Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Widow's Mites

For me, the story of the widow’s mites contrasts starkly against the story of Ananias and Sapphirra. Each tells a story of giving an offering to the Lord. Each, in turn, tell of its consequences.

The widow, under the glare of wealthy Pharisees, cast into the treasury the only worldly wealth she possessed. It was a small offering. It was her whole offering. The widow gave everything she had the Lord. On that day, she walked away from the temple as a witness that God rewards those who render to Him all that they have and are.

Meanwhile, Ananais and Sapphira received payment for something they had sold. No one knew how much they chose to held back. They easily could have held back as little as two mites. Nonetheless, when they laid their offering at Peter’s feet, he immediately recognized a whole offering had not been made. Holding back, even the smallest part, not only kept Ananais and Sapphira from standing as a witness of God, it kept them from ever. standing. again.

I find it interesting that we aren’t told the age of the widow. We aren’t told if the widow had children or grandchildren. But over the years, for me, the age of the widow has decreased from an aged, slumped over ninety year old to a mother in her late thirties with small children to feed. A widow young enough to be persuaded to keep at least one of the two mites . . . for her children’s sake.

Her willingness to give “all her living,” not only did God witness that her heart was all His, she testified to her children in Whom to look in order to live.

I’d like to think this widow’s specific act blessed her and her posterity one hundredfold beyond measure. Her one recorded act has certainly has blessed me!

The widow's mites has taught me that my giving must come from a giver’s heart. And that my giver’s heart must be filled with gratitude for God.

Some years ago, my husband and I were literally down to our last $59 dollars. My husband was self-employed. We were expecting child number eight. We had a house payment and a van payment and everything else that comes with home ownership and raising children. While I didn’t know it then, we had a choice to be like the widow or Ananias and Sapphira.

I learned that in circumstances so dim, it’s not easy to be like the widow. We live in a world that sympathizes with those who hold back a part. It would have been easier to justify giving part or half or none. But we choose to offer all. Even when our offering was so insignificantly small. 

What I felt during those struggling years, as we gave in our want, was a joy beyond anything I can describe – a sweet, sacred joy that has surpassed any giving I have done when I have had in abundance.

I hope to someday stand before the poor widow who gave her two mites and thank her for her act of faith which has blessed my living beyond measure.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Becoming as a Little Child

It is late.

So late that it's early. . .

I can hear three of my teenage boys laughing and talking in the kitchen as they make (and eat) pudding after midnight. (I know!! It's the last Friday before school begins again.) Which means, my three year old will be up at the crack of dawn. No rest for the wicked.

This morning for family scriptures we read and discussed THIS part in the New Testament.

Disciple's Question: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus' Answer: Be converted and become as little children.

This is a two-part answer! Which brings me to a very important question. How do conversion and becoming as a little child work together?

David A. Bedar says it beautifully: "The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.

"Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence. Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God. As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation, 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ', and endure in faith to the end, we become new creatures in Christ. Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony."

As I consider the wonder that comes about through true conversion, the desirable characteristics of a little child naturally follow: submissiveness, meekness, humility, patience, love, and a willingness to obey the Father.

But, I will be honest. I am far (far, away on Judea's Plains) from true conversion, because I have major difficulty being submissive, meek, humble, patient and/or loving most of the time! Believe me when I say that I am more child-ish than child-like. And it doesn't feel so good, because, in my willing desire to obey the Father, He let's me know. (Boy, does He ever)!

I am learning that becoming is a process. I cannot become converted or become like a little child without Him.

Line upon line.

Lesson upon lesson.

Failure upon failure.

"Be of good cheer," He encourages, "I will lead you along."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Walking on the Sea

Following the Savior’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, He compels His disciples to go into their ship as He personally sees to it that the multitude disperses.

These two simple acts help me better understand Jesus’s love.

Concerned for the weariness of His disciples, He sends His “children” bed, and continuing His outpouring of compassion - healing and feeding the multitude - Jesus personally sends them home.

Finally, with a night of solitude ahead, Jesus goes up into a mountain to pray.

However, the night wasn’t calm and peaceful for those He had sent to bed. For most of the night, the sea tossed and turned. And the disciples struggled “at their oars,” as the winds were contrary to everything they could offer.

For hours the disciples toiled. Not exactly the night of solitude as the Savior had on the mountain.
And sometime around 3:00 – 6:00 in the morning, during the “fourth watch,” the fatigued disciples see Something walking on the roiling waves.Walking. Not stumbling. Not struggling. Not faltering. But, walking on the water.

Needless to say, the disciples were terrified.

Was it a ghost? A spirit? Or maybe, because of the long night, they were all hallucinating together!

And then they heard His voice.

Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

To which Peter answered, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”

I want to stop right there for just a moment. I find it significant that at that moment – after four or six or nine hours of being tossed by the sea - Peter does not say, “Lord, if it be Thou, stop the storm!” Instead, Peter asks to walk on the untamed water with Him.

And with one word, Peter’s desire is granted.

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

Up until this week, I have always thought Peter to be the only person to have ever walked on water.

But I don’t think that is so true anymore.

For just a few, unwavering moments, Peter no longer cared how fierce the storm was. No longer did he care how tired and scared he had been. No, for a few moments, Peter knew, with certainty, that if he would fix His eye on the Savior, he would be filled with whatever he needed to walk on water.

I am learning that this is true. An eye single to His glory fills us with light when there is darkness. An eye single to His glory fills us with faith when there is doubt. An eye single to His glory fills us with understanding when there is confusion.

Along that same time, I think it's equally important to remember that the story of Peter also illustrates to those who “Come” and those who walk, they will inevitably begin sink. I think it’s part of the law of gravity and certainly the law of being natural creatures.

Truth is, I sink more than I have felt the desire to walk on water. But the beautiful part of this story is that immediately, after Peter cried out, Jesus stretched forth His hand to catch him.

I know He does the same for me.

Afraid, I ask.

He beckons, I walk.

I fall, He stretches.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thoughts about the Beatitudes

Blessedness: a well-spring of real joy, flowing from the inside out 
Fortunate: lucky, lucky, lucky me.

Which got me thinking, if the Sermon on the Mount read something more like this: 

Fortunate are the Poor in Spirit or Fortunate are the Peacemakers or Fortunate are They who are Persecuted . . . I have a pretty good feeling I wouldn't feel very fortunate at all.

I would just be terribly, terribly unlucky.

* * * 

The Beatitudes and My Baptismal Covenant

I'm discovering that the Beatitudes are not just a well-known list of blessings promised by the Savior. They are also a powerful reminder of my baptismal covenants.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For all my life I have thought “the kingdom of heaven” is the place where I hope to go one day. You know, back to heaven, after I die.

And then, this week, I realized that the definition of the, "kingdom of heaven” is the code word for “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” And the purpose of the Church is to prepare its members to live forever in the celestial kingdom or kingdom of heaven. Even the scriptures sometimes call the Church the "kingdom of heaven," meaning that the Church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.

And today, I understand more clearly why we are commanded to meet to together oft. Because when I come to ready to partake the sacrament with a poor spirit, coupled with a broken heart, I can be, for a short moment each week, a part of the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

The scriptures are replete with examples of those who mourned. In fact, current events are headlined with the mourning of the sick, the sad, the dying, the lost. And I am learning that the dawning of each new day brings mourning.

The word mourn comes from an Old English word murnan, meaning ""to mourn, bemoan, long after." But even older than Old English, it comes from the PIE root *(s)mer - "to remember." 

Mourning, then, is not only a way to grieve, it is a way to remember. Perhaps a powerful way to remember our covenants. Because mourning is something we covenanted to do when we were baptized. We covenanted to be willing to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

Thirteen years ago, the day before Mother's Day, the 2 year old son of a dear friend of mine was killed in a tractor accident. The next day she had the lesson in Relief Society. And much to the surprise of all of us, she showed up and gave her lesson.

I remember she had us all stand in a circle, holding hands. I don't remember what she said, but I remember how I felt as we wept and mourned together. And because of that one Mother's Day Mourning, there is not a Mother's Day that goes by that I don't remember my dear friend, her son and God's great plan of happiness.

There is comfort knowing that families can be together forever.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

I’m going to be honest, I don't have a pure heart. As much as I try,  most of the time it is filled with its share of impurities.

I am learning that I cannot purify my heart all by myself. A pure heart requires receiving God’s pure love. And understanding how to receive His pure love into my impure heart began the day I was baptized.

First of all, God’s love is not envious, puffed up, or easily provoked. His love thinks no evil and rejoices not in iniquity.

In addition, God's love suffers long. It is kind. It rejoices in truth. It bears and hopes and endures all things.

And most importantly, God's love never fails.

Not ever.

Once we are baptized, the gate back to the kingdom of heaven (the actual place we can go when we die) is opened. And on that path, we are to "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men" (2 Nephi 31:20).

Which brings me back to why I need to be poor in Spirit, why I need to mourn with those who mourn, and why I must pray to be filled with His love - those actions are part of the covenant I have made.

And His blessing comes when He bestowed His pure love on me - purifying me - even as He is pure, so that when He shall appear, I could be like Him and see Him like He is . . .

and sit down with Him forever, in the kingdom of heaven (Moroni 7:48).