Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Savior's Triumphal Entry (Palm Sunday)

On the last Sunday of the Savior’s mortal life the disciples brought to Him the donkey they had obediently obtained. As we talked about yesterday, the riding of a donkey was symbolic of the fact that He was King, but instead of a fine saddle of leather, gold and jewels that the king of the land would have had, this donkey was outfitted in humble cloaks from off the backs of the disciples—a gesture of love on their part.

This being the beginning of Passover week, Jerusalem was crowded with local Jews and thousands who had traveled from lands far away in order to celebrate Passover at the temple. Word that Jesus, the man who had raised Lazarus from the tomb, had come to Jerusalem spread quickly among them and curiosity impelled a great multitude to gather to see for themselves. Therefore, as Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives, crossed the wadi Kidron, and then began the assent to the Temple Mount, people thronged the streets to greet Him. Overcome with emotion many took off their cloaks and laid them on the ground to make a path for Him. Others cut palm branches, a symbol of victory, and waved them as He passed. And those that followed Him and those He approached all began to cry out saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). Hosanna means “save now,” and these words are part of the Hallel which was used in the temple during sacrificial rituals to help the people remember that the animal sacrifices they were offering were a semblance of The Sacrifice that would occur when a Messiah atoned for the sins of mankind.

The Hallel consists of Psalms 113-118, which are recited not only during sacrificial rituals but on many other joyous occasions. The Hallel was traditionally recited as part of morning prayer services, and during the first night of Passover was part of evening prayers. Reading these six Psalms will help you feel the meaning of Easter, but there is one verse that is particularly poignant to me and illustrates the irony of what is occurring. Sunday the crowd praises Jesus and through word and actions proclaims Him their king, but on Friday they will cry out, “We have no king but Ceasar” (John 19:15). And in the Hallel we read, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22).

As the crowd shouts “Hosanna!” the Pharisees call on Jesus to rebuke the disciples for such blasphemy. But Jesus answers them, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out!”

As the procession slowly drew near to the city, Jesus wept, and said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:42). There is much debate over the meaning of the word Jerusalem, but some have said it means “Founded peaceful.” If that is the case, the Savior’s sorrow is even more meaningful. The city was intended as a place of peace and refuge for the House of Israel, but men had turned it into a place of iniquity. Thus great destruction, pain, and suffering await the inhabitants and Jesus prophecies of that impending doom while weeping. (Luke 19:42-44).

But the message is for all of us. God will save us from destruction. Even the stones of the earth know that. And the Savior was given us to “found us peaceful” in the midst of this world of chaos and iniquity. This is the promise that is ours—this “belongs to our peace” if we will lay down our cloaks on the path of righteousness and follow the Savior crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that came in the name of the Lord.”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Preparation For The Triumphal Entry

Jesus arrived in Judea before Passover week began and supped in Bethany with His friends. Word spread quickly that He was in the area and large groups of people began to assemble. John tells us that they came not only because of Jesus but to see Lazarus, the man who had been dead and buried but raised from the tomb. Despite whether they came to see Lazarus or Jesus, once they had seen Jesus many went away believing in Him, and marveling at the things He had done. This irritated the Chief Priests so much they counseled together how they might put both Jesus and Lazarus to death and put a end to all this talk of miracles and messiahs.

As the Chief Priests went about their devious plotting, Jesus walked over the mountain into Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, and from there he sent two disciples into the nearby village to bring back an ass that no one had ever sat upon. He told them that as soon as they entered the village they would see the colt tied by a door. Jesus  warned them that as they loosed the colt, they would be asked, “Why do ye this?” and they were to simply answer, “The Lord hath need of him.” Upon hearing this, the men would readily agree to send the colt with them.

The disciples did as Jesus commanded and everything happened exactly as He told them it would.

The interesting thing about this account is that Jesus knew exactly where the colt would be found and even the words that would be spoken. Looking back on this experience after the crucifixion, the disciples could not help but understand that this was part of the plan that would bring about His death. He knew, when He asked them to go for the colt, what lay ahead for Him.

But there is more to learn from this account. An ass had specific symbolism that is important here. Horses were used by soldiers for warfare, but an ass or a mule were gentler animals and thus symbols of royalty. While history often shows us kings who are selfish and proud, the intent has always been that a king should be someone who loves, protects, and cares for his people. Thus by His choice to ride an ass, Jesus proclaims to all who have eyes to see that He has come not as a warrior who will save them from Roman bondage, but as a King who will save them from the bondage of sin. And just as the colt had never been ridden before, this type of King had never been known before.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just Before Passover

If we had as much written about every week of the Savior's life as we do about the last week, we’d fill the Library of Congress with just those books. We'll beginning detailing that week soon, but there are a few things that happened just prior to His last week that get our minds and hearts ready for what is to come.

Six days before Passover, on the day before the Triumphal entry, Jesus arrived in Bethany at the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He often stayed with them and his great love for them was made evident when He raised Lazarus from the dead probably a couple months before this time. (See John 11:43.) When He arrived a supper was made for him, and as we know, Martha was chief caretaker at that event. It is easy to imagine her bustling around making sure everyone is comfortable and has enough to eat. She must have been the consummate hostess. But while Martha showed her love for the Savior by taking care of His physical needs, Mary expressed her love by taking a pound of ointment of spikenard, which we are told was “very costly” and anointed Jesus’ feet. The word spikenard in Hebrew is nard and means “light.” In Greek the word for spikenard means “pure and genuine.”

The amount of ointment is amazing. Think of the size of a pound of butter. No wonder John tells us that the house was filled with the beautiful scent of the ointment. In a day when the stink of unwashed bodies, rotting food, waste, and debris constantly accosted people, the fact that this sweet scent of spikenard filled the air must have been unforgettable. But instead of enjoying the aroma Judas Iscariot, was displeased. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 8:5), he asked. A pence was a day’s wages for the common working man, which makes Judas’ concern understandable if one is only looking at the materiality of the event. 

But in John the Savior responds, “Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (John 12:7-8). And Mark reports that he says,“For verily she has come beforehand to anoint my body to the burying. She has done what she could: and this which she has done unto me shall be had in remembrance in generations to come, wheresoever my gospel shall be preached; Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, what she hath done shall be spoken of also for a memorial of her” (JST Mark 14:8-9).

The Savior’s words indicate that Mary knew what was coming. She knows He is going to die and is anointing Him in preparation for that death, but besides the anointing we are told that Mary wiped his feet with her hair.  The reverence, the awe, the love of that gesture sink deep into my heart. This is an event filled with significant symbolic meaning. In great reverence she anoints the Light of Life with spikenard (a symbol of light) and wipes the ointment onto His feet with her hair (anciently a symbol of life). In doing so, she is symbolically proclaiming that He will die, but His death will give light and life to us.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Commemorating Easter

As I did last year, I am going to be commemorating the last week of the Savior’s life here on Good News! After all, that is the Good News! So as we approach Easter week, I’ll repeat some of what I said last year and I’ll add some things to it. But I’m going to start with the same thing and that is to ask you to forget all you know about the last week of the Savior’s life. I know that sounds strange, but I have my reasons and three of them are:

(1) Since we were small children we have been learning about Jesus Christ so that what we now believe about Him is a composite of years and years of accumulated knowledge; some of that knowledge is accurate and some not. But the inaccurate is not necessarily the problem. Often the accurate is the problem because we have heard it so much and so often we don’t REALLY hear it any more. The words pass through our minds but we don’t think about what they mean let alone feel them deep in our hearts. So pretend you know nothing and let the wonder of it all amaze you.

(2) When you read or listen with an empty mind you hear old things in new ways. You will understand differently. Insights will come to fill the places you have emptied in your head.

(3) When you listen with an empty mind you are more open to learning with not just your mind but also your heart. Too often our mind actually gets in the way of learning because it starts shouting “But” or “If only” or “That can’t be” and the shouting that goes on keeps us from hearing the whisperings of the heart. Paul teaches, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

Easter is the season of newness and the greatest gift you can give to yourself this season is to partake of the newness. So empty your mind and begin this adventure by simply savoring the thought that Jesus Christ makes all things new—even you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Celebrating Easter

Easter is coming! 
It's the celebration of the greatest event 
that ever occurred upon the earth, 
and like Ammon I find myself thinking,
“Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord?
Yea, who can say too much of his great power,
and of his mercy,
and of his long-suffering towards the children of men?
Behold, I say unto you,
I cannot say the smallest part which I feel”
(Alma 26:16).

Jesus Christ is the Good News! and what is the Good News
Jesus Christ saved me and you from eternal misery. (See 2 Nephi 9:8-9). 
I know how awful I feel when times are bad, 
when I do things wrong, when I’m in pain, when I’m sorrowing. 
I’ve tasted misery enough to know I don’t like it. 
But I’ve only tasted misery a bite at a time. 
But without the Atonement of Jesus Christ 
I’d have to live in all the misery there is,
and only in misery, 
forever with no possibility of escape. 

Misery weighs on me, eats at me, saps my strength, hurts me deep! 
But because of my Savior, 
I not only can escape misery, 
I can be helped through the “tastes” of misery that I’m forced to “imbibe” 
while in mortality. 
Like I said, “Who can glory too much in the Lord?” 
I know I can’t say enough, 
and so as Easter approaches I’m going to glory in Him every day. 
And today I'm glorying in the fact that my Redeemer 
loved me enough 
to save me from eternal misery.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maundy Thursday is Fast Approaching

Easter is coming! My favorite holiday! This year it falls on Sunday, April 8th—jus tunder two weeks away. While there are many fun traditions associated with Easter that are carried out in our culture such as dying eggs and hiding baskets that symbolically teach us about the reason we celebrate Easter, there are many other traditions that few people know about that can give our Easter celebrations more meaning. One of these is Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday falls on the Thursday before Easter. It is also known in some places as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, or the Thursday of Mysteries. But I like the term Maundy Thursday best because Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which means “command” and refers to the commandment Jesus gave on the last Thursday of His life: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). The old command had been to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39), but His last commandment set a new standard--love others as He loved.

Traditionally, in certain parts of the world, on Maundy Thursday a Maundy Ceremony is performed where people wash the feet of the poor in commemoration of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles and instructing them to serve others, which also took place on Maundy Thursday. Over the years the traditions of how to serve others changed from washing feet to the giving of Maundy Money to the poor. However it is celebrated, Maundy Thursday is about following the Savior’s example of serving others and giving of oneself with love.

So as Maundy Thursday approaches (April 5th) if you don’t already celebrate the day as part of your commemoration of the Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior, it could add to the meaning of your Easter to start a Maundy Thursday tradition of your own. You don’t have to wash feet or give money, but serve others in any way you can and see how it enhances your Easter celebration.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Life and Cooking

After tasting her friends fantastic lemon pie, a woman asked her friend for the recipe and the friend graciously gave it to her. But when the woman made the pie it tasted nothing like the delicious pie she had eaten at her friend’s house. “She must have left out some ingredients so I couldn’t duplicate her good cooking,” the woman thought. That thought troubled her so much that at last she confronted the friend with her accusation.

The friend denied leaving anything out and calmly went over the recipe. “It calls for real butter, did you use that?”

“No,” answered the woman. “I never use real butter, it’s too expensive. I used margarine.”

“And it calls for the juice of real lemons, did you use that?”

“No,” answered the woman. “Lemons go bad before I can get them used up so I always have bottled lemon juice on hand to use.”

“Well, that is the problem,” said the woman. “There’s nothing left out of the recipe, you just didn’t follow the recipe.”

There is a lesson in this story for all of us. We have been commanded to be obedient to the laws of God and in return God will bless us. But as we live our lives we often rationalize ourselves out of doing exactly what we have been told to do, and then we blame God for not blessing us. But God has said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10). Exactness is an important part of cooking and an important part of living the gospel.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Service Is A Pain Killer

One of the best Truth Tools of the gospel that is important in helping us jettison unnecessary pain in our lives is service. It can also help us through the necessary pain. Many years ago an article appeared in the Church News about a woman in a nursing home who was suffering from cancer. Her story illustrates how service even helped her deal wit necessary pain. The woman, in her 80s, lived in constant debilitating pain despite the medication she was on. A ward Relief Society leader brought her two dolls to fix up so they could be given to needy children for Christmas. When the Relief Society leader returned the dolls were ready and, in addition, the woman had made 11 baby quilts to be given to the poor. Subsequently seven more dolls were taken to the woman who made beautiful bonnets, dresses and coats for six of them before she died.

After her death her family found her diary and read the following entry, “3 a.m., couldn’t sleep, the pain was intense. Decided to work on the dolls, and the pain went away.” The following pages were filled with the same report, “Decided to work on the dolls and the pain went away.” (Church News, April 21, 1985, p. 16.)

As King Benjamin so aptly put it, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). And when you are serving God and your fellowman, you forget about yourself--even the pain you are in--and open yourself up to the gifts and joys He is trying to give you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More About Vulnerabilty

Dr. Brené Brown

As you recall two days ago I wrote about the importance of being vulnerable. To add to this I’d like to tell you about a social worker who has spent years studying vulnerability. Her name is Brene Brown and her findings are very interesting. You can see one of hertalks here.

Brown claims that our fear of being vulnerable has made many of us go into a state of numbness in order to protect ourselves from fear and other negative emotions, but the process of numbing emotions is not selective. When we numb ourselves from the negative emotions we also numb ourselves from the positive emotions and that is one of the things that is very wrong with our world today.

At the end of this talk Dr. Brown explains some ways to help us escape the numbing and to live vulnerably. The first of these is to be grateful. I’ve talked a lot about gratitude on Good News! and you all know about the importance of being grateful. But her second idea struck me as just as powerful. She says we should “Honor the ordinary.” Doing that is something I’ve done all my life without realizing it, but now to see it as a way to open myself to life added a dimension to doing it that I hadn’t realized. When we take time to notice and appreciate the yellow of the daffodils or the sound of a bird or the delightful squeal of a toddler, we open ourselves up to the world and let joy in.

Honoring the ordinary is a way to connect with the world and with God, and in connecting with the world and God we connect with our deepest self in a very rewarding way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Being Engraved!

I have a favorite verse of scripture that I like so much I once set it to music, a very painstaking process for someone who isn’t really a musician. The scripture is found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

That verse repeated over and over in my head has gotten me through many a trial, but just the other day as I was reading it I opened my Bible and instead of starting to read at verse five I began at verse one and at verse three read, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.”

Several things struck me about this verse. First, I love the juxtaposition of mercy and truth. It happens in many places in scripture not just here, but while endeavoring to Live in Truth I’ve discovered that it can’t be done without mercy. The two concepts go hand in hand. If I’m not merciful to those around me I fall in the Pit of Illusion hard and deep. Mercy is the key. The second thing that struck me was the fact that I should write truth “upon the table of my heart.” But how?

As I thought about that question I realized that writing on the table of my heart is done not by studying or thinking about truth but by living it. Every time I act in Truth and Live in Truth that Truth is written not with pen or pencil or even typed, but to write on a fleshy table it would have to be engraved. That implies to me something enduring and lasting and deep. Ink can be washed away, but engraving cannot. Thus when I Live in Truth something lasting happens to me. I change and the more I Live in Truth the more I change and grow for good. I like that! I’m going to go about my day engraving Truth on my heart!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being Vulnerable

There is a concept that is part of the gospel and an important part of Living in Truth that I’ve never heard a single talk or lesson about. That is the concept of being vulnerable. If you are like most people just reading the word sends shivers up your spine, and yet in order to progress and become like God we need to open ourselves up and be vulnerable. The word vulnerable means “open to attack or damage.” That’s what a missionary does. That’s what teaching a lesson or giving a talk or bearing a testimony entails. That’s what loving another person involves. Nothing in life that is worth having is obtainable without being vulnerable. A person who refuses to be vulnerable, refuses life.

The hermit who hides away from people and the world is afraid of being vulnerable. They may never suffer the pangs of being rejected, but they also never experience the joys of friendship and love. The person with great talent who is afraid to share that talent is afraid of being vulnerable. They may never be laughed at or make a mistake in public, but they will never have the satisfaction or joy that comes from sharing with other. The shy person who never speaks up may never be put down, but they will also never enjoy the bonding that occurs when people share ideas, dreams, and knowledge. Refusing to be vulnerable isolates us from others and shuts us off from growth.

But most important, repentance requires a person to be vulnerable. It requires us to risk as we seek forgiveness from others and to experience embarrassment and other such emotions we don’t want to confront. But if we refuse to be vulnerable and repent, we stop our eternal progress.

Instead of cringing at the concept of vulnerability, we need to learn more about it, embrace it, and open ourselves up to the possibilities that await us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Power We Have

I woke up this morning to find three inches of snow on the cars and lawn, but the road, sidewalk and driveway only had a skiff of snow. That part was nice, but SNOW? Last week we had beautiful spring blue sky weather with sunshine and only a few wispy clouds and crocus smiling up out of the ground. But that’s how life goes! So I’m enjoying the snow.

The white, slushy drive to work sounded different than last week’s drive—actually much more interesting sounds. The wet cars looked different—drippy, but the water adds a sheen that is almost magical. The gray sky felt different, but I was bundled in my Eskimo coat and had my heater blowing hot air and so I was happy because I managed to remember that happy is a choice and I had the power to make whatever choice I wanted.

It’s definitely unnecessary pain to choose to be unhappy because it snows when you don’t want it to. Remembering that makes all the difference in how we live our days. I’ve been inside ever since I got to work in rooms with no windows, so I don’t know if the snow has melted or if there is more snow out there. But I’m happy!

 Isn’t it amazing the power we have over the weather!!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sabbath Scripture

For it is not ye that speak, 
but the Spirit of your Father 
which speaks in you.
Matthew 10:20

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hurray for Confidence

One of the most amazing things I’ve discovered about Living in Truth is what it does to me. There is something very liberating that occurs when you acknowledge Truth and simply do what needs to be done. Communion with the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, miracles, and blessings are all available when we are living in Truth and are absent when we are living in Illusion. One of the greatest of these blessings that I’ve experienced when living in truth is confidence.

I have a favorite quote from Marianne Williamson that sums up what I mean by confidence and the realization that comes to you when you Live in Truth. She says, “’Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When you Live in Truth you automatically become a light to others. Without conscious effort, you naturally do what the Savior instructed when He said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Live Today

We’ve talked a lot as we’ve discussed Living in Truth about living in the present moment—enjoying now—and how that means not worrying about tomorrow. But there are other things about the future that distract us from the present besides worry or fear and one of those is the goals we set. Now, let me say right up front, I have nothing against setting goals; goals are important. But sometimes we need to analyze our goals and ask ourselves if they are worth the effort and the time or if we are spending our todays preparing for a tomorrow that we could have had today. This story illustrates what I mean.

The King of Epirus once recounted to a favorite and wise servant all the conquests which he proposed to make in order to expand the borders of his country. The list was long and when he finally ended the account, the servant asked, “And what will your Majesty do after all those battles?”

“I will enjoy myself with my friends.” answered the king, “sharing their good company over a meal of fine food with wonderful musicians playing while we dine.”

“And why can’t your Majesty do that now?” asked the servant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is It Good or Is It Bad?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet had his problems, but he said some very profound things that have impacted my life. One of my favorites, because of what it teaches me about Living in Truth, is: “For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Put another way, if we think about it we discover that “There is a silver lining to every cloud.” When we find and dwell on (think about) the silver lining we realize that even the bad things that happen to us bring about some good. We have a choice then; we can think about the bad and make ourselves more miserable or we can think about the good and be happy.

In the gospel this principle is expanded upon when the Lord tells us that “All things shall work together for your good” (D&C 90:24; 100:15; and 105:40). Notice it says ALL things not just the good things. “All things” includes everything that happens to us whether we consider those things to be good or bad. So if the Lord is going to make all things good, we can take do the same. We can think until we find the silver lining and then let our thoughts rest there.

But we must also beware, as Hamlet warns, that we are also capable of making good things bad by the way we think about them. Good and bad is a choice and we are the only ones who can make that choice!