Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Two Ears to the Lord

In one of my most favorite chapters in 2 Nephi, Jacob writes this wise, cautionary statement:

To be learned is good IF they hearken to the counsels of God.

Three principles from this short statement stand out to me.

First, to be learned is good. Learning is part of our spiritual DNA. Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are very pleased when we learn new things. They find joy when we increase and add upon the knowledge of things we already have learned.

Second, when we hearken to the Lord’s counsel, we won’t go astray. Knowledge and wisdom will be coupled with light and truth. “Light and truth forsake the evil one” (D&C 93:37).

Third, the word “ear” is smack dab in the middle of both the words “learned” and “hearken.” Maybe a coincidence that we were created with two ears, not one?

Learning and hearkening simultaneously takes practice. It takes faith. It takes action because listening with two ears doesn’t always come easily. Ask any of my children. One ear--out the other. One ear is not attuned to the counsels of God, is not hearkening. It's more like listening to and singing with your favorite song while trying to concentrate on a difficult math problem. Or teaching a child how to read while she is trying to figure out how to tie her shoes.

Learning and hearkening to the counsels of God requires the Spirit because "the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really care, and of things as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13).

For because when those two ears (learning and hearkening) are attuned to God, then "things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls" (Jacob 4:13).

Learning and hearkening to God = manifestations for the salvation of our souls.

But remember, Satan is a liar. Has been from the very beginning and He will try to take what is true and pit it again those things that are truth. He is especially effective when we are learning, but not hearkening.

Because what is true and what is truth are two different things.

A sister in Sunday School shared the difference of what is true and and is truth in this way:

These things are true: Having children ruin your body (and your hormones); Raising children is expensive; Children take up a lot of time and energy and money; You have to make some major sacrifices to have children; Cute, innocent babies grow up to be--teenagers!
These things are truths: Children are a sacred gift from a loving Father in Heaven; Children are part of God's eternal plan; Little children are alive in Christ; The only way a child can come to earth is by way of a man and a woman.

The things that are true can be taken by Satan, the father of all lies, and twisted. Twisted in a way that makes us think . . . well, you know what it makes us think. Because "whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning" (D&C 93:25).

Things that are truth keep us in the right way.  For "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light." And we can only know this as we hearken to His counsels.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Garbage Days

Mondays are our designated garbage days.

For the record, taking out the garbage is THE LEAST favorite chore in our house. My children murmur without hesitation when it is their turn to empty and line garbages and take the cans out to the street. . . Which, I don't quite know why. Garbage duty is less time consuming than doing dishes, much more pleasant than cleaning toilets, and is so much easier than making PB&J sandwiches.

And today is Monday.

And it snowed last night.

Being it the 2nd day of the New Year and "technically" considered a holiday in some parts, I didn't know if today the garbage truck was coming around this morning. But, by 9:00 a.m. I decided it would be a good idea to place the garbage and recycling cans at the curb just in case . . . because all four of them were plumb full.

After shoveling snow in order to get the cans to the curb, I realized that I hadn't checked any of the trash cans in the house. And suddenly, those murmuring words that I often always hear my children gargle when it's their turn for garbage duty entered into my mind: "I don't really want to go around and gather garbages and then go outside again and brave the cold! If I wait long enough then I can get someone else to do the dirty garbage work! Why do I always get stuck with garbage on cold, snowy days?" The excuses went on and on . . .

Oh, the thoughts make reason stare!

And because I really don't like reason staring me in the face, I decided I would go around the house and empty trash cans whether I wanted to or not! As I did, the number of garbage bags increased with every room I entered. And as the garbage kept accumulating, I began my pondering on the importance of daily repentance and the cleansing power of partaking weekly of the sacrament.

Can't I see that waiting to take out the trash even later today only means I hold on to it for another week?

Why is allowing last year's garbage (sins) to linger just one more day in my house acceptable?

When it comes right down to it, the only person who can take out my garbage is ME!

I ended up with five--FIVE--big bags of garbage to add to the already full cans at the curb.

Oh, how grateful I am for the blessings of the sacrament of being able to remit sin, to clean my soul, and to realign myself with God on a regular and weekly basis.

And today, I was profoundly reminded that, if done correctly, my personal, designated, put out-my- spiritual-trash-canon-the-curb-days is on Sunday, when I partake of the sacrament.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Family Home Evening - Music

After reading a chapter 26 from Ezra Taft Benson's God, Family, Country, and listening to THIS talk, my husband and I decided, since we have a houseful of music-loving teenagers, we would do the "music" test we had done to us when we were in Seminary. Here's what we did:

1. We took excerpts from our lesson FROM HERE. We emphasized the power of music (for good and for bad) as we shared stories from Heber J. Grant and personal experiences when music affected the way we felt or thought. We discussed why it is important to listen to music that not only uplifts but supports the doctrine of the family.

2. Each person had a piece of paper and a pencil. My husband chose nine pieces of music to which we would listen for a minute or so. We were instructed to write down our impressions of the music on our paper. The closing of eyes was HIGHLY encouraged.

3. For those who need a little help with a diverse playlist, here are the artists/songs we used and the order in which they were played:
     Drake - Jumpman
     Jim Brickman - Battle Hymn of the Republic
     Keith Urban - Raise 'Em Up
     Black Sabbath - Ironman
     Beyonce - Drunk in Love
     Lionel Richie - Endless Love
     Rush - Spirit of Radio
     Meagan Trainor - All About that Bass
     Paul Cardall - Nearer My God To Thee

4. Following our listening and writing assignment, we openly discussed what we thought and how we felt. It was eye opening to each of us what music does to our minds and our hearts and how it affects the spirit of our home.

We ended with this thought: "The more [enticing] the music by which false doctrine is sung, the more dangerous it becomes." -Heber J. Grant

*Not to deter from your personal or collective experience, I will write about the things I learned on a different post.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Light, Creation and Parenthood

Just some thoughts for today . . .


by Sarah Knapton, science editor (The Telegraph)
26 APRIL 2016 • 11:49AM

Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.

Not only is it an incredible spectacle, highlighting the very moment that a new life begins, the size of the flash can be used to determine the quality of the fertilised egg.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.


My thoughts:
1. Think of the very profound similarities with the creation of our Universe:
"And God said, Let there be lights and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good" (Genesis 1:3-4)

2. Think about the Light of Christ:
"The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience.

"The Light of Christ 'proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.' It is 'the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed' (D&C 88:12-13; see also D&C 88:6-11). This power is an influence for good in the lives of all people (see John 1:9; D&C 93:2). In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life."

3. Then think about the God-given powers of procreation with which we have been entrusted for such a minute period of time. How are we using those powers? This week I read an incredible talk by Bruce K. Satterfield. In part he taught:

"There are at least three reasons [why mortality is a test for parenthood].

"First, spirit bodies have no capacity to bear offspring. Therefore, each spirit would be given a physical body endowed by God with the power to propagate.

"Second, it is essential that the bodies given to God’s spirit offspring were to be mortal and finite because the power to procreate would be granted on a limited basis and only for time. If, while in mortality, God’s children use the procreative powers within the bounds he has set, and if they devote their best efforts to the raising of a righteous family unto God, then they will be found worthy of Godhood and granted the fulness of God’s creative powers in the eternities. If, however, they are found unworthy by misusing these powers, or foregoing the opportunity to bear children, or attach greater importance to worldly things over the raising of a righteous family, the creative powers will be forever removed from them.

"Third, only in the face of good and evil, can we choose for ourselves the priority of righteous parenthood. One of the reasons we have come to mortality is to experience the knowledge of good and evil. With the contrasts of these opposites plainly discernible, we demonstrate by our choices what we really desire. Only when we overcome the opposition of worldly concerns and focus our lives on the raising of a righteous family, can we prove to God (and ourselves!) that His work and glory is our work and glory. Thus the central focus of our coming into this mortal probation is to marry and raise a righteous family. This is the central purpose of our existence."

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Molting Has Taught Me

I have been studying THIS TALK from General Conference. And here is what I am learning.

Molting is like like repentance. It doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime, it happens over and over and over again. Most living creatures go through a molting/shedding process that not only allows new skin to replace old skin, it allows the new skin to develop with the growing, changing body.

The word molt is derived from the Latin word “mutuare” which means to “to be shed” or “to change.”

For example, dogs shed their fur twice a year. Spring to get rid of their thick, winter coat; fall to get ready for the thick, winter fur to come back in.

Birds molt. Some birds, such as ducks, swans, and pelicans, molt ALL their feathers at the same time and remain vulnerable for a two week period and cannot fly during this time. Other birds partially molt. Their feathers are gradually lost and replaced. For some breeds, this molting process takes several years. Molting keeps birds in their top flying condition.

Reptiles shed. Snakes shed their skin in one piece, while lizards shed their skin in patches. Depending on age and rate of growth, shedding takes place on a regular basis and is usually facilitated as a reptile rubs against hard twigs or stones.

Arthropods (crabs, lobsters, krill, arachnids) grow an exoskeleton and regularly molt when the body has outgrown the outer shell. Arachnids regularly grow and their molting period is usually accompanied by long periods of fasts and reclusiveness. In arthropods, the new exoskeleton is soft and begins to harden after the molting has taken place. A butterfly’s cocoon is a form of molt.

Amphibians shed regularly. Some shed every three months (once a season) and the process takes a day. Most amphibians eat their skin after it has been shed.

Humans shed. We shed dead skin everyday – over a million skin cells every 24 hours! The process of getting a new layer of skin takes about a month. The skin we have right now is not the same skin we had a 30 days ago!

I find it interesting that it is natural for the bodies of living creatures to change. Almost without us doing anything, our bodies find ways to become new: new skin, new hair, new fingernails. We do virtually nothing to facilitate these changes. They are a natural and phenomenal part of being alive.

Repentance is a process just like molting. Elder Vinas reminds me that, “It is important that we realize that just like the remission of sins, repentance is a process and not something that happens at one particular moment. It requires consistency in each of its steps (italics added).”

Much like molting, there is a process that happens before new skin is made and old skin is replaced. Yet, unlike the natural occurrence of shedding or molting, repentance needs to be sought after, continued, and regularly (daily) applied. Elder Vinas teaches, “The moment we begin to remember Him and keep His commandments every day—and not just on the Sabbath day—is when the remission of our sins begins to gradually take effect and His promise of having His Spirit with us begins to be fulfilled.”

I think about the birds that molt all their feathers as once and have to stop flying for a short period of time. Sometimes, that is what is required of me when I have had to go through certain periods of repentance. I have been blessed that stronger, feathered birds have protected me during these vulnerable times so that I had enough time to grow back my wings to fly.

I also think about the shedding of snakes and lizards. Sometimes repentance cannot be complete until I face and acknowledge issues that are very hard and very difficult. Shedding myself of practices or attitudes that have caused hurt to others or habits that have been long embedded into my soul can only be brought out and sloughed off with the help of others as they pull me and push me through the necessary rough terrains, leaving me to feel bruised and broken for a while.

Much like arthropods, repentance makes way for the development of a new structure on which I can build. Periods of fasting and finding quiet places of solitude to ponder and receive divine guidance assists me in the process. Eventually, the correct process of repentance transforms me, and I enjoy flying more than I enjoy hanging around. Repentance makes me more at home as a butterfly than wrapped up in a cocoon.

Then there are those amphibians - eating their skin. Sometimes, repentance requires that I swallow my pride. All of it. In one big gulp.

I am learning, ever learning, that the replacement of my spiritual skin (repentance), gives an opportunity for me to have moments when I can see God reflected in my countenance. Repentance gives me the desire for His Spirit to influence more of my spirit more often than it does. Repentance gives me more hope in His goodness, in His grace, and in His holiness.

I may not be able to change the world, but through repentance and faith on the Lord, I can certainly change myself. I can become a very good molter!

Check out these cool websites about molting and shedding:
National Geographic
Reptile Skin Shedding
About Birds

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Taxes Taught Me

My husband has been self employed for 13+ years.

Last weekend, my husband put all our tax info together to submit it to our accountant. I, for the first time in his self-employed years, put a great deal of tax information together. Detailed. Itemized. Extensive. I thought I did a great job!

However, the information that I gave to my husband only frustrated him. I had given him a monthly breakdown of what he wanted, but he needed more details and less details.

He needed break downs in one category here and less detail in another there. And as he explained this HUGE dilemma to me, things started heating up.Fortunately, with a spreadsheet program, it is simple to bring up the information or total up needed information simply by using a formula and copying it from column to column.

But that’s not what my husband saw.

Nope. He saw a sheet of paper sitting in front of him with information that to him was quite limited and unusable. No matter what I did to explain to him that the information he needed was all in the computer and just a few moments away, he was frustrated! From his point of view and limited understanding of all the information that had been meticulously inputted, he was quite certain that he would have to spend the whole ENTIRE day figuring out the information the way he always did. (Because he felt I didn’t do it correctly).

Let me just say the conflict was palpable. (Conflict, mind you, not contention).

Throughout the rest of the day I reflected upon this circumstance. I realized that my husband examining his one sheet of really good information and me seeing the entire spreadsheet and knowing the crucial formulas is a lot like my relationship to God. It wasn’t like my husband had to go manually find his information that would have taken an entire day . . . all he had to do was ask.

Because the information and the formulas were already there.

I recognized there have been so many times in my life that my view of the whole picture is so limited, no matter how careful the details in front of me and unfortunately, I’ve thrown a tantrum letting God know that He really didn’t give me all the information I needed; that I really I didn’t know any better what I needed to know; and that His answer, well, His answer really wasn’t the right one.

This little weekend experience made it certain to me that God is in the details, and instead of being frustrated that I can't see His whole picture, I should take a big breath and ASK!

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dial Your Trial

This was in my mailer a few weeks ago.

And I have been pondering on it ever since. . .

If trials were given to us based only upon us asking for them, what kind of trials would I actually choose?

Honestly, I wouldn't even call the number. Even if it was toll free!

And maybe if I chose something small and measly and mostly (entirely) undifficult, perhaps a 3 day/2 night vacation get away would be a good enough reward for completing my trial.

But I am learning that real-life, probationary-state trials are never free.

And I don't get to choose them because rarely do they come welcomed.

Because life's trials have driven me to my knees. They have brought me to repentance. They have stretched my capacity to feel, to want, to love. They have etched marks of wisdom and experience in the fleshy parts of my heart.

Trials, indeed, have changed (and continue to change) my life.