My study of the scriptures has had a profound effect on my life. As I have studied, I have grown closer to God and found answers to real challenges in my life. This blog is a scripture journal that records insights I have discovered in the past and continue to gain as I search, ponder, and pray.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

John 6 The Expanding Power of God

Several years ago I enrolled in college algebra--only because it was required for my degree.  This was a brave, or insane, thing to do since I had not taken a math class for more than seven years.  Moreover, math was not my best subject in high school!  To make matters worse, I took the 5 credit class on Saturday morning from 8:00 AM to Noon.  Because the class was taught only once a week, by the end of the class period, the instructor was lecturing on course material four lessons ahead of where we started at the beginning of the class.  He assigned homework, but only for our benefit, as it didn't count on our grades.  Just the tests counted.

Feeling rather overwhelmed, I approached my father for a priesthood blessing.  I was blessed that the Spirit of the Lord would help me with my math, and that I would perform above my natural ability.

As I worked hard that quarter, I could literally feel the fulfillment of that promise.  I gave my small offering, and the Lord expanded my abilities.  Not only did I get an A in the class, but I scored 100 percent on some of the tests, including the final.

I hadn't thought about that faith promoting experience for a long time.  Last Sunday, it surfaced unexpectedly as I was teaching Sunday School. We were talking about the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and the small offering of faith made by a lad.  I shared my experience with the class but continued to ponder on why I suddenly thought about it.

Although the story was faith promoting for others, I believe the main message was intended for me, right now.  Whether it's five loaves of bread and two fish or diligent study for a math class, the Lord expands our ability beyond our natural capacity.  It really is simple.  I just need to turn to the Lord with my offering, with all I have, and he will take care of the rest!  With that in mind, I must get to work and go make my small offering today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jacob 5 Pruning and Digging Hurt

Tears were close as I sat in a hospital waiting room for the 2nd time this week, waiting.  Waiting for another loved one to come out of surgery.  Fears and worries assailed me: the health of the person, the staggering hospital bill just for outpatient surgery, the pain of recovery, the effectiveness of the surgery, the steps to take afterwards.

Olive Trees at Garden of Gethsemane, Michelle; 1992
While waiting I opened my Book of Mormon and started reading where I had left off.  I read Jacob 3 and Jacob 4 and was only starting to find peace.  Unexpectedly, it was Jacob 5, the very long allegory of the olive tree, that calmed my troubled heart.

I personalized Jacob 5 and visualized the olive tree representing me individually rather than the whole house of Israel throughout all time.

I was being pruned and nurtured, even as I sat in the hospital.  The untamed fruit in my life was being cut out and burned through the trials of life right now.  The wholesome good fruit was being developed.  The gardener was neither leaving me nor giving up on me.  Rather, the gardener loves me and wants all my fruit to be good.

The pruning, digging, and nourishing were done with purpose in Jacob 5.  They were not random acts.  Likewise, the pruning and digging in my life is done with purpose.  They are not capricious, arbitrary acts of a vengeful God.  He knows what kind of fruit he wants me to bear.  He knows what needs pruned to bring about that fruit.  Some of the pruning I bring on myself through wrong choices.  Some of the pruning God does because in the end knows what he wants me to be.

Therefore, with diligence and patience and trust in the gardener, "by and by [I] shall pluck the fruit, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet" (Alma 5:42) and I "shall have eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Matthew 11 Bearing Burden's the Lord's Way

"I feel thin.  Sort of stretched, like.... too much butter scraped over too much bread.  I need a holiday."

Have you ever felt like Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings?  The other night I did.  I came to the end of a long day full of worries about health, family, finances.  You name it, I was worried.  I approached my bedside to pray feeling weary, yearning so much for a break, for peace, for rest.

As I knelt, I contemplated some scriptures my husband and I had been talking earlier:

"Come all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  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.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)."

The real question is, how do we come to Christ and let him shoulder our burdens.  Part of this scripture gives the answer:  Learn of him!  When we learn of him, we know that he is a God of love, mercy, kindness, justice, compassion, wisdom.  We know that he can strengthen us and help us carry our load.  He won't always remove the load, because we need it to grow.  But he can help us bear up the burdens that are placed on our backs, just like he helped Alma's people while they were being held captive (see Mosiah 24:14-15).

As I started my prayers that night, I prayed for the Lord to strengthen my back and my shoulders to be able to bear the burdens I'm facing right now.  Even as I prayed, I felt the Lord make me stronger.  Hope began to replace fear, and courage began to replace discouragement.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Matthew 5 Dr. Sue(ss) and Christ on Being Perfect

Recently we celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday.  Not only do I love his books, but I love a poem written based on his writing style.  It's called Girl in a Whirl and is about a Mormon woman caught in the Perfect Mormon Mom trap.  She tries to do everything perfectly and in the end drops dead.

Although this story is funny, it also feels too true.  Everywhere we look, we feel the need to be perfect.  Even Christ said we should be perfect.  Right?  Well....not exactly.  Yes, he did say that, but our interpretation is not what he meant.

Elder Nelson addressed this very topic in a conference talk given in October 1995 called "Perfection Pending."  He said:  In Matthew 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios,which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the nountelos, which means “end.”  The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono,which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.”  Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when writers of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior—precision or excellence of human effort—they did not employ a form of teleios; instead, they chose different words....

Just prior to his crucifixion, [the Lord] said that on “the third day I shall be perfected. Think of that! The sinless, errorless Lord—already perfect by our mortal standards—proclaimed his own state of perfection yet to be in the future.  His eternal perfection would follow his resurrection and receipt of “all power … in heaven and in earth.”

The perfection that the Savior envisions for us is much more than errorless performance. It is the eternal expectation as expressed by the Lord in his great intercessory prayer to his Father—that we might be made perfect and be able to dwell with them in the eternities ahead.

What great hope this gives to me!  Through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, I can be perfected and live with him again in the future.  Today, all I need to do is turn to him.  He will do the rest! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Luke 5 Forsaking All and Following Christ--To the End

Forsake all for the Lord's will!  What a tough challenge!!

Over the weekend I was talking with a friend of mine about the future.  She is facing the choice of blending a family.  Upon contemplating the enormous task ahead of her, she wonders if she can do it.  It's hard!  I know!  And when I started the work of blending a family, I brought only myself, not other children.  But then she spoke with great faith and she commented that perhaps there is no greater thing that she has to accomplish with her life.   Her comments echoed Mordecai's counsel to Esther, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:15)."

Esther's faith at moving forward is like that of Peter, James, and John found in Luke 5:6-11.  After they had been fishing all night long with no results, the Savior told them to cast their nets again.  The catch was so large the boat began to sink.  Immediately afterwards, they left it all and followed Christ.  Just like Esther and my friend, they showed great faith and embarked upon the course the Lord desired of them.

As I pondered their decision, I realized it was so significant because of the choices they made the rest of his life.  Did they ever wonder, like I do so often, "What have I gotten myself into?!  Is this really, truly, the Lord's path for me in life?" 

Whether Peter, James, and John ever wondered or not, I don't know.  But the answer is loud and clear to me.  At a difficult time when other disciples were abandoning Christ, the Savior asked Peter is they would leave, too.  Peter's answer was simple, yet profound:

"Lord, to whom shall we go?  thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God (John 6:68-69)."

Jesus Christ, the son of the living God!  It is that knowledge that keeps me striving to forsake all the Lord requires and follow him to the end of my days.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mark 2:17 We All Need the Physician

Last night I watched the Biggest Loser.  The heaviest, sickest man ever in Biggest Loser history was eliminated.  This was even after pleas from is trainers to keep him there and send someone else home.  As the team sat in the elimination room, one of them said, "we all need to be here."   Yet, was the expectation that someone else who needed it too should be sacrificed?

Sometimes I feel so troubled and so much in need of help.  One of the "remedies" we are often told for our struggles is to find someone else in a worse setting and serve them.  When I do this, I often find myself feeling guilty for thinking my struggles are bad.  At least I don't live in a war ravaged, impoverished nation...

However, just because their struggles may be worse, doesn't mean that mine are non-existent!  Just because someone's needs are more pronounced, does not negate my needs.

In fact, we all have needs!  We all need the great Physician.

The miracle is, that we all can partake of Christ's atonement and mercy.   The atonement is big enough for all of us!  Whether our needs are small or great, it doesn't matter.  He is there.  He has already paid the price.

Unlike the Biggest Loser, Christ's mercy isn't limited.  I don't have to be sacrificed  because my needs are smaller than another's.  Someone else doesn't have to be eliminated so that I can stay.  We can all be partakers of  God's mercy.  We just need to come to him as the publicans and sinners did.

Matthew 5::9 and Isaiah 11 More than 5 Minutes of Peace

"Five Minutes of Peace."  That is the title of a book I used to read to my children when they were young.  It's about a mother elephant of young children.  They are always needing something. Even when she is taking a bath they want to talk to her.

I used to yearn for 5 minutes of peace.  Now I long for a time of peace, the peace that is so elusive world-wide.

With turmoil seeping into our lives every day, I was struck by a few verses in Isaiah 11.  Verses 6-8 talk about how animals that are natural enemies will exist in peace when the Savior reigns.  Verse 9 then explains that the animals won't hurt or destroy because "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord."  They live in peace because of the knowledge of the Lord.

That phrase made me pause.  What exactly is "the knowledge of the Lord?"  Perhaps it is referring in part to his plan of life and salvation for us; the full love of God; the knowledge that he will bring us home.  This knowledge brings peace and love into our hearts.  When we accept the full message of Christ--accept him, his love and atonement, and his covenant--we are filled with peace.  That peace then permeates around us.

"Blessed are the peacemakers" can then be read as "blessed are those who make full the message of Christ in their lives."  That truly is a blessed state in which to live!

Peace truly is more than the absence of contention and turmoil.  It means more than harmony.  A couple of scriptures come to mind that underscore this point:
  • John 14:27:  "my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth..."
  • 1 Nephi 14:7 he shall "work a great and a marvelous work...unto the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal."