Saturday, April 30, 2011

Missing Persons Till We're Counted In The Streets

I love exchanges!

At least once a transfer, every set of missionaries "exchange" companions for a day or two with one staying put and the other going to the other area to do missionary work. Its fun, uplifting, a learning experience, and always seems to bring a sense of relief. Even companions who are the best of friends can use a little bit of away time every once in awhile, and there is no better way to make it happen then on a working vacation!

I took off to Goodlettsvile to work with Elder Nicoll and Thompson and we had a whirlwind of fun and good hard work. It was good to have a chance to meet new people for a little bit while we spread the gospel and watch other missionaries to refine our technique and teaching skills. Most importantly was the Spirit that was felt on that exchange as we talked with people.

The Spirit is what teaches people, not us missionaries. What we say doesn't really matter to people until the Spirit testifies to them personally that the things we teach are true. Any time there is pure and truthful doctrine being talked about, the Spirit will testify to our minds and our hearts that it is of God. We can find the fruits of the Spirit and the way it speaks to us through our feelings in Galatians 5:22, saying:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

Like When John Baptized Jesus

As we were talking with people during the exchange, I saw people as they felt the influence of the Holy Ghost and felt those feelings as talked about in Galatians. I have felt it myself, and its because of these feelings I continue to try to talk with other people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that as we surround ourselves with things that invite the Spirit, we can continually have the fruits of the Spirit effective in our lives.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

There's Gotta Be More To Life...

What if you were told that laughing three times a day would cure arthritis by the local homeless guy down the street? You probably wouldn't believe him, right? But what if someone who had a PH.D and an inside knowledge as to the latest medicine and techniques told you the same thing instead? You just might believe him and give it a try. The difference? The doctor is the authority on the subject and knows his stuff, where as anything from the homeless guy... well, it might be kinda sketchy.

Personally, I'll Take The Guy In The Lab Coat...
I especially love the story of Naaman washing himself seven times in the River Jordan. He went straight to the authority figure at the time, the mighty prophet Elisha, to be healed of his leprosy. We don't know exactly what Naaman was expecting to happen in order to be healed, but we know that he was not expecting the advice he received to wash himself in the muddy water seven times, as characterized by his instant anger and refusal to comply.

His servant knew better then to go against the words of the Lords servant, and pleaded with his master saying,
My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Once Naaman came to his senses had bathed seven times, his flesh was cured and he was healed. Even though he did it grudgingly, he still gained the blessings associated with listening to Gods prophet and by following that simple counsel. Perhaps he had expected some miraculous ceremony or a laying on of hands, but the simple and humble thing of just bathing in a small river in Israel was what would cure him instead.

This story is great because it reminds me personally to follow Gods prophet through all things, but it also makes me think about being asked to do things that don't make any sense from a logical standpoint. You wouldn't think that there would be a correlation between washing seven times in the dirty river and being cured of leprosy, but Naaman did it and good things happened.

We are counseled by a prophet of God today to also do things that sometimes don't have a visible and direct cause and effect relationship. Faith and logic sometimes just don't go together. One example I particularly like is the Word of Wisdom, which includes no usage of tobacco, drinking alcohol, harmful/illegal drugs, coffee and tea. Promised blessings from living this Word of Wisdom are found in the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
The blessing of health comes as no surprise seeing as how modern medicine and science warn against tobacco usage, and there innumerable cases where alcohol in some way damaged families or directly ended lives entirely. Other things such as coffee and tea have been found to be harmful due to tanic acid and the natural addictive factor of them.

But really, the real blessings of health are the ones that will come from being obedient to Gods word. If we look at the Word of Wisdom or any other of Gods commandments with the mind to justify our actions, to get around something we don't like, or to muddle through the gray area to find what we want, we miss the point entirely of living Gods commandments because we love him. Its not about abstaining from or doing something to get blessings, its about being willing to do what God has asked of us.

I look to the part where it says, "And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" to remind myself that God is not limited by mans reasoning or logic. By keeping Gods word we are promised blessings of these "treasures of knowledge", even though there really isn't a direct correlation between drinking/smoking/drugs ect. and finding wisdom in some degree.

Obedience to Gods commandments bring forth blessings! It all comes down to being obedient and choosing whether or not to follow Christs example and being humble enough to do someones will other then our own. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 has this to say about the relationship between obedience and blessings:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
For Naaman, the blessing of being healed from his affliction would come only by his being humble enough to do the thing and live the law that was required for him to be healed. It didn't necessarily make sense, but he was commanded by Gods servant Elisha to do it. We find that same authority in the scriptures, in a modern day prophet, and through our prayers as we receive answers straight from our Heavenly Father. As we follow we continually find more peace and joy in life through the outpouring of blessings from Him!

I know that as we strive to keep Gods commandments, whatever they may be, we show our love for Him and our willingness to do all that is necessary to one day enter into His kingdom. Doing small things like washing in a river may seem pointless, but they have eternal consequences and bring forth blessings. All we have to do is live it and test it for ourselves, and I know God will catch each and every one of His children.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To Define the What and Why

This one is gonna cost me...

One good man, one man who does not put on his religion once a week with his Sunday coat, but wears it for his working dress, and lets the thought of God grow into him, and through and through him, till everything he says and does becomes religious... that man is worth a thousand sermons. He is a living Gospel. He is the image of God, and men see his good works, and admire them in spite of themselves, and see that they are God-like, and that God's grace is no dream, but that the Holy Spirit is still among men. They get a glimpse of God, and glorify their Father who is in heaven.                                                  -Charles Kingsley

Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy spoke this past General Conference on recognizing and developing Christlike attributes, but first he started off with talking a little bit about on being true to thine own self. His thoughts on the subject included the thought, "To be and to do are inseparable. Do without be—hypocrisy—portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false image to oneself."

That IS A Good Question!
We all gotta check ourselves.

I don't know what most people believe. I couldn't possibly tell you because I can't possibly spend enough time asking and understanding. However, I can tell the difference between the people who act on what they believe and those who don't in about the first five minutes of talking with them. I can usually tell whether or not the beliefs and values they claim to hold actually have sway over them in their everyday life or whether its just a front they put on once a week.

I struggle with this. Who I was before I decided to serve a mission is not who I am trying to be now. Being a missionary just doesn't come naturally to me. What happens when who you are trying to be is a better thing then you have been for twenty some years? To be or not to be...

The most important thing for all of us to remember is this:
Whatever we have been in our life thus far is trumped by the fact that we were his child before we even came to earth. We are all innately good. We all have the potential to be as God and Christ would have us be and, "Be perfect, even as [our] Father which is in heaven is perfect". As children of God, we have claim to that divine potential.

There are things we can do to unlock this potential... Praying specifically for a desire, for distinct attributes, for patience and for diligence is a good start. Iimmersing ourselves in the life of Jesus Christ through the scriptures, thus coming to a better understanding of him will help tremendously. Lastly, faking it till we make it comes to mind. The things we did and didn't do will someday define us. Vince Lombardi has one of my favorite quotes for this:
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Lets get to work.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Knock Me Down, I'll Keep On Moving

We live in the, "On Demand" era where everything is at our fingertips with just a touch of a button or a couple of keystrokes. With it comes just the tiniest lack of patience...

How many people get sucked in by things that offer results FAST and drawn to various get rich quick schemes? Too many times its just because we naturally want to take the shortcut to get what we want even when there rarely IS no real shortcut. It needs be that lots of little pieces of work need to go in between our first setting out and the large hoped for end result. Confucius is credited with saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

A scripture in Alma 37:6-7 talks a little bit on this:
Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
We all want big things in life, we all want to make big things happen, but if you don't make lots of little things happen you really are not going to get anywhere fast. I have found that there is a need to constantly and consistently build up small things to put together something greater.

I first did this in basketball as I grew up, putting in little bits of work wherever I could to catch up with the people who were physically superior to me and more physically gifted. Little by little over the course of about four years, I started to make my mark and catch up with them. I really can't say that im ever going to be a really amazing player, but I can definitely be the best that I can be.

Okay, So Maybe Not THAT Good...

I have since been able to carry some of that over with my being on a mission. Every morning, we have a morning routeine that ends at 10:00 am when we go out to work. Before that time, we prepare for the day with our personal and companionship study. I recognize that there are way better missionaries out there, but whats most important is doing things so that I can become better by putting in little bits of consistent effort and work.

Elder Ballard gave an awesome talk for the May 1990 Ensign speaking on "Small and Simple Things", but his last talk in General Conference really caught me. It made me think about all the small and simple things that can be related to little flakes of gold like an old-tyme miner might look for, and how its not the giant nuggets that bring forth wealth so much as the dilligent and consistent treasuring up of tiny flakes.

Now as I go throughout my day, I've started looking for the, "flakes" that over time can add up to equal or outweigh a nugget. The small and simple things, the "here a little and there a little" of the world, are what amount to great things over the course of time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Need Some Sleep, It Can't Go On Like This

Who would have thought a simple reflex action could unveil so much to me? I realized something about myself last night as the clock struck 3:27am... that time of night had a pretty good thunderstorm directly overhead and it happened to wake all three of us Elders up with one particularly awesome roll of thunder.

As I woke up startled by the storm, I immediately slid out of bed onto my knees into the prayer position.

Now let me just say, some missionaries go their entire mission without effectively getting to the point where as soon as they wake up they automatically get into their morning prayer. Its a tough groove to get into! Last night though, just as soon as I woke up, BAM! onto the floor I went! I didn't recognize it at the time, but once I started to reflect upon it I realized what an accomplishment that was to wake up and hit the floor.

But still, the longer I pondered on last night and the more my mind started to penetrate the fog that shrouded the memory of it, the more profound I understood it to be. Unlike some mornings, I remember the actual prayer I offered last night. Where usually they can prove to be mundane or wrote or unimaginative, this time I had slid to my knees and prayed that we would be safe.

I had prayed that no harm or accident would befall any of my companions or people in the area who we knew. I prayed that I would be okay, and that everything would be okay. Shoot, I even got a little overdramatic at the time (we all know how crazy it is being between dreaming and waking) and asked to make sure no tornado's came and blew us all away!

Its good that I'm in the groove to get outta bed... but that's not what really caught me offguard. I'm one of those people who sometimes feels his prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, and plenty of times I look for guidance and feel as if I somehow come up short or didn't receive an answer in any measurable way. But last night as I kneeled somewhere between awake and dreaming, I knew without a doubt that every thing was going to be alright. I just felt warm all of a sudden, like somebody had thrown a fleece blanket straight from the dryer onto me. I recieved in a very real way the comfort that I had prayed for as I awoke like a little child scared of the big bad storm in the night.

It has surprised me as I started looking on how much I've come to rely on God and the Savior in just this short time ive been out here. My first response to being scared was turning to prayer, calling for my Shepherd. Now don't get me wrong... I still got a long way to go (im hard headed), but I would like to think im slowly gaining ground on, "becoming as a little child" as Jesus talks about in Matthew 18:3-4. Maybe its going to take a couple more storms for me to really get it, but im hoping sooner rather then later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Looking at the Man in the Broken Glass

Ice on the road, a little too much speed, and two massive testaments to the American automobile industry... yes, these are the things that fender benders are made out of. Hopefully plenty of people have avoided wrecking a car in a collision of any kind, but chances are throughout a human lifespan everyone will get into a crash at some point. My record as a driver is personally clean, but one mission car I was connected with has already lost the driver side door (we loaned it to the Zone Leaders!) and I’ve been in the passenger seat during a wreck once upon a time.

Pity... That Car Was Just Days From Retirement

During that earliest debaggle, my sisters and I were just on our way to school on a bit of an icy day. The sun was out and there didn't seem to be any cause for concern, but as we came down a blind hill with a stop sign at the bottom we knew we were in trouble as we first started to slide.

The busy highway formed a T at the end and going even a couple of feet out into it would have put us in a VERY bad situation. Luckily, there was another car waiting at that stop sign at the bottom. With the choice being between going down the fifteen foot embankments on either side of the road, out into the highway, or smack dab into the back of the green Ford Explorer... well, let’s just say we took the fender-bender.

D'you Think That Ding Will Come Outta The Bumper?
 We all had been wearing our seatbelts so we were all fine and we later came to find that the Explorers bumper was a little messed up, but at the time the biggest thing that grabbed my attention was having a lapful of glass from the shattered window. I had expected sharp and dagger like shards to have been flying through the air, but instead all I found it to be was pebble like and not very sharp at all. If it had not been tempered glass though, that small fender-bender could have been dangerous. However, with a little bit of a different smelting method there was no need to worry.

The difference between the regular and tempered glass is in the way it is exposed to different temperatures. Tempered will go from one extreme to the other, allowing it to withstand more pressure and break into its signature pebble shape. Regular glass goes about the same but is allowed to cool on its own terms once it is heated and pressed. Once it breaks, it breaks into hazardous shards.

It Should Be A No-Brainer Which One You Want

We are all like glass in a way. All of us will eventually run into a "fender bender" in our life where things go bad in some way. Up till the point of these accidents though, we are faced with challenges that temper us and make us stronger. The greater variance of experiences we gain, going from one extreme to the other, the more we are able to withstand the pressures of life. We become, "tempered" through our trials which make us better suited to face the challenges of the next day. Even when something comes along that shatters us completely, we do no damage to those around us whom we love or to ourselves as we pick up the pieces and keep moving.

A simple quote comes to my mind in regards to life’s challenges and hardships:
The difference between stepping stones and stumbling blocks is how you use them.
What’s more, there are many references from God to his children throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon telling us trials will help us. My favorite comes in Doctrine and Covenants 90:24:
Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.
I know that this is the case. That all these things that beat against us are just to help us in the long run. The experience to be able to say, "Yeah... I’ve had worse" alone is sometimes worth whatever pain, sorrow, heartache, damage, or trials that come our way. I know god doesn't give us more then we can handle, and I know that as we come unto him he will grant us additional strength to bear our burdens as often as we ask for it. One last quote I have for this thought is from President Gordon B. Hinckley:
If Life Gets Too Hard To Stand, Kneel

I strive to live by this every day and I know that I have seen it work in my life for my good. I know if we all do it ourselves, we will gain a knowledge and understanding of just how truthful these things are. Promise.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Sense of Poise and Rationality

Yeah, so I'm trying to write a blog here, right?

Yeah... and of course I am. I'm trying... I'm really TRYING, and in fact I've probably written about 2,500 words today over and over again in the form of opening paragraphs and initial thoughts, but I can't connect anything together today. No, today I have a bit of a problem because this guy at the library about five computers away has his music absolutely BLASTING right now.

I remember a time when it didn't matter what was going on and I could still just put my head down and work right on through anything (thank goodness for the experience of living at college!), but sadly I have lost that skill over time. Right now everybody here is just trying to ignore the static hip-hop and let this guy rock out in hopes that some librarian will pass by sooner rather then later and tell him to knock it off.

You Tell 'Em, Tiger!
 However, this gives me an idea...

For some people, the only reason they obey speed limits at all are because of police officers. For some people, the only reason why they don't steal is because they are worried about getting caught by the law. For some people, the only reason they obey laws at all is because they are worried about doing time if they get caught breaking the law, not because they care about the safety or showing common respect for the people around them. People are becoming less concerned with whats right and wrong and moving towards the mindset of, "How much can I get away with?" as opposed to asking what they can do to reach out to their neighbors and better the community.

Christ asked us to do the exact opposite of what goes on when the cops leave town. He has asked us to be our Brothers-Keeper, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to forgive and be easily forgiven. This guy with the music isn't necessarily a bad guy, he just isn't taking the time to stop and realize that what he is doing is making life hard for the rest of us right now. Those people who do 30 miles an hour over the speed limit are not necessarily bad people, they just don't think about how much more dangerous they sometimes make the world for themselves and the rest of us.

I guess if any of this had to have a point, it would be to stop and think about your fellow man around you. Do a good turn, make somebody elses life easier. Make the world a better place by starting with yourself and being the change you want to see in other people. And as far as the spiritual application? Remember that God said, "If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments!" and don't do it because somebody is watching and will take you in if you don't, but do it because you care. I know you got it in you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Human In All Our Ways And All Our Pains

The Doctrine of Jesus Christ is for all mankind, where ever we may be and whatever the background. It includes repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Without any of these things we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, but first and foremost comes faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement. That belief and trust in him as shown through our actions and desires is the first step for anyone, all other steps coming after and through that person's faith.

One of the greatest stories on this faith came to mind as I was reading through the New Testament this morning and came upon the story where Jesus is walking on the water towards his apostles who are in the boat of a storm tossed sea as found in Matthew 14.

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Why do I bring this story up in regards to faith? Jesus himself chastised Peter after catching him, saying that he had, "little faith" which we know because he had started to sink even after successfully taking a few steps.

However, I would just like to point out that you didn't read about any of the other Apostles even having the faith to set foot outside of the boat! Only Peter had faith great enough to even take that first step, to believe so wholly upon his Master and Savior that he climbed out of the relative safety of his boat and walked on water towards his rock and his Redeemer.

It was only when Peter took his sight off of Jesus that he began to sink. Only when he let his faith waiver and allowed the world to take his focus off the Lord did it all come undone. We too can be like Peter at times. We need to focus, stay alert, and always keep our mind on the Lord so as to not "sink" in this world we live in.

I know that if we call out unto Christ to be bade to walk out onto the water just as Peter did, the Lord will grant our request and see us safely through all things. I have seen it and I have lived it. Exercise faith unto actions of prayer, reading his word, and going to his holy house and you will find miracles.  As we "Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ", I know we will all find what we are really looking for.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Couldn't Find a Way to Carry On?

It's one of those things where you feel like you got slightly dumber just by watching it. Really, how hard would it have been just to WALK up the "broken" escalator? It's a ridiculous concept, but how often to we as people tend to do this same basic thing to ourselves when something in our life doesn't go exactly according to plan?

Things don't always work out perfectly, but that doesn't mean the world has to come to a screeching halt because of it. The good old saying, "When god shuts a door he opens a window" comes to mind when I consider this topic, but even that overlooks the possibility that there is ANOTHER DOOR TO THE ROOM.


How often do we make excuses for why we are unable to do simple things? How often do we go with an, "all or nothing" mentality that doesn't allow us to be flexible? How often do we fall into a rut when we were so close to getting into a groove instead?

Now maybe consider things from their perspective... They were trapped and couldn't see around the problem. They were so focused on the issue that they couldn't see a way around it. If someone else with a better perspective could have told them to trust their judgment and just try to walk up and out, do you think they might have done it? I hope they would have, but chances are they just might not have listened.

I know in our life that we have someone looking out for us who has a much better perspective then any of us. God is always looking out for us and he sees all the available possibilities. He is ALWAYS speaking to us to get us through our problems, we sometimes just need to listen better and have faith in his perspective (even if it makes no sense to us at the time). Through listening to his holy spirit, we can have broken escalators turn into stairs every day of our lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Gonna Be a Glorious Day

The harder I work, the luckier I get. Furthermore, I would rather be lucky then good. These are both quotes from Samuel Goldwyn and Doyle Brunson respectively, and both emphasize a particular intangible factor that just cant be accounted for in life and in anything we pursue.

Whether you believe in good or bad luck superstitions, there is no denying that random chance sometimes comes into play. I've been told this is the case and have tried to live my life by these two quotes for as long as I can remember because of the mindset it inspires me to have. Though I never really had much need to test out this theory, i've found that having a good work ethic brings unforeseen and sometimes completely unconnected advantages.

On this mission i'm serving though, it’s really been put to the test. Sometimes the choice comes up to continue to work hard even though there is nothing going on, or to just kind of let time slip away from you. One particular night, Elder Dye and I were walking through what appeared to be a torrential downpour. We joked that it was raining cats and dogs and whatever other barnyard animals you could think of! With nowhere to go and all plans fallen through for the night, we had been walking to some people that were closer to the apartment and who had shown slight interest towards the gospel before, but sadly had no luck.

They Need To Make Bigger Umbrellas

The clock seemed stuck at 7:23pm and we were drenched and likely putting our health at risk on that cold and wet night. We had a choice. We asked ourselves, "Should we risk getting sick and possibly hurting the work later in the week by staying out with nothing going on, or should we be obedient and diligent and keep pressing forward?"

I’m happy to say that after letting our jackets take 10 minutes in the dryer and changing our socks, we decided to go back out. Before going though, we offered a prayer that we might find someone who we could give a Book of Mormon to. Elder Dye is a man of great faith. I never appreciated him nearly as much as I should have during my first transfer, but he taught me many lessons about being led by the spirit and the business of miracles. Through his faith and our diligence, we received a miracle of knowing where to walk to catch someone outside who would take a Book of Mormon.

We walked the neighborhood he felt we needed to go, and there we found a man who was letting his dog outside. The timing was perfect... three minutes either way and we would have missed him. He took a copy of the Book of Mormon, and though I wasn't in Murfreesboro long enough to know what became of him, I know that that particular copy was meant to be in that home for some point down the road.

Even Storms Have A Silver Lining
Now i’m not saying that the gospel is all about luck. I’m saying that the more work and effort we put into things, both spiritual and temporal, the more often we will find things go our way. Consistent effort leads to results. Diligence brings forth blessings.

I think of it as if we were digging for buried treasure... you can get discouraged as you dig ten feet down, fifteen feet down, even twenty feet deep in the earth as you go without finding anything. But what if the treasure was at twenty-five feet? If you give up before you get that far, you're never going to get the prize at the end of it all and strike gold! The Gospel is the same way sometimes. I know that as we continually work hard and have faith to be dilligent that we can find the "treasure" waiting for us in ALL aspects of our lives.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Cry of Hope, a Plea for Peace

You just gotta let it go.

Case in point, a woman who we were teaching once couldn't overcome her anger and hate for a man who she supposed murdered her son. So much of her life was wrapped up in imagining what she would say to him if she ever saw him again, so much was invested in thoughts of tormenting him, so much was lost because she couldn't let go of what great wrong she supposed he had done to her.

The man was never formally accused, and though no evidence was ever brought together that may have formed any real case against him, this woman could not let go and find peace. Repeatedly she quoted, "Vengence is mine!", taking comfort in the scripture knowing that god would repay, but she allowed it to overwhelm her to the point where she had trouble getting through the day even though years had passed since her sons tragic death.

The greatest damage came not from her sons death, but from herself as she continually harrowed herself up in misery and ill will towards those whom she accused. I'm afraid to say that its likely that the majority of the pain she felt due to her sons death was self inflicted over time from refusing to let it alone and forgive. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 64:9-10, we are commanded to forgive others freely, not only for their benefit but for ours.
Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
It is never easy to forgive.

Whether its forgiveness for ourselves or for others, its a difficult search to gain that spiritual healing that we need when we feel we have had something torn from us or have been dealt with unjustly. Christs open arms are ever extended to sooth and comfort those who are in need of comfort if only we will come unto him. 3 Nephi 9:13 reads:
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

The Master Healer knows each one of us personally and wills that we put our cares and our burdens upon him that we may let go of our sorrow and anguish. Whether great or small the offense, it is for our benefit that we forgive freely to anyone. We may not necessarily trust them again, nor will we give them a second chance every time, but we are asked to do the same thing that Jesus Christ himself has done for us and forgive.

The thought comes to me as I look back and reflect upon this blog post that we write about those things which we need most. I need to do a better job of forgiving... of letting go. I really cannot say I have too much that needs be reconciled, but I still need to just let go. Its just time to let go. Whatever forgiving I need to do, towards myself or towards others, is a work in progress. I'll keep you posted.

Additional Link: James E. Faust, "The Healing Power of Forgiveness"

Friday, April 8, 2011

They Paved Paradise

I love the Bible. Seriously, its my favorite thing in the world sometimes. I especially love the stories that I read on my own as a child so long ago in picture books as children's stories that were (dumbed down seems like the wrong phrase here...) but still had memorable and good lessons.

Recently I picked back up in Exodus where Moses is leading the children of Israel through the wilderness for forty years. Those people were so dang blessed... I mean really, Manna from heaven for FORTY YEARS! The children who were born out there knew nothing BUT Manna! They likely grew up with that miracle for so long, not knowing what it was like to not have it fall, that they likely complained!

What!?! Manna AGAIN?!?
We too have many miracles in our lives, most of which occur without us even thinking of them anymore. We take for granted the blessing it is to have wonderful families and friends, job security when we can find it, our health, the very roof over our head, and whatever other small bits of "Manna" we find in our lives. The old saying goes,
You Never Really Know What You Got Till Its Gone
If you want to feel really blessed, just take a look at everything you already have. I'm working on not waiting for it all to be taken away before giving gratitude through prayer and action towards god and those around me. An attitude of gratitude makes everything else better, more positive, and allows me to appreciate how much I already have. Hopefully then, I wont end up like the people who were born in the wilderness who were shocked to find that in the promised land there was a lot more to breakfast then walking out of the tent in the morning!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Every Day I Wake Up And Its Sunday

Your toast lands butter side down, the dog had muddy footprints, you left the hose on all night and you now have a lake where your lawn once was... Yeah, it’s just gonna be one of those days.

Hopefully "those days" are few and far between, but even if it’s only an occasional thing it’s tough to prepare and overcome. Still, I've always found that those days rarely go through on Sundays like they do on on other days of the week. I can't exactly tell you why, but I think it’s got something to do with church and the spirit you feel there.

I've heard people say that it gives them the strength to get through the rest of the week, some talk about the peace and relaxation that comes to them on that day as they take it easy, others say that worship invites the spirit to be with them throughout the rest of the week to lighten their burdens. No matter which of these you ascribe to (ill take the eclectic view personally and go with all of the above!), Sunday is a day of rest for most people.

The Lord talked about how, "the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath" in Mark, and its something that gets overlooked sometimes. Work is a good thing and a necessity of life, but rest is also a good thing and when taken hand in hand with work even better. If Jesus decided to rest of the seventh day as the world was created, its probably a good idea that we stick with that and go with it by keeping it holy and saving unnecessary work for other days. Oh, and lest we forget, it is one of the Ten Commandments.

If It Was Important Enough For God To Write It Down...

The island nation of Tonga keeps the Sabbath to the letter of the law, as commented on by John H. Grobergs talk on the Sabbath stating that,
When Sunday dawns on the kingdom of Tonga, a transformation takes place. If one goes downtown, he sees deserted streets—no taxis or buses or crowds of people. All the stores, all the markets, all the movie theaters, all the offices are closed. No planes fly, no ships come in or out, no commerce takes place. No games are played. The people go to church. Tonga is remembering to keep the Sabbath day holy. It is significant that the first country in the world to greet the holy Sabbath keeps the Sabbath holy.
I know that these people are blessed because of their commitment to keep the Sabbath holy, and I know that all of us can partake of these same blessings. Its a little thing that has a big impact on our lives. And really, is it that much of a stretch to be asked to take it easy once a week and only really focus on going to church and spending time with your family? Yeah, this is the kind of thing that turns "one of those days" into a really good day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whatever It Faces and Wherever It Leads...

Sometimes we just gotta go with the flow. We are who we choose to be, a thought based off the fact that through our actions we decide who we ultimately become in this life. Joseph B. Wirthland is quoted as saying,
Each choice has a consequence. Each consequence a destination. 
Whether we think of it in this way or not, we are ALWAYS making choices that affect where our path will take us and who we will be once we get there. With this in mind, the question comes to me, "Where is my path leading? Is it taking me somewhere I want to be? Am I even being true to myself as we go along?"

Water takes the path of least resistance, going wherever there is room for it to run. We people are nearly the same way, usually taking the easiest way to get to our destination. We can choose to allow ourselves to take the easiest path, but we most likely wont like where that path will take us. At the same time, we can't be something we just aren't.

Its a tough line to balance if you over think it.

I honestly don't think that there is an easy answer for being the best we can be while still recognizing that we are going to make mistakes and can't be perfect. I think its gotta be a very personal thing that we do. We just have to constantly recommit ourselves to living on a higher plane, always making the little choices that lift us up over the long run and allow us to direct our lives to the destination we want. Who and where we want to be in five years is a question that most people haven't asked themselves in awhile, even though its impossible to hit the target if you are not even aiming for anything.

The Cheshire Cat once pointed out to Alice after she had asked for help in finding her way that her direction would, "...Depend on where you want to get to". No sooner does she say that it really doesn't matter, then he cuts in saying, "Then it doesn't really matter which way you go!"

See what I'm getting at?

Choose where you want to go. Choose who you want to be. Then, once you have thought long and hard about it, weighing options and putting forth your priorities, pay the price to be who you want to be. Easier said then done, but doable. I am still struggling to make the decision of WHERE I want to be, but I am where I need to be right now and ive made the decision of WHO I want to be. We are all sons and daughters of God, and it is to that standard I try to let my path flow, as Christ invites all of us to do.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lift Others, Not Ourselves

So there I was, heading into overtime in the state-semi final game for basketball after a ferocious 32 minutes of high quality basketball. We had led most of the game, but an awesome three pointer from the corner came outta nowhere with just seconds left to tie the game up and give the opposing team a breath of life. It was one of the most tense moments I had ever been apart of, and even though I was confident that we could take care of business, I decided to offer up a little prayer in my heart.

I Got Hoop Dreams Coach!

Now don't get me wrong, I really think god stays out of sports. Really, what would you do if all of your children were playing basketball against each other? Would you be rooting for one side to just clobber the other? Yeah, didn't think so... I don't think he necessarily cares who wins or who gets the glory or anything like that, but I definitely believe in the saying, "Let the best team win!" and I have a firm belief that a petition to God to ensure that no one gets hurt during the competition is a reasonable priority.

So this prayer I offered was not one of, "Dear Lord, please let them suck and not be able to beat us because our team is so awesome", but more of a continuation of the, "Let us all do our best!" thought so we could all enjoy healthy competition and have fun while doing it.

Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" gives that same illustration as with our basketball prayer. In sports there always has to be a winner and there always has to be a loser, but that's not the case in life. We don't need to compare ourselves one with another, because inevitably it leads to lifting ourselves over those around us.

President Uchtdorf gave a talk in General Conference of October of 2010 in relation to this lifting up of ourselves over our neighbors. His words were as follows:
Pride is sinful, as President Benson so memorably taught, because it breeds hatred or hostility and places us in opposition to God and our fellowmen. At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with “Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,” it always seems to end with “Therefore, I am better than you.”
When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror.
So with the fact in mind that life isn't about beating our friends and neighbors, I'm trying personally to keep my mind focused on doing the best I can do and leaving the rest. We cant control what others do, but we can always do a little bit better for ourselves.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Where Your Treasure Is...

Willy Wonka, the renowned chocolate maker extraordinaire, is famous for things other then his creative recipes and his purple suit. He is also very well read, and often his wonderful quotes with his biting humor come at exactly the perfect time for any situation, giving a wonderfully fitting anecdote or snippet.
How Could You NOT Trust That Face?
One of the best places where that humor shines through is in one of my favorite quotes of all time, the one that is provoked by the little girl who wants everything and wants it right then and there. To her falling down the garbage chute after a wild and ferocious temper tantrum (that of course could be conveyed in no better way then through singing and slight comical violence against Oompa Loompa's), Willy Wonka muses, 
Where is fancy bred? In the heart or in the head?
He is merely commenting on her insatiable appetite for all things pertaining to her, but the Shakespearean quote raises some interesting questions: Where exactly do our fancies come from? Whats the difference between these fancies and things we really love? What do we put true value in?

But of course, even Shakespeare or Willy Wonka have their superiors. Jesus Christ talked of these things repeatedly, to the rich young man who was asked to give all he had to seek the kingdom of god, in the parable of the widow with her mite, and even the story of the Good Samaritan places emphasis on what is really more important in life.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
What we treasure in our lives can be measured with time spent. The more time we willingly spend with something, the more we must love it. It shows where our priorities are when we pick and choose one thing over another. I know that I'm pretty much the worst when it comes to actually putting in that time with the things I really care about and showing where my love and treasure and heart truly lie, but remembering this brief scripture in Matthew 6 always gives me that perspective I need to get out of my funk and just show my love through my actions.

Shout out to my family, love you much! Shout out to my friends, love you much as well!  And in a way I want to give a shout out to the Lord, as I'm trying to show you him how much I love him and the people I'm serving with my time spent here in Tennessee!