On Easter Sunday, I led Sunday School music time for the children in my church congregation. As we sang songs about Jesus Christ, I asked the children, “What can we do to show Jesus Christ we love Him?” One sweet 4-year-old girl, quoting the most recent Cinderella movie, answered, “Have courage and be kind.”
Recent world events have broken my heart and diminished my courage. When I hear of terrorist attacks like the recent attack in Belgium, my heart fills with fear. I fear what could happen on the trains I take in and out of Washington D.C. each day; I fear how increasingly more dangerous the world will be for my children; I fear for the safety of my husband as he travels frequently for work. However, I know that God doesn’t want me to fear. He wants me to have faith, which leads to courage.
I need to have faith that no matter what happens in this life, God has a plan. His plan enables me to return and live with Him again and with my family forever. Central to His plan is the ability for people to use their agency here on this earth. This means that bad things can happen as people use their agency for evil and wrong purposes.
God is a loving God, and He will be with us when bad things happen to us and around us. Believing that God will help me and my family through good times and bad times helps me to have courage. Believing that there is life after death and that families are forever helps me to have courage. Having courage and trusting God shows God we love Him.
For many years, I have felt that the number one attribute I want to teach my children is kindness. Kindness is more than simply being nice. Kindness is loving others with our whole hearts and acting accordingly. Kindness can be hard. It is hard to love others who degrade us or who are rude to us. Yet, God wants us to be kind to all people, regardless of how they treat us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said:
“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” (Matthew 5:40-41).
When we realize that all we have is from God – our coat, our cloke, the ability to walk, etc. – we will be inclined to give more and be kind. I don’t think this scripture is God’s way of encouraging us to allow people to take advantage of us. I think He’s encouraging us to realize all we have is from Him.
Mean-spiritedness is pervasive in our society. Don’t believe me? Turn on any news channel covering the U.S. presidential election. This election cycle seems to promote the opposite of kindness. However, I have learned that kindness always wins. What makes a true winner isn’t the outcome of an election or an argument, but a true winner is someone who has the inner peace that only kindness can bring.
At the times in my life when I have focused on developing greater kindness, I have felt transformed on the inside. I have felt a peace and a love that I can’t fully describe. God wants us to be kind. He wants us to feel like true winners and have the penetrating peace only pure kindness can bring.
Cinderella’s mother and the sweet 4-year-old girl at church on Sunday were right. We need to “have courage and be kind.” That is exactly what we can do to show Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Healer, that we love Him.
What I believe about Jesus Christ
This is the perfect time of year to celebrate new life. Not only the nature surrounding our Northern Illinois home, but the opportunity for new life because of Christ.
What do I believe about Jesus Christ as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? (say that name 10 times fast and the nickname "Mormon" makes sense)
* He was the literal son of God, the only begotten in the flesh. The only person to be born of a mortal mother (Mary) and an immortal father (God).
*He lived a perfect life, set up his church, called and ordained 12 apostles and gave them authority to heal and bless in His name and through the power of God.
* Is a separate being from God the Father and the Holy Spirit, literally the SON of God.
* The Holy Spirit (Ghost) is a separate person from God and Jesus Christ without a body sent to testify of truth. When we feel a good feeling or know that something is right it is through that spirit. He is their messenger.
John 14: 26
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
* Jesus Christ was baptized by immersion by a person who had authority to baptize (John the Baptist).
* He not only suffered for the sins, pains, and temptations of every living soul who would come to this earth-- but worlds without number. Thus, the idea of this for me is beyond comprehension. Infinity multiplied by enormity.
* He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Luke describes great drops of blood coming from every pore. He also suffered again the exact same thing while on the cross at Calvary. He took upon himself the sins, sorrows, temptations, pains of every individual and of all of God's creations on worlds without number.
* Along with the agony of this "atonement" Jesus took upon himself, he also had the pain of being nailed to a cross, beaten, and starved. Very much secondary to the task He was undertaking concurrently.
Alma 7:11-12, Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ)
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
* Jesus Christ died on a Friday and on a Sunday rose from death, making Him the first to be resurrected. "The first fruits of those that slept" 1Cor 15:20
* Because of Jesus Christ's atonement that was perfectly fulfilled we will ALL be resurrected no matter how we lived in this life.
* Because Jesus Christ overcame spiritual death (separation from God the Father) we can also overcome spiritual death. We do this by following the rules (commandments) He has created for us in order to return to God. Through him we can repent of our sins.
* Through Jesus Christ I have the opportunity to live with God and Him after this life, along with my family forever in a state of happiness.
* Jesus Christ is the only way I can ever be fully SAVED both physically by being resurrected and spiritually by living with Him and God again.
*I know that MY Redeemer lives and that He has once again set up His church on the earth with apostles, a prophet, and that HE is the one in charge of it.
I love my Savior and I believe in Him and His promises.
I taught Sunday School for the women in my church this past Sunday. The lesson was very appropriately centered on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Through studying, I found that the essential question to my lesson was, "How has the Atonement been most meaningful to you?" - realizing that the answer would be different for everyone, perhaps even different for each person at different periods throughout their life. The thought that kept returning to me about the Atonement was related to experiences I had in regards to Hann when we were younger.
Being the wild native children we were, we loved to climb trees. Hann was particularly adept, and also being lighter, could climb to places the rest of us couldn't. She was climbing in a tree one day and fell into our neighbors yard and hit her head on a cement block. I very vividly remember Hann screaming that she couldn't see anything, and trying to help her calm down as she was laying on a pillow while we were getting ready to take her to the hospital. I vividly remember hearing her cry when she had to go through the MRI machine, while I was sitting in the waiting room. In a definite manifestation of Divine intervention, it was found that Hann had a tumor on her brain. Had she not fallen out of the tree, we may not have found out about it. She would subsequently undergo two brain surgeries, one in Kindergarten, and one in First Grade. I vividly remember going to visit my little sister in the hospital, being hooked up to lots of machines, her head shaved from the surgery and so nauseous she didn't even have energy to be upset about all the times she was throwing up. When I was home at night I would pray and pray that it could be me instead of my sister. Even into the ensuing years, I would ask God that if one of us needed to die, or have any more kind of medical issues that it be me. I loved my sister so much and never wanted to see her hurt like that again. For any of you that know my relationship with my sister, you will know how hard it was to watch someone as good and beautiful and perfect as Hann suffer so much.
Now in relation to the Atonement, and why I think these thoughts have been going through my mind frequently as of late. I truly believe as my 3rd or 4th grade self, I would have tried to offer to take my sisters place. I know what that kind of love feels like. I cannot fathom the love that our Savior Jesus Christ has for us - because He actually DID die for all of us. He loves each of us so much that He took our place. When there are times that I feel alone, unworthy of love, or forgotten, I need to remember that there is someone that loves me an unimaginable amount, and has done something for me that I could never do for myself. I wish I was better at loving and serving Him in return.
I hope that during this special Easter week, we can focus on the best gift any of us will ever be given. The gift of life and love through our Savior, Jesus Christ. I love the Lord and am grateful for the experiences that help draw me closer to Him and understand Him better. Here is a video to make you cry :)
Here are a few talks I love speaking about the Atonement, if you'd like to read them :)
None Were With Him by Jeffrey R. Holland
In the Strength of the Lord by David A. Bednar
The Purifying Power of Gethsemane by Bruce R. McConkie
Love you all too much!
Sometimes I watch this short video on repeat. It reminds me that God knows best and loves us so very much. Take three minutes to watch it and know how much God loves you, no matter how much you feel like things aren't going your way right now. He loves you :)
I have pondered the thought of morality lately, being defined as, "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior." I want to reaffirm that there is right and there is wrong. I would suggest that if people take the effort of serious consideration, most would admit to knowing this principle.
Despite our knowledge of "good and bad", we still make wrong decisions. However, I think making a wrong decision then subsequently repenting or making the situation right again, is different from the blatant disregard of there being a moral code to begin with. Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a wonderful address regarding this topic. In one of my favorite quotes he says:
I have an example, that is mostly ridiculous, but perhaps serves as an illustration. I would like to say that I usually strive to make good choices, not only to my benefit, but to the benefit of those around me as well. When I choose to do a good thing, it will affect those I interact with positively. An example of this is when I leave the grocery store, I put away my cart. Do I always feel like putting away my cart? No. However, I know it's the right thing to do :) (bear with me here) So some of you may be saying, "I don't put away my cart, it's the responsibility of the person working at the grocery store to do it. I'm keeping them busy. It's their job. Not mine." Fair enough. What if no one put away their carts at the grocery store? I mean - a Saturday at Costco status and no one is putting away their carts. It may be impossible to have enough employees putting away carts to keep up with people abandoning them. The result? An inability to drive through the parking lot or find places to park, cars perhaps even getting hit, paint chipped, or probably worse case - dented :)
I hope you do not take my example so literally as to ignore the underlying principle I am trying to communicate (and that Elder Christofferson speaks to much more intelligently and eloquently :) ) There will never be enough rules, or people employed to help keep order, to make up for people disregarding or deciding not to be morally disciplined. Within our society we have laws, and people responsible to help enforce those laws, but they can never make up enough ground to account for people not making good decisions.
It may seem easier to have relativity guiding you in life. There is no right and wrong, and there is an implicit abdication of guilt or responsibility. It will probably always seem like more effort to abide by rules (God's rules being commandments), and choose to live by the consequences of your actions.
I think the most powerful thing people of any faith, or with a moral code, can do is to stand by it. Even, and perhaps especially, when it is difficult. You will be an example of the believers, showing that a life lived in accordance with God's commandments brings a peace that cannot be duplicated. Not only will your example help others to better know God, but your decisions will help make the lives of the people around you better. I am always so grateful when the people I associate with at work/school/church make decisions that have a positive effect on my life.
I imagine like many of you, I have recently been appalled at the things that have become common place in our society. I am making a decision to instead of bemoan the degeneration of morality, to try and live a moral life as an example of the joy that it brings. I cannot change the trajectory of society as a whole, but I can, hopefully, be a good influence to those I am in contact with.
I am forever grateful to a God who loves me so much that He has given me a set of guidelines to live by, that truly brings me happiness. Perhaps more importantly, also ensures the happiness of those around me.
Love you too much -
“Remove any of your fear with faith. Trust in the power of God to guide you.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard. This quote is written on a post-it note affixed to my computer at work. It reminds me every day of the importance of trust in God.
If someone were to ask me, “Do you trust in God?” I would reply, “Absolutely!” But do I really? I know I want to trust in God with my whole heart, but sometimes I let fear get the better part of me. I fear what unanticipated life challenges will come my way. I can’t get on social media without reading about tragedy in someone’s life. I know of great challenges that have affected family members and loved ones, and I know I am not immune to tragedy.
Yet, God asks us to trust Him.
While studying what it means to trust God, I came across the legal definition of the word trust: “Confidence placed in a person by making that person the nominal owner of property to be held or used for the benefit of one or more others.”
After reading this definition of trust, I realized that perhaps I need to change my way of thinking about trust in God. Originally, I viewed trust in God as the belief that everything will work out and be okay. While that belief is vital, I need to also have confidence that God will use my life to benefit others.
I think this new perspective of trust can benefit us when the path looks dark and it seems like things won’t work out. If we can view trust as confidence that God will use our lives to benefit others, perhaps we’ll feel less depressed when the path becomes dark.
As I said in the beginning of this post, I have no idea what unanticipated life challenges will come my way, and sometimes that uncertainty overwhelms me. My trust in God is not perfect, but I want to trust God with my whole heart. I believe trust is a journey, and God doesn't expect our trust to be perfect today. He just wants us to try to trust Him a little more each day than we did the prior day.
It was my baby sister's birthday recently. She is now a teenager. It's a big deal. Especially considering we all still call her "Baby". Anyway! Given this momentous occasion, I had cause to ponder a little bit more on her life, and what her sister-ship has meant to me :) I am 15 years older than she is, so with that gap, our relationship is a little different. When she was still little, people often thought she was actually my kid. I remember being out with her and several people commenting on that and her turning to me and saying, "I am your best child!" Which- she obviously was :)
One experience particularly stood out in my mind. When my other sister had her baby, Mom and I rushed to the hospital and Dad and Baby (Elizabeth) were not far behind us. They arrived at the hospital not long after the baby was born. Since Elizabeth was under 16, she was not allowed back to the room to see the new baby, she could only look at her in the nursery. She had a lot of reason to be upset, but was calm about it, accepted her fate, and patiently waited. We were eventually able to take the baby up to the glass at the reception desk so Elizabeth could see her a little closer.
Being as none of us had slept much in the past 48 hours, shortly after Dad and Elizabeth arrived, we went back to the house to rest. The whole time Hann had been in labor, nurse after nurse, and even the doctor had commented, "I'll bet your are glad this wasn't you!" or "You'll never want to have kids now!" Which honestly, hurt. I want to make it clear that there is no one on the planet more excited about that baby being born than me (ok maybe her parents). I love that little cutie too much. But seeing my sister become a mom and having the lingering thoughts surrounding whether or not that would ever be an option for me was hard.
Elizabeth has always been very cognizant of other people's feelings. As we climbed into bed to sleep, she knew that I was having more "feelings" than usual. She asked what was wrong. I proceeded to tell her that I was so happy that Hann had a baby, and loved them both so much, but was sad that other people assumed I wouldn't want to have a baby, when that was what I wanted most in the whole world. As tears started to roll down my cheeks, she didn't say anything but just started to brush them away. In that moment, I didn't think of her so much as my "baby" sister as I did my friend. The love and comfort I felt from her were tangible. Even though she had reason to complain, considering she hadn't even been able to hold the baby, she didn't compare or make things about her. She didn't say anything but continued to wipe away my tears until we had both fallen asleep.
I tell that story to highlight a few things. First, the Christlike love that my sister showed toward me, and how that strengthened our relationship. Second, that sometimes we can't fix the problems of others, but we can still be there for them to wipe away tears and show unconditional love. Which I think is exactly what the Savior does for us.
I am grateful for the people in my life who are exemplars of Christlike love, and hope to emulate them and the Savior more in my daily life.
Love you too much!
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