Category Archives: God’s Protection

Like a River

This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:

We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .

I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.

I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!

Iowa River
Courtesy breac.nd.edu

And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.

But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:

  • Mark Twain and his biting wit
  • All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma,  that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
  • Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
  • Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
  • TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
  • Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.

Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.

 

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #1 The Creation

An LDS scholar and Apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, defined the parameters of mortal existence as The Three Pillars of Eternity:

  1. The Creation
  2. The Fall
  3. The Atonement

I love this and want to write about each one, as we usually only hear a secular view of life: we evolved out of chaos and we live a life based only on our own efforts til death ends it all. The Christian view is significantly different: life is created by God, mortality tests and refines us, and we have a promise of life after death.

Mormon doctrine agrees with these basic tenets but adds something more: that human beings have a dual nature: The Natural (or Biological) Man and The Spiritual (or Idealistic) Man. The Natural Man provides needed instincts and energy. The Spiritual Man provides sane management of the animal within, necessary for civilized life.

As I understand it, the secular world asserts that the Theory of Evolution totally accounts for the origin of life and of human beings – arising from chaos and evolving into complex life forms, one small increment at a time. Christians have maintained that God “created” the earth, the heavens and all life therein as a conscious, systematic act, as stated in the Bible: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) These two theories have then been presented to the public as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable. Those in the “Science Camp” shout down “Creationism”; and I even know a local Christian high school that doesn’t teach any science at all – only the religious doctrine of creation! But are they truly mutually exclusive?

My education says “No.” I was raised in the beating heart of a Big Ten university in the Midwest, attending a University lab school from first through twelfth grade. Many of my classmates were children of professors, and I didn’t know what a bad teacher was as all were select graduate students or university professors themselves. We were urged to think independently but responsibly. All our teachers acknowledged that “the more they learned, the more they realized they didn’t know.” Most students and teachers loved learning and displayed this basic humility. In college, I soon learned to distinguish between the true seekers of knowledge and the infrequent “know-it-all’s” I encountered. When I saw professors go head-to-head over an apparent theoretical impasse, I just sat back and watched the fireworks. A year or two later when an academic resolution was inevitably reached, I chalked up their posturing and fights as just so much unnecessary ego. I believed then, and still do, that Truth exists independent of men’s opinion.

Then I joined the Mormon Church at age 31. As part of the Temple ceremony, I heard the phrase, All truth is circumscribed into one great whole. That resonated with me and I still believe it. In other words, there are no ultimate irreconcilable conflicts in eternal truth. And one day God will show us the true origins of life and answer all the questions we still have: the real age of the earth, whether or not biblical time frames were literal or symbolic, what happened to the dinosaurs, and many more.

I think because learning and technology have advanced so rapidly and so dramatically in modern times, we have become dazzled by it and have forgotten to look beyond man’s achievements – beyond the Natural Man’s reach. We’ve forgotten that God is a perfect being who knows infinitely more than we do and who also has our best interests at heart. He wants to share all His knowledge and power with us, but only as we acknowledge Him and obey His teachings.

Could it be that some people haven’t forgotten God but are nevertheless happy to throw Him out of their lives, along with His unwelcome rule book, clearly defining good and evil? In a reference I cannot now place, an LDS scientist recounted a conversation with a secular scientist who openly admitted that many scientists supported the Theory of Evolution’s explanation for the origins of life so they could go on committing adultery without consequence! This was surely the Natural Man speaking . . . .

It’s a lot like a classroom of fifth graders, whose teacher is suddenly called away but leaves clear instructions on the homework they are to complete, then they are left to manage themselves for a time. Soon the class degenerates into those who want to work as instructed and those who just want to have fun. Conflict and chaos erupt, both sides labelling the other, either “goody goodies” or “lazy good-for-nothings.” The obedient kids huddle in their own small groups while noise and chaos reign as a whole. Bullies emerge and claim the class doesn’t need their teacher; they will take charge and throw out the old rules. Those who don’t play along are shamed and persecuted. History shows similar patterns in society when God and His rule book are tossed aside, and the result is always chaos and destruction. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them is a maxim too often forgotten.

I maintain that civilization was built on rules the Spiritual Man recognizes and supports as universal. I further maintain that God blesses those civilizations with prosperity and protection as long as they honor what I call “The Laws of Life” – essentially the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. And He “upholds all things by the word of his power” – protection that can be withdrawn:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past
unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us
by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,
by whom also he made the worlds
;
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
and upholding all things by the word of his power,
when he had by himself purged our sins,
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
(Hebrews 1:1-3)

What do we each believe? How do those beliefs influence our actions and our lifestyle? Integrity demands our actions line up with our true beliefs, so if we talk the Christian talk, shouldn’t we look more deeply at God’s Rule Book to see if we’re “walking the walk”?

My own faith – unabashedly a “revealed religion,” revealed by God, not voted on by mortals – says that God has not revealed the details of the Creation and therefore we have no clear answers, for now. But we also believe in continuing revelation through authorized prophets and believe that those answers will come forth in God’s own time.

In the meantime, I live with faith. I support the laws of life as I understand them, and have been richly blessed for doing so. I wish all the rebellious “children” running our world today would take back the Rule Book and live by it. The world would be a more peaceful, prosperous and happy place, when the true Teacher returns.

And I also rejoice in a beautiful world that could not possibly have happened by accident.

Beautiful Earth Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Beautiful Earth
Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Do You Believe in God? Part 2

Last night I watched a new BYU production, Joan of Arc, streamed live from BYUTV.org. The story itself is stunning in its impact, inspirational in content, and as historically accurate as they could make it – taking the dialogue straight from the extensive trial transcripts that have miraculously survived over 500 years. Click HERE to view their upcoming schedule.

At about age 13, Joan claims to have been visited by an angel announcing her calling by God to lead the crown prince of France out of exile and be crowned in Reims. Then she was to lead the French patriots against the English who already occupied much of the country. How could a mere farmer’s daughter hope to accomplish any of this? But she believed this was from God, and she had repeated visits and messages from her “voices” who tutored her until she was 17 or 18, when she set out secretly to obey. Well might we think she was schizophrenic or otherwise deluded if it weren’t for the fact that she miraculously succeeded beyond even her own wildest dreams. That she was subsequently tried for heresy for merely political reasons and burned at the stake doesn’t change this history at all. God evidently didn’t want France to be English! And her martyrdom guaranteed that we would never forget His divine role.

I think many people would agree that individuals can and do receive answers to prayer, even many miracles in their own lives. But do we also believe that God directs those leaders, who are willing, on how to bless whole groups of people? Do all people who claim divine authority actually have it? And are there limits on the reach of authority of those who are genuinely inspired?

I think we can all agree that some people are either deluded or lying about claiming revelation and divine authority. But I suggest that Joan’s story gives us one guideline for discerning the source of claimed revelation:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  (New Testament, KJV, Matthew 7:15-20)

Here are some others:

Moses claimed that God spoke to him from a burning bush and told him to free the Israelites from bondage in Eqypt, in spite of his personal weaknesses. Moses doubted, but obeyed. The result was a series of miracles and deliverance of his people into a better land and a newness of life – clearly “good fruit.” See Exodus 3-15.

The Virgin Mary learned she would miraculously conceive and give birth to the promised Messiah, in spite of her lack of social prominence, wealth, and existing betrothal to another man. The result was the best fruit to ever come forth in all of mortal existence: Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

Teresa D’Avila was Mother Superior and reformer of a Carmelite order of nuns in Spain in the 1500’s. She was a practical administrator as well as famed mystic. She would retreat into prayer for long periods of time, communing with the Spirit of God. The famed sculptor Bernini portrayed her being flooded with divine light and pierced with the love of God. I was privileged to see this amazing work on the wall in the church of Santa Maria Vitória in Rome in 2001 and have never forgotten its impact as lovely soft light filtered down on it from above, just as it evidently did on her in real life! She reports that these experiences informed all areas of her life and very successful leadership.

Bernini Sculpture, St Teresa D'Avila http://www.luiginovarese.org/2015/03/27/il-beato-novarese-e-santa-teresa-davila/

Bernini Sculpture, St Teresa D’Avila
Courtesty www.luiginovarese.org

Peter Marshall was a Scottish immigrant who had received a call to the ministry in his native land after being saved by a divine warning from tumbling over a cliff during a late night walk. He emigrated, attended Seminary, eventually headed a successful Presbyterian church in Washington DC, and finally became the US Senate Chaplain. He was known for his fiery sermons and no compromise on principles. He died young, and his widow Catherine Marshall became a prolific and beloved Christian writer. Reverend Marshall felt the call many times in his work and in his message. His wife’s biography of him, A Man Called Peterwas eventually made into a popular movie – I highly recommend both book and movie (which has a rare audio recording at the end of the real Dr. Marshall speaking). Once again, we have someone called to a specific work for God, and his fruits are far-reaching and good.

Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) reported a visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees in Palmyra, New York, after reading James 1:5 (If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him) and praying to know which church to join. The result was a totally new church with over 15,000,000 members today, approximately 100,000 missionaries (most paying their own way), and 150 temples, and growing, in operation worldwide providing saving ordinances and sealing families together eternally.  With an emphasis on personal sacrifice, Christ-like love and service, this is an abundant harvest of goodness.

People in other walks of life often claim inspiration and divine guidance in their work and personal lives. One doesn’t have to be a religious leader to receive guidance for groups and individuals over which they have some stewardship (family, patient, client, employee, etc.), just sincere humility and honest intent.

I pray for my children and grandchildren daily and often see the fruits of those prayers. I prayed to be a better teacher, and I still pray for my real estate clients and to know how to properly advise them. I believe we each have an opportunity to become a conduit for God’s love, mercy, wisdom and power in this fallen world.

Just think how much light all of us joined together in faith and charity can bring to it!

New Dawn Courtesy Pixabay #570881

Joyous New Dawn,   Courtesy Pixabay.com

Do You Believe in God? Part 1

Coming out of science one day in 7th grade, my friend Sally asked me, Do you believe in God?  It took me by surprise, as we had never discussed religion before, and I answered candidly, I don’t know.

I decided to think about it and see what I really believed. I felt that if there was a God, He would be wise, loving, powerful, and all knowing. I thought that if there wasn’t a God, I would feel an emptiness in the universe, a lack of a larger consciousness than what I experienced within myself, from my family, and from the academic community around me. But I felt there was a consciousness around me that wasn’t human, that was bigger and wiser. It felt paternal. Furthermore, that being reacted to the things I said and did, just as a father would: either with approval when I was unselfish or hardworking, or with disappointment when I said something mean or did wrong. I don’t know if I told Sally, but I knew I believed in God. However, I didn’t stop my thinking there.

I lived across the street from an enormous City Park sloping down to the City Pool, then down another hill to a large area tucked into a bend of the Iowa River. It contained two ponds where we fed the ducks in summer and ice skated in winter. The 4th of July fireworks and carnival were held on the softball field there every year, plus there was a small zoo with rabbits, monkeys, buffalo, and peacocks. Though the park was well attended, it often seemed to be nearly empty. So we relished the playgrounds, leading each other around blindfolded, and sledding on the hills undisturbed. When I slept out on our screened-in front porch in the summer, I could hear the peacocks screaming in the night and owls hooting in the huge oaks across the street. There was a brooding consciousness over all the life that happened there. Since then Nature has always spoken to me of a loving caretaker and eternal, orderly mechanisms by which the universe unfolds and operates.

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

In college, I devoured philosophy and psychology looking for more answers. I rejected out of hand the existentialism of Sartre and Camus I found in French Lit. If you’re going to be that depressed, what’s the point of even living? I rejected behavioral determinism in learning theory because I experienced my own power of conscious choice. It was a “duh” moment, just like in the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have free choice because I exercised it myself and could see the results of both wise and foolish choices. And there was a spirit around “good” people who were self-sacrificing, hard working, intelligent and kind. They had a form of happiness that no amount of self-indulgence could create. I experienced that myself when I resolved to help out more at home and did so, or when I studied hard for a test and did my best. No donut, new outfit, or TV show gave me that!

Then Pete and I moved to New England for a grand adventure in country living. If I thought Nature spoke to me in Iowa, She set up a symphony in rural New Hampshire. I was awakened by thousands of birds at dawn, picked wild blueberries on Pitcher Mountain with its dizzying views, washed my hair under the small dam on Highland Lake, and enjoyed innumerable dinner parties with like-minded friends. Sadly, Pete and I didn’t continue our adventure together, but we each bought little country houses, burned wood, and drank sparkling well water. I was actively pursuing my own spirituality, learning meditation, astrology, visiting communes, and sharing insights with friends. One of them invited me to a Christian prayer group with the older ladies of our small town. There I learned about Christ’s invitation to come to Him in simple, sincere prayer and His promise to answer.

So one day, alone in my house, I knelt down by an upstairs dormer window and said my first official prayer: “God, if you’re there, I need to know it.” I went on to lay out my concerns for my children and the difficulties I faced providing a life for them on my own. I lay down on my bed and, no sooner than I did so, a waterfall of pure love poured all through me. It lasted for at least 2-3 minutes and soon I was crying tears of real joy. My search was over. I was a Christian. Not from belief, but from my own experience and knowledge.

My younger sister and mother had become active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since I’d left home, and they introduced me to the Restored Gospel and the power of a priesthood authorized by God. I learned that all throughout history, those people who lived true to their Christian faith were blessed, prospered, and protected. Here are the words of Moses from the Old Testament:

3 And Moses went up unto God,
and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying,
Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob,
and tell the children of Israel; 

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
and how I bare you on eagles’ wings,
and brought you unto myself.
[In freeing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt]
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed,
and keep my covenant
,
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,
and an holy nation
.
These are the words which thou shalt speak
unto the children of Israel.
(Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added)

You might ask yourself if this nation is still a Christian nation, keeping its original covenant with God and meriting His blessings and protections. See my earlier post on Covenant America, July 4, 2014, and more about my personal journey in About Janet.

More importantly, ask yourself the same question my friend Sally asked me so long ago: Do I believe in God? If you say, Yes, then you might ask yourself how you can participate in a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We are each just one little person, but we can all light our own candle and dispel darkness around us. I wish you Bon Voyage.

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy Pixabay.com

A Candle in the Darkness
Courtesy Pixabay.com

Are Miracles Real?

Last week I saw a movie with huge impact: The Cokeville Miracle about how a small elementary school coped with a mad man holding over 100 students and teachers hostage with a bomb and guns – every parents’ and teachers’ worst nightmare. It happened for real in 1986 and details of how this all played out are based on fact. This is an LDS produced movie, not widely available, but if you can find it, I highly recommend it.

In today’s world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by bad news and anxiety about the future. It’s easy to feel small, powerless, and vulnerable in the face of big business, big government and a sense of evil growing in the world. It’s also easy to think that the only way to protect ourselves is with a similar strength and worldly power. This movie, however, suggests another way, and one rarely, if ever, talked about in mainstream media: the way of faith and spiritual protection.

Pardon the spoiler! Innocent teachers and children were protected by angelic beings, some of whom they recognized as ancestors, after uttering many simple prayers for help. The bomber’s wife accidentally triggered the bomb while the bomber was in the restroom. He shot himself when he realized his plan was failing, and she was the only other casualty. The bomb set off ammunition that shot all over the room but no one else was killed or even seriously injured. Why?

A teacher had previously taped off a line around the bomber and his wife to keep the kids at a distance. Several children reported seeing beings that looked like “light bulbs lit up” standing all along that line protecting them. Their power kept the bomb blast from radiating outwards which could have killed everyone in the room. Instead the blast only went upward through the ceiling.

What brought the angels? The whole class had been praying silently, then aloud. I believe the faith of children is especially powerful. In any case, it worked. Read an account in the Deseret News remembering the actual event:  CLICK HERE

The Book of Mormon teaches us about faith and miracles. Here’s my favorite scripture:

 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles;
and I will show unto the world that I am the same
yesterday, today, and forever;
and I 
work not among the children of men
save it be 
according
 to their faith.
(Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:23)

I believe we can all seek after miracles when we need them. We can exercise faith “like a little child” and, God willing, we will receive divine help. Sometimes accident, disease, and death are part of His plan for us, with all suffering and losses made up in the next life. That’s the rub, and it requires a huge amount of faith to not become bitter or depressed.

But when you’re feeling particularly powerless or vulnerable, remember the Old Testament story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:8-23. The vast armies of Syria gather against little Israel. The Israelite servant turns to Elisha, the prophet, in fear:  Alas, my master! how shall we do? 

Elisha replies with this famous statement: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

The children of Cokeville saw the unseen powers of heaven marshalled in their defense. I testify that we too can call upon angels and “chariots of fire” to protect us when we need them. They are greater than any evil that surrounds us.

Elisha Calling Forth Chariots of Fire People of the Keys.com

Elisha Calling Forth Chariots of Fire
People of the Keys.com

The Prayer of Relinquishment

Yesterday I heard an interesting story/allegory in church:

A woman dreamed for many years of going to Italy. She studied guide books, learned some Italian phrases, even ate authentic Italian food. Finally the day came when she actually went, nervous and excited at the same time. When the plane landed, she was greeted by the words, “Welcome to Holland.” Stunned, she asked the stewardess what happened and was told, “Your destination has changed. You are in Holland.” No explanation and clearly no way to change course.

Over time, the woman discovered many great things about Holland: windmills, canals, tulips and, of course, wonderful art by Rembrandt. Periodically, she met people either going to or returning from Italy with exciting stories of their time there, which brought back her long-denied dream with sharp pain. Somehow she knew she would eventually get there too, but she just had no idea how or when.

Don’t we all have hopes and dreams that have been derailed along the unexpected roads life brings us? What do we do with those dreams? Let them shrivel up into dry piles of hopelessness? Keep them alive, but do nothing to help them come true? Or worse, turn bitter and destructive to self and others?

I’ve had a life-long dream of establishing a home with a loving, committed husband on a solid financial footing – a safe nest for my children and grandchildren and a springboard for lasting happiness. I’ve worked to become the kind of partner I want to find. I’ve been steadily employed as a secretary, teacher, and finally realtor my whole adult life, but those two blessings have eluded me. My family are all doing well, but I still sorrow for what we’ve missed, even as I rejoice in what we’ve had.

Over the years, I’ve asked the Lord politely for these blessings. I’ve cried my sorrows out to Him, I’ve pleaded, I’ve tried to bargain, I’ve gotten mad, and none of it has produced anything but the continued whisperings of the Spirit to keep moving forward and keep hope alive. I’ve had many spiritual assurances that those blessings are still coming to me, just not when.

This week I read a story by Catherine Marshall in the January issue of Guideposts magazine, originally published in 1960. She was married to the famous Presbyterian minister, Peter Marshall, and had a small son when she was diagnosed with a non-communicable form of tuberculosis. She remained bedridden for many months, rest being the only cure. She went through the same sequence of spiritual gymnastics I have, seeking healing and a return to normal life. Nothing worked. Finally, she read a story about “a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years. She had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do his work. Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, All right. I give up. If you want me to be an invalid, that’s your business. Anyway, I want you even more than I want health. You decide. In two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.” Catherine tried the same thing, the Prayer of Relinquishment, sincerely. From that day her recovery began.

I decided to try it too. So with trepidation, I told the Lord that if He wanted me to continue to bump along with my small emergency fund and no husband, I’d accept it and do my best to serve Him with what I did have. It wasn’t easy giving up the last crumb of my will, but I looked inside and not only did I want God more than my own desires, I finally could trust that what He wanted really would turn out to be best for me and my family in the long run, not just those I might serve.

Well, I’ve had a great week putting together a class presentation, Healthy Food vs Test Tube Food, totally focused, not worried about the future, and feeling more peace than I can remember. Oh, and a neighbor stopped by to discuss listing her town home for sale. I knew I could help her have a good result, building on our long-standing rapport over feeding the birds and our mutual love of gardening. Not wealth, but a nice addition to my emergency fund in the offing, while also doing some good.

Someone once told me that the choirs of angels in heaven singing praises to God are actually expressing their boundless gratitude for the trials they experienced in mortal life, the same trials that refined them and brought them back to God’s presence. True or not, I can now imagine it.

Then I saw the move, The Saratov Approach, a true story of two Mormon missionaries kidnapped in Russia and how they responded when faced with a life-or-death challenge to their faith in God. It’s available on Netflix and elsewhere. Well worth viewing: TRAILER.

The Saratov Approach Courtesy aldyreviews.net

The Saratov Approach, Courtesy aidyreviews.net

The Prayer of Relinquishment doesn’t always give us the result we seek. Some people do stay invalids, stay single, live perpetually on tight budgets, or even die violent deaths after they give their will over to God. But even when it does bring our desired blessing, we don’t know why it worked. Either way, it always, always brings peace. And we do know that someday, somehow, He will make up all our losses one hundred-fold:

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (LDS Doctrine & Covenants 78:19; see also Job 42:12)

I believe the “all things” part includes the unwelcome ones: adversities, losses, griefs, frights. I’m a whiner and a coward, so I have a lot of work to do here. But I was richly repaid for my small sacrifice this week and that adds to my hope.

 

Storm Warnings

Last week I had a big “Oops!” moment.

Our long, balmy fall was deceptive. It was a lingering Indian summer with no end in sight, and the flies weren’t even trying to get inside!

Although we had a general forecast of snow last Thursday, I was caught off guard, thinking it would be mostly rain and a lighter storm.  WRONG – we got 8+ inches of heavy snow in less than 36 hours with plunging temperatures down into the single digits! Result: Terrible road conditions, over 200 slide-offs and crashes. Plus I was stuck inside from Wednesday until Saturday afternoon, eating food from my freezer and pantry, not wanting to risk injury to myself, others, or my paid-for car. Now we have news of the horrendous amounts of snow near the Great Lakes (over 6′ in two days in many places) with a total ban on travel.

Winter on West 21st Street, New York Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

Winter on West 21st Street, New York
Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

So what was the problem? I had blithely put off my regular grocery shopping so I was caught without my usual supply of fresh produce and dairy. Even though eating from my well-stocked freezer and pantry was a far cry from starvation, I still felt foolish and deprived. I could easily have gone out on Wednesday and enjoyed fresh broccoli, salad, pears, and yogurt instead of freeze-dried green beans, dehydrated apples, and cocoa from powdered milk (ugh).

The stress I felt was much more symbolic than real, and I sensed a deeper principle at work. How ready am I for the bigger storms of life? I thought about a friend who’d endured a power failure for two weeks one winter while her husband was in school and she had three little children at home. Their fireplace and food storage really helped, but boredom, close quarters, and stress took their toll.

Their emergency came without warning. But many do provide a window to prepare. Are we heeding the examples of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy that were so devastating? We are warned that the Ebola virus may come here and we might well need to self-quarantine. Any disruption in our food distribution system would clear grocery store shelves within days. We could experience weeks or months of “hyperinflation” that would send prices skyrocketing. So if we’re warned, we have less excuse for not preparing. While we can’t foresee every emergency nor will there always be a warning, we can do a lot to soften the impact of those that do come. Believe me, I was saying all this to myself and more.

If you want more information on preparing for emergencies, check out these sites and ideas:

  • LDS Provident Living
  • FEMA
  • Take a checkbook to Costco or WINCO and stock up –  and don’t forget water.
  • If you’re more ambitious, learn to can and dehydrate your favorite foods.

Finally, the skies cleared, the sun came out and I dared venture out on the melting ice and snow. I cautiously toodled off to Fred Meyer and stocked up, so grateful for the abundance of nature and our clean, spacious stores. Driving home a favorite hymn came on the radio that totally mirrored my mood and renewed my faith:

This Is My Father’s World
(YouTube/user/The Hymns of Praise)

My final takeaway: Tackle the tendency to worry and act from fear. God provides peace and guidance:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of 
power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy1:7)

The more I think about being prepared, the more I realized that acquiring the habit of prayer and then heeding the subtle answers that come is perhaps the very best item in our spiritual backpack.

Safety in a Dangerous World

The horrifying news of journalist James Foley’s execution in the Middle East this week made me think how quickly life can turn on a dime and how unfair it often seems. How do we live life with this sword hanging over us?

I’ve suffered fear for my safety many times, but repeatedly God has assured me that I have a mantle of protection around me.  Here are two times I remember clearly:

This spring, I was driving east on State St. going to the Post Office when a car approaching me turned left, coming right at side of the car.  I quickly swerved, hit the horn, and as I did so, something odd happened.  I “saw” what looked like a powerful energy field flowing between the two cars, only 1-2″ wide. As the other car pushed on into this field, it couldn’t penetrate it, and even appeared to move my car to the right!  I honestly don’t know how we avoided colliding, it was that close a call.  Lesson to me: God has His own form of protection when something isn’t His will for us to experience.

Many years ago, I was newly divorced, facing life as a single working mother.  I felt vulnerable and fearful of physical danger.  I remember taking my kids for walks on a bridge across a large river with a low damn just slightly upstream. We’d stop and admire the great mass of water flowing over that dam and under our feet – its power was truly thrilling.  My spirituality was just starting to emerge, mostly just as meditation (see Aligned With Grace), so I didn’t have much faith in God.

Even so, He had a message for me. One night I was driving home quite late, sober but very tired, and eager to pick up my children. After about 45 minutes of driving at 60 mph, I could no longer keep my eyes open. The next thing I knew I heard my tires hit the gravel on the shoulder. I woke up to see a high rock cliff face coming straight at my right headlight. I remembered hearing myself scream as we hit the wall and the car spun back around on the empty country highway. I was spinning in a perfect circle and hit that wall at least one or two more times. As I spun – securely belted in and held in place by centrifugal force – I watched in fascination as my left wrist snapped upward causing a mild sprain and my left knee flying up and hitting the bottom of the steering wheel, leaving a small bruise.  I came to rest on the shoulder facing back the way I came, and walked away with only those two injuries. An older couple stopped soon after and gave me a ride home. The car was totaled but I knew that God’s power had protected me, and it was far greater than anything I’d observed in that waterfall! My faith and curiosity about God grew substantially.

Waterfall Courtesy PublicDomainFiles.com Image 13483688429330

Courtesy PublicDomainFiles.com 

So why did God protect me and not James Foley? Well, I’m certainly not a better nor more deserving person.  I think the answer may lie in a statement by one of my church leaders (paraphrased from memory):  The reason we have a hard time understanding this life is that we’re living in “Act 2.”  Act 1 was the life before this when our spirits were preparing for mortality. Our mortal life is Act 2. And Act 3 will be the life to come when all things will be made right, and we’ll know why our lives unfolded as they did.

Scriptures teach us that part of our purpose in mortality is to be tested and tried, to see what choices we’ll make in adversity as well as in prosperity. Job in the Old Testament is the classic example. When God pointed to Job as a highly righteous man, Satan responded: Sure, look how you’ve blessed him with a large family and great wealth. Why would he sin? God said, Okay, you may try him in any way, but you may not take his life. Job lost his family, his wealth, his health, and ultimately his friends.  His response:  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)  Job never lost faith in the goodness of God. When the test was over, . . .the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning . . . (Job 42:12), giving him a second large family and even greater wealth, plus the hope of having his first family back in the eternities.

I expect James Foley will have glory and blessings heaped upon his head for his sacrifice. And I hope we all will notice the times God protects us and give thanks, even in adversity.

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious;
and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
(LDS Doctrine and Covenants 78:19)

 

 

Aligned with Grace

Back in my hippie days, I experimented with “mind control,” another name for auto suggestion or self-hypnosis. I’d sit in my rocking chair by a sunny window, close my eyes, and tell my left arm to rise in the air, all by itself. I didn’t consciously move a muscle and, in a few seconds, up it would float all on its own – groovy!

Next I experimented with positive affirmations and visualization. While in labor with my second child, I closed my eyes during painful hard contractions and visualized a cylinder down the center of my body opening easily to let the baby out. It worked! My pain just melted away and soon, holding a happy baby in my arms, I was totally high and triumphant.

After my conversion to Christianity, I learned the power of prayer and the miracle of God’s grace. It swept away sorrow, guilt, and worry – at least when I remembered to get on my knees! I’ve been blessed with guidance on hard decisions, forgiveness of my sins and missteps, and a deep healing of the wounds received from others.

The last six months or so, I’ve been revisiting my childhood patterns on a far deeper level, making different choices, and asking for yet more healing. I’ve received it in abundance and I give the glory to God. But a slightly different challenge remained: the small two-year-old within, squashed early in childhood, was finally ready to finish growing up. After trying to manage the process with my own conscious powers and regular prayer, I saw a news feature on meditation. I suddenly remembered those long-ago experiences, plus some advice from John Gray while on Oprah in the late 1990’s: What you focus on increases. So I decided to add auto suggestion to this process.

A couple of days ago, after inviting the Lord to guide this process, I created a quiet environment, got comfortable, and started saying to myself: The old is flowing out, the new is coming in. God and I are creating my highest self. I am a person of energy, creativity, and love. Then I pictured myself enjoying a newness of life.

The very next day, I went out visiting people in NW Boise prospecting for listings. I dropped in on a neighbor of sellers I represented last year and whom I’d met at my open house. We had a great chat, and she gave me several leads. Then I knocked on doors in a nice town home subdivision nearby. I had a good visit with an older couple who are planning to move during the next year. Their daughter lived next door, and her boyfriend said they would move too. I’ll keep in touch with them and felt so encouraged that I was finally on the right track with work, just as I pictured.

God was with me that day, and I felt a new maturity as that small child faced a challenge and triumphed! It was very freeing – the capstone of my efforts to build the supporting pieces: my knowledge of town home and condo management, how to research builders and tax records, what to say at the door, and finally how to decisively pass by a unkempt front door. The master architect was behind it all!

What I learned: Use the human techniques of creative change like visualization and self-hypnosis but don’t leave out God’s far more powerful grace – the real miracle worker!

Aligned with Grace Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 167062

Aligned with Grace
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 167062

Covenant America

Today’s the Fourth of July and I always like to celebrate our nation’s struggle to gain freedom. It’s a story every school child knows, and we all know someone who’s fought to defend it.

But what we may not understand is the spiritual heritage and mandate resting on our nation. It originated with our ancient Old Testament patriarch, Abraham. Because Abraham was righteous in worshiping the true God of Israel and not the idols surrounding him, and because he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord on faith, God made some profound promises to him:

  • He would inherit a Promised Land – Canaan in Israel – in mortality and in eternity.
  • He would have a posterity too numerous to count that would bless all other nations.
  • His posterity would be prospered and protected as long as they were righteous and refused to worship idols.

Both this blessing and its associated “curse” are described in the Book of Deuteronomy, summarized as follows:

If the children of Israel are obedient, they will be blessed temporally and spiritually—If they are disobedient, they will be cursed, smitten, and destroyed; diseases, plagues, and oppression will come upon them; they will serve false gods and become a byword among all nations; fierce nations will enslave them; and they will eat their own children and be scattered among all nations. (Chapter Heading, Deuteronomy 28, LDS King James Bible)

In Old Testament times, Egypt was the big world power, and Assyria was the country by which disobedient Israel was punished for idolatry. Israel ultimately was destroyed as a nation and scattered throughout the Earth.

George Washington, our first president, invoked these blessings on America in his Inaugural address and subsequent official prayer:

. . . it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect – that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.  . . . We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;  (Click HERE for full address)

Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln invoked these ancient promises and protections during our nation’s greatest struggle for survival, the Civil War. Some quotes:

I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side. . . . Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. . . . It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.  

In our day, America is the world power, and the nations who wish us harm are modern counterparts to Assyria who can potentially remove our freedoms. See the writing of Isaiah scholar, Dr. Avraham Gileadi for further enlightenment. Are we, as a nation, living in such a way as to preserve our national security from adversity and attack? What do recent natural disasters and the events of 9-11 say to us?

Let us not be drawn into the idol worship of our day, and may we see the Lord’s hand in providing and protecting our precious freedoms!

George Washington Taking Oath of Office Courtesy Wikipedia

George Washington Taking Oath of Office
Courtesy Wikipedia