Friday, December 27, 2013

Love Your Body into Shape

As we enter the new year there are so many resolutions to become better and particularly to lose weight and get in shape.  I do not know of any other New Year resolution so common and the poor round the year gym rats like me cringe when we experience the predictable influx of members who crowd the treadmills throughout the month of January then fade out near the end of March.  I applaud anyone who seeks to better him or herself, so I thought to give you some advice on this point.

Our bodies and minds are intimately and powerfully connected and when we think of our bodies negatively it affects our outlooks on life, our ability to work out, and makes our emotions harsh and brittle.  When remember and consider the blessings our bodies give us, no matter how they look, we become energized and filled with a full and joyful peace.  This may seem rather tiresome and merely philosophy but allow me to give you an example of how this works in the real world and how it can affect even the almighty and ever feared bathroom scale.

Today I was troubled by some difficulties that were pressing on my mind as I hopped on the elliptical. I started treading at a comfortable pace which for me today was about 3.3 miles an hour.  I am no runner and never have been.  But the discomfort of my mind was exhausting my body and I felt that I could not continue even so comparatively slowly as that.  I closed my eyes as I continued and brought my consciousness inside my body to the active functions of my stomach, bones, marrow and the like.  I found calm peace within and my breathing was even and steady.  I realized my legs automatically began to speed up and slowly I opened my eyes to view my pace no longer at a lowly 3.3 but at 9.2 miles an hour.  My breathing was as calm as though I were stretching in yoga.  Later I did the same mental exercise again and opened my eyes to find my pace reaching 14.1 miles per hour and still I felt no strain of muscle, heart, or breath.  When we love our bodies for their functionality and what they do for us, mentally express gratitude for their benefits in our lives, they begin to function better automatically and without nearly the stress or pain we would otherwise have.  I wish us all a wonderful 2014 filled with improvement, progression, and soul enriching peace. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in the Cemetery

My children have inherited my undying passion for family history and after they opened presents and read the second chapter of Luke my son asked relentlessly to visit the cemetery and bid a loving and cheerful Merry Christmas to my late grandparents and cousin.  I confess my eyes lit up at the idea for a teaching moment had immediately dawned on me and I could think of few better lessons I could teach my little ones.  We hurried out of the house as we were with no flowers, wreaths or anything else to place on the graves of our family members.  No matter.

We sauntered past the very familiar tombstones to the far corner of the property, for we visit my grandparents' grave sites often and relaxed in the calm and soothing quiet and peace of the Binghamption Cemetery.  I usually relate stories of my grandfather's life or describe my very young cousin's sweet disposition but today something else was percolating in my mind.  My children poured out their usual love and admiration of our family who lay sleeping beneath them and as it happened, my six year old son found some artificial flowers that had blown away and into the desert on the edge of the graveyard.  There were three bouquets - just enough to place on each of the sites.  He indicated that this would be a good Christmas present for our family.  I smiled and asked him what he thought the best Christmas present would be for them.  He grew pensive and threw out a few suggestions - monuments, wreaths, and the like. 

We climbed a small hill overlooking the cemetery and I asked again what the best gift anyone could give them might be.  As we overlooked the peaceful grounds they again gave a few suggestions.  Finally I ended the mystery and told them that the best gift they could receive had already been given to them in the darkness of a Bethlehem night over two thousand years ago.  They received a Savior who could rescue them from sin and overcome even the tyrant of death.  Because of Him they could live again and gain eternal life in heaven.  My children took immediately to this answer and as the sun began to descend my seven year old daughter cheerfully began singing a made up song about Jesus having power over death to the tune of "Oh Susannah." I smiled.  It was beautiful.  I had been facing some very painful trials of my own in the last few days and had been clinging desperately to the strength and comfort of God.  As I listened and looked out across the horizon peace overtook me in a calm assurance that the Lord can heal all things, no matter how devastating.  Someday all can be made right, all wounds can be healed and the graves of the just can be opened in glorious majesty.  May our hearts rest calmly and peacefully in the certain promise of a kind hearted God and complete redemption, and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Allowing Jesus to Save Me

I feel impressed to share an experience from one of the most painful times of my life, though for what reason the Lord would have me share it I do not rightly know.  There was a time, when post traumatic stress was at its height, when I was striving to heal, had exerted all the trust and faith I had, coming away a wholly broken woman and desperately needing rescuing.  I had time and again exerted faith that something would help me, that God or man would save me from the hell that had become my daily life only to find myself disappointed and feeling utterly rejected.  As one might imagine I began to place barriers around me, afraid of trusting again and taking a chance of further anguish.  I did what many people have done and decided that I wanted someone to force me to feel better, tear down the barriers of fear I had created and prove to me despite all my fearful resistance that there was indeed hope. 

I had become even too fearful to trust in God or to allow the kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ to touch me.  I wanted immediate and astonishing results, even violently powerful if necessary.  I felt I had done enough, suffered enough while trying to be Christlike, and that I deserved God to intervene and miraculously cast all of my fears, pain and inhibitions aside.  In this state I didn't want to do any more than I had done already or try to trust the Lord anymore.  And in despair and pain I fell to my knees in prayer and wept.  The answer I received, calm, gentle, and very firm was, "Even I can't save you if you don't let Me." From that day I fearfully and trembling, in miniscule steps, began to allow the barriers of fear begin to soften and then fall away.

We often feel that we need someone to force us to feel better in spite of our fears and stubbornness.  I have often counseled people who, in spite of having many proofs of love around them still refuse to see it or allow it to touch them unless it comes in the way they dictate and desire.  But it doesn't always work that way and the more we try to vie for our own way, regardless of the situation or extremity, the more we often sabotage ourselves and our personal progression.  The love of God stands always beckoning; it is for us to let go of our agendas and reach out for His hand.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jesus Christ on Self Defense

I appreciate all those dedicated mothers out there who call themselves soccer moms.  I walk a bit of a different road.  I am grateful to be a karate mom.  When I am not in the dojo watching my kids kick and punch I am often practicing with them or doing kickboxing on my own.  There exists an intense spiritual power in martial arts and other forms of self defense, and the scriptures are filled with accounts when the Lord requires His people to go to war.  But there is another form of self defense that is my personal favorite and which one can find in the twenty sixth chapter of Matthew.  

After the guard's ear has been smitten off Jesus says, "Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.  Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:52-53)   He already had a stronger bodyguard at His disposal than His mortal friends could supply.  The greatest self defense of all is faith in God.  

One may say, "Well, yes, the Savior can expect a rescue like that, but I am not perfect so God wouldn't save me."  After almost every miracle He performed Jesus told the person He healed, "Thy faith hath made thee whole."  If we can't believe that it can happen, then of course it won't.  But that doesn't mean it isn't possible if we have faith enough and if it is appropriate for that situation.  I have been rescued from death many times against all odds and when I have refused to fight back on principle.  I know with perfect surety that I am in the Lord's watchful care and that nothing can happen to me without His consent and without a positive, necessary purpose.  Does that mean we will always be spared pain and trial?  Well, consider what happened to the Savior immediately after this incident!  But He suffered voluntarily, for a purpose, He knew that purpose well and He voluntarily allowed it in order to save our otherwise wretched souls. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Character of Christ

Act in Doctrine, a marvelous book by Mormon apostle David A. Bednar, discusses the character of Christ in beautiful terms.  He outlines much of the Lord Jesus Christ's actions and life, and highlights one particular example of the Lord's character that is especially striking.  Let us consider the moment in the garden of Gethsemane when the Lord has just finished praying, sweating great drops of blood from every pore and has just been betrayed by one of His disciples.  In that state of personal agony He turns from Himself to one in the company of accusers and heals his smitten ear.  As Bednar beautifully says, "The Savior used His supernal powers to restore the guard's ear - a demonstration of His divinity He never would employ for Himself." (Bednar, 13)

Were we in that situation, Bednar muses, would we be interested in the comparatively petty anguish of someone else or would be filled with self pity and wondering if anyone cared about what we were trying so desperately to do?  It was part of the Lord's character that He turned outward in service regardless of His own physical and spiritual pain.  If we are to come to know Him, Bednar says, we need to learn to behave like Him. 

When we are angry, stressed, hurt, or saddened do we sink into a pity party all our own, or do we turn outward to serve others?  I have employed this concept in my own life and found something truly remarkable about it.  When we turn outward, the anguish of our own wounds lessen considerably.  It may not make everything perfect but we become more capable and we have the aid of heaven in our good deeds and in our personal lives.  I know that this is a powerful way to get to know the Savior, to come closer to Him, and to feel His influence more powerfully in our lives.  Let us remember in our haste this Christmas to turn from our own agendas outward and to the Savior Himself.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Defending the Bible

This is not perhaps strictly speaking a Christmas topic but it has been a concept that has percolated much in my mind for some time and pertains to bearing testimony of the truth of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus Christ.  We live in a society that increasingly takes sacred things lightly, belittles Holy Writ, and denies the the Lord Jesus Christ.  Intellectuals and professors may tell us sneeringly that the Bible has contradictions within it and that it has been changed through human error and corruption over the course of two thousand years.  They may argue that the Bible is not complete because there are allusions to prophets but does not contain the words of those prophets.  They may say that it is merely a history book of one group of people and their backward beliefs.  And granted, it is difficult to answer all these accusations for many of them have factual foundations.  

But I know of a way to counter every last one of these arguments.  There exists another book of ancient date that echoes the teachings of the Holy Bible, confirms the divinity of Christ, and proclaims unreservedly to the world that the Bible is true.  I speak, of course, of The Book of Mormon.  The purpose of The Book of Mormon is to act as a support to the truths we already have in the Bible.  It is a book written by ancient inhabitants of the American continent who knew of the gospel of Jesus Christ and wrote them in a history of their people.  I have heard people scoff and say that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon but I would ask you how a 23 year old untutored farm boy could have written a complex five hundred plus page work that reflected accurately on ancient American discoveries that had not yet at his time been made?

To my fellow Christians, I would ask if you believe that God is the God of only one group of people?  Or is He the God of the whole earth?  In my travels to Meso America I have studied many of the sacred engravings and carvings there that reflect the truths proclaimed in the Bible.  I have read much of the Popul Vuh and have found its teachings remarkably reflected in both the Bible and Book of Mormon.  When I was traveling in Guatemala I came across this statue, recently excavated.  If not from the ancient tradition of the Jews, where could these people have gained the tradition of their kings holding in their hands and  reverencing a six pointed star?  I have seen that star before in my travels.  It was on the tomb of King David in the city of Jerusalem.  Is God not the God of the whole earth and is He not capable of speaking to one group of people as He speaks to another?  Let us rejoice that the Lord loves all His children regardless of who they are or which part of the globe they inhabit.  In this, The Book of Mormon conclusively proves that the Bible, though beaten and misused for two thousand years, remains true.

If Thou Be The Son of God

We do not have much record of the personal thoughts or frustrations the Savior might have experienced, or what might have been most a thorn in His side.  I doubt that we can altogether imagine or comprehend His thoughts even if we managed to have a record of them.  But He faced one repeated slight in different forms.  It is expressed in different ways throughout the Gospels but often it begins with something like, "If thou be the Son of God...." and followed by an injunction to serve Himself in some way.  It is a double insult to His pride and also a temptation to use His divine gifts to serve Himself instead of others.

The Lord faced this mockery not only in His wrestle against Satan in the wilderness but also on the cross and indeed, the bulk of what others did to Him was based on this premise.  All the evil mankind did to Him was because they did not believe who He was, or chose not to accept it.  Thus, they taunted Him.  I find it interesting that in all these instances He never once attempts to prove His divinity.  He answers this part of the taunt with silence.  Sometimes silence is the most profound and invincible argument.  Never does He try to argue the point of who He is.  He just knows who He is and stands alone in quiet majesty.

So it is with us.  Often people may try to get us to believe that we are less than glorious.  People may attempt to argue our value and self worth.  Do we need to argue back?  Or would a better confirmation of our dignity be to stand in calm and confident silence?  We never need attempt to justify ourselves to those who would belittle us, or angrily argue with them.  Indeed, arguing such a point only makes us stoop to a lower level than we need reach.  

Stand where you are and let your beautiful inner strength speak for itself.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Peace I Leave With You

In this era of the world and also in this most hectic of all months, peace is a hallowed and rare possession.  We may find it difficult to find peace in this tumult of crumbling values, financial and political upheaval, and the continual disintegration of the family.  Add to that the stress of the Christmas season with its unending demands on our time, attention and wallets.  But for the moment I would invite you to take a moment from the madness in which we live and simply remember peace and calmness.

Take a deep breath and hold it.  Now slowly release it, blowing out of your lungs not only air but tension and worry.  For this moment, don't hold on to anything.  You don't need to.  I have always felt that Christmas seemed far too exploited so let's take a moment to reflect on what worship really means.  Perhaps we might turn away from the bustle and recognize the fact that we can adore the Lord Jesus Christ in the quietude of our own closet, humbly kneeling in honest prayer.  What is more important or fitting?  The Lord did not bring us stress and worry.  He brought us a babe in a stable - the simplest of simple things.  What need have we to complicate this most straightforward and innocent gift?

If all we have this Christmas is a corner of a barn, if all we have is a meager pittance of stale bread for food, if all the concerts we can attend consist of the worshipful music in our own hearts, it is enough.  The Lord Himself did not busy Himself with the wealth ridden things of life.  He did not chase after agendas or harbor the worries of a perfectionist.  He walked simply along the dusty roads of Galilee reaching out to those beggars that came across His path and giving a smile and a blessing to those sinners who begged His compassion.  If we have not means to do more than that, what a fitting, honest, heartfelt gift is it!  If we would truly follow the Savior Jesus Christ, let us begin by remembering His example of simplicity and calmness, worshiping Him as He is and not as we would make Him.