31 December 2013

Faith that Saves

A while back, someone asked me how I came to saving faith in Christ Jesus . . . and as I thought for a minute on how to answer, the Holy Spirit whispered that it's time for me to write. So, here we go . . .

It began, really, two and a half years ago, when God gave my husband and I the realization of a dream we had cherished for fifteen years: a place to live.  A place where we could build a home, plant a garden, a field where our children could run and play in the grass, and a few trees to shelter the house from the wind.

I stood looking out of my kitchen windows into the drizzly morning, scrambling eggs on the little hob set on a folding table. The first breakfast I cooked in our home. Our home. The eggs smelled amazing, the moist air outside reminded me of my most favorite vacations in Oregon, and I was ready to be happy for the rest of my life.  (No, really. It sounds cliché, but I was.) We had done it. We'd built a little place, were living in it, and were going to really and truly make a home in a place we chose and loved. What else was there, could there be, to happiness? This dream was fifteen years in the making, fifteen years of wandering, of hardship, and denial. We made it, and how on earth could life in the promised land be anything but fulfilling and lovely, after all we had sacrificed and worked for to get here?

It only took about 48 hours to realize that I was the only one in my family of eight that had gotten that memo.  And thus began the slide into a bona-fide midlife crisis.  I don't know what they call them, now . . . Google had some interesting ideas about that. But, being an overachiever most of my life, I figured 36 was close enough. And then, the deconstruction began.

It was as if, now that we had this safe place, nearly everything else was free game.  Vern and I both headed into midlife crises.  (I really, really don't recommend concurrent crises . . . Yeah.) Sometimes it feels as though God, in His infinite and perfect equity, expected us to give up a great number of things now that we had what we had pled for for so long. We had gone through so much to get here, to receive this blessing, I didn't expect (or think much about) what would come afterward. Early on, I consciously determined my marriage, family and faith would survive; everything else could go.  I know God heard me make that distinction, because everything else did.  Things I had always held as true, things and people I had always relied on (but hadn't realized how closely or heavily), things I cherished as precious. The approval and acceptance of people who I had trusted as friends. All stripped away.

But at the same time, I was gaining a friend. She was determined, that one. (Probably because it was God that told her to be my friend the day we met two years before . . . not anything that I did. I'm glad that she ended up liking me. lol) It takes me a good two years to really feel comfortable with a "new" friend, and I'm glad God made sure our paths crossed plenty ahead of time. When the rumor mill at my church would chew me up (it happened about once a year since moving here in 2009, until 2013, when it went into overdrive and I've learned a hell of a lot about what forgiveness actually means), I knew someone had my back. Someone both fierce and loyal. And fairly often, I would get glimpses into her relationship with God. And I was astounded at who He is to her.

He's a God with big shoulders, who could take my mortal emotions. I didn't have to choose between rigid stoicism or the culturally "acceptable" and carefully restrained weeping of my church. If I didn't like something, He wanted me to tell Him about it!

A Jesus who rejoices in my whole being--woman that I am, created in the image of God.

I saw her relationship with God that flowed with abundance and joy, not judgement and trembling. He wouldn't judge. Or condemn. And I, "successful and faithful" as I had always believed I was in the faith, began to see how hollow the fruits of my efforts really were.

See, I have a confession to make.  I had fallen prey to the unconscionably common and wholly unconscious pride that nearly all Mormons have. It's easy to see, studying LDS history, where it comes from . . . the desperate need to cling to something to make the horrors that my people have endured in the name of following God worth it. As far as being a Latter-day Saint goes, I had that down.  I could easily write something much like Paul did: Born into the covenant, raised by goodly parents, well-educated and righteous down to the last dotted i and crossed t. I knew my Book of Mormon, had read the Old and New Testaments, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, memorized the Scripture Mastery passages from Seminary, and knew every "Sunday School answer". I had graduated from Seminary, said my prayers and lived the church standards. I had "done everything right" I possibly could, and for the last two decades had been utterly confused as to why my life was (quite honestly) a wreck. My efforts had yielded well enough before I left home for BYU, but once I hit the world, my strength wasn't strong enough. I had struggled with various levels of depression from early in my college days. I watched other people in their lives, and wondered what I was doing so wrong that I didn't have in my life the promised blessings of those who love and follow the Lord. I killed myself trying, but the promised joy and peace never materialized. 

Sure, I had plenty of beautiful, brief experiences with the Holy Ghost, was led and guided by my Lord whenever He could make Himself heard, and felt close to Him (as close as my paradigm would allow Him) on a regular basis.  But the vast majority of the time, I was deeply unhappy, lonely, or just numb.

In the three years leading up to moving into our place, I prayed so many times for friends. For joy. Or just for relief.

And God moved.

He worked in so many ways, arranging things in my heart and mind such that I could begin to hear Him. Sending me a friend, one outside of my religious tradition, began to open my understanding to the idea that God might be more than I had allowed Him to be. Getting those glimpses into my friend's relationship with Him, so substantially and fundamentally different from my own narrow experience, made me hungry for more. And so God put more people into my life, more testaments of His sheer joy in those who accept Him and don't put restraints on Who He Is, or what He might do in their lives.

Strip everything away, 'til all I have is You.
Undo the veils, 'til all I see is You.
I will pursue You, 
I will pursue Your presence.*

Some believe that Mormons anthropomorphize God.  And really, it's both too true and utterly false. Mormon culture makes God too familiar, calling Him "Heavenly Father", all while making Him far too removed and different from us in the way His perfection and omniscience and omnipotence are perceived. He is seen as the ultimate in self-control . . . as stoic deity. Always solemn and reserved, often stern. A God of incredible power from Whom we are of necessity kept distant, because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. 

So many of us utterly ignore His grace, the sheer beauty and mercy in His sacrifice, by standing back from Him, trying to save ourselves with "all we can do" so we can "qualify" for salvation. And then, when we fall short (as we always do) we figure we didn't make it, or that we'll just keep trying, and keep ourselves back from His presence, not wanting to bring upon ourselves the unbearable presence of a perfect God.

Mormons have missed the boat on what the Grace of God is . . . and it has defeated them. 

It had defeated me. 

I was limping through life, submitting to the depression, because it must've been God's will that I go through it. I had managed to (mostly) stop beating myself up daily for the point I had let my life get to . . . but I didn't see any way out of where I was. And so I lived mostly in despair. 

And then I began to see those flashes of love and joy and abundance from God in the life of my friend. Her home often looked like mine--she has a big family, and a lot on her plate. But it didn't get her down. She made mistakes and lived a life positively rife with violations of rules I long believed were vital to my righteousness and salvation. She kept the Sabbath differently than I did. She prayed in a way totally foreign to me, lacking all the forms and cues I held sacred--and yet, when she prayed, she became more herself than at any other time, and I could feel God drawing closer. She watched movies I didn't watch, had listened to music I didn't listen to, wore tank tops, had burgundy hair and a nose ring. So so so so NOT "righteous" by Mormon standards. 

But she knew Jesus.

And while a significant portion of my own LDS congregation was busy condemning, shunning or gossiping over the way my family eats, the way I educate my children, where we live, or the horror I commit by wearing my comfortable, warm dress slacks to church, she didn't bat an eyelash.

And I finally realized that God didn't, either. 

There's more to the story . . . much more. More people God brought into my life, to show me the world outside the Mormon curtain: that He lives and moves and saves there, too. In power. More that He taught me through the Bible, recorded at this blog. So many different ways and people through which He reached into my life and tore away my unbelief. 

But this isn't the time. Suffice it to say I finally found God. Finally got to the place where I was willing to trust Him completely. Finally brave enough to throw myself off of a metaphorical cliff into the unknown abyss of telling God I would only believe what He told me to believe.  For a Mormon girl, raised to prize all truth as part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that felt like taking my salvation into my own hands, and casting it, concrete-shod, into the sea. I didn't then understand that Truth is a Person . . . that Truth lives and breathes . . . and what I had deified in His place was merely fact. I have a little more understanding now for the Israelites' proclivity toward idolatry, toward their household gods. They're comfortable, and easily known. It took a tremendous act of trust for me to put myself fully in God's hands--to make that wholly unrestrained leap--and trust God would catch me. 

And He did.

He not only caught me, but filled me. And has kept filling me, as fast and as often as I can make more space for Him. I'm not who I was, I don't now live the idolatrous life I led, and I rejoice in it.

Praise God.

* From "Pursuit", Kim Walker-Smith & Jesus Culture

Eyes to See

Scripture: Revelation 19:19-20

"Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army.  And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur."

I wonder what this will actually seem like, to those in its throes. The one sitting on the horse will be readily recognizable to those with eyes to see, as will the beast and false prophet. But it seems that they will, to those who aren't seeing with spiritual eyes, look as though their roles were reversed.

Lately, and yesterday especially, I have been presented with ideas and topics upon which salvation could, (and really should), hang. Over and over, the pattern of dichotomy establishes itself: "This way to God!", pitted against "Watch out, you'll end up in hell that way!" Of course, the arguments are far more subtle than that, obfuscatory synecdoches scattered throughout. And I find myself pondering on and untangling the meaning of various the ones presented to me, wondering which side I'll choose, which points and ideas are actually on the upward route.

Father, I thank You for all You have provided for Your children's education and guidance. For scripture, for Your Son, and Your Spirit. I'm so glad I know to trust in You, to follow Your Word in the Spirit, and for Your patience and forgiveness as I fumble around. Please, give me eyes to see truth from error.  Show me clearly what I need to see to do Your work in a way pleasing to You, and lead me always in Your ways. I'm so glad for You, and for Jesus, and for the Holy Spirit, for the love that is the primary channel of communication from You, for Your followers who bring that love to me like a flood, and for the paths in which it has led me. Bring light to Your people, God, light and life and love eternal, and to those who seek to be Yours. In Jesus' name, amen.


28 December 2013

On Works

Nothing we do will earn us salvation. Ever. And not doing--even with the best intentions--will garner nothing but sorrow.  I believe it's a matter of the heart: if you believe your works will save you, you're damned; and if you know your works will not save you, Jesus accepts them, and you, because they are a love offering to Him, instead of a badge to wear on your own chest to prove yourself acceptable, a cherished placebo chosen instead of trusting Jesus to do as He promised and save you.

It takes effort on our part to deny the flesh . . . to turn our hearts over to God . . . to endure with humility the refiner's fire and live, fully aware, of the reality of Jesus' constant proximity to us all. To do as He did: only that which the Father tells us/confirms in us/calls us to do. To overcome the inertia of the flesh, and the constant whisperings of the enemy.

20 December 2013

What do I truly seek?

So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (John 7:16-19 NLT)

"Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” 

“Our father is Abraham!” they declared. 

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.” 

They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.” 

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me." 

"Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me!" (John 8:37-43 NLT)

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Who is my Father?

To whom do I turn?

To whom do I look?

From whom do I receive strength?

Direction?

Hope?

Confidence?

What are the fruits of my thoughts?

Of my words?

Of my choices?

My life?

Who finds them acceptable and pleasing?

Who do I declare?

Whose work do I do?

Do I feel a constant connection with loving, gracious, forgiving Jesus?

Do my prayers feel like conversations, or monologues to a silent room?

Does that connection flow out to those around me?

Do the names of men more often come from my mouth than the name of Jesus?

Whose words most often come to my mind, and into my conversation?

Whom do I quote most often: God or men?

Whom do I praise most often: Jesus, or men?

Whom do I thank most often?


Returning from speaking with Aslan: “Emeth came walking forward into the open strip of grass between the bonfire and the Stable. His eyes were shining, his face was solemn, his hand was on his sword-hilt, and he carried his head high. Jill felt like crying when she looked at his face. And Jewel whispered in the King's ear, "By the Lion's Mane, I almost love this young warrior, Calormene though he be. He is worthy of a better god than Tash.” 

Then Emeth said: "'Beloved', said the Glorious One, 'unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.' And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.”  (The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis)

19 December 2013

Change: it looks like God's love.

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11 NLT)

You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. (John 8:15, 16 NLT)

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Christ allowed the Pharisees' own consciences to condemn them. He didn't condemn.

He did not condemn the woman: she stood accused by a horde of those who were SURE they were the righteous ones. But Christ, the truly righteous One, didn't condemn.

It was the "faithful", the "righteous", the law-of-Moses-abiding leaders who accused. Christians today are quick to point out the Pharisees and all they did wrong, but how often do we stop and think: Whose pattern does my behavior match: Jesus', or the Pharisees'?

The only ones Christ spoke harshly to were those who held themselves up as an example. The only ones He ever treated with anything but kindness were those who were robbing the poor in the temple by selling animals for sacrifice at double and triple the cost. In both cases, He was dealing with those who had a hand in actively hindering those seeking God.

I know from sad experience that as soon as I begin to constrain, condemn, or accuse, the Spirit of God is grieved, and flees. But when I take a deep breath and speak ONLY in love the words God gives me to say--no condemnation, no pointing out what seems to me to be sin--then the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of my loved ones, and they always know exactly what it is that would make God, who loves them so much, the happiest. When I carry the love of God in my heart, good things happen. When I operate out of fear or the idea that I'm on a moral high ground, I'm only serving the enemy.

Gentleness. Meekness. Love unfeigned. Entreaty. Long-suffering. Patience.

If we, as believers, EVER want ANYTHING to change in the LGBT communities, it's gotta happen one understanding, one friendship, one outpouring of God's love at a time. He will speak to them whatever it is that He wants heard. (And heaven forbid I should ever say what that might be.)

I know . . . from unconscionably long, painful, personal experience . . . that the only way for God to come in is for US to get our damning opinions, the precepts and philosophies of our fathers, out of the way. For us to be a conduit for Him, instead of taking His law unto ourselves.  Like to a shell dishabited, only there then can there be place for Him to dwell. I finally met Jesus because I prayed for friends, true friends, and over the course of about two years, God dumped a bunch of radically-obedient believers in my lap. One by one, the love of God they radiated, the reality of Jesus to them in their lives, changed mine.  A couple decades of well-intentioned and pleasant instruction in heart-warming stories and powerful emotionalism couldn't do it.  Only Jesus.

I'm so glad that it's not my place to do anything but love ALL others, to treat them as I would wish to be treated, and leave everything else up to Him.

12 December 2013

All Are Alike Unto God

Scripture: Hebrews 5:4-6, 10 NLT

And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.  That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. ” And in another passage God said to him, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Observation: Priesthood, authority from God, is given by God. No one else. Christ showed that the old model of priesthood, that of lineage, isn't the only way.  (As did Melchizedek, and others.) He showed us that if we wish to know God, wish to obtain priesthood power (power in the Holy Spirit to do things not possible in the flesh), we must learn God's word, conform ourselves to Him, and receive more from Him, leaving our own flesh behind. There are no outward performances which, absent a heart wholly and completely abandoned to God, can bring priesthood/God's power into our lives. (Diligence is necessary, after a heart wholly for Him.) We can claim the proper bloodlines, ordination at the hands of the holiest of mortals, and a perfect righteousness in works . . . but until God Himself ratifies our authority personally to us, we have none.

Application: I think I'm familiar with the areas God has granted me authority/stewardship in my life. (Or most of them. lol) And I've been thrashing around, trying so hard in the flesh to "do it right", when really all He wants is for me to come find out from Him what it is I should do to see His glory brought to bear. He wants me to come to Him, so He can give me more. So He can teach me more. So He can lead me to be more, for Him, and to share more fully with Him in the love and grace and peace He has.

It's so, so good to know that priesthood is so utterly different than I had always supposed.  That I am just as eligible for power and authority from God as anyone who ever has, or ever will, walk the earth. Places of power in the organizations of men hold no allure for me. I only want God's enabling power, His direction and influence, in my life. I want, more than I think I could ever put into words, to help His people . . . to be able to bring God to them somehow, to show them that He loves them. To be even a tiny bit as Peter was, so healing miracles would follow in my wake wherever I went. Holding the knowledge of the love of God in my own heart is a treasure more valuable than anything . . . and bringing to others a witness of that love, an enabling personal experience of it, stands out as one of my foremost desires. And knowing that my own intimacy with God will yield fruit that I before believed was reserved only for men that had been ordained by other men is more exciting, more hopeful, more empowering, than I can say.

Prayer: Dear, dear Father. I praise you so sincerely, so sweetly, so solemnly, so boisterously and joyously, for Your love for Your daughters and sons. That You really do not change from day to day. That I can take You at Your word, and approach boldly the throne of grace to claim my own blessing that, best of all!, I can share with whoever You place in my path. Walk with me, Lord. Show me how to remember, to keep in the forefront of my mind, my consciousness, that I am walking to You. Shine the light of Your love on everything around me, show me the truth of all matters, that I can let go of those things that keep me from You.  I rebuke the enemy and all of his influences in my home, in my family. I declare that darkness has no power here. Life is changing for us, because of You. I know I can trust You completely . . . and that's such a relief. Thank You, thank You, thank You. In Jesus' lovely, lovely name, amen!

11 December 2013

Nowhere to Hide

Scripture: Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Observation: God sees ALL. We really do stand naked before him: body, mind and soul; past, present, and future. 

Application: He knows it all . . . so why do we spend so much time trying to find a dark place to hide? Why do we hide things from ourselves, why do we ignore God, when all we're really doing is clamping our hands over our eyes?

Prayer: Lord, sometimes hiding is so attractive. To stop looking at the mountain of things I want so much to do for Your name's glory and the benefit of my family and loved ones. Heck, even getting the laundry done on any given day would be fantastic. I feel tired, I miss You, and I just want to find a quiet, dark place to cradle my overwhelmed heart. And then, then I remember who You really are. What You really can do. And I want to run to where You are, and let you cradle me, instead. Walk with me today, Father. Sweep away the cacophony of "should's" and "could's" and "might've's" that my training and flesh keep piling high, and let me see You. Only You. Show me the plan You have for me today. I want to receive Your grace, walk in Your will, crucifying my flesh and the philosophies of men that I have relied on in the past so I can rise in newness of life in You. Thank You so, so much for all You've done, all You do, and who You are.  And thank you for letting me write my prayers when I can't find a quiet corner to kneel. I love you.

02 December 2013

Neither Jew or Gentile



Who can stand apart from Your presence
Once we have tasted the goodness of Your love?
Who can change a heart? Only You can.
We're restless and thirsty for healing from above.
You break the heavens open,
and I'm trying to swallow the ocean.

I'm coming alive with You.
I'm coming undone with You.
I'm coming away with You.
With the faith of a child I come.
With my hands lifted high I come.
I'm coming alive with You.

Who can know Your thoughts and Your purpose?
I want to join in, to listen and obey.
Who can do the things that You can?
If its impossible, Lord You know the way.
You break the heavens open,
and I'm trying to swallow the ocean.

You make all things new.


~Newsong, "Swallow the Ocean".

The Bible and Book of Mormon are rife with people overcome by the Spirit. Fainting away, both men and women becoming as though they were dead, later awakening and proclaiming their salvation, prophesying, and proclaiming visions given to them while overcome. I used to wonder why it was that those ancient people got to do that, when I'd never seen anything even remotely like it . . . I had felt the Holy Ghost, sometimes amazingly, life-changingly.  But not anything like that.  It was a warmth inside, a powerful motivator that made my hands cold and my heart race during testimony meetings when there was something God had for me to say. And during a Girl's Camp testimony meeting high in the Sierra Nevadas, lit by firelight and hemmed by the astounding, earnest love of a hundred and fifty girls and their leaders, felt the presence and love of God so powerfully that I felt like a new person.  It changed me, and was the first tectonic event in my new creation in Christ.  I walked around for days, then weeks, in a glow, thinking "So this is what a testimony feels like."  I didn't understand, didn't know what to do with that first amazing taste of the transformative power of His love.  And, in desperate ignorance, I took the final step in abandoning that change a little over a decade later, after the ravages of depression and more loneliness had taken their toll.

It took another twelve years before the chance came again, and this time I had just enough knowledge from more careful reading of the word between times, and the close friendship of some who knew more than I did in my spiritually infantile, socially isolated early teens. And oh, what a difference. What a difference.  This time, I know a little more what I'm about, and am intent on not letting this change slip away.  That's what Alma's talking about in Alma 5. Alma wasn't talking to a bunch of spiritual neonates, encouraging them to seek a remission of their sins. He was chastising and straitening a crowd of adults who had already been baptised with fire and the Holy Ghost, and who had let that slip away. They knew what he was talking about, because they had all experienced it.  They had felt that mighty change, and thought they'd never be the same.

The Holy Ghost works the same now as it has for all of scripture. As part of the Godhead, the operation of the Spirit is unchanging in principle and practice. It can (and will!) descend on you in power, straight from heaven, when you earnestly seek the Lord God Almighty. And if you have never felt this, if you've contented yourself with the idea that it's just not meant for you in this life . . . don't settle.  Don't content yourself with the idea that you're "just not spiritually advanced enough" or "not meant" for a certain blessing.  Don't settle! Don't swallow the lie of the enemy, the trickster, the one who stands eternally opposed to the happiness and salvation of the Children of God. Our Father God doesn't care who you are, or where you've been. Are you as Saul, who became Paul? Alma the Younger and the sons of Helaman? They had on their heads the lives (whether physical or spiritual) of many saints. And yet God spoke to them all, and they turned to Him and were saved. Not only saved, but now remembered among the most notable of missionaries and disciples. Are your hearts blacker than theirs? Your sins more scarlet? You aren't an exception to the love of God. It simply is not possible to stand outside of the word that says He doesn't care about the color of your skin, the combination of X and Y chromosomes you have, or your religious history.

Believing you somehow don't count, aren't eligible to the highest blessings in this life, WILL damn you. Maybe not eternally, but it can make life a living hell, putting you in bondage simply because you don't take the invitation offered you in the way only Jesus can offer: so utterly, without reservation or limit. It offers your heart to the enemy's jailing, holds your wounds outside of the absolute healing Jesus offers.

Just stop it. Stop it, and seek Him.

If the idea of "coming undone" before God sounds embarrassing or undignified, if the intimate language in the Bible and Book of Mormon sounds strange, let go of your ideas of what it takes to be close to Jesus, of the destructive and limiting concept of stoic faith.  Romans forcibly injected that stoicism into surrounding culture to the point that it is held up as the ideal: utter self-control to conquer every weakness of the flesh. Only trouble is, that's the arm of flesh. Yes, we should have self-control. Godly self-control, which is born of the Holy Spirit, a gift of the same, is an ability from Christ, and Christ alone. Godly self-control evaporates the desire to injure another.

We are not called to bottle up our humanity and soldier on.  We are to pour out our sorrows at His feet, and to take His yoke upon us.  And best of all, He calls us to worship, to rejoice, and to praise when things go His way.  He suffered for every last stinkin' one of us, regardless of our "odds", track record, or "qualities".  I don't care who you are, where you've come from, or where you think you're going. God doesn't care if you've been in prison, sold others into slavery, broken every one of His commandments and every law of man. If you don't know Him, He wants you to. He wants to be real to you. Real, like the floor under your feet feels.  Real, like seeing the smile on the face of the person you love best of all. Real, like hearing the voice of your best friend. And more real than anything you've ever known. The sacrifice is already made, perfect and whole. His blood was already spilt, His life already offered up, His triumphant resurrection complete. Please, don't just think you need to plant yourself in the middle of the mainstream, figure your work is done, all is well in Zion, and now just have to plug away placidly, filling the expectations of mortals. And don't waste another minute of your life looking for something else to fill the chasm inside. There's nothing on earth that's big enough to fill it.  You've got to turn to Him--turn to Him and let Him fill that aching emptiness.

It's not easy.  It takes the abandonment of your life's self-protective work, and often the rejection of the religious philosophies and scriptural interpretations of men you may have built your life upon.  True doctrine will come through beautifully--but odds are you have traditions long-held and cherished to cut loose. Which can be scary. The familiar spirits assigned to you, that are comfortable with where you are, with who you are, and the limited influence you hold due to your own contentment with where you are, don't want you to grow. They don't want you to know God better, and will pull out all the stops (including scaring you thoroughly) to keep you away from further light and truth.

God doesn't use fear to control.  He loves and entreats. If a doctrine scares you, it's probably time to examine it more closely, and pray about it again, and harder.

There's no thirst so sweet as the thirst for another thorough dousing in Jesus' oceanic love. No safety like the surrounding of His love. And no power like the faith that comes when you finally "get it" . . . finally begin understand, as much as a novice's mind can grasp, the true nature of the God you thought you knew all of these years.

He makes ALL things new.

He has, He does, and He will.  Yesterday, today, and forevermore. Infinitely. Repeatedly. Always.

For you.

Praise God. :o)



(This was first posted a week or so ago, and I'm sorry to say that the writing was highly unrepresentative of the spirit in which it was offered.  I've gone over it carefully now, and hope that the edits I've made help to convey the true state of my heart.  God bless.)