"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)

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!
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