Preach My Gospel Family Study Updated

chococatania:

Just an update! :) :) :) Finally!!!

Originally posted on chococatania:

Hello there,
I just wanted to let you know that I have updated the Preach My Gospel Family Study Guide. Week 6 is now available. I’ll be adding many more weeks (up to week 25) over the next several days/week.

Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study

Thanks for your patience in this! You can always check the sidebar which will redirect you to my scribd account – where the most recent version of the program is always available.

This program will be a total of 36 weeks of devotionals/scripture study assignments for families.

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The Atonement: The Beatitudes (6/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

I think that I’ll go about this post in a different way than usual. First of all, the promise…

for they shall see God.

When I think of this promise, my heart fills with hope and joy. I think that it is because I’m a human being. Despite the relationships we have with our parents, I think that we all, at some point, want to know our Fathers, our parents. We want to know that we are loved. We want to know we belong. We want to know that we are accepted.

I grew up without knowing my biological father. Now, I was greatly blessed in that I was adopted at a very young age, and I have never known life without a father. Though I’m not related to my dad by blood, I have had the experience of being loved, accepted, and supported by a dad. Not only is this a blessing, but I believe that it is a right to every child on this earth to have a mother and a father that love them. (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)

As grateful as I’ve been to have a dad, there was still something missing. Who did I look like? Why was I short? Though I didn’t really want to push for a relationship with a man who I thought had abandoned me, I sincerely wanted to know my father. No matter who was raising me, there was a part of me, my own identity, that I just did not know. This question, who are you, anyway, Catania? lurked in my head for 31 years.

Then, miraculously, I found my biological father. (On Facebook!) I’m grateful to know Him. I felt like there was a part of me that I was finally discovering. I’m grateful for my dad, my biological father, my step-father, my mom, my step-mom, and all of the people I’ve been blessed with in my life.

I bring up this experience with my father because I think that we all have a similar spiritual experience. I believe that we are innately drawn to understanding God because He is our Spiritual Father. When we understand Him, we understand more of ourselves as we are His offspring.

So – blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. I’m highly motivated to be pure in heart because I yearn for a relationship with my Father in Heaven the same way I’ve always yearned for a relationship with my own dad and biological father.

On with the Beatitude…

Pure In Heart

In the first part of the beatitude, we are instructed that the pure in heart will be blessed. Purity can be understood and achieved in three ways.

Inherent Purity
So – inherent purity. Seems impossible, and for most people over the age of about 8, I think that it is. To me, inherent purity is the purity exhibited by children.

Think about children. Is there anything more pure than a child?

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of this influence of inherent purity around me in my life right now. Not only am I homeschooling my children (two of whom are five and three), but I’m also serving as a song-teacher to children ages 18 months to 12 years old. I see every week, every day, even, that children are truly pure. They experience this world purely. They feel intense, pure joy, disappointment, or whatever they face.

I’ll give an example. A few weeks ago, in church, I was singing the song “Do as I’m Doing,” in primary. One of the children, a rather rambunctious (yet pure!) boy was the leader. He decided that we would jump.

Since I’m the chorister for these children, I believe in “getting into it.” The real key to teaching children is talking/acting in a way that they can understand. So, as I sang, I jumped up and down: high and low, fast and slow.

Strangely enough, I was consumed with a pure joy as I jumped and sang this simple song. It was the most amazing thing. There was no reason for my joy. I realized that the joy I was experiencing stemmed from the purity of the moment.

I was tempted to feel a little self-conscious. I knew that my hair was flying everywhere. I’m overweight. From an adult’s (less pure!) perspective, I’m sure that I wasn’t a pretty sight. Thankfully, I looked out again at the kids, and realized that the moment was pure and it was joyful. I could choose to let my feelings, spirit, and emotions be clouded by some stupid comparison, or I could remain pure and focus on the intense joy of the moment.

So – the point of this experience is that inherent purity exists. And there are times we allow impurities into our lives by worrying about the expectations and judgments of others. We allow impurity in our lives by focusing on distractions rather than being mindful of the present moment. Children are masters at pure and present living. It is no wonder that Christ tells us to be like children.

***
While children are pure, and inherent purity exists. The fact of the matter is, most of us are not children and are impure. Yet we are told “blessed are the pure in heart.” Christ doesn’t give us commandments that we can’t keep. He has provided us a way to become pure.

Purity through Refinement and Trial
As we grow up out of childhood and no longer have the advantage of being pure through inexperience and innocence, we begin to discover our many impurities and weaknesses. The Lord require purity, but none of us are pure, so He blesses us with refining experiences.

These experiences are blessings, but not usually all that fun. I mean, this isn’t singing “Do As I’m Doing” and jumping with thirty children.

Refinement is hard, hard stuff.

I think that the best way to understand the refinement and purification process that we go through is when we think of the refinement of a fine metal. Our trials and experiences in life are like the “Refiner’s fire.” When going through such refinement, we are set in a crucible – a hot, hot crucible, and brought to a temperature that we can handle, but is still hot enough to burn away impurities.

Though this process is difficult, I think that it can help to remember the promise of the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This is where gratitude for trial and tribulation come into play. If it weren’t for the crucibles of trials that we experience during our lives, then we wouldn’t be pure. We wouldn’t be made holy. We’d never “see God.”

Purity through the Cleansing Effect of the Atonement
Often, it seems like the trials and tribulations we face in life are not necessarily our fault. They might come through circumstances of mortality (think Cancer…what a crucible!) or they might come through the sins of others. (We don’t do anything in a vacuum). These tribulations refine us in ways that we don’t usually expect.

There is another way to be refined, and it is usually related to ways that we have specifically soiled ourselves. We can be made pure when we apply the purifying effect of the Atonement. In other words, we can be made pure when we repent.

The purification process of repentance occurs when we 1) Exhibit Faith in Christ 2) Repent 3) Covenant with Him in the Waters of Baptism (Which cleanses us) 4) Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Which sanctifies us). After being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can renew our baptismal covenant each week by partaking of the Sacrament. This will help us to become pure each week, even though we often soil ourselves through sin time and time again.

What all this has to do with the Atonement

I want to understand this beatitude within the context of the Atonement, so we’ll look at each aspect of purity and think of the Savior and His Sacrifice.

Inherent Purity
Christ was inherently pure. We know this because He never sinned. The scriptures describe His trial and crucifixion as “a lamb to the slaughter.” (See Isaiah 53:7 and Luke 23:8-9.)

Refinement and Trial
Christ, though already pure, went through a continued refinement throughout his life. It reached a peak in the Atonement. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered all of our sins and infirmities – to the point that He bled from every pore. He was mocked, judged, and then crucified. All unjustly. But it strengthened him and purified Him to the point that He could then become the Savior of the world. If He didn’t go through this process, then He wouldn’t have been able to redeem us. He wouldn’t have finished His work. And He wouldn’t have inherited God’s glory.

It’s hard to imagine how exacting, how excruciating his crucible was!

The purity that came from this experience, though, enabled Him to be able to Return to His Father in glory. Additionally, this experience enabled Him to enable us – we are strengthened through Christ because He experienced all and knows how to succor us. (See Alma 7:11-12.)

Cleansing and the Atonement
So – we already know that Christ was pure. Why would he have to go through the process of cleansing?

Hopefully, I can express what I think in a way that makes sense.

When Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane, he took on our sins. So – even though He had never committed a sin, because He took ours on, he was now technically impure.

We read:

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:41, emphasis added

“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.” – Alma 11:40, emphasis added

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis added

In no way do I suggest that Christ was impure, in and of Himself. No. He, like the sacrificial lamb, was perfect. However, once He took on our sins, He had to finish His work. He took on our sins. He allowed our sins to soil Him because He knew that only He would have the strength or capacity to purify them.

Because He took on our sins, He could perform the Atonement. This process allows the blood that He shed in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross to cleanse us.

Alma teaches:

“I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.” – Alma 5:21

And, Christ, who did perform the excruciating work of purification for us has invited us:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

Christ because He was pure, took on our sins, infirmities, and impurities of every kind. In doing so, He suffered, bled, died. Then, three days later, He triumphed over death and hell extending us the ability to also become pure through Him.

Isn’t this the best thing ever? Like the best news ever. I can’t help but feel hopeful joy knowing that I have a Savior who has done so much for me

See God

Finally, we are back where we started. The promise of this beatitude is that the pure in heart will see God. We will know our Father. We will be reunited with Him. We will find joy and identity.

***
What does purity mean to you? How have you been able to embrace life’s difficulties an let trials help make you pure? How have you been able to employ the purifying power of the Atonement in your life?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (5/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

This beatitude has always seemed fairly obvious to me. The concept of being merciful in order to obtain mercy is pretty intuitive, and it is taught by the Savior really well in the parable of the king of the evil servant. (See Matthew 18:25-35.)

Additionally, when the Savior gives the “Lord’s prayer,” he gives the pattern of receiving forgiveness from God, as we have forgiven others. (See Matthew 6:12.)

In the Book of Mormon, when the Savior visits the Nephites, he teaches: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;” (3 Nephi 13:14).

Finally – in these latter-days, we’ve been taught to forgive others. (See Doctrine and Covenants 64:10.)

We have been commanded to forgive. And in this beatitude, Christ gives us one of the reasons why we must: so that we, too can receive forgiveness.

***

I’m trying to think of these beatitudes within the context of the Atonement – as in how does Christ model this in His performance of the Atonement? and What is the connection between this scripture and the Atonement? And, as I think about it, I find it interesting that Christ was merciful even though He didn’t need mercy. He was God. He created the earth. He was perfect. He could have progressed without obtaining any kind of mercy.

However, he extended mercy and, therefore, obtained it.

Christ’s Atonement – Merciful

So, we’ll look at the first part of the beatitude first. blessed are the merciful. During the Atonement, Christ is merciful a few different ays.

Specifically Merciful

While Christ is on the cross at Calvary, we read, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know now what they do,” (Luke 23:34). After this act of forgiveness, the soldiers took no notice of Christ. Instead, they took his clothes and then gambled.

Keep in mind, Christ says this while He’s on the cross. It is after he has already suffered for the sins of the world in Gethsemane; After he had been betrayed by His friend and disciple; After he had been judged; After he had been mocked; and After he had been scourged. While He hangs on the cross, in unimaginable anguish, Christ forgives the people that were crucifying Him!

In this very specific way, Christ exemplifies the type of merciful behavior that we need to cultivate.

Eternally Merciful

As we think of mercy and the Atonement, it is easy to come up with a few examples: the healing of the officer’s ear. Christ’s forgiveness of the crucifiers. Those are great examples of merciful behavior, but we can’t just stop there. They only scratch the surface of the mercy of the Atonement.

The Atonement, in its essence, is about mercy. The Atonement is the single most merciful act ever done. We have to look at the big picture – what the Atonement does for all of us.

***
First, we have to understand a few facts:

  1. God is just.
  2. We, mortal men and women, are fallen creatures.
  3. In order to return to God, then we need mercy. Because God is just, then we will always be separated from Him – because of our sins.
  4. Mercy cannot rob justice. (Remember, GOD IS JUST!)

If you want to understand the concept of our need for mercy, then I would suggest reading Alma 34 and Alma 42. The basic idea is that we, mortals, are susceptible to the justice of God. If you take that truth – on its own – then our state is pathetic and pitiful. We would be required to pay for every single sin we commit.

Look at us! We are a mess! We lie, we hurt others, and we hurt ourselves. For the sake of a better understanding of why we need mercy, let’s look at a few awesome examples. Let’s say there is a person with the patience ofJob, the charity of Mother Theresa, and the knowledge of Neal A. Maxwell. Where would this person be?

Actually, this is a great example because Job, Mother Theresa, and Neal A. Maxwell are all dead. Not to be rude. It’s just a fact. Though they were marvelous people, they couldn’t fully save themselves. No matter how wonderful we think we are, we can’t navigate this mortal life alone. In fact, mortality is all about death: spiritual and physical death. Because of the fall, we are all susceptible to both modalities of death. And, before the Savior and the Atonement – death -both physical and spiritual – was the ultimate end of each of us.

DEPRESSING.

So. We, humankind, need a way to be forgiven of the sins we commit. We need mercy. When Christ suffered the sins of each person on this earth, he accomplished the most merciful act conceivable.

Though we break commandments and commit sins, Christ, God, came to earth and paid the debts that we racked. Only He could do it. And he did it for us because He loves us. He forgives us. The Atonement was the ultimate act of His forgiveness for our weakness and sin.

Christ’s Atonement – Obtained Mercy

The promise that Christ gives in the beatitude is that the merciful will obtain mercy. However, we have already determined that Christ didn’t need it. Because God is just, and because Christ is perfect, he didn’t need mercy or forgiveness.

Yet He was merciful.

At first, I just thought, “Of course Christ was merciful. He’s a nice guy. He’s perfect.”

But, as I consider the connection between the Atonement and mercy, I’m thinking that it is more than that. In fact, even though Christ didn’t need to obtain mercy for Himself, it was His duty, His purpose, and His foreordained role to obtain mercy…for us.

Had Christ not been merciful, then He would not have performed the Atonement. Had Christ not performed the Atonement, then He would not have obtained mercy. Had Christ not obtained mercy, then He would not have been able to offer it to any of us.

This is what Christ was sent to do. We learn in the Book of Mormon:

“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.” – Alma 34:14-16

Because Christ was merciful, he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane; He trembled because of pain and bled from every pore. He even asked to get out of this excruciating act. (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.) However, His love of God and His mercy for us enabled Him to endure. He descended below all and then obtained mercy for us.

It was Christ’s mercy, then, that enabled Him to obtain mercy.

YAY!

***
How have you experienced the blessing of mercy in your life? What does the Atonement teach you about mercy? What can you do to be more merciful to others?

Joy is Quilting, Singing, and AZ in Feb

Oh, I know. I’ve been horrible with keeping up these posts. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. Part of me feels obligated to try to finish something that I’ve started. Another part of me thinks, who cares. And still, another part of me says, This world – this Internet – needs a little bit more joy.

So – here’s the thing. I’m going to post random “Joy is…” posts. I want to do them often, but I’m not going to stick to a specific goal. I think I’ll shoot for monthly. But please don’t hold me to it. (I know you won’t. You probably don’t really care. I’m writing this for me.)

Joy is…

Are you happy???

Are you happy???

My favorite block

My favorite block

  • Joy is working on my quilt. I finished quilting it yesterday. I still have to bind it. I love these fabrics. I love the idea of making a quilt – planning, math, measuring, cutting, and sewing. Then, taking layers – the backing, batting, and beautifully pieced top – quilted together. And bound. I don’t know. The process of it is just really – I want to say relaxing, but it is more than that.

    I’m sure that there are some people reading this that might think I’m crazy, but to them I would say – try quilting.

    I’m not a seamstress. I don’t particularly like sewing (clothes, bags, etc.) But, quilting is just sewing a straight line. It is an instant gratification kind of a craft. (Kind of…). You can see the progress you make. It starts with a single block. You put your heart into it, and then you finish with this blanket – that comforts, warms, and unites people.

    Who doesn’t love sitting under a quilt?

    A handmade quilt means something, you know? I have all of this junk in my house, and so much of it is meaningless, but these quilts I make – for my family and my children – they are functional, and they mean something.

    Quilting brings me a little bit of joy. The colors of this blanket bring me joy.

    And I bought some rose oil so that I can spray it whenever I’m using the rose quilt. That will bring me an immense amount of joy.

  • Joy is singing time in primary. I wish that I had a picture for this, but I don’t. You just have to take my word for it. If you’ve never had the chance to be a chorister for the primary children, then pray for it. Seriously – best calling ever. (Primary pianist comes in a close second. Well, it might be a tie.)

    I have been on Prednisone the last few days. It is not particularly joyful. It makes me irritable, and it gives me insomnia. However, I walk into primary, I start to sing songs with these cute children, and I can’t help it: I’m consumed with joy. Their laugh. Their purity. I defy you to jump and sing “Do as I’m doing,” without feeling overwhelmed with joy.

    What I love about the joy that children feel is that it is completely…pure. They aren’t joyful because they have accomplished something. They aren’t joyful because someone did something for them. They are feeling joy because that is just the emotion they feel at that moment. And they aren’t afraid to feel it, either. They simply smile, giggle, and jump out of their seats with joy.

    I have served as the primary chorister five times so far in my life. I think that I could serve five more times and still learn so much about the simplicity of sublime joy from the children.

  • Joy is Arizona in February.
    Most of my family lives in the Northeast. Every winter, I feel sorry for them. In November is really when it starts. I think about how they are bundled up, while I’m outside grilling my Turkey.

    December is a little chilly here in AZ, but it’s not cold.

    Sometimes it’s easy to get sentimental about winter – especially around the Holidays. Everyone thinks they want a white Christmas.

    Then, Christmas is over, and winter is actually just beginning. January ushers in the winter blues. They only get worse in February. Oh, February. It was always such a hard month in PA.

    But in Arizona, February is glorious.

    Blooming Acacia

    Blooming Acacia

    The sun is shining. The weather is in the seventies. The flowers are blooming. I really can’t get enough of it. There is no explanation. I go outside, and I’m happy.

    ***
    What has brought you joy recently?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (4/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

This beatitude has been fun to study, and I have to admit that my conception of hungering and thirsting after righteousness has changed a little bit. I hope that what I write will make a little bit of sense and will be beneficial to you, too.

Hunger and Thirst I- What does it really mean?

First of all, I think that it is helpful to understand, at the most basic level, what hungering and thirsting is.

I have to admit, that as a citizen of the United States, and having lived a very blessed life, I’ve never been starving. Because I’m a human, and because I’ve made a few bad decisions while hiking and biking in the desert, I do know what it is like to feel a little dehydrated. Still, I don’t know what it is like to be on death’s door because of a lack of water.

And, usually, when I have thought of this scripture, this is how I’ve conceptualized “hunger and thirst.” I have thought of it more as “starvation and dehydration.” Rather than a simpler form: hunger and thirst.

So – while I’ve never been truly starving, I have been hungry. There have been times when I’ve been a little hungry. (Like between one meal to the next). There have been times when I’ve been super duper ultra hungry (after running a marathon, for example). Hunger is no stranger to my life.

Thirst has been a common experience, as well. In fact, I think I’m thirsty right now.

Okay. So it has been established. I can’t speak for you, but I have experienced hunger and thirst. And, well, I’m actually going to speak for you – or at least I’m going to assume that while you might not have expereinced starvation or dehydration, you have been hungry and thirsty at least once in your life, if not on a daily basis.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is exactly what Christ is trying to get us to think about in this scripture. He’s talking about that daily, consistent hunger and thirst – the one that reminds us to eat and drink. I don’t think that he’s really talking about famine or starvation. I believe that He’s talking about something much more universal here.

Hunger and Thirst II – What do you crave?

Now that we’ve established what we mean by hunger and thirst – the daily experience we all have before we eat or drink – we will move on to the next part of this “hunger and thirst” equation.

Christ says, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (emphasis added). Because of the word, after, I think that I’m guessing that this is more of a craving. Instead of just a basic level of hunger, this scripture is asking us to consider our cravings.

Let’s go back to a physical understanding of hunger/thirst/cravings. In my own experience, I typically crave what I’ve been consistently feeding my body.

For example, when I’m eating a lot of bread, chips, Doritos, candy, and hoagies and a few hours go by when I haven’t eaten anything, guess what I want? Something bread-y, salty, chip-y, hoagie-y, then topped off with some candy. Rarely do I say, “I’d really love some Brussels sprouts” when I’m eating a junkier diet.

On the other hand, when I’m consistently eating fruits, veggies, good fats, and quality meats, then I find myself craving an apple or a salad or a spoon of coconut oil with dark chocolate. I find that, when I condition myself to healthy eating, I honestly crave junk food less…way less.

We are always consuming. In order to stay alive, we must consume. So – we can, to a degree, control our cravings by feeding ourselves a steady diet. Once we have established a habit, then we will find that we hunger after what our body has grown accustomed to.

I think that we can apply the same concept to our spirits. When we “feed” our spirits a diet full of violence and sex, we come to crave these things. Do you think that a person who is subsisting on a spiritual diet of bloodshed is going to say, “I want to go to church!” Instead, it seems like such consumption begets more consumption.

Likewise, if we are regularly consuming a spiritual diet of righteousness – when we are praying/meditating, studying the scriptures, attending the temple, and doing things that will restore our Spirits, we then start to crave it.

SOOOO… if we want to hunger and thirst after righteousness, we need to consistently consume a “spiritual diet” of righteousness. It is after such consistency that we will then start to crave our daily scripture study, prayer, etc.

We will be filled

Again, I’m going to relate this to physical hunger/thirst/satiety. I can speak from experience: when I’m eating the nutrients that my body needs and expects – including lots of healthy protein, some healthy carbs, and plenty of healthy fat, I’m satisfied. I’m full. I don’t get hungry.

When I’m overloading on the stuff that makes my insulin spike, I find that a few hours later (when my insulin is, most likely dropping), I’m hungry. Forget that, I’m hangry! It has taken me some time (and trial and error) to discover that eating processed and overly sugary foods (even if they are billed as “healthy”) will cause these shifts in hormones that then start a domino effect of hormones. I don’t want to get geeky here. The main thing is – I feel hungry all the time when I’m not eating a diet that is appropriate.

Like, I mean, if I sit down to a dinner with pasta and bread, I don’t stop when I feel full. I do what Louis CK has said, “I stop when I hate myself.” Seriously, though…it seems like my brain doesn’t get the message that I’ve eaten, eaten, and eaten – until I’m unbuckling my pants. Then, I don’t feel full, I feel bloated, uncomfortable, and depressed.

I think that this is the same spiritually. When we are filling our minds and spirits with the elements that nurture us: scripture study, prayer, temple attendance, faith, hope, and charity, then we feel full! We feel nourished, we feel strengthened, we feel energized and ready to face what life throws at us. We experience spiritual satiety.

However, when we start to consume materials that are destructive (p*rn comes to mind), then we experience addiction. We are never filled. We consume, consume, and consume until we hate ourselves and everyone around us, too.

This beatitude is truth. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, then we are filled.

Christ’s Example and the Atonement

As if this blog post isn’t long enough, I want to tie it in to the Atonement. Christ exemplified this beatitude in His life and in the performance of the Atonement.

Christ Hungered and Thirsted after Righteousness

When we think of this beatitude and Christ’s Atonement, we must keep in mind that first Christ had consistently consumed a “diet” of righteousness. He was raised by righteous parents. As a boy, he was taken to the temple and chose to spend time there. Throughout the duration of His life he made righteous decisions. He had a knowledge of the scriptures and a close relationship with His Father (most likely maintained through study and prayer). In fact, when He was baptized, even though He was perfect, he did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” (See Matthew 3:15.)

Christ had a steady spiritual diet of righteousness. He was accustomed to hungering and thirsting after it. He had developed a lifestyle of righteousness, and craved it.

In regards to the Atonement, I find it interesting that Christ describes His experience in the garden of Gethsemane as partaking of the “bitter cup.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.)

All of us, having sinned, are relatively familiar with “the bitter cup.” I know what it is like to feel the sorrow that comes from the sins I have committed. Sure, because of the Atonement, I don’t necessarily have to “pay” for them, but I think that each of us taste a drop of this bitter cup any time we commit sins and transgressions.

However, Christ had never sinned. He had never tasted of the bitterness that comes from sin and distance from God. I’m not suggesting that Christ had never experienced hardship. Instead, He never had experienced the pain and suffering that comes as a direct result of the sins we commit because He had never committed one. He hadn’t experienced guilt, shame, or sorrow in this way.

Can you imagine the shock of this bitter cup? For each of us, we experience the bitterness that comes as a product of our own sins. But Christ had to experience all of it. After a lifetime of perfect righteousness, he had to descend below and take on every single sin – from a negative thought about another to a murder. He experienced the bitterness of every sin in order to perform an Atonement for all of us. Whether or not we choose to repent, He has already suffered for our sins. Prior to the Atonement Christ had only tasted the sweetness of righteousness and obedience. I think that what Christ had to endure in the garden of Gethsemane – the gall of this bitter cup – would have been impossible for someone who was accustomed to bitterness to endure.

The irony of the “bitter cup” that Christ had to partake was that drinking of the bitter cup was the ultimate test of His righteousness. Partaking of the bitter cup was the sacrifice that He was called to endure. Had he not hungered and thirsted after righteousness for His entire life, He never would have been able to endure partaking of this bitter cup.

I think it is also important to realize that the “bitter cup” is only the effect and consequence of sin. It isn’t the “fun,” convenient, or tempting part of sin that gets us to commit it in the first place. It’s not like Christ had a fun, raucous time partaking of the bitter cup. Instead, He only experienced the distance from God (which distance He had never before experienced), the pain, the shame, the guilt, and the sorrow that comes from sin. He didn’t experience laughter or stupor. He didn’t experience the “adrenaline rush.” He only experienced the after effects which are, in fact, the sobering realities of sin.

It was the “bitter’ cup He drank. Not the pleasure cup. He didn’t get to eat the bag of Doritos, he only felt the bloating that comes afterward.

Because Christ hungered and thirsted after righteousness, He knew that He would have to “drink the bitter cup” and experience the pain and sadness of imperfection and sin. Without such a hunger and thirst after righteousness, I don’t think that anyone would have been able to endure the extreme bitterness of the Atonement.

One last note on this (I know this post is long), His suffering in Gethsemane (“the bitter cup”) was only a part of the Atonement. He would still endure persecution and judgment. He would still endure being nailed to a cross and forsaken by His Father. Only a pure hunger and thirst after righteousness could enable Christ to persevere the depths of His duty.

Christ was Filled

Nephi teaches:

“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.” – 2 Nephi 25:13

Christ rose again – filled – with glory, life, and healing in His wings. Because of what He did in Gethsemane, not only was He filled, but He can fill us.

When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we come to the Lord, we accept His Atonement in our lives, and we are comforted. We are made capable. We are strengthened. We are filled.

***
How have you developed a spiritual diet of righteousness? How has it been a blessing to you (how have you been filled?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (3/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:5

Matthew 5:5

Today, I’m studying the next of the beatitudes…

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meek

Meekness is a concept that has always been a little bit “foggy” for me to understand. In our society, meekness doesn’t seem to be that great of a quality to have. Yet, Christ, ever counter to conventional customs, tells us that being meek is a blessing.

In the footnotes to Matthew 5:5, we learn the following about meekness: “GR: Gentle, forgiving, or benevolent; the Heb in Psalms 37:11 characterizes as the humble those who have suffered.”

I went ahead and also looked up the scripture in Psalms:

“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” – Psalms 37:11

I don’t know Hebrew, nor can I read this scripture in Hebrew, but when you read this entire verse in English, I suppose that you could infer something – the lives of the meek are full of suffering and difficulty. However, later, they will inherit the earth and an abundance of peace.

Christ, obviously, is gentle, forgiving, and benevolent. In a way, I also think that meekness implies mindfulness. I suppose that this comes from the concept of Him being “gentle.”
The dictionary definition of Meek is “humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.”

Christ perfectly models meekness throughout His life. Specifically, while performing the Atonement, He models meekness during His trial after suffering in the Garden and before being crucified. Christ meekly went before Herod.

Think about it – Christ was the literal heir to the throne. Christ should have been King. Christ was of the lineage of David, and had Israel not been under Roman rule, then Christ would have been king. Herod and his family knew that they were not really meant to be rulers of the Jews, but because of their relationship with the Romans, they wielded power. They did a lot to keep this power in their family: they were interested in power, not righteousness.

Yet Christ, ever so meek, didn’t get frustrated that He wasn’t ruling as He ought to have been. Instead, he went before Herod and bore the trial with dignity. We read of this experience in Luke:

“And when herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him.”

“Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.”

“And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

“And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” – Luke 23:8-11

I have always found this exchange profoundly interesting. First of all, Herod is glad to see Jesus. That seems like a good thing, right? However, we learn why – he wanted to see a miracle done by Christ. It was as if Herod thought Christ was some kind of circus freak or magician. Herod wanted to see Christ the same way some people might want to see David Copperfield or The Great Houdini.

Herod didn’t want to see Christ because he had faith in Him. He didn’t want to learn of Christ or be healed by Christ. Herod wanted to see Christ perform.

The Savior understood this. Though He was meek, He also wasn’t interested in being a circus act. This would be a disgrace to Himself and to His Father. He understood how His power worked and the sacred nature of faith and miracles.

So, when Christ comes to Herod, he meekly submitted to the will of His Father, and He didn’t perform a single miracle for Herod. Neither did He say a single word to Herod or the Priests questioning Him. (This always reminds me of the maxim: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. – A relatively meek attitude, if you ask me!)

Instead of performing for the King, instead of justifying Himself to the Priests, Christ was meek: like a lamb brought to the slaughter. The difference being Christ knew exactly what would happen to Him – where a sheep is naive to his eventual fate.

Inherit the Earth

So, we have determined that Christ was meek. The promise for such meekness is to “inherit the earth.”

Interestingly enough, that is exactly what happened to Christ. Because Christ performed the Atonement – including being judged and dying at the hands of wicked King Herod and the wicked priests – He overcame death and hell. He was resurrected. He ascended to His Father in Glory. Because of this astounding work He did, Christ inherited the earth.

AND, Christ’s supreme act of meekness enables us to inherit the earth as well. Without Him, we would have no chance at any kind of inheritance.

***
We can learn from Christ’s example and apply it in our own lives. We can meekly and gently accept the trials that we face (according to God’s will, of course). We don’t have to be fake about them, either–Christ had nothing to say to Herod. Meekness isn’t a pretended attitude. Meekness, in the context of Matthew 5, doesn’t mean that we are submissive to everyone who crosses our path. We don’t have to meekly submit to wickedness. Meekness means understanding our relationship with God and then humbly submitting to Him.

And, the really great thing is, God doesn’t expect us to submit completely blindly. For example, Christ knew that He would be judged, He knew He would be killed. He also knew that He would be resurrected. We can trust in God’s will for us – remembering that ultimately, His work is our immortality and eternal life. (See Moses 1:39.)

Finally, can remember that we know the outcome of our decision to be meek: We will inherit the earth! Though meekness may, at times, seem risky; and though meekness may even have a seemingly bad immediate consequence, we need to remember the bigger picture. We need to remember that God blesses the meek – they will inherit the earth.

Not a bad deal!

***
How have you come to understand meekness? What do you do to develop meekness in your life? What does it mean to you to know that the meek will inherit the earth?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes and the Atonement (2/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

This is always an interesting concept to me – that we would be blessed for mourning. Sometimes, maybe it is just our culture, I feel pressure not to mourn – that mourning expresses some kind of weakness. For example, when I was at Sean’s funeral, so often I would hear people remark on my parent’s “strength.” I’d hear people say, “Stay Strong,” – as if refusing to cry was a feat of strength; As if not mourning was admirable in any way.

Absolutely “staying strong” is a cultural thing. Yet, here, in Matthew 5, we find that when we mourn, we will be blessed. So, what gives?

Well, I guess that first we need to figure out, exactly what mourning is. In the Topical Guide, we find that it also refers to Despair, Grief, Lamentation, Sorrow, and Weeping. As I searched through the scripture references, I came upon a realization.

Mourning is part of this mortal experience. It sounds obvious, I know, but stick with me for a second. Our souls mourn at the separation from God. Adam and Eve mourned when they were going to be driven out of the Garden of Eden. Leaving God’s presence – physically and spiritually is death and hell. Often, in our lives, mourning has to do with one of those two experiences.

Mourning for Physical, Mortal Reasons

We mourn when someone passes on. We are reminded of our mortality and the shortness of life. We mourn because things change, and we are powerless over them. Without the Atonement, we’d mourn over death forever because we would die and remain dead forever.

Christ comforts us when we mourn – when people die – through His gospel. I’ve been to funerals of people who didn’t believe in the gospel and to those who have. Actually, funerals kind of remind us to believe, I think. It is hard to see someone die, and then just go on thinking, “that’s it. It’s all over for him. He’s not in a better place…he’s in the ground.” It’s unnatural to think this way, really. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. I can’t say that I’ve met an open atheist at a funeral, either. Usually, our mourning gives way to hope – that the person we are mourning for has graduated on to a “better place.” We mourn for the family and close one of a person who has died – that they will find peace despite the loss. We mourn for our own lives – regrets, shattered hopes and dreams, and the reminder of how incredibly short life really is, and when we mourn, we are usually comforted – we promise to be better people, we promise to live life, we promise value our relationships. Mourning, in these circumstances, often is accompanied with a measure of comfort and hope for the future.

Mourning for Spiritual Reasons

Another way that we mourn can be as a result of sin.

Best case scenario: we sin, then we have godly sorrow because we feel sorry that the distance between us and God has expanded. We feel both the pain that comes as a consequence of sin, and the pain of offending our Heavenly Father – whom we love.

In this case, our mourning will be comforted because we will have a repentant heart. The power of the Atonement will take effect in our lives. We will be forgiven.

In the worst case scenario, we become past feeling. We ignore the response to sin – to mourn, to feel sorry – and instead we harden our hearts. We ignore the promptings of the Spirit. We refuse to mourn. We refuse to express any kind of sorrow – especially Godly sorrow. And we do not, then, experience any kind of comfort. Eventually, we might finally live up to the consequences of such wickedness, then experience the despairing kind of lamentation that is the sorrow of the damned.
In some cases, I think that this sorrow will finally humble us enough to choose to be comforted. However, this isn’t true godly sorrow or mourning. It isn’t the kind that will be met with Christ’s comforting grace.

Christ, in the Atonement, shows this, too. When He experiences the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane, he cries out and He is supported by Angels. He is comforted.

However, Christ still would have to descend below all. He would have to understand the sorrow and helplessness of the damned. On the cross, He cries out “Why hast thou forsaken me,” when he felt a complete loss of connection with Heavenly Father. He understands both death and hell. He understood what those who do not mourn experience – a lack of comfort and companionship.

And, just as the beatitudes promised, Christ was ultimately blessed and comforted. Though he died, his life wasn’t over. Because of His righteous and obedient life, He was comforted through the hope of the resurrection. Because Christ was able to suffer and mourn in this way, He was also able to feel the comfort of the only true gospel, and then, in turn, offer this comfort to each of us.

***
I’m so grateful for this beatitude. I have felt times in my life when I have needed comfort. They have come in many different ways. When I mourn, I have found, consistently, the Lord comforting me. Sometimes such comfort came through a still feeling – in my heart. Other times, comfort has come through the actions of others. This comfort helps me to maintain my trust in the Lord and continue on the path of discipleship.

How has mourning and being comforted been a pattern in your life? Why do you think that this is something Jesus included in the Beatitudes?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes and the Atonement (1/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

- Matthew 5:3

– Matthew 5:3

As I have read this assignment and the chapter of Matthew 5, I have thought to go through each of the beatitudes listed in Matthew 5. Not only have they taught us how we ought to live, but Christ exemplified them in His life and when He performed the Atonement. I will spend the next several blog posts exploring each of the beatitudes and their relationship with Christ’s Atonement. Hopefully this exercise will teach us more about Christ’s Atonement, and how we can apply the advice He gave in Matthew 5 into our lives.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 5:3

This is the first of the beatitudes taught by Christ.

Poor in Spirit

First of all, it is important to understand what Christ meant by poor in spirit. When we look at the footnotes, we can see that it means “poor in pride,” or humble. In the account of Christ’s visitation to the Nephites, Christ gave the same sermon to the people. (See 3 Nephi 12:3.) There he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This difference implies that we, who are both poor in spirit and willing to come unto Christ will inherit the kingdom of God.

Christ was poor in Spirit. He was humble. He always humbly went to the Lord in everything He did. He uttered prayers of thanks before he fed the five thousand. He did nothing but the will of God.

As I think about the Atonement, I can’t imagine that there is a more humble act that anyone could have performed. He chose to submit to all. In the garden of Gethsemane, he suffered all of the sins of all of mankind. He didn’t have to do this! Not only did He suffer our sins, but he also suffered all of the afflictions and difficulties of mortality. This was not necessarily what he wanted to do – while in the moment. He asked Heavenly Father to remove the cup, but, because of His humility and obedience, chose to fulfill God’s will rather than His own.

Christ didn’t assume that He knew better than God, he simply submitted.

The thing that is important to remember here is that Christ is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords. He knew and understood His power and relationship with God. He knew that He is the literal Son of God. He created the earth. He is Jehovah. He knew He didn’t have to perform the Atonement, and that, as part God, he would never have to submit to death.

Yet he bled and suffered for our sins even though He had never committed one. He chose to come to this earth in the most meager and humble of circumstances. He didn’t require obeisance or honor from the Pharisees who claimed to be people of God. He humbly proceeded through His life, to the Garden of Gethsemane, and took on our sins.

Furthermore, He agreed to be charged and judged, though falsely, by wicked Priests. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and then nailed to the cross and forsaken by His own Father. He descended below all, dying – And Yet He is the King of kings. Lord of lords. Infinite and Eternal.

Imagine someone who lacked the attribute of being poor in Spirit or poor in pride. Would that person ever have agreed to the life that Christ lived? Would they have agreed to the final moments of Christ’s life? Had Christ not been poor in Spirit, I don’t think that He would have submitted to God’s will – which meant submitting to our sins, the priests’s wicked judgement, or death. He would have chosen a vastly different path which would have garnered vastly different results.

Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

We can see that because Christ was poor in Spirit and submitted fully to the will of His father, the Kingdom of Heaven truly is His.

If he hadn’t submitted below all, then He wouldn’t have risen above all either. If Christ wasn’t submissive to God’s will, then He wouldn’t be able to offer healing in His wings. How could Christ be resurrected if he hadn’t died in the first place? Christ couldn’t offer salvation from Sin if He didn’t first take it on.

Because Christ was poor in Spirit, He inherited the Kingdom of God. And, because Christ inherited God’s kingdom, we, too have the opportunity to do so.

Though we cannot ever inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in the same way Christ did, when we are poor in Spirit, we can come unto Christ and covenant with Him. Then, His ultimate act of Humility will combine with our humility – enabling us to become joint heirs with Christ and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s a pretty good deal for us… :)

***
What are you insights and thoughts on being poor in Spirit and the Atonement? How does this beatitude help you understand more about Christ and what He wants us to be?

Edward Abbey, Walking, and Mindfulness

I want to start this off by saying I understand that it might be a little ironic that an Edward Abbey quote is being featured on my Mormon-y blog.

But, I really like Edward Abbey even though I’m an active, devout Mormon. Whatever. So, here is the quote:

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot. I’ve been thinking about the pace of my life. For example, already, I have stuff that happened or will happen on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights of this week. I have a feeling that there is something I’m forgetting, too. … Oh, yes. Tuesday, I was supposed to go somewhere Tuesday, too.

I feel like I’m constantly rushing from this place to the next – Costco, Library, Supermarket, Activities, Girl’s Nights, Babysitting, Meetings, Date Nights, blah blah blah. Admittedly, there are things on the list of things I need to do that I actually like doing. (Going to the library, or date night, for example) However, I feel like I’m always rushing about doing things that I don’t even really like and might not even need to be doing.

Which is why this quote by Edward Abbey resonates with me.

I live a mile from the supermarket. One mile. And I drive there. Why? Because I don’t think that I have time to walk. I say that if I had a bike, then I’d take my bike. The weather is perfect, and I always say I want to spend more time outside. Instead, I rush into my car, drive the single mile to the supermarket, rush about, and then drive the single mile home.

Admittedly, if I choose to walk to the supermarket, then something else has to go. What would it be? I can’t decide, so I just drive.

Oh – and the driving around thing is just the tip of the iceberg. Even when I’m at home, in my sanctuary, where I have control of what I do, say, think, I tend to turn my control over to Social Media. While I’m cooking my eggs any given morning, I’m also checking Facebook, email, Instagram, I’m texting, talking to/ignoring my kids, and then burning breakfast. I tend to think that I can be everywhere at once, but when I sit down to rubbery eggs, I realize that I was just nowhere at all.

Edward Abbey was onto something. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever.

This reminds me of one of my favorite examples in the scriptures: that of Martha.

Like Martha, I allow myself to be too cumbered about. I am “careful and troubled about many things.” (See Luke 10:38-42). I get overwhelmed – How did my week get so scheduled?! Where did my time go? Why is my sausage burnt? And I know, believe me, I know that I don’t have very much going on compared to other people. We don’t have school. We don’t have sports. We don’t have instruments. We do a lot at home. I guard my time and my family’s time. Yet, we are busy, busy, busy.

So – what’s the fix? How do we slow down?

I think that I have the answer: Be mindful Be present. Be aware. Or, another more scriptural way of putting it: I can act for myself and not be acted upon. (See 2 Nephi 2:26). Elder Bednar explains it well,

” As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon.” – David A. Bednar

By choosing to act, by choosing to slow down, by choosing to walk, I allow space and time to become my friends rather than foes. I will find happiness, pleasure, and meaning in life.

Which Came First? Slowing down or being present?

It’s funny. Slowing down and being present basically work in tandem. If you don’t slow down, then you can’t really be present. If you choose to be present, then it is natural you will slow down. AAAANNNND, when we choose to slow down and be present, then we are happy.

Really, think about it. The happiest people I know, the happiest times in my life, are when I was completely present. I’m happy when I’m experiencing life, and allowing myself to experience life. Often, I’m most present when I’m doing something new. For example, if I go on a hike in a new place, everything is novel. I have to pay attention to every crag, corner, and plant. I watch where I walk. I take in the vistas. I pay attention to every step and sound.

I will find that I enjoyed the hike so much, I’d like to do it again. A second time might mean that I see even more plants. I will notice even more rocky views, saguaros, maybe I’ll even see a lizard or a snake.

So, usually, after two good experiences, I want to recreate this. I want to force myself to experience this elation day after day. So, I start to give myself assignments, “Hike.” I start to line up expectations. I become comfortable with my surroundings and then I start to give myself “goals,” thinking that progress means happiness (which, I’m finding is not always necessarily the case…or if it is, then usually I misunderstand what progress truly is – which is another blog post for another time). I start to time myself, and then I try to do it faster, etc.

I begin to rip myself out of the present moment. No longer do I smell the creosote. Instead, I’m checking my watch. Maybe I’ll multi-task it, and listen to a conference talk, too.

And then, the hike, the enjoyable, stress-reducing, elevating hike, becomes another chore. I’m ripped out of the present moment, and then into this game of comparison. I compare my present moment with a past memory or a future dream. I compare my speed with a jogger’s proficiency. I compare my frumpy clothes with a svelte woman’s workout gear. The hike really isn’t going well anymore. Truly, comparison is the thief of joy – and this is because comparison tears us out of the present moment. We no longer choose to be agents unto ourselves. Instead, we allow ourselves to be acted upon (or cumbered about) by our many expectations or misguided ideas, and lose the joy of something that once was a source of happiness.

So…I’m slowing down. I’m going to be present. I recognize that being everywhere at once is being nowhere at all. I want to experience this life – every single drop of it. I intend on enjoying life by choosing “that good part.”

***
What do you do to slow down, be mindful, and experience joy in your life?

Joy is…5/52

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven’t listed 2-4. I have kept them up in my book, but I have been a bit delinquent when it comes to blogging… :(

So, I’m just going to do my best, and write about a moment this week when I felt a lot of joy…

Temple at Night

Temple at Night

This week Homen and I went to the temple, and I felt a lot of joy.

I was reminded of a few things:
1) I was reminded of my value as a mother. I have consistently been reminded of my worth and value as a mother when I attend the temple. Again, last Thursday night, as I attended the temple, I was reminded of this truth.

I feel like there are forces that try to downplay the value and influence of women. I find this frustrating. I also think that there are people who try to claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) doesn’t value women. However, this has not been my experience. In the temple I was reminded that the influence of a woman is incredibly important. If it wasn’t for Eve, we wouldn’t be experiencing mortality. Adam and Eve would still be in the garden, alone, tending to it. Bliss, I suppose, but not joy.

Women, mothers, have a profound influence on the lives of their husbands and children. This isn’t some kind of subordinate role. It is incredibly important. What I’m doing is incredibly important! I know this, and I know that I have both responsibility and blessings to be able to do all that the Lord expects of me.

2) I was comforted regarding some of the goals I have in my life. There are things that I really want to do in my life. Some of the the things I’d like to do and be have to do with my spiritual and religious identity. Some of them may seem less religious. They may seem more “selfish.” I was reminded, in the temple, that these desires are not selfish, but that the Lord has blessed me with talents because He expects me to do something with them!

It was a nice reminder.

3) I felt peace about the course that Homey and I are taking in our lives. Homey and I are trying some new things – new “scary” things. I started homeschooling the kids. He’s working on creating his own business. This has been an exciting time, but it is also intense. It requires a lot from each of us, and it requires a lot of guidance from God.

It is great to go to the temple, and to be reassured about the decisions we have made – especially when they are so unconventional and difficult!

***
The temple brings me joy. I can’t say that I have had many “singular” experiences in the temple. I haven’t seen visions or any kind of spectacular spiritual experience. Instead, my temple experiences have been cumulative. Every time I go, I learn – degree by degree.

Elder Bednar compares this kind of spiritual process with night turning into day. The dawn doesn’t come in one major event. Instead, the sky lightens degree by degree, until finally the entire sky is illuminated.

This has been my temple experience. I learn a little at a time. It isn’t dramatic, but as I think of how my life has changed over time, I can see that each little ray of light that I collect from each temple visit adds up to an illuminated life.

***
So – this has been a joyful experience for me this week. How about you? How have you felt joy?

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