It is a Privilege

Privilege: a special right or advantage that a particular person or group of people has.
In the course of my daily responsibilities, I feel extremely privileged.
I recognise the divine privilege of loving and serving one another.
Humbly, and boldly, I have the privilege of representing Jesus Christ as a disciple, every day.

Missionary Service

I have the privilege to lift and serve missionaries.
It is a continuing privilege to have worked with them daily, for 2 ½ years.
I have the privilege of interviewing each of them 1 by 1, every few weeks.
It is an honour and privilege to be associated with each of them.
This week, I have the privilege to interview 8 departing missionaries for the last time and 9 arriving missionaries for the first time.

Priesthood Service

I have the privilege of holding the priesthood of God and bestowing blessings.
I have the privilege to officiate in the temple.
I have the privilege of a temple marriage, being sealed to my companion for time and all eternity.
I have had the privilege of raising three wonderful children.
I have the privilege of being born at this time when the gospel has been restored to the earth.
I have the privilege to frequently testify of the reality of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.
I have the privilege of travelling throughout Belgium and the Netherlands to meet with so many wonderful people both in an out of the church.
I have the privilege of associating with so many incredible leaders of the church in these nations and regularly counsel with them.
I have the privilege of seeing so many new members join the church, week in week out.
I have the privilege of choice, to determine what I want to do every day.

Family Service

I have had the privilege of being born of “goodly parents.”
I am grateful for the privilege of being a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and friend.
What an honour and privilege it is to be living here and now.
Privilege might feel like a difficult word to discuss, but it doesn’t have to be.
With front row seats on the world stage, in these last days, let’s not be spectators, but participants in the two great Commandments of loving and serving one another.
What a wonderful privilege.
What privileges are you grateful for?

I’m grateful

Reflecting this morning on 2023, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude swelling in my heart.
I am thankful for so many wonderous things.
I am grateful for the gift of life.
I am grateful for my noble parents and wonderful siblings.
I am grateful for my incredible wife on our eternal quest and remarkable children entrusted to our care.
I am grateful for my extended family and friends.
I am grateful for the hundreds of missionaries that I’ve come to know and for their devotion.
I am grateful for the blessings of service.
I am grateful for the beauties of the earth.
I am grateful for the lifting power of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, for Him, His Atonement and my testimony of those truths.
I am grateful for Preach My Gospel!

Recollections

I recall an experience from 28th and 29th June this year.
Preach My Gospel – 2nd Edition had just been published online.
Those two days of Zone Conferences, in Antwerp and Utrecht, were revelatory.
Our printers rushed through hard copies for everyone.
All the missionaries only had an online access for 4 or 5 days.
In the meetings I asked if anyone would like to come forward and share anything that they’d learned in those few days, from the new version.

One by One

One by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one, by one….. they came forward unceasingly.
I wept.
Something powerful, something unique, something inspiring, something unifying happened that day to all of us, together, as we learned about the Power of Preach My Gospel – the nuts and bolts of missionary work.
Quotes from my journal entries those days “special” “great” “wonderful” “exhausting.”
We all changed.
Those were just 2 of 365 remarkable days of 2023.
Unashamedly, unabashedly, honestly – I am a man of faith.
I am grateful for all those one-by-one experiences that strengthened my faith once more.
What are you grateful for?

Christmas Eve

It was noisy.
Then it changed.
Missionaries arrived.
Our focus changed.
Beautiful melodic music filled the air.
Cellos.
Piano.
Singing.
Joy. Love. Peace.
Together.
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Angelic. Glorious. Inspiring.
Thank you, dear missionaries.

The Candlestick

Recently, we discovered that the mission home didn’t have any candlesticks.
Our quest – find an appropriate one!
“What is Christmas without candles” we thought.
In town, we peered through the kringloop window.
Pointing to a Scrooge like candlestick, “I like that one…” I said.
And so, Monic and I walked inside the higgledy-piggledy tardis like little shop.
As we walked around, we gazed upon candlesticks of every size, shape, and material.
Eventually, we settled on the one that we admired in the window.
We purchased our favoured brass candlestick with another smaller one too.
Both were in need of a good polish.
We purchased some brasso and went to work on cleaning them, removing the dirt & grime of the yesteryears.
Why go to all this effort I hear you ask?

Powered by…

Our home, and Christmas tree are decorated with sparkling lights, all powered by electricity.
Jesus said to his followers, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12.
Wouldn’t it be much more powerful I thought, if each of our lives were powered and illuminated by Him, the light of the world?
In a like manner, each Christmas allows us to clean up, polish and rid ourselves of the dirt & grime of the year gone by focusing our heart and mind on the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, so we can enjoy the “light of life.”
He said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
The one thing our world needs more than anything right now, more than any other, is the 𝒈𝒊𝒇𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕.
The boundaries of darkness must be pushed back.
Remember, we are the candles of the Lord.
“The spirit of man,” as the scripture says, “is the candle of the Lord.” Proverbs 20:27
This Christmas time, as you turn the lights on at home, or light a flickering candle, remember to polish the light of your spirit, with the great eternal light, even 𝕵𝖊𝖘𝖚𝖘 𝕮𝖍𝖗𝖎𝖘𝖙.

My Finest Friend

Forty years ago this week, my missionary companion trainer (Kelley Gray) and I were serving together in Shepherd’s Bush in London.
We’d moved there in the first week of December 1983.
We were two bright eyed and bushy tailed young missionaries resolute on finding success.
Christmas was fast approaching, and we were determined to find new ways to share our message of Jesus Christ.
A couple of years earlier, the church had produced a new Movie, “Mr Krueger’s Christmas”.
Video recorders were still new, and not too many people had them in their homes yet.
We decided that we’d borrow a huge reel to reel projector (we’re talking massive) from the mission office in our Hyde Park Chapel, transport it to our area, and then use it to go door to door, offering everyone we met a wonderful at home Christmas movie experience!
Whacky idea – Yes! Creative – Yes! Successful – Yes!
We transported the projector by tenaciously balancing it on the centre bar of our bicycles and vividly remember my companion nearly crashing and burning on a couple of occasions!
We also ingeniously, used an OAP’s shopping trolley to pull the projector from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and door to door.
I cannot recall exactly how many people’s home’s we got into, but it was lots!
We watched that movie so many times. Even now, I can recite the words and songs of the movie almost perfectly.
Great times, never to be forgotten.
This year, I may well watch “Mr Krueger’s Christmas” once again.
In one scene, Jimmy Stewart who plays the lead role in the movie, as Willie Krueger, steps towards baby Jesus and says “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. As long as I can remember you’ve been right by my side. I’ll never forget when you walked with me right in those first few hours after I lost Martha.”
“I’ve always been able to count on you when I’ve felt dark inside” Krueger says.
As he kneels before the Christ child he says “I love you. You’re my closest, 𝒎𝒚 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒅. And that means I can hold my head high, wherever I go.”
Forty years have passed since that Christmas experience.
In between, I’ve come to know the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, even more, much more personally.
Just like Willie Krueger I can say “I love you. You’re my closest, 𝒎𝒚 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒅. And that means I can hold my head high, wherever I go.”
I hope you find Him too this Christmas Season.

To a Mouse

When missionaries stay at the mission home, I love to share something of my Scottish heritage with them.
I introduced our national bard (poet) Robert Burns, to our last visitors and read his classic poem “To a Mouse.”
In it, he shares his remorse at destroying the nest of a tiny field mouse with his plough, whilst considering the futility of planning for a hopeful future in the face of unforeseen consequences.
And so, off I went…“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie…”
Their bewildered and perplexed faces were a delight to behold, as they struggled to understand a single word!
Today, I want to focus on one line of the poem; “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley.”
In other words, no matter how well we prepare, our plans can often go astray, unfolding in unexpected ways.
Remember the familiar phrase “Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans”.
Just like the tiny mouse, all of us are subject to unforeseen events and must adapt accordingly.
By doing the best we can, we have to prepare even for what we are unprepared for.
Goal setting and planning are an essential part of everyday missionary life.
“He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the busiest life.” – Victor Hugo
When we plan our days to fill a purpose, rather than just fill them to keep busy, we become more productive, especially when we adapt to the unexpected.
Plan to expect the unexpected.
Life’s lessons often come unexpectedly!
M. Russell Ballard said “A goal is a destination or an end, while a plan is the route by which you get there…. Goal setting is essentially beginning with the end in mind. And planning is devising a way to get to that end.”
Remember the old cliché, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
Many essays have been written on “To a Mouse”.
However, like the “wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie…,” I suggest it’s always best to prepare for the here and now.
As you plan today, what do you want to make happen?

Biographies

At our Mission Conference in Brussels on Friday, I shared some of my favourite church leader biographies and a scripture too.
Biographies – “the story of a real person’s life.”
Our theme was “Looking for Christ”.
The Lord says in D&C 88:83, that “He that seeketh me 𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒚, shall find me and not be forsaken.”
What does it mean to seek Him, 𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒚?
It could mean to seek Him early in life.
Or another possibility could be to seek Him, every day, early in the morning.
Even another possibility could be to look for Jesus Christ before it is too late.
However we understand this verse, the message is the same… now is the time to look for Jesus Christ.
Not tomorrow, but today.
I love reading biographies, as they can give you a close-up view of a person’s life.
When you read a biography, you are not just reading any book; they’re like time capsules, understanding decades of thinking, life’s lessons, including struggles and successes.
My experience of reading so many, is that each one shares a personal story, as they look for and discover Jesus Christ, early, then choose to follow Him.
In every generation, every individual needs to discover and obtain their own knowledge and testimony of Jesus Christ.
Looking for and finding Jesus Christ is a very personal matter.
The scriptures are our primary source of biographical stories.
Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon, Ruth, Isaiah, Mary & Joseph, Peter, Paul, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Helaman, Mormon, Moroni and Jesus Christ.
On Christmas Day 1977, I received a now treasured gift, my first journal.
It was early in my life. I was 12.
Early in the morning on January 1st, 1978, I began my journal, my own biography and haven’t stopped since.
I began writing before it was too late.
This Christmas, why not begin to write, discover Jesus Christ – the Light of the World and your eternal identity.
How can you find Him, “𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒚” today?

Too daunting?

Have there been moments in your life when you didn’t achieve your full potential because the task at hand seemed just too daunting?
Daunting: “making you feel slightly frightened or worried about your ability to achieve something.”
For many, to serve a mission is a daunting task!
After a few days in the mission field, as the new arrivals look forward to the next 18 or 24 months of service, the challenge ahead, the future before them, can look very daunting!
Discouragement can come as quickly they realise the difficulties and challenges of a new culture, a new language, and new daily routines.
Trials, obstacles, tribulation, and opposition are daily occurrences for every missionary!
That said, time and time again, I have experienced that these young men and women are more than equal to the task!
Day by day, step by step, the daunting task ultimately becomes achievable.
As they search for their best selves, their hearts begin to change.

Adjusting

Adjusting to missionary life takes time.
What may appear initially to be a daunting challenge, becomes easier to manage over time, as each missionary consistently strives to adjust and change, eventually overcoming their insecurities.
It may not come as quickly or in the format they desire, but answers come, and change happens.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic, it is vital to any endeavour.
And how do they change?
It comes from deep inside and an increase in faith through personal religious habits such as, obedience, discipline, prayer, scripture study, and service as they draw closer to Jesus Christ and put their trust in Him.
And of course, with great help from their trainers! Sometimes even vice versa!
In time, each missionary moves forward with a greater conviction and vitality, determined to succeed as their attitude also changes.
“Remember, a good attitude produces good results, a fair attitude fair results, a poor attitude poor results. We each shape our own life, and the shape of it is determined largely by our attitude.” M. Russell Ballard
How do you overcome something that appears to be daunting?

Try Again!

Learning something new and making changes in your life can bring its challenges.
Are you yearning for improvement or growth?
Have you tried, failed, and then tried again?
Why me? Again?
Well, I don’t know ‘why you’. But, if it makes you feel any better, it happens to me too!
Sometimes, things just go wrong.
One of my favourite poems on this subject was written by William Edward Hickson
‘Tis a lesson you should heed–
Try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try again.
Then your courage should appear;
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear,
Try again.
Once or twice though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
Try again.
If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we did not win the race–
What should you do in that case?
Try again.
If you find your task is hard.
Try again;
Time will bring you your reward,
Try again;
All that other folk can do,
Why with patience should not you?
Only keep this rule in view,
Try again.
As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same.
“Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
Perseverance and not giving up is not some monumental, herculean act, it is simply a series of baby steps that you just keep taking, every day.
The picture is of Emma Bair, teaching me a new pose, whilst waiting on our new arrivals at Schiphol.
I think she found me quite trying!? 😉
What do you need to keep trying at today?

Chargé d’affaires

On Friday evening, Monic and I attended a “Light the World” dinner in the European Quarter in Brussels.
The annual event is attended by Ambassadors and Diplomatic representatives from all around the world.
To my left, sat the Chargé d’affaires of Libya.
To my right, sat the Chargé d’affaires of Belarus.
Both head up their diplomatic missions to the European Union.
I was dressed in my kilt, and they were taken by my attire.
They had many questions.
I hadn’t worn it for a while. Somehow it was a little smaller!? 😉
As we settled into the evening, we discussed many things, enjoyed some delicious food and appreciated some delightful music.

Christmas Traditions

Both of my new friends shared stories about their families, their Christmas traditions, and their diplomatic missions to the European Union.
Representing their nations affairs, they shared with me the difficulties, and challenges of conflict, having experienced much adversity in recent years.
Our conversation turned to the reason for our gathering.
“𝐋𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭”
I felt a real longing from both of my new friends.
A longing for more light, in a darkening and difficult world.
They asked about my faith.
I spoke of Jesus Christ, and that He is “𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒍𝒅”.
“We want the world to know of the peace that comes from following Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Let us follow Him as we try to light the world and share the light of Christ in our own small ways this Christmas season.” – Elder Quentin L. Cook.
Jesus Christ is literally the Prince of Peace.
He can bring peace to all who are ravaged by war.
His message is peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
Departing, each guest received a special candle to light this Christmas season.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, may I invite you this Christmas, to share His light by letting your light shine in all that you do.
How can you let your light shine?