The Rich Young Ruler

A story that has been pressing heavily on my mind is the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.

Jesus answered him, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The young man asked Him which ones he should keep. Jesus then reminded him of several of the Ten Commandments we are all familiar with.

The young man responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”( Matthew 19:16–22.)

Sister Burton said, “Jesus called him to become a part of His work—the work of a disciple. Our work is the same. We are to “lay aside the things of [the] world, … cleave unto [our] covenants,” and come unto Christ and follow Him. That’s what disciples do!” (2014)

The Lord has always required sacrifice. Really really hard sacrifices. I mean look at Abraham, we think he just had to sacrifice his son… but Abraham’s parents offered him to be sacrificed and he was miraculously delivered. He would have had major PTSD! He probably would have worked through the trauma of this event for many moments in his life. Then God asks him to do the same thing to his only son. The same son he waited years to have. The same son that was supposed to be the father of nations. God tests us to our limits. He needs brave soldiers.

Sister Burton states, “Like the rich young man in Jesus’s day, sometimes we are tempted to give up or turn back because maybe we think we can’t do it alone. And we are right! We cannot do the difficult things we have been asked to do without help. Help comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and the helping hands of others.” (2014)

So obviously riches is not my breaking point. Well, at least I am not aware that it is.. ( I am not ruling it out in later lessons in life but at this point it is not what would send me away sorrowing) But as I have asked myself this question all week the Lord has brought to my awareness what holds me back. It is a illuminating experience to ask the Lord how I am like this rich man. As I have applied this story He has given me greater insight into my own need to repent and metaphorically sell all i have and give to the poor. The good news is that whenever God asks us to do something hard He always prepares a way. We will find our own lamb in the thicket or celebrate our real treasure in heaven. Whenever we put Him to the test God always pours out a blessing.

This is a video dramatization of the bible story.

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-01-005-christ-and-the-rich-young-ruler?lang=eng

Just copy and paste the link to watch it.

The Rich Young Ruler

Seeing Green

I saw this video for the first time today. I would have never thought to explain the idea like this but I love the analogy. This is not a short video, but it is beautiful.

I guess I enjoy the fact that someone could say in a story that “there needs be opposition in all things.” This is not a short bite sized clip… but it is worth taking 22 minutes from some part of your week. Let me now in the comments what you think.

I realized that she too is a blogger and if you don’t want to watch the video you can read what she said….

https://www.lds.org/blog/seeing-green?lang=eng&__prclt=NDggTWG5

 

Seeing Green

STRAIT AND NARROW

two mountaineers in mountain
Photo by Saikat Ghosh on Pexels.com

 

One time when I was teaching a gospel doctrine class we were talking about Lehi’s dream and of course the strait and narrow path was discussed. One comment from a kind soul changed my perception on a story I had known for years.

He simply remarked, “Have you ever noticed ‘strait’ is spelled S-T-R-A-I-T? (Spelling details have never really stuck out to me, I am truly a terrible speller) I had always taken the path to mean ‘straight’ and narrow… but what did God mean when He used it with that particular spelling?… because He also says STRAIT is the gate that you shall enter…. At my class the young man had mentioned that strait can also mean difficult. What he said sounded good but of course I had to check it for myself. When I returned home from church I googled the definition of strait and this is what I saw.

  1. a narrow passage of water connecting two seas or two large areas of water.
    “the Strait of Gibraltar”
    synonyms: channel, sound, inlet, stretch of water

    “a strait about six miles wide”
    2. used in reference to a situation characterized by a specified degree of trouble or difficulty.
    “the economy is in dire straits
    synonyms: a bad/difficult situation, difficulty, trouble, crisis, a mess, a predicament, a plight;More

adjective

archaic
  1. (of a place) of limited spatial capacity; narrow or cramped.
    “the road was so strait that a handful of men might have defended it”

 

I was so happy to see it for myself. This made sense. I could be on the strait and narrow, (you notice the ways its spelled now don’t you?) and be holding onto the iron rod and it could still be difficult. Infact, it was meant to be difficult. It’s one of the adjectives to describe it. The Lord is so smart. I find myself amazed at His descriptions and the depth of His words.

 

 

STRAIT AND NARROW

Pray

I read this quote yesterday. Tonight as I was putting my daughter to bed I said, “Don’t forget to kneel down and pray.” It was a routine thing to say… which was met by the usual… moan and groan and the struggle between, “I’m so comfortable in my bed, can I just kneel on top and mutter something quick or is mom gonna make me roll off and pray?” So I said to her, “Why don’t you kneel down and use the prayer phone, God wants to hear about your day?” She laughed and jumped down to the side of her bed. Then she said, “If He ses everything and knows everything why do I need to tell Him?” Now I have used this argument many times myself and quite successfully. But as my daughter asked it I said, “Just like any friend or parent He wants you to talk to Him too.” She seemed satisfied with my answer and actually gave a longer more sincere prayer.

We have been working on really communicating with God. We’ve talked lots about what if you called your friend on the phone, only you spoke, you pretty much said the same phrases every day and then before even asking how things are for them you just hung up? You could see the wheels turning… I love those moments. It did cause them to pause and consider what they were doing. Prayer is an ongoing lesson in our house but as I think of teaching it less of a routine and more as developing a relationship with an Eternal Friend I think it will be better. When I focus less on the action and more on the intention, real deep abiding faith can be developed.

In the words of a beautiful primary song… “Some say heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray.”

 

Pray

Arms of the Angels

A good friend convinced me to go to a Sarah McLachlan concert with her. I really didn’t know her music… but when I went to the concert I was amazed at her talent and skill. She was a beautiful singer, woman and artist.

She spoke of the struggle to create and write songs. She said it takes her hours, days, months to fine tune her music until it’s ready to be recorded… but she said sometimes God (or maybe she said the Universe) just gives you a gift. That is how she introduced the song Angel.

I had heard this song before, but somehow that introduction made me see it in a new light. It gave me an appreciation and a new found beauty for the song… like it was a gift and she was the instrument by which this melody and lyrics were played.

It would be years later that I would be weeping in my car. I was deflated and life seemed to be getting the better of me. I was silently praying for releif. I cried till there were no more tears. I started my car and there cued up perfectly for my listening enjoyment came on Angel. The River, our local radio station, had played a hand in my miracle.  Because I had never forgotten Sarah’s introduction to this song I knew that this song was just to speak to my spirit at that moment. It provided a profound comfort and I have loved it even more ever since.

When we become the instruments to God’s love  and use our talents to let His love shine through us we can bless all His children. Thank you Sarah McLachlan for your beautiful creation. Thanks God for setting up the details of that night that I had no doubt that your Tender Mercies were upon me.

Art work by Annie Henrie Nalder

Arms of the Angels

Tithes and Offerings

Image result for windows of heaven image

Claire had discovered that the hymn  A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief  has seven verses and if we sing that song at bedtime she can have me in her room scratching her back longer. Often this is the song she chooses.

I love the words of that hymn.. It’s about a man who goes and helps someone in all stages of need. Hungry and he feeds him, thirsty and he gives him drink, cold and he gives him shelter,  imprisoned and visits and condemned to death and will take his place…The last verse reads:

Then in a moment to my view                                                                                                         The stranger started from disguise.                                                                                                   The tokens in his hands I knew;                                                                                                     The Savior stood before mine eyes.                                                                                               He spake, and my poor name he named,                                                                                   “Of me thou hast not been ashamed.                                                                                              These deeds shall thy memorial be;                                                                                            Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”

“In as much as he have done it unto the least of these my brothern ye have done it unto me”(Matthew 25:40).

When we came here to earth the Lord knew that it would be easy to be selfish and seek our own interests and the praise of others. Selfishness can block us from knowing God. When we become self centered we may forget God and become insensitive to other people. In this state we could not live to fulfill our missions and become more like God.

In one of my favorite hymn is the line “sacrifice brings for the blessings of heaven.” To sacrifice means to put others needs above our own. This is easily written but sometimes not so easily lived.

How do we learn to put the things of God first in our lives? One way is to obey the law of tithing.

There are some commandments that are easy for people to live and others that are hard. It depends a lot on your personality and your God given weakness. But I have always found great joy and blessings and even miracles in living the law of tithes and offerings.

I remember a primary lessons where my teacher gave me ten shiny chocolate coins. All ten were mine. Then she asked,  “I gave you ten can I please have back one?’ So wait a minute, you gave me ten and I can keep them all… but you who gave me the whole lot is just asking for one in return? I don’t know what kind of business she was running but that seemed amazing!

Years later when I would use a very similar lesson to teach my own children in family home evening they readily, without hesitation, handed one back. There was no regret. Perhaps that is why we are commanded to be like little children. When you teach them truth, they readily see how simple, wonderful and beautiful it is.  We must ever be grateful that we keep 90%. Perhaps we need to change the verbiage around this commandment … Perhaps we need to to remember that we are not paying ten percent we are keeping 90.

The world would teach you to be leery of anyone wanting your money. But the Lord gives us this commandment that governs the finances of a world wide church in 35 words in the 119th section of the doctrine and covenants  …. “what a contrast to the cumbersome complex and difficult tax codes to which we live as citizens.” (President Hinckley)

As a missionary in France it wasn’t often that we would get to the fifth discussion wherein we taught the law of sacrifice and tithing. I remember the shock and often anger that came with “Oh yeah, now I see… you want my money. I knew this would be about me giving you money.” To which I thought. I don’t want any of your money and the Lord doesn’t need it either. I think often of the story where Jesus miraculously provided the tribute money by commanding  Peter to “go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money.”(Matt 17:27)  He who created all the world and it`s wealth surely doesn’t need our offerings. But we are here to be tested and need to prove faithful in all things. We need the blessings and the spirit that accompany unselfish acts.

In a day such as this, when we are abundantly blessed we need to remember the Lord and not “rob God”. President Hinckley  said, “The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty and all manner of persecution, and be true. My greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth. [Nibley,Brigham Young, p. 128]  

To which I can hear many of you say, “Hasten the day.” ( I love the laughter that he receives here)

I believe that day, spoken of by Brigham Young with a voice of prophecy that rose above the voices of defeat and criticism, has come. We have been blessed with the bounties of heaven and the bounties of earth. Oh, how magnificently…we have been blessed! Now, with gratitude in our hearts, let us …count our blessings and in a great spirit of gratitude, motivated by a great faith, go forth to build the kingdom of God in the earth.” (Gorden B Hinkley)

Perhaps this is why the story of Josphine, a faithful African woman who we found and taught the gospel to, was overjoyed at the good news that we shared. As we preached and taught and were edified together right there in the back of a French city bus. She exclaimed, “Your church is beautiful where can I pay my tides?” She spoke in English but I thought, she wants to come to church and bring good tidings to the church members? So I replied, “We meet on Sundays.” She exclaimed, “No, I want to PAY my tides. I looked at her in amazement YOU WANT TO PAY TITHING? We haven’t even invited you to baptism. She will always be a great example of faith to me.

Elder Hales proclaimed:, “Would any of us intentionally reject an outpouring of blessings from the Lord? Sadly, this is what we do when we fail to pay our tithing. We say no to the very blessings we are seeking and praying to receive. If you are one who has doubted the blessings of tithing, I encourage you to accept the Lord’s invitation to “prove [Him] now herewith” (Malachi 3:10). Pay your tithing. Unlock the windows of heaven. You will be abundantly blessed for your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord’s laws and commandments”(Hales, 2002).

He continues:, “I know of two missionaries who visited a very poor family. The family’s home was made of pressboard and sticks, with a dirt floor and no electricity or beds. Each evening the father, a farm laborer, spent his entire day’s wages on groceries for dinner. Departing from their humble home, the senior companion thought to himself, “The law of tithing will surely be a stumbling block to this family. Perhaps we shouldn’t bring it up for a while.” A few moments later, the junior companion, who had grown up in similar circumstances in his own country, voiced his own thoughts aloud: “I know the principle of tithing isn’t taught for four more discussions, but can we please teach it the next time we visit? They need to know about tithing now because they need the help and the blessing of the Lord so much.”(October, 2002)

To help us avoid selfishness we are given two great commandments… love God and love your neighbour.  We show our love to God by our obedience to His commandments. We must seek His will and try our best to live it. This takes great courage and sacrifice.

Another way we can put God first and put off our own selfish interests it to, as Elder Holland says “to heed the Redeemers persistent call … to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. This can be accomplished by participating at least monthly in the law of the fast and giving a generous offering.”

Before I left on my mission a very good friend asked if he could share some advice that he had learned. Of course I wanted to hear it! He told me as a missionary you don’t pay tithing. But he had been taught that you could still give a generous fast offering. He said he had gained a testimony of fast offerings on his mission.  So, I decided that I would try what he had suggested and pay a fast offering.

For Christmas our ward had given us food. As a mission, we were allowed to do one big spectacle for Christmas.  Because I was serving in a tiny French town we decided to go to a beautiful restaurant. Transfer came and I didn’t think I would be transferred, but I was and I had no money to pay for the train ticket. I knelt down and said “O Heavenly Father I am so sorry. I thought I had planned ahead.” But then with confidence I added, “I have paid a generous fast offering I would like you to provide a way.” Later a little old lady in my home ward had sent me money in a Christmas card that paid for my ticket. Isn`t that what Isaiah teaches when he says we fast “to make our voice heard on high and when we call he shall say here I am.”

The Lord often meets our needs through the hands of others and I appreciate that faithful widow who followed a prompting and answered my prayers.

On the subject of offerings I have to tell you the story of a family that is dear to my heart. When I was finishing university my roommate and I would graduate together and then she was leaving for a mission. I remember telling her,  “I am so jealous of you. I wish I was going, but there is no way I can because I have student loans and my parents are already paying for my brother’s mission.” I didn’t think much more of the conversation than that.

A few days later I got a call from this girls father. He just asked me, “Danielle do you want to serve a mission?” and as I kinda started to explain why I couldn’t go … he interrupted and said, “I’m just asking you if you want to go… Yes was my honest and simply reply. Then I will pay for it!

That day my red sea opened. I was so grateful for someone giving me a blessing and opportunity I so desired and would never be able to obtain without their generosity and kindness. They were quite wealthy and lived in a simple home. It wouldn’t be till after I came home from my mission that they would put air conditioning in their home. I will forever be grateful for the lessons and experience learned that were taught to me because of the sacrifice and generosity of this couple. I can testify to Elder Holland’s words  that as I  found “relief at [their] hands I will call their name blessed forever”.  What could we sacrifice to serve others?

For, in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” 20

This past conference Elder Holland stated “the great Redeemer has issued no more persistent call than for us to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. As Jehovah, He said He would judge the house of Israel harshly because “the spoil of the [needy] is in your houses.”

This phrase pierced my heart. It zinged me and I knew I was guilty of holding things back that would bless others.

“I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves.” Elder Holland would continue to say, “But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”

Towards the very end of my mission my grandpa had given me some money. I had kept a bill for tithing because I knew my grandfather hadn’t paid tithing on the money. Now as I went to pay tithing I happened to be fasting that day. And the thought came to me… “I don’t have a fast offering… What should I do? Should I pay tithing?.. but I am a missionary and don’t need to pay tithing.. or do I give it as a fast offering? If you pay it as tithing you will have nothing to give to the Lord as an offering. Even though the struggle was only for a minute or two, a thought came clearly to my head… “No, you always pay tithing first!” Decidedly I reached into that tiny change purse to get the bill I had saved for tithing… A few coins fell out of the folds and I could pay both. I had no more money than that bill in that wallet that day. I don’t know how the coins got there but I do know that that day, that little missionary girl felt the windows of heaven open and pour her out a blessing. She could obey two commandments by putting her faith in the first.. that day I truly cast in the widows mite for an offering.

I know this is a hard commandment for some, but I can honestly testify of the beauty and love that has come into my life as I have tried to obey these two commandments.

 

Tithes and Offerings

Windows and Mirrors

Image result for girl looking out a window with her own reflection

I remember a lesson where a teacher told us she has something very wonderful inside the box. It was a beautiful, invaluable treasure and she would share it each with us one at a time. She passed the box around and I watched as each girl opened the box. Some laughed, some were shocked and some rolled their eyes but I eagerly awaited my turn. As I held the box my mind raced with what could be so valuable, so precious, so beautiful… As I lifted the box there was a mirror reflecting my image back at me. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I guess my mind had expected diamonds and rubies.

Why do mirrors cause such mixed emotions in us? Why is it hard to view the reflection with the same awe and wonder of a beautiful edifice? Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?

Rosemary Wixom shared, “Looking out through a window, not just into a mirror, allows us to see ourselves as His.”

Why would a window provide a better medium for truly seeing our true identity?

I feel like this is one of those questions that will keep filtering in new insights and information but these are initially what came to me.

First, windows let in light. Who is the greatest Light? There are also scriptures that promise us… ye are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before others… windows allow light to pass through… being divine means we shine and let light pass through us.

Second, when I look at windows I see plants, trees, flowers, animals, and many other of God’s beautiful creations. Just like the beautiful plants, animals, and hills I too am one of His creations. God is perfect and His creations reflect that perfection. When I look out a window and ponder how I am part of those wonderful things I too can be filled with gratitude.

I know that my nature is divine. It’s something I struggle with fully grasping day in and day out. But as I see all the windows that surround me daily… maybe I can take this sign and allow God’s light to shine on me and help me remember who I really am.

Thomas S Monson declared, “Windows are wonderful. They serve as a frame on which we might focus our attention. They provide a glimpse of God’s creations. The azure blue sky, the billowy, white clouds, the verdant green forest all are as framed pictures in the memory of the mind. Windows also reveal the approach of a friend, a gathering storm, a magnificent sunset—even the passing parade of life.

Windows welcome light to our lives and bring joy to our souls. The absence of windows, such as in dark prison cells, shuts out the world. Deprived of light, the depression of darkness encompasses us.”

I love our prophets insights about Windows… and I am grateful Dave was able to lead me to his talk too… I thought I must edit this post to include this too…

 

Discovering the Divinity Within

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/discovering-the-divinity-within?lang=eng

 

 

Windows and Mirrors