Such As I Have

Dear Will:

I think I may have mentioned that I am in my second year of teaching early morning Seminary—the Mormon equivalent of Bible Study. Each school-day morning I gather with 15 or 16 high-schoolers (juniors and seniors this year) for a 50-minute discussion of the New Testament. So here’s a little taste of what I’ve been up to recently while you were at home eating Cocoa Puffs and reading the sports page:

Last week we completed our study of the four gospels. We lingered a bit on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias to consider the Savior’s final recorded conversation with his disciples (John 21). We took interest in the fact that the miracle which took place that day (a prodigious haul of fishes) was essentially identical to the one which occurred the day Jesus called Peter, James, John, and Andrew into the ministry. It was an effective reminder, we thought, that the apostles were supposed to be fishing for men rather than mackerel.

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Thus began the awkward, perhaps even a little painful, but finally redemptive conversation between Jesus and his senior apostle. We noted how Jesus lovingly gave Peter three opportunities to confess Him—in fitting recompense for his three denials on the night and early morning before Jesus’ crucifixion. Those confessions were each followed by an admonition to feed the lambs and sheep of the Good Shepherd. We discussed how that admonition applies equally to us—after all, ours are His hands. He must rely on us to do the feeding. We talked about what that might mean—and who it is we might try to feed.

So, what if he asked each of us: “Lovest thou me?” How would He have us show our love for Him? The discussion led us to recall a couple of our Scripture Mastery verses for the year: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40); and “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We also recalled a verse made familiar by a Primary song (which I sang briefly for them just to make them squirm): “By this shall men know ye are my disciples: If ye have love one to another.” There really is no other way to show that you are truly a Christian.

This week, we’ll be talking about the first few chapters of Acts, including one of my favorite stories of all-time: the healing of the lame man at the temple gates (Acts 3 and 4). One thing we will discuss for sure is the profound lesson contained within Peter’s simple declaration: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” All Jesus asks us to give is “such as we have.” That is enough. His grace is sufficient to make up the rest. That even applies to the groggy and halfhearted who nevertheless find a way to stagger into the room and join me each morning at Seminary. And it applies to you and me as well.

I think of that event, from time to time: Of the two apostles—men of simple means—giving such as they had to bless that man’s life. And at such moments, I recommit to giving such as I have, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps this is just such an opportunity. And this brief note is such as I have.

PW

A Little Dazed–Maybe Even Catatonic

Dear Will:

I don’t quite believe what I have gotten myself into.

Several months ago the local church leaders approached me to see what I would think about an idea they had. To be specific, they wondered if I might be willing to teach early morning Seminary. Now in case you don’t know—or you maybe purged it from your personal memory—early morning Seminary is sort of like Bible Study for Mormons. The catch: It’s held at 6 a.m. . . . for high schoolers—by any measure the humans least likely to be alert at six in the morning.

For some reason I said yes. Not that I really know that much about the Old Testament, you understand. But I felt pretty strongly that it was something that God wanted me to do—so I agreed without really knowing how in the world I would pull it off.

The early morning part is no big deal for me. What is proving much harder, however, is finding time to prepare for 6 a.m. without staying up past midnight to get it done. As one who has grown accustomed in recent years to using the hours after the kids and Dana have gone to bed to try to get a little work done, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the reallocation of my evening hours. Now I have to find an hour or so to prepare a lesson and I need to get to bed by around 10:30 p.m. if I want to avoid passing out on my way to work. And it ain’t easy.

Case in point: Although I am adjusting, the other day I was having such a hard time staying awake on the drive to work that I finally pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot, tilted back the seat, and took a little nap—at 8:20 a.m. Not good. Fortunately, now that I’m about three weeks in to this new assignment, I’m doing much better.

Here’s what’s cool about this job. First off, the kids are terrific. I’m teaching a bunch of seniors who are a total delight, reasonably enthusiastic and for the most part willing to participate. (Still, 6 a.m. is early, so there’s only so much energy and enthusiasm that they can reasonably summon. There are always a handful who looked a little dazed—maybe even catatonic. I probably look the same to them.) I’m also enjoying the necessity of reading and studying the scriptures each day. Not that I haven’t done that to some degree or the other for some time—but when you have to teach what you’re reading to someone else, it adds both focus and intensity to your exploration.

The biggest pay-off of all is that teaching Seminary is filling my mind with the word of God, which is (I hope) making me a better person. Since I have to ponder and teach eternal truths each day, I also feel compelled to try harder to apply those truths. Although I still holler at my kids too much and get grumpy and commit any number of other daily transgressions, I can already feel the difference it is making to be preoccupied with the Gospel. There are certainly worse things to fill your mind with, wouldn’t you say?

So if, in the months ahead, I start to write you a letter and nod off part way through, I hope you’ll understand and jfiosdklkjfk jkdkjkjj zzzzzjjjjjjjjjjjjzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . . . . . . .

PW