Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Psalms 57:2 -- On Crying Unto God

"I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me."
Psalms 57:2

This was a good reminder to me today of all that God does for us.  Everything we have and everything we are we really owe to him.  I think sometimes this can make us resentful, the same way we perhaps were resentful of our parents at a young age, blaming them for our existence and thinking they owe us everything.  And yet, just as we (hopefully) grow out of that stage with our parents, we need to get past that stage with God.

Our lives are a unique opportunity that, despite eternities, won't come again.  It's a chance to learn and become and figure out who we are and what we want without any undue influence pulling us in a certain direction.  God has made sure our external influences are balanced so that we can have real choice.  He's set up all of this so that we can gain experience and learn to be joyful.

When we're feeling lost and alone, or empty and confused, or many of the negative feelings that we experience in this life, let's learn to call upon God, who does all things for us, and is willing to help in any circumstance to lift and help us become the people he knows that we can be.  Let's work on not being resentful or demanding, but on seeing the infinite possibilities around us and taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives us each day to grow and learn and to help and lift others.  Let's cry unto God, not only for help, but in thanks and praise for the blessings and opportunities that we are surrounded with.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Helaman 3:15 -- On History and Imperfection

"But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites."
Helaman 3:15

You know, reading this today made me think about what would happen in several hundred years if someone tried to sum up the history of America in one book.  ... In some ways we already do that for history classes, and it's always interesting to see what gets included and what doesn't, and how biased it is based on who wrote it.  And maybe there is a lesson here for us about the scriptures, and about ourselves.

The gospel is perfect, but the people in it aren't.  Sometimes the scriptures show us unflattering, offensive, or wrong things that people did... not just the bad guys, but the people who are supposed to be the heroes of the story.  Sometimes the society of the time can explain it, sometimes it was a personal failing.  Sometimes there was a divine reason for it, and in others it was contrary to God's will quite clearly.

Overall, I think that the scriptures show God preparing his people, and helping them over the years and the centuries to become better, as a group.  That doesn't mean we are perfect, or that most of the people in the scriptures were ever perfect.  There are still going to be verses that tell women to keep silence and prophets getting swallowed by whales because they didn't want to do what God asked, and there are still going to be imperfections in the people around us, even the good guys.  Maybe, today, we can hold on to God's perfection and his perfect gospel, and allow the imperfection of people in general to give us hope that our own imperfections won't be held against us as we repent.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Habakkuk 2:15 -- On Being Kind instead of Creepy

"Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!"
Habakkuk 2:15

So, hopefully needless to say, God would prefer that we not be creepers.

What this verse made me think of though was taking advantage of other people's weaknesses.  We do that in a lot of ways, not just the obviously-creepy way above.  We know how to push people's buttons, or selectively reveal the truth, or embarrass someone we know is a little over-sensitive about something.  Sometimes we just think it is funny... other times we do it for an advantage, or just because we're looking for ego boosts in comparing ourselves to others.  No matter why we do it though, it's wrong. 

It's wrong for the same reason that the verse above is creepy, and not funny.  Because we all feel horrible when someone exposes our weaknesses and mocks us.  We *all* would like people to be kind to us when we are at a disadvantage, rather than to kick us when we're down.  *No-one* wants to be publicly shamed, no matter what we've done.  Instead, we're like a hand up, right?  We'd like help to stand back on our feet and start again.  We'd like people not to harp on who we used to be, but to give us a chance to change and be the new person we are trying to become.  God does that for us, because he loves us and can see our worth and our potential.  And if God can see it, it is THERE.  In all of us. 

Today, let's work on seeing the good and the potential in the people around us, and let's treat them with kindness, just as we hope they will treat us.  Let's remember not to be creepers, but even more so, let's be good, and get better.  Let's pray that God will share his vision of other people with us when we are having a hard time seeing the good within.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Psalms 85:4 -- On Turning

"Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease."
Psalms 85:4

This is an interesting verse where God is asked to turn us so that he can stop being angry at us. :)  It sounds a lot like something a little child would ask, putting everything in God's hands and none in our own... but in a way, it echoes the real relationship that we have with God, because we sometimes can't do things ourselves.  What we *can* do is open ourselves up and be willing for the Lord to change us.

Now, to be very clear, I am not saying that we can just do whatever we want and ask the Lord to solve everything for us.  While that would definitely take less effort, it would also teach us nothing, and God is nothing if not a perfect teacher.  What I am saying is that we can be willing to do as God asks, and open our will to his, and allow him to teach us and change our hearts.  It  won't be easy either, but if we really want it and are willing to do it, he can help us learn to love other people, and to want good things and not bad things.  And when our hearts are full of anger and resentment, or we just don't know how to want God's way instead of our way, prayer can help change that.  Doesn't mean we don't have to follow through on those new feelings that God will help us feel, if we are truly willing to accept them, but God is merciful and will help us get there. :)

Meanwhile though, we definitely have to be engaged in the process and work on turning ourselves.  It's kind of like we're headed for an iceberg and we know that we have realized much too late to avoid it.  Continuing to steer straight for it at full speed while we pray is not the solution.  But if we pray *and* steer away with everything we have, then God has something to work with, and might be able to help us out with a miracle. :)

Today, let's work on turning ourselves to God, and ask God to help us as well.  God never wants to be angry with us, or to have to prune his vineyard so dramatically to get rid of the bad fruit... but he will, as needed, to make it possible for the good to grow.  Let's work on turning to the good before we ripen badly. :)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

1 Nephi 7:15 -- On Consequences

"Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak."
1 Nephi 7:15

This is Nephi speaking to his brothers, and I think it is a message that God shares with us a lot.  Basically, "It is your choice, but I want you to understand the consequences."  And that's where it is often hard.  It's easy to make a bad choice if you think that there won't be consequences, but when God reminds us that there *are* consequences, it gets a little more complex. :)

Today, let's think about the consequences of our behaviors and modify our actions as necessary.  Let's remember God's great love for us, and ask him for help and guidance.  We don't have to face life alone.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Jonah 2:5-6 -- On Hope in Unlikely Places

"The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God."
Jonah 2:5-6

The idea of the waters reaching even into Jonah's soul... wow.  You can tell he was terrified and "the earth with her bars" ... he felt he was in a prison he would never escape from.

Now, I don't think that any of us is really going to go through the same thing that Jonah did (or at least I hope not).  However, I do think that we sometimes have similar feelings.  Things get to us, even to the soul, sometimes.  We are terrified, and we feel trapped in prisons, sometimes of our own making, that we don't think that we will ever escape.

Like Jonah, though, even in the worst of all places, with weeds wrapped around our heads, we can find hope as we cry unto the Lord.  And, like Jonah, God can and will lift us out of corruption and help us escape the awful things that we are frightened of, even if we brought them on ourselves.  What we need to do is call upon God, and be willing to do as he asks.  If we follow his instructions, we can find hope again, no matter where we are trapped, or how hopeless it seems.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2 Nephi 9:13-14 -- On Guilt versus Enjoyment

"O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness."
2 Nephi 9:13-14

Reading this makes me realize how much of a blessing forgetfulness and self-deception can be.  Not saying that we should intentionally engage in either, really, but the fact that we have those capacities helps us to overcome our failings a little at a time.  The idea of having a "perfect knowledge of all our guilt" sounds bad... and might be the exact definition of hell.

The idea of the resurrection is otherwise really amazingly awesome of course.  Becoming incorruptible and immortal is beyond cool.  No sickness, no death, no physical pain, no more temptation.  Pretty ideal.  So, the trick is to overcome this guilt stuff while we still can, so that we don't need to have a perfect knowledge of it later.  Which means repentance.  It won't haunt us then if we make it right now.  (Although of course sometimes we beat ourselves up too much now.  I don't think that will be a problem later.)

Today, let's get to work on the parts of ourselves that we don't want to be.  Let's recognize that we can choose to change, and then let's make that effort and do it.  It's hard, yes.  Absolutely it is.  The hardest thing that we can probably do... but what is more worthwhile than being better people now, and avoiding the pain and guilt of not changing for eternity?  Let's work on it.  We don't have to be perfect overnight.  Let's be kinder, and more inclusive and loving with others.  Let's stop the sinning and start acting like our best selves, until slowly and with work, we can become them.  With God's help we can get there... and as long as we are working on that and going in the right direction, God will help us, and we will be able to wake up on resurrection morning with a perfect knowledge of our enjoyment, rather than our guilt.  That sounds way better. :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

D&C 132:13-14 -- On Including God

"And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed."
Doctrine and Covenants 132:13-14

This is a good reminder that God needs to be part of everything we do and everything we are, because the things that we do without God don't last.  This applies to everything, and is one of the reasons that "pray always" matters.  God is the glue that holds our lives and everything we care about together.  Without him, nothing works.

I think we feel that in little bits throughout our lives, and it is something that we have to learn by practice to some extent, realizing that the things that we do with God and the days when we have his Spirit with us are better than without.

Today, let's include God in our decision making and stick close to him.  Let's trust his love and guidance in our lives, and choose not to be shaken. :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ephesians 2:19-20 -- On Foundations and Fellowcitizens

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
Ephesians 2:19-20

I like the idea of being part of the household of God, and the idea that as part of his household, there are no strangers and foreigners among us.  We are all one... part of each other.  Citizens of God's country. :)  It's a powerful idea, and one that I think can help us reach and think beyond the borders and concerns of the world.

I also really like the idea of building upon the foundation that God has laid for us of apostles and prophets, and himself.  I think we often unwisely build houses of straw that can too easily be blown down by the wolves around us, but when we have God helping us to build, and we build on what he has started, we begin with sturdier stuff.  In fact, Helaman 5:12 tells us that this is "a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

I like the idea of not being *able* to fall, if we choose wisely and build our lives upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, and apostles and prophets.  Today, let's remember that we are part of each other, and that if we build on the right foundation, we cannot fall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Psalms 112:7 -- On Trust and Turning the Pages

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord."
Psalms 112:7

This chapter is extolling the virtues of "the man that feareth the Lord" (verse 1).  As we've seen elsewhere though, the fear talked about here isn't being afraid, but about respect and honor.  Indeed, even in the first verse, this "fear" is pair with delight... the delight found in the commandments.  And you know, even though that idea might seem strange at first, I think that compared to the often chaotic jumble of life, and the crazy things that we hear about happening every day, the idea of commandments and order really is a delight. :)

This verse is about not being afraid of evil tidings, and evil tidings are also around us every day.  I think though that there is also good around us every day, and obviously God is there every day as well.  The media might be blasting the evil tidings pretty loudly, but we still have a choice about what we listen to and what we focus on.

Even when bad things do happen--even when they happen to us personally--we can keep our hearts fixed on the Lord.  We can still trust.  Not that it is always easy, of course, but sometimes just remembering that there *is* another side can help us retain some perspective.  God loves us and he will help us.  In the end, the bad things can't win... so let's do our best today to not let them even have a temporary victory.  Let's focus on the good, and learn from our experiences so that we can be better and help others.  Let's trust God that there is a reason for all of this, and that the happy ending is waiting, if we just keep turning the pages. :)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

2 Nephi 8:25 -- On Escaping from Slavery

"Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion."
2 Nephi 8:25

The idea of shaking ourselves from the dust is an interesting one here.  I think that it give the idea of not just sitting around, but also the idea of not allowing ourselves to be corrupted--action and purity.  Then the verse goes on to ask us to loose ourselves basically from slavery. 

It's an interesting call to action, because we don't usually think of ourselves as slaves, or in need of shaking off dust.  Perhaps though, it is a good thing to think about.  Not so that we can feel sorry for ourselves about being oppressed in some way, but so that we can stand up and take action... and change.

We allow ourselves to become corrupted and enslaved by habits and addictions and desires that harm us, and the deeper we get into sin, the harder it is to free ourselves... or to think it is possible.  We become paralyzed with inaction, and the dust piles up.  And in a lot of ways it is true that at some point we can't escape those holes that we throw ourselves into--at least, we can't escape without God.  And calling upon God is exactly what is required here.  That's how we gain the impetus to rise and shake off the dust... the hope to arise, and the power to free ourselves.  We turn to God, and he helps us to escape even the slavery that is self-chosen.

Today, let's see the traps that we have fallen into for what they are, and let's call upon God to help us escape.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Jeremiah 38:17-18 -- On Surrender

"Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house:
But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand."
Jeremiah 38:17-18

What God tells us isn't always good news, or convenient.  Sometimes it means backing down, losing things that we love, or even losing part of what we feel is our own identity.   So it was with Zedekiah here.  Jeremiah told him what he needed to do to save his family and prevent the city from being burned, but he couldn't do it, and in the next chapter, his family is killed, he is blinded, and the city is burned.  What God told him wasn't good news, and it definitely wasn't an easy thing to do, but it was hope.  I think we, like Zedekiah, let other things get in the way of the hope that God offers us.

Truthfully, we can't know all that God knows, and things that seem hopeless for us (like surrendering to our enemies) might lead to a better outcome even though we can't see the whole picture.  Only God can see that, which is a good reason to listen to him (among a myriad of other reasons).

God asks us all to surrender at some point.  If not to our enemies in a war, then to surrender our wills to his, or our pride, or self-image, or our time, or our resistance, or our attitude, or our hatred.  Sometimes even our love, when he knows that it will end up harming us.

Today, let's be willing to surrender what God asks, when God asks.  Let's trust him and find hope in the life and future that he offers us, rather than being harmed or killed when we can't let go of our past.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ephesians 3:19 -- On Being Filled with Love

"And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
Ephesians 3:19

This seems to be saying that in order to be filled with the fullness of God, we first need to know the love of Christ.  To me that makes a lot of sense.  Our first commandment is to love God, and it is also an essential part of our reward... being commanded, in essence, to reward ourselves, to fill ourselves, by partaking of God's love, which we have to be willing and open in order to accept.  The idea of forcing love upon someone is the opposite of what love means--acting with others' interests in mind, helping them, and working for their benefit.

God loves us more than we can comprehend, but as comforting and uplifting as God's love is, he isn't going to force us to feel it.  He invites and commands, but leaves the choice to us.  We have to exercise our will to choose that connection and that relationship.  If we do, then he can fill us... fill the emptiness in our souls that we often feel.  The hole is exactly God-sized and cannot be adequately filled with other things, although of course that doesn't stop us from trying.

God is our fullness, and the rest of our lives, waiting to enhance everything we do or say or think or feel.  Everything is better with him in our lives.  Today, let's be willing to reach for that completion and that love.  Let's pray for his spirit in our lives, and invite his constant companionship.  Let's be willing to let go of the emptiness and trust in God's enduring love.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Isaiah 42:18 -- On Choosing to Hear and See

"Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see."
Isaiah 42:18

This is an interesting scripture because it seems to be calling us to overcome weaknesses and obstacles in our lives that we don't usually think of as chosen.  It might be a cruel thing to ask someone with those physical challenges (although of course God and faith can overcome those challenges too, if it is God's will), but I think in this case God is referring to something spiritual.

I think we often choose spiritual blindness and deafness, not as active choices, but kind of as a default when we get too busy for God.  We stop looking and listening and perceiving God's hand in the world  around us--stop feeling his love for others, and his mercy and kindness in our own lives.  It isn't even usually a dramatic thing where we have committed some gigantic sin (at least at first) and feel an immediate lessening in our spirituality.  Instead, we let it go little by little as we neglect the maintenance of that most important of all relationships--our friendship with God.

Today, let's not let our spirituality level lessen through inattention.  Let's look to God, and make sure that we are staying close to him, hearing and seeing and attentive to his instructions and help.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

John 15:9 -- On Continuing in Love

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."
John 15:9

Sometimes it seems like we forget that the very foundation of the gospel is love.  All commandments are based on it, the whole creation and plan of salvation is based on it... everything that God does and asks of us is based on it.  And yet we so often misunderstand it or think that it is some earthly version of "love" ... manipulation or coercion masked as love, or that God's love is some lame, ineffectual, empty platitude rather than the real, life-changing, universe-shaping force that it is.

If we remember nothing else today, let's try to remember love.  Not teenage vampire love or uncontrolled desire, or any of the false, obsessive types of lust that we so often believe that we have no power to choose... but real, enduring, chosen love.  The love that we work at every day, reaching out to others when it would be easier to focus on ourselves.  The love that God blesses us with, that gives us hope for others and hope for the future.  The love that can lift us out of selfishness and bias to care for others who are very different from ourselves.

Let's continue in that love, and pray for that love when we can't seem to feel it on our own.  God wants to help us learn to love all of the people around us, and know how to help them.  Let's act on that knowledge and love not only in word, but "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Joshua 6:20 -- On Walls and Faith

"So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city."
Joshua 6:20

The things that God asks us to do often seem strange to us... sometimes even pointless or crazy.  And yet, as with the walls of Jericho, his plans work.

Today, let's not dismiss what God asks us to do because of our personal doubts.  Let's have faith and hope and trust that he knows what he is doing, and that if we stick with it over the long term, it will work.

Let's remember that what seem like insurmountable obstacles to us are, to God, no stronger than the walls of Jericho, and they too can be overcome by his power, and our way cleared straight before us.  Let us move forward along that path to God, trusting in him and his power to save.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Habakkuk 2:12-14 -- On Building with Blood

"Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Habakkuk 2:12-14

These verses seem to be reminding us that, at least for us mortals, the ends don't justify the means (perhaps because we can't truly see the real ends, only the temporary ones).  I don't pretend to know God's exact philosophy, but in this particular lesson, he tells us that no matter how great a town or city is that we build, when it is based upon sin, then it is labor in vain, and doesn't help us move closer to God, but instead further away.

This on one hand can seem hypocritical, for God seems to have accomplished many things by blood in the history of the scriptures.  On the other hand, God has explained what he is accomplishing in pruning his vineyard... giving the good room to grow, as in the parable / allegory of the Olive Trees (Jacob 5).  Perhaps even when God had Nephi kill Laban, it was after encouraging Laban to do the right thing, and giving him many, many chances to do so.  In the end though, the details matter little because it is up to God to judge and make those kinds of decisions, and is not (and should not) be left to us.  God can see the bigger picture, and we can only see a small sliver of light.  Trusting God includes trusting his judgment, because only he is perfect and can see all aspects of a situation to know the best way to help the most people.

Today, let's remember that our vision is limited, and trust God about the right things to do, rather than endangering our futures and our souls by assuming that we can do good in working iniquity.  Let's follow the Lord's commandments and do as he asks, making our way towards him, trusting in his knowledge and eternal love for all of us.  Eventually all things will come to light, and all will know the Lord.  Let's not endanger our personal happy ending by bartering our souls for corrupted real estate.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

D&C 88:126 -- On Prayer and Failure

"Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:126

I like that this verse makes it clear that prayer is for our benefit.  Prayer isn't some sort of payment to God, or mystical fuel sustaining him in some sort of spiritual vampirism.  It is the communication and contact that *we* need in order to get God's help in our lives.  We are commanded to pray always so that we don't forget to draw on the Lord's offer of assistance in our lives, and become overwhelmed trying to live life without him.

The idea that we often hear in the gospel, that God doesn't give us anything that we can't handle, is partly true and partly false depending on how we choose to look at it.  As Nephi tells us, God never commands us to do anything without preparing a way to accomplish it (1 Nephi 3:7), and in that sense the saying is absolutely true.  However, the way to accomplish what God asks, as we also learn from Nephi's story, also often includes many failures, and sometimes even a miracle, before the end.  If we try to handle things without relying on God, then very many things may indeed be impossible, because we aren't meant to handle everything alone.  God's assistance is *necessary* to our success.

Too often we encounter failure and we assume that God's promises are untrue.  But failure is part of the process.  Moses had to try an awful lot of things before freeing his people from Pharaoh.  The children of Israel had to wander 40 years in the wilderness before they were ready for the promised land.  The Brother of Jared had to solve problems with his barges that he couldn't have solved without divine assistance.  Ammon required some supernatural sword skill to protect the flocks of the king.  Samuel the Lamanite not only had to climb a way, but get some divine protection from arrows so that he could deliver his message.

Today, let's remember that physical and spiritual accomplishments require endurance, patience, and faith.  Our task in life isn't to learn to be independent from God, but how to learn to rely on and work with him, so that we can learn more and become more than we ever could alone.  Let's pray always and not faint, continuing to try when we fail, getting up each time we fall.  It is that sustained effort and continued prayer, working together with God, that will lead us to our happy ending, where God will receive us unto himself.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exodus 17:11-12 -- On Arms and Examples

"And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
Exodus 17:11-12

We read often about prophets who did amazing things.  This is one of them, as are Noah's ark, the Brother of Jared's barges, Nephi's ship, Moses and the Red Sea, Nephi (a different one) identifying the murderer of Seantum, David and Goliath, the fiery furnace, the lion's den, being swallowed by a whale, escaping death in many ways... and what I was thinking today as I read this, is why God involved them at all.  Why prophets, when God could do his own works?  There was no need to invest Moses's arms with the power to dictate the outcome of battle, right?  If God said that they would win, they would win.  So why?

I think the answer is, as it almost always is, that we have something to learn from all of this.  God gives us prophets, as least in part, to show us an example of Godliness a lot more in reach to us than God's example is.  We can work on being like Nephi and work our way up to being like Christ... one leading always to the other.  The children of Israel couldn't bear God's presence, but they could follow Moses.  Maybe part of it is what we are ready for, but I think another part is also to show us that normal people *can* do it.  They can follow God, they can succeed, they can become righteous and great at the same time.  In a world where all of the conventional role models seem to leave something to be desired, God offers us our own.  Heroes that we can look to, that believe what we believe, and who are true to God's way.

As we strive to do God's will in our own lives, our hands, like Moses' hands, will sometimes be heavy, but working through us rather than just doing it himself allows God to teach us, and help us grow stronger.  He knows that sometimes we are going to need people to lift up our hands, but he isn't fighting the battle just to win... he is fighting the battle for us, to teach us how to prevail against the darkness and the enemies of our souls.  Today, let's listen, and learn, and thank God for the lessons and examples that he sends us, and for the hope and the confidence it can bring to our lives, as we follow God's plan and learn his way.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Proverbs 23:26 -- On Giving Our Hearts to God

"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways."
Proverbs 23:26

The idea of giving another our hearts is often a symbol of romantic love, and here it is used to protect us from sexual misconduct.  The idea of giving our hearts to God instead, and setting our eyes upon God's example rather than someone we are physically attracted to is both a redirection of our sometimes wandering eyes, and a focus for our often-inconstant hearts.  At first, it seems wildly inappropriate to redirect those kinds of thought and feelings to God, but perhaps that is part of the point... something that can wake us up to the fact that those kinds of thoughts and feelings need to be controlled and directed appropriately, according to God's law, and not just the whims of desire. 

Today, whatever our temptations or desires, let's think on this advice, and work to apply it in our lives.  Let's redirect our lust or greed or whatever else to the Lord.  Let's use the time and the energy that we normally spend wanting something we can't have to wanting what God has to offer us.  Let's give our hearts to something worthwhile, and to someone they can safely trust in.  Let's put God first, and emulate his example, and turn our weaknesses and our failings into dedication and strength, through him.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Psalms 119:49-50 -- On Hope, Comfort, and Life

"Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me."
Psalms 119:49-50

This is a plea to God to remember (and to keep) his word.  I love the ideas here that God's word is the source of hope, and comfort, and life.  I'm not sure that it is that in our lives all the time, but it *should* be.  What God has to say is more important than the trivialities which we so often obsess about.  His word *is* the source of so much good in our lives, and could be the source of much more, if we would heed it more often.

Today, let's remember what God has to say; in every aspect of our lives, let's rely on his word.  We can find our hope, and our comfort, and our lives and the meaning thereof in those words, as we read and study and ponder them, and apply them to our daily walk.  As we get to know the Lord, we will find so much more goodness everywhere we look.  Today, instead of looking elsewhere to try to fill voids in our lives, let's stay focused on him, and he will guide and comfort us and be the source of everything essential.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Psalms 78:6-7 -- On Not Learning the Hard Way

"That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:"
Psalms 78:6-7

I really like these verses because they are basically talking about the reason that we have scriptures.  It's a way of reminding us, and jogging our collective memory.  And, given our propensity to forget even things that have happened to us personally, it is a very good thing that we have some.

The challenge really is, now that we have them, whether we will use them.  We have an unfortunate tendency to willfully forget things that we don't really want to deal with, and then later to claim that we never really knew.  Unsurprisingly, God can see through even our little self-deceptions, so that won't really be a good long-term strategy. :)  Instead, maybe we could try jumping in and reading or listening to them... pulling God's words into our lives, so that we may gain the benefits of lessons first taught to others, which really just means that we don't have to learn them the hard way, if we will take the time to listen.

Today, let's drink in God's word, and set our hope in God.  Let's not forget, but work to keep his commandments.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

James 5:7 -- On Patience

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."
James 5:7

Earlier in this chapter it talks about how people do bad things and God doesn't immediately resist or stop them, and here I think he's basically saying that all those things come with time.  It's kind of like elsewhere in the scriptures where it talks about people becoming "fully ripe" in their wickedness.  God gives us time to really figure out what we want to be... to go fully down the road of good or evil, with plenty of opportunities to turn around and change our minds. 

On the other side, because God gives us all time to change, we also have to be patient as we wait for justice and restoration and perfection.  All of it will work out right in the end, and every sorrow and pain will have been worth it... but we have to trust God, and trust his timing.  A happy ending is waiting for us, if we can have the patience and faith to keep turning the pages, and keep choosing the right.  Let's trust in the Lord and try to learn a little bit of patience today.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mark 4:40 -- On Fear versus Faith

"And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?"
Mark 4:40

We usually think of fear as an involuntary reaction, and so it can seem puzzling when the scriptures rebuke us for feeling it.  And yet, the very fact that Christ makes the connection between fear and faith here helps us to understand that, very often, fear is something that we can choose to overcome.  Maybe the first time we feel fear about something it grabs us, but as we learn more about ourselves and why we fear, and especially more about God, the more we can overcome fear and choose faith.

The context of this scripture is even more confusing as we begin.  Christ was with his disciples in a boat, and a storm came upon them, and apparently the storm was so bad that the disciples thought that they were going to die ("carest thou not that we perish?" in verse 38).  Storms definitely don't seem like something that we can control, and fear seems perfectly natural under the circumstances.  And yet...

Christ wakes up, stands up, calms the storm, and then this verse.  I don't think that he was rubuking them for not being able to control the storm, or the situation.  I think that he was chastising them for not knowing that things would be fine.  And that is a hard thing to feel when you think you are about to die.  But after this, the disciples likely felt differently and trusted more.  If another storm came up, they probably remembered that God *did* care, and that if he was around, he would help them.  And then they learned, perhaps after his resurrection, that he would *always* be around, even if he wasn't sitting beside them physically.

We can also learn not to fear the storms of life, actual and symbolic, as we put our trust in God.  It's definitely not easy, and something that we have to learn over time, but, like the disciples that were with Christ, we too can learn that God is always around, and will always, always help us as we put our trust in him.  Things might not always work out exactly the way that we want them to, but we can weather the storms and move forward with faith, knowing that things will work out according to God's will, and additionally that his will is a happy ending for us all, as we follow his path.  Today, let's work on having less fear and more faith.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Psalms 120:1 -- On Being Heard

"In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me."
Psalms 120:1

This works.  I think it is a good reminder, not only for times of distress, but for all times.  Sometimes distress makes us more sincere, more desperate for God in our lives, but we always need God just as desperately--we just don't always acknowledge it.

Today, let's recognize that need in our lives.  Let's remember how much we need God, and cry unto him in our distress, in our joy, and in our normal everyday life.  Let's remember him always.  As we do, he will always hear us, and bless and help and comfort us.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Jacob 2:17 -- On Our Brothers and Sisters

"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you."
Jacob 2:17

This is a good summary of how God would like us to treat each other.  "Familiar with all" I really like because to me that says that we shouldn't avoid getting to know anyone, or any "type" of person, but that we should become familiar with all types of people, and be willing to learn to see things from others' perspectives.  Not that we have to adopt other people's idea or values, but understanding why they believe what they do is important to understanding them, and helps us not to label or treat them like the "other," or as not similar to ourselves, which makes it easy to dehumanize and hate.

The idea of being free with our substance is an important one as well, to teach us humility if nothing else.  We get trapped sometimes in thought patterns that make us think that we "deserve" something more than other people, forgetting that we are all beggars before God and are much more alike than we usually want to admit.  Helping each other, learning about each other, loving each other as brothers and sisters... these all build good communities, and a good world, and Zion.  It helps us to learn a little bit of the compassion and love that God has for us all, and to make better, kinder choices in our lives.

Today, let's work on treating others well, getting to know them, and helping them to be richly blessed, as we are.  Let's remember that we are all family.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 -- On Tithing

"At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."
Deuteronomy 14:28-29

The idea of the tithe is an awesome one... one of providing for the community and thinking outside ourselves.  I think sometimes we forget that as we contemplate contributing ourselves.  Instead we think about sacrifice or want.  Here, the Lord asks us to tithe not just for others, but so that we can be blessed.  It's really a win-win all around.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, and sometimes we think that we really need that money more than other people do.  I think though, that is a false sense of scarcity that comes from the world and not at all from God. 

God intends to provide for us, and he will, if we do as he asks... abundantly.  The whole idea here is not just us though.  He intends to provide for *everyone* and to help us learn to be united and work together, and part of that is providing for others through us.  Tithing really binds us together as a community in a lot of ways, and it helps us learn to trust in and rely on the Lord.

Today, let's take that leap of faith and learn the myriad of lessons, and gain the myriad of blessings, that tithing provides.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Alma 32:24-25 -- On Seeing Beyond Circumstance

"And now, my beloved brethren, as ye have desired to know of me what ye shall do because ye are afflicted and cast out—now I do not desire that ye should suppose that I mean to judge you only according to that which is true—
For I do not mean that ye all of you have been compelled to humble yourselves; for I verily believe that there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might."
Alma 32:24-25

The idea that we shouldn't be judged only by "that which is true" is an interesting one.  Taking into account what we *would* do in different circumstances is really tough.  It involves seeing the best in people, trying to avoid cynicism, and really getting to know people.  Truly, it involves including God in our daily evaluations and choices.

I think trying to see the best in people is worthwhile, even though it is hard.  I believe that is how God looks at us, his beloved children.  He doesn't see us as screw ups or failures, even when those things are "true" according to the world, or even according to the way that we judge ourselves.  And of course I don't mean that God judges based on falsehood.  He is the source of all truth--he would never do that.  What I think is that seeing the potential and the possibilities inside of people, and knowing them really well--that's the higher truth.  It sees beyond poverty and current circumstances, and where we sometimes get bogged down in our lives, and it looks at the real us underneath.

Today, let's work on seeing as God sees, beyond the truth of current circumstances, into the potential and possibilities and higher truth of a person.  Let's cultivate hope, and see the best in others.  If we are having a hard time with that, God is willing to help us see the good.

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