Sunday, July 17, 2016

Earthly Treasures and Spiritual Gifts

We spent the week in Frankfurt and it was very productive.  However, much of what we planned to do ended up being cancelled.  This included our finance self-reliance group on Wednesday, a stake committee meeting in Kaiserslautern on Thursday, a trip to Burgbernheim to look at the "book" of births, marriages and deaths on Friday and the move of Sister Mendes on Saturday.  However, even with the changes, we had opportunities for other work and activities.  We have learned that this is part of a mission, adapting to the realities of each day and following the direction that we are led.

With the changes on Friday and Saturday, we had a little time on Saturday to see something new.  So we took Sisters Keyser and Lovell with us and went to Würzburg, just over an hour away.  We have driven past this city several times and had heard that they have an amazing "palace", so we went to take a look.  The following photo is of Elder and Sister Rueckert in the court gardens at the back of the palace.  More about that later.

Beautiful Gardens behind us and a palace that is 167 meters long with over 400 rooms

In the beginning of the week, we started working on our normal activities, meeting with missionaries on video, preparing for upcoming meetings, both on-line and in person and preparing for the 2017 annual budget.  On Monday night we took Sister Lovell to the airport so that she could participate in some hands on training with the Perpetual Education Fund with our Operations team in Portugal.  Our plan was to pick her back up at the airport on Thursday night, as we were returning from our visit to Kaiserslautern.

On Tuesday, we had our long awaited opportunity to pick up our German drivers license.  They are only available to pick up after 6 months in the country at which time our U.S. drivers license is no longer valid.  This was scheduled at 9:30 am but ended up moving to 11:00 am, one more change to plans.  However we were able to pick up the licenses without any difficulties.

Our license is valid for 15 years

We are so blessed to have a reciprocity agreement with Germany and the state of Utah so that obtaining this drivers license was fairly routine and not very expensive.  We have found that in other countries in Europe, the process can be very cumbersome and cost up to $2,000.

The previous week I had tried to turn in my drivers license to pay my consequences for my speeding infraction.  This was to be for one month and we were told that we needed to turn it into a local police station.  When we arrived, we were told to go to the main police station.  We went there only to find that they do not attend the public on Tuesdays.  When we returned on Wednesday, we were told that they only take drivers licenses for infractions in Frankfurt.  Since mine was in Köln, we have to mail the license.  I was advised to not mail the U.S. license but to wait until I had the German license.  I also have 4 months to turn it in, so I was told to pick the best time for us.  Hence we decided that I would mail it in September, when we have a few out of town trips planned.  So for now, I am still legally driving in Germany.

Wednesday morning we were advised that the stake presidency counselor in the Kaiserslautern stake was away in Iceland, so we had to defer the scheduled stake self-reliance committee meeting for a few weeks.  That canceled a planning meeting and deferred some of our preparations.  We were able to meet by Skype with a new couple that have been called as the Stake Self-Reliance specialists for the Antwerp stake (Belgium, Dutch speaking).  It was good to get to know them and give them some ideas on how to prepare for our regional training in the Netherlands in a few weeks.

On Wednesday, we had been invited to attend the Ward Council meeting in our ward to discuss progress in the Self-Reliance groups in our ward and to plan to involve others in future courses.  The time was conflicting with our Finance Self-Reliance Group meeting, so we decided to divide and conquer.  However, one of our participants had a doctor's appointment for Wednesday evening and another is traveling on holiday, so we decided to defer this group meeting until the next week and Sister Rueckert was able to go with me to our Ward Council meeting.  We love our bishop, he is so dedicated and inspired.   It is wonderful to serve in our ward as self-reliance coordinators.

On Thursday morning I had a unique experience.  I had gone to run on the 5K course where we will be holding a missionary 5K Walk/Run next week.  I have done this before, there are often others with their dogs in the same park, many without leashes.  As I approached an individual who had two dogs with him, his large dog lunged at me and bit me on the rear end.  It happened so fast, I yelped a little and the owner immediately secured his dog.  However, the damage was done.  I just continued running.  When I got home, I discovered that there was no rip in my running shorts, but there was broken skin underneath.  We measured and the bite marks were about three inches long.  I believe this is the first dog bite that I have ever received in my life.  Since there was no direct contact with he dog's mouth and the skin, we just put some ointment on it and are moving forward.

A week ago, I had sent an email to the Pastor in Burgbernheim to make an appointment to review the pastoral books that he has, covering the past several hundred years.  We believe that we can find names and dates of several relatives from the Rückert line.  We had asked for us to schedule time on Friday for this visit and made arrangements to be out of the office that day.  After two emails without a response,  I started making phone calls.  I left messages but still no response.  On Thursday, I called, probably about 10 times, trying to make contact before our visit the next day.  When we did the My Foundation lesson number 9 on Perseverance, I had made my perseverance commitment to try harder through apparent roadblocks in Family History.  The last step in this process is to Move Forward with patience and courage; Never, never, never give up; endure with faith.  We decided to go down on Friday, with faith, even though we had not made contact.  We were printing family group sheets so that we would be ready to gather additional information.  Finally on Thursday at 6:00 pm, the pastor answered the phone.  He informed me that Friday would not work for him.  He had received the emails and the phone messages but had not responded to us.  He preferred that we went on a Monday when his secretary could be there while we spent time with the "book".  So once again, we made a change of plans.  The good news is that we have a firm commitment for Monday, July 25 and we will go down much better prepared.

We felt that this was also a good thing for us to be better prepared for a meeting with Elder Paul Johnson the next week and for the move of Sister Mendes, whom we home teach, on Saturday.  She had told us earlier that she would be moving on Saturday, but we still had work to do to make sure we had members there to help.  One of the biggest question marks was the availability of a truck, that the city was to provide.  Finally on Thursday evening I received a call from Sister Mendes daughter.  They were trying to identify someone with a drivers license to drive the truck.   Since I just had a new drivers license, I was able to share the information with them.  We still weren't sure of the size of the truck and if my license qualified to drive it.  We would use time on Friday to finalize the details.

We still needed to pick up Sister Lovell at the airport that night, arriving on a 10:20 pm flight.   When she arrived, we asked her about her small hand luggage that she had taken and found that she had left it on the plane.  We spent the next hour trying to find someone to help her.  After being sent from one location to another, we finally ran out of access as everyone seemed to have gone home.  Sister Lovell did return to the airport the next day and was able to get her bag back.  We arrived home after midnight.

The next morning we made arrangements to find someone in the ward that could drive a truck and worked with the Relief Society president and High Priest group leader to get volunteers to help with the move.  Then, soon after noon we got a call that the help was not needed.  The family had found a friend with a truck and were able to move without help from the ward members.  We tried to serve, but in this case, no further action was required. We were able to visit with two missionary couples on Friday afternoon, that would have not been possible if we had gone to Bergbernheim.

The following is our latest installments of our garden.  We are getting a few more tomatoes.

The next four ripe tomatoes
Double size appetizers this week
As our work week ended, we somehow stayed very busy, even with all the cancellations.  There seems to be an unlimited amount of work to do, we are thankful to be able to do the things that our Heavenly Father leads us to do, even when they differ from our original plans.

Now with an open Saturday, we decided to make a visit to Würzburg as mentioned earlier in the blog.  This is the home to one of the most famous palaces in Europe.  A little history will help here based on what we heard from our tour guide. 

 King Frederick I was the emperor of the Roman Empire.  He wanted to divorce his wife, who was childless.  The Pope was not willing to allow it.  The king sought out the Archbishop of Wûrzburg who was an intermediary with the Pope to obtain permission for this additional marriage.  With the permission, King Frederick I married Beatrix of Burgundy in 1156 in Würtzburg, Germany.  For his help, the arch bishop was named a Prince-Bishop, with sovereign rights as well as religious rights.  For many years there remained a Prince-Bishop in Würzburg and they lived at the Marienberg Fortress at the top of the hillside.  We ran out of time to visit this Fortress, it will have to wait another trip.  

Eventually, in the early 1700s the Würzburg Residence was built by the then Prince-Bishop who wanted to have a palace comparable to the Palace of Versailles in France.  He had won a large sum of money in a court case and he used the funds to undertake a building project that would proclaim his political standing to all.  The result is generally considered the purest and most remarkable of all baroque palaces in Germany.  It exemplifies a glittering era and is one of the most spectacular royal palaces in Europe.  The palace has the length of 167 meters, one meter longer than the palace in Versailles.

During World War II, the palace was largely destroyed.  Many of the wall hangings and furnishings were stored and photos were taken of all of the paintings and decor.  Since the war, the palace has been totally rebuilt and refurnished in the exact details that were there earlier.

A few photos of the outside and the beautiful grounds follow:

Outside the front of the Palace
A panorama view of the palace from the front
View from the rear portion of the court gardens, Sister Rueckert below
Looking out at the gardens from the back of the palace

We took a tour in English in the inside of the palace.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.  However, the following photos come form the Wikipedia articles and are consistent with what we saw:

The largest staircase in the world (in width).  Stairs are of a minor rise for each one so that guests would look graceful as they walked them.  Sister Rueckert loved these steps.
Part of the incredible fresco painted on the ceilings above the stairways.  The largest fresco in the world.  On the four sides, it depicts the continents of America, Africa, Asia and Europe.  This view is of Europe. The America painting is quite demeaning, showing a savage on an alligator.  The Prince-bishop obviously did not have a good image of America.
Grand Ballroom type room.  Painting on the top center is of Frederick I and Beatrix

This is of the incredible ornate chapel

When all is said and done, this is an absolutely amazing palace.  It took a fortune to build and over 20  million Euros to rebuild.  As I look at these type of things, I still wonder if that is what money should be spent for.  Certainly, this palace is full of earthly treasures!

On the other side, I just finished my study of Spiritual Gifts.  It has been the topic of my personal study for several months.  I studied each gift individually with scriptures from footnotes and from the next footnotes, from the Topical Guide, etc.  I then summarized my findings in a summary for each gift.  The following is my summary of the summaries.  I find that when I review and summarize, it creates many pondering moments for me which are amazing.  Rather than continuing on, I will just share the overall summary.  Hopefully it will be of help to some, certainly it is to me.

Summary of Spiritual Gifts (D&C 46, Moroni 10, 1 Corinthians 12):

The grace that flows from the Savior's atoning sacrifice opens the gate to the divine road, the gifts are the vehicle, and godhood is the destination. By the grace of God the gifts come, and with the acquisition of the gifts, godhood emerges (The Infinite Atonement)

The following summaries of the gifts all come from scriptural texts:

  • To know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: the Comforter . . . he shall testify of me;  ye may know that He is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him; if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost;
  • To believe on their words: He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life; more blessed are they who shall believe in your words; he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts; 
  • The word of wisdom: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits; If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God; Be not wise in thine own eyes
  • The word of knowledge: God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit . . . shall be revealed and set forth upon allwho have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ; If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive . . . knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things--that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word. 
  • Exceeding great faith . . . To be healed: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed; thy faith hath made thee whole; the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him
  • Faith to heal: these signs shall follow them that believe . . . In my name they shall heal the sick; in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus; insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear. 
  • The working of miracles: unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles; save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity; Require not miracles, except I shall command you; I am a God of miracles; the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
  • May prophesy concerning all things - speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort; let us prophesyaccording to the proportion of faith; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; 
  • To speak with tongues: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance; every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue,; for he speaketh unto men according to their language; 
  • The interpretation of tongues: For they heard them speak with tongues; greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying; he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof; 
  • Beholding of angels and ministering spirits: And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels; How oft have I called upon you  . . . by the ministering of angels . . . but ye would not!; angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men; some have entertained angels unawares; If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand; 
  • Discerning of spirits, discern all those gifts: discern between the righteous and the wicked; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth . . . the Lord looketh on the heart; I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived .. . . whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth . . .if he obey mine ordinances; By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened


  • All spiritual gifts are available to all!  We must seek them and ask. 
  • They come through the power of the Holy Ghost by the Grace of God.
  • The receiving of these gifts is dependent on our faith, diligence, meekness, endurance and submission to God's will 
  • They are given to further God's work, to edify others, not for personal purposes or glory. 
  • The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;

Through my study I have learned that I have obtained many of these gifts in some form and that they are all attainable. As I strive to submit my will to the will of my Heavenly Father and to draw closer to the Holy Ghost I can and must develop all of these spiritual gifts in order to progress on my journey to Godhood. 

I testify that all that I have shared is true, for the Holy Ghost has born this witness to my soul. 

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