Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psalms 13:1-2

"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?"
Psalms 13:1-2

I think that we all go through times in our lives where we ask these questions... where we wonder how long we have to deal with suffering or sorrow or persecution, or whatever else is really affecting us as we live our lives. We look up at heaven and say "enough already!" And I think it is quite normal to want to skip through the sad parts and get to the happy parts of the story. It's all about timing, and even though we think that we've reached our endurance limit sometimes, God shows us that we're stronger than that. Or makes us stronger, through the sad times. We can't see the end, or the next chapter, or even the next paragraph... but just like this psalm, which starts out with the verses above and ends with "I will sing unto the Lord because he hath dealt bountifully with me," things get better. Today, let's trust in the Lord's timing, and remember that wherever we are, no matter how stuck we feel in a Greek tragedy, a different ending is always possible. With God, we get to choose the genre. Things do get better... those last chapters are the best. Let's hang in there and keep turning the pages with hope.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Abraham 1:2

"And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers."
Abraham 1:2

In this verse Abraham is starting to choose a new life, and looking at what he wants and what he values. At the core, he wants to be happier, and to have more peace and rest. :) And everything else builds on that. He knows that God can help him find happiness. Which makes me think of "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25) ... God created us so that we could be happy. Created Abraham so that he could be happy. In fact, each of us could say "I am, that I might have joy."
There is greater happiness and peace and rest for all of us, through God. That doesn't mean there will never be bad times, but it does mean that the bad times and the good, and everything that we experience is designed to make us into better, happier people in the long run. Abraham's life after this point was definitely not free of trials or sorrows, but he did find everything he was looking for. So can we.
Today, let's examine our lives and figure out what we want. Happiness? Peace? Rest? More knowledge, more guidance, more goodness, more purpose? And when we figure it out, let's work with God and start to improve/recreate our lives... talking to God about how to be happier, and then following through. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 42:27

"Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm."
Doctrine and Covenants 42:27

We've heard "love thy neighbor" many times. It's already been said... but as with most things, God needs to drive the point home with repetition and some clarification because mostly we haven't been paying proper attention. :)

So, refresher course. First refresher: our neighbors are everyone. So, we shouldn't speak evil of anyone, or do anyone harm. In fact, we should love everyone. We know this. :) Second refresher: even people we don't like. Even ____________ <--- mentally fill in the name of whatever individual or group we've spoken evil of lately.

It is unfortunately easy to speak evil of/complain about people. We jump into mental comparisons without seeing the whole picture. We wonder why this other person hasn't learned a simple lesson that we learned long ago... or why this group of people is choosing things that we would never choose. We don't usually remember at the time that there are other basic lessons that we struggle with, or other choices that we make that others are wise enough to stay away from.

Today, let's remember our neighbors fondly, and not speak evil of any of them. Learning to love each other is one of our biggest lessons in life, and this is a good first step: Do no harm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Acts 9:18

"And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Acts 9:18

Some of the stories of dramatic conversion in the scriptures (for example here, Saul/Paul, and in the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger or King Lamoni) are powerful to us I think because they are swift and immediate changes rather than slow realizations. One day, Saul was asking for letters that gave him authority to persecute and bind the Christians, and three days later he was fully converted, baptized, and shortly began preaching Christ in the synagogues. I think it is an amazing illustration of repentance, and how knowing the truth can turn your entire life around. Saul didn't hesitate or wait, worried about how it would look to his friends or colleagues. He realized the truth, and changed his whole life because of it. Even though our realizations are often less dramatic than Saul's (perhaps thankfully so because being struck blind for three days would be very scary), we're still capable of the same kind of dedication. Unfortunately, it's hard. Just like Saul, when faced with the truth of Christ, we have to radically change our minds and our hearts and our actions, and it is easy to wimp out and worry about what people will say or how they will mock us, or to feel like we can't actually overhaul our lives that much. The great thing is, God is around to help us, just as much as he helped Saul. And if we try, he'll send people to help heal and support us, and he'll help us make those big changes in ourselves, becoming different people than we used to be. Today, let's make the hard choice to change ourselves for good, and live closer to Christ and the truth of his gospel. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alma 37:46

"O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so it was with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever."
Alma 37:46

Life isn't always easy, but God has made it easy to know where to go. God's plan is simple, and his path is straight. When we make a mess of our lives, the way out always begins with prayer, and the Sunday School answers that seem like we've heard them hundreds of times... they really work. Reading our scriptures is foundational to knowing more about God and his gospel. Sometimes the easy parts are the hardest for us, because we think it is too obvious, or it doesn't work in our focus on immediacy, or ... we just want that extra drama and/or excuse complexity gives us. We want sometimes to be able to say that we couldn't handle it, or understand it. :) Let's take a step back from the tangle today and simplify things. Let's pray and read our scriptures... just those two things. And let's see if that helps untangle everything else. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 93:23-24

"Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:23-24

I like these glimpses into our premortal existence. It is cool to know that we were there with God, and I love the part about spirit/truth/knowledge (and light/intelligence that it mentions a few verses later)... that those things are all mixed in together, and part of who we are. :) I like thinking that at the core of ourselves we're light, and goodness, and truth almost shining through the skin. :) I'm guessing that because it is part of who we are, adding more light and truth and knowledge to the mix can only help us. :) And also, that when we deceive ourselves or put up a mental block so we don't have to deal with a difficult truth, that can only hurt us. Today, let's embrace truth and knowledge, and listen to our Father, who has been with us for eternity. Let's grow in goodness and light until we're all shiny and hard to look at. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 88:64-65

"Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.
And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:64-65

I like this. I love all the scriptures that give us hope and promise us cool things when we ask, and it is really good to remember that God loves us enough to give us what we ask for. On the other hand, I really appreciate the warning here... and I think that it is a warning about exactly the same thing. That God gives us what we ask for. Sometimes what we ask for can really mess up our lives.
When we really really want something with everything that we are, it's hard to stop and say "thy will be done." We aren't really feeling or believing it, and as Huck Finn says, "you can't pray a lie." I think it's hard in certain circumstances to get to that place where we have let go of our will enough that we really are willing to accept God's will, whether it coincides with our own will or not. But that's also the only time it means anything... when we really feel it.
Today, let's work on being completely open with God... telling him what we want, and why... but also on making sure that we aren't hurting ourselves with what we ask for, or walking any path besides God's.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jeremiah 8:15, 18, 20

"We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!
When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
Jeremiah 8:15, 18, 20

Life feels this way sometimes. We wait and work, trying for something good, and it falls through, or we want to cheer up and we can't, because things are just that bad... or we feel like everything is over and we failed. We did our best, it wasn't enough, and it is time to give up. Sometimes, probably often, we bring some of these feelings on ourselves because of sin. Losing the Spirit means losing some of that hope that was getting us through. It could be that one trial that is in exactly our weak spot, and even though we keep saying we are going to stand up to it this time, we cave anyway. Or it is a huge trial that knocks us over and instead of standing up to take another blow, we decide to just lie there and catch our breath for a while. Sometimes it doesn't have a lot to do with us. It is a medical, career, or relationship emergency that we didn't cause, but we definitely have to jump in and mop up the mess that it caused in our lives. This chapter ends with a verse that begins "Is there no balm in Gilead?" ... and we wonder too, if there could possibly be a solution to what seems like the end of the world.
In today's verses, the chapter or even the next few chapters don't have an automatic resolution for us. It stays bleak for a while... but because we have the entire book, we know there is a resolution eventually, and I guess that is what I wanted to remind us all of today. God knows there will be bad times... times when we've lost hope, times when we're without the Spirit, times when we've screwed up our own lives, or feel like whatever happened to us is completely unrecoverable... impossible to come back from, and there is no healing or solution that can possibly help. And God also knows that isn't true. The chapter continues, the book continues, and in the end, as the scriptures tell us, the Messiah returns and makes everything okay. We know the ending, and it is amazing. ... The exact same thing is true in our individual lives. It might not happen in the next few pages, or even in this chapter, but somewhere in our story there is healing, and hope, and a triumphant and happy resolution for anyone who keeps making the effort to turn the pages and allow God rights of authorship. There *is* a balm in Gilead. Today, let's ask God what happens next, and work towards it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Genesis 6:4

"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."
Genesis 6:4

This is just one of the verses in the scriptures that talks about Giants, and I think it is interesting. I think it is hard to mentally divide "Giants" in stories like Jack and the Beanstalk from stories like David and Goliath sometimes... possibly because they both reflect some truth, but we don't know the origins of the ideas... whether it was really small/short people talking about really big/tall people, or whether the difference was much more excessive... but also in this verse it talks about sons of God and daughters of men interbreeding, and if this is still talking about Giants on one side, that limits the extremity that could exist. ... The whole verse kind of gives you the storybook feel as well, with "men of renown" like if men and Gods interbred, we would have a lot of heroes. :) ... and, actually, so it is. We are heroes in a very real, but fiction-feeling, way. :) As the spiritual children of God given mortal and imperfect bodies, we're also in a way a mixture of human and God. We're trying to fit Godly thoughts and desires into our very human lives... and in doing that, we can be heroes to the people around us as well as heroes in our own stories, coming out of the middle chapters where so many bad things keep happening, and triumphing in the end. :) Today, let's be heroes... the ideal parts of ourselves. :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mormon 9:21 -- On Belief and Doubt

"Behold I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth."
Mormon 9:21

This is powerful. So often we go throughout our lives almost believing the claims in the world around us... that God is dead/never existed, or that there are no such thing as miracles or that God has stopped doing them, and God doesn't communicate with his children anymore, or answer prayers. So many different things that the world says, but here is a reminder of what God says.

Anything is possible. We could be stuck in the blackest hole, or be buried under a mountain of rock, or both those things figuratively AND literally, and God would still be able--and willing--to listen to us, and grant our desires to escape from the world, and from sin, and from all the things that hurt us, and be able to come to him again. There is nowhere he can't reach, and nothing he can't do for us. We just have to believe, and ask. The only limit God places upon it is "nothing doubting," which is a big limitation and a small limitation at the same time. As we get to know God better and better, we doubt him less and less... and we also know more and more how and what to ask.

Eventually, if we continue on the path, we'll doubt nothing, and be able to ask for anything. It's big in that it doesn't happen all at once, and we have to work to get there... and it's small in that the promise works NOW.  *Today* we can start talking to God, telling him everything, and asking for what we need. And, today, God will start blessing us. Let's go out and start practicing. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Galatians 6:9-10

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Galatians 6:9-10

I think that we all feel this way sometimes... wearied by trying to make the right choices, and do the right thing, when it doesn't seem to be paying off. Things still go wrong, and the whole world seems to be melting down into a soap opera or talk show. :) But here God tells us to not be weary... it isn't a short-term goal that we're working for. We're doing what we can to build a better world and a better future... and a better self. And nothing that we do is wasted or worthless, because if it does nothing else, it changes *us.*
Today, let's work on refreshing our spiritual energy, and doing good to everyone, reaching out to each other, especially when it is hard. Let's encourage everyone to keep working at it and infusing life with goodness and hope. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1 Peter 4:12

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:"
1 Peter 4:12

This is great. I think that we do this a lot. Our lives are going along, and something bad or annoying happens, and we're like WHAT!? This isn't the way things are supposed to go. Bad things happen to other people, but my life is supposed to be charmed and perfect. :) And obviously, to some extent, we can avoid bad consequences by making good choices. If we don't steal, we won't get caught stealing. If we don't drink, we won't get a DUI. And it is awesome to avoid as many ugly consequences as we can. However, many things in life don't work that way. We're here to be tested, and to learn... and we cannot learn if we don't run into things that are really, really, really hard to deal with sometimes. We won't learn rely on God unless we feel a need to turn to him, and we won't learn patience or how to deal with injustice unless we face things that require us to learn those lessons. And you know, even when we DO bring it on ourselves (I know I have made my life harder in many circumstances)... it still isn't strange. :) It's normal. It's life. We make mistakes, and we have to learn to clean up the problems we cause. God turns all of it into lessons, helping us to become better, stronger, more resilient, and wiser people. Today, instead of raging against the injustices and snarls in our lives, no matter who caused them, let's learn some problem solving so that when we're faced with the next one, maybe we'll be better at it. :) Let's jump in and, as calmly as possible, start straightening things out... working at each knot until it comes loose, and asking for God's help when needed.

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