Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Angel Kiss

There are Angels Among Us

Recently my dear mother passed away. Even though I know that it is temporary, it has been one of the greatest losses I have ever felt. There are so many intricacies linked to who I am and to how I became me that all revolve around her. She probably is nearer to me now, and can help me more, than she could in her last few years; but the absence of her physical presence leaves my heart wounded.

She’s an angel now, as ever she has been. And I have to acknowledge that even though I cannot see her, she still lives on in and through Jesus Christ just as we all do. My sadness should be washed away in the face of all the goodness I still see and feel all around me. In time, in the Lord’s time, all tears will be washed away (see Revelation 21:4). So I have to believe that even my sadness can serve a heavenly purpose if I turn to Him.

It was a blessing for me to be able to spend the last three weeks of my mother’s life with her and near her. I saw more of her unblemished soul in such a purified state. Her body was old and done, but her angel spirit was true and pure. Oh, how I long to be more like her.

The family time during these weeks and the couple weeks after her death are priceless. I’m glad that I could visit with siblings. I’m glad that the funeral went according to my mother’s plans. I’m glad for the memories and love shared. I’m glad for the tender, loving example of my father who willingly gave his wife back to the Lord.

And then I had to drive back home. That was hard. It was hard to leave my childhood home and my family of origin, knowing that next time I return, my mother will not be there to welcome me.

My husband had left all the mail on the table before he took a flight to come for the funeral time. So when I got home, there was a small pile of mail waiting for me to open.

And there was a package. In opening this gift from one of my dearest friends, I was reminded, that there are indeed angels among us, both seen and unseen, both mortal and immortal; and Christ’s love is watching over us and protecting and healing us all.

I opened this small present to find a charm bracelet. It’s made by Hallmark, and it has a Hershey kiss on it. When I first looked at it, I did not see a kiss; I saw an angel. I thought that the link was a head, the kiss was the robed body, and the Hershey tag was the wings. I still see it that way as well as the kiss. To me this bracelet represents both an angel and a kiss of friendship; or even more than that, it’s an angel’s kiss. I cherish my friendship with the angel who sent me this bracelet; and I will be reminded of her healing thoughtfulness each time I look at it and wear it.

The gifts we give each other do more good than we ever realize. My friend’s gift to me is a reminder of that. If we will be sensitive in following the Holy Spirit, our gifts will be timely and healing and far-reaching; and we will be as angels to one another, as we aid each other on our mortal journey.

So thank you, Dear Friend, for the angel kiss. Besides being a representation of your friendship to me; it will be a representation of all the angels in my life, in earthly or heavenly form that I cannot see daily. And as I see the bracelet and feel it on my wrist I will know that angels are near and that the Lord’s love and mercy are always with me, and he will always send his angels to be beside me.

Hebrews 13:2:

2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

For Christmas, my friend sent me a heart bead for the bracelet with the word love on it. Because that was God’s first Christmas present to us; He loved us so He sent His Son.

John 3:16-17:

16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jesus Makes Up the Difference

Jesus Makes Up the Difference in My Life

Drink It Up

Where do you draw the line? 

We all have so much in common in this life. We share similarities in family life, work, recreation, culture, happiness, sorrow, and so much more. Of course, we all have our own mindset, our own spirituality, our own gifts and talents, and our own way of interpreting the world around us. But we all share this wonderful human experience together.

Our understanding and our attitudes can make a profound difference in our perceptions and our ability to experience joy. We all know the proverbial cliché of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Either way, the level marker on the glass remains the same. So what makes up the difference for you?

I know who makes up the difference for me. It is my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. My glass would forever run dry if it weren’t for His living water. I’d like to share a couple of scriptures that come to mind.

Alma teaches us how we can begin to develop faith in Jesus Christ. The entire chapter of Alma 32 is great, but this verse carries the import of my message. Alma 32:7:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

I know that it is my faith in Jesus Christ that has made me feel whole, even when I am broken. Even when I feel like less than a half a glass because of personal losses or shortcomings, He can make me feel whole.

Our attitudes often reflect our hope and our faith. When we do not feel conflicted, it is much easier for us to maintain a positive outlook, holding on to those important things that help us to feel happy and desire to share happiness. I guess our attitudes could be compared to a water catalyst or enhancer, expanding our little bit into something greater.

When I feel diminished, when I feel like my cup is running dry, that is the time that I know I need to turn to the Lord to be replenished. Isn’t it interesting even that the symbols of His sacrament are bread and water. Not only do they represent His body and blood which He gave for us in His atonement and death; they represent Jesus as the Bread of Life and our Living Water.

John 6:35:

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 4:14

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Our spirits, like our bodies, need constant nourishment; and, we cannot give up eating and drinking. So our cup needs to be replenished. Whether we feel that our glass is half-empty or half-full, we need to drink in order for it to be replenished.

2 Nephi 31:20:

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

I’m thankful for a Savior in my life. He is my personal Savior; and, He is yours as well. I know that because of our Heavenly Father’s love, Jesus was sent to make up the difference for all of us. He can turn darkness into light, night into day, death into life, sadness in to joy, and despair into hope. When you think about that glass of water, remember to drink it up, because it is His good pleasure to give us more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dealing with Loss

Dealing with Loss

Yesterday I addressed the topic of Pre-Conditioned Discipline: Changing our Song and Dance. The thoughts I shared were prompted by a Relief Society meeting in our Waterman Ward. Brother Goodson is a family therapist from LDS Family Services, and he came to share his personal experiences with us on many topics. Two of the topics were of particular interest to me.

The second topic, which I will address today, is Dealing with Loss. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is my experience that Jesus is our best Teacher and He is the One who can best reach every single one of us to help us through our suffering as a result of personal loss (see Matthew 11:28-30). This is mainly so, because He has vicariously taken upon Himself all of our experiences, both joyful and sorrowful (See Alma 7:11-14); and because He loves us dearly.

Knowing that Jesus was A Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief (See Isaiah 53:3-5) has also been very comforting to me. Enduring my grief with Him and through Him can make me become more like Him. It helps to know that the sadness we experience has a purpose beyond our own misery.

Brother Goodson rightly explained that we all suffer loss: whether it be the death of a loved one, declining health, divorce, or loss of employment. He also said that there are healthful and unhealthful ways to deal with losses.

On a chalkboard, he depicted the past, the present, and the future. Each had a plus and minus sign within its time frame. He explained that if we live in the future, especially if we are concerned about the unknowns of the future, that this will cause us extreme anxiety. While living in our negative past can thwart our current ability to progress. How about with loss? What is the most healthful thing for us to do when we experience loss?

Brother Goodson shared his own experience with loss. While on a family vacation, their seventeen-year-old was driving the car. When there was a turn in the road that she miscalculated, her mother saw it and told her. The daughter over-corrected and the car rolled multiple times. Many family members suffered severe injuries, and thirteen-year-old daughter Megan passed away.

For many years Brother Goodson sorrowed for the loss of his daughter. When he went to beautiful weddings, he would think, “Oh, this could be Megan’s wedding.” At some point, he realized that his own thinking was counterproductive, and he decided to change the pattern of his thinking. So in this same scenario, he know thinks, “This will be Megan’s wedding someday in the glorious future.” With that renewed faith, he looks forward to the future, when through Jesus’s grace we will all be together again.

My husband and I have also dealt with the sorrow of losing a child. In our case, Robby passed away the same day he was born. Though the year following his death was one of extreme sadness for us, it was also one of extreme joy. I felt a greater measure of the Spirit with me constantly, because I chose to turn to the Lord in this time of grief. During the Savior’s extreme suffering in Gethsemane, angels were sent to strengthen him. Still, being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly (See Luke 22:39-46). That’s what we need to do.

I was also given a personal angel to be my companion during this time (see Alma 38:7). This angel was my own son Robby. As I felt him walk with me through that first year, I felt as though I was walking between two worlds. The experience was sweet and joyful.

Brother Goodson stated that the deeper our valleys are, the higher our peaks will be. This can be true if we put our trust in the Lord. And it will be especially true if we hold out faithful until the end. Perfect joy will come in the morning of that perfect day (see Psalm 30:5).

Because Robby was taken so soon from us, we have very few memories of him. This caused me to learn to develop anticipatory memories early on. I know that I will see Robby grow from infanthood to adulthood to Godhood, and I will get to be his mother through it all if I remain faithful now. So there are ways for me to find joy in the milestones of other children, my own and others, knowing that Jesus will right all wrongs and wipe away all tears (see Revelation 21:4). And I marvel at the world that Robby will grow up in (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

I have since suffered many other losses. My younger brother Ed and my older sister Kathy (the two siblings closest in age to me) have both been gone for many years now. We’re also missing my mother-in-law; and, most recently, my own mother passed away. All of these losses have caused me great sorrow. But knowing the Lord’s hand is over all His creations (see Matthew 10:29-31) also gives me hope and encourages me to develop trust, faith, and patience, both for myself and with others.

If someone were to ask what is the hardest loss you’ve experienced? I think that would be an unfair question. The current loss is always the immediately most difficult, and it often brings back the tenderness of sensitivities of the other losses. But I have found that we may grieve differently at different times in our lives and with different losses. Truly, we cannot expect each other to grieve the same. Nor should we ever trivialize another’s loss.

With our losses, we cannot live in the past; but, I find it most helpful to be able to draw from the past and cherish the memories. Doing so can give us greater hope for the future. I have also found it most helpful to me, in experiencing the death of a loved one, when others share memories and impressions of that person with me. Sharing love, light, and hope is healing. We need to remember our baptismal covenants, so eloquently described by Alma, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (See Mosiah 18:7-11).

I also think it helps to imagine, much like Brother Goodson does in thinking of his daughter’s wedding. Using our imaginations in constructive ways is a way of developing faith and hope, both in the goodness of our memories and the brightness of our future together. With an eye single to the glory of God, we can move on with a perfect brightness of hope (See 2 Nephi 31:20). 

We must also remember and cherish our testimonies. If there is anything that has helped both my husband and me to move forward even in times of sadness, it is our knowledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the Gospel. We know that because Priesthood Keys have been restored, our separations are temporary; and because we have been sealed in the temple of our God, our family can and will be together forever. This is our testimony, our faith, and our hope. 

Scripture to Ponder:Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life: John 11:21-27. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pre-Conditioned Discipline: Changing our Song and Dance

A Change of Heart is a Good Start

We had a therapist come and talk to our Relief Society sisters last Thursday evening. It was a good question and answer session; but, as with most valuable information, there wasn’t enough time to really address individual needs or to reach the one. Also, as with anything of lasting value, many lessons have to be learned personally. I have found that Jesus is the best Teacher and the One most gifted to reach the one.

This is not to say that study of behavior will not help us. Certainly, it will. We must be sure that what we are learning is in harmony with the gospel: Jesus’s teaching, the scriptures, and the prophets. As we equip ourselves with knowledge, it is important for us to put principles into practice in our lives, which will help us feel more whole and empower us to live better lives. I’m thankful for the time Brother Goodson spent with us, and I was impressed to see him offering personal counsel to some after the meeting ended, of his own freewill and off the clock.

While many topics were discussed, I am only going to comment on one today. How can we change our behavior in the moment? Let me explain. A sister was concerned about her personal reactions to her children when they misbehave. She feels like her reactions are not really choices, but just flared responses. How many times have we all felt like that?

Well, the gentlemen talked about Jesus’s extreme gift of self-control. Certainly, He always responded with love. Even in the times when He showed anger, He still had perfect control. Did the man’s response help the sister know what to do? Well, we all understand that we must pattern our lives after the Savior, but sometimes that seems easier said than done.

Someone brought up the scene of Jesus clearing the courtyard of the temple from the buyers and the sellers. No one should suggest that Jesus wasn’t angry, because He clearly was. While there are critics who may say that He acted rashly, we must remember that He took the time to actually construct a cord with which to drive away the wrongful activity. Plus, and this is important, Jesus as the High Priest of the Universe actually had the authority to do what He did to clean and safeguard His Father’s house (see John 2:12-16).

I feel it is necessary to remember that we do not believe in a God who is without body, parts, and passions; and, we as His children have inherited those good qualities. Now it is up to us to learn how to bridle them as He has done.

So back to the woman’s question. The time for change is not in the heat of the moment. The time for change is in our quiet, reflective moments. When we pray, we need to ask for help. When we ponder, we need to write down our impressions. When we are honest with ourselves, we need to acknowledge that sometimes our actions are not appropriate, and that our children’s actions do not justify childish reactions. Then we need to make a plan. We can pattern play, acting out scenarios and responses.

We can and should involve the children. We need to make explicit those things which we consider rules in our home. Even if the implications are there, children need the solidarity of set rules. When we involve them in establishing rules concerning the government of our attitudes and actions, and when we let them determine fair and reasonable consequences for both behavior and misbehavior, we are actually giving them a sense of security in our homes. If we develop a standard of trying to adhere to these rules ourselves, they will feel secure. And so will we.

The thing to remember is that our responses are conditioned responses, which means that they have been practiced for many years. So in order to change the undesired outcome, we need to recondition ourselves; we need to change the condition of our response. And if that doesn’t take planning and effort, I don’t know what does. But if we desire a better response and a more loving outcome; if we desire our children to learn better patterns, too; then, it is worth the effort.

As we plan for changes and recondition our responses, we will notice that the outcomes will also change. We learn in Human Behavior classes, that if we keep doing the same song and dance, we will keep getting the same results; but, if one person changes his or her steps, that cycle will be disrupted and the dance will begin to change.

Suggested scriptures to ponder:

King Benjamin taught all of His people the gospel, and they were all converted. How can studying the gospel and strengthening our own conversion, help us have a change of heart? How can it help us improve our family relationships.

Mosiah 5:1-2

Sometimes it is necessary to disciple our children quickly, sharply, and firmly. But we should be in control and our actions should be motivated by love; and, we need to afterwards take the time to reaffirm our love for our children.

Doctrine and Covenants 141:40-46

Please also read Dealing with Loss

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Our Hope is in Jesus and Knowing His Words

We Must Know His Words

Have you ever noticed how many people make up quotes? Now, I’m not saying that we can’t be original and come up with great ideas to share and, as a result, we’ve made a quote. No; what I mean is when people attribute sayings to someone which, in all reality, that person never said…or at least there is no record of it.

While it is easy for all of us to draw conclusions from content we hear or read, we need to be able to acknowledge what is our opinion and what was actually said. That’s important. Even if we give a gist, we need to be careful that our interpretation isn’t way off from the intended purpose.

I think that this is especially true when we consider quoting the word of the Lord. We can’t just assume that since Jesus is a loving God, He would want things the way that we individually think they should be. No matter how loving and kind we are, we need to read His word and become accustomed to hearing His voice through the Holy Ghost and through His prophets if we really want to understand who He is and what He would have us do. Interestingly enough, when we do that, we really won’t have a desire to misquote Him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (see John 10:27).

In today's world, especially, it is important for us to know what Jesus actually said. When we quote Him, we must be careful not to misquote Him or twist His meaning.

We hardly need to make Jesus into something He is not. He is our Savior and our Redeemer; and that does not ever need redefining, no matter how well-intentioned the self-appointed critic believes he is.

Now I have heard many people say things like they don’t understand a God who wouldn’t treat all His children the same. They think that no matter what path we choose to walk, God will invite all of us to sit down with Him in His kingdom. But He cannot deny His word, and what He really has said is that no unclean thing can enter into His kingdom (see 3 Nephi 27:19-22; Matthew 7:21-23; Moses 6:57; Revelation 21:27; 1 Nephi 15:34). 

The Need for a Savior

Well, of course Heavenly Father knew that all of us are unclean and fall short of the glory of God; that’s why He sent His Son, our Savior, who can makes us clean through His atonement, if we come unto Him (see Romans 3:23-24; Isaiah 59:1-2; Alma 11:32-40; ). 

We are of the Most Worth to God

Some have misquoted Him, thinking they are rather clever. Jesus never said, “I didn’t say it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it.” I guess because we have experience in this life, we know it isn’t easy; and if we believe His promises and trust in Him, we have hope that it will all be worth it. But what did the Lord actually say about “easy”, and what did He actually say about “worth”?

Matthew 11:28-30:

“28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

In other words, following Jesus and taking upon us the good news of the gospel through obedience to His commandments is easier than falling in all the pitholes we may encounter if we ignore His word. Plus, His burden is light. I don’t think that this just talks about weight, but about direction and purpose. If we know that the burden we are carrying is aiding our journey, we will be much happier to carry it.

What is really of most worth to God? We are. We have been made a little lower than the angels (see Psalm 8:5). It is His work and His glory to bring about our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). The worth of souls is great in the sight of the Lord (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-16) . So what will be worth it? It will be worth it for us to keep the two greatest commandments (see Matthew 22:36-40). It will be worth it for us to choose to return to Him and to help others do the same.

As far as the misquote, the implication is that if we put up with hard things the Lord will give us great things. That’s both right and wrong. If we turn to the Lord, He will make difficult things become easier for us, so that we can carry the load with His help and His guidance (see Ether 12:27). What about the misquote of “It will be worth it.” That is actually one of the biggest understatements there is. It’s worth it if we put in a 40 hour week and we get a full salary, plus health benefits, plus vacation. But the Lord isn’t paying us for our efforts alone, because we could never buy or earn our salvation (see Ephesian 2:8). The Lord is inviting us to come unto Him and be perfected in Him and to share His glory (see Romans 8:16-18). 

God is our Father

So in the increasingly crazy environment we find ourselves in, with so many professing to proclaim profound truths; we need to remember that we are the children of God (see Hebrews 12:9) and that his purposes are higher than the purposes set forth by the world (See Isaiah 55:9). We need to have the faith, hope, and trust to rest assured that his promises will be fulfilled and that His love for us will never be betrayed (see Matthew 24:35; Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38); and no matter what we have done, His hand is stretched out still (see Isaiah 5:25), mighty to save. The world’s views don’t make sense, but be not afraid, Christ has overcome the world (see John 16:33). Our hope must always be in Him.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Spiritual Safeguards

Important Safeguards for Spiritual Vitality


I have observed that there are some important safeguards which will help us maintain our spiritual vitality. One is Sabbath day observance. Without communion with God in renewing our covenants with the Son, we limit our ability to feel the presence of the Holy Ghost and to have that sweet association. When we put forth the effort to attend our meetings and partake of the Sacrament, feeling gratitude for the atonement and commitment in our effort to be obedient, we will experience a remission of our sins and a renewal of our spirits. This in turn will not only strengthen our resolve, but also our testimony. 

The Word of Wisdom

Another one is keeping The Word of Wisdom. For those who have made covenants to do so, it is vital. The Word of Wisdom is more of a spiritual commandment than a physical one. Even so, there are great physical blessings linked to its observance. The loss of the Spirit is the quickest and greatest loss if The Word of Wisdom is abandoned. The blessings of health and hidden treasures are immeasurable if kept. 

The Law of Tithing

A third one is The Law of Tithing. Like The Word of Wisdom, tithing is more of a spiritual commandment than a physical one. The Lord already owns absolutely everything. While tithing is set up as a means to help with Church maintenance and growth, it must be noted that it is by far more a means of providing individual maintenance and growth. Because tithing comes as a sacrifice, it requires faith; and, as we exercise our faith, the Lord blesses us with those things in which we stand in need, according to His merciful judgment. 

Personal Experience and Testimony

There was a time in my life when I was out of harmony with some of the commandments. But I knew that if I continued to pray and have faith, that if I continued to go to Church and do those things that were required of me, that I would remain safe, and that Jesus would help me through my current situation. Where ever you are right now in your journey, you can begin by having faith in Jesus Christ and striving to live the principles of the gospel to the best of your ability. It matters little if you begin with fear or duty or love. As you practice living within the safe boundaries of the gospel, you will begin to feel His love more deeply and develop a desire to follow the Savior, from whom you feel so much love.

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt offended, but I have continued to hold to these safeguards for the following reasons: I knew that I needed to be an example to my children and help them establish a pattern of attending church and developing personal faith; I wanted to be able to take the sacrament each week; I wanted to retain a temple recommend so that I could enjoy the blessings of the temple; and I believed in the gospel and the blessings that our promised to us by a loving Heavenly Father through the Gift and Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ.

When we understand the power behind these safeguards, we should never allow ourselves to abandon them. While there are many reasons for which people fall away from the Church, the above three safeguards can protect us from such danger. Even when we experience doubt, depressions, questioning hearts, fear, or estrangement; if we will continue to be humble and prayerful, practicing the fundamental principles of our faith, of which these three safeguards are a part; I feel certain that we will stand on high spiritual ground, away from the torrential currents that are eager to divert us from our safety. In so doing, the Spirit will bless us to recognize and love truth and help others to do so as well. 

Scriptures Related to the Post:

Sabbath Day:

Exodus 20:8-11:

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-12:

9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;

11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;

12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord. 

The Word of Wisdom: (See Doctrine and Covenants 89):

Doctrine and Covenant 89:18-21:

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

The Law of Tithing

Alma 13:15:

15 And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed. 3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 119:3-4

3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. 

4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

Malachi 3:7-12:
7 ¶Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

8 ¶Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

We All Represent the One Lost Sheep

The following is a guest post. It was written by my childhood friend, Heidi Ryan Skanchy, one year ago today. I had asked my Facebook friends to share one of their favorite scriptures, and why it is important to them. Here is the scripture that she shared:

Luke 15:2-7:

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

3 ¶And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

After sharing those verses, she shared another quote. Here is what she wrote:

Bruce Hafen said in his book, The Broken Heart, that

"The lost sheep are not just the people who don't come to church ... The lost sheep is a mother who goes down into the valley of dark shadows to bring forth children. The lost sheep is a young person, far away from home and faced with loneliness and temptation. The lost sheep is a person who has just lost a critically needed job; a business person in financial distress; a new missionary in a foreign culture; a man just called to be bishop; a married couple who are misunderstanding each other; a grandmother whose children are forgetting her. I am the lost sheep. You are the lost sheep."

She then shared her testimony. Thank you, Heidi, for doing that. Sharing our testimonies invites the Spirit and confirming power to our words. Her testimony:

I will be eternally grateful for a Savior that loves me and is never too busy to be there for me. He is never so busy administering to the 99 that he can't help the one. His atonement is infinite and eternal. I feel his love and am so thankful.

Do I Listen for His Voice?

“We’re told to talk to Heavenly Father in prayer. But how does Heavenly Father talk to me?”

Learning to recognize our Father’s voice and to following Spiritual promptings in a daily challenge and a quest of a lifetime. But God does speak to us. There are many ways in which this happens. But we must learn to listen and to feel His words. 

Following are a few scriptures that will aid us in developing the ability to recognize our Heavenly Father’s voice. He does love us, and He wants us to be happy. We can speak to Him through prayer in the name of His Son, and He can give us answers and offer comfort and direction through the scriptures, the prophets, our daily interactions, and through the power of the Holy Ghost. Keeping a journal of your impressions and of His daily guidance will also increase your ability to recognize His voice and to feel gratitude.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:38:

38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9:

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

These are a few suggested scriptures in this month’s New Era, but there are so many more. It is important to not limit our understanding by abandoning our own search. Like Nephi, who prayed for his own understanding of his father Lehi’s vision, it is important for us to hold on tightly to the iron rod, which is the word of God ( See 1 Nephi 11:25). And like the young boy Samuel, it is important for us to learn to recognize the Lords voice, and to say to Him, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10).

The important thing to remember in developing a relationship with our Heavenly Father is that it will take time and energy. We are always eager to spend time and share important things with those we love and with those whom we feel love us. It is no different with God. We must offer our daily devotions to Him whose grand and eternal design is our everlasting happiness. How can you nourish your relationship with God? How will your life be strengthened by being in tune with our Almighty Father and in harmony with His will? Will you begin today to following the impressions that you receive to draw nearer to Him so that you can more follow hear His voice?

(Source: New Era: Learning of Heavenly Father: A Study of Epic Proportions)

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Yes, I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me

“There are billions of people on the earth! How can Heavenly Father possibly know me?”

Have you ever been in awe of the Master of the Universe? Have you ever felt the overpowering love that pours forth from our Father and His Son? Have you contemplated that His creations are infinite, which means that they are without number to you and to me? And yet, He has the very hairs of our heads numbered (See Luke 12:7). He knows each of us by name. He knows and loves you, and He knows and loves me personally and forever.

Following are a few scriptures that will help us recognize our Heavenly Father’s love for us. He does love us, and He wants us to be happy. We can find happiness and joy as we keep the commandments which will strengthen our abilities to recognize His hand and feel His love. Look for the main idea in each scripture. Can you summarize the message to share in your own words? How does verbalizing the message out loud make you feel? Don’t limit this enriching activity to these few verses. Think of others, and internalize them as well. Remember that you can use tools on to help you in your search. And always remember to pray and to listen.

1 Samuel 16:7:

7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Psalm 82:6:

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

Luke 12:6-7:

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:23:

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;

These are a few suggested scriptures in this month’s New Era, but there are so many more. Do you have some favorites? If you have felt your Heavenly Father’s love, do you feel it still? Alma poses this question in Alma 5:26:

26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

And he tells us steps to take so that we can feel this love throughout the rest of the chapter.

We read great counsel from President Kimball as recorded in Ensign article, Spencer W. Kimball: Man of Action:

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”

President Uchtorf tells us in this current Ensign
article that we need to make meaningful time with our Heavenly Father:

“To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ [Psalm 46:10].”

What can we do personally this year to shorten the distance and to feel God’s love? What are you willing to do today?

(Source: New Era: Learning of Heavenly Father: A Study of Epic Proportions)

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Knowing My Heavenly Father

What can I do to develop a relationship with my Heavenly Father?

Heavenly Father is literally our Father. He loves us. He loves us so much that He provided this Earth as a place for our schooling, and He provided His Son to be both our Master and our Redeemer. He is a Perfect Parent and He desires for all of us to progress and be happy.

Following are a few scriptures that will be directive in helping us understand what to do in order to know our Heavenly Father. There are many important scriptures that can help us know who He is and how much He loves us and desires our happiness. As we come to know Him, we will understand that our happiness is linked to developing trust in Him and becoming like Him. Don’t quit your search with these few scriptures. You can recall other ones and search for more. Go to and search for key words that you find in your scripture search. Also, visit to watch a video on the topic.

Here is a video that I watched:

The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Has Sent

There are many more. But don’t stop there; pray for answers. God will listen to your prayers and help you find answers to your questions.

John 14:6-9:

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

1 John 4:7:

7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

Alma 30: 44:

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:22-24:

22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.

23 But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.

24 This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.

These are a few suggested scriptures in this month’s New Era, but there are so many more. Which are some of your favorites? How have they blessed you to come to feel the love that God has for you? How have they blessed you in developing a relationship with your Father and coming to know Him and His Son? How does knowing that God is our Heavenly Father enrich our lives? What does the knowledge cause you to do?

(Source: New Era: Learning of Heavenly Father: A Study of Epic Proportions)

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Father and the Son are One in Purpose

“How are Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the same but different?”

We have been told to worship the true and living God, and some people believe that the Father and the Son are just one personage of spirit. But this isn’t true. They are two separate identities who are one in unity, purpose, and likeness. How can we come to recognize Heavenly Father as the Father of our spirits and Jesus Christ as our Savior? 

These few scriptures provide a good beginning point in strengthening our understanding. There are so many more. You can open the links to these verses and find tools for cross-referencing them with other scriptures. Plus, you can use great tools such as The Bible Dictionary, True to the Faith, and Preach My Gospel. But don’t stop there; pray for answers. God will listen to your prayers and help you find answers to your questions.

John 3:16,35:

16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

John 17:20-23:

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Mormon 7:5-7:

5 Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.

6 And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.

7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

These are a few suggested scriptures in this month’s New Era, but there are so many more. Which are some of your favorites? How have the blessed you to have a greater understanding of our Heavenly Father and of His Son Jesus Christ? How can developing an understanding of both of Them help to enrich our lives? How can you share the truths that you learn with your own family? How can you share them with your friends and associates?

(Source: New Era: Learning of Heavenly Father: A Study of Epic Proportions)

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What is God Like?

What is God like? Are there scriptures that have helped you to know? Have you felt impressions from the Spirit that have helped you discern His love? How can we come to know God as our Father?

Here are a few scriptures that can help us understand what God is like. Please read them and consider what they mean to you. When reading the scriptures, if there are words that prompt you to know more, look them up in a dictionary or in the Bible Dictionary. But don’t stop there; pray for answers. God will listen to your prayers and help you find answers to your questions.

 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

 12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

These are a few suggested scriptures in this month’s New Era, but there are so many more. Which are some of your favorites? How have they blessed you to have a greater understanding of who God is? How can developing an understanding of God enrich our lives?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

Today’s Sacrament meeting was very good, beginning with the opening song, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” I thought about my brother Ed and his strong testimony as he sang that song when he was a young boy. I imagined how close he must have been to the Savior to choose that song. And of course, I miss my mother, and Ed, and Kathy, and Robby, and Nana, and Oma, and on and on. But the powerful message of the song reminds me that because Jesus lives, we all will go on living even after our bodies lay down in death. And because Jesus is resurrected and glorified, we will be, too! I marvel at His love and His goodness.

While I love many hymns, few affect me the way this one does. (Two others that do are “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” and “I Stand All Amazed.”)
Here are the words to the opening song today:

I Know that My Redeemer Lives

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

3. He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I'll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Text: Samuel Medley
Music: Lewis D. Edwards

While the messages of every single verse speak of my love for Jesus and His relationship to me and mine to Him, the third verse always grabs me particularly. He is my Friend; He is my Prophet, my Priest, and my King! What greater reason do I have to sing? What greater reason do I have to rejoice and to lay my burdens down at His feet and continue forward in faith, hope, and good will? Because He is all these things to me, I need to trust in Him and allow Him to bind up my broken heart, and then do all that I can to serve Him.

I think that there is no greater song than this for expressing my belief, my faith, my hope, and my testimony in the Lord. While I sing this song, I feel His Spirit’s witness, and “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

After the Sacrament, the Bishop began the testimony meeting with a humble and sincere testimony like a child's. He knows the gospel is true, and he expressed thankfulness for his mother and father. This set the tone for many other powerful witnesses and the Spirit was sweet and real. I was deeply touched by the meeting, because the messages expressed what I feel and what I needed to hear; and reflecting on that, I feel that there is more unity in this newly combined congregation than I could have ever imagined. I am thankful. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Temple Blessings

Today I participated in a joyful occasion. A young man received his endowments in the temple of our God in preparation for serving a mission in Brazil. I know that this young man and his family felt grateful to be surrounded by family and friends. So did we. It was a blessing to be there.

Last Sunday Zach, the young man, gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. It wasn’t time for his farewell yet, but he is so well-prepared, and the talk was so uplifting, that we all felt like we were already being addressed by a missionary.

Afterwards his brother Hans Cody spoke. He had just returned from his mission, and it was his homecoming address. It was wonderful to witness the growth in this man. He also delivered a powerful, uplifting message, and we were all edified for being there.

I made a comment to their father today. I remarked how joyous Christmas must have been with them all there together again. He said that this day was actually much better. How joyous it is to have our families make covenants and progress together. They are looking forward to the time when their daughter can also join them in the temple.

I am also thankful for the times when Bob and I have been in the temple with our children, for endowments and for weddings and sealings. These are the glimpses of eternity that fill us with unspeakable joy.

I am certain that Zach is happy to be following the example of his brother Cody. Cody will be able to write him letters of encouragement and share insights with him. Missions not only are for serving those people whom we are so fortunate to meet; missions are also for strengthening our families and friends at home. We all are blessed by the sacrifices and service rendered, both by the missionary and by those who are offering support.

And the temple also brings us blessings so that we can serve well in our callings as family members, ward members, and missionaries.

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your day. Angels are rejoicing, and so are we. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Extending His Embrace

1 January 2016

Extending His Embrace

Before I got dressed this morning, I lotioned my hands and my feet with coconut oil. As I did so, I thought about my mother. I had lotioned her feet and cut her toe nails for her in the days before she passed away.

I learned a lot of lessons in helping to care for my mother. Most importantly, how important each human soul is, and what a privilege it is for us to serve anyone (and everyone). Here I was taking care of the woman who gave me life and taught me how to live. I’ve taken care of my own children as well. As the hospice nurse Erica so beautifully put it, “It is a privilege and an honor.”  As King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). The Savior said it best, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). 

Lotioning my feet as my mother had done for me, and as I had done for her, and as the Savior had done for His apostles felt so right (See John Chapter 13).  My hands look more and more like her hands with each passing year. In doing so on the first day of this New Year, my thoughts were both reflective and directive.

The Savior gave us two great commandments in Mark 12:30-31:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God 
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, 
    and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: 
this is the first commandment. 
And the second is like, namely this, 
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 
There is none other commandment greater than these.

To love the Lord our God with everything that we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This really got me thinking.

Can I love my neighbor the way the Lord would have me do if I do not adequately love myself? I can’t. Can I serve my neighbor with love if I have no reservoir of love in me, or without the development of love for my own person? No. Should I not care for my own soul as I would care for another, say my mother or my own children? Yes, of course, the Lord would want that, and even expects that I care for myself. So I need to learn how to humbly love myself, so that I have more to give in the Lord’s service to others.

Can I truly love myself where I am, knowing my own shortcomings and discrepancies? I know that I can. It is in feeling the Lord’s love for us that we are able to do so. When we understand the nature of God’s love for us, we can then begin to develop that kind of love for ourselves and for our fellowmen, both our friends and our enemies.

So we need to understand God’s nature and why He loves us so much. He is our Father. We are truly His children, and He desires our happiness. When we come to feel and know of His love, we need to develop a forgiving heart, not only for others, but for ourselves. When we feel surrounded, comforted, and embraced in His love, we need to hold on to that, and embrace right back. As we do, we will feel His sustaining power in developing those attributes that are necessary for us to love Him, to love ourselves, and to love each other.

Further reading:

After I was dressed I rode the exercise bike and read from the Ensign. Elder Holland’s words on understanding the nature of the Godhead are pertinent to the thoughts and feelings of this morning, and to my progress in the days ahead. By knowing the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and by feeling of their love, we will be better able to share their good news and to love and serve one another. Please read his address here: Knowing the Godhead