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


~Psalm 119:103


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Divinely Possible


On Monday morning, my alarm went off at five o'clock, just as I had intended. Although I'm not a morning person, I had to get my son to the school early so he could do a make-up timed run for his fitness class, which ironically enough, he'd missed by participating in the region championship cross-country race.

I had started the weekend physically and emotionally exhausted. Though I had tried to re-charge by sleeping late on Saturday morning, an emotionally taxing phone call and the realization that I'd forgotten about an impending deadline just raised my stress level higher. Having decided to "just keep swimming," I had made some progress - but I was still tired and worn out.

As I sat on the edge of my bed trying to gather the strength to start my day, I quickly reviewed the calendar. "We need to leave the house by 6:30," I thought, "or as close to that as humanly possible."

Almost immediately the thought entered my mind that nothing was "humanly possible." Not one item on my to-do could be accomplished by relying on my human abilities. Yet, with God all things were possible (see Luke 1:37).

My son and I could leave the house by as close to 6:30 as divinely possible.

"Help, please," I prayed.

And His grace was sufficient (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Grace Shall Be As Your Day"
Out of the Best Books No. 6



Emily Freeman loves the word of God like I do, and I find so many of her insights immensely valuable. In this short book, she outlines six lessons to help us as we wait for the answers or the miracles we need, according to the Lord's promise:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised (Jeremiah 33:14).

My favorite of the lessons is Recognize and Remember His Mercy. The hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints" contains the line grace shall be as your day. In other words, "Grace will be given as your day requires." The hymn "How Firm a Foundation" teaches this same principle: "As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be." Says Emily:
I believe in a God who continually ministers to His people. ... A friend told me that in Finnish the phrase tender mercies is written lempeät armoteot, which translates directly as "gentle works of grace." I love that translation. The Lord is tender and gentle in His ministry to us.

The Lord very literally poured out blessings from heaven on the children of Israel. "Behold, I will rain bread from heave for you; ... in the morning bread to the full; ... and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God" (Exodus 16:4, 8, 12). He will pour out blessings on us too. "I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those who He hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance" (1 Nephi 1:20).

Great power comes from recognizing and remembering the hand of God in our lives. Henry B. Eyring taught, "[As] we come to see the hand of God more clearly ... in time we not only remember Him, but we come to love Him and, through the power of the Atonement, become more like Him" ("O Remember, Remember," General Conference, October 2007).

A related lesson is Trust God's Heart. Emily writes about the quote that hangs on the wall of her mother's bedroom:

When you can't see God's hand,
trust His heart.

Words that we can cling to when find ourselves wondering about God's purposes can be found in the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans:
If God be for us, who can be against us? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:31, 35, 37).

Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year was to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Art Thou Greater Than He?"
Out of the Best Books No. 5



Accompanied by a CD of three songs, this little book by singer-songwriter Kenneth Cope presents, in about twenty pages, the lyrics to his song "Greater Than Us All" with added pictures, quotes, and scriptural references. The back cover of the book summarizes the context of the song like this:
Long before Calvary and the crown of thorns, before Bethlehem, or Israel, or even Eden, Jesus demonstrated His matchless love.

I was not familiar with the song prior to reading through the book, but the lyric that I found most meaningful as I read and listened was this one:
Every heart felt of His love / For us He'd come

The accompanying scripture is 1 John 4:19: "We love Him, because He first loved us." What a magnificent expression of Jesus's love was evident in His willingness to become our Teacher, our Exemplar, our Savior, and our Redeemer! Because of His perfect love, He is greater than us all - which enables us to rely upon Him in our sorrows, our sins, our pains, and our afflictions (see Alma 7:11-13).

In D&C 122:8 is recorded the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

In other words, nothing we can ever experience, no trial we must ever endure is greater than Jesus's power to comfort and heal! He is always with us!

Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year was to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Thirsty Are You?
Out of the Best Books No. 4



In The Woman at the Well, Emily Freeman retells the well-known story found in John 4:5-42 of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at Jacob's well. Told from the viewpoint of the woman, whom Freeman calls Maya from mayim, the Hebrew word for water, the account draws on the writings of Alfred Edersheim, Frederic W. Farrar, and James E. Talmage. Illustrated by the beautiful paintings of Simon Dewey, the book emphasizes that the feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy that we all sometimes experience can be healed through the living water that comes from the One who knows us and every detail of our lives. He can teach us what we need to know and can quench our thirst if we are but willing to drink.

Whosoever drinketh of the water
that I shall give [her] shall never thirst:
but the water that I shall give [her]
shall be in [her] a well of water
springing up into everlasting life"
(John 4:14).

"The Lord provides the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those who lives are parched by a drought of truth. As at Jacob's well, so today the Lord Jesus Christ is the only source of living water."
          - Joseph B. Wirthlin (1995)
"The Atonement can fill that which is empty, straighten our bent parts, and make strong that which is weak."
          - Bruce C. Hafen (1990)

Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year is to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Prayer Changes Us
Out of the Best Books No. 3



"I pray because I can't help myself.
I pray because I'm helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time,
waking and sleeping.
It doesn't change God. It changes me."
― C.S. Lewis

I've been reading Anne Lamott's words for many years - and even occasionally writing about them (such as here and here). They touch me and inspire me and comfort me.

Anne Lamott's three prayers, she writes, are "variations on Help, Thanks, Wow. That's all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward."

Two of my favorite passages in the Thanks section are these:
  • Grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.
  • My pastor Veronica says that God always makes a way out of no way. This means that at some point, often against all odds, we will say "Thanks." Now, Veronica is paid to have faith, but even I - who am not paid to have faith - know that this is true. I don't always believe it, but I know it is true.

I loved so much of the Wow section! Lamott introduces it this way:
When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we're finally starting to get somewhere. It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect and how it all hangs together. When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it's down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is "Wow," that's a prayer.

Here are some other great Wow prayer thoughts:
  • Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. That's why they call it breathtaking.
  • Even though I often remember my pastor saying that God always makes a way out of no way, periodically something awful happens, and I think that this time God has met Her match - a child dies, or a young father is paralyzed. Nothing can possibly make things okay again. ... But people don't bolt, and at some point the first shoot of grass breaks through the sidewalk.
  • Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention: mangoes, grandnieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible. If you say, "Well, that's pretty much what I thought I'd see," you are in trouble.
  • Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.
  • Sometimes - oh, just once in a blue moon - I resist being receptive to God's generosity, because I'm busy with a project and trying to manipulate Him or Her into helping me with it, or with getting my toys fixed or any major discomfort to pass. But God is not a banker or a bean counter. God gives us even more, which is so subversive. God just gives, to us, to you and me. I mean, look at us! Yikes.
  • God keeps giving, forgiving, and inviting us back. My friend Tom says this is a scandal, and that God has no common sense. God doesn't say, "I have had it this time. You have taken this course four times and you flunked again. What a joke." We get to keep starting over.
  • If we stay where we are, where we're stuck, where we're comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you're dying. You're saying: Leave me alone; I don't mind this little rathole. It's warm and dry. Really, it's fine.

Lamott ends the book with a few thoughts about Amen. "The Amen," she says, "is only as good as the attitude. If you are trying to finish up quickly so you can check your cell phone messages, you are missing the chance to spend quiet moments with the giver of life and the eternal, which means you may reap continued feelings of life racing along without you."

I love this counsel from Alma to his son Helaman regarding prayer:
Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day (Alma 37:37).

It's all in that one verse: Learning to trust God. Honoring Him. Loving Him. Help. Thanks. Wow.

Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year is to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#compassion
Out of the Best Books No. 2



Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness is a slightly expanded version of a commencement speech given by George Saunders at Syracuse University on May 11, 2013.

This year I am reading and discussing Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life with the Book Buddies. (Here is a link to our online discussions.) Part of that process for me is a search for written reminders about what compassion is and how to exercise it in the world around me. When I've shared via social media some of the things I've discovered, I've used the hashtag #compassion.

This entire book warrants that hashtag. Here are a few of Saunders' thoughts:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
It's a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I'd say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul, if you will - is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare's, bright as Gandhi's, bright as Mother Teresa's. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret, luminous place. Believe that it exists, come to know it bettr, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

If I truly want to be in apprenticeship to Jesus - trying to become as He is - then learning and practicing compassion is vital!

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions
every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart (Zechariah 7:9-10).

“Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”
― J.M. Barrie


Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year is to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Feeling God's Love
Out of the Best Books No. 1



I am a fourteen-towel women
in a ten-towel-capacity life.

In Confessions of an Unbalanced Woman, Emily Watts describes her quest for "balance" - and then the epiphany that she doesn't actually want balance. Instead, she writes, "I want to find the one thing in my life that, if I get that right, it doesn't matter what the world throws onto the other side of the scale. It won't make any difference at all."

She found descriptions of that one thing in the scriptures:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
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 (Moroni 10:32).
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).

That one thing, then, is love - God's love for us and our love for God.

Two of the several ideas Emily shares for feeling God's love in daily life are these:
    Reverse your buts. A trick she learned in a management seminar, it works this way. Instead of thinking, "I love you, but you're driving me crazy." try thinking, "You're driving me crazy, but I love you." Or instead of "I have a great job, but it's really stressful." try "It's really stressful, but I have a great job." Isn't it amazing how different that feels?
    Utilize the simple, three-step formula in D&C 90:24. 1) Search diligently for evidences of God's love. 2) Pray always. 3) Be believing. "Believe that your search is not in vain. Believe that you will find what you're looking for. Believe that [God's love] is there for you personally - not just as some abstract concept but as the most intimate, knowledge-filled, careful love you could ever know. Believe that if the Lord spoke to you today he would call you by name. He knows you that well." God's promised response to this formula is "And all things shall work together for your good" (D&C 90:24).

The words of Jesus to Martha in Luke 10:41-42 have been an answer to my prayers in the past - and they serve as a reminder of Emily Watt's message:
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Note of Explanation: Part of my 10-week plan for summer this year is to read one short, inspirational book each Sunday afternoon and ponder on what I can learn from it. This blog post represents part of my efforts to do that.