Day 12: He Restores Vision

John 9:

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

39 ¶ And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

When I went blind in my right eye 8 years ago, stories about Jesus healing the blind really began to resonate with me.  I understood the fear and the yearning that comes with this particular impairment.  One of the wonderful things I learned from this trial  is how much more I appreciate Spiritual vision and alertness.  Having a loss like this and feeling a great need to turn to the Lord for help brought so much depth and fulfillment to my life that I didn’t even realize I had been missing.  As much as I would love to have my full vision restored to me, I would not trade it for the Spiritual sight I gained!

Though many may never struggle with the trial of losing physical vision, I think we all from time to time lose our spiritual vision.  It is so important for us to be doing the primary things to seek a personal relationship with the Lord so that He can keep our vision healthy and clear.  It is so important that we spend regular time seeking increased learning and growth.  Through these efforts He can teach us and guide us even when we sometimes walk in the dark.

Song:

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Talk:

For I Was Blind but Now I See

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/for-i-was-blind-but-now-i-see?lang=eng

Thought by Mathias Held:

“In addition to our rational minds, another dimension to gaining knowledge can give us guidance and understanding. It is the still and soft voice of His Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and also to our minds.
I like to compare this principle with our visual capacity. Our Father in Heaven has given us not only one but two physical eyes. We can see adequately with only one eye, but the second eye provides us with another perspective. When both perspectives are put together in our brains, they produce a three-dimensional image of our surroundings.
Likewise, we have been given two sources of information, through our physical and spiritual capacities. Our mind produces one perception through our physical senses and through our reasoning. But through the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Father has also provided us with a second perspective, which is really the most important and true one because it comes directly from Him. But since the whisperings of the Spirit are often so subtle, many people are not consciously aware of that additional source.
When these two perspectives are then combined in our souls, one complete picture shows the reality of things as they truly are. In fact, through the additional perspective of the Holy Ghost, certain “realities,” as pictured exclusively through our mental understanding, can be exposed as deceiving or plainly wrong. Remember the words of Moroni: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
In my 31 years as a member of the Church, I have experienced many times that if we rely only on our rational mind and deny or neglect the spiritual understanding we can receive through the whisperings and impressions of the Holy Ghost, it is as if we were going through life with only one eye. But figurately speaking, we have actually been given two eyes. Only the combination of both views can give us the true and complete picture of all truths and of everything we experience in our lives, as well as of the whole and profound understanding of our identity and purpose as children of a living Heavenly Father.

Soul Searching Question:

How can you choose to see the Savior’s hand more clearly in your life?  Where can you increase your investment of time or energy to help your vision become more clear?

Day 11: Go and Do Likewise

Luke 10:

25 ¶ And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

This parable illustrates so perfectly yesterday’s topic of not judging. We are to love all people, and not just in thought but also in action, as shown in this beautiful story!

As a child, my parents’ best friends were not of our faith and I loved them dearly! I think at a young age I recognized a tradition of exclusion in our culture and fought against it.

Please note, I know this is not a point of doctrine in my church, as noted in the talk I am sharing in this post, but rather fear in or traditions practiced by individual members.

My husband is not an active member of my faith and I was grateful to raise my children in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel like my kids were ostracized because of the other parents’ perception of my husband’s decisions. But I think this experience also made me, and by extension my children, more aware of others who felt left out and we tried harder to be good friends and neighbors to all.

Song:

Do Something

Talk:

Doctrine of Inclusion

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/doctrine-of-inclusion?lang=eng

Day 10: He Ate with Publicans and Sinners

Matthew 9:

9 ¶ And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 ¶ And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew, also known as Levi, was a publican. Publicans were detested by the Jews at that time because they were the tax collectors and had a reputation of adding their own greedy motives to the amount they collected. They also worked with the Romans, who the Jews looked at as their oppressors.

What I love about Matthew is that, just like the fishermen, as soon as Jesus called for him to follow, he left everything and went with the Master. I love that the Lord looks on our hearts and does not judge us by what the rest of the world thinks of us. Christ loved and extended a merciful hand to EVERYONE! Some accepted His offer and followed Him and others didn’t, but He offered it freely to all. He never shied away from someone because the rest of the world saw them as unworthy.

Song:

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Article:

The largest demographic in the area where I live is the one mentioned in this article. But I believe her words apply to every one of us no matter where we live or what groups we may belong to.

http://www.ldsliving.com/A-Letter-to-Mormons-Mom-of-Another-Faith-Shares-Powerful-Message-to-Members/s/86092?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=social_button

I’m grateful for this woman’s courage and hope her message touches many hearts!!
I want to follow the doctrine of the Church I belong to, which tells me to be inclusive and loving to ALL God’s children! It is tradition and fear that separates us, not God or His teachings. I think we could all put more effort into awareness of those around us and the abundance they have to offer or lives!

Talk/Video:

Judging Others? Stop It!

https://www.lds.org/youth/video/stop-judging-others?lang=eng

How can you do better at not allowing other people’s opinions or your own fears to influence the way you treat people in your life? How can you follow Christ’s example and offer love instead of judgment?

Day 9: He Cleanses and Reclaims Holy Places

John 2:

13 ¶ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Matthew 21:

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

I never really understood or fully appreciated this story until I understood how the temple in Jerusalem was set up.  The inner part of the temple was only entered by the priests.  Then there was a court outside of that where the Israelite men could go.  The next court was for Israelite men and women.  And the outer court, or the court of the gentiles, was a place where anyone could go to worship.  It was the only place in the temple where those who were not Israelites could go to pray and commune with God. No wonder Christ was so upset that the marketplace and corrupt practices had taken over the space.  His temple was supposed to be a place for ALL God’s children to go to connect with Him.

As I contemplated these places of worship and how important they were to Christ, so much that He would act boldly to retake them, I thought about how the scriptures tell us that we are each a temple of God.  I thought about how there is always a fight between good and evil for our souls.  Satan would love for us as a temple of God to become corrupt and unwilling to be sanctified by the Lord. I know that I sometimes allow the dirt of the world to creep into parts of me that make me feel unholy and unclean.  These things can cause me to be distracted from my relationship with God.  They can keep me from being able to connect with Him and commune with Him, just as the moneychangers and animal sales did for the people in the court of the gentiles.  But just like Christ came in and cleansed the temple removing these distractions, He can and wants to do the same thing for us in our lives.  As we intentionally and conscientiously put on the Armor of God we are inviting Him into our own personal temple and asking for His help in keeping it clean and holy and reclaiming those parts we may have momentarily lost.

Song:

Grace Wins Every Time

Article:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-cleanses-temple/

Talk:

Be Strong in the Lord

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2004/07/be-strong-in-the-lord

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?