Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lessons from the Vasa

Last night for Family Home Evening, I shared this talk by Elder Dale G. Renlund given at a BYU devotional on 16 September 2014. His address was titled "Constructing Spiritual Stability" - He talks about the Swedish ship the Vasa.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned here, just like there are lessons learned from the Titanic. Lessons about pride, about accepting counsel, about humility ~ listen below:

It's so important to speak up for what you know is right (what the shipbuilders should have done) and to accept instruction from others who know more than we do (humility - don't be proud and top heavy with boasting cannons and extravagant sculptures) and how we need to obey God's laws for they apply to us whether we think they do or whether we care or not (King - the laws of nature apply). Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal! We want to make a ship that will stay afloat - we want eternal life, so follow the rules. God's laws and commandments will keep us stable as we face the whirlwinds of life.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Great Divorce

I finished reading CS Lewis' "The Great Divorce" today. I picked it up because Michael Wilcox quoted it in his talk "The Fourth Watch" that I listened to recently.
The part quoted by Wilcox is on page 69 of the book. Wilcox edits it slightly, quoted below is how it's shared by him in his talk:

Ye cannot in your present state understand eternity. But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are fully grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. All their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it," not knowing that Heaven, one attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say "Let me have but this and I'll take the consequences"; little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven; the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say "We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven," and the Lost "We were always in Hell." And both will be right.

This book does an excellent job of portraying different ways that "self deception" causes many people to remain in Hell. It is their choice. They can choose at any moment to repent and change and follow God's rules, but their pride gets in their way and they go back to the grey town where they are comfortable and "happy". It goes along with these thoughts that I read on this blog post today: "Within the Bounds"

I would imagine that in the Highest Degrees of Glory, there is a lot of structure.  And within a lot of structure are a lot of rules, requirements, boundaries.  God operates within boundaries, why shouldn’t we?  If this earthly life is a proving ground for the “real thing” then the “real thing” is most likely going to resemble this testing period in some like or manner.  So He gives us rules.  Not arbitrary rules that he tweaks and changes at will, like a game maker who satisfies his need for control by toying with lives and emotions at his pleasure.  Rules that will bring us to Him.  His glory, that will one day be ours.  His greatest glory is our glory.  Do you get that?  It is unlike anything we see here in our lives.  His greatest glory is to see us glorified.  Successful.  Pure.  Like Him. 
So he arranges and teaches and guides and assists in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, all in an effort to BRING US TO HIM.  So if the rules are too strict, or too uncomfortable or too whatever, then there is something amiss IN US.  Not Him. 
He knew we would have desires that were averse to His rules.  He knew we would have to be raked over coals and walked over glass and stretched way beyond our perceived limits in order to be tempered, molded, shaped into creatures that can someday be capable of withstanding the magnitude of His incomprehensible glory. But it is all FOR us.  Not IN SPITE of us. 
The boundaries are loving.  They are His.  They are for OUR GLORY. 
So, what are you going to do with them?
I am going to obey and work and strive to live by his commandments that I may receive all that God has prepared for me and wants for me to receive.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scared About Ebola?

My children were doing homework last night, which included assignments of "current events". Hyrum did his on acid attacks in Iran. Ethan did his on Ebola. Ethan knows that Ebola scares Hyrum, so like a good big brother he was sure to share it with Hyrum, including pictures. Hyrum didn't want to see it but couldn't get the images out of his mind (thanks Eth!) Now my Hyrum is a sensitive kid, and Ebola scares him pretty bad.
I wanted to try to put his fears at ease during family prayer and scriptures that night. One of my favorite talks came to mind, given by a prophet of God, President Howard W. Hunter to students at BYU in 1993 where he shares that problems (...and plagues and diseases like Ebola...) "were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance..." That thought is was given in this talk and is included in the book "That We Might Have Joy". That book is a wonderful compilation of his talks, I love it.
Here it is included in context as it was shared during scriptures time last night:

Life has a fair number of challenges in it, and that’s true of life in the 1990s. Indeed, you may be feeling that you have more than your share of problems. These concerns may be very global difficulties, such as the devastating famine we see in Somalia and other places in the world, or the incessant sounds of war in Yugoslavia, or the Middle East, or India, or Ireland, or so many other locations round the world.


I am here tonight to tell you that Despair, Doom, and Discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint. However high on the charts they are on the hit parade of contemporary news, we must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments happen to confront us.

I am just a couple of years older than most of you, and in those few extra months I have seen a bit more of life than you have. I want you to know that there have always been some difficulties in mortal life and there always will be. But knowing what we know, and living as we are supposed to live, there really is no place, no excuse, for pessimism and despair.

In my lifetime I have seen two world wars plus Korea plus Vietnam and all that you are currently witnessing. I have worked my way through the depression and managed to go to law school while starting a young family at the same time. I have seen stock markets and world economics go crazy and have seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world in the process.

So I am frank to say tonight that I hope you won’t believe all the world’s difficulties have been wedged into your decade, or that things have never been worse than they are for you personally, or that they will never get better. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better. They always do—especially when we live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance to flourish in our lives.

Here are some actual comments that have been made and passed on to me in recent months. This comes from a fine returned missionary:

Why should I date and get serious with a girl? I am not sure I even want to marry and bring a family into this kind of a world. I am not very sure about my own future. How can I take the responsibility for the future of others whom I would love and care about and want to be happy?

Here’s another from a high school student:

I hope I die before all these terrible things happen that people are talking about. I don’t want to be on the earth when there is so much trouble.

And this from a recent college graduate:

I am doing the best I can, but I wonder if there is much reason to even plan for the future, let alone retirement. The world probably won’t last that long anyway.

Well, isn’t that a fine view of things? Sounds like we all ought to go and eat a big plate of worms.
I want to say to all within the sound of my voice tonight that you have every reason in this world to be happy and to be optimistic and to be confident. Every generation since time began has had some things to overcome and some problems to work out. Furthermore, every individual person has a particular set of challenges that sometimes seem to be earmarked for us individually. We understood that in our premortal existence.

Prophets and apostles of the Church have faced some of those personal difficulties. I acknowledge that I have faced a few, and you will undoubtedly face some of your own now and later in your life. When these experiences humble us and refine us and teach us and bless us, they can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to make us better people, to make us more grateful and more loving, to make us more considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.

Yes, we all have difficult moments individually and collectively, but even in the most severe of times, anciently or modern, those problems and prophecies were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance. God loves us and the scriptures tell us he "gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. [John 3:16–17]

The scriptures also indicate that there will be seasons of time when the whole world will have some difficulty. We know that in our dispensation unrighteousness will, unfortunately, be quite evident, and it will bring its inevitable difficulties and pain and punishment. God will cut short that unrighteousness in his own due time, but our task is to live fully and faithfully and not worry ourselves sick about the woes of the world or when it will end. Our task is to have the gospel in our lives and to be a bright light, a city set upon a hill that reflects the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the joy and happiness that will always come to every people in every age who keep the commandments.

In this last dispensation there will be great tribulation (Matthew 24:21). We know that from the scriptures. We know there will be wars and rumors of wars and that the whole earth will be in commotion (D&C 45:26). All dispensations have had their perilous times, but our day will include genuine peril (2 Timothy 3:1). Evil men will flourish (2 Timothy 3:13), but then evil men have very often flourished. Calamities will come and iniquity will abound (D&C 45:27).

Inevitably, the natural result of some of these kinds of prophecies is fear, and that is not fear limited to a younger generation. It is fear shared by those of any age who don’t understand what we understand.
But I want to stress that these feelings are not necessary for faithful Latter-day Saints, and they do not come from God. To ancient Israel, the great Jehovah said:

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. . . .
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. [Deuteronomy 31:6, 8]

And to you, our marvelous generation in modern Israel, the Lord has said: “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . . . Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:34, 36).

A few final thoughts:

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller

"I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace." - Helen Keller

There is a God, and He is in control of the things that are happening on this earth. Problems and plagues and war may come, but they will be here for just a short time - Revelation 12:12. We need not fear.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Fourth Watch

Last week a friend let me borrow a wonderful talk on cd - by Michael Wilcox called "The Fourth Watch: Receiving Divine Help When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered". Isn't that a great title!? When I heard it I thought "Yep! That is exactly what I need, cause that's how I'm kinda feeling right now!"

So, the Hebrew Day was divided into 12 hours. The Hebrew Night was divided into four "watches".
In this talk, Bro. Wilcox gives several examples of how God is a "Fourth Watch" God - he prefers to wait.. and to let us struggle... and toil... and work... for as long as possible into the darkness. Through the first watch, into the second watch, into the third watch... then finally in the fourth watch, he comes.

An example in Mark 6, after feeding the five thousand, we read starting in verse 45:

45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
 46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
 47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
 48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea...
 51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
When even was come, so at the beginning of the 1st watch, they were in the sea working against the wind, and he could see them from the hillside, but didn't come to them until the 4th watch. It's often when we're exhausted and spent all our strength that he comes.

A few more examples of this: Hagar in Genesis 21:14-19 -

 14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
 15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
 16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
 17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
 19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
God comes when the water is spent in the bottle. When we're ready to give up and see our loved ones die, that's when he shows the new source of nourishment to us. Another example, the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-16 -

10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
 12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
 13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
 14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that theLord sendeth rain upon the earth.
 15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
When we're preparing our last meal, that's when he comes. One last example: Joseph Smith History 1:15-16 -

 15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
 16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light...
The Lord tends to come at the moment of great alarm, when we're ready to abandon ourselves to despair. He does hear our cries. He does care. He is watching us from the hillside, and he knows, and he will come and calm the storm, provide for us, and deliver us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Facing Death

Thoughts on suicide were shared online last week in the story of Brittany Maynard this story. As a Christian who believes in God, I disagree with suicide or ending our life on our own terms. I loved Kara Tippetts words - there is peace in our trials, cause as we descend into them, Christ is there. He has gone before us. He did not give in until it was all finished - John 19:30. We show courage as we continue to endure and face the trial, come what may. I also agreed with many thoughts shared by Matt Walsh - mainly: Life has value, we are not our own!! Christ bought us with his atoning blood. Christ showed us the way, we need to let go of our will and humbly receive God's will in our life. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who faced leukemia, shared it this way:

“As we confront our own … trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we ‘might not … shrink’—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus” (- October 1997 General ConferenceEnsign, Nov. 1997, 22).

There was a purpose to Christ's suffering, and there is purpose to ours.
-Agony in Gethsemane by Frans Schwartz
My prayer is that we might not shrink in our trials, but fully put our whole trust in God and let His will be done.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Home As A Temple

This is an article by Kristine Manwaring that I have printed up in my study journal - it was originally posted 14 Sep 2000 on the Meridian Website, but is no longer there, so I'm reposting it here for myself. :)

I have spent too much time in my home discouraged. 

I want to rear my children in a sacred atmosphere. 'With all my heart I believe that the best place to prepare for eternal life (John 12:25) is in the home,' said a wise teacher, and his words resonate to the core of my being. Yet, believing something does not automatically make it happen.

In the abstract, I love my family, I love my home, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. In the reality of three meals a day, soccer games, dirty laundry, reports on Spain, and strep throat, the connection between eternal life and daily life often escapes me.

In my experience, the most sacred atmospheres are found in beautiful buildings of worship such as synagogues, cathedrals, temples and churches that are set apart from our daily life. In these sacred places, we worship God and perform rituals that connect us to Him. I picture clean spaces, hushed voices, beautiful artwork and uninterrupted worship. I cannot recall ever leaving such a place wishing I hadn't been there. It seems everything runs according to plan and that everything I do there is part of a larger, meaningful whole.
Homes, on the other hand, are noisy, messy, often disorganized and characterized by nothing but interruptions. The demands during a single day are relentless, and it is not uncommon for both Mother and Father to feel used or spent. Even in the quiet moments, I usually find myself cooking, folding laundry, giving spelling quizzes, and playing Legos. These activities do not feel sacred to me. What possible definition of the word 'sacred' could apply to these two seemingly opposite experiences?

I have read in a Bible Dictionary that 'only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.' When first presented with this idea that homes should be sacred, I tried to make my home fit the kind of cleanliness and order I thought a temple represented. Instead of a more temple-like home, I ended up with a growing resentment towards the very things that homes exist for. Cooking and laundry became onerous because the tasks themselves created disorder. I became confused. Is my home still sacred when it is messy? What about when it is loud? What if I have children or friends who do not want to be reverent? Do they still get to come into my home? The harder I pushed my family to fit my narrow definition of 'sacred,' the more anxious and less temple-like we all felt.

Then I began walking in the mornings with a wise neighbor who grew up in a large, loving family and first became a mother at the age of forty-four. Our oldest sons are the same age. From her long perspective as a daughter and her more recent experience as a mother, she has come to believe that the work of feeding, clothing and nurturing one another is every bit as spiritual as it is physical. She feels strongly that when ordinary, life-sustaining tasks are done together as a family, they bind family members to one another in small but critical ways. She speaks of chopping vegetables and cleaning bathrooms with her sons with something akin to reverence. She has even said that scrubbing a wall with a child is a more productive 'togetherness' experience than attending his ball game or vacationing as a family. I was startled to realize that she saw as 'sacred' the very tasks that I always thought were obstacles to sacredness. And for evidence, she turned to the Bible. The parable of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25 clearly shows that Christ will judge us according to our willingness to feed an clothe 'the least of these my brethren.' Does this include members of our own families? In fact, Christ used imagery of feeding and washing and cleaning throughout His parables and object lessons. 'He shall feed his flock like a shepherd' (Isaiah 40:11). He even likens Himself to a hen who 'gathereth her chickens under her wings' (Matthew 23:37).

Even more striking to me, Christ not only spoke of these things, He personally did them. He fed multitude with limited tangible resources in a miraculous example of His attention to our physical as well as spiritual hunger. He washed the feet of His disciples to illustrate the humble service required of a Master and to reveal what He was willing to do that we might be entirely clean. When seen in this new light, my perception of tasks like peeling potatoes and scrubbing floors began to turn upside down and inside out. It was becoming obvious to me that when we care for the physical as well as the spiritual needs of our families, we are patterning our lives after Jesus Christ.

I learn even more when I share these tasks with my children. One Saturday morning my nine-year-old daughter and I were cleaning our large kitchen window together. I was outside and she was inside. We both sprayed the entire window with cleaner and when I looked at the window, I couldn't see her at all. Gradually, as we both wiped away the spray, her image became clearer until, with both the dirt and the spray gone, I could see her with perfect clarity. Our relationship is sometimes stormy, and the incident reminded me of my need to constantly keep wiping away surface tensions, judgmental thoughts, and misunderstandings whenever her true identity and potential are temporarily clouded from my vision.

Realizing something of the spiritual value of homemaking has made me more aware of the need to more fully involve my family in these tasks. My husband and I no longer simply delegate chores to our children each day. We wash dishes and make beds alongside them. By doing so, we have been blessed with opportunities to teach our children and be taught ourselves with a frequency and a depth we previously never imagined. A year ago, I spent most of my dishwashing time muttering under my breath and trying to jam too many dishes into the limited dishwasher space.

Now, every time I invite a child to thrust their hands into the warm, soapy water with mine, I learn something new about their spirit and their life. It is only when doing dishes together that my twelve-year-old son, who mostly speaks in monosyllables about his experiences at school, reveals who his friends are and why he has chosen the, the pressure he feels about his grades, how much he likes math, and what he thinks about his teacher.

Paradoxically, what I previously labeled 'mindless' and once thought of as interruptions to spiritual growth are becoming the core of what makes my home feel sacred. As I cook meals, wash dishes, make beds, and sweep floors, I am continually in the midst of both teaching and being taught about charity, humility, hope, and faith. I am exchanging independence and 'everyone seeking after their own' for a mutual dependence and unity in purpose that surely leads to being 'all of one mind, having compassion' (1 Peter 3:8). I feel the sacredness in my home not only when it is clean, but also when we are in the process of getting it that way. Some days I don't even mind that we will go through the process again the very next day.

Much of my discouragement at home was due to a sense of failure I felt for not being able to artificially create sacredness there. How comforting it is to be released from that burden. With joy and gratitude I now realize I need only look for the way sacredness already surrounds me.
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