Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Genesis 11:1 -- On Language and Influence

"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."
Genesis 11:1

I think that this is an interesting note that goes along with the Tower of Babel story.  Having everyone able to understand each other, here, seemed to be a bad thing because they could all join together in pursuing one evil goal. 

In the modern day we are quite aware of the challenges of living in a world with disparate languages and cultures.  It's a little weird to try to see it from the other side.  And yet, perhaps the idea of the Gadianton Robbers, or what we would call "organized crime" might give us a taste.  One person with bad desires living with people who are willing to help and teach might overcome them in time... but give that same person the internet and a whole community of people who share the same desires, and it might become the central tenet of that person's life.

We influence each other, for good or for ill.  Today, perhaps we can work on being aware of that, and doing our best to never encourage anyone for, or entice anyone to, evil, but to only set an example of good.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Isaiah 58:2 -- On Approaching God with Delight

"Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God."
Isaiah 58:2

I love this idea of taking delight in approaching God.  I think that so many things in life, and in the gospel, should be so much more fun/cool/joyful than we usually treat them.  After all, "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25), right?  Later in this chapter, God encourages us to call the sabbath a delight, and it stands to reason that so many other things that we do for/with God should be joyful/delightful as well.

Today, maybe we should just think about how we approach God.  Does it feel like a burden, or are we actually looking forward to reading our scriptures or conversing with God in prayer?  Things aren't going to be awesome 100% of the time of course, but I think overall we can say, if we're not happy about it, we're doing it wrong. :)  So, let's work on getting it right.  Let's work on the "he that is happy shall be happy still" (Mormon 9:14) premise, and find the joy in the gospel, but especially in approaching God.  Honestly, talking with God is amazing, and it should be amazing... like getting a chance to spend some quality time with someone we love with our whole heart.  Even when God chastises us or reminds us of things that we need to do, he does it lovingly.  Let's take some delight in our prayers, and tell God all the cool things that we learned and did today. :)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Mosiah 2:21 -- On Unprofitable Servants

"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants."
Mosiah 2:21

I was reading this morning and happened across this verse which made me think about the idea of "unprofitable servants."  In the corporate world we might fire people like this, because what they bring into the company isn't worth the money we are paying them.  And, indeed, it also seems to be so at least one one level in God's kingdom.  In Matthew 25:30 we read "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness."  Yikes, right?  King Benjamin says that everything we can do still leaves us unprofitable, and Christ in the parable of the talents says that unprofitable servants get booted. Before we panic and give up on life though, let's take a step back and get some perspective. :)

There are two different ideas/lessons here.  The first, which King Benjamin is  addressing, is the idea that we can "earn" our way into heaven, or qualify for it on our own.  In that context, unprofitable means basically that God (in our corporate analogy) is vastly overpaying us for our work, and even when we are brilliant genius employees, we still aren't going to be able to find that kind of pay, in order to pay our extensive debts) anywhere else.  God overpays us for our less than optimal work because he likes us and knows that we have potential.  If we work hard and stay with the company, our shares of stock (which we also did not even come close to "earning") will make us all zillionaires and we'll all get to retire to the company's private island, filled with "many mansions" (John 14:2).

The other idea goes along with this, but is focusing on a different aspect of our work. Luke 17:10 explains "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."  Likewise, Christ's comment is in the context of the parable of the talents, and the person that he was referring to as unprofitable was the one who hid his talent in the earth.  So, in our corporate analogy, we still work at that same job and are vastly overpaid, but unprofitable means that instead of being grateful and working hard and helping the other people who are in a similar situation in the company... we just do the minimum required and take advantage at every opportunity, taking extensive breaks, browsing the internet when no one is watching, not really paying attention to the quality of our work, and figuring that God is just going to let us skate forever.  We require constant supervision, and never seem to even want to learn more about the company, do more than we are forced to, or reach out to help others.

In both cases, we are clearly unprofitable servants, but only in the second case are we risking being fired. :)  ... Now, of course, God's plan and kingdom are much more than a corporation, and my vastly oversimplified analogy shouldn't be the way that we think of God, who is our loving Father in Heaven, not the president of same faceless corporate entity. :)  Still, though, we don't have to worry about being unprofitable servants in the King Benjamin way.  Christ makes up for our inadequacies.  We only have to worry about it in the Parable of the Talents way.  We need to be grateful for the amazing blessings that we have, and work to also bless the lives of others. :)  Today, let's be grateful, and work hard. :)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

D&C 78:18-19 -- On Trying to Bear All Things

"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."
Doctrine and Covenants 78:18-19

I like these verses because they seem kind of like a back-to-basics reminder.  Sometimes things seem overwhelming, and the fact that God actually says "ye cannot bear all things now" kind of makes me feel better about the whole thing... that maybe we don't have to handle it all right now, but instead, for today, we can take a step back from trying to juggle it all, and narrow our focus to just what God asks here, which is to receive all things with thankfulness.  That seems to be a small enough task that we can work on it even on the most overwhelming days. :)

All the promises are cool... kingdom, blessings, riches, a hundred fold of stuff... :)  I think though that those are just kind of like extra encouragement.  The real blessing is when God says "be of good cheer, for I will lead you along."  ... And what a relief that is sometimes when we thought that everything was on us, and someone steps in to help, even if it is just moral support.  It makes all the difference.  And it is even better when it is God who is there to help, who, you know, can solve all of it. :)

Today, let's be thankful, especially for God's help in our lives right now.  Let's not get overwhelmed, but turn to God for some guidance. :)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mosiah 7:29 -- On Stumbling Blocks

"For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them."
Mosiah 7:29

This is an interesting principle, and definitely one that we aren't very fond of when it applies to us.  In other places in the scriptures we learn that things "work together for good" (Romans 8:28, D&C 100:15) when we are in tune with God.  Here, we're informed that at least some things are working against us when we're not on the same page with him.

When we're angry we like to believe that this is because God is cruel or that he doesn't love us or that he's being unfair.  But truly, I feel like it is the loving parent that has boundaries for our behavior and is consistent about enforcing them rather than parents who bend their standards to our whims.  God teaches us not just through laws and examples, but through the consequences of our actions and attitudes.

This of course is not to say that bad things will never happen to righteous people, because they will.  We also need to learn patience, perseverance, and faith.  However, in general, God is going to pour out blessings on us when we're truly trying to live his way, and he is going to not warn us about stumbling blocks when we're on the wrong path, hoping to slow us down and give us time to make a better choice before arriving someplace we never wanted to be.

Today, let's talk to God about the smooth and the rough patches in our lives, and let's make sure we're doing what God wants us to do and going in the right direction.  Not just so that we don't stub our toes on the stumbling blocks, but because God really does care about us, and the way towards him is *always* going to be the best way.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Proverbs 22:9 -- On Having a Bountiful Eye

"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor."
Proverbs 22:9

I like the idea of having a "bountiful eye" ... seeing the world as a place of abundance rather than scarcity, or just being generous. :)  It is something that is sometimes hard for us, because our society frequently teaches us to hold on to what we have and not to squander it.  And I am not saying that resourcefulness, thrift, self-reliance, or hard work are bad things.  They are not.  But I also think that God's ways are different than ours, and that he really means it when he says "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42).

I think it is akin to the idea of tithing.  We think about tithing with the world's logic and we're like... what?  Why would we do that?  Ten percent of everything we earn?  We already are barely scraping by!  ... And if we think about it from the world's perspective, then we probably just think that some greedy church is trying to get our money, and it's a financially foolish thing to do.  But God's ways are different, and paying tithing actually brings amazing blessings and ensures that we always have enough.  It doesn't make sense logically unless we factor God into our logic.... and when we do, tithing is a no-brainer.

Having a bountiful eye, or always giving to others, is kind of the same idea.  It requires a lot of faith in God, and it likely has some boundaries and planning that goes along with it that tithing doesn't necessarily have, just because when you are working with humans rather than deity, there are going to be complications.  ... Those should be worked out with prayer, so that we know how God wants us to help in individual cases.  However, the overall idea remains.  We should be learning to be generous people and thinking about and helping the people around us.  Someday when we live in a perfect society we won't have to worry about complications or exceptions, but we also can't *wait* to learn the principle until we live in a perfect society, because we need to create that society, and be the basis of it.

Today, let's make a concerted effort to do things God's way rather than the world's way.  Let's find ways to be generous, and to help the people around us.  Let's give of ourselves and bless others any way we can.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Psalms 145:8 -- On Emulating God

"The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy."
Psalms 145:8

Reading this, I was thinking about walking in God's ways and becoming more like him, and what the world would be like if we all were gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.  Seems like the world would be at least 900 times better than now, right? :)

Today, maybe these are some things we can focus on and work to improve.  Sometimes we think that because of our title, gender, or other role, we have to be "tough" and give up some of these qualities to be respected or taken seriously, but God transcends all that.  It is okay to be good people all the way through, no matter what others expect.  Let's be bold enough to emulate God and let people see our compassionate side, and work on the way we treat, and see, others. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

4 Nephi 1:2-3 -- On A Taste of Utopia

"And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift."
4 Nephi 1:2-3

I like the idea of being able to live this way... "every man did deal justly one with another" just blows my mind.  I think that we can sometimes come close to that in some contexts, but in so many others, we are so far away it is hard to imagine.  Also the idea of there not being rich and poor, and a very different ideal regarding ownership, which sounds more like everyone being responsible for the betterment of society rather than just watching out for your own stuff.  ... And not in a way that we have seen actually practiced in any nation on earth where there is certainly still vast disparity, but in the Lord's way, where it actually works, which is also hard to imagine.  I think a lot of disparity is baked into the way that we look at the world.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that God said that we had to become like little children... because there are so many ways of looking at things that we have to *unlearn* before we can truly learn the Lord's way.

God is preparing us to live in a cool society like this... which is what heaven must be, right?  As we learn the gospel better, let's keep an eye out for things that will help us unlearn the bad and learn the good... finding ways to share with one another and to support and love rather than to doubt and fear.  Let's learn to put God first and be open to his teaching, and someday we'll be able to get a taste of what it would have been like to live as they did in these verses. :)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Proverbs 28:9 -- On Effective Prayers

"He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
Proverbs 28:9

I'm not sure whether to interpret this as the prayer being an abomination because the subject of the verse is really bad at praying, or as the prayer being avoided by God.

Either way, of course, the idea that we need to listen to God in order to have him listen to us comes across, so perhaps it doesn't matter that much--sin makes us really bad at being sincere, and whether that communication fails on our end or on God's, that cause is the same.  Our insincerity and/or hypocrisy are blocking us from being able to make that communication work.

Today, let's be willing to listen to God just as we want him to listen to us.  Let's make a commitment to do his will and to listen to his advice.  As we do, I think our prayers will become more and more effective. :)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Luke 24:2-5 -- On Seeking the Living Among the Dead

"And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?"
Luke 24:2-5

I think this is kind of cool, that Christ left some angels to remind people who were looking for him in the wrong place to seek him elsewhere.

We sometimes make a similar error in our own lives when we think of Christ living in the past in Jerusalem, and not as someone who is alive right now and accessible to us through prayer.  Easier really than picking up the phone.  Prayer can't be canceled for unpaid bills, doesn't depend on an internet connection, can't be stolen, and can't break.  ... So no excuses for not staying in touch. :)

Christ rising from the dead doesn't mean just that once a long, long time ago, but it means he is alive now, and we can have him as a part of our lives as well.  Today, let's seek the living Christ.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Matthew 28:8 -- On Fear and Joy and Recognizing the Spirit

"And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word."
Matthew 28:8

I really like the phrase "fear and great joy" here, talking about the overwhelming and possibly conflicting emotions that were experienced by the women who talked to the angel that said that Christ was risen.  I think that awe and joy are often mixed together when we have spiritual experiences, and it is actually that unique emotion that can often help us recognize spiritual experiences.

For the women in this verse of course, it was obvious.  They had just seen an angel.  For us though, it takes time and practice to learn to recognize the spirit in our lives. Today, let's pay attention to how we feel when we read our scriptures, when we pray, and when we have spiritual conversations.  If we notice a pattern, that can help us to understand when the spirit is trying to reach us, and like young Samuel, we can respond and say "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:9-10).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Mark 16:9-11 -- On Believing Not and Finding Out

"Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not."
Mark 16:9-11

These verses make me think of the way that we learn the gospel, always initially from other people... and how hard it is sometimes to trust what they say, no matter how well we know them or how much we trust them, because it is just hard to believe or understand things without some first-hand experience.

Mary was able to prepare the other disciples to learn, and was able to tell them the truth, but until they had that personal experience with the risen Lord, they didn't believe.  ... And nor typically do we, and nor do our children or the people around us.

God's goal in our lives is to teach us and help us to stand on our own, to be able to be self-reliant, not just in physical ways but in spiritual ways.  He wants us to understand and learn things for ourselves.  That's the only way to true conversion, and to being strong enough to stand up for our convictions... because they really are ours, not someone else's. :)

Faith is super important of course, and it isn't at all bad to trust our parents, our friends, or the missionaries when they bear their testimonies, just as it is the opposite of bad to trust God when he says that things will work out.  When we believe and have faith in God then we are blessed, and we can learn spiritual things much more quickly.  I'm just saying the goal of all of it... even the goal of faith... is to help us gain knowledge of the truth, and to learn to love it. :)  It also protects us from being swayed by other people when they offer the opposite message.

Today, if we have doubts, let's go to the source and figure it out with God.  That's the only way to get a testimony and that is the only way to overcome doubt.  The goal in all of this is to empower each individual to know the truth for themselves and to move forward with it.   As we teach and as we learn, let's make sure that we are building up each person's own ability to get answers from God and understand the whys behind the "rules."  Like Mary, let's tell others what we know, but give them the time and the space to find out for themselves.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jonah 1:7 -- On Bottoming Out

"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
Jonah 1:17

Reading this today, I was thinking that this is probably where Jonah's life bottomed out.  Obviously most of us are not in the middle of the ocean, swallowed by a whale, but I think that we experience something similar when we rebel against the Lord as Jonah did.

Following the Lord doesn't make everything in life go right, but rebelling against him can definitely make lots of things go wrong... I think because "all things" aren't working together for our good anymore, which can definitely feel like a wrench in the works if we are used to some of the blessings of being friends with God.

And when life bottoms out and we realize that we desperately need God in our lives, it can feel awful, needing something we don't have and having that hole of "something missing" in our lives, and knowing that we don't like where we are, but still not being all excited, and maybe even being sort of ashamed, about turning around after our rebellious attitude.  So, maybe we have to sit there in that hell of our own making for three days and three nights... or however long it takes for us to decide that we need to change and do something different.

It's important to remember at times like this though, that the time *is* limited.  God invites us back, and our circumstances will improve.  Let's not lose hope when things bottom out, but let's use that experience as the impetus that we need to make a change.  Let's turn to the Lord and work things out with him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Alma 5:12 -- On Changing Hearts

"And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true."
Alma 5:12

This whole chapter is amazing, but today I wanted to call out this verse just because the whole idea of a mighty change in our hearts is huge.  ... And I think it is exactly opposite from what the world says, and we sometimes believe.

When our own desires clash with outside forces, we often hear "follow your heart" and "love conquers all" and even quotations of scripture about "the truth will make you free" ... and we can all see merit in these statements, but too often the way they are used is twisted out of true alignment with God and his purposes.

If we have the Holy Ghost whispering to our hearts, then we should follow that guidance, but in general, he absolutely does not want us to value our own desires over his will.  His love might conquer all, but our love, sometimes badly chosen and inappropriate, does not conquer all, especially the consequences of broken relationships and lost faith.  And the truth will make us free, but it isn't the "fake news" of valuing our own desires over God's will rather than learning to bridle our passions and overcome our own unrighteous desires.

Instead, God asks us to not only change our actions, but also our hearts.  Instead of just following the rules because we fear consequences or punishment, God wants us to truly understand, believe, and even love the idea of doing the right thing.  ... And that takes a lot of work, because the natural man isn't aligned with God... none of us are to begin with.  So we work at it, changing behavior, changing thoughts, changing hearts... until we start to get it, and we think, and feel, and behave as people in a Zion community would... as heavenly people would.  As saints would. :)

Today, let's commit not only to behavioral changes as we accept God into our lives, but also to changes deeper within as well.  God is leading us to everything good, but it takes more than shallow dedication to follow him.  The Lord "requireth the heart" (D&C 64:34).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Moses 3:3 -- On Resting and Taking Time for Others

"And I, God, blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it I had rested from all my work which I, God, had created and made."
Moses 3:3

I really like the idea of God resting.  I don't think it necessarily means that he gets weak and *has* to rest, but more that he chooses to rest sometimes.  It seems to imply that it is okay to relax and recharge sometimes, as long as we are progressing and getting things done.  And maybe even more than okay... maybe God sets us an example so we know that it is good to rest at times, to refresh ourselves, spend quality time with other people, and de-stress.

I definitely am not knocking work.  That is important, and we need to be anxiously engaged in making the world a better place.  But kicking back with family and friends is also okay sometimes, and those times are important because they encompass loving other people as well, and showing others that we care enough to take time for them is important.

That applies to God as well, which is what the main part of this verse is about... setting aside time for God, and showing that he is a priority in our lives.  I think that keeping the Sabbath Day holy might be a lot easier if we thought about it as spending quality time with God doing the things that he likes, rather than about the things that *we* want that we can or cannot do.  This sabbath, let's try it. :)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Judges 17:1-2 -- On Shekels and Perspective

"And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my son."
Judges 17:1-2

This is part of a larger story, talking a little bit about idolatry and a sense of anarchy because there was no king.  These verses were interesting to me though because Mich confesses a crime to his mother, and she blesses him, even though presumably she formerly cursed the person who stole the money, not knowing who it was.  Everything changed because of the new perspective.

It seems a lot like our lives actually.  We can get irritated and angry at strangers, and believe bad things about this group or that group that we label in some way, because of political or religious or lifestyle differences for instance, but I think a lot can change if we are open to a new perspective.  When we get to know people it is a lot harder to use labels, because we learn more about them, and even if we still don't agree with their perspectives, we are able see a lot of good in them.  When we can talk to people without being defensive with each other, we find the good.

Today, let's think about how we would change our thoughts, words, and actions towards others if they were each members of our immediate family, or one of our best friends.  That filter probably isn't always going to work, just like the rule to treat others as we would like to be treated doesn't always work... but the ideas behind there is still solid.  As we learn more about other people, we're often more inclined to love them.

Let's work towards giving other people room to fail and to be forgiven, just as we wish for ourselves.  Let's work on seeing other people in the best light possible, and when someone symbolically steals our shekels, let's remember that whoever did it could be our sister, our son, or our best friend.  Maybe things aren't as bad as we thought, and maybe people aren't as bad as we sometimes think. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

1 Nephi 17:21 -- On "Might Have Been" Happiness

"Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy."
1 Nephi 17:21

This is Nephi's brethren complaining about their journey after they left Jerusalem and imagining how happy they might have been if things had been different.

I think we fall into this same trap sometimes, don't we?  We look back on our lives and see an impediment or a choice that seems to have broken a lot of things, and if it hadn't been for that one thing, usually that someone did to us, or that was out of our control in another way, we say, like Nephi's brethren, "we might have been happy."

It is a tempting idea to take the sum of our life and pinpoint a moment in time that made us or broke us.  It takes the edge off our responsibility for being our best selves and casts it on someone or something outside our control.  ... Unfortunately that's just not reality.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that we embrace guilt trips, or get down on ourselves for all of our failings.  God doesn't want that or mean that.  When we make mistakes and even purposefully bad choices in life, God encourages us to repent and change.  Like he did for the woman taken in adultery, he gives us a way out, and wants us to go and sin no more.

What I am suggesting is that maybe we should take a step back and find a way to choose happiness, no matter where we are.  Russell M. Nelson has said "By keeping God’s commandments, we can find joy even in the midst of our worst circumstances."  We definitely can't choose everything that happens to us, but we *can* choose what we do now.  We read in Mormon 9:14 that at the final judgement, "he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still," which I think means that God means for us to be happy here, in this life, not just after.  God leads us to a happy ending, but the rest of the story doesn't have to be tragic either. :)

Today, let's not think about what-if scenarios and replay where our lives have gone wrong.  Let's start now, and make them go right. :)  Let's find happiness in the midst of whatever tragedy we are in the middle of, and keep looking for it, no matter how bad it gets (like 2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  Let's look forward and be thankful for the choices that we have now instead of mourning over choices or circumstances from the past.  Let's not say "we might have been happy" but instead "Wow, that was hard, but we're okay.  Let's do something fun." With God's help, we can choose happiness over regret, and it's a good thing.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

1 Nephi 14:21-22 -- On Seeing and Writing

"Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
And he shall also write concerning the end of the world."
1 Nephi 14:21-22

I think it is interesting that God asks people to write things down.  I think he might know us pretty well... that we have a tendency to conveniently forget the promises that we make, the things that we have seen and heard, and that our memories are quite faulty.

Honestly though, I was thinking... what if we didn't have the scriptures?  What if our memories were not enlarged by the written word?  We would lose out on so much. Yes, of course there are other ways to communicate, at lately to record, but there are a lot of beautiful things that could have been lost or corrupted.

I think that's why God asks us to see and write, rather than just showing us... so that we enlarge our memories and we don't lose those important times that really matter in our lives, because we have written them down.

Another reason is so that he can prepare us for what is to come.  Just because we don't hear about it constantly doesn't mean it isn't coming.  Let's make sure we do as the Lord has asked and prepare ourselves physically and spiritually for times of trial, whether they are super big like the "end of the world" verse, or just getting sick and not being able to get to the grocery store or something.  Let's see and listen to what God has to say, and then let's write it down so that next week when we don't remember quite as clearly, we can refresh our memories and our commitments.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Psalms 90:2-4 -- On the meaning of Everlasting

"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."
Psalms 90:2-4

The whole idea of "everlasting" just boggles the mind, doesn't it?  I like how these verses try to put it in perspective for us a little bit... before the mountains (that's a long time), or even the earth (wow... even longer).  A thousand years are like a day.  ... Although it is debatable, I actually don't think that the time comparison is exact here, but more of trying to get the idea across of "we have SUPER different perceptions of time."  Either way though, that's huge.  I can barely comprehend the amount of time I have been alive, and trying to compress that amount into a day seems huge to me.  When you step out to something closer to a thousand years... just mind-boggling.

Today, as we think about these ideas, maybe we will understand a little bit of why we should be listening to God.  With the whole everlasting thing going for him, He has so much more perspective and wisdom than we have--about everything, including us.  We can barely remember what we had to eat yesterday, if we're lucky.  God knows every hair of our heads, and can guide and help and plan on a level we can't even comprehend.  Let's embrace that, and embrace his plan.  Let's have faith in God's knowledge, abilities, and love for us.  He's amazing and cool and a better superhero than anyone else, ever.  Let's let him save us. :)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Isaiah 58:4-11 -- On Fasting and Light

"Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Isaiah 58:4-11

Kind of a long selection today, but the idea is amazing.  Here God is talking about fasting, and he starts out explaining what fasting isn't.  We don't fast to get our voices heard by God.  We don't fast to suffer or to self-punish.  Instead, God explains that fasting is about helping people... to escape from wickedness, to have shelter and food, and to visit our families.

And then, if we get it right, there are so many cool things that he promises us.  I love the "light break forth as the morning" and "thy darkness shall be as noonday."  ... What it comes down to I think is that if we focus on and take care of other people instead of worrying about ourselves, that God will focus on and take care of us, because that is what he wants to do... help us and lift us and teach us.  And he is trying to show us how great and rewarding it is to have our hearts open like that.

Today, let's work on understanding what fasting is really about, and work on learning that kind of focus and that kind of joy as we work to become more like God in the way that we think and act towards our fellow beings. :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Psalms 112:7 -- On Fixed Hearts

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

This whole psalm is about qualities of a good man (verse 5), and is totally worth reading.  This is the part that stuck out to me, I think because this is something we frequently have trouble with... the whole "not being afraid" thing.

I love the idea of having a fixed heart... both fixed as in firm and steadfast and also as in repaired I think, knowing how the Lord works with us. :)  And if we do have a fixed heart, then we won't be afraid of evil tidings.  ... I feel like the whole media/news conglomerate is based on us being afraid of evil tidings, so we might have to change what we tune into, and what we publish.  (Reminds me of Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation.")

Today, let's work on not being afraid of evil tidings, and on trusting in the Lord.  Let's reach out to the Lord for help in fixing our hearts (in both ways), and let's not be part of the evil tidings crowd.  Let's spread some good tidings of good instead. :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

D&C 93:49 -- On Prayer and Deception

"What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:49

This is a good warning.  I think we forget how easy it is to veer off course and listen to Satan and his lies.  He always tells us the lies we want to hear, making it really easy to keep after our own desires and to harbor self-deception.

God always tells us the truth.  It isn't always easy to hear, but it frees us from that snare of really believing in things that are absolutely not true, which can be amazingly painful if we allow ourselves to listen to the lies and get invested in whatever impossibility Satan is trying to sell us.

Today, let's pray and keep the spirit with us so that we can't be deceived, or encouraged to deceive ourselves.  A couple of conferences ago Jeffrey R Holland said "You can have what you want, or you can have something better."  ... God is always offering us something better, and if we can trust God enough to let go of what we think we want that leads us in a different direction, he will lead us to something much better than we could dream.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Psalms 25:4-5 -- On Learning from God

"Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day."
Psalms 25:4-5

I like these verses both because they are kind of poetic and because I love the idea of God as our teacher.  I think it takes a lot of humility to accept God's instruction, because to do so we have to let go of that very tempting idea of being in charge and knowing best. :)

I like the idea of just focusing on God and nothing else, but of course, along with waiting on God, we have to be anxiously engaged and doing good.  We can't just sit back and let knowledge passively soak into our skulls... we have to take it and apply it to our lives. :)

Today, let's be humble and seek the Lord so that we can learn from him.  Let's reach out and be willing to do what the Lord asks, as well as creatively seeking to do his will by taking the initiative to make the world better and lifting the people around us.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

D&C 88:63 -- On Seeking and Knowing God

"Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I like the idea here that we need to seek Christ diligently.  I think sometimes we get it into our heads that a relationship with God should be effortless--that God is basically a Genie, granting wishes whenever we conjure him up, and then we can safely put him back away until the next crisis.  Instead, we have to deal with God on a whole different level--as a being with different goals and priorities than our own.  In other words, we have to treat him like a person. :)  Luckily, with God we have the advantage of knowing already that he loves us and wants the best for us.  Now, of course we can't use that knowledge to get him to do what we want, as people do sometimes.  We have to work on a healthy relationship, not a manipulative one.

Coming unto Christ takes effort, consistently over time.  It is a changing of our hearts and our thoughts and our selves, not a one-time event.  Today, let's work on our concept of God, and rather than assuming what he is based on our flawed understanding of other people's experiences, let's go to him directly in prayer, seeking diligently to know him ourselves.  As we do, we will find him and learn of him, getting to know him, his love for us, and his plan.  Then we can make better-informed choices about our eternal futures. :)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Mosiah 4:9 -- On Comprehension

"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."
Mosiah 4:9

Although on an intellectual level we can understand the idea that God knows more than we do, I think that the full extent of the idea of "man doth not comprehend what the Lord can comprehend" might be beyond our grasp, by definition. :)  Let's think about it a little bit just for fun though.

1 Samuel 16:7 says "the Lord seeth not as man seeth," and to me that idea of perspective is what all of this is about.  We know that God is the same sort of being that we are on some level, because we are his children with the capacity to become like him.  Not anytime in this life of course, but still, that's part of God's plan for us.  So we at least know that we're not carrots gazing at gazelles and wishing we could be like them.  That said, still... compared to God, we're at most kindergartners hoping to grow up to be nuclear physicists, and honestly, that's way, way closer than we really are, but good enough for a thought experiment.

Imagine that our Dad, then, is a nuclear physicist and he comes to teach our kindergarten class.  He's trying to explain basic particle physics to us so that we can all learn something, and we're listening, mostly, while we're also coloring and playing with blocks.  I think that distance between our knowledge and our Dad's we understand for the most part, and we can sort of measure it in years of schooling and experience.  We also mostly get the idea that he is the father of all of us in the classroom and that he cares about us deeply.  However, I think the part that we don't always consider is that God in this imaginary scenario not only built the school, manufactured the blocks, crayons, desks, and shoes we are wearing, and wrote all of the textbooks, but he also has a cool thought-activated app through which he is teaching each of us individually at the same time he is teaching us as a class.

Even in our thought experiment trying to keep things comprehensible, what God can do seems impossible for any normal person... which I guess is the point. God isn't a normal person at all, and we need to understand that so that we can respect what he is and what he can do and see, and learn to take his advice.  Today, let's not look at God as a fallible human, but also let's try not to look at him as a carrot or an alien either. :)  Let's remember that he loves us, and that he is trying to help us.  Let's pray and take advantage of that opportunity to learn and improve, and become more like him.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Psalms 88:14 -- On Feeling Abandoned

"Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?"
Psalms 88:14

I think the perfect answer to this question is in 1 Nephi 21:14: "But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not."

The Lord doesn't cast us off or forget us, but we still often believe that he has.  I think most often it is because we haven't been listening to *him,* so the communication lines are starting to break down, and of course if we thought it were our fault then we'd have to do something about it and stuff, so we like to believe it is God. :)

Some things we can do to open things back up:

--Let go of anger and other negative emotions.  Anger gets in the way of the spirit... it just does.  No matter how "righteous" we think it is, or how justified it feels.
--Humble ourselves.  That whole "I'm still right" feeling is very similar to anger in its ability to get in the way of the spirit.  We have to be able to get over ourselves a little bit in order to feel God reaching out.
--Get on our knees and talk it out, even if it feels like we're not getting through.  Prayer and persistence can go a very long way towards re-establishing communication.
--Read the scriptures.  Often, focusing on something spiritual will help us block out distractions as well as our own conflicts and focus on God.

I think the most important advice is to keep trying.  Sometimes God does seem to cut off communication for a time--not because we are worthless or irredeemable, but maybe because we need a time-out. :)  Sometimes we are asking the wrong questions over and over again or demanding things that will harm us.  Sometimes we are completely ignoring God and we offend the spirit and it can't hang around us for a while.  In those cases, I think the best thing to remember is Isaiah 54:7: "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee."  He still hasn't forgotten or given up on us--just given us some time to realize that the hole in our hearts is God-shaped, and nothing else can fill it.

Today, if we are feeling abandoned by God, let's make sure that we aren't abandoning him.  Let's do everything in our power to get rid of things in our lives that might be blocking the spirit, and then let's do some good things that invite the spirit back in.  If we are seeking him with all of our hearts, the Lord will never be gone for long. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mosiah 27:4 -- On Pride vs. Peace

"That they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support."
Mosiah 27:4

This is an interesting idea, that pride disturbs our peace.  Not the usual way that we think of pride.  Usually we think of it in terms of what we deserve or what we are worth or something like that... and I think it is instructive that we're having the total wrong conversation with ourselves.  If we focused on what would bring us the most peace, or even how we could be most at peace with ourselves, we might get a lot farther towards serious self-improvement.

The very idea that we are more important that other people... individually or collectively as any group, has some inherent conflict baked into it.  If we think we are better, then we are going to be biased and discriminatory towards someone... individuals or groups.  Even if it is just whoever cut us off in traffic, or whoever we cut off who cussed us out, or someone on the internet we'll never see again, whoever got that promotion at work, whoever didn't give US that promotion, or random person 14 who has insane political views (because they contradict our own). 

Those conflicts mess with our peace exactly because we see ourselves in a certain way, and other people in a less flattering way.  If we saw others as we see ourselves, then we would understand that the other person cut us off accidentally because they couldn't see, or that they were in a hurry and needed to pick up the kids, or whatever excuse we allow ourselves.  We would understand that the guy on the other political side of the spectrum means well and wants the best for everyone.  We would see that the person who got the promotion was working hard and would probably be a good fit for the company.  I think we mess up our own peace a lot because we want everything to go right for us, and we're not really all that bummed out when bad things happen to others, because hey, not us.

God talks about chosen people, peculiar people, etc.... so does that mean that he can play favorites and we can't?  In a way, sure.  God can do a lot of things that we can't/shouldn't.  However, I don't think that there is really any conflict there.  God's chosen people aren't chosen because they are better than anyone else.  They are chosen because they do as God asks, he wants to choose everyone, and anyone can get in.  Instead of an elite club, it is probably more like the red cross... you are in it because you joined up and wanted to help, and being there gives you some opportunities to serve, help, and meet cool people.  ... But it doesn't make you inherently better than anyone else.

We get caught up in the comparison trap too often, thinking that this or that makes us better.  Today, let's change that internal conversation and think about how we can help.  Some of the biggest problems in our lives I think we could actually tackle if we could let go of that pride and really work to see the situation in another way.

Exodus 23:25 -- On Blessings, Sickness, and Exceptions

"And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee."
Exodus 23:25

I really like the idea here that, besides all else, the Lord will bless our food and save us from sickness as we serve him.  It's probably in a different way now, since we have refrigerators and stoves and ways to preserve food that we didn't before, but there are still plenty of food-borne illnesses and other sicknesses that we need protection from.

What I wonder, actually, is how many times we might have gotten sick and we didn't, because God was watching out for us.  I think we are so wrapped up in looking at the exceptions that we don't really think about all the times that God does exactly what he says he will do, so situations *don't* become emergencies, nothing permanently bad happens, and we continue to live our lives.  I can certainly think of a few close calls in my life that, but for a well-timed blessing, could have gone dangerously and badly sideways.  I can also think of a couple where things did go sideways of course, but maybe we dwell on those times too often.  I think God is watching out for and protecting us every single day, and that we should probably pay a little more attention to that, and be thankful.

There are always going to be exceptions, because we're here to learn and be tried... to figure out who we want to be in a world that allows us true free agency.  Today, though, let's think about all the times when God snatches us away from danger and saves us.  Those are huge, and God deserves credit for that consistent love and protection way more than he deserves our anger and disdain for the times when he asks us to endure hardship. :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

D&C 45:22-23 -- On Spiritual Preparation

"Ye say that ye know that the end of the world cometh; ye say also that ye know that the heavens and the earth shall pass away;
And in this ye say truly, for so it is; but these things which I have told you shall not pass away until all shall be fulfilled."
Doctrine and Covenants 45:22-23

God is always trying to prepare us.  Here he mentions the end of the world a state in which "all shall be fulfilled," which seems pretty far in the future. and yet God talks about it now in order to help us prepare... and perhaps also to help us worry less.  He offers information about things that are going to happen in the future so that we can compare them to the present and see the difference and know that "the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:6).

Today, let's be willing to think about the things that God has in store for us in the future, but let's also not get stressed out about it.  God isn't telling us these things to freak us out, but so that we can learn and prepare.  He is going to take care of things, as always. Our job is to live the gospel and to prepare.... not in a stockpiling weapons for Armageddon type of way, but in a be-ready-spiritually type of way. :)  This is important because, as God tells us in D&C 38:30, "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  Maybe that's something we can apply to all information in our lives, not just predictions of the end of the world. :)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Jacob 7:4 -- On Using our Powers for Good

"And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil."
Jacob 7:4

This is a good verse to remind us that we can use our powers / talents / strengths for good or for evil.  Learning and developing our talents is a good thing, but as with all other things. using our talents has to be done in the service of God for us to be sure that it will be good in our individual lives.

Today, let's stick with God and not be tempted to use our talents in a bad way.   If things seem at all questionable, let's take a step back and examine our motivations and make sure that we include God in our plans.         

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