Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Power of "Hurricane Sandy" < GOD

For the past four days, our family has been bracing for what those around us were jokingly referring to as "Frankenstorm".  Hurricane Sandy, which just came up the eastern seaboard, was expected to come inland and run into a large cold front of air, and both were expected to meet in the central Pennsylvania area.  It was almost comedic, how smack dab in the center of where we were this storm was expected to hit.  Many said it was a storm of epic proportions - above and beyond anything we have ever witnessed here.  

With all that said, we had been preparing for days.  Friday in class, our administrator came in to make sure we were all put on the emergency text or email listings, to be warned if school closed.  Saturday we spent nearly the whole day, lifting nearly everything off the floor in our basement, taking it up to the attic to be stored, in case our septic tank overflowed, or in case water began leaking through the walls, as it had last year when an unexpected hurricane brought days of rain here.  We had things prepared such that we could move all heavy furniture off the carpet so that we could roll up the carpet in a moment's notice.  Last year, half of the basement had to be gutted, walls reinforced or replaced, carpets torn up because there was so much water damage they could not be reasonably salvaged.  It was a nightmare for my parents, who had to move their bedroom completely to another room in the house.  (This might not sound like a big deal, but for two 60-somethings who work full time, it was a major task.)  Needless to say, we must have all looks like rummaging ants from an aerial view.  

Sunday came, and we went to Church, thinking we were well prepared.  At the start of our third hour (Relief Society meeting), the Relief Society President and then the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator led us in a solid 20+ minutes of "make sure you have/do this..."  It wasn't fear mongering  but it was a solid reality check.  We still weren't fully prepared.

Upon returning from Church, we turned on the tv, to hear weather forecasters go on an on about the projected path for this storm.  The worst of it was headed straight for us.  Take down the trampoline, tip over the basketball hoop, move the swing to a secure place.  Pull in all the toys/bikes, park the cars away from tall trees.  Readyyyy, go! 

Sunday evening, we got a robo-call from my kids' school: cancelled for the next two days.  Later on that evening I got a text from my school; it too was cancelled.  

When our kids went to bed, my oldest was by now freaked out by all the hype.  He was asking me about what was going on.  He wanted to sleep with a flashlight, and even better, wanted to sleep in my room.  He wanted to know again and again what the weather was doing - what a cold front was, what a hurricane was, and what was going to happen when they'd collide.  

Among my answers were nice descriptions of what the weatherman had shared.  Also explanations of why we took down the trampoline (this is what mattered to him!), and how sleeping in the lower portion of the house is safer in inclement weather.  I expressed how we would be safe, even if the basement had water leaks or flooding.  But lastly, I said God was in control.  

(Here's one of the creeks near our home, Monday 10/29/12 about 1:35 pm, before the bulk of the storm was expected to hit.  It was already about 2' higher than normal, and about 2' higher than normal.)
Above all, this is what mattered.  It was neat to see how my personal scripture study prepared me for each day along the path.  Last week I read Alma 38:5:
And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
Despite all my earthly preparations, I knew in the end that it was God who controls the elements.  I could build the strongest house ever, but it would only take a millisecond and a zap or God's finger to destroy it, if He wanted.

Today, the day we were supposed to have a lot of residual rain, we have a sprinkling.  We had a few strong wind gusts yesterday, but when we did, I prayed for our home, our things outside, and even the trees around us and our neighborhood and our hillside to be protected.  I don't hear chainsaws, cutting up downed trees.  I only see leaves on the ground.  It is relatively peaceful and calm, and the major networks are back to their regular programming.

When I sat down to open my scriptures this morning, I asked in my mind/heart where I should read today.  Helaman 12 came to mind.  Forgive me, but I'm going to paste in the whole thing, because for some reason, I feel inclined to not cut it short.  It's all ridiculously applicable.  I'll add my comments in another color, plus add some underlining for emphasis.

And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and aprosper those who put their btrust in him.
 Yea, and we may see at the very atime when he doth bprosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of cprecious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do dharden their hearts, and do eforget the Lord their God, and do ftrample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
 And thus we see that except the Lord doth achasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with bdeath and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not cremember him.
 O how afoolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how bquick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their chearts upon the vain things of the world!
 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in apride; yea, how quick tobboast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to cwalk in wisdom’s paths!
 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath acreated them, should brule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at cnaught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
 O how great is the anothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are bless than the dust of the earth.  (There was nothing I could certainly to do stop the monster storm from crossing our path.)
 For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.  (It certainly does!)
 Yea, behold at his avoice do the hills and the mountains tremble and bquake.
 10 And by the apower of his voice they are broken up, and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley.
 11 Yea, by the power of his voice doth the awhole earth shake;
 12 Yea, by the power of his voice, do the foundations rock, even to the very center.
 13 Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved.
 14 Yea, if he say unto the aearth—Thou shalt bgo back, that itclengthen out the day for many hours—it is done;
 15 And thus, according to his word the aearth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the bsun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.
 16 And behold, also, if he say unto the awaters of the great deep—bBe thou dried up—it is done.  (And if He wants to say unto the waters of the great deep to swirl and form a 900 mile wide hurricane to threaten the people of this land to remember Him, He can do it, and it is done.  Have we trusted in Him or ourselves to defend against this storm, in the end?)
 17 Behold, if he say unto this mountain—Be thou raised up, and acome over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up—behold it is done.
 18 And behold, if a man ahide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say—Let it be baccursed, because of the iniquity of him who hath hid it up—behold, it shall be accursed.
 19 And if the Lord shall say—Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever—behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever.
 20 And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed aforever—it shall be done.
 21 And if the Lord shall say—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be acut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.
 22 And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be asaved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.
 23 Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved.
 24 And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for agrace, according to their works.
 25 And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the agreat and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the bpresence of the Lord;
 26 Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall haveaeverlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting bdamnation. And thus it is. Amen.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and I'm not saying that because this storm hit elsewhere in its massiveness that God is smiting those people.  That is for Him to say and them to realize.  But for me, I know the lightening of the intensity of this storm's impact is a blessing to me.  Both I and my kids have two days off school.  It feels like Christmas break.  We are enjoying one another, resting, and thankful that nothing was damaged.  It was as if white light surrounded and protected our home, trees, and neighborhood.  I thank and praise God.  I know we are in His hands.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Joseph

There's more I hope to share on my thoughts on the First Vision.  Hopefully I'll work on that tomorrow.  Tonight I want to share how much I absolutely LOVE Joseph Smith.  I am beyond words thankful for the sacrifice he offered in basically doing all he could to do what God asked him to do.  I think I'll share a few things I have in common with Joseph, just for fun.

We both grew up a few miles outside a town called Palmyra. ;)
We both lived in the country for much of our youth.
We both were relatively poor, or "indigent" during our youth.
We both work hard, although I have to imagine he worked a LOT harder than I do, or ever did.
We both believe in the words of the Bible.
We both sought truth at a young age.
We both had faith that God answers prayers.
We both did things that weren't always popular.
We have both been misunderstood, from time to time.
We both moved across the country, and not necessarily because we wanted to.
We both enjoyed having lots of fun, when the time is right.
We both believe in visions.
We both enjoy children.
We both believe that God lives, and hears and answers our prayers.
We both believe in meditation, pondering, and prayer.

I don't know why I'm sharing such an odd list, but I've always felt a kinship with Joseph.  I don't know what my relationship is to him, but I have always believed him, and felt wholeheartedly that what he experienced was true.  I'd like to think that in an eternal realm, we were at least friends, if not very good acquaintances.  There's often a story of how Joseph loved playing a game called "pulling sticks".  I'd like to think that at least once, even though I'm a woman, I'd get a chance to beat him at that game.  I look forward to a time when I can call him "Brother Joseph", as the saints did nearly 200 years ago.

Joseph was indeed a prophet, and I am beyond thankful for what he did to bring forth the Book of Mormon, among many wonderful other restored blessings of Christ's gospel.  Thank God for Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The First Vision, Part 3

Joseph Smith History 1:18-19:

18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

In drawing near unto God with our lips, are our hearts near to Him too?  This was what was pointed out to Joseph as a reason not to unite with the churches of his day.  Many religions and individuals go to great lengths to dispute that Joseph was a prophet.  Regardless of technicalities of what people believe, it's important not to overlook the heart of the message.

Ignoring the reasons which I have found broadly on websites to dispute Joseph's veracity, let's look again at the main thing which was emphasized in the lips/hearts relationship.  Often in the scriptures, prophets will quote other prophets as an addition to their testimony.  Here Joseph is quoting the message he was given, yet also citing scripture.  Whether or not we believe Joseph, it was already referenced in Isaiah, citing the Lord.

Isaiah 29:13:  "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:"

and also in Ezekiel

Ezekiel 33:31:  And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness."

and again in Christ's mortal ministry

Luke 6:46:  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

This idea has really sat with me this week.  A good friend posted on her Nerdbook wall that when we find people disputing over politics, we should consider kneeling down and begging God for mercy, to save us from the challenges we face, rather than trusting in the arm of the flesh.  Amen!  It feels as though so many people claim to worship God, but when it comes down to it, we do very little that He asks.  We trust in our own strength, rather than asking Him to give us of His.

For example,

One friend told me how she is Catholic, and is very devout even though her parents aren't, but because her parents "really bothered [her]" she yelled the Lord's name in a very profane way to tell her mother to leave her alone.  Why would someone who revered God do this?  Screaming the Savior's name as a manner of profanity to express anger, by a Catholic?  Why???  Are we not commanded not to take the Lord's name in vain?  Do Catholics not believe the Bible?  I hear people of countless denominations do this.  It is very clear in Exodous that this is not something to be taken lightly, but so many "followers" do it, and quite flippantly I would add.  This is probably one of the easiest of the "Big 10" to keep, but why is it so disregarded?

We draw near unto Him with our lips, but our hearts of far from Him.

Some of my friends who read this blog are of a faith that believes that because the Law of Moses was fulfilled when Christ came, that there is no need to revere the Old Testament.  With that, there appears to be less heed given to keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Why?  We don't de-value the commandment not to take life, just because Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses, but commandments like this one which is one I believe is intended to offer us great blessings by it's observance are disregarded.  How about not requiring our manservant or maidservant to work?  How many of us so quickly and easily make a habit out of making people serve us food, sell us unnecessary goods and services, or even do our own unnecessary work on the Sabbath?  Laundry?  Lawn mowing?  Excessive baking or large meals for company?  It was given to us as a day of rest – as a blessing.  Why don't we revere it?  Would we be less stressed during the week if we honored this one?

I suppose some don't revere it because we draw near unto Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him.  I don't care what religion we each are.  This message given to Joseph and previous prophets is one that should not be overlooked with the gloriousness of the vision he experienced.  The message is important, and while Joseph was given more in that vision which he was not permitted to share, it doesn't negate the importance of what brevity we were given.  We're not just to think (for those that are Latter-day Saints) that this is a reason we can get puffed up in pride, thinking how lucky we are to not have to affiliate with such a church.  Perhaps we should use it as an added measure of caution, so that we don't puff up ourselves, drawing near unto God with our lips, but allowing our hearts to drift far, far, far from Him.

Joseph Smith History 1:20:  He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The First Vision, Part 2

Yesterday I was heartily pondering some ideas regarding Joseph Smith's First Vision.

When he asked God the question he went into the grove of trees to ask, he got a remarkable answers.  He asked which church he should join.

Such a simple question.  Have you ever asked God that?

Part of the answer Joseph received was to join none of them, for "they draw to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (JSH 1:19).

If I am to look introspectively, do I do that?  Do I draw near unto God with my lips alone?  Is my heart far from Him?

How about the church of which I attend?  Do we draw near unto him with our lips?  Are our hearts near or far from God?

Just curious.  No judgment.  Just sincere, honest, introspection.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The First Vision

One of the core principles or lessons taught by LDS missionaries is the story of the "First Vision", where Joseph Smith saw God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.  (If you'd like to read more about it, I'm quite certain you can learn more at www.mormon.org.  I'm assuming most readers of this post are already familiar with the full account of what happened, so I'll proceed accordingly.)  People can agree or disagree as to the truth of that vision, whether or not it happened, or whether or not they believe Joesph.  I believe him, but regardless of that, I want to discuss what he said he was taught, and some principles behind it.

In the year 1820, Joseph went into a grove of trees near his home in Palmyra, NY, to ask God in prayer a simple question: Which church do I join?  His experience was anything but ordinary, and he shares that he experienced a stifling power overtake him, which attempted to destroy him.  Only in calling out for God to save him from this unseen power was he relieved of it, and was next presented with a visitation from God the Father and Jesus, His Son (as I noted above).

This past week I have had opportunity to share my thoughts with a family member about my thoughts relating to this vision.  I am quite perplexed.  I am a Mormon, and I believe in visions.  I believe in healings, miracles, spiritual gifts of diverse kinds.  I believe that there is an unseen world, and we can be affected for good or ill by those within that realm.  I believe that most Mormons believe likewise, or at least purport to believe so.

Despite me believing that, doesn't mean it's true.  Not all Mormons appear to believe in these things.  How do I know?

It seems that the belief of many Latter-day Saints is that the president of the LDS Church is the only one entitled to have or experience such things.  As a young adult, I felt so strongly that psychics or mediums were "of the devil", and I remember distinctly sharing with my friend's mom that going to a psychic was unacceptable.  Anything similarly related to skills of a psychic (foretelling the future, as in prophecy) were likewise considered taboo to be avoided.

Do I still feel the same?  No.  Granted, I'm not calling up "Miss Hilda" on her 1-900 number in Jamaica.  But I have had occasion to meet people with spiritual gifts that some would call "psychic".  Do I think they're evil, or of the devil?  Absolutely not.  Does that mean they're perfect?  Or that because they can see things the rest of us can't see, they must be somehow more elect or chosen by God?  I don't think so.  I think it's a gift – a marvelous one – but we all receive unique gifts.  Some are just less visible than others.

What does this have to do with Joseph Smith?  Joseph was a visionary man, much like Lehi.  Also like Nephi, Alma, Abinadi, Moses, Noah, Moroni... the list goes on and on.  Do I think that the Bible and/or Book of Mormon are the only records that have any account of living prophets?  Or do I think that if it's not in those books, then it can't be true?  No way!  Do I think that anyone can receive the gift of visions, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc?  God willing, yes!

So why are we Mormons, Christians, so skeptical when someone says they have had a vision?  Or that they can see spirits?  Or that they can see someone's history or even their future by looking at them?  Why do we label them, medicate them, and call them schizophrenic?  I'm just curious, how this came to be.

If Joseph Smith walked up to us in our day, would we Mormons honestly believe him?  Would we sell our homes, move westward, and gather?  Would we study the words he was able to translate more fervently, if he still had a mortal body?  Would we take it more seriously?  Any of it?

Just curious.     

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Lost. But God Wins.

For many months now, I have been trying to cancel an account with Gold's Gym in Utah.  Long, long story there, which I won't go into.  I do want to share what I observed from my transactions with them, which I feel may be useful on the whole.

When I talk to someone and get an instant slimy, combative spirity feeling from the get-go, I know I'm likely going to lose the discussion, no matter what it may be.  The point of decision is there.  Do I fight, or do I give in?  Is it worth a battle?  How much money is worth a battle?  In regards to the case of Gold's Gym, I have sufficient email documentation to illustrate that I am in the right.  In trying to plead my case, however, I felt as though the evil that consumes their corporate offices infiltrated into me.  It was, indeed, evil.  It was as if it took over my body, my heart, my soul.  It made me shake.

I have had this feeling before, and it often comes in a time where I feel I am not being understood, or misjudged.  It is a feeling of being falsely accused - truths are twisted, and I am am made into a liar.

I have a lot of weaknesses, but I am not a liar.

In dealing with situations like these, I am learning that no matter what, it is better to hold on to the light.  In the end, all will be made known.  All things, good and evil, will be made known from the hilltops, and wrongs will be made right.  Does that make it easy in the interim?  Absolutely not.  Working with Gold's Gym was one of the most horrid business transactions I have ever dealt with, and I am not even sure that it is done.  But I have learned one lesson, after over 60 hours of composing (and recomposing) letters that will never be sent and read.  It is not worth the fight.  I do rather give it to God, and let Him take care of the overage they charged me.

Perhaps this strikes such a powerful chord in me because in more serious events of my life, I have felt that truths have been twisted.  In my past experience, I have been made to be a liar, when I wasn't one.  My words have been mistaken to mean something other than they were, and I have lost greatly because of it.  Daily, I get to live with the consequences.  It is worth fighting to some point, but after that, when I realize that the other party would rather hold to their mistruth or misperceptions than find the truth, I give up.  I give it to God.

And so it is with Gold's.  They have an extra $155-ish that I dispute they owe me.  I spent countless hours worrying and fighting over it.  But it's not worth the money to me anymore, to worry over this blessed money.  It could be a lot worse.  I've read of some unjust people who finagle millions of hard earned money out of people due to "contracts".  But God will take care of it.  When this happens, it ALL comes down to trust.  Do I trust God will be just?  Do I trust they will get their just rewards?  Or do I trust that possibly I will need to be forgiven of equal crimes, and hope that by my forgiving them, I too will be forgiven?  I don't know.  Either way, I'm trying.

I am happy that Gold's gets to keep the money I disputed with them over for many wasted hours of my life.  But the good news is, I at least learned how to quickly and easily identify the spirit of the devil.  He makes me shake.  Even when I look back at other encounters with other "holy" people, I realize now who I was dealing with.  Now I can recognize him a whole lot quicker, no matter whose mortal body he's sitting with.  Praise God for that.

Was it worth it?  Absolutely, because now I know to run like the wind, or do whatever I need to to keep God's spirit with me, rather than let the evil one take over.  God wins with this woman.