The Messenger

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

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Over the past several months I have been trying to become better at discerning when the Spirit speaks to me.  I have prayed for the ability to know how I can be used as an ‘instrument’ in the hands of the Lord.  Subsequently, I have been having regular experiences that I can not deny, come from listening to, and following through with the promptings of the Spirit.

One such situation that I will share, happened with one of my daughters.  One of the practices that I’ve started is to end my evening prayer with a plea to the Lord, “Is there anything that you would have me do or know?”  And then I will try to listen intently to the promptings as thoughts begin to fill my mind.  I say try, because that seems to be a difficult thing for me (and probably most of us) to do… just calm my mind and listen.  But I am finding that as I practice, I am getting better at discerning what thoughts are actually coming from Him.

Anyway, on this particular night I said my evening prayer and then proceeded with my usual question.  Very quickly and with great force, my daughter’s name tumbled through my mind repeatedly.  I was perplexed, as I had just spoken with her that evening and things seemed to be fine.  I made a note to call her in the morning and make sure things were ok.  I had a busy morning but I texted her first thing and asked if she had some time later that day that we could talk.  The morning went by as usual and I wasn’t terribly concerned and I didn’t feel that she was in danger or anything, but she continued to weigh on my mind.  When we were finally able to talk, I briefly explained what had happened and then she began to cry…. and then I began to cry, lol.  I knew that the Lord had spoken to me and that I was to be the messenger.  She told me that she had been having some hard days.   And we both agreed that the promptings that I felt to call her and tell her of my experience were meant to help her realize that He is there and that He does hear her cries and that He is very aware of what she is going through. And above all that He loves her enough to use someone else to bring that message to her.

And that is how it works a lot of the time.  We are are the Lord’s messengers.  We just need to be open and ready to receive the message and then, the most important part, is to deliver that message, or ACT on that prompting.

It’s funny because in life we always seem to want the latest and greatest!  We can’t wait for the new thing to come out and we stand in lines to be one of the first to see it, or have it, or hold it and try it out! The world promises us money, fame, and fortune but the Lord promises us peace, understanding and eternal life.  In the world today, we have a hard time seeing past ourselves and our selfish desires.  But what the Lord wants is for us to look to Him and His ways to find ourselves.  King Benjamin preached in the  Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).  And in the New Testament the Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

I believe another important aspect of learning to listen to and follow promptings of the spirit is to get “unplugged” and tune in.  Kind of sounds like an oxymoron.  How do you “unplug” and “tune in”?  Technology is a great and positive tool for sure!  I mean you are probably reading this blog on your smartphone, lol, so I can’t tout them.  But I do know that cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. take up an extreme amount of our time and can cause the lines to our spiritual communication to be full of static and distractions.  And it is so important for us to be “tuned in” to the still small voice of the Spirit to feel and hear the promptings when they come.

I found it so funny when I saw a photo of someone on FB that said “Here we are, all watching a movie.  And then in the photo several of them were looking at their phones, and a few others were really watching the movie, haha.  How can you focus on listening to a still small voice when your mind is full of distractions?  Again in the Bible we read in (First Kings 11-12) “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:   And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

In April 2017 Elder Ronald Rasband of the Quorum of the twelve apostles taught:  “The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord. By divine assignment, He inspires, testifies, teaches, and prompts us to walk in the light of the Lord. We have the sacred responsibility to learn to recognize His influence in our lives and respond.”

The Lord wants to be able bless our lives by “using” us to bless the lives of others.  I know that might sound a little backwards, but that’s really how it works!  If we can find ways to serve him, even if they are small and may seem insignificant, that is how we will begin to grow to our full potential, feel his Spirit, and to become more like our Savior, who was the ultimate example of compassion and love.  We become the “messengers” by regularly submitting to His will by acting on the promptings that we receive to help and serve others.  Even the smallest act of a simple phone call can make such a difference in the life of someone who is struggling.

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I put a lot of thought into the blogs that I post hoping they will reach and touch the lives of others in a positive helpful way.  But what I have found is that as I think about and try to figure out what to write about, it always ends up helping me more than I think it will ever help anyone else.  I have come to understand that that is the way the Lord refines us and builds us into the people he wants us to be.  Sometimes I feel like the ‘Old violin’  worn and used and sometimes beaten down with the daily struggles of life,  but when touched by the “Master’s hand” able to do amazing things, not only for myself, BUT especially in being His messenger for others.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 

 

 

Choices and Change

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  

Our lives are full of change.  It’s the one variable that we can always depend on no matter what.  From the minute we are born, our lives are in a constant state of change and it’s part of God’s plan for us.  But in that Change, there are a lot of choices to be made by  each of us.  We are met with choices every single minute of every single day!  So how do we know how to make the right choices for us to bring forth the change that is intended by God for us in our journey?  For me it really comes down to two categories; One, what are we willing to sacrifice for our salvation, what changes are we willing to make?  And two, what choices will we be willing to make in order to get where God wants us to be?

Over the past several years my husband and I have been in a constant state of change and upheaval in our lives.  We have had to make many choices along this journey that we never thought we would be confronted with.  Sacrifices that have been required in order to move closer to where we need to be.  We have felt like we are on a raging sea at times, where you can’t see the bow of the boat for the waves that are coming over the top.  But then at other times, the waters seem calm and serene pushing us along steadily in the direction we are meant to go.  It is a trip not met without some sea sickness, lol, and a lot of opposition which makes change and choices for that matter, even harder.  But through it all, I have found that one of the most important ways that we can learn to calm the waves and make those tough decisions is to rely even more heavily upon our savior.  In the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) we read:

Alma 38:9

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Our Savior will never, ever lead us astray.  If we pray to him with our full hearts, with real intent, He will show us the direction that we need to go.  And even though, through those choices comes much change we are able to withstand those changes because he will make are burdens become light and our weaknesses become strong.

Ether 12: 27

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness . I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them… (also found in the Book of Mormon)

Did you catch that first sentence?  And if men come unto me…  We are the ones that need to do the walking here.   It is us that walk away from Christ and it us that walk toward Christ.  We are the ones that make that critical choice!  That is so important to understand.  So many times we can be caught saying why me, why this, why now?  And to be clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t many things that reach beyond our control.  Most certainly there are many!  But how we choose to face those changes along this journey that we call life, is so important when realizing the sacrifices that we have been required to make.  There is always a purpose in God’s plan for us.

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The one thing that is so great about choices is that if chosen carefully and with our salvation in mind.  We can literally feel our lives being molded by our maker and that’s not always a comfortable place to be.  Change never is.  In fact being uncomfortable is part of his plan for us.  It’s the only way that we truly grow and become stronger more capable individuals.  So I challenge you to get uncomfortable today!  Make that your choice, “I will do something today that will bring me closer to where God wants me to be”.  And then prepare yourself for the molding and the change that will take place.  And remember, God doesn’t make mistakes!  Move forward with faith!

What being “away” from the church taught me.

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I never considered myself in-active or “less active”, because to me, that meant that you had left the church.  That meant that you had denounced your faith in some way, which I never felt like I did.  However, I did step “away” from the church for a few years.  I had just gotten divorced and I’ll admit that I was really struggling with a lot of what it meant to be a member of the LDS church.  How could this happen to me?  I was married in the temple.  Things seemed to be going so well.  Was it a lack of faith?  Was it a lack of desire?  Was it complacency? Was it loneliness?  What was it exactly, that made me want to distance myself from all that I had known?  I was born and raised in the church.  I did what all my friends did, and most members that I knew.   Grew up, married a returned missionary, got married in the temple, had a family, and then lived happily ever after, right?!  So what had happened to my happily ever after?

The thing is, leaving the church, or stepping “away” from the church, your faith, your testimony, all that you have ever known to be true, doesn’t happen overnight!  It is a slow process that happens seemingly, without you even noticing until one day you’ve done it.  You are “away” from the church.  You don’t attend, or study or maybe even pray anymore (although I think prayer tends to be something you continue even when you are away.  Or at least you try).  You don’t practice your religion anymore.  And members of the church who know you and hear about it, think “it’s really sad”.   You are essentially known as a “less active” or inactive member.  I remember referring to myself as, “I am no longer practicing”.  But really what you’re saying is a veiled way to say “I no longer have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, therefore I have stepped “away” for a while to figure things out.” I had somehow lost my way… “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14)

The ironic part is that at first it feels very freeing!  I remember saying on many occasions, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I just can’t reconcile that it coincides with my being away from the church”.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me.  I did everything I was supposed to do, everything that I had been taught all those years growing up.  Sure I made my share of mistakes, as does everyone.  But I had tried to be diligent in all that I had learned through the years after my temple marriage.  Holding many different callings, while raising my little family in the gospel, going to the temple, studying my scriptures and going to church.  I was keeping my covenants, and praying.  I was doing everything, wasn’t I?  Or was I?

Truthfully, I have to admit that my temple attendance wasn’t where it should have been.  I wasn’t really reading my scriptures as much as I should have.  And I probably had become redundant in my prayers…. And I am sure there were many other “little” things.  I don’t really know exactly how it happened because it all happened SO slowly.  And the scary part is, that it can happen to ANYONE! I hoping that by sharing my experience it can be a voice of warning.

In Matthew we read: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. (Matt. 7:12) It seemed so much easier to be on the path that I was now on.

But then, that is how the opposition works right? One little flaxen cord at a time.  Like a big giant fluffy, feather, gently coaxing you.  “You don’t need to read your scriptures tonight, you’ve worked so hard all day and you’re tired.  You can get to it tomorrow.”

Go ahead buy that dress that isn’t really long enough for your temple garment… it’s so cute and you’ve worked so hard to look good.”  One more little feather.

It’s ok to miss church today.  Since you got divorced, no one really cares anyway.”  One more little feather gently waving and caressing you away.  It feels so good to be free, you say!  But little do you know how hard Satan is working on you!  All of those “little tiny feathers” are turning into a very tightly woven cord, and you are being led along without even realizing it.

Joseph B. Wirthlin of the quorum of the twelve apostles stated, “We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father.”

After a while I was so comfortable with the way that I was living my life that I began to think I no longer needed religion in my life.  I no longer needed the church or a testimony or to be “bound” down by callings and church attendance. I had entered in at the wide gate and it felt good to be just like everyone else!

And then something began to happen…. I NEEDED God.  I NEEDED the church.  I NEEDED the priesthood.  I NEEDED my testimony! I NEEDED all of it! And how had that happened? Yep, you guessed it, SO SLOWLY!  Little seeds were being planted along the way until all of sudden it was unmistakeable!  You can see my post “living with bi-polar” for some of the story but I will definitely write more about all of the little experiences that happened in between in upcoming posts.  But lucky for us, one thing that God never does, is give up on his children!  No not one.

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matt. 18:12–13.)

Luckily, God’s angels both here and on the other side are working just as hard if not harder to get you back!  And now that I am back, I am so thankful for that.  I know that there were many prayers and fasts that went out in my behalf.  Many times my name was probably written in the roles of the temple.  Many tears that were cried for my salvation, and many angels that were working from the other side to influence me.

So why am I writing about this?  It’s not exactly an easy subject to approach.  People leave the church for all different reasons.  There is nothing special or singular about my situation or why I left.  At least that is what I thought.  But the truth is, I believe it IS similar for most people, in that it happens SO slowly.  One small act at a time.  One small thought at a time.  One small step at a time.  And before you know it, you hear yourself saying…”I’m not sure I’ve ever had a testimony”,  “I’m really not sure if the church IS true after all”.  and “I’m happier than I’ve ever been without it!”

I think what I am trying to say and what I have been prompted to write is that you have to keep The whole Armor of God on! See Ephesians 6:10-18  Not just sometimes…. ALL THE TIME.  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  You must to do all the little things EVERY DAY!  Sometimes more than just once a day.  You MUST keep yourself unspotted from the world.  You must live IN the world but not be OF the world.  If you are like me you’ve heard that statement a million times growing up in the church! But it has never been more true or more important than it is today.  In The Book Of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) Mormon Chapter 8  gives us insight into today’s world, Moroni says he has seen our day, and it includes wars and rumors of wars, great pollutions, murders, robbing, and people who tell us that there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes. He describes people who are filled with pride, caught up in the wearing of expensive clothing, and who make fun of religion. He is shown people who are so obsessed with worldly things that they allow “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by”3 without being noticed.  

But we should not despair,  it is the Lord’s way that will lead us to life eternal!

The prophet David O. Mckay taught: Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly; when it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following him who said:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Has my life gotten easier since I came back to the church?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  In reality it has actually been a really hard road.  Quite like a roller coaster, lol.  My family and I have had to go through a lot of things physically, spiritually and mentally that I never thought we would have to go through. But that is how we grow, that is how we become stronger and better people.  We don’t grow by being in a comfortable spot where there is nothing changing, no growth. However, through it all I have no doubt that my Savior is with me, that he is my advocate to the Father! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13 

I am also comforted to know that I need not fear for He is with me, I know where and how to to find the peace that only He can give.

Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I am confident that as I purposefully follow the commandments that I will not be led astray again.  Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles has been known to say, “If you read the Book of Mormon every day, you will never fall away”.  If you’ve gotten this far I commend you and if you have learned anything I hope you will realize that my story can happen to anyone!  That you can NEVER take your membership in this gospel for granted!  It truly is a gift!  A gift that is meant to be shared with others!