Saturday, January 28, 2012

For Such a Time as This….


     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.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Being Trained

by Annmarie Worthington


Well, it has been a while since I have taken the time to blog. My life keeps adding challenges, which makes free time hard to come by. That is actually my topic for today- challenges. I had a LONG talk with my Heavenly Father this week. Longer than most. I was kind of walking on tip toes because I decided to talk to him about something my sweet Bishop mentioned, that I was nervous about discussing with my Heavenly Father.

During our tithing settlement, (and let me just add I love tithing settlement. I feel such peace in those meetings and I get a few minutes to ask questions) Bishop said something about how he was reminding God to keep His promises. I asked, “Doesn’t that make Him angry?” He felt it didn’t, if done appropriately. I wondered if it were OK for me to talk to Him about some promises as well.

During my prayer, I gently brought up some things that were worrying me and some promises He had made to me in blessings I received and in Scripture. I was a little worried that maybe God wouldn’t be mad at a Bishop for being so bold, but for an average Joe (or in my case Josephine) to do so would be insulting. Instantly He brought to mind a passage in James that I had written a question about in my scripture journal.

I had written the following:

“James 1:5: This says God giveth to all men liberally and does not upbraid them for asking. This particular verse is talking about wisdom. I wonder if He feels the same way about asking for other things?”

He seemed to answer to my heart, that if the request or conversation was appropriate and not merely self serving, that He is happy to dialogue about things. Then He pointed out to me how I feel when my children come to me to talk about things that they wish were different. He reminded me I feel nothing but love and compassion for them. I felt assured my prayer was not offensive.

I asked Him about many things that evening. Some of them He gave clear answers on, and others He told me the answers would come in time. I wasn’t upset about that, because I felt my cup was already running over and if He gave me more I wouldn’t be able to contain it. There was, however, one question that had been lingering in my mind that I didn’t get to in that conversation, that I approached the next day.

There is a section in my patriarchal blessing that says I am being prepared for a specific task. I hope you don’t mind if I don’t share the task, because it is very sacred to me. I felt the task was beyond my abilities, but that wasn’t my question. I wondered how I was actually being prepared for it. All I see is a life full of challenges and struggles. A life often racked with hurt and betrayal. I asked Him when the preparation for the task He will eventually call me to would begin. He said it already had.

I didn’t fully understand the answer until this morning at stake conference. Our Stake President gave a talk that helped me understand how my challenges are my preparation.

He spoke about Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell’s experiences during his mission in 2005. There is a book about it called Lone Survivor, if you’re interested. As President Beheshti spoke about the Navy Seal training and covenants, the Spirit reminded me about something I had learned about Navy Seals this past year. I love studying history. You get a lot of military information when you do that because so much of the human experience is fought for and defended with the military. Toward the end of their training there is something called Hell Week. If they make it through that, they are ready to be Navy Seals. It is torture. Very few men make it all the way through seal training. Not many men are strong enough to even make it to hell week. Of those that do, many can’t make it through that week and drop out.

I felt like the Lord was telling me the challenges are my preparation. Sort of like Hell Week, but not quite as excruciating.  Each experience is specifically designed to fit me for my task. I thought through some of the challenges I faced in this last few years and at that moment, in stake conference, could specifically list for you which qualities I was supposed to develop as a result of each challenge.  It was instant and detailed illumination, for which I am extremely grateful.

I think I will face my challenges differently now. Instead of wondering how I’m going to get through something, I think I’m going to list out what character I can develop instead. Then, it gives me something even better than surviving to shoot for during my struggles.

When I mentally scanned through my list of experiences and saw what I could have learned, I was concerned that maybe I had not learned all those lessons as well as I could have. However, now that I see them for what they should have been, I have a firmer resolve to succeed. President Beheshti asked us at the beginning of his talk to examine what our commitment to Jesus Christ is. He also gave some quotes from the Seal handbook. Two I jotted down were:

“I am a common man with an uncommon determination to succeed.”

and “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity.”

I think when we have a real commitment to our Savior Jesus Christ, we will be confident to say the same things about our walk. I know I have a greater trust that He is indeed working ALL things for my good. Every human experience I have, whether pleasant or challenging, can be used to make me more like my Savior and ready for whatever task He has for me. I will try to remember that my challenges are my preparation.