Even in Southern California it is possible to discern that in November, summer is finally over. When fall turns into winter I start having myself covered at night with my favorite quilt. It is covered with the tiny red and blue handprints of little primary children who under the direction of our good friend, Sue Anthony who was primary president at the time, dipped their little hands in blue or red paint and then pressed them on to the quilt. My "Hands-On" quilt is 21 years old and those little hands are now big and most of their owners have served missions and are married now with children of their own.
It is my favorite quilt because I like to imagine those little hands keeping me warm and comfortable through the long cold nights of winter. Those little hands represent to me the love of Christ manifest through these pure, precious, and innocent children.
Since my injury I am fascinated by hands. I am convinced that only God could create something so marvelous. Not having the use of my hands anymore I am just in awe of what hands can do. I see the masterful artwork done by my good friend Ron Wilson, and our daughter's mother-in-law, Rhonda Reilly. What a gift to take a blank computer screen or canvas and create something beautiful, inspiring and enduring. I listen to my granddaughter, Allora Stratford, play the piano and watch her fingers literally fly over the keys. Having played the piano for many years before my accident I know what a gift she has been given to be able to translate from her mind to her hands given to her by God, the edifying music she is able to interpret and perform. I have had a trained surgeon literally save my life because of her trained and skillful hands.
Each day as I sit in my office and look at the beautiful workmanship I am reminded of the gifted hands of Gary Anderson and Paul Colby to build something beautiful out of wood -- a skill I have never possessed.
As impressive as these gifted and trained hands are however, hands can also be used to bless and comfort in many other ways as the little hands of our former primary children do for me through my "Hands-On" quilt.
President Dieter F. Uchdorft in the April, 2010 general conference related the following story: "... during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.
Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”
Not having been able to do one single physical thing for myself for over 20 years now, the "hands of Christ" in the form of my family and friends have literally kept me alive. To me, their hands truly are "The hands of Christ."
All of us can be and should be "the hands of Christ" to those about us. "... we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each one of us." [Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, November, 2009]
In its humanitarian outreach to the world, disaster victims have witnessed young and old dressed in yellow T-shirts or vests with the words "Mormon Helping Hands," printed on them. These "hands of Christ" have blessed countless disaster victims and will continue to do so as the years go by.
If our hands are truly to be the hands of Christ however, we must make sure that not only are they clean but that our hearts are pure as well.
The psalmist wrote: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3–4).
Elder Bednar, in commenting on these verses said: "... it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart ... Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better..." [Ensign, November, 2007]
And so the challenge we all have in becoming the hands of Christ is through our faith and trust in the power of the atonement to truly have the same clean hands and pure heart He has. It is a daunting task but as Robert Browning wrote, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp, then what is a heaven for?"
"Hands are one of the symbolically expressive parts of the body. In Hebrew, yad, the most common word for “hand,” is also used metaphorically to mean power, strength, might (see William Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies , 205). Thus, hands signify power and strength." [W. Craig Zwick Ensign, November, 2003]
The prophet Mormon said "Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power?” (Mormon 5:23).
"To be in the hands of God would suggest that we are not only under His watchful care but also that we are guarded and protected by His wondrous power.
Throughout the scriptures, reference is made to the hand of the Lord. His divine assistance is evidenced over and over again. His powerful hands created worlds, and yet they were gentle enough to bless the little children.
Consider John’s words describing the resurrected and glorified Savior: “And when I saw him, … he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; … I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:17–18). When He lays His hand upon us, we, like John, can be alive in Him." [Craig W. Zwick, Ensign, November 2003]
Speaking of hands and to end on a lighter note -- hopefully not a light minded note -- the other evening Joanne was feeding me a bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich on grilled sourdough bread -- my favorite. We also happened to be watching a 1942 black-and-white murder mystery on TCM at the same time. We were engrossed in the movie and all of a sudden I heard a scream, Joanne slugged me in the arm and accused me of biting her finger. I have to admit that the bacon did taste a little like finger right about then. Even I however, am not dumb enough to bite the "hand" that feeds me -- or am I?