Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why A Manger?

nativity2

Hello everyone! I’ve had such a busy week. I’ve done more revisions on my novel and have officially drafted my query letter to begin sending to agents. I’ve also finished the first week of my Mosiah inductive study to send to those who’ve agreed to be in  my test group. We’ve got a good sized group so I’m excited to start getting feedback. If all goes well, I’ll have the Mosiah study completed and ready to send to anyone who wants to know their scriptures more in depth in just a few months. Plus, this morning I got to teach the last chapter in the George Albert Smith lesson book, Righteous Living in Perilous Times. What an instructive chapter.

Now onto today’s topic…..

You may not know this about me, but I love collecting both nutcrackers and nativity sets. I don’t have many, but I do love them. You may send donations to….  just kidding. 

I’ve been thinking about the nativity a lot lately. For years I thought about the injustice of the King of Kings having to be born in a stable. Imagine, a filthy manger filled with animals. Couldn’t the innkeeper have at least asked anyone if they’d be willing to give up or share their room for the woman in labor? Could not the Spirit have prompted some righteous soul to help them? Instead, he was born in the most humble of circumstances. Our humble Savior. I love Him so much.

It occurred to me last week, and I don’t know why it never had previously, that Heavenly Father arranged those circumstances intentionally. I mean, He is in charge of the universe. He could have arranged affairs to be more in Mary’s favor. Why didn’t He? Here is what I think. God loves symbolism. The temples, both ancient and modern are rife with it, as are both the ancient and modern Scriptures. So why should we not find symbolism in his birthplace?

1 Corinthians 5:7 calls the Savior our Passover. What does that mean?  In our Old Testaments we have the story of the Israelite Passover. Pharoah’s heart continued to harden and he refused to let the Israelites leave. Moses warned him that if he didn’t change his mind that God would destroy the firstborn son in every household. God is holy and compassionate and does not punish indiscriminately.  He provided a means of safety for all who feared Him. Any family that did not want to be touched by the destroying angel was to slay an unblemished male lamb and spread the blood on the doorposts of their home. When the destroying angel saw the blood he would pass over that home and the firstborn would be safe.  Many children died that night, but not in the Israelite homes. They obeyed their God and were spared.

Now, if Christ is our Passover lamb, does it not make sense that He, too, should be born in a stable. The angel told the shepherds their Savior was born that night. I think he was preparing their hearts for the fact that He would not come as a conqueror to banish the Romans, as many of the Jews hoped, but instead as a humble servant and sacrifice for our sins. So that, if we repent and put our faith and trust in Him we too shall be spared by the blood of the unblemished lamb Jesus Christ. Doctrine & Covenants puts this better than any passage I have ever found thus far. When we are standing before our God and the vileness of our sin is exposed, the Passover Lamb steps forth.

“Listen to Him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before Him—Saying: Father, behold the suffering and death of Him who did no sin, in whom Thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of Thy Son which was shed, the blood of Him whom Thou gavest that Thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto Me and have everlasting life.” D & C 45:3-5.

Do you hear the pleading of the Savior on your behalf?  Do you see the gush of His blood that was spilt for your sins? I will never look at a manger the same again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Test Group Closed

Thanks for the fantastic response to my test group.  It is now closed.  Those of you who signed up will be contacted soon.

Annmarie Worthington

Monday, December 10, 2012

Test Group Filling Quickly

Yesterday, I announced the opening of a test group for a scripture study I’m writing. I’ve already received a large amount of emails from people asking to be in the group.  I’m grateful for the response. Everyone who has already commented or emailed will be in the test group.  I’ll leave the group open for just ten more people, but after that I’m closing it.  So the next ten people need to be quick.

Thank you for the great response.  I’ll have the first installment this weekend.

Annmarie

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Looking for a test group

Dear Friends,

I’ve been a member for three years now. There have been many adjustments in my life because of my conversion to Mormonism. Learning a new faith is never easy. On top of that I had to simultaneously learn and begin a career quickly in order for my family to survive financially. Going from stay at home mom to working mom, while continuing to homeschool and build my life from scratch was NOT easy. However, the hardest part for me was learning new ways to think about God, about women’s rights/roles, about how the Spirit speaks to us, and about agency. I’m still learning. Though I have much to learn, I have come quite a distance.

I also learned that not everyone who is a member can be trusted simply because they are a member and everyone thinks they’re wonderful. The upside of that is, the Spirit warned me, but I didn’t recognize it at the time. Or rather, I thought I must be wrong, because people with much more experience with the Spirit were telling me differently. I now know better. Through the grace of God,  I won’t make that mistake again. I’ve learned to recognize the Spirit’s voice better. I’ve learned to trust it over my “counselors”. I’m excited that He warned me, because now I know I’m not dependent on my own judgment when it comes to trusting people.

There are things I miss about my old life very much, like orchestra. Most of them, however, I can live without and are just preferences. Others are more significant. Some of my old friends I miss tremendously, but I’ve also learned that our Savior means it when He calls us friend (D&C 84:63). I am not alone.  In addition to making new friends, I’ve grown to love solitude. I also have learned how to draw companionship from my relationship with my Savior.

One of the things I miss the most is in-depth inductive scripture study. I came from an academic church background. Plus, I’ve always had an almost insatiable appetite to learn. I’ve searched for inductive studies that incorporate LDS scriptures and haven’t been able to find any.  I had wondered if maybe I just haven’t located them (after all, I am a newbie), but after speaking with a friend who is very familiar with the LDS publishing industry (Gary Lawrence) I realized they don’t exist. That means if I am going to get to study the latter-day Scriptures the way I have the ancient ones, I’m going to have to write it myself.

This is where you come in. I’ll need a test group. I don’t want this to be useful only to me. If you would be willing to dig into your scriptures with me and give me feedback on what I write, I would be very grateful to you. I’m sure many of you will be able to add information to it, as you’ve all been Mormon many years more than I have.

If you’re interested, here is what it would require:

1. As I write sections of the study, you will do all of the assignments and reading.

2. When you’re done, you’ll write out what was helpful and what you wish were different.

3. If you think I left something significant out, tell me.

4. Don’t pass the studies on to anyone else until I feel they are ready.

5. It will also require patience. I have four children to raise, a home to run, as well as two jobs, and book revisions to do. I may not have every installment as quickly as everyone will want.

Still interested? Just leave a comment below with your email address so I know where to send it. If you are uncomfortable leaving your email address, just comment and then email me privately. My email is sophia.kai.charis@gmail.com . The first study I will do is on the book of Mosiah.

Please note that you do NOT have to be a Latter-day to participate in this test group. Also, this group will have a limited size. There will only be so many suggestions I will be able to usefully process, so I cannot let the group get too large.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trials versus Temptations

temptation

I have been so swamped lately. Between moving to a new home and dealing with Lyme treatments I fell quite behind both at work and at home. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though there is still much to be done.  I have learned a lot over the last few months and kept hoping I’d have time to write some of my ideas down. Here’s my first chance.

I’ve pondered for some time the difference between the two uses of temptations in James chapter one. In the first section temptations are to be rejoiced in.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4

The second section is not so fortunate.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:13-15

Many scholars would interpret the first one trials and the second one temptations, though they are from the same Greek root word. Why such disparity in the two uses of the same word then?  One type brings perfection; the other brings death. The difference lies in their part of speech. The first word translated temptation is a noun. The next one is a verb.

In the first use, temptations is the noun peirasmos. Essentially, this is saying this tempation/trial/affliction is here. You didn’t necessarily do anything to get it here, but it is here none the less.  The second use of the word temptations is the verb peirazo. We cause this affliction. Our lust is living, moving, breathing. We walk right into this affliction.

Trials

Let’s look at both of them a little more closely and see how we can come out in a way that pleases our Father. The first section covers verses 2-12. James begins by telling us to rejoice in our trials. Why would we do that? Because the trying of our faith helps us toward our perfection. The word the King James translates as patience literally means to abide under. In other words, we are now able to bear up courageously.

Think of it like a quest in the ancient King Arthur’s court. The knight has to be tested. Can he uphold the standards of Camelot and be considered worthy to serve in court? He has to go through many trials to see what he can handle.  The same is happening to us during our trials.  When James talks about the “trying of your faith” he literally means the proof of it; a crucible, or test. We show our faith and what it is worth by what we are able to bear up under.

Throughout the section he gives advice on needing wisdom and dealing with the trial of riches (or lack thereof). In the end, if we pass the test, we are rewarded with the crown of life (vs. 12). I love the description of the recipients. It says the Lord gives it to those who love Him. What we are demonstrating when we courageously bear up under trials is that we love our Savior. Not only do we love Him, but we trust Him enough to go through anything He sees fit to bring into our lives.  That is something to rejoice in.

Next the mood turns darker….

Temptations

The next section begins in verse 13. James wants us to know from the beginning that this type of temptation does not come from God. Here we are entrapped by the own lusts we’ve allowed to live in our hearts. What do we desire? Now certain desires in and of themselves are not wrong. It is what you do with them that becomes the sin. A fleeting attraction doesn’t matter unless you feed it by dwelling on it. That is what stirs it up to a covetous nature. Then that lust is conceived when action follows. The conception gives birth to sin. Once sin is allowed to grow and mature, it becomes death.

The word translated conceive literally means to take with. It is often used in the sense of taking a prisoner. That is exactly what sin does to us. It takes us prisoner and cheats us out of the life we were intended to live.

Honestly, wouldn’t you rather deal with the trials than the temptations? Now I realize we all have weaknesses. In fact, God intended it that way. However, we’re not bound by our natural desires. Those become temptations when we do something to make it that way, or don’t do something to kill it. Yet, even then there is hope. It doesn’t have to become a pattern.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Thanksgiving and Crowns

thanks

I am an emotional bulimic. I either keep everything in or I purge uncontrollably. Years ago, a close friend said I reminded her of Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. She had not read the book, but was referring to the Emma Thompson movie version. Elinor does such a great job maintaining proper distance, dignity, and decorum throughout all her internal heartbreak, but the moment she finds out Edward is not engaged she completely falls apart.

I’m working on finding a balance so I don’t continue to do the same. I’m great through trials, some heart rending and on such a level as to be emotionally crippling.  Throughout I remain steady. Then, something minor will happen and, for some unexplainable reason, I fall completely apart. I think a habit of consistently, yet gently, letting thoughts and emotions out, as if through a sifter I will be less in danger of having occasional waterfalls.

Between my illness and moving to a new home I have had very little time to blog, or to do as much writing as I would like. In fact, I keep receiving emails from lovely people I’ve never met asking me when my next article in Meridian will appear. I have responded soon, but haven’t written soon.  So, if I am going to be a person of my word, I must work in the time. Writing is one of the ways I provide for my family, so you’d think it would be a priority. However, any writing I do for the church is done without financial remuneration. So, generally when I have a moment to write it is geared toward venues where I earn income. Not out of greediness, but wisdom in caring for our obligations and the use of my time. I’m not making an excuse, just an explanation.

Before any article writing however, I wanted to share something on a more personal level.

Thank you for…

I am exceedingly thankful to my Heavenly Father for the manifold blessings He has consistently bestowed upon me. I want to make sure I express it. For, I have a tendency to feel great gratitude in my heart, but it seems to stay there without vocalization, which could come across as unthankful. One of the items I am most grateful for is our new home. It is the nicest place in which I have ever had the privilege to occupy. Most of my homes in the past have been disappointing. In fact, when my husband (at the time) signed the lease on our last home, I cried a little.

It was necessary for us to move. At the time we were living in an 800 square foot home with three children, one of  whom had to sleep in the living room due to lack of space. Plus, our landlord had sold the duplex and the new owners didn’t like how many children we had.  The new lease had a clause in it that we couldn’t have any more children. There was no way we could sign that! Yet, there was something about the new house which didn’t sit right with me. I was uncomfortable with the move and didn’t think I’d feel safe in the area. Hence the tears.

My new home is different. Though many people feel southwest Little Rock is unsafe, we are in a quiet tucked away neighborhood in which I feel completely peaceful. On top of all that we have much more space than we’ve ever had in our lifetimes AND, like a cherry on top, the home is beautiful.  My landlords (who happen also to be friends of mine) went through great trouble and expense to refinish the hardwoods and re-carpet the bedrooms before we moved in. Never have I gotten to call something so lovely, mine. I’m thrilled with my new home.

I’m grateful to my Heavenly Father for being indulgent with me.  I’m also grateful He provided such wonderful friends to my family in the Nance’s, and that they would even consider us as occupants, while making the rent affordable. Every day I wake up and cannot believe such a beautiful place is mine to live in. I feel like I’m in a fairy tale.

The blessings haven’t stopped there. My illness has been difficult. The pain has been a problem, but in the last few months especially I have days where I cannot stop vomiting. You may think it strange that this is being mentioned in my list of gratitude. However, it has made me very grateful for endurance. Many people being treated for this same ailment are not faring as well as I am. I hear horror stories all the time from people I know who are also undergoing these treatments. They cannot work. They need people to come and help them with their children. They’re on disability and have home health nurses to help care for them. Yet for me it has been different.

For the most part, we are living normally. I’ve continued to work. I’ve continued to raise and school the children. I don’t feel well and there are days where normal functioning is a challenge, but even on the vomity days my responsibilities are getting done. I am so grateful for this.  Endurance is a real blessing.

Crowns

Last night I was reading about endurance in the book of James. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to those that love Him.” James 1:12

The word for endureth is the Greek hupomeno.  It literally means to remain under. In other words it means to remain in place and not flee from the trial. It means not to give up. The word for tried is dokimos. It means accepted, pleasing, acceptable.

When we accept the trials the Lord brings into our lives and get through them righteously, we are pleasing to God. As if that weren’t enough of a reward, we receive  a crown.  In this case the crown of life. There are other crowns mentioned in Scripture. If you want to do a quick study, you might read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:8,  1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10; 3:11; 4:10-11. This list is by no means exhaustive, just the ones I went through last night.

The last verse is my favorite. The apostles offered their crowns to the Savior by placing them at his feet as He sat at His throne. The idea of earning crowns in order to give them to the Savior is very exciting to me. You might think me strange, but I guess you’d have to see love the same way I do.

I love my Savior because He loves me. I’m so grateful to Him for His love of me. Unconditional, undeserved, unpretended. (Yes, I know that is not a real word). It means He never pretends He loves me just to get something out of me. His love is sincere and without lust. I can trust Him. That is such a rare gift, and one I will not throw away. When I love someone, I desire to give myself to them completely, to serve them wholeheartedly. That is how I feel about my Savior. To be honest, any crown I earn isn’t truly mine anyway. I couldn’t have attained it without His atonement and grace. I am not who I am without Him. The crowns are His. He earned them.

What about you? I’m sure you have much to be thankful for. Have you remembered to share your gratitude with your Heavenly Father? If not (and we’ve all done it), take the time to do so now. Don’t just thank Him privately. Thank Him publicly.  He deserves the praise.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Yielded Up Their Bodies

furnace

I am sitting on my bed with fresh clean sheets. I love clean sheets. My wonderful children are at their dad’s house, which means I will have this entire bed to myself tonight. Though, I don’t feel like sleeping. I’ve been in a lot of pain today, but I took a TON of my painkillers and I was able to not only function, but get some really important things done.  I just couldn’t bear wasting an alone day. I can’t take that many painkillers two days in a row, so I’m determined to get as much done today as possible, because tomorrow I am probably going to feel like dying. Life with Lyme….it’s better than no life at all.

I wanted to share something I recently taught the children during our family scripture time. I’m taking the children through the book of Daniel. Yes, again. I really treasure that book. I always wanted to name one of my boys Daniel, but kept naming them after people we cared about that didn’t have children of their own. If I’m ever blessed enough to remarry and have another child, the boy will be Daniel!

The passage I want to write about is in chapter three, so I’ll need to do a quick overview of the first two chapters to put it in context. Maybe I’ll get to do some real posts about the first two chapters, because there is so much rich application in them. For now, here’s the speed version.

Chapter One

The year is around 605 BC. (give or take a year). Israel had been quite naughty for some time. God had patiently and, at times, sternly warned them through many prophets. If they didn’t repent, He would send the Babylonians to discipline them. The Babylonians—a fierce nation, whose very name caused other lands to tremble. Nebuchadnezzar, their king, was a ruthless man. He loved ripping people to pieces, sometimes literally. One of his punishments was to pull two trees into a bent position, tie one of the prisoner’s limbs to each tree and then cut the tension ropes, allowing the trees to snap back into their position, while ripping the prisoner’s body in half. Nice man.

You’d think knowing the Babylonian reputation the people would heed the prophets and repent, but there were also false prophets who kept reassuring the Israelis that there would be peace and the other prophets were just hate-mongers. Persecution of true prophets was rampant. Sound familiar?

Well, the word of God was fulfilled and Babylon came and besieged Israel in three stages. In the first stage Daniel was taken captive to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court along with three of his friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They are more commonly known by the names Nebuchadnezzar gave them: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Daniel was about 14 or 15 years old at the time of his capture. The young men underwent three years of training and indoctrination and then were placed in the king’s service.

Chapter Two

Nebuchadnezzar (called Nebby at our house) had a dream that worried him. He wanted his wise men to interpret the dream for him, but he was sure they would just make up an interpretation to appease him. To avoid that problem, Nebby decided to make the wise men tell him what his dream was before they interpreted it, that way he could know they really had the power to help him. The wise men were flabbergasted. No king had ever required that before. It was downright impossible to do. Well, Nebby wasn’t too happy with that answer, so he sentenced all his servants to death.

Daniel, however, had a plan.  He sought favor from God to know the dream and its interpretation, which God granted him. Then he was hurriedly brought before the King. In humility and with great courage he told Nebuchadnezzar that no man is able to do what the King has requested, but there is a God in Heaven that speaks to men and He has let Daniel know the dream and its interpretation.

Basically there was a statue whose head was made of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, its legs of iron, and its feet was made partly of iron and partly of clay. Each of the parts of the statue represented a different kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar (representing the Babylonian Kingdom) was the head of gold. After him would come other kingdoms. But, then there was a stone. Oh! This stone is so important, I wish I could spend a post just on it! It was cut without hands and destroyed the statue in one fell swoop, then set up a kingdom that would last for eternity. God gave Nebuchadnezzar the dream to give him a glimpse of the future.

Our destination

Now we’ve arrived to the part I’ve been pondering. In chapter three Nebby builds a huge statue. This one, however, doesn’t just have a head of gold. The entire 90 ft. statue is made of gold from head to toe. It is as if Nebuchadnezzar was standing with his fist to the heaven’s saying, “My kingdom will NOT end no matter what you say.” Just to add more unrighteousness to his folly, he required everyone to bow down and worship the statue when they hear music play. The penalty for refusing is death.

Most of us know how this story goes. Daniel’s three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) were at the dedication of the statue. However, when the music played they refused to bow. Jealous co-workers reported them to the king. Now is when it really gets interesting. Nebuchadnezzar decided to give them a rare second chance. He said they would play the music again. If they bowed great. If they didn’t… “ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15b

These three amazing young men didn’t even blink. Here is their response to the King:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O King. But if not, be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” vs. 15-18

The King was beyond angry. The scriptures tell us that even his visage contorted with rage. He ordered the furnace heated seven times greater than normal and had the three young men bound and tossed into the flames. The intensity of the heat was so powerful that the soldiers ordered to carry them to the furnace perished.

Instantly, Nebuchadnezzar was on his feet in astonishment. He saw was four men walking freely in the furnace. He called them to come out of the furnace. The King and his court were amazed. Not only were the men unharmed by the flames, but neither their hair nor clothing was singed. They didn’t even have the smell of fire on them.

Here is part of the King’s response:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces…”

When these young men committed their lives to serving God, they did not insert qualifiers. They belonged to God, body and soul. Whatever He did with them was up to Him. We are called to make that same commitment, and like these blessed Israelites we are to yield up our bodies as well. How do we do that?

It’s not just the BIG things like sacrificing our lives for the gospel. First, it is simply obeying the things we already know to do. Keep our baptismal covenants. How that is lived out daily is different for each of us. I had to give up a lot to get baptized. The life I am left with is aging me much more quickly than I would have if I had remained at my old church. I’m plain tired and worn out, but I don’t regret it for one moment. Beauty means less to me than righteousness.

Yielding our bodies also means how we fulfill our desires. Do we keep the law of chastity? I’m 43 years old and single. I am not and will not be in a sexual relationship with a man until I am married. Is that always easy? Not really. I often get offers for “entertainment” at one of my jobs. Men invite me out. But, they are not the type of men I would spend an eternity with, so I decline. Periodically, someone tells me I should go out with them just to have some fun. You know, live a little.  It doesn’t have to be serious- they say. I think that is a stupid idea. What kind of fun can I really have with them? Men of that type are not going to be content with dinner and conversation. That is all I have to offer.

Yielding our bodies also means doing our best at every responsibility God has called us to. My primary responsibility is to be my children’s mother. I’m in the unenviable position of having to be father also, but mother is my first role. I take it very seriously. Don’t survive your parenting. Be purposeful in it. Make sure you can give a righteous account of the stewardship you were offered of your children. I have other responsibilities too. I’m an employee, which means I am to do my job with excellence and integrity. I also have a home to run. I want to do it in a way which honors and reflects well upon the glory of my Father in heaven.

I want you to reflect upon what yielding up your body means for you in the life God has called you to. Are you doing it well? Are there areas you want to improve? Maybe there is an area that needs to change all together.

In a later chapter of Daniel, he is promoted to second in command of the kingdom. Jealous men tried to find an area of neglect and couldn’t. Daniel fulfilled EVERY responsibility with diligence and excellence. I wish I could say there are no areas of neglect in my life. Just one look at my laundry basket will tell you there is. However, I am striving toward excellence. Hopefully, as I learn to yield more and more, I will give glory to Him in everything I do. Even if I never quite make it in this lifetime, it is a worthy goal in which to pour out my life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Accepting Help

 

I was a newlywed in my twenties. Three times a week I would care for our youth pastor’s son. They didn’t need me to watch him, he said he liked his exposure to me. I’m not sure exactly sure what that meant, but I wonder if he changed his mind when young Taylor starting coloring in their Bibles after watching me mark in mine while I study?

This particular day, my then husband and I were driving back to our apartment with little Taylor in the back seat of our beat up old Chevy Impala. Taylor was a delightful preschooler, but very energetic and friendly. I was meditating fiercely on the passage about being kind to strangers because you could be entertaining angels unaware. I was wondering how to teach Taylor that passage without putting him in danger with a different kind of stranger.

Our apartment was gated, with a passcode, so I was a little surprised to see what appeared to be a homeless man in our parking spot as we pulled in. The verse I was just thinking about came quickly to my mind. What if he is an angel? Oh, but what if he is not? I think I’ll keep Taylor away from him just to be safe.

As I walked Taylor toward our building the man approached my husband.

“God told me to give this to you,” the stranger said, handing him a five dollar bill.

He held up his hand in refusal. “No, you need it more than I do.”

The stranger retorted, “If you don’t learn to ask for help, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

When I next looked around, the man had disappeared. I mean literally disappeared. We couldn’t find him.

I have treasured that experience up in my heart for years.  I wondered if ironically, while I was thinking about angels, the Lord sent one to us. The gate to the apartment never opened and he was no where to be found. If he was an angel, I didn’t know if the message was intended for me or my then husband, but I tried not to forget it.

A few years went by and my first born arrived. I had been yearning for a child of my own for five years, so he was very welcome indeed and the joy of my heart. I had big plans for this child. My hero growing up was Caroline Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. To me, she was the perfect mother. Just as Proverbs 31 teaches, the teaching of kindness was on her tongue. Her gentleness and service to her family never tired. That is the kind of mother I wanted to be. I was going to rise early and make homemade baby food. I was going to cheerfully teach and play with my son all day, then my husband would come home to a spotless home and a delicious home cooked meal.

Some days I could pull it off. Each day, I tried. For some reason, though, I couldn’t shake my tiredness. No matter what I did the exhaustion was overwhelming. I was even napping during the day when I could, and still I felt like my body wasn’t working. Oh the guilt I felt. Why couldn’t I tirelessly serve my family? I began memorizing passages on slothfulness in hopes of shaking the horrible desire to rest all the time, but it didn’t help. What was wrong with me?

Then, when Dillon was six months old, I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. That at least explained the tiredness. But, it didn’t help with my circumstances. Now I was facing surgery and radiation on top of this incredible exhaustion. My dreams of being the perfect mom went out the window. I was shattered and frightened. I wanted so much to raise my son. What if I didn’t survive the illness? The night I received the diagnosis my husband was out of the state. Alone on my bed, looking at my son, the joy of my heart, I cried out to my God while opening my Scriptures.

The passage I came to was the Virgin Mary after the angel had just given her the message that she would deliver God’s Son. Her life plans had just been shattered too. How did she respond?  Mary said, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” My heart was pierced and my prayer went something like this:

“God, I want to have Mary’s heart. I want to say be it done to me according to your word. I’m just scared to. I want to raise my son. However, if you’ll help provide the courage, I’ll say the words. I am your bondservant. Be it done to me according to your word.”

There was no magic button that made my heart courageous. But, day by day, I would cry out to him for grace to obey, as well as mercy to raise my son.

I got really sick and had a hard time keeping up with responsibilities. I felt like a failure, until one evening the words of the stranger came back to me. Maybe there is nothing wrong with me asking for help.

I told my friend, Emily Barefoot, I was having a hard time. Two days later she and her mom came by and did some ironing and helped with my floors. I felt some of the pressure alleviate. I learned asking for help was acceptable.

You’d think with such a powerful lesson I would be good at accepting help. But alas…. I am a slow learner. Let’s fast forward almost twenty years. I’m now in my forties. I’m a single mom with four children, plus one teenaged house guest for a semester, who needs some extra help with her homeschooling. I’ve been diagnosed with Lyme disease and am struggling with the effects of the treatments. I’ll be on three antibiotics for a year. I keep getting fevers and the pain is hard to deal with, which makes me move significantly slower than I normally would. Once again I am not keeping up well.

If I were intelligent and humble, this paragraph would have said, “I called my Relief Society President, told her what I needed and am now graciously accepting the service of others.”  But, alas, I was not intelligent and humble. I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to feel like a success.

Fortunately, my Heavenly Father gave me an incredible Relief Society President, Jennifer Schwartz. She called me one day and said she feels like they should be doing more for me. I told her that though I don’t feel well, I think it is my responsibility to care for my family. She disagreed. I even tried using the scriptures. I pointed out the passages that talk of putting your house in order. I brought up the passages that say God doesn’t give us responsibilities without giving us the power to accomplish them.

Jennifer is a pull no punches kind of gal. I really like her and we get along great. But, that personality meant that she wasn’t going to let me use Scripture as a means of covering my pride. She said, “Yes, Annmarie, and it says in those passages to do it all by yourself, doesn’t it? Do you really want to deprive us of the opportunity to grow and serve you?”

“Now you’re making me feel guilty for not letting you serve,” I replied.

“Good.” She said.

We’ve compromised. One night a week, people are bringing us a meal. Normally I take a delightful elderly woman grocery shopping once a week. She’s providing someone to take her two of those times so I get a break. She’s also asked if occasionally someone can come in and help me with the house chores. I’m working on putting my pride aside for that one.  We’ll see…

You may be asking what is the point of this long post. I can tell you what the point is in my life. The Lord is trying to teach me several things.  First, I am not a failure if I need help. He tried to teach me that before I actually needed the help, but I am a slow learner.

You are not a failure if you need help either. Maybe you are like me. You want to be perfect. You want to excel at everything you try. You want to accomplish great things and be useful. There are times in your life when you won’t be able to do it all and someone will get the opportunity to serve you. Both of you will be blessed for the lessons learned during the time of service. So, if you are in the admittedly undesirable position of needing a helping hand, remember to put your pride aside and accept service graciously. I’m trying to learn to do that now.

Secondly, I will hopefully remember what if feels like to need service, but feel like a failure if you ask. I want to apply that in my service to others. How can I serve those around me in a way that makes them feel useful and successful as well? I’m writing down the things that would be helpful in my current circumstances, so when I encounter someone else struggling, I’ll know better how to be of service to them.

You can do the same. Look at those around you…or better yet, pray, because we are often good at seeming like we have it all together, when in reality we are drowning. Ask God who needs your service, then get in there and serve. To be honest, I HATE it when someone asks, “What can I do to help you?” Why? Because even though there are things I need help with, I feel too guilty asking them to do it. Instead, think about what would be useful and then say, “I would like to ____________. When can I come over?”

At least, those are some of the things I’ve been writing down for my service to others. Hopefully, we’ll all be good at both giving and accepting help.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dealing with Wrongs

tear

One of my favorite Christian thinkers is C. S. Lewis. I wish I could have been present at the Eagle and Child when he and Tolkien sat around discussing their writings, sharpening one another’s skills. I long for someone of his intellect to sharpen my own with, but alas, I must content myself with his writings…..

I recently read an essay an essay he wrote extrapolating two views on judgment in the Scriptures: the Hebrew view and the Christian view. I was glad to see he later pointed out they are both present in one another. It would be too simplistic to divide them. Plus, if our God really is the same yesterday, today, and forever (which we know Him to be) than there must be some homogeny between the two.

The Christian view was said to be one of dread. After all, we have the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the judgment seat of Christ. Protestantism also has sermons like Jonathon Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. When Mr. Edwards read his sermon to his church, the congregants were clinging to the columns of the building for fear of falling into the flames of hell on the spot. I myself sometimes tremble when I read Scriptures that teach that we will even be held to account for every thoughtless word uttered. Can you think of any thoughtless words uttered you’d like to take back? I can and am ashamed by them.

The Hebrew view, however, is said to be one of rejoicing. God is the Righteous Judge who will avenge all the wrongs. They look forward to His judgment. “O Let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge…” Psa. 67:4 As Lewis pointed out, judgment is great if you are the plaintiff and not the one “in the dock”.

The reason judgment is accurately portrayed as something we should both dread and rejoice in, is because we are consistently in need of both. I have often said that what we humans really want is justice for ourselves, but mercy from others. Though, it really should be the other way around. We have all done things, often inadvertently, that harmed others. On the flip side, we have all experienced wrongs done to us. Some wrongs, like a scraped arm, are easy to overlook. Other’s leave gaping wounds that need attending to or we could perish.

The Scriptures are clear in what to do on both sides of judgment. If  you’ve sinned against God, repent. If you’ve sinned against man, repent and make it right. If you’ve lied about someone, correct the lie. If you’ve stolen, pay restitution. Sometimes you need your bishop to step in and help with this, if the issues are serious enough. Other times they can be dealt with between one another. However, human help sometimes fails. So, what do you do then?

I once sat in the car of a woman who was in distress and needed an ear. After we talked about her current situation, I told her she should go to her bishop. This was serious and needed more authoritative ears than mine. She began crying and told me stories of former bishops she’d had dealings with that handled things….well, badly, is the only word I can come up with, and she was afraid to go to her bishop now for fear of the same thing happening. My heart ached for her. Her testimony was shaky because of those previous instances. She wondered how the gospel could be true if those bishops didn’t hear the Spirit correctly and know who was lying in her situation. After all, don’t they receive a special endowment of the Spirit to be the judge in Israel?

While it is true they are set apart for their position, it is na├»ve and, I will add, unfair, to think they will do their job perfectly. After all, I am set apart for my callings at church. Does that mean I will never miss a beat while conducting music, or that I will always have an answer when someone asks a tricky question during one of the times I’m teaching? Absolutely not. I’m human, and I suspect everyone around me knows it very well. So, are bishops. They will make mistakes, so don’t judge them too harshly. It is a fallen world and none of us are immune.

The problem is, we have to live in this fallen world. What if you are the one with a gaping wound and everywhere you turn there is no help? I think that is how the woman who spoke to me felt. I have had some gaping wounds myself. This last year I have run many times to my Jehovah-rapha, the God who heals. A wrong had left me feeling like someone had ripped out all the essential parts I needed to live. I no longer trusted anyone. But, I’m not the kind of person who wants to live like that. I want to love people, to serve them, to communicate with them thoughts and ideas. So, I went to my Father in Heaven and asked Him what to do.

He took me to His Son. The Savior, who had lived His life in service to His people. Think how many weary days He spent teaching and healing them. Then, when they were there for so long that they ran out of food, he miraculously fed them all too. He gave away many of His nights too. They ate up His service, following Him everywhere. Everything He offered they took. For a while they adulated him, even laying palms at his feet as He rode into Jerusalem. Then, just a few days later, these same crowds cried, “Crucify Him!”

They abandoned him to the Roman barbarity guised as justice, called Him a heretic, and allowed Him to be executed. Even those friends who were closest to Him abandoned Him. The horrible agony He felt at His crucifixion must have been intensified by the emotional pain He felt being alone. Then, when things could get no worse, even His Father in Heaven had to leave Him briefly, something neither you nor I will ever experience. 

There have been times in my life, weary and wounded I have knelt in prayer, and felt His hand on my shoulder saying, “I understand.” Normally when people say that, they don’t. But He does. Yet, He came out whole and righteous, still able to love and serve His Father. How did He do it? The first epistle of Peter tells us how:

“For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps:

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth;

Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously;”  I Peter 2:21-23.

There is that Hebrew sense of judgment again. There is a judge in Israel who does not err. When you deal with the wounds of others righteously, it makes you more like Christ. You come out as a shining star leading others on a path of righteousness. You can do that, because you know there is a God who will one day right all the wrongs.

I’ve spoken the above passage to people many times. Once a woman said, “Good. I hope he never repents now and gets a taste of what he did to me at the judgment.” I don’t agree with that line of thinking. It wasn’t Christ’s thinking. He wanted them to repent. Even in the midst of His suffering He asked His Father to forgive them. We should too. Pray for those who’ve wronged you. I try to diligently pray for those who’ve harmed me, though not always as graciously as I could. Fortunately, He pricks my heart when I’m feeling callous. One day, if they repent, we can sit down in heaven together. Hopefully they’ll repent quickly and I can trust them even sooner and even sit down on earth with them-with all wrongs put aside.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Beauty of Trials

holding hands

Each of us has at some point in our lives endured a painful experience.  The last five years of my life have been especially difficult. In fact, I feel like I’ve aged more in these last five years than I have in all my other years cumulatively. There have been frightening moments when I concluded that the only solution was  for me to leave this earth.

I have a vivid memory of contacting Dr. Bell, who is both a friend mine and an employer (as well as a doctor) and telling him I was concerned that I needed to be put on some kind of anti-depressant medication. I had been devoting an increasing amount of my time giving thought to suicide. There were moments that it seemed like the only sane solution. I’d even formulated a plan. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to realize how selfish I was being. I have children, which denies me the right to only think of myself.   My reason for contacting Dr. Bell was the fear that one night I would struggle so much that rational thoughts wouldn’t intervene.

I didn’t like the idea of anti-depressants, but thought it might be a good preventative measure for me. I was afraid something was wrong with me emotionally. He listened carefully to everything I had to say before replying. He then said that given everything I was going through in my life, he would be more concerned about my emotional well-being if I did not have those kind of thoughts. The fact that I was struggling showed that I was dealing with the issues and had not checked out. He also felt confident there would not be a moment in my life where I didn’t think of the children. Therefore, he concluded the anti-depressants were unnecessary in my case.

Fortunately, he was right. Though I’ve had many more painful, heart breaking days than encouraging ones, I’ve managed to live through them all and even become stronger as a result. So why am I bringing this up in a post entitled the Beauty of Trials? Because I want you to know, before I tell you how wonderful they are, that I have been there. I understand what it is to feel so trapped by your trials you’re confident the only way to end the pain is to die. I know what it is like to be so disillusioned with humanity you think there is not a truly reputable person on the planet. In fact,  around a year and a half ago I went through such a heart-rending experience that was not only unrighteous, but callously cold and calculated with someone I loved and trusted, and was supposedly above reproach,  that I was sure I would NEVER trust another living soul again. There are very few things anyone could have done that would have ripped me to shreds more than this “friend” did. Please believe me when I tell you I understand.

Yet, throughout all the anguish, I have learned that every life experience, both good and bad, my Father in Heaven has used to make something more precious than gold. I hope I can communicate it well enough. In a recent study I’ve been doing on the New Testament book of James, the topic of trials marched out front and center. You’ve probably read the passage a dozen times, as I have, in the past. It wasn’t until last night when asking the Lord to open its meaning to me while I dug deeper, with word studies and cross references, that I began to mine just some of its beauty. There is even more that I have to learn, but I am on my way. Maybe you’re quicker than I am and have already plunged the depths of its meaning, if so, bear with me as I get to share my joy in learning. The passage says:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” ~James 1:2-4”

We all know that trials make us stronger. But there is so much more to it than that. The first thing I did was look at the original meaning of the words and not just the current translation I had. Be patient with me as I give some definitions and take the verses apart phrase by phrase.

….count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations….

Divers- Those used to King James English may already know that this word means varied, but I “grew up” with the NASB translation, so I needed a refresher.

The next word, temptations, takes on a much deeper meaning in its original vocabulary. It is the Greek word Peirasmos, which means a trial or test divinely permitted with a beneficial purpose and effect.

Now we are getting somewhere. These aren’t just temptations, especially since elsewhere in scripture it explicitly says God does not tempt anyone. These are tests specifically allowed into our lives for a purpose.

I want you right now to think about a trial you are currently facing. Now remember that this was sent to you for a beneficial purpose. We’ll find out what specifically in a moment. But, doesn’t it take at least a teeny tiny portion of the burden off your shoulders knowing there is a specific reason this is in your life?

…knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience…

Trying- This Greek word, dokimion, means a crucible or test. In the context it means a means by which our faith is proven. Not as in, “we’ll see if your faith is real” kind of proof, although it certainly can give you an indicator of that. This is more of a purifying kind of proof, the way gold is purified in the fire.

Patience-  A literal translation of this word, hupomone, means “abiding under”, the flavor of what it means is to bear up or endure courageously.

…that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing…

Perfect- Teleios means having reached its end, complete, fully grown and mature.

Entire- holokleros means sound in every part, complete, whole.

What God is trying to tell us is that He allows these trials into our lives to make us completely ready for exaltation. They are designed to make us more like our Savior! As I was doing some cross-referencing, I came across a similar passage that has the same meaning but in slightly different terminology.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold  that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ….receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” ~ First Peter 1:6-7,9

Though I think we know instinctively that there is some heavenly purpose for all we go through, it is amazingly joyful when you think it through. Why can I count trials a joy? Because they are the building blocks to spiritual completion. This isn’t an instantaneous result. That tiny word in the beginning of James 1:4 “let” qualifies the whole thing. We have to allow the trials to perfect the maturing of our faith. How does that happen? I believe it is in our response to our trials.

Sitting down, or better yet kneeling down, and asking our Father in Heaven what we are to learn through this is always helpful. It is that quiet submission that we read about in Mosiah 3:19.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek humble patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Even if we are submissive and realize the truly eternal benefits of what we’re living through, I don’t believe that “count it all joy” means we will not feel the sadness and weight of what we are having to endure. Instead, it means that underneath it all we can have the quiet assurance and confidence that we are becoming like God as a result. You name any trial I have endured and I can tell you at least one (but often several) spiritual benefits and growth I have received as a result.

Oh! How frustrated I am that I am not communicating the beauty of this Scripture well enough. I’m just not doing it justice. What I request that you do is to open your scriptures to this passage in James and ask the  Holy Spirit to make known to you the riches, depth, and beauty of what the apostle is communicating the to Israelites who’d been scattered abroad from persecution. I pray that the Spirit will give you a glimpse of your future glory that is a direct result of your present pain if you respond to it in righteousness.

Your trials aren’t for naught. They are beautiful.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Trinity

by Annmarie Worthington
first-vision
Recently, one of my favorite homeschool companies came out publicly stating that Mitt Romney should not be elected because he is accursed by God. This was based on the fact that he belongs to a church that does not hold to the traditional (and in their minds, Biblical) view of the trinity, and therefore is a member of a cult.
Now, I don’t care who you vote for (well….maybe I do, but I will allow you agency to choose for yourselves), however, I do hope you’ll take the election seriously, both thoughtfully and prayerfully choosing your preferred candidate. However, I want to address the idea that Mormonism does not hold to the Biblical view of the Trinity.
Many evangelical churches teach that not holding the traditional Trinitarian view is one of the key warning signs a group is a cult to be considered heretical, and therefore accursed. Now, if you’ve read my conversion story you know that I did not enter this church easily or lightly. I studied diligently for three years before joining at great sacrifice to my personal and emotional life. The Latter-Day Saint view of the Trinity was one of the first things I addressed with the ever patient missionaries.
In modern protestant thought, God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are believed to be one in substance and being. Anything else is considered a heresy. Many protestants don’t realize this view wasn’t officially adopted until the Nicene Creed, around A.D. 325. Those that do, believe the creed saved the church from a developing heresy. I want to examine that line of thought to see if it is the Scriptural view. I don’t want my theology to be given to me by the popular vote of bishops in the fourth century. Instead, I want to examine carefully, to make sure my beliefs are in line with what my Father in Heaven really taught.  After all, the Savior Himself said, “….this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3.
In order to have eternal life, we must know God correctly. It is easy to call something heretical without taking the time to carefully examine the issue. Good people, committed to their faiths, have been doing that for centuries. Who was it that called the Savior Jesus Christ a heretic? Was it the riotous rabble who wanted to rule their own lives? Was it the quiet peaceful citizens of Jerusalem just trying to keep their head down and survive the Roman occupation? Sometimes. But the ones who were most adamantly opposed to the “heretic” Jesus Christ were the religious leaders. It was the ones trained in the Scriptures that seemed to know them the least. So, please read this with an open mind. Pray. Ask God in Heaven to help you know what is true.
If I’m writing something that isn’t true, I beg God in Heaven to help me know that. My goal is to love and serve God as He desires, not as I desire.  It is my prayer that the same is true of you. With that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says about the Trinity.
There are two issues addressed by the Nicene Creed that I call into question. The first is the issue of plurality. Is God is one or three? The second is whether He is immaterial.  I’ll only address the first one today.

One or Three?

In John 10:30 our Savior makes a remarkable statement: “I and My Father are one.”  Well, there you go. He’s answered it. No need to look any further, right? They are one. But was that meant as a  literal number of persons, or as an illustration of who They are and how They work with one another? I believe it is the latter.
Also, in the Book of John, Jesus calls Himself “the vine”. No one questions the use of allegory in that passage. We know He is not literally calling Himself a vine. Instead, it is a word picture designed to help us understand part of His function in our lives. I believe the John passage about them being one is illustrative as well. Why? Well, let’s look at the Scriptural evidence, beginning in Genesis.
“In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
The Hebrew word for God in this passage is Elohim. ‘El’ means ‘mighty, strong’.  It is often used in reference to any God, not just the God of Heaven. Things get interesting in the ‘him’ ending. ‘Him’ is plural. This seems to indicate more than one ‘mighty, strong’ being. Genesis says it directly just a few verses later.
“Let Us make man in Our image.” Genesis 1:26, emphasis added.
He doesn’t say, Let me make man, but us. There is more than one. If that is the case and they really are separate, they would relate to one another as separate individuals, rather than one being throughout the Scriptures.
We see that very clearly in the way Jesus the Christ prayed to and spoke of His Father in heaven. Even the fact that He prayed shows they are not one substance. If so, He would be having more of an internal dialogue, just as we do when trying to work out a problem. Instead, His was real prayer. Sometimes pleading as He did in the garden,
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:” Matthew 26:39
Other times in intercession for those He loved.
“But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:32.
Ask yourself, why was He praying to begin with?  If they are one in substance and being there would be no need for Him to pray. He wasn’t doing it just to give an example to the rest of us, because He would most often go off alone to pray. He was praying because He needed to communicate with His Father.

The testimony of Jesus

   To me, however, the most important evidence comes from the words of the Savior Himself. What did He have to say about the relationship between He and His Father?
“My Father is greater than I” John 14:28
and
“I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” John 5:30
There are many, many other passages I could write, but this post has to end sometime. I think these Scriptures clearly show they are distinct beings. However, we cannot ignore the John 10:30 passage where Jesus states they are one. What does He mean by that? Fortunately, the Scriptures have a great way of interpreting themselves. One of my favorite passages is of Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17. His time on earth was coming to a close. He was about to endure some of the most horrific agony anyone could experience. So He set Himself apart and prayed for us. Look carefully at verse 22.
“…that they may be one, even as we are one:” John 17:22, emphasis added.
It does not make sense that He would pray that we would become melded into one being. In this prayer He was praying for our unity. He wanted us to be one in purpose, just as He and His Father are one. Like-mindedness-- that is how they are one.
I wanted to write the many quotes of the ante-Nicene leaders, those who were closest to the time of Christ and the teachings of the original twelve apostles, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian. However, I intentionally limited myself to the words of the Old and New Testament, because I realize those are the words that will hold validity with the evangelical community.
I hope this came across in the spirit intended. I know what a struggle it was for me to re-examine my belief system while I was studying Mormonism. All I ask is that you come at it with an open heart and mind. Maybe one day the Savior’s prayer will come to fruition and we will all be one as He and His Father are.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where have I been?

priesthood blessing

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. Have you wondered what I’ve been doing? I have been dealing with Lyme disease. This is one of those cases where the treatment is, for a time, worse than the cure. I’ve been in loads of pain. Though people who’ve known about my diagnosis have commented that I have the worst luck, I don’t agree. It has truly been a blessing for me. Here’s why…

Sixteen years ago my body went haywire. I was pregnant with my first child. In my first trimester I gained four pounds. My second trimester was about the same. My third trimester I gained around 30 pounds. I couldn’t understand how, because I was too tired to even think about eating. I attributed it to one of the trials of pregnancy and felt it would end when I had my beloved child. However, labor came and went and I felt worse than before. Six months later, I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer.

Two surgeries and some radiation later, they said life would be semi-normal as long as I took my thyroid medicine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The medicine just didn’t work well for me. They’ve tried lots of different doses and switched me from generic to name brand, but nothing seemed to help. Eventually they put me on two different types of thyroid medications.  More endocrine problems ensued—not just with my thyroid. It seemed like all the doctors could do was give me more and more medications to do what my body should be doing on its own, yet my health was getting worse. No one could figure out what was wrong with my body and why it didn’t respond to medications--until recently.

A few months ago I was having a lot more trouble with pain than I normally do. Plus, I was even more exhausted than ususal. I asked my home teacher for a blessing. In it he said my doctor would find out what was wrong with me and would be able to treat it. After 15 years of doctors playing guinea pig on me that sounded like music to my ears.  I saved up enough money to go to the doctor in anticipation of the fulfillment of my priesthood blessing.

The morning of my appointment, I got down on my knees and reminded Heavenly Father of His promise. We weren’t five minutes into my visit with my doctor when he said, “Annmarie, you’re going to think I’m insane, but I think you have Lyme disease. Not only that, but I think you’ve had it for years. I truly believe that this has been what has caused all your endocrine problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is what caused your thyroid cancer.”

I didn’t think he was crazy. Not because I understood the science behind any of it, but because all that was ringing through my head was my priesthood blessing. I trust my doctor, but I really trust my Heavenly Father.

He drew some blood and two weeks later he called me in for the results. I had a very high positive and all three anti-bodies, which surprised even my sweet doctor. The treatment is three different types of strong antibiotics for about a year.  He warned me that the treatments were hard and told me that I would get worse before I got better. He was right. I’ve been in more pain, I’m even more tired, I keep getting fevers, my stomach hurts all the time, and my muscles have been both spasming and locking up.

However, I am much luckier than his other patient with Lyme. He told me one of his patients has been having seizures and even had to have a feeding tube put in. I am truly blessed. Plus, with the amount of pain I’ve been in, Heavenly Father has been very merciful and has given me the grace to fulfill my responsibilities. I’m not really missing much work. I’m still able to care for my children. Not many people in my situation are as fortunate. Plus, finally after all these years I have hope.

In the meantime, life goes on. My children are growing so fast. Sarah was baptized. Rachel has started Young Womens, Dillon got his patriarchal blessing, and Neil starts kindergarten in the fall.

There has been progress in my life too. I’m 3/4 of the way through the revisions of my first novel. Plus, I’ve been learning SO much in my Scriptures. I’ve got a list of things I’m learning in the books of Mosiah and the Doctrine and Covenants that I can’t wait to share with you. Now that I’ve gotten a kind of schedule down with my treatments and keeping up with the house (sort of), I’ll be blogging again.

I wouldn’t mind your prayers over the next few months, not only for my healing, but for my first novel. I want to do a good job on it. I want it to bring enjoyment to the 10 and up crowd, but I also want it to give them a desire to be better people. Well, that is it for today. Look back toward the middle of next week for articles on what I’ve been learning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Article

I didn't have time to post this weekend, but I did give a talk on tithing that turned into an article (not about tithing). Meridian published it this morning. You should be able to just click on the Meridian link on the right-hand column to get to my author page, though that particular link breaks often. If you have trouble with it, just message me, or you can just go to ldsmag.com and do a search of my name.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

El Roi- The God Who Sees (or how to have fruit in a trial)

by Annmarie Worthington

hagar

Today I want to talk about another Hebrew name used for God—El Roi. We meet Him in Genesis 16 through the story of Hagar.

Hagar was the Egyptian maidservant of Sarai (Abram’s wife). This is before they became Abraham and Sarah. Sarai, frustrated with her inability to conceive, gave her maidservant to Abram as a second wife in the hope he could conceive through her.

Hagar did conceive. It must have been hard to be Hagar. Here you’re given to a man without much say in the matter. Now your pregnant. It is obvious Abram has no love for Hagar because he doesn’t seem to come to her aid in any tangible way later in the story.

Next Hagar begins to resent Sarai and Sarai begins to resent Hagar. Isn’t that just like human beings? We fight. We resent others. We’re jealous of our fellow beings. Sarai gives Abram an earful. What was Abram’s response?

“Thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee.” vs. 6

I already felt bad for Hagar. Now I feel worse. Really, Abram. “Thy maid”? You’re the one who married her and got her pregnant. Do you feel no responsibility toward her? She’s not just Sarai’s maid, she’s your wife.

As in many situations of jealousy, people are dealt with harshly. That is what happened to Hagar. In fact, Sarai treated Hagar so badly that she ran away. It must have taken a lot for her to run away. Think about it. A pregnant Egyptian servant running away. No money. No relations. Nowhere to go. There must have been serious provocation to get her to run away from her food and shelter.

While she was by a well, the angel of Jehovah approached her and asked her what she was doing. She admits running away from Sarai. Here He gives her a difficult command.

“Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.” vs. 9

He then promised to bless her seed exceedingly. She honored him and called him El Roi, the God who sees.

If you’ve ever been used for someone’s pleasure and then tossed aside, maybe you can relate to Hagar. Or maybe you’ve been mistreated in another way and wonder where the justice is. Few people will get through this life without being wronged by someone. I want to offer some help and comfort to you in those situations.

Hagar is right. Our God sees. He knows everything that has happened to you. His heart is full of compassion. The pain you feel; He feels. Just as the Savior wept at the graveside of His friend Lazarus, He weeps for your pain as well. He loves you.

Maybe you feel like He can’t love you because He let the person who harmed you get away with it. Believe me, they are not getting away with anything. They may have lied to the authorities and gotten away with it. They may have lied to the Bishop and gotten away with it. They cannot lie to God and get away with it. Psalm 139:7-12 shows that there is no place to hide from the eyes of God. He sees EVERYTHING.

One day we will all face the judgment seat of God. Even those who’ve harmed you. There they will not be able to “spin” their way out of just recompense, because God judges with a righteous judgment. He can truly do that because He has seen everything.

You may wonder why He doesn’t just go ahead and punish them right now. Why does He wait until eternity for complete justice to be meted out? Because, my beloved brothers and sisters, they are His children too. Maybe His punishment is delayed because He is working on their hearts. Maybe He wants to give them as much time as possible to repent. Think of how grateful you are for the forbearance of God on your behalf. Think of the times He’s given you opportunities to repent. Let’s offer that same compassion and grace to those that have harmed us.

Oh wouldn’t it be so much better to be able to join hands in eternity with those who’ve harmed us because they repented, then just to see them punished? Can you see how glorious that would be? How much praise and glory that would bring to the atonement!

But, what do we do in the meantime, when people are clinging to their sins and calling it righteous?

Hebrews 12:15 warns us, “Looking diligently…..lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.”

I know there are wicked people out there. I know people do many unrighteous deeds and hide them. But, be careful about becoming bitter. It only allows the perpetrators to harm you more.  A couple of years ago I was struggling with someone who was bringing me harm. For about a year or so, I tried to work out a way to maintain friendship, but it became increasingly difficult. One final act of unrighteousness pushed me over the edge and I decided this person could not be trusted and I’m safer away from the perpetrator.

I was devastated. The breach of trust was almost more than my worn out heart could bear. I cried out to God. I pleaded with Him to help me understand why. Shortly after that, my friend began having severe trials of their own. You’d think it would be tempting to think, Well, that’s what you get. But, that is not what my heart felt. Instead I felt sad. I don’t want vengeance. I want righteousness.

I noticed a change in my heart after that. Yes, I’m still devastated. Yes, I’m not sure I will ever completely trust someone again. Yes, my life has been 20 times harder as a result. But, I will not be bitter. Instead of just praying for God to deal with the person, I began praying for God to lead the person. To help them develop an honest heart. That has healed my heart more than I think any punishment could. Compassion is a healer all its own.

I want you to trust in El Roi. Trust in the God who sees all. Trust that He is dealing with it. Protect your heart from bitterness.

Let me share one more thing and then I promise I will shut up. Everything that God allows to happen to you, (and I do mean everything) is for your good. One of my favorite passages in Romans says this very well.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29

Each time I have had a trial and asked the question, “How can this make me more like His Son?” I’ve gotten wonderful answers from the Spirit. Even the trial I had over the last two years that I mentioned earlier, has produced wonderful fruit in my life. But, all the trial can do is plant the seed. It is up to us to make sure it does not develop a bitter root. It is up to us to make sure it produces beautiful fruit.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Elohim- Who Made Us

 

by Annmarie Worthington

space

No, I haven’t disappeared off the planet. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and whenever I think on my blog, I say things I shouldn’t. So, I’ve been thinking through some things in private, not allowing myself to blog. In the meantime, I’ve had some great Scripture studies I want to share with you.

I’ve been going through all the Hebrew names used for God in order to get to know my Heavenly Father and my Savior better. You can never spend enough study time learning about them. I’ve also been doing an in-depth study of Mosiah. But, that’s not done, so for now I’ll just bring up the names of God I’ve been learning.

The first one is Elohim. It is sometimes translated Almighty God or Creator. Elohim is taken from two Hebrew roots. The first is El which means mighty or strong. It is used in reference for any gods. The second root is him, which is essentially a plural ending. Its first occurrence in scripture is Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.”

Because of the plural ending, it really should have been translated “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth. You see futher evidence plurality in Genesis 1:26.

“Then God (Elohim) said, “Let Us make man in Our image….”

The Scriptures go into more detail about His creation of us in the Psalms.

“For thou hast possessed my reins (Hebrew=created my inward parts): Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.… I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

Some translations say, “…thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb”.

I’d been thinking about God as the maker of our bodies. Mostly because my body sometimes seems defective. I’m hypo-thyroid. Even with thyroid medicine my body doesn’t convert my T3 to T4 (or maybe it is the other way around) so I have to take two kinds of thyroid medicines. I also don’t convert my folic acid, so I have to take medicine for that, AND I have PSOD, so I have to take medicine for that.  It gets tiresome,  literally so, when my thyroid medicine isn’t working.

Does that mean that God wasn’t paying attention when he was forming my inward parts? Was He napping during the endocrine system section? No. I think He made me this way intentionally. As He does all of us. Why do I think that?

Look in Exodus 4:10-11

“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord?”

Moses was giving his reasons for not speaking to Pharoah. He had a speech impediment. Surely God wouldn’t call him to be a public speaker, let alone a national ambassador? Why yes, yes He would. Especially since He was the one who made Moses’s mouth. Therefore, if He called Moses to the task of speaking, Moses would be up to that task. Maybe he’d need God’s help, but he’d be able to accomplish what he was called to.

Why would God make Moses that way if He knew He’d need to speak? Maybe the better question is why does He make any of us “defective”. The answer is in John 9:2-3.

“And his disciples asked him, saying , ‘Master, who did sin , this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered , ‘Neither hath this man sinned , nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’”

Let me make a quick doctrinal tangent in this verse before I continue our topic. Notice that they asked him if this man had sinned. Yet, he was born blind. If he was born that way, when could he have possibly sinned? I’m so glad you asked.  This verse demonstrates that the disciples clearly believed in a pre-earth existence. There was no other opportunity for the man to sin before he was born. I know many evangelicals criticize  us for our belief in a pre-earth existence, saying it is mentioned nowhere in the Bible. I believe it is there, you just have to read the passages with an open mind.  Tangent over.

The Creator intentionally made this man blind. Why? To make manifest the works of God. His deformity was on purpose. It was easy to see how God would be made manifest in him. The world got to learn of the Savior’s healing power to restore his sight.

But, you might ask how the works of God can be made manifest in your or my defects. Not sure. I just know if He made you the way, He did it for a purpose. So, ask Him. You might be surprised at what He’ll accomplish in and through you BECAUSE of the various ways your body doesn’t cooperate with the norm.

I’m learning to rely on His grace. I also think people can see me rely on His grace. With my schedule (single mom, homeschooling, several jobs) people might be able to attribute any ability to keep up with all that by my being one of those lucky energetic, high metabolism people. But, with my physical issues, that is not only NOT the reason I accomplish what I do, it’s not possible. I truly am only able to do the things I do because I know my Heavenly Father called me to them and He will supply my needs. He is the one who lifts me up when I am so exhausted all I want to do is cry. He is the one who brings me comfort when I feel I’ve been asked to do too much alone. It has nothing to do with my energy and capabilities at all. I think that brings Him glory. When people ask me how I do it, I can truly answer, I don’t. He does.

I can’t wait to share with you some of the other names of God I’ve learned. But, this will have to do today.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When Heaven Seems Silent…

dark-heavens

I know it has been a while since I have posted. The children and I went a little over a month passing back and forth illnesses. It seemed like I could stay well for about two days before I fell victim to another ailment. I finally realized I was doing it to myself by trying to keep my normal schedule the moment I recovered, which would just send me back to square one.  After realizing I have to rest to recover, I am better. My house is a wreck, but I am healthy.

I have a topic today that I think all of us have faced at one point in our lives, seeming silence from heaven. Thankfully, I do not currently have this occurring in my life right now, but it has in the past and I’m sure will again. The most difficult time for me when this occurred was when I was investigating Mormonism. All the missionaries (and believe me, I went through quite a few of them) would tell me if I would just pray with a sincere heart, the Spirit would show me the truth of all things. Never was there a more sincere prayer on the earth. I begged. I pleaded. I wanted to know the truth. Yet, silence, was the only answer I received. He wasn’t even telling me it wasn’t true.

I was sure He wasn’t answering because their must be something wrong with me. I put a spotlight on my soul to search out anything that could be of offense to Him. I confessed every thing I could think of. I asked Him to show me the sins I hadn’t thought of. Yet, still silence. In this case, the silence was my fault. You see, Heavenly Father knew I wasn’t ready for the answer. I wanted the answer, but wasn’t ready for it. I went to a church that taught that God would allow people to be deceived in order to be vessels of wrath. My biggest fear was that I would become one of those. Deceived into believing Mormonism, in order to be an object lesson of wrath. There was so much fear in my heart, there was  no room for faith to penetrate.

Before God could answer the question I wanted the answer for, He had to show me who He really was. I had to learn that God really cared about me. I had to learn that He wasn’t the kind of parent who would lie to one of His children in order to fulfill some bigger universal, predetermined plan. I had to have faith in His character. That must have taken three years, because that is how long I prayed about the Book of Mormon and the LDS faith before I received a clear answer.

Does this mean God was silent that whole time until I learned that all important lesson? Not at all. He was there working in the background, arranging things to happen just as they needed to, in order for me to learn.

He does that for all of us. I want you to know, and really believe, that God is working in your heart and life at all times. Sometimes He is directly interacting with you through His Spirit, giving you direct communication and revelation. Other times He is working from the shadows. The book of Esther is a great example of this. Did you know that it is the only book in the entire Bible where God is not mentioned one time? It’s true. However, throughout the whole book He is there working in the shadows. Not only arranging the affairs of men, but making sure justice is dealt out as needed.  Sometimes with a  great sense of Irony, like when the wicked Haman is hung on the very gallows he had built to destroy Mordecai. The more I study this book, the more I fall in love with my Father in Heaven all over again.  The next time you read the book of Esther, note how much had to be divinely arranged to save the Israelites.

Though, we may know intellectually He is there and hasn’t forgotten us, there will be times in our lives that He seems silent. Today, I want to write four things that are helpful to me when that occurs.

1. Remember and re-count the history of God in the affairs of man.

Do you ever wonder why so many stories are repeated over and over in the Scriptures? It is for our benefit. To help us have something to bring to mind when we need it. Don’t just go over the affairs of God in the lives of the people in Scripture. Review His affairs in your life. I hope you write down important events that God has done for you, so you have something to look back on when your faith needs a push. If not, start today. Stop reading my puny blog and write down everything you can think of that God has ever done for you.

God is involved in your life, and He has promised to stay that way. One of my favorite Scriptures is Philippians 1:6

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hat begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

He is there and He is working.

2. Never forget who you are.

You are a son or daughter of the God of the universe. You are Heavenly Father’s spirit child brought forth before the foundation of the world. One day, you will return to be with Him.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2

3. Know that God is righteous in ALL His ways.

This is sometimes hard. The world is full of unrighteousness. Sometimes wicked things happen to righteous people. Does that mean God no longer loves us, or we are somehow not one of the children He pays much attention to? Absolutely not. Look at Matthew 7:11.

“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?”

We love our children more than our own lives. Yet our love is evil when compared with His great love. Think on how much more goodness that means He wants for us.

I used to think I must not be one of God’s important children because my life has not been an easy one. I wasn’t protected as a child the way some children are. As an adult I have faced equally heart breaking events. Was there something wrong with me? Did I disappoint my Father in the pre-earth existence? Not at all.

Everything Heavenly Father allows into our lives is filtered through His fingers of love. He doesn’t allow anything to come our way that He won’t give us the grace to endure. Why does He allow the hardships though?  Have you ever seen a toddler fall and struggle to get back up? What would happen if that child never fell? He would never develop all the necessary muscles to function in life. Difficulties make us strong. They make us more useful.

Doctrine & Covenants 122 goes over this quite well. Heavenly Father listed out all the tribulations Joseph Smith was to endure and why. I’ve already written a post on this, so I won’t bore you by repeating it. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here.

Another great passage that discusses this is Romans 8:28-29

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Every thing God allows into our lives is there for a purpose. It is designed to make us more like His Son Jesus Christ. It is preparing us for eternity.

4. Finally, remember that our faith is tested in the silence of God.

There is a verse in Psalms that I spent quite some time praying about its meaning. Yet, when the Spirit showed it to me, it was so obvious I wondered why I even needed to pray about it to begin with.

“The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men.” Psalm 11:4

I wanted to know what it meant that His eyelids try the children of men. I realized it meant that sometimes when it seems like God has his eyes shut to our dilemma, He is giving us an opportunity to grow our faith. We are tried by His closed eyes.  How can that grow our faith? It helps us rest in Him. To trust His character and His love. It' helps to show us if we follow the passage that says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  There is another passage in Doctrine & Covenants  that says, “Doubt not. Fear not.”  The seeming silence of Heaven shows if our heart is really ready to honor Him completely. Habakkuk puts it beautifully.

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” 3:17-19

Remember, that when the Heavens seem silent, they really only seem that way. Our Father is still on His throne. He, the Savior, and the Spirit are working as one in our lives. They are there. Trust in them.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

For Such a Time as This….

esther

     My children and I are currently going through the Book of Esther, using an in-depth inductive method. The Book of Esther is very special to me, because of the role it played in my investigation of Mormonism. It actually had nothing to do with me understanding LDS theology. Instead, it was special because is was a balm to my soul while I was feeling such torment, confusion, and loneliness. I drew strength from that young woman’s courage. I loved Esther’s heart, and her willingness to sacrifice herself for the Lord’s purposes.

     Now I’m getting to go through it again, but without the confusion my life held the last time. We’ll spend a week on the first two chapters. I’d say I’m about midway through that, and already I’m being reminded of why the book held such devotion in my heart those few years ago. Her loving submission to her Heavenly Father brings me comfort, strength, and courage.

     There is a point, later in the book, when Mordecai says to Esther, “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:15

     Her people were about to be destroyed, and her Uncle Mordecai, who raised her, was asking her to risk her life and appeal to the king. She related her fear, and the above passage was part of his response.

Here is what my heart is saying now:

     I once had a blessing that said, “You were held in reserve to come forth in the last dispensation…” I imagine many of you have had similar blessings given to you. We have been chosen “for such a time as this”. It is important we are well prepared. How much more prepared we will be if we dig into our Scriptures? Not with a heart that just wants to know more, but with a heart that wants to know HIM and what He wants us to do.

     I had one of the young single adults over for dinner last night. We spent some time talking about our faith and how to keep a testimony. I told her, the one thing that holds me fast, is not the fruit, good or bad, of those around me. I won’t be swayed by the disgusting or beautiful acts of others. Instead, it is the deepness and closeness I feel with my Heavenly Father and my dear, dear Savior, Jesus Christ that draws me and keeps me right where I am.

     Though I was faithful and devoted in my former church, and got to participate in many wonderful ministries, it doesn’t compare to the real relationship I feel with my Father now. I cherish knowing Him, and being in constant communication with Him.

     That being said, we are not here to merely lap in the luxury of the restored gospel. He has called us here at this time for a special purpose. Ask Him what it is. Pour yourself into your Scriptures to know Him better. But, do it with a heart willing to honor anything He asks, even if it is difficult. There are times I have done that beautifully, with grace. There are other times that, like a stubborn child hanging on to a favorite toy, I have said, “No, You can’t have this.” I’m always happier when submissive to the will of my Father, even when what He asks is painful and difficult.

     There is beauty, peacefulness, and confidence in knowing you’re doing exactly His will. As I read Esther 2 this morning, I fell in love with her gentle and quiet spirit all over again. I asked myself, knowing the rest of the book, if I will have the courage to do everything my Heavenly Father is asking of me. I think I can do nothing else, for nothing else will bring me the joy of communion with Him. I love my Heavenly Father, and want to make Him as proud of me as He must have been with Esther.

     Are we all willing to submit to everything His word and will asks, with the grace of Esther? Even if it is uncomfortable, or goes against new societal norms? When we read our Scriptures, do we respond like Nephi “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded…” I want to. He has a grand purpose we may not see until eternity. We were called to this portion of the plan. Let’s do it with the grace of Esther.