Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Anatomy of an Easter Talk

I was standing in the church hallway with my father-in-law, when Bro. Rodriguez approached me and handed me a paper. It was an invitation to give a talk about the resurrection the following Sunday (Easter Sunday). Although my schedule is a little full right now, I gratefully accepted. I thoroughly enjoy giving talks. I love learning and feeling gospel principles, and then communicating those feelings to an audience.

I prepared the best I knew how in only one week. Sunday through Wednesday, I searched out resurrection topics and talks. My goal in the first stage is to examine all the different angles and approaches to the resurrection. Also, since I have never been resurrected, I needed to think of personal stories that could be analogous, if not directly applicable. Looking at many different talks and scriptures helps bring experiences and topics to my mind.

I put the pen to paper on the Metro on Wednesday and Thursday. Remarkably, the talk did not undergo any serious revisions between the original and the final version. I added and deleted thoughts and sentences, but all the major elements stayed the same.

The talk that landed on the paper was not just about the time around the resurrection of Christ and the Second Coming, rather it took a broad view of the reasons for the resurrection in light of the whole plan of salvation. At one point, I second-guessed the broad-view talk, and tried to think how I could focus it more on the resurrection itself. I failed. I couldn't change the talk. I needed pre-mortal life to show that resurrection was a culminating step in a long (eternal) process.

I do not know why the title "A Blood-Soaked Christ" stuck with me. I was concerned that it was too theatrical and "shocking" to keep this most sacred subject sacred. But I have not been able to think of an adequate alternative. However, I did add the sub-title, paraphrasing Elder Neal Maxwell, to clarify why the blood-soaked Christ is key to the resurrection: "Mankind's Grip on Immortality."

Finally, since I only had a week to prepare, I had no scriptural references in the talk, other than the scriptures that are actually embedded in the text. I've spent the last few days adding footnotes, which GoogleDocs transformed into endnotes. Endnotes help to keep the flow of the text smooth, but I prefer chopping it up with tangential thoughts in footnotes.

With no further ado, for anyone interested, here is the talk:

A Blood-Soaked Christ: Mankind's Grip On Immortality

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Desmond James, Welcome to Planet Earth

Desi technically arrived on planet Earth Wednesday night. That's when he took his first breaths anyway.

I was suprised by his thick head of dark, almost black, hair.

Six days later, he is opening his eyes, and he looks like a little Mon-Chi-Chi clinging to Mari's or Maricel's shoulder.

Yesterday I had a fever, so I couldn't touch him. It was a travesty, because I can't get enough of him. He's tiny and chubby and quiet. In fact, he slept through the night last night. That's a trend I would love to see continue.

So last night I just lay down on the bed and watched him sleep. My sister recently said in an email that she could just sit and watch a baby sleep. It was so true last night. Infants are amazing. They are so tiny, so new, so helpless, and so fragile. I found myself watching Desi's blanket to make sure it kept rising and falling with his breath. I stared at his tiny face, the veins in his tiny eyelids, and his mini-spasms and sneezes. I could've watched all night.

Why are babies so enthralling? Part of it is the miraculous nature of human life. We're reminded of it when babies are born, and when loved ones die. How do eyes work? I mean, really. How can light be interpreted by a brain to create a picture. How can "pictures" be stored in a brain? How does one cell know that it's the edge of the liver, and the next cell knows that it is fat? And look at those tiny fingers! Amazing.

Also, a baby's life feels tenuous. Between SIDS, an undeveloped immune system, and myriad potential problems that a baby's body may not be able to handle, I feel myself willing Desi to be strong, to keep breathing, to keep feeding, etc. If we can just get him to a point where we can warn him of dangers, maybe I'll feel more secure. But then he'll be running...

And then there's the dependence. This miraculous creature is 100% dependent on me - OK, on mom; but kind of dependent on me helping out mom. This is a massive responsibility. When accepted, it is a wonderful and purpose-inspiring task. My life is now going to be directed to helping this kid survive and get worldly and spiritual tools to thrive. When the responsibility is rejected, it is a tragedy. Children do not choose to have parents; but parents most definitly choose to have children (even if by negligence). Rejecting parental responsibility can result in destroying or scarring young lives. Desi is blessed. Not only are his parents looking out for him, but he has strong support groups of family and friends.

A baby also represents potential. What will this kid do? What will he like? Will he be smart? Will he have a keen spiritual understanding? Will seek political position, a cozy desk job, or an adventurous job as a safari tour guide in Mozambique? Who do I know that he will be able to marry in a couple decades? What will the world be like in a couple of decades when he is grown?

All these thoughts ran through my head as I lay on my bed - watching, but not holding - Desi, as his little blanket rose and fell with each sleepy breath.