Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Youth

This past month I had the amazing opportunity of going to girls' camp for the first time. No, I'm definitely not in the "young women" category anymore, but I was able to tag along as a camp director for the group. Because I am a convert to our church, I did not participate in the youth programs growing up, so this camp was a totally new experience and reinforced to me the incredible opportunities for learning the church provides. In our small group there were many leaders there donating their time and talents to teach the girls in simple ways. Long sermons weren't preached, volumes weren't read, but the girls were able to learn more about the gospel from short lessons and from watching great women and men serve them.

I am so grateful for a church that has standards for its' members to live by (please see For the Strength of Youth which is a publication given to the youth of our church clearly explaining our standards of living). And, I'm especially grateful for a church that teaches these principles to the children and youth. In a world that is full of terrifying events and trends, it is comforting to know that by teaching, learning, and adhering to gospel standards our children can be more safe in an unpredictable society. I know that programs like Young Women's are inspired and led by a loving Heavenly Father who wants us and our children to succeed in this life.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Heavenly Creature

C.S. Lewis said in his book, Mere Christianity, "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other."

I love this quote. I have used it often in lessons and talks. We have a lot of guidelines as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but these "rules" or guidelines are not designed to make us feel guilty. They are designed as a tool to help us in our search to become a heavenly creature. I personally have a desire to become like my Savior, but for me - it is not because I hope to be saved or that I will earn the stamp of approval by our Father in Heaven, but rather because it feels right. It feels good. It feels like... joy! An indescribably sweeter emotion than just being happy.

And feeling this joy makes the choices to be more forgiving, more humble, more selfless, to keep my body clean from substances that cloud my spirit (food, tobacco, pornography, or drink), to serve in the church, etc... this feeling of joy makes all of these choices easy because I can feel them shaping me into a better person than I was before. It's not about what I will get, what consequences I will face, or where I will end up after this life. It’s about the type of creature I am becoming and it just feels right to be FREE of baggage, guilt, hatred, and revenge through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

I am weak and I make poor choices every day, but I testify that the perspective I have gained from really understanding the gospel has brought me joy. It has brought me peace. And it has brought me knowledge, confidence, and wisdom. And I think my Father in Heaven would be proud of that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's okay to fall off the balance beam.

I love gymnastics. I also love the Olympics. This has resulted in me staying up late every night for about a week watching Olympic gymnastics, with a few more late nights to come. Gymnasts fall a lot. They fall when they're learning new skills, they fall when they get tired, they fall even in huge competitions. But look at what they are trying to do. A double-twisting, double somersault or a one-arm swing on the high bar, or basically anything on the balance beam or pommel horse. They are reaching for greatness.

Theodore Roosevelt said "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged "[Y]ou may make some mistakes. So what? We all make mistakes. The important thing is the growth that will come of activity. . . . Be willing to accept new challenges, and trust that the Lord will help you be equal to them. If you get discouraged, ask for help. But don't give up. As you keep trying you will find that your abilities increase."

We are all going to fall. How grateful I am that the Lord is there to help us get back up. The atonement of Jesus Christ covers our mistakes and our stumbling so long as we look to him, and do what he asks of us. He doesn’t care that we fall every time we take a step, or try to do a double backflip in piked position, what he cares about is that we are striving to better ourselves and to draw nearer to him.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Clean Slate

Have you ever been left with an unsettled feeling after you've made a mistake? It might have been a big fault or a small one, a misdeed long past or a recent blunder, but a feeling of unease often means that we know we can and should be doing better than we have done.

But, how can we change and restart on the right path? A loving Father in Heaven has given us a way that we can forsake our mistakes and begin again. By repenting, or turning away from our shortcomings and drawing closer to God, we can feel whole again and regain peace in our lives. I have personally felt the worry and weight of misdeeds and I have also felt the calm and safe feelings that repentance brings. I am still very far from the person I want to be, but I know that I can always try to do better through the gift of repentance. So many are burdened by past problems, but all can move past the anxiety of the world and grow closer to our Heavenly Father by cleaning our slates and changing our lives for the good.

"Joy shall be in heaven over one ... that repenteth." --Luke 15:7

"Each one of us is commanded to both repent and to call upon God continually throughout life. That pattern allows each day to be an unspoiled page in the book of life, a new, fresh opportunity. We are given the rejuvenating privilege of overcoming mistakes of commission or omission, be they small or profoundly serious. Full repentance results in forgiveness with spiritual renewal." -- Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Path to Peace and Joy,” Ensign, Nov 2000

Monday, August 4, 2008

Eternal Families

I wanted to write a little about eternal relationships in the Gospel in a humorous sort of way. I hope it doesn't detract from the spirit of this blog.

Evan and I just had our 9th Anniversary and he gave me a booklet of "10 Classic Love Poems" that he wrote. You can guess he had me laughing. I want to share one with you all.

Eternity - It's Longer Than You Think

My career will last 45 years which is long enough for me
I could cut it short and do something else, but I don't know what else I could be.

Raising a kid can take a score, or two if they just won't move out
But our kids are good and will want to move out unless they get sick with the gout.

But a marriage is a weird sort of thing, 'cuz if done right it will never end
And so we work and we laugh, and try to do what is right, and on each other we learn to depend.

So we've made it 9 years so far, which is 1 bizzilionth of the way
So we have far to go but I'm not concerned because marriage with you is like play

And so I think we should stick it out, it can only get better from here
Because life together is better than candy, French fries, and a six pack of beer.

I guess you have to know Evan to get his sense of humor, but I am grateful to be married to him and for the good man that he is and is becoming. I look forward to going further than "to death do you part" with him.