Monday, January 26, 2015

"My Yoke" and My Yoke

Yoke is a weird word when you say it repeatedly.

Recently I have been considering this passage of scripture from Matthew 11 in the New Testament:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 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.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I think I have trouble distinguishing between my yoke and "my yoke," or Christ's yoke. I think if someone asked me a few weeks ago what it means to take Christ's yoke upon me, I would have said something like doing what Christ has commanded, living as He lived. I would have understood it to mean assuming Christ's yoke, or burden.

So what are some of the things Christ commanded me (and everyone) to do? Usually pretty easy stuff, right? Like this gem: love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matt. 5:44; 3 Nephi 12:44). And easiest of all: be ye therefore perfect (Matt. 5:48). When I consider these requirements I usually fail to see how they are compatible with verse 30 above. Christ says His burden is light and the yoke is easy! Something must be lost in translation!

The error is in my understanding of these scriptures and how they apply to me. Too often I forget that a yoke isn't simply a burden put on my shoulders, but is a tool to help share a burden (here is a good explanation). If I take the sum of Christ's commandments and make every effort to live them, I will fail. And that is a heavy burden. If I share the yoke with Christ, I will succeed, because I am yoked to an Omnipotent Being. There is no burden He can't carry. He makes the burden light and easy. A great example of this comes from the Book of Mormon, where a righteous people are being oppressed. When they pray for deliverance from the Lord, this is the response they get:

13 Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

At that point the burden was still there, the people still oppressed. But the yoke was being shared with Christ, and the burdens became light (spoiler: eventually they are delivered completely).

In summary, taking Christ's yoke upon me does mean doing as He would do and living as He lived. But it also means doing it with His help.

--Who is beginning to understand this principle, but still struggling in the application of it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A few words that helped me through today...

So yesterday, while I was reading a delightful sunbeam of a book called Mother Carey's Chickens, I came across these words that I very confidently decided should be my new motto:

"No whimpering, Madam! You can't have the joys of motherhood without some of its pangs! Think of your blessings and don't be a coward."

These are the words the mother of the book says to herself when she begins to feel low or disheartened. I liked the words because I have been prone to "whimper" these days...and I have felt some "pangs" of motherhood. And I know a thing or two about being a coward. I recently gave birth to my second child and am finding it hard to know how to still give the time to my oldest child that I feel she deserves. I feel like I am failing. And the lack of sleep and being stuck in the house because it's winter and there are tons of germs that my newborn isn't supposed to be subjected to--these things aren't helping matters.

So last night, I confidently decided Mother Carey's words were going to be my motto and everything would be better the next day. Well, today wasn't any better. I didn't live by the motto and I whimpered again.

I hate failing.

Then I read the words below and they helped me through the day. That is what scripture and words of living prophets and apostles do: they bring hope and light and love. They do not lower expectations of my behavior, but they show me that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ understand me and love me and can help me meet those it ever so gradual.

"You are loved.

You are dear to your heavenly parents.

The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you.

Yes, God loves you this very day and always.

He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer. He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed--even in the midst of growing darkness. He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you.

And God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them. He loves you for extending yourself to others. He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens--even when you are struggling with your own.

He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly--He knows you as you really are. And He loves you--today and always."

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Living the Gospel Joyful

who has always been a fan of these thoughts as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Entropy, 2 year-olds, and the Lord

2. a statistical measure of the disorder of a closed system expressed by S = k log P + c where P is the probability that a particular state of the system exists, k is the Boltzmann constant, and c is another constant
3. lack of pattern or organization; disorder
Basically what entropy means is that everything breaks down, becomes disorganized, scatters, and decays over time. Order is lost. And, after a week at home watching our 2.5 year-old daughter, I am convinced that children are the greatest entropic force in the universe. Just kidding. But seriously.
If we look around we see that entropy is a legitimate force. Our bodies break down, as do our automobiles, buildings, roads, etc. The same things happen in nature. One might argue that over time plants and animals destroy or take over man-made creations, but those same plants and animals also break down and die and others take their place. Even schools of thought, ideas, philosophies, and morals break down over time. Here is another definition from the source above: a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration. Almost all societies from the past have gone through this, and ours certainly is at the moment, whether we acknowledge it or not.
The idea of entropy is kind of scary, actually. Is there anyway to fight it? Yes, of course. At least temporarily. Entropy is combatted by putting work or energy into a system. For example, my house is usually pretty clean at the beginning of the day. Through the day it gets messier and messier, and to reverse the entropy, I have to exert energy on the house; in other words, I have to clean it up (or convince someone else to). With a house we can do this over and over, but eventually we run out of energy, and something has to put energy into us (food, sleep, medicine, etc.). And in the end there is nothing left to put into our system, our bodies, that can keep us going, and we die. The whole known universe operates this way. Our Earth depends on the sun to provide most of the energy (light, and to some degree, heat) to fight entropy. But the sun itself is subject to entropy as well.
Fortunately for all of us, there is a power or energy that is not subject to entropy (I don't know how, so don't ask me) and ultimately reverses all disorganization, decay, and ruin. And that is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here are some passages of scripture that say this same thing in various ways:
Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
(3 Nephi 12:48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.)

John 14:16 Jesus sayeth unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 10:10 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Moroni 10:32 Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.

And a great talk about life and light by President Henry B. Eyring, The Light and the Life of the World.

--Who was glad to go back to work after a week of entropy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Realizing That Prayer Works

"It is well to know that prayer is not compounded of words, words that may fail to express what one desires to say, words that so often cloak inconsistencies, words that may have no deeper source than the physical organs of speech, words that may be spoken to impress mortal ears. The dumb may pray, and that too with the eloquence that prevails in heaven. Prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, of contrition and pure desire [. . .] Prayer is for the uplifting of the suppliant. God without our prayers would be God; but we without prayer cannot be admitted to the kingdom of God." James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Sermon on the Mount chapter

Prayer is an interesting thing. I grew up in a family that prayed. We prayed over our food and we were encouraged to pray individually and talk to Heavenly Father. Sometimes, I would burst into my parents' bedroom and find one of them on their knees saying a silent prayer. So I grew up in a home where prayer wasn't an odd thing.

I also had wonderful experiences at various friends' houses. At one friend's house, as we sat around the dinner table, the family held hands as one of them offered what they called "grace." It was strange at first, since my family didn't hold hands when we prayed together; but I grew to love it. It made me feel close to them as a family. I learned something from those moments: prayer brings people together at the same time it brings them closer to God. (3 Nephi 18:21)

And have you ever had someone pray for you by name, out loud? I'm sure my mom and dad prayed for me by name sometimes, during our family prayers--like before a piano recital or when I was feeling sick; but I don't really remember any specific instances. The first time I remember someone praying for me by name, out loud, was in the home of my future husband. I was dating my husband at the time and it was my first time in his childhood home. The day I was going to fly back home, the family knelt together in prayer and my future father-in-law mentioned me specifically by name and asked for some blessings in my behalf. I have never experienced anything like that before. It is one of the most tender moments of my life--a moment when I felt the love of God from someone who I had only known a short time.

The interesting thing about prayer, is that I have been praying my entire life, but only now am beginning to recognize the power attached to prayer. It is not that I ever thought prayer didn't work. I always felt that Heavenly Father was listening to me. But in the last few years, for the first time in my life, I have wanted and needed things desperately--so desperately, that my prayers changed from being a habitual conversation with a friend I knew and trusted to pleading, constant cries to the only Being in the universe who knew me and those I loved well enough and who had the kind of love and power to actually help me and change me and fix me. (Enos 1:4, Alma 5:45-46, Alma 34:18-27,)

And those kind of prayers worked. Really worked. I was asking for BIG things. Sometimes the answers were immediate, other times the answers took years to come. Sometimes the answers were exactly what I asked for. Sometimes the answers weren't even close to what I asked for. But the answers always came. And these new kinds of prayers I am praying are changing me and changing the way I see the world and other people. (D&C 112:10, Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Whatever your circumstance, I can promise you that when you pray, Heavenly Father hears you and answers. It may take time and it will take a lot of prayers, but the moment you kneel on the ground (be it physically or only figuratively), you will begin to feel him near you. You don't even have to have the right words. Most of the time, I don't. "Prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, of contrition and pure desire."

"I have had prayers answered. Those answers were most clear when what I wanted was silenced by an overpowering need to know what God wanted. It is then that the answer from a loving Heavenly Father can be spoken to the mind by the still, small voice and can be written on the heart."
President Henry B. Eyring

Who really likes the color evidenced in this post

Monday, January 5, 2015

Resolution #1: Finisher

After an extensive blogging hiatus, we are back. At least I am. I'm sure the others are right behind me. Holidays throw off routines, as do births of babies, so we missed some days. This post would have been ideal for last Thursday.

Finishing has been on my mind for about a month; the need to finish what I start. It began with the desire to finish books that I had previously started. Now it has extended to the only "New Year's Resolution" that I currently have and goes beyond books. On my literary list is "The Brother's Karamazov," "Mere Christianity," "Leaning Forward" (the autobiography of my thesis advisor that I picked up at a campus bookstore), and a couple others. I've been working on "Karamazov" off and on for a couple years. Other things I mean to finish are wood-carving projects, physical wellness goals, and going completely bald. Time I finished that one off.

What is the value in finishing what I began? For one thing, I can feel the relief of having it done. For another, I began these readings or projects for a reason; there is something of value in the book or the wood-working that led me to originally start, and it is still worth obtaining. Finally, it is good training for the things in life that require that I finish in order to obtain all that is in store for me. Especially according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In gospel terms, "finishing" is referred to as "enduring to the end." Here are a couple of scriptures that make clear the importance of this principle:

2 Ne 31:16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
3 Ne 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.
D&C 14:7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

I want to say, like Paul was able to, that "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," and thereby merit the greatest of all the gifts of God.

--Who already knocked out a couple books before the New Year began but still faces Karamazov.

Great article called "Finishers Wanted," by President Thomas S. Monson (before being president).