"How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth."

~Psalm 119:103

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Peace, Be Still"
(Mark 4:39)

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is found in Mark 4. He and some of His disciples have boarded a ship to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is sleeping when a great storm arises. Fearful of the possible outcome, the disciples wake Jesus, asking with anxiousness, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?"

Jesus arises and rebukes the wind with the command "Peace, be still." The wind ceases, and a calmness settles over the water - and over the disciples.

Pacific Ocean. December 2011.

According to the Bible Dictionary, miracles are "an important element in the work of Jesus Christ, being not only divine acts, but forming also a part of the divine teaching." This point is beautifully illustrated by Jesus's calming of the sea - for not only can He calm the water but also He can calm our troubled hearts, our agitated minds, our tempestuous lives.

In 1874, Mary Ann Baker penned the words to the still-popular hymn "Master, the Tempest is Raging" following a period of tumult in her own life after the death of her brother. She said:
I became wickedly rebellious at this dispensation of divine providence. I said in my heart that God did not care for me or mine. But the Master’s own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart, and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust.
As the refrain of the hymn wonderfully asserts:
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey my will.
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
What a promise it is that no waters can swallow the ship - or hinder a goal or destroy a family or overcome a faith - in which Jesus is present!

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Repent Ye"
(Matthew 3:1-2)

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The Greek word translated as repent denotes a change of heart or mind. In other words, the result of repentance is conversion.

At the conclusion of his final address to his people, King Benjamin acknowledged the "mighty change in [them], or in [their] hearts, that [they had] no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). He described the change this way:

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).

People sometimes assert that a leopard can't change its spots, meaning that one cannot change his or her essential nature. This is true. In our efforts to change who we are, willpower and self-discipline are effective only up to a point. A leopard can't change its spots. But Jesus Christ can change a leopard's spots - and He can change us!
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thoughts on EJ's Baptism Day

My nephew EJ was baptized this morning, along with another eight-year-old boy. The room was packed with the family and friends of these two young boys, including my extended family - EJ's mom is my baby sister Elicia - and the families of both EJ's dad and EJ's new step-dad.

So much love in one room!

"Having Been Commissioned of Jesus Christ"
(D&C 20:73)

When I heard those words in the baptismal prayer today, I was struck by the immensity of God's love for us. His power is on the earth today because Jesus Christ bestowed the keys of His priesthood on Peter, James, and John, and that same authority has been passed down through the laying on of hands to those who hold the priesthood now - including EJ's dad, who baptized him. That God is willing to share His power with us, His children, is a wonderful blessing!

"Receive the Holy Ghost"

Following his baptism, by the authority of the priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, EJ was confirmed a member of the Church and told, "Receive the Holy Ghost." Each of us must strive in our daily lives to actually receive the Holy Ghost, as Elder David A. Bednar explained in an October 2010 address. How amazing to know that a member of the Godhead can actually be our "constant companion" (D&C 121:46) - a guide, a teacher, a comfort, a friend!

So much love!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keeping My Covenants

I have sworn by myself,
the word is gone out of my mouth
in righteousness,
and shall not return,
That unto me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear
(Isaiah 45:23).

Yea, every knee shall bow,
and every tongue confess before him
(Mosiah 27:31).

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me, and
every tongue shall confess to God
(Romans 14:11).

"Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ." This phrase - based on scriptural references - is committed to my memory. I love the imagery invoked by the phrase - the feeling of humility, the sense of being ready to worship the Master and be taught by Him. I can picture myself falling to my knees at the Savior's feet at His Second Coming. I can see myself worship the Lord as He ushers in His millennial reign. I can visualize the mass of humanity accepting Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

What I didn't imagine until recently is that this phrase applies to the here-and-now just as readily as to some distant day. Today I can kneel and pray to the Father in Jesus' name. Today I can worship the Lord in my thoughts, in my words, in my actions. Today I can "[choose] that good part" (Luke 10:42) and "always remember Him" (D&C 20:77, 79). As I bow my knee and confess with my tongue that Jesus is the Christ, He will bless me with His spirit - and He will help me to keep the covenants I have made with Him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Because of the Covenant"
(Mosiah 5:7-8)

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

The message of the second chapter of 21 Days Closer to Christ by Emily Freeman is "Covenant." As I've been pondering this theme over the past week or so, the topic of "covenants" has presented itself to me several times.
  • Last Friday, I participated in a sealing session at the temple, and the sealer referenced a scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants.
    Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old (D&C 66:2).
    The point of the scripture (at least one of its points) is that the term "everlasting covenant" means the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beyond that, though, I love the "why" as explained in this verse, that is, the reason that we make and keep covenants is so we can have life (and have it fully)!
  • The lesson in the women's meeting at church on Sunday referenced an address by Elder Russell M. Nelson from General Conference in October 2011. The title of that talk is "Covenants." Here is a passage I particularly like:
    When we realize that we are children of the covenant, we know who we are and what God expects of us. His law is written in our hearts. He is our God and we are His people. Committed children of the covenant remain steadfast, even in the midst of adversity.
    Interestingly, those ideas correlate to some of what I've been thinking about as I've read Ann Voskamp's beautiful book about experiencing God's grace through gratitude One Thousand Gifts.
  • In Sunday School - which I taught - we discussed the "knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God" (1 Nephi 1:1) that comes to us as we recognize the hand of the Lord in our daily lives. One of the scriptures we read was 1 Nephi 14:14.
    And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.
    What great blessings can be ours if we keep our covenants!
  • In 2 Nephi 3:4, we find the sentence "And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph." We recently read this chapter aloud together as a family, and I was reading when we got to this verse. As I read, my voice voice began to waver, and my eyes filled with tears. (My family is used to that kind of reaction from me!) What this sentence had brought to memory was the song "Close Every Door" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That song is my favorite song in one of my most favorite musicals - and my favorite line is "children of Israel are never alone." Truly, the covenant people of the Lord are never alone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Come Unto Me"
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I am reading two books right now that I hope will help me to expand my personal experience with Jesus Christ in 2012. The first is 21 Days Closer to Christ by Emily Freeman, which I plan to read over 21 weeks (instead of days). The second is Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver, which includes a 12-week companion Bible study. The message of the opening chapters of both books is the same. "Come."

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him (Mark 1:16-18, emphasis added).

Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour (John 1:38-39, emphasis added).

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God (Moroni 10:32, emphasis added).

Like Jesus' friend Martha, I often find myself "careful and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:41). I must remember "but one thing is needful" (Luke 10:42). I can forsake my "nets" - time constraints, daily chores, work demands, worldly pursuits, and feelings of inadequacy and fear - and choose "that good part, which shall not be taken away from [me]" (Luke 10:42). I can "come and see"!

Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me (D&C 19:23).