Sunday, January 31, 2016

Alma 32:20-21 -- On Hope and Faith and Dreams

"Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work.
And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
Alma 32:20-21

This scripture makes me think, today, about imagination... about having a dream, and then making it reality.  Like an artist or sculptor, or painter, or entrepreneur, or a kid with LEGOs.  Really, anyone.  Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, which are true.  A true dream, that we can make happen.  Of course faith in God is more than that, because he's already real, and he can take our dreams of peace and unity and a more perfect world and he can make them happen... but part of it is us, because as we dedicate ourselves to God, we help in his work.  We are part of that better world.  Part of making the happy ending happen.  And lots of our dreams are of things that God promises us, or encourages.  He wants us to develop our talents, and he wants us to build happy families, and he wants us to be happy.  Our dreams don't have to conflict with God's plans.  In fact, they will go a lot better if we sync up with him and get on the same page. :)  God wants us to dream... dream of being more than we are.  Dream of helping the people around us.  But he doesn't want us *only* to dream.  He wants us to work... and it shall be unto us according to our work.  Today, let's have hope, and faith, and let's see if we can tap into the potential that God sees in us and in the world, and let's dream bigger and better and farther... and then work and work and work to make it happen.  With God's help, we can tap into the truth of how things should be and make it happen.  Let's go forward with hope and faith and dreams. :)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Isaiah 12:1-3 -- On Happily Ever After

"And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
Isaiah 12:1-3

These verses are talking about the Millennium, and there is some great symbolism here.  Can you imagine drinking the water of salvation?  And the idea of God being our song makes me think of us just walking down the street and spontaneously bursting into song because we are *so* incredibly happy.  I think the Millennium can be like that... that it *will* be like that, all the time.
We've read before on this blog about scary scriptures of destruction... and that's what I think of when I read the first part.  I think about 3rd Nephi and all the cities being burned, or sinking into the sea, or sunk by earthquakes... all that going on, and then in the end, the people that were spared hearing the voice of God.
We all know that bad things happen in this life sometimes... even when we're being good people, and pretty often when we're not. :)  And I think that the Lord does get disappointed and angry with us sometimes.  Not in a zap-you're-dead way (hopefully we aren't usually quite *that* bad), but in more of a parental I-still-love-you-but-I'm-upset-that-you-did-that sort of a way.  No good parent is going to be happy that we shoplifted, or lied, or about however we're choosing to screw up our lives currently.  But, like the destruction, here in these verses that is all in the past.  He used to be angry with us, but we changed and grew, and the destruction and disappointment and all of those other bad things... they are past, and we're ready to move on.
I don't really know all the details of what the Millennium will be like, but I do know that it is the very end of the book.  The place where we get the happy ending... the one that says "and they lived happily ever after," because we really literally will.  Today, let's try to see past the hard things and the confusing things.  Let's let go of all of that hurt from chapter two, and the scary stuff from chapter 5.  Let's make this chapter better than any of the ones before, and let's be ready for that triumphant finish, and that awesome-tasting water of salvation. :)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mormon 9:7-9 -- On Consistency, Revelation, and Miracles

"And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?"
Mormon 9:7-9

One of the cool things about God (of which there are probably an infinite amount, given) is that he is consistent and stable.  That's a rare thing in our society, and even if we have achieved that in our lives, we didn't start out that way.  It's a hard and long lesson which I think most of us have only begun to learn.  It's something that women are accused of a lot, but it is definitely not a gender-specific problem.  We all have problems sometimes with our tempers and our moods and reacting calmly and rationally *all* the time, not just when things are ideal.  And, knowing our variableness, it's even more amazing that God is so patient and calm and awesome to us, even when we overreact and misbehave.  He is a good parent to us as we throw temper tantrums because we can't have our way.
One of the great ways that God is consistent is by helping us know and understand things ahead of time.  He does this through personal revelation, and through prophets.  He didn't just do this for our ancestors and then decide that we weren't worth treating as well. :)  He's still there for us, helping us and warning us, and teaching us how to make the world a better place.  He's also consistent in still doing miracles for us.  Doesn't mean he is going to let us sit on the couch while he goes and does all of the hard work of life for us.  We have to learn it... that's kind of the point.  But it does mean that when we can't solve things for ourselves that he will help us, and when it is appropriate, he will step in and solve the problem for us.
Today, let's work on having faith in God, and recognizing that he is always going to be there for us, and that we can trust him to be the same from one day to the next.  Let's not doubt God just because we don't always have that kind of consistency in our own lives. :)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

2 Corinthians 8:21 -- On Honesty with God and Everyone Else Too

"Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men."
2 Corinthians 8:21

It's interesting that it is worded this way... thinking about what we usually worry about first, I would think that God would want to say "not only in the sight of men" (because we worry about our images), but in the sight of God (because it isn't good enough to look honest... we actually have to *be* honest.  But it isn't worded that way, which made me do a double-take when I noticed it today.  It isn't that the other way isn't also needed, but this way around I think that the wording tells us more of the story than we usually hear.  This way around God is saying, of course you have to be right with me, but that isn't enough.  I need you to risk a little... be vulnerable a little.  It's safe to be honest with our God, but he needs us to put ourselves out there and be honest with other people too.  He needs us to set the example and encourage the change that is going to happen in no other way.  We have to show the world that honesty matters... that it isn't just some old-fashioned ideal. :)  Today, let's be honest with God, and also in the sight of everyone else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

D&C 38:26 -- On Kindergarten Justice

"For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?"
D&C 38:26

This analogy struck me today as I was reading... the thought of parents and children and giving one, in essence, everything and the other nothing.  It seems to me that we are a lot like the children in this scenario, only it isn't our father doing it to us.  We're doing it to each other.  We haven't learned to share.  We haven't learned to love each other.  We haven't learned to be happy for each other, or to take care of each another.  And by we, I don't just mean us and our earthly siblings... I mean US, you and I... spiritual siblings.  Children of God.
It's tragic in any family if covetousness, competition, pride, or envy blind us to each other and the good relationships and happiness that can be had... but isn't it so much worse when we're talking about God's family?  The next verse says "if ye are not one ye are not mine."  ... I don't even think that is a threat, like it might be if our earthly fathers were saying it.  I think it is a reminder; a fact.  If we can't learn to love and serve and give and be part of God's family, then we are making a choice to walk away from it... to disown ourselves.  God invites us to the family reunion, tells us how to get there, but we throw the map in the dirt and stomp on it instead.
Today, let's try to see the kindergarten-level ridiculousness of throwing tantrums when we don't get the best toys, or when someone else gets more attention.  Let's instead be childlike rather than childish.  Let's find joy in other people's happiness.  Let's help others find success.  Let's let go of our selfish pride, and find our unquenchable love.  Let's join with God and help him to love and serve and save his family, and our family, by making the world better and safer and more loving for everyone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1 Kings 21:5-7 -- On Pouting, Death, and the Tenth Commandment

"But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?
And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
1 Kings 21:5-7

Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard so he could have an herb garden.  He offered him fair trades... a better vineyard or a good price.  He just wanted this particular one because it was close to his house, and he was upset that Naboth wouldn't deal with him.  So far we get it, right?  We've been there.  Something seems fair to us, and that it would work out well for everyone, but for whatever reason, the other person won't agree.  It happens.  Unfortunately for Naboth, that's not where it ended.  Instead of pouting and then getting over it, Ahab and his wife plan to take the vineyard anyway.  I think these verses are exactly where Ahab and his wife crossed the line.  Instead of hearing why he was sad and thinking of another place for the garden, or comforting him, or even coming up with a much better deal for Naboth to see if he would change his mind, Jezebel decides to murder Naboth... to exercise (and abuse) Ahab's power as king.  And Naboth, still pouting, still thinking that he should be able to have his way, goes along with it.
This is the reason for the tenth commandment.  Because we rarely stop at pouting.  Just like faith is believing in something so much that you turn it into a verb and are willing to do whatever it takes to live your belief, coveting is wanting something so much that you are willing to sell your soul for it.  But unlike faith, coveting never works out for long.  Cain never got his brother's fields, and Naboth doesn't get his herb garden.  Even when people do get what they were lusting after, it doesn't last, and it can't give them the eternal joy and peace that we are all looking for.  Only a very temporary and low quality counterfeit.  Pouting gets us nowhere good.  Today, let's try to stop ourselves before we cross the line.  Disappointment happens, but let's nip it as soon as we start in on the whining and pouting, and definitely before it turns into the "I have a right to this" and a willingness to harm ourselves and others in order to obtain it.  God gives us the power to be happy now.  Right now, without anything additional in our lives at all.  Let's stop expecting that we need more, and be satisfied with all the blessings that the Lord gives us every day.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 -- On Affliction Balloons and the Weight of Glory

"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"
2 Corinthians 4:16-17

I have written about these verse before, but as I was reading today I was thinking of a scale, where our "light afflictions" were weighing in as pretty heavy, but then when we put on the "weight of glory," it seems like nothing.  And I think that is how life seems sometimes.  While we're in the middle of it, so many things seem to weigh us down, with sorrow or paperwork or pain or impossible choices... so many things seem to loom over our lives and we don't know how to get out of the shadow.  And part of it is what it is talking about... outward man vs. inward man.  Even while our bodies are suffering, our souls don't necessarily have to.  God is willing to grant us his peace in the midst of a chaotic world, and he can help our burdens to feel light, and help us to even be patient and cheerful in the midst of distress.  Our inward man can be renewed and refreshed every day... and how does this happen?  It happens through prayer and communication with God... through scriptures, through reading the words of the prophets, through remembering verses and hymns and other gospel things that we have read or heard in the past.  If we fill our lives with God's word, then he has so many more ways that he can communicate with us.  Sometimes in the middle of something hard God can bless us with just the tiniest, briefest moment of heavenly peace, and in that moment we understand.  We realize that our light afflictions might as well be helium-filled latex balloons compared to how much eternity outweighs and overpowers anything bad that could possibly happen to us.  God *will* make everything alright in the end... no matter how bad this moment, or any moment is.  It gets better... and it always will, as we stay close to God, and renew our inward man. :)
Today, let's remember that the good always outweighs the bad, even if we can't see it, and even if it feels like this trial will never end.  God's promises are sure.  Let's look forward to that eternal weight of glory, which can lift us out of anything that is weighing on us, and make us feel like we can fly. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mark 2:27 -- On Commandments for Us

"And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."
Mark 2:27

Sometimes I think, we get things twisted around.  We think on some level that God is trying to be a dictator and that he asks us to do pointless things just to illustrate his power over us.  We don't always see the point of going to church, of paying tithing, of reading our scriptures, and the myriad other things that God asks of us.  I think that this verse points out clearly that the sabbath is there for our benefit, to help us.  It isn't there to harm us or force us to jump through hoops.  And I think that all of God's other commandments are like this as well.  They are there to help us, not to harm or manipulate us.  God is to us a parent, not a dictator, and he loves us and wants the best for us... but to get the best, we have to work and study and learn.  The commandments are designed to help us do that.  Today, instead of dismissing any of God's commandments as pointless, let's think about them and how they can help us draw closer to him and learn to be much more amazing than we are.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Matthew 25:4 -- On Oil and Transitional Goals

"But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps."
Matthew 25:4

This verse comes from the parable of ten virgins, which tells us symbolically about waiting for Christ, and being prepared with enough oil for our lamps. Ways that we can have a constant supply of oil are things that help us to feel the spirit and stay close to Christ in our lives. Things like prayer, scripture study, attending church, going to the temple, reading gospel books, and learning and teaching about the principles of the gospel are things that can help us to grow closer to God, and resist temptation.
I think that God warns us because, as in the parable, none of us know when Christ will return, and sometimes we get too used to the in-between state without him.  It's like our whole lives are spent waiting for him, but we knew him before this life and we will certainly know him after.  We just get confused in the middle sometimes and think that all eternity is this preparation time.  Like we get mentally trapped in High School or College mode sometimes, or even Mission mode.  These transitional times in our lives are times of intense growth and learning, but they aren't our goal.  They aren't ultimate reality.  And, just like someone who relives the glory days of High School over and over, imagining that was the pinnacle of their lives, sometimes we get trapped in the middle too, only prepared for the in-between and not our ultimate goal.
Today, let's remember that Christ is our ultimate goal.  Life with God is our purpose, and *that* is what we need to prepare for, and dream about.  Let's develop our relationship with God, let's nurture our spiritual sensitivity, and let's be ready for our real lives, when this transitional time is over.  Let's not make the mistake of thinking that this is all there is, and this is all we ever need.

Friday, January 22, 2016

D&C 128:6-7 -- On Books Above and Below

"And further, I want you to remember that John the Revelator was contemplating this very subject in relation to the dead, when he declared, as you will find recorded in Revelation 20:12—And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
You will discover in this quotation that the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; but the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; consequently, the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven; the principle agreeing precisely with the doctrine which is commanded you in the revelation contained in the letter which I wrote to you previous to my leaving my place—that in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven."
Doctrine and Covenants 128:6-7

I think that it is great that we are partially judged out of the records on earth and partially out of the records in heaven.  (Actually, just the fact that they *have* books in heaven seems pretty cool to me.)  It's another good reason to keep a journal... so we can tell our side and explain our actions.  We probably get to do that then too, but it might be a little harder... plus this way, writing helps us think through our actions when we still have a chance to do something about them and change.
It's a little scary that someone up there is actually recording all of this... but we kind of knew that all along.  It's just that being reminded of it makes us a little self-conscious.  Today, let's remember that what we do matters... not just now, but in the end.  We're here to learn and become better than we have been, to learn about God and the world and life.  Let's jump in and develop our talents, learn more, and improve ourselves.  Let's have something to write about, and for others to write about us.  When God asks us how we think our lives went, let's have something to say that is worth saying, like doing good and helping people and learning to make the world a better place.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 -- On Being the Children of Light

"Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation."
1 Thessalonians 5:5-8

I really like a lot of things here.  The idea of being the children of light is awesome.  And we are, as children of God, who is the light of the world, and who asks us to be as well.  I also love the imagery of faith and love as a breastplate and hope as a helmet, because those things *do* protect us from so much in this world.  And if we let go of them and lose them, we open ourselves up to deep wounds.
I think sometimes that we feel like we are of the night or of darkness.  It's hard to always feel like we are light and good and not like we want to run and hide.  I think this verse helps with that feeling a little bit: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).  The initial verse reminds us that we aren't of the night, but this verse recognizes that we may have been in the past.  Being children of light and belonging to God is something that we get to choose, even if we have wandered off in the darkness.  We can walk back, and still choose light.
God isn't advocating going without sleep completely here, by the way... it's more of a don't sleep while you are on watch thing.  We watch for the Lord's return, and if we sleep or get drunk while on duty, we'll miss it entirely.  Today, let's keep in touch with God and make sure that we know what he wants us to do, and try not to fall down on the job, or wander off into the darkness.  Let's choose to be the children of light, and stand up for Goodness and Love and Faith and Hope, knowing that they will protect us in the dark days to come.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Luke 16:10-12 -- On the Little Things

"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?"
Luke 16:10-12

This is a great reminder that the small things matter.  We so often want to believe that something is just a "little white lie" or that a sin is of the "small" or "not serious" variety, but God makes it clear here that everything that we do is tied together.  If we're dishonest in one area, we're overwhelmingly likely to be dishonest in another area.  Not because we're inherently horrible people, but because our guard isn't up, and slipping in a lie in one place makes it easier to blurt out one somewhere else.  Any justification makes it easier to justify another one as no big deal.  In our minds at least, we think that we might as well sin a little more since we already did in some other area.  So, today, let's start taking the little things seriously.  Let's remember that it is important to keep our tempers with telemarketers AND with our families.  Let's remember that we should work hard at our jobs AND our callings.  Let's make it a point to be honest on our taxes AND in our relationships.  In all these cases, and in everything else in our lives, yes... sometimes one thing is more important than the other, but clearly that doesn't mean that the other things are unimportant... they also matter, and they affect who we are, and the integrity of our hearts.
The whole faithfulness thing is kind of like convincing our parents to let us have a pet. :)  We have to prove we can take care of it first.  As we work on being just and faithful with God's stuff and other people's stuff, we start learning how to take care of our own stuff.  Let's commit to be faithful with the little things so that God can trust us with the big things.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Romans 6:13 -- On Yielding to God

"Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
Romans 6:13

I think we are usually on board with not yielding to sin, but I think much less often with the whole yielding ourselves to God part.  We think somehow that we can have both... that we can live the gospel, but keep ourselves... we want to do it our way instead of God's way.  A quotation by Howard W. Hunter speaks to this: "Peace can come to an individual only by an unconditional surrender--surrender to him who is the Prince of peace."  C. S. Lewis similarly said "If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell."
"Unconditional Surrender" and "Yielding" and even giving up our souvenirs... it's all scary.  So much of our lives are about figuring out who *we* are and what *we* want, juggling our own tasks and managing our own stress levels.  Yeah, sometimes we can't handle it and at those times it is a relief to turn to God and let him take our burdens, but the rest of the time, no.  We fight for them, and think that our "selves" are in danger if we let go all the way.
What we don't realize I think is that we are constantly at war with God.  Every day we are fighting him about so many things.  We know this or that isn't good, but we want to anyway.  We know we should be nicer, but... hey, that's just how I roll.  We're willing to give up those sins that we think hurt us or get in our ways, but the rest of them can wait.  We're not finished playing with them yet.  And we know... we *know.*  In the back of our minds we know that we have to give it all up at some point.  Let it go, grow up, whatever it is... but it seems horrible and scary to have to do that.  It's like sins are LEGOs, and we still want to play with them, and why should we have to give them up anyway?  We're trying to hold onto fun or childhood or a little immaturity or whatever.  And we don't want to be robots or go to boring heaven or join the stepford wives' club anyway.  So many things that we say to ourselves to justify.
The thing is, if we actually do it... if we actually let go of ourselves and surrender in our war with God unconditionally... if we let him win... we find out that all of that worry and drama was just a tantrum.  We're fighting over nothing at all.  Because giving into God doesn't take our selves away.  Instead it enables us to be our best selves.  "As those that are alive from the dead" ... he gave us new life, and all that newness and goodness in his hands can be so much more.  Yielding doesn't take fun away at all... in fact life is usually a lot *more* fun.  Sins are like playing with battery acid, not like LEGOs at all, and God wants us to be creative and imaginative and to enjoy life.  God isn't turning us into robots.  He is helping us grow and learn and excel, and the more we let go and allow him to do that, the more we learn to be like him.  Not in a Skynet or Borg way, but in a parent-child way.  Today, as hard as it seems... as hard as the words sound in our society... let's surrender in our war against God.  Unconditionally.  Let's yield our wills and our selves to him, and watch and see how he makes us so much better than we could ever make ourselves.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Moses 5:18-22 -- On Responsibility and Offerings

"And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;
But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?"
Moses 5:18-22

The Cain-Abel story is one that most of us are familiar with... the story of the first murderer.  I like this version of it in the Pearl of Great Price though, because it reveals some important details that aren't in the Genesis version of the story.  I think we get a clearer picture about why God didn't accept Cain's offering.  For instance, knowing that Cain loved Satan more than God and that Satan is the one that told him to make the offering in the first place.  I think the question from God is one that we need to think about as well.  A lot of times, like Cain, we get angry at God about something that *we* did wrong.  We have some weird idea that God should accept our lazy, misguided, and really bad offerings just because he loves us.  And God doesn't, and he won't, because he wants us to learn to do better.  He tells us "If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (Moses 5:23; see also Genesis 4:7).  But we're mad because the whole learning thing reeks of effort and Satan just accepts us the way we are.  ... And we're confused, and we think that that's the way life should be.  We shouldn't have to work for anything or put forth effort.  We should be good enough as is.  And it is a really scary deception that Satan is throwing at us, because he twists it enough to make it sound reasonable.  As though self-worth and education were the same thing, and our inherent value as people and our need to grow and learn and become were tied up with each other.  So, let's pull the lies back apart and untwist them a little.  God loves us enormously... more than we can imagine.  And like any parent, he isn't going to stop loving us if we make a mistake.  But, also like a parent, he isn't going to praise his little girl coming home from school with Ds and Fs on her kindergarten report card when he knows that she can do better.  He's going to tell her to put in more effort, and ask her to do better and learn more.
Life is like that.  God loves us deeply as his children, but he doesn't say that good and bad are the same.  He asks us to be good and work to be better, rather than accepting idleness and lack of progress.  He asks us to take some personal responsibility for the offerings that we place before him, and wants us to invest some time and effort into getting it right.  Today, let's stop being angry, as Cain was, when God asks us to do better than flunking out of kindergarten.  Let's instead jump in and learn more and figure out how to do as God asks.  He isn't asking to torture us... he's asking so that we can grow up and get to the next grade, and the next, and eventually learn to be cool like he is. :)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

John 14:27 -- On God's Peace

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27

This is an amazing gift from Christ that he gave his disciples, and which he also offers to us.  It is even more amazing, I think, in light of another scripture: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).  The second scripture makes it pretty clear that the peace God is talking about here isn't "peace on earth."  It isn't the absence of war or even the absence of conflict.  In fact, we are certain from other scriptures that we are going to go through conflict and trouble.  John 16:33 makes it clear as well: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  So the peace that God is offering us isn't world peace.  It isn't lack of challenges or obstacles in our lives.  "Not as the world giveth" says Christ, and I think that is very clear, because it isn't the kind of peace that we usually expect.  Christ's peace is the kind that lasts even when bad things happen.  The peace that we can have in the midst of the storm of life.  The kind it talks about in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; / Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."  Christ's peace is deeper and calmer than any cease fire.  It's something we can have permanently and always, even in the midst of literal or figurative explosions and turmoil.  As we turn to Christ and stop fighting against his gospel, and instead accept it unconditionally in our lives, we learn what real peace is... the confidence that no matter what is going on in our lives or in the world around us, that everything will turn out as it should.  We will know that we are in God's hands and that we'll get to the happy ending that he promised.  It is the power to be cheerful and patient in the midst of difficulty (Mosiah 24:15).
Today, let's seek after God's peace... the kind that lasts.  Not saying it is easy to let go of our own will and accept his, but as we do, we realize that it isn't giving up any freedom or personality.  It's actually gaining freedom and learning more about ourselves and our potential than we ever knew before.  It's being our best selves, and it is the only way to eternal happiness and true peace.  Despite the challenges of learning to let go of trying to control everything and have our way, it is worth it when we find out we can do and have so much more when we do it God's way. :)  Let's keep our hearts from trouble and fear by turning them over to God's keeping.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hebrews 11:13-16 -- On Faith in a Better Place

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
Hebrews 11:13-16

This speaks to all of us, doesn't it?  God gives us so much in this life, but some of his promises are beyond us for now.  Even so, seeking for them, for God... for his kingdom and his promises, it shows us sometimes how foreign this earth life is to us.  We were made for a better, and someday we will all get there.  We just have to have faith... that same faith that people throughout the scriptures had.  The faith that led them to do great things, and to stay dedicated to and focused on God.  They are blessed... and so are we, if we can follow in their footsteps and look to something better.  If we aren't ashamed of God, he won't be ashamed of us, and he'll prepare a city, and all things, for us.  Today, let's trust him and move forward in faith, trusting in that future and that far better, heavenly, country that God has waiting for us.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Alma 41:3 -- On Doing and Desiring Good

"And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good."
Alma 41:3

This is a good reminder that we're here to learn, and to learn we have to take action.  Passively listening and observing isn't enough.  Not saying it can't help us, because we can learn a lot from reading and thinking and others' examples.  But we have to live our lives and make our own decisions as well.  We have to do good works, and serve the people around us.  We need to learn love and kindness and purity and so many things, and we can't learn them like we need to without putting the principles into practice.  That's part of what earth life is for.  Here, we have bodies.  This provides temptations but also great opportunities... to do and to act.  As we learn to work with body and spirit, then we feel more united as individuals, and we also have an opportunity to learn of and unite with the will of God, learning from him how to love and serve and overcome trials.  Today, let's do good and desire good, and let's learn from God, the source of all good, so that someday we'll be restored to good. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Zechariah 1:3-4 -- On Turning to the Lord

"Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.
Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord."
Zechariah 1:3-4

God wants to be close to us, and he offers everyone the same deal... if we turn unto God, he will turn unto us.  We'll be friends, talking to each other all the time.  He'll help us out with stuff, and we can tell him anything.  No other friend can be as good as having God around all the time.  And yet so many don't want that.  They walk away from the most amazing offer on the table.  And we've seen in the scriptures how our ancestors have done when they walk away from God. Hint: It typically ends badly.
So, God now offers us this same deal that he has offered to everyone else throughout time.  Doesn't matter really who accepted and who didn't in the past... now it is our turn.  Even if we've walked away from the deal before, today it is in front of us again.  Today, let's resolve to be smarter than we have been historically.  If God, the creator of the universe, offers us friendship and guidance... let's jump at that chance.  Let's rejoice that we have the opportunity to commune with the one being who has all the answers... and all the questions. :)  Let's turn away from our evil ways and anything that distracts from that amazing chance, and let's turn to God, and stay turned that way, always.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Luke 10:3 -- On Flock Life

"Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves."
Luke 10:3

Here, Christ is sending out the Seventy to help spread the gospel, and he tells them that they will be like lambs among wolves.  With an analogy like that, what comes to mind?  Wolf supremacy and lamb dinner, right?  And yet we are working towards a world where "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb" (Isaiah 11:6; 2 Nephi 30:12) and "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together" (Isaiah 65:25).  It doesn't mean that the lambs will always succeed in the short term, but in the end, it is the wolves that will learn peace.
I think it is a really good analogy because it tells us who we are, and who we need to be.  Protection is in community and togetherness, and not straying off God's path where we can easily become prey.  It helps us understand that success isn't going to come through conquering and supremacy, but through meekness and kindness and gentleness.  Our strength isn't in our ability to kill, but in our ability to cooperate and unite.  It also shows us the challenge of spreading the gospel.  Some people will always think that life is about who can control, often through fear or intimidation or violence.  And maybe we're going to look like prey walking up to a predator if we try to convince them otherwise.
Some people are going to think that we are sheep in a negative way... not thinking for ourselves or blindly following a shepherd, not having any idea where we are going.   And of course we aren't that.  God encourages us to learn and to gain wisdom, and if we study the gospel, we know exactly what we are choosing.  Even so, we choose to be sheep and not wolves.  We choose to follow God and to no longer attempt life without him.  We choose fleece over fangs. :)  A lot of people are never going to understand that... but we know why.  We've seen and sometimes tried life without God.  We've learned that we don't want to be predators or harm others.  We've learn that we need our Shepherd, and love the flock.  Today, let's go forth as lambs among wolves, and trust in our shepherd.  Let's love, and be adorable, and help each other, and have fun, and show everyone why flock life is the only life. ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jacob 1:5 -- On Faith and Anxiety

"For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them."
Jacob 1:5

It is really cool that faith can help so many things happen.  This is seeing the future, right?  Who doesn't want to do that?  And it was because of faith... and anxiety.  In this case, I think anxiety doesn't just mean worry, but more concern and willingness to help... they really loved these people and wanted them to succeed, which made them worried, yes, but not in a pointless, stressy way.  It was in a let's-solve-this-problem way. And when we pair our belief + willingness to act (which are the ingredients of faith) with love + service, which in this case equals anxiety, or the care they felt for the people, or if you will, charity, the pure love of Christ, then you get telling the future. :)  Which is cool, and helped them prepare their people for what would come.  Now, this doesn't mean that we can use the future as entertainment or for profit.  I think it was limited to their stewardship and wasn't the winning lottery numbers... but still, amazing. :)
Today, let's work on our faith and our charity-type anxiety.  It might not result in a vision for the future, but God will help us with our righteous desires.  Let's jump in and be willing to work and serve for what we love and believe in... those are the ingredients of miracles.

Monday, January 11, 2016

D&C 50:43 -- On Oneness and Inasmuch

"And the Father and I are one. I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you."
Doctrine and Covenants 50:43

This is a great verse, telling us that the more we learn about, and get to know, and welcome Christ into our lives, the more that we are one with him in the same way that he is one with the Father.  That's pretty incredible, and something to strive for.  It doesn't mean that we have to be exactly the same as Christ in some robotic, Stepford Wives way.  It just means that we become more in tune, on the same page... understanding and getting to know each other like we might know our best friends, siblings, and spouses.  If we know them well enough, we know what they like, and even what they would say in certain circumstances, right?  As we get to know God that well, we'll know so much better what he would do or say, which is pretty amazing, and it can help us guide our lives a little better. :)
The other thing I really love about this verse is the word "inasmuch."  I just did a search and there are so many verses with this word in them, and all of them are telling us listen... you do a little and you will get a little, and do a lot, and you will get a lot.  There are immediate rewards for even the smallest efforts, which help us as we receive that feedback and work on that principle more.  If you have time today, look up inasmuch in the scriptures, and see some of the other things that work just as much as we work on them, and scale up with our effort.  I think it is a big principle with God, and it's how he rewards even our smallest glimmers of faith. :)  Today, let's jump in and work on our relationship with God, and on our faith, and on keeping the commandments, and on on generosity, and on every other "inasmuch" we're interested in.  Let's watch and even write down the results so that we remember.  As we try, even a little bit, God will bless us a little bit, and the better we get at it, the better things will get in that specific area.  For this verse, if we take it all the way, we'll really be in contact with God all the time, just like Christ was always in contact with the Father while he was in his ministry.  Super cool stuff.  Not something we have to get overwhelmed with either, but something that matches our effort, every time. I love the idea of inasmuch, and being able to see a return on every investment we make in the gospel.  A little for a little, and a lot for a lot. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Matthew 9:2 -- On Healing and Lessons and God's Will

"And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee."
Matthew 9:2

This is an interesting time when the people expected Christ to do one thing, and he did another.  He sees the sick man before him, and he responds to his need.  It was just a different need than all of the people around thought.  A few verses later he also heals the sick man.  The initial difference between what was expected and what was given though is something that I think we run into quite often in our lives.  We so often pray, asking God to help us, and we have in mind what we think we need, but God gives us what we truly need.  We might want a new job or a new relationship, or to be healed. We might want to avoid something that seems to be hanging over our heads, or ask that a certain trial be eliminated from our lives, and instead of all of those things, we have to stay in the job or the relationship and learn to make it better.  Or we get healed of our bitterness instead of our broken leg.  Maybe we don't avoid the thing we were afraid of, but God teaches us not to be afraid of it anymore.  Maybe we have to face the trial, but we slowly learn to overcome it.  ... I think that it's important to recognize those things as answers to prayers too, and also important to leave room in our lives for God to solve things HIS way rather than ours, by always being willing to accept God's will rather than our own.  We frankly don't often know what we're doing when we ask God for things, and if he gave us exactly what we asked for and were thinking all the time, our lives would be way messier than they are now.
The part that we don't always think about is that life can't just be about avoiding pain and having fun.  It can be like that some of the time.  God isn't anti-fun or anything.  But learning how to deal with life requires some opposition.  It's like learning math, or science, or the piano, or really anything.  It takes work.  It takes thought and dedication, and if we don't put in the time and actually work on learning it, then we can regress backward and forget everything we learned in that one class or when we took lessons when we were young.  We have to work for the knowledge, then we have to build on it.  And instead, we keep asking God to give us things that we are in no way ready for, because we haven't worked or studied or invested any time or thought.  Prayer is like that, and so is repentance.  All of the gospel, really.  Instead of just asking God to poof things into our lives, maybe we should be asking what to work on next. :)  We'll have plenty of times in our lives where we really need miracles... might as well save them for the things that we really can't do on our own. :)
Today, let's first remember that God knows best.  If he forgives us instead of healing us, we're getting a screaming deal. :)  And second, let's remember that we're here on earth to learn, and if we don't jump in and decide what we're willing to work for, we're going to miss a lot of opportunities of lessons that God wants to teach us.  Maybe God will bless us, as he did the man in this verse, with both spiritual and physical healing.  If so, let's also be of good cheer and remember to be thankful, for all of the learning and the healing and the growth and the miracles that we see in our lives... that's all coming from God.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Proverbs 31:26 -- On Wisdom and Kindness

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."
Proverbs 31:26

This chapter is extolling the virtues of the virtuous woman, but this probably applies to men as well. :)  I like the idea of specifically pairing wisdom with kindness.  Too often in this world I think we are thinking of "ways to get ahead" as though life is a game where the goal is to beat other people... some type of competition to climb higher or faster than the next person.  "Dog-eat-dog," "rat race," "claw your way to the top."  Aren't these things that we have heard in reference to life, or at least some parts of life?  I wonder sometimes what life would look like if we were working together rather than separately.
Today, instead of competing, maybe we should try to cooperate.  Let's use our wisdom to help and lift and cheer, rather than "getting ahead." :)  Let's make sure our wisdom and our kindness are working together.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Psalms 19:7-9 -- On Truth and Beauty

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Psalms 19:7-9

This is a beautiful little selection I think.  I like the descriptions... perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true and righteous.  I also love what it tells us about God's goals.  He wants us to be converted, wise, happy, enlightened, and for use to be those things forever.  It isn't just the imagery and the wording though.  God and his gospel really are true and righteous forever. :)  Since his law is perfect and his testimony is sure, then all of these things make sense, and we can have confidence in them. He helps us to be happier, to see more clearly, and we can be there, with him through the forever that he promises.  So, the verses are beautiful, but the truth within them is even more beautiful.  Today, let's see the beauty in God's word and in his gospel in our lives.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 -- On Sowing Cheerfully

"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."
2 Corinthians 9:6-7

I like this idea of giving to others as "sowing."  Like we are throwing out seeds that grow and grow into something bigger and grander than they started as.  We so often in life have this idea of everything as a limited commodity... things that aren't limited at all, like love and faith and joy.  We can't drain ourselves of those things... only block them with other, darker, emotions and beliefs.  We let doubt drown out our faith sometimes, but we don't use it up.  It is always there, if we choose to come back to it and start using it again. :)  And I think that as much as we believe in economics and limited commodities, that giving isn't a limited resource either.  It multiplies and grows, and somehow, no matter how much we give, we never run out.  It isn't an economic principle, so the mites that the widow gave (Mark 12:42-44) probably didn't double her investment monetarily or anything, but it certainly brightened her life being able to give that gift to God, and her two mites grew into something that not only blessed her, but also us, learning from her example, through Christ.  Even if we are out of mites, or whatever else, we always, always have something to give.
The idea of sowing doesn't mean that God wants every gift we give to have strings and expectations attached, where we only give in order to receive, either from that person or from God.  That twists the idea into something it isn't.  When we give, God asks us to give sincerely and freely, with no expectation of return. It's not the stock market or a guaranteed annual percentage rate... but giving to others (and through them, symbolically to Christ) is a better investment than any monetary one, because it isn't about our bank accounts, but about the world, and other people, and blessing lives and bringing joy.  Today, let's give.  Let's help and lift and enrich and love, and make the world better because we lived in it.  As we do, we'll see the seeds that we plant growing and becoming something more, and we'll be blessed in return, allowing us to do more sowing and brightening. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Isaiah 1:16 -- On Being Clean

"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;"
Isaiah 1:16

I wonder if our lives would be different if we thought of sin the way we do body odor or dirt... after a few days, we start to stink, and we get all itchy.  If we get something really dirty or smelly or gross on us, we usually want to wash it off right away, especially before we eat.  God asks us to be clean, but clearly the cleanliness he is talking about here isn't physical cleanliness (although of course, that is also a good idea).  It's being spiritually clean from evil.  And that idea, that sin makes us dirty, is a powerful one, and I think a valid one.  We can't always see what it is doing to our souls, but God surely can, and he asks us to not make him look at it.  In the next verse he asks us to learn to do some good things too.  He wants to work with us.  He wants us to be clean and pure and not itchy and smelly from sin.
God isn't asking us to do this for his benefit, although he of course doesn't want to see us destroying ourselves.  When our parents teach us to bathe and shower and wash behind our ears, they aren't doing it just for their sakes so they don't have to smell us. :)  They are teaching us habits that are going to help us long term, so that we don't lose opportunities or jobs or dates, or whatever, because of poor personal hygiene.  And God is doing the same thing... he is teaching us habits that will help us not lose out on spiritual opportunities, or callings, or dates. :)  He is helping us learn to be ready for everything now and in eternity that we won't be ready for if we aren't clean.  Today, let's take our cleanliness seriously, and not lose out because we're itchy and smelly and don't even want to be around ourselves... physically or spiritually.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

D&C 88:41 -- On God and All Things

"He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:41

Sometimes we fall into the whole "God is just like us" idea, and although it is true that we are similar in many ways, being God's children, I think we forget the immensity of the whole "God" thing.  Reading this verse, I think that he is just so far beyond us that it's kind of like an ant trying to compare himself to the sun, or fight against it, or become it.  I don't mean that trying to become like God is hopeless... it's more than worth it for what we are beginning to become as we learn, and if we want to work for it, eventually somewhere in eternity we can get there.  But it is going to require a long time and a lot of miracles that are beyond our power.  We can only become like God as God teaches us how.
God comprehends ALL things.  That's amazing.  And we think that we are super smart sometimes, but it's laughable to think that we approach God's knowledge even in our best subjects.  He's through all things, and yet they are all before and round about him, but he is round about them... all things are of him.  It's confusing and yet it makes sense on some spiritual level... that God is part of and in charge of everything, which is why he can promise us things like "all things shall work together for your good" (D&C 90:24).
Today, let's not diminish the idea of God in our minds by imagining that he is less than perfect, or that he can't fulfill every promise he makes.  He created us, and everything around us.  He can keep a promise.  Let's have faith in him, and proper respect for the awesome idea of God, who is so much smarter and bigger and cooler than anything we could imagine.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Luke 6:38 -- On Giving

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Luke 6:38

This is an interesting principle.  The idea is that we get back exactly as much as we give.  It's a pretty incredible idea, actually, and I think that if we took it seriously, we would probably be giving a lot more in our lives. :)  On one hand, it helps others, and on the other hand, we get back exactly the measure of what we give... and maybe even more, with that whole "running over" idea. :)  So, it's like win-win-win.  We get to feel generous, the people that we gave to get to have something more than they did, and then we get it all back, so we don't actually lose anything long term.  And if we get more, as we're promised, then we can give more, and keep the cycle going. :)
Today, let's give.  Let's put God's principles to the test. :)  It will all happen according to God's timing and not our own, of course, but let's trust God in this, and start spreading our blessings out further, blessing more people's lives.  Whether it is money, or talent, or kindness, or forgiveness, or love, or meals, or really anything else that is good, let's be generous and welcoming.  God will return blessings to us as we bless the lives of others.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Alma 36:18-20 -- On Complete Healing

"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am bin the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!"
Alma 36:18-20

There are some great things here.  I like the fact that when the pain of sin is over, it can be gone all the way... no memory of the pain, no everlasting regret.  Repentance is a true new start, and you don't have to suffer eternally for your mistakes.  I also love that the joy is just as extreme as the pain was.  God isn't a torturer, making us thankful just for the absence of pain.  He's a healer.  He puts our souls back together again after we've damaged them, and we become new again, not just functioning, but happy.  It's kind of like Christ's physical healing.  He healed a man born blind, and people who had been lame most of their lives.  Modern medicine can do the same thing, kind of, in some cases.... but to see the immensity of it, consider how modern medicine does things like that.  If we grant sight or mobility to people, they have to relearn how to walk, or learn what all the things that they see mean... learn colors, learn depth perception, etc.  When Christ healed, he healed *completely* ... none of that was necessary.  People could take up their beds and walk immediately instead of going to physical therapy.  God's kind of healing doesn't just fix us physically, but also spiritually, mentally, emotionally... every other way.  Instead of just stopping the bleeding, God's healing can take away the scars... whether physical or otherwise.
None of this is to say that repentance is easy.  I know it isn't.  And it isn't to say that sometimes we don't need some reminders of our mistakes so that we don't make them again.  Even Alma (the person speaking in these verses) had to go farther than this.  Life doesn't end when we're forgiven... we still have to move forward and live better lives.  But I am saying that when God forgives us and blesses us, he does it completely and wholeheartedly.  We're whole and clean again, and to him, no matter our offenses, we aren't parolees or ex-cons to be closely monitored.  We're just people that he loves just as much as if we had never made the mistake in the first place.  And if that isn't a reason for exceeding joy right there, I don't know what is.  Today, let's call upon God for mercy.  Let's repent and decide now to change.  And let's thank God for the atonement and the forgiveness and wholeness that Christ makes possible.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

3 Nephi 11:14 -- On Perspective

"Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world."
3 Nephi 11:14

What an experience.  I think that we all will get to experience this eventually.  Sometimes we get frustrated because we don't have some of these same experiences as people in the scriptures.  Looking, as we do, at their lives from the outside, it all seems so clear.  It's hard to understand why Laman and Lemuel didn't believe an angel that was standing in front of them.  We don't always see why the children of Israel were so tempted to worship idols or to return to Egypt.  Why did Jonah not want to do what God asked?  So many things that seem sort of baffling as we read them... but to the people who went through them they were real trials.  We don't have all the details of every event... scriptural history is just snapshots in time.  But I think if we imagine someone reading about our lives, we can see some of the disconnects.  Why did we make the choices that we made that let us to this time and this place?  Why haven't we solved this or that problem in our lives yet?  It's hard to see what goes on in our lives from the outside, and even hard to explain it to others who weren't there in our heads. :)
Two ideas then.  First, we *are* like the people in the scriptures.  We get similar choices and similar opportunities.  Sometimes ours are spiritual where theirs were physical, and sometimes the other way around.  We all have similar main paths and choices though... to walk closer to God or further away, and sometimes other people can help us see the choices more clearly because they are looking from outside our heads. :)  Not that we should trust in the arm of flesh (2 Nephi 4:34 and elsewhere), but sometimes talking to a good friend that we know isn't going to contradict God can be a good touchstone.  We're here to help each other.  We just have to make sure God comes first.
The other idea is that Christ suffered for us, and it wasn't just physical, because he suffered for our sins, and felt from the *inside* what it was like to be each of us.  Even at those times when no one can possibly understand what we're going through and no one gets it... he still does.  That doesn't mean that he gives us permission to sin.  Even through the hardest times, we have to do the right thing... but he does understand temptation and fear and hurt and sickness, perfectly and individually.
Today, let's look forward to the time when we will be able to be in the physical presence of God.  Until then, let's also build our relationship with him spiritually, trying to understand his perspective as much as he understands ours.  Let's help each other, and let's allow God to help us overcome ourselves and move forward.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Deuteronomy 2:3-5 -- On Choosing to be Chosen

"Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.
And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore:
Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession."
Deuteronomy 2:3-5

I like the idea that God tells the people to move after they have stayed in one place for a while.  He could have taken them directly there, but he didn't.  I think the same thing happens to us.  We don't always get where we want to go right away, even with God leading us.  Sometimes it is because we aren't ready.  Sometimes it is because we aren't supposed to go there, and God is giving us the time to realize that.  Other times the timing is just off.  And God knows the timing perfectly.
I also like the idea of the promised land being one of many.  The people had to go peacefully through some of the lands on the way to theirs because those lands had been promised to others.  God loves all people, and in order for us to learn that kind of community and universal love that God is trying to teach us, we have to learn that God loves the people next door just as much as he loves us.  And next door to everything.  A lot of times instead of wanting equality we actually want preferential treatment.  And it is a hard lesson sometimes that we don't have to raise ourselves up at the cost of others, and that we lose nothing when others win.  We enjoy feeling special and chosen and singled out for something great.  ... And the thing is, we are, or we can be.  It's just in a way that works for everyone without detracting from the immensity of the favor bestowed upon us. 
We read the scriptures, and what do we learn from them?  We learn that to be chosen, we have to choose God.  To be called, we have to have the desire and the willingness to serve.  We learn that for God to grant us a promised land, we also have to make a promise to God.  We learn that one person, focused and dedicated to God, can change the entire world.  That worth and belonging and king-of-the-world feeling that we think we want... it doesn't come from winning, or being richer or more fortunate than someone else.  It comes from God.  From his love.  We are choosing every day whether to be called and chosen and singled out for greatness.  It doesn't diminish us if someone else makes the same choices... in fact, it helps us and strengthens our community of people trying to make things better.
Today, let's choose to be chosen. :)  Let's join God's team and do his will, making ourselves and this world better.  Let's leave the timing to God, and work towards our promised land, respecting the promised lands of others, and joining with whoever else also chooses to be chosen.

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