Thursday, October 31, 2019

Psalms 46:1-7 -- On What To Do When the Earth Melts

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the amidst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah."
Psalms 46:1-7

These are some powerful verses.  The selection begins and ends with the affirmation that God is our refuge, and that he is with us and helps us.  Later in the same psalm we are told to "be still, and know that I am God" (verse 10).  The message is definitely that God has this, and we are going to be okay.

If we look closely though, these are SUPER scary things.  The earth being removed, a mountain carried into the sea, waters roaring, mountains shaking... I mean, serious natural disaster stuff, but in verse 6 it says "the earth melted."  ... That kind of surpasses all the rest of it on the extreme-o-meter I think.  And yet, still, God repeats his message that he is our refuge, and that we can be still and know that he is God.  Even when the earth melts.

I think that is the take-away here... that no matter what, even when our lives and the world around us are melting down and we see no way out, God is there, and he's got this.  We just need to do our part, and he will get the rest.

Today, let's trust God and do our part.  He will solve the scariest problems.  We just have to work on following him. :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

D&C 64:24-25 -- On Today and Tomorrow

"For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:24-25

The whole today and tomorrow thing, for us, is a very short period of time, and so when we hear that the proud are going to be burned tomorrow, we might get a little panicky, and start asking ourselves some serious questions like the ones in Alma 5, including "Are ye stripped of pride?" (Alma 5:28).

Luckily, "speaking after the manner of the Lord" means that a day is a lot longer for God than it is for us.  We still aren't sure when tomorrow comes for him, but we hopefully have a little bit of breathing room where we can work on getting better and being way less wicked and prideful. :)

Imagine though, if it were actually *our* tomorrow.  Maybe we'd panic and give up, but if there was hope... if there was a chance that God would forgive us and take us back, wouldn't we take it?  And if we would, then ... why not now?  Tomorrow is going to come.  Today, let's work on some self-improvement, and not delay until it is too late. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

D&C 84:71-72 -- On Poison

"And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them;
And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them."
Doctrine and Covenants 84:71-72

These verses are part of a list of "signs [that] shall follow them that believe" (verse 65).  It is similar to Mark 16:17-18, which also talks about handling serpents and drinking "any deadly thing" not harming believers.

In college I watched a documentary about a group that had handling snakes and allowing them to bite as part of their traditional worship (which I do not recommend: kids, please do not try this at home).  It was interesting, but I think God warns us away from it being something we seek after when he says later in this section "But a commandment I give unto them, that they shall not boast themselves of these things" (verse 73).  It's kind of like praying to ask God to protect you in traffic and then intentionally driving dangerously, right?  Never a good idea to force a situation where we are testing God.  Christ refused to do so when Satan tempted him (see Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:9-12), and so should we.

What I was thinking about when reading this is the word poison (no, not the poison vs venom debate).  There are a lot of things that can poison us in different ways than snakes and drinks... and I think that God can protect us from all of the kinds of poison in the world.  Poisons of mockery, bullying, and self-doubt.  Poisons of abuse, neglect, or rejection.  Poisons of hatred, discrimination, gossip, or other offense. There are so many things that can seep into our lives, administered by others or even by ourselves, and they can take over our lives and kill parts of us if we let them. However, if we believe and have faith in God, he can help us with this kind of poison as well, and he can help us survive it.  Our obsessions and our addictions and our faulty self-perceptions don't have to poison our lives, if we look to God for his help.

Today, let's think about the poisons in our lives and what is holding us back from being our best selves, and let's talk to God about getting past the past, learning to remove sources of poison from our lives, to survive and thrive despite the poisons we cannot remove, and also to be less poisonous ourselves. :)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Romans 8:10-13 -- On Body and Spirit

"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
Romans 8:10-13

The whole spirit-body conflict is a big deal for us since one of the reasons we are on the earth is to get bodies.  Our spirit-selves are already seekers of good, and devotees of God as our Heavenly Father, but when we come here we gain another part of our selves--one which has an immense potential for joy and happiness, but which also can cause us a lot of pain and grief. 

Here, we get some advice on the eternal nature of the body, through Christ (since he overcame death, our bodies will be resurrected and live forever), and also on how to unify our bodies with our spirits.  "Mortify" means to put to death or to subdue.  In this case, clearly, it doesn't mean to kill, but the idea is that our bodies with all of these new-to-us desires and passions need to serve the spiritual part of ourselves rather than the other way around. 

This doesn't mean that bodies don't matter, or that they should be smothered and completely ignored though.  Our bodies are a gift... a new technology for us, if you will. :)  And like other technologies, they can be used wisely or unwisely.  When we let our bodily desires smother our spirits, we die spiritually, and when we harm our bodies, then we are causing a bigger rift, not a smaller one.  The idea is to unite, so that both our spirits and our bodies are working for the same thing.  We could compare it to training a horse perhaps.  We call it being "broken," which seems a harsh word, but if done well and humanely, the only thing broken might be stubbornness and pride, as the horse and the human rider both learn to work together, providing benefits to each other that they wouldn't otherwise have.

Unlike "breaking" a horse though, there isn't a way to trade our bodies in for a different one if this one proves too unruly. :)  This is our own personal body... the only one we get.  And if we treat it well, and find positive, righteous ways to fulfil its needs, then it in turn will serve us well, and we will learn to work together and even to become unified.  Luckily, we have good examples in the scriptures of people who went through the same process and showed us the way.  Today, let's work on making sure the right part of ourselves is in control, and that we are learning to unite the disparate parts of ourselves in a positive, caring way.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Psalms 119:9-16 -- On Cleansing Our Ways

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word."
Psalms 119:9-16

This group of verses is a separate stanza (a stanza is like a paragraph in a poem) within Psalm 119.  I like the ideas and the symbolism here.  In both the first and last lines God's word is mentioned--first as the way to cleanse our ways, and the last as a promise not to forget. 

The middle verses are also about God's word.  Lines 2 and 3 of the selection kind of mirror lines 6 and 7... taking about seeking with our whole hearts, and keeping/hiding the word in our hearts, and then rejoicing in those testimonies and precepts.  I also like the juxtaposition of "let me not wander" / "as much as in all riches" (perhaps a way not to wander is to have clear priorities), and "that I might not sin against thee" / "have respect unto thy ways," which both show respect for God as a motivation.

Verses 12 and 13 / lines 4 and 5 are the core of the stanza and I like the ideas here with acknowledging all that the Lord is, and then asking him to teach us, and then showing that as we learn the word, we also use it in our lives, and pass it on... bring it to life as it were, rather than *only* meditating, etc.

Today, let's think about how to cleanse our ways.  Maybe this stanza will help, if we think about how to do some of the things listed here. :)  Let's take heed to God's word, delight ourselves in his statutes, and never forget. :)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Habakkuk 2:18-20 -- On Different Kinds of Silence

"What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.
But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."
Habakkuk 2:18-20

There is an interesting juxtaposition here: we make idols for ourselves with our own hands, but they are dumb... silent.  But when we face the Lord, the true God rather than the false or imagined ones, we are the ones counseled to be silent.

I don't think that the Lord asks us to be silent here as a punishment, or asks for a permanent vow.  Instead, he is illustrating the difference, and asking us to listen and to learn from the true source of knowledge rather than worshiping lifeless acquisitions.

Today, let's choose wisely what we focus on in our lives and what we worship.  Let's not listen in vain for the works of our own hands to speak to us, and let's not let worthless, unliving things set our priorities.  Let's look to the true God, and choose to listen and to be grateful for his living presence in our lives.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Revelation 8:1 -- On Silence and Peace

"And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."
Revelation 8:1

This is an interesting verse.  It is in the middle of several chapters talking about things that precede the Second Coming.  The opening of the Seventh Seal is a momentous event, but immediately following its opening, there is just silence.  It seems to be similar to 3 Nephi 10:1, before Christ visited that people: "after these sayings there was silence in the land for the space of many hours."

I was thinking about the silence, and I think maybe we have similar silences in our lives.  We sometimes interpret silence as abandonment or disinterest, when in a lot of cases I think that God is actually giving us time to rest, recover, comprehend, and regroup... especially when momentous things are happening.  He breaks up the bad times, gives us time to deal with our emotions and our anxiety, and prepares us for what comes next.

Today, when we feel overwhelmed with the momentous, let's be aware of the small silences, and instead of using them to increase our worry and stress about what comes next, let's thank God for the time to sit down and breathe.  Let's work with God and with his help recover some health and sanity before we return to whatever struggle we are engaged in.

As with the people in 3rd Nephi, even through the toughest times, we can have hope in God, and that his goodness will outweigh any suffering.  Eventually, with his help, we will progress to a much more permanent peace.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

1 John 4:17-18 -- On Love and Fear

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:17-18

I like the idea here of having boldness in the day of judgement.  It doesn't always of course, but today it seems to all fit together in my mind, that we don't have to fear for our futures, mortal or eternal, if we love God perfectly, because that puzzle piece fits perfectly with our faith in him, giving us confidence that with God, we can face anything that comes.  Including Judgement Day. :)

Our love is usually not this perfect kind, while God's is.  He shares his with us so that we can learn to love, and share his love with others, and someday make our own perfect--and now we know the test for arriving.  Having a love that overcomes fear.  That's such an amazing idea--and definitely something to work towards.

Today, let's learn from God how to make our love more perfect.  Our love for him, our love for others... even our love for ourselves.  Let's ask him to change our hearts and help us to love as he does rather than the corrupt way that we so often do, not really understanding what love is about, or how to make it better, let alone perfect it.  And let's also examine our fears and see how they intersect with love.  What kind of love can we learn that would alleviate some of our worst fears?  Maybe God will help us learn that kind of love if we ask him in faith. :)  Let's do it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Romans 2:2 -- On Moving From Inexcusable to Forgiven

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."
Romans 2:2

This is a good reminder about hypocrisy and the danger of judging other people.  I think if we take the time to examine our lives that almost all of the things that we condemn are things that we had to learn too at some point, and most of the rest we likely have yet to learn.  There might be some things that we are just really good at from the beginning, but that's rare, and is also going to be different for different people.  When we judge other people's weaknesses by our strengths, we're being amazingly unfair to them, and also to ourselves, because we're practically inviting God to judge our faults by his strengths, and all he has are strengths.

Now, of course I am not saying that we shouldn't evaluate our options in life and make choices, including things that involve people--deciding who to trust, who to date, who to work with, etc.  Those are all areas where we need to make wise decisions given the information available.  As it says in John 7:24, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment."  So, how do we walk that tightrope of avoiding bad judginess but making sure we stick with the good kind of evaluation and righteous choices?

God is always the answer, but I also think that is part of the idea here.  The trick is to involve ourselves in the equation, right?  If we think about similar things that we have done, we might be able to find more compassion for the people around us.  We can make wise choices about where to spend our time without those choices involving condemnation or mockery.  We can think about what it would be like to be in the other person's shoes every time we are going to make a choice affecting anyone, and maybe we can learn to be less judgy.  Most of all, we can look to God in everything.  He is the one that we all have to answer to, and if we always include ourselves in the equation... applying our evaluations first to ourselves and only then to others, perhaps we can move past inexcusable to forgiven, and stay there, learning to love as he does, including even our enemies (Luke 6:27).

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Proverbs 15:1 -- On Soft Answers and the Path to Peace

"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
Proverbs 15:1

Today at work I had cause to think about this scripture.  Someone wrote a post on our site complaining about something, and he was very angry and said some inappropriate things.  The first response to him was also mean right back in a sarcastic way, and said that he was exactly the kind of person that we need on the site, except the first guy didn't realize it was sarcastic, and he immediately backed down and explained specifically what he was trying to figure out.

I mean, the story doesn't have a happy ending really.  He ended up quitting the site that he had just joined like an hour beforehand, and although I tried to remedy his core concern, it was a little late, and I'm pretty sure that he still wasn't happy.  However, those first few posts were kind of a reminder of how things could have been.  We might have been able to edit his post back to something calmer and had a real conversation and improved the process with him involved rather than in his absence.

I think that we go through similar things a lot in our lives, and whether we are playing the person bringing up a concern or the person responding, we too often start out attacking or defending rather than calmly asking or listening.  It's understandable of course to react in kind... but it isn't what God asks of us, and it isn't his path to peace.  Today, maybe we can work on changing the way that we approach problems, and work on asking questions in a non-confrontational manner and listening and "softly" answering even when others do so.  Let's learn how to de-escalate situations rather than making them worse... and let's do our best to love people, no matter how they approach us.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Luke 8:11-15 -- On Hearts and Plants

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
Luke 8:11-15

This is the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower. :)  In it, the sower plants his seed, and some of it falls by the way side and gets eaten by birds, some falls on a rock and withers, some falls among thorns and it gets choked, and some falls on good ground and produces a ton of fruit ("an hundredfold" seems like a ton to me at least).

In this parable instead of being the plants, we represent the ground.  As in Alma 32:28, the "seed may be planted in [our hearts]" and if we don't "cast it out by [our] unbelief" then it will grow.

The parable explains some of the ways that we can mess it up.  We can let the birds, representing the devil, deceive us because we stop listening to God and start listening to him, and we harden "our hearts against the word, insomuch that it [is] not found in us" (Alma 12:13).

We can listen to the word and accept it, but then when a temptation or something shiny comes along, we run off after that instead, and we neglect the seed, allowing it to wither (see Alma 32:28).

We can allow our lives to get too busy and distracted, which is basically not weeding our garden, and we allow all of those distractions to choke out what really matters.

And then of course we can take care of the seed "with great diligence, and with patience" (Alma 32:41), and pluck the fruit of the tree of life... because that is what the word of God always leads to. :)

Today, let's beware of all we ways that we can mess things up, and work to avoid these pitfalls that God has warned us about.  Let's plant his word in our hearts and feed the plant regularly so that one day "it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life" (Alma 32:41).

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Philippians 4:6-8 -- On Maintaining Mental Health

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Philippians 4:6-8

What struck me in reading these verses today if that they are about mental health. :)  I don't think that the first verse is asking us not to be "careful" in the sense that we use the word today, but rather as a footnote tells us, "Don't be unduly concerned about anything."  In other words, don't worry, right?

Instead of worrying, Paul offers the advice to pray, asking God for help as well as thanking him for the help we always receive.  As we follow this advice to seek God, then we experience the peace of God, which is protects our hearts and our minds because we have chosen to shelter in Christ's protection by trusting in him rather than surrendering to doubt and uncertainty.

The advice goes further though, not only exhorting us to trust in God, but to fill our lives with good.  Things that are true, honest, lovely, virtuous... these are the things that we are encouraged to think about.  What great advice.  I think too often we tolerate bad influences in our lives because we are desensitized to things that can harm us, or we listen to the poor argument that bad things are "reality."  Good things are reality as well, and it is okay (and even suggested, as above) to focus on the positive aspects of life and to see the good in the world.

Today, let's listen to God's advice about maintaining our mental health, offered to us through Paul.  If we start reading or watching or listening to something that affects us negatively or disturbs the spirit, let's work to recognize those things, and remove them from our lives, and replace those influences with things that make us smile and invite the spirit.  Instead of worrying about things, let's turn to the Lord in prayer, trusting that he will help us and that things will work out according to his will, in his time.  As we do so, God will grant us his peace "which passeth understanding" (wow), and will keep our hearts and our minds. There is no better keeper.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Helaman 3:27-28 -- On Mercy and Hope

"Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.
Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God."
Helaman 3:27-28

I like the idea of accessing mercy through prayer, and also that we can all have hope in heaven if we believe.  We like to complicate things and sometimes think that simple promises like these don't apply to us because we've moved beyond that, or are already lost, or whatever nonsense that Satan has been whispering to us, but the truth is here, and it is plain.  We can access the Lord's mercy through prayer.  The gate of heaven is open to us, if we believe in Jesus Christ.

Today, let's not talk ourselves out of salvation, no matter what complications or obstacles we find in our lives.  Let's hope in Christ, and pray and talk to him.  He will grant us mercy and help us to come unto him, where we can, with his help, "work out [our] salvation" (Alma 34:37; Philippians 2:12).  God loves us and he wants to see us succeed.  Let's listen to him and not to the adversary, and hold on to mercy and hope.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Jacob 2:20-21 -- On Pride and Persecution

"And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?
Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever."
Jacob 2:20-21

Pride is a scary thing.  We can get so focused on ourselves that we lose sight of the things of God, and lose the ability to empathize with and help our fellow beings.  C.S. Lewis called it "the great sin," because it can lead to so many others, and also because at its most basic, pride is what draws us away from God in an "My will" versus "Thy will" tug of war.

God wants us to clearly understand that all beings are "precious in his sight" and that we are not "better one than another" (Alma 5:54).  And yet, we find many reasons to think so, including appearance, background, rank, wealth, popularity, power, beliefs, opinions, skills, and on and on. This is all pride, no matter how often we tell ourselves that it is based in something else.

Today, let's honestly look at our actions and the way we treat the people around us... not just family and friends, but people who are different than we are.  And if we are entertaining the notion that we are better than they are, or persecuting anyone at all, no matter the reason, let's stop immediately.  Let's remember that God is the creator and father of us all, and loves us all, and to condemn another is to condemn his child and the work of his hands.  Let's be kind and patient with each other, and do our best to lift and help each other rather than tearing each other down.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Psalms 116:1-4 -- On Delivering Our Souls

"I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul."
Psalms 116:1-4

I like in the second verse where it basically says, I will talk to God because he listens to me. :)  That's a pretty good reason to talk to someone, and a good reason to love them.  Listening, while miraculous in itself sometimes, I know, is also paired with deliverance in the next verses, which might be even more amazing. :)

We all suffer the sorrows of death and the pains of hell at some point, whether literally or symbolically (on the death/dying part--let's hope the hell part is all symbolic).  And we definitely all find trouble and sorrow.  And perhaps we all beseech the Lord to deliver our souls.

This is where it comes full circle though.  The Lord doesn't just listen when we talk to him about our lives and our hopes... he listens when we plead and are in pain, and when we beseech of him to deliver our souls.  And he does.

Today, let's call on the Lord in whatever circumstance we are in, and let's work on listening to his voice in our lives as well, to make it easier to communicate with him overall. :)  More talking, more listening, more obedience, more deliverance. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Psalm 92:13-14 -- On Flourishing

"Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;"
Psalm 92:13-14

I like the idea of flourishing here that goes along with the analogy of being a plant in the house of the Lord.  I think that is exactly what God wants... for us to flourish as he cares for us.  Unfortunately (and fortunately), we are more willful than plants, and we rarely can just sit there and soak up sun and nutrients (no offense of course to any plants in the audience who feel that is an unfair characterization). :)

Like in the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, freedom is assumed here... at least the power to bear good or bad fruit, which within the analogy basically means what we do in and with our lives.  I would think that in these verses it also means do we want to be a plant in the garden of the Lord, or do we want to grow wild?  Plants do better when they are cared for and cultivated... that's how they flourish.  A similar animal analogy would be sheep... who need a shepherd rather than being a rare and exotic species that flourishes alone.

Today, let's realize that we could all probably use some weeding and access to the light.  Let's be willing to be cared for by God, and be called his, and not insist on growing wild on our own instead.  Let's accept God's help so we don't need to worry about bugs or tree rot, and focus on growing rather than just eking out our survival.  In the house of the Lord, we can flourish.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Mosiah 27:31 -- On the All-Searching Eye

"Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye."
Mosiah 27:31

The image of the all-searching eye is a powerful one here, and it kind of got to me today, thinking about how hard it can be even to search the internet, or for our lost car keys, let alone the whole earth or all of creation, or the entirety of a person's soul.  All-searching is amazing... and also a little scary if it is us that are being searched.  There are definitely some cobwebs and likely some nasty messes in store for someone who can see absolutely everything.

I think though that the all-searching eye holds out some hope as well, because God can see the potential and the possibility in each person and each moment. He can see how to solve every problem, even when we think there is no possible solution.  He can show us the hope even in the midst of despair.

Even though this verse seems harsh, I don't think that it has to be.  We can kneel and confess before God now, and have faith today in being judged completely, and fairly... and mercifully, and lovingly.  God, who knows absolutely everything and can search ALL things, still loves us deeply and wholly.  He sees more in us than we do in ourselves, and he wants nothing more than our happiness and our salvation.  He can and will save us from ourselves if we go to him.  Let's do it today rather than waiting until later. :)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Romans 8:18 -- On Suffering and Solace

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18

This is a good reminder that, although we go through really hard things in life, that they will be "swallowed up in the joy of Christ" (Alma 31:38).

I'm not trying to dismiss suffering and tell everyone to just deal... very few things are that easy to dismiss, or to endure.  I am reminded of the message God offered to Joseph Smith as he was suffering in jail.  "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" (D&C 122:8).  A reality check, yes, in part, but the crux of the message was hope.  He empathized with Joseph, talking about the horrible things that were going on in his life, letting him know that he had seen it, and that he understood how it felt. Mentioning Christ wasn't simply a guilt-trip move, but a reminder of the atonement--that even these hardest of things, Christ overcame, and through him we will also triumph over *anything* that we suffer in this life.  The timing is the Lord's, but it will always happen.

Today, let's have hope and faith in Christ that our sufferings will be nothing compared to the glory that he will reveal in us.  Let's be strong in him, walk his path, and follow his instructions, and as we endure our present difficulties, let us remember that soon "God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Luke 11:3 -- On Daily Bread

"Give us day by day our daily bread."
Luke 11:3

This reminds me of Matthew 6:34 where it says "Take therefore no thought for the morrow."  The focus seems to be on living in each day rather than on looking ahead.  And in some ways, that is excellent advice.  It the same verse, for instance, we are told "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." ... We don't need to work up anxiety about things that are happening tomorrow, because we have plenty to work on today, and there is no need to get overwhelmed.  On the other hand, God also gives us parables about not building a tower without first counting the cost, and encourages us to have a year's supply of food, and to learn self-reliance, not to mention asking us to make decisions based on the potential for eternal life rather than the immediacy of the moment.

So maybe what God is saying isn't to ignore the future, or on the other hand to live only for the future, but rather to be fully present in the present, while still taking future possibilities into account. :)  Now is what everything else is built on, right? This moment matters because it is who we are, and who we will be.  Mormon 9:14 tells us that if we are filthy or righteous or happy now, we still will be when we are judged.  Alma 34:34 tells us that we can't count on repenting after this life, and the same goes for becoming what we want to be.  Now is the time.

Sometimes we get into a daily grind and stop paying attention to many of the things that matter.  We might have enough bread for a few days already, but symbolically, it isn't just about food.  We need the Lord, who is the bread of life, in our lives every day to help us with the things we have to face.  Today, let's pay attention to the things that matter, and work to repent and change and grow and do our best, today.  Let's not let the future stress us out, but let's not ignore it either.  Let's do what God asks of us today, and plan ahead the best we can.  But let's not get overwhelmed about whether we can deal with tomorrow.  We can deal with that when it becomes today, with God's help.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Hebrews 4:2 -- On Mixing with Faith

"For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
Hebrews 4:2

I like the "mixed with faith" idea here, which helps us understand what is going on when the gospel is shared.  Communication about the gospel is never one sided.  We can hear it and never be able to use it or apply it in our lives, unless it is mixed with faith.  In order for it to matter and affect us, we have to believe in it, and be willing to do something about it.

It's similar to taking a class.  If we go to the class and listen and take notes and try to learn something, then we get something out of it, but if we just play solitaire the whole time, or talk to our friends, we're not going to just absorb much knowledge. :)  As we see from Laman and Lemuel, this difference can be true even when the message is brought in a dramatic way, as from an angel.  No matter how significant the communication, if we have a doubtful heart (D&C 58:29), it won't be able to impact us spiritually.

I think that we understand the truth of this in some areas.  In sports, for instance, coaches often talk about the psychological game, making sure you believe in yourself and are thinking positively.  This carries over into the workplace and other parts of our lives--we can lose confidence in ourselves and become unable to do our jobs or maintain our relationships, freezing up just like an athlete might when the pressure is on to succeed.

God has tried to help us with this for a long time. He knows that we need to believe in ourselves and what we are trying to accomplish in order to be successful, and he tries to help us grow in faith by teaching us little by little, and helping us gain confidence in him and in our own abilities to do as he asks and avoid pitfalls.

Today, let's make sure that we are mixing faith into the gospel, and really getting something out of it.  Let's not just go through the motions, but actually invest in all that God offers us, trusting in it and working towards it.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Jeremiah 2:13 -- On Broken Cisterns

"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
Jeremiah 2:13

This is an interesting analogy that tells us pretty clearly that anything we substitute for the Lord is inherently inferior, and can't fill that emptiness in our lives.

We try sometimes because we value something else more than God, and we think that whatever that thing is, that it is worth sacrificing all else... the proverbial "pearl of great price" from Matthew 13:46, except nothing can be worth that price *other* than God.  He can fill our emptiness, heal our wounds, restore our souls.  Whatever else we try to place before God becomes an idol in our lives, and no matter what it is, it can't possibly fill that God-sized hole in our lives.  Everything is a broken cistern compared to the water of life that Christ represents.

Today, let's retreat from our evils.  Instead of clinging with everything that we have to something that can't be what we want it to be, let's turn to the Lord, who can solve every problem and heal any harm.  Let's repent and return to the Lord and drink of the living waters, always.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 4:9 -- On Keeping Our Souls Diligently

"Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;"
Deuteronomy 4:9

This struck me today because I don't think the problem has ever been that we don't have evidence of God.  We do... all around us, and we see miracles, and we communicate with God.  I think the problem is that when we lose the spirit, we forget what we have seen, and what spiritual things feel like and we start doubting all the evidence that we *have* truly felt the presence of God in our lives.

Walking away from God doesn't just disconnect us from him... it disconnects us from part of ourselves, and we lose contact with our own spirituality.  It's still there somewhere, but it is muted under our confusion and rejection of God, who holds us together and fills our emptiness.

It's kind of like when someone is in a bad place mentally, it is a really poor time to make long-term decisions, because our minds are clouded with negative things and we can't think clearly.  It is better to wait until you are calm and together.  The same with spiritual things.  When we're in a bad place spiritually, we can't see well enough to see the whole picture.

Today, let's take heed to ourselves and make sure that we don't forget the important things of God that we have seen and that we know.  Let's keep them in our hearts, and teach them to others, lest we forget.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Abraham 1:15-16 -- On Unloosed Bands and Strange Lands

"And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands;
And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of;"
Abraham 1:15-16

This is part of the beginning of the story of Abraham, where God saves him from being a human sacrifice.  The whole story is amazing, but what strikes me today is the way that God delivers Abraham and then sends him to a new place... a promised land, if you will.

This is a pattern that we see all through the scriptures.  The Brother of Jared, Noah, Moses, Nephi... and others.  It's something that happens a lot, this delivery from a bad life and God showing a new path... and I submit that is is also a pattern in each of our lives.  God does this for each of us, if we allow it.  He wants to deliver us and show us a new, better life.  And maybe in our individual lives we haven't seen the new, better life yet.  Maybe, like the people of the Brother of Jared, we're still on our journey, trusting completely in God with no windows and no escape in the middle of the ocean, waiting for the wind to take us somewhere we've never been.  And it's tough sometimes to have faith when things are so unknown... but like the Brother of Jared's people, we too will arrive and find that God's promises are always fulfilled, if we stay the course.

Today, wherever we are in the cycle, let's turn to God who can and will help us, and show us something much better.  Let's trust in that, and work for it, as Abraham did.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

D&C 7:8 -- On Individual Blessings

"Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired."
D&C 7:8

I like the idea here that the blessings and the joy that the Lord offers us are not bland, cookie-cutter generic happiness packages where everyone is forced into some Borg or Stepford Wives pattern, trading their personality and sense of self for what someone else thinks *should* make them happy.  While we have some pretty good blessings that are similar to look forward to, like resurrection, eternal life, freedom from sickness, etc., God has never wanted to pour us into a mold and make us into carbon copies of one another.  As he offered his two disciples different blessings because they joyed in different things, so he offers us what we will find joy in.

That said, of course we can't find happiness in wickedness (Alma 41:10).  And we *do* sometimes have to give up things for God, including recognizing that God is wiser than we are and listening to his advice.  In those ways, Matthew 10:39 applies: "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."  But in that very same breath that we lose something, we gain better.  It's kind of like giving up TinkerToys in order to become an architect.  We sometimes have to let go of our limited and inadequate dreams and desires in order to realize who we are and who we can become with God's help.  It's not God forcing us, but instead showing us something better.  He doesn't take away our individuality or cause that love of building to change into suddenly wanting to be a dentist or a teacher instead. :)  Instead, through our relationship with God, we learn to trust that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and that he will give us exactly what we want, but could never dream of or articulate.  When we follow God, we get better than our dreams, because God is the best friend we could ever have and knows exactly what will make us falling-down happy. :)

Today, let's not assume that God wants zombie followers, and also remember that we still have a lot to learn.  We can change without becoming less us--we can improve and still love who we are, and God, who loves us more than we do, and knows us better as well, can show us how... how to be more true to ourselves than our selfish imaginations have even considered, and how to be good and happy and how to love the people around us at the same time, without having to choose between those things.  Let's trust God and learn from him rather than rejecting him because we are scared to lose what we have in this moment.  Let's have faith, and strive for better.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Alma 27:17-18 -- On Being Falling-Down Happy

"Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.
Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness."
Alma 27:17-18

Have you ever been so happy that you couldn't stand up?  I am not sure if I have been... I've been amazingly happy, mind you, but I was sitting down already, so I don't know if it was that extreme. :)

The thing that I really love about this selection is the reminder that God is all about happiness.  Heaven, after all, is "a state of never-ending happiness" (Mosiah 2:41).  God gives us commandments in order to help us to be happy, since "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10) and the idea that we will be "raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness" (Alma 41:5).

We often really stink at knowing what will make us truly happy.  We're better with short-term choices, and we might feel satisfied or triumphant in the moment, but way too often the things we choose have a long-term bitter aftertaste and don't actually improve our long-term happiness.  The things that God suggests, however, will.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he can help us find, not just happiness in what brings happiness to people overall, like being righteous and helping others, but also in our individual lives, based on our own preferences and personality quirks.  God is like a family member or a best friend in that way... sometimes he blesses us with things just because he knows they will bring a smile to our face. :)

Today, let's seek that Ammon-level happiness that the Lord can give us.  Let's learn God's plan for everyone's happiness through the scriptures and the words of the prophets, as well as praying and developing that knowledge of and relationship with God, so that he can help us individually find our own individual mission and happiness.  That is what all of this is about: "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

D&C 29:41-44 -- On Overcoming Spiritual Death

"Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed.
But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son.
And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe;
And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not;"
Doctrine and Covenants 29:41-44

This is God talking about the fall of Adam and the probationary state (life) which he set up, giving Adam, and all the rest of us, space between sin and death so that we can repent before being judged.

The idea of "spiritual death" being separation from God is instructive in conveying to us the deep wrongness of that state of being.  I think we can feel this in our own lives if we have ever gone from being close to the spirit to doing something that offends the spirit... there is emptiness where something that mattered used to be, and it is a serious loss.  Definitely not something that it would be pleasant to live with for a day, let alone eternity.

The way to stay sane when we sin and feel that kind of disconnection is to repent, and to reconnect to God through prayer and scripture study.  Before this life we had that reassuring presence of God in our lives all the time, and we understood that he was the reason behind everything.  Today, let's not allow the distractions and short-term thrills of this life to distract us from the enduring, long-term joy that God offers us.  Instead, let's focus on returning to him and overcoming Spiritual Death through Christ.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

John 14:2-3 -- On Preparation and Persistence

"In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
John 14:2-3

This is Christ speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper.  I like the idea here of Christ preparing a place for us, and then coming back and inviting us home.  It's like a forward scout finding a place of safety for the rest of the group coming later, or a dad moving to a new place ahead of his family so that he can find a place for them to come.  Or, like an elder brother, facing the hard corners of the world ahead of his siblings, so that he can sand them down a little bit before they get there.

I love the idea/symbol of many mansions inside God's house... seems immense, but also welcoming, because we are his family, and even if we have a separate place for our family, that place is within God's house, because we are part of him too, and part of each other.  The overall idea is that there is room for everyone that follows him--no set limits or exclusions.  Anyone who wants to come can come, and he has shown the way.

Today, let's endeavor to follow Christ and reach the place that he has prepared for us.  Let's persist in our efforts and never give up, even if we have wandered off the path.  Let's repent and renew our efforts, and return to him, that where he is, we can be also. :)  There isn't anything better than that.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Alma 22:15 -- On The Worth of Kingdoms

"And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy."
Alma 22:15

I love the king here, who is Lamoni's father and who recently tried to kill Ammon and kill his own son.  He wants to talk to the missionaries because Ammon spared his life in that confrontation, and asked for nothing, even though he offered him half his kingdom to spare his life (Alma 20:23).

Interestingly, here, there is something worth more than his life, and he offers to give up his whole kingdom to know the Lord, to have his wickedness taken away, and to be saved.

And you know, I think this is where we all are ... there are so many things in this life that we invest time and money and work into, but when it comes down to it, we would be happy to trade half of whatever we possess for a little bit more life, and what God offers--eternal life, salvation, happiness--is worth all of it, and incalculably more.

Today, let's look at all God offers us with the eyes of Lamoni's father, and realize how much we need God, and how completely worth the price salvation is.  I'm not saying it is always easy to give up our will and our pride and whatever else our kingdom entails, but whatever God asks of us is literally nothing in comparison with the worth of his gift of salvation and eternal life, and really all that he asks is that we improve and prepare ourselves for that eternal future he is offering. :)  Let's be willing to give up our kingdoms in pursuit of that greatest of joys. :)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Alma 26:23-26 -- On Scorn and Salvation

"Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?
For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.
And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.
But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls."
Alma 26:23-26

This is an interesting insight into the mission that Ammon and his group went on, and the resistance to it.  People were laughing at the idea that Lamanites could be saved, or that they would ever listen to the gospel.  Instead, they wanted to just wipe them out.  And yet, they went on the mission, not trying to find their weaknesses, but rather to help them.  And God approved of what they were trying to do and helped them, although they went through a lot to accomplish what they did.

Towards the end of this chapter we read "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth."

It's easy to see parallels in our lives today, and I think that God's mindfulness still applies.  Too often we thing other people are beyond hope, for whatever reason, but that isn't our call.  God makes the call where to prune his vineyard, but we have the amazing opportunity to reach out and work to help and save others.  Not all of that needs to be through formal mission calls; it can be as simple as just caring about people, and lifting them up instead of tearing them down.

Today, let's be certain sure that we are not the people in this story that "mocked [others] to scorn."  Let's be the ones that see the possibility and the potential and love them and work to help them instead--if for no other reason than that is the side that God asks us to be on, but hopefully also because we retain some hope in humanity ourselves, and remember that sometimes we are the ones that others have given up on, and we all need another chance. :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Micah 4:1-2 -- On Mountains and Meetings

"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
Micah 4:1-2

This is another one about the idea of God ruling the earth in person.  I love mountains, so that whole idea is awesome, but it also makes God's house seem really huge: "the mountain of the house of the Lord."  But a huge house just means that we can go and visit him, which it hints at later, because people are talking about going there so that he can teach them.

Now of course a lot of this could be totally symbolic, and likely is talking about temples to some extent.  You never know though, some could be about some actual mountains, which would be cool.  What I like the most here is that the whole idea seems more personal to me when I imagine being able to just go to God's house and see him in person.  Temples are like that in a way, but I was imagining more like going to my grandparent's house and being able to stay the night and hang out with them.  Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to do that with God? :)

Today, let's go to the Lord and learn of his ways, and walk in his paths... and look forward to the day when we can meet face to face.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Alma 12:15 -- On All Power to Save

"But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance."
Alma 12:15

This verse is part of Alma explaining to Zeezrom how God will judge us.  What struck me about this verse specifically is that during all of this, we will acknowledge that God "has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance."  It seems to imply that we don't really acknowledge that now... and the more I thought about that, I though, well, maybe we really don't.

We talk a good game, for sure, about believing in God, but when it comes right down to it, we often feel that we are personally too far gone, or past saving, or that we've done too many things wrong to be able to come back.  We also often have a problem with other people, who we think are just awful people or have specifically hurt us, or who get lumped into a group that we really don't think is worth anything because of their beliefs, or political stance, or whatever it is.  And I think both of these things are getting in the way of us actually believing in the power of God. 

He can save us.  He can save them... whoever they are.  He has ALL power to save us.  We just have to believe, and repent.  Those things are possible and within our reach.  He can help us with them.  We just have to decide that we believe in his salvation, and choose to come unto him, and do as he asks.

Today, let's remember that none of us are beyond God's power to save.  Let's be compassionate towards ourselves in that regard, and also towards others.  Let's pray for them, because God is working with them and influencing us all for good.  Let's lift each other and refuse to tear ourselves, or others, down.  Let's trust in God's power, even when we know that mortals can't save or fix any of it.  God can.  And he will.

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