Sunday, March 31, 2019

John 6:9-13 -- On Having, and Being, Enough

"There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten."
John 6:9-13

The miracle of loaves and fishes is pretty cool... Christ somehow making 5 loaves and 2 small fishes enough to feed five thousand people.  Seems like that ability would make a lot of things easier, and if Christ could feed everyone, why not do it more often?  I think the answer is probably twofold.  One, that we need to learn to be self-reliant and industrious in our lives rather than lapsing into constant laziness, and two, that we need to focus on spiritual things.  If we come unto Christ just to be fed physically, we might miss the greater, spiritual feast.

The other thing I like is the general idea of making less than enough, enough.  I think that God does this with many, many more things that just loaves and fishes.  We read about most of the prophets telling God that they are inadequate in some way... slow of speech is a popular one... and God makes up for their weaknesses every time.  It works for us as well.  God makes us able to do anything he asks us to do.  Sure, we have weaknesses and faults and we lack the capacity to do all the things that we need to do... but God makes us equal to the task.  ... Not typically by making us supermen and superwomen.  Not usually by giving us instant knowledge or skill that makes us brilliant beyond our natural capacity.  Those things (including superhero status) are still going to take time to develop.  What God does most often is exactly what he did with the loaves and the fishes.  He finds out what we have to give, and he takes it, and he multiplies it and makes it enough.  He makes *us* enough.

We'll learn everything we need to learn in time, and someday be superhero-perfect.  We're not there yet... but it is also okay, because whatever we have is enough, if we give it to the Lord.  We of course should be learning and improving daily, but for today, let's try to remember that being willing and obedient is just as good as being brilliant and competent.  With God's help, whatever we are and whatever we have to give is enough.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

2 Peter 3:9 -- On Counting Slackness

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

We get pretty impatient sometimes, wanting God to respond in a certain way, and definitely on our timeline, giving him deadlines for proving things to us, or for changing the circumstances of our lives, somehow thinking that if God "really loved us," or whatever other justification we are using, that he will meet our needs as defined by us, in our way.  After all, doesn't God tell us to ask and he will give?  So what's the problem?

The problem is that, well, first of all it is God.  He always knows best, by definition.  And second, we can't manipulate him with guilt.  It's like with our earthly parents.  If we asked them for a bomb, no matter how much we want it, or how much we beg, and even though they do love us (and likely because they love us), they are going to say no.  I mean, maybe if we're a demolitions expert, but even then, hard to imagine.  God qualifies his offer many places in the scriptures, telling us not to ask for things for the wrong reasons (James 4:3), and that we actually have to do more than just ask (D&C 9:7), being obedient and dedicated.

Today, let's work on not asking for things that we shouldn't, and trusting God, including his decisions and his timing, more.  Let's not find slackness where none exists. :)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Enos 1:19 -- On Going About Among the People

"And now it came to pass that I, Enos, went about among the people of Nephi, prophesying of things to come, and testifying of the things which I had heard and seen."
Enos 1:19

I like this because it seems like another step in our progression in the gospel.  Enos starts out concerned for his own soul.  He works on that with God, and is forgiven.  He then prays for the Nephites, his people, and God answers him.  Then he prays for the Lamanites, their enemies, and again God answers him.  He then gets a little bit more specific, praying that their records will be preserved, because he knows that for their descendants to have a chance at the gospel, the records have to be protected.  God tells him that he will do that.  And that is where this verse comes in.

I think we follow a similar pattern in our spiritual progress.  We progress from being worried about our own guilt and pain to wanting to save everyone, then it might take a while to remember that everyone even means groups of people that we don't particularly like, and then we start getting into praying for individual things and events that can help, and then, like Enos, we talk with people individually and personally.  All of these things are good, of course, but I think of it as a progression because it seems like we get closer and closer to the core of the gospel... loving God and other people, and the idea that that personal connection is what usually makes a real difference.
I'm always amazed at the idea of God teaching us one on one, personally, and that he can be an individual instructor to us, even with billions of people on the earth and even more elsewhere.  General commandments are important, and the church needs to be organized so that it can accomplish great good... but so much of the focus of the gospel is on each of us individually making a difference, setting an example, doing good.  It takes each of us, and our individual relationships with the Lord, to build the kingdom.  It reminds me of what Moses said in Numbers 11:29: "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!"  What a world that would be.

Today, let's work on being the best we can be individually, and develop that relationship with God that helps us become better.  And when we have a handle on that a little, let's move on and bless more lives, going out among the people and making a bigger difference.  God will give us opportunities if we ask for them, and every single one of us can have a testimony and change the world for God by doing good.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mark 14:12-16 -- On Predictions and Perspective

"And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?
And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover."
Mark 14:12-16

In the scriptures so many miraculous things seem totally normal, but I was imagining if this was me, and I was just supposed to follow some random person and then ask for a place to have a meal... I mean, of course if God asks it, you do it, but it might be sort of intimidating, right?  And I think that is a mental block that we have sometimes.  We think that God is somehow going to fit into our comfort zone, our way of thinking, or even our ethical guidelines.  I mean, as long as some of our beliefs are based on God's commandments, that is pretty safe, but we go way too far sometimes thinking that God shares our political bias or our way of looking at people who are different than we are.

God doesn't work within our limitations, which are often self-imposed, and that makes him seem both miraculous and horrible to us at different times.  We love that he can control the elements, but wonder at the idea of God killing or asking others to kill.  I think that is one of the reasons the story of Nephi and Laban is so early in the Book of Mormon... to get across the idea that God is working on a completely different level than we are, and what seems right or wrong to us might be completely different if we could see the whole picture rather than just the immediate effect.  Not even just the general timeline of the world, which is how God explains it to Nephi, but also the minute workings of every person on every day, as we see in today's scriptural excerpt.

Today, let's work on trusting God, no matter what he asks.  We might not be able to see the reason, but he can see everything, and he is leading us to good.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Luke 9:43-45 -- On Sinking A Little Deeper

"And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,
Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.
But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying."
Luke 9:43-45

I like the phrase "let these sayings sink down into your ears."  I think what Christ is getting at is that sometimes we need to consider things on a deeper level, and actually think about the things that we don't understand.  Maybe we need to let things sink so far down into our ears that they reach our brains? :)

When Christ says "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; 3 Nephi 14:7, etc.) I don't think he is just saying, hey, if you want to... he is telling us--commanding us even--to ask, to seek, to knock.  He wants us to dig deeper and think about who we are and what the gospel means.  Not so we can argue with people about it, but so that we can learn, and help, and lift.

Often, we are like the disciples here.  We don't understand and we "fear to ask" ... because we might not want to hear what we think the answer is, or have the responsibility of knowing, or maybe we would rather think about something less mentally arduous. :)  And, hey, I think it is okay to give our brains a rest sometimes.  But other times, it is good to exercise them, and expand our capacity, and get closer to our potential.

Today, let's let God's words sink all the way into our brains, and if we don't understand them, let's keep thinking, and researching, and asking... let's hold God to his promise and find the answers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

D&C 88:22-24 -- On Heaven and Mars

"For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:22-24

The idea here is that if we can't handle obeying the law of heaven, we won't be able to handle going there.  It's an interesting idea, and one that I don't think we often consider.  We usually think of Heaven as a reward for good behavior, when maybe it is more like moving to another planet.

Imagine if you will that the United States is setting up a colony on Mars, and they are recruiting colonists.  Anyone can sign up, but there are obviously going to be some rigorous training programs and safety instructions to go through in order to learn to survive in that environment.  They set up a sample colony and get the applicants all living together, to see if they can hack it.  The weeding out is all done by whether or not the applicants can follow the rules, get along, and sustain their environment.

I think our mortal lives are similar.  This is kind of like a training program for heaven.  We weed ourselves out if we can't get along with the other applicants, if we break rules and do things that harm people or put ourselves and others in danger.  If we can't manage to do those things here, we're never going to be able to live there.... whether we are talking about Mars or Heaven. :)

Since there are different levels, it seems like we are going to end up with people who behave, and likely believe, similar things.  That is an interesting thought experiment as well.  I think about myself and whether I want to live with a bunch of people like me.  And in some ways, I like the idea of having someone to play board games with, but on the other hand, I think I have some flaws that I would not like to see in others.  I might be too manipulative, too prideful, too unwilling to admit when I am wrong... and so many other things.  I doubt that I could qualify for that Mars colony either.  So that means I need to get back to work and improve--try to live the way that I want the other people around me to live. :)

Today, let's try being the type of people that we want to live around for eternity... or even just a trip to Mars. :)  If we want to be around better people, then let's *be* better people, and then God can introduce us. :)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 -- On Stubbornness and Stoning

"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
Deuteronomy 21:18-21

I was listening to this in the car today on the way home from work, and I was really surprised at the death penalty for being stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, gluttonous, and a drunkard.  I mean, that is a lot of bad things to be all at once I suppose, but I could also relate to it a little too well, so when they got to the stoning part I was like... um, ... erp.

Luckily, the Law of Moses, which this is a part of, has been fulfilled and we have a new law that might be a little bit more merciful to stubborn and rebellious children.  Thank goodness, because I feel like enforcing this would wipe out half the population (although I could be overestimating).  However, not enforcing the law doesn't mean that these are good things to do, and perhaps that is where we should focus.  In fact, Christ's law is typically *stricter* than Moses' law in terms of self-control, right?  Moses said don't commit adultery, and Christ says stop thinking about women that way, or you are already sinning in your heart.  So, I think this means that we need to be careful of our rebellion and our disobedience, and all the rest.  Not because we are going to be stoned, but because our parents deserve some respect and kindness, and because learning to control ourselves, and to be kind, is part of the gospel.

Today, let's not be the stubborn and rebellious types.  Let's learn to get past our pride and our resistance and to love people more, and to love them better.  Let's avoid gluttony and drinking and the other obsessions that interfere with obeying both our earthly parents and our God.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Isaiah 33:22 -- On Confidence and Correction

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us."
Isaiah 33:22

I really like this verse.  It is confident in the Lord, and I think that is something that we can all work on.  It kind of reminds me of Isaiah 8:12-13, which talks about how we don't have to fear what other people fear.  All we need to fear is God.  And, like Christ's yoke (Matthew 11:20), I believe that God's fear is a light burden.  Kind of like being worried about getting grounded for staying out too late as opposed to being in a life-threatening situation.  God's fear is of chastisement and correction rather than harm and destruction. :)

Today, let's work on having some rock solid confidence in God, knowing all of the things that he does for us, and that as we accept his role in our lives as judge, lawgiver, and king, and all of the other things in the gospel... we can't just accept his existence.  We also need to accept his correction and guidance, his blessings, and his promises to us.  He will surely save us, and bring us to the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18).

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Daniel 10:12 -- On Hearts and Words

"Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words."
Daniel 10:12

I like this detail in Daniel's vision.  It is basically a reassurance to Daniel, who feels like nothing before the Lord, and unworthy of what is happening to him, that God cares, and that Daniel has value in God's eyes. 

The same is true for each of us.  Our words are heard, and what we say and do matters to God.  I mean, of course that doesn't mean that we can make demands or that we are always going to get what we want, but it does mean that God is always listening, and if we do the things that Daniel did we will also be able to connect with him.

Today, let's set our hearts to understand, and invest ourselves in some self-improvement, correcting ourselves as needed to stay in tune with God.  And then let's pour out our hearts to God, knowing that he hears us, and that he will help.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Alma 38:5 -- On Trust and Deliverance

"And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
Alma 38:5

I really love the idea here that the more we put our trust in God, the more he will deliver us.  And, of course for all my talk of "ideas" I want to be sure that we are all clear here--this is true.  It is real, not hypothetical.  The more we trust God, the more he can, and does, help us.  It works. :)

I can't even begin to tell you how many times that God has delivered me or solved my problems, but one sort of funny story is when I was living in Saint Louis and I had been in my new apartment for several weeks, but I hadn't finished unpacking.  I had a big pile that I still needed to go through, but it wasn't anything I needed immediately, and so I just kept putting it off.  I also was really struggling with liking my new place.  I mean, the walls were painted green, and the heater was iffy.  It would kick on, but it didn't seem to maintain the temperature very well.  Stuff like that. 

So, anyway, of course I prayed about all of this, explaining to God what I was trying to accomplish and to change in my life and improvements that I was making, but that I probably needed some extra motivation to solve these household things that I kept just blowing off as not a priority.  And as I watched over a very short period of time, all my problems were solved...  First, my heater stopped working entirely, then my house flooded.  (Yes, I know, hilarious in retrospect, and actually sort of funny at the time too.  Remind me not to pray for motivation anymore.)

Anyway, for the heater, finally faced with it actually conked completely out, I was motivated.  I called the first person on a Google search and they were a couple of blocks away and came over in a couple of hours and my heater was back on and actually working *well.*  I was finally warm, and that improved my attitude quite a bit.  Then, when the house flooded, I suddenly (stop snickering) had the motivation to sort through everything, because, you know, it was wet, and I needed to take care of it.  And then, when they redid the whole place *because* of the flooding, guess what?  I got to pick the new paint color.  So, God not only solved every one of my "big" problems that I took to him, but he even cared enough to help me get the place painted a nicer color.  It wasn't my favorite prayer-answering event when it was happening, but it definitely was an answer, and a deliverance.

I know this principle to be true, but I also know that we can't always take someone else's word, especially with things that are so important.  I also know that we each need to develop our own testimonies.  So, today, I encourage you to try it, and hey, even if you already know it, let's all try it... it isn't something that we ever stop learning. :)  Let's get on our knees and pour out our hearts to God about the things that are on our minds, small or large.  Let's go to him with our problems, and then let's do our part in believing in and doing what God asks, and watch God do the rest.  God might help us solve a problem in a totally different way than we were expecting, but as we trust him, he *will* deliver us.

As we try the experiment, let's try something else too.  Let's write in our journals about it... our hopes, our fears, our relationship with God... all of it.  Let's write it down so that when God answers our prayers, we will always have a record to look back on to prove that it wasn't just luck or something that we can't remember worrying about.  It was truly God, answering our prayers. :)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

1 John 2:28 -- On Pride versus Confidence

"And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."
1 John 2:28

I was reading this today and wondering about the difference between confidence and pride.  Clearly, here, confidence is a good thing, and it also seems to be in some other places in the scriptures (Hebrews 10:35, Isaiah 30:15, Acts 28:31).  In other places it doesn't seem to be too good (Micah 7:5, Proverbs 25:19, Philippians 3:3).

In reading up on it more I found a talk by Glenn L. Pace from the January 2005 Ensign.  He explains that lacking confidence in ourselves is a very different thing from humility, and says "Ironically, both pride and a lack of self-confidence cause us to focus excessively on ourselves and to deny the power of God in our lives." 

That's a really cool quotation, but to break it down a little I think it is saying that we can take either extreme too far.  We need to have confidence in ourselves, not in a prideful way which makes us think that we are better and deserve more than everyone else, but in a *faithful* way, where we believe that we really are children of God and that we can do and become the things that he says we can.  God teaches us that we can make a difference in the world, and he encourages us to reach our potential, and he asks us to serve others and make a positive difference in the world.  On the other side, part of the whole mortal experience is also realizing that we need God... but not in a "wow, I'm a horrible person" type of way, but in a "I can accomplish and become so much more with God, it is better to always stick with him"

Like many things in the gospel, confidence seems to be something that we need in moderation, and also in a certain direction.  Just like we shouldn't trust in the arm of flesh, but trusting God is A-OK.  The same idea works with confidence... if we have confidence in God, then it is good.  If we have confidence in riches, not so much.  If we have too much confidence in ourselves or other people, it can interfere with listening to or obeying God, which means too much.  If we have too little confidence (or love) for ourselves or other people, that can also interfere with our trust in God and our ability to serve others, which means too little.  But as we direct our confidence and trust towards God, we're golden.  In fact, he can help us regulate our own confidence levels if they get too high or too low. :)

Today, let's do what we can to abide in God, keep him around always, and have confidence, faith, and trust in him.  Let's also work to balancing our confidence levels.  Let's not let pride and arrogance get in the way of our relationships and our ability to be humble and kind... but on the other hand, let's also realize that it is okay to feel good about ourselves and confident as we approach whatever obstacles the day throws at us.  It doesn't mean that we have thrown humility to the wind, or mastered everything in life, overcome every weakness and sin, or surmounted every obstacle.  It just means that we trust God that he will help us be ready for whatever comes next... with faith, patience, and joy even. :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2 Nephi 7:6-7 -- On Faces like Flint

"I gave my back to the smiter, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
2 Nephi 7:6-7

These verses talk about physical and mental abuse such as getting hit or ridiculed, and on not running away or hiding from it, much like the admonition in Matthew 5:39: "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."  And sometimes those things are hard to hear, especially if we are in a situation where those things happen often.

To be absolutely clear, I don't think that God means in this verse or any other that we need to stay in a long-term abusive situation.  Later in the Book of Mormon we read "let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom" (Alma 61:14).  Clearly there are some times when we should resist evil, and others when we should be patient with it.  In the case where it encourages us to resist, they are talking about something that has been going on for a while and that threatens the freedom of their people.  Similarly, when something threatens our long-term well-being, God wants us to talk to him about it and do something about it, not just keep accepting it.

That said, I think the idea of setting our faces like flint is usually a really super good idea.  Sometimes in life we overreact to things, and "make a man an offender for a word" (Isaiah 29:21).  Even when we are reacting appropriately, often not reacting is the better idea in order to shut the behavior down.  Instead of getting upset at the various people who provoke us and responding in kind, not reacting and trusting that the Lord will help us is something that would likely make the world (and even our own sense of peace) better rather than worse. :) 

Today, for all the short-term wrongs we encounter, let's trust God to make things right instead of reacting negatively.  Let's endure the bumps on the sidewalk, the cars cutting us off, the not-so-subtle negative comparisons, the comments about our appearance or our preferences, and even the deeper, intentionally hurtful barbs from our loved ones.  Let's set our faces like flint, knowing that God's opinion is the one that matters, and that he cares about us and will help us, as we stick with him. :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Matthew 13:33 -- On The Parable of Leaven

"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."
Matthew 13:33

Often in the scriptures leaven, or yeast, is used to illustrate corruption, or how fast things can go bad if left unchecked.  In this case though it seems to be used positively, showing how God's kingdom grows quickly from something that can feed several people to something that can feel many.  It is applicable to us as individuals too... as we accept the gospel into our lives, it begins to color everything that we do, and this is a good thing, for although addictions or other corruptions can permeate our lives and cause everything to fall apart, when it is God doing it, it makes everything work together for our good.  Thus the comparison to bread I think, because Christ is the bread of life and that kind of goodness and light filling up our lives is something to welcome. :)

Today, let's welcome the spreading influences of God into our lives and encourage it to spread throughout the world.  Let's be examples and willing to be witnesses of God and all the good that he brings into our lives.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ether 9:34-35 -- On Crying to the Lord

"And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord.
And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine."
Ether 9:34-35

This seems like the story of life to me today.  We try to do things our way, and it might seem awesome at first, but eventually it goes badly.  In the Jaredites' case it was a dearth/drought, but in our lives it could be a lot of things.  And then we're stubborn, and we think we can still do it our way, and we chase it until the very end, still trying, and only when we've reached the very end of our attempt and there is no place else to go, do we start considering God again.  Circumstances force us to humility, and to admitting that our way isn't going to work, and then (hopefully) we turn to God.

And when we ask, just as God did with the Jaredites here, He revives us and helps us.  But maybe things could be better for longer if we could find that humility earlier, right?  Today, let's humbly admit that we can't succeed by ourselves.  Not that we don't have any capability... we do, and we're learning, but we still can't do it without God, and we really aren't meant to.  He will help us learn and get stronger, but we need him around to help us, always.  Let's work on not letting things get to the point where we've chased down the very last animal before we cry to him, realizing that we need his help. :)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Matthew 11:28-30 -- On Yokes, Burdens, and Rest

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

God offers to ease our burdens by giving us different burdens, and before we actually try things God's way, that can seem silly.  It's still a burden, right?  And yet, in offering us a yoke, God is effectively offering to bear our burdens with us, to share the load, and also strengthen us so that we can bear our burdens with ease, and even cheerfulness (Mosiah 24:15).

We sometimes approach the Gospel comparing it to what we want to do or the sacrifices that we might have to make, and when we're torn by wanting to do other things or not wanting to give up what God has asked, it can seem really hard.  Until we actually start working together with God on things, we don't always realize that all of it is about making life (and eternity) better, and bringing us joy.  Every limitation or rule brings freedom, and working with God makes our lives (and the world) better, rather than leading us down into drudgery. 

Everything that God does is designed to help us.  That doesn't make it easy to let go of our pride and other weaknesses, but perhaps it can help us understand what we are working towards, and what we can hope for.  God isn't just trading one burden for another--he is offering to make our lives better than they ever could be without him, and to help us find the missing ingredient to being our best selves.  Today, let's accept his offer and work with him on our lives, and find rest for our souls.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Alma 47:36 -- On the Importance of Not Forgetting

"Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information of the Nephites, yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God."
Alma 47:36

This is something that seems to be prevalent in the scriptures, and in modern life--when we have had the truth and then reject it, our behavior is often worse than those who have never had the truth.  It's like something inside of us is broken, or perhaps that we are trying so hard to smother the spirit that we go out of our way to offend it.

Another thing that it could be, which I have seen in myself before, is just that when God and I are not talking, I am just not a very good person.  I am more irritable, stressed, paranoid, prone to anger, etc.  Part of that of course is probably what I mentioned above--smothering and acting brash to cover up internal distress.  Whatever reason though, it seems clear that we are much better with God than without him, even to the point of forgetting things that were good about ourselves, or losing confidence and competence in things that God typically helped us with.

Today, let's correct any deviations we have taken away from God and get back in tune.  Let's remember that we are always better when we have him close, and that things quickly melt down without him.  Let's repent and take care of it now, before we become hardened or worse, forget God and his incredible goodness entirely.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Genesis 21:19-20 -- On Sight and Salvation

"And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer."
Genesis 21:19-20

These verses are from the story of Hagar and Ishmael.  They had been cast off by Abraham to make their own way, and Hagar ran out of water, and was certain that things were hopeless.  She put him under a bush and went away to cry, so she wouldn't have to see him die.

I like this deliverance for a couple of reasons.  It makes clear that God hears us even when we are cast off, and I really like that what was required was just an opening of the eyes.  That seems to happen in the scriptures very often, and it makes me wonder what things we are missing every day, all around us.  It also makes the whole idea of God not being able to deliver us seem ridiculous, since there is so much we can't see.  There is no way that we could accurately judge that.  Obviously God can see so much that we can't, so he would be the one to trust on that subject.

Today, perhaps instead of giving up, as Hagar did temporarily, we should pray to God to open our eyes and show us the way forward.  No matter our circumstances, he will hear us, and help us, if we reach out to him and trust him to see what we cannot.

Habakkuk 2:9-10 -- On Nests and Hermits

"Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul."
Habakkuk 2:9-10

This is interesting, and it is interesting that it talks about covetousness and a nest, which don't typically go together, and then talking about shame and cutting off other people.  I'm thinking the nest is the same as the house (a house for a bird), and so to me it seems to mean that if we try to protect ourselves from the world by investing a lot of resources and separating ourselves from others, that we are sinning against ourselves.  That could be because we are separating ourselves from society in general, because we are protecting ourselves rather than others, because that investment is better spent to help the whole community, or probably a lot of other interpretations, but what it comes down to, for me, is that my dream of being a hermit on a private island is probably not ideal. :)

Today, let's think about how we are using our resources, and whether we are trying to separate ourselves from others, or help others.  And if it is primarily the former, perhaps we should rethink a little bit (in consultation with God, of course), and figure out how we can help more people and not just isolate and protect ourselves.  It's tempting sometimes, I know, but God didn't put us down here on earth to back into our own corners.  We need each other.  Let's explore that idea a little bit more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Isaiah 66:3-4 -- On Actions and Attitudes

"He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not."
Isaiah 66:3-4

This is a juxtaposition mainly between doing what we want to do and doing what the Lord asks. 

In the first verse, even things that seemed good at the time (having to do with the Mosaic law and symbolic animal sacrifice) were interpreted in an evil way... not because the act itself was evil, but because it was done selfishly, and not done for the Lord.

In the second verse, God reminds us that even when we do what we want, or do what he asks for our own purposes, God is still in control.  Even our delusions and our fears are in his hands, and if things start going badly, that is a good reminder to repent, and start taking God's will seriously.

I think sometimes we react instinctively against things like this because there is that resistance in us, and that desire to be "ourselves" and to resist being a cookie-cutter cookie.  I get that, and I sometimes feel it too, but I think what is actually going on is that we, as essentially 4-year olds, are jumping up and down in the kitchen and so God lets us help, and we don't listen to his patient instructions, and so instead of cookies we are basically making disgusting dough-balls made with salt and pickle juice instead of the ingredients he told us to use.  ... God isn't teaching us to grow up so we can become robots or Stepford Wives.  We still get to be ourselves and have personalities and senses of humor and all of it... he's just teaching us how to work in the world to achieve our potential -- fine baked goods, if we continue the analogy, rather than the disgusting concoctions that are the only things we can make without some guidance.

Let's remember today that no matter how cool an action seems, that the Lord is looking at our hearts and our intentions.  To truly come unto God, we have to get there with actions AND attitude, truly doing, and wanting, the things that God wants.  Let's work on that.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Matthew 18:1-4 -- On the Humility of Children

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:1-4

Reading this today makes me think that this is Christ's answer to pride in general.  Presumably that is where we are coming from when we ask that first question, or anytime we seek to show our superiority in any way, all the various righteousness rankings included. :)

And when we are in that mind set, Christ asks us to consider the humility of small children, who definitely act up sometimes, given, but who are also overflowing with love, eager to please, willing to interact with their parents, and who typically haven't yet learned cruelty, manipulation, guilt trips, or holding grudges.

Today, let's work to be amazing by letting go of our pride and trying to unlearn some unfortunate side effects of growing up.  With God's help, let's learn the lessons that it takes to be able to let go of anger and irritation.  Let's work on communicating plainly without negative subtext.  Let's learn to regain some of those positive aspects of childhood and let go of learned behaviors that only hurt us, and the people around us.

Monday, March 11, 2019

D&C 98:1-3 -- On Prayers, Afflictions, and Faith

"Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord."
Doctrine and Covenants 98:1-3

These verses are amazing, but as we look at them closely, we see that there is zero promise of immediate relief.  God was listening, and promising to grant, the prayers of his people, but also saying that the suffering that they were going through would work for their good.

Sometimes our lives are like this... good and bad, promise and suffering, hardship and joy.  We don't necessarily want it to be that way, but as we learn more about God and about the earthly experience, I think we learn that it is always going to be that way in this life.  There are going to be ups and downs, and usually a mixture of both.  God might not bring us out of slavery, but he will strengthen us so that we can bear our burdens with ease.  He might not give us our dream jobs, but he will show us how to make a difference.  Our lives might not be what we first thought was ideal, but God can make them more than we ever dreamed, and he gives us the power to make a difference. 

Even in the scriptures we read about people who did seemingly small things, but those things made a difference.  The widow and her two mites... the servant in Lamoni's household who knew what was happening when everyone around her collapsed.  People who refused to pray to idols, or who begged for a crumb from Christ.  Faith doesn't always move mountains, hold back seas, or change the world in other ways that seem immediately earth-shattering, but like a river wears away the rock, all of our small acts of faith still shape the landscape around us.

Today, let's have faith that our righteous prayers are heard and will be granted in the good time of the Lord, and meanwhile, let's learn and grow and make a difference within our current circumstances, trusting the Lord to guide our way.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

2 Corinthians 2:14 -- On Triumph

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14

I love the idea here that God always causes us to triumph in Christ. :)   Since it is God, likely not the kind of triumph that means rubbing the loser's nose in our superiority, but rather the pure triumph of overcoming our own faults and impediments and habits and tendencies, and, with God's help, succeeding at life... at self-improvement, in learning to be more like God, in learning compassion and bravery and goodness, and everything else that God offers us lessons in.

I think we can get really down about the world and about our own ability to triumph sometimes.  And that's understandable, because life can be hard, and our own weaknesses and faults are no joke.  But, as always, if we have faith in our Father, and trust him enough to do as he asks, he can perform a miracle in each and every one of our lives, and we can "always" triumph. :)

Today, let's get back in there and do as God asks.  Let's repent and change... heal where we may have hurt, and do better than we did before.  None of us is a hopeless case as long as we get up and keep trying.  With God, we can triumph.  Let's have faith to connect with God and make it happen.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Proverbs 22:10 -- On Casting Out the Scorner

"Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease."
Proverbs 22:10

Sometimes the Old Testament can seem overly harsh.  Not just the commandments, but the lives that people led, the things that happened to them, the things that they faced.  And, of course, not all of those things are in the past, but in modern society I think that we have distanced ourselves from a lot of it.  We don't confront things in the same way. For instance, we no longer personally kill animals for our meals, the majority of us don't grow our own food or make our own clothing, and in many cases we have police and laws to adjudicate our interpersonal conflicts for us rather than having to make that determination ourselves.

It is also hard sometimes to read about the God of the Old Testament, even though he is exactly the same person as he is today, because things happened that we might not understand, with a ton of what seems like favoritism, wiping groups of people out completely, floods and fire from the sky to sweep people from the earth, etc.  I think we want to always focus on the merciful side of God, on   his love, patience, and forgiveness.

Maybe it is important to read the Old Testament for exactly that reason though, because it is uncomfortable.  Because it reminds us that there is another side to life, and to God, and to the whole idea of Justice.  That side doesn't make God less of a God, or less perfect, or less... anything.  In fact, it shows his perfection because no perfect being would deal with his children and have no limits.  No ideal parent would let his children go completely unpunished for bad behavior after habitually breaking the rules.  Exactly *because* he loved his children, he would correct them, and teach them how to change and be better, and set a personal example of having boundaries and limits and not allowing abuse to continue.

God teaches us consequences.  He teaches us that there need to be limits to our behavior, and that we harm ourselves if we don't control ourselves.  He teaches us also that things don't always fit into the little mental boxes that we like to use to categorize the world.  God values human life, but sometimes he sacrifices it to accomplish larger goals.  In Star Trek parlance, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. :)

This is a tiny verse to go with all of these big ideas, but sometimes if scorners don't repent, you have to cast them out, so that contention, strife, and reproach cease.  Even if the scorners are ourselves.  And the same goes for other unrepented sins.  When God says that his spirit won't always strive with us, he's telling us that there is a limit.  He'll be patient, and give us plenty of chances, but it doesn't last forever, and if we keep sinning, we're going to eventually take it too far.  We wonder sometimes why it took so long for Nephi and his brothers to get the plates, and why it had to end the way it did... but maybe those three chances weren't just to test Nephi's faith, but also Laban's.  God gave him chances to do the right thing and to listen, but he wouldn't.

Let's make sure that in our lives we are on God's side, always.  Let's listen and have faith and repent and change and do everything in our power to help others to do the same... because this life *isn't* a video game with unlimited lives that we can just restore at a previous save point.  There is a game over screen, and if we don't repent, that is the point at which we go too far, and become hardened and past feeling.  Let's make sure when that end point comes that we're not playing the part of the scorner, or Laban, or the ten foolish virgins.  Let's change while we can.  It isn't too late, and it's never too early.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Jeremiah 17:5-8 -- On Trust and Drought

"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
Jeremiah 17:5-8

When I was in college I really didn't like these kinds of verses, talking about not trusting in other people, I think because God can seem really far away at times, and the verses seemed kind of anti-friendship at a time when I was learning to appreciate friendship.  I think though, now, that part of the point of verses like these are that God *is* our friend, and that he doesn't have to seem so far away, if we would invest even a fraction of the time in talking to him as we do in talking to other people. :)

Now, of course friendship with God isn't exactly like friendship with fallible mortals, but the differences aren't bad, and can bring infinite good into our lives.  God is always going to be honest with us, which we might not always like... but he will also be patient and kind and care about us even when we can't stand ourselves.

Today, let's trust in God above all else, and invest in that relationship.  Let's work to lift and help others too, as God asks, but make sure that our trust in God supersedes our trust in fallible humans, including ourselves. :)  As we do, I like the idea of not having to be careful in the year of drought.  When we stick with God, even when things get hard, with literal or figurative droughts in our lives: of water, of friends, of peace... we'll be okay.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Job 38:8-11 -- On Boundaries for the Ocean

"Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?"
Job 38:8-11

These poetic verses remind Job about who God is, and I think that we need the reminder sometimes as well.  God can talk about the ocean as a child that needs boundaries, and he can enforce them.  That is just bigger than anything we can imagine doing I think... even with a giant engineering team at our beck and call.  God's capabilities are so far beyond our own that it is hard to imagine us ever coming close to his abilities... and yet, too often we forget that I think, and argue with him about whether our ways are better, or our opinions are superior.  We assume that he is small and flawed as we are, and blame him for our lives rather than seeing the greatness and grandeur and infinite mercy of his plan.

Today, let's take some time and really think about who God is, and why it might be a good idea to listen to him, or try to learn more about him.  I think the more we understand God, the more we can learn about ourselves and the world, and the greater a chance we have of getting a taste of what God is trying to accomplish.... I say trying, but of course I slip as well and think of him as mortal.  What I mean, of course, is what he WILL accomplish.  Let's talk to God today, and accord him the respect he deserves as we converse with and learn from him.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hosea 10:12-13 -- On Growing Good and Raining Righteousness

"Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men."
Hosea 10:12-13

Using agricultural symbolism here, God pleads with us, through Hosea, to seek the Lord.  God has seen us plowing iniquity and reaping iniquity in the past, and eating the fruit of lies (which must taste pretty awful, don't you think? ... or maybe it starts out sweet but had a really gross aftertaste?).  But after seeing that, and probably being sad about it because he loves us and wants us to be with him, he still reaches out to us and tells us that it is time to turn around... to grow something that isn't disgusting this time. :)

Sowing in righteousness, reaping in mercy, and having the Lord rain righteousness upon us.  Great symbols.  I think it would be cool to get drenched by righteousness. :)  Today, let's listen to the Lord and let's take this time to turn around and seek the Lord.  Let's change our ways and determine to grow something good in our hearts and our lives... so that eventually we can partake of the fruit of our doings and not make ourselves sick.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Acts 8:36 -- On Listening to the Spirit

"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?"
Acts 8:36

This is a great story about God telling Philip to run and talk to a guy in a chariot, which he does.  The guy is reading the scriptures, and they get into a discussion about what it means, Philip tells him all about Christ, and when they get to some water, the man asks to be baptized.

I love the idea that God leads us to people that are ready to hear the gospel, and all we have to do is open our mouths and share his message.  I wonder how many things the Lord has prepared for us every day, if we would just listen to the spirit and do the equivalent of going and catching up to a few chariots. :)

Today, let's listen to the spirit and be willing to follow whatever instructions God sends us, so that we can meet cool people and have cool conversations with them, and do God's work, as Philip did.

Monday, March 4, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:10 — On Living Together With God

Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should ​​​live​ together with him.
1 Thessalonians 5:10

This is a good reminder that God cares about us and wants to be part of our lives forever.  Maybe today we should ponder that and work towards the same goal. :)  The fact that the whole thing is even possible is amazing by itself.  Definitely something worthy of our efforts.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Psalms 37:9-11 -- On Waiting

"For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."
Psalms 37:9-11

We hear a lot of this idea of "wait upon the Lord" in the scriptures, and just in life in general sometimes.  And when we hear about the meek inheriting the earth, it also comes along with the inevitable reality staring us in the face: yes, but not yet.

It's hard for us to wait.  Patience takes a lot of effort sometimes, especially if we are in some kind of mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional pain.  Indeed, some people lose faith and stop believing God's promise, thinking that if he hasn't delivered us already, or hasn't helped a loved one, or a whole people, or a nation, or with a specific disaster, or solved world hunger or poverty, or blessed us with a certain blessing--if he hasn't done whatever it is by now, that he doesn't care and never will, and we all might as well give up.

And yet, despite our suffering, God does care and he continues to work according to his timing and not ours.  When will we see justice, or an end to suffering, or whatever it is that we are waiting for?  We don't know the answer, and yet we wait.  Why?  Because God is more concerned with our *eternal* happiness and well-being than he is for our *immediate* happiness and well-being. 

If a child freaks out while learning to walk, ride a bike, or drive a car, we don't withdraw the lesson and save them from the experience, because if we do, then then they will never learn it, or learn how to become independent and navigate life.  We're seeing the long-term, even when the child is focused on the anxiety of the now.  Similarly, God is thinking very long-term, teaching us how to navigate heaven, and we still have a lot to learn in that regard.  We can bail and give up, but it's like choosing to crawl forever.

The reason that those who wait inherit the earth is because they stick around and keep learning. Today, let's be those people.  Let's wait upon the Lord with a determination to endure to the end, not just gritting our teeth and suffering, but waiting patiently, with hope and faith, looking forward to the happy ending, and making a positive difference in the meantime.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

3 Nephi 27:6 -- On Names

"And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day."
3 Nephi 27:6

The idea of taking on God's name is an interesting one.  Names can be a big thing, and they tell us a lot about who we are.  Having God's name be our name is a huge thing symbolically, and also literally, always reminding us that we are the children of God, and what that means about our eternal potential.  It's something that also signifies a connection and a commitment, as we see with many traditional naming practices at birth and at marriage, showing a connection by blood or oath in that way.

Taking God's name is something that we symbolically commit to at baptism, casting off our old lives and committing ourselves to God.  We also promise this when we take the sacrament each week, renewing that original commitment to remember God, to take Christ's name upon us, and to obey his commandments.  This verse alludes to the same things--"enduring to the end" basically means never giving up on our commitments to God.

We probably could all improve our dedication to this idea in our lives.  In a real sense when we commit ourselves to God we are living in large part for him, letting go of the bad parts of ourselves and committing to become better according to his pattern--losing ourselves to find ourselves in a way.  We give up our will and trying to control our own lives without God, which invariably fails at some point, and in return God gives us back our lives, much improved and with the added aspect of hope, which is something that we can't have without him.

Today, let's take a look at our commitment to God, and reaffirm it.  Let's endure in hope, looking forward to being saved, and to the happiness that God has in store for all of us.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Proverbs 18:13 -- On Hearing

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."
Proverbs 18:13

This is an interesting idea, and though reading this it might seem silly, I think this happens a lot more than we realize.  Both in person and through all kinds of media, we seem to have a tendency to respond without really listening--broadcasting ourselves, but rarely tuning in to others.  Often people will read a headline and use it as a basis for judgement or criticism without actually reading the article, or listen to the first few words that someone says, and never get past that, either immediately interrupting or just tuning out and planning a response.  Sometimes we even make up our minds before hearing even one word of counterargument, because our friend or our party or our nation or race or religion tends to believe that, and we just assume it is right and we don't need to think about it.

With some things maybe that is understandable.  After all, when God says something is right or wrong, he's right.  He's God, after all.  However, I submit to you that God *wants* us to think even about those things, to study and learn and understand why God is right.  He wants us to think and listen, and he wants us to be kind to others even when we sin differently.  Today, let's try to hear more and broadcast less.  I'm not saying that we shouldn't have standards or stand up for them.  We totally should, and we should set a good example to the world.  But I think we can do that, *and* listen.  Let's work on understanding other perspectives and people who are different than we are.  Let's set an example, but then let's work on understanding, leaving the judgements to God.

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