Saturday, December 31, 2016

3 Nephi 5:7-8 On the Great and Marvelous

"And thus had the twenty and second year passed away, and the twenty and third year also, and the twenty and fourth, and the twenty and fifth; and thus had twenty and five years passed away.
And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;"
3 Nephi 5:7-8

I like this.  It's good to remember both that the scriptures can't possibly contain all of the history of God's dealings with man, and also that there are so many great and marvelous things out there that we don't focus on.  We sometimes focus just on the highest highs and the lowest lows, and often on the bad more than the good, coming to the conclusion that everything is bad or that only the drama matters.  But often the great and marvelous are the things that happen everyday.  They aren't always the ones that we write down or include on the highlights reel, but they matter because they were  there every day, and made life more fun, or interesting, or tolerable, or exciting, in that day.  And our lives are composed of those little things, added up into who we are.  Sometimes big experiences change us, but more often it is the little ones, over time, and the choices we make about what we will do and who we want to be, each day.

Today, as we are tempted to think in dramatic terms and look only for the lightning bolts... let's remember that the less dramatic light is a lot more consistent and enlightening. :)  Let's embrace today, and make good choices and be good people right now, in the moment that we are in.  And as we make that determination... and continue to make it, we will build up some great and marvelous things in our lives.  That everyday consistency will bring us joy and peace and goodness, whether or not it is impressive to anyone else.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Alma 32:37-38 -- On Trees of Testimony

"And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out."
Alma 32:37-38

Here, Alma compares the word, or the gospel, to a seed.  It's an interesting analogy that is a really good reminder to us.  Often we think or feel that commitment to God is a single decision.  We commit, we get baptized, and we're done.  Instead, like many other commitments in life, it is a beginning--the planting of a seed.  We might look forward an anticipate the fruit of that action, or the grandeur of the eventual tree, but we still have to work to get there.  How do we nourish the seed?  Mostly I think by maintaining that commitment every day.   We can do things like remembering God through prayer, scripture study, good works, etc.  We can think and talk about gospel principles.  Getting those gospel roots growing and planted deep will help us grow up tall and strong, and able to weather the storms of life without losing our connection with God, and letting our precious and young testimonies wither away.

Today, let's remember that God is an all-the-time, everyday commitment, and that the gospel permeates all parts of our lives, not just occasionally on Sundays. :)  Let's be careful with our seedlings, and later with our trees, and make sure that our hearts and souls are open and welcoming ground for God's word, and that we don't ever let any internal or external axes near.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Luke 22:26-27 -- On Service and Greatness

"But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth."
Luke 22:26-27

Christ's teachings turn many of the things that we learn from our society on their heads.  We often compare or compete, trying to determine what our "score" is in life.  Are we ahead, are we behind... and exactly what are the rules?  It can be confusing and contradictory, depending on who we look to for the answers to those questions.  I really like God's answer here.  He tells us to let go of that whole way of thinking, and stop trying to be better than each other.  He asks us to follow his example in this as in other things... to serve others rather than trying to seek power.

I also like that God's idea of greatness includes submissiveness and humility.  Those are things that are often very hard for us to learn, but which are absolutely necessary before we can build important relationships and before we can accept God fully into our lives, since we can't do that if we are always fighting him for primacy.  Today, let's follow Christ's example, and work on letting go of our need to be right, and instead focus on love, service, and other aspects of God's will. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Exodus 32:1 -- On Patience

"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."
Exodus 32:1

This verse is from when Moses was up the mountain communing with the Lord.  And, yes, it was a long time, and yes, perhaps the people legitimately thought he was dead.  But instead of asking Aaron to talk to God for them, or praying to God themselves, they decided to ask for idols of gold.  Gods that can be made weren't really going to work out, and they had so very recently witnessed miracles, but already they are ready to turn back to things they perhaps had gotten used to in Egypt.

Unfortunately, I think we are much the same.  We aren't very patient, especially with God.  We expect him to snap his fingers and solve all of our problems, and when we don't see that happen overnight, we turn to other objects of worship to fulfill our desires instead.  As with the children of Israel in this chapter, it clearly isn't going to work, but we still do it, almost like addicts keep trying to fill internal holes with whatever obsession of choice, even when they/we have already seen that it doesn't actually fill anything more than temporarily, and actually makes the hole bigger..

God didn't send us to earth to be coddled.  He loves us, no question, but he loves us enough to teach us to solve our own problems when we can, and to learn some patience and faith... to grow up to be strong and capable.  With the Israelites, after this he lets them wander for 40 years in the wilderness before he takes them into the promised land that he was going to give them.  He could have saved them a lot of trouble if he had just done it immediately, but what would they have learned?  ... Sometimes I think that we get some delays in our lives for the sole reason that we really need to learn to have faith and trust and rely on the Lord.  It is an essential lesson to our long-term happiness, and it isn't something that we can ever learn if God grants us every request immediately, or if we don't realize that God will sometimes say no if we ask for things that are unwise.  We learn to trust his judgment sometimes as it points out our own misjudgment.

Today, let's work on being patient and not giving up on God, even when things don't happen as quickly as we would like, or exactly the way we wanted them to.  Let's wait for the prophet to come down the mountain and listen to what he has to say. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Psalms 18:31-32 -- On God

"For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect."
Psalms 18:31-32

This is a good reminder that nothing else can stand in for God.  We often try to run our lives by other things, but God is the one that can actually strengthen and help us.  I like the idea of God as a rock as well... solid, firm, unbreakable.  Nothing else can be relied on like God can... even when actual rocks break, God will always be there for us.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Jeremiah 12:5 -- On Whining and Weathering

"If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"
Jeremiah 12:5

This verse seems to be responding to the question from the beginning of the chapter: "Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?"  As a response to that question, it is pretty much telling the asker (and all the rest of us) to learn to deal with it.  Not that God doesn't have compassion for what we are going through, but he makes the excellent point that if we can't cope with the current challenges and troubles we have and the wickedness that now surrounds us, we probably are going to have a difficult time handling future, more challenging obstacles.

I am absolutely not saying that everything that we ask about or question in life is meaningless.  God does care about our lives, and how well we are coping.  But I think if we take a step back and look at ourselves honestly, we'll find that we often ask questions that are sort of whiny.  God cares anyway, and does all he can to help us, but part of helping us is pointing it out, so we can learn to do better.  Having someone tell us to stop whining is rarely what we want to hear, but sometimes the most important message to accept, because I think it can change our perspective from focusing on suffering and complaining to focusing on changing and transcending... weathering the storm in a way that will make us more prepared for the next one, rather than less. :)

When we focus on change instead of complaint, then we empower ourselves to work on doing something about the situation, rather than just leaving things the way that they are.  We can't always address the problem directly, but we can almost always do something about our attitudes or our perspective, and how we handle adversity.  Today, let's make sure we distinguish between things that are worth our mental energy and things that are not.  And when they are, let's commit to make changes in our own lives to help us prepare for and deal with those challenges, instead of expecting the world, or God, to step in and change things for us.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Luke 3:10-11 -- On Giving and Sharing

"And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:10-11

This is John the Baptist preaching to the people.  I love the simplicity of the message: give; share.  And I think perhaps the gospel *can* be this simple, if we take this message to heart.  If we have more than we need, we can give to those that have less than they need.  And maybe we have more in some areas and less in others.  And we probably often think we need more than we really do, so simplifying our lives helps us see all of the extra that we're not really using.

Today, let's embrace the spirit of giving and sharing, and bless other people with generosity and kindness.  The more we do this, the better we can make the world.  Let's be part of making that difference, and let's have faith in doing it God's way, even if we can't see it affecting anything larger yet.  It will.  There is always a happy ending, if we keep working for it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Luke 11:36 -- On Losing Our Darkness

"If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light."
Luke 11:36

This reminds me of the quotation by C.S. Lewis "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."  I think that one of the biggest challenges we have in life is letting go of those dark "souvenirs of hell" in our lives, and embracing the light completely.  We seem to want to hold onto the darkness for some reason.  Perhaps it is familiar, or we think they might have cookies. :)  At some point though, we won't be able to progress further without letting go of that inner darkness.  Part of that is learning to trust God and that God's unfamiliar is always going to be better than our own familiar... and God's cookies are also infinitely superior. :)  Part of it is facing our fear of change, and responsibility, and loss, and discovering/realizing that our fear and paranoia is getting in the way of our joy.  Moving on and letting go of our darkness allows us to be so much more than we are, and that much happier as well.

Today, let's work on letting go of our souvenirs of Hell, and filling ourselves with all light, all the time.  Let's trust God and remember that changing for the better is worth it, and then let's follow through on it, eventually "having no part dark." :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Alma 24:18 -- On Action and Attitude

"And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands."
Alma 24:18

This is an excerpt from a great story about a whole group of people who converted to the gospel and were absolutely sincere and committed to changing their lives.  Because they had been the instigators of many wars in the past, they worried about the blood on their hands, and so they vowed never to take up arms again.  I like that in this verse it talks about it going beyond that though... not just action in stopping the murder and harm that they were doing, but in attitude as well: truly understanding why they were changing, and doing it out of love rather than fear.

This might be something to aspire to... to have repentance and change in our lives that is this sincere, we have to really dedicate ourselves to real improvements, not just in action, but in thought and attitude and perspective.  To give to others, to love others, to protect others, to work and learn and grow.  We need to be open to learning to see as God sees, and to loving as he loves.  Today, let's stand firm in our decision to follow God, and be sincere and dedicated to our desire to improve further.

Romans 3:9-12 -- On Profitability

"What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 3:9-12

The idea here that we are not better than anyone, or righteous, or good, and are essentially "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10) is an interesting one.  In the corporate world we get wrapped up in return on investment... is the money, or effort, or time that we are putting into something actually making us more money or benefiting the company in another way?  Are we making customers happy, improving our brand, or able to recruit and retain great employees?  ... And, of course, if something isn't profitable in *any* way, then we get rid of it.

In our daily lives sometimes we think of things this way as well.  We sell off property that isn't doing the service that we wanted it to, and occasionally if a relationship isn't providing some benefit to us, maybe we think of it similarly.  The sort of mercenary "what have you done for me lately" type idea.  The analogy that God uses here about unprofitability applies to us in a business sense and in a personal sense.  As servants/employees, not one of us is returning more value to the community than God has invested in us.  If God were our CEO, we'd be out on our butts.  And in terms of measuring the usefulness of a relationship (despite the scariness of that kind of selfish measurement)... if God were measuring how useful we are to him as friends/minions/sycophants, we'd also be kicked to the curb.  That's part of the reason that we're "less than the dust of the earth" (Helaman 12:7).

Luckily, even though we are unprofitable and often lazy and useless as servants, God doesn't judge us by whether we are returning on his investment or by how much we've done for him.  He looks at us as our Father, knowing our potential, and loving us despite our weakness relative to dust. :)  Today, perhaps we should return the favor, remembering that God isn't *our* employee either, and that even if he doesn't do exactly what we want, he does love us, and is working to help us.  It's about love, not about what we can get out of it.  And if we've gone astray, let's also remember that just like the prodigal son who wasted everything that his Father gave him, God will welcome us home anyway.  We are his children, not assets on a balance sheet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Moroni 7:13 -- On Finding and Encouraging Good

"But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."
Moroni 7:13

This kind of goes along with Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."  The idea is that there is good all around us.  It isn't relegated only to one race, or faith, or political party, but we can find good things all around us.

This is interesting beyond the concept of external observation as well.  If we think about the things that we do in our own lives, maybe this is a good way judge ourselves as well, in order to improve.  Do we encourage others to love God?  Are we inviting and enticing others to do good, or are we perhaps doing the opposite?  If we want to be "of God," then working on encouraging good and love and service looks like a good plan. :)

Today, let's look for the good in the world around us, and let's also BE the good in the world around us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Matthew 10:42 -- On Cups of Cold Water

"And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."
Matthew 10:42

This verse always reminds me of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss.  If you haven't read it, I recommend it, and if you have, you will recall that the Grinch, as he is stealing all the presents and things from the Who's houses, sees a little Who-girl "who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water." She asks him what he is doing.  He lies about it, and then he gets her a drink and sends her to bed.  And that is a clue, even just partway through the story, that the Grinch isn't all bad. :)

Likewise, our service to others, especially to children, is a clue that we aren't all bad. :)  We all have bad parts of ourselves, but as we serve others, we help expand our own hearts and souls, so that we have more room to invite God in.

I also like the fact that the water is cold.  That shows us that some thought was put into it.  When we show love for the people around us, especially children, the little details count.  Grumbling to ourselves and saying they should be grateful for what they get kind of ruins the spirit of the whole thing.  The idea is to get people what they want... to surprise and delight them with our gifts of service and love.  And if we think about it, I think we will see that God gives in this way as well.  Of course bad things happen to us all and we are all tested, but when God gives us gifts and blessings, we are blessed overwhelmingly and in miraculous ways, with amazing attention to detail and to who we are, and what we love.

Today, let's remember the cups of cold water that we can give to others.  Even if we can give nothing else, let's give that.  And let's remember that we aren't all bad, and work to expand our hearts and our souls--to be better, and to love others more completely. :)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mark 12:30 -- On Learning to Love

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
Mark 12:30

This verse reminded me of the primary song "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus."  Part of the lyrics go "Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, / For these are the things Jesus taught."  The idea of deeds *and* thoughts is a powerful one.  I think we usually focus on deeds or actions.  We learn to do the right thing, but I'm not sure we often consider the necessity of *thinking* the right thing as well.  And even beyond the primary song, this verse adds in aspects that we don't always factor in when we think about obedience or following the Lord.

I think maybe we get the general idea of putting God first.  I'm not sure we really get the details here of what it means to be committed in all of these ways, or how they interact or overlap.  If we love God with *all* our hearts, what difference would that make in our lives?  If we loved him with our whole souls... is that different?  Are there things that we are committed to that much?  If we were committed to him with all of our minds, surely that is different... and how would it change our daily lives if we were?  And if we committed all of our strength to the Lord?  What does that look like?  Why did God clarify his commandment in these ways?  How would it be different if he just told us to love him?

I'm not sure I can answer all of those questions, but I think that we can in our own lives, if we think about the generosity and love, not only that we've experienced from other people and hopefully learned to show in return, but if we really sit down and think about the immense treasures of love that God has blessed us with in our lives.  When someone loves us, we don't want them to just go through the motions, or come to us and say sorry because mom made them. :)  We know the difference between shallow, outward protestations of love and heartfelt expressions.  And maybe that is most of what God is asking us here.  He's saying, please don't just pretend to love, or do it out of a sense of duty.  Maybe it starts out that way, sure... but to get to real relationships we have to move beyond what we're told to do, and start doing things because we actually care.  We learn to think about others when we experience life, and to take other people into account as we make decisions, and God more than deserves that consideration as well.  We're often willing to serve and give all the time and strength that we have to loved ones when they are sick.  God isn't sick, but he merits that kind of dedication.  We learn to pour our whole souls into some of our hobbies and talents.  Imagine what we could do if we did that for God.

God knows that we're still learning, and he doesn't expect us to be perfect at loving him, just like he knows we're still learning to love other people.  He knows that it is hard for us sometimes to love what we can't see... and maybe that is another reason he added in the details, so we wouldn't look with only our eyes.  As it says in 1 John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us."  Today, though we are imperfect at it, let's consider all that God has done for us, and work to do better on our end.  Let's resolve to put him first, and to love him on a deeper level... to develop that relationship and get to know him better, and thereby love him more.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Moroni 10:20-22 -- On Moroni's Example

"Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity."
Moroni 10:20-22

This is an excerpt from the last chapter of the Book of Mormon.  Moroni, whose father Mormon compiled most of the records that make up the book, is still alive even though his whole nation has been destroyed, and he's watched everyone he cared about die.  Moroni then abridges and adds one final record and writes some personal notes, here in this chapter, to anyone who will read the book.

What stands out to me very vividly about these verses is that Moroni, alone and wandering wherever he can to stay alive (Moroni 1:1-3) is here teaching *us* not to be in despair.  What he and his father saw is described in very small part in these last chapters, but it includes rape, torture, cannibalism, and combinations of the same.  Perhaps worse, it was Moroni's own people, the Nephites, who were the more depraved, and who were completely destroyed, along with his father.  What reasons does Moroni have to hope?

And yet, Moroni in the midst of all of that didn't become part of it, and he also did not despair, even in his unusually challenging circumstances.  He doesn't crawl into his bedroll and give up, or commit suicide-by-Lamanite by "accidentally" alerting them to his presence.  Instead, he trusts God, and he writes to us, encouraging us to do the right thing, to have faith and hope and charity (the pure love of Christ) in our lives.

Moroni is a hero to me, and I think we can learn a lot from his example.  Instead of letting our circumstances crumple us into a little ball of anxiety and despair, we can stay smooth and hopeful, and even find joy in whatever circumstances that we are in, because we have God.  Faith in God means that there IS hope.  Even if, like Moroni, it gets to the point where we've lost everything we love, we can still dedicate ourselves to the future. We can write and share and keep trusting that God will make it right, even when it seems to have all gone wrong.  We were *imaginary* people to Moroni.  We didn't exist yet except as an idea, but he loved us anyway.  He had that pure love that we call charity because he trusted God and had faith that he would carry his words to somewhere in the future where they could do some good.  And here they are, and here we are.  Bless Moroni for being that faithful, and hopeful, and that full of love.  And let us try to trust God enough to follow his example.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Revelation 18:4-5 -- On Coming Out of Babylon

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities."
Revelation 18:4-5

This is an excerpt from a whole chapter talking about Babylon, which in this case is likely a symbolic reference rather than a literal one, because this is part of a group of chapters talking about events leading up to what is often referred to as Armageddon (referred to in Revelation 16:16), which is still a future event.  So the idea of Babylon here is the idea of making sure that we aren't agreeing with or being part of the evil around us.

That's a challenging idea, because pretty much by definition, we are in the middle of "Babylon," right?  We are in the world, part of society.  God asks us to "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15).  He also says to "be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).  But then again, we aren't supposed to just go into a convent or something.  We can't be "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14) if we just go hide in the desert somewhere. :)  So, where is the balance?  How do we "come out" of Babylon, and yet still spread light and set an example for the world around us?

Maybe that's an answer that we have to find in each of our lives, but at least the beginning of it is here in this verse.  If we avoid partaking in sin, then we can essentially be in the world, but not of the world, right?  We can show that we are taking a stand for God while still loving and serving the people around us.  We have to not let the world overwhelm us, and remember that nothing external to ourselves can force us to make evil choices.  With God's help, we can be an influence for good, instead of just slipping into the evil around us.  Today, let us come out of Babylon.  Sometimes that might need to be literally, but we can definitely do it symbolically by dedicating ourselves to God, not to the crowd.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Isaiah 57:20 -- On Pollution and Peace

"But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
Isaiah 57:20

There are some things in life that we just can't understand or sometimes even perceive unless we are at peace.  We're so distracted/obsessed/troubled with whatever is going on in our heads and hearts that we stir things up around us and we can't perceive other things... sometimes it is hard to focus even on the people closest to us.  It is also very difficult to communicate with God unless we take time to calm our minds and find some focus outside of our own worries or desires.  I think that is the point that Isaiah is making here, comparing the wicked to the storms and pollution of a troubled sea.

God tells us that there is no peace to the wicked in the very next verse, and I think that shows us that, even more than normal anxiety and stress, when we sin we confuse, darken, and blur our lives until we can't see anything clearly.  And really serious sins are kind of like the combination of a Tsunami and a giant offshore oil spill, right?  Mire and dirt, and destruction and death instead of life.  We find ourselves harming our own souls.

When we realize what a mess we are making of our lives, God gives us the chance to recover from even our worst wickedness, but it can't happen without some dedication to cleaning up our minds and our hearts, and ensuring that another similar disaster won't happen.  It takes time to change sinful habits, or to work to heal harm that we have caused... but just like we can rebuild after a terrible storm, and clean up after an oil spill, with God's help, life can start looking normal again, and we can find peace.

Today, let's let go of the sins and distractions that are pulling us away from peace.  Let's take the time to stop and talk to God about where we are in life, and where we want to get, with his help.  Let's take the path to peace, whether it is the first few steps back, or whether we are well in.  No matter where we are, the most important thing is to make sure we're traveling in the right direction--towards God rather than away from him.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2 Nephi 4:18-19 -- On Temptation and Trust

"I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."
2 Nephi 4:18-19

I like the idea that even a prophet worries about temptations and sins all around.  Not because that makes him weak, but because it means that we all have that same ability to overcome the hard things... through God, which is who Nephi has trusted to get him through.  In the next verse he says "My God hath been my support."  That can be true for all of us.

Sometimes we think that God isn't supporting us because our lives are hard, and we're surrounded by things that are dangerous and can hurt us, like temptation and sin.  But those things don't mean that God doesn't love us or isn't willing to help us.  They mean that God is teaching us to be strong, and able to choose the good things, even when there are bad things around us.  It's similar to our human parents.  They know that growing up in this world is going to expose us to things that they might not approve of, but instead of keeping us at home forever, they let us go  to school and out into the world in other ways.  They let us experience some bad things and interact with non-ideal people, and work to teach us how to stay okay anyway.

Now, of course this doesn't mean that we should *ever* go looking for bad things.  That's not what God wants.  If they surround us or happen to us, and we are working to choose good, he will help us and make it possible for us to escape and be okay.  But if we go looking for them, we can get ourselves in over our heads.  Today, let's remember that even the prophets went through trials and temptations, but God supported them, and he can support us too.  Let's trust in him and learn to walk away from sin, and choose God and the good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hosea 3:1 -- On Symbols and Priorities

"Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine."
Hosea 3:1

This is the Lord talking to the prophet Hosea.  God made Hosea's whole life kind of a symbolic representation of his relationship with his people, and in this case, he asked him to love a woman who was an adulteress.  It was a lesson to the people around him that God still loved his people, although they had essentially cheated on him the way that an adulterer cheats on his or her spouse.  It's kind of a stark comparison, but I think that God uses it so that we will take the idea seriously.

We often symbolically cheat on God in this way, and we don't realize that it is just as harmful to our relationship with God as adultery is in a marriage.  We "look to other gods" when we love flagons of wine, or anything else, more than we love God.  Maybe we're putting a job or a degree before him, or maybe a hobby or a car or a house, or even a person.  God wants us to love and care for and respect other people, don't get me wrong, but he specifically tells us that "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). Even when it is family relationships, we have to remember that loving God is the first commandment, and loving others is the second. :)  Other people can sometimes get in the way of doing the right thing, and having a relationship with God.  In those cases, we have to put God first.

God's message to us later in this chapter is that he will forgive his people, including us, and take us back in the latter days, which is a great and hopeful thing to look forward to.  But first we have to learn to put him first, and stop the symbolic adultery against him.  Today, let's take our priorities seriously, and make sure that we are giving God and his commandments the respect, attention, and time that we need to give them, in order to be able to hear his voice and have him with us, helping us in everything that we do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Psalms 37:34 -- On Waiting and In-Between Spaces

"Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it."
Psalms 37:34

Waiting is hard sometimes.  It's like being stuck in an airport when we're traveling, or rushing to try to get to the next class.  When we're young, sometimes it is this yawning, unbelievable void that we have to suffer through before we can be "big."  I mean, teleportation, not to mention time travel, is way overdue, right?  Then we could just hit the highlights and not slog through all this in-between time.

And yet, here God asks us to wait.  Not only here, but many places. It sort of reminds me of the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25), where they have to wait on the bridegroom.  And when the waiting was finally over, some of them were ready and some weren't.  ... And maybe that is the whole point of waiting, of in between space, of life itself.  Because in that in between space between our birth and death dates is everything we have become.  The verse above mentions that while we are waiting we need to keep God's way, and tells us that waiting and doing the right thing will pay off in the end.  Similarly, the parable of the ten virgins encourages us not only to wait, but to *prepare.*  It's kind of like a meeting at work, or perhaps a report at school.  We heard about it three days ahead of time, but still when we get there, we haven't prepared adequately, and so we can't really participate.

God gives us this life... all of it, to learn and to prepare to return to his presence.  There are a lot of challenges inherent in that task.  One of them is jumping ahead and trying to do things without God, when we need to wait for his timing in order to let things happen the right way.  Another can be just waiting, without using the in between time to prepare.  Then, we end up like the 5 foolish virgins who were late, and couldn't participate in the wedding.  Today, let's try to avoid some of the challenges of waiting, and not get too impatient that we give up on God, and also let's not waste our in-between time.  Let's bring oil for our lamps, and a book to read so we can sharpen up our minds, and let's have the spirit with us through it all so that we can recognize the opportunities that God places in our way, as we travel through the vast in-between spaces of our lives.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Romans 8:25-26 -- On Hope and Blindness

"But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
Romans 8:25-26

These are some verses that I think capture the essence of our time on Earth in a lot of ways.  It can be tough.  Even though we put on a really good show, a lot of the time, we just really don't know what we are doing.  We're trying to figure it out as we go along.  And hope and prayer is like that too.  God knows that we are sometimes really clueless about what to do or where to go next.  We can't see what is ahead, and we have no idea what to even pray for.  Sometimes our yearnings are things that we can't express, or see, clearly.

And that's where hope and faith and prayer come in, right?  Because we have to trust God to know the way even when we have zero clues, and it is too dark in our lives to see anything.  Today, let's hope for the good that God has promised, even though we can't see the shape or the weight of it right now.  Let's be patient and pray to the Lord for his will to be done, even when we have no idea what that is, because we trust that God loves us.

With God, it isn't the blind leading the blind.  We're blind a lot, for sure, but God gives us hope sometimes just because we know that *someone* knows what is going on.  He can see, and lead us to the light, and we know that he will make it all okay in the end.  Just because we can't see it doesn't mean that it won't be spectacular, and perfect, and exactly the right thing for us, in our circumstances.  ... Because it will be.  God knows us better than we know ourselves, and as we put our trust in him, he will deliver us out of the darkness, help us with our infirmities and weakness, and teach us all that we need to know to be more spectacular than we have ever been.  Today, let's trust him, and follow him as he slowly heals our blindness. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ether 12:29-30 -- On Mountains and Faith

"And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;
For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith."
Ether 12:29-30

I don' think that we often understand the idea of faith.  So often in life, we ask (or demand) that God prove himself to us.  We want to see a sign—to know for sure.  And we figure that God owes us that, because it is impossible to make decisions based on incomplete information, right?  ... Except that's all just justification.  We *can* know without seeing, and without an obvious sign.  In fact, we probably already DO know, if we would just learn to recognize and trust the feelings of the spirit.  It definitely takes practice, just like anything else.  At first it can be hard to tell which thoughts are our own and which are from God, or which feelings are.  But as we pray and study and work with God, we learn and it becomes clearer and clearer.

Moving a mountain is an incredible thing.  The Brother of Jared was one of the most faithful men in history, which is why he was able to see beyond the veil and see the actual, literal hand of God as he touched the 16 small stones for the barges (If anyone hasn't read that story it is in Ether, Chapters 2 and 3.  Great stuff.)  Still, moving a MOUNTAIN?  Dang.  That seems huge.  But he trusted God, and did it.  I think it shows us how much we could accomplish if we were on the same page with God all the time.

God probably isn't going to ask us to move any literal mountains today, but I do think that we have some big heavy symbolic mountains that we sometimes need to move in our lives.  Usually when they come up and we consider them, we just think yeah, no.  I can't do that.  It's too big, too imposing, too vast.  I'll never be able to get through this.  And on some level, of course, we're right.  Individually we wouldn't be able to do it.  But the whole point of the faith thing isn't a one way transaction where we finally accept who God is.  It is that, plus having him in our lives every day and working *with* him to accomplish so many things that we would never be able to accomplish alone.

I also think it is interesting the emphasis placed here on God working after men have faith.  We often expect it to be the other way around.  We think, okay, well if God helped me move a mountain, then I'd have faith too.  But the point here is, Jared had faith *first,* and that's why he and God could move the mountain.  And why is that?  Because we're the ones that need to learn something here.  There is no point in God proving himself to us.  He's not the one in the classroom.  We have to prove ourselves to him... to show that we're ready to be instruments in his hands, willing to act on whatever he asks.  If we have that kind of faith, and trust him enough to do as he says, even when it might seem  crazy for a normal person, like moving a mountain, or building an ark, or moving a whole society out of Egypt... or repenting of our sins, or being able to build our lives again after loss... God will help us.  We have to practice taking the first steps, showing our obedience and faith, and God will be with us and help us.  Today, let's work on our faith, through study, prayer, and obedience, trusting God to help us move our personal mountains.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Alma 18:22 -- On Being Wise and Harmless

"Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee."
Alma 18:22

This is part of a great story about Ammon's mission to the Lamanites.  Ammon had done some miraculous things for the king, and the king told him that he could have whatever he wanted as a reward.  And Ammon only asks that the king listen while he explains.  I think that Ammon was really fulfilling what God asked in Matthew 10:16: "be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Most of us, I think, if a king promised us whatever we wanted would ask for a little bit more than a listening ear.  I'm kind of thinking a private island sounds nice, right?  But Ammon, who had volunteered to be the king's servant in the first place, even though he was the son of a high political and spiritual leader himself back in his own land, knew that if the king would listen to him, that he might be able to share the gospel with him.  And that's doing the work of God, and looking to his will rather than our own.

We face similar choices in our lives.  At this time of year, a lot of people will be wondering what we want for Christmas.  Other times, a birthday or other event.  Sometimes, people just want to know what we like or want to get to know us.  Our desires shape who we are.  Maybe none of those things are promises from an earthly king, but we also have a Father in Heaven that will, a lot of the time, give us what we truly want.  I say a lot of the time because sometimes the answer is no... like my desire for a private island.  I have to learn to take care of the toys I already have first, apparently. :)  But God does answer prayers, and other people often do give us what we want when we ask for it.

Today, let's be careful about what we ask for.  Let's make sure we know how we are shaping our own lives through our desires.  Let's make sure that we know how we are affecting other people as well.  Let's be wise and harmless, considering God's will before our own, and doing all the good we can.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Proverbs 20:9-11 -- On Purity and Manipulation

"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right."
Proverbs 20:9-11

First of all, an excellent question.  One that I hope we are working to be able to answer for ourselves. Imagine how it will feel to be able to say that our hearts are clean, and we are free from sin.  I can't imagine a more joyful feeling, or the amazing confidence we could have in talking to the Lord in that state--with nothing at all hindering that conversation. What could we not do? :)

The weights and measures part is about cheating people on one level... setting the scale just a touch off so that we get the full price for say a pound of something, but we give them just a little less than a pound, so that over time we can make more money.  And perhaps this doesn't apply to us on one level because we don't sell things, or cheat people in this physical way... but on another level, how often do we hedge the truth just a little bit to look better, to avoid consequences, or to gain an advantage?  How often do we manipulate things just slightly in our favor, so we can get our way?

I think here God is telling us, as he has elsewhere, that "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).  We don't often think that our "white" lies or our tiny manipulations matter, but we are his children, and even children are known by their doings.  We need to learn to do good, to be pure and right--to make our hearts clean.

Today, let's stop the cheating and the lying, even the tiniest examples.  Let's stop the manipulations and stop taking advantage of others' weaknesses.  Let's stop trying to get ahead of others, and instead, help them on their way.  As we do, we'll get closer and closer to the day where we can answer this question and finally be able to look up with pure hearts, completely free of the weight of our sins.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Matthew 10:16 -- On Sheep in Wolves' Clothing

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
Matthew 10:16

Christ addressed these words to his apostles as he told them to go out and preach and heal and help. He reminded them that they were "of more value than many sparrows" (verse 31).  We don't all have the same calling or responsibilities as apostles, but I think we can learn a lot from what Christ taught, and apply it to our lives.

The sheep among wolves part I think we can feel sometimes.  As we learn to be disciples of Christ, we learn that we should love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and a lot of other things that might seem to others to be weak.  As students of the gospel, we know that following God's laws requires humility and submission.  It isn't always easy to resist the thought that someone needs a good punch in the face, or the feeling that we need justification or retribution.  But God knows what he is doing, and if we stick with him, things will be okay.  The whole outcome of a sheep versus wolf confrontation seem obvious, and sure, many will mock us as the symbolic sheep, but let's remember that God himself is on our side, and that God is always supporting us, even when we can't see it (2 Kings 6:17).

God knows that we have to be wise in order to win this sheep vs. wolf matchup.  And we can't do it the movie way by beating them up before they eat us, because that doesn't make the world better.   I think the true goal here is to find our fellow sheep that are out there, maybe in wolves' clothing.  :) People who we love, or can learn to love, and who God needs in order to build Zion.  Let's start looking around us at the wolves, and stop worrying about them coming for us and how to protect ourselves, and let's be wise enough to learn how to save them from their wolf costumes.  Let's be harmless, even when it is only defensiveness.  Let's learn to actively love, and love, and love some more rather than being afraid or offended or resentful.  God will take care of all of that.  We just have to find some wise ways to get the wolves on our side, part of our community, and maybe a little bit more tame on a non-mutton diet.  Let's be good serpents and doves and sheep today, and love all the other animals--especially the wolves, who need our help the most.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2 Corinthians 11:25-30 -- On Infirmities and Trials

"Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities."
2 Corinthians 11:25-30

Sometimes it kind of seems insane to glory in infirmities.  I mean... why?  Yay, I am suffering and weak?  Yay, I have problems?

And yet, I think that Paul, here, is touching on a lesson that maybe we all need to learn at some point.  Part of faith, and part of growth, are the trials.  In the movie Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis' wife has cancer, and as they are trying to enjoy the good times that are still possible, he doesn't really want to talk about the cancer or the inevitability of death.  And yet, she, with perhaps a refined perspective, tells him that she needs them to be able to talk about it: "the pain then is part of the happiness now."  And isn't it that way with everything in life?  We become who we become *through* the pain.  We are changed by suffering, and refined, and (if we allow it), made better.

Paul went through some serious things, and he could have given up.  Letting go of Christ and the gospel might have made his life easier.  But it would never have made his life *better.*  We become our best selves by experiencing trials, and learning to find the happiness and the hope around us anyway.  Paul learned the lesson that sometimes the worst things that happen to us are God's greatest blessings.  Today, let's consider that lesson in our lives as well.  Let's find God's hand in the challenges we face, and "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord" (Mosiah 24:15).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

D&C 121:34-36 -- On Being Called and Chosen

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36

This is an interesting explanation of the difference between being called and chosen, and also the requirements for using God's power, or having the Spirit active in your life.  We learn in D&C 4:3 that "if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work," so we know how to qualify ourselves to be called by God.  We all are, if we have any desire to serve him.  He doesn't turn anyone away.  He asks us all to step up and work to do his will, build his kingdom, help people in need... make the world better.

However, we don't always act on our calling.  We often know what we should/could be doing to make things better, but things seems to keep getting in the way, and we end up not acting on it.  Thus this verse, as well as others, like D&C 105:35: "There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy."

Unlike technology, or "the force" in Star Wars, God's power can't be used for good or evil; it can only be used for good.  And if we're called and we don't act on it, or we let the power of the calling go to our heads and try to use our newfound super-importance for ourselves rather than for God, it's going to fail.

I think this is true with pretty much everything in life, because this whole world is God's.  If we try to do things the wrong way, we're only going to see brief, and very limited success.  True, long-term success comes through obedience to God... getting his help and applying his power in our lives.  If we keep his Spirit with us, "all things shall work together for [our] good" (D&C 90:24), which is a pretty cool promise.

Today, let's set our hearts upon God rather than the things of the world.  Let's keep God's spirit with us through doing and being good and never evil.  Let's do things the right way, with God's help.  Then he will choose us, as we choose him.

Monday, December 5, 2016

D&C 88:125 -- On Cloaks of Love

"And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:125

I love this idea about wearing charity/love.  One thing it makes me think of is the thought that goes into choosing what to wear. It isn't always a lot compared to others, but we definitely think about it on some level, at least so that we don't leave without pants or shoes, and we usually consider the weather so we don't get too cold or overheated.  Even if we only put that much thought into love each day, we'd probably become better people and make the world better.

I also like the idea in a different way, considering God's love for us. If we think about that each day, and remember to carry it with us... to wear it so that it never leaves us, then our days will be better, and we'll likely feel more comfort and wholeness overall.

Along with feeling God's love, our cloak of charity/mantle of love can be something that we bring with us to share with others.  Having his love all around us helps us to feel comfortable and willing to share that love with others.  As we do, we're not really giving our cloaks away.  The nature of charity is that it doesn't run out.  It's more like we are weaving cloaks for other people as well, so that they can be as warm and happy as we are. :)

Today, let's clothe ourselves with love.  Let's talk to God and feel his love in our lives, and let's share that love with other people.  Perfectness and peace sound like pretty good things to strive for. :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Deuteronomy 6:12 -- On Remembering the Lord

"Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
Deuteronomy 6:12

This chapter goes through lots of great things that the Lord has done for us in the past, and talks about keeping the commandments and getting things from the Lord that we haven't necessarily earned, because he has been gracious to us and blessed us abundantly.  This verse in in here as a warning to us.  We have the scriptures to enlarge our memories, but even in our personal lives, we have seen the hand of God.  Unfortunately, it is really easy to forget God as we allow ourselves to get distracted by so many little details of life, or our personal hobbies/addictions, or worry about health or personal disaster or whatever.

Why is it even important to remember the Lord?  For one because the Lord is the one that can make us into better people and get us to the happy ending.  He can make us into the heroes that we could never be without him.  We can't do any of that alone.  But also because God and his gospel are our reminder to focus on long-term goals rather than short-term goals.  When we start to let our prayers slide and forget to read our scriptures, we are slipping into kind of a blindness, like we're put blinders on ourselves, but in an awful way.  Instead of preventing distraction and keeping us on God's path, they do the opposite.  Like a blizzard, our self-imposed blinders obscure the path ahead, only letting us see the edges of the road, as we slowly drift out of our own lane and onto an exit, or a patch of ice.

Today, in order to avoid the tragedy of forgetting God, from whom all of our blessings come, let's take some time to step back from distractions and the chaotic, obscuring blizzards of life, and read and ponder God's word.  Let's pray; let's remember and write the impressions that come to us about the gospel.  Let's set some reminders in our lives of what really matters.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Jeremiah 17:14 -- On True Healing

"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise."
Jeremiah 17:14

I really liked this today because I think we try to heal ourselves a lot of different ways that really don't work.  We feel a void within ourselves, and we try so many things to fill it, but it is never the right fit.  Whatever it is seems to fill our emptiness temporarily, but it never lasts.  But when *God* heals us, he knows what will fill our emptiness permanently.  He knows how to heal, fill, and save us.  And his way lasts.

It's important to realize that our attempts to heal our spiritual ills without God are ultimately pointless.  For true healing, spiritual, physical, mental, emotional... God is essential.  It's hard to be humble and admit that we need help.  But with God, not only does he know how to heal us, but he knows how to help us without taking away our freedom, or our independence.  He is helping us grow into our best selves, not robots or clones. :)

Today, let's take a step back from trying to heal our own problems without God, and ask for his divine help.  Let's turn to God for healing that actually works.  For salvation that actually saves.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Isaiah 19:22 -- On Hurting and Healing

"And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them."
Isaiah 19:22

This is an idea that we see throughout the scriptures.  The Lord smiting, and then healing.  Not arbitrarily, though I know it may seem so in some verses, but here, clearly, and in many other places, we see the underlying reason.  God heals us when we return to him.  Hosea 6:1 is a good example of this as well, saying that we should return to the Lord, so that we can be healed.

Sometimes we get hung up on the first part... the smiting.  We think, wow, God must not care about anyone that he would actually smite.  Isn't this pattern about forcing us to conform rather than loving us and inviting us to return to him?  But, remember, God is a parent.  Our Father.  Sometimes parents need to correct their children.  The Lord's intention is never to force us.

Sometimes we need a reminder of the sad consequences of our actions.  Just like there are consequences for smoking, or not eating right, or breaking the law, there are also consequences to sin. Sometimes they are huge, horrible consequences.  When we run into those consequences we sometimes feel like God is hurting us, but in point of fact, we are just harming *ourselves.*  We chose the consequences when we chose the sin in the first place.

There are also some things that feel like smiting that are just the normal challenges of life... but God designed life, and so of course we ascribe those things to him as well.  In those cases, we have to remember that life is a classroom, not a living room.  It is *designed* to teach us, not necessarily to entertain us (although of course one of the lessons is learning to be happy... God isn't saying it all has to be bad).  In order to learn some things, we need to face challenges, and sometimes those challenges hurt.  Thankfully, God makes us strong enough to face them all, and learn from them.

The amazing part I think is the healing part.  Even when we go out of our way to harm *ourselves,* God is still waiting there to heal us.  All we have to do is turn around and return to him, and he will work with us to make everything okay.  Today, let's work on not hurting ourselves, and on turning to God for help with learning and healing. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Luke 6:27-31 -- On Doormats

"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
Luke 6:27-31

Sometimes when we read some of these hard things that God asks us to do we wonder if God just wants us to be doormats... letting people walk all over us, hurting us or harming us, and never fighting back.  And I think that the interesting thing here is that the answer is both yes and no, because again, we're asking the wrong questions.

God wants us to be the light of the world.  He wants us to be the salt of the earth, "but if the salt have lost his savour . . . it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13).  I think that tells us clearly that God *doesn't* want us to be doormats.  However, does he want us to allow people to hurt us sometimes, and to not fight back?  Yes.  Not in a way where we should remain in an abusive situation, or allow others to be harmed, but in a way where we don't return hate for hate, "evil for evil, or railing for railing" (1 Peter 3:9).  He asks us to endure it, and to forgive it, and to move on in love rather than anger.

The idea here is not to be doormats, but to stop the cycle of hate, to return good for evil--to make a better world rather than just repeating the same mistakes and problems over and over and over again. Today, let's try to bring some light into a dark world.  Let's learn to take the bad we are given and turn it to good.  Let's be humble, and teachable, and good down to our cores.  Let's treat others as we wish to be treated, by others and by God, who we definitely need some mercy from. :)

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