LOIS’ POST: These last 18 months posting on our blog have brought many surprising blessings. Initially it took courage to open up our most sacred, personal feelings for public viewing. We appreciate your respectful feedback and encouraging comments. We are pleased to note that our modest posts have been read in 78 countries throughout the world. THANK YOU. As we complete our 18-month blogging goal, we hand the baton to our 21-year-old granddaughter, Madeline Dunn. We invite you to continue to visit the website, Reasons to Rejoice, as she expresses uplifting insights from her youthful perspective. As my final post, I want to share a simple statement of truth: Jesus Christ’s Plan of Salvation answers these deep questions of the soul: (1) Who am I? (2) Where did I come from? (3) What is my purpose on earth? (4) Where will I go after death? http://www.mormon.org/ This plan explains how we can be happy in this life and return to God’s presence, and how to grow up to become like Him. The Lord forgives my sins, recreates my nature, promises resurrection after death, and qualifies me for glory hereafter. He assures that all things wrong in the world will one day be made right. He promises His faithful followers a fullness of joy. That is the capstone of my REASONS TO REJOICE. “Rejoice, O my heart…I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Nephi 4:30).
ALAN’S POST: As I look back over the past 18 months that my wife and I have posted on our website, “Reasons to Rejoice,” I have experienced great joy in exploring and sharing my deepest convictions. I have rediscovered and reinforced countless reasons to rejoice in my life. I am grateful for you, our readers, who have perused these posts three times per week. We now find it timely to shift our attention to specific genealogy and family history goals. As a parting offering, I want to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify of God’s marvelous Plan of Salvation for His beloved children. We left our heavenly home in order to come to earth and learn by experience. Heavenly Father knew that we would inevitably make mistakes, so He provided a Savior for us, who would atone for these errors. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent and be sanctified. We are enabled through His power to progress eternally, to eventually become as He is. The scriptures and words of living prophets provide a roadmap to keep our feet on the right path. Through covenant making and covenant keeping, we are assured of joy in this life and forever. My hope is that you have been edified by reading our posts and will find future installments equally uplifting. I pray that the Lord’s choice blessings will be with you and your families. Until we meet again, we bid you ado.
I hopped on my elliptical machine to exercise, and turned on TV to make the time go by faster. Every channel clamored for my attention, such as commercials and programs shooting out dizzying images, grating voices, and quirky phrases to capture my focus. Even news channels bombarded my senses with moving messages along the bottom and sides of the screen in addition to spoken words. I was on sensory overload and my ears throbbed. Exasperated, I switched off the TV and tapped my phone to The Mormon Channel. By contrast, I listened to an apostle of the Lord speaking in a humble voice about an important principle of truth. His voice was soft; his message powerful. Ah—what relief! Spiritual truth cannot compete with the flash and flair of the world, if we are energized by those things. The world shouts in voices that are brassy and harsh; God speaks with the quiet voice of the Spirit which lingers and lifts. I need to seek quiet places to hear answers to my prayers, to hear God’s counsel, to feel His peace. “Therefore, let us follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19). God’s peace is what energizes and sustains me even through difficult days. In this I find Reasons to Rejoice!
“Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). What does this mean to you? When I think of the word, “hewn” I think of a statue emerging from a block of beautiful marble after the master artisan has laboriously chipped away with sharp tools to create a likeness. Along with all of God’s children, I am “hewn” from divine parentage as a beloved child of God. He is shaping me to be in His likeness. The word “Rock” is often used in the scriptures to represent the Savior Jesus Christ. He is what I strive to become. I have taken upon myself His holy name in covenant, and have pledged to always remember Him. In another respect, I am also “hewn” from beloved earthly parents and ancestors. I want to carry on their legacy of courage and faith. I live in a confused world when it comes to identity. Many people look to find themselves in the wrong places. The right place to find one’s real identity is from God, as His beloved child. Real identity comes from recognizing our divine heritage and purpose. These words from a favorite child’s hymn relate to adults as well: “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me; help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” Isaiah’s words, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” remind me of who I am and whose I am.
I looked out the window and saw a very long car pull up to our house. No one got out immediately. I waited and wondered who it was. Slowly, the driver’s door opened and an old man struggled to climb out, bracing himself with a cane. I grabbed a jacket and rushed out the front door. It turned out to be the oldest couple in our neighborhood. With great effort our aged friend hobbled up the sidewalk, teetering on his cane while balancing an enormous vase of flowers. It was my birthday. Tears gathered in my eyes at this generous demonstration of caring. The lovely bouquet stood on my kitchen table for days as a reminder that the most precious gifts are those hardest to give. Mother Theresa said, “You must give what will cost you something.” If we do not give when we have little, we are not likely to give when we have much. Action verbs from a favorite LDS hymn identify specific ways to serve: “I gave him all; I ran and raised the sufferer up; I flew; I revived…and supplied…and honored him. I roused…brought back…found him. I bid him welcome.” I will never forget the great lesson taught by my aged friend stumbling up the sidewalk on that windy October day. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
I will never forget the time I wanted to stoke my wood-burning fireplace with a lump of coal to extend the flame. Being in a hurry and not wanting to take time to change out of my white sweater dress, I decided to just be very careful retrieving the coal. (Silly me!) I went to the garage and gingerly opened the bag while slowly extracting a lump. Holding it out in front of me with extended arms, I walked back into the house and slid the lump of coal on top of the fire. I smiled smugly at my family for this amazing feat before rushing out the door to my meeting. But as I was about to make my presentation, I was horrified to notice a black smear of soot on my sleeve. Here is the lesson I learned that day: It is pride to think I can deviate even a little from the covenantal path without getting smudged in some way. I can’t tango with sin without its dirt rubbing off on me. The smear may not be immediately discernable but it is there all the same—and will bring me down. The Lord gives commandments to protect, not restrict us. He is a loving God—not a punitive God. I trust Him. “The discipline contained in daily obedience…builds an armor of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality” (L. Tom Perry). This I believe with all my heart.
I ask myself: What blessings have come from sacrifices made to fully live my religion? This blog follows the former one about sacrifices required to live one’s religion. I have discovered that blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. Each sacrifice is rewarded tenfold with an outpouring of tender mercies, miracles, and manifestations of God’s love and approval. Here are just a few blessings that come as a result of striving to live my religion with all my heart:
- Feeling peace of conscience that God is pleased—engulfed in His light.
- Extending my understanding and view of God’s eternal plan.
- Communicating with God. Hearing His answers.
- Feeling JOY and optimism—untouched by circumstance.
- Recognizing God’s tender mercies, even during trials.
- Feeling gratitude for everything.
- Recognizing God’s grace. Feeling His love and enabling power.
- Feeling the comfort, guidance, and companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Feeling personal growth beyond my own ability.
- Being enabled to let go of offenses.
- Rejoicing in seeing my family members grow in testimony and conversion.
- Witnessing miracles unfolding before my eyes.
- Being transformed, changed. Feeling clean.
And more—many, many more! Aren’t these Reasons to Rejoice?
A friend told me that before her family kneels for prayer each evening, they take a moment to reflect and share a particular experience that day which manifests Heavenly Father’s love. The person offering the prayer then includes expressions of gratitude for those specific things. In this way, family members are being made aware of one another’s kindnesses from God. This exercise also helps avoid vain repetitions and keeps expressions fresh. Though our children are now grown with families of their own, we continue the tradition of kneeling for family prayer whenever we gather together in our home. It is a sweet finish to every family activity before we hug goodbye. There is truth to the adage that “families who pray together—stay together.”
- Prayer is an acknowledgment that God is our Father and Jesus Christ is our Savior.
- Prayer is a sincere confession of mistakes, and a request for forgiveness.
- Prayer is recognition that we need help beyond our ability.
- Prayer is an opportunity to express gratitude to our Creator.
- Prayer is a privilege to ask God for specific blessings.
When families kneel together in humble supplication both morning and night, they enjoy a bonding spirit of love and unity.