Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John 7:37 -- On Staying Spiritually Hydrated

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."
John 7:37

It is clear that Christ is not just talking about physical thirst, but what is he talking about?  Do we have a spiritual thirst?  I think we do, but sometimes it is hard to recognize.  When we contemplate church, we don't always feel it.  Sometimes church can seem boring or repetitive, as can the scriptures.  Sometimes we don't seem to have a thirst for any of it.  ... I think, though, that other times we feel it more clearly.  We are around people or in an environment that might make us feel uncomfortable, or in a situation that feels unsafe or sketchy, and suddenly we feel extra alone, and we need some back up or a way out.  In our extremities, we often feel that thirst.  A need for solidity, for trust, or for safety that we just can't get on our own, so we turn to God.  And it makes sense to turn to God when we can't handle things ourselves, but it is also a little sad of we're only missing him, or feeling that spiritual thirst, when things are going badly.  It's like only talking to your family if you're having a bad day. :)  Not sure they are going to appreciate that. :)
Maybe the point here is that we always have that need.  We have to drink water every day to stay alive physically, and spiritually it is much the same.  We're wandering around in a virtual desert here, and even going one day without water can sometimes mess us up.  Even if we don't feel parched, water is still essential to life.  And even if we get so used to having God around that we start to take advantage of it by not appreciating church or the scriptures or the gospel as much as we should all the time, it doesn't mean that we don't need God anymore or that we've suddenly become spiritually self-reliant. :)  If we drink regularly in a spiritual sense, then we might be able to avoid those crisis moments where we wonder how we got here and feel completely alone and wonder if we will ever get back to being okay.  We can add a lot of peace and contentment to our lives if we just keep well hydrated. :)
Today, even if we aren't having one of those black-hole days where God's absence is palpable, let's remember that our spirits still thirst.  Let's do the things that will keep us spiritually healthy.  Let's try not to take our blessings for granted, and let's get down on our knees, renew that connection with God, and pray sincerely that God will help us never forget our need for him.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mormon 4:5 -- On Resisting Bloodshed

"But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed."
Mormon 4:5

This chapter is mostly about war, and in the middle of describing some of it is this.  Neither side is presented as being justified or in the right... women and children were being sacrificed to idols, and both sides were clearly not being obedient to God.  And whether the war was about rights or land or differences in belief... doesn't even matter, as I think this verse makes clear.  The idea of wanting to kill someone else has evil at its core.  God's way is always love, no matter what has gone on before.
Today, let's break the cycle of hatred.  Let's not be the wicked in punishing *or* being punished.  Let's be the righteous and the good, and find another way to solve our problems without harming each other.

Monday, December 29, 2014

1 Peter 4:1-2 -- On the Usefulness of Suffering

"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God."
1 Peter 4:1-2

The whole idea of suffering being valuable is a hard one to grasp sometimes.  Pain never seems like a good thing... and being hurt "for your own good" seems like an empty thing people say to justify overly harsh treatment.  However, thinking about Christ's suffering, for us, I think I can see that as a positive thing overall, although of course I wish there had been another way.  But it was a choice.  He chose to suffer, and he chose to do that for us.  It wasn't an empty pain, and it wasn't an unwilling torture.  And thinking about that, I think... wow.  An external observer looking at Christ's life without any context would of *course* say that a lot of it was done *to* him, rather than Christ choosing it, and that the injustice of the system was to blame, and so many things that were only choices because we know that Christ knew that they were coming, and he had the power to walk away at any time.
Instead of being mad that he was chosen to suffer, mad that he had to do it, or depressed that he could see the inevitable coming and couldn't walk away without hurting all of us, Christ chose it, freely.  He owned his suffering.  And maybe that is what "arming ourselves likewise with the same mind" means here.  Suffering, when we own it, when we accept it and use it, can be a tool.  Not a fun tool.  I don't think Christ was enjoying the cross.  But a tool nevertheless.  One that can help us to rise above the physical and attach ourselves firmly to the spiritual.
At the beginning of my mission, I felt like I was at my limit.  I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed, physically and emotionally.  I remember feeling like my body wasn't keeping me going anymore, but the spirit kept me functional.  I don't know how much of that was reality, but to me, it seems similar to what these verses are saying.  Owning the physical and emotional hardships, and finding a way, with God, to continue anyway, and even to rise above my personal limitations.  One invaluable lesson I learned on my mission was that I could rely on God even when I had no other support structure.  And that lesson was worth every bit and more of what I went through to learn it. 
And Maybe that is what suffering allows us to learn, and to do, if we accept it and use it, rather than just trying to avoid it.  Some suffering is inevitable.  Other kinds are important, even though we probably could avoid them and learn a lot less.  Today, no matter whether our suffering is avoidable or not, let's own it.  Let's choose it even if it isn't really optional.  Let's choose to do it for others where that is possible, and for God where it isn't.  Let's take the pain and turn it into something we can use to rise above ourselves and become more.  Let's learn to rely on God and his strength, even after ours has failed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Haggai 1:6-9 -- On Considering Our Ways

"Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.
Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."
Haggai 1:6-9

In this scripture, God through the prophet Haggai is telling people that they need to build a temple.  They don't think that it is important, but God explains that they need to consider their actions a little more.  God is the one that can help their goals work out, if they make his temple a priority.
The same is true for us, whether it is contributing to building  a temple, or taking the time to do other things for God.  If we take the time for him, and make his goals a priority, then he will take the time for us and help our good actions prosper.
Today, let's remember that when we start thinking that something else is more important than God... no matter what it is, it will go better with God than without him.  If we realize that God is the top priority, and keep him there, everything else will go better.  Today, let's try to rearrange our priorities so that God comes first and not last.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Abraham 3:24-25 -- On Being Proven

"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"
Abraham 3:24-25

It is so interesting to get a glimpse into what God was thinking as he created the earth.  It seems so simple in some ways... let's take some materials and build an earth, let's see how these people behave in that environment.  And yet... wow.  If it were clay or tinker toys, maybe yeah, but build an earth?  I can't really wrap my head around how to even start that, or how anyone would work with "materials" on that scale. :)  And then getting into the why, of proving or testing us, that's even bigger in some ways.  This earth is a proving ground for us... maybe like a coming-of-age ritual or going off to college.  Growing up, we're in the environment of our parents, and until we get our on our own, we don't even know who we are yet.  In some areas, we don't even develop our own opinions until we have to confront our own decisions about those things, away from a more controlled environment.  Maybe we start second guessing our politics or our choice of major.  We learn independence and maybe we like it, or maybe we're afraid of it, or both.  Do our reading, viewing, and listening choices change when we're the only one around?  Do we lose dedication to things that our parents believed in, or do we reaffirm previous choices and find that they matter to us on a deep, personal level?
I think earth life is similar.  Who are we when we are separated from God?  When we have enough room to disagree with him, do we?  Or do we learn that what he is teaching really matters to us?  This life is a chance for God to see who we are and what we choose when we are away from him and are learning to be independent.  And it teaches us a lot too, about who we are and what we want most in life... what we value, and who we want to be.  And based on our choices, we'll reach an eternity that reflects who we are striving to become.
Today, let's remember that this life is about who we want to be forever.  Let's make better choices that reflect what we want long term, not just temporary diversions.  Let's listen to God, and allow him to help us find our way back to him.

Friday, December 26, 2014

D&C 101: 30-31 -- On Glorious Rest

"In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious."
Doctrine and Covenants 101: 30-31

I like this idea of glorious rest.  We don't usually think of death that way.  Occasionally as rest, but almost never as glorious.  And yet, here, when it is talking about the Millennium, that is how it is. :)  I like the "changed in the twinkling of an eye" part.  No pain or suffering.  Just instant resurrection: mortal to immortal in a snap. :)  Doesn't it make you want to live there, with your loved ones, in that time, where death is glorious, and probably not uncertain or unwelcome?
Today, let's remember that the future will be glorious, no matter what things are like now.  God has amazing things in store for us, and we have a future that goes beyond death.  Christ gave us that.  And whether we die through more conventional means, or we are translated from mortal to immortal instantly, we all have an eternity of glorious rest to look forward to. :)  Not saying that our problems aren't tough.  Just that they all pale in comparison with that. :)  So, let's remember to focus on the good that waits in store for us. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Zechariah 2:6-7 -- On Delivering Ourselves

"Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon."
Zechariah 2:6-7

These verses are talking about the last days and the gathering to Jerusalem and some of the lost ten tribes coming out of the north.  There are lots of interesting things here, but what strikes me today is the command to deliver ourselves.  As is typical in much of the scriptures, here Zion is symbolic of the good and ideal, and Babylon symbolic of the worldly and evil.  And God tells Zion to deliver herself... in a later verse he continues and says that he will come and dwell with the daughter of Zion.  Overall, it reminds me of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13)... God doesn't want to pull the tares (bad) out of the field because he would harm the wheat (good) in the process.  And this is interesting in that context, also similar to 2 Corinthians 6:17: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."  We have to learn to separate ourselves from the evil.
Don't get me wrong... I don't think that this means we stop talking to anyone who isn't an angel, or of our particular religion, or stop our children from playing with them.  We are supposed to be out there as examples, and friends, and good influences.  I don't really think it is mostly about people, although I am sure in some cases we do need to choose better friends if we are influenced to do bad things and make poor decisions when we are around them.  I think it is mostly about removing ourselves from idols in our own lives... whatever gets between us and God.  Are we influencing our surroundings to be better, or are they influencing us to be worse?  Part of delivering ourselves might just be changing the direction of that influence if it is going in the wrong direction... choosing to stand up for God, rather than letting ourselves be pulled away from him.  It isn't so much about our surroundings as about our foundation.  The storms will come no matter what--the question is whether we will be destroyed in them or not.  And if our foundation is in Christ, then we will be delivered, even in the midst of tare-filled Babylon. :)
Today, even if it isn't a physical separation at all, let's gather with the believers and flee from idols.  Let's make sure that we are influencing others for good and not allowing ourselves to be influenced for evil.  Let's strengthen our foundations, and with God's help, deliver ourselves.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

D&C 133:23-24 -- On Unity

"He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided."
Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-24

I like the idea of the land being restored to the way it was "before it was divided," presumably prior to the Tower of Babel, right?  One land, one language?  It got us into a lot of trouble back then, but think of the difference it would make in our current world to go back to our Pangea roots. :)  No more claiming that one land or country is better than another, or that some race or nationality is superior.  We would finally see, in a very real, physical way, that we are all one... part of each other.  I like the idea of unity... spiritual unity, for sure, but the earth achieving physical unity as well is also an awesome idea.
Today, let's work on imagining this, and try to live as though the land was united, along with our hearts and our languages. Maybe if we start now, we'll be ready when it happens. :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Philippians 4:8-9 -- On Positivity and Peace

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Philippians 4:8-9

I think this is a perfect recipe for peace.  Truth, honesty, justice, purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, praise.  Paul is telling us to think about the positive, and focus on the good.  And sometimes we think that is naive or simple, but maybe it is actually wise.  We let ourselves get distracted and overwhelmed with the negative sometimes, and we can rarely actually do something about it.  Often it is just worry about the unknown.  There is always hope in the midst of despair and beauty ready to rise from the ashes.  Sometimes we just have to remove the distractions and calm our worries, and there it is, waiting for us, right in front of us.  God had the power to calm the storm when his disciples thought they were going to perish, and he has that same power over the storms of worry and heartache in our lives.  If we do as he asks, and focus on the good, and the beautiful, and the pure, not only will we see amazing things, and welcome God into our lives, but we will find that elusive peace that we want so much.
Today, let's remember to look for and think about the good parts of life, and let's seek the peace that God offers us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

D&C 64:32-33 -- On Becoming Great

"But all things must come to pass in their time.
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 64:32-33

Even though we can't always see it, these verses remind us that the little good things that we do every day add up into a gigantic good to the world.  Sometimes we look at our lives and it doesn't seem like we are accomplishing a lot, or making a difference.  But as long as we are doing as God asks, even the tiniest things matter.  We're building God's kingdom, and even if it is a couple of inches at a time, what we are building will never fall, and God will see it through to the end on his timeline.  And those things matter to our lives too.  They make us better, and they impact the people around us.  If we are practicing setting a good example, the day that someone observes us, it will make a difference.  And so it is with everything good.  They are small, but the impact is huge.
Today, let's remember the little things.  Prayer, scripture study, kindness, generosity, etc.  Let's remember that the good things we do for God and for others make a big difference when spread over a lifetime.  Let's keep doing the small things so that we can become great. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

John 11:1-3 -- On Being the Friend of God

"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick."
John 11:1-3

This is at the beginning of the story of raising Lazarus from the dead.  What strikes me today is all that seems to be underneath the surface here.  Mary was the same woman who had anointed him with oil, and washed his feet with her tears, who is mentioned in Luke 7:37-38.  At the end of that chapter, he forgives her sins and tells her to go in peace, but apparently he meets her family, and grows to love them.  I really like that part... that Christ didn't just encounter people once and touch their lives.  If that is all it was, it would have been enough, of course, but thinking of him following up with these people and developing friendships... for me, that makes Christ more personal, and less distanced and administrative.  The woman who he met in Luke 7 was a sinner, but he didn't stop and worry about her past.  He not only forgave her sins; he became her friend, and friends with her whole family.  I like the idea that even though God is far above us in so many ways, that he when he is among us, he doesn't even separate himself what we would think would be a normal amount in our society.  He doesn't act like he is the CEO and we are the workers.  He doesn't think that he would sully himself by interacting with people who have sinned, or brush people off because he is popular now. :)   Instead, he sits down with them, and loves them, and gets to know them.
I think sometimes when we think of God we think of him as some sterile administrator, looking down and judging us from above, completely inaccessible to the average person.  But God isn't like that even as much as *we* act like that.  God is here, with us, willing to talk all of it out, to listen to the smallest details of our lives, and he doesn't act bored or tune us out because he *isn't* bored, and he really wants to know.  He loves us, on the most personal level, and he wants to be our friends.
The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is a great and amazing one, but for me, it pales beside the opportunity we have to be the friend of God.  Today, let's open our minds and our hearts to him, and choose to accept that amazing friendship that we are offered.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Luke 14:16-24 -- On Committing to God's Supper

"Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."
Luke 14:16-24

This is an interesting parable, and on the surface, it is kind of hard to understand.  The excuses seem to be good ones, and it is just a dinner party, right?  But this particular dinner party is symbolic of God's kingdom, and our commitment to it.
We come up with a lot of excuses to not serve God after we have already committed to do so.  Things come up, stuff happens, and we need to do this or that instead, right?  Except, God comes FIRST.  Sometimes we think family comes first, and of course we shouldn't use God as an excuse to shirk our responsibilities in other areas, and we shouldn't over-commit ourselves to church things in order to avoid other parts of life... but when there are sincere and serious conflicts, God comes first, before parents, siblings, romantic relationships, school, work, hobbies... sleep. :)  Nothing else can come first, and if we commit to go to his supper, we need to show up, whether we bought oxen or got married, or anything else at all.  Our commitment to God can't be casual or light.  We can't think "well, we can skip it if something comes up."  Something will always come up.  There will always be an excuse.  But God matters more than all of them.
Today, when we are tempted to bail on our commitment to God for whatever reason, let's remember that there IS no reason good enough.  God is at the top of the priority list, ahead of all else.  Let's make sure that he stays that way in our minds and hearts and actions.  The Supper will be worth it, but we can't realize that until we show up.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Luke 9:23 -- On Following Christ

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
Luke 9:23

Sometimes we think that following God should guarantee a good life... a peaceful life, free of searing pain or desperate need.  We think that if God truly loved us, he wouldn't let bad things happen to us.  And yet, Christ is talking about us coming after him... following him.  He lived a perfect life, and it certainly wasn't without pain or grief.  We're asked to deny ourselves, to take up our cross.  That doesn't sound like the cushy life of luxury I was hoping for.
And yet, it is a life of meaning, of learning, of selflessness that we also claim to want, and God definitely offers us that.  If some of it we can't learn another way than grief, or pain, then maybe those are things that we need to go through.  Certainly in hindsight we see how much we have gained through our experiences.  It is just frequently hard to see during them.
Today, let's remember that the life the Lord offers us is always a good one... just not a pain-free one.  Let's be willing to deny ourselves.  Let's be willing to take up our cross.  Let's be willing to follow Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

3 Nephi 18:22-23 -- On Inclusion

"And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name."
3 Nephi 18:22-23

I really like this... basically a commandment to be inclusive.  I love the idea that you don't ever have to worry about being accepted in the midst of God's people.  They will pray for you and help you, and never cast you out.  Isn't that the way we all want to be treated?  Like there is a group of friends for us wherever we go.  A place where we won't be treated like outsiders?
If we want that, surely we should take God's advice here and be those kinds of people.  Let's be inclusive with people who want to meet with us, and pray for them.  As we move closer to a Zion society, we're going to have to learn to love a diverse array of people.  Let's practice now. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ecclesiastes 2:18-20 -- On Fighting Against Despair

"Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.
Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 2:18-20

In our lives we are tempted to despair quite often.  Maybe for the reason listed here... that our time on earth is limited, and that we can't always finish what we start... and who knows if anyone else will finish it for us.  There are plenty of other reasons as well.  We work and work, and sometimes we have nothing tactile to show for it, and it is hard to measure the things that we learned along the way.  Maybe a relationship that we have invested ourselves in for years crumbles, or a dear loved one dies, and everything we knew and counted on suddenly seems in doubt.  And thinking about this stuff is us, going about and causing our hearts to despair of everything we have done, because it can seem trivial and worthless in comparison to some of these gigantic things that happen to us.
It takes a while for Ecclesiastes to get around to reminding us of hope, so let's skip up to a quicker reminder: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).  The temptation to despair is around us, maybe even more so during the holidays when we feel our responsibilities and limitations so keenly.  But, with God, we can feel trouble, we can be perplexed, and we can go through the vagaries of life, but we can retain hope, and resist despair.  We can remember that God always provides.  That prayer works, that even the worst darkness is followed by a glorious dawn.  Today, let's resist despair and remember God, who can bring light to our darkness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Psalms 78:6-8 -- On Long Term Hope

"That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God."
Psalms 78:6-8

This is interesting to me, that we are supposed to teach our children about God, and pass everything along.  I think that it makes a lot of sense to bring hope to the rising generation of course, but it also strikes me as being a really long term plan of God's.  We don't learn very quickly or very well sometimes, but when he has generations to work with us, then he can do more. :)  Maybe that's one of the reasons that we got the New Testament... maybe, we as the people of earth and all the societies thereof, were finally ready for it.  It wasn't a different gospel, just a new level of it.  Like moving from first grade to second grade. :)  We made it.  We graduated. :)  But we sure didn't do it as individuals.  We did it as a whole world.  Learning, albeit really slowly, to do a little bit better, to be a little bit better.  And we still screw up, and we definitely still as a world have a long way to go... there is a lot of good, but also a lot of bad.  But that's the hope, right?  That we are part of the good, and we keep teaching it and passing it on, hoping for a better world.  It's a really slow process, because we are slow to change.  It takes us generations sometimes to adapt to a new idea or a new way of doing things.  But there is hope... in God.  That those we teach will build on what we already knew, and learn more.  That someday we as a people will be ready for a Zion society like Enoch's, where there were no poor among them.  God has so much more to teach us. :)  Let's remember that today, and work on mastering what we already know, and making sure we pass it on. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Alma 47:36 -- On Staying Close to God

"Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information of the Nephites, yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God."
Alma 47:36

This is a good warning for us.  As disciples of Christ, we have a greater responsibility than people who don't  know the Lord... and if we walk away from God, we become "more hardened" against the spirit than they are.  Because we know what we are walking away from, and choosing that is worse than not knowing.
It is scary how fast we forget spiritual things if we aren't renewing our relationship with God daily.  Daily prayer and scripture study seem such small parts of the day, and at first we don't think it is a big deal to let them go now and then... but at that very moment when we do, the justification and the forgetting start.  We find it easier to let it go in the future.  We forget how important it is, how necessary it is to our lives and to our sanity. :)  We start trying to go it alone, without God, and we wonder why things start to fall apart.  But it is just us, forgetting God... forgetting our focus and the solidity beneath everything that we are.
Today, let's try not to be the wild dissenters.  Let's work on maintaining our relationship with God.  Let's read and pray.  Let's talk to God about it if there is an issue in our lives, and get it taken care of.  Let's remember that God is the most important thing, and that everything else in our lives comes through him.  Staying close to him brings us peace, even in the midst of the storm.  Let's not wander out there alone.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

2 Nephi 4:35 -- On Asking Wisely

"Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen."
2 Nephi 4:35

The first thing that struck me about this today were the words "if I ask not amiss."  To me, that seems like the factor that we are missing most of the time.  It's kind of like us as children when we asked our parents if we could keep the random wild animal that we ran across.  We really, really wanted it, but our parents knew that if we kept it, it would end up dying.  So, they said no, and tried to explain.  And still, even as adults, we ask for things that we shouldn't have.  Things that we can't possibly handle.  Sometimes things that will hurt us, or other people.  And God loves us infinitely... but love doesn't mean giving someone whatever they want.  Sometimes, even though God is listening, and does care, he has to say no.
Today, let's ask God for things that will improve us and improve the world around us.  Let's be careful to not ask for things that will harm us or hurt others.  God will give us liberally.  He will bless us with good things.  With wisdom, light, patience, gratitude, generosity... so many, many things in great abundance.  Let's find some of those perfect gifts and continue to lift up our voices to God to ask for them.

Friday, December 12, 2014

D&C 88:86-87 -- On Repentance and Freedom

"Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.
For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:86-87

I like this idea of sin as the opposite of liberty.  The symbol of clean hands makes me think of a surgeon.  They have to clean their hands very thoroughly before doing their job... it isn't a useless restriction, but instead a necessity if they want to have the best chance of their patients living.  It offers freedom to them and to others when they abide by the guidelines.  A cleanroom requires similar limits.  The workers may, at times, feel that their clothing is a restriction, but without ensuring cleanliness in that environment, many tiny electronic components just wouldn't work.
Sin is similar.  If we are clean, then we have opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise.  Sin is what binds us and limits us.  Some of the consequences it binds us to are those in the second verse, but we know others from personal experience.  Repentance really is having a burden lifted, because God frees us from the consequences of our sin... not so we can turn around and do it again, of course, but as we repent and clean up our lives.
Today, let's remember to value our freedom.  Let's clean up our lives and unburden ourselves of the consequences of sin, with God's help.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Malachi 3:2 -- On Becoming through Hardship

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:"
Malachi 3:2

This is interesting, because I think it explains why we have to go through hard things sometimes.  Like metal or cloth in its raw form, we are also raw, and we need to go through a process to become clean and pure.  As in a refinery, that might require burning out the impurities in the ore so that we are pure metal, free from dirt and rock and grime, and ready to be made into something strong and lasting.  Fullers in Old Testament times were people who cleaned and thickened freshly-woven cloth, making sure that it was consistent and clean.  As with that process, that might involve pounding and stretching, bleaching, and harsh soap to get out the grime and the imperfections, so that we as the cloth could be made into something pure and beautiful.
And aren't we like that?  Sometimes we like to think that we are finished products and that we don't need to change... but that's usually wishful thinking. :)  We all need to revise and rethink and reform sometimes.  We stay busy throughout our lives altering our perspectives, finding the gaps between what we are and what we want to be--and even between what we want and what God wants for us--and then altering again.  It definitely isn't always a fun process.  Sometimes we worked hard on that stain, and we kind of want to keep it.  Or we wanted some rock, and not to be pure metal.  But in order to become what we truly can become in the master's hand, we have to allow the purification process to go deep.  God knows better than we do what is needed, and what we can become.  Let's not cry that we can't remain ore, or wool.  Let's rejoice that we can become something better, with the Lord's guidance.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Psalms 30:5 -- On Joy following Sorrow

"For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalms 30:5

I love the idea that joy comes in the morning.  And technically maybe it isn't always in the morning... but the idea that suffering is limited, that joy always follows sorrow... that is a powerful idea, and really seems to sum up a lot of what God is.  He is the joy that ends every sentence, no matter how filled with pain.  His anger is short-lived because he is our father and his goal is to teach and raise us to be better people, not to rub our faces in the dirt.  When we progress, his favor is obvious, and as we learn to walk with him, and more in tune to the spirit, it becomes clearer and clearer that with him, life is good and positive and full of hope, even when something happens that causes us sorrow.
Today, no matter where we are or how bad things seem, let's remember God's message of hope.  No matter what we are suffering, it will end, and as we seek it, God's joy is what we have to look forward to for an eternity of mornings.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Luke 3:9-11 -- On Avoiding the Axe

"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:9-11

In the first verse of this selection God compares us to trees.  This is done elsewhere in the scriptures as well, basically saying that by the fruits of the tree (our actions), we can know whether we are good or bad.  Even if we have good roots (good intentions or good upbringing), if what is in our hearts doesn't actually make it into our actions, then our fruit is still bitter, and as in this selection, we are in danger of getting cut down.
Luckily, these verses offer additional insight into how to avoid the axe.  What actions should we be doing?  We should be sharing our abundance with people in need.  Today, let's make sure our good intentions make it outside our brains and into our actions.  Let's share what we have and enrich the lives of others. :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Matthew 7:5-7 -- On Not Trampling the Gospel

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:"
Matthew 7:5-7

I was wondering today what exactly it is that we aren't supposed to give to "the dogs," since it can't really be the gospel.  That's for everyone.  And in the footnote I found a link to the Joseph Smith translation, which made me think of it differently.  I think it's good to remember that *we* can be the dogs, and the swine, whenever we treat holy things lightly, or dismiss them as unimportant.  That's kind of why I put these verse together as a selection.  I think that the ideas carry across the scriptural paragraphs.  We shouldn't be worrying about other people's problems.  We have enough of our own... and until we are perfect... or at least a lot better than we are... maybe it is best not to nitpick other people's spirituality.  I think that casting pearls before swine is when we stop doing this... for others or for ourselves.  We misjudge our audience, and expect them to be more perfect than they are.  We might jump into complex doctrines or start trying to figure out just how big our mansions in heaven will be, when we haven't even mastered some of the basics, like prayer or repentance.  When we do that, it is like we are trying to jump ourselves or others from 3rd grade up to graduate studies... and instead of trying to do that, we should focus first on the basic step and master that firm foundation, so that when we build on it, it will stay steady.  That's why several times in the scriptures we are told to preach nothing but repentance.  ... Because that is the beginning.  That's getting the beam out of our own eyes.  That's what we have to do for ourselves before we graduate from being dogs or swine, and are ready for the pearls of holiness. :)  And when we are ready, all we have to do is ask, seek, and knock.  God will be waiting... waiting for us to be ready, because he is anxious to teach us.  We just have to get ourselves to a point where we can open our hearts and our minds and take serious things seriously.  And repentance is the first step.  Today, let's work on those beams.  Let's repent, and pray, and read... let's master the basics of the Gospel, so that in God's time, we will be ready for more, and we won't trample it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hebrews 8:12 -- On Mercy and Love

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
Hebrews 8:12

We read so often about becoming better and better and striving toward perfection that sometimes we gloss over the sin, and the miracle of forgiveness.  We sometimes feel stuck--unable to change, unable to become who we want to be.  And without God, we would be stuck... unable to rise above our mistakes.  But God is merciful to us, and despite the pain he bore for us, he lets it go and doesn't remember it to hold it against us.  He wants us to be free.  Free to change, to improve, and to become who we can be.  He loves us and wants us to be with him, and so if we are willing to change, he is willing to let us, and rejoices to welcome us home.
Today, let's take advantage of the mercy God offers us, and let's change.  Let's repent and become better, and willing to be encircled in the arms of God's love.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Isaiah 61:11 -- On Being Part of the Hope

"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."
Isaiah 61:11

Lots of the second coming scriptures seem a little scary, but underneath there is always this consistent thread of love and hope.  This one stood out to me I think because I can sometimes get cynical about our society pulling itself out of some of our self-inflicted problems.  But it seems that, whether we do or not, God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before us all.  And I think at that point maybe all the things that I worry about won't matter anymore, because God isn't confined to our context.  He's way beyond it.  And someday, we're going to realize that it is God's context that is real, and the other rating systems that we judge ourselves by won't matter at all.  Maybe when we see that righteousness and praise spring forth, we'll join it.  Or maybe we can start early, and be part of the hope, even now. :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

2 Nephi 4:34 -- On Trust

"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."
2 Nephi 4:34

Nephi says this really confidently, but I think he understood the challenge here, which is why he also said what he would *not* do... it's like he is clarifying it for himself, and reinforcing that reminder that God is the one to trust, and not ourselves, and not other people before God either.
I think that we have all learned to trust God to some extent, in some limited time frame or amount.  But here is the challenge... to trust in him consistently, forever.  ... That's huge.  But it doesn't have to be overwhelming.  As we learn to trust God, we can work up to that. :)  Today, let's commit ourselves to trusting God more.  It is hard sometimes, and we start freaking out when things feel like they are falling apart.  Let's firmly commit to doing good and trusting God, and then let's try not to panic or overreact.  Let's work on being calm and working on that consistency... remembering that God will act on his own timing, not in response to our impatience.  Let's trust that his timing is better than ours, and trust him before trusting our own anxiety. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

D&C 104:11-14 -- On Stewardships and Sharing

"It is wisdom in me; therefore, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship;
That every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him.
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine."
Doctrine and Covenants 104:11-14

Here, God is talking about our responsibility to care for one another, specifically the poor.  Leading up to that are these verses, talking about stewardship and how each of us has to account for what we are given, since everything is the Lord's, and we are basically taking care of it for him.  The church had recently been told not to own everything in common anymore, because people weren't being obedient.  And I think that this is interesting as the back up.  If we can't pool our resources and provide for everyone, then things need to be split up.  However, we are individually responsible for how we balance things ourselves, and if we don't share, we're condemned.  If we do, then we're blessed.  Kind of like the parable of the talents, but with providing for others specifically thrown in.  It's a big responsibility to have--to make sure we share with everyone, not just our favorites. :)  Today, let's ponder our stewardship and think about how we can better help others.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Genesis 45:4-5 -- On God's Plan

"And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life."
Genesis 45:4-5

This is always a good story.  Here, I like the part where Joseph tells them not to be upset that they sold him into slavery.  ... And given, he is in a great situation now, but I think it is amazing that there is no lingering bitterness against them.  It is cool that he can see God's hand in what happened, even though I am sure it was terrifying and tragic at the time.  ... And maybe the same goes for many things in our lives, right?  We endure things that are terrifying to us, and that are tragic or incomprehensible to us at the time, but later, as we learn and grow, we can look back and see God's hand.  We have to go through hard things in order to learn, gain compassion, and become better.  And it is hard to see anything past the pain as we are going through it, but there is a reason.  I like that part... from God's perspective, all of this makes sense and fits into the plan, no matter how confusing it seems.  Our experiences and the people we meet and interact with--they all add up to the whole of who we are, and God is behind it, leading us to each lesson as we are prepared for it.  Today, even if we can't see it at all, let's remember there is a reason, and try not to freak out so much. :)  Instead, let's work on learning the lesson, and growing into better versions of ourselves. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

D&C 9:6-7 -- On Asking plus Effort

"Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-7

This is God speaking to Oliver Cowdery, but seems applicable to about everyone, right?  We often murmur when things don't work out the way we want them to, or when something that we were trying to accomplish doesn't work out.  And, like Oliver, we often don't understand why.  We ask for something, and then we expect to get it.  God notes here that we often have to do something more than ask though.  We might have to put forth some effort, and actually improve ourselves and develop some skills. :)  Sounds tough, right?  But life is unfortunately often like that, where we can't just have everything handed to us. :)  We have to learn, and grow, and really study things out sometimes, before we will understand or be able to be who we want to be and do what we want to do.
Today, let's keep asking and seeking, but let's also remember that we need to put some effort in as well.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Luke 6:37 -- On Floating and Forgiving

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:"
Luke 6:37

Reading this today, it seems so simple and basic, and yet I know that it can be incredibly hard.  So hard that people in the scriptures, and we often in real life, choose to be judged, condemned, and unforgiven, because we make the choice to do that to someone else.  But maybe reading this today, we can see the simplicity and the incredible promise here.
God promises us that if we forgive others that he will forgive *us* ... that if we don't judge and condemn, that he won't do those things to us either.  It's really a win-win all around, except perhaps our egos.  We want so much to be *right* or better or more righteous or justified whatever, that sometimes we can't, or won't, just let things go.  Sometimes I feel like we're in a sea of self-doubt, and we start to panic and start to drown, and like many drowning people, we drown whoever is coming to save us.  We try to elevate ourselves by pulling others down, when if we could instead relax, we could float and actually help ourselves to be rescued.
Today, let's get out of panic mode.  Let's open up our hearts and our minds, and relax.  Let's remember that, despite appearances, this life is not a big game of king of the mountain.  We don't have to pull anyone else down in order to elevate ourselves.  With God, we can ALL win, if we work together and bless each other's lives.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

John 10:16 -- On Becoming One Fold

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
John 10:16

Here, Christ is talking about visiting other nations of the earth after his death and resurrection.  He says something very similar in 3 Nephi 16:1, there clarifying that the other sheep aren't any of the places that he has been so far.  So, at least three groups got personal appearances from Christ.  That's amazing, and sort of mysterious too, since we only know about two of those groups.  The whole idea is really cool though, and I think that it really makes sense that God would want to spread the word as far as possible, and for those places that couldn't get the news because they were across an ocean or otherwise geographically inaccessible, it is cool that he chose to go in person. :)
I like the idea here that even though the sheep are not of the same fold at the time of the statements, that there eventually will only be one fold.  That we will all join together as children of God, and be united.  Maybe today we can get a head start on that, and start thinking more inclusively about people outside our nation or culture.  We're all God's people.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mark 4:39 -- On Faith and Storms

"And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."
Mark 4:39

It is amazing that God can command the wind and the sea to obey him, and they do.  That's off the charts on the in-tune with nature scale.  How could that possibly work?--It seems like all of creation has to be tied together somehow, and malleable in a different way than we usually imagine.  It makes me think a little of the way the city of Enoch was and the Millennial Zion will be... the people are united and of one heart and mind.  In a society based on God's laws and striving to become like him, maybe we would also be able to find unity with the world around us as well.  Christ learned to walk on water, and here to control the weather.  It's incredible... something we can't fully understand, but something that we know God can do.  How much more could we do... how much more could we *be* if we believed and had faith?  Can we shake off the limitations that we are taught by the world, and realize that with faith and obedience, we can weather every storm, and solve *every* problem that comes along?  That we can change from who we are into who we want to be... and even more than that, who God knows we can be?
I know that God can calm the figurative storms in our individual lives just as he calmed the literal storm for his disciples.  Today, let's work on learning to trust God, and have faith in his ability to save us, and to help us start learning how to live by the spirit, in tune with other people, with nature, and with God.

Friday, November 28, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 -- On Following Good and Rejoicing

"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

Good advice. :)  It is hard not to render evil for evil.  When people hurt us, we often want to hurt them back, but being capital-G Good and following God, we have to figure out a way to let go of those urges for revenge or retribution, and let God worry about the eternal balance. :)  After all, we probably don't want all of the evil we have sent out to return to us.  ... Which is why it is a really good thing that God is in charge, and can relieve some of that balance for us, so we don't have to suffer.  Let's try not to make anyone else suffer either.  If we follow and focus on the good, maybe the bad will have less control over our actions.
Rejoice evermore.  Love that. :)  Great idea.  Not always easy, but awesome to remember that this, also, is a commandment.  Let's find the reasons to rejoice in our lives rather than focusing on the imperfection and the injustice.  And let's bring reasons to rejoice into the lives of others as well. :)
Pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. :)  Two things that go together well, and something that can really assist us in our efforts to see the positive around us.  Let's start thanking God for things, and getting into that mindset of remembering our incredible and multitudinous blessings. :)  And hey, if we're thankful, and praying, and rejoicing, it will be a lot easier to return some good rather than some evil, no matter what we're getting from others. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Psalms 100:3-4 -- On Being Thankful

"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalms 100:3-4

I like the simplicity of these verses.  It is important to remember the basics sometimes.  God made us; we didn't make ourselves.  That one fact I think helps to put things into perspective sometimes.  If we step back and remember that, maybe we won't be so quick to doubt or demand with God, but instead to listen and learn.  We are his people, and his sheep.  He will take care of us if we listen to him and obey him.  ... Sometimes we think even that is too much, but he isn't an ogre, asking us to do unreasonable things.  He is a parent, asking us not to touch the hot stove, and to not play in the street when there is heavy traffic.  He can't always stop us if we choose to jump off a cliff, but he will always warn us not to up front, and help us to learn to walk again after we break our legs when we do it anyway.  Despite all of our rebellion, he is still there to gather us in and to help and heal anytime we turn into his arms.
God made us.  He cares for us, he provides for us, and he just asks us to stay away from things that are going to harm us long term.  Today, let's remember him and his efforts on our behalf, and be thankful for his love: for all that we are, and all that he provides.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 -- On Liberty and Mirrors

"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

 I love the idea of the Spirit making us free... granting us liberty.  And you know, it isn't at all the way that some people interpret "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32), although I of course believe that it will.  But we so often use that phrase to justify selfishness.  Like, I have discovered this thing about myself, which gives me the permission/freedom from God to bail on all of my responsibilities and pursue that one thing exclusively.  We use it as an excuse to give in to lust or other addictive desires.  Which is, of course, taking it completely out of context, because Christ made it clear that we would learn the truth through *obedience.*
These verses are essentially saying the same thing that it says in John, but they provide a little bit more clarification so that we don't misuse the statement. :)  If we have the spirit, then we are free.  If we are walking with God, then we are free.
And what freedom are we granted?  The freedom to sin without immediate consequences?  No.  That's just another way to enslave ourselves.  I think the second verse of the selection here really shows us what true freedom offers.  To look into the mirror and see the glory of God in our countenances.  To see ourselves becoming like him, day after day.  To walk with God is to be lifted so far above our limitations and faults that we can overcome and transcend them, and learn to walk as Christ walked, and to love as he loved.  As we learn to do as he did, and listen to his guidance, then we can have that spirit, and that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves becoming more like him.  Today, let's seek that kind of liberty. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 Nephi 28:36-38 -- On Hope and Washing away Mortality

"And now behold, as I spake concerning those whom the Lord hath chosen, yea, even three who were caught up into the heavens, that I knew not whether they were cleansed from mortality to immortality—
But behold, since I wrote, I have inquired of the Lord, and he hath made it manifest unto me that there must needs be a change wrought upon their bodies, or else it needs be that they must taste of death;
Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world."
3 Nephi 28:36-38

This is amazing in so many ways.  This is talking about 3 of Christ's disciples that expressed their desire to live until Christ returned, and to continue to bring souls to him.  The thought of not having to "taste" death is mighty cool all by itself, but there are plenty of other things here.  I like the idea that mortality is "cleansed" from us.  That all the death and sorrow stuff is just like a stain, and if we wash it off, then we're all good. :)  I like the idea that our bodies are changed... but we're still the same people.  It's like becoming the bionic man, but way better. :)  And I really, really like the part about no pain or sorrow except for the sins of the world.  That seems so nice.  Not to have to worry about our health at all?  That's unbelievably amazing.
Not to dismiss sorrow for the sins of the world.  Anyone who has had a close friend or loved one leave the church or choose to walk away from God will understand how devastating that can be.  And, of course, we all live here in the world and we see the sin and the corruption all around us.  It's hard... and it's also why Christ suffered and was crucified.  To atone for the sins of the world (D&C 54:1).  Because the sins of the world are huge and prevalent, and we need to be saved from them.  Mormon and Moroni lived most of their lives in sorrow for the sins of the world, and I think that in our normal lives, even if all of our health problems were removed, we'd probably have some sorrow left, for the choices that people make that lead to sadness or evil, rather than happiness and good... especially when they are *our* choices.
Despite the sorrow for the sins of the world, though, Mormon said "nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day" (Mormon 2:19) ... and I think that the same thing can be true for us.  Even in the midst of sorrow and disappointment, we can choose to see the good: to know that God is willing to save everyone who comes to him, including us. :)  To know that someday we'll be resurrected and have perfect health. :)  To know that God will right all the wrongs, and build a Zion of people who love each other and who are generous and giving and loving, even when we are having a hard time being that, or knowing how to promote it.
Today, even if we are failing on a personal level, let's remember that God gives us hope of a glorious, better-than-bionic future. :)  Because he suffered for the sins of the world, we can repent.  We can wash away our sin, and know that someday God will wash away our mortality.  And we can also hope for others.  Because we can all turn around, and learn, and grow, and overcome our faults.  Today, let's work on that, and focus on the positive things. :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Philippians 2:20-21 -- On Thinking Outside the Mental Box

"For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s."
Philippians 2:20-21

This is an interesting side comment by Paul about the selfishness of humanity in general.  What I like about it is how our selfishness is juxtaposed with Christ.  That seeking Christ is the opposite of selfishness.  Not that we aren't also encircled in that love, but that it is a generous and open love without walls or exclusivity.  God welcomes in anyone who will accept him, and teaches us a better way... a way to escape our own pettiness.  A way to think outside the box of our own heads, and open up and truly care about others.
Today, even though we naturally seek our own, let's work on opening up and caring... seeking the things which are Jesus Christ's.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

James 4:4-7 -- On Submitting and Resisting

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
James 4:4-7

Whether or not we have committed the specific sin of adultery, this still applies to us.  Partly because God uses adultery as a symbolic representation of our disloyalty to him elsewhere in the scriptures, and partly because we are all subject to lust and envy, whether or not we act on it.
It is interesting that we aren't supposed to be friends with the world. :)  I think that is not because there is not good in the world, but because if we get too used to the bad and too comfortable with all the corruption and evil, then we won't work to further God's improvement plan and make a better world. :)  The world isn't all bad, and WE aren't all bad.  There are just things about the world, and about us, that need to be improved, and we need to remember that, always, and work on making those changes.  Some of those things are lust and envy... we are going to feel those things.  How we deal with that and respond to that will either make us more likely to give in or more likely to build up a resistance.  We often hear "the devil made me do it," but the devil can't *make* us do anything.  We are tempted, but we *choose* whether to give into that temptation or not.  If we resist him, the temptation won't last forever... the devil will flee.
Today, let's submit to God's will and not the devil's.  Let's put up some resistance when temptations come along, and remember to choose the right. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mark 13:33-35 -- On Watching, and Being Ready

"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:"
Mark 13:33-35

This is an interesting analogy, that God has left us in charge of our individual tasks, but will be coming back.  And so, in this analogy, and in life, it is going to matter a lot how much we can accept some individual responsibility... Will we slack off until we hear him coming back, and then act busy, hoping he won't notice our long absence from work?  Or will we learn and grow and find better ways of doing things and make more of what we have and what we are?  In so many ways, we *are* the kingdom of God, and he is depending on us to improve ourselves and build the kingdom.  We are the tools in the hand of God that he uses to help and bless the lives of others.  And it isn't that God's kingdom will fail without us, but that it could be so much better with us... with all of us.  Whoever is willing to help becomes part of the solution... part of the kingdom of God.
Today, let's jump in and build the kingdom.  Let's improve everything we touch, and encourage and lift and bring happiness as we go.  Let's watch, and be aware, and when God returns to see how we've done, let's have something to show him.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Jeremiah 13:15 -- On Pride and Value

"Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken."
Jeremiah 13:15

Pretty clear, right?   But I was listening to Elmo's World today (my niece got to choose the show), and he was singing about being proud, and a little kid being proud of himself isn't bad, is it?  So what is the difference?  I think we get this mixed up sometimes and think of pride as the same thing as self-esteem.  And if we do that, then we can fall into traps like thinking that we have to hate ourselves or suffer in order to please God.
God isn't looking for us to grovel.  We do have to go through tribulation and sometimes sacrifice what we want for what God wants in life, but that's so we can learn from our experiences, and learn over time that God's will always turns out better than ours.  It isn't about beating us down and making us feel worthless.  Even when we talk about being less than the dust of the earth, it isn't about our value as beings.  It is, again, about obedience, because the dust does whatever God asks.  It takes us much longer to get that down.
The way we use the word pride in our society is tough.  I think in the way that it means self-esteem, thinking that we are okay, and we can work to be better... or being proud of someone else for choosing the right, it's okay.  But as soon as it becomes a comparison or a contest, that's when it starts being a sin.  When we start thinking that we are better or smarter than other people or God.  When we think we can stop growing because we're the best, or what we value our own works over the works or requests of God, then we've lost sight of who we are, rather than just recognized that we're worthwhile.
As for being worthwhile: we all are.  It doesn't matter what we've done or how far we have to go. God still cares about us, and if we have the desire to change, God will help us to come back to him.  As long as we are alive and have the ability to make choices, we can choose to turn around and do good.  Not saying it is easy.  Sometimes, far down that path, it is really, really hard.  But it *is* possible, and we ARE worth the time and effort of saving.  Christ died to give us that chance, because we are each worth it, and God wants to be reunited with us and rejoice in our success.
Today, let's remember that we are valuable.  We matter, and whatever effort it takes to clean up our lives is worth it.  Let's just not take it too far, and think that our value makes us the boss of everyone else. :)  God's will should always come first.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ezekiel 28:4-9 -- On Being Cool But Not God

"With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures:
By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;
Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.
They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.
Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee."
Ezekiel 28:4-9

This is a message from God to the prince of Tyrus, and it sounds like the prince had a lot of things going for him.  In the verse before this selection it says that he was wiser than Daniel.  High praise. :)  And yet, sometimes that is the hardest position to be in when it comes to living in the gospel.  We're used to thinking that we are pretty cool and able to do things that others can't, and we start running into pride problems.  Daniel had other things going for him besides his wisdom... significantly humility, and a healthy respect for God's position.  It's just a plain fact that God knows more than all of us, and that he can see farther ahead on the road than we can, no matter how far we've planned ahead.
Today, let's work on not imagining that our hearts are as the heart of God.  Let's recognize that we have a lot to learn.  Let's use our talents to make the world better, but not believe that they make us better than each other, or better than God.  It's okay to be cool... let's just help others be cool and share in the fun, right? :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ether 6:4 -- On Preparation and Faith

"And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them—and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God."
Ether 6:4

This verse is talking about Jared and his brother getting ready to travel to the promised land.  It seems to me that it applies to each of our lives as we travel to our own individual promised lands.  They aren't always the same, but we are all travelling towards what God has promised us, and it requires the same kind of faith. 
A couple of things stand out here to me.  They worked really hard to prepare for their journey.  They prepared, and when they had done "all" the things they needed to do to prepare, then they commended themselves to God.  Sometimes we miss part of this.  We sometimes prepare and leave out the part about commending ourselves to God, and sometimes the opposite: we commend ourselves to God, but leave out the preparation.
As we travel towards the promised land today, let's remember to prepare extensively and make sure we are ready for whatever comes.  And for the things that we can't possibly prepare for, let's commend ourselves to God, and trust ourselves to his care.  If we remember to do both parts, then we can have confidence that we will reach our destination... we've done our part and God will do his.
These people had no idea where the promised land was or how long it would take to get there... and often, neither do we.  God's promises come to us on his timeline, not ours.  But if we prepare and trust in him, we will get there, and it will be glorious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moses 1:9 -- On Consistent Dedication

"And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth."
Moses 1:9

This is  a good reminder.  When we try to accomplish things without God, we usually fall to the earth.  He is the one that helps us rise above it.
It is so easy to fall away from him.  Our pride gets in the way and we want to try to do things our way.  We don't like what he has to say.  I was reading in Jeremiah today and Jeremiah kept telling everyone that the city would be destroyed and how to make it better, but everyone wanted to believe the false prophets that were lying to them instead.  We do the same things in our lives.  We pick and choose the answers we want from the people around us, often dismissing God's advice because it isn't what we want to hear.  It takes dedication to stick with God, even when the lies sound better.
Unfortunately, life can't always be good news, or we wouldn't learn anything, and we wouldn't really have a good relationship with God (or anyone else) if we only got along when things were going well.  Today, let's work on keeping the spirit with us, whether things are going the way we want or not.  Let's listen to God and follow him, no matter what.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Romans 5:3-4 -- On Tribulation and Hope

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:"
Romans 5:3-4

I like the idea here... that tribulation leads to hope. :)  It might need to go through patience and experience first, but the path is clear, and it is a reason to rejoice.  I think just that idea brings me some hope.  I get frustrated by temporary roadblocks, but the world, society, and our individual circumstances don't change quickly.  It takes planning and determination and sustained effort, and we so often, perhaps me more than most, want things to change just because they *should* rather than having to work for it. :)  But that's part of what we are learning here, and from God in general... how to work, how to be consistent, how to dedicate ourselves to righteous change.  We learn part of that just through overcoming our own sins and faults.  There is a lot of dedication and work required for lasting repentance.  And we learn even more as we try to apply the same lessons outside of ourselves, when we encounter differing opinions, attitudes, and desires.  None of us are going to get to a Zion society by snapping our fingers.  We have to learn to work with others, to share, to balance the needs of the many against the needs of the one.  In the city of Enoch there were no poor among them.  And it wasn't because they kicked the poor people out. :)  How do we get there?  Where we aren't selfish or worried about power and titles and who is better than who?  It's a huge job, and a huge change in the way that we live and the way we think.
I think that these verses help us with the first steps.  Maybe we need to go through some tribulation and unlearn a few things first. :)  Maybe we have to consider the things that we are doing wrong, and that the way we think about ownership or titles or social stratification might need some modification.  It's a slow process, learning how to be Zion people, but it teaches us patience, and we gain experience as we try out new ideas and practice new ways of interacting with people.  And, as we gain that experience, hopefully we also gain some hope, and see that it *is* possible.  We can change.  We can learn, and unlearn, important lessons as we approach God and build Zion.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

D&C 14:4-6 -- On Asking and Seeking

"Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 14:4-6

I like this message.  If we start working for God, then we are called.  God grants us the authority and power to accomplish things in his name as we *do* them.  We don't have to wait for a divine decree.  God accepts whoever is willing to jump in and help.  God wants us to take some initiative. :)
Today, let's ask, and knock, and seek, and work.  All we have to do is look around to see the needs of others, and ways we can help.  Let's keep the commandments and make thing happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amos 5:7-8 -- On Seeking the Lord

"Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name:"
Amos 5:7-8

We don't like thinking of ourselves as the objects of scriptures like this.  We prefer thinking that God is talking to other people, and that we are the righteous ones.  We get someone else in our minds and think... "oh yeah, [that person] should totally read this" or "boy, this sounds just like [whoever]!"  But the Lord says "ye," and I think to get the most out of this scripture, and perhaps all scriptures, we should think about how they apply to us.
Do we turn judgment to wormwood?  Do we leave off righteousness?  Probably yes, right?  Not always, and maybe we're working on it, but this message is still for us.  The message is: Seek the Lord.
In an earlier verse God tells us to seek him and we'll live.  That probably also makes the alternative clear... but I think it's something we already knew.  Sin is killing us, little by little.
God illustrates his power here not only to tell us to shape up, which is important, but also to offer hope.  He didn't just make the stars.  He can turn the shadow of death into the morning. :)  Surely he can save us from our sins as well.  Today, let's seek him, and ask for his help in changing our ways.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ezekiel 34:18-19 -- On Not Fouling the Water

"Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?
And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet."Ezekiel 34:18-19

This is an interesting comparison of ourselves and our society to cattle.  Not only do we get the best pasture and watering, but we want to ruin it for all the rest of the cattle.  It sound like another problem that the Lord mentions in other scriptures... that we persist in thinking that we are better than one another.  We love it when we get the best, but we feel like it isn't as good if everyone gets the best.  It has to be exclusive.
I wonder what the solution is to that.  Obviously part of it is learning to love, changing our attitudes, etc., but it seems really firmly engrained.  We have a hard time rejoicing with other people sometimes, and the farther they are from our inner circle, the harder it seems to be for us.  We have ideas of who fits and who doesn't, and who is part of our circle and who is outside it.  And at some level of distance, we so often talk ourselves into not feeling compassion or not identifying with those others.  Maybe it is people outside our families, or wards, or countries, or religion, or lifestyle preference, or societal level.  But whatever it is, maybe we need to think about our similarity to these cattle, and how we can foul the waters for other people.   And try not to, right?
Today, let's work on being inclusive and welcoming, and loving, and on doing whatever we can to share our bounty.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 -- On Overcoming Division

"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
1 Corinthians 3:1-3

This is an interesting reminder that we still have a lot to learn in the Gospel.  No matter how often we have read the scriptures, or whether we always have the right answers in Sunday School, Paul points out very clearly here that if we were ready for the more advanced parts of the gospel, there wouldn't be any envy, strife, or division among us... and which of us can say that?  It's a long road building a Zion society, and we need to learn to overcome those feelings before we will be ready for the "meat" of the gospel.
In some ways, this can seem discouraging, that we haven't progressed further.  But I think that as long as we are working on these things, and we keep apologizing when we make mistakes, and keep repenting, that we are moving forward and not backward.  As a society, Christ judged us ready to move beyond the Law of Moses, and if we keep working at it, eventually we'll be ready as a people for further progression.  And that is part of the challenge, right?  We have to get there together, not in competition. :)  Today, let's work on letting go of envy, strife, and division, and do everything we can to promote goodness and unity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Psalms 37:7-9 -- On Fretting Not

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."
Psalms 37:7-9

I like the message that we shouldn't fret or worry, but rest in the Lord and be patient.  That's a hard thing to remember sometimes, because lots of things are going on, and we feel a lot of time sensitivity in the things that we do.  But the Lord's timing is much better than ours, and if something falls through, God always has something better in store for us.
God tells us specifically here not to worry because of people who prosper because of evil.  He will take care of that.  If we get angry about it and let it bother us, then we're getting into the dangerous position of being tempted to do evil ourselves.  If we can be patient and wait for the Lord to balance things, then we stay firmly on God's side.
Today, let's allow ourselves to de-stress and rest in the Lord... instead of fretting over the injustices of the world, let's allow the Lord to deal with them in his own time.  We have enough to do, learning and doing good, and making sure we aren't part of the problem. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Revelation 1:8 -- On Endings, Beginnings, and Eternity

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 1:8

God here tries to express to us a little bit of what he is.  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  He is the beginning and the end... of the alphabet, of language, of all that we are.  He was there in the beginning; he created us and gave us life, and he will be there in the end when we die, and are resurrected.
Sometimes people say that God created all of this and then left, or that God is dead, and verses like this make it clear that that isn't, and was never the plan.  He is, and was, and is to come.  Which is to say, eternal.  And always there, concerned with us.
It's hard for us to grasp the idea of this kind of continuity, because in our lives we begin things and never finish them.  Things fall apart that we wanted to last a lifetime... or longer.  We are well-acquainted with endings.  But God is Almighty. :)  He doesn't have to end because the beginning and the ending are self-contained.  He can start again, and will always be.  Past, present, future.  I think some part of us yearns for that... for someone that will never go away, that will always be there for us, that we can always depend on.  And God fills that role perfectly and completely.  If we seek him, he will always be there.
Today, let's remember who God is... the beginning, the ending, the present, the past, the future.  The Almighty, with the power to save us, and to grant us new beginnings as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Acts 8:38-39 -- On Being Led by the Spirit

"And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Acts 8:38-39

Before these verses, an Angel tells Philip to go to a certain place, and then the Spirit tells him to catch up with a certain chariot, all in order to talk to this particular man and be able to convert him.  And then, as soon as he had baptized him and they were coming back, the Spirit whisked him off somewhere else.  Very cool story, and I love the idea of God leading us from one place to another where we can do the most good.
My question about these particular verses though is, if the Spirit could take Philip anywhere, why do it at the end of this story and not the beginning?  Couldn't the spirit have just taken him directly to the chariot... or outside the chariot, if that would have startled people too much? :)  ... And I have no idea whether Philip needed instruction or not, but even if he didn't, perhaps his experience is instructive for us.  We have a hard time hearing God sometimes, and trusting him.  God was more obvious with Philip at first, and led him to specific places, without telling him the ultimate destination or the reason.  Perhaps this helped Philip trust God more, knowing that if he just listened and acted on God's instructions, that opportunities would present themselves.  For us, there are probably many more steps that come before even the Angel stage.  Perhaps we have to learn at some point even that God is there, and know him a little before we'll even believe in an Angel sent from God.
Another thing I love about this story is how much effort God had Philip put into talking to this one person.  Maybe it was a strategic conversion in some way that would lead to many other people considering the gospel, but I appreciate also that God really did want to answer this man's questions and save *him* as an individual.  The same is true for us.  When we read the scriptures and we don't get it, or when we have questions about the gospel, God will send people into our lives, through miraculous or mundane means, who can help us.
Today, let's be open to the guidance that God sends into our lives, whether it is the spirit or another person.  Let's open our hearts to God's truth and learn all we can, and ask more questions.  Let's grow in the gospel so that we can be like Philip, led by the Spirit to help others, and like the man in the chariot, led by the spirit to take necessary steps for our own salvation.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

1 Peter 1:3-6 -- On Hope and Horror Movies

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:"
1 Peter 1:3-6

This is cool.  I think that it places the heaviness and temptations in the proper context, almost as an afterthought. :)  Because yeah, sometimes things are tough, but that is *never* the point, right?  Never the focus, or what we should be looking at or worrying about.  The point is that God has so much in store, that he sent his son to give us hope, that we have a perfect inheritance waiting for us, and joy beyond imagining.  So, yeah, maybe we're in chapter 7 where things seem dark for a while.  But it's just chapter seven.  We *know* that with God the happy ending is there, waiting for us.  We just have to keep reading God's book, and sticking to his plot, rather than going it alone and twisting the novel into a horror movie. :)  Today, let's remember that the bad, stressful times are temporary, and not the point of it all.  Let's keep in touch with God, and let him guide us out of chapter 7 and into the happy ending he has promised.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Helaman 12:13 -- On Moving the Earth

"Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved."
Helaman 12:13

Probably because I am in the process of packing and moving, this just seems extra super plus astounding to me.  It is anyway, of course, but even more so right now.  And maybe there is a lesson here as well.  It's important to be able to think of God as a personal God, but sometimes we go a little bit too far and think of him as possessing human weakness and fallibility.  And if we start thinking that he can make mistakes, then we can get completely off track, thinking that he might not know what he is doing, that we can't really trust him, and on down the slippery slope. :)
Today, let's remember that God can do anything.  He can move the earth.  He can walk on water.  He is *God* ... and we can trust him and know that if we stick with him, the happy ending will come.  Everything will eventually work out.  During the stressful moments in our lives, let's rely on him and know that he will move the earth to help us, literally. :)

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