Gratitude Challenge Day 7: Partner with Christ

One day there was an older married couple driving down the road in their pickup truck.  When they came to a stoplight, the woman looked over at a truck stopped next to them.  In that truck she saw a younger couple.  The young lady was snuggled up very close to the young man with her head on his shoulder.  The older woman offhandedly asked her husband, “Why don’t we sit like that anymore?”  He in turn looked out her window to observe what she was seeing and then responded, “Well, I haven’t moved.”
The first time I heard this joke I laughed because I could relate.  As we become more comfortable in our relationships we do tend to take them for granted until we remember the way we felt when they were new and appreciated.  I believe this joke is such a compelling reminder of our relationship with Christ.  Whenever we notice that their is a gap between Him and us, a space on the seat of our journey, it is because we have moved, not because He has.  Our Savior always wants a relationship with us! He wants to share our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and our dreams. His hand is outstretched still… ALWAYS.  Yet, when our lives get busy, or hard, or even too easy at times we tend to move away from Him.
My life has been blessed with so much.  I have always had the necessities of life. I have a safe and comfortable place to live.  I have clothes to wear.  I have never had to see my children go hungry. I find that much of the time I am blessed with not only my needs but so many of my wants as well.  I have family and friends that love and support me.  I have gifts and talents that have allowed me to recognize the joy of creation and connection.  And with all of these blessings swimming around in my head, the thing that I am most grateful for is my Savior Jesus Christ.  I am grateful that I know of Him and of His love for me.  I am grateful that I know Him and feel His presence in my life. And I am so very grateful that there is a way to move back across that seat when I have sinned and moved away from Him, either in not making room for Him in my excessive busyness, not taking time to read His word and communicated with Him in prayer, or even in much much bigger ways.  I am so grateful for His grace and for our access to that grace.  I am grateful that when I recognize that I have distanced myself from my Redeemer there is a way back and He welcomes it.
If you are feeling a distance between you and our Savior, I encourage you to examine your life and determine those things that are keeping you at an arms distance from Him. If they are big things, take care of them.  Confess and forsake the things that are holding you back from a relationship with Him.  If they are little things, slow down in the busyness of your life and look for ways to daily connect with Him.  As you do this, I know you will have more peace and contentment in your life.  You will find more to be grateful for.  You will find more hope.  You will recognize the joys of being anchored in Him.
Colossians 3:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Song: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness by Kieth and Kristyn Getty

Today’s Challenge:

Video Challenge by Oléa:

Let Go and Let God

The other day I was listening to the speech I recommended below and the speaker mentioned someone sharing this phrase with her, “To worry is to lack faith.” That thought snapped around my heart like a trap! This last week my 19 year old daughter decided it was time to spread her wings and move out. And though I also feel like this is the next step for her in moving forward in her life it happened quite suddenly and caught me off guard. Even though I know it is right, it is so hard as a parent not to worry about your children as they strike out on their own. I had been fretting about how she will manage, what choices she will make, what challenges will come her way, etc.

As I pondered on the phrase I realized that I truly was showing my fear and not leaning into my faith. I know our Heavenly Father loves my daughter every bit as much as I do. I know that He has a plan for her. I know that He will be watching out for her and even though there will be trials, because we all have them, she will get through them. I can continue to pray for her and be here for her if she needs someone to talk to, but I have to trust God to take care of her.
No matter what our own personal struggles are, there are times when worry sets in. And if we are not careful it can set up camp and really take over our thoughts, our motivation, and our lives. We must recognize this worry for what it is, a useless drain on our energy, especially because worry never seems to accomplish much. Faith on the other hand is the predecessor of miracles and a much better investment of energy. So I will try to use a worried thought as a trigger to remind me to pray, let it go and give it back to the Worker of miracles.

Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 3:

5 ¶ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Is there something you are worrying about that would be much better handled in the hands of God?

Song: Let Go by Matt Hammitt

Talk: Be Still and Know God

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/erin-d-maughan_still-know-god/

21 Day Walk with Christ Final Steps

Thank you so much for joining me on this walk with Christ as we prepared for this beautiful Easter day. I am so grateful for the many stories of Christ that we have in the Holy scriptures thanks to those who were faithful to record these experiences. I am so grateful for the power these stories add to my life as I take time to read and ponder on them. I am so grateful for the tools that we have been given to draw closer to our Savior, to build a personal relationship with Him. I am so blessed by an increased understanding of who Jesus is and of His nature, which grows each time I read the stories in the Gospels. I am most humbled by the knowledge that Jesus Christ loves me personally and yearns for a relationship with me. He has that same desire for each of us. He will gather us in His arms if we will allow it!

Song:

Come Unto Christ

Talk:

According To the Desire of our Hearts

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What will you do to continue your personal walk with Christ?

Note: A Special thank you to the many talented and inspired artists whose incredible works of art, music, or words added so much depth and beauty to this walk. No infringement of copyright was intended and I hope they will know how much the sharing of their gifts and talents contributed to our last 21 days.

Day 15: Born Again Because of Him

John 3:

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 ¶ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

I am so grateful for Nicodemus and his courage to go against the traditions and feelings of the other Pharisees and seek Jesus out.  I am so grateful for all the beautiful truths we learn from this conversation he had with the Savior.  Just like Nicodemus, sometimes we do need to be chastened a little to recognize where we are falling short and where we need to put some additional effort into our studies and our self improvement efforts.  We learn from this conversation that it is not enough just to follow the traditions we were born into, but it is necessary for each of us to be converted to the Lord as individuals, to truly be born again.

I grew up believing in Christ and feeling very comfortable with His teachings and doctrine, but I know my own conversion didn’t come until I had children of my own.  They were very young when my husband decided he no longer wanted to be an active member of our church.  It was at that point where the road forked for me.  I knew that if I were to stay an active member it would be very difficult.  I would be taking two small children to church by myself every week.  I would have to be respectful for our different priorities as husband and wife.  I would have to ignore the judgments of others (or my own perception of these judgments) when I was not part of the traditional couple or family.  As I pondered on these obstacles I decided I really needed to be clear on what I believed.  I needed to be fully committed to the Gospel.  I needed to believe it so strongly it would be worth the sacrifices I would be required to make.  My praying became more sincere and my study of God’s word more intense.  I sought out help from other resources that held uplifting messages and counsel.  As I did this, I felt my relationship with the Lord change and my heart become soft and receptive.  I was given some very strong reassurances from the Spirit that the Gospel was true and that I was strong enough to take this path without my husband, and that I would never be alone.  Though at the time this felt like the biggest trial of my life because it was so unexpected, as I look back now I am so glad that I got the push that I needed to find my own conversion, to genuinely be born again.  My relationship with my Father and His Son are mine.  I know them personally and I feel their presence in my life.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer.  It is because of Him that I can do hard things.  It is because of Him that I can continually grown closer to Him and become more like Him as He helps me overcome my insecurities and weaknesses.  He is ALWAYS there and yearns for each of us to be born again, to seek a personal relationship with Him.  But He will honor our agency and wait for us to make the first step.

Song:

Born Again

Talk/Article:

Born Again

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1989/07/born-of-god

Soul Searching Question:
What can you do to become more converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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 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 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?