Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mark 5:36 -- On Banishing Fear and Choosing Belief

"As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe."
Mark 5:36

I'm pretty sure that the phrase "Be not afraid, only believe" could be the theme of our lives.  If we could live each day with more belief and less fear, I feel like all of our lives would improve by a lot.

In this case, Jairus asked Christ to heal his daughter, and on the way some people told him that his daughter was dead.  Similar things happen to us in our lives.  People might say that we can't accomplish something, or we can't change, or they might mock our beliefs or our faith in a promised blessing.  When the criticisms and the doubts come, they can come with a number of things that really scare us as we imagine what life would be like without the promises of God that we trust in.

When those things happen, we don't have to let that fear control us.  When God asks us to be not afraid, and to only believe, he is asking us to focus on him.  He is telling us to have our priorities straight and to put him first... even before fear and doubt.  We don't have time for that... it's just obstructionist delaying of our happiness.  Like Jairus, if we trust God rather than what other people say, things will turn out okay.

I'm not saying that we always get what we want... but I am saying that we always get what God promises.  He doesn't lie.  When he promises us that he can change our hearts, and that he can help us find eternal happiness, he totally can.  It doesn't all happen at once, but it does happen as we trust, follow, and focus on hope in him rather than on the fear from lies of the world.  Today, let's work on that. :)

1 Nephi 11:16-17 -- On Questions and Testimony

"And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things."
1 Nephi 11:16-17

The message that God loves us was core to Nephi's understanding of God.  He didn't understand everything else that was presented to him, but he knew that.  It seems similar to Adam's declaration "I know not, save the Lord commanded me."

We all have a core of knowledge about God.  Maybe it is his love, maybe it is obedience, or repentance, or tithing, or temples, or family, or church attendance, or fasting, or faith, or prophecy, or mercy, or justice, or the scriptures, or Christ's atonement.  And that core is good to hold on to.  It is what keeps us coming back to him, and what brings us here today, studying his word.

Nephi  was asked a question in order to get him thinking, and so that he could expand this core belief and build on it.  Similarly, when we have questions about God and the gospel, especially when we can't find an immediate answer, it gives us an opportunity to learn more about God and expand that foundation of our testimony.

Today, if we have questions, let's remember the core of our testimony and remember that new information isn't meant to shake that foundation, but to build on it.  God welcomes our sincere and heartfelt questions, and he will help us learn more and come unto him.  He loves us.  He wants us to learn.  Let's go to him and seek our answers, and further instruction.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

D&C 46:8-9 -- On Seeking and Asking and God's Community

"Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts."
D&C 46:8-9

I like the idea here that we seek gifts in order to benefit people who seek and ask of the Lord.  Our gifts are for them, and their gifts are for us, and we're all being blessed and working with God for the benefit of each other.

Good reminders too, to be careful of deception and make sure we're not asking for the wrong reasons.  To avoid those things, let's make sure we're looking to God and not elsewhere, and as it says let us seek the best gifts, because God can give us the ability to do things like tell what is true and what is not, if we stay close to him.

Today, let's seek and ask earnestly for the righteous desires of our hearts, and as we do, let's also seek and work towards the best gifts and talents, remembering that they are to build up Zion and help others, and not merely for our personal benefit.  Let's be part of God's community and build each other up. :)

Monday, July 29, 2019

D&C 65:5 -- On Brightness and Readiness

"Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth."
Doctrine and Covenants 65:5

I love the image of Christ coming down clothed in brightness. :)  I imagine cloth made out of light, which would be super cool (I mean, I'm sure the idea in the imagination could also be obnoxiously gaudy, but this is God we're talking about, so I know it is actually on the awesome side).  D&C 50:24 tells us "that which is of God is light," Ephesians 5:8 tells us that we are children of light, and light and life and truth go together in a number of scriptures.  Those things woven together seems pretty amazing, and the fact that we are part of all of it is even more so.

The fact that we need to be prepared for when Christ comes to meet the kingdom of God set up on the earth I think makes it very clear that we need to get moving on working on that kingdom of God that will be ready to meet him... and perhaps also get to work on developing our own brightness a little bit more. :)  But when we talk about this stuff it shouldn't be giving us the "end of the world" blues either.  ... Christ returning to us is amazingly good and will usher in brightness and goodness that we could never otherwise know.  Nothing that God does is something we need to be afraid of... with him, it is all light, all the time, and we don't have to carry that darkness of fear and doubt with us to drag us down.

Today, let's cultivate brightness--especially the "perfect brightness of hope" that it talks about in 2 Nephi 31:20.  Let's rejoice in light and truth and life and hope, and build up God's kingdom on earth so that we can be ready for his triumphant return, when we will be able to stand before him with joy. :)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

2 Kings 5:10-12 -- On Anger and Doubt and Faith

"And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage."
2 Kings 5:10-12

Sometimes I think that we are a lot like Naaman in this part of his story.  He's an important man and his master paid a lot of money for the possibility of a healing.  He comes to the prophet for the miraculous power of God that he has heard of, and instead of a big dramatic event, he doesn't even see the prophet... just gets a messenger, and is told to do something that can't possibly work, right?  I mean, how crazy is that... to just wash in a river seven times?  This is incurable leprosy.  Surely it requires something way, way more dramatic.

And we do that in our lives with the answers and the strength that we seek.  God asks us to do small things like reading the scriptures and praying and going to church, but we've *read* the book and sat in those boring meetings, and screamed at the ceiling, and nothing is happening.  We obviously need more... some sign, some angelic visitation, some lightning bolt from the heavens.  We listen to conference or to the prophet, and we gloss over the instructions because we've tried that too, or we know it won't work for us... our problem is a little more serious than those simple things.

Later in Naaman's story, his servants convince him to try the prophet's advice, and he does... and it works.  And perhaps, if we are able to step back from our cynicism and doubt, God can help us too, even when he doesn't come to us in person, and even when he asks very simple things.  Perhaps what we need is a fresh perspective, or a new start.  Or maybe we just need to try things a different way, pleading rather than demanding, or seeking and studying rather than using the scriptures, or our meetings, as a sleep aid. :)  Or maybe we just need consistency, and the belief that God can bless us with understanding even the nine-hundredth time we read a passage, not just the first. :)  Whatever it is, God will still bless us if we go back and try now.  He didn't strike down Naaman for doubting, and he will not strike us down either... he only waits to bless us until we can pull ourselves together and do as he asked.

Today, even if we started out doubtful and angry as Naaman did, let's humble ourselves and follow God's instructions.  Faith sometimes requires simple things, but God's work, even by very small and simple steps, still takes us on a miraculous journey.  God can always help us, if we can believe.  And, as he did with Naaman and many others, he will help us even with our unbelief (Mark 9:24) if we go to him with whatever faith we have.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Mosiah 26:1-3 -- On Doubt Impacting Comprehension

"Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened."
Mosiah 26:1-3

The first verse here says that they could not understand, and then the third verse explains why... because of their unbelief.  Their doubt got in the way of their comprehension, and their hearts became hardened... resistant to the faith and trust necessary to open ourselves up and listen to the Spirit.

We say things sometimes in our lives like "I don't understand why this is happening," and we often tend to think that understanding comes before believing--that we have to understand something before we can believe it or trust it.  That is clearly the way of the world, but I don't think it is always God's way.  He explains sometimes, even often, when we have the capacity to understand, but even then, he can't explain it all.  He told the Brother of Jared what he needed to do to get air in the barges, but he didn't explain the sources of light.

When we are young we have to trust first.  We can't understand as children why things are the way they are, so we have to trust our parents, and learn, and have faith in them that they are teaching us and guiding correctly.  At this stage of development, when we believe something, we look for ways to understand it or prove it, but if we don't believe something, we tend to dismiss all evidence to the contrary.  In the world that can often get us into trouble when we have faith in something or someone that isn't trustworthy, which is why, often, when we grow up we stop trusting and start thinking that we have to understand everything first. 

In some ways this is a good development of boundaries, and self-protection from a wicked world where we cannot always trust others.  However, when we let it make us cynical, and especially when we let it leak into our relationship with God, who we *can* trust, we are limiting ourselves to learning and doing only things that are within our comprehension... which might seem logical on the surface, but considering that we are still barely toddlers before God, it is way, way too little faith.  We need to be able to take leaps of faith with others, and like Nephi, we have to be willing to trust and have faith in God "not knowing beforehand" (1 Nephi 4:6) the things that he will ask of us.

Today, let's remember that understanding doesn't always come before believing, and that sometimes it is the doing of the thing that teaches us why.  Let's refuse to harden our hearts.  Let's be willing to be open with others, and risk a little in order to learn how to love better.  And while we are protecting ourselves in some areas, let's learn how to remain able to let down all of our walls with God and trust him with all our hearts, and "lean not unto [our] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).

Friday, July 26, 2019

Helaman 12:24 -- On Restoration, Good Works, and Repentance

"And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works."
Helaman 12:24

The whole idea of being rewarded according to our works, or really the idea here of restoration... getting grace if we have offered grace to others, as well as being restored to everything else we have done... is both amazing and terrifying.  Amazing because it is perfectly just, and paired with repentance and time between action and judgement, it can also be perfectly merciful as well.  Thinking about having everything that we have done to others restored to us can also be pretty terrifying, and is a good reminder about how much we need to repent, and be a lot more careful about how we treat others.

The idea of repentance also has the idea of restoration embedded in it... to try to make up for the wrongs that we have done.  We can do that directly in many cases, but in situations where we can't repair what we have broken or heal what we have hurt, God reminds us to engage in good works.  Even if we ourselves can't unclip a particular thread, we can work to strengthen and beautify the whole tapestry, and thus make up as well as possible for our mistakes.

Obviously, we can't make up for everything or work so hard that we become perfect or earn our way into heaven.  It isn't really about that, but more about becoming good people who are concerned about others healing and helping others.  Christ will make up for the things that we can't, pay our debts, and fight our battles, as long as we stick with him and have faith.

Today, let's work on our repentance and on our good works, and let's really think about the concept of restoration, and work on not doing anything that we don't want to get in return from God.  And if we can progress past the not-doing-bad part, let's try some nice good things that we would be happy to get from God in return. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Mormon 8:12 -- On Connecting With the Scriptures

"And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you."
Mormon 8:12

The writings of Moroni after all his people are destroyed always get to me.  I wonder what it would be like to be in a situation like that, with your only connection to your distant relatives being through the people who just murdered your father and all your people, and trying to write to generations yet unborn about your day and how all of this relates to them.  I imagine if any of us were writing to the future we would say something similar... "I wish I could tell you everything." :)

We're connected to Moroni, not just through imagining what it would be like to be in his position though, but also because he was writing to us.  We're connected across all these generations, listening to his voice as he tries to pass on his wisdom and his knowledge of the Lord to us, to help us in our lives that are so different and distant from him, but which are the hope that he has in the future, and since God remains the same, and can see our day, he knows that what he has to say will have value to us.

Today, let's not take the efforts of so many of our ancestors lightly.  Let's read and learn, and seek the Lord's guidance as we study the scriptures, so that we can learn what they have to teach us, what God has to teach us, and the "greater things than these" that God has in store for us if we use and value what we have already been given.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Jeremiah 42:5-6 -- On Practicing Some Faith

"Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us.
Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God."
Jeremiah 42:5-6

This is part of an interesting story.  So, the people seek out the prophet and they ask him to pray for them unto the Lord, and that they want to be accepted by him, and they promise to obey whatever God tells them to do. Who knows... at the time they asked, they may have even meant it.

Ten days later, however, when Jeremiah returns to them with instructions from God, it is very clear that they don't intend to follow God's commandments, which are very, very clear about not continuing in the direction they are going.

Reading this we think... wow, how crazy is it to go out of your way to ask God when you have no intention of following him?  And yet, I think we do this same thing frequently.  I don't think that we always know ahead of time that we are going to reject God's advice and rebel against his commands.  We often think that the direction we favor is the only reasonable path, and that surely that is what God will recommend, so there should be no conflict... but when there is, we too often choose our way rather than God's.

Why?  Well, perhaps a lack of faith.  We can't see things God's way and we aren't willing to take his answer and trust it instead of what we think is right.  Today, let's work on that.  When God asks us to do something that we don't think will work, or that we can't do, let's work on trusting him anyway, and taking that next step.  Maybe it will work, and maybe it won't, and maybe it will only work if we believe in it... but no matter what, we need some practice in trusting God instead of ourselves, so let's keep trying even when we get it wrong, and keep working on putting God's will before our own.  If we keep at it, we'll learn, and maybe our faith will grow enough to take another step. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

3 Nephi 27:26 -- On Writing

"And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged."
3 Nephi 27:26

Before this verse it encourages the people to write: "Write the things which ye have seen and heard" (verse 23), unless the Lord has forbidden it, and then it mentions this.  I think it is interesting that even knowing that God is recording *everything* that it still asks us to write as well.  Why?  I'm really not sure, but I have some ideas.

Scriptures come from regular people, writing their experiences.  God works through us to accomplish his purposes... and even if what we write doesn't become part of a major work of scripture, it can impact our friends, our families, and even our relatives many generations after we lived.  What happened to us can inspire someone years from now, even if our lives were really hard... we can give them tips on endurance and faith. :)

Part of writing it working it out in our minds.  It's easier to gloss over things when they are just thoughts, and set them aside... but when we write and see it on the page, in some ways it forces us to confront the idea and think it out a little more, because we're making that process permanent instead of just not thinking about it.  So part of it is for us, to ponder and figure out what it really is that we think, and want, and choose to be.

I think maybe it is also about perspective.  We read about Jonah and him not wanting to preach to Nineveh, and running away, and being swallowed, and being miserable... and that perspective, with so much honest fear and resentment and reluctance... that reminds us of ourselves.  God is perfect.  He would likely write the story much differently from his own perspective, but he knows that we need to hear from others, so that we can learn how to overcome things that imperfect people experience. :)  (That of course doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to be better.)

Today, let's write, even though God is also writing it all.  It's following his pattern, and maybe it will help us get on the same page.  Maybe it will help us think through some things.  Maybe it will help someone else.  Let's give it a try. :)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Moroni 10:7 -- On Fluctuating Faith

"And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever."
Moroni 10:7

This struck me I think just because it reminded me of how God works.  And it is worth considering that it isn't God that is closer and farther away and who seems to stop talking to us, but it is rather the fluctuations in our own faith that makes us more and less tuned in and able to hear his voice.  When Enos talks about his "wrestle" (Enos 1:2) before God, that is what I always think of... that it wasn't wrestling *with* God, and trying to get him to tell him something, but that rather it is sort of a wrestle with ourselves... to dedicate the time and the effort and the focus that it takes to truly commune with God on a deep level, and get a promise like Enos got.

We connect with God in our lives sometimes, but I think too often we think that because we were in tune one day and it clicked and worked that it will be that way always, even when we aren't that in tune all the time, and we let our lives distract us with so many things.  There is a clear reason that the prophets and apostles are talked about as fasting and praying so often... because those things help us focus and get the spirit into our lives.  Likewise, distractions and fun things in our lives aren't inherently evil, and we should have fun with our friends and our families and build good memories, but it is when we let those things (or any other things) get in the way of our relationship with the Lord that they are questionable, because we too often dedicate time and resources to those things rather than to the cause of God and his gospel.

Today, let's remember that Faith is the way that God works with us, and how easily ours fluctuates.  If we want God to be more consistent with us, and closer to us, then we have to be more consistent with him, and move closer to him.  He is always there (today, tomorrow and forever), waiting to converse with us, if we call on him and are able to hear.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 -- On Being Children of Light

"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

Earlier in this chapter, and also in 2 Peter 3:10, it talks about the Lord coming as "a thief in the night."  In other words, it basically means that it will come unexpectedly, and yet here there is a difference made (as there is in related scriptures about the Second Coming) between people who are watching and people who are not.

I like the idea of being "children of light" and "children of the day" ... which is probably like being wise and bringing extra oil in the parable of the ten virgins, or the porter in Mark 13:34.  The idea is similar: "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:37).

Today, let's remember that the thief in the night thing only applies if we're choosing to be in the dark.  Let's be awake and aware when it comes to God, keeping his spirit with us, and constantly communicating with him and keeping that relationship alive, so that we can be prepared and ready for his return, as children of light. :)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Amos 7:14-15 -- On Being More than We Expected

"Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel."
Amos 7:14-15

This is an interesting excerpt about how Amos was called to be a prophet.  I think it is interesting because it is clear that it wasn't the future that Amos was expecting or planning for, and maybe one that he didn't even want at the time.  Being a prophet is hard work, especially when people try to kill you, which seems to happen to prophets a lot.

I wonder how often calls us and we're not listening/answering, because it isn't something that we expect or maybe even want.  We often *think* we want to hear the voice of the Lord, but when he does speak and asks us to do something, we often cringe away, as Amulek explains that he did "I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know" (Alma 10:6).

How do we think of ourselves?  Amos says here "I was no prophet" ... it isn't something that he identified with, or thought of himself as.  And yet, God called him.  In Numbers 11:29, Moses expresses a wish that everyone had the experience of being a prophet... maybe because it was hard for him and he wanted other to relate, maybe because then people would understand what God wanted them to do, or maybe just because then his job wouldn't be so hard, because everyone would be listening to the Lord. :)  And we definitely can't all be *the* prophet that speaks for God and his church, but we *can* all receive inspiration/revelation from God for ourselves and our responsibilities, which is also a prophetic thing.  Maybe we need to let go of the "that's not who I am or what I want" thing, like Amos had to, in order to really hear what God has to say, and also in order to be who we really can be.

Today, no matter how much we just want to pick sycomore fruit, let's be open to doing, and being, more than we expected.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Joel 2:14-16 -- On the Valley of Decision

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel."
Joel 2:14-16

These verses are talking about a time right before/at the Second Coming, and as this chapter shows there will be a lot going on, and all nations will be gathered for war.  And it seems like it is going to be a very black day, with no sun, moon, or stars to help lighten things.

But, as he did in third Nephi, the Lord will speak from the darkness and destruction and be, as it says, the "hope of his people."

Since we know the outcome, the meaning of "the valley of decision" seems a little bit unclear.  It clearly isn't deciding a war, for we know that God will end one right here.  Instead I think, perhaps it will a time for all of the nations to make a decision about what they are going to do about the reality of God in front of them.

Likewise perhaps, all of us need to make a similar decision.  At some point, if we haven't already, we are going to come face to face with the reality of God.  And at that time, we too are in the valley of decision.  Are we going to take that knowledge and make a covenant with God, and work with him to make everything better, or are we going to retreat from that knowledge, trying to deny his shining reality, and continue in our own ways?

Today let's recognize the truth, and instead of putting ourselves first and holding on desperately to our sins, let's covenant with God, and work with him to free ourselves from everything that is holding us back.  Let's allow him to help us become what we have always been meant to be, and better than we can imagine.  Let's lift and help the people around us, and be the good and the Lord's hand in changing things for the better.  Let's make our decision now.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Alma 37:7-8 -- On Small Means and Enlarged Memories

"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls."
Alma 37:7-8

We need a lot of reminders about this idea I think, because we tend to want something big and showy and dramatic ... a gigantic neon sign that says in a deep, booming voice "Yes, that's the right decision" or "No, don't take that job" or whatever it is. :)  But God sees all of it and he works the tapestry, pulling on a thread here and there, and we don't see the dramatic changes until much later, because all the changes leading there were incremental.

Interestingly though, there are occasionally some dramatic moments and they are captured in the scriptures.  Parting the sea, walking on the water, being swallowed by a giant fish... and that is part of what it is talking about here when it says that the scriptures have "enlarged the memory of this people."  That's one of the reasons that we read the scriptures, so that we can know how God works with us, and recognize his hand in our lives.  Sometimes there are dramatic moments in our own lives, but they aren't always reconizably dramatic to others, because they were hard or impossible for *us.*

Today, let's be sensitive to the big *and* small means that God is using to work with us in our lives.  Let's listen as he works to convince us of our errors, and helps us to learn about him and partake of his salvation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

3 Nephi 1:14 -- On Spirit, Body, and Internal Unity

"Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given."
3 Nephi 1:14

The phrase here "of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh" is an interesting one, perhaps showing that Christ, at this point, right before he is born into mortality, hasn't unified those parts of himself... or even just as an explanation to us about where any other will comes from.

We are spirit and body, and our spirits, before we came here, were already united with Heavenly Father's will.  We wanted this chance, and looked forward to getting bodies and learning to use them.  But, as Christ mentions, having "flesh" gives us additional urges and desires that we didn't have as Spirits.  That's what the scriptures call "the natural man" in some places (1 Corinthians 2:14, Mosiah 3:19), and that's why we're sometimes torn apart internally... one part of us going in one direction and the other part wanting to go a different way.  One part of us always wants what God wants, because that is what we wanted before this life, and the other part has new needs, which we have to decide how to satisfy.  A large part of life is just choosing whether to let our spirits lead or our bodies, and who we choose to become as this new melded being... how we decide to reconcile those different parts of our new whole selves.

Another thing that Christ says here is that he is going to do the will of BOTH.  And that's the trick, right?  We need to learn to be unified within ourselves the same way that Christ did the will of his Father *and* himself.  The scriptures give us hints about bridling our passions and *all* of the commandments are to help us learn in this new situation, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, to treat our bodies well and respectfully... just showing us how to get used to having bodies and how to get back home after we're done with that task. :)

Today, let's work on unifying ourselves, being less torn apart internally and less at odd with God, because being at odds with God is *also* being at odds with part of ourselves.  Once we get on the same page internally, it will be a lot easier to influence the world in a good way. :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

3 Nephi 22:4 -- On Being Free From Shame

"Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more."
3 Nephi 22:4

After this verse the Lord says "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee" (verse 7).  And that is important to remember as we discuss this, because it helps us understand that none of our trials or afflictions are forever.  Here though, I wanted to focus on this idea that we don't have to always bear the shame of our failures and inadequacies.  We don't have to worry about the things that we've lost or that we don't have or that we ever did wrong, as long as we are changing and growing and repenting and becoming better.  God isn't going to throw our sins and mistakes back in our faces, because we're moving past those things, and we're becoming better than that.

To be clear, we *do* have to worry if we refuse to change and we get stuck in a rut and stop progressing.  If we choose to be a person that embraces a certain type of sin, and we choose not to change that, then those are the things that are going to stand between us and God at the last day.  God can't help us if we aren't willing to be helped.  But we don't have to have anything impeding that relationship if we don't want to.  Even if it is just in tiny ways, as long as we are really making an effort to change and grow, God will help us along.

Today, let's take advantage of the limited time 100% Zero Shame deal that the Lord is offering us.  Let's talk to him about the things that we are ashamed of, even if we don't know how to change, and he will help us to repent and change and be free of that burden.  Let's act now. ;)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Hebrews 12:25-29 -- On Becoming Unshakable

"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12:25-29

This is interesting because it shows at least partially what God is helping us become... eternal beings, that cannot be shaken, destroyed, or consumed in a fire.  He wants us to be able to stand with him.  Now, of course, right now we aren't even close to that.  We're weakling mortals, and we are pretty messed up most of the time.  But he's asking us to see beyond our current weaknesses, to act beyond them, and to have faith in him and in what we can become.  Over time, working with God, no matter how weak we are now, we *can* become solid and unshakable, and it is God's chosen work to help us to become so.

We hear in other scriptures about the refiner's fire, and I think that is what the consuming fire is here... it consumes and basically obliterates anything that can't endure the heat, but the things that can are purified, as the fire removes everything else.  God makes us able to endure, and we are purified by his fire.

Refusing God is like refusing treatment for a deadly disease.  I mean, worse than that, but partially that.  It's self-condemnation, giving up hope and choosing death.  I think we can take these verses to heart, not in a way that causes us to think of God as frightening, although he can certainly seem that way, but in a way that helps us to understand that God is preparing us for an eternity where no corruption or imperfection will be able to survive. 

We're seriously on our way to the kind of place where there aren't any white lies or criticisms or justifications... or any sin at all.  And if we want that... if we want heaven... then we need to learn how to be that type of person, and live in that type of society.  ... Not all at once.  God will teach us and help us, and we will be able to accomplish it in time if we want to... but we have to want to, and be committed.  God won't force us. 

Today, let's choose to learn and to grow and to become people who cannot be shaken.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Alma 38:12 -- On Love, Respect, and Self-Control

"Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness."
Alma 38:12

I like the bold but not overbearing idea... that we should have opinions and express them, and work for what we think is right, but that there are limits, and we shouldn't be talking over other people or not listening to them, and we shouldn't step on others when we express ourselves.

That idea of there being limits to our self-expression carries over into the next idea, that of bridling our passions.  Emotions aren't inherently bad, but they can get bad quickly if we let them control us, rather than us controlling them.  It's interesting to say that we have to control our passions in order to be filled with love, because we often see love and passion portayed as the same thing... but restraint and self control are *essential* to real love.  Only when we have the ability to respect someone else and control ourselves around them can we understand what loving them really means.  Just like the first idea... if we always talk over them asserting that our opinions are superior, then we have no idea who they are, because we haven't stopped to listen and to find out.  We can't love people if we assume they are stupid or that their opinions don't matter.

Refraining from idleness at first seems like the outlier here, but here too is the idea of restraint.  God gave us a day of rest.  He knows that we need to take time away, and control our anxiety levels.  Here though, he says that rest doesn't mean the same thing as idleness.  Resting shouldn't be the main part of our lives, but instead it should be the necessary downtime from our more important pursuits.

Today, let's consider the idea of self restraint.  Let's be bold, and passionate about the things that matter to us, and let's take time to rest and recharge.  But let's not take any of these things (or anything else) too far.  Let's respect God and respect the people around us by learning moderation and keeping ourselves in check.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

D&C 19:41 -- On Meekness

"Or canst thou be humble and meek, and conduct thyself wisely before me? Yea, come unto me thy Savior. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 19:41

Another good reminder, and one that I think is especially hard for us to incorporate into our lives because it is basically the opposite of what the world teaches us.  We learn a lot about getting what we want and standing up for ourselves, but precious little about healthy relationships, working in a community, and becoming united.

Today, let's take some time to learn about things that might not be all about us, and let's reach out to God for help.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Alma 42:29 -- On the Right Kind of Trouble

"And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance."
Alma 42:29

This is a good reminder that if we're going to worry, we should focus on the worry that can do some good and help us change... our sins.  We stress about so many things, but the most important is overcoming the sins in our lives, and being free of them.

Today, let's be troubled with only the right kind of trouble. Let's worry about our sins and not other things that we can't control.  And because we are going to need help, let's turn to the Lord and accept his guidance in freeing ourselves from those burdens and impediments in our progression.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Deuteronomy 12:8 -- On Choices and Covenants

"Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes."
Deuteronomy 12:8

I like God's instructions to the Israelites after they left Egypt and before they get to the promised land.  There are a bunch of commandments and very detailed instructions, and although Christ gave us a higher law, that doesn't mean that the Mosaic law doesn't have value, or that all that the prophets said back then is worthless.  Every prophecy will be fulfilled, and the laws are super instructive because they help us understand on a beginner level what devotion to God means... and we are definitely all beginners sometimes.

I like this verse because it is really basic but also *super* important.  When we covenant with God (which is what baptism or joining his church or following him necessitates... an agreement between ourselves and God), God promises us a lot of things... to watch out for us, to take care of us, to be our God, etc.  But we are also making promises to him.  We promise to not be ashamed of him, to follow him, to remember him, to take his name upon ourselves, etc.  And the one in this verse: to do things HIS way, not our own way.

There are probably gospel principles more important than this, but this is wrapped up in all of them, and was really the pinnacle of the atonement, when Christ said "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).  That's the deal.  And if we want God to be on our side, then we need to do things his way.  ... That doesn't mean giving up our personalities and becoming robots or anything.  God loves us individually, and loves who we are... but it also doesn't mean that, as the verse says, we can go do whatever we want.  God can do more for us than we ever could for ourselves, if we can trust him and learn his ways. 

Doing his will is not like being forced to work in the mines and getting lung cancer or something, but like taking an art class because our teacher recommended it, and suddenly discovering we have a talent and a love for it, which we would never have known otherwise.  I mean, we're free, and obviously we can look at it as a bad thing... but then why make the agreement in the first place?  If we are going to have God in our lives, we need to go all in.  Trying to call on him when we are desperate and do whatever the crap we want the rest of the time is the cause of an awful lot of our problems, and excessive debts of regret and payments of impatience tax.

Today, let's work on learning this basic lesson... if we want God in our lives, we need to learn to do things his way.  His way is also a cool and awesome and happy way that will help us to be our best selves, but the road is not without pain or difficulty.  Let's stick with it anyway, and with our covenant with God.  We will always get the better end of that deal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Isaiah 30:15 -- On Seeing the Pattern

"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not."
Isaiah 30:15

I think sometimes we miss the hand of God in our lives because we are expecting some earth-shattering, ground-breaking event, and we fail to notice the calm, quiet miracles that happen around us.  We chalk up so much to coincidence that we make no room for God, and yet God *is* every coincidence, and actually is *all* things working together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Instead of waiting for a lightning strike or some other dramatic singular event, today let's take a step back and see the whole tapestry of our lives, woven together by God to lift us and help us, and put us in each other's lives.  God's work is bigger than we can see, and also the smallest things that we don't see are included in it.

Let's return to and rest in God, and take strength from our quiet confidence and faithfulness to him.  The steady light of faith and patience will reveal God's plan to us much more clearly than any lightning bolt, no matter how bright. :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Psalms 77:9-11 -- On Patterns and Patience

"Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old."
Psalms 77:9-11

I like this passage because I feel like it is something we all go through at some point.  When things go wrong, we wonder what is up... has God abandoned us?  Have we gone too far this time, and he's given up on us?

That is never the case though, and we can stop and remember that whatever we're going through right now is a challenging trial, but it doesn't mean that God doesn't care.  We can remember how many times he has saved us in the past, and helped us through the hardest things.

We can also go to the scriptures and remember God's pattern with all of his children, consistently saving them and us, and doing wonders among us, helping us to become people of faith, and a happy and joyful, unified people as well.

Today, when we start wondering about our current trials and where God's graciousness is, let's take a step back and remember his pattern in our lives and in the scriptures, and then let's shore up our faith and our patience, and press on, trusting that the Lord still cares, and will still, and always, deliver us as we work to walk in his path.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Isaiah 50:7-8 -- On Standing with Christ

"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.
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me."
Isaiah 50:7-8

Isaiah here is speaking as though he were Christ, and expressing his feelings.  This insight into Christ's emotions touches me, I think because as God our Savior seems a little distant from our lives, at least on paper.  And needing help and being even a little bit worried about being ashamed or confounded seems very human.  Setting his face as a flint so that no one gets to him with the "shame and spitting" of the previous verse also seems kind of like us, right?  And so, knowing that he was like us in so many ways, and yet, he didn't *have* to suffer any of it, and that he had the power to walk away, I think makes the next verse more powerful.

Christ talks about the people who want to contend with him, who choose to be his adversaries, and he invites them to come to him, to stand with him... he went through all of it to save whoever he could get through to, and he works so hard to get through to all of us, even when we want to fight him.  He understands what we suffer and he feels just as we do.  He's ignoring our cruelty and our bad behavior and is determined to love us anyway.

Today, let's respond to his kindness and his love with humility and obedience.  Let's realize that his whole work is to save us, and every single thing that he does is for our good.  He gives us chance after chance, and all will be forgiven, if we can just change.... if we just realize how much we need him and let him *help* us to be better and stronger and everything that we have the potential to be with his unlimited wisdom and power.  Let's love him back, with everything that we are.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

JST Matthew 16:25-26 -- On Taking Up Our Crosses

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments."
JST Matthew 16:25-26

The clarification here from the Joseph Smith Translation lets us know specifically what God asks us to do when he tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.  It's what Christ did in allowing himself to be lifted up on the cross... he did the father's will even though it wasn't his own will.  He has the power to safe himself, but he chose to stick to the Lord's plan and let go of his own wishes.

Sometimes we think that what we want is somehow owed to us, no matter what it is, no matter how bad our lives would end up if we got it, and we complain loudly when we get something else instead.  Here, God is actually telling us that we can't always have what we want, and that sometimes we need to sacrifice our own desires and do what God asks instead.  To clarify God's position, later in this chapter it says "Break not my commandments for to save your lives" (verse 27) and "forsake the world, and save your souls" (verse 29).  His plan will save us.  Our own will definitely not.

Today, let's think about what taking up our crosses means, and let's be willing to sacrifice what we want for what God wants.  ... In the end, what he wants is going to be far superior than anything we could come up with, and better for everyone.  Let's have faith in that, and work on letting go of things that are contrary to his will, no matter how invested we are.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Psalms 79:9 -- On Strength and Seeking Help

"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake."
Psalms 79:9

It is good to remember that we need help.  Perhaps it makes us look weak, or we feel that we *are* weak if we need help.  Those are lessons of the world however, and not the lessons of God.

God teaches us to ask for help, *every* time we are in need.  He doesn't teach us that we shouldn't need him, and he doesn't teach us that we need to buck up and deal with things alone.  He wants us to ask, and he wants to help.

Today, let's not listen to the lessons of the world, but instead listen to the lessons of God.  Let's not be ashamed of asking for help, or talking to a friend when we are in need.  Let's not see seeking assistance as weakness, for it is actually entirely the opposite.  Learning to seek assistance from God is spiritual strength.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Hebrews 13:5 -- On Trust and Discontent

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:5

This was interesting to me because I think sometimes that idea of not letting covetousness or envy seep into our conversation, and just the idea of being wholly content with what we have is probably a rare thing, and sometimes hard, even if you are consciously working on it.  Daydreaming about what you would do with a raise or a windfall of some kind, and wanting your neighbor's ice cream bar, or cake, or pie, or whatever other amazing things that your neighbor has... those seem like pretty average desires.

Not that we should be average, of course.  And learning to rise above our own lust, greed, and bitterness because they stopped making Jell-o Pudding Pops is just something that we have to face in life.  And I think that the core of *how* to get there is within this same verse... because God will never leave us or forsake us.

If we have God, we don't need to pursue things that belong to someone else, and we don't need to constantly seek for more and more and more, because we already have God, who is the source of everything we could ever want or need.  If we trust him, we will follow his commandments and learn to be happy with whatsoever state we are in (Philippians 4:11), and we will also know that God will bless us according to our good desires.  So, happiness and being blessed... that's always going to be enough.  It might not always feel like enough if our neighbor taunts us with how he has ice cream and we do not, but it's good to remember that God is the source of all good, and if he wants us to have some ice cream, he will provide. :) 

I jest, but honestly... I think that is the core of all of this.  God will provide.  God will watch out for us and protect us and help us, if we walk in his ways, and the more we believe that and *do* it, the more true it becomes, until we and God are completely on the same page and working without any disharmony in the way we want to do things differently... because they are already perfect, and our individual needs and personalities have already been provided for.  God doesn't bless everyone the same way because we're not all the same... and if we can trust him, we can let go of covetousness and discontent, because everything will be awesome.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Alma 23:14 -- On Being the One

"And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities."
Alma 23:14

In this chapter it talks about whole lands and cities where the people were converted, but when it gets to this point, talking about these lands and cities, it mentions that only one person was converted out of all of those people.  The difference between the Lamanites who were converted and the Amalekites and Amulonites who weren't is that those two groups had previously known the gospel, and chose to walk away from it in the past.  The next chapter concludes "And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (Alma 24:30).

I think we see that and understand that in our own lives, that acting against God or choosing something else other than him causes us to throw up walls ... of justification or whatever that make it easier to choose similarly in the future.  It's kind of a self-protection from guilt, but the end result is the above, where it really, seriously affects our ability to go back and make a different decision in the future.  And so today, I want to celebrate the person referred to in this verse as the "only one" who was in that situation and chose to convert anyway.  It is super hard to let go of our objections, to lower our walls, to admit that we were wrong, and to allow God back into our lives when we have intentionally walked away from him in the past.  It takes strength to break through our own objections, and integrity to challenge our own assumptions to be open enough to find God again after refusing his invitation.

Today, let's be as amazing as that one person was.  Let's be willing to stand out from the crowd and to be the exception.  Let's be like that single, amazing Amalekite--willing to open up to God, even though we have closed our hearts and our minds in the past.  Let's rise above our former bad choices and be willing to change, and really seek God.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Acts 2:37-38 -- On What To Do

"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 2:37-38

I like this verse because the idea of being "pricked in their heart" is basically realizing that we did something wrong, or maybe failed to do something right... and here, they are feeling not just guilt or remorse, but they take it beyond that to desiring to do something *about* it, and determining that they will change.  This same feeling is discussed in Jarom 1:12: "they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."  The feeling and the action go together, otherwise we're just wallowing.

We don't have to wallow in sin, or feel bad every day because of who we are or what we've done.  God offers us newness of life and freedom from that dark and draining despair.  Let's listen to God as in these verses he helps us know what to do when we feel like that.

Today, let's *do* something about those pricks in our hearts where we realize that we need to be better than we are.  Let's hold to God, and his word, and repent.  If we haven't been baptized yet, then let's do that, in Christ's name, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost that can guide us thereafter.  And if we have been baptized, then let's keep those covenants that we made with God, and always remember him.  Let's remember what to do, and turn to God.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

2 Chronicles 9:29 -- On Lost Scriptures and the Record of Heaven

"Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat?"
2 Chronicles 9:29

The book of Nathan the prophet is one of several books of "lost scripture."  These are books of scripture that we don't have by prophets we know of, or in some cases, prophets that are referred to in existing scripture, but that we don't know of otherwise because we don't have their writings.

It's actually a really understandable thing, working with scriptures that were compiled by so many people, from so many sources, but I love hearing them referred to because I hope there is a giant library somewhere in Heaven where we can go read about them, and maybe meet them someday as well.

In Moses 6:61 the Holy Ghost is referred to as the "record of heaven," which is interesting, and might give us a clue about the nature and source of the giant library I was hoping for. :)  And really, that means that there aren't just records of a few prophets whose names are still extant in our version of the scriptures, but that means that there is a source that contains everything, from everyone, right?

The scriptures speak of the books written in heaven and in some cases using those books to judge us (D&C 128:7), and although of course that means that we should probably get our lives in order, I don't see the idea as being about fear, but more about... amazing resources.  Nothing is ever lost unless God chooses to lose it (for instance when he tells us that he won't remember our sins when we repent).  Those near-death experiences where people's lives flash before their eyes are probably tapping into that same source, and getting some important reminders.

Today, let's definitely get our lives in order, but let's also take some times to think about the incredible stories of our lives, and the ways that we have seen the hand of God working with us... and let's write those things down, so that we can leave a record for the people who come after us, so they can know us, and know of our testimonies, and maybe get some strength, just as we do when we read about these others.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Psalms 37:5 -- On Committing and Getting Our Way

"Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalms 37:5

There is a lot of good advice in this Psalm, and this isn't even the best of it, but this verse struck me today because I think we have a lot of internal struggle between what we want and what God wants, and those conflicts sometimes cause us massive stress and even despair,  because we feel that we are being torn in half, having to choose between two things that we want very badly, perhaps more than life itself.  And only one of those things is God.

So, first of all, that kind of being torn in half is the very definition of idolatry.  When we want anything so much that we are comparing our love of it to the love of God, then that is an idol in our lives.  And we do have to make a choice between God and... not God, which is basically (and literally) hell.

Without choosing to reject God (which is always the very, very worst option), there are two ways to get through these conflicts without tearing ourselves apart.  The first is to get God's help to change our hearts and our minds.  This is an utterly valid approach, and it can work.  Using adultery as an example, if we are drawn to someone outside the bounds of a marriage relationship approved by God, then, no matter how strong that desire is or how much it feels to us like exactly what we want or need, choosing that over God is choosing an idol in our lives.  It isn't easy, especially if we have let it go on for too long or gotten too deep into that mindset, but if we go to God for help, he can teach us and help us to not want that anymore, and to desire something better.  It might take years, but it is possible.

The other way through is to ask God to help us to find a righteous way to fulfil our needs and good desires.  Often, even the worst desires are just twisted versions of valid needs or righteous desires that we didn't know how to fulfil... sometimes we only perceive the hole in our hearts and we honestly don't know how to fill it, and we try in the wrong way, and when it helps relieve the ache even for a few seconds, we think... oh, this must be the right track, I just need more and more and more of this thing.  And part of what we aren't seeing is that the hole in our hearts is exactly God-sized, and he is always the answer. :)  But the other part is that there are other things that God wants us to have as well, and that aren't bad things at all.  Maybe that desire that is drawing us towards adultery is just a righteous desire that we need to re-route in a righteous direction.  Maybe it is hard to find the righteous desire underneath the sin, but that's another thing that God can help us with.  He loves us and he wants us to find ways to fulfil our righteous desires.

The same goes with things that aren't sins, but that we might feel like we have to give up to become "adults" in our society.  Creativity and imagination and our artistic sides might not be the most lucrative choices in life, but if we go to God and we trust him with our heart's desire and ask him to help us find us a righteous way to work it into our lives, I guarantee you that God will help us find a righteous place for that desire if it is possible, and if it isn't, he will help us understand why it has to go.  Either way, God will find a way to heal our hearts, and help us to be happy with our choices.  We won't have to feel torn apart forever if we turn to the Lord.

Today, let's commit to the Lord.  Let's trust him with our direction and our righteous desires.  Let's get help from him to change our hearts when we want bad things, and let him help us figure out how to fit the good things in.  As we trust him, and commit "our way" to him, he *will* bring it to pass. :)  ...

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