Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chapter 1 - Deliver

One day while attending Church meetings at the Juvenile Detention Center, we sang I Am A Child of God.  It is a favorite of the kids' even though we don't often see any LDS youth there.  You can imagine that I’ve heard that sweet song often.  A while back though, I heard the words afresh, with new meaning.  The second verse includes this line: …”help me to understand His words….”  As I listened with my spiritual ears I heard an admonition to use the dictionary more often so I could better understand what God was trying to tell me.  Since that time, I’ve kept a dictionary with my scriptures and refer to it often.  On the very day that I felt admonished to use the dictionary, an extraordinary discovery came while applying that prompting.  Let me share it with you here.

I  was reading in the 58th Chapter of Alma in The Book of Mormon.  Here Helaman and his Stripling Warriors are among the Nephites at war with the Lamanites.  They are charged with reclaiming land and cities captured by the Lamanites.  They are poorly provisioned, out manned, exhausted from months in battle and they are outside formidable fortifications.  Things looked woefully bleak.  Then in verse ten we read:
10  Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God that he would strengthen and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies….
11  Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.
12  And we did take courage….
13  And thus we did go forth…
 They did go forth and were victorious and did so without any loss of life among their small army.
There are great lessons in this story. 

  1. They pled for deliverance from their enemies.  They had learned the lesson of Mosiah 7:33  “But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, HE will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.”

  2. God visited them with assurance and peace.

  3. God granted unto them great faith.  Faith is a gift from God not something we have to conjure up out of our own resources.

  4. They went forth.  Out numbered and exposed as they were, they exercised the faith and assurance they were granted and went into battle.

  5. They were delivered.
While studying this I was impressed to look up the word deliver in the dictionary.
Four definitions stood out in my mind:

  1. to set free or liberate: The Israelites were delivered from bondage.
  2. to release or save:  The Savior delivers us from the bondage of sin.

  3. to assist at the birth of: The doctor delivered the baby.  The Savior delivers us into a new life when we are born again.

  4. to carry and turn over (letters, goods, etc.) to the intended recipient or recipients: to deliver mail; to deliver a package.
 These all have important application to the story and to our lives.  One, in particular, really stood out to me on that day.  You see, I had just finished a career as a UPS driver.  I knew all about the 4th definition.  “That’s me!”, I thought, “That’s what I do!”

 I had recently purchased a fairly expensive telescope from a business in New York.  It had been shipped UPS.  I was confident that I would receive it in one piece and in a timely manner.  Having said that you must understand that I knew full well what would happen to the package as it traveled from New York to Utah.  I imagined that it was picked up by the driver in New York on a hot afternoon.  He is tired, hot and ready to finish his day.  His deadlines are pressing and he’s in a hurry.  He loads it on his truck with a gentle toss.  While hurrying down the road a bicycle messenger cuts him off and he slams on the brakes.  My package falls off the shelf and two or three others follow, landing on top of it.  It arrives at the Center and his unloader tosses it onto the conveyor and it travels through a sort system where it is shoved here and there by machines, climbs ramps, slides down chutes, hangs up on a corner and gets slammed by a following package coming down the chute.  It gets crammed into a semi trailer and a 70 pound package is stacked on top of it.  Then it rumbles over less than smooth roads for a couple of days until it reaches Illinois and runs through another rough sorting process. Another truck, another sort in Salt Lake City.  Another truck and another sort in my home town.  Then as it’s rumbling along in the package car here in town, a kid darts out in front of the driver.  Brakes again are applied abruptly and my precious package takes another hit as it falls from the shelf.  It is delivered with a smile and back slapping from a good old buddy.

I opened the box and found a box within the box.  Lots of careful packing.  My telescope was in fine shape.  On time and in one piece.

Now imagine, if you will, the person who shipped the telescope.  He too knew the journey would be fraught with possible mishaps.  He took care to package it well, up to UPS standards.  You see, UPS knows the perils attendant with the speed and efficiency we require and invites us to assist in the process by packaging our precious things well. The merchant then labels it properly and commends it to the care and keeping of the delivery company.  That act, especially, when shipping something expensive or irreplaceable requires a good deal of trust.  Just like the Nephites, as they went forth to confront the Lamanites, had to trust God to deliver them.  This kind of delivery is all about trust.  If we look at either circumstance with a critical eye, success doesn’t seem very likely.  That’s why God was willing to visit the Nephites with assurances and peace and grant unto them great faith.  It’s kind of like UPS publishing data on their on-time, one-piece delivery success and following that up with insurance and guarantees.

I thought it would be fun to use this example to help the kids at the Detention Center learn to trust God and to let him deliver them from the often horrendous problems they face.  As I was pondering that lesson, another example from the scriptures flooded my mind.

The story of the Jaredites in the Book of Ether is a classic case of God delivering His people.
Jared and his brother lived at the time of the Tower of Babel.  Indications are that the entire community was, in some way or other, involved in building the tower to get to heaven.  The Tower of Babel was a mammoth undertaking by anyone’s standards.  One apocryphal account says it would take a laborer an entire year to haul one load of bricks to the top.  So intent on building the tower and reaching their goal were they, that they mourned the loss of a brick more than the loss of a life.

God, wanting to stop such foolishness, decided to stop their progress on the tower by confounding their language so they could no longer cooperate on their gigantic undertaking.  Jared besought his brother to plead for God’s intervetion in hopes of keeping the language of they and their close associates, the same.  God grants their desire and commands them to depart to another place where he has prepared for them a Promised Land.  They do so and make barges to travel to a new destination.  The account isn’t sufficiently clear to predict where all of these events take place and there are various opinions about what direction the Jaredites travelled.  Let me use just one, not as an argument for a particular course of travel, so much as for the sake of illustration.

They made two voyages on water.  Let us suppose that they sailed the length of the Mediterranean Sea and found themselves on the beach somewhere on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula.  This seemed to be a nice place to settle.  And settle they did, for a period of four years.  At this point God comes and rebukes the Brother of Jared for failing to pray.  Here we have a man who has previously spoken with God, been miraculously saved and guided by Him and given so many wonderful blessings.  How is it that he has not prayed for four long years?

 I suspect he has prayed.  I suspect he blessed the food and had family prayer.  I suspect that he has gone through the formality of prayer.  What he has not done, and I surmise this from my own personal experience, is enquire of the Lord.  He has not asked God, what God wants him, the Brother of Jared, to do.  I suspect that upon arriving on the Atlantic shore, the Brother of Jared had a pretty good idea that the Promised Land was on the opposite side of that great sea.  I suspect that the prospect of crossing that huge body of water was daunting to say the least.  It would have been rather easy for him to figuratively, turn his back on the water and say, “This is nice spot, lets settle right here.”  How often to we do this in our lives.  How often do we fear the unknown and find ourselves unwilling to look at it, let alone talk it over with God.

Anyway, continuing with the story, the Brother of Jared, duly rebuked, repents and accepts God’s assignment to cross the ocean.  God instructs him to build more barges.  Barges that are water tight and can be periodically submerged in violent seas, while protecting their occupants.  They are directed to build eight of them.  They’ll have no windows.  They’ll be stocked with provisions to last a year.  They have no rudder or means of propulsion.  There will be no radio or telephone from one ship to another.

Lets stop a moment and consider this.  You are there.  You are helping build and provision these unusual craft.  You begin to think about what you are being asked to do.  Will you willingly climb inside, shut yourself in and commend your life to God?  Will you trust him to deliver you across this great deep to an unknown place at an unknown time, without your having any control over the situation, at all?  It’s sort of like putting yourself in a box and letting UPS take you wherever they want to deliver you.  And remember you’ll be in the box for 344 days.  Many of your loved ones will be in other boxes.  Will they also arrive safe and sound and at the same destination?  Deliver implies an act of will on the part of the one being delivered.  The Jaredites chose freely to climb into the barges.  God could not compel them to do it.  If He had He'd have interfered with their agency; some thing He will not do.

Are you with me here.  Do you comprehend the magnitude of what God was asking these people to do?  One more time, would you willingly climb into one of those boats?

While you’re deciding, remember the army of Helaman.  They prayed fordeliverance and before they went forth, God visited them with assurances, Gideon’s fleece, if you will, and He granted unto them great faith.  He did the same for the Jaredites.  He made sixteen small inert stones to shine forth with light to comfort and assure them while in the boats, while on the journey.  All they had to do to remind themselves of God’s goodness and companionship was to look at those impossibly illuminated, illuminating stones.

It think it is very significant that the story of the Jaredites’ passage across the sea is set in the same context as the story of the Tower of Babel.  First lets clarify that there is very little difference in the story between the meaning of heaven in the tower story and the meaning of the promised land in the Jaredite story.  For the lesson’s purposes they are one and the same.

In one story the people are trying to reach God (heaven or the promised land) on their own steam.  In the other God wants them to quit trying to deliver themselves and allow Him to do the delivering.  Is it not also true with us?
I have been active in the church all of my life.  Most of that time however, I was spending my efforts trying to deliver myself.  In effect I was building a tower with which to convey myself to Heaven.  I was stacking up bricks of my good deeds.  There were Home Teaching bricks, tithing bricks, genealogy bricks, etc., all calculated to build a tower big enough to get me to heaven.  My efforts were just as foolish and just and rediculous as those industrious efforts of long ago.  God, in his loving kindness, knowing my folly, confounded my efforts.  He knew if I continued, I would likely continue my self deception.  Finally, failure forced me to turn to Him.  I had long been afraid to.  His way seemed too frightening.  My pride didn’t want to relinquish control.  I simply didn’t trust Him.  I wanted to get to Heaven, but I wanted to go there on my terms, not His.

I am thankful beyond expression, to God, whose loving kindness, confounded my foolishness.  To a loving Father who has visited me with assurances, spoken peace to my heart and granted unto me great faith, I express my love and gratitude.  I have surrendered to his will and under his direction, have climbed into the box of trust and commended myself to His loving care and keeping.

While giving that lesson to those wonderful kids at the Detention Center, one of the kids, thoughtfully asked this question, “It wasn’t clear sailing after they got in the boats, how do we survive the storms, waves and buffeting of life?”

My telescope survived the difficult passage because it was covered in armor.  We too must put on the Armor of God.  I won’t go into a lengthy dissertation on that wonderful metaphor, except to tell you what the Spirit taught me on that day in prison.  All my life I have thought that I must forge my own armor.  I must make the shield, helmet, sword, boots and breastplate.  As with my tower, I was trying to hammer out my own protection.  As I read those wonderful passages in Ephesians I discovered that I am to put on God’s armor, not my own.  He is the source of the truth.  He it is, who has forged the breast plate, by His righteousness.  I am not righteous.  The preparation of the gospel is the Atonement, which He has finished.  We’ve already discovered that He grants us Faith, which is our shield.  If we are willing to enter into His covenant, He places His helmet of salvation upon our heads.  And the sword of the Spirit is His word.

How foolish I have been.  All these years I’ve been trying to get outside the box.
We don’t go home teaching, or pay our tithing, or do our genealogy to earn a place in Heaven.  We do those things and other things the Spirit directs because we love Him and want to serve Him.  We do those things as an expression of gratitude.  We do those things because we’ve offered Him our will, we’ve climbed inside the boat.
am a child of God and He has sent me here.  Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.  I am a child of God and so my needs are great.  Help me to understand his words, before it grows to late.  I am a child of God, rich blessing are in store.  If I but learn to do his will, I’ll live with Him once more.  Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.  Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him some day.

Suggestions:  In a good Dictionary look up a few words from the scriptures in this chapter, words like:  commend, trust, armor and confound.  Ponder their meaning in the context of the scriptures and see if Heavenly Father has enlightenment there for your life.

Chapter 2 - Let

Over the years I have not been very comfortable with Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Suffice it to say that the phrase, let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, has made me avoid those sweet words. Since recovering from addiction I have revisited those verses without the cloud of guilt hanging over my head. I have visited them and loved them and considered them with awe.The first thing I noticed as I considered what the Lord was saying was the word LET. LET virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. All my life I’ve been trying to cause or force virtue to garnish my thoughts. How is it that here, God says, let. In this context let seems to mean permit or allow. Its as if virtue wants to garnish my thoughts, but is restricted from doing so, unless I permit it to. That seemed awkward, uncomfortable, confusing. In my mind it was like turning water into a ditch. To do that one must remove the dam or gate preventing the water from flowing into the place you want it. Could it be the same with virtue? Is there a volume of virtue somewhere that wants to flow into my mind if I will but let it?

I looked up the word in my Dictionary.  That was a bit overwhelming because there are a myriad subtleties to it's meaning.  Certainly allow or permit are dominant themes in the definition and subjective intention seems critical too.  My Dictionary sheds some additional light by mentioning three synonyms:  allow, suffer and grant.  And a very telling antonym:  prevent.  If I look at the reverse form, might I not say that if I do not let virtue garnish my thoughts that perhaps I am literally, preventing virtue from garnishing my thoughts.  Let is an active, not a passive verb.  So is prevent.  If I want virtue to garnish my thoughts, I must actively allow it.  Conversely, if virtue is not garnishing my thoughts, I must be actively preventing that from happening.  There really is no passive neutral here.

In his marvelous book House of Glory by a favorite author, S. Michael Wilcox, he tells of an instance when he was in a sealing room in the Temple.  He was gazing into the opposing mirrors in which we think we can see the image reflected back and forth forever.  He found himself bobbing and dodging back and forth at which time he realized that he "could see eternity a lot better if (he) could just get out of (his) own way."  I love that notion and perhaps it applies here.  Perhaps virtue could flow more easily into my life if I could just get out of my own way.  Having grown up raising a garden and irrigating fields I have some experience with water.  Water is able to flow because we have made a place for it to go.  Obstructions cause the water to divert to a course of less resistance.  I suspect that a big part of letting virtue garnish my thoughts has to do with preparing a place within me.  A place for virtue to go.  Conversely, Nephi put it this way "Awake my soul!  No longer droop in sin.  Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul."  (2 Nephi 4:28)  Certainly, if we can give place for Satan in our hearts, it makes sense that we can give place for virtue.  Certainly, if Nephi can invite the Lord to close up the place for Satan in his heart, the Lord can also open up for us a place for virtue.

On Wolf Flat in Provo, Grandpa had a long ditch running out of Rock Canyon.  Every spring it was choked with leaves that had fallen from the Gamble's Oak that lined the ditch.  As the water flowed down the ditch it gathered those leaves and meeting with some other obstruction, such as a fallen limb or tumbled stone, it could plug the ditch sufficiently to cause it to overflow the bank and then erode a new path back into the canyon.  It required work to clear the ditch, to make a way for the water to go, but the resulting irrigation yielded lush fields and orchards.  So it must be with me.  If I desire virtue to flow into my heart and mind, I must make way for it so it can channel into my thoughts, where it can nourish my soul.  My internal ditch may be loaded with the leaves of life's cycles and if a limb of selfishness or a stone of neglect should roll into place, I will have effectively stood in my own way and forced virtue to flow elsewhere.

I began pondering the meaning of the word let in other scriptural contexts. The first that occurred to me was in the creation story where God says, “Let there be light.” Here it is a gain. My natural inclination, indeed my life long conceptualization of this event, was that God created the light. I thought God caused, even forced or commanded the light to come into exisitence. I supposed that He even somehow concocted it out something, or even nothing. But here it seems that my concept wasn’t correct. Instead, it appears that God allowed the light to come into existence in this sphere, as if it already existed and was not here only because it was somehow impeded in its thrust to be present. It appeared to me that God, in saying LET, removed the impediment and permitted the light to come.

Step 6 and 7 of Alcoholics Anonymous' Twelve are instructive.  I'm going to use the slightly adjusted language of the LDS Addiction Recovery Program version:
Step 6 - Become entirely ready to have God remove your character weaknesses.
Step 7 - Humbly ask Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings. 
A key word here is "humbly."  Pride is the fundamental obstruction to virtue in our lives, our minds and our hearts. Addicts eventually learn that their own efforts are powerless over addiction (Step 1), that the grace of God is their only hope of recovery (Step 2) and that turning their lives over to God, lock stock and barrel is, without question,  their only means of escape.  In the words of an old AA adage, "Let go and let God."

In their spiritual context, virtue and light are not all that different. In many cases they are even interchangeable. They each represent purity, divinity and that which is good. Can it be that they are qualities of thought and being that will flow into us rather than being conjured by effort and discipline. I think it can. I believe that God is the source of light and virtue and that our obligation is to open the channel by which it can flow unto us. In other words to let it flow into our hearts and minds. We are free to choose. He will not cram it into us, we must open up the flood gates ourselves. This is done by right living and obedience, but most importantly, we must make the conscious decision to permit it to happen. Actually, I believe it is the other way around. I don’t personally think that I have the capacity to conjure up right living and obedience. To do that I must first make the deliberate choice to let God into my heart, where, invited to do so, He can make the changes necessary to make real right living and obedience possible. My recovery from addiction has made this truth poignantly apparent to me.

Verse 45 of The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121 goes on to say that if we will let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly, that our “confidence” will “wax strong in the presence of God” “the doctrine of the Priesthood shall distill upon” our souls “as the dews from heaven.” And verse 46 goes on to say that “The Holy Ghost will be” our “constant companion, and” our ” scepter and unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.” Then the Lord makes this most striking statement, “thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

I believe, by His choice of words during the creation, Our loving Heavenly Father was showing us that His dominion does, without compulsory means, indeed flow unto Him. I am learning that the free choice we make to allow God control over our lives does, literally, open the gates of Heaven. I am learning that blessings unmeasured are liberally poured from the windows of Heaven. I am learning that knowledge and light and virture and power are indeed gifts from God and will, without compulsory means, flow unto us, but only if we let them.

Suggestions:  In a good Dictionary, look up words from the scriptures cited in the chapter.  Words such as dominion, scepter, virtue, distill and confidence.  Ponder their meanings and see if Heavenly Father doesn't have further revelation to give you by better understanding His words.

Chapter 3 - Trust

Nephi, in his candid, instructive, self-incriminating psalm found in 2 Nephi 4:17-19, declares this;

 17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
I think it is interesting that Nephi was fully able to console himself by the knowledge that he trusts the Lord.

I'll be the first to agree that it's hard to look upon Nephi's "iniquities" as horrible and threatening, in light of all the wonderful accomplishments of his life.  Still the fact is, no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, no matter how unclean.  Clearly, Nephi longs to be perfect and it troubles him to fall short of that most loft goal.  Surely, he longs to be that clean, so that he actually may, one day, dwell with God.

So what did Nephi mean when he said he trusted the Savior.  The word trust has some wonderful and three dimensional connotations.  I'm going to cite and discuss them one at a time:
to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something
Everything about Nephi's life demonstrated his confidence in the Savior.  Clearly he knew that "God giveth no commandment unto the children of save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."  (1 Nephi 3:7)
to have confidence; hope
Nephi knew that despite his faults and failings he could still be saved.  He trusted that Jesus would stand before the Father (with His arm around Nephi) and say, (paraphrasing D&C 45:4-5) "Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou was well pleased; behold the blood of thy son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father, spare ...Nephi for believing on my name, that he may come unto me and have everlasting life."  Nephi realized that his entrance into the Celestial Kingdom was going to be due to God's recognition of Jesus' merits, not his own.  Nephi's part was to invite and then trust the Savior to actually do that for him.  All of Nephi's other efforts were then, an expression of love, humility, obedience and gratitude.
to have trust or confidence in; rely or depend on
It is hard to rely on someone else to save us.  Most of us have been burned or let down too many times to be comfortable with relying upon anyone but ourselves.  The case I'm about to relate is rather extreme, but illustrates my point.  I went to the Detention Center for my regular 12 Step Meetings with the youth.  As I was headed to the meeting room I noticed a youth in the receiving room covered in a blanket.  After the meeting I saw who it was.  A sweet little Native American girl who'd been released to a foster home a couple of weeks prior.  That foster home had been far from the reservation with a family about as distant from her culture as can be imagined.  The foster parents were very strict.  My little friend had never lived in a disciplined environment besides the Detention Center.  It became intolerable and she ran away.  Now, she'd been picked up and placed back in Detention.  I stepped into the room and sat with her.  She wept for 45 minutes.  At one point she moaned, "All I want to do is go home, but I don't even have a home to go to.  My mom is dead and my Dad just went back to prison."  Can you imagine how difficult it is for her to trust, to rely upon someone else?  She can't even conceive of people being trustworthy.  She's just barely learning about God.  It's a bit premature to expect her to even trust Him.  We wept together and I wondered how on earth can I help these kids, there are so many of them.  I spent my time there testifying of God's love and trustworthiness and I trust my Savior to answer my prayers and heal their wounds and to continue to send shepherds he can trust to find them.  Now I can see why trust was such a comfort to Nephi.
to believe
I love Stephen E. Robinson's book Believing Christ.  In it he taught me that it wasn't enough to believe in Christ, we must believe Christ.  It is one thing to acknowledge that he lives and reigns in the Universe.  It is quite another to believe that he will reach down into the mud and rescue someone as filthy as I.  When I first read He Did Deliver Me From Bondage by Colleen Harrison, I skipped the chapter on Step 2 - "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."  I thought I didn't need to waste time on that Step; I already believed.  Later, bogged down in my recovery process I went back and re-read the book.  This time I read that chapter.  The irony is that in that Chapter Colleen recounted how, when reading the AA Big Book the first time she'd skipped Chapter 5 entitled To The Agnostic, for the same reason.  She and I both had to discover that indeed we believed in Christ, we just didn't believe He would do what He said he would, "save a wretch like me."
to expect confidently; hope 
How do we gain confidence and hope that God will do what Nephi was convinced of?  I believe the answer is simple.  I had to get on my knees, honestly express my doubts and ask for the assurance of the Spirit.  "Ask, and ye shall receive."

to commit or consign with trust or confidence 
When I was considering abandoning my pursuit  of a "job" with it's "reliable" money and it's "simple solutions" I must admit it was a bit scary.  Still, I felt in my heart that following my passion to write was the best choice.  Once I committed to that course of action, a peace came upon me that cannot be easily expressed.  I had made a conscious choice to trust my Heavenly Father and his guidance for me.  That commitment to trust has emancipated me from doubt and second-guessing and has been more than enough reward for the choice, even if nothing else ever comes of it.
to permit to remain or go somewhere or to do something without fear of consequences
This chapter is so currently pertinent and close to my heart.  Deciding to write this book and expecting to write many more is financially precarious for us.  We may have enough money to meet our obligations for a couple of months.  After than we'll need a miracle.  The likelihood of realizing any revenue from such a pursuit in that time frame is remote in the extreme.  Even so, confident of Father's affirmation of our choice my sweet wife and I have lately experienced no fear of the possibility of negative consequences.  A blessing we've not enjoyed for some time.
to invest with a trust; entrust with something
Step 3 - "Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son.  This chapter has turned out to be a bit more autobiographical that I'd intended.  Yet what I've learned about trust is so deeply ensconced in my recovery from addiction that an examination of what it means cannot be divorced from it's effect in my own life.

I have a jokester pal who grew up in North Dakota and learned to drive on the farm.  His wife grew up in LA and learned to drive on the freeway.  She doesn't think much of his city driving.  I already knew this when, upon encountering him one day, he told me of a trip they'd made to Salt Lake City.  On the way, at Silver Creek Junction, Gus pulled over, got out and walked around to open his wife's door, whereupon the said, "Scoot over Honey."  She questioned, "What's this?"  He answered, "No sense both of us driving."  I laughed and laughed.

Now change horses with me for a minute.  I first got in recovery by reading Colleen Harrison's book.  I expected that would be enough.  I was scared of meetings for a number of reasons - mostly pride.  On Sunday I was working on Step 11 - Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord's will and to have the power to carry it out.  My heart filled with desire to do that and only that, ever.  I went to my knees and told the Lord that today it was my desire to do His will completely and I promised I'd have a perfect day and do it no matter what.  I was sincere.  I must have been a bit prideful.  I don't recall asking for His assistance in such a lofty quest.

That afternoon I attended a Stake Priesthood Meeting.  Near the close of the meeting our dear Stake President stood and informed us that there were LDS Addiction Recovery Meetings available for those with such afflictions and strongly encouraged those with such needs to attend.  He announced that a meeting was being held that very evening at 7:00 PM.  Immediately, the Spirit whispered, "You need to go."

I went home, went right to my bedroom and fell to my knees.  "Father, it's me again.  I'm sure you remember my promise this morning that today I was willing to do whatever you asked.  Now, you have asked the impossible.  I can't do it.  Furthermore, I won't!"  I spent the next 45 minutes explaining why.  He wouldn't let me off the hook.  I begged.  I pleaded.  I argued.  I explained.  I made excuses.  And still I knew his will remained the same.  Exhausted. scared and frustrated, I finally just shut up.  It was then that I was blessed to hear the words, "No sense both of us driving."  Somehow that statement and it's rich and deep meaning struck might like a bolt of lightning.  It resulted in the most abrupt change of heart I have ever experienced.  I got up and went to the meeting.  I have been going ever since and that has made ALL the difference.  I finally and fully did as President Boyd K.Packer described:
"Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to him - without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege. In a sense speaking figuratively, to take one's agency, that precious gift which the scriptures make plain is essential to life itself and say, 'I will do as you direct,' is afterward to learn that in so doing you possess it all the more."  (Obedience, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Dec. 7, 1971], 4)
to give credit to (a person) for goods, services, etc.,supplied 
Who can adequately express gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It is He in whom I have put my trust.  All of it.  Without Him I am utterly bereft of hope or possibility.  He is my joy and my song!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chapter 4 - Pour

In Alma chapter 34, Amulek admonishes us to "pour out our souls."  This counsel was given in the context of prayer.  I looked up pour in the dictionary.  Pour, again is a verb.  A call to action.  Here are some details of the definition:
to cause to flow in a stream
I was amused by this one.  It made me wonder if my prayer might arrive in Heaven like a streaming video arrives on my computer.  While it is impossible to comprehend the power and capacity of our Heavenly Father, the Internet has made the seemingly impossible task of hearing and answering all of our prayers a little more conceivable to me.  Not that I think God requires technology to accomplish the task, just that this example helps me understand His capacity a little better.  What we see today was utter inconceivable 50 years ago, even less yet we take it so much for granted in the present moment.  Even as advanced in communication as we've become, we haven't even scratched the surface of what God can do.
to dispense from a container
Therapeutically speaking, keeping our troubles bottled up inside has never been good counsel.  Counselors  now-a-days often suggest getting it out by talking, writing and even art.  My experience confirms this.  My experience has been that opening up and really dumping my load on an attentive Father in Heaven is miraculously cathartic.  Sadly, I spent most of my life, telling Him what I thought He'd like to hear.  It was hard at first to expose myself that way.  After all, my own choices had caused most of the misery I was bellyaching about.  It didn't seem right to burden Him with my junk.  Eventually, I accepted this need and willingly opened my smelly can of worms and invited Him in to help clean it up.  I had to pour it all out there before He would help me with it.  The process emptied me of the burden and like we spoke of in an earlier chapter, opened up space for Him to pour light and virtue in to take it's place.
to supply or produce freely or copiously
Have you noticed that you don't have to make an appointment with God?  Rather, He invites us to pray always.  There is no limit to the volume of garbage He won't receive from us.  Christ's Atonement is infinite after all.  There is no limit to the praise He deserves or will accept either.  "I will...praise..thy name forever.." declared the Psalmist.  Copious.
to give full expression to, VENT
It's funny how, though we are aware that He knows and sees all, we still try to hide the details from Him in our prayers.  At least that is a tendency I'm susceptible to.  How unproductive it is to keep things back from Him.  We should neither assume He knows our weaknesses and sorrows nor presume He knows we love Him.  Part of the blessing of prayer, the revelation of prayer, is the understanding we arrive at when we actually express in detail what it is we seek or desire.

Have you ever thrown a tantrum in a prayer, or really went on a tirade?  I have.  I've been so frustrated that I even used foul language as I tried to get the sense that God was listening and had the power to help.  Later, of course I felt ashamed, apologized and asked for forgiveness.  Forgiveness was freely granted and a sense of Father's appreciative understanding flooded over me.  I felt as if He was thankful that I would bring my problem to Him.  I guess that shouldn't be a surprise.  After all, He gets it and was willing to sacrifice His Son to fix it.
to move or flow continuously 
We are invited to pray always.  I've always found this difficult.  Then one day I happened upon Alma's counsel to his son in Alma Chapter 37.  He said, "...let thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord..."  My thoughts were, especially at that time, always directed unto me.  And mostly it was negative self talk.  Directing my thoughts unto the Lord was like a complete about face.  Thinking to Him rather than to myself changed the entire nature of my thinking, my attitudes about prayer, my whole life.  Negative self talk is often referred to as Stinking Thinking.  I wish I knew who to credit for that telling couplet.  It would be fun to invent a positive version.  I couldn't come up with anything cute that fit.  No need.  Mary set the example for us when she pondered in her heart.  (I'll have to look that word up in my Lexicon.) (See Luke 2:19)

Are you beginning to see how this works?  I believe God selects carefully the words He chooses with which to communicate with us.  For example in the first chapter He might have used rescue rather than deliver, but if He had He would certainly not have conveyed the same message to me.  Here Amulek could have said pray in your closets, but we wouldn't have discovered the wonderful power that is found in the word he chose by revelation, pour.