Sunday, October 29, 2017

Remember #Ponderize?

At Church today, one of the teachers reminded us about Elder Devin G. Durrant's challenge a couple of years ago to "ponderize". The idea was to select a verse a week upon which we would mediate and strive to memorize, emphasis on the pondering part. As the teacher spoke, I pulled up the tags in my Gospel Library app to see which verses I had marked way back when that all started ... because it was a trendy thing for a while, and then faded. 

10. I had stopped after 10 verses. Gaaaak! The goal was supposed to last a lifetime, with each person acquiring 52 new verses a year to strengthen their testimonies and resolve to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

So, I'll be repenting on my slackardness and starting the #ponderize thing again. This week, I have chosen Alma 37:6 to remind myself that doing simple, seemingly insignificant things like focusing on a verse a week will lead to greater spiritual strength down the road. I know they add up, like protective tiles on a roof keeping out the rain, or scales on a dragon's hide. Now, more than ever before, I need the strength that immersing myself in scripture study and pondering the truths contained therein brings.

Did you do ever participate in the #Ponderize movement?

What's your verse this week?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Miracles Happen

... And ten days have passed since the last post because, like many of you, I sometimes struggle to find the hope when inundated with busy-ness and an onslaught of new crises, big or small. However, this last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit the Siempreverde (Evergreen) Ward and teach a lesson in the Relief Society class. Our text came from an address made by Elder Soares in April's General Conference, and at one point, we dissected the following quote:

"Faith is the source of living with divine purpose and eternal perspective. Faith is a practical principle that inspires diligence. It is a vital, living force manifest in our positive attitude and desire to willingly do everything that God and Jesus Christ ask of us. It takes us to our knees to implore the Lord for guidance and to arise and act with confidence to achieve things consistent with His will."

As a class, we determined that joy and hope are always before us because of the glorious and infinite implications of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but sometimes we don't see them because we have narrowed our focus onto our problems. Problems that God can totally handle. Problems that He has power to help us overcome or remove. It doesn't make sense on paper. How could something that happened almost 2000 years ago in a garden and on a cross in a country far, far away have anything to do with me and my troubles today? 
photo credit: Family Radio 316

Por falta de fe--for lack of faith--we sometimes keep our eyes fixed on the things which would bring us down spiritually, emotionally, even physically. We can't see what the Savior has placed before us, or what He has removed that obstructed our way. But when we can readjust our vision and see with the eyes of faith, we can know something better lies ahead. It's not only the unimaginable concept of life after death where the "better" comes. God makes things better in this life through compensatory blessings and enhanced personal growth. 

The divine truth is that when we trust that what happened in Gethsemane and Golgotha and the garden tomb unlocked the redeeming powers of heaven for our good, then we can begin to gain access to that power, and miracles happen, both around us and within our very hearts.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Prophet's Prayer

I have been listening to past and current General Conference addresses of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost every day for over a year now. The words of the Prophet and Apostles echo in my ears as I work around the house, and I am stunned that messages given decades ago are just as relevant today. 

photo credit: The Atlantic
This afternoon, I listened to the address President Gordon B. Hinckley gave in the conference that occurred less than a month after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. He closed his remarks with a prayer on our behalf. It's not every day that we get to hear what a Prophet of the Lord says when he's talking to God. I noted that his petition did not ask for everything to be made perfect, or for the bad guys to be smitten and blasted by fires from heaven. Instead, President Hinckley asked for something uniquely personal to each of us, and relevant no matter which conflict we face:

Please, dear Father, bless us with faith. Bless us with love. Bless us with charity in our hearts. Bless us with a spirit of perseverance to root out the terrible evils that are in this world ... Spare us and help us to walk with faith ever in Thee and ever in Thy Beloved Son, on whose mercy we count and to whom we look as our Savior and our Lord. Bless the cause of peace and bring it quickly to us again, we humbly plead with Thee, asking that Thou wilt forgive our arrogance, pass by our sins, be kind and gracious to us, and cause our hearts to turn with love toward Thee.

I find it significant that he was concerned for what's happening inside our hearts and minds more than what is happening outside and around us. Of course our circumstances matter and he prayed about those, too, but it's what we carry inside that goes with us into Eternity. I find hope in that prayer because it is not pinned to a specific outcome beyond our control, but rather to our relationship with the Lord and His redeeming grace.

Conflicts and the threat of conflicts continue to parade through the headlines and social media feeds, but we can pray with a prophet of God for faith, love, and charity to fill our hearts. In the end, that is the only thing that will take the contention away.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fluffing the Pillows

photo credit: NYMag
I have pillow issues. Since I spin like a helicopter in my sleep, finding a pillow that works for all positions is tough. It seems that I spend an inordinate amount of time each night, fluffing my pillows into the right position or flipping them to the cool side. When I do, then I get a measure of rest for a time ... until I need to do it again.

Hope is a little like that. We can't just obtain a pouchful of hope and then enter into the Lord's rest, all cares swept under the bed. Why? Because the world and this mortal existence keep squishing the hope flat. It takes maintenance. We have to be constantly renewing our hope, shaping it to the needs of the day and the trial. It's not a one-time thing. It's a daily endeavor.

"The daily work of the Lord involves changing hopeless to hopeful--for all of us. And it is for us to find at last that in the midst of winter we have within us an invincible summer. In a world filled with adversity we can reach for joy." (Elaine Cannon, April 1982 GC) 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hope Quote from M. Russell Ballard

photo credit: Live Purposefully Now

"As we put our faith and trust to work, hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. It can even give us the peaceful assurances we need to live happily in a world that is ripe with iniquity, calamity, and injustice." ~ M. Russell Ballard

Thursday, October 5, 2017

With Faith

In my personal scripture study yesterday, I read about Alma's teachings to his son, Helaman. At one point, he discusses the Liahona, a divine compass of sorts, that guided their forefathers to a new, promised land. He says, "It did work for them according to their faith in God." (Alma 37:40) When they had faith--including the faith to live according to their gospel knowledge--they received the direction they wanted. When they didn't, they had no help and were left to their own devices (or, in this case, I suppose it was lack of devices). This led to a lot of tedious wandering in the wilderness. The operative factor was the faith.

photo credit:
And so it is with a bunch of other things in the gospel. Prayer, for example, does not work without faith. With faith, it's communication with the divine Father of our souls. It's a chance to feel Him near and receive peace, counsel, and forgiveness. Without faith ... it's talking to our bed covers while our knees get sore.

Fasting with faith is a time for meditation and self-mastery. It puts a megaphone to our petitions, and shows the Lord the urgency or our plea. It is sacrifice, worship, prayer, and the power to unlock miracles. Without faith, it's a grouchy 24-hour starvation diet--if we even make it that long.

Even studying the scriptures takes faith. If we trust that there's revelation inside the pages (paper or digital), we find it. If not, we may stumble through a confusing and archaic narrative and wonder why we couldn't just read a cozy mystery or sweet romance instead.

Everything we do as disciples of Jesus Christ requires a measure of faith. Without it, there is no power to change circumstances, or to change hearts (including our own). Faith is the battery, and we need to keep it charged up.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Do you want to be skeptical, or do you want to be happy?

This morning, I met a fine young man of faith who impressed me with his cheerful demeanor and ready, warm laugh. At almost sixteen, he has seen much of tragedy, and his current home life includes financial, health, academic, and relationship struggles of above average intensity. Most people in his situation would feel to say, "Life stinks!" 

But while he recognizes all of these hardships, he maintains a bright hope that things will get better and that God is listening to and answering his fervent prayers. In fact, I've never heard a teen talk so much or so eagerly about his time spent in prayer. 

Oddly enough, just yesterday, I spoke with a man whose attitude was exactly the opposite. His circumstances in life had led him to the conclusion that God is some kind of sadist, and our job is to love the pain or burn forever in the afterlife, and he wanted nothing to do with faith. His general outlook is bleak nine days out of ten. 

It got me thinking. Over the years, I've heard many a skeptic scoff a those who cling to faith. They call believers delusional, weak, stupid, and a myriad of other mocking terms. 

But here's the thing ... Those who believe find wisdom, strength, and courage to face their situations with optimism. If it's all bunk, then why does it work so well? If faith is self-deception, then why is the happiness real?

If the choice is between being skeptical and miserable, or being faith-filled and happy, why would I let intellectual pride stop me from finding joy in life?

photo credit: Slide Share

I knew people in the mountains of Guatemala who lived in homes made of dried cornstalks and corrugated tin. They had dirt floors, pooped in a ditch outside, and had to haul water from the river in massive jugs. But even in those circumstances, I found faith-filled people who loved their lives and found daily reasons to rejoice over God's goodness. 

Meanwhile, in the lap of first-world luxury, some allow their hope to be crushed by a slow internet, a boring job, or a fender bender dinging their car. They complain and compare and compete--and drive happiness from their lives because they refuse to look to the Lord as the source of their fulfillment. 

Our joy is not circumstantial. Our hope cannot be in the things we want because we always want more. We have to look to the Lord Jesus Christ to answer the longings of our heart, and He will not leave us comfortless. 

"We literally cannot despair--unless we choose to. But because we are mortal, death is entangled with life. We can choose to feed the darkness and death in our lives, or we can choose to feed the brightness of hope in our lives. We can worry. We can deny the light. We can refuse to ally ourselves with Jesus Christ, the already triumphant master of life. We can give our lives piece by piece into the captivity until we no longer have the power to wrench it away again. We can cooperate with the killing of our spirits and the strangling of our hopes until meaninglessness and despair overcome us. The death of the body is nothing--for Christ's Resurrection guarantees our own--but He cannot rescue us from the death of the spirit unless we choose to ally ourselves with Him, with His hope, with the inexhaustible and irrepressible life that is His."  (Chieko Okazaki, October 1996 General Conference)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What's going on here?

"You either live in hope, or you live in despair. Without hope, you cannot endure to the end." ~ James E. Faust

I am a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm also a bit of a news junkie, which can create a bit of a trial of faith, depending on how many disasters have struck recently. Let's just say this has been a rough week in the headlines. 
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But only last weekend, I enjoyed the inspiring words of General Conference, which motivated me to use social media and the internet to spread hope and faith in Jesus Christ, not anger or discontent about whatever is going wrong in the world. So, here I am, consecrating this piece of cyberspace and a portion of my mental energy and time to promoting something that I know to be true:

God lives and loves me, and He's got my back!

photo credit: River City Church, Washington MO

And yours. Whether you believe in Him or not, though it sure helps if you do because you can recognize and access the help so much faster. I hope this blog will keep me accountable to my testimony, and if it strengthens yours along the way, then that's even better!

Knowledge vs. Proof