Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To the New Year

Today I read this inspiring quote from Marianne Williamson (A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3 (Pg. 190-191)). I not only thought it was amazing but very appropriate for the New Year and resolutions that come along during this time.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In Shepherds’ Field

In Shepherds’ Field
By Annie Tintle

While attending Brigham Young University, I studied in Jerusalem with approximately 170 students during the fall of 1998. As the Christmas season approached, we began to focus our studies and field trips around the birth of the Savior.

It was cool and windy the evening that 40 of us pulled up to our last and most anticipated stop for the day. Tradition held that Shepherds’ Field, located just outside of Bethlehem, was the place where the ancient shepherds sat watching sheep on the night of the Savior’s birth, never anticipating what would soon be proclaimed to them.

The field was nothing like I had imagined. I saw a terraced hill with hardly any greenery. We walked down a rocky path, and each of us found a quiet place to sit and write in our journals. I finally found a large rock to sit on. It was cold, uncomfortable, and surrounded by thorns.

When we were told we would be able to see the local shepherds and their sheep, I wasn’t prepared to see children in rags. But even though they were dressed in worn, secondhand clothing, their eyes were bright. Open-palmed, they approached our group’s chaperone. After asking the children their names, she gave each one a few shekels. One of the children carried a newborn lamb. He approached me and offered to let me hold it.

As I took the warm baby lamb in my arms, I began to see the situation differently. The Savior knew about the life of a shepherd. He knew about the cold nights, rocky trails, and danger of thieves and predators. He knew shepherds sometimes held the baby lambs in their arms, standing watch while waiting for the darkness to pass.

While the Wise Men were able to bring the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the shepherds could offer little in the way of material gifts. Their sacrifice was simply in coming to offer humble hearts and joyful spirits in partaking in the celebration of their infant Lord.

The Savior has brought the gift of joy to our cold and dreary world. He has promised to stand watch through the long, dark night, despite the terrors and hardships this life can bring. He knows us, His sheep. He is our Shepherd.

That night, for the first time, I began to understand the promise in the gift of our Savior.

Annie Tintle's, “In Shepherds’ Field,” appears in the Ensign, Dec. 2008 on page 19.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Trees - A Christmas Story

I recently heard this beautiful story at a Christmas concert and thought you might enjoy it too. Sadly, I cannot find who wrote it, but I love it's beautiful message and how it reminds us of the true meaning of this season. Merry Christmas!

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven andthink of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world." Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall.

One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" The first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. "I wish I could make a cradle for him." her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful." she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler feel asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Light of Christ

One of our favorite things to do this Christmas season is to walk through our neighborhood at night to see the lights on the houses. It's amazing to walk through the darkness until you reach a decorated house that lights up the street. My kids also love to turn on the christmas tree lights in our own home. Even though it is a smaller tree it still lights up our living room.

Recently, Elder Uchdorf spoke on this topic of lights at Christmas. He mentioned that our Savior Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this time of year, is the "Light of the world." In the Doctrine and Covenants we read "And now, remember the words of him who is the life and light of the world, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God." Now when I look at the christmas lights I am reminded of my Savior whose humble birth, perfect life, and incredible sacrifice make it possible for me to find my way through mortality and return to live with my family forever in the presence of my Heavenly Father. I'm very grateful for his sacrifice on our behalf. I'm grateful for this time of year that helps us to remember Him, to turn our thoughts to Him, and to become more like him. I know as we strive to become more like him the light within us will grow stronger and brighter as well.


Just a few days ago I shared our visiting teaching message with a couple of sisters. While I was pondering over the thoughts and quotes we would share, President Uchtdorf's word's suddenly meant so much more than I had ever thought.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what appears at times to be an unbearable burden or weakness. The Lord knows your circumstances and your challenges. He said to Paul and to all of us, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ And like Paul we can answer: ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)” (“Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2007, 19).

I had once assumed that Ether 12: 27 meant that the more we work at something, the better we will get at it, until it is no longer a weakness for us, but a strength. And that's part of it. But the other part, the part I was missing was the role of the Savior. We all have our weaknesses, but only with the help of the Savior can we overcome them. Through our weaknesses, Christ makes up the rest and fills in the holes that would potentially keep us from exaltation. We are perfected through him. What a great opportunity it is for us to learn and to draw closer to the Savior through our struggles and imperfections!

At this time of year and in these difficult times it seems so hard sometimes to remain positive and have a good attitude about the future. But our knowledge of a Savior and His Atonement are reason to rejoice and remember "there is hope smiling brightly before us."

I Don't Know Why I Did It

My mom wrote this poem for a program in their ward. I thought this would be the perfect place to share it. Merry Christmas!

I Don’t Know Why I Did It

I don’t know why I did it
For someone such as he.
He’d surely get a lickin’
Had I only let things be.

A younger brother needs to know
That rules must be obeyed;
That chores must be completed
Before the games are played.

But father was so busy
Keeping up the Inn
To know where Jake was going,
Nor care where Jake had been.

There were so many people
I had my work to do,
I don’t know why I did it—
He should be working too.

But then I felt a prompting
Something deep within,
To look inside the stable
Behind our crowded Inn.

I tried to just ignore it,
To push the thought away.
If Jacob wasn’t working,
It’d be his price to pay.

The feeling was still nagging,
I could think of nothing more.
So pulling on my woolen wrap
I slipped out the back door.

It was as I suspected,
The chores weren’t getting done.
All the troughs were empty
While Jake was having fun.

I don’t know why I did it—
I should have turned him in,
But then I started feeling
That prompting once again.

I should have been unhappy
To do the extra chore,
Since my brother Jacob,
I did the favor for.

But something came upon me
The room was filled with awe.
The feeling was intensified
When I touched the straw.

I filled the manger to the top
And my heart burned within
What was it with this simple straw
That let this feeling in?

When the job was finished,
I paused to say a prayer,
To thank my Heavenly Father
For sending me out there.

That night my father sat us down
To tell us he was proud
Of how we did our chores that day
And managed the big crowd.

He said he had to turn away
A mother large with child,
But offered her and Joseph
The stable for a while.

I saw my little brother
A tear was welling up.
I knew what he was thinking
His chores were never done.

I don’t know why I did it,
But I pulled Jacob near,
And told him that I loved him
And that he needn’t fear.

The stars shone extra bright that night;
I found it hard to rest,
Jacob must have felt the same
For he crept into my bed.

He snuggled up real close to me
And closed his little lids.
I don’t know why I did it—
But I’m so glad I did.

~Jeanie Davis

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Joy to the World

Our church has some wonderful, short videos, that simply teach about the true meaning of Christmas. If you haven't had a chance to see some of these, check out this link to request your free copies of great shows like Joy to the World, or Mr. Krueger's Christmas (starring Jimmy Stewart).

What are some ways that you teach others (children/neighbors) about the Savior's birth?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Money Help

Because of two little "helpers" that I have as my almost-constant companions, I don't usually get to hear much of the Sacrament Meeting talks. But, for some reason (most likely because we had grandparents with us to entertain the troops) this week things were unusually calm and I subsequently came away very much uplifted and humbled by what I heard.

One of the speakers taught about how he had seen the direct blessings of tithing, fast offerings, and other donations. In our church, we are taught that 10% of our increase should be given as tithing and that once a month as we fast we should give the money that would have gone to food as fast a offering. When possible, we are encouraged to give more that the basic amount because of the need for fast offerings to assist those that need help. Other donations can be made to various programs the church offers.

The brother that spoke told of how fast offerings of the members of his congregations had once helped their family get food in their cupboards during a time when money was scarce. Seeing this sacrifice from his neighbors made him profoundly appreciate the Lord's system to care for those that are in need.

However, the story that made me feel even more grateful for the things that I have been given and the ways that I can help others was one from his mission in Russia. During his time in Siberia he had the opportunity to translate for two senior humanitarian missionaries. One day they visited an orphanage and what he saw was truly appalling: children who didn't have beds, clothes, or enough food. Twenty to thirty babies in a room who were silent because they knew that their cries could not be answered because of extremely limited staff (the orphanage director tearfully explained that new babies would cry straight for almost 3 days until they realized that no regular help would be coming). The young missionary was overwhelmed, but the seasoned missionaries calmly made a list and left for the day. Because of the humanitarian funds of the church, all three missionaries were able to return to that orphanage with the desperately needed supplies. He described how this sweet couple were treated as celebrities because of their generous help, and this was all possible because faithful people from all over the world donate funds to church programs.

I know that Heavenly Father has given us a way that we can help others with the resources that we have. Through paying our tithing, fast offerings, and donating to other programs when possible, we can not only learn to appreciate how everything comes from the Lord, but we can demonstrate that we are willing to strengthen our neighbors - even if that neighbor might be thousands of miles away.