December rolls in with hustle and bustle, Christmas trees to decorate, cookies to bake, cards to be sent and lists of presents to buy. In all this frantic doing, as we stress ourselves and push for deadlines, we often forget what the driving force is all about. It’s about putting together the picture puzzle of our lives, all the joys, sorrows and workings that only make sense when we remember the Christ child.
Our friend Dean Jensen, a retired general contractor of homes in the Phoenix area, had spent most of his days and nights from the fall of 2017 until the late spring of 2018 building a cabin for his now grown family and grandchildren to enjoy in Pine, Arizona. He wasn’t too pleased with many of the workers he could hire locally, so he ended up doing most of the work himself.
On June 2, Dean and his son Burkley, who was visiting from North Dakota, went to play pickleball. At the end of the game, Dean dropped to the ground. Burkley, a physician, immediately started CPR and called for an ambulance, which arrived quickly. Dean had suffered a massive heart attack. In spite of the quick responses, he died the next evening.
Having served as mission presidents in Indonesia and Mexico, Dean and his wife, Jean, were scheduled to serve yet another mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile. With Dean’s death, Jean had to quickly restructure her life, while his many friends had to grieve for a good friend lost.
Jean invited me to drive with her to the cabin in Pine a week after Thanksgiving. On the way, she spoke of the adjustments she was needing to make. At the beautiful and well-thought-out little cabin, all I could think about was how hard Dean had worked roofing, moving rocks and cutting down trees to make log bridges. It wasn’t fair. He was the healthiest friend we knew, and he was gone too soon.
A week later, Grit and I went to a majestic Millennial Choirs and Orchestras concert, “A Child is Born,” held at the Mesa Arts Center. These MCO concerts are held in California, Texas, Utah and Idaho as well.
There were nearly 1,000 orchestra members and singers performing. The grand chorus and orchestra stayed on the stage, while the concert choir and the youth chorus moved on and off, standing in the three tiers of balcony levels as well as the two aisles on the floor. The children’s chorus would stand on the stage.
One segment of the program contained selected movements from Handel’s "Messiah.” In this part, even the small children were singing the beautiful words, “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Unexpected tears of joy trickled down my face. It truly bore witness in song that Jesus Christ is the reason for the season.
If you find yourself getting frazzled this year, here is a wonderful suggestion from Marilyn Green Faulkner from her third "User-Friendly" book that is now available just in time for next year’s study, “The User-Friendly New Testament.”1 comment on this story
The entire book is well worth reading, however this wise advice stood out: “Next time you take the sacrament, use that moment of meditation we shared to breathe in the breath of life. Feel the presence of your body and sense its vital connection to your mind and spirit. Thank the Lord for the Resurrection and let your heart rest in the hope and joy it brings. Open your heart to accept the flow of life, which includes death, and feel how very close are those that you have loved and lost. That is the power of the Resurrection. It’s not just a future event, it’s a present source of grace and peace.”
Taking the sacrament is for Sunday, but spending a few minutes to meditate could help the “User-Friendly” thoughts be put into perspective even as we rush about.