Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Principles of Prayer found in John 2:1-11

For me, Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine, is a lesson about prayer.

Principle #1 - Prayer is how we communicate with God.
John 2:2 – “Jesus was called . . . to the marriage”

In learning how and why I pray, I have come to recognize Who I need to call when I communicate with Deity. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand that it is a commandment to pray to the Father in the name of Christ (3 Nephi 18:19). I am learning that the more my relationship with my Heavenly Father deepens, the more comfortable I am in calling on Him in times of joy as well as in times of sorrow. I know that He knows me and awaits to answer my prayers.

Principle #2 – Prayer is how we petition the Father for our righteous desires.
John 2:3 – “they wanted wine”

I'll admit that there have been times that I have felt guilty for wanting something that was good and right. Or I have had real problems, too big for me to comprehend, and yet, compared to my neighbor or family member, seems so petty in comparison. How can I ask God, who has given me so much anyway, for anything more? Do I have a right? Do my righteous petitions make me sound like I am entitled to those blessings? 

Boyd K. Packer teaches,
“On occasions I’ve had to counsel people for whom the Lord would probably quite willingly approve the thing they intend and want to do. It’s strange that they would come and almost feel guilty about doing something because they want to, even when it’s righteous. The Lord is very generous with the freedom He gives us. The more we learn to follow the right, the more we are spiritually self-reliant, the more our freedom and our independence are affirmed” (Teach Ye Diligently, p. 246).

On the other hand, the absence of petitioning our righteous desires makes us out to be unwise and foolish stewards. We must ask, we must desire to be able to receive.

Neal A. Maxwell writes, 
“Desire denotes a real longing or craving. Hence righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings. . . .Therefore, what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity. . . Righteous desires need to be relentless, . . . Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors. . .The absence of any keen desire—merely being lukewarm—causes a terrible flattening (see Rev. 3:15). . . Brothers and sisters, a loving God will work with us, but the initiating particle of desire which ignites the spark of resolve must be our own” (Ensign, November 1996, 21).

Principle #3 - God will require us to do something in order for Him to answer our prayer
John 2:4 - "Woman, what have I do with (for) thee?"

Our Father is the perfect parent. He gives to us according to our needs, wants and desires. This same question Jesus asked of his mother, (The title "woman:" being much more respectful that we would think of today), He also asked of the three Nephites (3 Nephi 28:4), the brother of Jared (Ether 2:23), and the blind man on the road to Jericho (Luke 18:41). I believe it is a question our Father asks each of us. "What is your solution? What are you willing to do to receive My help? What have you done or what will you do to "prove me now herewith" to open unto you the windows of heaven?" (Malachi 3:10).

Principle #4 – Receiving personal revelation is how God speaks to us
John 2:5,7 – “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it . . . and they filled the [the waterpots] up to the brim”

Julie B. Beck said, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” In other words, when the Lord speaks, listen - and then go and do!

During family scriptures a few weeks ago, I asked my children, “How does the Lord speak to you?” I received nine blank stares. So we sat in silence for a few moments, pondering how the Lord speaks to us. I am learning that recognizing how He speaks (uncomfortable feelings, peace, joy, pure knowledge, etc), requires an obligation on my part. And in fulfilling the obligation He has asked – whether I understand the end result or not – is the way I witness to God that He can trust me do what He asks.

David O. McKay summed it up beautifully, “I want to tell you one thing: When the Lord tells you what to do, you’ve got to have the courage to do it or you had better not ask Him again.”

Principle #5 – God answers prayers
John 2:9 – “the water . . . was made wine”

No, I have not yet seen water turn to wine, but I have seen sorrow transform to joy. I have seen heavy burdens made light. I have seen people I love with all my heart leave their sins behind to come to know Him.  And all this, because I know God answers prayers.

Principle #6 – After prayers of faith, miracles come
John 2:11 – “This beginning of miracles did Jesus . . . and His disciples believed on Him”

I love what President Monson has said, "Does He still hear? Does He continue to answer?” To which I promptly reply: 'There is no expiration date on the Lord’s injunction to pray. As we remember Him, He will remember us.' Most of the time there are no flags waving nor bands playing when prayer is answered. His miracles frequently are performed in a quiet and natural manner."

My testimony is that miracles do happen! For me, the beginning of being able to see miracles happened the day I was born. Since then, I have not ceased to be amazed at how the hand of God works in my life and in the life of my family. 

What the Cleansing of the Temple Has to do with Me

I've been thinking about how the Savior's cleansing of the temple (found in John 2:13-16), has to do with me. I've decided, first and foremost, it is a warning to all parents: "Don't Have Pets!"

But I digress, aside the animals at the temple, I think the Savior was more concerned about what was happening with the animals at the temple. They were being sold for money, for lucre, making the House of the Lord look more like the Great and Spacious Building.

As members of the Church, we are taught that the temple is "a place the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on earth." It is a place for retreat, for reflection, for revelation.

But this story of cleansing the temple has more meaningful insight when I am reminded that "only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness." It causes me to question, "Is our little family temple a place where there is holiness to the Lord or are we making it a cozy Babylon Bungalow? Do we allow to be sold out by the things of the world, or are we carefully and diligently laying up treasure in heaven that will last for eternity?

I am reminded that one temple cleanse wasn't enough for the Jews. Just two years later, the Savior had to cleanse it again because the same things were happening. Because Satan never sleeps and life continues to move on, my temple/home will always be in need to cleansing. But I am promised that if I "Organize [myself and]; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order," . . .I can attain "a house of God" (D&C 88:119).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Am a Pencil

When I walked into church that Sunday it was all I could do to conceal my delight! My well-used, well-loved mechanical pencil was sporting a new eraser, thanks to my husband who had found one while rummaging through his night stand the evening before. I had needed a new eraser for months, but I opted to erase the hard way by painstakingly prying the eraser from one side with my pinkie fingernail, lifting it up ever so carefully until it was higher than the case that held it captive, and then, taking caution as to not apply too much pressure that could cause tearing, erasing the graphite from the thin pages of my scriptures. Truth was, I had put off buying a new eraser. Buying a refill was the last thing on my mind when I went to the store. Plus, inexpensive, mechanical pencils really ought to be replaced, not just given a new eraser. But, I was not yet ready to give up my pencil, even semi-sans eraser. After all, this was my scripture pencil. The notes within the margins of my scriptures were from this pencil. The highlights and underlines were from this pencil. And on the night I needed to know, more than any other time in my life, that God knew me and knew what I was going through, this pencil marked my answer in a verse found in Alma 36.

I had not always marked my scriptures this way. For years, I had marked by code. Red for Atonement. Orange for Missionary Work. Blue for Repentance. Yellow for Light. My Church Coloring Book, my husband called it. I was too far into the rainbow when I came to the conclusion there were so many gospel topics and not enough colors. Eventually, I terminated marking by code, but kept marking with colors. Oh, how I loved those colors! It wasn't until my mother gifted me a new set of scriptures for my 38th birthday – the first set embossed with my married name – that I decided it would be a good time to use my husband’s scripture marking system, which only employed a mechanical pencil.

Sometime between the Bishop’s welcome from the pulpit and the opening song, my seven year old son began pestering me about wanting to draw. My children know our rules. No pencils until after the Sacrament is over. He wasn't happy. A missionary was speaking that day. There were a lot of people in the congregation. That meant his drawing time would be shortened tremendously if he waited until after the Sacrament was over. He persisted. I prevailed.

Immediately following the Sacrament, I quietly handed my son my mechanical pencil. He had been as patient as a seven year old, but as cunning as a teenager. Instead of using the ward bulletin he had discreetly guarded as his medium to doodle, he slyly pulled out from his scriptures two pieces of carefully folded, blank, white sheets of paper, and confidently placed them on his green hymn book. This boy of mine was an artistic delight. He would construct a fort during Sacrament Meeting if he had scissors and tape to go along with his pencil and paper. He smiled as he looked up at me, clicked my pencil several times and began to draw.

Every now and again, I glanced over to see what my seven year old artist was drawing. This was one of his more intricate pictures. There were shadowed mountains and leafy trees. A trickle of a river ran its course down hilly terrain. And there was a sun. A sun with very thick rays. I was happy that he was happy. I was even happier that he was no longer pestering me about wanting to draw.

It was near the end of the closing hymn when I peered to my left to see what had become of son's picture. Apparently, from the white piece of paper in front of him, he had tucked the first illustration away and was starting on his second. Who will be the lucky recipient of his Sacrament Meeting art work, I thought. Next to drawing itself, my son loved giving his drawings away. As I looked upon his blank sheet of paper for just a moment longer, I realized he wasn't using a new piece of paper at all. No, my son’s mountain/tree/sun with thick rays picture had been meticulously erased. The closing prayer was just about to begin as I grabbed my pencil. MY NEW ERASER! His paper was white and my eraser was no longer new. In fact, it was almost as small as it was when I replaced it the night before!

My eyes began to protrude with obvious displeasure. My heart began to race. My body temperature surged with intense provocation. I waited impatiently for the “Amen,” with full intent to reprove my son with sharpness - knowing full well that I was not being moved upon by the Holy Ghost  - when a feeling, so tender and soft came into my mind and caught me so off guard that it cut into my heart.

“Um, isn't that what an eraser is for? Isn't that why I came to earth?  I came to die for you. I died for you so that you could become as clean as that paper. It is I who makes you clean. My Atonement is your Eraser .”

Immediately, all the pencils we had in our home flashed before my eyes. I saw every single one of them, and quickly realized that most had no erasers left on them. It’s the eraser part that goes first. And usually, when I find pencils without erasers at my house, I throw them away. What good are pencils without erasers, anyway? On that Sunday I learned it’s the other way around. Without Jesus Christ, I would have been thrown out a long, long time ago.

I am a pencil and Christ, He is my Eraser .

Monday, July 7, 2014

Make A Trek Satchel With 2 Bandanas!

We are heading off for a Pioneer Trek and these are great for carrying journals, water bottles, scriptures, treats, etc.

Step 1: You need one 22"x22" (approx.) bandana and a 4"x22" strip from an extra bandana.

Step 2: Fold the 22"x22" bandana in half and cut 2" from the fold (will make a 4"x22" piece when unfolded). This piece will serve as part of the handle.

Step 3: Leave one section full. Cut the other section in three. From each end, cut 4", leaving the middle section to be about 15"x9." The two 4"x9" pieces will be used to lengthen the strap.

Step 4: Take the 15"x9" piece, press ends under and finish the seam on both sides. This piece will be the outside pocket.

Step 5: Fold outside pocket in half both width-wise and length-wise and press. This will serve as your guide to sewing your seams

Step 6: Take the 9"x22" piece, folding and pressing in half width-wise. This piece will serve as your bag.

Step 7: Align the center lines of the main bag and outer pocket. Pin. Sew along vertical center line. Sew along one side horizontal line. This will divide one side of the outer pocket into two pockets.

This side has two pockets . . .

This side has one pocket . . .

Step 8: Zig-zag or serge ends together.

Step 9: Take the two 4"x9" and 4"x22" straps and fold and press in half, lengthwise.

Step 10: Tucking the unfinished edges into the finished edges, sew together. Be sure your folds are lined up.

Step 11: Zig-zag or serge both edges.

Step 12: Pin strap to bag. One edge of one strap on either side of bag. Be sure not to twist. 

Step 13: Sew strap securely to bag.

Step 14: Ta-Dah!

If the bag is too long, you can easily tie a knot on shoulder to shorten its length.