Thursday, December 29, 2011

...With New Beginnings

In the Bible is a story about God destroying a wicked city, but, being merciful, He warns the righteous to leave before it is destroyed. One righteous family being that of Lot. However, as Lot's family is leaving the city of Sodom he is told "look not behind thee...lest thou be consumed." (Genesis 19:17)

Later, as the family was leaving the city, God sent brimstone and fire out of heaven destroying the wicked. Then, longing for the joys of the past, Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

We all make mistakes. We all need a new beginning. Tomorrow starts today. We have a bright future ahead of us. It's the beginning of a new year. Now is the time to look forward and make new goals. "look not behind thee." The best is yet to come.

New Year's: Look not Behind Thee

...With Goals

It's the season of making goals. Often around this time we call them "New Years Resolutions." They tend to turn more into the January joke more than anything though. If you're anything like me, you have good intentions and a bright hope for the future. You make a goal and follow through with it...for a few days or weeks at least.

Why does that happen? What makes the difference, when a goal is made, that determines whether or not you'll succeed in your firm resolution?

Before we set a goal we should pray and meditate about it. Ask ourselves how important it is to us and how resolved we are to complete our goal. After we've determined the worthy goals opposed to the "time wasters" we need to write them down. I've heard it said that a goal not written down is merely a dream.

Along with writing down a goal, we must have a firm path on how we will achieve that goal. Fitzhugh Dodson said, "without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination." Set goals, attainable goals, and make a list of how you will accomplish it.

I was once talking to my sister about a goal she had set. She had about three months until she graduated high school and wanted to accomplish her "Personal Progress Award". I asked her what she was working on and how she would finish the award. Shrugging her shoulders she said "eh, I don't know."

Failing to plan, is planning to fail. Without setting a course, being determined, and knowing the reasons behind our goals, they are nothing but hopes and fading dreams. So before making your "New Years Resolutions" this year, reflect on how committed you are to them and what you can do to follow through with your goals so that they can be more than just good intentions.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

...With Worth

"Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God"
-Doctrine and Covenants 18:10

Too commonly we forget our great worth. We are children of a loving God. A God who knows us individually and wants us to be happy. "No matter what our circumstances, or appearance, or social status, our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to recognize our self-worth."

The world wants us to believe that we have to be updated with the most recent fashions, have more "friends" on facebook, or be the star athlete to have any worth. The Lord doesn't look at what grade we got in math or how many activities our children are involved in, He looks at our hearts.

Think of it! "The most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of our spirits. He knows us individually. He loves us with a perfect love." Satan tries to deceive us. "He attempts to focus our sight on our own insignificance until we begin to doubt that we have much worth. He tells us that we are too small for anyone to take notice, that we are forgotten—especially by God."

President Uchtdorf told a story of when he was in pilot school in Big Spring, Texas. He could hardly speak the language, he knew no one and little about the culture. He says "At the time, Big Spring, despite its name, was a small, insignificant, and unknown place. And I often felt exactly the same way about myself—insignificant, unknown, and quite alone."

Yet, he knew the truth. He continued, "I knew that it didn’t matter to Heavenly Father where I was, where I ranked with others in my pilot training class, or what my calling in the Church was. What mattered to Him was that I was doing the best I could..."

It is true! No matter where we are, no matter how insignificant we may feel, God knows and loves us. He created everything for us, but to Him we are everything. Let us not forget His love and His constant awareness of us. Ask Him. Pray and ask to feel His love more abundantly, or in a way you haven't felt it before, and I promise He will answer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

...With Symbols of Christmas

I love the Christmas season and its many traditions. There was one tradition my family has always done that has always stuck in my memory and is still my favorite part of the holidays: reading "Teach the Children." It's not one of the most well known story, but it will always be my favorite Christmas story.

To summarize, the story is about Santa Claus, sad and disappointed, pleading with the narrator to teach children what all the symbols of Christmas mean. He explains the following symbols:

1. The Christmas tree. Green is the second color of Christmas. The stately evergreen, with its unchanging color, represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heavenward as a reminder that mankind's thoughts should turn heavenward as well.

2. The star. The star was the heavenly sign of promise. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise on the night that Jesus Christ was born. Teach the children that God always fulfills His promises, and that wise men still seek Him.

3. The color red. Red is the first color of Christmas. Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the color of the life-giving blood that flows through our veins. It is the symbol of God's greatest gift. Christ gave his life and shed his blood for all that they might have eternal life. When we see the color red, it should remind us of that most wonderful gift.

4. The bell. Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of the bell, it continues to ring today for all to be guided to the fold. Follow the true Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep.

5. The lights. The glow of the candle represents how people can show their thanks for the gift of God's son that Christmas Eve long ago. Follow in Christ's footsteps; go about doing good.
Let your light shine before people that all may see it and glorify God. This is what's symbolized when the twinkle lights shine on the tree like hundreds of bright shining lights, each of them representing one of God's precious children's light shining for all to see.

6. The candy cane. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church, and the firmness of God's promises. The candy cane form's a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth. It also represents the Good Shepherd's crook, which He uses to reach down into all ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray. The red stripes are the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed, and the shed blood of Jesus, so that we can have the promise of eternal life.

7. The red bow. The bow reminds us of the bond of perfection, which is love.  The bow tells the story of good will towards all and its color reminds us of Christ's sacrifice.

8. The wreath. The wreath embodies all the good things about Christmas for those
with eyes to see and hearts to understand. It contains the colors of red and green and the heaven-turned needles of the evergreen. Even its very shape is symbolic, representing eternity and the eternal nature of Christ's love. It is a circle, without beginning and without end.

9.  The holly leaf. The holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by the savior. The red holly symbolizes the blood shed by him.

10.  Santa Clause. Santa represents the spirit of family fun and the joy of giving and receiving.

11. Gifts. The wise men bowed before the Christ child and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should always give gifts in the same spirit of the wise men.

12. The angels. It was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

...With Shiny Rocks

There is a story in the Book of Mormon about a group of people who the Lord is leading to a promised land. The prophet of these people was directed on how to build barges, or ships, that would carry them across the ocean. He came across a few different problems though, one of them being that they had no source of light. The Lord told the prophet to think of a few ideas and then pray about it. The prophet then shaped stones, and carrying them to the top of a mountain, asked the Lord to touch each one, knowing that each stone would then shine bright. (See Ether 2-3)

As I read this story, the significance of the stones stood out to me more than past times when I had read it. I was amazed at the effort it would take to carry 16 large stones up a mountain, having faith that the Lord would perform the miracle you hoped for.

Symbolically we each have stones we need to carry up mountains to the Lord. In this same book of scripture we are told by the Lord: "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficent for all men that humble themselves efore me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

When we bring those heavy, ugly stones up unto the Lord he can cause our weaknesses to be strengths, lighting our way. Our weaknesses can be made strong, and we can use those strengths to lead and help others.

"And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in the darkness, to give light unto men" (Ether 6:3)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...With Comfort

Men's Hearts Shall Fail Them

This video brought me a lot of comfort and strength. I hope it brings you the same. There are so many challenges in life, some larger than others, but we often get discouraged. We feel lost, alone, hurt, and scared. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings relief. Let us turn to Him. He can make us whole. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

...With Sharing

I recently watched as a group of little girls played together. One little girl had brought with her five Pretty Ponies, another had brought only her doll. I watched as all the Pretty Ponies were handed out so each little girl could play with one -- all but little Sydney and her doll.

Whenever a girl wanted to play with a different pony she'd yell "trade!" and snag one of the other girl's pony, swapping it for her own. I watched as on occasion a girl would want to trade Sydney a pony for her doll. Sydney would yell and run away. Slowly inching back she watched as the girls played with the ponies and continued to ask for a pony to play with. Sydney didn't understand why the girls wouldn't share the ponies, yet she guarded her doll closely so that no one else could play with it.

The doll turned into the most coveted toy, and the group of girls grew increasingly agitated as Sydney tried to snatch at their toys, but not even let them see the doll she held. Eventually Sydney was convinced to join the group by working with them, using her doll to in turn stroke the mane of each little girl's pony.

I see similar complications as many religions try to work together. We need to be open with sharing our beliefs and willing to lovingly care and understand the religion of others. Sydney was worried the group of girls would ruin her doll, as I think many of us worry that others will misunderstand and mock our testimonies.

The less Sydney wanted to show her doll the less the girls wanted to be nice and play with her. We shouldn't be ashamed of the beliefs we have. We need to be open in sharing our convictions and as we work with others, respecting their beliefs as well we can each grow closer as predominately Christian society.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

...With Caramel Apples

When I was in high school I had a young woman's leader who was a great cook! Many Sundays she would bring with her a treat to share after teaching us a lesson. One particular Sunday she brought beautiful caramel apples. They were coated with sprinkles and candy. You could smell the thick caramel from across the room. My mouth watered, and my stomach grumbled with anticipation for the sweet juices I'd soon be biting into.

As we all sat down to begin the lesson she passed the tray around and told everyone to go ahead and take an apple to enjoy while she taught us. Each of us greedily took one of the large coated apples and smacked our lips. I watched as everyone closed their eyes and took a great big bite. Excitedly I sunk my teeth into my apple as well. My teeth first sunk through soft, sweet caramel and then came in contact with a bitter onion. Gagging I spit it into my hand and turned to see all the other girls doing the same.

As the lesson went on I'd occasionally see a girl peel off a part of the candied caramel and try to enjoy at least a bit of the caramel onions. Although we all knew what was behind the caramel, it couldn't stop us from trying to enjoy at least part of it. However, it wasn't the same, there was a lingering onion taste to every piece of caramel.

Satan often tempts us with appealing things. He sugar coats the bitter temptations and presents us with what appears to be a great treat. Deceived, we don't examine what he puts in front of us and bite into trouble without realizing it until it's too late. Sometimes the sugar coating is thick and it takes a while before we realize the danger we've put ourselves in. We may try to dapple in sin, and say we're just having fun, only scraping off the good stuff, but the sin is still there. We must remember that "no man can serve to masters." (Mathew 6:24) We can not eat candy coated sin and say we're on the Lord's side. We need to examine our choices closely and choose God's way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

...With Rest

Not too long ago I was feeling overwhelmed with the burdens of life. I felt like life was just an endless list of work to do. Then, after life I've always learned that we will continue working. I could see no end. It all seemed too hard for me. I continued to feel worse and worse. How was all this work possible, or even worth it? Then a scripture reference popped into my head: Alma 40:12. As I looked up the scripture my soul was filled with peace. It reads:

"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow."

 I knew what I read was true. There is an end, and as I continue to endure faithfully I will be able to join my Father in Heaven in a "state of peace, where [I can] from all...troubles and from all care, and sorrow." The Lord has provided a way. This life is short, and at times it may seem hard, but as we endure faithfully our reward will exceed all that we could imagine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

...With Settlers of Catan

I've always loved the game Settlers of Catan; however, the worse side of me tends to come out when I play. I had the opportunity recently to play with a group of missionaries and a member of the church, Brother Carlos. For a while the game was going smoothly. Everyone was playing nicely, but the more we played the more independent I became. I wouldn't make trades unless it would be to my benefit, and I sabotaged the progress of others. Meanwhile, Brother Carlos was generous in his trading and would consider the needs of the other players.

Brother Carlos and I stayed neck and neck the entire game, competing to see who could gain and maintain their points. I was determined to succeed on my own, even if that meant I had to block other people in the process. We got down to the final round, I had the cards I needed to win and my turn was coming up. Brother Carlos, just two turns before me, however, had the support of the other players because of the way he had been playing the game. In a last effort they all pitched in the cards he needed to defeat me.

I didn't understand how that could be fair. I had worked so hard to win, and I did it all alone. Yet, the more I thought about, it the more I realized that's why I didn't win. We need the help of others. It's the same way in life. Sometimes we have the tendency to be independent, and focus on our own needs and goals. But we can't do it alone. We need to be mindful of those around us. We need to depend on their help and help them in return; to be willing to be kind and serve everyone, even if it doesn't seem to be to our advantage. 

We can't do it alone. Not only do we need to all work together, but we need to turn to our Savior for help as well. He can see the bigger picture and direct us on what to do and how to do it. We may be able to get a long way without Him, but we can never win without His help. Without the Savior's sacrifice and atonement for us we cannot succeed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

...With Forget-Me-Nots

President Uchtdorf just this last weekend shared a small legend about the small Forget-Me-Not flowers. In Germany they say that just after God had finished naming each plant one was forgotten -- the Forget-Me-Not flower. In despair the flower cried out, "Forget me not, oh, Lord!" and that is how it got its name.

There is great significance in the simple Forget-Me-Nots. President Uchtdorf used its 5 small petals to remind us of 5 simple things:
  1. Forget not to be patient with yourself. God is aware that we are not perfect. He is also aware that the people we think are perfect are not. Keep working on learning and growing, but stop punishing yourself for your imperfections.
  2. Forget not the difference between a good sacrifice and a foolish sacrifice. We need to ask ourselves if we are committing ourselves to the best things.
  3. Forget not to be happy now. If we are always looking forward to our expectations for the future we miss out on the joys of now and today. Don't put your happiness on hold while waiting for some future event. Discover and treasure the small daily moments.
  4. Forget not the "Why" of the gospel. Sometimes we get caught up in "what" we need to do, or "how" we need to do it. We should not see the gospel as a long list of tasks that we must somehow fit into our busy schedules. The gospel is not an obligation, it is a pathway. Don't get distracted by what we need to do, but focus on the fire of the "why". The "why" of the gospel transforms the mundane into the magestic.
  5. Forget not that the Lord loves you. No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you may feel your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

...With the Little Things

I loved this talk and I love this video! I've found that it's the little things that make all the difference. When we go around looking for large blessings, or to feel the spirit in large, moving ways, we'll come back disappointed. It's only when we find the value in the small things that we begin to treasure life.

Back in March I decided to keep a daily record in my journal of at least five things I was grateful for each day. Some days I sit down and stare at the blank page. What could I write about? It was a horrible day! There is nothing to be grateful for! But as I seriously reflect on my day I remember one small thing that I truly appreciated, and then one more, and then one more, and suddenly I realized how blessed I really was that day. Life isn't as bad as I thought! It has really changed my attitude. I find that as I go through the day now I'm continually keeping an eye out for things I can write in my journal to be grateful for that night.

I've found great treasures of happiness, fleck by fleck as I've looked diligently for them, just as the man in the video gained treasure after hard searching and many flecks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

...With a Cheese Grater

In my last blog I issued myself a challenge to relate any object back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since then I have only received one object: a cheese grater. Hopefully this analogy satisfies the challenger:

We all go through the cheese grater of life. Our lives are those blocks of cheese, shaped just the way we want them. We are satisfied with our block, but sometimes the Lord finds it needful to send us through the cheese grater. Piece by piece we feel our life is getting shredded, but those trials, the cheese grater, shapes us into some one completely different. Through those challenges the Lord changes us so that we can be instruments in His hands in another cause, just as important, but different than before.

Friday, September 9, 2011

...With Symbols of Christ

I'm a firm believer that everything points back to Christ. When I was about the age of fourteen I had a Sunday School teacher who challenged us to choose one thing that week and see how it pointed back to Christ. Her object was to show that everything we receive is to help us grow closer to Christ.

I remember wandering down the hallway at school looking at the lockers, the tiles, the backpacks, trying to understand how each item could relate back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I struggled to see how it was possible. How could everything  point to Christ? Then, as I was sitting on the swing at the park the challenge presented itself in my mind again. I looked at a tree and noticed how the branches pointed upward -- towards Christ. A tree grew up towards God! I understood. Excited, I began to ponder about the swing I sat on and how that pointed to Christ. I swung higher and higher -- towards the heavens! I understood.

Later in life I had a friend who had served a mission. He told me of a game he and his companions used to play as they walked: relate any object back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He showed me some examples: the posts of a fence being those who support one another and keep that "fence" of the gospel up and a light pole being a beacon in the darkness like the gospel is for us through trying times.

Now, a missionary myself, I have fun playing the same sort of game. I love looking around me and seeing evidence that there is a God and that all things point to him. I love a challenge, so leave a comment; ask me to relate a particular object back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's see Christ in everyone and in everything!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

....With Scripture

Do we remember the great blessing it is to have the scriptures? The blood of so many people was shed so that we could have the scriptures to guide and direct us. The least we could do is open them and read from them each day.

I have suffered from anxiety before. I feel sick to my stomach with nerves and stress. But there is a time in the day that all that pain dissipates: it's when I read the scriptures. There is a calming strength that comes from the scriptures. It doesn't make every day a perfect day, but we're given the support and strength we need to get through any day. It's such a simple task, yet it often goes neglected. I've been guilty of the same charge. But I know that there is power in the scriptures.  Take advantage of the marvelous blessing of having the word of God at your finer tips. Take time, even just a minute or two, to open up the scriptures today.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

...With a Burden

I was recently reading through old things I've written and came across a small comment I made years ago: When you carry a load you need to keep your head bowed and your knees bent. What an interesting correlation between physical and spiritual burdens! Look at this man carrying a load of sticks on his back, you'll notice that indeed, the only way it is possible is because his head is bowed, and his knees are bent.

Now think of your own challenges in life. Sometimes the problems get heaped on your back one stick at a time. Sometimes they seem impossible to carry. But it IS possible! Just keep your head bowed and your knees bent. God is our relief. When you turn to him he will "ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs" (Mosiah 24:14) How incredible! All we need to do is turn to God in constant prayer. Keep our knees bent, our heads bowed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

...With Building Faith

As I was reading in the Book of Mormon I came across this verse:

"For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith." (Ether 12:30)

I thought that was pretty cool: the brother of Jared moved a mountain! I'd aspire to move as much as an ant hill! Can you imagine how much faith it would take to create such a miracle? I doubt there are many people out there that have that much faith. So, how did the brother of Jared do it?

Earlier in the book we read about the family of the brother of Jared. As the Lord confounded the languages at the tower of Babel, the brother of Jared prayed that his family would be kept safe. God led them to a beautiful area, rich in the resources they needed. His family was there for four years when the Lord came again and "for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord." (Ether 2:14)

The brother of Jared, a prophet of God, had a time of weakness. For four years he didn't trust in God or turn to Him for direction. But, rather than fall back into making that same mistake, he corrected his wrong and worked hard to build his strength in God. Then, after what I'm sure took a lot of work and time, the brother of Jared eventually built enough faith that he saw Jesus Christ in the flesh and even had enough faith to move a mountain! What an incredible example of making "weak things become strong." (Ether 12:27)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

...With the Bottom of the Bucket

I was recently in a church meeting and had the opportunity to learn from a great man. I'd like to share his story and its important moral with you:

"When I was a young man of about twelve years, I bought my first milk cow. I named her Sue, after a Johnny Cash song. Sue brought me pride: I milked her every night and morning, faithfully bringing the milk to the house without fail, careful not to let anything get in the bucket.

After a few months, Sue started to dry up. Before long there was no milk. This was not pleasing to my mother, who was trying to feed four growing boys and my sister. When we ran short on fresh milk she would sometimes substitute powdered milk, although I insisted it tasted like ground chalk, and when given to calves would immediately give them the scours.

One day my mother developed a new idea. She came to me and asked, 'Bill, don't you have a cow that just calved?' I didn't really own this cow, it had just wandered into the yard one morning. Evidently this cow was  so wild no one wanted to claim her. My mother insisted, 'tomorrow morning you will start milking it and bring the milk to the house.'

The next morning I struggled with the cow, but was finally able to get her into the barn. I roped her back legs together, pulled over my stool, and began to milk. I thought 'this isn't so bad. Evidently you can turn any cow into a milk cow.' I still remember as she turned her head back, looking right at me, a plot in her mind. Just then she started to buck and the rope came loose on her legs. I tried fervently to balance myself on the one legged stool and keep the milk bucket upright. When it all came to a stop the cow had one foot inside the milk bucket. I weighed my options: carefully spill the milk and face the wrath of my mother and chalky milk, or hold on until the old cow takes her foot out of the bucket. Wanting to live a long life, I chose the later.

After the cow finally lifted her hoof out of the milk I stuck my hand in there and dredged out some of the straw and other filth that was at the bottom of the bucket. I hauled it back to the house and strained it the best I could into the gallon jug.

The next morning as I came into the kitchen I saw my younger brothers eating some cereal which mom had bought at the local store. In the middle of the table was the milk jug. I noted about four inches of sludge, from the previous mornings rodeo, had settled to the bottom. My brothers offered me some cereal and were confused when I told them I was feeling a little lactose intolerant that morning.

I've learned that life is like a bucket of barnyard milk: you can stay up on top with the Lord's cream, or you can drink at the bottom with the devil's dredges. Happiness and joy are at the top with the Lord, misery and discomfort are at the bottom. Don't go into the dark; do what is right. The challenge of life is to stay close to the Lord by obeying his commandments. All of us sometimes fall short of perfection and sin. Thank goodness there is hope through repentance. This is the journey  our lives. Be true to yourself. Be valiant and Christ-like. Don't drink from the bottom of the bucket."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

...With Babes in the Woods

I recently met a woman who had a lullaby she sang to her children each night. I was privileged enough to hear her song and her explanation of it's importance:

                        Oh, don't you remember, a long time ago,
                        There were two little babes, their names I don't know.
                        They strayed far away one bright summer's day,
                        And were lost in a wood, I've heard people say.

                        And when it was night so sad was their plight,
                        Oh the sun it went down and the stars gave no light.
                        They sobbed and they sighed, and they bitterly cried,
                        Then the two little babes, they laid down and died.

                        And when they were dead, the robins so red
                        Spread strawberry leaves all over their heads.
                        And all the day long  they sang their sweet song
                        Of the poor little babes who never did wrong!

It's an interesting old English song, with a surprisingly comforting tune, contrasting the story it tells. Yet, this experienced mother taught the message of what this song warns against: when the song was originally written, it was meant to keep young children from wandering in the woods. Today we don't have woods to wander through, but we do wander through danger each day. This song warns of wandering away from the light of what we know, and entering into a world of darkness through sin and denying God.

So, although the story may be simple enough, I hope, after looking at it again, we can heed it's warning and keep God's commandments, staying in the light.

Friday, August 5, 2011

...With The Better Part

Recently I've been doing a study of the New Testament. As I have worked my way through the four gospels, I continue to think back to the story of Martha and Mary. It consists of simply 5 verses:

 "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he [Jesus] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

The more I think on this short story the more powerful it becomes to me. Anyone who knows me will attest that I tend to be a workaholic. As I place myself in this scene I know which person I would be: Martha.

There is nothing wrong with working, serving, and being mindful of others, but the issue here is that Martha was putting work above God. There are many good things we can do, but there is also much better. We may not all put work before God, like Martha, but we may put other things like friends, social status, money, or even ourselves. How often do we take a moment to sit down and read the word of God? How often do we ponder on Christ's sacrafice and ressurection? These are the things of eternal value -- the better part. God's love and guidance is that "which shall not be taken away" from us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

...With a Privilege

While reading an apostle's remarks about the honor of holding the priesthood, the authority to act in God's name, I gained some insight of my own. Although I don't hold the priesthood, I am still a daughter of God with great potential and privilege. The apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared the following story:

There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.
He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship—working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship—every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.
On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship—the food, the entertainment, all the activities—had been included in the price of his ticket. Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges. (Your Potential, Your Privilege)

My heart breaks everytime I hear that story! How horrible it is imagining all the great meals and activities the man missed out on! Yet, how often do we make the same type of decisions, missing out on the many blessings surrounding us?

We are blessed to have a prophet and apostles again on the earth. People who gain direction from God for our benefit! Do we truly understand how wonderful that news is?! Do we take the opportunity to listen and improve our lives? Or are these inspiried men like those many activities on the cruise ship that we don't take full privilege in?

I think the same principle can also be applied to the blessing we do receive in our lives, but don't take the time to recognize. In the scriptures we see the example of a group of people who "began to prosper by degrees" (Mosiah 21:16) and didn't recognize the wonderful blessings they could take part in and rejoice over.

I hope we'll never be like the man on that ship. I hope that we don't get too caught up in the expectations and focus on what we want that we don't recognize the many blessing that we have, esspecially the blessing of having a spokesman for God on the earth.

Monday, July 18, 2011

...With Weeds

As I was reading in the Ensign, a magazine published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I came across an article titled This Year It's a Weed--Pull It.

It's a simple enough story of weeding a field of corn; however, the narrator finds a large potato plant. It's not a weed but it's not what is currently growing in that field. That year, the potato was a weed.

I learned that "obedience is not just making a right choice but making a right choice in the right season...Satan deceives us by convincing us to do the right things in the wrong order: sexual intimacy before marriage, dating before age 16, becoming a parent and then getting married, and so forth. The greatest commandments of God, when compromised or polluted, become plants grown out of season—weeds."

What a profound teaching! And how true it is! Satan is the father of all lies, although he'll often add a dash of truth to the equation to convince us of his lies. The ability to create life is incredible! The blessing of being with an eternal companion is wonderful! But we need to make sure we are not cultivating these blessings in the wrong year. We need to obey God, but more important we must trust and follow his time frame, not only in deed but in our hearts and minds as well. We need to focus on righteousness, and avoid the distractions of things that may be good, but are not the best for us now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

...With Music

I've always loved to sing. I remember when I was younger I would sing all the time at home, but I was never very comfortable with my singing voice. Throughout the years I've grown to have more trust in myself and how I sing. I love when I have opportunities to sing, whether it's just while I'm in the shower, at church, or singing in front of other people.

The other day I was visiting an older woman, Margaret. She brought up the music she heard in church and I started singing the hymn she mentioned without much thought to it. She sat quietly until I had finished the song and then simply said, "sing another." My companion and I sang song after song and the spirit was so strong. I could tell that Margaret appreciated music that praised God and Jesus Christ.

After almost an hour of singing she sat contemplating the songs we had song, and then brought up The Lord's Prayer set to music. She told us of the day her father passed away and that she sang this song at his funeral. I'd never heard of it before, so she encouraged us to look it up. I was touched as I listened to the music and I hope you will be too. Margaret has asked that I learn this song so we can sing it together. I hope that if I do learn it I can do it justice.

Monday, July 11, 2011

...With a Currant Bush

As a man went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

The man replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’” (As Many as I love, I Rebuke and Chasten)

"A nice story," you may think, or maybe you're are thinking "What is up with this weird story about a talking bush?" But this story has had quite the impact on me these last few weeks. 

God is the gardener. We are the bush. How many times have you felt your life cut apart, and the things you care about thrown in the compost pile? It's not a very joyful experience. However, think about something you did or said ten years ago. I'd venture to say that you'd do or say that completely different now. Why? Cause like that currant bush we all get cut down but the Gardener  know what's in store for us. He sees that by trimming us here and there he sets us up for a better, glorified future.

Friday, July 1, 2011

...With Children of God

I LOVE this video! I think it's wonderful and I hope you enjoy it too! Remember that you too are a child of God.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

...With Grout

I spent a good amount of time on my knees one day covered up to the elbow with thick brown muck used for grouting. However, my thoughts weren't centered on the sand under my nails or the pain of kneeling on a hard surface, I just kept having one thought that repeated itself in my head like a broken record: grouting is like Christ's Atonement.

A silly thought, or at least I thought so. I pushed at it again and again, determined I'd lost my mind, but rather than leave the thought changed into something more profound: Christ fills the gaps.

Being from the "Bible Belt" of America I've heard a lot of people claim they've been "saved" and I've thought a lot about that concept. What does one need to do to be saved? Many believe that simply believing that Christ died for them is enough to save them no matter how they act or what they do in this life; through Christ's grace all are saved. In essence Christ's sacrifice is like grout. With just his sacrifice we're doing nothing but spreading grout on an untiled surface. No tile equals no floor.

The scriptures tell us "that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23 ; emphasis added) We need to follow the example that Jesus Christ set for us, and each day strive a little harder to be more like Him. It is by grace that we are saved, but what we do and how we act do matter. Every time we follow a commandment we are placing a tile on our floor. However, we could place tile after tile and still not have a floor. It's only through Christ's sacrifice, the grout, that the floor is made. Only He could kneel down and fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

...With a Message

In Psalm 23 David states, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...he leadeth me beside the still waters...thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort cup runneth over." With David I declare that the Lord is my shepherd! He leads me and comforts me, He fills my cup; my cup runneth over with daily blessings. My cup runneth over with words of joy and peace! And that is what I want this blog to be about: all the times and in all the ways that I see the Lord working in my life.
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