Tuesday, June 30, 2009

growing up

In answer to my brother Dan's question when are you coming home, last night, I had a funny reaction--it was that wistful, lonely feeling of a small child longing for his mommy. A kind of teary reaction, you know? very, very fleeting in time, but still very real. I told him the same thing I've told others, that Elder and Sister O'Dell have extended our mission another four months, and we will be released, come April 30, 2010.

Just why such lonliness flairs up after an absence from my family for some fifty years, I do not know, but I appreciate that feeling of brotherhood and kindship that I've not felt in many, many years.

Which feeling has led me to ponder, all day long, just what is all this about, this mission stuff; this Church stuff. It kinda brings one up short. But it also brings one to consider on the many gospel lessons I have been professing this past six months, and the eighteen months some five years ago--just what is it all about?

My answer? Eternal Life! You know, I've processed that term now, for many, many years. Never thought much about it much, just kind of took it all for granted. But somehow in the six months that we've been in Michigan, the idea of Eternal Life has come into sharper focus, along with my determination to achieve it--(Note: I'm learning that it is not something one just falls into; it must be earned. And the "earning" is not all that easy! When the apostle Paul said to "work our your own salvation with fear and trembling," he was not just whistling Dixie!

One realization garnered this time around, is that real, true Eternal life is not just a berth in the Celestial Kingdom--or "Heaven" as some people like to think, but an entire dimension that is all by itself. It is the place the Savior taught: "Strait is the gate, and Narrow the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that enter thereat." ( ). I guess what I'm saying, is that in recent months I have learned that that narrow and strait gate is just as it says it is--very, very strictured to get through.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ossification of the Spirit

It just blows the mind how easily one lets life breeze by without even lifting his nose to test the air. "Ossification of the spirit," they call it. And one sure test of the disease is to count how few contributions the afflicted makes to his own blogspot.

Knowing it is but one disadvantage of several, one upliftment we westerners forego is the onslaught of fireflies come summertime. I never cease to experience an almost child-like glee at seeing those little friends--they are an authentic gift from heaven! One lady last winter described standing on the edge of a cleared acreage and watching the dark night swarm with twinkles. We are making a point, this year, to experience that.

The Great Philosopher Dizzy Dean once said, "If you done it, it ain't braggin!" Now don't think I'm braggin', but tonight I experienced the electricity that's generated when an interesting subject is taught to eager learners--it's memory de-ossifies the spirit. Example: tonight in my Pearl of Great Price class, we discussed chapters 1&2 of "The Book of Abraham." Most had not read it. And then to share what a magnificent man Abraham was, and reveal to them the all-but-unspeakable gifts and promises given by God to him, the wonder in their eyes was a joy I cherish. But the creschendo came when I could promise they too are heirs to those very same promises. Their contribution: active fidelity to the same gospel of Jesus Christ that Abraham taught. (Want to trade me places? Forget it!)

I taught my lesson tonight; Ranelle teaches hers tomorrow night. Her class title: "Teachings of the Living Prophets." Note: she is a 98-percentile teacher! I love sitting in her classes--her other students do too! Ranelle's lessons are predictably excellent and easy to attend. Thank Heaven for the doctrine of Eternal Progression because there is still hope for me!

Note: John and Ranelle O'Dell love YOU!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June 21, 2009 - Ranelle

The past few weeks have been crammed full of activity and momentous happenings.

Early in the month, our CES supervisor from Virginia spent some time with us on his rounds of supervision. He informed us that we will be having a slight adjustment in our assignment in that our line of supervision will change from the Housing Director to the Institute Director. We will no longer have responsibilities with the Student Living Center and will be spending all of our time with institute responsibilities. We may do more traveling assisting the Institute Director with two of the three stakes for which he is responsible. We'll probably be working more with searching for the young single adults who are not taking advantage of institute and church experiences. We will be meeting with Brother Draut tomorrow to receive further direction. Prior to receiving this news, we had contacted the area CES office in Virginia to let them know we would like to extend our time of service until the end of April 2010, the end of the semester for Michigan State University. Now it seems even more important to spend those extra four months here as CES missionaries.

We've had some wonderful experiences during the last few weeks. On June 12, the senior missionary couples met in Midland, Michigan, where President and Sister Jones hosted lunch, after which we toured the Dow Gardens. These gardens cover 110 acres and were initially developed on the estate of the founder of the Dow Chemical Company. What a lovely day we experienced together, getting acquainted with other couples our age, and seeing such lovely landscape! En route we visited the beautiful little town of Frankenmuth. Patterned after an old German community, we found it immaculate and charming with a lovely covered bridge, shops and parks. We also visited an enormous Christmas store which covers the space of two football fields.

Last week we moved from one end of the hall to an apartment on the other end of the building, necessitated by the gutting of the bathroom in our original apartment. Both apartments are of the same floor plan, but we now view the woods from our living room. This move was made more difficult because the apartment we moved into was not available until late afternoon while the demolition crew moved into our apartment around 9:00 a.m. After a week we are nearly settled in our new quarters. At this point we plan to stay in this apartment until we complete our service here.

Exciting experiences lie ahead. Along with truly rewarding teaching experiences which we are having this summer, we look forward to spending the 4th of July with a couple in the stake who have invited us to their cottage for the holiday. So we will travel to the northern tip of Michigan where we will enjoy celebrating this great holiday watching fireworks over the lake and enjoying the amazing scenery of Michigan. We will get to cross over the five-mile Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula. There will be lots to share when we write again.

We hope you each are enjoying the wonderful summer.