The Hour Is Hastening On
By Carolyn Allen
As I finish today’s article, (Thursday morning, March 26, 2009), my missionary son Spencer is just now boarding the plane to return home from two tremendous years of honorable service in the London England Mission. Not unlike the constancy of a missionary companion is a mother’s own constant companion of thought as her children transform from infants to adults in a seeming matter of minutes: “Where did the years go? How did they fly by so quickly?” Barbara Bush summed up the time span of parenting rather eloquently with 4 simple words: “Long days … short years!”
When Spencer was in about the 2 nd grade, without any encouragement on our part, he fell in love with baseball. From toddler-hood it was clear that he had inherited every athletic, competitive gene that was allotted to my children because the rest of them are quite content to get physical activity through other non-competitive means.
Spencer, however, was born to play hard, to study the teams, the players, the games, the history, and most of all, to compete hard in a healthy way and win. In a marvelous way, he’s been able to convert his passion for sports in general, and baseball in particular, to the demands, skills and high expectations of playing on the Lord’s team as a full-time missionary.
I believe that some of that natural drive and passion was honed during his Little League years with a memorable coach when he was 10, 11 and 12. “The Mets” was a Little League team with a long-standing history of great training, a quest for excellence and many victories. It was coached by an outstanding man, a retired, disciplined military officer who was well-established in a lucrative second career. He had a stern, but fair demeanor that let us all know he was to be taken seriously.
We sat, as all Little League parents do, through many, many games with the other parents. Among our favorites were the coach’s wife and her own parents. They were all lovely, lovely people, and clearly enjoyed “the good life.” The coach himself drove his athletically gifted sons in a beautiful Cadillac Escalade.
I had a hard time figuring out when he went to work as he was so available for coaching and games during hours that most Washington DC professionals are at work. His wife arrived just in time for games in perfect short-sets, emerging from her BMW at the ball fields as if she’d just been to the spa. Her perfect make-up and designer haircuts were a far cry from how most of us appeared for a ball game. Needless to say, she was trim and exceptionally attractive. Her hard-to-miss jewelry sparkled in the sun, accented by professionally polished nails hands as she clapped and cheered in a refined voice “Be a hitter, Kevin!”
Team parties were held at their home which was located in an exclusive luxury neighborhood. Every detail of their home, the yard and the lavish parties indicated that money was of no concern.
As we became acquainted over the years, we learned that they had earned their places: They had married a bit later in life, then had struggled with infertility for many years before being blessed with their three children, a son followed 2 years later by twins. They were wonderful people, memorable in ways far more important than the cars the drove, the clothes they wore, and the house they lived in.
Sadly, as Little League ended, so did our association with them. Nearly ten years quickly passed.
Two weeks ago, Bob picked up the Washington Post at a friend’s house, that had been opened to the obituaries. To his great shock, there was the coach’s wife! She was dead, at age 58. Even more distressing than the fact that she was dead was the cause of the death: ” She was shot during a domestic altercation, and the incident remains under criminal investigation, county police said. ” (“Margaret Teague, Fairfax Virginia, Age 58 Washington Post, March 14, 2009 )
How could this possibly be?! A quick search on the Internet revealed that, according to the coach’s report to the police, they had been home alone arguing about their impending divorce after 37 years of marriage. (They had seemed so happy during our years with them! ) Somehow a gun was introduced into the argument. Police received a call from him, saying that they had been arguing, shots had been fired, they had both been shot. His wife was not breathing. The weapon was lying on the floor beside them.” When the police arrived, his wound was minor. She was dead. He maintains that it was her that first shot him, then in the wrestle, misfired and shot herself.
There are, however, no witnesses. How will anyone every know if what he reported is true?
We were, and still are, in shock. Everything seemed so perfect! Yes, they “had it all” but they were so nice! A divorce after 37 years? Were there spousal abuse problems? Financial problems? Anger management or clinical depression? Other mental health issues? Family skeletons in the closet? Gambling, drugs or alcohol problems? It is impossible not to wonder. And why were these things not addressed earlier? Surely there were warning signs that could have helped!
It’s odd, isn’t it, the things in this life that show, and the things that don’t? The things that are ignored until it’s too late?
For those of us with weight issues, our propensity for eating more than our bodies need is evident to the entire world, yet a child abuser or thief can walk down the street utterly unnoticed. It seems grossly unfair that overeating should expose so much of personal lives while misdeeds carrying a far greater weight than too much ice cream, chips or soda remain hidden, sometimes never to be discovered. Making it seem even more punishing, some of us are genetically programmed to be at a greater risk for being overweight, while others can seemingly eat however much of whatever food they desire without gaining a pound. It’s enough to make the strongest of us say, “Forget it! Heavenly Father and family love me as I am, and I’m not a sinner by overeating!” Then to over-indulge once again.
Yet, the truth remains: America is getting heavier every day. Church members, even with the Word of Wisdom, are not exempt. Dr. Joe Cramer has an interesting article in the March 7 Mormon Times exploring the obesity epidemic in terms of missionary service. In short, missionaries are being required to meet a weight threshold simply because they are unhealthy and more prone to the health issues and risks (including stress fractures, mobility issues, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and general energy level) involved from being overweight . In addition, “teaching the Word of Wisdom is difficult when the teacher is obviously unhealthy”says Dr. Cramer. (Mormon Times, Saturday March 7, 200 9. “Missionaries Must Watch Weight … or Wait”.Read the article online HERE.).
Dr. Cramer summarizes his article with what we already know: “20 years from now the headlines will state: Latest scientific discovery: eat less, exercise more.”
I hate to think of Spencer’s life without his mission, yet that will be the story of church members who do not control the things that are within their control.
So where do we turn? Those vast multitudes of of us, faithful followers in the Kingdom, who can’t seem to accept this truth and live it long-term as a free-agency priority?
We can turn to the prophets and to our Heavenly Father! Nephi of old counseled us to “liken the scriptures unto ourselves.” (See I Nephi 19:23) In that regard, here’s a good one to help us stay focused on healthy living and choices over the next little while:
Go to Mosiah Chapter 8. Read the whole thing! Here Ammon finds the land of Leh-Nephi where Limhi is the king. He learns that Limhi’s people are in bondage to the Lamanites. Now to liken it unto ourselves: In our own way, carrying around extra pounds is a form of bondage. The compulsion to eat when we are not hungry by simple social cues (i.e. food at a gathering when we’ve already had dinner or treats and snacks after seeing advertisements) is a clear indication of the “mortal man,” the one we’re sent to overcome in this earthly time of probation. The literal and physical taxes of being overweight from this type of self-assumed over-indulgence are as ” grievous to be born giving us reason to mourn : as the heavy financial taxes placed on King Limhi’s people. (See Mosiah 7:23)
Yet we are never left alone, or without hope! After recounting the history of how they got into bondage, Ammon ends the chapter with these words, which are like sunshine and rainbows breaking through the stormy skies: ” But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if you do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” (Mosiah 7:33)
Diligence of mind is the call to action! Faith, discipline of mind through prayer, mental reciting of scripture and quiet humming of hymns help to bring continued action with healthy choices when weight loss plateaus and busy schedules make the effort seem futile or impossible.
The long-ago story of Ammon and King Limhi’s people is ancient history. Spencer’s baby days and Little League games are also history. Even his mission, as he put in his last letter to us “already feels like a dream or a long school field trip.” And one day in the distant future, this sad and unnecessary death will also be like old history.
And what of us? What will our own history be when we look back upon our days? Will it be one of addressing bondage and taking control with the Lord’s help? Or one of letting things run their own deteriorating course that may ultimately lead to sadness and a potential not realized? For missionary candidates opportunities that are lost due to physical appetites? For service not rendered because we were too tired to focus wisely or lacked the mobility to get where we needed to be?
With respect for the past and a prayer for the future, it is today that we can plan and prepare for it or it by still the cravings of the body with the things of true eternal importance and weight. The comfort of a hymns rather than the comfort of old habits is pleasure indeed!
Hymn No. 124
Be Still My Soul
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessd we shall meet at last.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine
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