OPEN

This summer, I joined my husband for a trip to Lake Powell with his work.  I’ve gone a few times with this company and always love it-it’s a highlight of the year for me (http://www.redmondinc.com).  They believe in “Elevating the Human Experience” as their motto says-and I feel it when I’m there.  The environment they try to promote is one of openness.  One that inspires and brings about inner reflection.  I always feel better for spending time with such great people.  I sometimes find myself looking around and wonder how they could get a group of so many incredible people in one place-and wish I could always feel the way I feel there.  Then I realize it’s the environment they’re creating-that brings out this feeling among the group.  There are so many individuals that are serving and sharing-that are openly and honestly hoping to lift others. I can look around and care about everyone-some I haven’t even talked to yet, and others I’ve spent hours with.  No walls, no worries.  We talk, we share experiences, we learn from each other.  This is a very open environment-and I want to package it up and take it with me.

I’m learning that openness can happen anywhere.  It’s a state of heart and mind.  I’m a fan of cultural experiences.  I had one this summer that taught me to open up more-that even what I thought of as a “cultural experience” was limited.  My husband and I went to watch a friend of his drive in a demolition derby.  We sat in a group of people and I was sure we were the only ones that didn’t have a mullet, mow hawk or tattoo.  I was feeling a little out of place, but felt calmed by the thought to just be myself and stay open.  I watched this family in front of me-the wife of the driver we were cheering on.  She was so sweet to watch as she doted on her family.  I loved watching her take care of her little boys. There was something about her that touched my heart and lifted me.  Then her husband came over during a break and I watched the two of them together.  I felt such sweet feelings about this derby driver and his family and wished them happiness.  And I walked away that night grateful that the Lord gave me this “cultural experience” and touched my heart in an unexpected way.

I’ve noticed how I can’t be judging while at the same time trying to stay open.  Months back I mentioned an experience where I was sitting in line in traffic and watched a lady cut out of line. I watched her in annoyed judgment until she pulled off in front of the fire station and hopped in an ambulance to go save someone. This humbled me and reminded me that I just never know all the details. After I posted that, I thought about how it shouldn’t matter whether this woman was jumping in an ambulance or trying to get ahead of everyone so she could pull over and buy a purse…or a diet coke…or whatever.  Seeing her in a heroic light doesn’t mean she’s now worthy of love and unworthy of judgment. It’s that I didn’t even need to judge her in the first place. No matter the scenario and all the evidence before me on whatever anyone does, I don’t need to judge. I’ve had many impressions lately to set aside judgment.  When I’m about to visit with someone, read new information, walk into a mess that someone left behind, or finding myself in a situation that usually leaves me fearful-so many opportunities throughout the day.  And I’m realizing how often I bring judgment with me.  Yet  I feel invited to leave judgment out of it-don’t prepare what you’re going to say to anyone.  Don’t assume.  Just follow the Spirit and see where the moment takes you.  I’m reminded I’m not supposed to judge-discern yes, but judge no.  These moments where I’m able to stay open and without judgment are AMAZING.  These open moments remind me just how awesome people are-and how much more there is to learn from others.

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Forgiveness

The past week or two, I’ve been feeling on edge. I couldn’t put my finger on it until last night. I had been feeling as fragile as glass and was quick to feel hurt and offended. I knew how I was feeling wasn’t right but I couldn’t seem to snap out of it.  I had been praying for help and was reminded last night how Heavenly Father hears our prayers. The answer may come after a lot of prayer and pondering, but the answer will come. He wants us to work through it, to help us learn and grow. Living through it has taught me priceless lessons. The key is to work through things WITH Him, not to try and figure it out alone. He wants to help us-and in eternal ways.

I’m on the sensitive side.  I can be hurt easily and I’ve tried to overcome this in life.  Someone once told me she chose one day not to be offended and since then she never is.  “Wow” I thought.  I couldn’t even imagine that. I’ve tried really hard to not let things get to me.  I’ve sadly even tried just living defensively-putting up walls so I don’t get hurt. Sometimes I’m full of love and nothing seems to get me down.  Yet sometimes I’m as fragile as glass and every little thing wears at me.

So I’ve been feeling easily hurt lately and last night my husband said something.  I quickly said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Feeling hurt before he even answered.  Poor guy.  And I looked at myself and thought, “What is wrong with me?! Why are all these things bothering me that before didn’t bother me at all?” And I wondered yet again why the past several days have felt heavy and achy.  Then my answer came.  It came and has been coming ever since.  There has been many “aha” and “oh yeah” moments.  Here I was trying not to feel hurt at what I thought was rather hurtful-then a thought came to my mind…”you’re trying to forgive all these wrongs-but what if there is nothing to forgive? What if you rewind to before you even feel hurt and remember there is nothing there to forgive?”

And I was reminded of a conversation I had with someone earlier in the week.  She asked how I didn’t have issues with someone over something that happened many years earlier.  For the most part, this wasn’t a problem for me.  I knew distance was best.  That I could feel love and no hard feelings at a distance.  But the moment I felt hard feelings-that was a problem.  It was clear to me that I would only be fooling myself if I harbored any resentment.  When I thought of “forgiving” this person, I even felt uncomfortable with it.  Because then I would be saying they “wronged” me and I couldn’t say that.  I felt compassion and concern for this person-and when I didn’t, I knew I was wrong.

I realized I had been feeling “wronged” the last couple of weeks.  The littlest things were bothering me, even old memories about a comment some guy made at a baseball game over a decade ago was bothering me! Left and right I felt hurt, it was like a snowball affect and when I would feel offended about one thing-there would be a dozen more things to feel hurt about.  Life was feeling so hard and painful. What I really needed to do was seek forgiveness for the resentment I was feeling.  I kept feeling hurt and wanted people to know how mean they were.  People need to know the suffering they cause!  I was trying to be the one to judge and exact justice-but only the Savior can do that.  He asks us to forgive all men always. He is the only one that knows everything about everyone.  He is the kindest judge there is, and reminds us how much we need to have mercy for others because oh how we need it ourselves.

Over the summer I had been thinking about forgiveness a lot.  And I believed there was nothing people could do that would justify me feeling bitter and withholding love and forgiveness-and I know feeling this kind of love toward people is a big reason why I experienced so much peace for a long time.  Yet I started to forget…I started to feel bad about this or that.  When I focus on how I was “wronged” I tie myself to it. And then I have to “forgive” to be released. That’s the hard way-the times I never feel wronged at all is sweet peace. When I think I’m taking the high road and mercifully forgiving someone-what I really need to do is ask for forgiveness for the resentment and unkindness on my part. The best way is to not even go to the hurt, resentful and feeling wronged place I go to. This helps me focus on the humanity of people-and keeps me feeling the love.  When I focus on how someone hurt me, the peace disappears.  That peace departing is the Spirit leaving, because I’m giving into the temptation of being offended and judging others.

Here are some quotes that have helped me on my journey, they come from “Bonds That Make Us Free”.  The chapter on forgiveness in this book is really, really good.

“As long as we see others as needing our forgiveness, we will continue regarding ourselves as their victim and will remain accusing still.  We live free of bondage of accusing, afflicted feelings only by ceasing to find and take offense.”

“Of all the initiatives people can take who feel a devastating wrong has been made them miserable, one stands above all others in effectiveness.  It is actually seeking forgiveness for having refused to forgive.  I have observed that when individuals have struggled for years to escape the effects of abuse and have tried everything they can think of to forgive their abuser, they rarely succeed.  The reason is that the forgiveness they aim to produce is a counterfeit to real forgiveness.  It could not be otherwise, because they continue to believe they have been offended.  But when they recognize that the wrongdoing has been theirs, good things start to happen-but not until then.”

“Forgiveness cannot be done from self-concern. It must be done for the truth’s sake, or to right a wrong, or out of compassion for those we previously condemned by our refusal to forgive.”

“We need to note one more element of genuine forgiveness.  Just prior to forgiving someone, we will have been finding him or her offensive.  But with forgiveness comes a realization of the offensiveness of this.  How accusing we must have appeared to that person!  Whatever he or she may have done that we previously found offensive has changed our memory of it…the past is not what we had thought.  Recently we had wondered whether we could forgive that person.  Now we wonder whether he or she can forgive us.”

“Oh That I Were An Angel…”

O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! (Alma 29:1)

Over the past year, I’ve felt the power of the words, “Oh that I were an angel…but when Alma says he wants to cry repentance unto every people, well I didn’t understand the last part-about crying repentance.  If it was scripture from me, I would have said, “Oh that I were an angel, I would tell the world how much God loves them.”  But lately I’m beginning to see the connection.  I was wanting to type a post on how repentance is about love.  I’m beginning to see on a deeper level, how the gospel is all about love-especially repentance.

Recognizing and then following the Lord’s Spirit in our lives is key to coming unto Christ, and being perfected in Him.  Over many years, I began to think God was harsh and punishing.  But I was wrong, His Spirit is loving, peaceful and inviting.  Anything that makes us fear God and not feel worthy to approach Him, does not come from Him.  God is love.  “I cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” (D&C 1:31)  And “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10) is because he loves us.  Sin is bondage.  And our Father in Heaven, out of love, wants to keep us free.  The devil wants all men miserable like himself, and God sent His Son-to save us.  “Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I want to shout, “MEN ARE THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE JOY!!!” The gospel is a message of love and the pathway to joy.  It’s forsaking the ungodly things in our life for something much better…

I can see for myself in life, some things have been hard to let go of.  Some things I didn’t want to let go of, and other weights and burdens I gladly give up.  “I don’t want this-I’m so glad I don’t have to carry this anymore!”  And I gladly stop carrying the burden.  Some weaknesses and temptations take superhuman strength to overcome and may be a process of giving up-again and again.  The enabling power of the atonement is how we can overcome.  Line upon line.  The Lord loves us so very much.

The other day I was beating myself up for having made the same mistake-AGAIN.  I was feeling all those thoughts of, “It’s just too hard…why can’t I be done with this…” and I felt ridiculous to have to come to the Lord and repent-AGAIN.  The words came to my heart, “I will forgive you.  However many times it takes, I will forgive you.  Just keep coming back to me.”  I felt peace and love.  And I knew I wasn’t in this alone.  I don’t have to be better to come to Christ-HE makes me better, He makes me stronger, He makes me a new person…again and again.

There are no little things…  Recently I was checking something on the internet that leaves me with that mind-numbing feeling.  Deep down I felt like it’s not only a waste of time, but that I needed to stop doing it.  Over the past year, I’ve been able to see how reading certain blogs and checking certain sites actually kept me from feeling a strong spirit.  I’ve noticed how one by one, the Spirit has helped me stop reading things that were not enlightening.  As I checked these sites and blogs less and less, the Spirit was stronger in my life and I was less distracted.  There is a lot of great stuff out there, and then there is just waste of time, distracting stuff. I noticed how much more I was enjoying my life when I would try to focus on reading the things that brought me closer to Christ and improved my life.  But there was this one thing that I didn’t want to stop spending my time on.  And I would get the deep down feeling that I should quit wasting my time…”But I need a balanced life…but this is so harmless and silly to think it matters…” And on and on the justification went.  Then the Spirit got my attention.  The words came clearly to my mind, “This is keeping you from fulfilling your mission and purpose here on earth.”  And I put it down.  I got it.  I was reminded that there are no small things and the promptings and invitations we receive from the Spirit are because He loves us.

I can look back and see the difference in trying to overcome without and then with the Savior.  For a long time, I struggled with something that was a big stumbling block and thought I needed to overcome it by myself.  With the help of the adversary, I was convinced that the Lord didn’t need to be bothered with this and that I needed to overcome it to be worthy to come before Him.  Oh how wrong I was!  When I tried to overcome it by myself-this would just transfer the stumbling block to other things.  I wasn’t getting to the root of the problem-nor could I even see the root of the problem.  Then with the Savior’s loving care, He showed me how.  He shed light on the whole issue.  And through His power and love, he freed me.  He guided me through and I was amazed.

Repentance is about love.  It’s about freedom from bondage.  It’s about forsaking our sins and not letting anything come between us and Christ.  Seeking the Lord’s forgiveness and help with sins and temptations is how we are purified.  “No man can serve two masters” and God wants us focused on the most wonderful, loving and perfect master of all-His Son.

Life’s Classroom

Growing up, I didn’t love school.  I thought it was only good for the social aspect.  I thought it was usually so boring and I remember my last days of high school, thinking, “I am done with school-FOREVER!!”  Years later, after more life experience, travel, and learning just how much there is out in this big world, I decided to go back to school.  I was married and had two little ones at the time and I felt this great hunger to go to college.  I regretted not using my time better as a teenager and wanted the chance to learn again-about history, psychology, science, even a little math if I had to.  I was excited to be accepted to a local college and began my journey of truly learning-this time my heart was in it.  I felt so grateful for the opportunity!  Years before school felt like a dreaded waste of time, and now here I was giddy about the chance to learn-to hand in assignments and take tests.

Each class was a faith promoting experience.  I remember reading about the founding fathers and feeling immense gratitude for their sacrifices-and a feeling that they were inspired men.  I learned in Near Eastern Studies about conflicts that have been going on for thousands of years.  I learned more of other religions and my understanding grew of other people and cultures.  I remember studying physical science and biology-more of how the earth works and our body’s DNA.  Math isn’t easy for me but I would study and concentrate-sometimes looking at things over and over until my brain could grasp it.  I don’t recall ever taking a class that felt like a waste of time.  I preferred psychology over math any day-but I learned and valued each class-even if it was just learning that I could figure it out.

There are so many opportunities for learning.  I know it doesn’t have to be in a classroom-anywhere we are and everyday we live, we can be learning.  Life is one big learning opportunity.  Learning with the Spirit is different than just reading stuff and wasting time.  I’ve done both and I can feel the difference.  And the Spirit can lead us to what is best for our individual learning and growth.  With the Light of Christ-we can search through information, knowledge and literally everything we are presented with and learn what is truth-and what is not.  With opposition in all things, we will constantly be confronted with truth and lies-and the Spirit can guide us to truth.  Through the Spirit…through faith and obedience to God, we can find the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5).

A few years ago I read a book about science.  This book could have been written by an atheist for all I knew, but as I read about the details of the earth and the discoveries made over centuries of learning-my faith in God grew.  The more I read about the science of the earth, the more I believed in God-the creator of the heavens and the earth.  The scientific process was all so beautiful.  It’s AMAZING.  From the tiny little bugs that creep and crawl-to elephants and lions.  Volcanos, canyons, the ocean, space-it’s all so beautiful.  When I learn more about the earth and history-anything really, I am reminded that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30).

“Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)

Sacrifice

I’ve been thinking about sacrifice lately-I used to think it was to give everything away. That the ultimate was to live a “sackcloth and ashes” life and anything extra was worldly.

Sometimes I’m asked for things and it feels like the best answer is “no”. But I don’t want to appear selfish and honestly-I wrongly think it’s easier to say “yes” in the moment. When I say “yes” when I know it should be “no”, I regret and find out the hard way why I should have listened. The Lord knows what’s best as he sees everything from an eternal view. When I don’t follow His guidance-how can He help me? He wants to protect me, to strengthen my faith, to teach me.
He builds mansions, not little cottages. He sees our potential and if we give Him our heart-oh what he can do with us.

What is sacrifice? Anything I’ve given the Lord has been returned with great blessings and growth. Trials and opposition cause needless suffering in my life when I try to do things my way instead of His. When I submit and say “Thy will be done.” It’s quite a different experience than when I say, “Anything but this…you can have anything but this.” Sometimes it’s a hobby that’s become too important. Sometimes it’s pride and worrying what people think. Sometimes it’s admitting I’m wrong. He wants to be first on the list. He offers the Living Water that will make us whole.

What does the Lord want me to sacrifice? What can I give Him that isn’t already His? What could He possibly need from little old me? My heart. To give him my desires. For my wants and needs to be whatever He wants for me.

To align our will with the divine brings divinity to life. Life becomes deeply meaningful. He wants to grace our lives with His love. Like daily manna from Heaven-He wants us to rely on His word daily. Being led beforehand…not knowing the things that we should do (1 Nephi 4:6).

I love this quote-it reminds me of the need to follow the spirit from moment to moment…”I believe one of the greatest challenges for members of the Church is to ensure that our lives are not led by routine. When we are governed by routine, we tend to become insensitive to the need to walk with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. When we are blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we are protected in dangerous situations, and we are capable of making right decisions and overcoming all fear.”
(Enzio Busche, Yearning for the Living God)

What should I give? What should I say “yes” and “no” to? I’m learning it’s far more intimate and personal than some blanket statement that I can turn to when I don’t know what to do. He wants me to have His constant guidance. To turn to Him and say, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
(Samuel 3:10)