Friday, May 25, 2007

Starting Over...

Ezekiel 11: 19-20
19. And I will
give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
20. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

This has become one of my favorite scriptures over the last few months. To me it speaks of new beginnings or at least the hope of new beginnings. We can go along for years and years stuck in a leveled off spiritual rut. After a while, we aren't able or even willing to get ourselves out of it. Most typically while in this rut we have stopped attending church meetings, reading scriptures and praying. While we aren't particularly doing anything wrong... we still are serving others, and doing good works and keeping the word of wisdom and not breaking any law and such... we aren't in the places doing the things to get us out of the rut. One of my favorite series of books is called "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites." I believe in the 2nd book: Gadiantons and the Silver Sword, towards the end of the book, there's a passage that goes something like this:

Lucifer doesn't need good people to do bad things, he just needs good people to do nothing. If you're striving to reach the Celestial kingdom and have become discouraged and stagnant and decide to strive for the Terrestrial kingdom then he has served his purpose. He has accomplished his goal. If he can get us so busy doing other good things and distracted from doing the basics: Church meetings, prayer, Family Home Evening, Temple Service, Scripture reading etc, he has accomplished his goal. Lucifer is tricky. He is the father of all lies. ALL LIES! He doesn't need us to be out doing bad things. He needs us to no do anything... ESPECIALLY pertaining to ourselves. I'm not saying don't go out and serve others. Because we should, we are to serve one another. But we are also to build up the Kingdom of God. That includes doing more than eating, sleeping and being merry! And those of us with children have a responsibility to not only teach them, but to BE THE EXAMPLE. We ought to be visual examples of the Gospel. IF we do not share with them our testimonies, how can we expect them to have one? If we do not go to the temple, how can we expect them to make that a goal? If we do not attend all of our meetings and engage in scripture reading and prayer with them, how can we expect them to do those things?

While we are omitting these things in our lives, although we aren't out and about doing bad things, we become numb sometimes. It takes more then should for our hearts to be effected by the Holy Spirit, which moves and impresses us and bears witness of God and his son Jesus Christ. We start doing little things, such as criticizing church policy, then church leaders. Even down the the basic levels of church leadership. We become frustrated and in some cases angry. And that halts us from wanting to deal with these people. Eventually we don't even go to church anymore. We think we know more or better than those in authority over us. And sometimes we do, however, they have to learn just as we had to learn (Heavenly Father's ways are not our ways. ) We justify it. And actually believe our justifications. Sometimes we even over compensate our acts of kindness and good works to make up for what we may be lacking spiritually, because it makes us feel good ... temporarily. It's like a hole that keeps draining out, it's never really filled.

However, in those moments of silence when your mind, heart and soul begin to speak to you, and the guilt and sorrow comes and speaks to you, you have option of listening or pushing those feeling away. Our stony hearts will push them away and the hardness of our hearts will not allow them to enter in. Why? Because of the pain, sorrow and anguish it will cause to soften and make the changes. We've become to proud to submit to the Holy Spirit. I speak of these things because I lived in that place for a few years. And I fought to stay in that place because it came comfortable to me. And in doing so, I've lost a few friends, created a few enemies and missed out on A LOT of blessing that could very well effected my daughter and line of posterity. We fail to think of the blessings we're withholding from our posterity by our own actions or lack of actions. It really does become unfair to them. When I think of the temple work alone I could have accomplished in that time I actually shed tears. When I think of the blessings I blocked out because I chose my pride over the Holy spirit, I get angry at myself and aske the Lord to not with hold them from those around me who are deserving.
The longer you allow yourself to be in this place, the more difficult it is to leave it. We become attached and comfortable with people and things that again aren't bad, but they don't don't propel us in the direction to prepare our eternity. That comfort will keep us there, sometimes til the end of our lives. This is what happens when we settle. (Brings new meaning to the words settlers, huh?) And when we settle we don't recognize the Lord's hand in things, we justify it with coincidences. The spirit needs to work harder on us to make its presence known.
It's a scary thing when you realize you've chosen your own pride over your Heavenly Father. That's about what it comes down to. When we fail to submit to the will of The Father, we've chosen our own pride over him. I think that's what it came down to for me. It took some months. I think I started this struggle in October 2006. Oh, I was settled before then, but then something sort of rocked me and didn't stop until I acted. And in the struggle to move from Settlersville, was difficult. Lucifer knows it's difficult. He will turn things around and cloud your vision and tell you that you are unworthy and have no right to blessings and such and there is no mercy, only the Lord's Justice. (I believed this for the longest time.)

What a punk!
It is important for use to remember Who were and WHOSE we are. We don't stop loving our own children when they error. We want them to come to us. To communicate. To seek council and be guided. TO insure to them they are still loved and worthy of our love. Heavenly Father wants those same things for us when we are lost, alone, afraid, angry, stubborn, prideful, and in error.
Never give up your right or opportunity to Communicate with the Father. He IS waiting to bless us all. He will meet you where you are if you ask.
Never forget the love of your father is eternal and unconditional.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Common Ground of Christianity

I've been thinking quite about of this thing. As a religious people, the basic believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior should be the link that bridges the religions of Christianity. How come it doesn't? Instead we've allowed Lucifer to use it as a wedge against one another.

At work today I rec'd a call from a customer who was giving me the fascinating details of the 400th Anniversary of the Settling of Jamestown, Va. This was THE first permanent English settlement from on this land we call America. (I love history!) She spoke of the different reinactments taking place and she mentioned one I found absolutely fascinating. She direct me toward a history of a Declaration of the first landing. Here are the paragraph that captured me the most:
"After a difficult journey, that included the death of one of the colonists in the Caribbean, and the imprisonment
of a soldier named Captain John Smith – on dubious charges of mutiny that were later dismissed – many of the colonists had nearly given up hope of ever arriving in the New World. Then on April 26, after enduring a violent thunderstorm that caused the sailors to bring down their sails, the colonists finally saw land in the distance.
They had arrived in Virginia! The ships entered the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and set anchor just beyond
the Atlantic Ocean. They named the placed Cape Henry, after James’ son, Henry, Prince of Wales.
Before permitting the settlers to continue with the work of looking for a permanent home, Rev. Hunt required
that each of the colonists wait on the ships for three days in a time of personal examination and
repentance. The journey had been filled with difficulty and in-fighting among the colonists. If they were to consecrate the land for God’s purposes, Hunt wanted the company to be contrite in heart.
Though the ships they sailed upon were very small, The Virginia Company leadership insisted that they carry one item with them from England for the purpose of giving glory to God in the endeavor – a rough-hewn wooden cross. After the three days had passed, Hunt led the party to the wind-swept shore where they erected the seven-foot oak cross in the sand.
The colonists and sailors gathered around the cross, holding the first formal prayer service in Virginia to give thanksgiving for God’s mercy and grace in bringing them safely to this new land. As they knelt in the sand, Hunt reminded them of the admonition of the British Royal Council, taken from the Holy Scripture: “Every plantation, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”
Raising his hands to heaven, Rev. Robert Hunt claimed the land for country and king and consecrated the continent to the glory of God.
In response to the vision of the two Richard Hakluyt’s – a vision that had been adopted by many of these original settlers – Rev. Robert Hunt stood as a representative of the King, the Church, and the people of England, in a sacred moment, and dedicated the new continent to the purpose of God.
This was the first official act by the English in the New World.
In covenantal language he declared, “…from these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World, but the entire world.”

I'm still in awe of this act of dedication to the Lord. As a Latter Day Saint I don't know why I'm amazed, we dedicate lands and building and such to the Lord on a regular basis: Our temples, our churches, when we open up a country for missionary work. I'm sure other religions do the same.

My customer was telling me that in the reenactment of this event this weekend, those who attended actually buried a cross in the ground, made a covenant to repent of their sins and rededicate their lives, their times and talents to God. She was so excited about being able to go and do this and in passing on the word and encouraging others to do the same.
Sound familiar? We also believe as long as we don't forget our Lord and dedicate this continent to him, we will be protected from the wars and other tragedies suffered in other lands.
Perhaps the reality of what a change we could each make in the world if we all were to repent and rededicate our lives to the service of God and building up his kingdom is what amazed me. I'm happy to know that others not of my faith of my family in Jesus Christ have rededicated themselves to the same cause. What a wonderful, wonderful thing to be apart of.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Willing To Die For Your Faith...

"Some men are willing to die for their faith but will not fully live for it. Christ both lived and died for us. By walking in his steps and through his atonement we can gain the greatest gift of all--eternal life--which is that kind of life of the great Eternal One, our Father in heaven."

--Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ--Gifts and Expectations, Byu Devotional", 10 December 1974

As part of our church young women's standard we claim: "We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places..."
This was a goal we were supposed to always be living towards. The last 5 years have been a long journey. It's been full of dark days, heartache, anguish, guilt and so on. Mostly of my own doing. There were good days as well, but not enough of them. I was our recent General Conference that pierced me to the core. I heard a couple of small phrases that really shook me. They weren't earth shattering or profound or anything. Most people when they ask me don't even remember hearing them when I tell them. But I tell ya, they had me weeping when I heard them.

In Elder Monson's talk in the Saturday afternoon session on remembering the tabernacle, he shared an experience with a young girl who at the age of 8 was deciding if she wanted to be baptized. At the end of his talk he said:
"As this building is rededicated today, may we pledge to rededicate our lives to the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." I felt a desire well inside my heart and spill over as tears rolled down my cheeks. I'm not sure why it touched me so, but it did. I wept so hard I trembled and sniffled the rest of the meeting. I had a long way to go, but I know I needed to try.

In Elder Glen L. Paces talk, he spoke on the Prophet Joseph and coming to learn and know him as a Prophet of God. Again toward the end of his talk, he said..."now I stand before you as an ordained special witness of Jesus Christ ..." Again, a felt such a burning of light inside of me. I had always known we were supposed to stand a witnesses of God. This was the first time that I could remember really REALLY wanting to. I had such a desire inside of me to be able to say, "I stand as a special witness of God." Again, just as the day before, I sobbed until I shook.

I had a lot of things to clean up about my life. (who doesn't?) I remember silently asking Heavenly Father to give me the strength to do those things that would enable me to be able to Stand as a witness... and live for my faith. I had often felt I could die for my beliefs. But dying for them would be so easy. It's the living and the enduring day by day that would be difficult.
Heavenly Father does expect us to LIVE for our Faith. We must have the courage to do this.

I will stand as a witness of God and I will live for my faith.

Will you stand for Truth and Righteousness?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Baptism... means we are on the way HOME!

A week ago Saturday I was part of an amazing experience. My friend Sandra, who blew in with the winds of Hurricane Katrina 2 years ago was baptized. I was honored she asked me to speak on baptism.
When she first came to Utah, having been rescued from the Super dome she was so very ill. When she got here she went straight to Utah Vally Medical Center. Had they known how sick she was, they would have never put her on the plane to Utah, she would have been sent someplace within the state of Louisiana for medical treatment. From there she went to Camp Williams. Her first few days there, she was being rolled around in a wheel chair.

Through the LDS GENESIS Branch, I was volunteering. I would work my regular job from 8-5 and then volunteer at Camp Williams from 6-10 M-f evenings then from about 10-10 Saturday and Sunday. I was there so much they thought I came in from Katrina. I basically worked in the Clothing section to help them find clothes and personal care items. I met this woman her first day she was able to walk w/o being in a wheel chair. She needed some clothing. I was supposed to be looking for size 1 clothing. She was weak, frail and no bigger than a minute. Oh and there IS no size 1 clothing btw! Anyway we had a connection between us. I knew there was something wonderful and special about this woman... and her family.

I won't share all the details of the things she's gone through because it's her story to tell, and she'll tell the world when she's ready. And when you hear it, YOU WILL BE INSPIRED.
When she came to Utah she couldn't read or write anything but her name. She had a Kindergarten reading and reading comprehension level. While in Utah she detoxed from various hard drugs and tobacco. She was diagnosed with hepatitis A, B & C. Doctors told her she could die in her sleep. A few days before hurricane Katrina she had twins by c-section. She was told her family had her twins and would send them to her when she was healthier. She found out a few months ago from a relative who got upset with her, that her twins never survived the catastrophe.
A few days after another friends laid his mother to rest I rec'd a phone call about Sandra, She thought she was a burden to her family and me and everyone else and she tried to end her own life.
I rec'd a call to meet the ambulance since they were bringing her to the hospital less than a mile from my house. I didn't go to meet her for 2 reason: emotionally, I was spent. The other reason? I was So ANGRY with her that she and I would have been two chicks rollin' around on the ground fighting. I could see myself now... "unstrap her from that gurney so I can STRAP her across the face!" I'm serious we would have been throwing bows and scrapping. There would have been 2 of us admitted, Her for trying to kill herself and me for trying to kill someone who tried to kill themselves. (they wouldn't have known which one of us were craziest)

We even joke about how we would have just been 2 mad women going at each other blow by blow. I did go see her the next day.
People ask me why I was upset with her. I was angry with her, and she knew I was angry with her. We had talked so much about how God preserved her life through so many other things from the time she was a child to this point. How is she gonna know that God brought her through it and then SHE try and do herself in? Yeah, we had some words.

Anyway to quicken things up that was 3 months ago. I'll cut to the chase; while at the hospital I was able to speak to the nurses a little about her history while in Utah. I told her she could read a little, and if they were patient with her and didn't do her reading and writing for her she would get better at it. They actually put her in a class while she was under their care. Now she can read and is reading anything she can get her hands on. Now she can write. And she can comprehend the things she's reading. She's reading EVERYTHING she can get her hands on. Way to go Utah Valley Regional Medical Center!

Sharing the Gospel with her was going to happen. Because I live about 30 minutes away from her, It was very hard for me to help see to her different needs. Last summer at the Annual Genesis Family Picnic I introduced her to my friend Pat. Pat lives relatively close to Sandra. I introduced them and asked Pat, if she would befriend Sandra since they lived so close together. I assured Sandra I wasn't going anywhere, but because Pat lived closer and had a more flexible hours she could see to her immediate needs, making sure she got to her dr appointments and taking care of her FEMA documents and housing and other things she would need on a daily basis. Basically Pat and I tag teamed one her! Pat took over and filled in when I was unable to, but she kept me updated on everything.
Pat and I knew that sharing the Gospel with this friend was going to happen, but not in typical ways. I believe she and I both understood that it would be first by our example. Because this friend didn't have a car Pat would take her and her husband around to make groceries and just around town. She took them to welfare square and into Salt Lake City. We referred them to the LDS ward when they were having trouble with their rent and food and things. Explained about how our church helps many many people all over the world. People who aren't members of our church. Missionary work was being done..."outside the box." Sandra went thru 2 sets of missionaries. The first one's she was so ill, she couldn't comprehend what they were speaking about. The second set were the spanish missionaries. The THIRD time was charm. Elder N, just by looking at him, you could see a countenance in him. For me, being able to hear the discussions again and see Sandra comprehend those thing we take for granted has had an profound effect on me. Those of us who have been members most and all of our lives, how often do we go back and rehearse the basics of the Gospel? We don't spend too much time on those things that make up the foundation of what we believe. There has become an anxiousness to return to those simply things of the gospel that brings simply joy and peace. Watching Sandra learn and accept the Gospel is like watching a child let loose in a toy shop.
The day of her baptism was awesome. The sweetest, strongest feelings of heaven surrounded each of us that. There were many in the room that day unseen by human eyes but you could feel so strongly their presence. The presence of those unseen were even acknowledged in the opening prayer. Sandra, because she survived camp Katrina is afraid of water. As she walked down the stairs into the font when her foot hit the water she froze and began to lose her breath and tremble. I was called to go just inside the font door at the stop of the steps to aide her. I opened the door and stood at the top of the stairs and I watched her take deep breaths while holding on for dear life to the metal step railing. She was shaking quite badly. She got to the bottom of the font and froze. I quietly called out to her : "Sandra, I'm right here behind you." she took a step and walked over to Elder N who then, proceeded to baptize her.

If I told you it went perfectly, I would be a big fat liar. I believe in the rush to get it done and over with for her, The Elder was nervous. WE WERE ALL NERVOUS, this woman had faced so many fears and overcome so many obstacles and the very thing she needed was the very thing that terrified her the most. As she began to be immersed into the water, I watched one of her feet slide out from under her and she slipped. The elder basically caught her as she went under. Her leg flipped up out of the water. She came up gasping for air, breathing panicked and heavy, eyes closed, hands stretched out like blind person searching for the wall, trying to find her way out. The Gasps were audible. The fear into the eyes of the congregation and the Elder were heart wrenching. He looked devastated! I came down 2 more steps into the font with a silent prayer: "Lord, how do I tell her she will have to go back?"

She came toward the stair, her eyes now opened and the frantic look of "get me out of here!" was wild in her eyes. I caught both of the hands and took a deep breath. I looked into her eyes and softly spoke:
"Sandra, stop. I want you to take some deep breaths. You are fine and safe." still trembling, she nodded. We breathed for about 30 seconds until I could visibly see her relax and then I spoke again:
"Sandra, because your leg came up out of the water, the baptism will need to be performed again." Her eyes grew wide. "Sandra remember how we practiced holding our breath? And you were able to hold yours for about 10 seconds and still be ok?"
She nodded.
"well you were under water less than 5 seconds. So you have nothing to worry about. Know that you can do this and recover. You JUST did it, right?"
She nodded.
"So you got this, girl! You know you can go into that water and come out a survivor, right?"
She said "yeah."
"Are you ready?"
"yeah, I'm ready."
she said. She turned around and went back into the water.
Elder N's eye's offering a silent "Thank you!" (he later came up to and said he didn't know what to do and was about to freak out himself)

You could hear the sobs and sniffles and sighs of relief coming from the congregation as Sandra descended back down the stairs of the baptismal font.
Elder N performed her baptism a 2nd time, flawlessly. This time when she came up from the water and back to me on the stairs there were no trembling. No gasping for air or heavy labored breathing. I met her at the top of the stairs, towel in hand. Away we went to the dressing room. As she was getting dressed and I collected her wet clothing she called out to me,
"I feel different."
I called back
"you're supposed to, you ARE different."
Our conversation led to what happened just a few minutes before.
"girl, I didn't know how to tell you you had to turn around and do it again."
Sandra said... " I saw you at the top of the stairs and I KNEW you weren't gonna let me pass."
I told her. " If you would have said to me 'uh uh, girl, I tried it, I'm done, I can't do this." I would have let you pass."
She asked me why? I told her it had to be her decision. Something she wanted to do. Something she felt strong enough to do. Something she felt worth facing her fears for. (I've had a lesson or two this year about facing fears lately myself ;)
She told me after I met her on the stairs, took her hands and started speaking with her, she felt so calm, so peaceful.
"I wasn't even afraid the 2nd time."
Thank You Lord! We got her dressed and then went in and finished with talks on the Holy Ghost given by our friend Pat. Pat shared our experiences with Sandra through the last year. And she shared some really sacred moments we've shared with Sandra. (Yeah, like I'm gonna cast my pearls before internet swines).
I found yesterday from Sandra that the night before her baptism, she had a dream.
She said
"I was able to see my life from the time I could remember from the time of Hurricane Katrina... my WHOLE life, and everything I did from the passed, all the bad stuff and negative stuff, and just EVERYTHING. And just before I woke up in my dream somebody asked me, if I was sure I wanted to be baptized."
In my talk on baptism as I'm sure with most baptisms my exact words to her were: "Sandra, as you step into the waters of baptism today, know that the heavens and angels rejoice in your behalf. Know that all your sins from you passed will no longer be in the records of heaven and will be washed away. God will remember them no more. Today you will be presented before The Father as a woman of God.... a Daughter of God perfected in him."

After having that dream, she felt good to hear me say those things in the talk.

Sandra is truly the bravest person I know. Her life is a great testimony of Heavenly Father's love. Her life is the example of how we can become washed and cleanse through the blood of Jesus Christ. She is an example of how weak things can become our strengths. She is an example of God's mercy and love and she reminds me that he has portion enough of that for me and everyone else.

I know that Heavenly Father wants us all to succeed. I know he wants us to partake in his love and in all that he has promised can be ours. I know not a passing day goes by that God the Father doesn't look down upon us and ache for our return to be with him.

Thank you, Sandra, for reminding me of who I am and for directing me back onto the path.

Big Brother, Little Sister Moments

Big Brother, Little Sister Moments
Hand in Hand


I earned some temporary wings!