31 March 2014

Pushing Back the Dark

". . . for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." ~Alma 34:34
SOME kind of spirit possesses us all the time. 

ALL.  Not a single second left out. 

When we don't live up to the law we know, we fall under the power of the adversary. Unlike God, he seizes as much control as he can wrest from us. he is ravenous for power, claiming authority over others whenever he can seize it. he's the ultimate lawyer, working to win on technicalities . . . which he can do because the tradition of our fathers teaches those technicalities are right/normal/expected, or worst of all: according to the law of heaven.
"A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God." ~Joseph Smith, from History of the Church, 5:588.
During our Testimony meeting yesterday, there was testimony was full of the passive, empty declarations of salvation through works, implying that Jesus is separated & distanced from us, with His salvation (only & finally) coming into play at the judgement bar, after we've suffered all kinds of things at His hands. As I heard it, the fire of my own testimony burned bright in my heart . . . that Jesus is HERE, with us NOW. That we exist, and He won, so we might have JOY! That He walks with us, and our lives can be filled to overflowing with miracles and the joy and righteousness of His glory. Did I mention that's all right now? Right this minute? No enduring to the end first? That's God's astounding grace! :o)

One of my BFFs said yesterday evening how, when we walk into a dark room and flip the light switch, we don't hear the dark arguing that it gets to stay. ;o) Where light IS, darkness CANNOT be. Now, that principle gets interesting because we own our minds & hearts. Agency is the name of the game. When we have unbelief in our minds & hearts, we choose darkness over light. True testimonies & teaching might supply electricity to the switch, others can even open a door into the room so we can see light through the doorway . . . but we have to flip the switch to accept the light as our own. Heck, so many don't even realize there IS a switch, accepting their gloomy bondage under the abominable idea that God keeps them in the dark for their own good, because God manages to still teach them some good things, to manifest some of His absolute goodness, as they labor in their darkness.

In the areas where we deal with spiritual bondage, familiar spirits will fiercely defend their territory, struggling to keep that spiritual darkness, those veils of unbelief, just as they are. About a year ago, a good friend prayed for me. She prayed for protection against some things, including the spirit of confusion. While I felt the Holy Ghost in strength throughout most of her prayer, when she prayed against the spirit of confusion, I felt the Holy Ghost's power withdraw. In my understanding, God didn't want me to be free of a spirit of confusion, because He withdrew His approval when she prayed for that. And I was confused by that idea.

After the prayer I told her that I'd felt the Spirit leave at that one point, and she responded in a way I'd never seen before: "Okay," she said, smiling, "the spirit of confusion, huh? Let's pray about that." She then prayed against that spirit, and I realized I had been totally mistaken. God wasn't disapproving of my freedom from that spirit--I had given that spirit dominion in my life by submitting to it in the past. As she prayed further, I felt my near-constant depression lifting. I began praying silently in total agreement, and we kept it up until I knew (through my feelings and what God showed me in the spirit) that it was gone. As she began that prayer, I had felt the same lack of the Holy Spirit . . . but as we prayed for several more minutes, God's love came back as the spirit of confusion was cast out. (The fact that I had felt confused by an idea that I thought was from God was a HUGE red flag. He is not the author of confusion, but of peace and clarity. It still tries to return every so often, and tries new tricks, but now that I'm aware that's one of my weaknesses, I can watch for it and pray to understand what I see, and then pray specifically against what's going on.)

When we "feel the spirit leave", it's not what we've been taught: the Holy Ghost speaking to us that something is false. The Spirit of God blazes in us for truth, it teaches & reaffirms truth in us. It speaks truth or leaves. It leaves when we flip the light switch to "off", by allowing another spirit claim upon us (for whatever reason--including generational curses we've carried since childhood or earlier). Whether through sin or ignorance (both of those can include false teachings we accept), when we do that we have unbelief that keeps us blind, in a dark room shut out of the glorious light of Jesus.

So, the next time you have that experience, that you "feel the spirit leave" to use the Mormon jargon, ask God what's really going on. Ask Him to reveal the bondage you're under, so you can understand--so you can flip that switch that evicts the darkness without argument. :o)

25 March 2014

Still Good . . .

And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.

For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. ~2 Nephi, Chapter 26:32-33

18 March 2014

The Dawning

This morning the cat woke me up, purring like a steam engine in my ear.

I prefer that to Vern's version: she clawed enthusiastically at his head as though he thinks it's all in good fun. ;o)

So after I padded downstairs--twice--to usher her out into the cold morning so she could play with her well-furred sisters and brother, we found ourselves wide awake, and looking out the eastern windows into a barely lightening sky, and talking.

What we talked about isn't part of this blog post . . . it's watching the dawn that replays in my mind. As we talked, I watched the sky lighten, going from pale gray-blue to clearer, brilliant early-morning gold as the sun approached. The trees are tall out that way, and so we have no clear horizon over which the sun's light appears as though someone flipped a switch; but a gradual and slow progression from night to shadowed morning. I remembered getting ready for school in my childhood bedroom, and morning after morning watching and waiting for the sun to spill its molten gold on my wall in that magical moment of aurora, bathing the whole world in light.

So much of my spiritual life was spent in the pre-dawn dimness, lacking much of the depth of color and contrast, the glory and warmth of direct sunlight. Dimness is the expected lot of many, and very few ever expect an experience in the glory and brilliance, warmth and clarity, of direct sunlight. That's one of the reasons we had leaders above us called to live in that direct sunlight, reflecting it for those of us who never had (and probably never would) stand in the light of day during our mortal probation.

The tragedy is, there walk untold hosts in that predawn, living in varying depth of shadow, seeing only reflected light, all too often distorted by well-intentioned but flawed mirrors. Mirrors that admit no flaws, and discourage the rest of us from seeking and receiving light for ourselves. Mirrors that, in normalizing the lack of personal knowledge of God, deny the hosts life-giving sun. Instead of showing what is possible to receive, they proclaim the desirability of the usual in its place.

Mirrors are necessary . . . but their necessity lies in giving the people vision, so they may not perish. They must stand and beckon us to come see, inspire us to come taste, to live our lives as equals in the light, where all see clearly and come to understanding together.

Father, Jesus Himself lived the life of a mirror, showing You to us in all He did. I pray all leaders, everywhere whose followers believe they lead to You, will seek always to do Your will, and reflect Your heart, Your desires, speak Your words, do Your works, and nothing for their own glory. In Jesus' beloved name, Amen.

17 March 2014

Cast shame far from you!

Give no more place to shame--it is the enemy of your soul! God doesn't CARE what we DO. He only cares what we ARE. What we are is connected to what we do, but our doing does not determine His inner climate. Our doing only matters to Him as it allows Him to direct and transform us further into inhabitants of His Kingdom. He keeps no checklist, no score sheet in this process. He burned the score sheets in the glorious fire of His atoning sacrifice and resurrection. He is not a mortal man, subject to wounding over and over by our actions. He has already suffered all, (ALL--nothing left out!), and has claim on all comfort in the Father for anything we do now. I firmly believe He sorrows with us now, because of that same love, but we have no power to hurt Him the way we would be hurt if we were as fully invested in/in love with another mortal as He is in and with us. Love heals all. God is Love. He is the healer, not the hurting.

He loves you just as much as He always has. Our own growing awareness of our mortal failings changes nothing. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Isn't that such an awesome comfort and reassurance???) Your failings have already been atoned for--your debt already remitted in full: it is done! Cast shame far from you!

Jesus is Lord of ALL, even the least of all of us. He walks beside you, every moment, loving you steadily and lavishly, already having broken down ALL the walls sin could ever build, already having bridged the precipitous chasm of the Fall.

The only thing that keeps us separate from Him, despite His constant proximity, is our own reluctance to abandon our attachment to the idea that we are sinners, separated from God. And in claiming the identity of Redeemed, Reclaimed, Beloved of Jesus, we then change the way and magnitude in which He can work in our lives, and He begins to transform us into His own image. But we have to accept, claim without apology, what He holds out to us.

The gift is given. Praise be to God!!! :o)

He is OURS, now!
Here is HERE, now!!!

And He wants us to accept Him now, as we are, so He can help us, heal us, and make us His. :oD

(I need a Toyota jump smiley . . . )

Father in Heaven, reach out and touch Your children. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts to Jesus, to His nearness, to His reality, to His earnest desire to engage with us. Work Your mighty work in us, Lord we pray . . . cast out the orphan spirit that keeps us separate from You, from Your love, from Your presence, and let us fully claim our place beside you as Yours! So be it in Jesus's holy and blessed Name. :o)

15 March 2014

Moving mountains is a piece of cake.

But how about raising money? Finding a car?

My good friend LeAnne totaled her faithful Rodeo at the beginning of March. The poor thing was on its last legs, with a crunched fender, smashed-in hood and half-spider-webbed windshield (thank you, big horse in the dark pasture--so glad all involved were okay), complete with red bungee cord to keep the hood down. But it kept on going, and kept her and her boys safe when they slid on black ice on a bridge up here, bashing both sides of the Rodeo into the cement barriers as it pinballed back and forth.

Suddenly, she had no car. And just $200 in her pocket to buy a new one from selling the Rodeo for scrap. She's a single mom going to school online, and hasn't found work that accommodates the needs of her sons and schoolwork. And as much as I wished differently, my family is in no position to buy a car. She looked and looked, and two different possibilities presented themselves. One local that needed significant work, and one twelve hours away that we had no pictures of, and no way to inspect. But she just kept telling me, "Annalea, I really feel like God has an amazing car out there for me, and I don't want to settle." So I wracked my brains, and one Sunday night, it occurred to me to wonder about something like Kickstarter. Vern thought it was a good idea, so I did some research the next day, and discovered gofundme. It took a little while to get the campaign set up, and a few more days to actually start some publicity.

Said publicity consisted of adding a little over 200 email contacts, more than 350 facebook contacts, and a whopping eighteen twitter followers. (Yeah, I'm big stuff over at twitter. lol) Unbeknownst to me, gofundme immediately sent out emails to all of the newly-added email contacts. (If I had understood that, I know I wouldn't have added so many, if any at all. I'm just kinda shy like that.) No more than two minutes later, my phone rang, and it was my brother calling from where he works in Texas, wanting to see if the email from gofundme was legit. We got to talking, and I told him a little about LeAnne, but the conversation went another direction before I managed to tell him why I was raising money for her. Then, after a good fifteen minutes on the phone, I realized I hadn't told him, and gave him the details of the accident and where it left her.

"Well, I have a car I could give her," he said in his matter-of-fact drawl.

"A car?!?!?" was all I could come up with.

"Yeah, I've got a car I could give her. I was just given a car down here, so she can have the Navigator I've got sitting in the driveway at the house. It hasn't been driven in more than a year, and needs new tires, but it runs good."

"Ummm, SHE'LL TOTALLY TAKE IT!" I managed to get out, around the laughter and shock.

Come to find out, not only is it in pretty good shape, but it's a super-nice SUV. Leather seats (heated!), sunroof, all kinds of bells & whistles. lol He didn't need it, and wanted it out of the driveway.

Yeah. God sure did have a really awesome car for her. Wow. I got the rest of the details and called LeAnne.

"Hello?"

"Hey, girl! I just got some publicity going on the gofundme campaign, and my brother called after it sent him an email, thinking it looked like a scam. I told him a little about you, and then we got to talking, and it wasn't until a while later I realized I hadn't told him why I was running a campaign for you. So I told him, and" . . . I had to pause here as a grin split my face . . . "he said he has a car you can have."

"WHAT???? No way!!!!" She laughed and cried and praised . . . and then did it even more when I told her what kind of car it was. She kept going the whole time we were on the phone, only to stop every now and then say, astounded tears in her voice, "But Annalea, that's a really. nice. car!"

Talk about an answer to prayer, and God making good on His word. I'm not sure how to express the depth of gratitude and the significance of this sign that followed LeAnne's faith. I had believed that she believed God had an awesome car out there for her, but I can't honestly say that I believed it fully, myself. But then, on the phone that day, I could see she had been right to trust the word God had given her, and my own faith sprang up to new height and strength.

I posted an update to the gofundme campaign, letting everyone know WE HAD A CAR!!! ALREADY!!!!, that it would need tires and a few things, but that we just took a huge chunk out of our funding goal. Then, throughout the rest of the day, donations rolled in.

People I knew well, family members, people I barely knew, people I didn't know at all . . . they all chipped in what they could. My heart kept filling and overflowing with an incredible, unique warmth I'd never experienced before: the selfless generosity of others expressed for someone I love dearly. Before I knew it, we had enough for tires, and we were in business! Even after weeks have passed I'm still having such a hard time putting into words the depth of the humbling, honored feeling it was to accept those donations, some from people I knew were sacrificing to help someone I love so much. Caring for one another in this way is something we should do much, much more often, because it blesses both sides immeasurably. I now understand what fuels people who dedicate their lives to charities. It's just astounding.

A week went by, and we drove down to pick up the Navigator. We got it all squared away with new battery, checked all the fluids, put a bunch of fuel treatment in the tank, and LeAnne's dad showed up to look it over and ran the compressor I brought to inflate the tires enough to get it down the road to the tire shop where we got some new all-seasons on it. As she backed it out of the driveway, the rear end bumped up onto the sidewalk, and the air ride suspension on the back end bottomed out. Totally. And stayed that way. lol The front seemed to hold just fine, though, so we caravanned down the road to take care of the tires. (Which ended up being about $150 less than we had planned! Yea!) At the tire shop, we learned the rear brake pads would need replacing soon, and the front ones not too long after that.

So, in addition to a new suspension system, we'd need the brakes repaired. Soon.

Okay.

LeAnne looked at me, worry showing on her face. I looked at her, and a buoyant feeling pushed up into my chest and spread across my face in a huge grin. Then these words just came out of my mouth seemingly of their own volition:

"It's all good, it's all good. God got you a car. He paid for tires. He can pay for repairs, too. He's got this!"

Throughout the rest of the day, as we learned more about what it might cost to fix the suspension (ouch), that feeling stayed with me. Solid. Light. Sure. I could hardly believe how easily and how fast God ponied up for LeAnne's car. The repairs would be no big deal. Far more people have money than a spare car, right? Right.

She got the Navigator home alright that night, and LeAnne drove back into town the next day to drop it off at the auto shop, owned by a friend from her church. I posted an update to the gofundme campaign that afternoon, and left it in His hands. Not long afterward, we had the news: the total for repairs (which could be broken down into two phases, one urgent and one that needing doing within a couple months) was over $1000. Wow.

Still, that buoyant feeling persisted: "God's got this," I found myself saying, absolutely confident. (Although, I did add a couple of times straight to Him, "God, I haven't the faintest how You're going to pull this off. But I know You can do it, so it's all Yours. Take it away!")

I'd never had an experience like this before. The pattern I was taught all my life was "Trust God, ask Him for what you need. But be totally prepared to work hard for what you want, and even more prepared for Him to not give you what you want, because it might not be His will." I was taught that God gives us our trials, that He often gives us really painful, deeply difficult hardship for our own good, and that we just couldn't understand the workings of His will for us. Even though those things seemed bad to us, to Him, they weren't.

But this . . . this feeling of absolute certainty that everything would work out, of laying all of it at His feet in an absolute absence of fear, THAT is faith, folks. And it was so shiny new.

Faith is knowing that He's got your back, because He told you so.

He will take care of it.

Faith is trusting Him.

Totally.

No backups, no "Plan B". Just Him. The husband that has covenanted to take care of every need of those who accept Him and the terms of His promise.

Later that evening, I got a facebook message from an acquaintance I'd only known for a short time. She asked, "How much will it be to fix your friend's car?" I wrote a detailed breakdown of the two phases, and she commiserated with me heartily. And then, I'll never forget seeing the message she sent back back: "Do they take American Express?" (?!?!?!?)

Once again, I found myself laughing and jumping around, totally stunned at the way God works. I had envisioned working for weeks to gather enough modest donations to cover the repairs, doing a lot more writing for the campaign, even contacting a couple of previous contributors who mentioned they might be able to contribute more, if necessary. But God just got'er done in one fell swoop, only a few hours after learning the total cost.

Hallelujah, God be praised, for He IS GOOD!!!!

Jesus was serious when He said:
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him?" ~Matthew 7:9-11 NLT
God just wants us to drop all of our insecurities, all of our fears, all of our excuses, and go to Him. Trust Him. Open ourselves to Him without reservation, and without fear. Think of what He has already done for you . . . the incredible sacrifices He made, over and over throughout His life, and most of all His atoning sacrifice, all so He could have the power to come to wherever we are, and fill our deepest needs. He wants to show us, however and whenever and wherever He can, that we can trust Him. That we can love Him, utterly and with total abandon. He only asks we approach him with one thing:

" . . . faith, nothing wavering."

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. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. ~James 1:5-7 KJV 
Lord, fill Your people with faith! Speak to us the knowledge of Your love, let us see & recognize Your hand all around us in our lives. Let us trust You, and love You, and reaffirm that You are good--the best ever, wholly undiluted by anything not good--and reaffirm to us that our complete trust, our faith, can abide safely in You forever. In Jesus' glorious name, amen!!!

12 March 2014

Believing in Blueberries

This is another gem from our family scripture study I just had to share.

Talking about unbelief, Alma said:
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell . . ." ~Alma 32:28
Vern began explaining the concept of unbelief to the kids, and I loved the way he put it. (You get my paraphrase, because I don't have that perfect a memory. ;o)

Unbelief is believing God won't give good things to us. It's like Jesus wants to give us blueberries. (We're BIG berry fans in this house.) Can you kids imagine, Jesus really wants to give us blueberries. So, He gets a huge box of blueberries, and comes to our door and says, "Hello in there! I've brought you some blueberries!" But you don't believe He could do that. You don't even believe in blueberries, so you call down from the window, "No, thanks! We don't believe in blueberries!" And yet, Jesus still stands there at the front door, His arms full of delicious, fresh blueberries, waiting for us to open up and accept the amazing gift He has brought us.

Is it wise to not go down, open the door, and let Him in?

Words and Seeds

Last night our family read Alma's sermon to the Zoramites' poor about faith in Alma 32, which got me thinking. Vern had so many good things to say, and I wanted to share them (along with a few thoughts of my own). I gave up trying to untangle whose thoughts were whose, and present them here as a coherent whole--a neat metaphor for what we're trying to make our marriage.

Alma begins:
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
It's our first task, as recipients of the Word of God, to make of our hearts good, soft soil into which we can receive His Word. To prepare the garden bed, so to speak. No matter what happens in our lives, we can choose to have believing hearts, ready to receive what the Lord offers us, or unbelieving hearts like hard, stony ground. Seeds may land upon it and sprout, but their tiny roots cannot reach down into the soil and they quickly wither for lack of a hospitable growing environment.
 30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. 
 31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness. 
 32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
We talked together about how God plants seeds. Out in the meadow, or in the woods, seeds fall to the earth. They sprout according to the weather and season, in the proper time. God provides rain and temperatures that coax the seed to life, and it grows and becomes like its parent plant, whether hawkweed or white pine. The soil's only job is to receive the seed. God does the rest to get it started.
 33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. 
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. 
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? 
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
Vern chose the blueberry for an example. If you plant a blueberry seed, and it sprouts and grows, you know you have a good seed. Fairly early on, you'll even be able to know, no longer having faith, that it was in fact a blueberry seed that sprouted and grew. But the fruit won't appear for a couple of years, so you still have to have faith that it will flourish and yet bear fruit.
 37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
Once we have received the word into our hearts, and we know that it's good, that it increases light and life in us, then it's up to us to decide if we're going to invest in the seed--to nourish it with care, turning to God and talking to Him, listening for His Spirit, searching more of His word, trusting what He has said, and believing that He meant it--truly believing that God doesn't lie.
 38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.  
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. 
 40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
If we choose to change nothing in our lives, though, the word that began its growth in such beautiful ways, that brought goodness and light into our lives, will not have the depth to survive. Our knowledge of God, His nature and His ways needs to increase in order for it to continue to give into and change our lives. Otherwise we'll take more than our meager beginnings can give, and our understanding (the shallow roots of the tender tree) will be exhausted, and then overcome. 
 41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
I love the final promise here, of a beautiful tree thriving, growing quickly and bearing as fruit everlasting life. Patience is important, but it doesn't mean the tree will grow slowly. Alma did say "springing up" . . . it just won't necessarily spring from the seed, fully formed, branches laden with fruit. ;o) We humans usually need a little more time to adjust than that, a more gradual changing of our lives to conform to a more perfected Godly walk.

So, what are you going to do today, or maybe over Lent (which begins today, Ash Wednesday, and ends at Easter) to nourish the Word of God in your hearts?

10 March 2014

Glorious Day!

Saturday, I was out with my two oldest boys, headed for our next errand stop, Pandora playing in the car. The day had been a little stressful, but good things were in the works. I was in that thoughtful frame of heart I often get into when I drive . . . paying close attention to my driving, but in a quiet, meditative way. "Glorious Day" by Casting Crowns came on, and the lyrics floated through my heart with the music.
One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
As the first chorus played, I wondered . . . just for a moment, I wondered, "How was that done?" And immediately, a flash of incredible understanding opened in my heart. Literally in the blink of an eye, I understood something I had never even considered, something so counter to a foundational understanding I had never examined or questioned, that I laughed aloud for joy. It's what I've been taught to call "pure knowledge": understanding that comes through the Holy Ghost, total and full and complete. And it's such a gift.

I had always thought Jesus took our sins upon Himself by some amorphous and overarching act of an autonomous, self-directing force of justice. In my mind, justice somehow had the power (as if it was an intelligence or being of some kind in and of itself) to put upon the Lamb the consequences of sin. And in my mind, consequences of sin = emotions/feelings. So Lady Justice (for lack of a better concept) came down and put in Jesus' heart all of the human feelings that happen when we mess up. I had absolutely no idea how He managed to feel every illness and physical infirmity, so that also had a "magic wand" explanation. Jesus said, "Yes, I'll experience that," and Father waved His hand, and it was done. I hadn't ever thought through the fact that, in my construct, bad things came from God, and that contradicts so many scriptures I'm not going to even count.

But now, I understand. :o)

Jesus took upon Himself all sin & death, and in His victory sent them packing. What are the consequences of sin? The wages of sin? What do you get when you sin?

Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin are death. Spiritual death = separation from God. When we're separated from our God, the enemy has power over us. Through sin, we give power to the enemy of our souls. We open ourselves to the companionship of evil spirits, and their influence and power over us to tempt and torment. Physical death = the destruction of these glorious and beautiful bodies God has given us, which is one of satan's fondest dreams. All physical ailments have a spiritual component/cause, as it's part of the adversary's main objective: to destroy us both body & soul. But Jesus' work is to heal and save, even to the reversing of the natural consequences of this world upon our bodies.
For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. ~D&C 84:33
And there's Paul, who experienced that:
As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand.  The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.”  But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed.  The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god. ~Acts 28:3-6 NLT
I love the celebratory duet in Handel's Messiah that asks:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
Jesus conquered sin and death. His healing of the palsied man let down through the roof shows sin and physical ailments are inextricably linked, with "be healed" and "thy sins are forgiven thee" fully interchangeable.

To atone for us, Jesus took upon Himself the force of evil. All of it. He opened Himself up to the deepest and most horrific torment at the hands of every and all spiritual evil, having done nothing to deserve any of it. He knows every nuance of the wages of sin, knows the presence and consequences of possession by every last kind of evil spirit. He knows, firsthand, mental illness, pride & judgement, addiction, remorse of heart and every pain and sickness, because He made Himself vulnerable to the attack and full force of the influence of all that creates evil in our world. His submission to the acts of men was a piece of cake compared to the spiritual violation and abuse He voluntarily accepted in order to save us. He was violated emotionally, spiritually, more deeply and violently than anyone ever has been or ever will be. He has been the captive, the trafficked, has had every evil perpetrated against Himself. He truly did descend below all that He might be lifted up above all, that He might save us.

I stand in awe that He could survive that--the full onslaught of the enemy's destructive and murderous intent--and bleeding at every pore is the most significant effect. I understand the physical severity of that . . . but . . . His heart didn't stop. His mind didn't break. He didn't try to escape or throw it off. Much like a woman in labor, God suffered all-consuming pain in order to bring us all, spiritually newborn, back into His presence. How amazing and wonderful is that?!?
One day they led Him up Calvary's mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me 
'Cause Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
Oh, Father of Heaven and Earth. How utterly astounded, how completely without words am I to tell the tale of my heart, the depth and breadth of my response to You, and what You've done.
Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other . . .
And Your victory fills me with such joy and light . . . so much hope, and increasing health of mind and body.
One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He's ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again
Rising again

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
Lord, I want to walk this earth in full knowledge of what it means to truly be Your daughter. You have made me holy. You have reached down and, in Your unfathomable love, Your amazing grace, washed me clean in the blood of Your sacrifice.
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming (For Your coming)
One day the skies with His glories will shine (Glories will shine)
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
Oh, glorious day
Jesus, show me how to walk in holiness before You. Show me how to walk out the revelation of who I am, the excellence I carry, the perfection of Your Spirit, and the destiny that lies before me as Child of the One True King.

Oh, glorious day, indeed!!!

09 March 2014

Wandering thoughts on healing . . .

I was in a meeting at a local spirit-filled church last year. A woman was there, who had a broken wrist. I had met her several weeks before, and I knew her wrist was broken. She may have told me how it was hurt--I don't remember now. But I knew it was a real injury. As the pastor up front talked about grace and God's generosity, he pointed to her and said, "What's wrong with your wrist?"

"It's broken," she answered, lifting her wrist with its black brace that I had noticed every time I had seen her, whether out and about or during a drop-in visit where she was staying.

"No it's not" the pastor responded.

"It's not?" she said back, clearly confused.

"Nope. It's not," he said.

I watched her take her brace off, a look of wonder on her face, and flex her wrist. The most amazed look grew on her countenance, and she held her hand up and shook it hard and fast, like you would if you were trying to shake off a big hairy spider.

"It's not!" she said, laughing.

She ran up and down the aisle, so amazed, shaking that hand, smiling and crying. I'll never forget that. The pastor had never met her before. She was visiting family in the area, and is the sister-in-law to one of my best friends. It was real--and such a huge blessing for her, so penitent and broken in her life right then. Healing can happen simply because the Spirit of God is in a place, in power, and a disciple is ready to receive.

Remember people who were healed just because Peter's shadow fell upon them? I don't know if they were waiting for him to come by, or if they happened to just be on the street. I've actually been thinking a lot about healing lately, and about the story in Mark 2 of Jesus healing the man let down through the roof, when he said "But that ye may know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy), I say unto you, "Arise. Take up thy bed, and walk."

Healing and forgiveness of sins is the same. There's a positioning of the heart that has to happen that would allow both to occur. Maybe it's the same attitude, whether you're thinking of physical healing or spiritual healing . . . that's what I've been feeling like is the case lately. In that case, whether or not the person is seeking healing by asking, I think that nearly everyone who is sick or injured really does want to be healed. The question is whether or not their heart is penitent enough to receive it.

Remember the story of Paul, shipwrecked, who gathered fuel for the fire the sailors had built, and a venomous snake driven out by the heat of the blaze bit him? He shook the snake off from his hand into the fire, and went about his business, utterly unharmed. The sailors were astounded. Paul didn't think anything of it. He was full of the Holy Spirit, and nothing could harm him. I think of an elderly man I once saw in church in the hallway right after having some kind of health crisis, and know he would love to be healed . . . his wobbly voice and the tissue pressed to his eyes spoke volumes. This once tall, strong man, reduced to hunched pain and embarrassment on a metal folding chair, a knot of people around him, helpful, but helpless. I don't know if his faith was such that he could receive it or not . . . so little faith is actually taught, whether in word through action, that it may have been only that no one there even thought to reach out and declare, in the mercy and power of Jesus Christ, healing over him.

I've seen healings take effect at varying speeds, from immediately to a number of weeks. But it happens. Sometimes it's a matter of supplying missing virtue. Sometimes (for me) it's a matter of getting my heart in the right place, so I won't just go off and do something that the Lord really doesn't want me doing. (In those cases, the illness/injury has been a result of my own choices.)

If someone is following the Spirit of God, I think healing will always come to those who are ready to receive it, whether they ask out loud or not. I have a dream of someday, sometime, being sufficiently refined, having covenanted through sacrifice sufficient that I can carry the spiritual gift of healing. Wherever I go, I will hear the Holy Spirit tell me who to heal, and I can walk up to them, look them in the eye, and when I see the recognition in their eyes of the calling from God I carry, say to them my heart and face full of joy, "Be healed, in Jesus' name!"

Someday . . . someday.

And it's going to rock. Because my God rocks.

And He IS Good. :oD

03 March 2014

According to the Idols of our Hearts

Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God : Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols'."

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God : Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am The Lord."
~Ezekiel 14:1-8 NKJV

It seems like the idea that God will give us what's in our hearts keeps popping up over and over lately. So I've been reading and mulling over this passage, trying to understand its meaning. At first glance, it seems to be saying that God will give you whatever answer is in your heart. The NLT even renders a later verse as saying God will deceive a prophet:
"And if a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel.  False prophets and those who seek their guidance will all be punished for their sins." ~Ezekiel 14:9-10
The idea of God deceiving someone, or answering falsely because someone asks with an idolatrous heart, just doesn't jive with what I know of God. Both the Bible and Book of Mormon have something to say about the truthful nature of God. Paul wrote it to Titus, almost in passing, as if the idea that God is wholly truthful is such a given that it hardly bears mentioning:
This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. ~ Titus 1:2 NLT
The Book of Mormon gets a little more specific, but still, it's a given; not an idea that takes a great deal of exposition or persuasion to make sense:
"And the Lord said unto [Ether]: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie." ~Ether 3:11-12
So I turned my mind to the human side of the equation. How could God's truthful answer seem false to the children He loves, of whom He said,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! ~Matt 7:7-11 NLT
And to whom He said:
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. ~James 1:5
and:
Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not bask for that which you ought not. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God . . . ~D&C 8:10-11
(I love how the Lord followed up an injunction to not ask for things we "ought not" with a direct instruction right afterward to inquire about the "mysteries of God". Clearly, asking about the mysteries is not taboo, for anyone. Or at least God thinks so. ;o) )

So, long story short: God is just not into messing with His kids. He is truthful. He will give good things (i.e. the truth!) to those that ask Him, and He's not going to get after us for coming to Him with questions.

So, since God isn't a deceiver, how are we left to understand those verses? What can it mean to be answered according to the idols in our hearts?

I believe it's fairly well-understood that we limited human beings interpret and comprehend what comes into our lives according to what we know, what we have experienced. Most of us know the American proverb: "When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Add to that the deep human distaste for cognitive dissonance, the square-peg-in-a-round-hold dilemma that requires us to either throw out the peg as defective, or do the sometimes painful work of changing the hole, changing the way we understand the world in order to accommodate the new truth we've received, and suddenly it starts to make sense.

As I was talking this through with Vern, it came to me so clearly: the idols in our hearts are colored glasses, filters, through which we understand what we receive from God. That's how some people can honestly believe that in order to have Zion, we have to actually kick the poor out from among us (since there will be no poor in Zion). The idols in their hearts require them to reject the poor, and then cry "all is well in Zion!" because they have achieved the condition of "and there shall be no poor among them". (And I've actually come across one of these. They are not Utah urban legend. I was gobsmacked.) The idea of needing to eject the poor in order to prepare for Jesus is so deeply counter to what the scriptures say . . . and yet I read a lengthy and flawlessly-reasoned explanation of why it makes perfect sense. Trouble was, the basic premise was flawed, and that little slant into how that person understood the nature of Jesus Christ, what His victory meant (that He was the ultimate owner of all, and that since He was the richest One in all of creation that He would only want the rich and successful with Him in paradise) made utter craziness of the scripture that tells us there shall be no poor in Zion, where the people are of one heart and Christ dwells among them. And yet, this person wrested the scriptures to fit his idea of Jesus.

When we have idols in our hearts, instead of God, the powerful force of human nature and all the beguiling temptations of the enemy combine in us to misunderstand God's word. Our misunderstanding fits within the framework we already have, though, and when we understand something, even if it's misunderstanding, neurons connect in the same way in our brains as when we learn something correctly, and we're given the same powerful positive hormonal feedback as when we learn something correctly.  I know this phenomenon well, from back in math class in junior high. ;)

If you're suffering from an idolatrous heart condition, it's easy to mistake that neurological feedback rush for Holy Spirit's witness of truth. (Which is much harder to mistake after you've received the Testimony of Jesus with the second baptism. That said, this can exist either whollistically, or in topic-specific areas. It can be due to veils of unbelief that still exist in parts of our understanding, and which God proceeds to remove methodically as we seek Him and press into our identities as His.

It's not God that answers differently when we set up gods unto ourselves. It's we, the mortal, fallible ones, who hear differently.

Father in Heaven, You are amazing. I rest, so confident, in Your unchanging nature, and the constancy of Jesus. I rejoice that You and He are faithful, that You are made of nothing which is not good, nothing which is not true, nothing which is not love. Because I know these things--because I know I can trust you without limit--Lord, open my eyes to my own idolatry. Show me the ways in which I still reject You, or get in Your way in my life. I want to follow You. I want my old life, my former way of doing things, the way that is my own, to be crucified; and I want to rise again into the unbounded love and grace of my Savior, continually changed into newness life after the manner of His life, of His heart. Lord, I want to live as proof of every good thing that comes from You; I want so much for my life to be the proof of Your love. I humble myself before You, God of mine that I know I can trust utterly and completely. (What good would be a god that isn't worthy of that? Hallelujah to God and the Lamb!) Thank You, oh how I thank You, for the happiness, peace, and JOY that comes when I throw myself upon Your mercy, Your grace, and into Your will. When I am made aware of a way to submit more fully to You, and make another leap past the boundary of my mortal experience. Keep showing me, God, what to do. Keep showing me things through Your eyes. Keep teaching me, and keep on turning all of my paradigms upside down. Even if I never get used to it--even if it never gets any easier--I will go through every last one of them rejoicing, because You are a giver of good gifts . . . and I want to receive all You have in store for Your children, in Jesus' beloved and tenderly merciful name, so be it. Amen!!!

(And God, can I just say that I'm so glad that I can have some measure of confidence that it will get easier? lol I really appreciate that. ;o) )



"The Proof Of Your Love"

If I sing but don't have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise
If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don't have love
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

If I give
To a needy soul but don't have love then who is poor?
It seems all the poverty is found in me

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

When it's all said and done
When we sing our final song
Only love remains
Only love remains

Let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love