Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Few Thoughts Behind the Scenes

This week I have often found myself in deep thought. A few things have happened here and there throughout the week that has jogged deep rooted emotions and stirred them up. This being my "thinking corner" I might as well share a few of the thoughts.

I Wish I Could Be There!
Having family within Joplin MO area has given us opportunity to hear about the inside details that the press aren't able to capture. There are a lot of miracles that took place the evening of the tornado. And there are a lot of miracles still taking place. This is a reminder that the Lord doesn't leave His children comfort-less. Yes, he allowed the tornado to take place, but because of the tornado many people are giving and receiving Christ-like service that otherwise wouldn't have. The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints have a plan of action already set up and ready to implement in case of any natural disaster requiring large numbers of volunteer service. Within hours after the tornado in Joplin the Church was moving forward with their plan of action. They have hundreds of church members from all over Missouri (and even surrounding states) traveling to Joplin throughout the week, and a large amount every weekend to give service. Everyone ages 14 and older are encouraged to participate in the service. The church conducts a Sunday devotional on Sunday instead of the regular three hour block of church meetings, and then the members go out all day and give service. This organized plan will continue for as long as it is needed.  I wish I could be there! 

Remembering the NICU Days
We celebrated the birth of a nephew this week. We are very excited to have more boys in the family. My nephew was born healthy and strong but he had a very minor sick episode the day he was born and they ended up admitting him into the NICU. While talking with his mama I found myself being taken back in time. By the end of this particular conversation I found myself crying from my mother heart. With tears about to take over I said to this special mother, "I didn't get to hold my baby, go hold your baby." As those words spilled out, so did the tears and emotion of those last days with my baby girls. It is amazing how those moments in time can come back so clearly at the most unexpected moments. Luckily, my nephew is just fine and so am I.

We Spoke in Church Today
We spoke in church today. It was really nice to take some time this past week to really study the General Conference talks. I learned a lot. Jakob said the first two Articles of Faith. He did a great job, all grown up. Leif did a great job! He is so easy going and likable. His love of the gospel and of the people shown brightly as he spoke. I spoke, and I wish I could feel at peace about how it went. I feel good about the message. I felt good about how I presented it for the most part. But for some reason I am just not feeling great about it all. I think I am just being pressured by the adversary. I'd like to think it was a good talk. Here it is:

Followers of Christ by Walter F. Gonzalaz of the Presidency of the Seventy
The Miracle of the Atonement by C. Scott Grow of the Seventy
The Atonement Covers All Pain by Kent F. Richards of the Seventy
Face the Future with Faith by Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 Faith is an Action Word

Jakob came to me one night, as he was getting ready for bed. He told me that he had some skin that was hanging from the bottom of his foot and he wanted me to cut it off. I didn’t think it was a big deal… I got the scissors and in the dim light of their bedroom I proceeded to cut what I thought was skin. Instead, I realized too late that it was a large splinter that had wedged itself under the skin. Sadly, I had cut the very piece of the splinter off that I needed in order to easily fix the problem.

When I realized what I had done, I brought Jakob into the kitchen where we had a bright light. Jakob and I were both discouraged at what we saw. The splinter was deep and now that Jakob had seen the wound, it was quite painful. Leif and I explained to Jakob how necessary it was to get the splinter out. I was surprised and touched by his sudden and quick reaction. Without saying a word, he quickly folded his arms and bowed his head signaling to me that all we needed to do was say a prayer and the whole wound would be healed. Oh, such faith!

I am not saying that Father wouldn’t be able to answer Jakob’s prayer exactly how Jakob had hoped. We did say a prayer together asking for comfort and healing, but Leif and I did take a moment to explain a couple of important principles to our son. 

Faith is an action word!

Father in Heaven has promised us that mercy and grace shall be given after all that we can do. In  2 Ne. 25:23 we read: For we labor diligently to write, to apersuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by bgrace that we are saved, after all we cancdo.  In the Bible Dictionary under Grace it reads: “Grace is a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is, divine means of help, or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.”

During some of the darkest and most pain –filled nights of my life I remember one word that went through my mind over and over. The word was MERCY. I called out to my Father in Heaven and plead for His mercy and grace to take away my pain.

Almost five years ago Leif and I lost our twin daughters to complications during their pregnancy. This has been the hardest thing that I have had to face in my life so far. Since my girls’ pregnancy and death, I have never been the same physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  I have found myself calling out for Mercy on many occasions. And the Lord has answered by helping me find my path to action, my path to His Grace.
While preparing this talk I found myself asking a few questions:

First Question: What are the pains and heartaches that our ward family members are experiencing within their personal lives?

Physical illness
Mental illness
Marriage heartaches and confusion
Inability to have children
Wayward children and family members
Betrayal and abuse
Weakened testimony and faith
Overscheduled lives
Trapped by debt
Poverty and unemployment
Fear of what the world is coming to
Struggling to endure to the end in faith

These are only a handful of the trials that are being faced within our ward family on a daily basis. Elder Richards has said, “Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experience. Additionally, we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others. 3 Lehi noted that Jacob had “suffered … much sorrow, because of the rudeness of [his] brethren.” 4 Opposition is part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help. 

He continues:

“The Savior is not a silent observer. He Himself knows personally and infinitely the pain we face.”

Second Question: This leads me to my 2nd question: What motivates me personally to move forward and stay on the path to eternal life with God? What motivates me to stay strong and not become bitter and question my trails in life?

First Motivator: I believe with all of my soul that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ are very much real, and very much aware of me. I know this from experience. And the thought of denying this knowledge makes me shiver with fear of the Lord’s consequences of such a thing. Elder Nelson bore witness to this truth when he said, “How you deal with life’s trials is part of the development of your faith. Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth. The Lord has reminded you, your children, and your grandchildren that you are lawful heirs, that you have been reserved in heaven for your specific time and place to be born, to grow and become His standard bearers and covenant people. As you walk in the Lord’s path of righteousness, you will be blessed to continue in His goodness and be a light and a savior unto His people. “

Second Motivator: My covenants motivate me. I have promised God, myself, my husband, and my family that I will stay true to the commandments of God and do all that I can to keep our family together eternally.
      President Nelson counseled us to tach our children and apply the following in our life: “Teach of faith to keep all the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy. 4 Warn them that they will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith.”

Third Question: This leads me to my final question: How do we endure through the past, present, and future trials of life?

Let’s go back to my story about Jakob’s splinter. What was his very first response to his pain? He Prayed!
Elder Nelson said, “Unfailing faith is fortified through prayer. Your heartfelt pleadings are important to Him. Think of the intense and impassioned prayers of the Prophet Joseph Smith during his dreadful days of incarceration in Liberty Jail. The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective. He said, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 
Heavenly Father didn’t answer Joseph Smith’s prayer by rescuing him from his trial right away. He helped Joseph find the path that God had to His Grace. Heavenly Father will never leave us comfortless. He will always act upon our action of prayer. And most often, he will lead us step by step back into the light of His love, the goodness and true joys of life.

Elder Richards reminds us of my next point. He said “There is another kind of pain for which we are responsible. Spiritual pain lies deep within our souls and can feel unquenchable, even as being racked with an” inexpressible horror,” as Alma described. 8 It comes from our sinful actions and lack of repentance. For this pain too there is a cure that is universal and absolute. It is from the Father, through the Son, and it is for each of us who is willing to do all that is necessary to repent. Christ said, “Will ye not now return unto me … and be converted, that I may heal you?”  In order to truly find peace and the grace of God we must repent of our sins. If you need to talk to the bishop, do it! If you need to talk to your spouse about an issue, do it! If you need to offer an apology, do it!  The longer sin sits in ones soul, the more pain it inflicts.  We must take action against our sins and repent in order to find healing.

When Jakob came to me with the splinter in his foot Leif and I helped him understand what actions he had taken to lead to the pain in his foot. We also took action to do what we needed to in order to heal the wound. In life, our trials often leave wounds that require action to heal. If you need to meet with a counselor, do it! If you need to take medication, do it! If you need to change the friends that you spend time with, do it! If you need to drop-kick your computer out the window, by all means do it!  J

As we listen to the whisperings of the spirit and do all that we can do to endure our trials we must ultimately come unto Christ and lift our burdens up to Him.

 Elder Gonzalaz taught “As Christ followed the Father under any circumstance, we should follow His Son. If we do so, it matters not what kind of persecution, suffering, grief, or “thorn in the flesh” 4 we face. We are not alone. Christ will assist us. His tender mercies will make us mighty under any circumstance. 5
Following Christ may mean forsaking many dear things, as Ruth the Moabite did. As a new convert, out of love for God and Naomi, she left everything behind to live her religion. 6

It may also mean withstanding adversity and temptation. In his youth Joseph was sold into slavery. He was taken away from everything he loved. Later he was tempted to be unchaste. He resisted the temptation and said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 7 His love for God was more powerful than any adversity or temptation.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has also taught: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.” 17 All that will come may be “clasped in the arms of Jesus.” 18 All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” 19 Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.

May we make Jesus Christ and His commandments our motivator as we journey through life’s trials and accept His loving grace is my prayer. In the name of my Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. 


Heather said...

Thank you for posting tour talk. I think it was wonderful!
Love ya!

Heidi Hamilton said...

Well, I wasn't there when you gave your talk, but the written version is WONDERFUL! You have so many great life lessons, Lena. Love you!
P.S. Did you get my e-mail about a camping trip in the middle/end of July?

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