Valentines Day, 1969: Will Your Kindness Come Back to You?

Circa 1960 Valentine
Valentine Card, circa 1960

The day before Valentines Day in 1969, I went to our local Albertsons and got a box of Valentines cards. Our nanny Agnes took me. We had a nanny and housekeeper because my mother, who had multiple sclerosis, could not walk or cook or drive.

When we got back, I set up the card table in our family room and filled out a card for everyone in my class. I was 11 years old. (By the way, I still have that card table. I inherited it after my parents died. It’s old and worn out, but I can’t seem to let it go.)

The next morning at school, however, I noticed that no one in my fifth grade class was giving out Valentine cards. My school bag was secretly full of them, but they never would see the light of day.

Somehow, I had missed the memo on Valentines Day.

When the chance presented itself, I slipped into the boys bathroom across the hall and threw all my cards in the garbage can. That day, I believe, marked the official end of my childhood.

In retrospect, this experience is funny and a little sad, but at the same time, it was traumatic. That’s why I remember the details so clearly.

It’s been on my mind for several years, and as I’ve thought about it, I’ve wondered about the love and kindness that we all give out that seems to be discarded or falls to the ground unnoticed.

I am sure you can instantly think of experiences in your life when you have shown the tender part of yourself, only to find your kindness unrequited, or worse, rejected and then strewn across your memory like shrapnel from a bomb. It is one of the unavoidable disasters of human life. Everyone seems to go through it, and most of us get over it to a degree. Some of us hold onto those sad feelings and they haunt us throughout our lives.

But we have promises from our Heavenly Father. Here is one that is very powerful:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7.)

Doesn’t that mean that if you sow seeds of kindness and love that you will reap kindness and love again? But notice the analogy of planting and reaping. The harvest takes time. It doesn’t happen immediately. Seeds planted in the spring pass through two or three seasons before they are harvested. And for every seed you plant, you get 50 to 100 seeds back. That is the law of the harvest.

No wonder the Lord says:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12.)

If we will always reap what we sow, we would be wise to do to others what we would like done to us or for us.

Earlier in that same sermon, Jesus said something similar:

With what measure ye mete [give out], it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2.)

One of my favorite promises of returned blessings is from the apostle Paul:

..Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. . . . (Ephesians 6:8.)

The Lord’s promises are sure. Whatever good you do, whatever love you show, will come back to you, though the harvest will likely take many seasons to deliver its bounty.

All really good things take time. Fruit takes four or five months before it is ready to harvest. Babies still need nine months to be born. Love may sprout in a few days, but may take many years to reap. Just wait in faith. God will not fail you. The end will be worth the waiting.

Those little Valentine cards will come back to me, though probably not in the same shape or form. I’ll take them in the form of hugs and kisses from my loved ones. That will be payment enough for whatever sorrow lingers from February 14, 1969.

[First posted on November 7, 2009.]

The Girl by the Stream

Painting of a girl by a stream, surrounded by orbs, by Gilbert Williams
Copyright © by Gilbert Williams.

Every morning and
every evening, a girl
sat by a stream that
ran through a
taciturn forest.

Alone she came, each
morning and evening,
to listen to the quiet
and hear the murmur
of far-off dreams.

And the girl was
the soul of the forest,
and the stream was
the soul of the girl.

The heavenly trees,
her dearest friends,
whispered to the girl
beneath their
mighty wings.

Bare feet touched
water as she wrote
what would be in her
radiant world of
tomorrows and dreams.

So the trees and the water,
they taught her the way.
In the quiet of the forest,
she found her way.

Michael James Fitzgerald

Second Coming: The Blood Moon of January 21–22, 2019

Screenshot of a Griffith Observatory video from January 31, 2018
Eclipse of the Blood Moon, January 31, 2018

Tonight and tomorrow morning, Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21, 2019, we’ll enjoy yet another sign in the heavens (see Genesis 1:14), the blood moon. A blood moon is a backdrop for the earth’s sunrises and sunsets when it falls within the shadow of the earth.

I’ve written here before about signs in the heaven, noting where Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and the Savior, during his mortal life and in modern times, have spoken of this phenomena occurring before the great day of Lord’s Second Coming. For example, after the opening of the sixth seal in the Book of Revelation, we read that:

. . . Lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood . . . (Revelation 6:12).

At this same time, the planet Venus is approaching Jupiter and will be the closest on the day following the blood moon, Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Some believe that Venus, the morning and evening star, as it is sometimes called, is a symbol of Jesus Christ. For example, He says of Himself: “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (see Revelation 22:16). Jupiter, it is said by some, represents the body or the church of Christ.

Symbolically, the bright, morning Star or the Bridegroom (Venus) has left His throne room (the constellation Libra) and is approaching His church or His Bride (Jupiter).

Finally, consider this verse from Matthew in light of the blood moon reaching its greatest point at midnight (at 12:12 p.m. EST).

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:6.)

Truly a wonder in heaven worth wondering about.

Sometimes, we see a sign in the heavens, but nothing happens—at least not that we can tell, readily. Does that mean it’s not a sign? When you see a sign that says, “San Francisco 100 miles,” it doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. It just means, “Get ready. You’ll be there in just over an hour.”

The blood moon eclipse begins 8:34 p.m. MST or 10:34 p.m. EST, and and it will reach its greatest point at 10:12 p.m. MST or 12:12 p.m. EST. You can also see this lunar eclipse from Europe, Greenland, Iceland, northern and western Africa, and in the Arctic. If you aren’t in one of these areas, or you’re socked in by clouds, you can watch the eclipse on the Griffin Observatory YouTube channel.

This is the first full moon of 2019 and is also called a wolf and a super moon. The term wolf moon comes from Native Americans who listened to wolves howling near their camps on winter nights when the moon was full. A super moon is when the moon reaches perigee, that is, when it is closest to the earth, increasing its brightness and apparent size by over 10 percent.

Enjoy. And buckle thou thy seat belt.

A Genealogy of Anger

Anger. You’re aSunrise and clouds in Provo Canyon.
child of frustration,
born of exhaustion,
a sibling of expectation
and disappointment,
cousin to resentment,
swaddled in judgment
fanned by blame,
cheated by shame,
conceived in pride and
self-deception,
utterly devoured
by a careless,
illegitimate, violent
family of lies.

On the other hand,
great secrets
are hidden in the
randomness of life.

Peace. Thou
child of patience,
protected by sacrifice,
sibling of a warm,
childlike acceptance,
cousin to contentment,
fostered by forgiveness,
nurtured kindly and openly,
held with tenderness
and affection,
conceived in truth and
virtue and honesty—
welcome to the reliable
family of unconditional love.

Lord, create in me a new heart.

Michael James Fitzgerald

“Raising the Bar” by Dennis Brown

I was just a chickenBald eagle. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
But not anymore
For that kind of bird
I’ve come to deplore.

I advanced to a chickle
Which helped me begin
At least I was better
Than the chicken I’d been.

Then came the cheagle
I was well on my way
Of becoming a bird
I could live with some day.

Now I can see
As I’m changing my life
When I overcome weakness
I overcome strife.

A chicken, a chickle, a cheagle
One step at a time
I find in my life
I’m beginning to climb.

The goal that I’ve set
Is one that is regal
For I’m raising the bar
And becoming an Eagle.

Dennis Brown

[This poem appears on the wall of the Wasatch chapel in the Utah State Prison, along with pencil drawings of a chicken, a chickle, a cheagle, and an eagle.]

The 7 Christmas Angels

cropped-annunciation-mary-bible-video-angel-1398415-mobile1.jpg

The New Testament tells us that there were at least seven appearances by angels leading up to or surrounding the birth of Christ. The word angel comes from the Greek angelos which means “messenger.”

The angel Gabriel (“God is my strength”—I like that name) is identified in two separate appearances. Gabriel is actually Noah as identified in modern revelation and is also an Elias, or forerunner.

Each appearance seems to have a special purpose. I thought it would be fun to explore the purpose of each visit.

  1. A message fulfilling a long hoped for wish. Gabriel visited Zacharias in Herod’s temple in Jerusalem to announce the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11–20). Gabriel actually was a forerunner who announced the birth of yet another forerunner, John. I think it’s interesting that Gabriel appeared just outside of the holy of holies in the temple, the place where the high priest annually appeared on the day of atonement in behalf of all Israel. The day is known as Yom Kippur. Gabriel’s announcement was not well received by Zacharias—he doubted. It must have been a pretty serious doubt because he was struck dumb—the “penalty of doubt” according to James E. Talmage—until the day his son was circumcised (see number 4).
  2. A message for the ages. Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38). Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph and was likely still a teenage girl. Imagine her thought processes as she was told she was going to become pregnant, miraculously, before her marriage, with the Son of God. I ask myself why God timed this pregnancy before the actual marriage when no suspicions would arise. The path to obedience and faithfulness can be a steep climb and requires a lot of patience and faith from us, sometimes even persecution.
  3. A message of assurance. An angel visited Joseph in Nazareth in a dream, assuring him that his soon-to-be wife Mary was bearing a holy child (Matthew 1:20–25). Matthew doesn’t name this angel, but it is reasonable to believe that it was Gabriel, the same angel who appeared to his fiancé Mary. Joseph was having a hard time believing Mary’s pregnancy story—like a lot of us men, we can be a little slow in catching on. But after the angel came, he was emboldened and married her soon after. I love how both Mary and Joseph were eager to take their on these divine commitments seriously.
  4. A prophetic message and ordinance. An angel visited John when only eight days old to ordain him to the priesthood (D&C 84:27–28; see also Luke 1:39, 65). This was likely the same day that John was circumcised, the day that Zacharias’s voice was restored. I love the way Zacharias affirms, “His name is John” when some questioned why the baby boy wasn’t named for his father. That non-verbal affirmation was an affirmation of faith after which the penalty of his doubt was lifted and his prophetic Benedictus was uttered. While he was still young, John lived in the desert (see Luke 1:80), perhaps to avoid persecution or even death, for though disputed by scholars, the Protoevangelium of James states that Zacharias was murdered for protecting the whereabouts of John.
  5. A glad message of great joy. Angels visited shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:9–14). I love how the angels appeared—first just one angel and then a multitude—to “the most humble in the social order of that time,” according to Dallin H. Oaks, which to me is evidence that “the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones” (D&C 1:19) and that “the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised” will come forth to “thresh the nations by the power of [his] Spirit” (D&C 35:13).
  6. A message of warning and protection. An angel visited Joseph in Bethlehem to warn him to flee Herod’s barbarous soldiers and escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). After Jesus was born, the little family must have stayed on in Bethlehem for several years, for according to the wise men, the star heralding Christ’s birth had appeared two years before they arrived in Palestine to seek out and worship the child. The angel warned Joseph to depart quickly to protect Jesus from Herod’s murderous jealousy (man, that guy had issues). I am sure the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, helped to finance their travels.
  7. A message to come home. An angel visited Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to return to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:19–20) which eventually led them back to their native Nazareth. I have often thought about how long they were in Egypt, who they met there, and what they learned. I also think about the little family returning to Nazareth after what might have been a long absence, and maybe with more than one child (Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters [see Matthew 13:55–56]). Perhaps they heard, “Where on earth have you guys been?” How much of their story could they tell? How much did they dare tell?

Finally, it’s inspiring to me that the command to “fear not” is repeated four times by  angels during these visits (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; Luke 2:10.) I am not sure of the meanings in the original sources, but in the translated versions, that is a command, given repeatedly, in an imperative voice, by divine messengers.

We have a loyal helper, an inspired guide, an invincible protector, a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ—a name you can trust. This is the ultimate message of the angels: We need never be afraid again.

[This post was first published in December 2016.]

Find Lasting Peace in Troubled Times

bible-video-nativity-shepherds-1398427-mobile

Peace comes and goes for most of us, day to day, possibly several times a day, but there is a peace that lasts. It doesn’t go away unless we choose to go away from it. It’s a peace that “passeth all understanding” (see Philippians 4:7), a peace from God. Because we come from God, it’s not surprising that abiding peace comes from Him too.

My hope is to share a few things that have given me a peace that endures in troubled times.

You’ll probably read or hear these angelic words more than once this Christmas season:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14.)

The sentiment is familiar, but the King James rendition might not have captured the original meaning.

Consider several other translations of Luke 2:14 (emphasis mine). Let’s start with the Wycliffe Bible, translated under the direction of John Wycliffe in the late 1300s:

Glory be in the highest things to God, and in earth peace be to men of good will.

Here’s how the New International Version (1970s) renders it:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

And here’s yet another sense from The Message, Edward Peterson’s translation completed in 2002.

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

There’s a theme here: Peace will come to those who please God, to men and women of good will, on whom His favor rests.

Just before He entered the garden of Gethsemane, Christ said:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27.)

That’s not situational peace. He was about to suffer more than anyone was capable of suffering (see D&C 19:15–20), but His understanding rested on what would result from that suffering. In spite of betrayal, tribulation, or torture, in spite of what the world was saying or doing, he found a peace that was not of this world:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33.)

The religious establishment of the day could harm His body and inflict on Him unimaginable pain, but they could not take His peace.

He told us in this dispensation where to find that peace:

But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. (D&C 59:23; emphasis mine).

I love this verse about Enoch. It’s not often cited, but it describes to me one of the greatest sources of peace:

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5; emphasis added).

To walk the path our Heavenly Father intends us walk,  and to remain on that path, can lead us to the testimony that our course pleases Him—a lasting source of peace. If we do our best to follow our heart and conscience, imperfect as we may be, we can have faith and not be troubled about the future.

That’s my wish for you this Christmas season: A testimony of your standing before Him, and peace of mind in this world and real hope in the world to come.

[This post was first published in Decemeber 2016.]

The Wexford Carol by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Here is a beautiful arrangement of an English carol that dates from the 16th century. Listen. I promise you’ll feel better when you do. Lyrics follow.

Good people all, this Christmastime,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His belovèd Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go”, the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

[This post was first published in December 2016.]