Free Food

the_bread_of_life_636x318

I’ve been reading the first five chapters of Mosiah. These words of Christ are pure and simple. They uplift me. They fill my soul with peace. I just can’t get enough!

He freely offers and provides a feast that never ends.

“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. …

“I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

Advertisements

It Doesn’t Matter How Strong You Are

I often ponder the Lord’s words,

“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

I find immense comfort in this invitation and promise. I think the parable of the widow’s mite provides a beautiful example of what His invitation means. As usual, I think children best explain the most important gospel principles.

(If the video is about baptism, skip ahead to video 7 in the playlist.)

 

 

Herein lies one of my favorite principles in the gospel of Jesus Christ: God doesn’t expect perfection or exceptional results. He simply expects our individual best with our full devotion to Him.

Who can meet this expectation? Anyone and everyone. In my mind, that’s the central miracle and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My best isn’t your best. Your best isn’t your neighbor’s best. The expectation depends on the individual. Now that’s an easy yoke and light burden!

God hasn’t prepared heaven for perfect people, nor has He prepared it exclusively for exceptional missionaries, outgoing leaders, spectacular sponsors, or that one person you know who seems to have it all together. No, they don’t set the bar for eternal life.

Rather, the Lord has prepared heaven for the faithful, the loyal, the ones who love Him with all their heart, might, mind, and strength… the ones who give all they have, no matter the amount. This includes the imperfect performers, the clumsy speakers, the high school dropouts, the recovering addicts, and repentant sinners. This includes the honest, humble, fault-filled followers of Christ. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, God has prepared heaven exclusively for these.

This means that when I falter, lose my temper, relapse, or let a repulsive four-letter word escape my lips, I can repent. Praise the Lord, I can repent! And once I receive His forgiveness I can move forward with complete confidence that I have met His expectations.

What a relief! What a source of rest to my soul, indeed.

Of course, the more I keep the commandments of God the more peace and happiness I’ll enjoy. And while I work toward that unending goal, I’ll place my trust in Jesus Christ, my Hope and my Salvation. I invite you to do the same.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Small and Simple

red_leaf_fall

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” (Alma 37:6)

 

About two months ago I was driving home from work and feeling overwhelmed by the changes I wanted to make. My faults and sins seemed to outweigh my efforts to repent and change. I prayed for help and wisdom. The Holy Spirit reminded me of certain principles I’ve learned in software engineering named Scrum.

 

One of my favorite parts of Scrum is the retrospective phase that occurs at the end of every work “sprint.” The purpose is to assess the team’s progress and identify the largest bottlenecks, then decide on the smallest changes the team can make that will have the greatest positive impact.

 

As the Spirit reminded me of these principles, I felt the Lord say to me, “What are your largest impediments to progress right now?” The answers came quickly: not taking the sacrament, and not exercising consistently.

Suddenly the changes I needed to make felt doable and my burdens instantly became lighter. I shared my experience with Jess, my therapist, and my bishop. He and I worked together so that I could take the sacrament again, and I did by the grace of God.

That was one month ago. Since then I’ve felt more peace than I have in a long time. Heavenly Father, Jess, my bishop, and my therapist help me keep a healthy perspective. I’m still working on the exercise part, but I’m gaining momentum there too. I am grateful for the faith, hope, and progress the Lord gives me.

Threads and Pennies

quote-scott-christus

 

For years I watched the thread of hope dangling above my head—the hope that recovery could happen for me. I tried repeatedly to grab it and hold on for dear life (literally) only to grow weary of my white knuckle grip and fall. After a few hundred falls I dared not attempt to hold on anymore. I was too afraid of more heartbreak and disappointment. This time around, however, feels different.

Tomorrow will mark one hundred days of sobriety for me. The 12 Steps are working!

  1. Honesty: I admitted that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. Hope: I came to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health.
  3. Trust in God: I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Truth: I made a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
  5. Confession: I admitted to myself, to my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of my wrongs.
  6. Change of Heart: I became entirely ready to have God remove all my character weaknesses.
  7. Humility: I humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings.
  8. Seeking Forgiveness: I made a written list of all persons I have harmed and became willing to make restitution to them.
  9. Restitution and Reconciliation: Wherever possible, I am making direct restitution to all persons I have harmed.

(Obviously, I’m on Step 9. You can read the rest of the steps here.)

I read through these steps and their simplicity floors me. Make no mistake—I have done nothing to earn the precious gift of recovery! It is a gift. I don’t deserve recovery. I thank my God I don’t get what I deserve!

Continue reading

Guest post: Deliverance from Pornography’s Poisonous Whirlwinds

tornado

 

This spring we planted a new orange tree in our backyard. Four feet tall we have watched it take hold over the last two months. Strong winds on Saturday blew off all the tiny green fruit that were starting to form after the blossoms. Elder Anderson wrote in his recent conference address about whirlwinds.

“In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.

“You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead” (Read the full talk here)

How do you prepare for your whirlwinds?

“Remember … it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … his shafts in the whirlwind, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down … because of the rock upon which ye are built” (The Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12).

This is your safety in the whirlwind.

I read in my scripture study this verse from Zeniff’s “rescue” temple address to his people after Ammon and his three brothers showed up.

“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” (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 7:33)

My recovery is like the young orange tree in my backward. The whirlwind of addictions seem to swirl around all times and everywhere from the media I consume, to the people I encounter at work/church/shopping to the old memories Satan likes to choke me with like a dust devil. I know if I “sow filthiness” I will reap the chaff and the effects thereof – this is interesting – Zeniff writes, “are poison.”

I cannot think of a better description for porn than poison. Turning to the Lord, TRUSTING HIM (step 3) and serving him brings the assurance he will deliver me.

Burt Williams

How do I surrender?

When I first heard the word “surrender” in an addiction recovery context, I really didn’t understand it. I still find it difficult to describe clearly as I’m still learning how to do it. The more I learn about surrender, the more I understand that it’s synonymous with repentance.

C.S. Lewis captures this concept well in my opinion. He’s one of my favorite authors, and not just for his timeless Chronicles of Narnia series (I also highly recommend his science fiction trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet). Lewis wrote the following about repentance/surrender in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor– that is the only way out of a ‘hole.’ This process of surrender–this movement full speed astern–is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person–and he would not need it.

“Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.”

Likewise, I recover from my addiction because Jesus Christ recovered from my addiction in His Atonement for me, and because He holds my hand while we do it, while He teaches me recovery (i.e. the 12 Steps, a.k.a. the gospel of Jesus Christ). I love Him so very much. I can’t do it without Him.

Hydrogen Peroxide

hydrogen_peroxide

 

This saying has been on my mind: “…individuals finally become willing to abstain when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution” (LDS Addiction Recovery Manual, p.1, emphasis added).

Why would the solution include pain? I think one reason is so that I can’t return to my sins without recalling how much pain they bring. Maybe it’s similar to why God lets me touch a hot stove and afterward obtain medical care, so that I learn what will wound me and what will heal me. Perhaps cleansing all types of wounds—physical, emotional, or spiritual—involves some measure of pain.

I’m thinking of when I got nasty gravel-covered scrapes on my knees and elbows after falling off my bicycle as a kid. My mom would first clean out the gravel and dirt from the wounds. As if that didn’t hurt enough, she’d then bring out the big guns: hydrogen peroxide. I think many of us can recall what that feels like. My mother usually had to repeatedly assure me that the “bubbly medicine” would be good for me. I’m pretty sure I often protested in fear of the pain that I knew would ensue. Eventually she would convince me to trust her and I’d let her apply the painful solution. She was right; it hurt every time, but the wound always got better.

Has learning to trust God been any different for me? I certainly know the pain of my sins and addictions, but I’m just getting to know the pain of repentance and recovery. I’m slowly getting better, and the pain becomes bearable when I plead for God’s grace to sustain me.  Just as Heavenly Father promised, I’m experiencing the healing power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement.

It seems to me that I have been given a choice in this life: either the never-ending sorrow of my sins and weaknesses, or the temporary pain of repentance and healing. My experience has been that the former brings even more pain, while the latter yields peace of mind and soul.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following:

“Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. …whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness.”

I crave peace and forgiveness. Healing hurts right now, but I can feel the Lord restoring health and life to my soul.

Sincere Failure

Fair warning… it’s about to get really open and vulnerable in here. :)

My Heavenly Father continues to bless me abundantly through the 90-day program I’m currently doing (check out arpsupport.org). This program includes my sharing my journal entries with my sponsor every night. It helps me practice accountability, honesty, and vulnerability, in addition to helping me establish healthy habits of daily self-assessment and “checking in” with Heavenly Father.

I wrote the following in my journal on 6 Mar 2014:

“Isla got up at who knows when this morning and woke me up at 6:20, which is progress for her. We’ve been training her to sleep till the sun ‘wakes up,’ but the poor kid has a hard time discerning when that happens because of nearby construction lights. We give her some chocolate milk with breakfast when she gets up with the sun. This morning we went downstairs and she said disappointingly, ‘I guess I can have some milk?’ I told her, ‘Yes, of course! Don’t you want chocolate milk? You waited till the sun woke up.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, no. Look,’ and she walked over to the window, opened the blinds, pointed at the construction lights, and said, ‘It’s not light outside yet, Daddy.’ I stifled my laughter and told her she did a good job waiting longer today and she thought it was light outside, so she could have some chocolate milk for doing her best. She smiled and excitedly accepted, haha.”

In response, my sponsor posed this question to me:  “I think there is a lesson in your little girl’s early wake-up experience. How is her reaction to you as her father—her questions, her concern that she wouldn’t get the blessing of chocolate milk—similar to your experience with Heavenly Father? Put yourself in your daughter’s shoes.”

Once he pointed out the potential similarity, I began to see it intellectually; but I did not feel it. I could not understand how God could feel toward me what I felt toward Isla that morning. Yes, Isla is my daughter and I am one of God’s children. Yes, He has shown me mercy when I did not deserve it (isn’t that why it’s called mercy?), but I thought this experience with Isla was different. She was doing the best she could. I couldn’t fault her or be disappointed in her for that.  But me? I’m an addict. I’ve relapsed countless times after sincerely repenting. Surely there’s no similarity between the two beyond the father-child relationship.

I needed almost a week of frequent and deliberate pondering to see the similarities between the two relationships—mine and Isla’s, and mine and God’s. I received my answer from my Heavenly Father while doing my step work on the morning of 13 Mar 2014:

“Q: How does the Savior’s infinite Atonement increase your hope for repentance and healing as you go through the recovery process?
A: Its in-finiteness has become appealing to me because I can trust that it doesn’t run out. I can trust that I don’t have a limited number of chances for repentance, and I’m certain I’m going to need many, many more chances for repentance and learning. I’m not perfect yet, so I’m going to need more chances for healing from my sins and mistakes. The people I love will also need healing from my choices. I feel hopeful knowing that there’s no limit to that miracle.

Q: How does this apply to other aspects of your life?  How is this comforting and reassuring to you?
A: I think it means that failure is okay. I can stumble and fall while I’m learning. I think that’s a part of learning. It must be, otherwise I don’t think Father in Heaven would’ve sent me to a fallen world. I need to live in a fallen world in order to learn that God will always be there for me when I fall and not just when I make the right choices. This is comforting. I’ve feared failure for as long as I can remember. I fear it because I don’t want to disappoint others. I [now] believe that my failures don’t disappoint God; instead, He empathizes with me when I fail. Perhaps He loves me even more when I fail, like the love I feel for my daughter when she’s doing the best she can. In those moments I feel proudest of her.

I think this relates to what happened and how I felt the other morning when Isla honestly thought she had waited to wake me till the sun came up. She was sad because she felt she had disappointed me, when in reality I was feeling a surge of love and understanding for her. I felt proud of her sincere efforts to do what she, her mother, and I had been working on together. Her sincerity and actions merited my praise, not my disappointment. Perhaps my Heavenly Father feels this way about me when I sincerely approach Him and fall short of perfection.”

I believe this principle to be true. I felt it when I learned it in that moment of prayerful study, and I’ve felt it multiple times since then.

I just can’t get over how much He loves me—how much He loves all His children. There’s no end to that. There’s no limit to His mercy. Isn’t that amazing? His love doesn’t run out after one-too-many (or five-hundred-too-many) relapses or angry outbursts or failed attempts at recovery. No, now I believe that He loves me best when I falter. He mourns with me when I struggle. And He forgives me time and time again when I approach Him with full purpose of heart, hiding nothing from Him, and being willing to do anything He asks of me. I’m learning that sincerity means a great deal to God, especially when we fail while sincerely approaching Him.

The prophet Zenos wrote the following, which captures well the thoughts and feelings of my heart:

“And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 33:11).