I think something’s broken,” I stammered as he looked me in the eye. Such kind, sad eyes.

He smiled quietly. “Well how about you try, and I’ll see what I can do about that.”

He put his arm under mine and slowly helped me to stand. The pain was intense and I almost blacked out, but then as he whispered “You can do this, just lean on me,” the pain drained away, and I was able to stand. I took a tentative half step, and didn’t fall; in fact, I felt better and stronger than I did before the blast.

“Oh good, all better then!” he smiled broadly. “Now are you ok to help get the others back to your camp?”

“Yeah…yeah, I’m good. Thanks.”

He patted me on the shoulder and turned to leave.

He looked back, meeting my eyes with his.

“A lot of people have forgotten me, but yes, I am.”

“So you’re…what’s do I call you?”

“Just call me Josh, for now.”