"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another Lesson

Life lessons come to me in all kinds of shapes and sizes and colors. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize them, initially. Sometimes I need to ask Heavenly Father, "Just what I am supposed to be learning," because it is not always obvious to me. I think I must be a slow learner! But I am trying to be quicker remember to ask the questions to help me see the things I am supposed to see.

Recently I had an experience that I struggled through. It was challenging and painful. But it was only so for a few days. It was an accident caused by my own carelessness. But the ramifications were much larger for me to face than the mistake I had made. There is a lesson right there for me to see. Often a seemingly small mistake or error bears a much larger consequence than we expect or imagine. But once a mistake is made, the consequence is out of our control. We simply must accept it as best as we are able.

The same is true of our choices. We are free to choose. But not free to choose all the consequences. This is especially true when our choices affect others. Though we may think we know how someone could or should act as a result of our choices, we really have no way of knowing for sure. They may react better than we imagine. They may also react much worse. But we do not get to decide for another how they will react. We only get to choose our own behavior. Choosing is like picking up a stick. When one picks up a stick, large or small, one picks up the whole stick. It is not possible to pick up one end of the stick and then tell the other end of the stick to do something that is contrary to being picked up. When one chooses to act or not act, to speak or not speak, to behave or misbehave, they also agree to accept whatever consequences may come with that choice. That does not mean we will like them. Just means we get them, as a direct result of our choice.

My lesson was more than about choices. It was about being blessed. Though the consequences of my mistake were physically painful, inconvenient, and very disruptive to my life for a brief season, they were definitely temporary. I could see how serious the consequences could be, I could see the disaster that was avoided. I felt then and I still feel today that I was incredibly blessed by my loving, kind, merciful Heavenly Father. He protected me from myself. He watched over me and guided me to get the needed help. He helped me through the days that were unpleasant and lifted my spirits, reminding me of the blessings I have.

Since the worst of that trial has passed, I have pondered on the gifts of life that I take so easily for granted. Though I have my own set of aches and pains, I can move about and do many things just because I choose to do them. I live in a body that walks and climbs stairs; hears music and the sound of the spring birds; sees the blue of the sky and the purple of the flowers. My hands and fingers serve me constantly. Though they too complain from time to time, they work from sunup to sundown, almost endlessly. They help me cook food, fold clean clothes, scrub endless messes, and stitch on lovely fabrics. My teeth may bear fillings, but they are my teeth and we enjoy lots of different varieties of food together. Together we savor the taste of cool, clean water, when thirsty and dry.

With all of this I also have a mind for thinking and a heart that feels. How could I feel anything but the blessings of The Lord?

Rain

Today it is raining!

For some people that would not be a good thing or a reason to celebrate. But it is for me. We live in a desert and it has been very desert-like this winter. And the dry weather has continued into the spring. Our usually snow covered mountains have been much barer than usual. Our earth is parched and dry. Lawns already look stressed and yellow, even as the spring green is beginning to peek out of the winter cold.

I hauled hoses yesterday afternoon in an attempt to offer moisture to the dry land we call ours. I did not make it around the whole yard. But I sure felt glad that I could provide water to some of the yellow lawn.

But today, I do not have to lug around a hose because the Master Gardener is working on our little corner of the world. He is bringing the moisture that my lawn needs. Heavenly Father is providing much needed rain for farmers and ranchers who depend on the soil for their livelihood.

God has answered our prayers and respected our offering of fasting for water. And I hope it rains all day! I am grateful for his goodness and his blessings on me and all who have sought his help as we face a summer of drought. Every single drop is a blessing. For me the rain is truly a miracle, because I do not know how to make it rain. It is not something that I can control. Only God can turn on the blessed water and only God can turn it off.

Though I have work to do, I have stood on my front porch and watched the rain. I have listened to the sounds the drops make as they land on my roof, my car, and my driveway. I have watched as the thirsty earth drinks in the drops from heaven. I think I could almost hear it breath a sigh of relief and offer of words of appreciation.

We live on a magical planet. Our earth knows how to follow the commands of the Master. Mountains rise and waters flow. Volcanoes erupt and hurricanes blow. Rocks tumble and portions of the earth shakes. Oceans flow in and out. Tornadoes blow and hurricanes swell. The earth rotates and the sun and moon provide light.

All this and more happens because He who knows more than any of us is in charge of the world. He has a master plan, and we are each a part of that plan. All this was done to give me an opportunity to walk and learn and struggle and strive on this beautiful earth.

I love spring!  I love the greening of the grass and blossoming trees. I delight in the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths that slowly creep to the surface. I love my purple rock cress that splashes color in my yard. Leaves and budding trees make me smile. The raspberries begin to grow and the asparagus is coming too. And the pea seed is growing in my garden.

Spring reminds me of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and Infinite Atonement. He was willing to do for me what I could not possible do for myself. I see the Love of God surrounding me as I walk among His beautiful creations. I hear His voice in the birds that fly and sing with joy at the awakening of the world. I feel Christ's love as the new birth of spring recalls for me that He too rose from the earth to live again and the miracle that His resurrection created for all the earth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

General Conference

I love to listen to the words of Apostles, Prophets, and other wise leaders who teach during the Semi-Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I look forward with anticipation to those opportunities and pray that my heart will be prepared to receive the messages that are intended for me. I clearly recognize that The Holy Ghost is my teacher and that if I am ready to receive, I will learn things that are perfectly suited to my needs, no matter the season of life.

I also know that if I am not prepared, or if I am distracted, over tired, or cross and grumpy, I may learn absolutely nothing. That does not mean that there is nothing of value available, it simply indicates that I have cut off my avenue and opportunity to learn. Fortunately in this day and age, with the miracles of technology available to me, I have many opportunities to listen to Heavenly Father's messages over and over. And I do. I need the spiritual food!  I am one of the struggling lambs, often spiritually starving and struggling to become someone who is better than my nature.

Conference was a spiritual feast!  There was a bountiful array of things for me to learn. I enjoyed each session more than the one before. And I was just plain sad when it ended. No one talk stood out for me at the end of conference. Sometimes there will be one or two that I know I cannot wait to listen to again. But I simply started at the beginning to listen to the talks when time allowed.

Fast forward a few days and I found myself wounded, broken, and tearful. Misjudged and accused, I felt betrayed and stabbed in the back. I was caught in between a rock and a hard spot - finding no way to turn. I felt abandoned and very much alone.  I knew that there was not one thing I could do about the situation I was in because nothing that I could do would bring good results. The Spirit of God told me very clearly that there was nothing I could do. And in the meantime, my heart was broken and my soul ached.

Though I was at peace with the profound understanding that I needed to remain silent, if felt so unfair and wrong to take blame that was not really mine to carry. It felt so wrong that I carried the unseen wounds without offering a single word in my defense. But I did.

I did all I knew how to do to make others feel right about the situation, accepting full responsibility and offering my sincere apologies. And I thought to myself how bitter it tasted to me. In my heart I remembered the bitter cup that Jesus Christ drank for me and for all of us. He did not have to drink, but He did, because He loved us all. I clearly realized that His cup made my small suffering minuscule, not even a drop in the cup of comparison. But the natural, selfish me suffered still.

And I turned on General Conference again. I just started where I had left off and listened as I carried on with the joyous task of scrubbing my bathroom.

And a miracle occurred for me. In an instant the words of a talk changed my heart. The words my ears heard, sank deep into my heart. And my heart was healed. I was instantly blessed with the gift of forgiveness. I recognized it for exactly what it was then and now. It was a straight up Gift from God. Through the power of The Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ, my wound was gone and with it all the sorrow, heartache, and bitterness. Vanished!

I listened to that talk again and a third time immediately to savor the sweet words that filled my heart, suturing the wounds. I have listened to it since then, finding such power and wisdom for me. And as I tell my simple tale, I am struck with the wonder of it again, how my heart was changed instantly through the Grace and Mercy of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

For me it is another evidence of Godly Power but also of Godly Love.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Atonement

Since Easter and The General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints shared the same weekend, it is hard for me to decide which direction this blog should go. I try to listen to The Holy Ghost teach me what I should say with my fingers. And as I began to type, I think I understood that I was perhaps heading in a different direction than I should. So about face, forward, type.

The thought came quickly, and clearly, to my mind that it is The Atonement of The Savior Jesus Christ that is most significant of the two events. Without The Atonement, there would be no Easter and there would be no general conference and there would be no church and there would be no prophet. There would be no Bible or Book of Mormon. We would not have the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price.

There would be no need to gather around a television to listen to prophets and other wise and experienced leaders speak about Jesus Christ. There would be no bearing of testimonies, no counsel, no instruction, or no warning. There would be no need. For without Jesus Christ and His Infinite Atonement, there would be no hope and no need to become anything but what we are. There would be no need to strive to do anything or to change anything or overcome anything.

Sunday evening I had a wonderful Facetime chat with my sweet sister and we talked about our faith and our beliefs. I know me fairly well, having lived with myself longer than I care to count. I know my tendencies and my flaws. If I did not believe in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost, I would be different. If there were no Atonement, why would I try to do anything that was hard, challenging, or required effort?

Why?

I shared with my sister my own selfishness. It is very real! If I had no faith or belief, why would I do anything that was not immediately rewarding for me personally?  Why would I care about the feelings or needs of anyone else? Why would I sacrifice or give up anything I wanted? Why would I ever compromise or negotiate?

Truth is - I would rule and reign in selfishness!

I would do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, and not care who it hurt. I would come and go as I please. I would not pray or read scriptures. I would not work at being kind. I would eat what I wanted and drink what I wanted and care nothing for the consequences. For if this life is all there is - I would want to do it all FOR ME!

In her kindness, my sister disagreed with this assessment of myself. But I really believe that I would be looking out solely for number one, if in my soul I believed that this life is all there is.

But my soul feels deeply the need for The Atonement. I cling to it and hold onto it with both hands. I seek the companionship of The Holy Ghost. I pray for His presence with me. I ponder the scriptures and listen to prophets, trying to identify what I need to work on today. I work to overcome my own selfishness, pride, and laziness. You see, my nature really is to be lazy. Not just physically but also spiritually. It requires effort on my part to not just be lazy.

So in essence, it is the blessing of The Atonement that stands me up and keeps me going. It is The Atonement that moves me forward and helps me rise when I have been knocked down. It is The Atonement that I cling to in moments (many of them) of weakness and sorrow. It is The Atonement that causes my sorrow when I have offended and binds my wounds when others offend me. It is The Atonement that drives me to try to become something different than I really am.

We had no Easter candy or eggs. There was no ham or lamb. But the real value of Easter was present in my heart, for I believe it really is all about The Savior Jesus Christ and His Infinite Atonement.