“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The second death (Helaman 14: 11-19)


Second Death

Wildlife abounds near my mother's home. Rabbits, snakes, ducks, deer, egrets, herons, fiddler crabs, mice, and songbird have all given story to our lives. This story is about one songbird that once lived midst the tall shade pines.

The long-leaf pine trees that now tower some forty-fifty feet over my mother's beautiful butterfly garden once stood a mere ten-fifteen feet tall. Their narrow branches bowed low while their floppy needles teased the crabgrass that spotted our yard. When startled birds flitted from man's intrusive presence, the tree's low branches made it possible to view the birds with ease.

Let me begin my story by filling in a few details. I grew up as the third child, only girl, and youngest to two brothers who loved to hunt, fish, blow things up, and well- do things that boys tend to do. Not having a sister, and not wanting to feel left out, I learned to adapt.

I adapted by doing what I saw them do. Fish, hunt, hike, motorbike, build, camp, etc. Harry, (my step-father) was an avid hunter. He took my oldest brother (Don had passed over already) hunting every Saturday. In fact- it was his love of hunting that brought us to South Carolina in the first place as South Carolina boasts the longest hunting season of any state and has great fishing as well.

Because hunting was part of our family culture, and I was somewhat of a "tom-boy", it was not viewed unusual for me to ask for and receive a "Daisy Model 96 BB Gun with lever action" for my twelfth Christmas. I suppose I believed I would hunt at the hunting camp and learn to love nature as my brother did. Harry set up an empty milk jug in the back yard and I began my target practice. I was given strict instructions to always shoot away from the house.

I obviously did not follow these instructions because at some point an errant BB made its way through our large glass window leaving a perfect circular pyramid of cut glass at its exit. Only a perfectly round projectile could do this. I argued my case, but the evidence left an ever-telling mark of an errant BB and a disobedient marksman.

With a fair amount of practice my aim began to find its mark. Soon I could hit not only the empty milk jug (that served to catch my BBs) but also soda cans that I lined up along the picnic table. I next moved to a hanging target and gradually moved my distant back steadying my aim with each pace.

A neighbor girl of my age had also received a BB gun. She and I decided we might attempt to hunt in the woods together. Before I set out to hunt what? (I'm not sure that I put much thought into it) Thinking back on it, I believe that I really just wanted to outdo my friend. I wanted to be the better hunter, the most experienced, and the one with the best shot. Wanting to prepare and get some practice of my own, I scoped my bead on the backyard wildlife.

Perched on a branch just above and across the drainage ditch sat a songbird. He sang a most beautiful song. But my heart did not hear it. My eye was trained on the bead at the end of my gun and all I could think of us was pulling the trigger. I really didn't expect to hit my target. I foolishly believed I would go right or left and the bird would get away. It was after all just a game. A game where I was the powerful hunter, and the songbird was the target.

GREUZE - Young Girl Weeping for her dead bird 1759

My success horrified me and sent me into temporary shock. Dumbfounded with my ability to forever silence such beauty, I felt temporarily paralyzed. Then I heard its limp body hit the ground across the creek from our yard. My senses shook me into a bewildered walk. What would I do? What could I do? Somewhere in the confused mind, I mused, "Maybe I missed and he's just been stunned?"

I crossed the creek by circling back to the street and entering my neighbor's back yard. There on the cold January ground sat the lifeless bird. It's song forever silenced by my selfish game. Tears welled inside of me. "How could I be so foolish?" "How could I be so prideful?" "How could I be so blind as to the sanctity of life and God's gift of nature?" I cried out loud. Finally I set about to act responsibly.

I returned home to find a shovel, a shoebox, and some newspaper. After burying its tiny body in my back yard,( I gave a funeral service complete with song) I retired my BB gun to the cobwebs of our garage. I never picked it up again. I never took aim again. I never wanted to be the best aim, or the best hunter, or have anything to do with robbing the earth of God's gifts of life.

For weeks I despised myself. For weeks I loathed what I had done. Once I saw my friend out hunting alone along the grassy marshland. I saw her take aim at a beautiful heron that stalked its prey in the mudflats. I saw its beak plow into pluff mud, never to return its slender silhouetted form to our skyline. She too felt the shame and retired her desire to hunt. She too felt the shame.

How had society wrong us? How had we been duped into believing that we (as young women) could act like young men? Why had there been such role reversals? Who was I? What was my role? Was killing for sport something that was ingrained in me? My reaction yelled NO.

Nature does not allow for mistakes. I errantly mistook my ability to aim with precision as a game of power and pleasure and it cost a songbird its life. It's burden lay heavy on my heart. Oh that I would have had someone to guide me and warn me of my actions. Oh that I had listened to wisdom's call, and the love for virtue, for good that called me to consider my actions.

Nature is unforgiving. Nothing I could do would bring the bird's song back to life. Nothing I could do would alleviate the pain, the shame, the sorrow, and the regret I felt. Nothing would comfort me. My mistake seemed permanent. And it was. For the Mocking Bird, it was. But for me I learned a great lesson as I began a process of repentance.

Repentance is a process. The first step in understanding repentance is to believe that our mistakes can be forgiven. I did not say made right because some things cannot be undone, but they can be forgiven. In order to believe that they can be forgiven we must first believe in a power greater than nature, greater than heaven and earth, and great enough to change our hearts for good.

The tragedy of this story is not that the songbird was killed, but that I took its life for sport. If I had continued on without regret, without shame or sorrow, my life might have been overshadowed by the darkness of my choice. I would have been unable to see my pride; my arrogance, my foolishness, and my life path would have been one of great tragedy. My spirit would have been at risk for a second death.

We all make mistakes. Some of our mistakes are more serious than others. Some of us cause us to silence the beautiful songs that God has given us. These songs were meant to help us learn to listen to his prophets. All of us face the reality that without the gift of repentance we face daily the risk of the second death. It is a sobering thought and one that we can fix by repenting…….daily.

Words and Phrases

Vs 11 hear my words… we cannot understand the nature or the need of repentance if we do not listen to the prophets who teach us of it.

Vs 11 know the conditions of repentance – who, what, when, where, why, how

Vs 12 know of the coming of Jesus Christ – repentance was made possible because of the coming of Jesus Christ upon the earth. We need first to believe in his name

Vs 13. Believing leads to repentance which leads to a remission (pardoning) because of what Jesus did for us through the atonement. (merits)

Vs 15 the resurrection of the dead – will birds be resurrected? Not sure, but I hope to be because I believe in God's name.

Vs 15 brought into the presence of the Lord – only those of us who have repented and have been given pardon for our sins will stand white and clean before God

Vs 16 Jesus Christ will die so that 1. Resurrection of mankind (birds?) 2 redeemeth us all from the first death that cut us off from the presence of God. When we accept Jesus Christ and believe on his name, we have the right to receive redemption for our sins and heal the affects of the first (spiritual) death.

Vs 17.back into the presence of the Lord – we must believe and we must repent… repay. Our pentances… choose to correct our mistakes.

Why? Because we are in charge of our actions, our course, and it is as if God has given us the wheel and is waiting to see where we will steer ourselves? Back home or back to our sins.

Vs 18. A second death – comes to those who "repenteth not". And they are forbidden to bask in the light of the Savior's love. They are forbidden because they willfully chose to sin.

Vs 18. They are cut off s to the things pertaining to righteousness. – Only those who love righteousness can understand, enjoy and be part of righteousness.

We must learn to love righteousness and change the behavior that causes us to be separated from God's love. We must learn to listen to the songs of nature that call us to a higher voice. A still voice. A small voice that lives within each of us and calmly speaks to us of truth.

The real tragedy is that when we don't listen to the guidance of the prophets, we have to pay the price of our sins. God forgave me for my sin, but a bird still lost its life and I had to go down a path of darkness that I would (to this day) rather not have gone.

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