"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee."
is interesting. God's thoughts are incredibly precious, and the number
is beyond comprehension at our current math level. But the intriguing
part I was thinking about today is "when I awake, I am still with
thee." I'm not sure if this means that we talk to God in our sleep,
and learn some of his thoughts... but it could be. There are several
stories in the scriptures about people speaking with God in a dream or
getting a vision from that same source. I think that is a cool idea,
that we sometimes talk to God during that physical downtime. But
whether or not that is true, it is still amazing that we get to be with
God when we're awake, and that we can know at least some of his
thoughts. Sometimes we dismiss prayer and scripture study as typical
Sunday School answers or the obvious. But there are few things as
important. Those things are the source of our communication with God...
and like any other relationship, or job, or endeavor... if
communication breaks down, everything falls apart. Today, no matter
where we are in our lives, good or bad, up or down, let's see the value
in the thoughts of God... and let's communicate with him to gain that
precious insight and help in figuring out life, the world, and
"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood." Isaiah 10:15
Another scripture that we probably don't enjoy likening to ourselves, but still an interesting one to think about. Sometimes I don't think that we comprehend the magnificent vastness of the difference between ourselves and God. And mostly that is okay; it helps us relate to him as our Father and helps us not be overwhelmed by our own insignificance. ... But perhaps sometimes (today?) we *should* remember, just so we don't get overconfident and prideful. Let's remember that God is, well... God. And we're cool, don't get me wrong... we have the potential to be cool, at least. But think of all that God does, and is... and are we even a fraction of a smidgeon of that yet? Not really. Sometimes the best we can do in some of our work here is stop fighting God. Stop the rebelliousness. I don't think that he actually uses us as tools most of the time unless we are willing to be a tool to help someone else... but the analogy still works. Compared to God, we are just hammers and axes. Things that have the potential to cause change, but without the wisdom to direct ourselves.Today, let's remember the difference, and then let's team up with God, so that we CAN make a difference, with his help... and eventually learn how to be more than we are.
"While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Joseph Smith—History 1:11
This is an interesting verse from the Pearl of Great Price. It talks about when Joseph Smith was wondering what church to join, and he read this verse and was inspired to take the question to God. I think that in our lives, perhaps we should do this more often as well. I don't mean leave everything to God alone, and just wait to see how our lives turn out. :) That never works very well. We have to take action and make decisions. :) However, too often we talk about our decisions with our family, with our friends, and we don't include God. And he is the wisest, and he loves us the most. He can't give us all the answers, because he knows that we need to learn... but he can give us some of them, and he can definitely give us some good advice. Today, let's do as Joseph did, and read our scriptures. And let's also include God in our decisions, and be open to the wisdom that he offers.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." Matthew 23:25-26
I don't think that we ever like to think about some of these scriptures where Christ rebukes people as being about us. We want them to be about other people... we're the good guys, they're the bad guys, and of course they deserve to be rebuked and we don't. :) ... And although it would be great if that were true, all too often it isn't. So much of our lives is external... about the way we look to others, about our image... and I think we often neglect the internal part. The part that often wants the bad stuff. The part that doesn't really care if someone else gets hurt or offended. The part that sometimes doesn't even care about eternity because right NOW is what matters to us. Maybe something to think about is if we are trying to hide it from other people... probably down deep, that isn't really who we want to be. It's hard to break out of who we are, and become who we would rather be. It's not only hard, it is tortuous sometimes. Heartbreaking. It's like ... going through the refiner's fire. :) It burns away all of us, except the purest, best part. No one is saying it is easy. But to be who we truly want to be...? Probably worth it. More than worth it. To like ourselves. To never regret who we are or have to worry about hiding any of it. Pretty cool. It's really, really easy to be a hypocrite. Today, though, let's work on who we are inside. Let's clean house instead of trying to hide it from the world.
"But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." Luke 17:7-10
This chapter is interesting stuff. Right before this it talks about faith, and how even just a tiny bit of faith can work miracles. And then it launches into this... and at first it seems unrelated, or at least it is hard to see the relationship between that and this. And maybe I still don't have it. ... But maybe here God is saying that faith isn't something that comes from the tit-for-tat obedience-for-blessing cycle that we sometimes expect from the gospel. This story is basically comparing us to servants/workers. If we pay someone to do something for us, do we get all gushy and thankful about it when they do it? Not typically. Sometimes we're extra grateful and we offer a tip, but it isn't emotional... it was a transaction. And maybe, to us in a way, the gospel is often a transaction too. We obey God because we expect something. Our spiritual pay, a place in heaven... whatever it is that we expect. We want him to save us, or help us, or ... whatever it is. But until we get out of that transactional mindset, we're not going to learn the intricacies of faith. Because faith is doing things even when we don't think there will be a payoff... because they are right, because we love God, because we know that he's got it right, and we usually have it wrong. :) It's going beyond the transactional relationship into real friendship, real love... best friend kind of stuff. It's knowing God can do anything for us, but knowing that he might not, because he knows the plan better than we do. Today, let's go beyond the transactional relationship with God... and with other people. :) Let's do more than expected, let's give more than we get. Let's find the selfless love that we need to learn in order to truly embrace one another as brothers and sisters... and as children to God. And then maybe, we'll find that tiny bit of faith that we need to make miracles happen. :)
"And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed." Doctrine and Covenants 42:48
I think it is interesting that sometimes, even when we are doing *everything* right, and we have faith, the answer is still no. I think sometimes that throws us. We often think that if we do everything right, that we should get our way... isn't that the way the world works? Follow the rules, then get the reward? But really, it isn't. Life is a lot more ambiguous than we want it to be, first of all, and also there is a lot that we don't understand about God's work and the way things "should" be. We don't have the capacity to know that yet, which is one of the reasons that we need to trust God to know what needs to happen. Even if it is hard, or terrifying, or tragic for us to watch things happen, and know that God could have stopped it. Yes, he could. He always can. But he knows what has to be in the whole interconnected world. He knows what has to be for our learning and benefit, and for the benefit of others. And even if we think we know what is best or what God "should" have done, it still isn't we who know what we are talking about. It's always God. He has the perspective, the knowledge, and the capacity... and in the end, everything will work out. It's like we're characters in a novel, and we are stopping here in the middle and cursing at the author: "NO! It can't happen this way! You aren't following the plot!" ... but of course, HE is the author, and he will still provide the happy ending for everyone, but there will be some twists along the way that maybe some of the characters (read: us) didn't anticipate. Maybe those are the twists that turn us into heroes. Who knows? ... God does. Today, let's remember that God loves us, and the end will work out, even if this chapter isn't exactly the way we expected it to be. :)
"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it." 1 Peter 3:8-11
This is good advice. :) Being all of one mind is hard... but if we talk to each other, and learn about each other, then we'll get closer. And we'll develop compassion, be able to feel pity, and hopefully be able to treat each other courteously. I like the whole returning blessings for evil and railing part. I think that is often what we expect from other people, and even sometimes from God... being mad one day and then asking favors the next. Let's work on treating others the way we sometimes expect to be treated. :) Today, let's learn to love life and see good days, by eschewing evil and seeking peace. Let's not just say it, but do something about it.
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." 1 John 3:18-20
This is an interesting set of verses. First off, we're little children, which I think is a good thing to remember. God doesn't expect us to understand everything or have a perfect mastery over ourselves... he just expects us to try. To work on it. To learn, to grow up and improve instead of wallowing in our inadequacy. :) Let's remember that we are little children, and have some humility, and some eagerness to seek out God and learn from him. The second part is clear... let's not just say that we love each other, let's act on it, and make it real. That's a lot harder than just saying it, and sometimes it requires knocking down some walls and giving up some attitude. The whole "plays well with others" thing still applies. :) Even harder though because it can't be an act. We can't just be polite and then talk about it when they aren't there. We have to ACTUALLY like them. Wow, right? So, let's start looking for the things to love. :) They are there. Sometimes we just have to get over ourselves a little. And if we actually, really love people, then we'll know that we are of the truth... on the right track, in tune with God. We'll feel it, that were on the same page. If we don't feel that now, it doesn't mean we can't get there. We're never stuck with what we are at any point in life. It might be hard to change old habits and attitudes, and addictions, but we *can.* God is greater than our guilt. God is greater than the pain and the hardship and everything that holds us back... and he knows that we can make it, even when we don't. :) Which is one of the reasons that we need him. :) Today, let's remember to talk to God with humility, as little children, and let's ask him to help us change our hearts. To be more sincere, more loving. To not just say things, but to do them.
"Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." Doctrine and Covenants 64:33
Sometimes we get overwhelmed with what God asks us. And, truthfully, he does ask a lot. Perfection... no less. And that is overwhelming. But thankfully, he doesn't ask it immediately, all at once, or even all in this lifetime. Just that we do what we can walking in that direction... continually improving ourselves and developing our relationship with God so that we can get closer to that ideal. And this is really good advice in that pursuit. Let's not let it overwhelm us. God isn't asking for more than we can give. Only what we can, and to work on that capacity. Our comparatively small steps in this regard will look large to us when we look back on our lives and how much we've changed, but let's try not to make them seem larger than life when they are still ahead of us. :) God's requests aren't always fun, true. They aren't always easy, also true. But they are always doable in some capacity, and they are always designed to help us learn and become better. Often, at least for me, my claim of being overwhelmed is also me saying on some level, wow... I don't want to do that, or Ugh, I don't want to think about that problem right now, can't we work on something else? :) If that is the case, that's okay too. God understands those thoughts and requests... but instead of just leaving it on the unspoken level, let's actually trust God enough to say it to him outright, and love him enough to listen to his response. This whole education thing is suppose to be interactive. ;)
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." 1 Corinthians 8:1
I think that the phrase "knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth" is a good thing to think about. Knowledge isn't a bad thing, but we do have a tendency to get big heads about it if we think we know better, and we want to be right. If we start taking ourselves too seriously we can even think that we're experts to the extreme that we think we know more than God does. I think that this is a cautionary tale about being humble and remembering that no matter how much we know, there is always so much more to learn... things that we can't even imagine. So we should never treat people as ignorant savages, when we're surely in the same boat, just maybe in a different area. Being kind and truly loving other people lifts everyone up... ourselves and others. And that is the path to becoming better people, not accumulation of knowledge. Again, not that knowledge is bad. It isn't... and learning from God is especially good. But this is one of those things we *are* learning from God. That knowledge shouldn't make us judgmental, and charity makes a better community than telling other people what is wrong with them... those motes, for instance. Today, let's make sure we're making charity (love) a priority.
"Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel 7:3-4
The scriptures say sometimes that we should preach "nothing but repentance" (see D&C 6:9, Mosiah 18:20), which has always been a little frustrating to me. Yes, repentance... good, but there is so much more, and I want to know all of it. :) Then I read verses like these, and it suddenly makes a LOT more sense. Even if we know the basics of repentance: confess, forsake... and we are working to make ourselves into those new people who don't do those things that we used to do... even then, we can't just assume we've mastered the principle. :) See how in these verses it talks about "thy ways," and "thine abominations"? God's judgement just returns to us what we do, and whatever evil we've done, we're going to see it again. This makes repentance that much more real. I don't think that repentance is something that we can afford to become complacent about... or doing bad stuff in the first place, of course, because that makes everything harder, but let's face it... we all screw things up sometimes and make mistakes with regard to the way we treat others that we assuredly don't want thrown back in our faces. And the way to avoid that judgment is to repent, which allows us to access Christ's atonement and not have to suffer for our own sins. Christ takes that upon himself instead. Repentance is the key here, though. We don't just get a free pass and get to torture other people all we want. We have to feel sorry about what we've done, sincerely ask forgiveness, and then we have to never do it again. That's changing ourselves into people who don't even WANT to do those things anymore. And I'm not saying it is easy. Changing ourselves into the people that we want to be is going to be hard. But that is what life is for. This is where we get to make those choices and get God's help molding ourselves into who we truly desire to be. Repentance is a key part of that... the way we escape the past. The way we figure out what parts of ourselves we really want to keep. And in the end, whatever comes back to us will be what we chose to be each day. Today, let's reboot our repentance. Every day there are things that we do wrong. Let's repent now, while it is fresh, and a lot easier to just apologize. Let's really take a look at our lives and see if we're moving in the direction of who we want to be. If not, let's... yes, repent. :) Let's avoid the boomerang effect of all of our sticky acidic evilness coming back and hitting us in the face. Let's be better people, and really talk to God seriously about what we regret and who we want to be.
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Isaiah 41:17-18
This is a great reminder of how mindful God is of us. He listens and he helps. ... Not in every request, because sometimes we ask for things that will hurt us, or that need not to happen, or our timing is off, but never because he isn't listening, or he doesn't care. He keeps listening, even when we turn away, hoping that we will return. He has the power to do anything for us, and he will perform miracles in our lives... and probably already has. I know he has for me. Whether it is literal water or figurative water representing anything else that we really need... if we ask, God will bring us water even in the desert.
"And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off." Psalms 94:23
This is pretty cool, if it only happens to the bad people, right? Except... are we good people or bad people? I don't think this is a rameumptom sort of a thing where we get to thank God for saving us and crushing others. Instead, we all get our own iniquity dumped on our individual heads, and everyone gets cut off in their own wickedness. And it isn't God laying this on us and judging unfairly. It is *perfectly* fair... which is why we should take a good look at our lives and make sure we aren't doing things that are going to be painful when they get dumped back on our heads. Maybe we should be doing softer things. :) Kinder. Things that we *want* to be showered with. And if we have been doing sharp and pointy (or evil) things... let's take off that black hat, repent, and start being one of the good guys. The only way it doesn't get dumped on our heads is if we actually change into a better sort of a person. Let's think about this today. Not in a "oh no, God is going to hurt me" way, because he isn't... he doesn't want to at all. But in a ... wow, what I do really is going to come back to me in the end. Let's make sure it is the sort of thing that I want to return. We get to choose... every day... who we are, and what our reward will be in the end. Let's be the kind of people who can be happy when they get back what they've given out. Maybe cupcakes? ;)
"Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord." Doctrine and Covenants 98:3
This is amazing. The saints were praying for deliverance, and God tells them here that their prayers shall be fulfilled, and he adds something that I think we can apply to all of our struggles: "all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good." I think that we get overwhelmed with life sometimes... it's a difficult test at times, and seems to be stacked against us. But the truth is, if we're in tune with God, everything... all of it, even the hard parts, is all designed to help us, and teach us, and to bring to pass God's purposes... which is our salvation. The idea that everything around us is working for our good is kind of a cool concept. Like a scary Sci-Fi movie, except the plants and animals and robots aren't designed to terrorize us, but to HELP us. :) See? God makes everything better. Even bad Sci-Fi. :) Today, let's remember that everything in this world that was designed by God is working together for our good. Let's find the good, and learn the lesson, and remember that we're part of it as well. Let's work together for other people's good, and be part of the conspiracy for good. :)
"And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst." Alma 32:42
Earlier in this chapter it talks about comparing the word of God to a seed, and planting it within ourselves... trying the experiment to see if it will grow, and whether it makes us happy. :) And when we try that, it works, which is great, and that helps us know that God matters, and that our lives are better with him. I think though that often we stop there, at the experiment stage. We think, okay, God exists, I acknowledge that, and we feel like we've done something huge. And perhaps for us that is a huge step... but it is only one, and it definitely shouldn't be the last step. When we gain a testimony of God, no matter how small, it's something great, and gives us an anchor to hold on to when things get tough sometimes. But in order to continue and to learn, we need to build on it... we need to continue down God's path. Earlier in the chapter God's word was compared to a seed, and this is a seed which can grow into a plant and bear fruit. And yes, that takes time, and we're generally pretty impatient as a society. But just bear in mind that this is the best fruit IN THE UNIVERSE, okay? Today, let's take the time to nourish our testimonies, to learn more of God's word, work, and will, and continue building our relationships with God. This is good, for sure, but it gets better. :)
"Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth." Psalms 71:20
This is good. Although God asks us to face many challenges in our lives, some of which cause us a lot of soul searching and pain as we struggle to transform into the people we want to be, in the end he will literally (and figuratively I suppose) bring us back to life. :) I think the whole idea of life being a test is important, in order to see things in the proper perspective. If we think about this life as our only existence, or if we think about life as an amusement park, or whatever else, then there are definitely things that don't fit, and of course we would wonder why things happen the way they do. But if we see life as a test of who we are and what we really want eternally... then all of it fits together, and it makes it easier to understand why God does what he does. Every day we're choosing who we become, and where we will be after this life... with people like ourselves. The troubles, although sometimes great and sore, are all temporary. In the end, we will all be resurrected and receive the rewards that we have earned in this life. Whoever we have been and whatever we have done will be restored to us, only eternally. :) Today, let's endure our trials, knowing that they are temporary, and let's reach and stretch and grow into whatever we want to be forever.
"But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words! And I pray that the anger of the Lord be turned away from you, and that ye would repent and be saved." Helaman 13:38-39
This seems harsh, but maybe it is something we should think about. How often, really, do we keep seeking things that we can't have? Usually we know we can't have it, but we keep trying for it... unfortunately similar to a toddler reaching for the hot stove. We scream and cry and fight for things that will just burn us in the end. I think we do the trying to find happiness in iniquity thing a lot too. We try to believe that this temporary high, or that brief emotional intensity are really the building blocks of true happiness, if we just keep putting one on top of another, someday we'll get there. But (again) it doesn't work that way... lasting happiness doesn't come from illusory and temporary seeds. Let's take a real look today at what we are reaching for, and how we are trying to build happiness in our lives. Let's make sure God is involved in both efforts; let's repent of the dead-end paths we've been on, and start toward something better.
"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zechariah 4:6
This could be the word of the Lord unto us as well. I think that we often think that we can force things, or we think that if we are powerful enough that people will do what we want. If we just had a better title or more money, then people would listen to us... things like that. And sometimes it seems like that works for some people. Even then, I don't think that it is the whole story... and it definitely isn't how God works. :) More important is to learn to do things by God's spirit. Through building Zion relationships with people... listening and caring, and doing as God asks. It might be a slower way to what we want, but it is the only true path to greatness. :) We'll not only learn to care for people on the way, but we might learn to want better things, and learn to be better people ourselves.
"For if I, who am a man, do lift up my voice and call upon you to repent, and ye hate me, what will ye say when the day cometh when the thunders shall utter their voices from the ends of the earth, speaking to the ears of all that live, saying--Repent, and prepare for the great day of the Lord?" Doctrine and Covenants 43:21
This is a good thing to take to heart. Many times we get angry when our faults are pointed out, whether it is well-meaning or not. And I'm definitely not saying that we should go and point out faults in each other. I think that is a mote and beam situation, and I am still working on myself... no need to try to see someone else's flaws through my own impaired vision. However, when we do hear about our faults, however we learn about them, let's take a step back and evaluate whether that information is valid. If it isn't, then no worries. If it is, let's ignore the delivery method... that doesn't matter. What matters is that we have something true in front of us that we should address. Staying the same and never changing only works for God, who is already perfect. If we stay the same and never change, then we're basically saying, okay, this is the way that I want to be at judgment day. ... and I don't think any of us are ready for that. Repentance sometimes seems like an overwhelming thing... but the pieces of it aren't. If we take it a step at a time, we can get through it and past it and on to better things. Let's take those steps... and keep working on ourselves and getting better every day. :)
"Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it."
This is a good reminder. Silver, gold, rubies... shiny, but not as important as learning knowledge and wisdom. Who we are inside matters more than what we have. Sometimes it is hard to keep that in mind. We want the giant TV and the nice roof over our heads and to not worry about bills and surviving from month to month. And that makes sense on one level because we all have immediate needs. But when we focus on short-term needs and desires, sometimes we make really poor decisions that will affect us in the long term. We might give up opportunities for education, or ruin a relationship, or get caught up in a habit or addiction that can harm us a lot.
Wisdom is that idea of being able to think long term... to balance what we need now with what we are going to need later. To include all of the factors that we need to consider rather than just the desperate now-now-now thinking that we get trapped in too often. It is the ability to step back and consider the future, and make better choices. And truthfully, if we think about it, when we choose the rubies, we usually just spend them really fast and wonder where it all went, right?
Today, let's work on remembering as much as we can that eternal things are more important than temporary earthly things... and let's set aside time to focus on learning about the things of God, and of this earth, and gaining the wisdom to use all of that knowledge wisely. As we know from James 1:5, God is pretty cool about blessing us with wisdom, if we ask for it. Let's work on that, and try to worry less about the rubies. :)
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7
I really like this. Attitude matters. As with anything else, we can start with a bad attitude. We can obey grudgingly, or listen to God even though we don't agree with him. In the end though, we have to learn to love what God loves... to understand why the things he wants are better than the less cool things that we want... in order to rejoice in the Lord and in his will. God's purpose isn't to torture us or make our lives hell. He wants us to be happy. But sometimes we have to learn to understand why he asks what he asks, or why it is the right thing first.
I think it is the same with learning anything. I know that it was okay if my students came back with the right answer or if they did enough to get by, but so much better when they learned to love the subject, and understand it on a level that you only can if you enjoy it. And the gospel is like that. The scriptures are. Everything is. The whole world is better when you love being here, and every person is more enjoyable when you love them. Work doesn't even feel like work when you love it. Sacrifice doesn't feel like sacrifice when you do it out of love. Everything God does he does out of love. He is the poster child for all that love is. And that is why he has joy in it.
Today, let's not be satisfied with forcing ourselves to obedience. Let's not do anything out of grudging obligation. Let's start learning why, and understand it better, and come to love what we are doing, in the church, outside the church, everywhere. Love the tasks, love the people... and let's get to know God better so he can not only explain the details and we can learn to love the lessons... but so that we can learn to love Him more too. Everything is easier and better when we're doing it out of love.
"Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off."
These verses stood out to me today as an example of the all-inclusive mercy of the Lord. The chapter starts out by talking about keeping judgement, doing justice, keeping the sabbath, and not doing evil, and how blessed we will be if we follow God. And then to emphasize it, God uses these examples. People who aren't part of God's chosen people. Maybe not in the church, not under the definition of chosen people whose ancestors were believers in the past, or for whatever other reason... outsiders. Sons of the stranger. But even if we start out far from God, with no cultural or familial knowledge of him, God invites us to become part of his chosen people, and makes the specific point here that no one is excluded. Anyone can become part of God's covenant.
Similarly, God's next point talks about people who are incapable of having children. Family is really important to God, and one of the things that he promised Abraham and passed down through that covenant is the promise of posterity. And here, God makes another specific point about inclusion. Even if people can't be parents, they aren't excluded from God's blessings. He promises a place in HIS house, within HIS walls... and a name better than sons and daughters. I have no idea what that means, but I do know that it isn't being an outsider, or being excluded from anything that God has to offer.
No matter who we are, where we are, what we've done... God offers us peace, solace, acceptance. He offers a place with Him. He doesn't exclude anyone. Anyone who will choose the things that please God, who will avoid evil, who will take hold of his covenant... anyone who is willing to do these things, even if none of us are perfect at it, as long as we are trying... God invites us all in, part of his chosen people. Part of his family.
God has welcomed us in... let's not exclude ourselves by staying outside. Today, let's choose those things that please God. Let's avoid doing evil. And let's take God at his word, and come unto him.
"And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh." Genesis 48:17-20
I like how God is always challenging our expectations, helping us to look at the person rather than the tradition. The whole birth-order thing is big with us... Laman and Lemuel taught their children to hold a grudge for generations over it, for instance. But that isn't how God chooses. I think that it is similar with a lot of things that are traditional in our society. We have expectations about who will succeed and who should submit. Gender, title, race, wealth, age, beauty... so many things that we use to determine who we will take seriously and who deserves the advantage. Today, let's try to see past the traditional assumptions and really see people and what they are capable of.
"And the king said: How knowest thou the thoughts of my heart? Thou mayest speak boldly, and tell me concerning these things; and also tell me by what power ye slew and smote off the arms of my brethren that scattered my flocks— And now, if thou wilt tell me concerning these things, whatsoever thou desirest I will give unto thee; and if it were needed, I would guard thee with my armies; but I know that thou art more powerful than all they; nevertheless, whatsoever thou desirest of me I will grant it unto thee." Alma 18:20-21
This is a great story. In these verses Lamoni has realized how powerful Ammon is, and right before this he first asks Ammon if he is the great spirit, and Ammon says no. Then here he asks him to tell him how he does what he does. What I like about this is his deep desire to know about God. He doesn't even know who God is yet, but he knows something else is there that he can't explain, and wants to know about it so much that he promises Ammon whatever he desires. I think that is the moment when we are ready to learn... when we have a question that we care about that much, or when we experience something we can't explain or fit into our worldview. And luckily, Ammon knew what Lamoni wanted to know, and didn't desire to cheat him or take his kingdom. He only wanted to teach him what he was asking. Today, let's examine our lives and look for those questions within ourselves. What do we want to know more than anything? And when we find out, let's ask God. He knows the answers. He might not send someone as powerful as Ammon along, but if we ask, he will help us to learn the answers we seek. There are powerful questions inside of us, waiting to be asked... and the answers can change us as dramatically as they changed Lamoni at the end of this story. Let's ask them. Let's find out.
"And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:22-23
The thing that struck me the most about this selection today was the "and she went to inquire of the Lord" part. Rebekah set a great example for us in this. So often we experience things in our lives and we wonder why, we complain, we ask other people, but we don't take the step and ask God. God is the one who can answer any question, and asking him might save us some stress and heartache as we continue to worry at those unanswered questions in our lives. Sometimes, like Laman and Lemuel, we don't ask God because we just assume that God won't tell us. Sometimes we ask, but we don't know how to listen for the answer, and so we assume that God isn't sharing anything. Like any other relationship, our relationship with God takes time and dedication. We have to make an effort to communicate and also to learn to listen. As we talk with God, we learn to recognize his presence and his voice in our lives. We see the answers to our questions and recognize his influence in our lives. Today, let's follow the example of Rebekah and inquire of the Lord.
"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19
This is interesting scripture. It seems that we're still going to have some things to learn after this life, and so if we work harder in this life, we might be able to take the 201 class instead of the 101 or the remedial 99 class. :) I love the idea of there being more to learn and more to do, not just sitting around playing harps (no offense to you harpists out there). Today, let's remember what we *can* take with us. Not money or fame, but knowledge. Intelligence. And let's work on that part rather than the things that we need to leave behind. :)
"Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?"
I really like this verse. I think it illustrates the great love that God has for us. He knows our history and the problems we have with obedience... generations of problems. And still, he loves us; he is patient, helping us learn, encouraging us to do better... and promising us that if we DO return that we will return to us as well. The problem is that so often we don't see our own issues. We talk ourselves into thinking that everything is fine, that we're all good, and we don't need to improve. ... But we all do. Everyone has so much untapped potential, and if we just stop improving ourselves or trying to do better, it is kind of like mastering fifth grade and deciding to stop there. No need to grow up, get a job, learn how to drive... whatever. We're good as is. And plainly, we just aren't. :) Not that we're unlovable as is. We're just not done growing, and we still have a lot to learn. If we look at ourselves and we really see no faults, then "wherein shall we return" is probably a good question to ask. Kind of like the person that was talking to Jesus who asked what else he needed to do, and Christ told him to live the commandments, but he said he had been doing that all his life. So, then Jesus told him the one thing he lacked was to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and to come follow him. It was an amazing invitation to come and be one of his disciples, but he was sad to be asked to do that. Sometimes what God asks is hard for us. And it should be, or we wouldn't be learning anything. Today, if we know how to return to God, let's *do* it. Let's take the first steps back. And if we don't know how, or what we need to change, then let's ask. God is completely willing to tell us, if we are ready to hear. :)
"And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:33-35
I think that this is interesting. So often, we want to "get ahead" by advancing ourselves, but God tells us here that the way to be great is to be the servant of all. I think that is a really interesting thought, and in Christ's case, he is the greatest of all because he served us all by paying the price of our sins... taking on himself our suffering. And being of service is the best way to show that we are great people as well. Today, instead of worrying about whether we have the better title, or the better position, or whether we are "winners" or "losers," let's be concerned about serving others. Even though it feels like we need to fight for position sometimes, in reality being last is okay, as long as we are helping others. In the end, that is what will help us win the real prizes. :)
"And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen." Doctrine and Covenants 93:53
I think it is interesting that we are encouraged to learn not only the scriptures, but also history and countries and kingdoms, and not only the laws of God but also the laws of man. It makes sense, since lots of things, including establishing Zion, go better when you know how to work with people, and within the laws, etc., but I guess that I don't really think about the "non-eternal" stuff that way all the time... so, a good reminder. It's good to learn how the world works and how all of it fits together... just like that scripture the other day about saying to another part of your body that we have no need of it. We need all the parts working together. Today, let's remember education... let's not neglect learning the scriptures and the things of God, but let's also learn about the other things that it mentions here, and not dismiss all non-scriptural knowledge as dross. God wants us to be educated, and to learn about the world around us and about ourselves as well as learning about Him and his ways. Let's work on it. :)
"And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." 2 John 1:6-7
I think it is cool that love is listening to God. And it is easy to listen to "deceivers," or even deceive ourselves, about the primacy of Jesus Christ in our lives. We start thinking that it isn't a big deal either way, or that we can look at Christ as a great teacher... not that important whether he was the son of God or not... or we start thinking that it isn't a big deal whether we do good or evil, as long as we apologize for it later sometime. Or whatever it is. But our relationship with God is of primary and infinite importance in our lives. It matters more than anything else, and trying to explain it away or assume that God doesn't care what we do... that's only hurting ourselves by stunting our growth and harming our relationship with God. God does care about what we do, and he wants us to listen to him and obey him. Not because he is a power-mad micromanager, but because he is an all-knowing loving father who wants to help us avoid some pain. Today, let's work on not deceiving ourselves that God is somehow not there, or that his existence doesn't matter. Let's make sure we give that one fact the primacy it deserves, and look unto God in all that we do.
"For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes." Luke 6:43-44
This is just after the mote-beam comparison, about worrying about fixing our own problems before focusing on the problems of others. And I think that this is a really interesting follow-up. It talks about the nature of things. A fig tree has figs, and a thorn tree has thorns. In relation to us, that seems interesting... I think maybe it is saying that we need to make ourselves good inside... through and through, and then good actions will naturally follow. It isn't about forcing ourselves to act good while our internal selves feel otherwise. It is about becoming good on the inside, and then letting that goodness show. The cool thing about it is that we have a lot more to work with than figs and thorns... and our seed is good. We just have to make sure we clean out all the badness in ourselves... whether we've invited it in previously or not. Today, let's be the good trees and not the corrupt ones. That's the way that we get to the point where goodness radiates out of us naturally... by focusing on our own faults and not other people's... and cleaning house. Getting rid of those nasty bits and purifying the interior. :) Let's work on it... together. :)