Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts

Because I Have Been Given Much

As I was waking up early this morning, I was thinking about Heavenly Father's relationship with me.

I thought about the endless expanses of eternity--from the largest to the very smallest. I thought about the billions of people who currently live on this earth. I thought about the intricate identities they all possess--beyond any beauty my mind can fathom.

How remarkable is human life.

I thought of the infinite complexities which make up my own life, my identity. Stillness allowed me to see myself for who I really am, and all I could do was marvel at the amazing detail which has gone into my birth. I was born because Heavenly Father wanted me to live, and have joy. He wants to love me not only for who I am striving to become, but exactly as I am right now. 

In the privacy of the morning before sunrise, I felt the amazing assurance that my life has purpose and meaning. It has mass and takes up space. I exist because I am needed. I exist to love, and to be loved. And in those realizations, I remembered again the answer to a question I once held tightly to my chest with a kind of desperation.

Why does God love me?

To me, the answer was a mystery. Dear friends and leaders tried to help me understand: Because you are His daughter... Because you are a good person... Because you love Him... Because you are important to Him... Because He has to...

In the process of trying to find an answer I could live with and understand, I had a conversation with a friend.  He caused me to consider what kind of life I would live if I knew for certain I would never get to heaven. I thought about it for some time, then realized that I wouldn't change anything about the way I live. I would still live a life pleasing to God, and return to Him the glory and praise He is due. I would live to honor Him, even if I could not return to live in His presence. I would do my best to live joyfully and happily according to the manner of happiness because it has already brought me such great joy. A lifetime of that peace is enough of a reward for the good I would try to do in living the way God wants me to live.

I don't know why, but it was only then that I understood the answer to my own question.

To be loved by God--there is no greater gift He can give us. And that gift is one He has already given completely to all of His children. Being obedient doesn't make God love me more--no more than anyone's disobedience makes God love them less. Obedience is important because it creates peace and clarity for me from my vantage point. The commandments of God make it so I can see Him, hear Him, and understand Him. It brings me to a place internally where I can love myself for who I am, and the goodness in my own heart.

Keeping all the rules--it's not about control, and never was. It's not about showing up, performing some labor, and collecting my share of God's blessings, like a wage. I express my love for the Lord through obedience because Christ has said that's what He desires. (John 14:15)

I can give Him that gift completely independent of the prosperity or peril I experience. But if it wasn't for the commandments of God, I'd be so tangled up in my own desires, my own selfishness, my own way, I would never be able to see and understand what God sees or know what God knows.

It would remain as a mystery, an unwrapped gift, to me.

In a season that emphasizes gifts as an expression of love, may we always remember the gift we received with life itself--the love of God in its incomparable magnificence. When we ponder on the essence of life, knowing and feeling the all-encompassing blessing love is in our lives, may we never forget that "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Merry Christmas to you and yours, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Thoughts from General Conference, October 2009

We had great seats!
Out of all of the sessions of General Conference I've ever attended, this most recent session meant more to me than any other, and not even by virtue of the fact that it's the avenue of the most current revelation on the earth.

As of late, it has taken greater dedication on my part to have the Holy Ghost with me in the same magnitude and consistency that I have previously enjoyed. Although considering some of that growth came through great pain and suffering, I'm not sure if "enjoy" is the best word to use there.

I've had to exert more and more effort for the same results. I wondered for many months if it was because I was doing something wrong. I feared I might have been offending the Spirit without realizing I was doing so. But after hearing so many talks from this most recent session about the presence of the spirit, the purification of our hearts, and the sanctifying power of love coupled with more exact obedience to the commandments, it seems to me that what I'm feeling is not an accident.

I think it's fair to say that based on the instructions that we've been given, we're supposed to be drawing closer to the Spirit and to each other in love--becoming a more Zion-like people.

We've been taught that Zion is not just a place that we can expect to establish in the last days, in preparation for the coming of the Savior. Zion is also a state of being one in mind and heart as a people, looking towards and continually dwelling in the pure love of Christ. Now, I may not be the greatest gospel scholar in the world, but considering we just received more counsel than I've ever heard in one setting about purification, love, charity, and dwelling continually in the Spirit, I really must wonder what, exactly, the leaders of the Church were instructing us to do.

Can I just say, I loved the ONE guy not wearing a suit coat?

We may not have been told this session to return to Missouri, which is where we've been taught through modern revelation the physical place of Zion will be. But it sounded to me like we're all supposed to be much more Zion-like in character than we currently are as individuals, as a nation, and as a Church. And building Zion in our hearts is going to be much more difficult than building a new city, or even building a new temple. We would know--our people and our Church have been building both of those for over a hundred years now. Five more temples were just added to the lengthy list of those being renovated, planned, or constructed. But as we've seen in our failure to live under the United Order, being Zion in heart and mind is the most difficult undertaking that mortal men can attempt.

Think about it. Imagine trying to be loving, charitable, virtuous, united in the common cause of Christ at all times, to dwell in the Spirit at all times, to love and obey God at all times. Try doing it for a week and see how much of a headache it is. Better yet, try doing it for a month and see how much Satan doesn't like you and tries to thwart you at every turn. The temptation never ceases--not in waking life, and not in sleep--and increases in severity as you endure it well. Satan will do all he can to destroy you.

I know this as sure as I'm standing here because he and his minions have attacked me on too many occasions for me to count. But at the same time, the peace that has been offered me through the Holy Ghost has been sweeter, full of more knowledge and more guidance, and has blessed me with an ever-increasing ability to endure such tribulation. God does not quiver and shake as Satan surely does with each passing moment.

But how is any of this new? We've been hearing this for years. I've only been around for the past 4 of them and I know I've hear it plenty of times. But what I'd like to do is sound a clarion call of warning that the stakes have just been raised, and the task ahead of us has never been greater, but neither have the blessings.

If we will do as we've just been instructed in this past session of General Conference, we will see mighty changes in our world, in our Church, and in our ability to share the gospel.

If we desire Zion, if we would see its walls raised, its temple built, our families protected and our hearts knit together in the binding power of our task, we had best say our prayers and go to work--for surely this is the cause in which we are engaged, more so now than ever before!

Magnifying Callings

How many times has this happened to you?

It's a Saturday night, and you're enjoying your evening. You're with excellent company doing exactly what you love to do. You haven't a care in the world and your day has been nothing but exciting, despite your sleep-deprived state. You're hours and miles away from the internet, and it feels good to be unplugged for once. You're with friends your age, and none of them are family. In a word, you're completely and totally relaxed.

Then the phone rings. It's the Relief Society president. She's sorry it's so short notice, but she wants to know if you can teach the lesson tomorrow. It's Lesson 37--Charity, the Pure Love of Christ...

Wait a second, you think to yourself, Why does that sound familiar? Lemme think a minute. OH YEAH! That's the lesson you were looking at in the manual two weeks ago and the Spirit told you to start preparing it. And again last week. And again right now. Dang.

"Sure! I would be more than glad to teach it."

You then realize that you just committed to preparing a lesson when you're six hours away from home, have no manual (in fact, you specifically remember that you left your manual at the church,) and the only reason you have the scriptures is because you keep a small quadruple combination in your purse pretty much at all times. (Yeah, did I mention that you're a dork?)

What do you do? Panic? Pray? Prepare frantically using a friend's blackberry to see the manual, scribbling what you want from it verbatim into your journal, along with lots of scriptures--to be assembled later? All of the above?

Well, maybe this doesn't happen to you. Maybe you're wise enough to heed the guidance and promptings of the Spirit so you aren't racing to do as much work as you can before the sun goes down and the Hill Cumorah Pageant starts. Maybe you've learned, as I seem to be learning, that building Zion is a full time job that never stops after a certain point in your spiritual development. Maybe you're right there with me, trying to give your all to see His kingdom shine in the eyes of His children.

Or maybe this is just a part of the process of becoming a wise virgin--drop by drop as you not only excel, but learn what NOT to do, and are blessed with the wisdom on how to make things right and do things better. Maybe that's the part of the story I missed--learning that to be chastised is just as important as succeeding in life.

But that's the great and glimmering gem that comes from insight through hindsight. At the time, I pretty much was alternating through self-denigration, sheer panic, and frantic scribbling of more notes and material than I was ever going to get through in one Relief Society lesson, but we're getting to that.

Eventually, I decided that I had made all the notes I would need in order to later assemble the lesson I was envisioning in my head. I decided to get back to enjoying the Pageant and being in Palmyra with great friends that definitely know how to come to your rescue when you need them most.

We had a great time. We left as soon as Pageant ended, laughed once more at the anti-Mormon protesters as we were leaving, and began the 356 mile journey back home. I had decided that my plan of attack would be to sleep in the car, finish my lesson upon returning home, get ready for church, attend the Single's ward, teach my lesson, go to my bishop's house with the rest of my ward like we do pretty much every Sunday, and NOT die of exhaustion in the process.

If I recall correctly, it was just after 6AM when we pulled up to my place. And with the addition of a two hour nap, what I planned for is essentially how everything played out.

 Which isn't to say that everything went smoothly. I didn't finish (not that I had a stopping place in mind, so I'm not sure how I was judging that), but I successfully printed what I had as I was running out the door and continued scribbling more notes and a few additional scriptures on my lesson plan through Sacrament Meeting. I found a REAL gem in 1 Peter 1 that I didn't actually get to because I ran out of time. But I did my best, there were no awkward gaps, and I still managed to run over my time--as usual. The quality of the lesson was my usual, meaning (I would hope) the best I have to offer.

And yet, it was the first time that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get comfortable up there. I usually find my groove and I enjoy every minute of being up in front of those I'm teaching, but that didn't happen. The fact that I took a detour in the middle of it really caught me off guard, and I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't had the Spirit from the word Go, I was so uncomfortable. And if I didn't have the spirit, how could I have possibly taught anyone anything about charity? I wanted so badly to do a good job, and I felt as if all I had done was expected too much of myself at the expense of everyone else's meeting.

Seeing as I was entirely too sleep deprived, my ability to trust my own spiritual perception was non-existent. So I did what I always do when I'm that far out of my mind.

I prayed. I asked for forgiveness in not heeding the voice of the Spirit weeks ago. I asked if my efforts had been sufficient, if I had properly honored the responsibility I bear in His name as a teacher of His precious children. What I asked, in my heart of hearts, is if I had disappointed Him.

I have found that any lesson you give will only be as good as what you learned about your subject in the process. And when it comes to charity, I seem to have this really sophisticated (and probably wrong) expectation of what it means for me to be worthy of His forgiveness and love. Seeing as I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, I didn't exactly have a lot of time to work through my understanding of God's love. But now I see that this was the only way I was ever going to understand His answer.

Right after I said my prayer, I spoke to someone briefly. She left a simple message for me--that she had enjoyed my lesson, and that it had meant something to her. Then she was gone.

Charity... I put hours of hurried work into a lesson that one faithful sister was able to express to me in 30 seconds simply by saying thank you. She answered my prayer, and was nothing less than an angel to me when I needed one most. And it was through her that I began to understand the unadorned truth about charity--the heart of God's matter when it comes to His children.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that infinity could ever be that simple.

More Posts from Me

The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?" Because despite...