Monday, January 25, 2016

Two Emails from Nathan

And now, a short break from Elder Rice's emails to enjoy a couple of messages sent to him from his brother Nathan. He can really preach it.

From: Nathan Rice
Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 6:27 PM
Subject: Here's an experience with faith that I had last week

Dear Elder Rice,

This happened to me last Friday:

It was the last day of the semester, so everybody’s math teacher had them take a final semester review test. The test was 40 questions long and I had just finished question number 20 when I realized there was only about 27 minutes left in class (I had spent an entire hour and had only finished the first half). A weird pop song was stuck in my head by a band called Twenty-one Pilots; it was ironically titled “Stressed Out.” I had routinely prayed before the test, as I do before most tests, but it wasn’t paying off. I decided to pray again, confused at why I was struggling so badly—did God just not care about my math grade? After I finished praying the second time, I started realizing how passive I was being. I hadn’t been putting in a very good effort because I expected Heavenly Father to ensure my success. It was then that I remembered James 2:17-26, which talks about faith. Verses 19 and 20 say “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" The hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” came into my head, and I used it to replace the previous song that was distracting me. I then committed to focusing and doing my best, whether or not I was able to finish the test. I started working and actually ended up finishing the test with 7 minutes left. I had finished 20 problems in 20 minutes. I used the rest of the time to review the a few problems.

You probably have a lot of people that you teach who believe that all a person needs to be saved is to accept Christ as their savior. If this were true, we would never need to be better, and so we would never learn to become better.


From: Nathan Rice
Date: Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 9:32 PM
Subject: REPENT!

Dear Elder Rice,

You didn’t send me an email last week. :,-( …sniff sniff…

Okay, I’m over it. :-)

But don’t forget again! >:-|

Anyway, first semester ended and I would have gotten straight A’s if it weren’t for one A-minus in math.

Since it’s a new semester, I have two new teachers. The first is my Financial Literacy teacher, Mrs. C. She is OCD; she keeps her room extremely clean, her DHS website is extremely well organized, and she makes every student push their chair (all the way) in at the end of class. I’m not totally sure if her OCD is clinical or if she’s just really uptight, but I’m starting to believe the former more and more.

The other new teacher is Brother S., my seminary teacher. He has one of the craziest, most animated personalities out of probably anyone I’ve ever met; he’ll seem somewhat serious one minute, then be laughing uncontrollably two minutes later, and then be emotional with the Spirit two minutes after that. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think about him, but I’m starting to like him a lot. On Friday, we had a lesson about overcoming the negative thoughts that Satan puts in our heads. We started by writing down a negative thought that had come into our heads earlier that day on a yellow sticky note. I wrote something like this: “I’m not good at talking to people, so I shouldn’t.” He explained that negative thoughts come in all forms—fear, lethargy, apathy—but that they all are put into our heads for one purpose—to make us reluctant to do what is right. As the lesson went on, Brother S. at one point talked about how he tries to go to the gym regularly because he’s a 250 pound diabetic who’s trying to lose weight (and from what I’ve heard, he’s been losing weight quite successfully). He actually ran a marathon the year before (it took him seven hours, but he still did it). Anyway, he talked about how he was going to go to the gym the day before, but Satan put negative thoughts into his head, telling him that he was too lazy to go or something or other. It was then that Brother S. did what he calls “turning a negative thought inside out.” He decided that he was going to work out as hard as he could that day. In his words, “I worked out for like 90 minutes, and people probably looked at me and thought ‘That guy’s crazy,’ and it was crazy. I’m totally crazy, but I felt great about it.” We read Joshua 1 that day, and learned about how when Joshua was called of God to be the successive prophet to Moses, to be the leader hundreds of millions of Israelites, that he was having some negative thoughts of his own—in his case, in the form of apprehension. It was then that the Lord told Joshua what is written in verse 9: that the Lord would always be with Joshua, and that if he was righteous, that the Lord would bless him. At the end of class, Brother S. had us turn the negative thoughts that we had written down “inside out” by writing something to turn what would have been negative into something positive. I then edited my note to something like this: “I’m not good at talking to people, so I shouldn’t but if I do anyway, God will always be with me and will bless me because of it.”

I realized something important about the word “awkward" that day. The awkwardness always has a negative connotation because everyone’s always afraid of it. Awkwardness, in my own definition, is ignorance toward some type of social protocol or etiquette—it’s when someone doesn’t know what to do in a given social scenario. But the fact is, awkwardness is unavoidable; we all face it, and no matter how socially “developed” a person may appear, there is always a culture or subculture that you don’t understand and a countless number of social scenarios that you’ve never experienced. We are afraid that if we don’t know what to do in a scenario, that we will be judged harshly by others. But we shouldn’t be afraid, because the only judgment that we should care about is God’s judgment—he is the only one who sees us objectively, and he loves us despite our awkwardness. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to my new seminary teacher. He seemed somewhat weird to me at first, but I realized that he knows that he’s weird (and “crazy”), but he doesn’t care. As long as he does what God wants him to do, he will be blessed, so he doesn’t care if others judge him harshly, because they’re wrong.

I’m now trying to view unfamiliar social situations as challenges and opportunities to learn. After all, how do we learn without experience?

By the way, I desire the opportunistic learning experience of receiving letters from you, so send me an email!