Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Opposition In All Things

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. (2 Nephi 2:11)

If I want to get stronger, I need to go to the gym and lift weights.  Not just lift weights, but push myself to lift more than my muscles are used to lifting, to the point of exhaustion.  When strength training, what rep really matters the most?  The last one.  All the previous ones only served to wear your muscles down to the point of fatigue and exhaustion.  Then when your will makes your body keep going despite that, somehow your body gets programmed: I'm going to make these muscles stronger!

I am learning that these same principles of athletic training apply to spiritual growth as well.  How am I going to develop patience unless I am given situations when nothing I can do will make things immediately better?  How can I strengthen my faith in God unless I pray and do the best I can despite the temptation to feel overwhelmed and discouraged?  How can I come to love as God does, unless I forgive others, and bear with them in their shortcomings; as they do for me?

I could go on.  But these insights help me to acknowledge God's hand not just in the blessings and good things of life, but also in the trials and difficulties.  I know that God is my Father in Heaven, and that He loves me with a tenderness and care that far surpasses even my love and care for my own children.  He is not mean, indifferent, or distant.  Rather He feels our heartache, and cries with us our tears, and carries us when we have no strength.  Why does He not fix the problem, or remove the pain, you ask?  I can only suppose for the same reason why I do not solve all my children's problems, or give them everything they want; and why I make them do their chores and their homework before they play.  I have been where they are, and I know where they need to go in order to be happy and successful in life.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Understanding Isaiah

In this month's issue of the Ensign magazine, President Uchtdorf states, "The teachings of our Heavenly Father are not the ordinary, predictable, run-of-the-mill kind you can pick up in paperback at the local bookstore" (Ensign, March 2012, "Why Do We Need Prophets?").  I have often wondered why it is so much harder to read the scriptures than to read a popular novel.  Surely if God had so desired, He could have had the scriptures written in a more engaging format.

As if it wasn't hard enough, we have the writings of the prophet Isaiah, which are filled with obscure references to ancient cities and leaders; and where God often refers to Himself in the third person.  I never thought I would ever understand Isaiah, much less appreciate or even memorize his words.  It must be a sign that I am getting old because - for some reason - over the last several years Isaiah has started to "click" for me.

There are many articles about how to better understand Isaiah.  Here are the things I've done that I think have made a difference for me.

  1. I have "stuck with it."  I haven't given up.  I have continued to read Isaiah's words, not only out of determination and obedience but because little by little I have found a verse here or a phrase there that has stuck in my mind and heart.  So I guess you could say that if you stick with Isaiah, he will gradually stick to you.

  2. I bought a book to help me understand Isaiah. (The one I bought was Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, Poet by Victor Ludlow.)  I don't necessarily think you need to buy a book to understand Isaiah, but it helped me understand the historical references enough to not be distracted by them.

  3. I stopped trying to understand Isaiah in a linear fashion, and started to read him as poetry.  I hesitate to call Isaiah's words poetry, for they are much more than that.  As one called to speak for God, I suppose you could consider Isaiah as God's poetry - sonnets to His children - at times to warn, at times to comfort, but always to teach and inspire.

  4. Paul said that "the natural man receiveth not the things... of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  On days when I am more of a "natural man," I would rather read a magazine or surf the internet than spend time in the scriptures.  But at some point when I was ready, the Holy Ghost touched my heart as I was reading Isaiah chapter 53, and I now regard it as one of the greatest chapters in all of holy writ.  I thought about quoting some of it here, but for those interested I would prefer that you open your Bible in a quiet place and savor it for yourself.

Was Jesus really bruised for my iniquities?  Am I really healed by the stripes he received as He was viciously flogged?  How long have I hid my face from Him, and esteemed Him not?  These things indeed seem to be foolish and irrelevant until we ask, seek, and knock; and they are opened unto us.

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. (Isaiah 45:15)

And he has hidden Himself in the words of Isaiah.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

13th Article of Faith Puzzles

Here is a link to a word search that includes all words in the 13th article of faith.  Or, here are some words from the 13th article of faith to unscramble.  There's also a crossword puzzle.  When you're done, try to find your way through this maze!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wonders of Nature: Needle Ice

Found some needle ice in our yard the other day.  Amazing!  I had never seen this phenomenon before.