Thursday, January 31, 2008

31 January - Do You See Your Calling?

Reality is Redemption … I’m trying to get my head around that one. I can see that Gospel is the abiding reality. I can understand that redemption is a vital need, but I’m not certain how to make the leap from the need of redemption to redemption being reality to reality being redemption. If anyone gets that first paragraph of today’s devotion, let me know.

However, I can catch the vision that we cannot … should not … get too wrapped up in what redemption does for ourselves. Could I get to the point in my own life that I lived in “reckless abandon” to God … do I want to? The phrase “reckless abandon” could be changed to “uncontrolled forsaking” and yes, that is something I very much want to learn to do. Perhaps it is not the learning that is the issue. Perhaps it is the application of the knowledge that is lacking.

I think we all conceptually know that we are to “let go and let God,” but we have difficulty applying critical thinking to the model and actually taking action on the belief. If we let go of ourselves, without concern for how the Redemption changed us, and only focused on how the Redemption changed others, how different a people would we be? And I wonder if we change the word “redemption” to “atonement” how that changes the perception of our responsibility and our reality.

Ah, that’s it … Atonement is Reality. Nothing else would exist were it not for the Atonement. We don’t exist without it because if there were not One willing to make that great and eternal sacrifice, then there would not be a reason to come to Earth, gain a body, be tried, tested and proved, and return, through the grace of a Savior, to live with our Father. The Plan would have been thwarted from the very beginning.

So, taking that one step further, we don’t need to see what the Atonement does for us as much as we need to see, and be instruments of bringing Christ’s Atonement to others. As we become the workers in the Kingdom … to build it and establish it’s righteous … we can share the knowledge of the Atonement with others. Our greatest responsibility is not to build our own mansion, but to help others find their own … because the Lord has already prepared them for us.

How will I “uncontrollably forsake” myself to the Lord today?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

30 January - The Dilemma of Obedience

I have to say that I usually don't look at a challenge, crisis or chastening as an opportunity to say, "I'm listening, Lord." I'm quite often running the other direction and ducking for cover, or railing against God and His silly plan. But today, I had a small challenge at work that last week I would have taken completely personally, whined and complained (even if only to myself) and sulked like a two year old. But this time, I stopped and said, "What's my opportunity here?" Not quite the same as "Yes, Lord," but getting there. Because today, I didn't harbor any ill will and was frustrated for only a few moments instead of days (yes, really, days). I was able to let go because I truly, for one moment at least, stepped outside of the situation and saw it from a different perspective.

I guess that's what we have to remember about Jesus. He is outside our perspective. He looks at us -- knowing perfectly all we are going through -- and watches our circumstances unfold. Sometimes, I'm sure He is crushed by our actions and choice ... other times, I bet He cracks up, just laughs Himself silly! But He isn't likely to translate us to another city when times get a bit rough. No, we have to experience our experiences and learn to look at them from outside ourselves too. Someone once said, if we want to improve ourselves to spend time with more successful people than ourselves. Well, wouldn't it be much better to spend our time with the three most successful Beings ever -- God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

So when we start spending time with Them, we will get to know Them. As we get to know Them, we will hear Them more, and we will want to share our new knowledge and insight with others. Don't be surprised if no one else gets it. It's like being the only one that hears the music, faintly in the background. You know it's there, but no one else can hear it. It's most frustrating too when you want to tell people what you've learned, but they are not ready or able to understand it. The point is that we have to talk anyway ... some one WILL get it eventually, even if it's only ourselves!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

29 January - But It Is Hardly Credible That One Could Be So Positively Ignorant!

Have you ever thought, "Why do I serve?" I gotta tell ya ... there have been times that I absolutely served for me and my pride. Now, I didn't get very much done, but I was really impressed with myself. Oh, I was called to this calling because I was good at this thing or that thing (unfortunately, I've done this a couple of times). But the Spirit was difficult to see because my big, fat head was in the way! I did find the Spirit occasionally during those times of service when I knew exactly why I was serving at that time, but only when I stopped thinking I knew the whole plan.

The service the Lord wants is the service that is humble, simple and unattached to our personal motivations. Service is not a career move or resume builder, it is a Kingdom builder.

What kingdom are you building with your service today?

Monday, January 28, 2008

28 January - But It Is Hardly Credible That One Could So Persecute Jesus!

Okay ... this one hurt! The line "every time we stand on our rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Jesus" really cut to the heart.

How many times do I sit there and whine and complain about how someone has wronged me, hurt me, been just downright stupid. "How dare they do this or that to me!?" But how dare I fill myself with "righteous indignation?" Look, I'm not suggesting that we stay in downright evil or abusive situations or relationships. I'm suggesting that we think before we whine! If Christ paid for everyone's sin, mistakes, broken promises, then why should we make Him pay again by whining and complaining.

I'm going to really think twice this week about what I just to be "right" about in my conversations and situations at work and especially at home. I do not want to make an already sad situation for the Lord (one in which one of His children is being less than their best, or worse, evil) even more sad by reacting in an ugly or indignantly hurt manner.

Man, is that going to be hard!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

27 January - Look Again and Think

I remember a Sunday School class -- Gospel Principles to be exact -- in which I had just been reading these very scriptures and said, "We can find the answer to every question in the scriptures. Every question." And I was challenged, "Not every one ... not the what color socks to wear that day." I stopped talking then because I really didn't want to argue.

But the devotion today says we must work to keep God first -- "first" as in singular, primary, only, not as in a sequence. The admonition to "Seek first the kingdom of God ..." is not an "if-then" statement. It does not mean, if you seek God on Sunday, then you are free to do whatever you want the other days. It means actively looking for God in our lives, looking for His purpose and His alone.

The problem is that there are so many forces, even within our own families, that insist that you must plan for every eventuality. What are we going to do if this happens. That's the other danger of "if-thens" ... the process of thinking about the possibilities pull us away from the presence of God. Remember, that God is only in our present. He is Eternal but we are bounded by the temporal.

We cannot exist in the past or the future. Yet the world insists that we either find our motivations by dredging up the past to determine why we do something today or lose ourselves in endless daydreams about our future. Please don't misunderstand ... I don't hate goals, just the waste that continual planning and then never acting breeds.

Spend the next week "being anxious for nothing." Really try it ... this might just be your best week ever!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

26 January - Look Again and Consecrate

I thought today's devotion was another admonition to remember that there is a free lunch and that we need only one free lunch to sustain ourselves. Then I read it again, and keyed in on the quote "'Consider the lilies of the field' - they grow where they are put."

Have I even considered where I am "put" by the Lord? Well, not recently ... at all, really. I'm always planning and scheming, even in relationship to my callings and the way I serve. I brought to mind the parable of the Talents. There are 5 talent people, 2 talent people and 1 talent people ... yet the reward for those who work to double their talents is the same. The really important thing that comes through today's devotion is that we work from where we are, right now, not try to dig up our roots and plant ourselves someplace else.

I mean really, God can place us any where He wants us, at any time. He did that with Phillip, after he taught the eunuch, He translated Phillip someplace completely different. So, if God has planted me here, then where should I be focusing my energy?

Is there someplace else you would rather be or are you prepared to grow, right where God planted you?

Friday, January 25, 2008

25 January - Leave Room for God

Don't we like to scheme and concoct all sorts of plans for the future? Except it is really pretty simple ... leave it alone for God. Chambers talks about leaving room for God to do His work. If we clutter our lives with our puny little plans, we gradually push the Lord aside until no room is left.

When you receive your next great confirmation of the Spirit, resist the temptation to make the plans for "attaining" that blessing through your efforts. Step aside and let the Lord work all around you and watch the Master Builder create His masterpiece.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

24 January - The Overmastering Direction

I just came from a baptism tonight ... actually two ;-) ... Jessica and Francis, best friends, got baptized tonight.

They are clean, new, and very ready for the newness of life they will have now. I hope they catch the vision of what God has in store for them. The world will close in on them in different ways. If they can key in the reality that they are children of God, a princess and prince, with the potential to become a queen and king in the kingdom of God, they will be unstoppable. I think they have a good chance.

What vision have you had of what Jesus wants you to be? Have you remained true to that vision or have you allowed it to become clouded by the world?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

23 January -- Transformed by Insight

Alma 5:14,19, and Good, Better, Best

Read today's devotional and see if these references above don't apply. These are the things that popped right into my head.

I'd love to chat more, but I have a talk for a baptism tomorrow. I'm only still up because I have some laundry to finish.

More rest ... that's what I need ;-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

22 January -- What Am I Looking at?

Wow! I almost totally forgot about my blog. I was surfing on another topic ... a good, important topic for me and my family ... and almost forgot that I had made this commitment. Then I read the devotion (yeah, I had forgotten to do that too) and well, I'm a bit convicted.

What AM I looking at? I'm not sure I've been focusing on God recently at all. I know definitely that I have not this day. Again, it's not bad stuff at all, but it is "stuff." I know that I have 16-18 hours a day awake, but how do I make that time meaningful in my relationship to the Lord?

I still have about 6 things to complete on my "to do list today." What I realized that I need to do is pray about the needful things, the things that will focus my attention to God. We cannot be idle, and I do not believe that we can just look and be saved. I believe that we need to let the Lord know that we are interested in His work. The only way we can do that is focus on the "stuff" that would glorify Him.

Monday, January 21, 2008

21 January -- Recall What God Remembers

Man, this was some good stuff today. Yesterday, was essentially about conversion -- continual conversion and renewal through the Spirit.

Today we are challenged to look at our life -- our Christian life -- and see if it is still excited and loving to God or old and tired and inching toward divorce. What a comparison can be made between our relationship with our spouse and our relationship with God.

Do we nag and complain when things don't get done, or don't get done the way we like it to be done? Do we talk about them behind their backs with sarcastic undertones and veiled or worse, not so veiled, references to their incompetence?

Unfortunately, we might easily see how we do this to our spouses, but look a little deeper and recognize how we do the same with the Lord. It's heart wrenching.

Resolve today to really look at your relationship with God (and your spouse) and make it exciting and new ... fall in love again!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

20 January -- Are You Fresh for Everything?

How do we stay fresh in the gospel? It is keeping ourselves still with the Spirit.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

19 January -- Vision and Darkness

We got it done! Oh, it is so exciting. We are about half of the water short for our 72 hour kits and we needs some eating utensils, but we packed away 5 bags for the family and one for the dogs. Woohoo! And Jim created a menu for the next month and we shopped to that! Wow, I feel so relieved. Only 332 more days to go ;-)

So the concept today is one of waiting. If you read the Genesis 16 reference, do you see yourself? How many times have we received some kind of revelation from the Lord only to then impose the world's reasoning on the time frame. We are so puny and small sometimes. Worse still, when things don't go our way (after we changed the rules to begin with), we want to take our ball and go home. We want to stop playing the game.

We ulitmately have so much control over our lives. There is nothing that we "have to" do because we have a choice in every action. Will we wait for the Lord's time frame, even in the deepest darkness, or will we try to make our own artificial light? Either way, the Lord will not interfere, but allows us to make our own choices. How cool is that? (Okay, it's not so cool when we make the wrong choice.)

18 January -- It Is the Lord!

So Thursday I practically phoned it in and with this devotion, I didn't even write. I honestly did not make he time. I initially wrote "have," but quickly scanned the day and know that I could have found a few minutes to write something. I just have so dang much I want to do!

I have been struggling with direction -- trying to figure out which of the many good ideas I have to work on first. Should I focus on school, should I focus on a couple of business ideas I have, should I focus more on my callings at church? But the sweet, dear sister I was with Thursday night made one statement that put it all into perspective for me. She said, "If you get your year's supply together, everything will open up for you." And it clicked ... I mean really just clicked right at that moment. What I really needed to be doing was listening to a prophet's voice.

There are so many good things to do, even good service to do, and we Mormon's get wrapped up in our service, don't we? But just as it's important to recognize our unworthy natures, it is important to recognize when we are becoming prideful servants. The concept of being unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2-5), occasionally leads to the odd behavior of what I call "martyr" service. "Oh, look at me, I'm the poor suffering soul that always attends all the events and works at everything and spends all my time toiling away for the benefit of the church. Look! Look at what I did now." Now, of course, no one really says that, but they do it. I think we just might all have felt it, too.

Yes, there are about the same 10 people that do everything, it seems. But just as service done simply because we "have to" doesn't lead to growth, service done to benefit ourselves leads quite literally to damnation. Knowing that damnation is the stopping of forward progress (think the little beavers building a dam), each time we serve "for ourselves" and not by God's direction, we place another limb or branch or pile of leaves on our stream of life. The stream slows to a trickle and eventually dries up down stream. Then we cannot understand why we are so lifeless and dry and confused and sad.

The challenge is to serve at the will of the Lord. We need to be fighting His battles, no our own. And that's where food storage comes in for me. The greatest service I could give the Lord is actually listening to and putting into action the direction of His servants on this earth. That's exactly what I'm going to do. We have enough extra money this month to get our 72 hour kits and at least 1 month supply of food today.

More later!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

17 January -- The Vocation of the Natural Life

Okay, I'll admit that I have not even read today's devotion yet. I went to the temple tonight ... ended up spending some wonderful time with the sister I went with and am going to bed. My mind is SWIMMING!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

16 January -- The Voice of the Nature of God

"... we can only record the call if the same nature is in us ... "

The moment we hear the call is the moment we are in sync with God. I've said before (I'm not sure if it was here or not), but the only point we touch eternity is in the present. If we are not completely here, now, we miss the prompting that comes our way because our radio is tuned to the wrong frequency ... if at all.

Resolve today to tune our frequency to the right station.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

15 January -- Do You Walk In White?

Additional Scriptures: Topical Guide, Walking with God

Well, I posted yesterday's devotion about an hour ago. Now I'm back for more. The reason I'm even posting at all is because of a quote at the bottom of an email I received today.

Thank God every day when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know. --Basil Carpenter

Sometimes I do not like blogging about this stuff ... I do not like reading the devotions and having to think about the responsibility of the knowledge I gain. Now that I know this stuff, I will have to do something about it eventually.

Actually, I think God wants us to do it NOW. Chambers challenges in his devotion today, "Do you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth?" Um, no! And that's the problem.

We have been challenged in today's devotion to give up our old self, to die with Christ so that we can live again. We do talk a good game, don't we? We talk of this concept a great deal, but are we really prepared to act upon it? Are we prepared to make this our last day on earth because we have died to the facade we put together for the world?

I'm going to have to tell you ... I'm not quite ready. I think of funerals in my family and think of the fun and joy we share at that time of passing. We remember the person that was and rejoice in where we believe they are going. But what of us here and now? I don't think I'm ready to remember the person I "was" and look forward to the person I will "become."

14 January -- Called By God

Additional Scriptures: Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 22:14, Matthew 4:19, 2 Peter 1, D & C 121

I just didn't feel like writing last night. I know that I committed (to myself) to do this each morning, but I haven't been getting to bed early enough to get up early enough to get it done. So last night, I fell asleep on the couch watching TV. Anyway ...

I read the devotional for today and feel very convicted. As I was reading it, I was thinking that I might just sleep through the call. But then I remembered the lesson about the elect found in Peter and realized that I still had a chance.

I had a chance in the darkest moments of my life when the missionaries knocked on my door. I couldn't have been farther away from God than I was at that point. The still small voice would never be heard over the chaos and noise swirling around in my life. The missionaries were my amplifier. They turned up the volume on the message of God, and I was allowed to listen in on the radio show. And finally, I got the cue to call ... I was obviously the seventh caller and one a ticket to the greatest show on Earth and in heaven.

What can you do to have the opportunity to hear the faint whisperings of the Lord? What changes can you make today, right now, to make a difference?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

12-13 January --Have You Ever Been Alone With God?

See also: 13 January

Additional Scriptures: Mosiah 2-5

Have you ever been alone with God? I think sometimes that I don't want to be. We are so small and puny in comparison. We hang onto the silliest of things -- stuff, envy, pride, event downright sin. Why? Why don't we want to give the stuff up?

Well, I think there are times we just don't want to (pride again I guess) because we like it -- whatever "it" is. Our closet full of clothes (that we don't wear) or our big house (that we struggle to make the payments on) or the fancy car (that we are afraid to drive because it get damaged) make us feel better about ourselves.

Ah, but that's it. We don't even understand what God has in store for us. That's all part of Satan's plan isn't it. Keep us distracted by shiny objects and we won't focus on the beauty right in front of us. We can't really. If we keep ourselves focused on the cracker jack toys that the adversary hands over, we can never be alone with God.

Has there ever been a time when you've lost something, not because you really misplaced it, but because there is so much junk laying around -- junk that looks mighty similar to the thing you are looking for, I might add -- that it's impossible to find the lost item. I have. I remember when we moved a few years ago. We took seven trailers or van loads of garbage to the dump. I went though every item! I cannot count how many times I said, "Oh, I've been looking for this," only to follow it up with "Why was I looking for this?" It ended up in the trash!

Well, why don't we say, "Oh, I've been looking for this," when we speak of our relationship with God and Jesus? We could really mean it too. If we were willing to truly be alone, without our stuff, without our pride, just us and the Lord. Are you ready to take that step? I'm not sure I'm ready, but I'm willing to try ... I think.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I need more time ....

I just got back from Friendship Dinner (fabulous time, BTW). I took two pretests today for next semester and attended an Eagle Scout project. I haven't even had the time to read the devotion for today.

Friday, January 11, 2008

11 January -- What My Obedience to God Costs Other People

Additional Scriptures: Luke 23:26, Luke 8:1-3

Peer pressure ... don't we spend hours and hours lecturing our children about the evils of peer pressure? And we spend as many hours worrying about them maintaining their standards. Today's devotion is about what must be faced when we choose God and obedience to Him.

Sometimes our friends, especially those that don't have the same beliefs as we do, rail on us and our choices. They think we are weird or get frustrated by our choices. And yes, some even turn their backs completely on us. This is actually a price of discipleship. Many will find our choices of obedience to be hard and if we are not careful, we give into the pressure our friends and acquaintances place on us.

But it is more than that ... waiting is the hardest because sometimes discipleship means waiting for the difficult times to pass. After we have been converted and while we are in the light, we feel peace and joy that are indescribable. Those outside our experience do not. Because each individual is different, the pain our obedience causes others can even affect those who are very close, seemingly experiencing the same tests or trials that we do. We have to wait through the pain and frustration.

We cannot give into the desire to "make everything better." The only Person capable of making things right and true and better is God. When we step in to stop the pain and frustration that others might feel, we are telling God that we know better than He does. How dare we!? Further, we stop our own progression because we are no longer obedient.

What obedience in your life has made others bristle and fight back? When have you told God that you could "make everything better?" Resolve to let go now and remember that God's plan IS better.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

10 January -- The Opened Sight

Additional Scripture: Acts 26, Luke 15:11-32

Late again. Satan is fighting back hard at this process. Ticks me off, really. Just when I get a good head of steam, he unhooks the coal car ... and I'm usually going up hill. That's why I'm writing this in a public forum. The old me would have stopped tonight. Boy, did I feel like stopping tonight.

I love the process though. The scripture for today, "... now I send thee, to open their eyes," is so what I'm experiencing in the process. The literal opening of my eyes. But read further, read the whole of the 26th chapter of Acts, and you will begin to see what Chambers is talking about in today's devotion.

The charge of Christian life it to open eyes -- to preach repentance. Repentance is conversion. But conversion isn't enough. Well, frankly, some people are never even really converted. They spend their days going through the motions for their public self and lead an empty, pathetic life in secret, known only to themselves. Others move effortlessly from conversion to conversion ... from new knowledge to new knowledge without ever really applying the knowledge to their personal experience. Because they miss the step of "application" they miss gaining wisdom. The beauty of a blessing from God is lost on them because they don't take the effort to reflect on and live up to that blessing.

What the Lord wants is a sanctified people, those who have applied the knowledge through faith in the Lord. Faith is an action not a feeling. Faithful people are accustomed to recognizing and receiving and then applying the blessing of the Lord. Faithful people create things, experiences, testimonies by their deeds. Their deeds are what makes grace real because the deeds let a waiting Lord know you are ready for more -- or that you have done all you can -- either way, He makes up the difference. I just imagined the image of the father of the Prodigal Son, in the field, looking and waiting for his son's return. And when the son returned, the father ran to meet him.

It can be the same with Christ. Will we be obedient to the heavenly blessings we receive and take action, or will we stay with the swine? It's time to move beyond conversion and apply the knowledge and blessings of the Lord to our life and others! Open your eyes and see!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

9 January -- Intercessory Introspection

Additional Scriptures: 1 Thes. 5:23, Psalm 139, 1 John 1:7, DC Talk's "In the Light" from Jesus Freak.

So I had a completely different take on the meaning of the Psalm reference than Oswald did and it led my right to the song, "In the Light," by DC Talk. I just kept singing that song all day and I see the correlation with today's devotion.

The concept of being made "obtuse by sin" is exactly what happens to us when we turn away from the light. We become dull and boring ... oh, I could not stand to be dull and boring ;-) ... but worse, we become immune to the sins we commit. Screwtape, the indomitable administrator in Hell, in CS Lewis's Screwtape Proposes a Toast laments that there are no more great sinners. And he's right, there are just dull and boring sinners, deluded by their own pride and rationalizations.

But the light is everywhere ... there is not a place that the Lord cannot see. Our challenge is to WANT to be in the light and want to shine that light for others.

(Okay, some of the pictures in the video feed definitely "date" the band ... forget the pix and listen to the song! ;-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

8 January, con't

What an entirely hectic day! However, I officially completed my first semester of school and learned how to make Sister Bowman's bread (which is ultimately Sister Meredith's bread). Manna from heaven!

So on with the devotion today. Our lives need to be a living sacrifice. We cannot rest on our "great deeds" of the past or hope that we will do some great thing in the future. First, our perception of both the past and the future our distorted by our personal, rose-colored glasses. Second, our past is gone -- dead -- and our future is as yet unborn -- ours is puny, linear existence. Neither past or future are living or alive. We must not say to the Lord, "I will die for you" because we really don't have any idea what our experience will be in even the next minute, let alone the next year, or ten years, or beyond.

We must live today. "Today" is the only point in time when we touch eternity. It is our greatest source of power. But the key is that we must LIVE. Make plans about future, yes. Pray about them to confirm they are right and true, sure. But you must take action today to let the Lord know we are serious about our sacrifices for Him.

So today I finished something and learned something new. I lived! But I have to LIVE tomorrow, and the next day and everyday, one day at a time.

8 January -- Does My Sacrifice Live?

(click the link above for the entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: Genesis 22:9 ... No more, I'm dead tired.

Okay ... that sounds like a lame excuse, but I am tired. Stayed up to watch Leno last night. Not my usual activity (rEVOLution, baby ;-), but again, it correlates perfectly with today's devotion.

The concept of our lives as a living sacrifice is amazingly simple for me to grasp (application is another thing). Abraham did not bring his son, Isaac, already dead to the alter. No, both Abraham and Isaac were well aware of what was being asked and came willingly. His sacrifice was not in the death of Isaac, but in the life he freely gave with all the actions leading up to that moment. I love Genesis 22:2-3 (okay, I found another scripture ;-) when Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac, what is his next move? Did he tell Sarah, "Can you believe what God asked me to do?" Did he bargain with the Lord, "Um, come on, God, can we wait until after the harvest? I really need Isaac's help." No, the living sacrifice began with action, steps taken in the trust of God.

** Oh, look at the time ... I have to get ready for work ... I'll finish later ... maybe I should get to bed earlier at night ... yeah, this is going to have something to do with this post today ;-) **

Monday, January 7, 2008

7 January -- Intimate with Jesus

(click the link above to read the entry in My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: Luke 10:18-20, John 14:9 (1-15), John 15:1-4, 15, John 16:7

Another late post. Well, I just didn't feel like posting this morning. So there ;-) No, really, I just couldn't get my heart into it, nothing was coming. I couldn't understand the concept of an substantial relationship with Jesus.

As I was driving home this evening, I think I figured out why. I couldn't deepen my relationship with Jesus because I didn't want to deepen my relationships with my family. I went to bed a bit miffed at my hubby (of course, if he reads this post he will have no idea why ;-). Bad idea, I know, especially since I woke up still miffed. And it affected everything in the morning. I was overtired and unfocused and just plain grouchy.

I always read the next day's devotional the night before, study about in the scriptures, then pray about it and go to sleep. Because my last few moments last night were of frustration and yeah, probably anger, I got nothing. Well, I probably didn't deserve anything either, except a spiritual smack on the back of the head (You know the one, like Mom used to give that knocks your head forward just a bit ... yeah, you know.)

Then I realize just how many times I have probably deserved that smack on the back of the head from Jesus, and I stop laughing. That's the whole problem with intimacy -- any deep, abiding relationship must be based on the surrender of self. Not surrender to the other person like a slave, but willingly letting go of the "my" perspective -- "my feelings," "my ideas," "my wants" must change to simply "feelings," "ideas" and "wants." Say that sometime. Think of an item or thing that you consistently speak about beginning with the word "my." Then remove the word "my" and repeat the sentence. It puts that thing in a completely different perspective, doesn't it? (And quite often, the perspective is selfish, childish and prideful.)

It is when you surrender sole possession that significant relationships begin to form. So it was with Jesus and his disciples. For three years these men walked, ate, learned from, taught with, preached about and healed because of their close physical proximity to Jesus. They almost treated Him as theirs ... sometimes they even broke into arguments about who was better. And still they didn't know Him. When they "lost" the physical presence of the Savior and were forced to 1) rely on the Spirit to guide them and 2) recognize that they were not the only people deserving of a personal relationship with Him, only then did they began to know not only Jesus but God, the Father.

Well, I guess that means I not only have to work on my relationship with the Lord, but with my husband and family as well. Jeesh ... I think this blog is just making more work for me ;-) Okay, I'll stop whining now.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

6 January -- Worship

(click the link above to read the entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: Genesis 12:8, Genesis 13:12 (13:8-12), Genesis 28:16-19, Joshua 16:1-2

Hey, remind me to do these in the morning because I've waited all day and it is so difficult to find a quiet moment. I'm torn by so many other things to do -- good things and others, well questionable ("are you ready for some football?") -- and now I'm being pulled in different directions.

Okay, but that's what today's devotion was about, I think. At least one of the things -- the pull of the world. Where we "pitch our tent" is critical. It reminds me of the situation that occurs just a few verses after today's devotion verse when Lot pitches his tent toward Sodom. The contrast is stark. Bethel represents God and is a dwelling of God. Bethel is where later Jacob makes his covenant with God. After Israel finally enters the promised land, Bethel is the land of the tribe of Joseph. Hai (or Ai) represents the world. So instead of pitching his tent toward the world (like Lot and Sodom), Abraham pitched his tent between God and the world.

That is how our life should be -- a continual balance between the Lord and the world. We exist (we must to receive our inheritance) in the world, but we must not be a part of the world. Still, we flit from one aspect of our lives to another -- the person we show others on Sundays may be very different from the person we are at work or at home. We convince ourselves that a rest from _______ (fill in the blank with whatever you'd like) would do us good, but that's not what God is looking for from his children. That is not the example that Christ left us. We need to balance worship, waiting and work perfectly together so that it seems a seamless experience.

I can envision the experience of having the noise of the world surrounding me like at work or school, having a moment of peace envelop me and then being able to offer a prayer of gratitude all in just a few seconds. I'm sure that has happened before, but have I recognized it as such? The goal of discipleship is make those moments more frequent and useful in our relationship with God. If we cannot see them, they cannot touch us and help us grow our testimony (and the testimony of others).

And further, those experiences and blessings that we do receive and recognize must be shared. We cannot hoard them. I know that sacred things are not to be spoken of lightly, but there are many testimony building experiences that can be shared if we tune into the Spirit. So a pattern emerges. If we combine worship, waiting and work we will know the right times to share the right things with others. We must give these blessing back to God in the form of our service and testimonies because we are how He blesses other people.

A phenomenal article the discusses the need to bestow our gifts freely is "Work We Must But the Lunch Is Free," by Hugh Nibley. In it Nibley tells that, "Brigham Young often reminded the saints, God has placed whatever we have in our hands only to see what we would do with it- whether we would waste, hoard, or bestow it freely."

I'm going to look around my house and my spiritual life and list all my "things." Then I'm plan to determine what I'm hoarding, what I'm wasting and what I'm bestowing freely. I can already tell you that the last items will not be the longest list, but I can be with some effort. What am I ready to bestow freely? What are we ready to use to bless others?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

5 January -- The Afterward of the Life of Power

(click the link above to read the entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: John 13:36, Matthew 26:69-75, John 20:22 (20:10-23), John 21:19 (21:15-19), Luke 2:52

So what resolutions have you made for this year? I bet you have a wonderful list full of important and good things to do in 2008. The more interesting question to ask is -- What resolutions did you keep from last year? Oh, no, even better -- What resolutions did you NOT keep from last year? Why?

I think about what goals I would like to accomplish in the coming year for most of the month of December. That laser focus probably comes because I'm spending most of the month the December trying to finish as many of the goals from the previous year as possible. And I don't take the process lightly -- at least I thought I didn't. I use Luke 2:52 as my guide and pick at least two goals that will strengthen my wisdom, stature, spirituality and sense of service. Last year, I completed at least one goal in each, but this year -- actually today -- I have a completely different perspective on my goals for 2008.

We talked about Peter yesterday; we continue today. His life with Christ illustrates that reality all must face when making a decision to walk with Christ -- the decision to follow Him. When someone comes to the gospel for the first time, begins to exercise your faith and feels the unmatchable power of God, it is all so delicious (Alma 32: 28) and glorious and fun! The excitement is unmatched. I enjoy being with the newly baptized because they are on FIRE with the love of Christ. They have finally found what they are looking for so you better just get out of the way!

There are others I know of that are deeply committed to the Lord. These have spent years in their walk and have surrendered their very lives to the Christ. They too have a fire burning within them that is steady and sure. You can literally see Christ in them (Alma 5:14) because they have been spiritually reborn and have truly felt the Spirit come upon them.

But what of the time in between. Peter had the same experience, but his was compressed to just three years. When he left his boat to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-20), he left willingly, but with the excitement of the newness of the relationship. Little did Peter know that all his growth -- his professions of faith (Matthew 16:16) and his impetuous statement of devotion (John 13:27) -- would be met with three broken commitments and cursing as the cock finally crowed.

Redemption was near, available, even if Peter didn't quite understand how. Yes, the night of His Resurrection, Christ gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost, but there was more to come for Peter. The third time Jesus showed himself to the disciples, the Lord asked Peter -- three times -- "lovest though me?" Three times Peter had the opportunity to declare to the Lord, "Yes." This time, when Jesus said "Follow me," Peter's answer was with his whole, complete, broken self. Peter never looked back, only forward at one single principle, interest and ambition -- Jesus Christ.

Well, where are you on this journey? Are you at the exciting beginning, the crossroads or are you focused on the lodestar of Christ? That's why my perspective of my goals have changed. I'm not sure that I've ever had to face the denial of Christ, but I want to be prepared if that comes. The details of Peter's experience helps us prepare for that possibility and focus now on Christ. I want my goals to be guided by the Star that shows the way.

Friday, January 4, 2008

4 January -- "Why Can I Not Follow You Now"

(click the link above to read the entry in My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: John 13:36-38, Mosiah 4:27, Mosiah 3:19

I want it now! Now, I tell you. We are such a "fast food" society. If we go to a drive-thru and the other takes more than 5 minutes, we are miffed. It's a full meal ... I mean really, can't we wait a little bit?

We do the same with our relationship with God. We impose our will on His and want to rush through the journey. Since God doesn't tell us what is going to happen next, we grow impatient. We attempt to fill our time of waiting with all sorts of "good" things. That simply takes us away from the purposes of God. The busyness creates doubt and confusion. We have to wait. We cannot run faster than we are able -- and sometimes we should not be running at all!

The frustrating thing is that sometimes we know exactly what we are supposed to do -- we have received revelation that we need to quit a job or end a relationship -- but there is a tinge of uncertainty. Impulse is the problem because if we wait for God's timing, everything will happen without heartache and disappointment. Oh, but the waiting is so contrary to who we are as natural human beings. The waiting might also be a time a growth and sanctification. Remember, that we can know who God is, not only His purpose, but Him. But clanging around a kitchen never made water boil any faster -- neither does occupying your time with mediocre substitutes for God's will.

Peter tried to rush things and announced that he would do more than he was capable of doing at that moment. He didn't know he wasn't capable, but Christ knew. God and Christ know us perfectly. They will never give us more than we are able to handle. The excitement of new knowledge and a new relationship with Christ maybe enough in the beginning to start the journey, but constantly rushing headlong into what we think is right will lead us to deny Jesus -- at the worst possible moment.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

3 January -- Clouds and Darkness

(click the link above to read the entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: 1 Kings 8:12, Exodus 3:1-6, John 6:63, 65 (6:60-66), 1 Nephi 8:2, D&C 88:68 (63-68), Topical Guide -- God, Privilege of Seeing

Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ simple or shrouded in "clouds and darkness?" The devotion today was difficult to get my head around. Perhaps that proves it's exact point.

Many who look at Christians (and more who look at Mormons) think we are simpletons blindly following our leaders (or pastors or priests as the case may be). From the outside looking in, Christianity is incredibly simple -- follow a few commandments, lead a dull and boring life without adventure (or sin, thank you very much!) and die hoping that there is something more on "the other side." Then again, the Gospel IS incredibly simple. We often speak of the "small and simple things" (Alma 37:6) like prayer, fasting, scripture study, and Family Home Evening as being the key steps on the path to eternal life.

Chambers was speaking of something completely different today, I think. I liken it to the "rose colored glasses" concept of following Christ. We lull ourselves into a false sense of comfort, security, and well, frankly, pride when we do all those small and simple things just for the sake of saying that we do them. "Yes, I do all those things. Do you?" some say with a down turned sneer. Some speak casually of their relationship with God, with Jesus or of their sacred spiritual experiences, if they have even had them at all.

However, if we have had them -- sacred, spiritual experiences -- we begin to realize just how shrouded in darkness the knowledge of God, of who He really is, becomes. I believe the darkness spoken of in Psalms and 1 Kings is a darkness of our own creation. Christ surrounds Himself with that darkness just so we WILL do the small and simple things to wade through the mist, fog and clouds. His instruction to His disciples in John is specific on that point. It is by the spirit (John 6:63) that we will gain knowledge and the enlightenment we will need to understand His works, words and teachings. Then verse 65 is very specific: No one can come to Jesus unless he follows the will of God -- and many disciples left Him that day (v. 66). The will of God IS to pray, fast, read, and study -- all small, simple things. Are we turning away from Christ today?

Still the small things must be approached and completed in the proper perspective and attitude. We cannot do those small and simple things to 1) look good to others, 2) because we must, or 3) with a casual, familiar flair. When thinking about approaching a relationship with God and Christ, we would do well to remember the story of Moses and the Burning Bush. Moses was minding his own business (well, actually his father-in-laws business -- his sheep) when he noticed a bush burning but not going up in flame. He walked toward it to investigate and was stopped by the voice of God, "put off thy shoes ... for the place ... is holy ground." Do we walk toward our spiritual experiences with prayer, fasting, scripture study or even FHE with our "shoes on?" Are we prepared to listen to the voice of God and remove our attachment to the world and our stuff to wade through the clouds and darkness?

One point I disagreed with Chambers on today was his notion that God does not speak to us in dreams and visions. For such a great spiritual mind to believe that revelation comes only through words enlightened by Christ -- I'm a bit confused, maybe I have him wrong. I cannot believe that the darkness that surrounds Christ is not "impenetrable" because we know that God and Christ still speak through visions and dreams (1 Ne 8:2) and that we can have the privilege (at some point of God's choosing) to see His face (D&C 88:68). Oh, and that's the glory of it all. As we submit our will to the God, then we will be filled with light, His light, and can reach Christ through the clouds and darkness with His own lantern of truth.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2 January 2008 -- Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

(click the title above to read today's entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: Hebrews 11:8, Genesis 12 (12:1), 2 Chronicles 20:12 (20:1-24), Luke 12:22 (12:22-30), 1 Nephi 4:6 (1 Ne 3 & 4)

Don't you like to know everything? I am such a control freak that sometimes I spend hours planning what will happen. It's like building a house of card though, because those painstaking placements come tumbling down when a soft breeze blows. So this is the call for today ... go and do, without knowing the plan of God.

I love the line in the devotion today: "God does not tell you what He is going to do -- He reveals to you who He is." Think about that in terms of the hope and determination we need to place in Him and the concept of revelation takes on a whole new meaning. As we "go out," without a clue of what will happen in our walk with God, we have the opportunity to know more about Him. It then follows that the knowing becomes the asking and the living. In other words, as we learn to know Him more, we begin to ask the things that He would ask and live the way the He would live.

Each of the stories in today's scriptures are crossroads stories for the participants. Abram was directed to go to the promised land, Jehoshaphat was directed not to fight, the disciples were told to forget about clothes and food and finally, Nephi and his brothers were instructed to go and get the plates. Each had a moment to say, "What?" "Are you kidding me?" That's not recorded, but how likely is it that those would be our responses to the same kind of revelations or requests from the Lord today?

We have a hard time "fitting in" scripture study and Family Home Evening, let alone being instructed to not fight when the when the forces of all Canaan are surrounding us (Jehoshaphat). Yet, none of these scriptural examples represented blind obedience. They represent trust (illuminated by hope and determination) that God knows you personally. God is a miracle working God. Forget about the convictions and creeds and past experiences you've had and today, simply "go and do."

When have you "gone out" and let the Lord work miracles in your life?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

1 January 2008 -- Let Us Keep to the Point

(click the link above to read the January 1 entry from My Utmost for His Highest)

Additional Scriptures: Psalms 119:116, Romans 5:5, Psalms 34:3, JSH 1:5-14, JSH 1:15-21, JSH 1:25

The one overarching feeling I have for 2008 is hope, and today's message is absolutely about hope and determination and decision.

As we make the statement in our own lives "my utmost for his highest," we often do so with just a hope that the choice we have made is right and true. Yet, if we qualify that choice with any hint of doubt, then we diminish the potential we have in Christ. Not only do we diminish our potential, but we, in reality, question the very plan of God. The hope He wants from us should not be surrounded by the darkness of doubt, but illuminated by the truth of the Holy Ghost and the spotlighted by the Light of Christ.

I am personally determined to spend this entire year working through these devotions and study daily. (Note to my teachers at church: Yes, I will still study my lesson each week, too.) I am aware that with that public statement, I've also announced that I'm prepared for a crossroads or crisis. We humans are too busy with the world today to hear the still, small voice of the Lord (school, work, kids, spouse ... American Idol ;-) So, gloriously, I am going to face a challenge this year, and as I reflect, I realize that almost every significant moment of spiritual growth has been preceded by a crossroads or crisis. The great thing about the recognition is that the challenge need not be difficult or painful or sad -- provided my hope is enveloped in Light. The thought of this challenge brings a smile to my face and joy -- the fabulously bursting bright kind of joy -- to my heart.

Paul was a supernal example of determination. As Chambers points out, Paul did, in fact, face a crossroad, a crisis (on the road to Damascus, see Acts 9) and made his decision to stand with Christ. His entire life, from that moment on, was dedicated to doing exactly what God wanted him to do. As I read and pondered that, another person came to mind -- Joseph Smith. He, too, came to a crossroads as a young boy of 14 and made a decision to pray and ask God what to do (JSH 1:5-14). The absolute key to the story is that Joseph Smith, in that moment (JSH 1:15-21), decided once and for all to surrender his will to Jesus Christ (JSH 1:25).

Have you come to your crossroads? Which path have you taken that has shaped your relationship with Christ? Are you ready to say "my utmost for His highest" with hope, determination and steadfast decision?

Happy New Year!

This is my first official entry. Man, am I really ready for this? I'm not talking about the effort of keeping up with a daily blog based on devotions from a renowned Scottish minister who has influenced the life of probably millions of people. No, I'm wondering if I'm ready for the journey of discovery this activity will begin.

I've read My Utmost for His Highest before, but more as a book rather than a daily walk. I would start and stop -- much like my journal, my scripture study, my sincere prayers (as opposed to the "carry out order" prayers I often fall into). My journals in the past few years are full of incredible insights from this work, enhanced by latter-day scripture and revelation.

Quite frankly, I'm just tired of almost getting there! Have you experienced that feeling before -- of almost reaching the magnificent end of your spiritual journey, only to feel like you have gone back farther than you could imagine? I think I've learned the reason I feel that way. Finally realizing that the "spiritual journey" never ends, I've come to understand that the "back peddling" feeling I get comes from the very starts and stops I make.

So, in my radical, LauraB way, I'm creating a blog that will require daily posts. Daily as in every, single day! This blog is only one of the many that I want to begin this year, but it is possibly the most important to me. I'm looking forward to the consistent journey of a single step each and every single day. I'm also interested in learning what insights and experiences you might share. Oh, and you don't have to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) to post. All I ask is that you actually think before you click "publish" -- and I'll try to take my own advice!

I haven't figured out if I can link actual scripture references yet (I know how to do it, but I'm not sure if I'm breaking any rules), so you'll have to get out your own copy of scriptures and look them up or use the main links at the left (under Ground Rules) to search them out. I'll figure that out as soon as I can.

Later, LauraB