"There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah"
2 Nephi 2:8 (The Book of Mormon)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Child is This?

This is my final post of 2011!!!
Please join me February 12, 2012 when I will resume posting :)
Merry Christmas!  and Happy New Year!!!

A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 7
(Biblical references are from the King James Version)

In the year 325 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine, convened a council of bishops, to try to unite the many squabbling factions of Christianity in his newly conquered kingdom.  The chief issue of debate at this council was the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.  Plato's assertion that there is but one Good (what Christians related to God) and but one Absolute had weaved it's way into the belief system of many in the church.  Through heated contention and much debate... the Nicene Creed, which contains the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, was born.  Taking it a step further, the Athanasian Creed, embraced by Christian churches in the sixth century, was first to explicitly state the equality of the three persons of the Trinity and to pronounce eternal condemnation on those who fail to worship "One God in Trinity".

This post New-Testament view, that Christ is His Father, became a key component in testing the orthodoxy of Christian religion.  The "mystery of the Trinity", that "the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods, but one and that all three are incomprehensible, yet it is one God that is incomprehensible"... is truly incomprehensible to me!  This doctrine, formulated after the Church's own declaration that the heavens had been closed and that revelation had ceased, seems to fly in the face of scriptural record.  Harper's Bible Dictionary, written by 180 members of the Society of Biblical Literature and edited by Paul J Achtemier, states "the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament]." 

What does the Bible teach us about the nature of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are one in perfect unity, harmony, and purpose of doctrine.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:  that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings.

The Baptism of Jesus Christ

The Mount of Transfiguration

The Martyrdom of Stephen

Jesus Christ operated as Creator under the direction of His Father.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.


Jesus is literally (not metaphorically) the Son of God.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:  therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ submitted to the will of His Father, not His own, in descending below all things.

And he said, Abba, Father, (Aramaic for "Papa, Papa") all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me:  nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are similar in appearance.

 "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"

How does the man-made doctrine of the Trinity interfere with God's desires for His children?

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

The idea that God is mysterious and incomprehensible by definition means that it is impossible to know Him and impossible for us to learn and understand His qualities and attributes.  This thwarts and ultimately nullifies our ability to form a relationship with Him and to obtain eternal life as defined by the Savior Himself.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:  but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

One of God's chief purposes in sending us here to this earth, is to give us the opportunity to grow and develop so that we can become like Him.  As the Savior said, This is life eternal.  If He is an incomprehensible mystery without passions or parts, How then can we know Him?  How then can we become pure even as He is?  How then can we become like Him?  Consider how beautiful the feeling of belonging, kinship and love we can feel in our hearts as we read in Genesis:
And God (The Father) said (to His Son, Jesus Christ), Let us create man in our image, after our likeness:
Genesis 1:26

I testify that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct and separate beings, unified in perfect harmony and purpose.  It is my testimony that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God.  I testify that His Father sent Him to earth to teach us and show us how to know and become like the Father.  It is through the grace of Jesus Christ and the incomparable gift of the Atonement that this is possible for all who will receive it.  

I testify that we can come to know our God and Father as we sincerely seek to know Him.  It is entirely possible for us to know our brother and Savior, as He himself commanded us, saying, "Learn of me" (Matt 11:29).  We come to know Him more and more as we strive to obtain and keep His commandments, for He has given us the tremendous promise that as we do so, He will manifest Himself to us! (John 14:21)  I testify that it is through the Holy Ghost that the true nature of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are made known.  I testify that the process of learning and becoming is a gradual one.  This quest requires a life-time of faith-filled dedication and re-dedication.  

I testify that YOU are a precious child of God and that His greatest desire is for you to come to know Him and thereby live with Him eternally.  May God bless you in your efforts to draw near unto Him.  To those who seek Him, His promise is sure.... "Ye shall find Me!"(D&C 88:63, 2 Chr.15:12, 15)


  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 6



The Old Testament prophet, Amos, teaches:
Surely the Lord God will do nothing
but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
 Amos 3:7
In Ephesians 2:19-20 Paul declares:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, 
but fellow citizens with the saints, and the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, 
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone

Paul further teaches:
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever
Hebrews 13:8

Today Lord, I ask thee to help me 
to hear and recognize thy voice!

I love that God is a God of consistency!  He has established His pattern and doesn't waiver from it.  As I study the Bible, I see a clear method which he has laid out.  He wants for those who seek Him to know how to find Him.  This is the very reason He has kept and preserved His word since the Creation.

Knowing that the Father loves His children who live on the earth today with the same fervor as those who lived in the times of Abraham, Elijah and Amos... it makes sense to me that He would continue to communicate with and guide us through these perilous, last days.  It is my testimony that God, being the same yesterday, today and forever, speaks to His children in present times, the same way that He always has.  It is also my testimony that each of His children are provided the means to have this truth confirmed in their own mind and  heart.  Each of us have access to the power of the Holy Ghost as a convincing witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to be led by His prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.  As I listen to Him warn, guide and counsel, I hear the voice of my Father leading me in paths of truth and safety.

Christ warns us to beware of false prophets.  He tells us exactly how we can detect them.  Remember, He has laid out His pattern in plainness so that those who truly seek Him can find Him.  He teaches:

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit;  
neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
For every tree is known by his own fruit.
Luke 6:44-45

I invite you to study out the prophets of the Latter-days.  Judge for yourself if they bear the fruits of the Spirit.(see Galatians 5:22-23)  Prayerfully seek confirmation through the power of the Holy Ghost with real intent to act in accordance with the answer you receive.  I testify that the gifts which I have received in my own life as I have embraced the words of all of the prophets of God, are indeed the promised fruits of the Spirit.  My soul has literally been filled to overflowing with, love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.

I am so blessed to hear the voice of my Father clearly and lovingly guiding me through my earthly journey... home to Him. To you I ask... "Do You Hear What I Hear?".


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You See What I See?

A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 5
In 2nd Corinthians, Paul teaches,
"...We look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal; 
but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Today Lord, I ask thee to help me view my life through the lens of eternity.  Help me to see thy hand and purpose in all things.  Help me to live in gratitude and praise.

Have you ever walked into a room and had someone say to you, "Do you see that couch over there?  Do you see what I see?"  I don't know for sure, but I feel reasonably comfortable in assuming that this has not been your experience... at least... it's never happened to me.  On the other hand, have you ever been around someone who expresses overwhelming gratitude and praise at the sight of a fiery sunset and silently thought, "Calm down, it's a sunset!  It happens every night around this time."?  Have you ever felt perplexed as you've watched someone connect deeply with the stranger behind the cash register?  Have you ever sat in a sermon dying for it to end only to turn and find the bewildering sight of another parishioner having a profound and moving experience?  Have you ever watched with impatience as a parent lovingly comforts and soothes an out of control, shrieking beast?  Have you ever marveled at the strength and vision of a friend who faces a painful and difficult situation with hope and assurance?  Each of these people seem to say, "Do You See What I See?"  


As we consciously choose to view our day-to-day experiences and interactions with an eternal perspective, our meager lives become transformed into journeys filled with divine purpose and tender mercy.  We gain an underlying sense of peace and hope.  We become filled with gratitude, because we see God's hand in all things and feel His love permeate each moment of our days.  The sunset, that so many drive past and miss, becomes an overwhelming evidence of His matchless power and love.  The woman at the register becomes a precious child of God, who perhaps you might be His instrument in communicating sufficiency and love to.  That never-ending sermon, becomes less about the dullness of the speaker and more about dropping the petty criticism and working in the spirit to receive the message your Father desires to bless you with.  The screaming child, becomes a precious instrument in His hands to help you develop patience and compassion founded in godly love.  That trial, which you never would have volunteered for, becomes a blessed opportunity to rely more fully upon your Savior and to have the characteristics of God weaved into the fabric of your soul.


Have you ever wondered how it is even possible that anyone on the planet, let alone so many, could have missed the "star in the east"?  How was it so visible to the wise men who knew that following it would lead them to the Savior of the world?  Perhaps their ability to "see" the hand of the Divine is what made them so wise.  

If you had been on the earth at that time, would you have been one who saw that remarkable sign of God's love?  
In the present, what do you see when you gaze into the night sky?  

I believe that the answer to the first lies in how you answer the second.  Looking into the heavens, do you feel the ever-presence of your Father and His unchanging love?  Do you feel overcome with a sense of reverence, awe, and gratitude?  Do you see His infinite power and vision?  Do You See What I See?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mary Did You Know?

My Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 4

In the first chapter of Luke, we read
26-And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent 
from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27-To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, 
of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28-And the angel came in unto her, and said, 
Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: 
blessed art thou among women.
29-And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, 
and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

Today Lord, I commit to more fully trust in thy will for my life.  I choose today to live in faith and to move forward in thy strength and vision.  I want to be an instrument in thy hands. 

30- And the angel said unto her, 
Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 

How does one find favour with God?  Each soul is precious in the sight of God... precious enough that Christ suffered unfathomable grief and pain for each individual who has ever or who will ever come to this earth.  To be favoured is more than to be precious in His sight.  We learn in the scriptures that those who set their hearts upon the things of God are chosen of Him.  In Proverbs, we learn that those who have truth and mercy written on the tablets of their hearts are blessed and favoured of God.  I always tell my kids, 
"If you want to be chosen of God... CHOOSE (action verb) God!"

31- And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32- He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.
33- And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Clearly, up to this point in her life, Mary had no idea that she would become the mother of the Son of God.  She was troubled by what the angel revealed unto her.  In other words... she couldn't wrap her mind around God's vision for her life. 
How did Mary resolve her concern? 

34- Then Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
She asked for further light and understanding with the intent to have her vision expanded... not to talk God out of His plan for her life.
35- And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God

37- For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38- And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word...
39- And Mary arose...
Because of her humility, her willingness to be used by the Father, and her desire to have His will made manifest in her life, she was able to receive the further light and understanding He wished to bless her with.  We don't know if this completely resolved her "troubled" feelings or not, but we do know that at this point, she chose to move forward in faith.  Faith that her life was in God's hands, and faith that His infinite vision for her life was better than what she had previously imagined and planned for herself.
Each of us face times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed, confused, or downright fearful of what the Father is asking us to do.

As the time for the Savior to atone for our sins drew near, He felt the weight of what it was He was about to experience. He prayed,

Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: 
nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.
Luke 22:42

He felt the fear, yet chose to move forward in faith.  Because of His perfect love for and trust in His Father, and also His perfect love for each of us, he completed the incomprehensible mission He had been sent to accomplish.  I praise Him and honor Him for His courage, strength and sacrifice!

Father, I invite thy will into my life.  I glory in thy will and trust that thou knows how to best grow and develop me into the person worthy of thy promised glories yet unseen!  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Receive The Gift!!!

A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 3

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, Christ teaches,
"For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  
Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift."
D&C 88:33

Lord, today I ask thee to help me recognize the gifts which thou hast filled my life with.  Help me to live in praise and gratitude... thanking thee in all things!

Several years ago I was studying in the 31st chapter of 2nd Nephi when I came across the phrase, "relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save".  These words pierced me to my very core.  I thought, "What does relying wholly upon Him look like?" "What or who might compete with Him for my complete reliance?" and "How can I more fully rely upon Him?"  Since that night I have pondered on this principle regularly.  I have experienced healing and empowerment as I have learned to more fully embrace and rely upon His merits.

The primary person I identified that competes with the Savior for my full reliance was me.  I recognized that I was frequently weighted down with feelings of inadequacy, particularly in the roles that I had been called to by God himself.  I felt inadequate in my roles as a wife and mother, as well as in the church calling I held at the time.  When I would be asked to teach or speak, I would study, pray and prepare my heart out, give the lesson or talk and then be racked with regret of what I should have or could have said.  Learning to identify this pattern of thought as faithless reliance upon myself and my own merits has been key in opening the floodgates of Jesus Christ's grace, or enabling power, in my life.  Learning that what I thought was humility, is actually faithless ingratitude, has brought an overwhelming perspective of gratitude into my heart.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been given the specific set of gifts my Father endowed me with.  I recognize that He has called me to a specific time, place and group of people to play a specific role in building up His kingdom here on earth.  I recognize that I still have a long way to go in developing these gifts, but am confident that as I do my best and seek His grace, the Savior will make up the difference.
Paul gloried in his weakness because it allowed the grace of the Savior to more fully rest upon him; therefore, when he was weak, he was actually strong.  Do you feel the power in this principle?  Can you imagine the freedom that will come as you learn to shed the weight of inadequacy in your own life?  It is such a beautiful and exciting principle!

Please accept my heartfelt invitation to consider and ponder on this truth.  As you make it a matter of personal study and prayer the Holy Ghost will illuminate your mind and help you to identify places where you aren't relying wholly upon "He who is mighty to save" just yet.  What an incredible gift to give not only to yourself, but also to those with whom you serve and associate.  Think of the effect that an army of faith filled, righteous men and women, endowed with sufficiency in Christ, could have on their community.  Gone would be the days of training up our children to be inadequate themselves!  Wow!  What a gift!!!

"We then as workers together with Christ, 
beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."
2 Corinthians 6:1

How do I talk about myself and the gifts my Father has given me?

What am I modeling for those I have been called to serve? 

Where can I more fully rely upon Jesus Christ? 

God's Reward At Christ's Expense

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him- Part 2






A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 2



Through the prophet Jeremiah, Christ invites, "... call upon me... and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you... Seek me, and ye shall find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

Today Lord, I commit my heart a little more fully to searching for Thee and I trust that I will find Thee!

Why does establishing or deepening my relationship with the Savior even matter???
The answer to this question lies in understanding a couple of simple truths; first, who He is and second who You are.  Today, let's seek deeper understanding of who You are.  As you prayerfully consider the following, listen for the new or deeper understanding God waits to bless you with. I trust that much of what you learn will not be written on this page!
Who Am I?
Let's look at Romans 8:16-18.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, 
that we are the children of God:

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, 
and joint-heirs with Christ; 
if so be that we suffer with Him, 
that we may be also glorified together.

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

Understanding that each of us, along with Christ, are literally children of God helps us know how to live in peace and joy.  Christ taught that "A house divided against itself cannot stand".  Divine beings need divine sustenance!  It is obvious that you wouldn't feed the shell of your soul, your body, poison... even in the smallest degrees!  Why then do we not recognize the destruction we do to the core of our soul, our spirit,  when we feed it the poison of vice and sin?  When we choose a steady diet of Godly pursuits, we live in harmony with our true self and our spirits become strengthened and enlarged!  It's a beautiful thing!

Understanding that we are literally here to become joint-heirs with our brother, Jesus Christ... glorified together, should fill each of us with a deep sense of divine identity and purpose.  

Understanding that the key to obtaining "all that the Father hath" is suffering with Christ as opposed to suffering without Christ, speaks comfort and peace to my soul.  Christ invites us to "Take my yoke upon you... and ye shall find rest for your souls." Matt 11:29 

I have absolutely experienced this in my life!  Inevitably, each of us will go through times of suffering.  As we choose to rely upon our brother, we will find not only our relationship with Him strengthened but also our own character refined and enlarged because of the blessed opportunity to struggle.  Exercising the faith to rely upon Him and then reaping the fruits of divine connection and power lead to greater assurance and peace in our future struggles.  We learn to trust in His purpose for our lives and to quit worrying so much about our limited vision.

Do I trust my Father's purpose for my life, or do I feel a sense of anxiety and frustration when He takes me places I hadn't anticipated?

So... back to the original question... "Why does establishing or deepening a relationship with the Savior even matter?"  Because every ounce of peace and joy (note that I didn't say pleasure) that we will achieve in this life time... as well as the life to come... hinges on our relationship with Him!  As we live in harmony with His teachings and His example... we live in harmony with our true self.  This creates a greater sense of inner peace,  a deeper love for our brothers and sisters, and an outlook of hope and joy.

What are the less than godly activities I need to purge from my life to live in greater harmony with my Savior as well as with my core?  (This could be as simple as negative thoughts/speaking of myself and/or others)



Is the faith, effort and discipline this endeavor will require worth it to draw nearer to Him and to have a greater sense of inner peace?

Remember... You aren't meant to do this alone!!!  Remember Christ's mission and trust that He has the power to heal you, liberate you, comfort you and transform you! Learn to identify the adversary as the source of hopelessness and frustration.  Don't give Him your power!  A good indication that you are working in the Savior will be a sense of peace with where you are at in your process and hope that with Him, you will get to where He has you going!  Learn to find joy in your journey with Him! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him- Part 1

Welcome!!! I am so excited that you have decided to join me in this week-long effort to draw closer to the Savior.  I trust that as we proceed through this week, consciously choosing to turn our hearts and thoughts to Him, that this Christmas will become a time of renewal and our celebration of Him will be deep and meaningful.  Each morning, I will share my testimony of Him and ask you questions designed to help you dig a little deeper.  I will use several of my favorite posts from last year's week long walk, and will be writing some new ones as well.  

Please feel free to share this walk with friends and family...
and
Please feel free to share your thoughts and insight as this exchange enriches all of us!!!

A Week-Long Walk With Christ
Day 1

Through the prophet Jeremiah, Christ invites, "... call upon me... and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you... Seek me, and ye shall find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

Today Lord, I commit my heart a little more fully to searching for Thee and I trust that I will find Thee!



Why does establishing or deepening my relationship with the Savior even matter???

The answer to this question lies in understanding a couple of simple truths; first, who He is and second who You are.  Today, let's seek deeper understanding of who He is.  As you prayerfully consider the following, listen for the new or deeper understanding God waits to bless you with. I trust that much of what you learn will not be written on this page!

Who is He?

Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God the only begotten in the flesh.  He came to this earth to save us from our lost and fallen state as we journey through this life separated from God our Father.  The purpose of our time here on Earth is to gain experience and demonstrate to our Father the desires of our hearts which He has promised to grant us.  The choice is ours... to receive the fulness of God's glory or to yield to the enticings of the devil and settle for far less.  The preferable choice seems obvious... it actually is... but the tricky part lies in our actual demonstration of our desires.  Do I prefer Godly, virtuous activity or am I more drawn to the worldly and risque???  God, knowing that each of us would fall desperately short of His exalted standard, sent His Son to make up the difference between our inadequacy and God's perfection. Of His mission the Savior said,

"He (God) hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to them that are bound... to comfort all that mourn... to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for heaviness..." Isaiah:61:1-3

From this we learn that He has the power to:
Heal you--- What are my wounds?
Liberate you--- What am I in bondage to?
Comfort you--- What are my fears, concerns, and heartaches?
Transform--- That which is damaged or destroyed in your life into beauty
                      Your grief into joy
                      Your burdens into blessings and praise

Do I take Christ at His word and trust that He can fulfill His mission in my flawed soul???

Tomorrow we will look at "Who You Really Are".  I can't wait!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Worthy Celebration

Is it really already December?  This year has been an intense exercise in "seeking and finding" for me.  It has been a profound privilege for me to search out the will of my Father concerning this blog... which officially began the week of Christmas almost a year ago.  Each week, I have spent 2 to 4 hours in the process of seeking inspiration and then working in the spirit to formulate the message the Father would have me receive and communicate.  This process has been both time and energy consuming, yet any personal sacrifice I have made pales in comparison with the outpouring of enlightenment the Father has blessed me with.  I have felt His love and mindfulness at new depths which has left me forever changed.

So here you and I stand at the start of another Christmas season!   Christ's birth marked the entry of the Savior into His mortal ministry.  He came to do His Father's will.  His mission was to teach, to heal and ultimately to overcome... saving each of us from the bonds of sin and death!  Nothing could be more deserving of jubilant celebration!

I invite you to look for ways to more fully honor and reverence Him this blessed December.  Without determined focus on the Savior, Christmas easily becomes a stress filled, over booked, over spent time of year. The precious opportunity to experience His peace and love is lost leaving us with little more than a messy house to show for our effort.

Look for Him in the symbols of Christmas which are all around you.  Listen for Him in the beautiful carols which fill the air.  Consciously choose to take time to be still to feel Him. As you make this effort to draw near unto Him, I promise and testify that He will draw near unto you!  You and those you love will experience a Christmas season that refreshes you in His strength, soothes you in His peace and fills you with His love.  Please... PLEASE... make this a matter of prayerful consideration.

I have included a list of the symbols of Christmas.  Each year, Todd and I take an evening early in the month to pull these symbols from our treasure box and discuss them with our family.  It is a wonderfully simple way to help each of us remember Him as we go about our daily business.

I will take next Sunday off from posting and will be back for the "Week-long Walk With Christ" beginning Sunday, December 18th, concluding Christmas day!!!

The Symbols of Christmas

Star-  The star is the heavenly sign of promise.  God promised a Savior- the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise.  The countless shining stars now show the burning hope of all mankind.

Candle and Lights-  The mirror of starlight is candlelight.  The candle represents man's thanks for the star of promise and the Light of Christ.  In former days candles were used to decorate the Christmas tree.  Today we use lights and these too remind us of the star that led to the newborn King.
Tree-  The Christmas Tree is evergreen representing everlasting life.  The tree and needles point heavenward- symbolic of man turning his heart and thoughts towards God.  Green is the color of life.

Bell-  Lost sheep are found by the tinkling of the bell.  As Christmas bells ring, man is reminded to return to the fold.  We know that the Spirit will guide us.  The bell is the symbol of guidance.

Candy Cane-  The shepherd uses his crook to gently bring a straying lamb into the flock.  The candy cane is in the form of a shepherd's crook and reminds us that we are our brother's keeper.  Red reminds us of the blood and love of Christ.  White reminds us of His purity.  Turn the candy cane upside-down and see the letter "J" for Jesus. 

Gift-  We give gifts at Christmas time to remind us of the glorious gift God gave to us... His Only Begotten Son.  Three kings brought gifts for the newborn babe.  We can give our gift to Jesus by honoring His sacrifice through our good works.

Bow-  The bow reminds us of the brotherhood of man.  It is tied as we should be tied--all of us together with the bonds of goodwill toward each other.  Good will is the message of the bow.

Wreath-  The circle of the wreath represents the eternal nature of each of us.  May we live our lives at all times with our eye on eternity.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not of This World

As the Savior's final days in mortality were coming to a close, He felt it important to prepare His disciples for the rejection and reviling they would experience as they carried forth His work.  

17- These things I command you that ye love one another.
18- If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15
Honestly setting their expectation would enable them them to continue on loving as He did without taking personal offense.

1-These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2-They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, 
that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
John 16

As a Latter-day Saint, I find it remarkable that Christ told His disciples that not only would they be hated of the "world" or the non-believers... but also... by those who felt they were in the service of God.  

When I was a young child, my father was a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  You may be aware that Provo has a large population of those who share my faith.  He graduated when I was 10 and his new career took our family to the suburbs of St. Louis.  Among the many cultural adjustments to make for our family, the sparse number of Latter-day Saints and the large number of Christians who viewed our faith unfavorably, was chief.   We felt a fellow-discipleship with so many, but quickly realized that our feeling of honor for their religious views was a one way affinity.  I remember one night, my parents discussing in amazement an extermination order against the Mormons which had been removed from Missouri's law books less than a decade prior to our arrival.  

It was there in St. Peters, Missouri, that I progressed from 5th grade through to my high school graduation.  It was an incredible place to grow from a child, in both the physical and spiritual sense, to a young adult.  I was blessed to make many... many, friends who were instrumental in helping me grow and develop in my faith.  I had a small, strong group of LDS friends and a large, incredible group of friends who did not share my system of belief.  

It was a common occurrence to hear a teacher present incorrect information about Mormon beliefs and practices in school.  I remember being deeply disturbed by this in a 7th grade history class, but not having the confidence to speak up.  I went home and shared this experience with my mom, who then took me back to the school to talk to the teacher.  This experience was horrifying and enlightening all at the same time.  As I watched my mom's respectful and confident approach in sharing correct information, I began to learn how to stand up for my beliefs.

By the time I reached high school, my teachers and peers would openly ask me questions about my faith as part of classroom discussion.  I cannot adequately express the depth of gratitude I feel for the blessed opportunity to grow up in that environment.  To this day, I feel such love and fondness for the people of St. Louis and the life lessons I learned there. 

Most Latter-day Saints know what it feels like to pass through a crowd of jeering protestors when attending any large church gathering.  The signs about Hell, the pamphlets filled with misguided animosity... these are simply part of the turf that comes with membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.  The attack on the Christianity of a faith, which proclaims Jesus Christ himself to be the chief cornerstone, continues to perplex me to this day.

A couple of years ago, Todd and I took our children to the Mesa Easter Pageant. This is a beautiful, outdoor play, depicting the life and sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  I didn't give the protesters who were yelling and holding up their signs a second thought.  Todd and I visited with friends, while my children were off playing as we waited for the program to begin.  It was a reality check for me when my then 8 year old came up to me, with tears in his eyes, and asked in a quivering voice, why the protesters were saying that we were going to Hell.  I grabbed his little hand and said, "Let's go over and see what they are saying."  

Together we walked over and read the signs and listened to to hateful things one preacher in particular was yelling.  I asked my son, 
"Does that seem like something that Jesus would do?"  
He responded, "No."  
I proceeded to tell him, that part of being a follower of the Savior and carrying His cross means that some people will hate you, and they will say mean things to you...  
This is the walk of the Savior.  

I asked Him if he thought that God was happy with his decision to be at the pageant that night. He replied, "Yes."  
"That is all that matters, Son... That is ALL that matters!"  

When others revile us because of our discipleship, we count it an honor to be persecuted for Christ's sake.  There is absolutely no need to take personal offense!  It is simply an opportunity to grow in Christ-like love.  This is the pattern established by Jesus Christ himself! It is the pattern that was boldly carried forward by the likes of Peter and Paul.  It is the pattern which continues on through apostles and disciples of these last days.  It is the pattern which will continue on until the Savior comes again!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Abide in Me

a·bide[uh-bahyd]  verb, a·bode or a·bid·ed, a·bid·ing.

1. to dwell; rest; continue; stand firm

In the 15th chapter of John, the Savior bids...
4- Abide in me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, 
except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  
5- I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in  him, 
the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing.
6- If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered and men 
gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 

  Christ is the true vine.  He is the source of life here and now, and life everlasting.  Whether we recognize it to be the case or not, the reality is, that as branches, if we are not connected to Him... we cannot live.  Without Him, the lost soul withers and dies. 

How does one abide in Him and receive of His life giving sustenance?
The Savior continues...

10- If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have 
kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11- These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might 
remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

The Savior's invites us to live in harmony with Him (keep His commandments) so that we can dwell in Him and receive His joy.  How does this work?

Christ is our older brother.  As children of God, each of us have the very essence of our Father within us.  In our core... we are like Him.  When we live in harmony with Him we live in harmony with our true selves.  When we live contrary to His law, we live contrary to our own soul, becoming a house divided against itself.  Our ability (or lack thereof) to comprehend, accept, or believe this truth does not effect it's reality!  This is why there is no internal peace for the lost soul.  This is why worldly pursuits are filled with scarcity leaving the seeker empty and searching for the next endeavor.  

As we learn to abide in the Savior, we find that in Him lie sufficiency, peace and rest.  A distant memory is illuminated within our spirit and we come to recognize that in deed we have found our home.  In Him we find strength, purpose and vision to fill the measure of our creation.  We begin to see ourselves the way the Father sees us... which expands our view of each individual with whom we associate.  Our desire to love and to serve grows and we begin to produce the promised fruit of the Savior.  This abundance fills the soul with joy to overflowing.  This is the fullness He promises if we will but abide in Him!

What a gift!  What a privilege it is!... to dwell, to rest, to continue in and to stand firm in the Savior, Jesus Christ! 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gratitude

My life is so very blessed!  I find myself in constant amazement at God's goodness and generosity with me.  He has filled my life with abundance.  The foundational gift for all that is wonderful in my life is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Coming to know Him and striving to be like Him, fills my life with purpose, clarity and focus.  In today's world, it is so easy to get sidetracked from the things which really matter... the things which bring lasting peace and satisfaction.  To-do lists can quickly take over and suffocate out any joy our Father waits to bless us with.

As I view my days through the lens of eternity, those precious things which really matter, become the priority for how I use my time.  What are my priorities?  Relationships.  My relationship with my Father and His Son.  My relationship with my husband and my babes.  My relationship with those He has blessed me to have association with.

Several years ago a good friend suggested to me that at the start of each day, as I organize my list of things to accomplish... that I should prayerfully identify my purpose for the day and place that at the top of my list... before even the first task.  She then suggested that as I work through my daily chores I keep in my focus that number one priority.

Though I don't physically write out a to-do list, mentally, this exercise has created a powerful and freeing image in my mind.  Everything I do must contribute to that purpose and nothing I do should detract from it.  Over time my Father has helped me develop a deep sense of clarity as to what my number one priority for each day must be.  He has helped me recognize that EVERYTHING I do is secondary to qualifying for His Spirit.  This requires constant, even fierce focus and effort.  As I do my part though and ask Him to lead and guide each word I speak and each thing I do... a beautiful thing happens. I become an instrument in His hands in behalf of each person with whom I associate, particularly Todd and my children.

Clearly... I haven't perfected this skill just yet, but one of the beautiful fruits of this effort is the feeling of hope, in HIM, that I will eventually get there.  In the mean time, He blesses me with sweet confirmation that my efforts are enough... once again... because of HIS goodness and mercy. 

I literally, "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me".  His example of patience and gentleness are inspirational to me! His peace is incomparable! His mercy and love... incomprehensible!

Isn't it beautiful that we have a season to give thanks for our many blessings?  Isn't it wonderful that from here we move into a season of celebration of the ultimate gift which makes all of that possible?  I invite you to prayerfully consider what it is that He sent you here to do and then to let nothing, no matter how big or small, get in your way of fulfilling that purpose. He undoubtedly has an amazing work for YOU which no one else can do!  As we enter this time of year... may our days be filled with reflection on His perfect love for each of us individually.  May we then move forward to extend that love to each and every person with whom we associate. He waits to bless us in our efforts!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Peace I Give Unto You

Continuing on with the Savior's teachings from the Last Supper.

If ye love me keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth... but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
John 14:15-18

Christ, knowing that He would soon be leaving His mortal walk with the disciples, assured them that He would not leave them comfortless.  In these verses, He teaches them that if they will keep His commandments, the Holy Ghost will abide with them just as the Savior had done during His mortal ministry.  Further, He promised the additional blessing of having the Comforter to dwell in them.  Think of the added strength that could come because of this internal companionship.  

In later verses He explained that 
"...the Holy Ghost... shall teach you all things... Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:  not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:26-27

What does the Savior's peace look like?  Think of the constant struggle and opposition Christ faced in His day to day walk.  Nothing came easily for Him, yet He had peace so pure and precious, that He desired it for His most faithful followers.  The peace which emanated from the core of His being was the fruit of His relationship with the Father.  He sought the Father's will, and despite it's extreme difficulty, executed it perfectly.  The formula for "His" peace is learning the will of God and doing it.

Today in Sunday School we discussed the book of Colossians.  In the third chapter, Paul furthers Christ's invitation to receive the Holy Ghost.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts... and be ye thankful
Colossians 3:15

Like God's love, His peace is constant and unwavering.  Our ability to receive and access these precious gifts; however, can be variable.  The foundational principle to "letting" either of these gifts into our hearts is obedience.  When we keep God's law our hearts are open and ready to receive.  We demonstrate trust that His ways are best.  This trust leads to desire to have His will made manifest in our lives.  This desire leads to us to seek out His will.  Through the Holy Ghost He not only whispers direction to our mind and heart, but He endows us with courage and power to meet the task head on.  I am so grateful for the strength and peace which come through this heavenly companion.

At church today, two different women spoke about the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Both offered new insights which were profound and thought provoking for me.  The first sister said "Satan can duplicate a lot of things... but the one thing he can't is the peace that comes through the Holy Ghost."  The second said, "The Holy Ghost whispers because he is close enough for you to hear him if you are listening.  He isn't across the room... He is with you."

I LOVE these truths.  I LOVE that God loves us enough to provide a constant companion who gives us access to Him.  I LOVE that He respects me enough to let me choose if I will "let" Him in or not.  He is never pushy or overbearing, but rather, the perfect example of how a tender parent LOVES and respects His children.  I feel blessed beyond measure (sounds cliche... but I mean it sincerely) to have all of the guidance I will receive in my walk through mortality.  What a gift it is to walk with the Savior!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Savior's Love

Continuing on with the Savior's teachings at the Last Supper...

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love

Last week I invited you to consider why the Savior's invitation to love the way He loves was a new commandment.  Thank you so much Ellen and Martha for sharing your insight.  I have relished the opportunity to ponder on this concept this week.  The greatest distinguishing characteristic I've been able to identify between "loving the way He loves" and the command to "love as we love ourselves"  is that of self consideration.  In the above verses, Christ tells us that He patterned His love for us after the love of the Father.  He tells us that a key component of His love is obedience.  In my own experience, I have found that obedience is rarely the easy, comfortable, or self-serving thing to do.  

Christ's love is perfectly selfless. Not a grain of His motivation towards the Father, or any of us, has ever been influenced by self consideration.  

His willingness to leave His heavenly throne and descend to walk among men in a mortal condition, was prompted by loving obedience to His Father and perfect concern for the welfare of others.  The truths He taught in His mortal walk frequently offended, and still offend those who hear His words.  Even the slightest inclination toward self might lead one to be quiet and not cause offense... in turn reaping the disdain of others.  He boldly and unapologetic-ally spoke the words of the Father (truth) because He knew it was the only way to lead us to our heavenly home.  Do I love others enough to speak truth as directed by the Spirit?

His sacrifice of all personal comfort to heal, succor and lift others is another evidence of His selfless love.  Despite fatigue, He communed with and fed the masses.  Do I love others enough to serve even when my energy is spent?

He went about doing good yet was despised and hated of men.  "He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross." (The Living Christ) Through the final, agonizing steps of His mortal walk He never took personal offense or reviled against those who so horribly abused Him.  His concern was for the welfare of their souls, pleading, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  When I have been wronged, do I focus on my own wounds, or do I love others enough to forgive?

Despite His own trepidation, His willingness to trust in and submit to the will of the Father, drinking the bitter cup, is the ultimate evidence of His perfect love.  He chose to fulfill the mission His Father sent Him here to accomplish.  Descending below all things, He gave himself as a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2), suffering pain no mortal man could bear... because of love... for the Father and for us.  Do I love the Father and others enough follow His will, especially when it is hard or painful?

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
... If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Commandment

Let's continue on with the story of the last hours of the Savior's life.  Picking up where we left off in the post "Is it I?" (Sept.18), let's take a further look at lessons from the Last Supper.  After Judas left to complete his betrayal, the Savior gave further instruction to the remaining 11 disciples.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John: 13:34-35

You will recall with me that the commandment to love had been given thousands of years earlier.

"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..."
Leviticus 19:18

What then is it that distinguishes the "new commandment" from the one that was already on the books?  How is loving as the Savior loves, different from how we love ourselves?  How does that type of love set true disciples of Christ apart from others?  

I feel impressed to open this post up to you!  What do you think?  Please, be brave and share a comment or two with us!  I am really looking forward to reading your thoughts and insights!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Honoring Christ's Sacrifice

One final though (which never really is the final thought :) ) on the questions we have been discussing over the last couple of weeks.  For a complete picture, please read the previous two posts.

How does one honor the sacred gift of Christ's sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross?  We begin by recognizing our complete unworthiness of such a gift!  We come to realize that no matter how hard we try... no matter how much good we do... it could never be enough to bring one into perfect alignment with God.  We embrace the truth taught in numerous places throughout the scriptures, illustrated here by Paul.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast."

In other words, it is grace, not works, which saves usUnderstanding this truth is foundational to honoring His sacrifice... however, it is not all that one must comprehend.

Grace is ALL about the Savior's goodness.  How do we then receive the gift and honor His sacrifice?  Let's look at another truth taught in countless places throughout the scriptures, once again, illustrated here by Paul.

"For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.  For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."

Grace and works are companion principles which combine to paint a complete picture of God's love and desire for His children.  Either principle on it's own is incomplete and unbalanced.  When we focus too much on grace... we begin to believe that our own diligent effort isn't required.  When we swing to the other side of the pendulum and focus to much on our own effort, we diminish the incomparable gift of the Savior!

Because God loves me, He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for my sins.  Because I love Him, I rely completely and wholly on this magnificent gift.  Because He loves me, He expects me to give my best effort in "doing the will of God".  Because I love Him, I strive to be obedient to His will and pattern my life and my works after that of the Savior.

Without grace, the gulf between His perfection and my weakness would be impassable.  Without my own good works, I would fail to receive His gift and there would remain no more sacrifice for my sins.

"It would mock the Savior's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part.  Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Answers for Questions: Part 2 :)

This is part 2 of my response to some questions I have received.  
Please see last week's post for the complete picture:)
___________________________________________________________________
Why do Latter-day Saints follow "rules not found in the Bible"?
Through out the history of the world, God has given prophets to help people navigate the specific circumstances of their day.  Each generation faces challenges and matters unique to their time.  For the people of Noah's day, it was the flood.  For the people of Moses' day, it was bondage in Egypt and the ensuing 40 years in the wilderness.

The direction or "rule" given by the Lord to get on the boat in Noah's day, would not have saved those who lived in Moses' time.  The same is true of those who lived in Enoch's time in regard to the direction or "rules" given through Moses to the Israelites.  While the principles and precepts of the gospel are unchanging from generation to generation- the specific counsel of a loving Father to His children, changes to best help them navigate the times they are called to live in.

People of all ages have chosen to either accept the prophets and their corresponding counsel... or to reject them.  Satan has effectively convinced people in each generation that following the prophet is a sad and restricted life. 
  
I see it very differently!  Can you not imagine, among the many rationalizations to disregard Noah's direction, the thought "This boat will restrict my freedom.  What a sad existence it would be on the ark.  I will stay out here where I can move around freely and come and go as I please."  History teaches us that indeed the ark was the means given to maintain freedom... not to restrict it.  It is my testimony that this principle is applicable to our day as well.  As I have followed the direction or "rules" laid out by latter-day prophets, I have experienced pure enlargement of my freedom... absolutely ZERO restriction here!!!  God's precepts are unchanging, yet His direction is custom tailored to the specific needs of the day.

I want to specifically address the practices you have asked about. 

First, drinking coffee and other addictive "liquids".  God revealed the Word of Wisdom through the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833.  To read it in completeness, click here.  I basically view it as God's program to maintain a healthy body.  Among the things we are counseled to avoid are wine and strong drink and tobacco.  Coffee and alcohol would definitely be included in this list.  God does not promise salvation to those who follow the Word of Wisdom, but He does promise health and wisdom.  I have absolutely found this to be the case as I have made the effort to follow this direction.  Among the many blessings I have received is freedom from addiction.  Is it a sad life under the law to not be reliant on a cup of coffee to get me functioning in the morning?  I think not!!!  I am grateful beyond measure, that God cares enough to tell me how to take care of this precious gift... my body!

Second, wearing garments and modest clothes.  Paul questioned, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?"  My garments serve as a constant reminder of promises I have made to honor and follow God.  They remind me of the purpose of my body which is to be a "living sacrifice".  Wearing garments effects the clothing I wear and how I present myself to those around me.  My reverence for my body and understanding of it's purpose has been enlarged as I have made my best effort to worthily wear the garment.  The freedom that has come as I have tried to let go of the worldly messages about the value of my body, has been one of the greatest gifts I have received.  Falling into the fallacies of the world in regard to the body brings nothing but misery and captivity.  I praise God for this precious freedom!

Finally, temple marriage.  Throughout time, God has commanded His children to build temples.  While this is chronicled in detail throughout the Old Testament, you have to look a little closer to see evidence of this after Christ's fulfillment of the Law of Moses.  Paul referenced the work happening in temples, post-Christ when he asked 
 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
In latter-days God, through His prophets, has revealed the fulness of the doctrine of temples.  Simply put, the temple is a place of instruction and covenant making.  It is the most sacred place on earth... where earth and heaven meet and where we can feel closest to the Father and His Son.

Among the covenants made there, is the covenant of eternal marriage.  It is the entering of a 3 way companionship with God, husband, and wife.  Temple marriage is not "until death do us part", but seals a husband and wife for eternity.  The family is central to God's plan for His children.  Consequently, eternal marriage is one of the most important covenants we can enter into.
God's presence in my marriage to Todd has been indispensable.  The eternal perspective Todd and I have as a result of our temple marriage has been foundational  to our commitment to build something larger than either of our flawed selves could add up to.  This has once again blessed my life with peace, power and freedom which can only come as a result of God's blessing.  This ordinance is not necessary to receive the salvation I explained in last week's post.  It is however a necessary piece of obtaining the ultimate blessings and happiness the Father wishes to bestow.  For me... heaven wouldn't be heaven without my family!
 
How is that for not long-winded??? Ha Ha... Please know how grateful I am to get to share with you these things which mean so much to me!  Your interest in having this discussion means SO VERY much to me!  Next week I will wrap this all up with a post discussing my views on honoring Christ's gift on the cross.  I love you Erin <3 <3 <3
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