Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Zechariah 7:8-11 -- On Not Imagining Evil

"And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear."
Zechariah 7:8-11

 This is a good reminder.  Sometimes I think we are just like toddlers fighting over toys.  Our Father asks us to play nice, and to share, and we just refuse to.  Perhaps we aren't mature enough, or perhaps we don't have any empathy... the ability to understand what other people might feel.  God warns us against even imagining evil, which is good, since imagining it is what starts the whole cycle.  Of course, of society is full of imaginary revenge and murder scenarios on the television, so this seems to be one of those commandments that we mostly ignore.  We, like the original listeners, refuse to hearken and stop our ears.  Later in the chapter, God warns us again that what we do will come back to us.  If we refuse to help others or hear their cries, then God will do the same to us.  I don't think that is a cruel threat, but more of an acknowledgment of natural consequences.  As we learn to ignore others and dismiss their thoughts and feelings, we are changing ourselves into the kind of people that God won't be able to help either... because his help *requires* us to learn to be sensitive to the needs of others as part of the lessons we learn that lead to salvation.  If we harden ourselves to others, we harden our own hearts against the changes necessary for salvation.
Today, let's show mercy and compassion, and try not to imagine any evil. :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

3 Nephi 13:30-33 -- On Commitment and Clothing

"Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
3 Nephi 13:30-33

So, this almost seems like a contradiction.  In some places, God is telling us to plan ahead, be committed, save, etc... and then here he is telling us not to worry about any of the details.  So, which is it?  As always, I think it is both.  There is a time to plan ahead and a time to trust God.  Specifically when we're talking about committing to the gospel, God tells us that someone wouldn't build a tower unless he planned to finish it.  And in the gospel's case, certainly, we need to commit from the beginning.  We can't start building and then give up halfway through without having the patience or faith to see that our effort is paying off.  In other cases though, perhaps we get too tied up with worrying about where the next meal is coming from, and as long as we are engaged in doing what God asks, and not just expecting him to give us everything, then perhaps we can worry less.  God will, indeed, provide.  If we have our priorities straight, then he takes care of the things that we can't.   Today, let's try to find the balance.  Let's commit to God and put him first, and as we dedicate our time and attention to doing God's work, he'll handle the everyday worries.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Job 32:6-10 -- On Inspiration and Opinion

"And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.
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 32:6-10

I like this because it emphasizes the fact that we all need to get our own testimonies, and that all voices, young and old, should be heard.  We *all* have access to inspiration from God, and God can teach us all.  In fact, God often chooses the young to carry his message, perhaps so that we can all be humble, but perhaps also we have a tendency to get set in our ways a little, and to think we're right, which could make it harder to listen to what God has to say.  Today, as we speak one with another and discuss the gospel and the welfare of the soul, let's be willing to listen to and learn from everyone, the old and the young... and everyone else, too. :)  Let's not leave anyone out or dismiss their opinions.  Let's seek the inspiration of God, and offer our opinions.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

2 Timothy 3:16-17 -- On Scriptures

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

I like this reminder that we should take the scriptures seriously in our lives.  Sometimes I think that we brush them off, or perhaps read them once and think that we're done. :)  But the idea behind having God's word isn't just reading it once and remembering it was a nice story.  It is reading it and remembering it and pretty much inscribing it on our hearts, so that when we have problems or need something, we have enough of God's words in there that the Spirit can pull the appropriate one to the top and we suddenly have our answers.  We want to know what God is like, what he is thinking... and the way to know those things is to read the scriptures.  See how he has dealt with humanity over its long history.  See how we've dealt with him.  If we have questions, even if we think they are new ones and the answers can't possibly be in there... they can be.  God's words are there to help us, and the more we know of them, the better off we will be. :)  Today, let's read more, let's learn more, and let's do our part to be prepared for whatever comes next... perfection, good works, or pretty much anything.  Whatever it is, the scriptures can help us. :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Moroni 8:18 -- On Change and Unchange

"For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity."
Moroni 8:18

In our unending search for consistency and "fairness" in this life, it seems like the only place we could ever look for those seemingly impossible ideals would be God.  Unchangeable... not in terms of not listening or being compassionless, but in terms of being always there, always reliable, and always, always loving us.  Always staying true to his principles, and always working for the right.  Never taking shortcuts, never trying to work around a problem, but instead intent on solving it.  He has reached the point where he doesn't need to change: Perfection.  And he works with us so that we can see and work on emulating that perfect perspective, that incredible patience, that consistent and empowering love.
Today, as things around us remain inconsistent, and as we learn to change and become more like the unchangeable ideal, let's look to God for our lessons in consistency, kindness, and implacable, overwhelming love.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mosiah 7:29-33 -- On Consequences and Deliverance

"For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them.
And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison.
And again he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.
And now, behold, the promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and ye are smitten and afflicted.
But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."
Mosiah 7:29-33

I think that when we think of our choices we often discount consequences.  We only think I want this, I want that, and we don't think of the effort involved, the things that can't work together, or the later effect on our lives.  Here, God is telling us, warning us, of some of the consequences of sin.  He gave us the ability to choose, but we also have to know that one way is good and the other is bad... and if we choose the bad, we have to expect that bad things might happen.  On the other hand, if we choose the good, then good things will happen.  We can even be saved from our past poor choices.
Today, let's think about the results of our choices.  Let's realize that we can't have everything.  Sin and Heaven don't go together.  We have to give up one to get the other.  Let's turn to God, and change our ways.  If we are willing to turn to him, trust him, and serve him with diligence, he will deliver us, even from chains that we have forged for ourselves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Genesis 3:22-23 -- On Good and Evil and the Community of God

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken."
Genesis 3:22-23

There are some interesting things here.  God says that man is become "as one of us."  That part is interesting, in terms of imagining a community to which God belongs that all share his knowledge of good and evil.  Man became like them, in that moment.
It's also interesting that God is worried that Adam and Eve might eat of the tree of life at this point and live forever.  Interesting that a tree of life like that was in the garden at all.  I wonder if they had ever eaten from it before... if it is a one time thing, like the knowledge tree, or if it was maintaining their lives indefinitely.  If the latter, how long had they been living in the garden before this happened?
It's interesting that God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden, presumably because now his plan of redemption and happiness can start.  Without having additional context though, why wouldn't it have been ideal to stay in the garden?  I think it was because the garden was perfect and easy and they couldn't learn what they needed to learn without some additional hardship or effort.  And the state we are in now isn't a perfected state, so have to die and be resurrected, or at least have our bodies changed and perfected in some way.  The body part seems solvable, perhaps, but the part where we had to learn more than we could learn in a perfect garden... that doesn't really.  God could tell Adam and Eve about things, but until they started learning for themselves, and experiencing things for themselves, they wouldn't really learn it.  And we have to know some hardship to even understand what comfort is I think.  Adam and Eve, by partaking of the fruit, took the first step toward that true free agency and independence that God wanted them to have.  It offered them the ability to become more than they were.
Our legacy from this is that we all have our inborn knowledge of good and evil.  We have become like God in that way, and like Adam and Eve, we now have the ability to become more than we ever have been.  Let's continue to learn, and to choose good, and maybe someday we will become members of God's community. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Moroni 6:2-5 -- On Baptism and Church

"Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."
Moroni 6:2-5

I think that sometimes we underestimate how important baptism is, and how important going to church or belonging to God's church is.  Many people think that where or how you are baptized doesn't matter, or that the specific church doesn't matter either.  The verse before this talks about being worthy of being baptized, and here it gets into more detail.  Baptism is big.  It's something we have to be worthy of, and something that we have to prepare ourselves for, including repenting of our sins, and being determined to serve God throughout our lives.  In some ways it it the culmination of a lot of time and effort, getting to the point where you can really say that you want to commit your life to God.  In other ways, it is just the beginning... just the open door entering into that committment, finding our what it means, and starting our journeys as disciples of Christ.  And church is part of that journey.  I really love that phrase "to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."  That's what it is all about, right?  I love that idea of that kind of community based on supporting each other in the gospel.  And that is what the church should be about. :)  Today, let's commit, or recommit, to the gospel, and support each other as disciples of Christ.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Genesis 15:6 -- On Belief and Hope

"And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
Genesis 15:6

This is a story from Abraham's life.  His wife is barren, and he has no children or prospects of children, and yet God tells him to look up at the sky, and if he can count the number of the stars, he will know how many descendants he will have.  And Abraham believes him.  I think for all of us, sometimes that simple faith, to believe in what God tells us, is everything.
Our society might call it "blind" faith, what Abraham believed here.  There were many reasons not to believe.  There are almost always many reasons to question or wonder... but how do we ever get miracles if we don't believe in them?  How does God bless our lives in impossible ways unless we are willing to see beyond the limitations of our version of "possibility?"  Jesus walked on water.  The brother of Jared moved an entire mountain.  Moses parted the Red Sea and his people walked across on dry ground.  And miracles happen every day, when we are willing to believe in and participate in them.  Today, let's figure out some basics.  Do we believe in what the Lord is telling us?  If we do, then the rest is details.  We can figure it out as we go along, because we have enough to trust and move forward.  But if we don't; if we aren't sure, then let's take some time and figure that out.  It matters.  We can act the part, for sure, and good action is something... but it isn't enough.  We have to know for ourselves.  Faith starts with belief, and that's what leads to the things that God promises us.  We have to believe in them, and know that God always keeps his promises.  Once we do, then we understand the obstacles of life as obstacles, not destiny-ending roadblocks.  We understand that the storms will end, that even if we can't see it, the future is bright with hope.  If we can't get there on our own, let's get on our knees.  God will be there.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mosiah 2:25 -- On Being More Like Dust

"And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."
Mosiah 2:25

It sounds pretty harsh for someone to say that you are less than the dust, right?  It seems to be another way of saying we're worthless, pointless, that we should just give up and die.  But that isn't King Benjamin's message here... or God's.  In fact, I think dust is painted in a pretty bad light here. :)
Today in my Sunday School class someone asked about the concept of "original sin," and I was explaining that we don't believe that we come to the Earth already burdened with sin.  We are born innocent, and we will only be responsible for our own sins, not anyone else's... including Adam's.  And so she asked, if we aren't burdened with sin from the beginning, why do we need Christ?
It's a good question.  Why do we need to be saved?  And the answer is that we sin.  We're fallible.  We don't need "original" sin to mess things up for us; we do it quite well ourselves.  And Christ provides us a chance to try again... to repent, to change, to have space to learn, rather than failing the moment we first cross that line into evil.  He suffered for us so that we could be saved from ourselves, and from that troublesome death stuff too. :) 
The fact is that we all fall short, and God knew that we would, and he made a plan so that we could be saved anyway.  Dust apparently doesn't really go in for a lot of rebellion like we do.  So, in that way, we are less.  But it doesn't make us worthless... in fact, we are worth everything to God.  We were worth the sacrifice that Christ made, and worth being saved.  We are worth the creation.  We are worth all of the effort involved in all of human history... all of God's plan.  All of this messy world is part of his plan to allow us choice, to help us learn to be like him, and save us even though we all have some issues. :)  Today, let's be more like our friend the dust, recognizing our weaknesses and our need to change, and choosing to belong to our Creator.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

1 Corinthians 15:52-53 -- On Superheroes and Superpowers

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
1 Corinthians 15:52-53

These verses are talking about the resurrection, and I really like the image here of being changed... not in a bad way at all, but from something corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal.  I think that both of those things are dreams that we have in the backs of our minds... things that we would actively seek, if we could dare to hope for them.  To be pure and good, and to never be tempted by evil or swayed from our ideals by riches or power.  We make many of our fictional heroes that way.  Superheroes fighting for good, never tempted by evil.  And we have immortal heroes as well.  Legends of the fountain of youth or stories of people who never age are popular because it is natural for us to want that... to want to be solid and certain, inside and out.  Incorruptible, and immortal... to be good and consistent forever. :)
And you know, God promises us all of this and more.  Maybe we won't learn to fly in this life, and maybe we won't ever have the cape and the tights... but we *will* be superheroes someday.  We'll be immortal, and the only corruption that will ever touch us is the corruption we choose in this life... we won't be corruptible beyond this.  Today, let's remember both that we have superhero potential, and that there are some pretty good role models in the scriptures as well. :)  Let's work on developing some of our superpowers now.  Faith, hope, charity, love... all powers that can change the world.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Helaman 5:10-12 -- On Repentance and Storms

"And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
Helaman 5:10-12

This is one of the things that Helaman said to his sons, which they are remembering in this chapter.  I think that there are some really interesting points here.  One is that Christ doesn't save us *in* our sins, but he redeems us "from" our sins... which, as we see by reading on, means that we have to stop doing them, and change.  We can't be saved and still keep our sins.  We have to choose one or the other. 
Another point is that we have to build our foundations in Christ... and if we build there, then we "cannot fall."  ... I really like that.  Cannot.  Which means if we trust God, our trust is perfectly placed.  He will never fail us, and our foundation will never crumble.
The last point I want to bring up here is that storms are going to come, whether or not our foundation is in Christ.  Christ doesn't save us from the storm, or the hardships, or the lessons of life.  We have to go through them... *everyone* does.  But having our foundation in Christ means that God protects us and gets us through that storm, and the next one, and all of our trials, and all of our lessons.  We *are* going to see darkness and rain and wind.  Believing in God doesn't mean that we get to roller skate around all the barriers. :)  But it does mean that God will help us prepare for and weather all the storms, and come out okay on the other end.  Even when the other end is sometimes far away.
Today, let's repent so that we can be saved.  Let's build our foundations in Christ, so that even though we have to endure the storm, we won't fall.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Matthew 3:13-15 -- On Fulfilling All Righteousness

"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him."
Matthew 3:13-15

It's interesting that Jesus, a sinless person, needed to "fulfil all righteousness" by being baptized, which after all is the ordinance we go through to cleanse us from sin.  I think, for him, it may have been a bit of busywork... non-essential to his salvation in the way originally designed, but perhaps essential to his salvation just in the idea that it is something that God requires of everyone, and so even though he was above it in every way, he still did it to please Heavenly Father.  And, in fact, two verses after this selection everyone hears his Father's voice from heaven saying that he is pleased.
I think that we all have similar things in our lives... not that we are sinless, but we all have things that we are *really* good at, and sometimes we have to jump through essentially pointless hoops anyway... like a math genius asked to "show his work" on the math test.  Maybe you have to slow your mind down and work backwards to write down something that your brain never really went through.
Maybe what we can take away from these verses is the need to have patience even when we feel like we've already learned the lesson.  I think there is always going to be some space between mastery and "fulfilling all righteousness."  Maybe because part of life is learning patience and endurance as well... and maybe just because the gospel is for everyone, not just us, and not just Christ.  And just as he needed to be humble and set an example in getting baptized, we all need to be humble, set an example, and be patient with things in life that we think we are above, or feel like we've already been through.  Sometimes we're mistaken, and there really is more to learn... and even when we're not wrong, there is still something more to learn, not about that, but perhaps about humility, endurance, and patience.  Let's look to God today and talk to him about our lessons that seem to last well beyond their expiration dates.  Let's be willing to fulfill all righteousness in enduring whatever the will of God is, and if we can't find that willingness within us, let's ask God to help us learn *that* lesson. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Luke 19:47-48 -- On Christ's Legacy

"And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him."
Luke 19:47-48

I like this chapter and especially these verses because they show how loved Jesus was.  Earlier in the chapter he enters triumphantly into Jerusalem, with people laying their clothes in the road so that even the colt he is riding on doesn't have to touch the ground.  They are praising him so much that some of the pharisees tell him to quiet people down, and Christ says if he did, that the very rocks would cry out.  Singing rocks is a cool idea, but I love the whole picture here, Jesus and the people on the same page, with the people willing, even eager, to listen.  I think sometimes we forget that the chief priests and the scribes and everyone else in on the conspiracy... they *couldn't* destroy what Christ built.  The foundation was laid, and Christ's legacy continues.  Because of the loss of the priesthood, it got splintered and twisted a little, in so many different churches trying to hold onto pieces of the truth... but the whole world was still changed for the better, and his words were passed down to us, which prepared the way for the priesthood to be restored and for all the pieces to come together and be made whole again. :)
Today, let's remember that no one can destroy what Christ built, and builds still.  Death can't stop him, time can't stop him.  The work moves forward, and if we remain attentive to hear him, he will be able to change us too.  The whole world is, and continues to be, better because he lived, and lives again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

1 John 5:18 -- On Acclimating to Heaven

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."
1 John 5:18

This is an interesting verse.  It says that "whosoever is born of God sinneth not," but we certainly know of people who have been baptized or converted who have most decidedly sinned.  So, how does that work?  I know some people favor the no-personal-responsibility option, where if we were once born again in God, that's all it takes.  We're saved forever.  And if we just want to be saved physically, then that's true.  We don't even need that much, actually.  We just have to be born here on earth.  Christ overcame death for us, and we will all be resurrected.  But the spiritual part is different... and this verse shows us how.  Being born again isn't just a one-time shot and then we can do whatever we want.  It is a total rework of ourselves, and one that we have to maintain... by not sinning, by keeping ourselves out of the way of temptation.   It isn't about God not caring or not wanting us to have what he offers... it is that by the very nature of the change, we *have* to want it, to choose it... consistently, not just once.  Otherwise, when we get the reward God offers, we won't want it.  We have to want a sin free life in order to appreciate a sin-free life.  We have to want the light in order to appreciate God's presence.  If we prefer sin, or want to slink off into the shadows now and then, then we won't want what God offers.  Being born of God isn't just a statement that we make that we accept Christ's atonement.  It is an overhaul of ourselves, internally as well as externally.  It is wanting what God wants.  It is letting go of the bad part of ourselves, permanently.
Today, let's work on being born of God, and maintaining that change of heart.  Let's give up our sins and our souvenirs of Hell as we strive to accept God, and Heaven, and be the kind of people that can live in that kind of society.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Matthew 26:50-54 -- On Accepting Suffering

"And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"
Matthew 26:50-54

If we were watching a movie and the hero was going to be arrested and put to death, and his friends started fighting, we'd be cheering.  And even more so if it is someone that we care so much about... if anyone deserved an army rising up to defend him, this was the moment.  But Christ, in his wisdom, counsels his friend to put the sword away, reminding him of the restoration of all things, and that if we use violence to solve our problems, violence will be returned to us.  He also reminds him that he could save himself with a thought, but he is choosing not to for a reason.
There are a lot of parallels here to our lives.  Bad things happen to us, and often we want to lash out and solve it by harming or punishing someone else.  And God could stop any of it.  But we forget that the way we solve problems is often more important than the solution, and that God created the whole world for a reason.  Most of the time, just like Christ stopped his friend from fighting back, we have to turn the other cheek.  We have to accept wrongs without acting wrongly ourselves... because that's how we learn, and that is how we teach.  In the Book of Mormon, it talks about a group of people who had converted to the Lord, after many years of being warlike and quick to kill.  After their conversion, they promised the Lord that they would never take up arms again, if he would grant them repentance.  Later, in Alma 24, they were about to be attacked by an army, and because of their oath, they went forth to meet an army without weapons.  God could have stopped the slaughter of unarmed people who believed in him, but he didn't, and as a result, more of the attacking soldiers experienced a change of heart and joined the church that day than the number that were killed.  We might ask is that fair, is that a good trade, is God really just... just as we do about things that happen in our own lives.  How could God allow our family members to die, our friends, or the vast suffering going on each day in this world?  And the answer is, because he has a plan.  Christ suffered and died for a reason.  And the whole world exists for that same reason... to save us.  We have to learn these things.  We need to go through hard experiences.  We need to find the Lord and understand how light is better than darkness.  And we can't learn that without experiencing some darkness.  Christ had to suffer and die in order to fulfill God's plan.  And we, in a different way, also have to suffer, and also have to eventually die.  But God's plan overcomes suffering and death.  Eternal life is waiting for us, as we humbly endure suffering and learn to be the people that the world needs.  The people that *choose* to relieve others' suffering.  The people that make life a little bit better for everyone around them, rather than a little bit worse.  The people who help and lift rather than disparage and defeat.  God's plan is to give us that chance to choose, to change, and to become more than we are.  Christ saved us physically already... we'll all be resurrected.  But he's still trying to save us spiritually.  Let's listen to him, accept our small allotment of suffering, and learn from it to be better, kinder, and closer to God.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mosiah 4:12-16 -- On the Goodness and Greatness of God

"And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the devil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish."
Mosiah 4:12-16

Kind of  a long selection, but today I was thinking about how much it changes our lives, just that simple belief in God.  To know that there *is* a creator, that he made us, that he is our father... those are small facts perhaps, but they have an unimaginably large impact on our lives.  And King Benjamin, here, is telling us all these things... everything in these several verses... is a direct result of our belief in God, having tasted of his love and remembering his goodness and his greatness.  They are not only promises of what will happen and what we can hope for when we come to God, but also good indicators of whether we're on the right track. :)
I'm not saying we have to be perfect in every way to be believers in and followers of God.  ... But the point here isn't a list of things that we do to prove that we are following God.  These are *natural results* of following God.  Our hearts change, and we start caring about things like this, noticing our behavior in different ways, and we becomes different people... better, kinder, more loving people.  The gospel is really simple on a fundamental level.  And the basic core of it is, God is real.  And once we get our minds around that, and start understanding what that means for the world, and for our lives, it can change us.  *He* can change us.  We just have to let that knowledge work on us, and keep remembering it, every day, in everything that we do.  God is real.  He is our father.  He has a plan for us. :)  Today, let's believe that and try acting on it, or remember it if we already knew. :)  And let's remember what a big deal that is. God.  The creator of heaven and earth.  And when we remember, let's let that knowledge change us, and guide our actions.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Psalms 141:10 -- On Escaping Our Own Nets

"Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape."
Psalms 141:10

This is an interesting, and perhaps slightly humorous, prayer.  I like that it doesn't wish tragedy upon the wicked except of their own devising... seems kinder than wishing them to be buried under a mountain or burned off like the morning dew.  And it asks for escape for the non-wicked, which is something we find in a lot of prayers.  We ask God to judge between the wicked and the righteous a lot, and save the righteous.  It's a very good prayer, and one that we should think about from both ends perhaps, because we likely *have* been the wicked at some point in our lives, and may be again.  Let's really examine our lives and make sure that we aren't following God and yet keeping some wickedness going on the side.  Let's make sure we aren't the ones putting out nets for other people to fall into.  Let's remember what we pray for ourselves, and make sure we don't end up on the wrong side of it. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Psalms 127:1 -- On Needing and Loving God

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Psalms 127:1

This is a good reminder that we need God in everything that we do.  If God doesn't want the house built, then no matter what we pour into building it, it won't matter.  And if God isn't protecting the city, the watchmen aren't going to be able to accomplish much alone.  The same goes for everything in our lives.  And it doesn't mean that we shouldn't work for things, or put in effort to build and protect, but it does mean that we should be including God in all of it.  We can accomplish anything with him, and without him, none of it will matter.  I think we forget that sometimes, or we somehow want it not to be true.  We want some independence from God, to be our own people, to be able to do things ourselves.  And I suppose a little of that is natural for all children.  We want to be "big" and independent like our parents.  But sometimes we forget that compared to God, we *are* still children.  Just like we can't walk out of our Earthly parents' home and make a good life for ourselves when we are 10 or 12 years old, we still need God's guidance and his help in our lives today.  And hopefully, at some point, we'll overcome the anti-parent rebellious stage and realize that we really do love God, and we want him to be part of our lives forever... in fact, we want to be like him.  And as we work through those adolescent feelings, God will stick with us, and help us to understand and learn more about life, about him, about the world around us, and about eternity.  Let's remember that we need God today, and work on being happy about it. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

1 Nephi 10:19 -- On Seeking

"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."
1 Nephi 10:19

Sometimes we think that God has changed the way he does things... that somehow he has stopped doing miracles, or that he favored people in the past a lot more than he does us.  We think that those kinds of things can't happen anymore, or that prophets and apostles today are somehow less potent than their predecessors... but here, God tells us that the rules don't change.  He is the same now as he has been in the past, and the gospel works the same way.  If we really look, and work, to find God, we still will, just as anyone did in the scriptures.
The scriptures are filled with stories of how one person, with God's help, can make a difference.  In battles, in conversion, in slavery, in leadership, and in so many other things.  The same is true today.  We can make a difference wherever we are, with God's help.  If we seek to know God and his mysteries, he will teach us, and lead us to accomplish good works.  Miracles do happen, and as we seek to learn the gospel, and understand God, we will see more and more of them.  Today, let's take God up on his promises.  Let's seek diligently, and start finding out for ourselves the mysteries of God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

John 12:25-27 -- On This Hour

"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
John 12:25-27

Some interesting things are going on here.  First of all, the idea that we should hate our lives in this world.  I think that is specifically pointing to the eternal life promised, and the idea is that we should value that eternal life over this temporary life.  I don't think it means we shouldn't live and value life, appreciate beauty, take care of our planet, etc.  Just we shouldn't love the present so much that we are willing to destroy our futures.
I love the serving Christ part.  First, I think that imagining everything I do as service to Christ sure makes it seem more important, and secondly, I love the "being where he is" part.  Can you imagine anything cooler than being able to hang out with God?  That's amazing. :)
In the last verse I think we can relate to this a lot.  Christ wants to be saved because he is reluctant to face what comes next, but he knows that he needs to go forward, and so he tells Heavenly Father that he will do it his way.  And that is an example that we all need.  We get paralyzed sometimes in life, looking at what comes next and it absolutely petrifies us.  We don't want things to get harder, we don't want to learn the next lesson.  We don't want to face our weaknesses or our sins and risk failing, again.  So many things.  But all of these things are why we are here.  We need to learn to make the choices and face the fears and learn the lessons.  It's scary and overwhelming, but like Christ (and Nephi, and Moses, and Jonah, and many others), we have to muster the courage to do it anyway.  There is a reason that we came to this hour... and yes, this hour is going to be really tough.  But on the other side of this hour, this day, this chapter... on the other side of all the challenges is always God, encouraging, helping, loving, and confident in our ability to return to him.  He believes in us.  He trusts us.  He knows that with his help we can get through anything, and become more amazing than we ever thought we could be.
Today, let's love that potential self, and that promised eternal life more than we love our bad habits and our current rut.  Today, let's serve Christ so we can go where he goes.  Today, let's do good, and put God before our fears, because that is why we are here, in this hour.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2 Corinthians 3:1-3 -- On Being Christ's Message

"Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."
2 Corinthians 3:1-3

This is Paul saying that we, as believers, are what the whole world sees of Christ's gospel.  We are the "the epistle of Christ" ... his letter to the world, written on our hearts.  And if we are representatives of Christ to that degree, I think this is a really good reminder of how we should conduct ourselves.  We're the examples that people see of what Christ's gospel can do, and that is a big responsibility.  When Christ tells us to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16), he also mentions that we should be doing good works, not just standing there and looking good. :)  It is the same idea here.  If we're letters from Christ, then how do we want people to read us?  If people can't observe us and see Christ in our lives, then maybe there are some things that we should change.  Instead of trying to blend in with the world and be the same, maybe we should embrace some differences.  Dressing modestly, avoiding profanity, and so much more... these are strengths, not burdensome limitations.  These are the ways that we carry Christ's message to the world.  He asks us to be different, to stand separate, to show the world what the gospel can do for us... not to alienate others, but to invite them to partake of his gospel and goodness for themselves.  And so here is a good question to ask ourselves today: What *has* the gospel done for us?  How has it changed us, or helped us?  And how can we broadcast that message just by living our lives?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mosiah 24:15-16 -- On Being Happy in the Midst of Trouble

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage."
Mosiah 24:15-16

These verses are from an interesting story of a group of people who know that the king is going to kill them for their religious beliefs, and so they flee.  They find a new place to live, and are doing great, when an army from a traditional enemy group finds them.  The army is lost, and they promise to leave them alone if they tell them the way back.  So, they do, and the promise is broken.  They are basically made into slaves, and even praying aloud is punishable by death.
And then, in this scary situation, they are promised relief.  God doesn't pull them out of it right away, but he lightens their burdens, so they are easier to bear.  Submitting "cheerfully and with patience" when you have basically been enslaved seems like a really difficult thing, but they do.  God makes it so much better than even though they are there, with the *same* challenges, they can be cheerful.
In our lives, hopefully we aren't slaves, but we go through a lot of lot of things that test our patience and faith as well.  We wonder why we're punished for being good, or why bad things had to happen that interrupt our lives so much.  And God doesn't always deliver us from the situation immediately.  Sometimes we have to stay in it and deal with it for a long time.  But even in those cases, he will help us, so that even in the midst of hardship, we can "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  Today, let's work on being faithful and patient, and remember that God can help us, even in the middle of our problems.  Deliverance will come, but we don't have to wait until then to be happy. :)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Romans 8:38-39 -- On Tuning in to God

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39

I really like this.  A couple of verses earlier, Paul mentions other things: persecution, tribulation, distress, famine, peril, etc.  He continues his list here, I think trying to make the point that nothing at all external can do it.  No government or weapon or force or fear.  The only thing that can separate us from God is internal.  We can choose to do that.  ... And even then, in God's infinite mercy, if we want to change our minds (and hearts) and not be separated, he is still there, reaching out to us.  We made that separation choice... he didn't, and he won't.
I think sometimes we forget this truth, and we think that we can't talk to God because of one thing or another.  Because of sin, or the past, or the situation, or because someone else won't like it or approve of it... or maybe we're lost, alone, away from everything we know, and we feel like we can't get through... prayers bouncing off the ceilings.  But God is there in every moment of our lives.  In the hallway and the car and out in the yard.  In the crowd and in whatever country or house or situation.  Sometimes people say that the spirit goes to bed at midnight or that we lose the spirit by going into a place we shouldn't be.  And people say things like that to warn us and protect us... and indeed, it is very much harder to communicate with God in some situations.  But really, the spirit doesn't have a bedtime, and God is accessible *everywhere.*  He never abandons us or leaves us alone, and he will *always* be there if we reach out to him.
I know that sometimes it doesn't feel like he is there... that we're talking, but not making a connection.  In those cases, I think what is going on is not some voicemail message from God saying he is out, but again, an internal block.  It's happened to me before when I wasn't willing to actually listen to or do what God asked, and getting through that block required some work on my part... sitting down and really thinking through what I was saying and realizing that I wasn't asking, I was telling.  And even in that, God helped me figure it out... I think I was just blocking myself from feeling close to him.  I know that it has happened to me other times, and that it happens to all of us occasionally.  But instead of giving up in those situations, if we take a step back and reexamine our motivations, focus, and take the time to listen without distractions, we can find the connection again, even through our considerable mental static. :)  God's love is what our lives are missing when we feel empty.  God's love is what heals the wounded soul.  God's love is incomparable.  Let's tune in to that today.  Let's remove darkness and distraction from our lives and get the clearest signal possible.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

1 Nephi 8:7-8 -- On Being Lost in the Dark

"And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies."
1 Nephi 8:7-8

This is the beginning of Lehi's dream, and it strikes me today that he was following someone into darkness, and traveling in the darkness for several hours here.  The someone he was following was a man "dressed in a white robe," from which I think we are meant to take away that it is an angel, or maybe even God leading him.  In any case, it is something heavenly.  The whole dream is symbolic of our lives, but this first part I think is significant.  Lehi seems to have been following something symbolic of good, and then to have gotten lost in the darkness, and so he prayed so he could find his way out again.  And I think that happens to all of us in life.  Usually when we get into trouble or walk into darkness, it isn't darkness that we are looking for.  We start out doing good, wanting good and trying to follow it, but somewhere along the way we get lost.  We find ourselves in a dark and a dreary waste, and we look and look, but we can't see a way out.  We wander as Lehi did, for hours, or longer.  And growing up in our society, maybe our first instinct is not to ask for help.  Maybe we don't want to look dumb, or be wrong.  As children it is okay, but when we grow up we have to be able to handle things. :)  ... Today, though, let's not allow our "mature adult" status to get in the way of being able to be saved. :)  If we're lost in the dark, let's remember that we *are* God's children, and it is okay to ask for help.  Let's look to God, and pray, and he *will* help us, as he helped Lehi, and as he helps all of us when we are lost and alone. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Alma 41:10 -- On Real vs Imitation Happiness

"Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness."
Alma 41:10

This is an imperative thing that we all need to learn in our lives, and often re-learn.  When we are tempted by sin, we often think that whatever it is will make us happier.  We really believe it on some level, and that is often why we make the choices we do.  We think stealing the money will make us happier.  We think adultery will make us happier.  We think gambling, pornography, alcohol, drugs, fornication, gossip, lying, or revenge will make us happier... or any of the multitudinous other things that we do in opposition to the Lord's will.  But just as the high from a drug is a parody of happiness, drawing us in and getting us addicted, wanting that feeling more than we want reality, so are all of the temporary benefits of all the kinds of sin.  We mistake lust for love, revenge for justice, laughter for friendship, greed for satisfaction.  None of it lasts, and none of it is real and lasting happiness or peace.  If we lie to accomplish something, and we don't accomplish it the right way, whatever it is can crumble beneath us.  It isn't built on a solid foundation, and we always have to worry that it will be destroyed.
Today, let's remember that *righteousness* is the way to happiness.  Shortcuts through sin don't work.  Let's tell the truth, and find the honest way.  Let's make the hard choices to avoid the imitation, knock-off happiness, and find the true happiness behind the facade.  We're going to have problems in life... that's a given.  But even though it is hard, let's face our troubles in the right way and not try to cheat our way out... then our triumph will be real, and we won't have to keep going back to start.  And our reward of true and eternal happiness will be vastly better than any temporary high.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Psalms 31:5-8 -- On Trusting and Large Rooms

"Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;
And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room."
Psalms 31:5-8

This is a cool prayer/song.  Sometimes when I think about the reality of deity, it is overwhelming... the power that we can't even imagine that it would take to actually organize/create the world, our bodies, our spirits, worlds without number, not to mention the more "mundane" miracles like moving mountains, parting the sea, walking on water, etc.  And the fact that a God with that kind of power actually takes the time or spares the attention for us... to consider our trouble, to know our souls.  That's amazing by itself.  It's hard for us, still, I know, to trust the Lord.  We have a hard time considering things outside ourselves.  We have really rusty and underdeveloped spiritual senses, and we tend to think our physical senses are superior.  But despite all that, God doesn't give us over to our enemies. :)  He sets our feet in a large room... he blesses us with the room to make decisions, to be free, to have the space to find out who we are and what we want out of life and eternity.  And he continues to offer us instruction and choices, helping us learn more and more, and become more confident in the decisions that we are making that will determine our futures. :) 
Today, despite the difficulty of overcoming our own trust issues and internal focus, let's work on putting God first, and committing our spirits to him.  As we make him the primary focal point of our lives, everything else will become sharper as well.  A lot of our confusion will disappear, and we'll see how things should be.  Let's be glad and rejoice in God's mercy and truth. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 -- On Being Separate, Together

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
2 Corinthians 6:17-18

This is a good reminder today that there are some things that we just can't be a part of.  We live in the world, and we often want to join with others in celebrations and relationships and traditions that God doesn't approve of.  And God isn't saying at all that we can't have friends who don't believe in him, or coworkers, or that we shouldn't love people or be caring and kind to everyone.  He's not asking us to get our own islands, become hermits, or start holy wars against people who are dissimilar to us.  What he is asking is that we not participate in things that we know are evil, or put ourselves into situations that will compromise our standards.  He's asking us to be safe... to not take candy from the stranger or get into his car.  If we come home, keep the curfew, and follow the rules instead, then we'll retain our ability to make our own decisions and choose our consequences.  And that requires some separation.  It requires us to be different, to show our differences sometimes, and to let people know where we stand.  We have to say no to the stranger in the car, and keep our distance enough that he can't pull us in.  We can't compromise on important things, for instance temple marriage, chastity, the word of wisdom, baptism, or our core beliefs in God, prophets, or the scriptures.  We can't say, oh yeah, it doesn't matter, or no big deal.  There are definitely things in life that we need to be less prideful about and plenty of areas where we need to be more flexible and agreeable, but God's principles and ordinances are not negotiable in that way.
Being separate doesn't always mean standing alone though.  In the second verse God tells us that we are his sons and his daughters.  We're family.  We need to be separate from evil, but when evil isn't on the table (and hopefully this is a lot of the time), we can enjoy the company and friendship of a great diversity of people, and learn to mutually understand and respect our differences.  We can also join together with others that respect God and his goals, and learn and grow together.  That's what church is about, right?  A sinner's anonymous meeting where we are all working out how to get back on or maintain our course on the straight and narrow. :) Today, let's make sure that we stand apart when it is a question of doing anything in disharmony with God.  And the rest of the time, let's make sure we are working together, as family, on building a better world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2 Timothy 3:12 -- On Persecution and Becoming Heroes

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12

Not necessarily the thing that we want to hear, but I think that this is an important reminder.  Sometimes we want to believe that if we do what's right that our lives will be perfect and we won't have to suffer anything... but that just isn't the way it works.  We all have to learn, and grow, and that can't possibly happen without some opposition and trial, including persecution.
Today, let's do everything that we can to love people, to serve them, help them, and get along with them.  But if persecution happens anyway, let's remember that it isn't because God hates us.  It's just another sign that we're doing what's right.  Let's face our challenges and overcome them without sacrificing our principles and our belief; let's be the heroes. :)  Part of the reward is actually *being* the person that we are becoming and learning to be through the hardships, but there is plenty else in store for us as well.  Happy endings are waiting, if we can stay heroic through some of these middle chapters. :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mosiah 2:25-26 -- On Dust and Infinite Potential

"And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth."
Mosiah 2:25-26

This morning I have the words of "Be Still, My Soul" (Hymns 124) going through my head.  The part that says "The waves and winds still know / His voice who ruled them, while he dwelt below" is what reminded me of this scripture.  I was thinking about how the storm listened when Christ told it to be still, but we don't so much.  I think King Benjamin's point here is that God can work with dust, but we make it really hard to work with us. :)
The funny thing is that we ask God for things all the time, but then we refuse to do as he asks.  We're like Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5) who went to the prophet to be cured of his leprosy, but then was mad when he heard what he had to say.  We want miracles, but we aren't willing to humble ourselves or take the time and effort to learn how to make them happen.  We want to be able to walk on water, but we don't understand that the prerequisites for that class are the ones we've been skipping out on all semester.  You know, like the remedial prayer and scripture study ones? :)
Today, let's remember the balance between dust and infinite potential.  It's in the choices that we make.  God is willing to give us more... to teach us everything.  But we have to master what we have before we'll be ready for more advanced lessons.  Let's step up and be easier to work with: willing to learn and grow and change.  If we can be, then God can make us into anything we want to be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Philippians 2:12-15 -- On Being Harmless and Shiny

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
Philippians 2:12-15

I like this.  There are some cool ideas here.  One of them is that as we work out our own salvation, if we do it with a healthy respect for God, that we are doing his will as well.  And when our wills and God's will are the same, then everything is golden. :)
I also like a lot the idea that one of the things that we can do to set an example to others is to stop complaining and arguing.  I definitely think that is a solid step towards becoming shiny. :)
Today, let's try to do some of these things.  Let's work on our humility, and on not complaining.  Let's work on honoring God as our father and someone who is wiser than we are, and worth listening to.  Let's jump in and work out our salvation with that in mind... let's be harmless and shiny, broadcasting light and not darkness, and seeing and bolstering the good.

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