Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Acquainted With God in Our Extremities"

We have been in a snowy mess here in Eugene, Oregon! A few days ago the snow started and we were wisely instructed to park our cars to avoid any accidents. The first day we were walking in a few inches of snow and it was a pretty pleasant experience. My companion, Sister Peterson, and I enjoyed tromping through the beautiful white landscape and talking to people. The snow continued on through the day and night and so the next morning when we woke up there was a few more inches added to the heap. Once again we walked and walked through the fluff and passed out mormon.org cards while talking with anybody who would listen. The next day it rained and rained and there was thick slush and deep, icy puddles at every intersection. 

I will just say my joy and pleasure at tromping through the snow had ceased. 

As I was wallowing in my deep self-pity, I couldn't help but remember that I had an ancestor who had trekked across the plains for thousands of miles in a handcart company. Towards the end of the difficult journey they got caught in an early, very severe winter. There were many people who died and others had cracked and sore feet that left a bloody trail across the snow. 
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 In that moment I couldn't even begin to fathom the hardships and the trials that came to those early saints. 

It is amazing what a little bit of perspective can do!

I am grateful for the much needed perspective of the Plan of Salvation outlined by our loving Heavenly Father. I know that there is a purpose for our trials, struggles, pains, and heartaches. All of these experiences can be used to help us learn and grow and progress toward our ultimate goal: becoming more like our Savior, Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. Only when we are as they are can we return to their presence. 

I have found in my own life that I need the adversity and tribulations. I am never humble enough without them to recognize that I desperately need my Heavenly Father's help. I am so grateful to know that He does not leave us alone, and that in fact, the ultimate expression of His love was giving us His only begotten Son so that through the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ each of us could be reconciled to our Heavenly Father as long as we truly desire it enough to follow Him. 

I love this quote by one of the members of the handcart company that got caught in the awful storm.

"We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company offer a word of criticism?...We came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
"I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it...I have gone onto that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew that the angels of God were there.
"Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay." -William Palmer

I know that if, in our most difficult moments, we will turn to the Savior and our Heavenly Father we can become "acquainted with them in our extremities." It seems to me that we would be wise to pay any price to become so.  

By pressing forward hopefully, we can, repeatedly and joyfully, stand on what was yesterday’s distant horizon, thereby drawing even further hope from our very own experiences. Hence Paul described how “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). -Neal A. Maxwell

Friday, January 24, 2014

"All That I Have is Thine"

I love the parable of the Prodigal Son. I always love hearing this story and remembering that no matter what we do our Heavenly Father and His Son will always love us and long for us to return to them. It is so hopeful!

However, by the end of reading the parable, I find myself relating to the elder brother all too well. Have you ever had moments in your life when you feel like you have been out in the field working hard all day long and as you draw nearer to the house you recognize a celebration is going on?

My first thought when I study this parable almost always is "why didn't anybody go tell the brother!?" If I was him I would have stormed in and yelled, "Thanks for inviting me!" and then stormed back out.

Come to find out the party is for his brother who has devoured all of his inheritance with harlots. Something inside of me (we'll call it the "natural man"--Mosiah 3:19) just really screams that is so unfair. I feel the brother is so justified as he tells his father, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends" (Luke 15: 11-32.) While I was studying this I stopped and pondered for a moment about the situations in my life where I have been able to put myself in this brother's shoes. I didn't really get to think about this for very long because a piercing question was brought to my memory and very clearly I could hear:

"Why should you choose to be jealous because I choose to be kind?"

I pulled out the talk and Elder Holland continues, " Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt--and certainly not to feel envious--when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin."  The Laborers in the Vineyard

Sometimes I really appreciate those spiritual slaps in the face where I am chastened and very clearly can see that I am in the wrong and need to repent. Perhaps I enjoy them so much because of what usually follows--an increase of love.

"Son, thou art ever with me,and all that I have is thine." (Luke 15: 11-32.)

Just as piercing as that soul-searching question was, that statement by the father was equally piercing to my heart. I know that we have a loving, merciful and just Heavenly Father and we should be so grateful that He is kind. We are each worth so much to Him and that worth is not influenced or changed based on the successes or failures, or the gifts and talents of anybody else.

I testify that as we daily and consistently strive to follow our Savior Jesus Christ we will become more like Him. We will feel joy when we see the successes of others and even greater joy in helping them become successful in this race against sin.

I love Chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel. This week I have decided to work on the attribute of charity. I really desire to develop a deeper, more pure love for all of the people I work with. Will you choose one attribute that you want to improve in your life, study it, and then live it?

I know it will bless each of you and your consistent efforts will make a dramatic difference. Preach My Gospel-Christlike Attributes

The Other Prodigal by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole"

Lately I have been giving some thought to what it truly means to be whole.

The woman who has been plagued for 12 years with an issue of blood was made whole. After she had shown her great faith by touching the garment of the Savior amidst the throngs of people she is healed and Jesus says to her "Daughter, they faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague."Mark 5:25-34

It happened to Enos as he had the words of eternal life sink deep into his heart and his soul hungered for forgiveness and ultimately to be full and whole. He cried in mighty prayer for his own soul. The voice of the Lord told him "thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed." Enos asked how this is done, and the Lord responds "Because of thy faith in Christ...wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole." Enos

"Do you remember when your faith and joy were full to the brim? Remember the moment you found your testimony or when God confirmed to you that you were His son or daughter and that He loved you very much--and you felt whole? if that time seems lost, it can be found again.""Wilt Thou Be Made Whole"

Some days it feels like we are a little bit (or a lot) less than whole. This is because we are imperfect humans who make mistakes and sin which always separates us from our Heavenly Father.

I think being whole is much more about penitence rather than perfection.

We don't need to do everything exactly right to feel whole. That is the beauty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We can feel the love and approval of God as we keep the commandments and do our best daily. As long as we exercise faith in Him and His power to redeem us and cleanse us from sin than we can be whole. It all starts with our faith, which leads us to action. I testify that in and through Jesus Christ we can be made whole.

Recently in moments when I feel less than whole I have reflected on what is standing in my way. I invite you to do the same. I testify that as often as we repent the Lord will forgive and we can feel whole again.