Day 8: He Calms the Storm

Mark 4:

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Every one of us has trials and adversity in our lives. And I would venture that most if not all of us have at one time looked at the storm raging around us, feeling its destructive velocity, and wondered why the Lord seemed unaware or unaffected by our terror. I think a common thought in these circumstances would be the exact phrase the disciples voiced to Christ, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Most of us recognize His incredible power and ability to change our circumstances. It would be so easy for the Master of Miracles to calm the storms of our lives! Then why doesn’t He?

Well, sometimes He does, but many times He chooses not. I don’t know all the reasons He does not, but I know in my own life that it is much easier to see His reasons in hindsight. When I look back on my biggest storms, the ones in which I plead desperately for relief, I can see how much learning and growing was done for me in these moments that seemed to stretch on for eternity when I was going through them. Sometimes there were lessons I needed to learn about me and about my relationship with God that could have been learned in no other way. Sometimes there were things others around me needed from these heavy sacrificial moments that I would have gladly given if I’d recognized the need at the time. Sometimes what felt like the worst thing actually opened doors that led to amazing things. I think the most important thing I have learned through my own un-calmed storms is that my perspective and understanding is so limited. God sees the bigger picture and what is going to be most beneficial to me in the long run, rather than what would bring me momentary relief and a sense of instant gratification. I am learning to have faith in Him, rather than faith in outcomes.

The other amazing thing I have learned from the storms in my life is that even when He often chooses not to calm the storm, He will ALWAYS calm me. He has an ability to help me find what I now call the eye of the storm. When I go to Him in prayer now I rarely ask for Him to change my circumstances and rather I ask for peace in the moment. I have learned that even though I may have to go through the circumstances I don’t have to go through them alone and I don’t have to go through them in anguish. I can find rest in Him. I can almost tangibly feel heavenly arms around me. Sometimes this comes as I am on my knees. Sometimes it comes when I am reading His word or listening to uplifting music. Sometimes it comes when I open my heart to a friend or family member and allow them to see my vulnerability and pain. The peace and the comfort come in many different forms, but they come. And I recognize the source as the Master who has the ability to calm the storm in me.

As Cicero said, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.”

Song:

Sometimes He Calms the Storm

Talk:

Master the Tempest is Raging

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/master-the-tempest-is-raging?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What is a storm in your life you will allow Christ to calm?

Day 7: He Runs to Us

Luke 15:

3 ¶ And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

11 ¶ And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
29 And he answering said to 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:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

There are a few different perspectives that can be studied in this beautiful parable.  The one I want to focus on today is that of the prodigal son.  Each of us can relate to this son in the fact that we have all made mistakes and have turned away from God from time to time by not making Him a priority in our lives.  This may have led to sizeable sins or slightly measurable ones, but in either case, without the atonement of our Redeemer, these mistakes would bar us from ever being able to be in the presence of God again.

I for one have felt the guilt and shame of mistakes in my life.  I have felt the heavy burden of wondering whether or not I would ever feel loved by God or worthy of that love again.  Because of those feelings of despair I can completely relate to the squandering son who desired only to be a servant to his father, to be under his roof and protection once again, even if he could not partake fully of the abundance.

To my surprise, I learned that an acknowledgement of our mistakes and repentance of them, even of severe ones , does bring our Father running to us.  Regardless of our foolishness, He loves us and wants us to return to Him more than anything! He is waiting and watching for us to choose this course, and as soon as our heart is turned back towards Him it allows Him to run to us, to comfort us, to teach us, and to heal us. He will never cross the barriers of our agency, but when we act in such a way to invite Him back into our lives, He joyfully responds to the invitation.

Maybe you have never made sizeable mistakes that left you feeling this deep desperation, but even the smallest of sins saddens the heart of our loving Father because it keeps Him from being able to be fully in our lives.  We make choices every day that either bring us closer to Him or push Him farther away.  With each of these choices we bring Him joy or sadness. I am so grateful for a compassionate Savior and Redeemer who loves us so much He was willing to innocently suffer for and atone for our sins.  Through this great and infinite act He gives us each the key to repent and unlock the ability to return.  The most miraculous thing to me is that it does not have a limited amount of uses.  Any time, every time we come to our senses and realize we have distanced ourselves from God, we can use this gift to turn again and start on a path back to a Father who will run to us!

Song:

He Ran to Me

Talk:

Redeemer of Israel

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/redeemer-of-israel?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: What is one area in your life you can turn back to God today?

Day 6: Come Unto Me

Mark 10

13 ¶ And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

As a child I loved this story! I could picture myself there and I could feel the Savior’s love. Christ did not abide by the traditions that dictated that children were to be seen and not heard. He loved and valued each child individually as much as any adult He interacted with. It is an example to me of how I should value and treat the children in my life. They have so much to teach me and I have so much to learn.

Another perspective came to me as I reread this story the other day. I started to think about how much our Heavenly Father loves us and how we are each His children. I’m sure that as grown up as we may feel, He looks at us and sees our inexperience, our naivete, and how spiritually young we still are in our respective lives. And so this invitation takes on another meaning. He wants each of us to come to Him. He doesn’t want anything to hold us back or make us feel inferior or unworthy. He knows that if we will become as little children, and seek Him as such, He can make our lives so much more than what we could ever do on our own. He wants our faith, our yearning, our humility to be like that of a child’s. He wants us to not only recognize, but also to believe, how much He wants us. He wants us to understand how much more blessed our lives could be if we would allow Him to be a part of them. He wants to hold us and to help us, to teach us and to heal us. He wants us in all our weakness and unworthiness. He wants us. And this, not because we are good, but because He is. We are His. He wants us to come unto Him.

Song:

Come Unto Him

Talk:

Our Perfect Example

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/our-perfect-example?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:
What is one way you can show love for and bless the innocent today? How can you become more like a child in your purity and desire to have faith in and be like Christ?

Day 4: One by One

Mark 5:

1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.
19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

There are three amazing stories here, but rather than focus on the details of each of them today I just want to share a recent insight that I had using this chapter as a perfect example. For so long when I thought about serving I felt guilty because I have not been involved in very many big service projects. I’ve never flown to another country to serve the poor and the hungry. I’ve never spent weeks on end helping in a community that’s been wiped out by a natural disaster. This has always weighed on me as a feeling of not doing enough to love and serve others. Then about a year ago, I was reading this chapter (or one like it) and suddenly it dawned on me that as wonderful as being involved in projects like this are, especially if you have felt a prompting to be involved, serving like the Savior does not require me to do these huge acts. At once I saw very clearly that the Savior served (and serves) one by one. He spent His days ministering to individuals He found along His way. He saw their hurting and He helped them. Most often His miracles were preformed on His way to somewhere else. He served as He went. He saw a need and He filled it. Instantly serving well, serving as the Savior does no longer felt daunting or unattainable. I wondered how many opportunities I have had to give meaningful service that I have swept aside because I was too focused on the next place I was going or the projects I was trying to complete. But with new understanding changes for the better can be made.

Truly understanding that the little things we do to make another’s life easier are the essence of Christ-like service has really been a game changer for me. It has created a desire in me to be more aware of those opportunities throughout the day. It has made me want to slow down a little and pay more attention to the whispers that come showing me the needs around me. It has helped me feel validated in the little things I do to show love to those around me. Now I feel great when I take an hour to listen to a friend vent, or go out of my way to write a note and create a special treat for one of my kids who is having a hard week, or take the afternoon and spend some quality time with my husband. I have begun to see the time I invest in facilitating my scripture study or writing for my blog as opportunities to serve as I share God’s word and love with those who read my testimony. I never really saw these as service before, and as good as it is to be part of big organized service projects, better understanding Christ’s way of ministering helps me to recognize that maybe service in the little things along our daily path are just as important, if not more so.

Serving in the Savior’s way means keeping our eyes and our hearts open to see a need and fill it, just like He did.

Song:

Dream Small

Talk:

Ministering as the Savior Does

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/04/ministering-as-the-savior-does?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question: How can you become more mindful to be a better minister to those around you one by one?

Day 3: Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Matthew 4:

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

When I was younger this story did not draw my interest much because I didn’t find it relatable.  After all, I could not see myself standing face to face with Satan.  I was very aware that I was incapable of turning stones into bread.  I would never stand on a high building and be tempted to jump knowing angels would save me.  And I couldn’t even imagine a situation when the riches of the whole world would be offered to me.

As an adult with more scriptural maturity this story fascinates me!  How amazing that almost all of our temptations can be placed into these three categories… physical appetite, a prideful desire for recognition, fame and glory, and a yearning for riches and other worldly things. I have been even more amazed at my most recent understanding of the common temptation Satan used in every one of these temptations when he addressed Christ.  He used the challenge of our Lord’s divinity to try to get his way.  How often does he try to make us question who we are as a means of getting us to distance ourselves from God, as a way to make us lose hope in our own potential and possibilities.

It has always been interesting to me that we could literally make a list of Satan’s temptations on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper and yet when we are in the middle of situations that include him feeding us those lines we honestly cannot make the connection.  I know I have been in those situations.  And my weakness and failings make me so very grateful for the gift of redemption offered through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Christ had a very clear understanding of who He was and so He was able to overcome these temptations and tell Satan to get away from Him.  I know that the more clearly we understand our own divine nature, our personal relationship to God and truly believe His love for us as His children, the easier it is for each of us to recognize Satan’s temptations for what they are and dismiss them.  But I also know that we are very human and there will be times when we fall.  As important as it is for us to fortify ourselves spiritually before hand so that we have a better chance of not giving into these lies, it is equally as important for us to understand that because Christ never did give in, He qualified to become our Savior and offer us a way back when we have proven unworthy.  I thank God for the matchless gift of His divine Son!

Song:

Talk:

I love President Hunter’s very clear depiction of Christ’ temptations and his explanation of how they apply to us.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/10/the-temptations-of-christ?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What is one way in which you struggle that you can tell Satan to get behind you today?

Day 2: Broken Up

Matthew 13:

1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

I love the vivid imagery our Savior painted with as He used parables to teach the gospel!  The parable of the sower is one of my favorites! As I look back in my life I can see how my heart has taken on each of the conditions Jesus mentioned in this parable.  There have been times when I was angry and bitter and even though the Spirit tried to teach me the word was gobbled up before it had a chance to sink in.  There are times with I was too overwhelmed with the busyness of life and my pursuits of a worldly nature when the thorns crowded in and consumed my heart leaving no opportunity for spiritual thriving.  There have been those times when my heart has been more stony and I have heard truths and felt excited about them in the meeting where they were being taught only to go home and give no more thought to nurture them.  And then there have been times, my favorite times, even though sometimes they were my hardest times, when I have sat down regularly to spend time with the Master Gardener on a very regular basis.  And as we had these cultivating session He broke up the soil of my heart.  He taught me about thorny weeds I needed to remove and rocks I needed to toss out.  He showed me how to fertilize my soil.  And in that time together I have felt the most beautiful garden spring up in my soul.  I have felt peace and joy in a way that was not reasonable or explainable with the other difficulties that were happening in my life.  I felt loved.  I felt nurtured.  I felt strengthened.  But getting to that point was not easy.  It required a willingness to be broken up.  It required a willingness to make a painful exploration of who I was and who I wanted to be.  Sometimes self-examination is not easy.  Honestly, most of the time if we are doing it correctly it is not.  But it is ALWAYS worth it because our Lord can show us the areas in our lives where we are hurting the most and why.  And most importantly He can help us to change it so that it can become pleasing rather than painful!

Song:

Today’s talk goes into detail about the different types of soil and is very helpful in helping to determine where our own heart is and where it could use a little nourishment.

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2015/05/saturday-morning-session/the-parable-of-the-sower?lang=eng&fbclid=IwAR0_gDkWZWtgsd9D3b2sHN4-KElxsHePPEK4GcLO0h34GIERrig68ifcjBs

Soul Searching Question: What condition is the soil of your heart? What are you doing to break it up and nurture it to improve it? What specific things are you doing to keep your heart soft and receptive?

Day 1: Walking on the Sea

Matthew 14:

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

I want to start with this miracle since it has had particular relevance in my life this past week. My son and I were discussing the story of Peter walking on water last week and I gained some insights I’d never thought of before that made me love and admire this man even more than I did before!! So often when we hear this story I think we focus on the sinking and the saving of Peter.  Maybe this is because so often we feel like that sinking soul and can relate to needing the Savior to reach out for us.  And even though that too was a great miracle, this week I was struck by the fact that Peter actually did walk on water.  There were twelve disciples in the boat and only one had the courage and the faith to step out.

I want Peter-like courage and faith! How often do we, like the other eleven disciples, stay in the boat and allow amazing, miraculous opportunities to pass us by because we don’t have the faith or the courage to take that first step of leaving the safety of the boat?

I love and admire Peter so much!!! He too was scared. He didn’t need to leave the safety of the boat. Nobody else did. From his question, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me to come…” I’m not convinced he was even sure it was Christ. But if it was Him, he wanted to be part of the miracle. He wanted to partake of Christ’s power so badly that he was willing to step out of the boat. I can’t even imagine how terrifying that first step must have been! But Peter had enough faith to step out of the boat. And because he did, Peter walked on water!

So I think there are at least 3 things we can learn from Peter in this story.
1. If we want miracles to happen in our lives, as terrifying as it might be, we must get out of the boat! We must take that first step, trusting in the Lord’s power to help us.
2. We must keep our eyes focused on Christ and not allow fear to divert our attention to the storms that swirl around us.
3. If we do fail after taking the steps, we can call out to the Lord and He will immediately reach out for us!

Song:

Talk/article:

https://markdriscoll.org/peters-walk-on-water/ 

Soul Searching Question: How can you either step out of the boat? Or if you already have, how can you continue to focus on the Savior and not lose faith?