September 16, 2014

Seeing Blessings Afar Off

James E. Talmage said “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.” (Jesus the Christ)

Women are bombarded with ALL kinds of messages today. Who should we be? Should I have a career? How many children should I have? What should I look like? You’ll find all different kinds of answers from all different kinds of people.

The next few Blog Posts are going to be about some of my HEROES in the scriptures: WOMEN Heroes.

See if you can relate to any of these descriptions of women…
They plead, mourn, suffer, praise, show faith, sometimes complain…
Bear children, pray, fear, cry, convert
We summon, make merry, are comforted… sometimes we sin
We love, we mother, we hide, flee…
Believe, have broken hearts, we toil, we sing, dance and charm
Sometimes we are rude
Sometimes we are overcome
In the midst of all these things… we are often described as…  strong
And tender… mothers, daughters, sisters 

Did ANY of that describe you? Did much of that describe you?
All of those descriptions were taken FROM THE SCRIPTURES – describing women!
We are separated from these women by vast cultural differences, by 1000’s of miles, and by 1000’s of years and YET I submit that we have much in common with them.
They, like us, worried about their families. They struggled raising children, they worked at relationships with their husbands, parents, siblings. They had to work within their neighborhoods and communities. They dealt with wickedness. And they felt the same kind of sorrows and they celebrated the same kinds of JOYS.
We can look these – our Sisters in the Scriptures and learn valuable lessons.

Sarah:  (Genesis 11-25)
More space of scripture is dedicated to Sarah than any other woman in the Bible. I believe it is because she is the “Mother” of the Covenant. With Abraham she was promised that the great nation of God’s covenant children would come through her. Pretty big deal!
Sarah started in Ur… a splendid beautiful city. She left all the modern comforts of that great city to go into the wilderness. She arrived in Haran. Did she settle and begin her wonderful family with lots of little children running around her home? No.
They left Haran to go to a Promised Land. They ended up in Egypt! Does she settle there and start having babies? Nope. In fact, she must “pretend” she is Abraham’s sister and she is taken by Pharaoh!
           
How is she doing with fulfilling this great Promise? She’s not even with her husband anymore! I imagine she is feeling some feelings of anxiety, unfulfilled expectations, and  disappointment. I imagine she may have some feelings of “This is not at all what I thought was going to happen? Not at all how I imagined my life being?”
Have YOU ever felt that way?
There may also be some added feelings of “I’ll never get this promise/blessing – it is proving impossible.” She’s about 65 years old at this point!

Lesson: Sarah must have had incredible FAITH to endure these trials.

FINALLY they left Egypt and arrived in Canaan. HURRAY! Now she’ll start popping those babies out, right?  Wrong! 20 years passed by (now 85) and it seems the only obvious answer is to give Hagar to Abraham to have the children. It seems like a good answer. She’s just trying to be creative and productive in accomplishing this blessing.

Lesson: Obvious” is a relative term – where God is concerned!

I believe it was still, in a sense, an act of faith. She knew this blessing needed to be fulfilled and she must have been thinking “Okay, I don’t understand but I guess it’s meant to come through Hagar.” It might have been a more shortsighted bit of faith but I think it still took some faith to do that.
Imagine how difficult it must have been. She knew the covenant went from Abraham ato her a to her family ato a people/a nation(Israel) a to the WORLD! Imagine how her heart must have been aching.

Finally the holy men come to visit and announce she WILL conceive! Impossible! Right?

Camille Fronk Olson said this “Anyone who has long sought fulfillment of a righteous desire, daily praying and at times pleading with God to grant a miracle, can relate to Sarah’s waiting a lifetime for a child. The most feasible time to be granted the promised desire passes and no scenario that even approximates the dream can be imagined. Then, at the least probable time, when every circumstance underscores that fulfillment is impossible, the Spirit whispers that God has kept His promise and will now bestow the blessing.” (Women of the Old Testament, pg. 41)
She is 90 years old when she gives birth to Isaac and they lived happily ever after and never had another test again. Right?
No! The Lord asked them to sacrifice Isaac.

Another great Lesson we learn from Sarah: Just because we have survived one test doesn’t mean we’re done! We are challenged and tested throughout our ENTIRE life! Even when we are 100 years old if necessary!! 

I believe this test to sacrifice Isaac included Sarah.  She and Abraham were covenanted husband & wife. Every test, trial and struggle they had faced so far - they faced together as husband & wife.
Can we even imagine the kind of FAITH this test required? Sarah died at 127 years. They didn't even own land yet in Canaan. They were wandering in tents.  Isaac, their only son, is not yet married and certainly not having grandchildren for this great family that is supposed to be as numerous as the sands of the sea! The Promise, at this point, has not even been fulfilled! Therefore, our last and most important lesson from Sarah actually comes from Hebrews 11:8-13. Paul, after listing off many great people – including Sarah, who accomplished incredible things through faith, then says:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

I LOVE that verse!

Lesson: Having Patience and an eternal perspective; seeing the blessings “afar off” is essential to our success in this life. We must remember those blessings and “embrace” those promises! If we are true and faithful to our covenants ALL promises and blessings WILL be fulfilled! We may have to wait months… we may have to wait years… we may have to wait a LIFETIME… BUT they will come!

September 03, 2014

Mighty Even Unto the Power of Deliverance

Mighty Even Unto the Power of Deliverance

It’s that time of year again: Back to school – which means back to Institute. I love teaching Institute. I love reading, studying and really digging into the scriptures. And I believe that’s what we need to do – DIG – if we are to gain a true appreciation and understanding of the truths taught therein.

On Thursdays I get to teach Book of Mormon so this post will be taken from the beginning of the Book of Mormon.

One of my favorite scholars, Hugh Nibley, said: “The Book of Mormon in an inexhaustible encyclopedia of knowledge.” 

And Joseph Smith, of course, said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”   
If those aren’t good enough reasons to study the Book of Mormon one might ask “Well, what are the main purposes of the Book of Mormon?” Why does it even exist? (Hint: it does NOT exist because Joseph Smith wrote it! A young, uneducated farm boy in the early 1800’s simply did not write this over 500 page book that spans 1000 years, 4 different civilizations lavish with cultural and technical details--manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, and rites & traditions, a book that manages to correctly reference the Old World(Ancient Near East), the New World (MesoAmerica) and the Modern World we live in today! But that is an entire different post)

The entire purpose of the Book of Mormon is simple yet powerful. It exists to show the House of Israel the great things the Lord has done for them(and their fathers)so that they might know of the covenants of the Lord. And to convince the Jew and the Gentile (that basically means everyone!) that Jesus is the Christ. That is WHY it exists. Hence the subtitle: “Another Testament of Christ”

Nephi introduces to us, at the very beginning, one of the main themes that beautifully and powerfully flows through the pages and stories of this sacred book. 1 Nephi 1:20Behold, I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”

This is one of my absolute favorite scriptures!
What are the tender mercies of the Lord? They are blessings, strength, protection, and guidance that we so desperately need as we journey through this life. I NEED those tender mercies. So how does one receive those blessings? According to the verse the blessings are “over all those whom he hath chosen”. That doesn’t sound very fair. Keep reading closely…
Who is chosen? Or WHY are they chosen? “because of their faith”.
I want to be one of the Chosen! Remember being in grade school and  getting “chosen” or “picked” for teams? Were you ever one who was last to be chosen? Or near the last? Isn’t that a horrible feeling of anxiety? Your heart is pounding, your mind racing “Please, please choose me!!” Right?  I hate that feeling. I do NOT want that feeling in heaven! I don’t want my heart pounding as we are lined up and the Lord goes along to “choose” who gets to enter with Him. “I pick you… and you… and, hmmm let’s see, no not you…. But you and then you…” I don’t want my heart to be pounding “Oh, Lord, please… please… pick me!” Wouldn’t that be horrible!?

Elder David A. Bednar put it this way: “I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determines whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.”(Conference 4/2005)

Isn’t that wonderful!?  I want to be one of the Chosen! And it’s totally up to us whether or not we are chosen. It’s not a roll of the dice. It’s not random. It’s up to us!

Here is the second wonderful and amazing part of this Book of Mormon Theme. When we are righteous and obedient, and therefore “chosen”, the promised blessing is that we will be made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”

Nephi and his brothers were sent back to Jerusalem to retrieve the Brass Plates(scriptures). It was a long & dangerous mission! They were gone much longer than expected and their mother Sariah feared they were dead. Finally, after much sadness, worry and grief they returned. After their safe return Sariah rejoiced “I know the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them… and given them power whereby they could accomplish the things which the Lord hath commanded them.”
The promise in 1:20 is beautifully fulfilled in this story. Nephi and his brothers were indeed made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”

The Lord gives us the POWER we need to accomplish our missions as well. Whatever that mission is for us. He gives us the power we need to face challenges and overcome trials. How often do we pray “please Lord take this trial away”? Or “Change this situation for me.”

If we follow the principle taught beautifully here in the Book of Mormon perhaps our prayers should sound more like “Please, Lord, give me the strength to overcome" OR "the strength to resist this temptation.” Or “Please give me the power to bear this burden.” Whatever it is we need: IF we are righteous and faithful THEN the Lord will give us the POWER to accomplish that thing. It doesn’t mean life will be easy! Just ask Nephi, who is one of the greatest recipients of being made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance” because his life was NEVER easy. And yet he remained faithful and therefore received those tender mercies of the Lord.
Our story can be like Nephi’s. We too can receive those tender mercies. We too can be chosen. We CAN be made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance”!! I love that promise. I love the Book of Mormon for teaching us that promise.

March 29, 2014

**Let’s Swim** with Coach Kristen
It’s that time of year: The Sun is hot and the Water is cool. Time for SWIM LESSONS! My favorite time of year.

**25 years experience**

SESSIONS:
1. May 19-29
2. June 2-12
3. June 16-26

 TIMES:
May: 11:30 on… I will also have time available for AFTER school kids.
June: 10:00am… as long as needed
I strongly believe lessons need to be often and consistent so I teach M-T-W-Th.
30 min lessons
4 swimmers per class

 COST:
$80.00/Session = 8 lessons

Contact me ASAP. Let’s Swim.

Thanks! Coach Kristen     READY… SET… SWIM…


January 15, 2014

I've Got a Home on the Other Side

My daughter sang with the BYU University Chorale last semester. At their Christmas Performance they sang “Hold Me, Rock Me” by Brian Tate. It is a beautiful song. As I listened to the words I was deeply touched for two reasons. One, my thoughts went to the Israelites as they camped on the Plains of Moab preparing to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. 
They have been wandering, homeless, for forty years and now their Promised Land, their Promised Home, is on the other side of the river. Imagine how they must have felt as they prepared to finally enter that longed for, hoped for, dreamed of, anticipated Promised Land! Surely they were counting on their God, the God of Israel, to deliver them once again. Secondly, I was moved as I considered my own life and the journey that we are on here in mortality. We too have ahome on the other side.













“Hold Me, Rock Me”
Hold me, rock me, calm and easy
Hold me, rock me, deep and wide,
Hold me, rock me, in your arms
Oh, I got a home – on the other side

Hold me, rock me, calm and easy
Hold me, rock me, deep and wide
Hold me, rock me, in your arms
Oh, I got a home
Oh, I got a home on the other side

Someday, gonna cross that river
Someday, gonna set out on my own
Don’t know where my journey leads
But I’ll keep on walkin’ till I get me home

My life is a runnin’ river
Flowin’ from the mountains to the distant sea
I’ve walked many hills and valleys
But when I cross the river – I’ll be free

Hold me, rock me, calm and easy
Hold me, rock me, deep and wide  - Lord, hear my cry
Hold me, rock me, calm and easy - Lord, Lord, sooner or later I got a home on…
Oh, I got a home
Oh, I got a home… on the other side
The command to Joshua and the Children of Israel as they prepared to enter Canaan was be strong and of good courage.” As I have studied the Book of Joshua I have found 4 KEYS that help us go forth with strength and courage as we seek our home on the other side.”

1.  I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5) The Lord is there to guide and protect us. He will never break His promises to do so. Remember, if we have lost power in the Lord it is because we have moved away from Him - hence the powerful story of Achan. (Chapter 7)

2.      do according to the law” (1:7) Obey with exactness. The Children of Israel needed to be warriors like the Stripling Warriors in the Book of Mormon(Alma 53:20-21) as they journeyed to their Promised Land. And so must we if we are to find our “home on the other side."

3.      go and do” (1:16) Be like Nephi! J President Gordon B. Hinckley said “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work.”(Conference, Oct 1997) What a marvelous formula!

4.      Sanctify yourselves” (3:5) We must be worthy to have the POWER of God with us. Go to this link for a touching Mormon Message from Elder Holland about the importance of being sanctified. It is absolutely worth watching! https://www.lds.org/youth/video/sanctify-yourselves?lang=eng


We must remember as we go forward that, often, we must get wet first! As the Priests carried the ark and the covenant across the river they had to step into the water before the miracle came. (Joshua 3:15Because they were faithful and obedient it came! "...and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground.
We too must demonstrate the faith to go forward trusting that the Lord will provide the way. With these KEYS we can progress on our journey with strength and courage and find our “home on the other side.” 

January 01, 2014

Jesus Christ: The Mighty God

I love this time of year as our hearts and minds turn to our savior, Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist sang “Know ye that the Lord he is God… Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalms 100:3-4)
As I contemplate giving thanks and praise to the Savior I pondered Who He is and What He has done for me.

My mind first went to the beautiful prophecies of  Isaiah:
            “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And then to Alma in the Book of Mormon
            “And he shall go forth, suffering the pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” (Alma 7:11)

These two great prophets give us a wonderful description of Who the Savior is and What He does for us.

Using these two scriptures may we consider How the Savior truly fulfills these roles in our lives.

A child is born, a son is given

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”
 How thankful I am that my elder brother, Jesus Christ, the creator of the world, descended from His throne on high.
He came willingly and lovingly into this world. A newborn babe in a manger – the most humble of circumstances for a King, the promised Redeemer, Savior of mankind, Son of God!  And yet, to these humble circumstances He came.
He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, healed the sick, raised the dead, and taught the Gospel.
This newborn babe… this child was born to change the world.

For this I sing praises unto Him.

“Wonderful”

But He was rejected, mocked, and beaten. And He gave His life that we might live!

On the third day after His crucifixion He was resurrected – to break the bands of death that all might live again. Wonderful indeed!
No words in Christendom are more meaningful and significant than the words which the angel spoke that sacred morning in the garden “He is not here, but is risen.”

President Thomas S. Monson said “Our Savior lives again. The most glorious, comforting and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place- victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured.” (General Conference, April 2010)

Perhaps one of my most favorite testimonies of the living Christ is from the Prophet Joseph Smith who declared:
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” (D&C 76:22-23)

If for no other reason I would sing praises to my Savior for that Wonderful news.

“Counselor”

As a Counselor He pleads our case for mercy thus becoming our advocate with the Father. He is the champion of our cause like no other can be.

On more than one occasion, a devoted mother pleaded with Abraham Lincoln for the life of a son who had committed a serious offense while serving in the Union forces. Often, touched by the mother’s own sacrifice and pleading, Lincoln granted the pardon. Perhaps he thought “Not for your son’s sake, but for your sake I will pardon him.” Likewise, our Heavenly Father must be deeply moved by the incomparable sacrifice and pleading by our Savior on our behalf.
Because I – like those boys in the Union Army - make mistakes and I desperately need His pleading as my Counselor.

Because He is my Counselor on Judgment Day, when my eternal fate hangs in the balance I will be ever grateful that, as Abinadi taught, the Savior stands “betwixt me and justice.”(Mosiah 15:9)  I will beg for mercy as He “makes an intercession for the children of men” (Mosiah 15:9)

He is my Counselor!

“The Mighty God”

He truly is the Mighty God.
Everything in this world bears testimony of Him. Like Alma testified to Korihor “All things denote there is a God, yea even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it… motion & planets…” (Alma 30:44)

We have had the opportunity to visit church historical sites a couple of times as a family. One of my favorite spots is Palmyra.

I had a very moving experience one time while at Palmyra. In the visitor’s center in Palmyra there is a large Christus – like the one at the Salt Lake Temple visitor’s center.
In Salt Lake the Christus is surrounded by the universe – planets and stars swirling around Christ. Which is very appropriate as He is the Mighty God – creator of heaven and earth – the planets and stars and all things in them!

But in Palmyra the Christus is surrounded by a mural of a grove of trees.
It is a beautiful reminder that it was in a grove of trees that He appeared to the young Joseph Smith. As I sat in that Visitor’s Center and looked at the statue and the trees I was overcome with the most amazing Spirit and was reminded that He is not only the Mighty God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them - which He did. Or, He Who has all power and all wisdom - which He does!
But He is a very tender and personal God who appeared in a grove of trees.
And if He can appear in a Grove of Trees in Upstate New York to a young farm boy to answer his prayer… then He also knows me and can answer the prayers of a mother in *@*.

He is the Mighty God! He is also a very tender and personal God.

“Everlasting Father”

King Benjamin teaches us HOW he becomes our Everlasting Father.

King Benjamin said: Because of the covenant ye shall be called the children of Christ.” (Mosiah 5:7)

As we make and keep sacred covenants, at baptism and in the temple, we take His name upon us. We become His covenant Children.

This is one of my favorite doctrines of the Gospel. We are His chosen children. If we are true and faithful all the promises and blessings of the Fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can and will be ours as we keep and honor those covenants.

“Prince of Peace”

In a world filled with wars, sadness, natural disasters, and turmoil I am so thankful for the Prince of Peace.

I realize everyone has at one time or another, for some reason or another, faced difficult challenges. Be they financial pressures, health issues, troubles with a marriage or child.
We have all had feelings of sorrow and discouragement. But the Lord offers peace!

In yet another powerful and moving message from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in Conference this past October he addressed this very topic of sorrow and discouragement.  He said “In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters it is crucial to remember that we are living in a fallen world. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, [I would add Prince of Peace] who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials.” (Conference, Oct 2013)
One of my favorite scriptures comes from the story of Moses and the Children of Israel. When they arrived at the Red Sea they were faced with a seemingly impossible situation. They had a great sea in front of them, hot dry dessert on each side and Pharaoh’s army approaching behind them!  They began to murmur. I probably would have done the same. But, the great prophet Moses said:
 “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  

I LOVE that!

Fear not, be still and watch how I will save you!
When faced with difficulties & trials we need not panic but be still and have peace. He truly is the Prince of Peace.

Then we go to the verse from Alma. Alma tells us He will suffer pains and afflictions.

“Pains and Afflictions” 

I love this verse in Alma because as he describes the Savior and lists these wonderful things the Savior will do he never even mentions sins.
Now, I (and we all) will definitely NEED our Savior’s mercy to be forgiven of our sins. But this verse reminds us that He does even more!

The Savior also eases our pains & afflictions.

In our most recent conference President Monson sweetly reminded us
            “From the bed of pain, from the pillow wet with tears, we are lifted heavenward by that divine assurance and precious promise: ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’   President Monson adds “Such comfort is priceless.” (October 2013)

Several years ago I was going through a very difficult time. Without going into personal detail it was a time that I truly felt pain, discouragement and often wet my pillow with tears. One particular day I needed extra help and so I went to the temple.  Now, please know that every time I attend the temple I feel peace and my Savior’s love. But this time, when I needed Him so desperately, as I stood for a particular part of the ceremony I literally felt His Arms enfold me. It was as if He was right there in person. I felt as if I had opened my eyes I would have seen Him. I have never quite felt those arms the same way since. But on that day, when I needed Him, He eased my pains.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

How thankful I am for a loving Savior Who eases my pains and afflictions

“Temptations”

Next, the Atonement not only gives us the opportunity to be forgiven for our sins… But it gives us the POWER to overcome those temptations that so easily beset us.

Elder David A. Bednar said: “The enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us see and do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. I testify and witness that the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement is real.” (General Conference, Oct 2004)

That is absolutely a reason to not only sing but shout praises unto the Lord. Is it enough to just sing or shout praises to the Lord?  No!

The Lord said “There are many who draw near unto me with their lips… but their hearts are far from me.” (2 Nephi 27:25)

This being the Christmas season, if you could give a Gift to the Savior what would you give?
The Savior gives us the best answer. He has actually given us His Christmas Wish List. He said “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

Also, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these y brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt 25:40)

One day the people came to the Savior and asked what the way to Eternal Life was. The Lord told them to love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. He then added AND… “Love thy neighbor.” The people asked “Who is our neighbor?” And Lord gave the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan. As the man lay at the side of the road robbed, beaten and left for dead many passed him by. But the Samaritan stopped. He bound his wounds and cared for the man. Then the Savior said “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:25, 30-36)
As we faithfully keep the commandments. As we lift each other’s burdens. As we comfort those who stand in need of comfort… and mourn w/those who mourn. As we stand as a witness at all time and in all things and in all places. As we share our testimonies with others… These are the greatest gifs we could give the Savior. This is His Christmas Wish List.

May we, not only during this Holiday Season, but always in our lives recognize and be thankful for His Atoning sacrifice and for the eternal and divine works He does on our behalf. And give a Gift to the Savior through our actions of love and service to others.

I praise Him. Like the angels on that first sacred Christmas night who sang praises: Glory to God in the highest