Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gospel Reading List

Solid Gospel Reading

  • The Scriptures of Course (all standard works) 
  • Teachings Of The Prophet Joseph Smith 
  • The Words of Joseph Smith 
  • Lectures on Faith 
  • The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil 
  • Any of a number of works by Hugh Nibley (Approaching Zion is a foundational one) 
  • Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in Ancient Jewish and Family Customs 
  • Preserving the Restoration

(Updated 2015) These books, in my view are a great foundation if you want to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They provide an organized place to study and understand the doctrine and teachings of the fullness of the Restored Gospel. The Church does a wonderful job of distributing and publishing basic curriculum manuals and doctrines for members and new converts. Their focus is basic, as it should be. Beyond that, study of the Gospel fullness is primarily an individual responsibility. I personally believe that some things are intended to only be found by personal study and searching.

You can purchase all of these books on Amazon for around $55. About what you'd spend on 1 tank of gas for your car these days. If your willing to read electronic versions of one or two of them, it really doesn't cost much. There are of course other books I still need to study that may be added.

The Standard Works (Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price)

They are "The Standard" to which we can/should compare or validate what we learn. The Scriptures are obviously the foundation. How many people have they inspired? How many questions have they answered? How many precious truths are in them? How important are they? The living word, revelation, and Gospel ordinances should also be in this paragraph about Scripture.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and The Words of Joseph Smith.

A testimony of The Prophet Joseph is part of the baptismal interview, so it's presumed that if you are a member you have some degree of a testimony of his calling. What sometimes happens is we stop there. We gain a testimony of his calling, and that his experience in the Sacred Grove is true, but then we don't search out and study a large portion of the things he taught. Seems so simple, but having grown up in the church I see how common this is. Many of his priceless and crucial teachings can get left by the wayside as members do our best to live our religion in these modern times. The words of Joseph, his sermons, his life, and his teachings have a focus that we need to retain before it gets lost. As the visionary prophet of the restoration it would seem highly important to find and study his teachings that are available to us. Not just the bits and pieces that are published in the approved curriculum church manuals. Those can be good, and they offer the basics. But their purpose isn't to include everything, and more and more the curriculum dept of the Church dictates what is and is not in them. So our personal study should probably at some point include continuing to learn as much as we can of what the Prophet said and taught.

Lectures on Faith.

These used to be part of the D&C. They were prepared for the School of the Prophets. In fact they were why the D&C is called Doctrine and Covenants. Previously the book was called "The Book of Commandments". The lectures were removed without a vote by the Church which should have taken place for such a change to occur. I enjoy the lectures every time I read them. They are very informative. If you haven't read them and studied them you need to.

The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord through the Veil. 

This book is a manual for anyone seeking the fullness of the Gospel. The doctrine of the Second Comforter and related teachings have been gathered together in one place and published alongside scriptural examples and personal testimony. The back cover states "This book is about the process of receiving the Second Comforter". It's presented in such a way that any sincere reader can read, understand, and then apply what's taught in their life. It describes the process as set out through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and uses the scriptures to illustrate the path Christ walked and taught. It's intended for the reader to follow it as well and receive what is offered. The author asks no one to read or accept the book unless they get confirmation from the Spirit that what is written and the testimony given are true. I got that witness and it has never left. This book is a well of truth. Read and see for yourself.

Approaching Zion (and or any number of works by Hugh Nibley)

This author's blunt essays are enjoyable if you feel inclined to press further into Gospel topics. Hugh was never a General Authority yet he taught incredible and profound truths to the Latter Day Saints. His perspective about Latter Day issues along with his gifts and talents with regard to Egyptian studies, languages, and history, make him great company. After a few chapters it will be clear he is much more interested in the truth than being liked, or making money, or trying not to offend people. The content can be a bit shocking or uncomfortable at times. He pits Babylon against Zion and shows how easily we in our present day religious culture can become deceived and seduced by counterfeits, and errant beliefs. This work deals with how we become customers of Babylon thinking we are in Zion. The World and the Prophets is another classic by Hugh. He addresses key issues with such clarity that my eyebrows often raise and I ask myself "Is he allowed to say that?" Approaching Zion is a must read. It helps our eyes open to the situation we find ourselves in.

Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in ancient Jewish and Family Customs:

This book addresses Christ's title of "The Bridegroom" as well as offers a light filling perspective on Christ's culture and background that often gets little time or attention. Sometimes in a modern American LDS church viewpoint Jesus becomes Americanized. We see him through our vantage point more than the one he actually grew up in. This book adds lots of meaning and understanding to many scriptures by addressing what it meant to grow up with a Jewish Family and Jewish Customs. Important context for the background for Christ's words and teachings. This is one of those books where the content is many more times as dense as the written words on the page. If we want to know the Lord and to understand Him, can we skip seeking to understand the culture, customs, and religion he grew up in? I love this book. The symbols the authors addresses and the tone are simple, yet profound. The title says it well. "Finding Christ in ancient Jewish and Family Customs".

Preserving the Restoration 

"There is currently a groundswell of change taking place in Mormonism. Various denominations, including the largest sect, the LDS Church headquartered in Salt Lake City, are confronting serious questions about the truthfulness of their claims to be the "one true" religion. This book deals with many important events and teachings of the restoration through Joseph Smith. Any who either believe or dispute that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and any who are interested in or are participating in the various denominations of Mormonism will benefit from this book. Joseph Smith founded a religion intended to revolutionize the world. He was restoring ancient truths that were lost through apostasy and endeavoring to guide its adherents in establishing a New Jerusalem in the Americas. None of the various Mormon denominations, from the largest to the smallest, have been faithful to Joseph Smith or his revelations, and therefore have little chance of accomplishing the prophesied promises. This book discusses the earliest roots of Mormonism. It relies extensively on early Mormon documents, diaries, journals, contemporary correspondence and contemporary news sources to trace back to the beginning of the Mormon faith. It examines the social, legal and political influences that have reshaped key doctrines in Mormonism."  (taken from amazon.com)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

At The Very Same Time

"False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets, and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones... the devil always sets up his Kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God"  -  The Words of Joseph Smith (pg 4604 in the electronic edition)

The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,’ and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 206.

Human skill, tradition, or outward membership are not the tools the scriptures teach to discern the truth from the false.  Discernment would not be a gift of the Spirit if mere human capacity would get the job done. Joseph gives some sobering teachigns about how the kingdom of the Devil is set up at the same in opposition to God.  The way to avoid deception is by the Spirit of God. Not by science, not by sincerity, not by a white shirt and tie, not by a recognized religious title, and not by earthly credentials or status no matter how impressive.

When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those people who we see on the news who falsely predict the end of the world, or those who begin break off groups from mainstream religions who carry extreme views.  Or maybe those televangelists who  promise miracles if you will pick up the phone and pledge them money in the next 30 seconds.  Another assumption is that false prophets or teachers refers to small radical groups, or people with non traditional beliefs.  

We've been taught by many authorities that there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church (Elder Ballard Conference Oct 99).  

I wonder if the most dangerous problems are not so much those foolish groups who can sell products piggybacking off of a church endorsement when they actually had none.  Nor is it the small non traditional group who sees things differently than the masses.  I wonder if the real problem, or the one that impacts the most people are those who actually do have church endorsement but who but put forth false teachings. Or as Joseph put it, "so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones".  Near the truth is no good.  99% truth is no good if the rest is misleading.  It still misses.  But it's prophesied that we live in a time when we are vulnerable to being deceived by "near" truth tellers.

The Book of Mormon was written to Mormons.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

America's Favorite Sins

Based on the top movies out right now a pretty noticeable theme.  America's favorite sins!

When I say favorite sins, it's cause it's true.  We have our favorites.  They are the most common, the ones people are entertained by the most, and they are the sins that bring the biggest box office rewards.  Watch some new releases yourself.  I'm not being a sour puss and trying to wreck everyone's entertainment.  This stuff just needs to be called out once in a while for what it is.

"Murder", "immorality", and "calling evil good" are some of the biggest hitters.  We Americans LOVE our sins.  Or love to be entertained by them, one of the two.    

The names of the sings get changed which can make it slightly less noticeable.  But that all gets forgotten while we sit in the dark, eyes gazing at the man made stars.       

Friday, November 16, 2012

Doubting Doubt

There is a really good interesting interview on Mormon Stories.org.  Found here.  http://mormonstories.org/?p=2471    (for some reason the link takes a while to load)

In the comments section the interviewee was responding to some comments about the difficulty and process involved in developing and strengthening our belief and closeness to the Lord. He said the following which I loved and found very profound.

"There is reason to doubt. There is reason to believe. There is pain, longing, and there is a choice to be made. Choose to believe, and then choose to seek for Him. It is that choice in the face of reason to doubt, and the decision to press forward to Him that develops within you the capacity to find Him.

If you choose to believe, and to leave the reasons for doubt aside, there will be more proof of both. More reason to believe, and yet more reason to not. This will lead you to the point in which you can choose at last to doubt doubt itself. Why trust doubt? Why is it the more compelling view? Therein lies deliverance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Revelation and Visions

"It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation . . . When any person receives a vision of Heaven, he sees things that he never thought of before."

(The Words of Joseph Smith, 13-14)

I wonder if revelation is not but a bringing to light of something that already exists but is unknown or unrecognized, or has yet to dawn on on the consciousness of the audience.  This would perhaps alter ones approach to seeking it.  Rather than be persuaded by the carnal mind, or the illusions of the eyes and mind we may want to be humble instead, and allow God to teach us of what already exists, what was, is, and is to come.  Things that as of yet, we have not thought of.  Revelation is the privileged of those who follow God.

Fullness

There are a couple references to the Gospel in the scriptures I think are worth a lot of thought.

These are the phrases:

"The lesser portion of the Word" (Alma 12:10)

"The greater portion of the Word" (Alma 12:10. 3 Nephi 26:9)

"Preparatory Gospel" (D&C 84:26)

"Much of my Gospel" (1 Nephi 13:34)

"Fulness of the Gospel" (3 Nephi 16:10, 3 Nephi 20:30, 1 Nephi 15:13..there are many)

"Preparatory", "Much", "Fullness" These are interesting words that suggest the Gospel has levels. Sometimes the meaning of these words can degenerate over time, especially if they are not taught or are not present in the publications or manuals we study.

It says in the introduction of the Book of Mormon that that the fullness of the everlasting gospel is contained inside it. So does that mean we, as a church, have the fullness? I hear frequently at church that "we have the fullness". I wonder if it would be more correct to say that we have the fullness available to us. Bit of a difference. One suggests we need to take action, the other suggests we don't really need to do anything as we've already obtained everything God offers and it will be handed to us on a platter at some future time due to how special we are. The fullness existing in a book you believe in, or Book the religious organization publishes is not really the same as "receiving a fullness".  Huge difference.

To know the fullness is in the Book of Mormon can be a great thing. But that knowledge may also lead to the members having a nice quantity of misleading assurance.

Isn't it comforting to have that assurance that we have the fullness?  That makes one feel wonderful, special, chosen, and..... complacent.  Why reach for a fulness which you already have? 

The thinking also sometimes goes that if we have it (the fullness), that means no one else out there has it. This may all lead to mistakenly assuming we are uniquely superior, and can sit back, relax, chant that "all is well" and smugly think we can coast along and just do what we're told. And if it so be we missed some stuff or were wrong on things, at the last day God may beat us with a few stripes, but in the end we'll still be saved in the Kingdom of our choice. Because after all, we had the fullness. As if having a recipe for bread was the same thing as being filled by the bread you chose to prepare cook up, and partake of.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This day, our daily bread

A portion of the Lord's prayer reads "Give us this day, our daily bread".

This day. Not some other day, yesterday, or tomorrow. The present. Give us THIS day our daily bread. This calls to mind the manna of the Old Testament. It was daily. They could not collect more than they needed and store it to have "additional security". It shows that God is and wants us to know he is a God of our everyday life.  He wants to be relied upon because "man shall no live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of The Lord."

How much more clear could he have made it? He wants to be part of our lives, each day. So much so he uses the analogy of bread. A staple food. Something we consume which sustains us and becomes part of us. Then we weekly participate in the sacramental bread. And then he tells us "I am the bread of life".

If we ask in faith He truly can give us our "daily bread". Not just that made of things like wheat or the like, but that bread made of His life, His Spirit, and His love. The one pointing to the other, pointing to the One.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15-16

"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

Thanksgiving is coming up soon and I thought this post appropriate for the coming season of offering thanks. Although not pagan, Thanksgiving in America often is not kept in honor of God. One day (or even a few hours) after being thankful for what we have is when hoards of people rush retail stores willing to trample and injure others to support the biggest shopping day of the year. And all to save a few dollars on often meaningless merchandise. Not everyone participates in that but it illustrates that our thanks can become just something we do outwardly for a few minutes, rather than something we are. 

The Sacrifice of Praise from Hebrews calls to mind the Peace Offering of the Old testament. The Peace offering differed from the Sin offering or Burnt offering in that it wasn't to make a covering for sins, and not to consecrate or dedicate an offering completely to God. It was more a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. This offering signified a close relationship with God. 

There are a few different Hebrew words for “praise.” The different words indicate different nuances of meaning. I found at least five concepts behind the words for praise. They are thanksgiving, joy or rejoicing, adoration or worship, blessing and boasting. When we praise God, we feel inclined to do these things.  It prompts song, dancing, or shouting.  It would be a moment where you couldn't stay still. Such things are often spontaneous, and filled with joy that must be expressed before it becomes too much to be kept inside. Of course praise can come with emotion, but praise seems to be something a little bit different than just strong emotion. 

The fact that the Sacrifice of Praise is called a sacrifice may indicate that you may not feel like praising God. Sometimes our circumstances are not conducive to praise. This is when it can be a sacrifice.  At a certain point may also be an exercise of faith.  Doing so can show that we value what God has to offer more than this world.  

Job is a great example of a sacrifice of praise.  After loosing all he had he said: 
"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:20-21 (NIV)  Or in the King James version the last part reads: "Blessed be the name of the Lord".

That is one of the best examples of a sacrifice of praise that I have ever read!

When thinking of praising God I can hardly call to mind a typical sacrament meeting. Not that there needs to be shouting or a bit of chaos to qualify, but in the Latter Day Saint community there seems to be a bit of uncertainty as to what praise looks like for us. Or how it should be displayed in a culturally acceptable way. Sometimes we seem to be so caught up in being reverent that few stop to consider that praise may sometimes be lacking in many of our services. Of course we can also worship and offer praise in many more places than our "synagogues" (to use a phrase from Alma 32:10 in the book of Mormon). Praise can be a witness of God wherever it occurs.

Only through the Lord can we praise and give thanks in spite of our circumstances.  I've seen it in writing, and also seen it in person.  However, the irony is that it may be frowned upon in many church settings.  It may even be termed "irreverent" or "improper".  Our cookie cutter Utah LDS image may not be one that accommodates forms of worship that please the Lord.   But that's another topic.  

If we are to offer the sacrifice of praise, we may need to give up some inhibitions, or let go of various traditions, and in their place have enough of the Spirit burning inside us that praise becomes the natural fruit of our lips. If you've never felt the love of God that fills every cell of your body full of joy, causes your bones to burn, and motivates song and praise to God then the Gospel has many rewards yet to come. Have you ever felt that spontaneous surge of praise? The desire to shout praises to the holy one of Israel? (2 Nephi 31:13). When you just can't hold it in?

I guess the question we all need to ask ourselves is what do you need to sacrifice in order to be able to shout praises to God?

This is another one of those things where you almost need to have the spiritual experience first, then the idea or scripture makes sense in light of the experience.  But before or without the experience, the idea, outward acts, worship, or praise are more like hollow acts, gestures or just words on a page.  But it can be so very much more.  This thanksgiving I'm going to think on the Sacrifice of Praise.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Things below testify of things above

Before the snow yesterday I've been doing a lot of work outside.  Didn't take long before my skin was noticeably more tan that it was before.

When you spend a lot of time in the sun we all know that your skin starts to look different. Since things on earth testify or bare record of higher things I thought it merited some thought. If we abide in Christ as scriptures teach, would we begin to take on a somewhat different appearance? Would our countenance change from who's presence we spend time in?

We can't look directly into the mid day sun without hurting our eyes.  The light intensity is too much. But we benefit, find joy, and can see from the presence and indirect effects of the sunlight.

If things below testify of things above than we needn't look further than our own front yard or our own skin to learn interesting truths.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gathering

When scriptures speak of the gathering of Israel, or gathering to Zion, is it possible there are different degrees of being gathered?

To gather implies that people are gathered "around" something. The center point is crucial. People can gather around all sorts of things, people, organizations, causes, or heroes, but none of them can or will do what the Lord does.  So that's something to think about. And how close you are to that center point is also interesting to ask yourself.   Both physically, as in geography, but also "close" in the sense of a personal relationship.  Like we would say "are you and your brother close?"

If Joseph Smith said referring to The Book of Mormon that a man could get closer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book, than it shows there are degrees of closeness one may seek to obtain.  How much we want to be gathered then has a lot to do with the Book of Mormon.  And of course it always has a lot to do with what we do about the word repentance.

The Lord doesn't just offer to gather us and then keep us at a distance.  The Lord offers a fullness, He invites us to be one with Him and the Father.  He says: "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not"  How close is The Lord willing to gather us?

And who does this gathering? Is it an organized Church? There are many answers, but one interesting one is D&C 77:11 when it talks about the 144,000 of the last days. It says angels gather or bring "as many as will" to the Church of the Firstborn. "As many as will." That means we choose. Our agency is hugely important. What we seek today, here and now matters. Do we seek to simply follow our leaders?  And relax at that?  Or do we follow the scriptures counsel and example to seek the face of God? Do we look forward to General Conference, and then rest at that?  Or do we look forward to that day when Christ's promises to comfort us as Second Comforter are fulfilled? Some of our traditions may have blinded us to where exactly we should be focusing.

It's very possible to be a member of the church and hold a temple recommend but still be as chickens who will not be gathered.  Why would they do this?  Why would they reject their parent?  We all know the answers... it's pride, and blindness, and vanity.  But when your the ugly duckling for a while you become willing to drop your traditions and look past your own blinders.  Then you find the truth.  God was not, nor has ever been anything other than our faithful Father, inviting us home.

Should we rest our salvation on hopes that at some point a program will be developed or some initiative offered by an organization to finally motivate us to do what God has been asking all along?  God, angels and those ordained by God himself are prophesied to be going about performing this work of gathering.  May we not be blind to it all.

What signs would be present if someone or people were truly gathered, and as one?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Being a wittness

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death. Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus." (New Testament, John, Chapter 12 9-11)

There are no recorded words of Lazarus in the Gospels. And yet, because of him, many people believed in Jesus. They heard what happened, that Lazarus was dead, in the tomb for four days, and then he was alive because of Jesus.

Jesus did not really ever tell us to DO our witnessing. Rather, we are to BE a witness of His love, His healing power, His ability to take a life that is spiritually dead and make us alive. And even if it's a case where words are spoken, they are simple to their core, like: "Come and see".  Scriptures teach we are to "abide" in Him.  These all suggest a state of being.  Our very being can be a witness of the reality and goodness of our God.

I think of the words credited to both Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi: “Witness all the time and when necessary use words.”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Story of the student and the pool

Random little story story.  My mind has been on parables lately and this came up. I can't really say there is a particular meaning intended.  Just thinking out loud.

A beginning martial arts student was told there was a Master instructor that lived in his neighborhood.  He knew of the man, but wasn't aware he possessed any knowledge or special ability of any worth or interest.  However it did come to his attention the the last week of school that he may have passed the man off too quickly. A rumor had circulated that the old man in the neighborhood had .....     The boy decided to pay the old man a visit and find out for himself.  After a long discussion the boy was intrigued, and seeing the boy's desire to learn this art, the instructor said that if he really wanted to learn he would need to dedicate his entire summer to his initial training.  Friends, games, and TV would need to be put on hold.  The eager student agreed.

Day one began with the instructor telling the student he needed to empty a nearby pool of all the water.  Confused, but before having a chance to complain, the teacher abruptly handed him a bucket and went on about his business.  The student, looking upwards in total disgust debates whether or not the old crock of a teacher actually knows anything at all.  But he snatches the bucket and walks over to the pool.  After gazing into the murky water he realizes he can hardly make out is own reflection in it.  Just then the instructor called from the background and said: "if you want to learn, your going to have to first get that dirty water out of the pool".  Again rolling his eyes in disgust the boy wonders how long this is going to take.  Then begins to wonder where on earth he supposed to put the water?  The lawn?  After the enormity of the task settles in, he wonders why people buys pools at all.  But he began anyway.  After a few bucket loads of water to the nearby storm drain, and already tired, the student contemplated telling the teacher that people get paid good money to clean pools.

Day one ended tired and sore and a bit bitter.  Day two didn't go much better.  The boy decided to take his time as well as a few days off.  After almost half the summer is gone the instructor seeing the task almost complete, and the student's arm, back, leg, and core muscles toned and developed, then shows the student where the pool can be drained, and where the drain pump switch was.  The instructor smiled a smile that was too much for the boy to handle.  With this new revelation all doubt in the students mind had been removed about the competence of the old man.  "Why didn't we just pull the plug and use the pump and save me all the work" he demands?  "You never asked" the old man said.  But before the boy could respond, the instructor says that he is now ready, and not to worry, that it was for his own good.  "Ready for what? More manual labor?" The student sarcastically muttered to himself.  But glad to not have to use a bucket anymore he was curious what was to come.  So the training moved forward.

"The pool now serves as our dojo to practice in" the teacher said.  "It wasn't all about emptying the pool".

The student hardly heard what he was being told due to the oddity of practicing in an empty pool where the echos are not only distracting, but for the most part obnoxious.  The student's doubt about these training methods turned into a casual "whatever".   At least now he was going to learn something new that may impress his friends and help him win a fight.  Training began every morning at sunrise.  As the days went on he did notice his body felt much stronger from his physical labor.  He thought perhaps this has been at least a little bit more productive that playing video games with his friends.  After all, not many people can say they alone emptied an entire pool with a bucket.  The old pool was so dirty it was starting to smell anyway.

With time the student mastered the basics, and as he progressed they would fill the pool little by little with water again.  As the water level slowly rose they would practice their movements and combinations against increasing amounts of water resistance.  This isolated parts of the body for focused training.  The student got used to the dojo acoustics and sometimes found them helpful especially when training with a blindfold.  Oddly he also noticed that the water, when still, would give a reflection that allowed him to see more sides of his instructor.  He could pick up on subtle movements quicker.  After a while the pool became too full to work in without having to swim and so the day came when the only training was to sit on the pool deck and meditate while the pool ever so slowly was filled the rest of the way with a half trickle pace from the garden hose.

By now the seasons had changed, and a leaf or two would fall into the water.  Summer was over.  As they sat in silence looking at their reflection one day, the student began to ponder, and meditate.  His mind was calm, his body keenly aware of all of his surroundings, his ears attuned to the most slight and subtle shift in air pressure. The acoustics of the empty pool had caused a change in his perception.  He noticed everything happening around him but wasn't particularly distracted by it.  Noticing his heightened senses, he closed his eyes and reflected.  He didn't notice the instructor had left him alone.

With his eyes closed he could almost sense his friend sneaking up on him from behind.  It was perhaps the last weekend before the weather turned cold, and his group of friends were going to make it clear the pool had been out of service long enough. They grew tired of their lazy summer days spent in front of the TV and wanted to go outside have a BBQ and swim.  With swimsuits on, and towels in hand, the group came to enjoy what might be the last remaining hot day of the year.  They were gong to swim that day even if (perhaps especially if ) it meant pushing or dragging their unsuspecting friend into the pool with them.

As they made their final approach, they were sure they would be undetected thanks to the soft grass and the sound of the passing noisy garbage truck.  Assured of their stealth, they took off towards him.  When they got within arms reach, without looking and hardly thinking, the student did what surprised even himself.  As the leader approached from behind intending to push his closed eyed friend into the pool, with perfect precision he took one step to the side, turned, and with a small but perfectly placed foot and arm movement tripped the leader, directing him face first into the pool, which sent him and the closely following group all stumbling and splashing into the pool.  Fully dressed.

When they surfaced the student was just then barely opening his eyes.  Despite their taunts that he somehow "cheated", he remained still and quiet...and dry.  

The instructor just smiled from the porch.

Later the friends asked how he knew they were coming and how he managed to pull that off.  "Empty that pool with a bucket and I'll tell you" The student cleverly said.  But they didn't have time for such nonsense, so they they pestered him for tricks and secrets instead.