Showing posts with label parables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parables. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Passion for Parables

Hank and Stewart can look at the same tree and see it in two different ways.  Stewart will see a tree.  You can climb it.  You can sit under its shade when there are leaves.  Hank will visualize what that tree can become – what can be built with it.

Our theme this month is on “becoming more Christ like”.  My first lesson was on parables, why Jesus taught in parables, and perhaps the class could share some of their favorites and why.

Hank let out a sigh.  “I HATE parables!”  he said.  “I just don’t understand them.”

Stewart said he likes them.  Not only are they entertaining, but you can also learn something.

Why did Jesus teach in parables?  The Pharisees had condemned him from teaching.  Threatening him with prisonment, I believe.

But this is the answer he gave to his disciples: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven . . .” – Matt 13:11                   

Those that were in tune to the Spirit found a message in these stories – while those that were hard-hearted (such as the Pharisees) saw him as nothing more than a story teller.  At least he wasn’t trying to profess religion, right.

It wasn’t until I was giving this lesson that it occurred to me that those being taught received the message that they needed to hear – and it may not have been the same message as others may have heard.  They took home the message that was needed in their lives at that given time.

Take “The Prodigal Son” for instance.  There may be one in the audience who finds the story as one of repentance and may see the father in the story as Our Father in Heaven who will always be excited to see us – no matter what mistakes we have made.

Another may see this as a story of forgiveness – that we love our children unconditionally and accept their willingness to return to us.

I had always looked at this story from his brother’s point of view:  “Are you kidding me?  I have worked my fingers to the bone while my brother is out splurging his inheritance and now you are ready to give him a fancy feast as though he has done nothing wrong?  When was the last time you honored me at a party?” 

For me, this has been a story about pride.  I need to change my heart and be as overjoyed as the Father that my brother or my sister is returning.  I should think of others and not dwell on how I was treated unfairly.  Some people compare this scripture to the parable of the lost talent or the parable of the lost sheep.  I compare it to the parable of the laborers in the vineyard who have sweat and labored all day only to have the last shift waltz in at the last hour to get the same exact wages as I do.  It wasn’t until I had this lesson that I looked at the parable in a new light.

Hank made many great comments as he participated in class.  One of them was that he believes that sometimes we tarry, sometimes we labor – which we do.  He also said that one of his most favorite things about church was/is the diversity.  He didn’t actually use the word diversity, but he said he enjoyed listening to others make comments and realize that there are different ways of looking at the same tree.

Of course the tree is just a metaphor.  I didn’t actually use the word “tree” anywhere in my lesson.  I focused on parables from Matthew 25 and the parable of “the Good Samaritan.”  I also pointed out that those who are in tune may find messages in other works of literature such as Les Miserable in which M. Russell Ballard uses the account of Jean Vel Jean  found in this post or Dieter F. Uchtdorfs mention of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch found in this post or my own mention of comparing the sneetches to the parable of the sheep and the goats or this post comparing Brave's "will-o-the-wisp" to Liahona.

Actually there is a lot we can find in what we watch. Allow me to use “Tinkerbell” as an example.  It doesn’t seem to matter which version – overall she seems to have a good heart, but ends up allowing pride to overshadow obedience to command. In the story of "Peter Pan" Tinkerbell jumps to conclusions and stops listening to what Pan or even Wendy is trying to tell her.  

In the movie "Tinkerbell" she isn't happy with her assigned role as a tinker and (despite the advise or command of the head fairy) uses her free agency to explore the roles of each of the other fairies hoping to find a more exciting job than tinker.  She ends up making things worse not only for herself but for all the fairies and all those that depend on the talents of the fairies.

And the most recent (at least that I know of) is abc's "Once Upon a Time" in which she meets Regina - the wicked and miserable queen.  Tinkerbell believes that she can repair damage that was done and help Regina regain hope and lose the anger.  The Blue Fairy tells Tinkerbell that Regina is too far gone and cannot be saved, but Tinkerbell insists she can.  She disobeys the Blue Fairy and puts her own self at risk - which results in hardening her heart and entering the same darkness as Regina.

But Tinkerbell is always given the opportunity to repent.  She may make the same mistakes again and again but eventually she is forgiven.  Our Father's love will always forgive.  We do make mistakes.  We need to in order to grow.  It's part of the plan.  It's what makes us stronger - if we have the desire to change.

My next lesson will be from this talk.   If we humble ourselves to be teachable, we will understand the message we need to understand at the time we need to understand it. The parable we think we know so well will all the sudden have new meaning.  God does speak to us through scriptures, but He also works through other parts of the media if we will allow ourselves to be humble so that we may see.

Monday, November 19, 2012

“Brave” and the Liahona

         Roland and I took mom to the movies after our Saturday Thanksgiving dinner.  We chose “Brave” because it was the shortest wait.  Mom enjoyed it which in itself made it worth it.   I felt intrigued by the parallels that seemed unfold – for me anyway.

          Merida is typical of many teens – many who have gone beyond teen hood but still place more faith in self than  a higher being.

          Merida’s mother attempts to prepare Merida for the role of princess and what expectations are included and what the future holds – none of which fit into Merida’s own plans of “freedom” of expressing herself, of taking on adventures without the hassles of trying to please everyone by fulfilling a role that is clearly NOT the fate she would choose for herself.

          The story incorporates the legend ofthe wisp

          “The will o' the wisp definition if we could actually define it would go something like this: a supernatural luminescent, flickering or dancing white to blue light occasionally seen over bodies of water, in meadows, and in forests . . . There has been a lot of theories as to what the will o' the wisp meaning or message really is. As previously mentioned, many people in Scotland, Ireland, and England thought that the will o' the wisp was actually lights emanating from fairies.” -   It is the “wisp” that Merida follows with the belief that it will change her fate.

          When she meets a witch who agrees to give her a spell, she is guaranteed that her fate will indeed be changed. Right away I figured that her fate would indeed be changed – but not in the way Merida had hoped or expected.

          Often we think that we want our lives to go a certain way – or perhaps it is expected of some of us to follow in the footsteps of the family business or practice.  Perhaps it’s expected of some to make the most of his or her education.  And perhaps there are many who feel that restrictions have been placed upon them and that freedoms have been taken away.  We seek a path that is pleasing to us and follow our hearts or the legendary “wisps” or perhaps we turn to a more powerful source.  Perhaps we acknowledge deity and ask for assistance to take us down the road of our desires.

          Like the witch in “Brave” our Father does provide us with assistance, often sending us tools that we may “grow” our own blessings.  But often we don’t realize that what has been “planted” is not at all what we had asked for – or thought we had asked for rather.  Often we are given a different path, or another direction and must go with it in faith and do our best to understand why we have been placed in a certain position, when really, that is not we asked for at all.  Or did we?

          The following day I was to give the lesson in our youth class.  I had read the lesson, tried pondering it, tried studying, but it just wasn’t coming together for me.  It’s not that my understanding of the material was limited (as is often the case) but just seemed that it would be majorly short if I didn’t get the participation that I needed.

          I may have mentioned it before – only I can’t find where – we have only one youth.  In addition there is the other class instructor and two of the young men instructors (one who is married to the instructor that I alternate lessons with) and a brother who would like lessons as they are simplified to the youth.

          I wasn’t well prepared.  The lesson itself was on the name of the church (3 Nephi 27), the desires of the twelve disciples (3 Nephi 28), and the pride cycle (4 Nephi).  I can’t remember why Bro. Basic brought up the Liahona  – but Jack held up his Ipad and said that it was the Liahona.  And the Young Men leaders ran with it.

Jed compared it to the compass used by Lehi and his family and pointed out that the Ipad or smart phone can be used for direction just as a compass.  We can choose to follow in faith or we can be misguided by our own weakness or pride.  We can find tools that will help us on the path to eternal life or we can find paths that may lead us to destruction.  I had never thought of that before.  I thought it was a cool analogy.

I feel quite blessed to be serving a calling in which I am learning more from the class members than I imagine they can be learning from me.  I feel quite blessed with the class participation and the profound thoughts that help me simplify and better understand things.

I feel blessed too to view things in a way that many people may not.  Such as finding God’s message hidden in a Disney/Pixar animation. That was definitely not intended.

I’m grateful for analogies and parables and those who are gifted with words to speak to the intelligent but also explain things on a “Dick and Jane level that I too may understand.

I’m grateful there are those who can translate Isaiah.  I still don’t grasp all of it.  There are some who have viewed me as one who is knowledgeable in the scriptures.  There is a lot that I do understand.  But there is even more that I don’t.

I’m grateful that we have wisps and Liahona’s in our lives to guide us if we will but have the faith to follow.   I'm grateful that there is a force greater than ourselves who really does know best.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some Tarry and Some Labor

Matthew 20:1-16 gives us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  I had always looked at the parable as one about missionary work – about the hereafter, about those who spend their whole lives in the Church striving to do what is right and having someone who has put other’s through hell repent at the last hour. 
          I have labored so many hours in the hot burning sun – and God is telling me that if Maleficent should choose to repent, that her reward will be the same as my own.  That she is entitled to all the same blessings as my own.  I’ll admit that I haven’t accepted this interpretation very graciously.  But then who am I to think of myself as better if she truly surrendered herself and did/does repent and actual develop a "compassion" if you will? 

          Slaving in the vineyard is hard work.  I have often thought that I am really just so tired of being there.  I never gave another thought to those who are “waiting in line” – those would be laborers that remain at the job site in hopes that the master will return with something for them – any kind of a position that will give them some kind of wage.

          In today’s economy, it is easy to see why they would stay and tarry – but they would also hold signs that say, “I will work for food”  “Please help me.  I’m poor” and so forth. 

          I never gave the tarrying laborers a second thought.  I hadn’t thought of this parable with a different perspective until today.  And for the first time I saw myself as one of those who has stood in line more than once – and still find myself standing at times. 

          For the message that was shared today focused on those that are standing in line – for those who are doing everything diligently (to the best of their ability) and showing up at the labor site day in and day out and feel like they are just not being picked – that they, that we will never feel the blessings.

          Carrie is the wife of the second counselor, and I am married to the first.  We were actually on opposite ends of the room, but our eyes seemed to be connected to our mouths – that is every time we would make a comment or participated by reading, our eyes would leak and start a chain reaction of making our voices crack.

          She didn’t go into detail about why she was crying - but I think many understood.  She and Dan have been trying to adopt.  It’s been a painful process.  Why, when they attend their Church meetings, and hold callings, and serve diligently are they still waiting in line?  Why can they not labor in the vineyard?  For how long must they tarry? Why does it have to be in God’s due time?

          I have spent many years asking myself that one.  It was painful to watch those I had taught in sunbeams to get married and have children long before I even had a prospect.  People my age were experiencing their second and third season of life.  I was still in the first season and wondered if that was it. 

          The instructor who shared the lesson is in her 40’s and has never been married.  Actually there are several sisters in my ward who have never been married.  Some have friends moving through autumn and some have actually arrived in winter.  I’m probably somewhere between summer and fall – sort of like the weather is now.

          Surrendering ourselves to Him is hard.  We need to have faith that He really does know what’s best for us – that the trials we endure right now are just to make us stronger down the road.  That our “waiting in line” isn’t done in vain – that there is a purpose.  We need to endure while we wait – impatiently or not.  We can’t control His time.  So why not accept it graciously?  

          Perhaps if I dwell on the subject long enough, I can learn to accept it graciously.  I have been blessed.  And I need to focus more fully on those blessings.  Because right now I really am not very gracious about the whole tarrying matter.