One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the story of Joseph. Wrongly abused, wrongly accused, and forsaken by those who should have loved him most, he faithfully makes the best of every situation and triumphs. I’ve often wondered what he did to survive.
The precious coat of many colors his father had given him was taken away when he was sold into bondage. Everything else was also taken from him. He was alone and destitute. But neither his brothers or his captors could not take away his memories. Those memories had to be one of the major factors in his ability to stay true and faithful.
Likewise we can use memories to fuel and help us in times of need. We can recall the sweetness of bygone moments, the warmth of relationships, the things that have been given to us by those we love, but especially we can savor the spiritual experiences that have enriched our lives.
Memory is a powerful tool if we use it to remember the good and not the bad. Dwelling on good memories creates more good. It fills our hearts with love and gratitude and joy and those three things can empower us to overcome the many obstacles that we encounter in our journey back to God.
Each morning when we walk, my friend andI stop on the bridge over the river for a few moments meditation. I look forward to those times that revive and refresh me! And this morning those minutes were especially rewarding. There is a rock in the river that the water coming down stream crashes into and that encounter changes the course of the water. As I stood there this morning I noticed what happens to the water after it hits the rock. Instead of flowing uninterrupted on downstream like the water to the left of the rock, that water diverts to one of three places. Some of the water goes right as soon as it hits the rock and washes onto the shore. Some of the water goes right and is then pushed into a quiet little nook almost like a quiet pond in the middle of churning waters. The third group goes to the left of the rock and for about six feet seems to be rejoining the rest of the river but then makes a right turn. It is this current that forms the bottom border of the “pond” area and it continues to the shore where it then turns left again and goes on down the river.
As I watched the three areas many thoughts went swimming through my head. The rock is like the obstacles in our lives that often divert us into different paths but they don’t stop us. We are floating down the river of life, but then some obstacle in our path changes the course of our life and we end up someplace very different than where we thought we were going. But that isn’t necessarily bad. God needs some of us to water the vegetation on the shore. Some of the obstacles in our lives actually take us to a place of peace and calm, like the “pond” area where we rest awhile before traveling on. And some of us have something to learn from an abrupt right turn before we are ready to join the current again and move on.
I think I’m in one of those abrupt right turn areas now, but this morning the river gave me hope. When I’ve learned what I’m supposed to learn, I’ll rejoin the current and move on downstream.
I have been on pins and needles all week. D5 is in Russia trying to adopt children and things are not going well. You can read about her plight by clicking here.
But my plight takes me back to the principles of Living in Truth. My experience has taught me that it is much easier to Live in Truth when the problems are just with yourself. It is much harder when people you love are suffering. I've watched the agony D5 has gone through with medical procedures to help her get pregnant and the intense sorrow as each time they failed. I've seen the trouble and expense as she and her good husband have spent countless hours jumping through hoops required by the adoption process. It is a trial of faith to watch all of this and at the same time know what good parents they are. No child could find a better home than what they offer, and yet every where they turn they meet problems and disappointment.
It is difficult to understand and I have to keep reminding myself that understanding isn't part of faith. Faith is trusting that the Lord knows what is best for us and that even when things seem so absolutely wrong He can make them right. I'm using every Truth Tool in the arsenal right now to keep myself centered in faith, and constantly praying for a miracle. But whatever happens, I know our Savior will help her and me through it. I am grateful for that knowledge.
Picture by Christopher Talbot Frank //www.allposters.com/
Just yesterday I was walking on a newly laid carpet of autumn leaves. This morning the ground was covered with snow. Usually by the first snow the trees are barren, the leaves have blown away, and the snow rests on skeletal branches. But this morning with trees still full of golden leaves the snow on the branches was thick and bent the branches low as if they were bowing to their king.
Snow fell softly the whole three miles and the morning shone brighter than usual because the approaching dawn reflected off the fallen snow. In short the morning walk was absolutely magical.
I love the first snow of the season. That’s why decades ago I started a family tradition that on the day when the first snow occurs that sticks to the ground I make cinnamon rolls for the family. Years ago all my children’s friends caught on to the tradition and showed up at my house on the first snow. I loved it and I miss them. This year the only child I have in town is my son, but he’s already talked to me to ask when the cinnamon rolls will be coming out of the over. Since I teach today, it won’t be until evening, but he’ll be there—I am assured of that.
I wish more of the family were here to enjoy the tradition tonight. But despite the fact that most of them live far away I know that when it snows wherever they are they will think of me and cinnamon rolls and the great times we had around the kitchen table laughing and celebrating not the snow, but family and friends.
During the night someone spread a beautiful carpet of golden leaves and yellowed pine needles over the path I walk each morning. The usually hard path turned overnight into a soft and supple path so that walking felt different. The trees have been holding on to their leaves, but they are fast falling and snow on the mountains tells me the world is changing. But I’ve lived long enough to know that this season of dying vegetation is temporary. Spring with its new life will come. Summer in all its bright glory will follow. And then there will be another fall. I’ve also learned that you can’t have a tomato plant without burying a seed, but death of that seed means new life will grow up with new fruit and in that fruit will be new seeds that can be buried and grow new plants.
We all know this and accept it, but what we sometimes don’t recognize is that the changing times in our lives, the down times of disappointment or trial also are cyclical in nature. The down times will pass and change will bring new opportunities or knowledge or skills that wouldn’t have been possible without those down times.
The important thing to remember in the midst of the coldest winter is that seasons have cycles which means summer will surely come.
I saw another metaphor for life in Disneyland. I don’t like roller coasters. I never have. And so I would watch the grand children not tall enough for the roller coaster while my children rode. From my vantage point I could see them speed by and watch as the coaster chugged up the hills and then raced down. From where I sat, I could also see the thing make a loop at harrowing speed and turn everyone upside down.
Our quest for celestial life is a lot like the roller coaster. As much as we would like our spiritual growth to be a slow, calculated step by step upward journey, it is not. Instead, for some reason, we need to experience the downs as well as the ups. We need to be pushed out of our comfort zones and shaken up a little bit. We have slumps when we just don’t do it right, but then we can repent and go back up. There are even days and times and experiences when everything turns upside down. During the down times and the upside-down times we need to remember that down and upside-down are not us. They are conditions or states we are going through, but those conditions don't define us. We are children of God and our eternal trajectory is up and forward. UP and going forward is what we are. That is us.
Another important thing to realize is that in the end, the coaster always arrives back at the starting place, in our symbolism back with our Heavenly Father, and the thought that the ups and downs and all arounds are only temporary can give us the courage and the knowledge we need to hang on for the ride.
It is surprising how many of our gospel words come from the etymological roots which mean “to make sacred.” Consecration, sanctification, and sacrifice are a few of those words.
Sometimes we get in a rut of thinking that the commandments are a burden that restricts what we can do in our lives, but when we understand that all of these things are given to us to change us from carnal, sensual and devilish creatures into sacred or holy beings, we have a different attitude about the commandments. They aren’t a burden, they are a gift that allows the Atonement to operate in our lives. Thus the commandments are a blessing and an opportunity that we should give thanks for.
Next time you live a commandment (for example tomorrow when you attend church) say a little prayer of thanks for that commandment—thanks that you know the commandment and have the ability to keep it—and then notice what happens inside you.
Commandments are a gift from God and when we acknowledge that fact we grow closer to the giver of the gift.
D6 recommended a delightful book to me that I’m happy to tell you about. It was written by a woman who Lives in Truth and the delight comes from seeing how she does it. The book, Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas, describes the adventures of an Iranian immigrant encountering a foreign environment. Every incident she brings up could have been one that instilled hate or at least negative feelings of victimization, but instead she looks at the experiences with a sense of humor and is able to laugh and make us laugh with her. The added benefit is that while laughing we learn a lot about people and especially about ourselves. We learn that often the best approach to life is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
Think about it. We don’t get upset because a toddler falls when learning to walk. As a matter of fact, we often laugh at her attempts to waddle. Likewise we are growing and struggling to “walk” in so many areas of our lives. Instead of being upset that we can’t “run” yet, we need to step back and analyze how funny this must be and enjoy the journey.
I’m back! We spent the last few days in Disneyland in the rain. I haven’t been to Disneyland since 1991, and to be honest it isn’t my favorite place, but going with grandkids makes all the difference in the world even with the rain. Watching their faces glow with delight at the sight of Mickey Mouse or a Jedi is worth the admission price! I love how Disney has made things unreal so real! It truly is magic.
It made me think about reality. We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a vehicle when the vehicle next to us begins to move and for a few seconds it is impossible to tell if we are moving, if the other vehicle is moving, or if both vehicles are moving. In other words, our senses are not always reliable. But we live in a world that claims you can’t know anything unless your senses can verify it. Disneyland turns that assumption upside down. It verifies the fact that we all create our own reality and that reality can be altered and adjusted and toyed with.
I think this is an especially important fact for parents to remember. There are days when we go to bed so discouraged. Our senses tell us we are moving backwards and doing more harm than good. While attending to one child’s needs, another child’s needs go unmet even though we’ve working ourselves silly trying to meet everyone’s needs. But chine up! Courage take! The reality of the situation is that there is more than meets the eye (or any of the other senses!). The Spirit is working in ways we can’t see to help us and to make up for our lack of ability and resources. The reality is that we are moving forward despite the illusion that we are moving backward!
I’ve decided that Disneyland may be the best spot on earth to determine what reality really is!
I have a young friend, Aimee Vargas, an amazing young woman who is an incredible example of Living in Truth. You can read the story of how she has overcome by clicking here. Reading her profile will brighten your day and encourage you to live up to your potential.
By Living in Truth she has changed a hardship into an opportunity. And if you feel inclined, you now have an opportunity to help her out. I’m going to!
If you choose to donate be sure and click on Aimee's name so she gets credit for the donation! Every little bit helps her and her team!
I love symbolism and am especially captivated by all that can be conveyed by symbols. I saw this picture of the Salt Lake Temple baptismal font as it looked in about 1912 and loved pondering and learning.
The font sits of the backs of 12 oxen. We all know that the twelve oxen represent the 12 tribes of Israel. But why 12 tribes and 12 apostles? The answer is that 12 is the number that represents the priesthood. The next question is why did the Lord require the baptismal font to be placed on oxen. Why not horses or camels or elephants? The answer is that each of the 12 tribes had a symbol that represent the tribe. The tribe of Judah is represented by the lion and the tribe of Benjamin by a wolf, but not all of the tribal symbols were animals. For example, the symbol for the tribe of Zebulon was a ship and for Asher a goblet. But the tribe of Ephraim was an animal—a work beast known to carry heavy burdens—the ox.
Therefore, as we look at a temple baptismal font the message is clear. It is the task of the tribe of Ephraim through the priesthood power to find and bring the 12 tribes of Israel into the covenant through the waters of baptism.
Symbols can teach us so much! Ponder on this a little longer and see what else you learn!
It is a strange thing to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. I say strange because of the vastly different experiences we encounter. Today I am going to attend a wedding in the temple and in that holy place I will feel absolute peace and serenity. There will be joy and love all around me as family gathers and eternal vows are made. Everything good and beautiful will be there and then I will walk out the door and while I will take much of those feelings with me, I will suddenly find myself bombarded with newspaper headlines and music and the other enmities of the world.
But I like this “strange” and feel so sad for those of the world who never, ever feel the peace and joy—the people who don’t have places of sacred refuge.
I had a student in my office the other day who said to me, “I’m beginning to realize that with the Lord timing is everything.” It was an interesting statement and one I wish more 18 year old freshmen understood. But I can’t really criticize because I was much older than 18 when I learned it. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once wrote, “Faith in the timing of God [is] to be able to say Thy timing be done, even when we do not fully understand it.”
When we trust in the Savior we know that all things unfairly done to us will be recompensed to us. As John tells us in his great revelation, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
At some point every one of us will have our tears wiped away, and the pains we have suffered unfairly will be made up to us. That probably won’t happen tomorrow. But it will happen! A great part of faith, as Elder Maxwell taught, is to trust in the timing of God. Jesus Christ will make everything fair and good and right. Our job is to remember that and live accordingly.