Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We're Growing!

One of the great themes of the Book of Mormon is that spiritual growth is a process. No one expects a three day old baby to run, but for some reason we often expect ourselves and others to run spiritually when we are spiritual infants. But God understands that spiritual growth is as real as physical growth—that’s why He provided a Savior for us. He knew we would need help.

One of the many places this is taught is in 3rd Nephi 18. In that chapter the Savior teaches the people that they should never keep anyone away from the Church. He says in verse twenty-two, “Suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not.”

Then He speaks to the people and explains that they know what they should do and so they should do it. “Ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me” (18:25). So those who have progressed to the point that they know the commandments know what they should do.

But then in verse twenty-seven the Savior speaks of himself and says, “I say unto you, I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father.”

Here we see the process. We begin by knowing we may come to Christ. Then as we turn to Him we learn what we should do, but as we grow we come to the point that our hearts are changed so that we must do what we are commanded to do not because anyone is forcing us because it is what we want to do.

Spiritual growth is a process and if we are persistent and patient we will grow. So don't fret over the fact you aren't a giant oak yet. Fretting takes away some of the energy needed to become a giant oak.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Truth Tool to the Rescue

I’ve been using the Truth Tools a lot this weekend and am here to tell you they really work. Last Friday I had a biopsy done on skin in the corner of my left eye. They are testing for skin cancer. It isn’t a big wound. As a matter of fact it is only two very small stitches, but there is a little bruising so that I have a bit of a black eye. Nothing big, but the problem is I can’t wear any makeup for a week.

Without mascara my eyelashes are absolutely invisible and I look terrible. Without makeup I feel naked and so my natural inclination is to lock myself in the house and wait until the week is up. But I can’t do that. I have responsibilities at Church and classes to teach during the week. So I marched out into the world yesterday. Some people stared. Most didn’t. But instead of being my friendly, outgoing self who smiles and greets others, I found myself retreating inside myself. That’s when I pulled out my Tool Box.

As the feelings started vexing me with thoughts of how ugly I was and that I shouldn’t be in public looking like this, I questioned, “Is that true?” and it brought me back to the truth quickly. I’ve got a small bruise on my eye. No that isn’t ugly. If I encountered something like that in another person, I wouldn’t think anything about it—especially I wouldn’t think they were ugly. I might wonder what happened to them and have a little empathy about how whatever happened might have hurt them, but that’s about all I’d think. So why when it is me, do I think it’s so absolutely horrible?

After all those thoughts I’d be all right for a while until I’d see someone staring at me (usually children who are just curious!) and then I’d grab the Questioning Tool and go to work again. It did work. I conquered the vexation and made it through the day just fine.

Now I just have to make it through a week of standing up in front of classes teaching with no makeup on. But I’ve got a tool Box full of amazing Truth Tools. I’ll make it!

Make your Memorial Day memorable!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sabbath Scripture

Ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:32

And truth is knowledge of things as they are,
and as they were,
and as they are to come;
And whatsoever is more or less than this
is the spirit of that wicked one
who was a liar from the beginning.
D&C 93:24-25

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A New Truth Tool!

This week I discovered a NEW Truth Tool! It is Curiosity. I discovered it by watching how children deal with negative experiences. Children are naturally resilient and I realized that part of what makes them so resilient is their curiosity about life.

I love this Truth Tool and realize that I have used it on many occasions in my life without recognizing that it is a Truth Tool. Here’s how it works. When vexation starts to swell in you, instead of being sucked into the negative feelings get curious about them. An example will best explain how this works.

Let’s say you suddenly get bad news that your company is laying off 200 workers and you are one of them. Vexation! The negative feelings start to rise in you. “What am I going to do? I’ve got bills to pay!” “This can’t be happening. I’ve been a good employee for twenty years! I’m too old to find a new job.” “This isn’t fair!” “I always knew this company could care less about employees. All that matters to them are dollars.” These thoughts cause negative feelings to knot in the stomach and choke in the chest.

But then you remember the Truth Tools and pull out Curiosity and change the way you are thinking. “I wonder what lesson God wants me to learn from this.” “When God closes a window, He always opens a door. I wonder what door God will open for me now.” “I can’t wait to see what tender mercies will come my way to help me though this.” “I wonder how this is going to make me grow.”

Curiosity may have killed a cat, but it’s saved me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Just Let Go

Stop for a moment and feel your heart beating. Now notice how your lungs take in air and rhythmically let it back out. Look at the veins in your wrists and think about the gallons of blood that are flowing through miles of blood vessels in your body. Look at your hands and wonder at the fact that somehow the carrots and cheese you ate last week has now become your skin, fingernails, and hair. Such miracles and you did nothing to make it all happen.  You didn’t order it, nor were you even conscious that it was happening and yet it miraculously happened. 

Now look at the world around you. The sun comes up each morning and you did nothing to make that happen. Clouds come and go. The trees outside your window grow. The grass goes dormant in the winter and springs back to green life in the summer. Tulips sprout from brown bulbs, and tomatoes grow from green vines. You might have watered and fertilized to help the process along, but you didn’t make it happen. God did.

Now think: If God can do all that, don’t you think He can run your life also?

We don’t need to fret and try to control every little outcome. That only causes us Unnecessary Pain. When we start to worry and vex ourselves with life’s challenges, we need to stop, look at our hands again, and remember that God is in charge. If He can keep me breathing and my heart pumping without me doing anything to make it happen, He can certainly take care of everything else. As the scriptures say, 
“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

So relax and let God do His work in you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This Minute is Yours!

I’m still thinking about my father. (See yesterday.)
He was a man of many sayings and yesterday and today they keep running through my head.

One of his favorites was, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
When I was young, that saying used to bug me.
Of course it’s the first day of the rest of your life! Duh!

But I’ve learned the wisdom behind the statement and I no longer scoff.
Today is a new day. It is a beginning, but only if we let it be so.
If we are harbor past mistakes or past experiences or past grief,
we bring that past into today and that makes today not a beginning
but a continuation of all we are vexing over.

When we live in Truth we realize that there is nothing we can do about changing the past,
 and so we let go of it. We let God take care of the past while we concentrate on the present.
 Yes, we remember what we have learned from the past,
but we don’t dwell on it and fret over it.
Fretting not only causes us Unnecessary Pain,
it takes up our time and energy and keeps us from living today.
Vexing over the past keeps us from using the new day to start new.

So rejoice!
This minute is the first minute of the rest of your life.
Make it a really good minute!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father’s birthday and I’m missing him a lot. He has been gone for four years, but if he were still alive would be 90 today. Since I am the oldest of his children, many of my memories of him bring back feelings of strength, vibrancy, robustness, and protectedness. But my most endearing memories of him include scriptures.

It was from my dad that I learned to love and desire to search the scriptures. Some of my earliest recollections are of him discussing gospel topics with his friends. I was so young that the conversations didn’t make much sense, but there was no mistaking the enthusiasm, love, and diligence with which Dad approached the scriptures. He’d turn many a discussion that started out to be about sports or national news or the weather into a gospel discussion. And as a teenager whenever I had problems he’d bring up just the right scripture story or verses to answer and calm me. I grew up with gospel topics as much a part of dinner as salt and pepper.

Oh how I’m missing those gospel discussions—especially today. During the last few years of his life when his mind wasn’t what it had been he’d still desire and try to discuss with me, but it didn’t always make sense and I’d find myself avoiding his conversations because it hurt so much. One day I walked in to find him in the chair he studied in, the Book of Mormon in his lap. “I don’t understand this,” he said with tears in his voice.

“What is it you don’t understand, Dad?” I asked as I walked to his side.

“Any of it,” he said, the sadness choking him. By then I was at his side and noticed that the book in his lap was upside down. I had to hurry away so he wouldn’t see me cry.

But I know that he is now in a comfortable chair studying or if not he’s attending a gospel class taught by some great prophet. He now understands more than he ever did, and I can’t wait to be with him again and find out all he has learned—to discuss it like we used to. Oh what a reunion it will someday be!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Being . . . Thankful

An important part of Living in Truth, something that keeps us grounded in Truth, is gratitude. But usually when we think of being grateful we think of expressing thanks in words.  But the kind of gratitude that keeps us grounded in Truth is more than words—it is a state of being. True gratitude is words and thoughts and actions.

We’ve all seen someone receive a gift with gushing words of thanks, but as soon as the giver turns his back the person throws the gift down, rolls his eyes, or in other ways makes it known the gift isn’t what they wanted.  The words were uttered out of a sense of manners or etiquette but the actions erase the words and express the person’s true emotions.

In the same way we can express thanks to God but then by the way we treat the things and people around us we declare we aren’t all that thankful. Gratitude is more than words it is a way of living. We show gratitude by reverencing, enjoying, caring for, and appreciating the things around us. We think grateful thoughts constantly and in short, we ARE gratitude.

In Colossians 3:15 we are told, “Be ye thankful.” Notice it doesn’t say that we should think or say thankful words. It says we should BE grateful. It is the being that makes the difference in whether gratitude is a fleeting thought or a foundation that roots us firmly in the way of Truth.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Making Lemonade

We’ve all heard the saying, “If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” The saying brings a smile to our lips and we understand the metaphor—when something bad happens make it into something good. But seldom do we stop to think about what the metaphor is teaching us about how to make bad into good.

The first thing you do to a lemon to make it into lemonade is to squeeze the juice out of it. This can be compared to examining the situation and identifying what parts of it are worth remembering or keeping and which need to be tossed into the garbage or forgotten. In any situation there is a lesson to be learned and so we examine it to learn the lesson and then let go of everything else—the Unnecessary Pain. If we hang on to the lemon rind and refuse to toss it out, it will rot and fester with mold and if we ingest it at that point, it will harm us. Likewise every bad or adverse experience in life has a downside that if we cling to can destroy us.

Once we’ve identified the good and thrown out the bad, we enhance the juice with a little sugar. In life, we do this by bringing to the experience what we’ve identified in the past from our scripture reading or teachings of the modern prophets or any life experiences that elaborate and expound upon the good.

Lastly we chill the lemonade and drink it. It does no good to make lemonade if we just put it in the refrigerator to chill. Instead when it is cool enough, we internalize the lessons and make them part of us. That is when the tart sweetness enters our system and changes us. We grow. We learn. We are better people for having a lemon given to us.

So if life hands you a lemon, start squeezing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Truth Test

One of the most effective ways to get rid of bad feelings (Unnecessary Pain) is to put it to the Truth Test. (Attached below.) You begin by writing out what you are feeling and why. Jealousy, anger, grudges, or any other bad feelings (Unnecessary Pain) can be chased away by writing. This is the purpose of the first step in the Truth Test and why it is important to write it out and not just think it. Tell the story you are harboring in as much detail as possible on paper (use as many pages as you need) and then put it through the questions of the Truth Test.

There is something cathartic about scrutinizing your feelings enough to put them into words and then committing them to paper. That is why the Truth Test is so powerful. Often feelings build in us like lava in a volcano and we don’t realize that we are fueling the fire or even where the fire is coming from. But as we sort through the matter and write it down we find the heat cooling and the steam evaporating. With the new perspective a light comes that helps us see the situation in different ways. I find that I often end up laughing at myself. Without the fire to fuel the lava, the situation looks so benign I wonder where the heat came from in the first place!

Just start to write and then put down on paper everything your heart is telling you and watch what happens. Keep writing until all the steam has escaped. After you are finished put the story through the questions of the Truth Test and feel the Unnecessary Pain seep out of your soul.

It works!

© Sherrie Mills Johnson 2010

I feel _____________________________________________(write the vexation, i.e. sad, angry, jealous, hurt, resentful, offended, worried, fearful, etc.) because __________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. What is my expectation? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. Is this expectation the Truth and nothing but the Truth in a telestial world? What is the Truth? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. Is this necessary or unnecessary pain? ______________________________________________________________________________
4. How would I feel if I stopped expecting this? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. What is the Spirit telling me to do right now? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________