Monday, December 31, 2012

Helaman 12:1-3

"And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him."
Helaman 12:1-3

This seems a little depressing. We want great blessings from the Lord, but when we get them, we forget him and stop listening to him, and so we have to have bad things happen just to remind us sometimes... that we aren't supermen and doing this all for ourselves. We *need* God.
What strikes me today though is that it doesn't have to be depressing. We can change. We don't need to be the people described in these verses. We can be the exceptions... the exceptional.
The scriptures are in front of us, and at least one of the reasons that they are is to show us that there are and were people, throughout the history of the world, that lived a different way... and that we can too. We can be the people that set the example. That remember God always, in the good times and the bad times. The people who never blame him for the bad things while congratulating ourselves for the good things. The people who never forget him. Today, let's take this warning to heart, and let's remember God today, and include him in our lives. Let's trust God and live lives consistently dedicated to him... thanking him for his infinite goodness, and never forgetting him, in good times or bad.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Philippians 4:11-13

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:11-13

These are some interesting verses, and in reading them today, they seem to comment specifically about life. :) ... This is the goal, right?--to be content and capable, no matter what. i think we're pretty good at being content when things are going well. And we're probably fairly good at being full, and at abounding, when we are lucky enough to be at those points in our lives. I'm guessing, though, that we are not quite as good at being abased, or being hungry, or suffering need. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that we've never experienced the bad parts of life... only that we don't always handle them very well. We usually only want the luxurious parts, and we get whiny and grumpy when things aren't as nice and comfortable. ... But, like Paul, we probably need to learn how to be good, Christlike people even when the bad parts come... to be our best selves, even when we're having a "bad day." I definitely need to work on this, and today, I invite you to join me in working on being content and consistently good people, no matter how crazy the things around us get. I know that Christ will strengthen us and help us to handle any challenge we face.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Luke 14:26-28

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?"
Luke 14:26-28

Out of context, this first verse seems to say that it is okay to hate people... and yet, in context, it teaches a really important lesson.  Dedication to God requires *everything.*  We can't do it halfway.  We can't hold anything back.  There can't be anything that could ever happen that would make us give up on God.  And in that context, Christ says here, basically, that we can't put our families or our own lives before him.  We have to be willing to do as he did, and sacrifice ourselves, and everything that we love.  As we make that decision to dedicate ourselves to God and follow him, he tells us the cost up front.  This will cost us everything that we have and everything that we are.  Are we still willing to do it?  To give up who we are, and be new people?  That's a big question.  And it is one that we need to understand and answer for ourselves before we go forward, promising our lives to the Lord.  ... God doesn't always test us the way that he did Job, by taking everything away.  And sometimes, in his infinite grace, he give us many things that add comfort and meaning.  But no matter what our blessings, we have to be willing to let them go for God, and if there is anything in our lives that we find more important than God, we're going to have to face that choice before our test of life is over... like Abraham, being asked to sacrifice his son.  God sent him a ram instead, and he often blesses us abundantly after the test, but Abraham had to know what God was requiring of him, and how important that choice was.  Just as we do.
God asks a lot, but in the end, he will also give us all that he has... and he has everything.  But to get there, we have to be willing to "take up our cross" and sacrifice even our own lives if it is asked of us.  Otherwise, nothing else will work, because our whole heart isn't there.  If we'll only worship whoever does what we want, or lets us keep our stuff, or our favorite addiction, then we will be worshipping someone else entirely.  If we can't dedicate our hearts and minds to God, then we *cannot* reach our potential.  It isn't about slavery, or God wanting puppet people, but about learning this lesson of life and becoming perfect.  No one can learn that lesson while holding anything back.
If we were going to build a tower, we would sit down first and make sure that we could handle the payments, and that we had the financing to accomplish the task.  Today, let's do the same with our dedication to God.  Let's understand that it could cost everything that we have and are... and make sure that we are willing to follow this commitment through to the end. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 109:7

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning by study and also by faith."
Doctrine and Covenants 109:7

I like how this verse starts.  It makes me think.  If everyone had faith, would we need to teach each other, or need to study?  Because we don't all have faith, we definitely need these things, but it is interesting to think about not needing them. :)  This verse seems to be very clear that learning can be accomplished in at least two ways... by study, which we are pretty familiar with, and also by faith.  And perhaps we are familiar with this as well, but don't think about it in exactly this way.  When we trust God, and take what he says as a given, and then build upon that, that's at least partly faith.  When we pray, and learn things that way, that is also faith.  It might not be walking on water or moving mountain faith... but it's some of the first steps on the way. :)  I think studying the scriptures and learning from them is probably both.  We have to have faith that what we are reading is true... and actually what God wants us to do.  And then, we also have to study it and figure out how to fit it into our lives... or how to build our lives around it.  Today, let's work on learning by study and also by faith... and let's teach each other so we can all improve together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 105:6

"And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer."
Doctrine and Covenants 105:6

I think sometimes when things seem stressful or hard in our lives, that we wonder why God isn't stepping in and making it all better.  "Men are that they might have joy," and "all things work together for good to them that love God," etc.  So, why do things go wrong?  I think that this verse tells us part of why.  It isn't always chastening, but sometimes it is.  We are here on this earth to learn, and we have *so* much to learn. :)  This is a good thing... we need to learn and grow and become so much more than we are in order to live up to our potential.  And God, as a tender parent, needs to let us learn our lessons sometimes rather than stepping in and doing it for us.  We can get angry about God not helping us, but until we realize that we're just children throwing a temper tantrum, we aren't grasping the essentials that we need to get beyond this most basic lesson.  When we're young it is hard to see the wisdom that our parents have in teaching us things that we don't think that we need to know, but eventually we realize that we need those skills to get along as adults.  With God it is the same, but we are usually much slower to learn the spiritual side of things than we were learning to tie our shoes or memorize multiplication tables.  ... and the other verses are still true, even when things are tough.  Often, even at the worst times, all it takes is to be humble instead of angry, and to get on our knees and talk to our heavenly father and ask him what to do, and he will grant us peace, and joy, and comfort... helping us work through whatever it is that we face.
Today, whatever we're going through, let's try to learn the lesson instead of raging against it.  Let's go to God in prayer and find out what we need to learn, and then do everything we can to see past the suffering and learn the lesson.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Proverbs 28:26

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."
Proverbs 28:26

This verse is a stark contrast to what we learn through television shows and movies in our society. :)  In most of those scripts, if you just love each other enough, then everything will work out in your relationship.  It's an interesting twisting of reality, because God is love, and love is massively important in our lives.  ... But so are wisdom, knowledge, obedience, and priorities.  And a lot of the time what we call love is just selfishness and lust.  Because we want to believe in that ideal love that we see in the movies, we often make bad choices and justify our less than stellar priorities.  And this verse puts it very bluntly... when we do things like that, we are fools.
It's not easy to consistently make good choices and put wisdom before our personal desires, but as we ask for God's help in doing so, our lives will turn out better than they ever could have, had we chosen our heart's desire over God's will.  Definitely not easy, especially right in the moment of choice... it's always hard to trade the immediate for the long term.  But even when it feels good to put someone "in their place" or criticize... even when we really want to find out where the attraction goes outside God's law of chastity... even when it feels better to walk away from a responsibility, almost always those are really, really bad choices.  And until we learn the difference between what we want and what the spirit is telling us to do, and are very clear on that distinction, then we can't risk believing that what we want is an exception, and we need to always make the choice that goes along with God's laws... or we foolishly complicate and harm our own lives.
Today, let's talk to God and tell him our dilemmas, and then listen to God and not our own desires as we work to make correct choices.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Malachi 3:5-6

"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
Malachi 3:5-6

This is talking about the time of the second coming, and how God will sit in judgment and make things better.  The part that I really liked today is in the second verse.  "I am the Lord, I change not."  That's actually really amazing.  While we're going through this mortal experience, *everything* around us is changeable.  And we change all the time.  Our bodies are changing as we age, our minds change back and forth while we're vacillating over a decision, we change our emotions towards people, loving someone we once didn't like, or hating someone we once loved more than life.  We change the way we tell stories or events from our lives depending on who is listening.  Some of it is in our control... we can change for the better, we can overcome addictions, and we can learn. :)  Other things aren't as much.  Our bodies wear out, we might lose a job or belongings that we didn't want to lose, with no control over the outcome.  And in the midst of this crazy whirlwind of change stands God.  His hair stays still as though there were no whirlwind, and his voice is calm.  ... Talk about consistency.  Where else can we get even a drop of the stuff?  It's rare.  God is our solidity, our anchor in the middle of the raging insanity. :)  It is interesting if you look at the list of the things that he condemns in the first verse of the selection... we could make an argument that all of those things result from being changeable... treating the world unequally.  And we need a change, to save us from who we are and help us get to who we need to be.  But that "mighty change" can't come only from us, or anyone else that is so malleable.  It has to come, at least partly, as we are willing to accept it, from God.  In Mosiah 5:2, the Lord changes a group of people and they say "we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."  ... What a change, eh?  Today, let's work on not doing the bad things on God's list.  Let's work on being more consistent, and on inviting God to change our hearts and helping us to become more like him.  Consistently good, consistently trustworthy, and consistently loving and helping the people around us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Proverbs 24:13-16

"My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.
Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."
Proverbs 24:13-16

I was reading several scriptures this morning about knowledge and wisdom, and how important they are.  I really liked this one because of the comparison with honey.  Sometimes we crave something sweet, and we eat it and it follows through on our expectations... it is sweet, and the taste of it is the reward we are after.  Yum. :)  And I think that God is saying here that knowledge and wisdom are similar... they carry their reward with them, and they fill us with a sweetness that we crave.  The second part of this selection of verses seems to depart a lot from that idea, but I also liked this part... even when we're trying to be good, we stumble sometimes.  And what is the difference between the just and the wicked in this case?  Not that they never stumble or fall... but that they continue to get up, to trust in God, to crave that knowledge and wisdom, and try to make themselves better.  They never give up and decide that they can't do it, because they know that, with God, they can.  Today, let's learn all we can... and stand up, and try again.  The trials will continue to come, but if we are wise, we will learn from them and grow stronger rather than letting them get in the way of our soul's progress.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Genesis 45:19-20

"Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours."
Genesis 45:19-20

I like the "regard not your stuff" part. :)  And this verse in interesting because it is getting all of Joseph's family into one place... which saves them from the famine.  But this is also what gets the whole group into a predicament with Pharaoh later, which Moses has to save them from.  It is interesting because we see the hand of God saving a people, but also getting them into a bind.  And isn't that what all of life is?  If God asks us to make a choice one day, it doesn't necessarily mean that that is the best choice forever.  Definitely not encouraging a musical-chairs view of relationships here, by the way.  But with many things in our lives something can be totally the right thing for a while, and then change later.  What changes?  Well, in this case, the circumstances.  The Israelites didn't need to be saved from a famine anymore, and they did need to stop worshipping idols and settle in a different place that God had prepared for them.  Would they have done it without drama?  Perhaps... but perhaps not.  Do we uproot our own lives or change ourselves dramatically without some drama?  Rarely. 
Instead of questioning God about why he told us something months or years ago that isn't working out now, lets work at understanding God's will for us today.  God teaches us in many ways, and sometimes a reversal of fortune is part of that.  We can't stay in our own personal Egypt forever.  It was awesome of God to save us and send us there where everything was plentiful... but then it kind of turned around, right?  And we needed to get out.  Today, let's listen to God.  Let's go into Egypt when God asks, and get out when God asks as well... and try not to get stuck in the middle.  And, while we're at it, let's regard our stuff a little less too.  God will help it all work out, as we do what he asks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 88:86

"Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:86

I wonder sometimes how much we give up our own freedom.  God gives us freedom as a gift.  He balances out the influences on us, enabling us to make choices without being overwhelmingly pulled in one direction or another.  Without him there, protecting our free agency, we wouldn't have any.  And yet, we throw it away at the slightest provocation, or pretend it isn't there... claiming that for whatever reason, we couldn't resist. :)  So, today, maybe we should take a step back and remember Nephi.  The Lord doesn't ask us anything, ever, without making sure that there is a way for us to accomplish what he asks.  It might seem impossible in the moment that there is a way out of the hole that we've dug for ourselves, or that there is no going back from the bad choices that we've made.  But there is a way... always.  It might be a hard road, and painful, to pull ourselves out and untangle those knots in our souls.  But we can do it.  It is possible.  And when we have, and when we know what it feels like to be clean again... on the outside of temptation, looking in... let's remember what it's like to be in chains of our own making like that.  Let's stop considering the temptations, and walk away... give ourselves the chance to learn and grow so much more without limiting ourselves with sin or addictions/obsessions.  Let's stay clean, and stay free... waiting on the Lord.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Proverbs 3:5-7 -- On Trusting and Departing

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil."
Proverbs 3:5-7

I think that sometimes it is hard to figure out life. :)  We all want to understand it and know exactly what to do... and we don't always get instructions that clearly from God.  Often we'll think we have it all finally figured out, or maybe just part of it.  And then our plans kind of fall apart.  We might feel like failures for a while, but after that we start trying to figure it all out again.  That's a good thing, a cycle of learning, of trying out new things, of becoming stronger and smarter, and working at understanding ourselves and the world around us.  The problem comes when, instead of looking at it all as a learning experience, we start getting mad at God, or trying to cram the extra, unexpected pieces into different shapes... to fit the puzzle that we wanted instead of realizing that once again we've underestimated the size of God's puzzle. :)

It's awesome to learn and grow and become smart and wise.  The problem comes when we start thinking that we are wiser or smarter than everyone else... even God.  We're so not. Even if we could earn a PhD in every degree offered, get all the special training from every government agency and branch of the military in every country, even if we knew all languages on earth at a native speaker level... would we then even know anything--even *ourselves*--better than God does?  The answer is clearly no.  It doesn't mean we shouldn't learn, or try to figure things out at all.  It only means, let's not just tap into the world's learning... let's also tap into a better source, that is conveniently available to us all the time. :)  God. 

The scripture asks us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.  To not think that we can walk a fine line between good and evil, or stand on the cliff of light and dangle our feet over into the dark.  Let's stop thinking that we know where those lines are better than God does, or that we can play with evil and feed it, but that we won't fall in love with it and take it home as a pet.  Let's do as God asks instead, and stay far away.  Today, let's acknowledge God.  Let's pray to him, tell him that we're not as smart as we thought we were, and that we're willing to listen.  Let's ask him to direct our paths.  He knows the way better than we do, and he will help us figure it out. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 78:6

"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things"
Doctrine and Covenants 78:6

We've talked a lot about this theme lately, but this struck me today.  We talk about building a Zion community, living up to that ideal, etc.  but on some level we think that is unreachable or really far away.  And I think that this verse really makes me stop and think.  Like most things, God is trying to teach us how to be the kinds of people that will be comfortable in Heaven.  And it isn't necessarily about achieving a temporal kingdom of Zion in the next 10 years.  It is about us achieving becoming Zion *people* inside.  Being the kind of people that will give and accept and love, even when people around us are the opposite, and even when it might hurt us financially or otherwise.  If we don't work on building Zion, it isn't going to hurt God's goal of bringing us a temporal Zion, and the city of Enoch coming back to visit.  That will happen anyway.  ... But not making the effort will hurt us.  We'll be stuck in the worldly cycle, we'll love less, and we won't know how to promote equality with other people.  I am definitely not an expert at that, I promise you... but it is something that I want to learn.  Today, let's work on learning some equality.  What can we do in our lives to promote equality in our spheres of influence?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 70:14

"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld."
Doctrine and Covenants 70:14

This is so interesting.  I love that God tells us that we need to be equal in temporal things, and especially like the "and this not grudgingly" part.  It reminds me of D&C 56:16-17 that we went over previously.  Both the rich and the poor need to work at the whole equal thing.  BOTH not grudgingly. :)  If we're rich, we should give to others and not worry about how the other people are going to use "our" money or that we're so much more industrious and better because we have money and they don't.  Non-grudgingly... not worrying about whether people less well-off than we are are just kicking back, expecting handouts.  There are plenty of people without that mentality that truly need help, and God will work out the difference.  And on the other side, if we're poor, then we need to make an effort to do whatever they can to make ends meet... again, non-grudgingly.  Yes, some people have it easier, and don't need to work as hard to survive.  Some people inherit their prosperity.  But it isn't up to us to judge, to steal what others have if they aren't willing to share it, or to rely on the government to support us.  God asks us to be self-reliant, and if it is possible, we should be, rather than being covetous and wanting what other people have so much that we will make poor choices to get it.  ... in the end, we're brothers and sisters.  If someone in our families needed something, wouldn't we make a sacrifice to help out?  God asks us to do the same with our neighbors.  And maybe it takes practice to do it non-grudgingly.  But what a reward... as we learn to make that effort, to give, to work, to be equal with each other, then we will feel an outpouring of the spirit... in abundance.  We'll have spiritual manifestations regularly.  I don't know about you, but the times when the spirit speaks to me are the most precious of my life.  The times when I feel like I get a little glimpse of heaven, and of eternity, and of everything that truly matters.  And to have that more often... I would give anything.  ...And I should. :)  Today, let's all do as God asks and equalize ourselves a little.  Whatever we have to offer: riches, time, pride, effort... whatever it is.  Let's lay it on the altar, and give it to God.  And in return, he'll bless us abundantly. :)  And not only that, but we'll be closer to being at peace with our fellow beings, to not resenting them because they have more, or less, than we do.  We'll be closer to learning to internalize Zion, and being ready to live in a Zion society.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Psalms 118:24

"This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalms 118:24

This is cool.  It makes me think of the creation... of God actually making the days for us, and putting us here so that we could learn and grow and have freedom, and discover joy.  So often we look at our lives and think "if only" ... if only we had a zillion dollars, or if only we had a boyfriend or girlfriend, or if only we were healthy, or if only we had a different job or a different boss, or if only we were done with school, or if only we were in some situation that we are not in now.  ... And who knows, all those things might be true, and might bring us happiness long term.  But THIS is the day which the Lord hath made.  And *this* is the day that we need to rejoice and be glad.  Mormon 9:14, remember?  Today, let's try to remember... remember that the Lord blessed us with this day, this opportunity, and find our way to be happy now, in the middle of whatever it is, rather than thinking that "if only" we were somewhere else, on a different day, then we could be happy.  Psh.  We get to choose our emotions, and our perspective.  Let's look around for something good today... and find happiness in the people that *are* here, and the time that we are living right now. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Helaman 14:30-31

"And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you."
Helaman 14:30-31

This seems a little scary... I think because somewhere in all of this, even though we want freedom and the ability to do whatever we want... we don't often want the responsibility for our own actions.  We want to put it all back on God, or anyone besides ourselves, and claim that something in our parentage or our environment, or any other real or imagined influences... those are to blame.  Those are the things that made us who we are, that are responsible for our choices, etc.  Because if it were us, of course, we wouldn't be so far from the ideal. :)
The truth is though, that no matter how we justify or whine, it all comes back to us.  We are responsible for the people that we are... for the things that we do, the choices that we make.  And that is both amazingly scary, and just plain amazing.  There is so much potential there, to be anything that we want to be... to become so much more than we are.  To learn and grow and become... the person we've always wanted to be.  Like the people we look up to and admire.  Even like God.  To be *that* cool... to walk in that direction and catch shards of that kind of kindness, that kind of knowledge, wisdom, leadership.  So much potential.  And on the other side, so much negative potential too.  I think it is interesting that the verse says "whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself."  Seems like there is a lot of truth in that.  No matter who the bad action is directed at, when we do it, it lands squarely on our own heads... changing us and making us into people that are more likely to do similar things again.  And in the end, all of our choices will come back to us, as parts of ourselves... who we've taught ourselves to be.  At that point, we can't throw our choices back on God, or our parents, or our society, and say that we didn't really have a choice... they forced us to be this way.  We have a choice, we always do.  God gave us that freedom... and who we are is a result of all of those choices that we've made.  Who we will be tomorrow, and at the judgment day, will be a result of the choices that we make today and into the future.  Today, let's take our choices seriously.  Let's do good, and become good.  Let's choose life, and make it into what we want it to be.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alma 32:5

"And they came unto Alma; and the one who was the foremost among them said unto him: Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?"
Alma 32:5

This intrigues me today because I think that it is something that we all do sometimes.  We mentally limit ourselves to what we are familiar with.  It's like Dr. Seuss' Sneetches... they wanted to go to the cool hot dog and marshmallow roasting party, and they couldn't because they had no stars.  Mentally, they were trapped in wanting to be like the other group... having what they had.  But, why not just have your own Marshmallow roast?  And the people in this verse are understandably concerned, because they spent a lot of effort to build churches which they are now unable to attend.  But, why not worship someplace else?  I think we often get caught up in the injustice of it all, and feel excluded from the amazing things that others get to do because they are richer or cooler or have more stars.  But there are always cool things to do that are available with less wealth, or trendiness, or stars. :)  And, especially for the people in this verse, there is always a place to worship our God.  None of us have to go to church to do that. :)  Not that I am knocking church at all, or saying that it is optional according to God. :)   It isn't.  When no one is locking us out, we should be there.  It is a great place to meet with other people that believe and build our faith and testimonies... and taking the sacrament and being humble enough to go there and learn from the spirit is good.  Church attendance is a massively spiritually important part of our week, and shows our love for and respect for God.  Just, if we get into a situation where we're completely unable to attend... there are still so many things that we can do to worship and build that long-term relationship with God.  Our relationship with God is built in talking to him every day.  We can work on building a relationship with him, and listen and try to live as he desires us to live.  Indeed, if the only time we ever think about God is once a week at church, we're missing out on something just as vital as church... maybe even more so.
Today, let's worship God wherever we are.  Let's praise him and thank him profusely for his intercession in our lives, and for all that he does for us, every day.  Let's talk to him openly, and let him help us work out a plan for our lives, and listen to what he wants for us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Titus 3:1-3

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another."
Titus 3:1-3

I think this is a great thing to remember.  One of the reasons that we need to be humble, obedient, kind, and good to others is that we've been there.  When someone makes a mistake... we've made similar mistakes.  When someone is overwhelmingly rude to us... we've done that to others.  Imagine if we hadn't been able to overcome our mistakes, and if we'd been treated like those things that we've done in the past were our only selves, and we could never overcome them and change into better people.  Today, let's respect the people around us... not always because their current actions deserve respect, but because their potential selves deserve that respect.  Let's truly treat others as we would like to be treated, especially during our worst moments.  God doesn't hold it against us... he encourages us to stand up, repent... try again.  Today, let's give others that same room to change, and not condemn them for the frustration and mistakes that we all make, that we have all felt.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Romans 12:2-3

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
Romans 12:2-3

I love this. :)  It strikes me today as such good advice for getting through the day... any day. :)  Instead of trying to conform, and be more like the world and the people around us, we need to be transformed.  I think that we work on conforming a lot.  We work on understanding what it is that other people want, and try to be that person or think that way too... because it will take us farther socially, or at work, or at school, or wherever.  We want to fit in, to be approved of, and to be appreciated.  And that isn't necessarily bad, of course.  But how much better would our lives be if we looked to fit into God's puzzle rather than the world's? 
And then, as a follow up to that, I think God wants to make sure that we don't go all rogue puzzle piece on him and try to make our own puzzle. :)  It's awesome to work on God's plan, but part of that plan is also working with and loving, and fitting in with the people around us.  Not conformity the way we were trying it the first time, but transformity... not just changing ourselves individually and lording it over the whole puzzle box, but transforming ourselves and working on influencing the world and the people around us to be better and closer to fitting into that perfect picture of Zion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 80:3

"Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south, to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss."
Doctrine and Covenants 80:3

I'm thinking today of the tendency we have to give up when we've gone off track.  We often think, well... we screwed that up, so really, what is the point?  Why try anymore?  We think that we did some bad things, and that we are now bad *people* ... and that there just isn't any hope left.
Every time we think those things, we are dead wrong.  There is never a point in our lives where *God* thinks those things, or gives up on us.  There is NEVER a point where he isn't stretching out his arm to us, offering hope and forgiveness and redemption.  Something out of our patriarchal blessing didn't happen?  We're too old to change, or go back, or we screwed up the only thing that would make it better?  ... Forgive me, but all of those, AND [Fill in any other excuse here] are all loads of manure.  In no case, for no person, is it ever too late to return to God. God knows us.  He knows exactly what we've done, knows where we are and what we need, and he still offers it to us.  It might be hard... almost certainly it will be hard.  That's earth life. :)  We have a lot to re-learn, and changing our hearts is sometimes painful.  But we can't wimp out with excuses.  This is GOD we're talking about... eternity, everything... our souls.  How is anything, especially a little effort, worth giving up all that?
In this verse, God tells Stephen Burnett that he can go anywhere he wants, and it doesn't matter.  He can't go amiss.  Now, Stephen Burnett was being called on a mission, and it is true that it is hard to go wrong when you are preaching the gospel... but I submit to you that it is hard to go permanently wrong in life as well.  Like in a video game, we get lots of re-dos and extra lives, and the only way to really fail is to *choose* to quit.  Today, let's not choose that.  Let's get up, brush ourselves off, and try again.  Let's take the hand that God is offering us, and keep improving... learning more, and becoming better than we were yesterday.  If we have to go slow, that's okay.  It only matters that we are traveling in the right direction... that we are trying and not quitting and walking away.  Don't quit.  Please.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romans 8:5-6

"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Romans 8:5-6

In thinking about this verse today, I wonder if we too often assume that we are a certain way, and that we can't change.  We are spirit and body, but all too often we think that we're all body, and that our bodies dictate everything that we do.  I hear things that amount to "Evolution programmed me to be like this, and so I have to be that way."  ... I don't think that is true.  In the first verse here Paul talks about flesh and spirit, and from one perspective it could sound deterministic.  If you're of the flesh, then you think about that, but if you are of the spirit, you'll think about that.  But I don't think that is what he is saying.  I think he is saying... what we think about becomes who we are.  And the second verse makes that clearer.  We get to choose.  Between the flesh and the spirit, between God and Satan, between good and evil... we get to choose everything: what to have for breakfast, and what to think, and what to feel, and who we become.  And God's suggestion to us is, think about spiritual things, long-term things, rather than being ruled by our bodies or letting our flesh control what we think and what we want for ourselves.  Instead of buying everything that seems shiny, we can control ourselves and save up for a trip or get out of debt.  Instead of relieving ourselves in the street, we can control ourselves and make it to the nearest restroom.  And the same goes for everything, to a greater or lesser extent.  We have to learn to let our spirits have the upper-hand over the flesh, to govern our emotions, to bridle our passions.  Letting the flesh have control isn't romantic.  As it says in the second of these verses: it's death.
Today, let's work on enriching life and gaining peace through working on our spiritual-mindedness.  Let's make sure we're on the same page with God, and make good choices based on what our spirits want.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Isaiah 33:6 -- On Wisdom and Knowledge

"And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure."
Isaiah 33:6

Isaiah is talking about the last days here, the period before the Second Coming, and the period in which we live.  He mentions some specific things that will help us find stability in these times: wisdom and knowledge.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the everyday struggle... paying bills, feeding ourselves or our families, making sure we can keep the basics going like food, shelter, clothing, and health insurance... that it seems pretty tough to find time for education.  But education, in this verse, seems to have a primary importance in our lives.  The education that Isaiah talks about here doesn't necessarily have to be formal, or degree-seeking, but if wisdom and knowledge are going to be the stability of our times, it's probably something that we should fit into our lives. :)  And I think that we can. 

One way to gain wisdom and knowledge is to read the scriptures... and look, we already are doing that, and we can probably do a little more. :)  Prayer is a given as well, and again, hopefully we are doing that, and can do more.  But there are opportunities for education in our everyday lives, all around us.  How often do we wonder things each day?  ... I wonder what kind of bug that is, or I wonder how to say that in Spanish.  We have the internet now, and worlds of information at our fingertips.  There are websites and apps that let us take classes for free about so many things.  And there is also formal education, which helps with knowledge, wisdom, and maybe even financial strain. 

The people around us are sources of information and wisdom as well.  We all know things that we can help others with, and knowledge and wisdom about interpersonal relationships is gained through interacting with people that we aren't already familiar with. :)  Which brings us back to the end of the verse: "the fear of the Lord is his treasure" ... interacting with God also teaches us a lot, including respect for who God is, what he can do, and a healthy fear of what our lives would be like without him.  We need him.  Today, let's talk to God about how we can fit in some more time for wisdom and knowledge... and let's start with learning about him, and from him.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 6:5-8

"Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion;
Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation."
Doctrine and Covenants 6:5-8

This is cool stuff.  This particular section was originally directed at Oliver Cowdery, but as Nephi suggests, we will liken all scriptures unto ourselves. :)
These verses start out with something that we've heard before... ask, and you shall receive.  Then it goes beyond that.  After we ask, then we get some more advice from God: Keep the commandments.  Work on bringing forth Zion.  Seek wisdom, not riches.  Riches come later, and one of the biggest treasures is eternal life.  What we truly desire is what we'll receive... and a hint.  If we desire, we can be the means of doing much good.
These are really cool things, and I love that God gives us some hints about what to ask for.  Asking God for things is almost like having three wishes. :)  And we have to be careful what we ask for.  It's so easy to ask for immediate gratification type things... but if we take God's advice and seek wisdom instead, we start to change ourselves.  We become less shallow, and that greater depth leaves us room for greater blessings. :)  As we learn more about the world, about ourselves, and about life, then we gain a greater appreciation for anything that we want to ask for, because we see how those things can change the world, rather than just what we can get out of them short-term.  As we gain more and more wisdom, we'll be able to make a difference, for other people, in more and more ways.
Today, let's ask God for wisdom.  Let's work on doing good for others.  Let's grow and learn and start stretching towards Zion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Joseph Smith--Matthew 1:46-48

"And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh."
Joseph Smith--Matthew 1:46-48

I've been thinking a lot about consistency lately, mostly because I am bad at it... and these verses seem to fit right in.  As it says in the second verse of the selection, if we could predict when we needed to be prepared, then we might be good at it.  We'd know when to be ready, and have a pretty good chance of pulling it off.  But God doesn't want us to be in a cram-for-the-test-and-barely-pass situation.  He wants us to know the material by living it, and getting to know it in our souls.  The day of judgment isn't going to be some multiple choice test that we can pass by listening halfway on Sunday only.  It's just going to be God looking at who we've become... how we've changed ourselves based on what we believed in, and what good we've done and infused into ourselves.  And to pass THAT test, we can't possibly cram at the last minute, or get anyone else to tell us the answers.  We have to be ready, all the time, to show who we are.  We have to change inside, not superficially.  We have to not only know what to say, but we have to authentically BE the person who believes those things.  ... How are we doing on that?
Today, let's be ready for Christ.  Whether today is the day he comes in his glory to usher in the Millennium, or today, through prayer we feel of his spirit and presence in our lives... let's do what it takes to be able to face him, and be found worthy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Matthew 5:43-45 -- On Breaking the Cycle of Hatred

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Matthew 5:43-45

This has always been a hard one, but like yesterday's scripture, God asks us to take an old commandment and go further with it.  It's a challenge to learn to love, but when we have people around that love us, they show us how, and we start learning the basics... giving rather than expecting, serving, sharing.  Finding ways to make other people smile.  After we get the hang of it a little, it is almost easy to love the people who also love us, because both sides want things to be good, and so we are all working on it and trying to clear up any impediments to communication and good feelings.  Which is good, and something we need to keep perfecting, but here, God asks us to take it further, and to learn the next step... loving people who do not love us.  Loving the people who dislike us, in fact... people who aren't working for the same goals.  People who might not care how things work out, or who might even actively be trying to make things work out badly.  It requires some giant steps outside our comfort zones.  Being nice to the mean people?  Trying to serve and love the cruel people who try to cheat us or ridicule us?  Being kind to people who would be happy to harm us?  ... It sounds crazy, like an invitation to abuse.  But, on a deeper level, it makes sense.  What else can break the cycle of hatred?  We've all offended people in the past... because we were having a bad day, because we took our anger out on a specific person, or for whatever reason.  If those people chose to come after us and hate us eternally, and then we did the same, all we would be doing in this life is building eternal feuds, starting wars, and inciting continuous contention.  Instead, God asks us to turn around to people who are cruel to us, and bless them.  Pray for them.  Love them.  That is what stops the cycle.  That is what removes the black feelings and thoughts from our hearts.  That is what makes the world kinder, and better.  I don't think that God is telling us to remain in situations that cause us pain, or to invite people to abuse us... but he is asking us to never return abuse for abuse or hatred for hatred.  To have his spirit with us, we need to be filled with love.  We need to be kind and good... to everyone.  Today, let's work on breaking the cycle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Matthew 5:21-24 -- On Anger and Reconciliation

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
Matthew 5:21-24

I just looked up the word Raca and I find that it meant "worthless" and the literal meaning was "to spit."  Not a nice thing to say, certainly.  ... I guess on the face of it, some of this seems extreme.  Hellfire for calling someone a fool?  But in thinking past that initial reaction, I think I can see it.  These verses show us how vitally important our interpersonal relationships are.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the first commandment (Love God) that we forget that the second is like unto it... (Love our neighbors).

God starts out saying that we've heard in the past that we shouldn't kill... and that's still a good idea, but he wanted to take it further.  Instead of just not killing, let's not get that angry in the first place.  Let's not pick fights.  Let's not get into those situations where anyone would want to kill.  Let's obey that big law by observing the details and avoiding the danger that could lead us there.

And then, on the other side... if we want to come closer to God and learn to love him, then let's also obey that big law by getting into the details and mastering the basics.  Let's treat his children with respect and love.  Let's not let interpersonal conflict drive away the Spirit of God.

Today, let's avoid treating anyone as though they are a fool, or worthless.  Let's reconcile with the people that we've hurt or offended.  Let's try not to be angry with people.  I am not saying that is an easy thing... but it's definitely worth it to try.  Let's do everything we can to remove the impediments that we have to good relationships with others... because thereby we'll remove the impediments that we have in our relationship with God.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jacob 5:3-4

"For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard; and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay.
And it came to pass that the master of the vineyard went forth, and he saw that his olive tree began to decay; and he said: I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches, and it perish not."
Jacob 5:3-4

This whole chapter/allegory is amazing, and perhaps too big to cover in one sitting.  If you haven't read it, I definitely recommend it.  One thing that strikes me right here in the first couple of verses is the great love that God has for us.  In this allegory, we are the fruit of the olive tree that the master of the vineyard wants to preserve.  When even the best tree in the garden starts to decay or produce bitter fruit, the master does everything he can to save it.  He tries to strengthen it with branches from other trees.  He transplants branches from the main tree to other trees with vibrant roots.  Part of the story here is the scattering and gathering of Israel.  It's all done for a purpose, in order to save us, and to keep us good.
I think the message here is always true, not just in relation to why he would scatter us and then gather us home again... but in relation to everything that happens in our lives.  I know that it is hard to keep that perspective while looking forward, but I think that we all can look back at things in our lives that seemed bleak, and see that they were preparing us, or teaching us, or opening the way for other opportunities that we now have.
Today, let's discuss things with God, and try to remember that no matter what we're going through, even now, that it is all designed to save us and help us, and keep us good. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

1 Nephi 8:10-12

"And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted.  Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit."
1 Nephi 8:10-12

I've been hearing the story of Lehi's dream most of my life, and it is a really good analogy, but I think because I have heard it so many times that I sometimes don't take it as seriously as I should.  Today, I was thinking about how it would be if this happened to us. :)  We're trapped in darkness and it gets so bad that we pray for deliverance... and after we pray, we see a field, and there is this tree.  And you can tell, just by looking at it, that it will make you happy.  You can see it in the curve of the branch, in the purity of the light, in the perfection of beauty before you.  And so, obviously, you go to it and you partake.  And in this fruit there is no diminishing between what you see and expect and what you taste.  If anything, it is better than you could have imagined.  It fills you with joy, and you know it is the best thing that you've ever, ever eaten.  Worth the hours or days of being lost in the darkness that you went through to get here... by far.  Because now you are here, and you have everything.
I love that Lehi's first instinct is to share the fruit with his family.  I think that's fairly accurate for all of us as well.  When we experience something awesome, we want to tell people and let them see how cool it is.  The dream/vision goes on and shows how many people start out on the path to the tree, but some get lost, and some partake but then are embarrassed by the people making fun of them, so they wander away.  And some people hold onto the rod of iron that leads to the tree and are able to make it through the mists of darkness, and stay despite the mockery of the people in the great and spacious building and all the other distractions.  And in this little analogy, where are we?  Are we still enchanted by the fruit, and excited to share it with others?  Or have we lost sight of that light and perfection and gotten lost in the darkness again?  This is the fruit that will bring us joy.  If we've moved on to sadder fare, it's time to turn around and go back to the tree.  Today, let's try to recapture that feeling of wonder and pure joy that comes when we partake.  Let's read, and pray, and feel the spirit and the love of God filling us up to overflowing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7

This set of verses is really packed with examples... and how extreme some of them are.  A six year-old watching his father being taken off by obviously violent men?  And imagining the elements or the winds against us, or "the very jaws of hell" trying to swallow us... Yikes.  Instead of "all things shall work together for your good," God here addresses the question of, okay, what if it seems like they don't?  What about when all things are working against us and trying to eat us for breakfast?  What about those rough patches in life... or the long, slow skids... or the pain that seems like it will never go away?  And I think that God's message here is clear:  No matter what we are going through, no matter how bad it gets, it will all give us experience, and shall be for our good.
Definitely not saying that it is all fun and games.  When the elements and the wind and the jaws of hell are after you, sometimes you struggle to come up with a good joke to lighten the mood.  ... But in all seriousness, God makes up for any strength we lack, and gives us the power to handle any situation we're in.  Sometimes it can't be solved, but only endured.  Sometimes it changes our very definition of who we are.  Sometimes it seems like it is unendurable.  But with God, everything can be overcome, and getting through the pain makes us into stronger, more compassionate, better people.
None of this is easy to see in the midst of the suffering.  And it isn't always much comfort to know that we're changing for the better, because it's a painful process.  But today, let's seek comfort in God, who never leaves us comfortless, and try to remember that all of it is working for our good... think of how amazing we are going to be. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Psalms 15:1-3

"Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour."
Psalms 15:1-3

This is an interesting one.  Abiding in God's tabernacle or dwelling on his holy hill is probably a reference to heaven... or Millennial Zion perhaps.  Either way, definitely something to aspire to.  And how do we get there?  By speaking the truth in our hearts. :)  ... That's pretty cool.  I think if we all spoke more plain truth, the world would be a better place.  It seems like, so often, instead of just speaking the truth, we are on the defensive, trying to tailor our message to a hostile audience... or an audience that we would like to convince of something, or manipulate into doing something.  I like verse 3 added on here, making it very clear that speaking the truth in our hearts is not telling people that they have big butts, or that, yes, indeed, those outfits DO make them look fat.
So what *is* the truth in our hearts?  A good question, and I think it might depend on the heart, but what it makes me think of is Moroni 6:5, which talks about the people of the church meeting together "to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."  ...instead of treating life as a competition about who can outwardly look the most righteous... or the coolest, or have the most power, or get his or her way... or whatever it is that we are competing about, perhaps some straight talk about who we really are underneath, who we hope to become, and what our opinions really are is warranted.  How often in life do we feel like we have to hide our true selves, or only reveal the parts of them that work to our advantage?  Do people know who we really are?  Do they know of our faith, or our true motivations?  And again, verse 3 shows us that it isn't just about blurting out anything that crosses our minds... but after careful consideration, speaking what we think is true, in the proper context.  Focusing on the good in others, and helping and lifting each other.  ... Today, let's ponder the truth in our hearts.  Let's talk about those things with God.  And as we discuss them with him, and think about those truths in the context of other people.  Can we talk to other people about what we truly believe, in a way that won't harm others?  I think there is always a way.  And if not, perhaps we need to adopt some lovelier beliefs. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

This struck me today in a different way than I have read it before.  Today, the part that jumped out at me is "the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness."  ... I love the idea of a power that simply cannot be used for evil.  If you try, you lose it.  There is no dark side of the force. :)
... Not saying that temptations are nothing, or that evil isn't a tangible force sometimes... but only that God's power, which is the greatest of all, can only be used in righteousness.  If people want to be evil, then they're tapping into something lesser, by definition.  And if we've allowed ourselves to be in the power of evil, that God can always still deliver us, because his power is always greater.  What a massive deception it is to imagine God and Satan as equals in strength or dominion, or to imagine that the eventual resolution to the struggle is at all in question.  The end is known.  We're not here to choose sides.  We're only here to get a body, and to learn to choose between good and evil.  And God protects us from evil that is too great... he never asks us to do anything without giving us the power to do it.  So, not only is the end certain, but we as individuals... every single one of us... have the power to get to the happy ending.  Nothing can stop us, except ourselves.  We can choose to give up when faced with hardships.  We can decide that we prefer evil to good... although that would be insane, of course.  We get to make those choices.  But what we cannot do is blame anyone else for our failure to reach our potential.  That's on us.  We have everything that we need.  All of us do.
Today, let's tap into the good side... the only side... of the force.  Let's talk to God, and listen to him as well... and find our way to that happy ending.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Helaman 12:7-8

"O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God."
Helaman 12:7-8

There is an interesting balance in the scriptures between verses that say that man is of great worth, that we should value others, esteem them as ourselves, not cheat them or lie to them, that we have the potential to become like God, and verses like this, that say we are nothing, that we're inconsistent and slow to understand, etc.  ... Does this mean that there is an inherent flaw in the gospel or that God can't make up his mind?  I don't think so. :)  I just think that they are both true, and trying to teach us about different aspects of ourselves.  Is it true that we, and the people around us are valuable?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Otherwise, why would God love us and have sent us here?  We are of infinite worth, and we have immeasurable potential to improve and become more than we are.  Is it true that we're also less than the dust of the earth?  Yeah.  We have all that potential for good, and we also fall very, very short sometimes, accomplish little, or actually make things worse.  Instead of instantly responding to God, we mull it over, wonder if it is worth it, and sometimes do the opposite.  Dust is way better than that. :)  Dust doesn't have that huge potential for evil that we have going.  We should make T-shirts that say "Dust > me."
So, how does this apply to our lives, and what are the scriptures saying when they give us these mixed messages?  I think what they are saying is that we have the potential to grow up into amazing or horrible.  Right now, we're just that potential.  We haven't solidified into either one.  We're kindergartners trying to learn not to throw blocks at each other.  And some of us are going to grow up and discover new things, and raise families, and transform the world into something better.  And some of us are going to grow up and embezzle money, cause businesses and families to fail, and hurt other people.  When we grow up all the way, then we'll know our worth... and some of us might surpass dust, and some of us will still be well under that bar.  Today, let's be humble and accept that dust is better... but let's work on that potential.  Let's stick with God, and learn and grow so that maybe, someday, we can stand with Dust as equals. :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2

"O God, where are thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?"
Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2

Joseph Smith wrote these verses when he had been in jail in Liberty, Missouri for months, suffering unjustly.  And I think that we all have times like this in our lives.  Hopefully we won't get thrown in jail for our beliefs, but we will all encounter things that try us, that last far longer than is easy to bear, and that make us ask these same questions.  Where is God, and how long will he observe rather than save us?
God's answer to Joseph comprises most of the rest of this section, but the gist of the message is clear, and simple.  He has, already, saved us.
The trials that we encounter in our lives are temporary, and they require patience, and they require endurance, and prompt us to learn, but none of them are permanent.  It seems like whenever we go seriously wrong, it is because we get tired of waiting.  Our own impatience is our downfall.  Yes, there are times... days, weeks, decades... where it seems very clear to us that we have suffered enough, and that it is past time for someone to come and bail us out.  ... But we have to learn, or remember, that part of the goal of this life is learning to bail ourselves out.  And learning to find happiness in our current circumstances.  And lifting others and forgetting our own suffering.  So many things to learn... and if we stubbed our toes and were immediately relieved from the pain, we wouldn't learn any of it.
There are people who say that God can't exist, because if he did he would relieve all the suffering in the world.  Let's not get into that mental trap.  We're here to learn... to learn how to become more like God.  How could we possibly move from childhood to adulthood if our parents protected us from every lesson or saved us from all pain?  Growing up hurts sometimes, and it isn't always fun.  What our Father will do is help us bear it, talk it through with us, and be there to comfort us when it all goes wrong... he has to let us experience pain because he knows we need to grow up, but he also knows these trials are hard for us, and he loves us and wants to help us through it.
None of our sufferings are as serious or as permanent as they seem to us in while we are suffering them.  In the end, we will see them as they are... temporary setbacks on our road to reaching our potential.  Eventually we will all stand perfect and strong, and relieved from all suffering.  Not because God will *finally* save us, but because he already has.  Today, let's apply the atonement to our lives and be grateful for that greatest-of-all-gifts.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romans 12:19-21

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
Romans 12:19-21

The whole vengeance/revenge thing can be hard.  We're so caught up in keeping track of who is right and who is wrong that when we're right and someone else cheats us or offends us or hurts us, it can be hard to let it go, and not want to follow up on it and make whoever is at fault suffer.  Paul asks us here to "give place unto wrath."  Giving place makes me think of being in a crowd... we see someone steaming towards us, and we give place, or step aside, and let that person past.  I think that is kind of what we have to do with anger sometimes.  It washes over us, and we need to disengage, and give it space to leave rather than feeding it or letting it take us over.  This is something that God specifically says is his job, not ours.  He'll take care of it, and we need to give place, or step aside, and let God do his will.
The next two verses I think show us the better path... if our enemies need something, help them.  That's the way to "show" them... to be an example.  To give them an illustration of correct action and principle, not turn around and hate right back.  When we allow anger and the desire for vengeance to rule us, then we are allowing ourselves to be overcome with evil.  Instead, we should be overcoming those desires with good things... inviting the spirit back into our lives rather than letting anger crowd it out.  Giving place for the spirit in our lives is another good reason to step aside. :)
Today, let's work on letting go of anger and resentment.  Let's work on letting good overcome evil rather than the other way around.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Alma 5:16-18

"I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
Alma 5:16-18

This is a chapter that is interesting in a lot of ways, where it talks about that mighty change of heart that we need to get in our lives, and keep in our lives.  And in that context these verses seem like a really good lesson/reminder that conversion can't just be external, but it has to be internal.  In facing the Lord it will be impossible to lie, or to misrepresent what we feel internally.  "Going through the motions" of following the gospel isn't going to cut it.  It is a fine way to start, if we are trying to find the spiritual/emotional side, but until we get all of that and the physical/mental "act on your beliefs" part, we won't be completely, wholly converted.  It's awesome to go to church, to answer the questions correctly, etc.  But it is also necessary to feel it.  To build and have that personal relationship with God that we gain through prayer and study and meditation.  Too often we stand too far back, refusing to engage with the gospel on a personal level.  We discuss it intellectually, we go to church and answer questions in Sunday School, but we don't feel it, and it doesn't engage our souls at the deepest level.  Today, let's work on that part.  Let's figure out how we feel about God, and about the gospel today.  If we need to repent to get rid of some guilt, let's do that. Nothing should stand in the way between ourselves and God.  Same goes for if we feel it and aren't quite getting the actions down.  Let's work on it.  ... And once we get the external and the internal working together, we'll be able to imagine returning to God with pleasure rather than fear.  Which, after all, would be a lot more fun. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Colossians 4:1-6

"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
Colossians 4:1-6

Some good advice today. :)  If we have power over other people, let's be careful and wise with it... treating other people well as we'd like God to treat us, with his power.  Pray, and watch for the answers, and always be thankful. :)  Pray for others, including missionaries, that they'll be able to express themselves and the complexities of the gospel. :)  Be wise in how we behave with people that aren't with us.  Distance might make it harder to communicate, but out of sight should not be out of mind or eliminate the need for love and respect in all relationships.  And finally, salt all our speech with grace.  I love that last part.  Speaking with grace to everyone is how we should answer.  Today, let's try to follow this great advice, treating people with grace, and praying and watching God's hand in our lives.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 105:35

"There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy."
Doctrine and Covenants 105:35

This is interesting.  We know from other scriptures that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14, D&C 121:40), but putting it this way seems more active and less abstract.  Instead of inspiring us to philosophize about what being "chosen" means, this urges us to do something about it. :)  This chapter is talking about building Zion in a very literal sense... this was during the mob violence in Missouri.  God was telling the people that they weren't ready for a literal Zion yet... they still weren't being obedient, they still weren't giving to the poor, and they had some work to do.  So, they needed to take a step back and start working on the basics again... like being chosen.
We're still in this situation.  We're not ready for a literal Zion yet.  We're *all* called... but we have to work at being chosen.  It says that the worthy should be chosen, so that is a good thing to think about.  Are we worthy?  Worthy of being chosen by God?  Worthy of Zion?  Those are big questions... and it isn't just an ego struggle where we have to convince ourselves that we're cool enough. :)  It's really doing what God asks.  Loving and taking care of the people around us... working at being the kind of person that could live in a Zion society... taking care of the poor, being part of the united order (sharing our goods and property with others), etc.  Today, let's be the chosen people, by working on our worthiness.

Monday, July 9, 2012

1 Corinthians 12:29-31

"Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."
1 Corinthians 12:29-31

In this chapter Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, and how we're baptized into one body... all part of one another.  And immediately after these verses, he talks about charity, which is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47).  To me, it seems like Paul here has a similar message to the one that Moses was offering in Numbers 11:29 when he said "Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets."  There isn't any reason to be envious of each other.  We're all different people.  Whether our roles are completely separate, or whether there is a lot of similarity in what we do, we still need each other.  No one is redundant, and everyone is valuable.  It is good to seek after the best gifts from God and to learn self-reliance, but it is also a most excellent lesson to learn to love each other, accept each other's roles, and work together.  We don't all have to focus on the same things, or know everything, and as Moses was wishing... we all don't have to bear the burdens alone.  Not everyone has to be the prophet, or the apostle, or the teacher.  ... Or, for that matter, the president, or the CEO, or the professor.  The point is to build Zion... and not only can we not do that alone, but trying to do so destroys the very idea of Zion.  Zion is a community... a community that embraces, educates, encourages, and protects *everyone.*  Today, let's work on respecting the roles of the people around us, and trying for some productive interdependence.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever."
Ecclesiastes 1:2-4

Life certainly feels like this sometimes, doesn't it?  And in many ways, the things that we do here matter very little.  We're probably not going to make a ripple in eternity with our latest work product or the cool new thing that we bought.  We live, we die... what is the point?
Glad you asked. :)  Let me tell you.  The point... the thing that WILL make a ripple in the eternities... is you.  You are the reason that you are here.  This isn't to say that we should all immediately embrace selfishness.  On the contrary... but really, we are the reason that we are here.  As Neal A. Maxwell said, we are each other's clinical experience.  We are here to learn, to refine ourselves, to change, to improve, and to prepare for the life and eternity after this.  There is so much to learn, and all the vanity of vanities around us... we can learn from it, and grow, and change.  What matters isn't the work product or the cool thing, but learning to work... learning to give, learning to love, learning to find the joy in the midst of pain or sorrow.  Learning to interact and embrace each other.  Today, let's focus a little less on the product or the thing, and a little more on the people.  Let's change the things that we don't like about ourselves, and let's be better and cooler. :)  And if we get stuck, or down, or confused about why even try, or how does any of it make sense... then let's go to our Father and talk to him about it.  He knows the reason... the general reason for us all, and the specific reason for each individual.  He'll help us find our way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

1 Peter 2:19-23 -- On Patience and Stretch Goals

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:"
1 Peter 2:19-23

In these verses God asks us to be patient in suffering even when we are unjustly accused or suffering for someone else's actions.  I think that this is harder than suffering for something that we know we did wrong, since on some level when that happens, we get that we probably deserve it, or at least that we caused it ourselves.  When we do the right thing, and then suffer for it, that's harder than just whatever we are going through, because mentally we have to also suffer through the stark injustice of the whole thing... we don't deserve this at ALL, and why is it happening, etc.

Just as when God asks us to love our enemies, and says that there is little reward for loving people who love us (Matthew 5:46)... he also here asks us to go a step further.  If we suffer for things that we brought on ourselves, that's pretty much par for the course.  If we really want to step up and learn the lesson, then we need to be patient even when suffering wrongfully.

This earth life is a test... a proving ground where we find out who we are, and where we'll be most comfortable in eternity.  Are we capable of loving only our families or close friends, or can we go further?  Can we love more... even to the extent of loving strangers... or those we perceive as our enemies?  Are we capable only of being patient in light affliction, or suffering that we brought on ourselves?  Or can we do more, and bear our burdens even when they are heavy and unjustly dealt?  No matter the lesson, there is probably another level... a stretch goal.  Something that it takes a lot more to reach. 

Today, let's work on following the example of the Savior, in loving more and being more patient even when things happen that don't make sense and that we definitely don't deserve.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Matthew 22:36-40 -- On Love First

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:36-40

These verses are interesting.  Even though someone was trying to catch him in a contradiction, Christ decided to answer the question clearly... because it is a good question. :)  What is the most important commandment of all of them?  And of all the things that God has asked us to do, he narrowed it down for us.  The absolutely most important thing is to love God, with everything that we are.  Perhaps emotions, spirit and body, and thoughts.  All of those should be dedicated to loving God.  What does that mean for us?  I think perhaps that love isn't just an emotion... love is active, and involves all of you.  When we love someone, especially God, we have to dedicate emotion, spirit, action, and thought to the relationship.  We can't just say a quick prayer at the beginning of the day and then forget God.  Think of what it is like to love.  Not just romantic love, but family love and friendship love too.  You want to spend time with the person.  You want to talk, you wander through the store and see something they would like because they are not far from your thoughts.  You take actions to make those things happen.  You often feel a spiritual bond with them, and always an emotional one.  How would our lives be changed... how would even one day be changed, if we felt like that, actively, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally devoted to God?  I think our whole lives would be changed... overwhelmingly for the better.

And the second is like unto it.  ... Sometimes we think that other people can be dismissed if they aren't in our families or they aren't within our established circles in some way.  It's okay to dislike the person we're yelling at on the phone, right?  Or the person who smells bad, or the person who snores in church?  How about that person at work who doesn't do half as much as we do?  Or maybe the lady at the supermarket that is so massively disorganized that she is holding up the line for everyone?  We all have people that we dislike or snub, or can't understand or get frustrated with... and Christ tells us that in addition to loving God with all that we are, the second most important thing after that is to love other people as we love ourselves.  And, just like we imagined love before, let's imagine it about ourselves.  Do we give up on ourselves, or do we give ourselves another chance?  Do we feel that we still have worth even when we make horrible mistakes?  Do we feel that we deserve love even when we sin?  Do we feel like we're pretty cool, even though we get frustrated with ourselves sometimes?  Are we awesome and fun people that other people should get to know?  ... Yeah, we are. :)

Today, let's work on these most important of all things... loving God, and loving everyone else.  Let's work on our capacity and ability to love... to love God, to love others, and to love ourselves.  It makes all the difference.

Friday, June 29, 2012

2 Nephi 18:12-13

"Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
2 Nephi 18:12-13

One definition of confederacy is conspiracy or combination... which makes me think of secret combinations and conspiracy theories.  We know from the scriptures that there are secret combinations out there, and how much damage they can do to a society, but here, God tells us not to spread the rumors or to be afraid of things like that.  Instead of spending that kind of obsessive attention on other things, we can use it to reverence God and set him apart as the focus of our attention.  Instead of fearing a group of men, let's fear God.  I don't think that God is asking us to cringe before him and feel terrorized... it's more like changing our focus from what the world can do to us to what God can do to/for us.  ... He can do a lot, lot worse, but he can also do a lot, lot better.  Plus, he's our dad and he loves us, so even though he could destroy the world with his little finger I'm sure... he chooses to help us and teach us instead.  Kind of like Yoda.  Way better to learn from him than to fight him.  Unimaginably powerful, yet cuddly. :)
Today, no matter how many conspiracies there seem to be, or how powerful they seem, let's work on looking to God instead of to men.  Let's trust in that power, and that love.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37

"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake the evil one."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37

This is fascinating stuff.  I love the idea of God as the smartest guy in the room... or universe, or cosmos, or whatever word encompasses absolutely everything.  Too often I think we look at him as a bully or a tyrant, and seeing him as smarter and able to see more than we can I think is an important reality of getting to know him.  The imagery of light and truth being the ideals is also cool... making knowledge and learning (at least learning true things) something that enhances our ... glory.  Interesting that majesty and splendor would be related to intelligence, light, and truth.  Usually we think of those things as related to power, or money.  I also love the second verse where it talks about how light and truth forsake the evil one.  That as things are more clear and discernible (which seems to be what light does), and as we know them better, the farther we get away from evil, which is mostly just the opposite of this... darkness and lies.  So, basically, the more we learn, the cooler we are, and the farther away we get from evil. :)  That is so amazing.  And not that there aren't a lot of scary lies out there to learn, and not that there aren't some "truths" that can seem dark... but if we use both of those as our guides... light AND truth, and stick with God, then everything we learn will help us.  ... Not just intellectual things, but social things and physical things and spiritual things.  Today, let's get out there and learn... and stay far away from evil. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Matthew 18:1-4

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

I love this.  Seems like so often we're like the disciples here, and we want to know who is the best... we want to know our score compared to the people around us.  If we could just get a handle on the particular scoring system, then we could do better, and come out on top.  Unfortunately, even thinking about Life or Heaven that way means that we're probably on the wrong track.  Christ's answer is interesting... be converted, and become as little children.  Humility makes you great.  What a thing to hear when you are trying to compete. :)  Trying to top someone in humility... yeah, just not going to work.
In becoming like a little child, I think that we have to realize who we are in relation to God.  Not as a harsh lesson, but just seeing reality.  He's God.  He is approximately 900 b'zillion times smarter and wiser than we are.  We're really amazing at inflating our egos, but we're talking about God here.  In relationship to him, we're lucky to call him Father.  We are very small children, just learning to walk... if we're really advanced, we might be up to Kindergarten compared to him.  Unfortunately, we act more like teenagers.  Maybe we should stop thinking that we know everything, and stop trying to make deals to get our way, and start soaking up knowledge, and asking more questions. :)  Our biggest task in this life is to grow up... that's what becoming more like God is.  Growing and learning and becoming... mastering tying our shoes and learning to ride a bike.  Learning to love people and to be less selfish.  Learning to share and to help.  Today, let's let go of how important we want to be, and start letting our Father teach us the lessons we need to learn.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hosea 2:16

"And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali."
Hosea 2:16

In this chapter the Lord is talking about us using the analogy of God as the faithful husband and his people as an adulterous wife.  The wife gets bored and decides to leave the marriage because she remembers other men who used to give her food and expensive things... and then, after leaving, she realizes that things aren't as good as she expected them to be with her new-found freedom, and that things were much better with her husband.  She goes back, and although for a while her husband is angry, he still loves her and eventually takes her back.  In this verse, "Ishi" means husband, and "Baali" means master.  I think that the change here is indicative of a change that we probably all need to undergo at some point in our relationship with God.  In the story, the woman needed to learn that her husband wasn't trying to control her; he was trying to take care of her... and she didn't realize how good she had it until she left that situation.  A similar thing happens to us sometimes.  We often look at God as a restrictive, oppressive force... keeping us back from truly enjoying ourselves or getting what we want.  Doing as God asks rubs us the wrong way, and we want to rebel... escape... get away from this horrible taskmaster who is burdening our lives with such pointless rules.  ... And then, as in the story, we might leave and run after those things that we used to have or think that we want... some situation that is better than this oppression and control.  And we keep looking, and it is never there, and we realize that our lives were so much better with God.  That we've made a mess of things, and we want to go back.  But it's hard, after storming away like that... after feeling that way about someone, or telling everyone mean things about him.  Takes some humility, and we're very, very afraid of rejection... after rejecting him in the first place.  And we start realizing that none of God's laws or requirements are about control or oppression at all.  We realize that He loves us and he wants to protect us from the bad things, and all the rules are to keep us safe and to help us become so much better.  ... and then, as in the story and in this verse, we stop thinking of God as a master or a tyrant, and we see how deeply and consistently he loves us, and how much he continues to give, for us.  Today, let's examine our resentments against God, and try to see past them, so that we don't make the mistake of looking elsewhere for something that is right in front of us, waiting for us to see it.

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