godliness

blizzard4The wind’s howling. It’s a snowy blustery day–again. Everyone is saying this is the coldest bitterest winter ever in memory.

And I can’t help but feel a bit of longing for Belize.

I could be lounging in the sun, hot sands, snorkeling in warm ocean waters, and the vivid colors of the undersea world. I could be enjoying a little of heaven on earth.

This time last year I had never heard of beautiful Belize. Very quickly I informed myself!

Enthused, we gathered all the knowledge we needed to get there. How would we get there? Where would we stay? What would we eat? Was it safe? What did others say? What would we do?

Do you ever think about this life’s sojourn?

We’re all here together on an important journey. Where are we headed? Do you know? To travel anywhere we need knowledge and power-the ability to travel to get there.

And very true of our mortal adventure, knowledge and power are necessary to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

19 And this greater priesthood ministereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God
 
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest
 
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; 
 
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. D & C 84:19-22

No matter where I’ve travelled I’ve spent hectic days before departing, completing tons of stuff on my do to list.

I’ll bet it’s the same for you. Will all the last minute visits, meetings, shopping, laundry, folding, packing, letters, phone calls, emptying the trash, clearing the fridge, orienting some responsible soul to water the garden, discard junk mail, check up on the house, and then dropping off pets to the kennel get done on time?

And of course the very day before, the phone won’t stop demanding your time, someone will need you to run an errand and the universe will conspire to throw you into some situation that demands your talent-no one else will do.

The last hours are always hectic. Sometimes, once I’ve made it onto the plane and can breathe easy, I consider it a miracle to be sitting there at all!

(If you usually get to sit in peace and quiet for the whole day before a major trip, please share your secret!)

Anyways, I say all this to point out that in the very same way we may be filling in busy days while we are preparing for the greatest of all destinations we will ever undertake.

“Those who join this Church love the Savior Jesus Christ and they wish to follow Him. They rejoice in the knowledge that God speaks to mankind again.
 
When they receive sacred priesthood ordinances and make covenants with God, they can feel His power in their lives.
 
… The poor in spirit and honest of heart find great treasures of knowledge here.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Consider how we are preparing for this trip of all trips.

Time with family and friends, compassionate service, magnifying our callings, discovering and using our talents, hearing and obeying promptings, spending time in prayer, reading our scriptures, missionary work, learning God’s will for our lives, following the example of our Savior in all ways, and most of all– learning how it is that God’s knowledge and power manifested in our lives will enable us to one day be in Heavenly Father’s presence.

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
 
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” 2 Peter 1: 2-4 

Are you preparing for the greatest of all journeys—an eternal home with Heavenly Father? Have you the knowledge and power you need to get there?

Are you excited about this trip? What are you doing to be ready?

 

 

Life Without Hope

I contemplated murder. For a day or so I deliberated how and when to kill ‘Chet’ -get rid of him- my mind engulfed with dark evil thoughts, anger and bitterness deadening my heart.

Frustration, rage and bitter resentful sensations replaced my previous feelings of warmth, affection, and the happiness I had shared with him. I no longer could speak with Chet. I wouldn’t speak to him. I became more locked into my miserable self made prison, completely blind to any goodness that resided in him. Suddenly one day, a glimmer of light shot through the dark and thankfully, I came to my senses and left him. It was that easy to stop short of becoming a real murderer.

No one but me and the Lord knows how close I came to acting out my (or were they mine?) thoughts and feelings. I left Chet-completely left town. For a long time I was haunted by the realization that I even got to that point in my heart and in my mind.

You likely think I’ve made this up. I’ve learned much from that experience. Because of this and other spaces I’ve been in, I’ve come to believe that most people that do not recognize the light of Christ, and haven’t the privileges offered by the gospel of Jesus Christ live absolutely the most wretched mortal lives.

A Christian Lacking the Promised Holy Ghost

Afterwards, I became a Christian. As I read my Bible I learned the differences between good and evil, truth and error. I learned how God wanted me to think and to behave. I learned that He loved me. I learned to trust Him. With all my being, desiring to honor, to serve and to please Him, I gave Him my all. That is what the lists of Feelings/Emotions in Part One  are all about. That is the plan I followed. That was a start.

When I’d left home I wasn’t affectionate, confident, happy, sensitive, warm or grateful about anything, or tender hearted. I barely knew what the word ‘tender’ meant. I had lots of work to do. I made every effort to rid myself of all negative feelings/emotions and thoughts and actions. I read my Bible. I studied. I prayed.

I was giving my best effort and still, 2 Timothy 3 spoke loudly to me. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves…proud, abusive… ungrateful…unholy, without love, unforgiving…without self control, brutal…—having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

I focused on acquiring kindness, peacefulness, love, joy and happiness. And still, it seemed to me that I didn’t quite measure up with others’ ability to be gentle, kind and loving-at least not on the inside.

At this point is where I believe we get stuck. We try our best and still, remain confused and powerless. We feel bad whenever we fall short. Our thoughts (if we examine them) betray our standards. Or should I say, God’s standards for us. Our feelings in motion speak loudly to everyone around us, of our lack of humility, perfection and holiness. The extent that Satan uses our ignorance and weaknesses to his advantage is atrocious. This creates confusion in our lives. Of course the adversary prefers that we don’t know this truth.

I didn’t understand it then. Now I do. Yes, I had come a very long way from the young woman that had harbored thoughts of resentment and murder. But I still experienced harsh thoughts and feelings in some situations. I still was too familiar with feelings of impatience, guilt, pride, and anxiety.

There still remained a certain amount of hardness- areas that lacked feeling in my heart. I could not erase or remove these on my own, no matter how hard I tried. No matter how much faith I had. No matter how many times I read my Bible. A thorough cleansing had to occur.

Today, this is the way I see it: I believe that these experiences are very close to where one begins to feel that feelings are undependable. On our own (without the benefit of the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, that Jesus Christ promised to send) we don’t recognize His magnificent gift. We must flounder.

“I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with Spirit and with fire…burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11

The Companionship of the Holy Ghost

With the indwelling of the gift and personage of the Holy Ghost, a new promising world opened up to me. First, I began to cry almost every time I knelt in prayer. A lot. Some days, I cried so much, the amount seemed ridiculous, even to me. I cried for forgiveness. I cried with pain. I cried when I felt the promised comforting hand of the Lord.

I cried especially when my heart began to be soft enough to actually FEEL the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I cried when His love overflowed the capacity of my heart to contain it all. I cried for joy and happiness.

I didn’t understand all those tears at the time. But I knew it had something to do with the hand of the Lord. And what was happening? My heart was being cleansed of any remaining darkness and pain. The rock hard section that I had not succeeded in wearing off with my own effort was being sanctified by the working of the Holy Ghost, provided by the gift of the Atonement.

I knew it one day on the phone. I was surprised to hear a soft tone in my voice that I had never recognized in myself. It was confirmed by my friend’s surprised response.

Here is my explanation for confusion regarding our feelings. We all have thoughts every waking hour. The Lord can prompt us with thoughts (the still small voice). And then, once we believe and recognize the possibility of that, it becomes important to know that Satan will also make every effort to inject his not so quiet thoughts into our minds and hearts as well. If we are not taught and when we do not recognize this- yes, there will be immense confusion. Our feelings will then definitely be undependable.

“From the beginning God chose you to be saved

by the sanctifying work of the Spirit

and through belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13

 

How do we learn to differentiate these voices which prompt our thoughts and affect our feelings? That is where the power of the Holy Spirit is meaningful. This is where the importance of a sincere heart and real intent come in.

Let me give you an example. One day, as my Bishop gave me advice, I felt a weight settle on my heart even while my mind accepted what he said. I promised to go home and pray about the matter–to consult with the Lord what I should do.

As I drove away, my thoughts instantly ran wild. “(You) don’t belong in this church.” “(You) should leave and never come back”. “This is all wrong”.  I had not gone a block and just as suddenly, I recognized, “Hey that’s not how I think. These are not my own thoughts! Where did that come from?”

As a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ I had been thoroughly thrilled and felt privileged to belong. I’d been given a powerful testimony of the truth of the restored gospel and I had never had a doubt of the veracity of the teachings. I loved my Bishop and I trusted that he had been prompted by the Lord. When I did approach the Lord in prayer, He did let me know that indeed, the Bishop had been correct in directing me thus.

Does this example show you what I am trying to explain? Because of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, because of His sanctifying power, and because of the tremendous feelings of love that Jesus Christ had poured into my heart, I was able to recognize a different foreign feeling. Because my heart had no doubts about my church and no malice towards my Bishop, (my thoughts & feelings were pure) I was able to recognize that this was not my ‘voice’.

If I would have had any negative feelings towards the church, if I would have lacked confidence in my decision to belong here, or if I would have held a grudge against my Bishop, do you see how these thoughts might have created confusion in my heart and in my mind? If I had not had the benefit of experiencing gentle loving thoughts and feelings from Christ, delivered by the Holy Ghost, I might have believed that Satan’s thoughts originated with me. The outcome might have been entirely different.

I know that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” is the only true church on earth today. I know that Jesus Christ died for all of mankind and lives today. He is doing what He promised and empowers His faithful children when we accept His gift.

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” Helaman 3:35 (BOM)

Continued in Part Three, we will briefly consider the effects of strong emotions and recognizing feelings from the Holy Spirit.