Sunday, January 30, 2011

Incremental Revelation

nephi_laban

I have learned so much in the last week that I don’t even know where to start. I suppose I’ll start with the temple. Yesterday I went to the Memphis temple to do initiatories and an endowment session. I was especially anxious to spend time in the Celestial room. I had 5 major things I was praying about that I needed direction. I typically sit close to the front so I can get to the celestial room more quickly.  On a side note……I like doing the prayer circle, but as a single woman it is awkward waiting up there all on my lonesome while the leader (or whatever he is called) asks for some poor schmoe to come up there to join me. Brothers, if you see a single sister waiting up there, jump up and join her.  Don’t leave her hanging! End of lecture.

When I got to the celestial room I grabbed some Scriptures and immediately started praying. At some point the burdens overwhelmed me and I started to cry. I laid out the big issues and asked Heavenly Father to lay out for me a plan. He said, “No.”  I said, “What?” He said, “I want to guide you little by little and you want the whole picture.” I said, “Ok.”, but a few minutes later decided to ask again in the hopes that I had misunderstood. Nope. Got the same answer. 

I’ll be honest. I found that disappointing. I wanted some answers! I needed direction. My heart was in a great deal of pain. AND I am confused about some things with regard to the gospel, the Spirit, and discernment. Not to mention the fact that I have so much on the plate, it would save some burden to get a great deal of direction at once. But, I trusted that Heavenly Father had a great reason. That submission was a good idea. It didn’t take long for me to start getting some answers.

The first answer I received was why he wanted to guide me little by little.  I’ve been reading a useful book by Gerald Lund entitled Hearing the Voice of the Lord. He wrote about incremental revelation, using the example of Nephi and the brass plates. Nephi was told to get the plates, but he wasn’t told how. He was kind of left to flounder on his own and figure it out. He made several attempts before having success. In his third attempt he said, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless, I went forth.” (I Nephi 4:6-7)

That is how I was feeling. God wants me to do these things, but doesn’t tell me how. Nephi was driven by faith, not knowledge. He had faith in Heavenly Father, therefore he would continue to try and figure out how to do what he was commanded to do. He had the same experience building the ship for their trip to the Americas. I Nephi 18:1 said he was given directions on how to build the ship, “from time to time”. I thought about that for a moment and it occurred to me that if the Lord had given him all the direction at once, he wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

Let’s look at the example of getting the plates from Laban. The Lord knew that Nephi was going to have to kill Laban to get those plates. But, if he told that to Nephi, Nephi might have spent his entire life wondering in false guilt whether or not there was anything else he could have done to get those plates back and spare Laban’s life. Therefore, the Lord let him attempt diplomacy first and learn for himself there was only one solution. How merciful of God!

Using the example of the ship, it is easy to see the need for incremental revelation. If Heavenly Father told me to build a car and gave me all the directions at once, I can guarantee at the end of my building, we would NOT have a car. Sometimes in His wisdom, He gives the direction we need, as we need it. I’m now not as disappointed with the idea.

The next thing I learned, was also confirmed to me more solidly in my reading. I was struggling with a wrong committed by someone. I couldn’t understand why the Lord was seemingly ignoring it. However, the Lord whispered to my heart that maybe He isn’t ignoring it, but giving others another learning opportunity.

I wondered about that, but wasn’t sure if I understood the Spirit correctly. Then I read something that confirmed it to me. While writing about Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, Gerald Lund made the following observation: 

“But here is another lesson to learn from that experience. While Joseph was in jail all that time, the challenge of leading and exodus of thousands of Saints to safety in the dead of winter fell to the two senior Apostles, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. These were the very two men on whom would fall the task just eight years later of leading the Saints across more than a thousand miles of wilderness to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. How’s that for “in service training”?

Often while we are undergoing our own learning experience, the Lord may be accomplishing His purposes with other people and in other settings. This is why it is foolish to think that we can fathom with our finite perspective the infinite and eternal purposes of God.”

Well, there is tons more that I learned this week that will have to wait.  There are little people who want me to come to their “club” meeting. Apparently it is time for my membership interview. I am one lucky mom.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Advice for Rachel

 

Rachel 008

I found myself saying something that worried me today. My daughter Rachel (pictured on the right) had been hurt by someone she loved and looked up to. As we were talking about it, I said Rachel you can’t put your trust in people. They’ll all disappoint you at some point. There is only one person you can trust. She asked, “Myself?” I laughed and said “No,  you’ll disappoint you also, even though you won’t mean to.” You can only trust the Savior. Well, and Heavenly Father.”

While that final statement is accurate, I worry about the rest of it. I don’t know how to help her find a balance. We have to trust people at some level. For instance, I had a lovely dinner with one of my favorite families from my Ward, the Nances, Saturday night. I do trust them. I think they are incredible godly people who love the Savior and serve Him with all their heart. Then there is a part of me that has my guard up, with all the “what ifs” floating around my brain.

Don and Mary Ellen, I know you’ll be reading this at some point. I’m using you guys as an illustration simply because I love you and feel you can be trusted. I hope you know that.

My point is I’m tired of all the what ifs. But, whenever I put down my guard, the what ifs happen. So is it stupid and na├»ve not to have them? Or is it unloving and cynical to have them? To be honest, I think life experience probably factors into that more than anything. I will never have a life without fear and what ifs. I think the key is not to let that prevent me from having healthy friendships.

I think as long as I have the what ifs, but say friendship is worth the risk, I can live an emotionally healthy life. Yes, there will be friendships that I will put everything I have into that turn out to be a disaster, But, eventually, there will be friendships that are enduring.  I cannot let past hurt demolish future glory.

One example would be my day Saturday. It was filled with tremendous highs and painful lows. My son Dillon took first prize in a Sonata Competition. (If you ever want to see videos of him playing you can visit www.youtube.com/phileokai) . That was wonderful I loved seeing his hard work pay off. At the same time, there were many people from my former church who were at the competition. It was an awkward experience. One of them was polite and said a stifled hello. The others were either rude, or pretended I wasn’t there. The frustration is compounded because some of them were my closest friends.

Although lets be honest, what could we actually talk about? “So, what’s new at church since I was excommunicated? Any new members? Anyone else ousted lately? Do you want to hear some of the “heretical” doctrine I’ve come to love?” I guess it would be awkward no matter what.

So, I guess what I should tell my darling Rachel is that, Yes, sometimes people you love will do rotten things. But, don’t let that keep you from loving. We’re all human. Most of the time when people make a mistake they regret it and will care enough to make things right. But, even if the ones who hurt you never repent or rectify the wrongs they’ve committed, you can go on to have wonderful friendships with honest people who will love and care.

I hope this wasn’t too rambly. I should never blog on pain medicine.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Look to Me….

jesus and woman

I had a wonderful time taking my son Dillon to his first concerto competition. Dillon is not much of a talker, so it was nice having him trapped in a car for several hours. Along with many other things, we talked about his fears. When I asked him what he was most afraid of, I thought his answer showed incredible wisdom, even if he did admittedly steal it from Professor Lupin (and JFK). He said what he most fears is fear itself.

That is so wise because the Scriptures teach us that faith and fear cannot coexist.  Ironically, I’m quite frightened by that fact. Aren’t I weird? People often write and tell me I am a woman of great faith. They are basing that on my conversion. While I understand what they feel, I don’t see it that way. I could do nothing else. I had to learn about the gospel. I needed to know what was true. I am nothing without my faith in Christ and I wanted to make sure I was serving Him as He was to be served. It is hard for me to see that as great faith.

Instead, what I do see is all my fear. I know that could keep me from what God would have me do. I don’t want it to. I want to confidently do whatever He wants. I want to be His completely. And yet I am overwhelmed with fear most of the time, which hinders those noble goals. Fears about understanding His will, fears about my future, fears about my children. Fears about the never ending bills. Fears about being able to keep up with my schedule. However, my biggest fear right now (aside from never being able to adequately provide for my children) is that I will be unable to trust anyone. Betrayals are hard no matter who commits them, but sometimes who the person is does make a difference. For me this latest one has.

I’ve been overwhelmed with doubts about everything, even (foolishly) the gospel. I’m so grateful for a Heavenly Father who doesn’t condemn me for those thoughts. He has patiently waited until I could calm down and then said. “Ok, you’re having doubts. Rather than get all panicky, let’s look at the gospel again.” So we did. I studied, examined, thought through it, and prayed fervently. I came to the same conclusion. This is the restored gospel. I’m glad I get to be a member. Whew! Yet all my other fears are still weighing on me.

As my fears crash around me incessantly, He keeps reminding me of one passage in particular. “Look to Me with every thought. Doubt not Fear not.”  I’ll keep trying. Every time fear creeps up, my goal is to just look to Him. I CAN trust HIM. The sacrificial atonement alone is evidence enough of that. So from now on I will try to do things even better. When I’m exhausted and don’t think I can do one more day, I will look to Him and ask Him what He wants me to do. When I cannot pay a bill, I will look to Him. When I get asked out on a date, (you know…whenever some godly single LDS man moves into the area in 600 years), I’ll try to say yes and not panic about what kind of person he is really. When I ache all over and just want someone to let me rest my head on them and hold me, I will look to Him. I’m assuming that is included in every thought.

Prayerfully, as I get better at this, it will become natural instead of instructive.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Give us this day….

Gathering Manna Exodus 16:14-31

I had a special time of prayer tonight while doing some things around the house this evening. I say special because I felt the burden so deeply. I could not continue any further with the way things were. I am in the process of making some good changes in some things, but felt overwhelmed at the idea of another year.

I told Heavenly Father I did not feel up to the task of another year. I wasn’t sure what to do. He knows my hurts and burdens better than anyone, so I knew He truly grasped all the pain, weight, and fear I felt at that moment. I didn’t get any “feelings” from the prayer, but knew I spoke to the one person who knows everything and deals justly.

I received some guidance in the form of a fireside message. I turned on the BYU channel while cleaning the kitchen, and Elder Christofferson had a message that felt written just for me. He spoke of the burdens and pain we carry. He spoke to three kinds: 1. Burdens caused by nothing and just part of the world we live in. 2. Burdens caused by others. 3. Burdens we cause ourselves.

He talked about the Lord’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness. When they needed food, He gave them sufficient for that day with the manna. He never gave them more than just what they needed that day (except in preparation for the Sabbath). 

Many times we want God to go ahead and show us all the provision. We don’t want to have to trust and have faith. I know I am like that. I hate having my finances so tight all the time. I work hard, but never seem to have enough to get ahead. We squeak (and I mean really squeak) by.  I should be satisfied with that.  I should have confidence in the fact that Heavenly Father provides as I need it. He really wants me to learn to trust Him.

That is what He is doing with my burdens as well. I cannot do another year. I just can’t. I don’t have the energy, or the heart for it. But, I can do today. Then, I will trust Him to provide the grace for the next day, when the time comes for it.

I also told Him I am having trouble trusting people. I wondered how it would be possible for me to have any relationships in the future if I find it impossible to trust.  He said that is ok too. Right now all I have to do is trust Him.  When it comes time to trust in someone again, He’ll help me. For now, I only need to ask Him to give me sufficient for this day.

***Important Side note*** There have been some blessings in my life as well. A dear family has been providing the money for my children’s music lessons. I cannot remember if they wanted their name secret, so to be safe I’ll leave it out. They are not an extremely wealthy family, just a godly couple who are involved in the arts and understand the importance of music education in my children’s lives.  They felt the Spirit lead them to help us. I don’t know what we’d do without them. The only thing they get out of the deal is an occasional meal with my family. I pray regularly for God to give them special blessings.

The children’s piano teacher is in Korea right now and Dillon has a big competition coming up this weekend. As a result of his teacher being out of the country, I had to hire someone to help prepare him for the competition, as well as an accompanist to play the orchestra reduction for the concerto. I had no idea where that money was going to come from, especially considering I’d need money for the trip to the competition anyway.

They had written me a check for the entire month’s worth of lessons. I called to let them know there wasn’t a full month of lessons after I received the check. He told me that I could apply that money to the expenses related to the competition and if there was any left over to buy Dillon some music. Isn’t that a wonderful blessing? It gave me some cheer and was like a gentle beam of light breaking through the gloom I’ve felt pressing upon me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hungering and Thirsting

 

I’ve had a few rough days….months….years. There have been huge things to deal with. Sometimes several at once, not to mention the myriad of little daily stresses. Some of the problems were my own doing, and some were caused by others outside my control. I’m a little bit of…ok big…control freak. I like things a certain way. I like order. I like life to be tidy. I’ve had none of that the last few years. I can’t even keep my house clean.

I respond by trying to take control. I wake up and say, “Today, I’m going to be perfect.” Sometimes I even make it to breakfast without sinning. But, you see the problem. At least if you know me you do. I’m not perfect. I want to be. I try to be, but I fail regularly.

Then, when I didn’t seem capable of fixing myself I decided it was time to fix someone else. In a previous blog I railed about someone who wronged me the other day. Someone who was dishonest. I’ve spent the last few days stewing about it. Then I realized I am holding that person to a standard I can’t meet myself. Perfection.

I was very tempted yesterday to give up. I mean really give up. I shut down for a couple of days and didn’t get anything accomplished. For a person on an extremely tight schedule that just compounds the problem. I’m not in any better of a spirit today, but did think some things through without passion, and read something that gives me hope. 

First, I cannot do someone else’s repentance.  I shouldn’t even try. It is up to that person to rectify a wrong. If they don’t, God will give me the grace to bear it.  Secondly, I had my own repenting to do. Thirdly, I had to come to terms with the fact that even after repenting, I am not going to be able to obtain perfection this side of eternity. I am going to sin regularly. That stinks. I want to be righteous. Here is where the scriptures gave me some hope. In the beatitudes it tells us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

It didn’t say blessed are the righteous, but those who hunger for it. Those who desire it, but don’t have it. That’s me. One day I will be filled. One day I will FINALLY have the righteousness I desire. I’m sure even then it won’t be my own accomplishment, but will be the work of Christ imputed to me. But, at this point, I’d be happy for anything. I’m hungry.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What the Father Asks

 

The Lord is very good at bringing circumstances into our lives that truly challenge us to become more like Him. It is not enough to say, “Lord, I want to be what you want me to be.” We have to actually be willing to do it. I’m feeling challenged right now, almost beyond my capacity.

I had been seriously slandered a week or two ago. I confronted the person who perpetrated such a hurtful act and he promptly apologized, explaining he had gotten his feelings hurt and lashed out by lying and vilifying me. I apologized for hurting his feelings. He promised to rectify the situation, as he should.  After all, it is my reputation. The Scriptures plainly tell us a good name is to be desired above riches. Not to mention all that stuff about not bearing false witness. I was truly hurt because I had gone to great lengths to protect his reputation many times.

It was recently brought to my attention that he not only did NOT rectify the situation, but continued to flame and espouse the lies. It truly was like a dagger to my heart. I had many reasons not to trust him, but in every circumstance had consistently taken each apology and promise to repent and do better as sincere. I could no longer do that. My first reaction was unrestrained anger. I cried out to God requesting he be held accountable for his actions. I wanted him punished.

My next reaction was self preservation. I can be longsuffering, but at some point I have to protect myself. I would slowly distance myself from him so I would no longer have to deal with the hypocrisy.  I tend to pull inward when betrayed. Then I went to the Lord in prayer for guidance. Why was that my third response? Shouldn’t it have been my first? I’m ashamed of that.

Often when I am seeking guidance from my Heavenly Father in prayer my next step is to read my Scriptures. That is where I feel the Spirit speak to me most specifically. Asking God to guide me to what I needed to understand about this situation, I opened my treasure from Heaven.

To be honest (and this shows just how unkind I can be) I half expected He would direct me to passages that talked about us trusting in Him and promising that the wicked would face judgment in due time. Instead I read this:

“But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust……Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”

Frankly, I wasn’t sure I could. How can I possibly interact with him as if he doesn’t deserve to be wacked upside the head? Shouldn’t I confront him again? (Fortunately he doesn’t read blogs, so I’m free to explore and reason through my thoughts and emotions). I felt he deserved to be held to account so it would be hypocritical to interact with him otherwise. But, there is the part of that passage that says, “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good”. So, it appears, if I truly want to be like my Heavenly Father, I need to do the same.

I have two choices. I could behave as the unrighteous sons of Lehi and say, “It is a hard thing you have required of me.”, or I can respond as the righteous Nephi and say, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” I know which choice is right. Somehow just typing this out makes it easier.  Don’t ask me why.

I really do want to honor my Heavenly Father in everything. I wish it were easier sometimes. But, I can see Him skillfully, one by one, peeling back my natural man to reveal the ugly cancers in my soul, and with unprecedented skill help me remove the unrighteousness that would destroy my soul. I’m grateful to Him for it, and will cheerfully (or at least willingly) do what my Father asks.