Friday, June 29, 2012

A Word about Birds

My dad's birthday was Monday and Father's Day was a couple of weeks ago, so I've been thinking a lot about the counsel he gave me throughout life—and especially as I prepared to serve a mission. I'm thankful for these lessons and the patient way in which my father taught them.

Dad often repeats a phrase he learned from his uncle—

Every day we are assaulted with inappropriate messages from friends and the media. Negative thoughts are a natural consequence of living in a negative world. I may not be able to control when an unsavory thought enters my mind, but I have ultimate control over when it leaves. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught this concept so well
Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway)...Whatever thoughts you have, make sure they are welcome in your heart by invitation only.
You can't remove sludge by sitting around, and you can't replace something with nothing. Thought control is an active process. Satan requires nothing more than an empty mind and an apathetic heart; he doesn't need us to seek out angry, bitter, lustful, hopeless, or confused thoughts and feelings.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, requires effort. What do you do to keep your thoughts pure and hope-filled? Here are some of your ideas—
  • Patsy: I keep my mind saturated with the word of God, keeping the commandments and doing His will.
  • Emma: Garbage in is garbage out :) Listening to positive music helps. 
  • Michael: Prayer, morning studies, and always surrounding myself with Gospel centered themes have prepared a way for the stage to remain pure and wholesome.
  • Brooklin: If I ever start thinking something I don't want to, I automatically sing a hymn in my head. It's hard to think bad thoughts when you are singing the lyrics to I Know That My Redeemer Lives. Soon it becomes a habit and it is easy to divert my thoughts.
  • Tyson: My mind is a stage; only one thing can be on my stage once. I keep my thoughts clean and pure by making certain that I am always the playwright. 
  • Doris: Thinking positive means you are following the Lord. Keep a song and or prayer in your heart and stand up for the right.
  • Michael: Flood your mind with God, truth, life and love.   
Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts, President Boyd K. Packer
Examples of Righteousness, President Thomas S. Monson
Think About What You Are Thinking About, Bruce K. Fordham
Hum Your Favorite Hymn, Children's Songbook #152

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More Weighty Matters

A mission president is called by God to oversee a group of missionaries in a particular geographic area. President McKee, my mission president, hails from Pocatello, Idaho and oversees around 160 missionaries in the Nashville, Tennessee area. He is an endless source of wisdom and truth and love. Just like a good father he teaches me and others by example, showing in his words and in his actions how to be a good Christian in these troubled days.

Recently I performed with a missionary choir in Nashville. As we prepared to sing I found President McKee picking up trash that had been unfortunately strewn about the church kitchen. I paused to help. Almost immediately he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Elder Barton, we should be out in the chapel shaking hands." He talked about the familiar story of Mary and Martha (for a quick refresher, click here) and said, "We're doing Martha things and we need to be doing Mary things." His counsel echoed a favorite scripture—
[Why] covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?
I will never forget that little encounter. In less than a minute my mission president delivered a powerful sermon on priorities, faith and charity. He did it without saying more than a few words. And he did it with love, as he always does.

I'm grateful for a special leader who wisely taught me a lesson I shall ever remember—it is important to prioritize spiritual matters first. When we put the Savior first, everything else falls into place.

Good, Better, Best, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others, Gregory A. Schwitzer
We Are Sowing, Hymns #216

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Lifetime of Lessons

Everyone you meet knows something you don't know. Everyone you meet is facing a challenge you haven't experienced. Everyone you meet has a unique perspective to offer.

And likewise you know things and face challenges and have perspectives others do not know or have not experienced.

You can learn from everyone you meet. My compassionate mother and fair father taught me this lesson from a young age. When in my teenage ambition and spontaneity I was guilty of unfairly judging others, I remember my father wisely encouraging me to look at things from another perspective. He would give me additional knowledge and help me understand both sides of the story.

Likewise my mother, when I would say an unkind word about another, would urge me to treat everyone the way I would like to be treated.

From my wonderful parents and other leaders and friends, I learned how important it is to be fair and compassionate. The scriptures are full of examples of fair and compassionate leaders. Nephi "frankly forgave" his brothers just moments after they tried to kill him. Captain Moroni did not delight in bloodshed but in the joy and liberty and freedom of his people. Joseph Smith demonstrated charity and patience in forgiving William W. Phelps, who had betrayed him and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To the woman taken in adultery, the Savior did not condemn but offered encouragement, support and forgiveness.

All of these leaders demonstrated fairness, compassion, wisdom and maturity. And yet nothing in their good or perfect (in the case of the Savior) character shows that they viewed others as less important. They walked with humility, willing to learn from those around them and willing to learn from "that God who gave them life."

When we approach every person we meet and every situation we encounter with humility—with a desire to learn—we will never come away empty-handed or disappointed. Humility is not weakness—it is the key to power.
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3:35)

Helaman 3:35
The Empowerment of Humility, Bishop Richard C. Edgley
Believe, Obey, and Endure, President Thomas S. Monson

Friday, June 8, 2012

A New Direction

It's time to unveil a new iteration of my blog.

For the first 10 months of my mission, I posted under the heading Rejoice, the Lord Is King!, which is also the title of one of my favorite hymns. My posts reflected how my fledgling faith in Jesus Christ was strengthened through my missionary experiences in Fairview and Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

For the last five months I've blogged about my gratitude for simple things. A Thousand Beautiful Things allowed me to number and expound upon the many beautiful blessings in my life. The inspiration behind the title is a favorite Annie Lennox song I listened to at home.

In keeping with this tradition of music and gratitude and faith, tomorrow I will present Let Wisdom Mark the Way, which draws its name from a line in the popular hymn Choose the Right. As I was writing one day it occurred to me in an instant that all of my posts center on life lessons I've learned from people. I learn most by listening to others, observing their actions and absorbing their knowledge—be it family and friends at home, members of the church in my community, gospel investigators in middle Tennessee, or casual acquaintances in any number of locations throughout the world.

More than just numbering the things I'm grateful for, Let Wisdom Mark the Way allows me to share important life lessons I've learned through observation, reflection and application. And it gives me an opportunity to shout out to my loyal audience—you—the people in the many places I call home and abroad who have forever changed my life.

Because the gospel is fundamentally life-changing, it should come as no surprise that gospel can be found in ordinary events, everyday conversation, and regular meditation. All around there is gospel wisdom to be found, for as the prophet Alma testified—
[A]ll things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44, emphasis added)
In your quest to let wisdom mark the way, don't neglect the most important gospel resources of all—the scriptures and the words of living prophets. And—please—feel free to post comments, questions or suggestions as we learn together.