Monday, June 29, 2015

Festa Caipira and Les Miserables- June 29, 2015

This week was really busy.  We topped it off by attending a wonderful production of Les Miserables.  Jessica, Alyssa, Brian and Matt from our Branch were all involved.  I love the story of redemption, of the ability to change, of brighter futures.  It was SOOO well done and our beautiful Camiah was the musical director.  I wish it had been playing longer because others who have heard would love to have seen it.

We rushed from the production to be able to join the Branch for the Festa.  It is so fun to join the members of the Branch for these parties, and this one is one of the favorite traditions.

 My Brazilian friends were surprised that I brought pao de queijo I had made.  I loved it when one of my Young Women looked at them and asked "What is that?"  Admittedly, they were not as pretty as those made by my Brazilian family, but they tasted good.
 They always have lots of interesting Brazilian dishes.  There was a soup made with collard greens, There is a pudding made with hominy.  There is a sort of cake made from tapioca flour.
 The Festa is something like Sadie Hawkins.  The people dress with straw hats, wear freckles and decorate with lots of flags.

They also play musical chairs.  Everyone plays and they laugh so hard it is a riot to watch.  After that, they dance.

Render unto Caesar- June 28, 2015

Throughout Jesus's ministry, there were those who sought to destroy him by catching him in his words. On one such occasion, Matthew, Mark and Luke all recorded the event (see Matthew 22:15-21, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:19-26). The following is from Mathew's account:

16   And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17   Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18   But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19   Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20   And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21   They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Christ was the greatest of all men, and the master teacher. He demonstrated beautifully how religion and political entities could co-exist. He did not challenge those of earthly authority because there was no need. His kingdom was far greater than the small kingdom they sought to protect.

I believe that the principles he taught are appropriate with regard to the issue of the Supreme Court's opinion regarding same-sex marriage. I believe that my gay friends have the right to civil liberties: being safe from persecution, being able to attain housing, being able to speak regarding their choices, being able to inherit from people without having to have a will (among other things). Some of the people I hold dearest in my life are gay. I want their lives to be wonderful. I want them to be happy.

Insofar as the opinion is referring to rights invented and conferred by government, my gay friends and family members are right. They should not be denied the right to a license that is a government convention.

Unfortunately, this opinion did not protect the other side of Christ's teaching. We are to render unto God that which is God's. Justice Kennedy briefly states: Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.

Those words are hollow. The First Amendment existed in the 1800's when our Church was persecuted and members were even martyred for our beliefs. Many of you may disagree with the belief in plural marriage, but at that time, it was a commandment from the Lord. The people in the Church were carrying out that which was commanded, and the government, determining those beliefs to be invalid, took legal actions to destroy the organization of the Church. Families were torn apart as honest, good men were imprisoned for their religious beliefs. The property of the Church was taken.

So what if our courts and our government authorities do not remain true to the doctrine espoused in the First Amendment. What could be the result? Any entity that receives federal monies can, and will, be forced to comply with the law and that can include providing services or property to those who are in relationships for which they do not agree. So, for example, the Catholic Church may find itself having to perform marriages that are against the basic tenants of their religion. Photographers who philosophically disagree with a same-sex marriage may have to agree to provide their services even if their religious beliefs are contrary, or be sued or prosecuted for discrimination.

None of that would matter if there was any acceptance that a belief in the Bible and Book of Mormon were morally acceptable. Instead, we find ourselves being demeaned, judged, disparaged, and possibly sued. I heard a comment once about the issue in which the commentator stated that no one should have a "right" to be married in a particular place. Just because I might have wanted to be married in a synagogue did not give me the right to do so.

The wording of the opinion says that the right to marry a person of your choice is a constitutionally protected right. Does that mean that polygamy is now legal again? Does it mean that a person can marry a teenager without consent of the parent? Does it mean that persons who may have previously been involved in a gay relationship but have since moved on may be subject to claims for property from their previous partner under common-law marriage states? Did it take into account the costs, emotionally and monetarily, for those who discontinue in a gay relationship and will now have to divorce?

Justice Roberts was absolutely right in his comment: “If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

For me, the issue was never really about my gay friends. It was always about fighting to preserve our religious freedom. I have been criticized, condemned, demeaned, unfriended, and even had people not support us at our farewell because of our beliefs. What happened to the call for love and acceptance from those people?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy Father's Day- June 21, 2015

What a wonderful time of the year.  I love reflecting about the fathers in my life.

 I think about Dad and the things I learned from him.
 I learned to never drive in the pack. I learned that walking through the rows while irrigating would compact the soil.  I learned to always check the oil in anything that had oil.  I learned the family was important, even when people did stupid things.  I learned that integrity was a critical character trait.  I learned about John Deere tractors.  I learned how to ride a bicycle.  I learned about giving to our neighbors.  I learned about gardens.  I learned that traveling hundreds of miles at Christmas to be with family was the real meaning of Christmas.  I learned that education was important, even though Dad only had an 8th grade education.  I learned that Dad cared enough to build a watermill for a dance and even served as a chaperone.  People in the family may remember the picture with Mom in her pink dress with the feather-boa trim on the sleeves.  That was from them being chaperones.

Because Dad was not perfect, I also learned not to smoke.  I learned that saying "I love you" was important because you can't assume people know that.  I learned that Tom could teach me to drive, but Dad couldn't!

I don't think I can even begin to list the things I have learned from Elder Dixon.  He is still trying to teach me that some things just don't matter.  He is an example to me of forgiveness for hurts.  He sacrificed pride for the good of our family.  I learned that the content of a lesson is more important than the handouts. I learned that the scriptures and prayer are important.  I learned that you have to attach the pin to the mast in the correct order or you may just drop it on a car.  I learned that I could drive a truck even though it scared me.  I learned that we could make it through tough things.  I learned that he would be there when my life was the hardest.  I learned that children adore him because he plays with them.  I learned how to build a cabin.  I learned how to hurt quietly inside when he was hurting.  I am learning to talk a little louder and not turn away when speaking to him because he has a slight hearing loss (the range of my voice).  I learned to care for those who were aging.  I learned to serve quietly in the background.  I have learned a little Portuguese, but mostly I have learned to make the food.  I learned that serving a mission together would be a great experience. I am very grateful for this great man.

I am also grateful for my sons as fathers.  I don't get to see them with their children much, but they clearly love their families and are devoted to them.  I am grateful when I do get to be with them.

Our mission responsibilities are still daunting.  There are so many apartment changes.  We are getting a group of 21 missionaries in July and about that number in August.  That will mean that I need to open some apartments.

We are trying to change a culture that has existed for a while.  We want the apartments to be an extension of the spirit of the mission.  We want the missionaries to take pride in their apartment and be able to be filled when they are there.  It is difficult to create that with young missionaries who have not valued their apartments before.  We are starting by getting rid of furniture that is worn out, broken, or has been written on.

There is a desire by the missionaries to leave a legacy, to somehow be part of the apartment in the future.  It is fun and interesting to be able to see who has lived there before.  Even the pioneers who crossed the plains desired to be remembered and carved their names in Independence Rock.  We are thinking about a journal for the apartment.

Thought you might like a to see our dining room.  It is one of my favorite places in the house.  Sister Jessen always liked the plates, so they had meaning for me.  I finally found a tablecloth that seemed to go with the theme.  Peg, it has little butterflies on it!  It makes me think of three people I love.

This picture is of one of many, many tributes you can see as you drive around in Atlanta.  I think it is very nice.  The neighborhood honors their graduates, high school and college.  Great bragging rights for parents.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gratitude- June 14, 2015

I am afraid that my last two posts seemed like there was little going on or that I was really down.  Neither was true.  Out of respect, I just couldn't write the week our Sisters were in their crash.  The next week was very busy and my computer had to be replaced.  I am still learning how to navigate on the new computer.  So, no worries!

On June 4 we were blessed with another little granddaughter!
 Her name is Lillie.  She is Raf and Megan's newest addition.  Seems like Zeke is quite smitten with her!

The girls are catching up!  I now have three wonderful little grandsons and two adorable little granddaughters.  Both of my granddaughters were born while we have been on our mission.

I am so grateful to be able to be a grandmother.  I didn't do anything hard and still get lots of congratulations!  I am grateful for all of my children and the efforts they make to help these little ones grow up well.

It has been a rough time for Dixons in many ways.  Our car in Utah is a Prius and we had to have the battery replaced.  Ever since they did that, it has had MAJOR problems. It has been in the shop for about 4 weeks of the last 6.   My computer and printer both died.  And our brave little Titan had to have his tonsils out and now has some painful, itchy skin condition.

I am reminded of a story I heard a few years back that seems appropriate.

'Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. 
When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, "Things aren't always what they seem." 
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest. 
When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field. 
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel, "How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die." 
"Things aren't always what they seem," the older angel replied. "When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it." 
"Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem." 

Sometimes that is exactly what happens when things don't turn out the way they should. If you have faith, you need to trust that the outcome has a purpose. You just might not know it until some time later... '

I am certain there is some purpose in all of the difficulties, but I do not always immediately see it.  I pray that I may have the patience to wait and the ability to see the Lord's plan.

The mission has been incredibly busy.  The transition to the office has been a harder one than I expected.  It has made me appreciate all that the Jessens did even more.  They ran things so smoothly and so well.  We have had a bunch of things we have to redo when we do it incorrectly.  I wish we were more like the Jessens!

And on top of learning this new calling, we are also becoming an "I-Pad Mission".  The blessings for the missionaries of being able to use I-pads are tremendous.  The missionaries are able to access on-line resources to do their reports, to send their e-mails, to show church videos or conference talks and a whole lot more.  Like every new system, we have some little issues to work through, but they do take time.  Next, we are also changing phones.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Lord's hand- June 7, 2015

The events of the past two weeks have made me think back to a time when Elder Dixon and I were attending a Christmas dinner for the firefighters in our city.  A terrible fire in another state had resulted in the loss of several firemen's lives.  There was such a feeling of unity and brotherhood with the fallen and the families of the fallen.  I have felt a very similar feeling here at the loss of Sister Barnard and the injuries to Sister Beckstrom.  Even those who did not know them felt the loss.

President and Sister Bennion have been very attentive to those serving here.  I asked President Bennion if I might share the following story he shared with us.  

"Sister Bennion and I want you to know how much we love each and every one of you.  We know more deeply than ever how dear you are to us and to our Heavenly Father and His Son.  We’d like to share with you a couple of missionary stories that are dear to our hearts and can be applied to this difficult experience we are all sharing with the Barnard and Beckstrom families.

In 1894 my great-great grandfather, Ezra Clark, sent one of his sons on a mission.  John Alexander Clark was called to serve in the Ottoman Empire, which included Turkey and the Holy Land at that time.  After learning Arabic in Syria, his first assignment began in about August 1894 in the town of Haifa, located about 100 miles north of Jerusalem.  But, he contracted smallpox and died in February 1895.  The family was not permitted to have his body sent home to Farmington, Utah due to the smallpox epidemic, and his body was hastily buried in a small Christian cemetery in Haifa, next to John Haag, a missionary from Payson, Utah who had died there two years earlier.  Ezra Clark was brokenhearted, but he paid for two identical headstones to be built and installed on the graves of the two missionaries.  Each tombstone is about 5 feet tall including a 3-foot Greek-style pillar sculpted to appear broken, symbolic of being cut down in the prime of life.  Elder Clark’s mission appeared to be a sad failure.

In the 1970’s, the church began the process of trying to achieve formal recognition in Israel so that the church could buy land and build buildings.  Much opposition was encountered.  One of the major hurdles was that Israeli law stated that no new religions would be permitted unless they could prove that they had been established prior to 1948 when the Jewish state of Israel was established.  The headstones for these two missionaries provided the necessary evidence, formal recognition was achieved, and the BYU Jerusalem Center is the result.. . . A seemingly fruitless mission cut short by tragedy bore precious fruit nearly one hundred years later.  The Lord is truly in charge, He knows all things, and He guides His work of salvation. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes” (Proverbs 3:5-7)."

We know that the Lord is in charge.  It is not always easy, because we cannot always see the Lord;s plan.  I know that I want things to go in a manner that makes logical sense to me.  It just doesn't work that way.

I had the privilege of arranging for flowers for Sister Barnard from the Mission.  We chose a living plant.  That is the message-she is alive and is continuing the work she was called to do.