Prayerful

“Prayerful” is the focus word I have picked for 2019. It is something I have struggled to be faithfully consistent with my whole life. Sure I talk to God a lot during the day. I often turn off my radio as I drive and talk to Him in the silence. I pray for help and offer gratitude often through the day. What I struggle with is making the morning and evening kneeling prayers of the day a habit. I’m not sure why this is so, because I have such a testimony of the power of prayer. I know that it can calm my heart, ease my fears, comfort my disappointment. I know it has brought me healing, peace, and even miracles. Yet, it seems that I spend more time on my knees when things are not going as planned and I’m less consistent when life gets busy or seems to be going smoothly. It is this way even though I know how much power and strength praying would give me on a daily basis. I really do want to do better. I’m so grateful God is so very patient with us, even when our weakness reveals itself over and over again.

A Window to God’s Love

To answer the ponder question posted with the scripture on Sunday, tribulation is a part of life. It has a Divine purpose. I’m sure there are many reasons a kind and loving Father would allow His children to suffer. A few of the reasons that come to my mind are (in no particular order.):

1. To help us grow. Just like a muscle cannot develop without resistance neither can our spiritual strength.

2. To bless those around us. Many times we learn great lessons by watching those who ensure trials with faith and Grace.

3. To give us empathy. We have much more compassion for those around us when we can relate to their struggles.

4. To draw us to Him. It seems that we year for heaven and its help more fervently when we are struggling than when we are doing well.

5. He values agency. Or agency is so important to Him that He respects the line we draw on the ground between us.

The second question is a little trickier because we tend to identify peace as having our trials removed. But when everything revolves around God’s timing sometimes that is not possible at the moment. But I have found that no matter what we are going through we can always ask for peace, a little reprieve from the storm. I have had times when I have asked for this and could feel a blanket of comfort wrap around me and feel an almost tangible hug from heaven.

We can seek this peace through many tools. We can feaast on the word of God. We can pray and center ourselves. We can serve someone else in a meaningful way. We can choose to read/listen to uplifting books and music. We can pray and meditate. We can process or problems thorough journaling or talking to a friend. We can accept God’s willy for us and keep a cheerful demeanor. We can show God’s love to His other children by becoming a window to His love.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

I have learned through personal experience how vitally important it is to regularly assess myself. The times I have found myself most off course in life were the times I had neglected charting a course and checking my bearings.

It is so easy to get caught up in the rolling waves of life and not even notice how far we have drifted until one day we look up and realize we are in a place we never planned on being and that the waves have gotten violently destructive. It is so much easier to take a little time each day to connect with God and a little time each week to assess our connection to Him and how we are doing on self improvement goals.

If we make a point to regularly examine ourselves we can make great strides in overcoming our weaknesses and towards becoming our highest and best selves.

One of the ways I have found to regularly evaluate myself is to set some time aside in January to determine an action word I can use to focus on during the year to help me grow closer to the Lord. This year I have chosen PRAYERFUL.

I challenge you to pick a word and I’d love to know the word you choose. Happy 2019!

Unanswered Prayers Are Proof that God loves Us

“Unanswered prayers” was not the theme I had planned for this week, but it was the theme that kept nagging at my mind and so I felt that it was what God wanted me to write about and think about. Maybe one of you knows why God pressed it so heavily on my mind.

I have had many prayers in my life go answered with silence from heaven. And at the time I felt ignored and perhaps even denied. I found a great article that I will post tomorrow that covers 5 reasons why this may be. I can relate my own experiences to each of them.

  1. Am I ready to act on the answer? God knows the intent of our hearts and there have been times that if the answer had been immediately given I would not have been prepared to do what was asked of me with the answer given.
  2. Have I done everything in my power? I can see now that some of my initial prayers were very lazy. I wanted answers or I wanted God to change something in my life, but without and effort on my part. Maybe in those times I wanted a genie more than a God that would have some expectations of me.
  3. Have I ignored the answer? Now this one is the painful one for me. There were times I prayed for things and was given an answer, but in my pride I rejected it because it was simply not the answer that I wanted. Then I just kept praying for a different one. It was only in eventual humility I was able to accept and appreciate the answer given.
  4. Are my desires righteous? Another one that is hard for us to swallow sometimes. There have absolutely been times that the thing I wanted most was not the thing God saw I needed. In looking back these are the prayers I am most grateful were not realized. I am so grateful God does see a bigger picture and does on occasion completely deny us our selfish or short-sighted requests.
  5. Is it the right time? Over the years I have learned very well how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I have also learned that what I perceived as a “NO” from Him was simply a “not yet”. He does want us to be happy. He does want to give us all we ask for in righteousness, but He also knows when there is more I need to learn and understand before an answer will be right in my life. And maybe sometimes it is not for my readiness that He waits. Sometimes there are other people that are not ready, those involved in the scenario that need more time. I try to remember when I feel these “not yet” answers how He has, in His perfect timing, woven answers to multiple pleas from multiple lives together into beautiful tapestries. I have seen this happen time and time again. I try to lean on these experiences with my faith is wavering.
  6. A final point that I got from listening to an amazing writer/speaker, Emily Belle Freeman, is that maybe I am holding God back. Maybe my lack of faith refuses Him permission to work in those areas of my life where He could really do the most good. Maybe I have a predetermined vision of how I want those problems to be solved. Maybe I don’t trust Him enough to turn over my control of those areas.

I recently finished listening to an audio book called The Priest by Francine Rivers. It is a historical fiction book about the Children of Israel from Aaron’s perspective and experiences. Once the Israelites were freed from Egypt they really had one desire… to enter their promised land. Yet, they were not spiritually prepared to do so. They did not trust God and complained against everything He asked of them. And so even though He answered so many of their daily requests they were denied the thing they wanted most. I found myself getting so irritated with these whiney people and their faithlessness for Moses’s sake, over and over. And yet every time I felt frustrated with them thoughts of my own faithlessness came bitterly to my mind and heart. How often do we acknowledge God and praise Him in the smoothness of our life only to turn on Him as soon as things get stormy? How often do we ignore the hundreds of tiny miracles in our lives because we are so focused on the one big one we yearn for and may not be ready for. I am guilty of this, oh so guilty, and it breaks my heart.

There is a verse in Helaman chapter 12 that I found especially poignant this week.

6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath acreated them, should brule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at cnaught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.

I can see so many times in my life that even though I in theory wanted God’s help, in my pridefulness I rejected it. I pushed Him away either because I thought I knew better, or because I wanted a different answer. And still when I turned back to Him, when I repented of my pride, when my heart was once again facing Him I have ALWAYS found Him waiting. His mercy is matchless and it humbles me.

One of my recent epiphanies on the topic of unanswered prayers comes from the account in Luke I posted earlier this week. As Christ suffered in Gethsemane, in a way completely incomprehensible to us for things that were 100% our fault, not His, in His agony, so great for even One who was part God, He cried out for relief. He asked for the cup to be taken from Him, if it were at all possible. How much it must have broken the Father’s heart to deny His beloved Son that request! He withheld His hand and allowed our Savior to complete the plan that was designed long before the world was created. For the love of each of us, He allowed His Son’s prayer to go unanswered. As I contemplate those circumstances I wonder how I can at any time look at the “no” or “not yet” answers to my own trivial requests and think that they are given as a result of God not loving me enough, as if THAT is in His nature at all. And one thing I have learned for myself is that, just as He did for His Son, when His answer is not what we want it to be He will, when we ask, strengthen us and give us a measure of His heavenly peace.

Though for different reasons at different times I have felt that He was not answering my prayers, as I look back on my life and trace God’s goodness in all that He has done for me and the many ways He has orchestrated miracles for me I find how unworthy I am and how very ungrateful. I waiver often, He never does. The times where I felt ignored or denied are seen much differently in hindsight because I can see how the answers did come, maybe not in the way that I wanted them then, but in the way that really was in my best interest. I can see how He has loved me. I can see how He has always been there. I can see how it was in the hardest times in my life, my times of greatest vulnerability that He and I have built the best and most treasured parts of my relationship with Him. Yet, even seeing all this and knowing all this, I know that I will come again to those chasms where, like the children of Israel, I will waiver in my trust again. Because, as Emily Freeman says in her book Even This, “One experience with God’s goodness does not tie you to Him forever.” I am so grateful that He does not give up on us in our unworthiness and our faithless times! I am grateful that He loves us enough to wait for us to understand that an unanswered prayer has nothing to do with His lack of love for us, and on the contrary has everything to do with the immeasurable amount of love He has for us and what He knows will be best in our lives to mold us and refine us into our very highest and best self.

Incomprehensible Love

This week’s scripture us one that runs through my mind quite frequently.  I think our human minds can hardly comprehend how much our Father really loves us.  For me, the fact that He created a plan for us to come to earth, to learn and grow and experience so much is the first testament of His love for us.   Then to make a provision to save us from our mistakes and our weaknesses during our experience here by willingly sacrificing His own beloved Son in our behalf is the second and most profound testament to me.  I think about my own limited ability to love and how much I cherish my own children.  And I think about how much I love those who love my children and sacrifice so much to help them in so many ways.  Then I think about how much Heavenly Father must love His only begotten son especially because of His willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us His children, whom He loves. It is so beyond my ability to understand!

As I pondered on this during the week a poem I read years ago popped into my head.  I cry every time I read it.  It helps my human mind have a glimmer of understanding as I can have real empathy to the father in this very vivid incident.

It’s called The Bridge Keeper. I was  unable to find the exact origin. It seems to be a version of a story that has been circulating since at least the late 1800’s.

There was once a bridge which spanned a large river. During most of the day the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river paralleled with the banks, allowing ships to pass thru freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river, allowing a train to cross it.

A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place as the train crossed. One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, he looked off into the distance thru the dimming twilight and caught sight of the train lights. He stepped to the control and waited until the train was within a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge. He turned the bridge into position, but, to his horror, he found the locking control did not work. If the bridge was not securely in position it would wobble back and forth at the ends when the train came onto it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard. He left the bridge turned across the river, and hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a lever switch he could hold to operate the lock manually. He would have to hold the lever back firmly as the train crossed. He could hear the rumble of the train now, and he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man’s strength.

Then, coming across the bridge from the direction of his control shack, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. “Daddy, where are you?” His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first impulse was to cry out to the child, “Run! Run!” But the train was too close; the tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left his lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety. But he realized that he could not get back to the lever. Either the people on the train or his little son must die. He took a moment to make his decision.

The train sped safely and swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed. They did not see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked: to tell his wife how their son had brutally died.

Now if you comprehend the emotions which went this man’s heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Father in Heaven when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? How does He feel when we speed along thru life without giving a thought to what was done for us thru Jesus Christ?

I recognize that there are significant differences between the sacrifice of the father in this story and the sacrifice made by our Father in His divine Son.  But it does help me remember the love that our Father has for each of us individually and how that love has been given a tangible form through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I do, however,  hope that we are unlike the passengers on the train and don’t sail along through life without sincerely acknowledging and appreciating the sacrifice that has been made in our behalf.

If you have yet to feel that potent and distinctive love of God for you personally, I urge you to get on your knees and ask God how He feels about you.  My answer to that question is one that still brings me to tears whenever I think of it.  I know He loves me!  I know He loves you!  He has a special plan for each of His children and that plan’s fruition is completely and utterly dependent on His Only Begotten Son!

May we each take some time to ponder on this love as we enter the Christmas season.

My Heart Delights in the Scriptures

Though I have always appreciated the scriptures, I never really came to love them until my life was in such a chaos that I desperately needed a lifeline to heaven. Then they became a collection of love letters, a roadmap, and a place of refuge for me. Now I wonder how I used to go days or weeks without feasting from their pages. I need their daily nourishment. I need the constant connection with my Father that they bring. I love the peaceful feeling that comes over me as I read them. I learn so much from the stories and wonderful heroes that are in them. I especially love to make application between their situation and mine. I also learn from them as I better understand the principles that the stories are teaching and try to use those principles to improve and add positive character traits to myself. Another way that I have learned that the scriptures profit me is that simply by reading them my mind and heart are more open to spiritual things making it easier for the Lord to communicate with me throughout the day with inspiration and revelation about my life.

They are a previous gift from a loving God prepared to be used for guidance and direction. They are small and simple things easily taken for granted. They are activated by faith. And I have found that I progress best in my journey by using this divine tool. When neglected our journeys more easily go off course and we tend to bring hardships on ourselves as we wander. We can find our own promised land full of peace and happiness by using the scriptures to direct our path.

The scriptures come with a warning to be vigilant (not slothful) in using the tools which have been prepared for us. If we use them well we will be on a path full of peace and joy, even though there will be storms along the way. If we take the scriptures for granted and neglect them because they seem insignificant we will stumble more easily and lose that peace.

Without the scriptures, we cannot understand the mysteries of God. Without the scriptures, (and our journals) we can’t possibly remember all the mercies of God.
Without the scriptures, we wouldn’t know the commandments of God and we would dwindle in unbelief.

Because of the scriptures, we know the commandments and are blessed by obeying them. Because of the scriptures, we know God lives and that He loves us and seeks our happiness. Because of the scriptures, we know Jesus is the son of God and is our Redeemer and the Savior of the world.

We are so blessed to have all the scripture that we do. It is so important for us to study them regularly to show our appreciation for them, to know and live the commandments, to better understand who our Father is and what He desires of us, and to enable Him to communicate with us, not only through their pages, but also through the spirit after we have opened the conduit to heaven by opening their pages.

Name Them One by One

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear when the Spirit whispered, “Make a list of things you are grateful for.” This direction came during one of the hardest times in my life. Things were not going well and I was really scared about how the future would work out. There were a million things I was worrying about and so many understandable reasons to be upset and still the voice was clear.

How do you make a list of things you are grateful for when it feels like nothing is going right? I’m not sure how it works. I have no words to explain it. But I do know that as I obeyed the command and started to make a list I was overcome with grateful feelings, joyful feelings. What started with one or two things I was grateful for became a very long list of things and trickled into my mind of the next few days and even weeks. Somehow that list broke into my gloominess and reminded me how very much I was loved, how very much I had to be grateful for, and how very temporary what I was going through was in the eternal scheme of things . Though my circumstances did not change immediately , my feelings and my attitude certainly did. And as those feelings changed I found myself feeling happier, more peaceful, more confident and capable of handling the stressful situation I was in.

When I was younger and would be having a hard time my mother used to say to me, “What can you learn from this situation?” She taught my sisters and I to take time to be conscious of the struggles we were having and to try to gain something positive from it. Sometimes are easier than others to do this, but I do know that as I make an effort to see the lesson the Spirit can more easily help me recognize what the Lord wants me to gain from the experience. Sometimes the realizations don’t come till some time down the road, but they usually do come.

I am grateful for a wise mother who taught me well. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to want me to be happy and gives me personal direction and correction when the path I am on is not leading me to that happiness. I am grateful for lists I have made and lists I will make of the gifts from God that make my life more joyful. When was the last time you made a list?