Sunday, December 27, 2015

Well, Now I Have a Calling

Last Sunday, I accepted my first calling. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, all positions are assigned by revelation from the Lord, from the prophet and apostles down to Sunday School teachers and those who care for Church meetinghouses.

At church last week, my Bishop pulled me aside to extend to me a calling, to ask me to serve in our congregation. I had thought this was coming soon, but had no idea where I would be asked to serve. I was nervous, but having predicted a calling, I had prayed about it beforehand and decided that I would accept whatever the Bishop asked.

And then it came:

Primary teacher.

My jaw dropped to the floor. What a huge responsibility, I thought, shaping these little minds and possibly, depending on age, preparing them to make the decision to be baptized. Wow! I wrote in my journal, "I know that as I do my part to prepare, the Lord will magnify my efforts and make it enough. I'm not enough, but He is."

This week, I've had a bit of a struggle with my testimony. I continued to read the scriptures, though, especially the Book of Mormon and was daily reminded that I could not deny its truthfulness. I know that Book of Mormon is a true record, scripture sealed up to the Lord and delivered to us "in due time." The peace and understanding I experience when I read that cannot be replicated or explained any other way.

One afternoon, I opened the Church homepage. One of the stories near the top (here) was announcing the Primary theme for 2016, when I'll be teaching: "I Know the Scriptures are True." And I thought, wow. How amazing. That's the only thing I know right now, but I know it with all my heart. I can teach that.

By yesterday evening, my worries and concerns had resurfaced. I was unsure of my abilities, and thought that maybe I shouldn't have accepted the calling. I arrived to church early this morning to try to talk to a member of the bishopric about it before my calling would be presented to the congregation. I thought I might back out. I did not, and was sustained by the congregation during sacrament meeting. It was pretty scary.

I spent sacrament meeting trying to rapidly assemble my testimony and get back on my feet. A great friend, and one of my former missionaries, was a precious help to me, just like she was all those months ago. I wrote, "I'm keeping my anchor in the scriptures. I know the scriptures are true, without a doubt." I kept coming back to that, over and over. I knew that. I know that. She reminded me, "That's where it all starts. And I know that will lead to knowledge that the church is true. I don't know how or when, but I promise it will."

Because I only joined the church a year ago, I'd only ever been to Primary once. The bishop told me I could attend Primary before I began teaching to observe and learn how it works a little bit. So today, I attended Sharing Time, the hour with all the children combined, rather than in their separate classrooms. Since it's the last week of the month, the music leader did a fun countdown of the kids' favorite Primary songs. That was so, so wonderful. Leaving Primary, I was again confident that this would be a good thing.

After church, a member of the bishopric found me a gave me a special blessing to begin my calling. This, also, was a great relief and reminder to me. I felt confident in m abilities and God's trust in me to perform this service. This is the Lord's work, and I'm grateful that He trusts me to be a small part of it.

Well, here goes! Primary it is!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

When You Don't Meet Your Own Expectations

I intended to do this cool advent study. I meant to lean about hope and peace and joy and love. For the week of "love," my brother and sister were out of school, so we hung out. And I was TIRED from learning so much in the previous three weeks. I didn't study Love.

I also meant to celebrate Christmas majestically, compiling and reading the story of Christ's birth, from all the scriptures. Starting with prophecies from Isaiah (and here) and Micah and Hezekiah and Nephi and Alma and Samuel the Lamanite. Going forward to the Annunciation to Mary and Joseph's dream, to the sign given in 3 Nephi, and the wonderful journey to Bethlehem and the birth and the angel choir in Luke.

It would be so beautiful, I knew, to read it all together.

But that didn't happen.

I'm not sure exactly why.

Things haven't been bad. Maybe that's why, because things have been so gloriously peaceful and calm for a few days. Maybe I just missed my old fashioned hot chocolate and Book of Mormon, no additions or explanations. The purity. the simplicity. "For behold, my soul delighteth in plainness" (2 Nephi 25:4).

Either way, I thought about Love last week. I thought about my family. I thought about the gifts I'd purchased, hoping they'd like what I'd chosen. I thanked my Father for the gift of His Son. "For God so loved the world."

I know it must have been difficult for Him to let His Son go. "He gave His only begotten Son"

Because He loves us so much. He loves us. He loves us. He wants us to live with Him forever. "That whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

I thanked my Father for the Atonement, knowing the pain and restraint it must have taken to watch His Beloved Son, even as He cried out, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matthew 26:39).

I know He loves us. I know He loves me.

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 
Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong."

My studying didn't exactly go as planned, but I still learned. He always teaches us, even when we don't realize it.

So even though I'm late, Merry Christmas, guys.

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, 
the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world. . . . 
At the going down of the sun there was no darkness . . . There was no darkness when the night came. . . .
There was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reader Report: A Simple Path

Mother Teresa: A Simple Path

Lucinda Vardey

Publishing Info:
Ballantine Books, 1995

~ ~ ~

I bought this book for about 50 cents earlier this year. And oh, man, was it good. I finished it in only two or three days. So good, so good. The wisdom of this woman is amazing. It is so evident that she spends much time in prayer and tries very hard to know what God wants her to do. This woman takes seriously the counsel given in Matthew 25: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visitedme: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." She truly sees the face of Christ in ever person she serves.

This book explains what Mother Teresa calls her "simple path." Throughout the book, this path is taught, as its name implies, quite simply and beautiful. Though we sometimes forget, the gospel path really is "so simple a child can grasp it" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "It Works Wonderfully!"). MOther Teresa reminds us of this through her simple teaching. The path is, as follows:

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service. 
The fruit of service is peace.

~ ~ ~

And, of course, a few lines from the book that I just fell in love with.

  • "It is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. . . . We need to listen to God because it's not what we say but what He says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul" (p 7).
  • "We've been made for God and our hearts are restless until we rest with HIm" (p 9). 
  • "Without [prayer] . . . we won't reach the fulfillment of our being" (p 10). 
  • "God created us to love and be loved . . . Any negligence in loving can lead someone to say Yes to evil . . . If someone chooses evil, then an obstacle is set up between that person and God, and the burdened person cannot see God clearly at all. That's why we have to avoid any kind of temptation that will destroy us" (p 51). 
  • "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. . . . The only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. . . . There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God" (p 79).
  • "As we remember and notice His love for us, we just begin to fall in love with Him because He is so busy with us - you just can't resist Him. I believe there's no such thing as luck in life, it's God's love, it's His" (p 80).
  • "Everyone needs love. All must know that they're wanted and that they are important to God" (p 81). 
  • "Even in the midst of pain and suffering, God loves [you]" (p 89).
  • "Their [the sisters] happiest time is when they pray - they look forward to it, they are eager to pray and to refuel and they are equally eager to come out of that refueling and give away the energy they receive" (p 106). What would our world be like if we all had this attitude?
  • "Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. . . . The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions by giving your time. . . . Do not worry about why problems exist in the world - just respond to people's needs" (p 114). 
  • "This is the future - this is God's wish for us - to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called" (p 137).
  • "Knowing our strengths and weaknesses, we turn to the Lord. . . . He has the remedy for everything. . . . If we just turn to Him, He will bring us this inner healing, this spiritual healing so we can make our lives more holy and more pleasing to God" (p 172).
  • "We are all meant to return to God - we come from Him and we go back to Him" (p 175). 
  • "We are born to be happy - and we can only find true happiness and peace when we are in love with God: there is joy in loving God, great happiness in loving Him" (p 179). 
~ ~ ~

"Christ's love is always stronger than the evil in the world."
"God's love for us is greater than all the conflicts, which will pass."

"We're not always called to be successful but we're always called to be faithful."

*Ending quotes: p 52, p 60, p 153

Monday, December 14, 2015

Is This Who We've Waited For?

Follow the star to a place unexpected,
Would you believe after all we've projected,
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all,
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in His mother's shawl,
Just a child -
Is this who we've waited for?

How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts,
    to romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior,
All that we have, whether costly or meek;
Because we believe.
Gold for His honor and frankincense for his pleasure,
And myrrh for the cross He will suffer.
Do you believe,
Is this who we've waited for?

How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts,
     to romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
"How Many Kings," downhere

"Would you believe after all we've projected a child in a manger? Lowly and small, the weakest of all, unlikeliest hero, wrapped in His mother's shawl, just a child." 
The Old Testament is full of prophecies about this Savior, Messiah, Christ, anointed One, the special person who would come to rescue and deliver the Jews. Grand prophecies, wonderful expectations. But the angels came with songs of a baby, born to a common girl, in the little unknown town of Bethlehem. He was not great. He did not wield political power. He would not overthrow Caesar. 

"Is this who we've waited for?" Is this really the One we've been waiting for? Could it be, just a child? 

He is the King of kings, stepped down from His throne, to be one of us. He's the Lord of lords, who abandoned His home to live among His people. He's the Greatest of greats, who "humbled Himself," and "[had] not where to lay His head" (Philippians 2:8, Matthew 8:20). 

"How many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart?"

"The God of the whole earth [has] been slain for the sins of the world" (3 Nephi 11:14)
"Behold the sufferings and death of Him who did no sin" (D&C 45:4)

"How many fathers gave up their sons for me?"
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, 
and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

"Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior, all that we have, whether costly or meek, because we believe." 
Because we believe, bringing our gifts to the infant Savior, in a place unexpected. Gifts of time, gifts or love, gifts of life, gifts of self. "We can, out of faith in Him, give a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We can repent and make sacred covenants with Him. . . . You can give Him the gift of doing for others what He would do for them. . . . Each act of kindness to anyone becomes a kindness to Him . . . With all the kindnesses we give for Him, the greatest we can offer is to point those we love and serve toward Him, the only source of eternal life. The most precious gift I have to give is my witness of the Savior" ("The Gift of a Savior," Pres Eyring, First Presidency Christmas Devotional 2010). 

Is this who we've waited for?

How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts,
     to romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Is this who we've waited for?

This is. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Stronghold breaker (Meredith Andrews). He is the one who authors salvation, who paid the price of sin, who extends the arm of mercy, who releases us from the chains of darkness, who publishes peace.

This wet, squirmy infant, "wrapped in His mother's shawl," is the magnificent Savior we have been waiting for. 

This is who we've waited for. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Gospel is Made for Us

The principles and patterns of the gospel are given that we may know peace and a fulness of happiness, in eternity, yes, but also here among the trials and afflictions of this life.

Yesterday was a very hard day for a few reasons.
1) I've been having some difficulty lately with my mental illness, and was told on Wednesday by a new professional that she wouldn't be able to help me.
2) Today I had a 10-page paper due, that yesterday was about halfway done.
3) My supervisor at work is moving ten hours away, with about two weeks' notice (her husband's company is transferring him), so she's training two of us to take her place, while trying to square away moving. On top of that, this week is one of the busiest of the year with a Christmas program this weekend.

So a lot of stressors. I was freaked out all day yesterday.

I have loved my advent study. I have loved filling my life with hope through the words of the prophets.

But yesterday, I needed peace.

So I bypassed my self-imposed rules and meditated on the concept of Week 2 - peace.

These verses came to mind:
"I will not leave you comfortless: 
I will come to you. . . . 
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:
 not as the world giveth, give I unto you. 
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

And He did. He calmed my spirit so I could get all of my work done. He restored my soul.

"Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future. In times of distress, we can hold tightly to the hope that things will “work together for [our] good” as we follow the counsel of God’s prophets. This type of hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us with courage during difficult challenges and gives strength to those who feel threatened by enclosing walls of fear, doubt, and despair"
(Pres Uchtdorf, "The Infinite Power of Hope," October 2008)

This life is hard, but His love is bigger.

~ ~ ~

"It's love so undeniable, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable, I can hardly think . . .
You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are . . .
And I'm loved by you, it's who I am."
(Christ Tomlin, "Good Good Father")