Saturday, July 31, 2010

Broken Hearts

3rd Nephi
9:20 "And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit..."
9:22 "Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God..."

I've been pondering on this chapter in 3rd Nephi for the past few days. I've been thinking about the trials in my life and how essential they have been to "break my heart" and make me turn towards my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I believe that is why our Heavenly Father allows such things to happen to us and doesn't give us an easy out.

As parents we don't compel our children in their choices. We guide them, but we allow them to make mistakes, trusting that they need to learn for themselves. In looking at my little son Miles I've come to understand just a little bit of how our Heavenly Father must feel when we turn to him with our broken hearts. I do not enjoy my role as disciplinarian but I do want to give my son consequences for bad behavior so that he'll learn. And oh, how sweet and tender he is when he comes to me afterward, crawls into my arms, and says, "I'm sorry, mommy." How happy I am to see his remorse and hear from his lips that he is truly penitent and humble.

I as a parent can see how necessary these experiences are to my little son, whom I love so dearly. Shouldn't I also, as a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, see how essential it is that I be given experiences that "break my heart" and make me want to turn to my Father in Heaven and to my Savior?

For the Savior also said, "...will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?"(3rd Nephi9:13)

What need have we of the Savior if not to be healed from our broken hearts?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Object Lesson

I have been thinking a lot lately about an object lesson my friend Christina and I taught years ago at laurel camp.

The object lesson goes like this:

You have a jar that represents how much time you have in your day. Just like the jar; your day can only hold so much. You have a bunch of sand that represents all the secular activities you have to do that day: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, a job, hobbies, etc. You also have a bunch of ping pong balls that represent spiritual things. If you try and put the sand in first and then put the ping pong balls in last, you find that you run out of space for all of the balls to fit. Put if you place the balls in the jar and then pour in the sand you find that you can fit both the balls and the sand in the bottle.

The take away from this object lesson is that if we make time for spiritual things first (i.e. reading scriptures, family prayer, personal prayer), then we can fit all the spiritual things and secular things we need to accomplish in our days. If we leave spiritual things until the end of the day, they often get crowded out by other things that are more urgent. Many times we find at 11:00p.m. that we are too tired to read our scriptures, or if we do, we find that we don’t receive a lot of benefit from them.

I admit to using repetitive phrases in my prayers and one of them is, “Please help me (or us) to have the Spirit today,” But lately I’ve changed it up a little, “Please help me to do the things today that will bring the Spirit.”

It seems like this has always been a constant struggle for me (But then again, who doesn’t struggle to keep up their personal spiritual study?) but it seems like it is even harder in China where there is just so much more to do. Trips to the grocery store are a 3 hour round trip, dishes have to be washed by hand, laundry takes longer, hardwood floors that have to be swept with the dust mop every other day. In truth I have struggled with personal study. But how desperately I need to do the things that keep the Spirit with me, especially at a time when my church calling prevents me from attending Relief Society or Sunday School. At a time in my life where I don’t get to associate with Christians on a daily basis.

How can we expect to reflect the light of Christ to others if we aren’t replenishing our own stores of oil? For myself I feel a responsibility living in this land, to be a good example, but more than anything there is a joy and a peace that comes into my life by putting spiritual things first. My spiritual barometer has been falling lately and I need to “do the things that bring the Spirit”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"The time is past..."

3 Nephi 1:5-6

5."But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled..."
6. "And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been in vain."

I was reading my scriptures the other day and I came across these verses in 3rd Nephi. These verses and the verses that follow about the reaction of the people to the signs of the Savior's birth made me think. It struck me how quick we all are to explain away our spiritual experiences or to doubt our own personal revelations when the going gets rough.

I know for me there have been some really dark days this past year where I have questioned what I knew in my heart to be the right course, but my head and my logic said was impossible. I have to say one of the things I am most grateful for this past year was the journal I kept. It wasn't a daily journal, but when I did have a big spiritual experience I tried to write it down. It helped so much to be able to go back and sit and remember the spirit of what I felt and to feel peace and reassurance. To know that I didn't imagine those feelings and impressions; they were real. I remember hearing once, that peace is the only emotion for which the adversary does not have a counterfeit. The times that were the hardest this past year, that was what I was praying for: peace.

I simply loved Sister Beck's last conference talk and I've thought a lot about everything she said in it. One things I've thought a lot about was when she said, "Those who earnestly seek help through prayer and scripture study often have a paper and pencil nearby to write questions and record impressions and ideas." I wish I was better at this. I feel like I have grown to love the scriptures so much this year and I have a deeper appreciation for them because of the personal revelation and impressions I have received while reading them. I wish I had written more of my thoughts down.

Jared and I had a talk the other day about why it was so hard this past year. Why didn't the Lord show us immediately which path to take and open the way. Why were there seemingly so many roadblocks when we knew we were trying to follow the Lord's plan for us? Why did it seem like everyone turned against us just when we needed their support most? It could have been really easy to just turn back and say, "The time has past, it's not working out, it must not be the Lord's plan for us anymore." But we couldn't; we both had received too many witnesses that we needed to follow. If it had been easy, if everything had just worked out with no effort of ours, would we have been demonstrating faith in the Lord?

Faith means enduring, even when the taunting of the world and the lies of the adversary would have you believe that the "time has past." Of course we all doubt, we are human. Of course we forget the feelings. Of course we forget the words to that powerful blessing. I think the key thing is to do is to, as Alma put it, "Remember." For me that means writing it down, so I can remember.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Church Talk

The theme of my talk today is taken from D&C 58:27

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause”

I’ve been thinking about how to apply this phrase. This scripture could mean something entirely different to someone else, but I thought of each of our membership in this church and particularly the challenges of being members living in China.

In Sister Beck’s last conference talk she quoted President Kimball.

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world. . .”

Today I want to focus on that thought. I’ve been thinking lately of how I measure up to this standard. Do I truly reflect the Light of Christ? Am I doing the so-called duties and callings that I’ve been given cheerfully? Most of all is I seen by the people around me as different in “happy ways?”

Paul stated in 1 Timothy, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

I remember just under a year ago sitting in a Relief Society meeting that had a profound impact on me. I don’t recall exactly what the topic of the lesson was, but I do remember an experience one of the sisters shared. This particular sister had a non-member friend who she frequently visited with while picking up their children from school or picking up them up from each other’s houses. One day this sister was complaining about how busy she was and how many demands she had on her time, and particularly, how much was required of her with regards to her church callings. It seems that they had similar conversations in the past as well. This friend made the comment, “So why do you belong to this church if it’s making you so stressed and miserable.” I still remember this sister relating her mortification at this response to her constant complaining. She had failed to relate the “good news” of the gospel and was not demonstrating the “happy ways” of being a follower of Christ’s true church. From hearing this story I became more determined to fulfill all my callings, in particular my callings as a mother and a wife, with less murmuring. I decided right then and there to try not to burden others with my trials, but instead to try to be more patient and longsuffering.

So why in particular is this so important here in China?

The Savior during his earthly ministry gave us this scripture found in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, “Behold do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house; Therefore let your light so shine before this people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Brothers and Sisters I would like to share with you a series of quotes given in a 1974 talk by President Kimball entitled, “When the World will be Converted”

“The scriptures are replete with commands and promises and calls and rewards for teaching the gospel. I use the word command deliberately for it seems to be an insistent directive from which we, singly and collectively, cannot escape.

I think of the numerous nations that are still untouched. I know they have curtains, like iron curtains and bamboo curtains. I know how difficult it is because we have made some efforts. Surely the Lord knew what he was doing when he commanded.

I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.

But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter. Why should he break down the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain or any other curtain if we are still unprepared to enter?

I believe we have men who could help the apostles to open these doors—statesmen, able and trustworthy—but, when we are ready for them.

We will need to make a full, prayerful study of the nations of the world which do not have the gospel at this time, and then bring into play our strongest and most able men to assist the Twelve to move out into the world and to open the doors of every nation as fast as it is ready. I believe we have many men in the Church who can be helpful to us, who are naturally gifted diplomats. I believe we should bring them to our aid and as stated before, I have faith that the Lord will open doors when we have done everything in our power.”

While we may not be allowed to proselyte or bear testimony to our friends, coworkers or neighbors, it is my belief that we all have a solemn responsibility to be emissaries of Christ. To reflect his love and light to all that we meet through our examples. The old adage rings true, “Live in such a way that people who know you but don't know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you.

I know things are stressful living here in China. I’ve only been here a few months, but I have definitely felt it. Husbands work hard long hours. Wires at times may feel isolated and homesick for family members and friends in other countries. Single brothers and sisters each have their own unique frustrations. Transportation can be a challenge. Many daily tasks are more difficult.

In Elder Martino’s talk from this last General Conference he commented on the struggles his youngest son had as he moved to a foreign country during his high school years. I quote from Elder Martino’s talk; “In an amazing turn of events, the experience went from one of trial to a huge blessing in his life. He accomplished this by changing his own attitude.

I daily have to remind myself that the Lord will not change my circumstances and that it is up to me to change my attitude.

I myself had -for lack of a better word- let’s call it a homesick day, yesterday. Jared had been gone to Hong Kong for several days and for various reasons, things had been a little hard while he was gone. Needless to say I was not in the best of moods. I went out to do some shopping, grumpy and already frustrated. The typical challenges of such a trip did not improve my mood and needless to say I was not very gracious to the people I encountered. Through adjusting my attitude and reading my scriptures later that night I found my mood lightened. I asked my sweet husband to forgive me which of course he already had. But unfortunately it was too late for the people I encountered while I was shopping. Instead of projecting Christlike love and kindness I just went about the task. Instead of my usual smile and “Xie, Xie, Ni” I just collected my change and went home. To us it is nothing uncommon to encounter the people native to this country, but if you think about it, the people you meet each day are truly having a one in a million chance to rub shoulders or exchange words with a member of the true church of Jesus Christ. I will probably never see those people I encountered again and what kind of an impression did I leave them with?

In the same chapter of the D&C where this scripture was taken it states in verses 6 and 7.

Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come; And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation”

In D&C 64:33 it also states

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

It is my prayer that we will take seriously the obligation we have to be witnesses of Christ at all times, and in all things and in all places. And above all that we will project the “happy ways,” the blessings and peace that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that we will be anxiously engaged in sharing our testimonies not in words, but in actions and through our example.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Ways

I need to start this blog back up again. I stopped because I was using other's computers and it was so hard to find a private place where I could write down my feelings. But it gave me something to keep me studying the scriptures, or the Ensign or conference talks everyday and I really need to be better at that. I am now a nursery worker in the branch and that means that I miss out on Sunday School and Relief Society. So in other words it is up to me to do my own spiritual study!

I have been thinking a lot these past couple days about Sister Beck's conference talk from this past Conference and in particular this quote:

"Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world. . . ."

Being in China I feel some frustrations about the inability to be able to share my testimony or even talk about the church or my beliefs with others. I'm not saying that I was the best at it in the States, but just knowing that you are forbidden to do so is aggravating.

I've been thinking about what I can do while I am here and I keep coming back to this quote. I think that one thing I can do is project the "happy ways" of my life. So when I ride the subway or the bus, when I play with my children in public, or try to communicate in what little Mandarin I know, I try to do it all with a positive attitude and and a cheerfulness that might make people stop and take notice. It may not be much but at this time I feel like I'm doing what I can to "be an example of the believers." It helps me as well to moderate my reactions to frustrating things when I realize that I'm being watched all of the time. I hope I can reflect Christlike love and kindness to the Chinese people around me.