Sunday, April 26, 2015

Change is sacred because of the price paid to offer it.

Elder Hamula came to our mission about 6 weeks ago.  It was very inspiring to listen to Him speak to our missionaries.  He said He felt like a forerunner to our receiving Elder Nelson to our mission. He described him as, “A prince of a man,” and promised us that we would be blessed by his visit.  But warned us that, “You get out of a meeting whatever you put into it.  You will get out of your meeting with Elder Nelson whatever you put into it.” 

I want to express love for Elder Hamula.  What a great man.  I felt so loved and inspired by him.  I felt he really inspired our mission that day.  And I have to say we put a lot into Elder Nelsons visit last weekend.  We have been on a mission of strict obedience for everyone.  I think every single missionary has raised his own personal bar of what he was willing to put on the line.  We worked very hard. 

President Mullen and I have been amazingly busy for the entire 6 week transfer.  I don’t think we had one day to ourselves and we went from one big thing to another.  We had the transfer and then had specialized training for 5 days and then 4 days of follow up trainings, we spoke in 4 stake conferences over 4 different weekends, hosted and spoke with Elder Hamula for two missionary meetings and spoke with him in stake conference, I was the closing speaker for the CES institute directors retreat, we had 12 days of interviews and training for 12 zones, we had MLC, New leadership training, new missionary training and then hosted Elder Nelson and Elder Clark in speaking to our entire mission and then drove them to Moscow to speak with them at the Moscow stake conference, drove them to the airport and then drove home to go right into transfer’s again an hour later. It was a consecrated 6 weeks, where I felt once again the Lord carried us from day to day to make it all happen.

Sometimes the mission just hits like that and you just go day after day with big things for weeks on end. I have found with this type of schedule I can’t prepare a lot for anything, I just have to prepare myself.  I pray all day long, I read my scriptures at night, and I ask for the atonement to be applied constantly for my weakness and hope preparing myself in that way is good enough.

I found myself in this situation the night before Elder Nelsons visit. I was praying, repenting, and asking what in the world I should speak on with all of my missionaries and an apostle there for the next morning.  I felt so much inspiration come into my mind and heart about what should be said.  It has happened like this so many times.  It is pure revelation.  Nothing will be there and then all of a sudden everything is given to me to say.  I don’t deserve it, but I am sure grateful for it.  That is probably the most common feeling I have had on this mission.  He just gives me so much spiritual light, so quickly, so that I can do my job here.  It is undeniably from him.  I am just not that great.  I feel this acute feeling of the reality that our Heavenly Father and Savior are real and they work through the Holy Spirit.  I feel so much love and gratitude for a Great God, a Beautiful Savior and an Amazing Holy Spirit that blesses our lives every day whether we see and recognize it or not.  I am not great.  I see that so clearly.  But he still blesses me with inspiration and power to do His work.  His love and forgiveness always amazes me.

So I would like to briefly write about what I talked on last weekend, but then write more about what Elder Clark and Nelson talked on later in the week.  It was so good I would like to write about it when I have more time.  Here are some of my observations and what I spoke about in our missionary meeting:

We are never all together.  The only other time we’ve ever been all together is when Elder Anderson came to visit.  We know all of the missionaries well, but they don’t know everyone.  That is always a little weird to me.  We are family, how can we not all know and love each other?  It’s the sad part of being in a big mission with a big area.  I do still feel like we are family and we love each other, but they just don’t know all of who that is. 

So everyone drove into the Spokane Valley, the senior couples included.  There was so much love present, it made me so tender to be all together.  All were gathered outside the temple as we drove up from the airport and they were singing. Elder Nelson and Clark were greeted by beautiful voices and beautiful faces as they got out of the car.  We took a picture with everyone and then went into the chapel to start the meeting.  As we opened I looked over their faces and all I could think about was how much I love them, know them individually, and want them to be happy.  We are very tied to them.  We know their struggles, victories, heartache, miracles, and goals.  I felt so full at having them all there and seeing each one of them together.  I wondered if it was a little symbolic of how Heavenly Father knows us, loves us and is aware of our struggles, victories, heartache, miracles and goals times 1,000.

I talked to them about these feelings and then spoke about their work in preparing for the meeting, and how it has affected their lives for good.  “Your obedience and work has furthered your consecration to the Lord and has changed you.  These changes are sacred.  Your Faith and Hope enough to Act brings a Personal Witness of truth.  The natural man will never know anything about spiritual things because he has never done the spiritual work it takes to gain this great knowledge.  This personal witness brings greater light and knowledge.  This is when the mysteries of God are unfolded to you and God is doing a great work in your life. 

These changes are sacred!  Our ability to change has come at a great cost to both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Change is sacred because of the price paid to offer it.   Hold on to this knowledge and change and treat it carefully.  They are doing a great work in your life for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others.  He wants to use you to do His work.  You are to bless your family’s lives, your future spouse and children’s lives, and everyone around you.  You are to build, lift and edify others.  You are to learn to love and serve your whole life.  You are to talk of Christ, preach Christ and write of Christ all for the benefit of mankind.  Our lives are not just about ourselves.  We are to be useful to God our whole lives.”

“We are a family.  We are to do a great work here in each other’s lives as well.  We lift, strengthen and build each other.  We rejoice in each other’s successes.  We love each other.  We expect each one of us to obey all the rules.  Nothing is secret or hidden.  We are safe with each other to reach out when we struggle.  Our message to each other is, “you are capable of everything the Lord is asking of you to do.”

“We rely on Christ.  We cry, turn, follow, trust, seek, knock, wait, believe, repent, etc.  It's all action on our part to know Him.  We have faith in Christ.  We know that he makes more of us than we could ever make of ourselves but we have to do what He asks.  He won’t force, push or manipulate us.  Only by our free action of coming to Him can we reach our divine potential and be all that He has in store for us to be.  He is the Way.”

“It is not all about your salvation, your growth, your learning.  We are all God’s children.  We are to be used by Him to help everyone come back to Him.” 

I know this is true.  I feel it in my heart.  We are to lift, build and edify in our thoughts, deeds and conversations.  We need Christ so much to be able to do this because we are such fallen creatures.  At least I am.  I am so grateful for the sacred price paid for my chance to change.  And I know His message is to love and serve one another.  Our ability to love and serve is the evidence of our conversion to Christ.

Challenges tell you that God thinks a lot of you.

I was talking to a missionary Saturday morning about some of the issues she is facing.  We have seen her struggle with overcoming health challenges, but also some emotional challenges as well.  Some of the physical things are related to the emotional struggles.  It seems like it’s been one thing after another and life just keeps hitting her. 

We were talking about why everything in life isn’t just perfect and why missions aren’t just perfect.  It is so hard when you feel like you are trying to do the Lords work and things seem like they would just fall into place so the gospel can be taught better and more efficiently.  It just doesn’t happen.  Over and over again I see missionaries struggle with some pretty serious things who want desperately to be healed so they, cannot just stay on their mission, but have a highly productive mission.  I have come to the conclusion that the Lord loves his missionaries and cares about their growth and learning just as much as an investigator or less active member.  Missionaries lives are not perfect and are not meant to be perfect.  I wish they were, I wish every missionary could feel good, be healthy and have spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well being.  It just isn’t life, or God’s plan. 

God’s plan for each and every one of us is:
·        We are meant to have weakness.  I love the article in the Ensign last month about weakness vs. sin.  I have realized my weakness personally in all of its forms while on this mission. J Ok maybe not all of them, but it seems like all of them.  I have realized weakness can be a strength as it turns us to our Savior and makes us rely on Him.  I have realized weakness can teach us to trust our Heavenly Father and our Savior and give them what we can’t do or make happen.  I have realized weakness seen can teach us, change us and lead us to progression when we let it.  Humility in our weakness leads to strength in our savior.

·        We are meant to go through an imperfect life with trials that don’t make sense, hardships caused by others choices, and consequences brought on by our own sins. All of these issues can help us turn to our Savior because they make us humble and vulnerable enough to reach out and accept Him.  As we go through deep pain we also understand a little better what our Savior suffered and what are Heavenly Father has sacrificed for us to experience this life for ourselves.  Pain helps us understand Them better and it also helps us understand ourselves and others as well.

Anyway back to my sweet missionary who is struggling.  Besides the anxiety she is dealing with that has caused many physical sicknesses, she is also tired physically and emotionally.  As we talked I got a deeper sense of how much she worries. It can be exhausting worrying about, and trying to control everything. She talked about worrying because she loves so much.  One of her members, who is the sweetest kindest person, has severe health challenges and needs a lung transplant.  One recent convert is going through important life decisions she is making poor choices about.  Investigators struggles and family concerns are also causing worry.  None of it she has any control over.  It’s difficult.
As we talked I felt impressed to turn her to prayer.  Heavenly Father will always listen to us, understand us and teach us everything we need to know.  As we talk to Him and receive His understanding and peace it is the greatest release of pain.  When we can get our pain validated and understood we can release the pain to Christ and let go of it or accept it. 

I also felt to teach her about having faith in our Heavenly Father.  These are the things I felt she needed to know deep in her heart, “God knows you and all those you are worrying about.  It all comes down to faith.  Can you really believe and trust Him?  He does have a perfect plan for all of us.  We must know deeply that we don’t see with His eyes or His perspective.  This imperfect view limit’s us so we have to have faith. This life is not the end.  What we go through and what others are given and are going through has meaning for life and what we need to learn or become. Trust Him so you don’t need to carry and worry about everything to the point of depletion or exhaustion.”  I know Christ can worry for us.  We can, “cast our burdens on His care” and He will take them for us, allowing us to be free. 

I also had another feeling I expressed to her….She is a wonderful, amazing young woman!!  I love her so much.  She has amazing gifts, talents and abilities.  I just wonder if God gives great challenges to those who He thinks a lot of.  I don’t know, but it reminds me of a story I once heard.,

There was a man who was visiting a ward and went to the gospel doctrine class 2nd hour.  The lesson was being presented and the man kept making comments during the lesson; bragging about his children. He made a point to bring up their sport accomplishments, their missions, their temple marriages, their education and grades, their many awards, their callings in the church and how much money they were making.  By the end of the lesson everyone was sick of it.  Finally one old man raised his hand and said, “Well God must not think a lot of you to give you such easy children.”  This story has always stuck in my mind.  I think of Joseph Smith and all of his many trials.  He was such a great man his trials probably had to be great to be trials.

I think if we could see ourselves correctly we would see a vision of amazing people put in situations of learning so as to be enlarged, to be used by God for good.  God really knows us and we need to trust Him no matter what we go through.  Struggles will come, the only question is-will we go towards Him or away from Him to get through it.  There are only two choices.  I know He is the right choice.  Our eternal, broader perspective of who we are, what this life’s purpose is about, and God’s plan and ability to help us will change our lives too faith, strength and courage. 

At the end of our visit she was expressing how much better she felt and her inspiration of how to change to feel better.  I hung up the phone and thought, “The Lord has done it again.”  He helps me help them.  I am so grateful for that, but I recognize I can only teach or talk about what I have experienced and know for myself.  I feel I have gone through so much on this mission and sometimes I wonder if some of it is just for them; so I can relate to them completely.  I know how they feel, give ideas and suggestions all according to what I am learning myself or have learned in the past though the spirit.  I have always said, “I am the poster child for change.”  He has taught me so much.  I feel the Lord has a plan and He is in charge.  I have faith in that.  He knows how to use us to do His will if we will let Him, and that amazes me.  He amazes me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

God so loved the world that He gave his Perfect Son.

I have written before about how I have learned to use the atonement, what it is and how it has affected me.  But I am gaining a new perspective and understanding I never have before that I would like to share.

The condescension of Jesus Christ was a big deal.  According to Bruce R. McConkie Christ progressed so fast in the pre-existence that he became a God in his pre-mortal state.  Can you imagine having a son like that; a perfect son, who was totally obedient, honored you in every way, wanted to do your will more than his own, loved you and trusted you enough to do anything you wanted him to?  If you’re a parent that sounds pretty fantastic!  None of us can have children like that or be children like that, but because of the struggles of parenting that opposition can give a deeper understanding of what it would feel like to have a child like that.

When I imagine this it feels amazing.  I would love and cherish that son.  He would mean the world to me and I would want to protect him with every fiber of my being.  I can try to imagine how Heavenly Father felt about this perfect son.  Oh my goodness the perfect and intense love he must feel toward Christ!  What a powerful, tender, protective feeling He must have felt.  I can imagine how I would feel if I had a son like that. It would be the most difficult thing in the world to sacrifice Him to the most painful thing anyone would ever have to go through; all the sins of the world, but in addition, to sacrifice his honor and glory to come down among man and be spit on, humiliated, abused and killed. 

The love God offers me in the sacrifice of His son amazes me.  God loved the world; you and I, so much that He gave his only begotten Son.  God’s love amazes me!

Christ amazes me.  He didn’t know what this sacrifice would feel like until he experienced it for himself.  He thought he could do it.  God knew He could.  I know all of us on earth trusted that He could do it.  I am so glad I was willing to put my trust in God and Jesus Christ that He could perform the most powerful sacrifice of all time that would save us all. 

Christ is our perfect example of loving God enough to do His will.  If we love God more than man we put our value on pleasing God and doing His will, and not pleasing or looking good to others.  If we love God more than ourselves we empty ourselves of our pride, vanity, and hardness and are willing to listen, turn to Him and obey.  I wish I could love God that much.  I wish I had a perfect love that I could be that kind of being.  When I am perfected in Christ at the resurrection and am not a fallen being that is what I want; that I can be perfect in my love for God; that I can always act, think and feel as God wants me to.

Christ loved His Father so much.  He was empty of himself; his life, his honor, his power, his way, his goals, his wishes and his dreams were not important to him, he just wanted what His Father wanted.  That is a perfect love. 

I am having a small realization of what this meant to both of them.  How painful for God to sacrifice a perfect son who loves and trusts you so much, for a world, which for the most part would reject Him.  And how much Christ loved His Father.