Do Ye Now Believe?

Ponder these verses from John 16:

30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

†What is the purpose to tribulation in life? How can we find this peace when we are experiencing tribulation?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

One of my favorite finds on self examination and improvement is the book
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS
by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom https://g.co/kgs/UJ7Z1K

A friend of mine shared this self-help book with me a few years back. It was so fascinating to me! In the introduction he goes over how most people live with a judge and a victim in their heads constantly vying for attention and energy. The book focuses on learning how to take control of your life and choose happiness through committing to four new commitments:
1. choosing carefully the words we use
2. choosing not to be offended
3. choosing not to make assumptions
4.choosing to always do your best

He talks about how so many people live their lives in a type of hell allowing others to control so much of their happiness.

After reading this book and his specific examples of how we might not follow these agreements, my eyes were opened to ways I could find more peace and happiness in my life. I find the taglines of the agreements popping into my mind when I start to stress about things, as if God is prompting me on how to resolve the worry.

I have shared the concepts from this book on so many occasions (and the book itself) and know many of my friends and family have found them helpful in their own lives.

I think everyone should read this book! We all deserve to be happy and have peace!!

Grace – Day 12 on a 14 Day Walk with Christ

“Grace” such a small word with such an incomprehensible impact! In this word is contained the hope of the world, the key to free each of us from the binding chains that hold us back from our Lord and God. It is by the grace of Jesus Christ that both eternal salvation and immediate peace are possible!

Luke 2:

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

As I sit here thinking about all I have learned and felt this year through experiencing the Nativity Story on this walk, this word seems to be the glue that holds it all together. Grace is the reason He came, the vehicle He used to love us, forgive us, and serve us. It is how He showed his kindness and mercy to us, it is the very expression of His humility and patience. It is His offering of joy and peace and light to each of us individually. And yet our own agency, our individual right to choose, is so respected by Him and the Father, that we alone must make the decision to accept this gift or reject it, one by one. But there it hangs waiting and offered freely to each of us.

Song: When Love Was Born by Mark Schultz

Song: When Love Crossed Over by Paul Baloche

Challenge: What will you do to more fully accept or show more appreciation for this glorious gift of grace?

Obedience – Day 9 on a 14 Day Walk with Christ

When the shepherds first saw the angel they were “sore afraid.” Then with hasty obedience they hushed their fears and went to seek the Lamb of God.

Luke 2:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

I think one of the things that holds us back from our full potential most in this life is fear. We often allow ourselves to be troubled and overcome by fear.

In John 14:27 the Savior tells us:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

In a talk called “Come Unto Me” Jeffery R. Holland talk about this specific scripture. He says, “I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.”

I think of all the edicts issued by Christ this may be one of the most important to Him because the results of our obedience will be immeasurable in our own lives and in our circles of influence. He wants us to choose faith over fear. He wants us to focus on the good we can do together rather than waste or time being troubled by the things that don’t seem to be working out. He wants us to follow the shepherds’ example and seek Him out. He wants us to spend time with Him and be yoked to Him that our burdens may be light. He wants us to trust Him with the bigger picture. He wants us to have peace.

Song: Do Not Be Afraid by JJ Weeks Band

Song: Oh What a Glorious Night by Sidewalk Prophets

Challenge: what can you do to obediently put your troubles aside and more earnestly rely on the peace of Christ?

(Artwork from http://www.jedicraftgirl.com)

Peace – Day 6 on a 14 Day Walk with Christ

The life of Christ is the ultimate gift of peace. His birth being the dawn of that offering.

Luke 2:

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Silent night has always been one of my favorite songs because of the peaceful feeling that always accompanied it for me. A few years ago I had an experience that gave it even greater meaning:

It was a particularly overwhelming Christmas for me and it seemed that everyone I talked to was running behind that year too and feeling frustrated about it, just like me. Even though I know it isn’t about the list of tasks we assign ourselves, it seems that each year I allow that part of this season to overwhelm me…

That year as I sat in a particularly uplifting session of church I was overcome by one line from of the song Silent Night, “THE DAWN OF REDEEMING GRACE”. As I sat there with tears streaming down my face the significance of those words sinking deep into my heart I sincerely understood, perhaps for the first time, what Christmas is really and truly about. Yes it’s about the birth of Christ, but even more than that it’s about that night being the dawn, the beginning, of our salvation because finally the only being who had the grace, the power, to save us had arrived! How grateful I am for that grace and that redemption, for my Savior and redeemer, for His infinite love and His patience with me and my weaknesses! How grateful I am for a time each year to reflect on what that DAWN OF REDEEMING GRACE means to me personally and how I will allow it to permeate my upcoming year.

Song: Silent Night by Taylor Swift

Song: A Baby Changes Everything by Faith Hill

Challenge: Ponder on a time when you felt the potency of the peace of Christ in your life and express gratitude for that time and those feelings.

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.