Thought

Manna

A few weeks ago, I sent this encouragement to a stranger over the internet. I have decided to post it here as well.

Are you familiar with the story of Moses and the Children of Israel? They were wandering in the wilderness and the Lord provided them with food – straight from heaven – that the Israelites would gather every day. They called it “Manna” which literally means “What is it?” I think that name is hilarious, but it has also come to be very meaningful to me. A few years ago I listened to a talk by Elder Todd Christofferson. He shared a story about a struggle he had been through and though he desperately wanted the problem to be solved by God, he gradually learned to ask for daily bread, or in other words, manna. He learned that the miracle God was willing to give him was what he needed for that day. There was still a lot of uncertainty, but he could trust that if he acted in faith that day with what he’d been given, the next day more manna would be supplied. That is the background for this comment which refers to manna.

I am so sorry that life is so difficult and dark right now. I know in my darkest times what I wanted desperately is rescue, but often I would feel the question “He may not be willing to take it all from you because He knows what’s best for you, but what is a little miracle he may be willing to grant you right now?” For me, one night, that was the miracle of being able to fall asleep, which I felt I needed so badly- and that was my “manna” for then. I knew I would need more, but I was able to get the sleep I needed to try again the next day. I hated the fact that I was not helped in the way I wanted to be helped during the hardest times, but I can look back and see what he offered was what I needed most- it was the gift of “the Peace that Passeth all Understanding”- it would come in moments- not all the time; but those moments got me through until the next time. And gradually helped me figure out how to slow down and accept His timing. It sounds like you are in the fight of your life- you’re not alone!!! Angels on both sides of the veil are there to help and strengthen you, and though it’s not pleasant, we came here to develop the things you are in the middle of developing, even though it’s hard to see that it’s going in a positive direction. Hold on to hope and keep reaching for the Savior- he knows exactly what you need and will be there to help you through it all, even when you can’t feel Him there. Sending hugs!!!!

Love,

Laur

Music

Writing for Me :)

Hi friends! So I’m working on music most days lately and it’s been more fun for me. I’m using a program called “Scoreclub” where I am taking classes and doing practice pieces. I thought I’d share my most recent piece. This is a very short 20 second piece, but it was good practice for me, and it was really fun to work on! I’m working on streamlining my writing process and engaging my creativity without engaging so much anxiety and overwhelm. Simplifying seems to be just what I need to be doing right now. Also, I’ve decided that it’s way more fun to write for myself, and then decide if I want to share. It’s interesting how that has changed what I create. And also- I’m having more fun! So I’m going to take that as an indication that I’m on the right track! Woohoo! This piece is entitled, “The Path.”

Love

Laur

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How have you changed?

Yesterday I came across an episode of the “All In” podcast that really touched me. It was Jenn Knight talking about some experiences she has had and how she now looks at adversity (or challenges we have in life). If you enjoy this excerpt, you can look up that podcast episode and listen to the whole thing.

Her first few comments remind me of something I heard in a talk recently. A gentleman was talking about his friend who had gone through some very difficult mental health challenges over the past few months, and mentioned that it caused this friend to go from a very capable, independent man to “soft and squishy” and willing to let others strengthen him and encourage him. His heart became softer. His perspective changed. He was better as a result. It’s funny how hard we fight against challenges when it ultimately is what we want- because we’re here to grow and change and become more like our Father in Heaven. Change requires pressure- humans usually just don’t have enough motivation to make dramatic changes without some extra heat. None of us like the experience of struggling, but the jewels we get out of it are beautiful and lasting. Ok, enough of my musings. Here is the excerpt from the podcast transcript:

How would you say that this adversity and these challenges have changed you as a person?

Jenn Knight 9:21

Well, I think it kind of hit home to me, like the gospel that I’ve been living for my whole life, you know, we believe that this time is act two, right? It’s not act one, it’s not act three–it’s act two. And so there’s no resolution really here. And that’s part of the reason we came down here was to be tested and tried.

And I think it just kind of hit home to me that if I really believe what I’ve been living all these years, then this is what I signed up for. And I remember actually–this is recently–saying a prayer and saying, you know, help my friend to . . . She was having a really hard time with something, and I said, “Please help that to go away.”

And I just had this thought like, “If I did that, your friend would be so mad at you on the other side.” This is something that we wanted to go through so that we could get stronger and that we could, you know, really find ourselves.

I remember hearing a story about Truman Madsen and Hugh B. Brown, and they were in Jerusalem and Truman Madsen asked Elder Brown, you know, like, “Why do you think that Abraham had to go through all of these trials?” And Elder Brown said, “Well, Abraham needed to learn a little bit about Abraham.”

And I totally feel that. I felt like I got to know myself in a way that I hadn’t before. And I definitely got to know my daughter in a way that I hadn’t known before and couldn’t know if I hadn’t seen her like . . . majesty, during these moments of complete, like, disparity for me and for her. It was just an enlightening experience for both of us–for all of us.

Morgan Jones 11:14

I love how you said, “Her majesty.” I think–the little bit that I’ve read about Madi, she seems like such a special person, and you shared some of those special moments that your family experienced. And you talked about how her teacher had taught her to sing this kid friendly version of the song, “Hallelujah.” And as she lay fighting for life, she started to sing that song, and you wrote this, which I thought was so beautiful.

You said, “So much of what we celebrate of Christ and His mission on earth is joyful. But sacred are moments that allow us to capture a glimpse of Gethsemane and what that joy cost our Savior. It felt holy in that room as she sang, and for the first time that night, I cried. Not out of fear, but out of gratitude. The original song says that ‘Love is a cold and a broken Hallelujah,’ and after feeling this moment, I think that is just the most beautiful and poetic way of describing a love for Christ.”

Why would you say–and I was intrigued by that, so I wondered–why would you say a love for Christ is a cold and a broken hallelujah?

Jenn Knight 12:30

That night was so surreal, just for a little bit of context for people who haven’t read the blog–we had put our daughter on this new medication because the traditional chemo wouldn’t work with her genetic mutation, and so it was this immunotherapy, we knew it was a long shot, but it was the only shot we had. And one of the side effects was brain hemorrhage. Well–it could be.

So we had just come home from trick or treating, we were sitting there and all of a sudden, I saw that my daughter was like, not talking. And then she started talking gibberish and she didn’t know how old she was or what year it was, and then she started to vomit. And it was just–it was really terrifying, because we thought we were losing her, you know, again. And we thought her brain was hemorrhaging.

So my husband took her to the hospital while I gathered some of her stuff and tried to calm down the rest of my kids, which is another story as well, and a time–a moment in my life when I felt the help–the tangible help of the Savior in my home. Anyway, so got all that together, went to the hospital, and funny enough, her biggest fear–my daughter who had brain cancer–her biggest fear was needles, not dying. Not the brain cancer, it was needles.

And so we went to the hospital and she had to get this injection and like right away, so we could figure out what’s going on and help her and they could not find a vein. And so they took an ultrasound machine and they were trying to find one with the needle. And she was in a lot of pain and terrified.

And the thing that came to mind was . . . I’m sorry, it’s been so long since I’ve talked about this.

Morgan Jones 14:20

You’re good.

Jenn Knight 14:22

The thing that came to mind was this song that she had been learning with her voice teacher, Diane Pritchett, who was volunteering her time to come every week and help her, and so I said, “Madi, why don’t you sing the song? You can belt it out as loud as you want.” And she . . . so she did as they were digging this needle into her arm she started belting out “Hallelujah” and she was saying all the lyrics and she said, you know, “It’s a cold and it’s broken Hallelujah.”

And I just–it just hit me for the first time really like . . . that, you know, I think there’s a limit to how deeply we can really come to know the Savior if we’re only identifying with him in our moments of peace and love and happiness. Like, the real grit of our discipleship is reaching out to him when we hit the bottom. And when we recognize that our own limitations are holding us back, and there is no other way out, there is no other way we can go, and we call to Him, and we know that He’s the only one that could possibly understand or help.

And I mean, His–the help and the feelings that we receive are so hard to pin down, they’re so like oblique and tangible, but, but they come, right. Like it reminds me of that passage in the Book of Mormon from Alma, when he’s, you know, in his like, coma for these three days, and he just says that he’s wracked with torment, but then he remembers Jesus Christ. He remembers Him and he cries to Him and it’s like, he’s completely released, it’s like this hallelujah, you know, like, “Hallelujah, thank you.” Like, “It is cold and broken here and you’re the only one who can help me get out of it.” And it just touched me so much, watching my 12 year old sing this and like, you know, in her moment of greatest pain and anguish, singing–literally shouting–”Hallelujah.” You know, it was so profound for me. So, yeah.

Love,

Laur

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Personal Revelation

Do you believe God wants to talk to you? I do! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and yesterday a friend of mine gave a really uplifting talk about personal revelation. With her permission, I posted it here. Thank you Carly Stewart!

QUALIFYING FOR PERSONAL REVELATION

INTRO

Qualifying Ourselves for Personal Revelation – is the topic of the day. And as someone who has always felt like I do not have a sensitive ear for spiritual messages… it feels very much like it was revelation received on my behalf to prepare this talk for this meeting today. I came across scriptures and talks that were perfect for what I struggle with. Both in my personal development and with my responsibilities with my calling. So, this talk is compiled by me, FOR me just a little bit… but it should be pretty solid advice for any of us.

I will start with the quote from President Nelson, that we have all heard numerous times – but if it struck you between the eyes, like it did me, then it bears repeating:

“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost… Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

We come here weekly to do a portion of that spiritual work – and there is a lot to be gained in a spiritual community… coming together with others to study with them, to listen, to try to absorb their spiritual experiences has been my preferred method of “engagement” for the greater portion of my life. But of course, we have been taught that we “will not be able to travel through life on borrowed light.”

Joseph Smith said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience… Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.”

What counts in the field of religion is to become a personal participant in it. We need to gaze 5 minutes into heaven, and find that enlightenment for ourselves.

So, what does it take to qualify for personal revelation? What is the soul-work, or spiritual work, that needs to be done? I can’t answer this question completely from personal experience, yet. 

But after some study this week I think I have found a simple, and inpiring framework in the story of the Brother of Jared – with some added perspective from a BYU devotional given by J. Scott Miller, Dean of the BYU College of Humanities. Here are some thoughts that I have arrived at: 

#1) WE SHOULD HEED THE DIRECTION THAT THE LORD HAS ALREADY GIVEN US 

In the turmoil surrounding the Tower of Babel, the family of the Brother of Jared were concerned about whether they would be driven from the land, and if so where they were supposed to go. The Lord told them He would guide them to a Land of Promise, and His first instruction was to:

“Go to and gather together thy flocks…and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families…and when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee…”

And that is what they did.

“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should ago forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.”

And that is where they went.

“It came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands… And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of abarges which ye have hitherto built.

And so they worked and built.

I’ll stop there – because my point is obvious – but we see this pattern in scripture a lot. When we follow the direction given, the Lord can provide us with further help and knowledge. ‘Line upon line’ in this situation was likely, in part, a test of their obedience, but it was also a gentle method of teaching. The Lord was helping them take their journey one step at a time.

Can you guess what might’ve happened if the Lord had told them, “First, you will go forth in the wilderness, where man has never been before, then you will live in tents by the sea for four years, then you will build barges to cross an enormous ocean… and additionally, the barges will be completely dark, and fire and the sun won’t work as light sources.”

I, personally, might have said, “Having my language confounded actually sounds a little easier, I’ll just stay here in Babel.” 

But the Lord knows how we learn, and He will wait for us to act on the promptings we’ve been given. Without completion or understanding of the first “step” or “lesson” there isn’t any use for further instruction.

More than just our personal promptings – heeding the direction the direction of the Lord also includes keeping the commandments and our covenants.

In Mosiah it says when we enter into a covenant with God, serve God, and keep His commandments, then He may pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us. Every covenant we make and keep can increase the power and frequency of spiritual promptings.

#2) HAVE HUMILITY… AND HUMBLE UNCERTAINTY

In Ether Chapter 3, the Brother of Jared prays, “O Lord, do not be aangry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are bunworthy before thee; because of the cfall, our dnatures have become evil continually; O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness.”

When I was reading these verses I had wondered why he was being so hard on himself, did I miss something? Was there a major transgression prior to this? I thought he had been faithfully building the barges…

Now, I’ll take a short detour here for some thoughts from Professor Miller and come back to that. In his devotional, Brother Miller discusses several forms of doubt – I want to relate two of them to our Brother of Jared. The first is rooted in pride and fear. He calls it Denial Doubt, which he compares to a compulsive fear of the dark – which is kind of a beautiful coincidence since we’re talking about pitch-black barges! Denial Doubt is when we fear vulnerability so much that we settle into only what we know, and choose to stay put in our secure but limited place. We ignore or even try to hide our weaknesses and allow fear to block our progress.

I think the potential for the Brother of Jared to experience Denial Doubt at this point in his journey would have been very understandable. There was so much unknown, and they were facing literal, long-term darkness. They could have stayed on the seashore, where they had been for 4 years already. It was secure there, but surely limiting, as they would forfeit a land of promise.

The second kind of doubt Brother Miller defines is rooted in humility. And he calls it Humble Uncertainty.

“There is, however, a soul-expanding kind of doubt that proceeds from an attitude of humility—the species of humility that openly admits our weaknesses. When we begin to see ourselves and our weaknesses clearly, we arrive at a state of vulnerability similar to what Joseph Smith faced as he unwittingly prepared himself for the Sacred Grove.” 

I think this explains the language that the Brother of Jared was using in his prayer. It wasn’t harsh, it was honest. He was honestly and humbly uncertain about how they would survive the journey the Lord was laying out for them. He recognized his complete dependence on the Lord.

When I think of the people I know that seem to have the highest sensitivity to the Spirit, I realize they all have this attribute. They have earned it through their own trials and times of uncertainty, which they navigated with honest and humble prayer.

#3) BE FULL OF FAITH

If we are uncertain, it does not mean we don’t have faith. Actually, it’s the opposite! “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.”

Continuing the Brother of Jared’s prayer, he says, “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all apower, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy bfinger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have clight while we shall cross the sea.

Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

“Surely God, as well as the reader, feels something very striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. ‘Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.’ Perhaps there is no more powerful, single line of faith spoken by man in scripture. It is almost as if he is encouraging God, reassuring him.

Not ‘Behold, O Lord, I am sure that thou canst do this.’ Not ‘Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.’

However uncertain the prophet is about his own ability, he has no uncertainty about God’s power… It is encouragement to God who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it.” – Jeffrey R. Holland

His pure faith removed the veil and the Brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord reaching to touch the stones. Our faith can do the same for us – maybe not a vision of the same magnitude – but it can thrust us through the veil, and give us understanding in the moments when we need it most.

#4) BE STILL, AND STILL MOVING

Professor Miller recites this phrase from East Coker by T.S. Eliot, which is a poem about his conversion to Christiantity. It says:

We must be still and still moving.
into another intensity.
for a further union, a deeper communion…

Don’t you love a clever dual-meaning?! Poets are just better than the rest of us. 

‘Be still.’ Commotion and spiritual feelings don’t usually co-exist. In our external world, we can set aside time and physical space. President Nelson gave us the recent advice to,

“Find a quiet place where you can regularly go… Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father… Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”

We can also dismiss any type of input – music, tv, literature etc. –  that drives away the Spirit. Our brain learns to love what we feed it.

Internally, in our own hearts and minds we can also reduce commotion. Do your best to root out feelings of contention. Forgive others for their offenses, and repent of your own.

‘…and still moving.’

We can move toward a further union, and a deeper communion with God with effort. Through prayer and study. President Nelson also said, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity…daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.

The people that I know who have been able to receive guidance know to slow down. They try to remain close to the Spirit through their scriptures, and prayerful meditation is second-naturet to them. They carved out the space for these things and they have a natural place in their life’s rhythm.

#5 JUST TRY.

God is more patient, more loving, and more anxious for us to succeed than we can ever understand. He will give us every opportunity to be guided by Him. His deepest desire is to help us develop our innate capacity to receive revelation.

There is another line in T.S. Eliot’s poem that says, For us, there is only the trying.”

It is a principle of growth that trying, will ultimately bring us to the knowledge we seek… Through faith and endurance, we can be guided in our lives right now. Through faith and endurance we can recieve answers to our questions, if we are not afraid to ask. Through faith and endurance, we may just be able to gaze into heaven. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

That’s it for now!

Love,

Laur

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Delight

Have you read “The Power of Fun” yet? It was recommended to me by my sister-in-law and I have been really enjoying it!. “Deliberately seek out sources of delight,” (The Book of Delights by Ross Gay) she encourages her readers mid-way through the book. This means that you’re walking around in your life looking for things, people, experiences that delight you, and then label them with saying out loud, “Delight!” This quote from her book describes the concept well (by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas from Humor, Seriously): “When you walk around on the precipice of a smile, you’ll be surprised how many things you encounter that push you over the edge.” Amazing, right?

What are your delights today? Here are a few of mine.

Setting new goals and getting excited about them

Eating chocolate covered raisins (from my secret stash…shhh)

Driving and chatting with a friend

Running past fragrant blossoms that smelled like honey

Hugs from my three boys

House planning with my sweetheart

Quiet

A hot shower (this one almost always makes my list!)

What are your delights today?

Love,

Laur