One “Shepherd moment” for me was being called to the Elders Quorum Presidency. This calling allowed me to grow spiritually and with more responsibility in the Beachside ward. It gave me a chance to serve. I would like to give thanks to my Lord and Shepherd, our Bishop and Elders Quorum President, Ken Barlow, for giving me the opportunity to become the Elders Quorum First Councilor. Sometimes you get put in callings that are challenging and uncomfortable. This is how you grow. With faith, putting in good work and with the grace of the Lord you’ll be okay. It’s like being asked to give a talk. Giving a talk is right up there with going to the dentist. Both are good for you but you don’t look forward to either one.
One of the suggested references given for this talk was Psalms 23. Psalm 23 is probably the one of most well-known texts in the Holy Scriptures. The first verse of Psalms 23 verse 1 reads: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." I might not have everything I want, but I have no real wants. Our Lord, our Shepherd, provides the miracles, blessings, comfort, necessaries for our families, through faith, good works and grace. We should seek first the Lord and trust in Him, then the Lord will bless our lives with all that we need and miracles we seek.
Two Messages from our First Presidency
First message: From “Finding Strength in the Lord” Emotional Resilience class. (Sister Richardson was our discussion leader and our Elders Quorum Presidency participated in this class)
Message from the First Presidency:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The Lord has declared, “It is my purpose to provide for my saints” (Doctrine and Covenants 104:15). This revelation is a promise from the Lord that He will provide blessings and open the door of self-reliance, which is the ability for us to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our family members.
This workbook has been prepared to help members of the Church learn and put into practice principles of faith, education, hard work, and trust in the Lord. Accepting and living these principles will better enable you to receive the strength promised by the Lord.” This is another way our Lord shepherds us.
Second message: April 2022 General Conference talk, “The Power of Spiritual Momentum” by President Russell M. Nelson.
He suggested five specific actions we can take to help us maintain positive spiritual momentum.
First: Get on the covenant path and stay there
Joy of Daily Repentance
Learn about God and how He works
Seek and expect miracles
End conflict in your personal life
Focusing on the fourth specific action, seek and expect miracles, President Nelson said the following: "Moroni assured us that ‘God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.’ Every book of scripture demonstrates how willing the Lord is to intervene in the lives of those who believe in Him. He parted the Red Sea for Moses, helped Nephi retrieve the brass plates, and restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Each of these miracles took time and may not have been exactly what those individuals originally requested from the Lord. In the same way, the Lord will bless you with miracles if you believe in Him, ‘doubting nothing.’ Do the spiritual work to seek miracles. Prayerfully ask God to help you exercise that kind of faith. I promise that you can experience for yourself that Jesus Christ ‘giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increase strength.’ Few things will accelerate your spiritual momentum more than realizing the Lord is helping you to move a mountain in your life.” Our Lord, our Shepherd is a God of miracles and will bless our lives with miracles if we believe and trust in Him.
A little background on myself. I was born and raised in Pico Rivera, a bedroom community about 20 miles down the 605 fwy. I grew up in a good family home where I was the youngest of 5 kids. I don’t think we ever owned a new car or went on vacations like to Hawaii but we had food on the table and friends in the neighborhood. Life was good. I don’t remember going to church when I was young. My brother told me that my sisters and he would be dropped off at church on Sundays when they were young. My mother and father didn’t attend and I don’t recall attending. I was baptized in a local Baptist church in my teens. I believe being the youngest has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, my brother and sisters all were in the band in elementary school. They all quit. So I never had the opportunity to play or quit. Maybe that was what happened with me attending church. By the time I was old enough to go my parents were not dropping off my brother and sisters anymore. The Lord did look after me, He was my Shepherd even though I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him when I was young.
A few examples that I recall: One Christmas when I was young there was a big wrapped box with my name on it sitting by the Christmas tree. I was sure it was a mini bike, I couldn’t wait till Christmas morning to open it. So when Christmas came and I opened my present it was a gasoline lawn mower. Was I disappointed. But I soon realized the lawnmower was a blessing. I received what I needed, not what I wanted.
At another Christmas, money was tight. My dad's business was slow, there was no extra money for Christmas presents. My mother had tears in eyes, it was a sad time. The Lord, my Shepherd, taught me a better meaning of what Christmas is and was about. It wasn’t about gifts or material things, it was about family being together. As I look back I don’t remember any of the material presents I received at Christmas growing up. I am blessed with this memory of Christmas when we had little, it was the best Christmas I remember growing up. The lawnmower Christmas comes in second.
Another time growing up I recall the Lord was my Shepherd when I was a young boy. I was helping my father replace the springs on our garage door, it was an old wood garage door, really heavy. It was braced up with a 2x4. I was standing underneath the door watching my dad when I had a feeling, a small voice telling me to move. I stood there a second more and again I was getting prompted to move, so I took a few steps away from where I was standing. Seconds later the door slipped off its 2x4 support and dropped straight down. The door came down with a fast hard thud as it hit the ground. I stood there for a few seconds thinking boy that would have really hurt. If I didn’t get that prompting to move my young life would have been over. The garage door was fine. The Lord was my Shepherd.
I started attending Fountain Valley 2nd ward about 2003. I was baptized a couple of years later. Cathy wasn’t active at the time, but she wanted our kids to grow up in the Church. She was taking our kids to FVII ward on Sundays when they were toddlers and invited me to come if I chose to, my choice. Not knowing very much about attending The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, it was a very interesting early experience, different from what I remember attending a Baptist church. What I saw was the strong family atmosphere, and the Shepherd through the Holy Ghost spoke to me about the truth of this Church. I saw and heard enough to exercise faith that if I was baptized the rest will be given to me in the Lord's time.
I would not feel right if I didn’t mention the Temple and Family History Center. I would like to talk about how our Lord Jesus Christ is the Shepherd to our Family History. On my father's side, I would start with my grandfather, John Maruska. As I remember my grandfather was an old country Czech from Czechoslovakia, which was actually the Empire of Austria, who emigrated to the US in the early 1900s. I am sure he taught and shaped who my father, Henry Thomas Maruska, became through hard work and the family values. Not knowing more details about my grandfather let me talk about my father. Early out of high school, in Granger, Texas, he enlisted in the Marines. He was a sergeant during WWII and was deployed in the Pacific against the Japanese forces. He took part in several island beach landings. He was wounded several times. On one of the beach landings he was shot across his chest by a machine gun. He was taken to a medical ship where he recovered and returned to action. He wouldn’t talk very much about the war, but did mention to me a few times that in several encounters he should have died. His life was blessed.
As the Maruska family tree of life moves forward, Cathy and I and our three kids, Olivia, Harrison and Collier were going on vacation. We were in our Suburban pulling our family trailer heading to Glacier National park. Outside of Cedar City Utah we had an accident, driver error. I was in the left lane and a large semi truck passed us at a high speed on the right and the semi truck vacuum pulled our trailer onto the right lane causing the car and trailer to roll off the highway onto the shoulder. Our lives rolled through the shadow of death and the Lord, our Shepherd protected us. When we stopped rolling, Cathy's foot was stuck under the Suburban, Olivia and Harrison in the backseat had minor injuries, Collier in the third seat was missing. I thought he was thrown from the car. I panicked to find him and he was already outside the wreck. As soon as we stopped rolling he jumped out of the car, he cut his arm climbing through the broken window but he was fine. Again the Lord was the Maruska’s family Shepherd.
As the Maruska family tree of life moves forward again I would like to focus on Collier James Maruska. Shortly after Collier got his driver’s license, he was driving our truck and ran into the back of another truck. No one was hurt except the truck. A few years later Collier was coming home from college, at UC San Diego, on the 405 fwy. It had been raining and the truck he was driving ran across some standing water and hydroplaned. Collier lost control, the truck spun and crossed a lane or two and side swiped a semi truck. When I was driving to where the accident occurred I knew Collier was basically okay. I was mad at Collier for getting into another accident until I saw the condition of his truck. When he hydroplaned, the driver side of the truck hit the semi. Something ripped open the truck hood, like a big knife, all the way through to the driver's door. The driver's rear view window and driver's window were gone. The Lord our Shepherd was watching over Collier. Amazingly, he walked away without a scratch.
Any one of several different outcomes could have changed the Maruska family tree. Today Collier is serving a mission in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He is a shepherd doing the Lord's work. He is where the Lord wants him to be.
Ninety and Nine Michael McLean Lyrics
I am one of the ninety and nine
I’m not perfect but basically I’m doing fine
I have not lost my way, I have not gone astray
I’m just one of the ninety and nine
I am here in the heart of the fold
I’m not mindless but I try to do as I’m told
I’m not tempted to run and become the lost one
I am here in the heart of the fold
So why is my shepherd coming this way toward me He’s holding his arms out and he’s calling my name
Yes he’s calling my name! But how, how can this be?
I’m just one of the ninety and nine
I have stumbled and fallen, but I’ve kept in line
I’m not one he must seek; I’m not all that unique
I’m just one of the ninety and nine
So why is my shepherd treating me like a lost lamb?
He’s searching to find me
And he’s holding me now, yes, he’s holding me now
And teaching me who I am
So why am I feeling like I’m the only one here
It’s like I’m his favorite
And he takes me aside, and he sweetly confides
These remarkable words in my ear
You are one of the ninety and nine
Have you any idea how brightly you shine?
You are safe in this fold, and it’s time you are told
That I know where you’ve been so I know where you’ll be
Because all of your life you’ve been following me
You are more than just one of the sands of the sea
Or just one of the ninety and nine
You are mine, you are mine, you are mine
You are mine
I am one of the ninety and nine.