Lessons from Life – Part 3 – Rappelling

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As I was growing up, my family went rappelling fairly often. My father had spent a lot of time climbing when younger and had developed a great love of rappelling. It was not long after I first tried it that I loved it. I remember the first time I went rappelling. I was about 8 years old. The rock we went down was not large – maybe 20 feet tall – but to an eight year old, it was daunting. I was able to make it down under the reassurances of my father and family. It wasn’t long before I went down without hesitation. There is something thrilling about bouncing down a cliff at a high speed. There were times that I would jump down 20-30 feet in a single bound, relying on the friction between the rope, my hand (when I planned on going down that quickly I wore a leather glove), and the figure-8 (a metal device that the rope slides around) to keep me from falling to quickly. I even tried going down head-first, which is not recommended if you have a serious fear of heights. [Image by Rescue Dog].

Rappelling is a dangerous activity. Yet, if proper safety measures are taken, it can be quite safe. When we went rappelling, my father made sure we were safe. Whenever possible, he would tie the rope(s) to two anchor points so that if one failed, there would be backup. We used to tie our own harnesses using nylon straps but we preferred to use manufactured harnesses. All harnesses were checked and re-checked to make sure they were on properly. We would use two carabiners to connect to the figure-8 (that the rope went around). These carabiners were set so the gates were on opposite sides. Whenever possible we would use at least one carabiner with a locking gate. As an added measure of safety, we would have someone at the bottom of the cliff who belayed. Belaying is a climbing term to describe the controlling of a rope. If someone were to slip down the cliff out of control, the person belaying at the bottom could pull the rope out away from the cliff and stop the person on the rope. They can also help guide the person rappelling down the cliff. Rappelling is safest when there is a person at the top guiding the person on their journey down the rope as well as someone belaying at the bottom.

Over time rappelling ropes wear thin. The tough outer layer of the rope can weaken with the friction of the people going down the rope as well as when it rubs against the rocks. Rappelling ropes are incredibly strong – they can hold thousands of pounds of weight and force. However, they become unsafe if their integrity is compromised.

As is rappelling, so is life. Life can be and is very dangerous but it can be a lot of fun. However, to survive – physically and spiritually – we need to establish safety guidelines and procedures. We need to establish them early and follow them. Others can guide us and help us remain safe as well. We have parents and prophets who can teach us correct principles. We can have safety in our personal lives, our homes, and within the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can find safety within Zion, the spiritual place where the pure in heart dwell and the physical city where the saints of God will eventually live.

“And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.” (D&C; 45: 66-68).

As we anchor ourselves to the rock of Christ and follow the prophets and scriptures as our safety guides, we will be safe even as we experience some of the harrowing heights and even the thrills of life.

Lessons from Life – Part 2 – Leaky Balloons

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The other night I sat watching my daughters play with a couple helium-filled balloons. As my daughters played with them, the helium inside slowly leaked out. At first the balloons stayed up on the ceiling but then over time they lost their lift and sank to the floor. The spiritual significance of this was striking. Before I write the spiritual, I’ll focus on the physical.

Balloons are usually made out of rubber or plastic or latex. All of those materials, especially when stretched thin, are porous. Being porous, balloons will leak whatever is inside based on the principles of equilibrium (of pressure) and diffusion. Many balloons are filled with helium, which is the second “lightest” element. It diffuses through solids very quickly, up to 3 times faster than air, because it is a small and simple atom. This means that latex/plastic/rubber balloons filled with helium will deflate quite quickly.

We, spiritually, are like helium-filled balloons. Over time we start to deflate spiritually. Remaining pumped full of spiritual helium requires effort and recharging. If we slack off in our spiritual efforts and endeavors, we will lose our lift and sink slowly down. For a time, if we are connected and tied to others, their buoyancy can keep us afloat but not indefinitely. Eventually we will sag and hang down, deflated and dejected. To counteract this spiritual diffusion we need to actively recharge with new helium. We should do some of the soul-searching Alma did and asked his people to do.

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?” (Alma 5:26-27).

I’ll repeat the key question: “If ye have experienced a change of heart…can ye feel so now?” Change once is not enough; conversion and salvation and exaltation take a lifetime of effort. We must seek daily for the Lord’s mercy and grace to free us from our sins. We must fill our lives with goodness and good acts. We must endure to the end: “Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Ne. 31:20). If we do not: “watch [ourselves], and [our] thoughts, and [our] words, and [our] deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what [we] have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of [our] lives, [we] must perish. And now…remember and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

In order to keep our spiritual balloons inflated and buoyant, we must remember what we have learned and endure to the end. We must continually fill our balloons with new helium in order to be lifted up at the last day.

Image source:

Lessons from Life – Part 1 – Spiritual Sewage

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Originally uploaded by Billy V

I’m starting a series of articles in which I will turn various circumstances and objects of life into spiritual lessons. Most will be brief; hopefully all will be informative and helpful. This first in the series is about spiritual sewage.

Last week the group of townhomes we live in had a sewer blockage that caused sewage to start to come back up out of our downstairs toilet. While we did not have much come out of the toilet, thankfully, I thought about the symbolism of the event. What kind of spiritual sewage are we letting into our homes and lives? Is our spiritual plumbing blocked? If sewage is getting into our homes, how is it getting there?

Unlike the external sewer line blockage that caused the sewage to trickle out of our toilet, having functional spiritual plumbing starts with the individual and within the home. The Book of Mormon king Benjamin cautioned against letting our homes overflow with spiritual sewage: “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

King Benjamin prescribed the way to prevent a spiritual plumbing blockage – remember and observe the commandments of God. Further, we must have and continue in our faith in Christ. It is not enough to flush out a sewage system once, we need to prevent blockages from occurring. However, when we do have spiritual sewage seep or pour into our homes, we can have it cleaned out. We can call a spiritual plumber and get our system cleaned. We can remove the filthiness and be clean. “Though [our] sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

I ask again, “What sewage are you letting into your home?” Do you have or watch inappropriate movies? Do you have or listen to inappropriate music? Are your thoughts impure? Are you letting in sewage inadvertently? Are you allowing your neighbors’ (friends, family) actions overwhelm your spiritual plumbing?

Let us watch ourselves – our thoughts, words, and deeds – and keep our lives and homes free from gushing or seeping spiritual sewage.