Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I am thankful for:
1. The gospel(which includes the Savior, scriptures, temples, etc.)
2. My family
3. My health
3. My talents
4. My friends (YOU!)
5. This beautiful world
7. A soft bed
8. A warm shower
10. Technology (which includes the Internet and my dishwasher!)
That's just the top ten. There is sooo much more that I am grateful for. I can hardly contain myself with thinking about all that I have. So this Thanksgiving I'm going to follow the counsel of the Lord when He said, "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving" (D&C 136:28). As a matter of fact, I think I'll start singing right now!
MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL! (Did you hear the music? I'm dancing, too! Join in! Sing! Dance! Be joyful! Making lists isn't the only way to be grateful!)
Monday, November 24, 2008
When the Savior walked and taught upon the earth, He often gave the people visual images that would help them remember Him. For example, instead of simply saying, “I will help you,” the Savior told the people, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). The people then knew what a yoke looked like. They saw one often, and saw animals yoked together working in the fields. After hearing the Savior tell them to take His yoke upon them, they would have thought of that every time they saw a yoke. Thus the image would serve as a reminder, something to help keep their hearts healthy.
I only see yokes in museums, and when I ask my students if they know what a yoke is, most of them don’t have a clue. Pictured here is a yoke for oxen. It keeps the oxen working side by side and the load that needs to be pulled is attached to the yoke so that the animals share in the work of pulling the burden. It is a beautiful image to remember—that when we are yoked with Jesus Christ he helps pull our load. (In my case, He often pulls ALL the load and me!)
Since I don’t see yokes on a daily basis to help me remember this concept, I’ve associated the idea with something I do see daily—my refrigerator. This may sound strange, but it works for me. I have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that work together to preserve food for my family. When I look at it, I think about myself working side-by-side with my Savior. I am never alone. He is always there. It reminds me that if I’ll just do my part of the job, the Savior will do the rest. We are in this together. How can I fail when He is helping me?
It is amazing how making an association like that can help you though a day. If the refrigerator image doesn’t work for you, associate something you see every day with something the Savior said and then let it remind you every time you see it of Him and His promises. You’ll be surprised what encouragement this will give you. That is one way to find “rest to our souls.”
Friday, November 21, 2008
In Proverbs I found a piece of advice that I like. It says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The Complete Jewish Bible translates that same verse as, “Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life's consequences.” And the NIV translates it, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
After reading these and other translations, I could easily see the importance of guarding the heart and began to ponder on how to do it better. I decided it entails keeping anything bad out and that takes concerted effort. Just as I strive to keep germs and bacteria out of my body, I need to keep filth and vulgarity out of my heart.
Right now I’m suffering from a cold, so evidently I’m not doing too well at the germs in my body thing. But that made me think some more. I am vigorously doing all I can do to rid myself of the germs and sickness. But when negative things like jealously, anger, resentment, grudges, or fear enter my heart do I spend as much time and effort ridding myself of them? Right now I’m using vitamins, herbs, and decongestants to fight my cold. I had these on hand and ready for the occasion the minute the sickness struck. This brings up another question. Have I acquired an “arsenal” of medications to use against sickness of the heart? When I feel these negative things creeping into my heart do I act immediately and fight off the negative emotions like I have this physical illness, or do I sit back and say, “Well that’s part of life” And let it linger?
Negative feelings are sickness to the heart which leads to negative issues in life and dire consequence. I think I’m going to work harder at guarding my heart; after all, I want my life to flow from a wellspring not a sickspring.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The shortest verse in our English King James Bible, is found in John 11:35 and consists of two words and nine letters, “Jesus wept.” In the original Greek our New Testament was translated from, that phrase is not the shortest. In Greek it is three words and seventeen letters.
Instead we find the shortest Greek verse in 1 Thesselonians 5:16 where it consists of two words and fifteen letters. In English the verse reads, “Rejoice always.”
I know this is Bible trivia, but it is interesting to me that these two shortest verses in the English and Greek New Testament sum up the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Jesus wept” not only for the people gathered at Lazarus’ tomb but for you and I. In fact those loving tears culminated in the Atonement which allows us to return to the safety and love of our Father in Heaven. For that reason we should “rejoice always!”
Put the two verses together and you have the good news of the gospel summarized short and succinct—Jesus wept for us, therefore, we can rejoice always.
Friday, November 14, 2008
While in South Carolina a dear friend, TeLene, spoke with me about the entry I wrote not too long ago about the five love languages. She said that after reading about how God speaks to each of us in our specific love language, she began to think about the fact that God must have a love language also and that His love language is acts of service. This means that whenever we are obedient and serve, God feels loved. She explained how this discovery had changed her. For example, she had an assignment to help clean the church and when the time came had other things she would rather do, but then the thought came to her, “No. I need to go clean so God will feel loved.”
I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since and just yesterday found these insights from President Thomas S. Monson, “We have a responsibility to prove to our Heavenly Father, by the things we do, that we love Him. . . . Though we may not necessarily forfeit our lives in service to our God, we can certainly demonstrate our love for Him by how well we serve Him. . . . Each of us has opportunities for Church assignments. This opportunity of serving in the Church enables us to demonstrate a love of God and a love of our neighbor. . . . There is no finer way to demonstrate love of God than by serving Him in the positions to which we may be called. (“How Do We Show Our Love?” Ensign (Jan. 1998), p. 2, 4, 5.)
We talk a lot about God’s love for us, but sometimes we need to think about our love for God. Recognizing that He wants to be loved and then “speaking” His love language not only demonstrates that love, but the conscious recognition that when we obey we are loving him can motivate us to do the things we should.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I’m home. My trip to South Carolina was a dream. Everything you’ve ever heard about Southern hospitality is understated! I was treated like royalty and loved every minute of it. I spoke on Saturday morning to a warm, loving chapel full of sisters. Afterward they served a delicious turkey dinner and gave me a beautiful palmetto bag monogrammed with my initials and a brass palmetto welcome sign. (If you don’t know the significance of the Palmetto, check this out. Very interesting!)
After the conference my daughter drove me by the Columbia temple. It is small and secluded—a haven nestled in a forest. That afternoon six of the sisters, Cookie, Sue, TeLene, Laresa, Marie, and the hostess Cyndy had planned a surprise for me—a Southern Tea Party (herbal tea, of course!) A beautifully set table greeted me and all the trimmings of an English Tea—the sandwiches, scones, and sweets—but with a Southern flair that included pecans (that’s PEE-cans in South Carolina) and everything else that is good. The highlight came when they made me an honorary Southern Belle. To do that they instructed me in the nuances of “Southern Speech.” I learned how to properly tell someone that something isn’t going to happen. You say (making every vowel into two sounds) “That old dawg won’t hunt no more.” I learned that when addressing a group you don’t say “ya’ll.” Instead you say, “All ya’ll.” I learned how to properly use “reckon,” “fetchin’,” “fixin’ to,” “awfullest,” and a new sense of the word “best”—as in “You best not do that again!”
After being properly instructed, I was tested and required to repeat back three things I had learned. I am proud to say I passed the test and was presented a beautiful Palmetto pin and proclaimed an Honorary Southern Belle. I proudly wore my pin today!
The next day, Sunday, I attended the Camden Ward and again was overwhelmed with love. Then in the afternoon Laresa took me to a friend’s house, or rather I should say mansion. Holly Hedge House was built in 1842 and has been lived in since it was built. Originally it was a 600 acre plantation headed by a sprawling three story main house with wide inviting porches everywhere. Behind the main house stands the kitchen house—a two story building (much larger than my home) that housed the kitchen, butler’s pantry and a huge great room that doubled as dining room (you could easily feed 85 to 90 people in there) or a ball room. Originally the downstairs housed the household slaves. It is now bedrooms and a beautiful pool room. I can’t begin to describe how magnificent! But the magic came from stepping back in time. This wasn’t a museum with roped off rooms—this was a lived in, beautifully preserved, vintage home emanating personality from every nook and corner. Its charm gathered me into its secrets so completely that I was surprised when I passed a mirror to discover that I wasn’t wearing a hoop skirt with layers of rustling petticoats.
This is only a bit of all that happened. I’m still floating! Why, I had such a fetchin’ good time I’ve a mind to go back dreckly!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The prophet Jeremiah taught at the same time Lehi did in Jerusalem, but instead of taking him away to a promised land, the Lord instructed him to stay with the people and urge them to return to God. He obeyed but his efforts were in vain. The people refused to repent and brought upon themselves the very destruction Jeremiah and Lehi had warned them about.
At one point the Lord told the people through Jeremiah that they had committed two evils, “They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Reading this you and I get a sense of the meaning, but the intensity of it is lost on us—people who turn on a tap to get hot or cold water and then watch it run down the drain without a thought as to what is happening.
In Jeremiah’s day water was a valuable commodity. Recognized as absolutely necessary for human existence, water procuring occupied much of their time and thoughts. And once procured, protecting that water became equally as important. Every family member would be constantly reminded of the importance of water, and no one would dare waste water. It was much too precious. Water was life.
So when the Lord offers them a fountain (source) of living waters they should have rejoiced and drunk freely. Instead they rebelled and spent much effort to build themselves cisterns that broke and were unable to hold water which meant they went thirsty and died.
This is difficult to understand. When the Lord says, here drink from the living waters I’m giving to you, why would anyone turn their backs on that water and instead go to all the work of building and trying to fill their own cistern? It makes no sense, and yet repeatedly throughout the history of mankind we see people turn away from the life-sustaining waters offered by the Lord and instead spending a great deal of time and effort in an attempt to build leaky cisterns.
The question this makes me ask myself is, “Am I drinking from the Source or digging my own well?” Drinking is easy. Digging is hard. But the adversary does a very good job of confusing those two.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
At one point in his writings, Isaiah proclaims that Jehovah is his strength and his song. Jehovah being my strength, I understand. How Jehovah is my song isn’t as clear. In the Psalms we find the declaration “with my song will I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). This makes more sense to me. After all, music is a powerful way to praise God. And maybe that is similar to what Isaiah means when he says, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2 and 2 Ne 22:2). The Hebrew word translated here as song, is zimrath, and means “song of praise.” So maybe Isaiah means that Jehovah is what he sings about and praises.
But he says Jehovah is his song so maybe there is more to this declaration that he wants us to understand. A song is a type of music and music is “the art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.”
This takes a little thought, so ponder on it for a moment. If we let Jehovah order our lives, he orders the experiences in succession, in combination, and in relationship to each other to produce a life having unity and continuity. So our life becomes a song and Jehovah is the composer. Sometimes life is like modern music—full of polyphonic, dissonant and syncopated events. But when we trust in the composer, he always brings it back to harmony, melody and rhythm. And the promise is that it will eventually end in harmony, melody and rhythm and stay there forever.
But still, Jehovah in this analogy is the composer, not the song. There has to be one more step in the process. Jehovah is our song when he becomes our life. When we stop trying to order the events of our life and let him do it, he produces a composition having unity and continuity and He is that song.