Monday, June 30, 2014

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 -- On Giving Bountifully

"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:"
2 Corinthians 9:6-8

What we send out, or give, or plant in this life all returns to us, as we learn in many other scriptures (Proverbs 19:17, Alma 41:15, etc.), and here we learn that like many other principles in the gospel, the blessings are returned to us in the same degree in which we offer them.  If we give just a little, then God will give just a little in return.  And if we give a lot, we will get a lot.  This isn't of course to say that if we give $15.98, we'll get 15.98 back.  It's not an accounting principle.  What we give and what comes back might not be money in either case.  We might give service and receive faith.  We might give money and receive peace.  We might give time, and get exactly the money we needed for something important.  God "pays" us immediately for whatever obedience we offer (Mosiah 2:24), but in general the more we give, the better the blessing.  I'm sure adjusted for what it is worth to us.  Remember the widow's mite... and although her offering was monetarily less than pretty much anyone else's... it was more to Christ, because it was all she had (Mark 12:44).
God loveth a cheerful giver. :)  Whatever obedience we offer, whether monetary or otherwise, let's not do it because we *have to.*  With some principles maybe it is okay to start out that way.  Perhaps we avoid drugs because we are told to in the beginning, and over time we learn of the pain and the suffering that God has helped us to avoid because of that obedience... and then our obedience turns into something more willing, and more thankful.  And we are obeying joyfully, happy that God helped us avoid those traps.  ... But even with things that start out that way, they can't stay that way forever. We can't be bitter about following God or enduring to the end all through our lives... otherwise, what good has it done?  We haven't changed at all.  We went the whole time believing that our way was better *anyway* and being mad at God for not letting us have what we wanted.  That doesn't really sound like a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  Just kind of resentful-teenager... and if we do that, then we probably get the resentful teenager reward, which I don't think I even want to know about.  Part of the process is learning to be happy with what we are choosing... to do it all cheerfully.  Which I think means learning and seeing the purpose behind it and understanding God on a completely different level than as a totalitarian parent.
This last verse just floors me because I think it points out the things that we don't remember at all when we are giving.  We think, wow, I might not have enough, or worry about our time, or the level of effort or whether the person we are serving "deserves it" or not.  ... And here God is basically saying, listen, you're worrying about the wrong things.  Have some faith.  Give, and serve, and do all the good works, because I have enough power to take care of you, and provide for your needs.  ... I don't think that means he is going to give us the 20 million dollar mansion and the latest Jaguar if we empty our bank accounts for the homeless.  We still need to have some wisdom about our choices, provide for our families, and recognize that having enough doesn't mean being a zillionaire. :)  But on some level, probably equal to our faith, as we give we will in the same measure receive... and if God is taking care of us, we'll have better than a mansion and a cool car.  We'll have love, and purpose, and joy, and I don't think that we will feel any lack at all.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Alma 46:24-27 -- On Standing Fast in Faith

"Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God.
Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.
And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ."
Alma 46:24-27

I really like the part of this selection that says "even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ."  We read things like this sometimes and we instantly think of other people.  We say to ourselves, oh yeah, that sounds like Bob, or Joe, or Mary, or Jenny.  Those people are clear examples of what God is talking about here.  In 1 Nephi 19:23, Nephi says "I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning," which is a fantastic idea, and it is natural to think of our own life context as we learn the lessons of the gospel.  We need to apply them to modern times, so that we can find ways to apply the lessons to the context we live in.  It's important though to move past just thinking of other people as the central figures in our application, and make sure we apply the lessons directly to ourselves.  It's the same principle as the mote and the beam, or the disciples saying "is it I?" at the last supper.  If we are thinking that we are the exception to the rule, we will miss how the lesson applies to us, and perhaps take our own faith for granted.  That would be a mistake because it is so easy to get lazy with our faith... and faith can never just sit.  Maybe "standing fast" has a double meaning here... being ready to stand up quickly to do something rather than reclining, and *also* being firm and unshaken. :)  Our faith grows or shrinks, depending on how diligent we are at maintaining it, expanding it, and using it.  Today, let's stand fast in the faith of Christ.  Let's keep strengthening and maintaining it, by doing the things that God asks, and by continuing to communicate with and learn from him.  And let's remember to keep examining ourselves and our lives as we learn, rather than finding external examples that are easier to dismiss.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Helaman 3:33-35 -- On the Strength of Humility

"And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—
And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."
Helaman 3:33-35

These are some interesting verses from Nephite history, less than 100 years before Christ came.  I like in the first verse how it makes it very clear that the church wasn't having a problem... the people were having a problem.  And in the second verse we see clearly that the problems of probably a small part of the people had an effect on a large part of the people.  The humble people were being persecuted because of the bad examples of the prideful people.
And the answer to that?  They did fast and pray often.  I love that, truly.  God's way is so simple sometimes that I think we overlook it.  We feel overwhelmed with big problems and we search around for big solutions... but we don't need a miracle or a lightning bolt from the sky.  We need to pray... and fast, and work on our humility.  It's awesome how it says they became stronger and stronger in humility. :)  It almost seems like an oxymoron.  I'm TOUGH at being MEEK... but it makes sense in the end, like everything God inspires.  It takes strength to be humble.  Strength to endure the persecution and not retaliate.  Strength to know ways to get ahead of other people and to work at being equal instead.  Strength to encounter tribulation and anxiety and to hold tight to our inner core of peace.  ... And, here, we learn that as we build our strength in humility, and become firmer in our faith, that it leads to our souls being filled with joy, and consolation.   It leads to purification, sanctification... being utterly and completely clean and pure, because we've learned to yield our hearts to God.
Today, let's take this example to heart.  Let's let go of our pride, and make sure that we are not part of the problem, persecuting others.  Let's not lash out or retaliate or demand or get defensive.  When we feel persecuted, instead of any of those things, let's pray.  Let's fast.  Let's have faith in God to sort out things that we have no control over.  Let's get to a place where we can partake of that joy and consolation rather than letting external things affect our emotional, mental, and even spiritual health.  Let's throw our strength into humility and learn calmness and peace.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mark 4:13-20 -- On Doing our Homework

"And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred."
Mark 4:13-20

This is Christ interpreting the parable of the sower for his disciples.  I think it is interesting that before he explains, he indicates that they should probably know, and asks how they will interpret other parables.  It is an important point I think... perhaps reminding them, and us, that in life when we don't understand something that we should do more than just ask someone else.  We should study and research and try to figure it out, and after we've done that, if we still have questions to ask they will be wiser questions, and we will learn more. :)  God teaches that same lesson elsewhere in the scriptures... to the brother of Jared for one, and pretty clearly to Oliver Cowdery when he said "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" (D&C 9:7).
Then he launches into the interpretation, which I think we can all relate to on some level.  Sometimes we're off to the wayside.  We don't even listen.  We're there, alive, vibrant, able to physically hear, but we're distracted or preoccupied or whispering to the person next to us (that's usually me), and although the word was there, and when we heard snatches of it, we had a chance for growth... we just let distractions take us and miss it completely.  Sometimes we're stony.  We're like, this is awesome, I love it, and it's our new insta hobby to be super spiritual, and we keep it up for a while while it is easy, but then it gets harder, or someone is rude, or we might actually have to put forth some real effort to resolve a concern or something, and we're like, ugh.  I have an excuse, and I am out of here.  This is too much.  And then sometimes we're thorny.  We totally get the gospel and it is planted deep.  We love it, and we nurture it... but we also nurture these other things that would like to choke it out.   Mmm.  These other things are awesome, and I can have it all... money and fame and maybe just a little bit of sin, and... we keep growing other stuff until the gospel dies in the overgrowth of other things that we desire more.  And, of course, sometimes we listen, and do something about it, and learn and grow and become more than we were with God's help.
Today, let's find those seeds that fell to the side of the road.  Let's clear the stones out of the garden patch.  Let's get some super-strength weedkiller in to destroy the waist-high thorns that we've been growing.  Let's realize how precious God's word and the gospel are to us.  If we were distracted last conference, let's go back and watch it.  If we have been choking out the scriptures in our lives, let's make some time to read them.  If it's been hard to concentrate on the gospel lately because we have concerns about people or things in the church, let's pray and talk to the bishop or do whatever it takes to resolve those issues.  And if we're learning and growing already, let's keep it up, and never stop.  Let's remember to do the work that God expects us to do in order to understand and embrace his teachings.  Asking is not bad, but we need to do more than ask.  We need to study and research and do all we can, and then ask.  We need to be committed and invested in the learning process, finding out the ideas behind our questions and the ways to solve problems for ourselves, not just ask for the answer.  It's the difference between the proverbial giving a man a fish or teaching him how, right?  God doesn't want us to just come to him and ask for a fish every time we are hungry.  He wants us to learn to be independent.  To learn how to fish, and hunt, and garden, and buy groceries.  And when we learn how to feed ourselves, then we can move on to a more important lesson... and he has so much to teach us.  Let's do better.  Let's clear out the bad, let's do our homework, and let's try to move on to better questions.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

James 2:26 -- On Enlivening our Faith

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:26

This is an excellent reminder, but one that I don't think that we often want to think about.  We talk a lot about belief and internal commitment, but it is harder to talk about action... doing something about that belief, and committing our whole selves, not just our minds.  And the crazy part is that we often think that the internal part is enough.  *We* know how we feel, and we're used to having that be what matters.  But faith without works is just feeble belief, with no action or follow through.  No acting on the belief makes the belief inherently weaker... like we don't trust it enough to do something about it.  It's like believing that we can write a book or start a business or go to college, and then never writing, or applying, or starting.  It doesn't mean that the belief is bad or that we can't do those things... but as the verse says, our faith in those things is dead... worthless... unless we *act* on them.
It is totally scary sometimes to act.  It's a huge risk.  We're pushing our belief out there on the high diving board and looking down and wondering if we are going to die, or even worse, be out of control of our own consequences.  What if we get rejected, or what if we fail?  Is it worth even trying?  And sometimes, of course, those doubts are valid.  We can't succeed at everything, although not trying always means failure, and probably isn't the answer.  But, in a gospel context we can have more confidence.  Like Nephi with the Brass Plates, God provides a way for us to accomplish *anything* that he commands us. 
When we get stuck in the gospel we are sometimes afraid of failing, and sometimes even worried on some level that we'll build on God's foundation and then find out that it is falling out from beneath us, because we have doubts or concerns.  We want to believe, but the certainty isn't there.  It reminds me of a Science Fiction story called "Of Missing Persons."  In the story the main character goes to a travel agency and hears about a one-way trip to a different planet.  Sounds too good to be true, but it looks *so* good, and he wants it badly, is so tired of the rat race, and so he pays the money.  He gets on a bus, and all the other people who want to go all arrive and sit waiting in an old barn, and he panics.  He looks around at the old barn and the ratty surroundings and he's like... why did we believe this?  Someone has cheated us, and we're all going to sit here and finally realize that we've lost everything, that there is no paradise, and he jumps up and goes to the door, leaving everyone else sitting there.  He stands at the door, ready to convince everyone else to leave as well, when suddenly everything gets bright, and all the people sitting there are teleported away.  He only gets a glimpse, a scent, and then the promised paradise is gone... he never gets the chance to go again.  ... He believed for a while.  He tried to maintain trust, but it wasn't deep enough and he couldn't be patient enough to see it through.  His instinct to distrust, and to make sure that no one was scamming him were natural... learned through living in our society, where we have to be careful of those things sometimes.  But in his case, and *always* in God's case, that risk of trust would have paid off.  That's what faith is, really... belief + trust = willingness to act.  Stronger than belief, it is a confidence that we can trust God, and that what we do and work for at his request, he will always support us in.  Life sometimes feels like sitting in that ratty barn, wondering if we've completely made fools of ourselves.  And sometimes we have.  But *never* with God.  He backs us up.  He comes through on his promises.
Today, let's wake up our dead faith. :)  Let's bring it back to life again.  Let's go out on the limb.  Let's risk, let's act... because it isn't some mere mortal supporting us here.  This is God... more powerful than any superhero. :)  If we know that it is God's will, then let's *do* it.  God will never let us down.  Maybe we'll have to try more than once.  Maybe we'll have to try things in several different ways, but God will show us how, as we keep trying, and as we maintain the faith necessary to follow through.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Alma 30:48-52 -- On Not Becoming Dumb

"Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.
Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.
Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?
And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God."
Alma 30:48-52

The whole story of Korihor is an interesting and tragic one, but what struck me today was the 5-verse turnaround between "I do not believe" and "I always knew."  ... It seems to begin with sign seeking.  Seeking a sign from God is pretty typical of humanity I think.  We read about it in Mark 8:11,  Matthew 16:1, Jacob 7:13, and even in Isaiah 7:11-12, where Ahaz was smart enough to know *not* to ask.  Ether 12:6 reminds us that "ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith," and Ether 4:18 (and several other scriptures), remind us that "signs shall follow them that believe in my name."  ... Signs follow our faith, they don't precede it.  When people demand signs in order to believe, it often turns out badly, as it did for Korihor.  Because it is so common, and because it seems natural to ask for a confirmation of belief, perhaps we wonder why this is.  D&C 63:7-11 explains it pretty well.  It seems that faith is part of what makes signs/miracles possible.  We know that Paul talks about the "faith to be healed" (Acts 14:9) as well as Christ telling the woman who touched the hem of his garment saying "thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22).  What happens when we have zero faith and ask anyway?  Maybe this... tailored to what God needs rather than what would be best for us, because we have no faith to help direct the power.  Korihor would have just kept deceiving the people had he not been struck dumb, so a sign that accomplished more than one thing for God was to stop the deception by striking him dumb.  A similar thing happens to Sherem in Jacob 7.  I think the idea here is that if we have faith, and we desire to be healed, or to have a prayer or question answered, or even just to find our keys, God will help us.  Signs and miracles are everyday occurrences among the believers, and we don't insult or tempt God by asking for his help.  But if we have no faith, and we are asking for a sign from a desire to embarrass others or prove them wrong, or because we think that we need a perfect knowledge before we give God a chance... then that is a total other thing.  It's like the newest intern walking up to the CEO and saying, 'Hey freakshow, you aren't the CEO.  You're lying.  I don't think you really have the power to make decisions around here.  Prove it.  PROVE IT!'  ... Do we have any doubt about what that CEO is going to use as proof?  Probably not give the intern a full-time job or a pay raise, right?  Is a reward a reasonable expectation at that point?
It's interesting how quickly Korihor decides that he has always believed.  He then asks for the curse to be removed.  Alma tells him that if he got his voice back that he would go back to his old ways, and he remains cursed.  This was good for the church... we learn that the people who he led astray were all converted again.  But Korihor was still lost.  ... I think that we're unfortunately a lot like Korihor sometimes.  We want something badly, and although it is an unwise request in the first place, we keep asking for it, sometimes rudely, with lots of whining, ignoring the consequences completely, and then something bad happens.  Sometimes the bad thing IS what we were asking for, and we find out, oh... I guess I should have been more careful with my wish.  Other times the bad thing is the consequence of our belligerence or not listening when God says no.  Either way, we are lightning fast when we backpedal.  Oh, no... no no no.  This isn't what we want.  This isn't what we asked for.  We're good, we're faithful, please take it away, please make things better... immediately we are begging for the opposite of what we wanted before. :)  But have our hearts changed in that instant?  Are we really different or repentant?  Likely, no.  We might want to be, and in that moment we of course will promise anything to get out of it... but if God delivers us, we will just blow it off as a promise made when we were scared, but now that things are normal again we don't need to be that dramatic.  ... Does this sound familiar?  It does to me.  And that is scary, right?  We're too much like Korihor. 
Today, let's work on NOT becoming dumb like Korihor was. :)  Let's not seek after signs, but instead work on our faith.  Let's not demand anything from the Lord, but always always put his will first.  And when we get ourselves into jams, let's not make empty promises... let's practice some sincere and heartfelt repentance.  Let's be open to changing our ideas, our attitudes, our actions, and even our self-definitions for God.  There is so much good to be had from lives lived in harmony with God and his gospel.  Let's let the signs follow righteous lives, and never ask for things out of order.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alma 1:21-24 -- On Softening our Hearts

"Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.
Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.
Now this was in the second year of the reign of Alma, and it was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church.
For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them."
Alma 1:21-24

In the beginning of this chapter, a man named Nehor is preaching false doctrine, and a man named Gideon stands up to him, and Nehor kills Gideon.  A lot of people pick up on Nehor's idea of preaching falsehoods to make money, and it causes a lot of persecution against the church... people outside the church saying, I imagine, things that are similar to what we hear today... that the rules are too strict, or arbitrary, and that God will save everyone, and there are no real behavioral rules because God is all about acceptance and love... that we should be able to do what we want, behave however we like, and that God will still save us.  That the church has become an obsolete fossil and that it should keep up with the times and with the views of society.
So, the church was weathering the storm of criticism, but then, in these verses, some of the church members began to be prideful and contend as well.  Some, I imagine, fighting against the people that were persecuting them from without, but also some of them also fighting with each other within the church about the doctrine and whether it should change.
This was a tragedy in the church... not of course because it shook the gospel or challenged God's word.  Those just are, and us thinking we're wiser than God can't affect the fact that he is *always* wiser, and his truth will always stand.  ... The tragedy was the fact that so many people were lost from the church, either through the action of the church, or because individuals withdrew themselves.
Six verses later, the church has been strengthened, and is rock solid and practically perfect again, taking care of the needy and really exemplifying a Zion attitude.  And the church will always weather storms like this and come out stronger and better, because Christ is at the helm.  But those people that were lost during the time of upheaval, they were still lost.  And I fear that in our day some of us are in danger of being lost as well.
I think that the big red flag in these verses is "there were many among them who began to be proud."  Our pride gets us every time.  Maybe we aren't motivated by money, as Nehor was, but like him, we think that we can tweak the gospel to our own ends.  That it obviously needs to be modified here and there.  That, plainly, the church is behind the times and needs us to speak up for it, or needs us to demand some kind of change.  So that the prophet, or God, can see how many people will support them in some desperately needed modernization. :)  ... Except, wait.  Are we starting to believe Nehor's lies?  Did we forget that it is *God* we're talking about here?  Do we not remember what prophets really are?  Have we completely misinterpreted events from church history as God bowing to popular demand?  Today, let's take a step back and remember that God knows what he is doing.  God and the church are not on trial here... they are not being tested.  We are.  And our affiliation with God is more valuable than *any* cause, more precious than *any* opinion.  Let's never risk that relationship in thinking that we know better than God, or thinking that we have caught the church in a mistake.  It is God's job to correct mistakes, through his prophet... not ours.  We need to hold our membership in his church close.  Recognize it as a valuable part of our salvation, because through it we have access to God's ordinances, to many gifts and many blessings.  It is not something to be lightly released or bargained with.  If we have questions and concerns, that's natural.  Let's go to the Lord.  Let's study those things and learn all we can about them.  Let's pray our hearts out, and ask God to teach us the truth behind our concerns.  He will.  It isn't always immediate, but God always answers our questions, as we are able to understand the answers.  ... And while we're waiting for answers, let's be obedient.  Let's have some faith in God... the answers come as we draw near to God, not as we walk away from him.  He's the source.  Let's not... please, let's not... risk our membership and our souls in claiming that we know better than God does, or in teaching others that any of the guidelines of God's church are false.  Whenever there is a problem between ourselves and God, it's never God that has walked away.  It's always we that have wandered.  Let's not be the casualties in the cycle of pride.  Let's soften our hearts, and turn to God.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 101:81-85 -- On Justice

"Now, unto what shall I liken the children of Zion? I will liken them unto the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, for men ought always to pray and not to faint, which saith—
There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man.
And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
Thus will I liken the children of Zion."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:81-85

This is an interesting parable.  And it seems kind of opposite what we usually learn as children, which is often along the lines of be nice, and don't bug people.  But in this parable, the widow keeps asking for justice, and though the judge doesn't really care about justice, he gives it to her because she keeps asking, over and over again.  So... what does this mean for us, and how can we apply it in our lives?  I think that one thing that God is teaching us here is patience and persistence.  We don't always get what we want, or need, or what will solve our problems the first time we ask.  We don't always get it the forty-fifth time either... and truly, we don't always get it, period.  Sometimes we need to be focused on our current blessings and being happy for what we have now, and we shouldn't always persist if *God* says no.  But when it is an imperfect authority, and it is right to ask for justice, for compassion, or for a listening ear so that people can understand our perspective and we can resolve differences, then God encourages us to keep working through "proper channels" to solve our problems, and not to give up.  He says later in this section that if it doesn't work that he will take care of it... but his solution is kind of zapping them, and he encourages us to pray for them to listen so that he won't have to solve the problem that way.
And on the other side, as we so often are, let's be willing to listen to people who come to us for justice or for a resolution.  Let's not be unjust, even to people we dislike, or who have wronged us in the past.  Let's not make people have to come back dozens of times for a resolution.  Let's take care of the problem now, and help people wherever we can, giving them the benefit of the doubt, letting go of the past and our dislike or mistrust or desire for revenge.  Let's do all we can to be just and fair and good, and to let go of our hatred and envy and resentment.  Let's be children of Zion, encouraging love and unity and oneness, and never division or drama.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 -- On Going God's Way

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s."
1 Corinthians 6:18-20

We had a lesson at church today that brought up the idea that we need to take care of our bodies.  I think sometimes we discount the whole idea.  And even doctrinally in some ways it can seem confusing.  For instance, "Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul" (D&C 101:37).  It almost seems contradictory to that idea.  We need to control our appetites and passions, not idolize them... as it illustrates above.  So what is this idea that our bodies are cool and something we should take care of?  Well, I think it is in there in all of those places, but sometimes we look at it the wrong way.  The D&C verse for instance... perhaps it isn't saying that we can throw our bodies away in favor of our spirits, but that we need to work with them together.  Often in the scriptures the "soul" is used as a combination of all of what we are, not just spirit, not just body.  In D&C 88:15 it says "And the spirit and the body are the soul of man," and in 1 Thessalonians it says "your whole spirit and soul and body," which is a little confusing, but I think still the whole idea of it being all the parts of us, fused into a whole, is there.  The idea of putting spiritual things first doesn't contradict the idea of respecting ourselves and keeping ourselves clean so that God can hang out with us.
One of the main reasons that we came to this earth is to gain a body.  It was a gift from God, and it helps us to become that much more like God.  He gave it to us so we could learn to understand it and control it, which makes it seem separate, but also to make it a part of us.  To have our spirits and bodies work together in such unification that later, when we die and temporarily lose our bodies again, it will seem to us like bondage to be without one (see D&C 138:50).  And although in the end we will all be resurrected and not fear death or sickness anymore, right now we are learning to unite our spirits and bodies and make correct choices so we can return to God.  That can't be done if we are not taking care of both parts of ourselves.  We can't offend in body and remain true in spirit.  Both have to be united.  These verses talk about the seriousness of sinning against our own bodies... most sins are separate from us.  Things that we can let go of or walk away from.  Things we can apologize for or mistakes we can correct.  But fornication and other sexual sin is more serious.  We're wrapping ourselves up in the sin so much more than theft or envy or contention, making it part of ourselves, and driving God away.  It's like a scary form of pride and idol worship put together... exalting our own pleasure above our respect for God, and even while pretending our bodies are what matter, we are corrupting them, and putting our own judgement before God's.  Sexual actions and feelings aren't inherently bad at all... they are given to us by God for good reason, but when we abuse them outside his boundaries, then we offend God and harm ourselves a lot.  God doesn't want us to feel soul-torn having to give up that kind of intimacy.  He doesn't want people to be faced with unplanned pregnancies or children to grow up feeling unwanted.  He doesn't want people to feel trapped into marriage, and he doesn't want us to go through the kind of emotional and physical loss it takes to move on to a new relationship after being that close.  He doesn't want us to value that extremity of emotion more than real people and become addicted to the need to have it all the time... And he definitely doesn't want us to go through or feel any of that without the benefit and comfort of his Spirit helping us through it and helping us get back on track.  But we're choosing so many unseen consequences the minute we make those first poor choices.  Often before fully understanding the risks.  It might be a poor example, but it reminds me of drunk driving.  I don't think that anyone ever sits down to drink thinking, oh, I'm going to go cause a car accident today... but sexual actions involve such serious risks and dangers that drunk driving pales in comparison.  We accept those risks as part of what we are choosing.  We don't want to think that we're out of control or that we are causing harm to ourselves or others, but every time we disregard God's boundaries, that is exactly where we are, and we risk much more than we realize, not knowing the full extent of our folly until we are in the middle of it, or trying to make the really, unbelievably tough trek back out of it.
"Flee fornication" reminds me of Joseph and Potiphar's wife.  She tried to seduce him, and he literally fled.  And I think that is a very good example for us.  We should run away from sexual sin as fast and as far as we can, never assuming that we can get closer and still walk away.  It's too far of a fall to risk, and the price and the pain of consequence and repentance is much higher than the pleasure derived.  No one, last of all me, is saying that running away or avoiding sexual sin is easy, especially in a society which would like us to believe that it is just a natural part of growing up, or dating, or that everyone cheats, or that God's boundaries don't matter at all.  But as with every other commandment, God gives us rules to protect us, not to harm or control us.  We will always be happier in the end if we do it God's way.  Let's trust him, and not risk our souls over this.  Let's remember that our bodies are a gift, and we are God's, and his way leads to redemption and peace.  Our way stinks.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mosiah 16:4-5 -- On Choosing Not to Be Lost

"Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.
But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God."
Mosiah 16:4-5

I don't think I've ever thought a lot about the idea of mankind being lost.  It was just kind of a background thing... the fall and the redemption.  Kind of beyond what we can really comprehend except on a basic level.  Something way too generic to feel personally.  I mean... *all* of mankind.  We're all lost, and all saved through Christ.  Except today I was reading this and I realized that it is a very personal thing... all of it.  And I think we all feel it.  Maybe we're always fighting not to feel it... isolated, desolate, incomplete.  Paranoid, empty, anxious, hopeless... we feel the fall.  The distance.  We are, indeed, lost.
I think that coming to Earth is probably painful for us on many levels.  Being a newborn and learning to use a body for the first time can't be easy... but on a spiritual level too, this is the first time that we have been separated from God.  And that is what the fall was, and is.  That void in our souls where God used to be constantly.  And we grow up feeling it, but not really knowing how to fill it.  We try a lot of things... wow.  And spectacularly *fail* to fill the void, over and over again.  Maybe forget it for a short time, but then it is always back, bigger than ever.  And it's hard to live with.  Distracting.  Hard to think with so much emptiness, with so much lack.  It's kind of like doing a puzzle and 400 of the most important middle pieces are missing, comprising most of the picture.  We might pour in glue, or tape another picture over it, or throw the puzzle in the garbage bin and try to ignore it or forget it is there... but it never goes away.  And then, at some point, we meet God, become reacquainted.  Realize that we've always known him on some level.  See our souls and our lives, fitting with other people easily for a few pieces and creating beauty, but here, this... God fills the space in between all the rest of it.  He makes it work.  Makes it all beautiful and perfect and complete.  And we realize that we don't have to be lost, because of him.
Today, let's remember where our wholeness and our peace come from.  Let's never choose to be lost again, let alone "endlessly."  Let's let go of being fallen.  Let's relinquish the carnality, the sin, the rebellion.  We don't need them.  Yes, it is painful in this life sometimes... but the answer is never to burn the puzzle to ash. :)  Let's ask God back into our lives, and let him banish the darkness and the emptiness.  Let's get on our knees and ask him to teach us how to feel complete... how to be okay.  Let's choose never to be lost again.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Psalms 96:11-13 -- On Taking Out the Trash

"Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.
Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice
Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth."
Psalms 96:11-13

I like the idea of the earth and the sea and the field and the wood all being aware and happy that the Lord is coming.  The idea of being happy about being judged isn't something that we usually encounter in our everyday lives.  Often, judgement is something that we are afraid of, or that we attempt in a broken way so that we offend people and leave a mess behind.  But the abundant joy in these verses isn't for our broken kind of judgement or even mostly for a scary judgement that we would like to run from.  I think this is something that we all want at our cores.  ... For the world to be just and whole.  For the corruption to be gone.  To be able to love and trust without fear of being used or swindled.  We want to be able to support leaders who are good.  We want to know that our children can play without fearing a kidnapper.  I even think that for the most part we want the bad part of ourselves to be gone, even if we aren't sure how to go about it, or it seems impossible or too painful right now.  ... And I think that is why the earth and the sea and all the rest are rejoicing.  Because God's judgement offers us freedom from all the bad things.
God will judge us with truth.  Interesting, and a little scary perhaps.  We are often afraid of people knowing the whole truth... what we really think about something, shame of past actions, fear that people would treat us differently if they knew what we felt or thought about this topic or that topic, or if they knew what we had done.  So, definitely natural to be scared of all the truth coming out.  But thinking about all the good that it will *also* do... I think we can understand a little joyfulness on the part of the trees. :)  And in a way, is the truth something that we *want* to be afraid of?  It might sting a little at first, but then it seems like it could be so much better than before.  Won't it be a relief to know all the secrets, and have other people know ours?  We never will have to hide from anything again.  If we can get past that initial reveal, then all of our relationships will be better--nothing left that could be based on deception or pretense.  And even though we have done bad things, isn't it *also* the truth that we want to change and grow and become different, better people?  If we can accept that about each other, and even help each other with the process, it seems like the absolute truth could be a glorious, beautiful place to live. :)
Today, let's remember the joy of God's judgement... and let's start getting ready for our place in that better world by cleaning up our lives, and getting rid of the things that we don't want anyone to see in our hearts and our minds.  God will help us take out the trash, no matter how dirty the job... we just have to get to the point where we are willing to let go of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Romans 16:17-19 -- On Choosing Unity over Division

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil."
Romans 16:17-19

I find it interesting that Paul tells the saints here to kind of stay out of it and avoid certain people when there are divisions and offenses.  It's not really typical gospel advice to avoid people... just evil.  And I think our tendency when we see this kind of thing, inside the church or out, is to think about it and pick a side.  And it's not a horrible choice to think things through, but maybe Paul has some good insight here about whether those investments are even worth our time.
Recently at the company I work for, some people that I know lost their jobs.  And several people are talking about whether or not it was "fair" and talking about why, could it happen to us as well, and many other things.  It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it is a little bit like what Paul is talking about here.  We spend time getting worked up about things and whether they were just or not and worrying about how it applies to our lives, and we kind of make ourselves sick over they "why" of things that we have no control over and which don't really have to affect us, rather than focusing on continuing friendship or helping someone who has just lost a job, or on being good employees or helping our users/customers.
Turning it back to the gospel, I'm definitely not saying that we should follow blindly or not understand our own beliefs, and I don't think that Paul is saying that either.  I think that he's saying that we can choose our focus.  We should avoid contentions, and not waste our time on things that don't serve God, but that just stir up trouble.  If things are important to us, pertinent to our salvation, or they affect our testimonies, then for sure we should study them and find the truth for ourselves.  But if not, then maybe avoiding the argument entirely is a good choice.  I love the "wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil" part.  We definitely don't need to spend our time studying and researching things that just help us know more about bad stuff.  With all that time, we could instead be studying something good and cool and that makes us happier... and that would be a better use of our time.  And in general, loving people and helping them is a good idea, but if all they are interested in is getting us to be bitter about some aspect of the gospel, avoiding that topic, or the really persistent person behind the topic, might be a good choice.
And of course, as always, let's be careful that *we* aren't being the bad guys.  Let's not stir things up or cause contentions just for the sake of argument.  Let's not ask others to waste their time worrying about things that don't matter or which cause divisions.  Instead, as it says in Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Isaiah 1:5 -- On Tantrums

"Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint."
Isaiah 1:5

When I was a little kid, I would be upset and crying about something inconsolably, so out of control that I would be breathing in great gasps, not able to get enough air.  And my mom would tell me to calm down... that I was making myself sick.  And I was.  Whatever small thing it was that I was upset about was not in any way proportionate to the level of my emotional disturbance.  I'd like to say that I've grown out of that completely, but maybe I haven't.  And I think that what God is saying here is similar to what my mother said.  We're making ourselves sick.  We sin and rebel and try to assert our wills by raging against what has been done "to" us, when really, no matter what it is, our rage and our anger and our rebellion are out of proportion.  Instead of looking for ways to solve our problems, we're making ourselves sick.
Yes, definitely some things in our lives just are, and aren't necessarily chosen.  For example, I didn't choose to have allergies, and people don't usually choose to get cancer or any other ailment.  And things we don't choose are hard sometimes.  It's hard to know that we're going to experience pain, that there are things that we can't do, or be, or have, because of something we didn't have control over.  And yet, I still say that we're making ourselves sick.  Why?  Because "he that is happy shall be happy still" (Mormon 9:14).  We all have challenges.  Yes, some are bigger than others... but we all get big ones at different times.  And the test here is to find a way to be happy anyway.  To find God in the darkness, and know that he can *never* be taken from us.  He is our peace and our happiness, if we turn to him.  In Mosiah 24:15, the people of Alma were slaves, being driven like animals, and God visited them and strengthened them, so that they "did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  ... And I'm not saying that slavery is the worst thing or that it is worse than that thing that is happening to us now.  But it was a big, scary thing, and they learned to submit cheerfully to it, with God's help.  I think that we all can do that, with all of our burdens, if we turn to the Lord and let him teach us, and let him help us.
Today, let's try not to make ourselves sick.  Let's choose our emotions and our actions and choose happiness even in the worst circumstances.  Let's turn to God for help in learning and overcoming rather than raging against him.  He loves us, and he will help us as we look to him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mormon 1:15-17 -- On Preaching

"And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.
And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them; for behold they had wilfully rebelled against their God; and the beloved disciples were taken away out of the land, because of their iniquity.
But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts; and because of the hardness of their hearts the land was cursed for their sake."
Mormon 1:15-17

This is Mormon talking about his childhood after Ammaron had asked him to take up the plates of Nephi, but before he was old enough to do so.  What intrigued me about this selection was the fact that the Lord forbade him from preaching.  And that made me wonder... do we realize how big a blessing preaching is in our lives?  Alma 31:5 talks a little bit about how powerful preaching was to the people.  It says, in part, "it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them."  And hopefully most of us have experienced the power of attending church... and at least part of the power of that attendance is the power of preaching the word of God.  We go to church partly for that, and that is part of what renews us, and helps us to feel the spirit.  Listening to the words of God, and letting them seep into our souls and inspire us to do better and to be better.
In our society being "preachy" has a negative connotation.  We don't like people telling us what to do or how to behave or trying to convert us into little mindless sheep.  ... Oh, but wait.  Is that what preaching really is?  Only when used badly... as a sledgehammer rather than a life vest.  When we tell people about the hope in our lives and our belief in God, it doesn't have to be about force or coercion or condemnation.  And it definitely doesn't have to be mindless. :)  God likes us to think about what we are doing, and understand it. :)  Preaching is powerful... it is just talking about the word of God.  It can be a blog post, an email, or a quiet chat.  It doesn't have to be scary, or antagonistic. :)  Today, let's try to be less resistant to preaching... which is a good thing.  As we learn above, it is something God allows us to receive because our hearts are still a little bit open, so there is still hope for us.  Let's listen with thankfulness and work on learning from the word of God, wherever we encounter it.  And on the other side, let's also not use our preaching as a club with which to maim others or prove that they are doomed.  If they really were, we would be forbidden to preach to them anyway, as above.  Let's always assume the best, and use preaching only to bring joy, and hope.  Let's carry God's message of happiness in order to save all of us and bring us closer to Him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Job 32:7-10 -- On Opinions

"I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.
Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion."
Job 32:7-10

In our society we get caught up in honors and titles and preferential order sometimes... rank, age, title, position... whatever it is.  And because someone has one of those things we honor him or her more, or pay him or her more respect.  And sometimes it is deserved, no question... older people often are wiser, and many times people who have titles have them because they know what they are doing. :)  But let's remember also the wisdom here.  God speaks to our spirits, and helps us know right from wrong.  We should all learn to tap into that higher wisdom, and never be afraid to express our opinions just because we are younger or without a title. :)  Or never be afraid to listen to someone younger than ourselves or who has a lesser title.
Of course, we also shouldn't use this as an excuse to disrespect anyone.  As we go throughout our day, let's remember to listen to God first, and make obedience to him our priority.  Let's offer sincere respect to other people as we learn to love them and consider their opinions, no matter our relative age, rank, or anything else.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Proverbs 17:5-6 -- On Listening to Our Father

"Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers."
Proverbs 17:5-6

Some good advice from our Father today.  No mocking others, or being happy when bad things happen to anyone. :) And on the positive side, let's also remember the importance of children, and of learning, of growing, of understanding each other.  Let's rejoice in our fathers... earthly and heavenly, and recognize the great blessings that they have been to us.  For the gift of life and for the chance to learn how to think and become.  Let's respect and love fathers, parents, and God for the ability we have to just be here, today, reading and thinking about our blessings.
We are children of earthly parents and also of God.  Let's learn from him today, and remember that we *are* children, and we are in need of some growth and some wisdom.  Let's help others, no matter their circumstances, and be happy when good things happen to them.  Let's be pro whatever we love and whatever is good and not anti other people. They are children of God as well.  God asks us to love and not to hate.  Let's love him, and listen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jacob 2:17-20 -- On Learning to Share

"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?"
Jacob 2:17-20

If we learned this lesson, it would be a huge step toward becoming a Zion society with "no poor among them" (Moses 7:18), wouldn't it?  It's tough for sure.  As little children we say "MINE!" a lot... and we don't really ever unlearn that very well, no matter how many times we're told to share.  But maybe there's still a chance to listen. :)  Think of a world where we really did think of other people like we think of ourselves.  Where we were open and giving, and where we always sought God before money.  The money we got we would use to help enrich others, so we could all have more than enough rather than us having more and others having less.  Isn't that a world worth working towards?  A future worth an investment? :)  I think it is an offer and a promise from God, that if we will only make the effort and learn to share, that we can live in that kind of world, and have that kind of life.
Yes, it is hard to give up what we've earned and give it to someone who hasn't made an effort... and so easy to feel like we're throwing *our* money away or that we deserve better because we work harder.  But when we think that way, is it really accurate?  I don't know that we can really know the circumstances of the people around us.  Would we change our minds if we knew that this individual poverty wasn't associated with laziness, but instead illness or injustice?  Would we give if it were our mother, or brother, or child, no matter the circumstances?  As King Benjamin says, "are we not all beggars" (Mosiah 4:19)?  As it mentions above, everything we have is something God has given us.  Even when we work our butts off for it, God gives us that opportunity, and it isn't only due to effort that there are changes in our circumstances.  Sometimes we find ourselves with an abundance, and other times, we really, really need help from other people.  God gives us those needs, and those opportunities so that we can learn... and one of those lessons is learning to share. :)
I know.  Still.  It is hard.  We're still yelling MINE!  But even if we are totally right and some do take advantage of our generosity, does that mean we shouldn't give?  That we shouldn't try?  Even the people in our closest circles probably could use help sometimes.  And the part that seals the deal for me is that God just plain *tells* us to give.  Above of course, and then just in case we don't think that is clear, in many other places.  In Matthew 5:42 and 3 Nephi 12:42 he says "Give to him that asketh thee."  An even more obvious statement is in Luke 6:30: "Give to every man that asketh of thee," which makes it clear that we are supposed to give to *every* person that asks, not just occasionally. 
I'm not saying it is easy.  I think we all wish we had a little bit more.  A nicer place to live, a nicer television, nicer furniture, a better seat on the airplane, a tricked-out laptop and the fastest internet anywhere.  We'd probably all like other people to think that we are cool and have it together, and material possessions really do make some things easier.  But here, today, God is asking us to revisit the lesson that we've been trying to learn since we were toddlers.  Let's let go of our resistance, and even if it is in tiny steps, let's build a better world.  Let's start learning to love people more, and share what we have.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Matthew 12:35 -- On Kicking Evil to the Curb.

"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."
Matthew 12:35

I think this is interesting in terms of looking at ourselves and seeing who we are.  Christ is clearly equating our inner and outer selves here.  What we do and say is based on what we feel and think... and so you can pretty much tell who we are inside by what actions we take.  ... To ourselves though, I don't think this is always the way we look at it.  We can feel like we're good even when we do bad things because it was just that once, or they totally deserved it, or it's how you have to play the game at work, or I was grumpy that day, or circumstances pretty much forced the issue, or she started it, or they were trying to cheat me, or ... whatever it is.  And I'm not even saying that there isn't some truth in some of that... only that there isn't enough truth to make bad into good.  I think maybe we need to step back and realize that there *is* no justification for evil.  Not ever.  And when we do bad things, we are becoming bad people.  We don't want one bad action to make us all bad... and maybe it doesn't, by itself.  But it does show that there was badness in us already.  The answer isn't to justify and say, oh, well, we're mostly good. :)  The solution is to repent, and find a way to root out the evil parts of ourselves.
The scariest part I think is that often we actually believe that we *can* keep the bad parts.  We think on some level that they are part of who we are.  We say, "oh, that's the way I am" to justify some bad action or attitude, and are content to remain that way, or even become proud of it.  Unfortunately, even the bad parts that we think are built in by personality or genetics or social environment are going to have to go, if we want to be good.  And that can seem overwhelming, when we are kind of addicted to our witty cruelty or we like blaming our sexual misconduct on the genetics passed down from the hunter-gatherer society, or whatever else it is that we want to keep because it feels like who we are.  We worry about ripping ourselves apart and not being able to go back together, or maybe we feel that we won't even *be* us without that.  But today, let's remember that there is a core of us that is purely good.  That is the part that wants to return to God.  And that part doesn't need any of the badness.  We can be amazingly witty without the cruelty.  We can be satisfied and happy while following God's laws.  We can be ourselves and so much better *without* the bad.  Let's kick the evil to the curb.  Let's find out who we are without it.  Let's give up our souvenirs of Hell, and remember that Heaven has better rides anyway. :)  Let's be good, inside and out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

1 Samuel 17:32-37 -- On Facing the Giant Scariness

"And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee."
1 Samuel 17:32-37

This is part of the story of David and Goliath.  We've probably all heard it, but it struck me today because I think that we are all familiar with the idea of the overwhelming, scary obstacle. :)  Goliath had been taunting the Israelite armies for over a month.  Coming out, challenging *anyone* in their camp to come fight with him in single combat to resolve the differences between their nations.  He was huge and scary, and they could tell just by looking at him that if anyone tried, he would eat them for lunch (figuratively).  And then here comes David, sent by his dad to bring food to his brothers.  And he sees Goliath, and can't believe that he is standing against the army of God.  He sees him with a different perspective... as a lion or a bear among his sheep.  And he has handled that kind of threat before.  He knows that God will help him, and so he goes, he slings his stone, and then he cuts off his head with his own sword.
And isn't this the story of our lives as well?  We are like the Israelite armies so often, facing something that terrifies us.  It's a giant.  It's something we can't possibly dream of facing.  We know that we will lose, and so we run away, or delay, or avoid.  We sit camped with our armies for months, waiting.
Sometimes we're even like Goliath.  We intimidate and press and try to get other people to back down, knowing they can't touch us in a real battle.  But when we have the spirit with us... when we are on the same page with God, then we know first, which side of the battle we should be on, and we also know that with God's help we can remove the opposition.
Sometimes the opposition is ourselves, in Goliath mode, and all we have to do is get that brutish part of ourselves to repent and back down, realizing that we are on the wrong side of the battle.  Not easy, but less bloody. :)  Sometimes we are in scared army mode and we have to stop running away and realize that we can face our fears... that God will help us.  And sometimes, when we are really blessed, and really lucky, we get to play David, and help other people overcome their big scary problems. :)  Then we get to be the hero and save the day. :)
Today, let's face and take down the giant scariness in our lives.  Let's get rid of the impossible-seeming things that stand in the way of our progression... even when it is ourselves.  And let's also help others remember that nothing is too big for the Lord.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 101:2-5 -- On Sanctification

"I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:2-5

I think sometimes we forget, or don't realize, what life is about.  We think it might be about getting ahead, or finding someone to love, or getting lots of toys.  Maybe it is about finding personal happiness, or about raising a family.  Maybe it is just about being as rich as we can possibly get. :)  Often, we're looking around for whatever will get us the most points, but we don't understand what game we're playing.
Now, given, some of those things I mentioned above are, or can be, good.  And in a way, happiness *is* our goal.  2 Nephi 2:25 tells us " are, that they might have joy."  But becoming happy isn't just doing whatever makes us feel good in the moment.  It isn't a quest to "find ourselves" (except in the sense of Matthew 10:39).  And it can't be limited.  We can't love our families but feel like it is okay to cheat the rest of the world.  The way to happiness, and the purpose of life is kind of summed up in Alma 34:32: "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God."  Happiness and salvation come through God's plan for us, and as it says in these verses, sanctification is a process that involves chastening and trials.  ... Of course, this can still involve happiness along the way.  I am definitely not saying that we have to suffer our whole lives and then get an eternal reward of joy.  After all, we're restored to what we are.  As it says in Mormon 9:14, "he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."  Learning to be happy is important to future happiness.  But there *will* be trials.
Why trials?  Why can't we just be happy all the time?  Why did Abraham have to be tested anyway?  What is the point of injecting scary things or sad things into our lives, or asking us to do horrible things like Abraham was asked?  Excellent questions... and I think that these verses tells us at least part of why.  God wants us to be his, and his plan is to bring us back into his presence.  Thus, the preparing to meet God part.  We need to learn enough and grow enough and clean ourselves up enough, inside and out, that we are prepared as much as possible to literally "meet our maker."  And to learn and grow, we have to have change, and change doesn't often come without some sort of impetus.  We like to sit around and veg too much.  So, the impetus is usually trials.  And so something happens and we have to deal with it... and through dealing with it, depending on the way we deal with it, we hopefully improve and grow and change for the better.  And, as with Abraham, we all have to face trials that help us learn and see and change for the better.  What God asked Abraham seems impossibly hard.  Abraham was drawn to God in the first place to get away from human sacrifice.  His father had pretty much done the same thing to him, and he ran away and found a new way.  This was at the very foundation of who he was... human sacrifice is wrong.  And then God asked him to sacrifice his son.  Wow, what?  Say that again?  Why would you ever do that?  ... But remember, Abraham had been now following God for many many years.  He had learned to trust him.  He walked with the spirit.  He had seen many miracles.  He was a prophet.  He knew God was trustworthy and wouldn't ask him to do anything that was wrong.  And so this ultimate test was given.  And God proved trustworthy in the end and provided a ram to sacrifice.  But the test wasn't about God's trustworthiness.  That is a given.  ... It was about changing Abraham.  Showing Abraham who he was, and that he needed to believe in God and trust him down to the core of his soul.  Showing him that we have to be willing to put the Lord before everything else, and give everything that we have and are to him.
I doubt that any of us are going to be asked to sacrifice our children on an altar.  But we are asked to sacrifice them in other ways... sending them to serve missions, or losing them to sickness or accident.  We face trials in our own bodies like cancer or mental illness or feeling sexual attraction outside the boundaries the Lord has set.  We face conflicts with people all the time.  Road rage, pedestrian rage, tantrums, misunderstandings... they are par for the course.  We're going to face things that test us to the core.  Why?  Because that is what it takes to be sanctified... to be ready to meet God.  But what we don't have to do is suffer needlessly or hold on to things forever.  God doesn't do any of these things to us exclusively as a punishment.  It is all so that we can learn lessons that make us better people, or better able to face future events.  It's kind of like being in elementary school and having a hard time with math.  It's the most tortuous and pointless thing that we have encountered so far in our young lives.  We get angry, we say it is stupid.  We refuse to learn it.  And the only thing we accomplish is delaying the lesson.  We have to learn it anyway at some point.  We have to overcome that hurdle in order to progress to the next grade, and the next challenge, eventually college, etc.
Let's stop being angry with the Lord for our trials.  Let's start learning from them, building on them where possible, and working to be the best we can be, and the happiest we can be, WITH them.  *That's* what it takes to prepare to meet God.  That's what it takes to be sanctified.  Meeting every challenge and finding ways to be happy and courageous anyway.  Accepting the hard lessons, and being grateful for the resultant strength and love and compassion and knowledge.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Acts 14:13-15 -- On Giving God the Credit

"Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:"
Acts 14:13-15

This is part of a story about Paul and Barnabas healing a man who had never been able to walk.  I think that even now, if doctors could heal a man who had never walked, he would need some therapy and help before he was able to walk... but here, with God's healing, the man leaps and walks immediately.  When the people see it, they decide Paul and Barnabas must be gods... specifically Jupiter and Mercury, and they call them by those names and (as shown in these verses) bring some oxen down to sacrifice to them.  Obviously, this wasn't the result they had intended, and they quickly go out and work to convince the people not to sacrifice to them.  They tell the people that they are just men, with the same passions, but that there is something better, and that is God.
By saying that they had the same passions, they are basically saying that they have faults.  They are mortal.  And I think that is a very hard things for us to admit sometimes.  We want people to like us... maybe we wouldn't even mind if they worshipped us.  We like the attention.  But what Paul and Barnabas did here is telling, and something that we can emulate in our lives.  For example, just the other day a girl at work asked me how I had dealt with something extremely difficult.  The answer was, perhaps obviously, prayer.  But it was very hard for me to *say* that.  I'm sure it was partly that I didn't want her to mock the idea of prayer.  But there was also a part of me that wanted to take credit... that wanted her to think of me as strong and resilient and amazing. :)  ... But, just like it would have been a mistake for Paul and Barnabas to allow the people of Lystra to sacrifice to them, it is a mistake for us to take credit for God... not only because we're setting ourselves up in his place, but because others deserve to know how they can get similar results in their lives. :)
Today, let's remember to not try to look perfect.  We have faults.  It is okay for other people to know that... it might help us all work together to overcome them.  And let's also remember to give God the credit for the amazing things that he does in our lives each day.  For the forgiveness, the grace, the peace, the inspiration, the ideas, the comfort... the ability to leap and walk, and all the rest. :)  He is the one that is perfect... but he helps us all, even in our imperfection, as we strive to become more like him.  Instead of keeping that amazing bounty to ourselves, let's introduce others to him, and let them know the source of our strength.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Numbers 3:9-13 -- On Belonging to the Lord

"And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.
And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine;
Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord."
Numbers 3:9-13

I like the idea of belonging to the Lord.  Before this, God had told Moses "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine."  This was for many reasons, I'm sure, one of which was so that the Israelites would remember having their firstborn saved while the Egyptian's firstborn were killed.  It is also very clearly symbolic of Christ and his sacrifice for us.  And here, God switches over to "owning" the Levites instead of the firstborn.  Interestingly, in D&C 13, speaking of the Aaronic priesthood, it says "and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness," perhaps suggesting that will happen at some future point?  Of course, the Nephites didn't have any Levites, and in the modern day we don't have any that I know of in the priesthood, or any specific descendents of Aaron, so we have to make do with what we have, as it discusses in D&C 107:16-17.
Why the Levites though, or even why the firstborn?  Why do they belong to the Lord and not others?  If we equate it with priesthood, we could in the modern day ask why men?  Why these limitations?  And I think that when we start thinking that way, we get it exactly backwards.  Belonging to the Lord isn't a limitation.  It's a huge responsibility.  The firstborn couldn't say... hey, choose my brother instead.  He likes administrative stuff more, and I would rather be a soldier.  Levites didn't get a regular inheritance in Canaan like all the rest of the tribes.  They couldn't just choose not to belong to the Lord, and if they were working in the temple they couldn't just say I don't like this, I want to be a dentist.  ... Now, of course, in addition to being a responsibility, it was also a great blessing.  Belonging to the Lord involved serving God, which is amazingly rewarding... but those are rewards available to everyone.  Including revelation and prophecy.  Moses said "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets," (Numbers 11:29) and Revelations 19:10 tells us that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Maybe God's choice of who were his as a specific administrative group is symbolic, like it was with the firstborn.  Perhaps it was an easier division of labor, as it could have been with the Levites.  One thing we are certain of is that it was not because they were the only people God was willing to talk to.  He is willing, and even anxious, to talk with *all* his children.  He wants to bless and help everyone.  So we know that belonging to God didn't mean exclusive access. :) I submit that the same is true today.
God chose the firstborn and the Levites to belong to him, and he chooses the men today as a similar administrative group, holding the offices of the priesthood.  Great responsibilities and blessings are tied up in that requirement, and God's choice should be respected.  But that choice doesn't make men automatically spiritual, or women automatically not.  It doesn't mean that blessings and revelation are limited by gender.  And it probably doesn't prevent any of us from belonging to God even if we aren't in that particular group.  We can choose to belong to him every day... just because God chooses one group to administrate doesn't mean that he doesn't need a lot more volunteers. :)
Today, instead of worrying about who is in charge or who is more favored, let's remember that we all have direct access to the Lord, and can accept his power in our lives.  We all have the opportunity to change the world, to make a difference, to bless other people's lives immeasurably.  No one stands between us and God.  No one stops us from talking to him and knowing everything that there is to know.  No one can limit our access to God.  Only we do that, by our desires and our choices.  Let's go to the Lord with all our questions, with all our concerns, and with all of our ideas about changing the world, and let's let him answer, and calm, and empower us as only he can. Let's choose to belong to him.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Alma 5:26-30 -- On Avoiding Complacency

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?"
Alma 5:26-30

A good reminder today.  Conversion and dedication to God requires a change of heart... we have to inwardly be committed just as much as our outward actions show.  We not only have to avoid evil, we have to believe that it is, in fact, evil. :)  We can start with purely physical obedience, but we have to get our hearts and heads into it as well, before we can say that we are truly converted.  A lot of this chapter deals with those things, but here it talks about later.  If we have been truly converted and we have felt that mighty change of heart... can we feel so now?  Are we sustaining that belief and that perspective in our lives?  It goes further, basically reminding us that conversion isn't a one-time blink of emotion... it is a new perspective that changes who we are.  And it prepares us for eternity. :)  Once we are converted, we sometimes think that is it, we're done, but as we learn especially in Alma 31:19, it is just a beginning.  These verses talk about other things that we need to do to be "prepared to meet God" ... that idea is a powerful one.  With him standing in front of us, could we answer all of these questions positively?  Have we been humble and clean?  Have we gotten rid of pride and envy from our lives?  Do we mock others, or persecute them?  Definitely not judging any of you, but I'm guessing that collectively we're not there yet.
Sustained effort is hard... that word "effort" in there kind of gives it away, I guess. :)  And part of us wants all of our difficult projects to be over.  We want to do something and have it be done... not to have to revisit it over and over again.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for us, the gospel isn't like that.  Imagine if we as children reached the old age of 13 and then we had said, that's it, I'm done.  I've grown enough.  I'm exactly the way that I want to be right now, and there is no reason for me to change.  If somehow we had been able to stop our physical and intellectual growth there, our lives would now be in shambles, right?  Those people that we used to be needed to learn a lot.  And I submit to you that we're all still about 13 spiritually.  We still have so far to go.  Today, let's renew our dedication to being and feeling converted, both inwardly and outwardly.  And let's remember that some part of ourselves is still 13, and not be complacent about who we are or what we've accomplished.  Let's work on answering the questions posed here, and be open to learning more, and preparing better.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2 Thessalonians 2:12 -- On Avoiding Damnation

"That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
2 Thessalonians 2:12

As good as God is, we sometimes think we can avoid the reality of negative consequences for our actions.  We want God to save everyone, and for everyone to prove good in the end.  We love stories of redemption, and to see that even the worst people might have a good side and a desire to come back to the light.  We love it when Darth Vader becomes a good guy by turning to the light in the end.  :)
Please don't misunderstand me... God is indeed good, and it is true that in almost all cases, we can be redeemed, if we turn around.  If we come back to God.  But it is that "if" that stands in our way... and perhaps there is also a point of no return.  A point after which we cannot turn around--where we become "past feeling."  I don't know where that is, and really only God can say how far is too far, but I would definitely not follow in Darth Vader's footsteps or count on that kind of extreme deathbed repentance.
I think that the point here, in this verse warning us of damnation, is that we really have to change how we view the world.  It isn't enough by itself to just say sorry or stop doing evil.  We have to believe it is wrong, and also feel that it is bad.  And that is hard sometimes.  We don't always get there immediately.  We can trust God that it is wrong and stop doing it, which helps us not find pleasure in it.  But sometimes we still want to, or we take pleasure in the memories of when we *did* do it... so, at some point, I think we also have to learn why... so that we don't want to go back, so that we don't resent God taking whatever it is away from us.  ... Eventually, our heads and our hearts have to agree with our actions.  In addition to avoiding bad things because God says so, we have to ask God to teach us *why* something is bad, so that we believe not just in God's judgement, but in the *truth* that it is bad.  Then, perhaps, we understand the lesson completely, and can also teach others.
Today, let's avoid damnation. :)  Let's not do bad things, and let's also learn why they are bad, and understand on a level where we can also feel they are bad and not find pleasure in them.  That kind of understanding doesn't often come quickly, especially when we spent a lot of our time convincing ourselves the bad thing was okay to begin with.  But as we look to God for wisdom and understanding, he can teach us truth even in areas where we have been reluctant to learn.  The lesson might be uncomfortable or even painful, but I promise that it will be much better than damnation. :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Helaman 5:40-42 -- On Escaping the Darkness

"And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?
And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed."
Helaman 5:40-42

This is an interesting story.  Nephi and Lehi (brothers, sons of Helaman) are thrown into prison, and after they had been there several days without food, they came to get them to put them to death... but God stopped them.  They looked like they were on fire, and there was also an earthquake, a cloud of darkness came up around them, and a voice spoke out of heaven.  They look over and see Nephi and Lehi speaking to something above them, and they are confused.  They can't run because of the darkness, and even if they could, they are frozen with fear.  But this guy Aminadab used to belong to the church, and he realizes what is going on, and he tells them that Nephi and Lehi are talking to angels.  Which is cool, and I am sure they were sufficiently impressed, but their real concern comes in these verses.  What can we do to escape the darkness that surrounds us?  And Aminadab tells them, and they are motivated... and they escape, and end up conversing with angels as well. :)
In our lives I think we often have a similar question.  What can we do to escape the darkness that surrounds us?  Sometimes it seems that it has come to stay forever, or that it isn't possible to escape.  But it is.  And the answer now is the same as it was then.  We need to repent, and pray... and if we don't have faith, we pray until we do.  As we practice, we'll observe and learn and realize the efficacy of communication with God.  Reading our scriptures could help as well, if this cloud of darkness has any relation to the mist of darkness from Lehi's dream (different Lehi).
Escaping the darkness isn't necessarily easy.  Praying until you have faith in something can be tough... we're remolding our hearts and minds here, and so often we think of those things as just what we are, immutable.  But what are all the scriptures about if not a record of people who *can* change, who can take action according to their beliefs, and accomplish something thereby?  We aren't trapped where we are, no matter how much of the cycle is our own self-sabotage.  God is here to help us with exactly these things... the ones that we can't do alone.  He is willing to save us every time, to pick us up, put us back on our feet, and give us another chance at better choices.  Today, let's take him at his word.  Let's believe in our ability to change, with God's help, and let's cry unto God until we have enough faith to escape the darkness.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Matthew 12:10-15 -- On Seeing the Miracle

"And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;"
Matthew 12:10-15

So, Jesus was going about and doing good.  Specifically, he was healing people.  Not just a few... we see from the last verse in this selection that it was multitudes of people... he was healing them all.  This is great, right?  Amazing.  But instead of focusing on the benefits of so much healing and compassion, people were trying to catch him in disobedience to a law, and figuring out how they could destroy him.  Crazy, right?  Utterly insane.  Except... aren't we like this sometimes?  We look around at the world, and we see people doing good, or having an amazing impact, but instead of celebrating that, or joining with it, we instead think that we look bad by comparison, and that they can't possibly be as cool as they look, and we start looking for holes we can poke in that perfect exterior.  We want the attention for ourselves, or we are driven to find the corruption... focusing on the negative rather than the positive, and trying to hold onto our superiority with everything that we have.  And it is hard sometimes to take a step back from that, and to let go of our pride enough that we can rejoice with others and celebrate their happiness and their success without being filled with envy or jealousy.  Today, though, despite the difficulty, let's try.  Let's learn to be happy for other people... to rejoice with them, to serve them and work for their happiness before our own.  Let's see the miracles and not the menace. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Psalms 131:1-3 -- On Quieting Ourselves

"Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever."
Psalms 131:1-3

Although this is only three verses, it is actually the entire psalm.   I think it is very interesting and childlike.  It talks about not being haughty, and that things are "too high" for us.  It talks about behaving and being quiet, and I get this mental picture of a little child talking to a parent, saying that they didn't try to turn on the stove because they know they shouldn't, and that they have been trying to be good.  And then it talks about hope.  And to me, it seems like the hope is inherent in that humility.  On that ability we have to recognize that we really are children compared to God, and that willingness to be humble and teachable... to come before the Lord with this attitude and not demand things or ask to get our own way... but just to say, I am trying to be good, and trying to listen.  I'm trying to control my own terror, and trust thee to help me learn to be better and stronger and to know how to grow up.
Today, let's see if we can get our egos out of the way.  Let's see if we can let go of our pride and our need to be right, and see if we can really come before the Lord in perfect simplicity and humility.  Can we work at behaving and at being quiet, and not trying to control things?  ... That's tough.  But I think that if we can, there is a lot of hope for us.  If we can let go of that voice inside that is always screaming "me, me, me" and quiet ourselves, we'll be able to listen to what God has in store... which is always, always better than the demands that some part of us keeps screaming.  Let's remember to let the Lord deal with the things we can't.  We definitely need to work on the things that we can... like behaving and being quiet, and probably a few others. :)  But there are things that we also need to let go of and not try to control.  Like quieting most of our stress and worry for the future, perhaps.  Let's believe and trust and obey as children before the Lord.  God is worthy of that kind of trust, and he will help us become our best selves if we approach him in humility.

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