Friday, January 31, 2014

Mosiah 29:26-27

"Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."
Mosiah 29:26-27

This is when Mosiah is changing the government from being ruled by a king (him) to being ruled by judges.  I've always thought that it was pretty cool of Mosiah to do that.  To offer more responsibility to the people, to offer them more freedom, without anyone having to rebel or start a revolution.  He was also concerned about how things would go if his son changed his mind and decided that he really did want the kingdom... definitely.  But still, how often do you see governments change hands, and especially become more democratic, without bloodshed?  This is amazing.  I also think that this is a good thing to think about... that we don't make as many mistakes when we make decisions as a group.  When we *talk* to each other, and everyone has a say.  Sure, it is slower sometimes, and everyone might not know all the details, etc.  But the best point is right here.  It is rare for everyone to choose badly together.  And we see how easy it is for one person to choose badly, or to sway a family or a community... a company or even a country.  But if we make choices together, usually we can avoid the bad choice.  And then, of course, if *everyone* wants badness, then it's probably almost time for the apocalypse. ;)  ... But hey, today, let's participate in our government.  Let's help make some group choices.  Let's try to keep the choices good. :)  Let's communicate, collaborate... let's work on understanding each other... or cooperating rather than competing.  Maybe we can keep the goodness going for a long time, if we try. :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Psalms 72:18

"Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things."
Psalms 72:18

Isn't it cool to think of someone who only does wondrous things?  No normal and mundane things... definitely no evil things.  Only wondrous. :)  And then, further, since we work to emulate God and walk as he walked... to learn of him and become more like him, we should be working on doing more wondrous things, right? :)  We probably have to do some normal and mundane things along the way as we are learning to be more wondrous... go to school and work and church and use bank accounts and buy groceries and pay the rent or the mortgage and all the rest of it... but even with those things, we can probably work on making them more wondrous.  Can we make the workplace more wondrous?  Can we make our homes more wondrous?  Can we be more wondrous at school and at church?  How about grocery shopping?  ... I think we can.  Today, let's take some of our normal things and make them spectacular and wondrous.  Let's add the effort or the time or the flair, and turn our circumstances and the world around us wondrous. :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1 Chronicles 28:9

"And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever."
1 Chronicles 28:9

 I really like the idea that if we seek God, he will be found... he chooses to reveal himself to us, if we look.  And he knows our hearts and our minds already.  We don't have to be afraid of him... instead we should endeavor to be open and work with him, because he is the one that can help us with the innermost things that we don't share with anyone... or that we don't even know ourselves fully.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he can help us, if we seek him.
The forsaking part seems scary, but I don't think that it means any temporary forsaking that we might have done during a past sin, or today when we forgot to keep God in our thoughts.  I think it has to be a massive, significant, and permanent forsaking on our side, probably accompanied by some serious sin.  Maybe like worshiping satan rather than God, and choosing to murder his children as part of that creepy devotion.  Even leading people astray on purpose can be repented of, as we see with Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah... or the Saul/Paul story.  Not saying it is easy... just that we shouldn't give up and think that God has cast us off forever because we've made mistakes.  He loves us, and he knows what we are thinking and feeling, and he still wants us to seek him.  Today, let's make the effort, and start getting to know him.  It is worth it on so many levels.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-25

"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.
And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh."
Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-25

I really like this.  Not just because it is interesting about some of the things that will happen at the second coming, although it is quite cool in that regard.  I think my favorite thing about it is the whole idea of oneness and unity.  Not only will be united under one ruler and teacher in Christ, but we will be united in some massively physical ways as well.  There won't be a 12 hour flight ahead of us to reach anywhere.  The land itself will be united.
I don't know exactly what driving the ocean back into the north countries will do... perhaps re-make some glaciers so we have more land mass above the water line?  And I don't know exactly what being turned back into place will do to our current continents... but it kind of sounds like reuniting Pangaea. :)  I guess we'll find out all that cool stuff when it happens.  But I think that erasing some distance and some time between us, and uniting us under Christ will change the world radically in a spiritual and mental way.  Hopefully we won't think so much of us vs. them, and we won't let national boundaries divide us.  Hopefully we'll feel compassion and be more inclusive towards others, and understand better that we are all part of each other.
Today, let's try to imagine the world united, physically and spiritually... and all that it would mean in terms of how we treat others.  And then, let's do our best to live that way now.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Deuteronomy 5:27-29

"Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!"
Deuteronomy 5:27-29

The Israelites were afraid to hear the voice of the Lord directly, so they asked Moses to find out what God wanted, and promised to do it.  And God basically says... that was an awesome thing to say.  I wish they meant it, so that they could stay safe.
The same goes for us, right?  We're quick to promise God our obedience, but slow to actually change our actions... and our minds.  Instead of learning obedience by being obedient and watching things work out, we too often have to learn obedience through being disobedient and suffering the consequences, and then realizing that there might be a better way.  We take the long way to learn so many things, using so much of our lives to grasp the basics instead of jumping in and being able to learn more and more.  If we can master what we have, we will get more.  Neal A. Maxwell, speaking in conference in a talk called "God Will Yet Reveal," talked about additional scripture that the Lord still has to give us, including significantly the records of the lost tribes of Israel. He says "later on, there will also be many more nourishing and inspiring scriptures. However, we must first feast worthily upon that which we already have!"
Of course it is okay when we learn slowly... that is much better than not learning. :)  However, today, perhaps we can make an effort to jump start our lessons by giving the Lord the benefit of the doubt... by obeying rather than straying.  By reading and praying for ten minutes rather than jumping to our entertainment activities right away.  Let's appreciate what we have, and learn our lessons well... and perhaps God will bless us with more, until we learn enough that it can be well with us for ever. :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ezekiel 36:31

"Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations."
Ezekiel 36:31

This, interestingly, is in the last days... *after* God has given us new hearts and spirits, and saved us from our uncleanness.  At that point, we should be all good, right?  And I think that we will be.  Perhaps though, when we are clean, we will see more clearly our past corruption, and regret the evil choices that we have made.  Also, this particular remembering could possibly be about remembering our premortal selves.
I think that it might be impossible for anyone (save Christ) to not loathe themselves a little after being restored to our former memories.  What we hoped to accomplish in this life compared to the choices that we actually made ... that whole comparison is bound to contain some at least temporary disappointment.
In general, I don't think that beating ourselves up for past mistakes is healthy.  Instead, we should move on, and become better.  However, to a degree, remembering helps us to avoid the fate of Lot's wife.  Hopefully, we will never go back to being a person that we loathe.  We will go on to become someone that we can stand being.  ... Let's try to be that person now, and save our future selves a little bit of trouble. :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ezekiel 45:23

"And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the Lord, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering."
Ezekiel 45:23

This verse is talking about part of the preparations for the feast of passover.  Part of the symbolism here is of the atonement... unblemished sacrifice and the idea that the death of something external could expiate the community's sin.  And I think that the law and the symbolism are important... showing us how God has taught us over time to understand things that we probably never could without the incremental guidance.  One of the things that this verse made me think about is the fact that we sin daily, and that it is a recurring issue... not one that we can just take care of once a year or once a month.
Today, of course, animal sacrifice isn't the way that we solve that problem.  But it remains a problem that needs to be solved.  Perhaps recognizing our own daily sin will help us to be more humble... realizing that we aren't perfect, and that we need to make constant course corrections and adjustments to stay on track.  Taking care of that sin daily, through repentance, can also help us stay clean, and have confidence in our ability to be good people and to work with God to make improvements.
Of course all sin can't be wiped out in a day... especially sins that we've tended and cared for over months and years.  Those require some serious work and some heartrending (and mending) and soul searching.  Sometimes we require assistance from the bishop to know how to solve whatever is weighing on our conscience.  And if we have things like that going on, we should jump into it and start the process.  It is sometimes unbelievably hard, but afterward it is worth it because we feel clean and whole again... able to rebuild rather than wander the brokenness.  And once we solve the big problems, then we start being able to tackle the smaller ones, and feeling clean and connected to God more and more often, for longer periods of time.  And maybe, someday, we get to the point where we *can* take care of our sins by repenting each day, and have that daily feeling of being okay and on the same page with God.  Today, let's do the work and talk to God about our sin... whatever it is, however large or small.  And let's resolve any relationship or other issues involved, and ask for forgiveness, and work on being better people than we have been.  Letting go of the bad, and embracing the good, and turning all the darkness within us into light... which is what we've always been meant to be. :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jeremiah 26:3

"If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings."
Jeremiah 26:3

What strikes me today about this scripture is the desire the Lord has that we will turn away from evil, so that no punishment is necessary.  It seems to be the main point of prophets... to call us to repentance and to get us to *change* ... which is a hard thing to do.  I have heard many times that "people don't really change."  And I am sure that that statement is often true in a job context or in other short-term observation.  We all have bad habits, and they are hard to break.  ... But it isn't always true that we can't change, especially given a longer period of time, and I hope that we never give up on ourselves after hearing something like that.  The possibility for change is always there, and I think that if we look back on our lives that we can see that change.  Maybe gradual, maybe quick... but evidence of it.  We've grown.  We've learned.  We're not the same people that we have been.  Even in a job context... when I talk to my employees and we discuss something sincerely that needs to be improved, and they actually work on it over time... I see it.  They see it.  People *do* change, in discernible and positive ways.
God supports us as we try to change in positive ways.  He understands what we are going through, and he always encourages us to get up and try again.  Today, let's commit to some positive changes in our lives.  Even if we can't do them overnight, even if we have to work at it for a long time, God will still be there, supporting us as we head in the right direction.  Sometimes it is a behavioral change, other times it is a mental or emotional change where we have to come to terms with our own anger or resistance or just understand God's will.  Whatever it is, let's tackle it and start on that path to becoming better people than we are now.  And if we think we're already pretty good... let's make some positive changes anyway.  There is room for improvement in all of us.  Let's help God out, listen to him, and work with him, so that we don't end up on opposite sides, but as friends and allies.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Isaiah 52:8

"Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion."
Isaiah 52:8

 What strikes me about this verse today is the "they shall see eye to eye" part.  Sometimes in our society it just seems so impossible that we will ever get to a point where we will all see things the same way, or even understand one another well enough to get along.  Society often seems like it is becoming more fractured and divisive rather than more cohesive and cooperative.  And it is easy to give up in a world like that... stop trying to make things better, since it seems impossible.  But God promises that he will bring Zion, and that everything will get better.  Not only will we see eye to eye, but apparently we'll sing together too, which is cool (it isn't only the watchmen... the next verse continues the singing).
I think this verse can give us some hope for the future... but more than that, it helps us to focus on Zion, and on some things that we need to do.  If we are all going to see eye to eye, does that mean that God is going to change everyone else's perspective to ours, and that we just need to sit around and wait for people to agree with us?  ... Probably not. :)  So, one thing that we need to do is learning how other people think, and start finding common ground with other people now.  Sure, we disagree about a lot of things, but when was the last time we actually worked on finding out what we have in common?  I think it is an important part of the conversation.  Who cares what we *don't* believe in... let's talk about what matters... what *do* we believe in?  What drives us?  What really matters to us?  If we know what drives the people around us, everything gets better... relationships at home, at work, at school, at church... and not only relationships, but projects, goals, accomplishments will be better because we understand and are working for things that we both believe in rather than just doing it for money or politeness or obligation or whatever.  Instead of worrying about defending our position, let's see what we can build with the commonalities between our positions.
Another thing we can do is work on getting to know the commonalities between ourselves and God. :)  When we see eye to eye someday, we'll have learned to see God's perspective so well that we made it our own.  Today, let's learn why God sees as he sees, and also build bonds with other people rather than walls between us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Alma 60:20-21

"Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers? Have ye forgotten the many times we have been delivered out of the hands of our enemies?
Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?"
Alma 60:20-21

This is part of a letter that Moroni sent to the government, asking why they hadn't provided the support that was needed.  And although Moroni's letter was about military support, I think that these same questions are good ones to ask ourselves.  Do we suppose that the Lord will deliver us while we sit back and wait for it, rather than doing something about it?  ... I think that we actually suppose that a lot.  Part of it might be forgetting what the Lord has done for us in the past... but part of it might be forgetting that this life is so that WE can learn, and act, and become.  God will give us the opportunities, or the means, or the strength, but in most cases, we need to take some action, and not just sit back and wait for the miracle.  The Brother of Jared, Noah, and Nephi all had to build ships and do various other tasks in order to get to the promised land.  Moses had to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  I'm sure God could teleport us instead, but that isn't how we learn.  So, today, whatever it is that we have been waiting for... whatever our personal promised land is... let's stand up, and go out and find it, with God's help. :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1 John 2:11

"But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."
1 John 2:11

I wonder how much we blind ourselves in this life, by introducing darkness into our own lives, and muddying and corrupting our perception of everything.  In Matthew 6:23 and in 3 Nephi 13:23, there is a similar verse: "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"  Hatred kills.  It never kills the object of our hatred, but it kills us... the people feeling the hatred.
Why do we hate?  Sometimes it is for past wrongs, for people who harmed or cheated us or people we love.  Sometimes it is just reciprocal... you hate us, so okay, we hate you too.  Sometimes it is generations or centuries long... our ancestors hated each other, so let's keep the hate alive.  We see this in the Book of Mormon.  The Lamanites were taught to hate the Nephites as children... parents teaching hate over generations... all because some big brothers couldn't control or rule their little brother.  Sometimes it is politics or religion.  We see the world differently, and have different priorities, so let's hate each other since you are standing in the way of my goals.  Sometimes it is just where we were born, or skin color.  Sometimes it is wealth and privilege.  Sometimes it is current or past sins.  ... And we can justify all day about whether there are valid reasons for hatred.  But in *every* case, the emotion of hating causes personal darkness.  It blacks out the light.  It leaves us lost.  It fills us with a hole that sucks in everything and is never satisfied.  It obstructs our path, and restricts our choices just because we can't see past the hatred.
Today, let's let go of the hate and the darkness within us.  Let's walk in the light.  Often, people who harmed us in the past didn't understand what they were doing, or didn't mean to... or they did mean to, but they now regret it.  And in those cases, maybe repentance and forgiveness can come together to heal.  But even if not... even if they meant it, and are completely unrepentant... we shouldn't let hate eat our souls.  The only way to break the cycle of hatred and stop it spreading to further generations is to love... and teach love to others.  Let's heal where we have hurt.  Let's love where we have hated.  Let's cure the open wounds of our society by finding ways to work together for mutual goals rather than fighting each other.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Moses 4:6

"And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world."
Moses 4:6

I like the phrase here "for he knew not the mind of God."  I think that we see similar things throughout the scriptures, where someone is trying to destroy God's plans, and they always fail.  Satan, who I'm pretty sure never had a veil drawn over his memories, probably has the best chance of anyone trying... but as we see in this verse, even the best chance, against God, is still zero chance.  God knows what is going to happen, and his plan incorporates it all.  Adam and Eve had to fall in order to bring free agency to all of us, and mortality and death give us the time we need outside of God's direct presence to have true choices, and to find out who we will choose to be.
Today, let's not fight a losing battle against God.  Instead, let's take advantage of his plan, and make the choices that will bring us closer to eternal happiness and peace.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ephesians 2:14-19

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;"
Ephesians 2:14-19

I like the idea that Christ is our peace.  And here it seems like he is external peace, between people, as well as internal peace, between spirit and body.  He made himself whole internally, and made it possible for us to do the same, but he also breaks down the walls between people, and brings us together as fellowcitizens.  Instead of being strangers, we are family... of the household of God.  Thus, whether we are seeking inner peace or world peace, we have the same source to look to.  And really, in building a Zion society, we need both.  We have to have to be at peace with ourselves in order to be consistent and kind to other people.  And we need to see other people as family and as part of the same group in order to avoid discrimination and bias in building a community where everyone is taken care of.  Today, let's work towards internal and external peace through Jesus Christ, following his example of love to others, and finding wholeness through taking his advice.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Isaiah 57:18-21 -- On Finding Peace

"I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
Isaiah 57:18-21

This chapter is talking about people who are sorry for their sins... they are humble and contrite.  And although they suffered some for the things that they were doing, in the end, they will be at peace.  But the same can't be said for the wicked.

Although this chapter begins by talking about when the righteous die, I don't think this is only true after this life.  I feel like it is true now.  If we're searching for peace in our lives, the biggest thing that we can do to get there is repent and make our lives closer to God.  When we sin, no matter how we think we're taking it, some part of our spirit is really upset... maybe subconsciously, since we are temporarily separated from those memories, but our spirits and our consciences bother us, and our own actions are the reason that we can't achieve inner peace.

The more we try to justify or try to stifle that inner turmoil, the worse it gets.  We can do escapist things or block it out temporarily, but when we do that we are just getting farther and farther from who we really are, and making it harder to come back to the peace that we need.  In order for God to be able to heal us and bring peace back to our souls, we have to be sorry for what we've done.  We have to recognize the mess that we've made of our internal landscape, and we have to want to change.

Today, let's try to let go of our pride and our justification of our bad choices.  Let's humbly seek peace, and be willing to live better lives.  Let's listen to God, and let him help us.  It's really hard sometimes... we often really, really want things that are bad for us, and we really, really want to be right, and to force contentment onto the pattern that we have set.  But it starts to fray, every time.  We need to return to God before we can find that inner calm.  Today, let's let go of whatever is holding us back, and accept God's love and guidance.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Alma 12:12-13

"And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.
Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned."
Alma 12:12-13

This is something to think about.  Not to give ourselves a guilt trip or think badly about ourselves, but just an honest inventory.  If judgement day were now, would the word of God be found in us?
I think it is easy to harden our hearts and not let any of the words stick, and really easy to get caught up in life and forget to drink in the word of God through scriptures or church lessons or personal study.  But, if we find that we don't have a lot of the word of God within us, that's something we can change.  We can read more, study more... go to church more, or listen at church more if we're already there. :)  And then, of course, if we have some of the word in us, we need to act on it.  As the verse says, we're judged according to our works... so we need to internalize some of these lessons, and then do something about it.  Not in an impossible "fix the world all by ourselves" way, but some baby steps in learning to love our neighbors, and learning to love God and make him a priority in our lives might be a good start.  Today, let's get a head start on judgement day with this insider information about it, and get ourselves prepared. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Romans 8:24-28 -- On Unseen Hope

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:24-28

It is so easy to lose hope in this world.  So many things can fog our minds, making us think that we're worthless or that our goals will never be achieved.  It's easy to think that we should just give up or give in, or not get up and try again... what is the point, if we are just going to continue to fail?  ... But there IS a point, and the act of trying again is a triumph.  It is strength and hope and resilience, and we're learning all the time.  Sometimes we have to learn to deal with the darkness, and how to find the light again... so that we can always know the way, and show others.  Lehi's dream, for instance, started out with a dark and dreary waste.  Joseph Smith's first vision started out with an attack from an unseen evil.  As we encounter good in life, we also learn how to deal with evil and bleakness and despair.

These verses offer some advice in that area.  We have to hope without sight... hoping in something that we are certain of isn't really hope anymore, right?  But if we hope anyway, then we can get through that dark waiting period until our hope is realized. :)  And even when we can't articulate what we need, our spirits can communicate our needs to God.  He knows when we're in despair and when we need him, even if we can't say it.  The last verse of the selection is jam-packed with hope, actually.  All things work together for good to people who love God and are called to his purpose.  ... And probably, if we are reading these words, we qualify.  People who love God, who are willing to read and listen to his words and try to do them... and we know that even if we just have a desire to serve, we are called to the work.

So, for all of us, all things work together for our good.  That's pretty cool.  And no, it isn't a cure-all, and it won't drive the darkness away all on its own.  But it does mean that the darkness is part of the lesson, and not just a purposeless fight.  And that getting up and trying again is the whole point, as we learn to be stronger and more resilient.  And we also know that the darkness can't last.  It is a challenge, but as we find our way to God, and stick with him, no darkness can stand before him.  We will find the way, and everything will be better.  Up in verse 18 of this same chapter it says "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."  ... I really like that.  Our suffering, though it seems harsh and dark now, will seem like a mirage when we get through this life.  Might not make it more fun right now... but still good to know that all of the darkness will be washed away by the brightness of the future.

Today, let's cling to hope.  Let's have some faith in God that he will help us through whatever he asks of us... like getting through today. :)  Let's remember the light, and even if we can't see it now, let's pray for it and seek it with all that we are.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Matthew 18:2-3

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:2-3

The disciples were asking Christ who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this was part of his response.  Then he told them that whoever humbled himself like this little child was the greatest.  I think that this is a hard lesson for us sometimes, because our society to one degree or another teaches us to keep score. :)  We compare ourselves to others and get pretty competitive, and we want to know what it takes to get ahead... to win.  I think we learn this early, but hopefully at least, very young children don't have that cutthroat instinct yet.  They walk up to you and hand you a toy so you can admire it.  They grin at you, inviting you to share the love and the joy that they feel.  They humbly ask you to do things that they can't do for themselves, without being able to express themselves verbally much.  And I'm not saying it is all perfect all the time.  They get tired and cranky and frustrated too, just like the rest of us.  But they aren't worried about who is the best.  And they just naturally love you, without needing a reason why, or trying to find a benefit in it.  And, apparently, we need to learn to be like little children in order to enter heaven.  Maybe that is a place to start.
Sometimes it seems like there are as many things to unlearn in life as there are to learn, in order to do things God's way.  How do we distance ourselves from the distrust that we have developed?  How do we let go of pride and the method for getting ahead that we have memorized, and realize that we're getting ahead in the wrong race entirely?  Truthfully, I don't know, but I think that these verses help us think about what our goals should be.  To be open, and loving.  To be curious and full of delight, even with the smallest joys and successes.
Today, let's try not to pretend to know everything.  Let's learn.  Let's not try to be better than other people, but just to improve and to enjoy wherever we are, whatever we're doing, and whoever we are with.  Let's be open, and welcoming, and love with wild abandon... not worrying about politics, position, or personality. :)  Just sincerely loving everyone around us, and offering to share the joy of the day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1 John 5:13-15

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
1 John 5:13-15

 The first verse here assures us that we have eternal life.  I think just that is huge.  We get so worried about death sometimes: ours and other people's, but eternal life, if we really believe in it, changes everything.  We lived before we came here, and we will live afterward, and this life is just a very very short test to see what we will do with perfect freedom... a way for us to experience real choice and to know what joy and pain are like.  To gain bodies and know what it is like to be pulled in many directions... so that we have that wealth of experience and can experience true happiness since we have seen its opposite.  After this life, when we once again remember who we have been, I wonder what we will think of ourselves, and our performance here.
The verses continue, telling us that we can have confidence in Christ, that he will hear us when we ask according to his will. :)  I like that idea of God there, listening all the time, waiting to hear something that fits into the plan so that he can grant it.  Like we're kids asking for Christmas presents like flamethrowers and machine guns, but as soon as we ask for something that won't hurt us, boom.  We get it. :)  Today, let's work on trusting in that eternal life and being less scared of endings.  And also, let's work on asking for things that aren't destructive, but that will benefit us and the people around us.  God is waiting to bless us.  We just have to come up with the right requests. :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

James 3:9-13

"Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."
James 3:9-13

This is kind of like the "no man can serve two masters" scripture.  So often, we try to divide our affections... showing loyalty and love to certain people, and disdain for others.  We think this shows loyalty, or love.  But what it actually shows is inner conflict and incompleteness.  It shows that we haven't decided who we want to be yet.  We can't love God and hate our neighbor... no matter how worthy of hatred we believe him to be.  In order to become better people we need to fill ourselves with love... with no room for the waste and corruption of hatred.  It's like putting gasoline and water in the tank of our car.  It isn't going to be a very successful drive, and evidence of that corrupt fuel will keep popping up, impacting our ability to succeed.
Today, let's cleanse ourselves of the bad and fill ourselves only with love.  Let's show love to the people around us, whether they are in our inner circles or not.  Let's not show disdain for anyone.  Let's be kind, and show who we are through our good conversations with everyone we meet.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Luke 9:54-56 -- On Saving

"And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Luke 9:54-56

Jesus and his disciples went to a Samaritan village that wouldn't receive him.  I'm really not sure if that means that they wouldn't listen to his message, or that they wouldn't let him stay there on his way to Jerusalem, but either way, the disciples were offended enough that they suggested a very dramatic response.  Perhaps the disciples were eager to see the destructive power of God, having seen his healing power already, but Christ corrected them, telling them that his mortal ministry wasn't about destruction, but about saving.  And then, instead of cursing or harming the people who had rejected him, they went to another village.

I'm thinking that these verses can also apply to us.  Maybe we don't have the power or faith to call fire out of heaven to turn our enemies to ash... but sometimes we want to.  We feel hurt or betrayed or abandoned, and we wish that we could show them or pay them back or something else that feels like revenge or satisfying in a destructive way.  And we feel like they deserve it, for  harming us or other people around us.  But Christ sets the example for us in this as well.  Christ wasn't sent to destroy.  He was sent to save.  And, in emulating him and being his disciples, we are also sent to save, and never to harm.  Sometimes that means that we have to let things go... things that we don't want to let go.  Things that we want someone to suffer for.  But that isn't why we are here... and God will take care of the justice in time.  The great thing is that even when we ourselves deserve some swift justice, God gives us the space to repent and change.

Sometimes we also need to go to another village.  Trying to stay in that place where the people didn't want him wasn't a good move for Christ... so he left, and he found someplace better.  And the same goes for us.  The answer is never to destroy, but staying isn't required either.  We don't need to sit still in any situation and allow ourselves or others to continue to be harmed.  (And of course God not calling fire down from heaven doesn't mean that we can justify harming anyone else either.)

I believe that focusing on saving others rather than harming them will help to save us all.  We can becomes people who heal where we have hurt, and who lift and help even people who have harmed themselves.  And, as disciples of Christ, that is what God asks of us.  Today, let's save.  Let's heal.  Let's pick up and start over if we need to... go to another village, get away from the pain, or from our past selves, or whatever we need some distance from.  Let's remember never to harm or destroy, but to love, serve, and lift--to become the people that we want to be, to change everything with God's help.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2 Nephi 9:38-39

"And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.

O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal."
2 Nephi 9:38-39

I think this is scary... not because God is being mean or unfair in any way, but because of the fear of being so wildly inappropriate.  Not sure if that makes sense, but to me, spiritually-minded seems like the people at the wedding who are greeting the bride and groom and talking quietly and happily about the event, and the carnally-minded people would be the ones that crash the party drunk, vomiting on the carpet and saying lewd things about the bride.  ... It doesn't really harm the people at the wedding physically to see something like that, but some emotional damage perhaps, and it definitely spoils the mood for a while, and is completely inappropriate to the occasion.  And afterward, if we were the drunk people and it was a family wedding... remembering our behavior and the hurt that we caused would truly be awfulness.
I feel like that is what we run into in the world, constantly... and within ourselves.  A choice about how we are going to approach and perceive things, how we are going to act, and who we are going to be.  There are times when relaxation and humor are perfectly appropriate... but is it ever appropriate to vomit on the carpet and say lewd things?  What kind of people do we want to be, and what kind of a world do we want to live in?  What kind of behavior is appropriate around other people?  Children? God?  Is there a difference in how we should treat others?
I look back on my life thus far and I see very clearly times when I have been that drunk guy crashing the wedding.  Not literally, but definitely figuratively.  I have been wildly inappropriate to the occasion, to the people, in many situations.  Remembering that past behavior fills me with regret.  And I think that is what God is getting at here.  Do we want to die like that?  Do we want to be that guy for eternity?  Crashing weddings, not caring about anyone else, offending anyone who dares to question us?  Or we would we rather be, perhaps, the guests who are enjoying the company and the food and the celebration, who will remember the beauty and not regret a moment of that occasion?
Today, let's be mindful of God and the occasion.  Let's be mindful of the people around us and not tread on their feelings or their sensitivities.  I know that God has a sense of humor, and I am definitely not saying that we should never relax or enjoy ourselves.  Let's just try to avoid harm to others, and actions we will surely regret.  Let's repent when we know we are in the wrong, and try to do better, and BE better, physically and mentally.

Friday, January 3, 2014

3 Nephi 27:26-27

"And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged.
And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am."
3 Nephi 27:26-27

The idea that God writes down everything is interesting to me.  Writing things down requires a lot of thought, and it always incorporates our perspective.  Our voice leaks out, even when we are trying not to let it show.  And although God can be *perfectly* objective, for our sakes, I hope he is not.  I like to think that the story of our lives will be written from the perspective of a loving, compassionate, merciful Father.  And when we are judged, he will conveniently skip the paragraphs concerning the sins we've repented of, and he will present our lives in the most positive light possible.  Perfectly just *and* perfectly merciful... giving us credit for who we have learned to be, and not who we were at our worst.
The lead-in verse changes the way that I look at the second verse.  Instead of thinking about vague perfection, I start thinking about very specific things like compassion and justice and helping people to be the best they can be.
Today, let's work on being like God in some specific compassionate ways.  let's learn to judge mercifully, and allow space for people to change.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mosiah 2:41 -- On Finding Today's Happiness

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may  dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Mosiah 2:41

I've been thinking about happiness lately and how much it truly matters in our lives... and how much we blow it off sometimes, thinking that we have to suffer through, and that eventually after enough suffering we will "find" it somewhere.  I think we too easily fall into that trap, thinking that happiness comes later, after we struggle enough... and that somehow it is tied to economic success or success in some kind of romantic relationship.  If we only made this much, or if we only were married, or if only... anything else in the world... THEN we'd be happy. 
I was reading a conference talk this morning from October 2002, on fun and happiness, and how they are different, but that we easily confuse them.  We think sometimes that happiness is in the moment, and that as soon as those moments pass we're back to the non-happy norm.  It mentioned that both fun and happiness were fine, but that happiness is what we should be striving for as a higher priority, as it is more lasting and valuable in an eternal sense.
This verse touches on some parts of the happiness that God offers, and how to get it.  Obedience to God's commandments is part of it for sure, because happiness is the object and design of our existence.  Everything God does is designed to make us happier.  Of course, in the short-term that definitely doesn't mean that all of it will be fun.  But the happiness that God offers is a more resilient kind than we realize... and we have the capability of being happy in the midst of tragedy.  Not in an "I'm so happy that everyone is being attacked by giant mutated vegetables" sort of a way, but in a "I know that God is still in control, and that he'll help me" sort of a way.  A confidence and a background happiness that nothing can rob us of.  Thus, even when we feel sad about something in our lives, we know that things will be okay, and that the sadness won't be permanent... because all sadness can be swallowed up by the joy of God.
It's easy to say all of this, I realize.  We have things in our lives that can seem like permanent blockages to happiness, and we have times when we're so stressed out by things that happiness is hard to feel.  Sometimes our minds can haunt us with memories of past failure or rejection, and we feel paralyzed or inadequate to the challenges that we face.  The "blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual" might not be at exactly the level we need to save the house or the relationship that we value highly.  Even though we know God is faithful, it isn't always easy to trust that his way is better when we've just lost something we care about, or when memories are clogging our minds with messages of worthlessness.  Today, though... let's make the attempt.  Let's trust God enough to pray to him about the obstacles to our happiness.  Let's try to step back and find happy things and hope in the midst of the pain.  Let's be more obedient and more loving to the people around us, protecting their happiness as much as we can.
God's happiness is achievable.  And it is the whole point... everything that God does is designed to help us achieve it.  In the scriptures we meet people who are able to be happy in the midst of slavery, in prison, and during lots of other afflictions.  Let's not blow it off or think that happiness comes later, after suffering for a while.  Let's talk to God about it today, know that it is a real possibility on a daily basis, and make it a serious pursuit in our lives.

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