Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Does God care?

I feel the need to publicly acknowledge the blessings I have received this past week.  I feel that sometimes we think that God may not care about us as much as we'd like Him to.  We may feel that He cares about some aspects of our lives, but other things just aren't that important to Him.  He may care about our families or our health or our church attendance, but when it comes to the grades on our tests, the problem with the dishwasher, or the annoying dog next door, we may think He really doesn't notice it.

I guess that when I think of these things, something inside me whispers, "have you given Him the chance?".  And you know what?  I think I oftentimes don't.  I don't ask him to care about my test grades, to care about helping me figure out how to get the dishwasher working, or if somehow he can help me ignore the incessant yapping next door. I don't ask him to perfect my prayers, to adjust my attitude, to streamline my studying.  I just don't think it's important enough.

Now I'm not a parent, but I have no doubt that for all you parents out there, if your child comes to you, no matter how small or insignificant his or her need, you will do whatever it takes to help your son or daughter.  Why?  Because you love them more than anything else and that is what motivates you.

I have seen for myself in these past few days that God truly loves me and cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.  God is in the details of my life.  He wants to bless me and help me in everything I ask Him.

These past few days have been really rough.  I am an applied math major here at college (and I can hear the inward groaning as any of you think about doing math for the rest of your life).  And it's true, it's hard.  But I love it.  It is very important to me.  These past few days have seen a barrage of big assignments and burdensome projects that have overwhelmed me.  But that same voice inside has whispered, "Have you given Him the chance to help?"  And so I tried.  I asked God in sincere prayer to please make it possible for me to finish my homework.  I prayed with faith and with hope and a desire to see His hand manifested in my life.  And you know what?  He does care.

Though I work two jobs, am taking 15 credits, and am active in my family and church, God made the time in my schedule to give me the adequate time and knowledge to finish this homework.  It has been a relief and a blessing in so many ways.  Though we may think that to God these things may seem trivial, tiny, and trite, because they are important to us, they are important to Him.

I know that God loves us.  He is in the details of our lives and He is waiting, literally, just waiting to bless us beyond what we can imagine.  The question is, "Have you given Him the chance?"

Matthew 21:22
3 Nephi 18:20

-Ben Merrill
P.S.- If this touched you, please let it touch others by reposting.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The things I'm just too afraid to say

Well, this is my first time posting, so if after reading this you have any advice for me on how to be better at it, PLEASE comment or message me and let me know =) Feedback is welcome!

So lately I've been reading "The Power of Everyday Missionaries" by Clay Christensen - great book! The author points out something interesting about common fears that most religious people share. He asserts that many people who are religious are afraid to talk about religion at work and/or school because they think that others will be offended. It is "politically incorrect" - or at least that is what we think those around us believe. The truth is that the majority of people believe in God, but are afraid to raise their voice on the issue, even if it is just in a passive way. The atheist groups are very vocal and assertive in making their opinions known, and sometimes its hard to be non-confrontational while sharing our opinions as well, so we just go silent on the issue. The truth is, it doesn't have to be that way. If you believe in God and you have seen His hand in your life, speak up about it! I love hearing others share how God has helped them through hard times, because it strengthens me and encourages me to trust in Him.

I have learned that being offended is a choice, so if you offend someone by talking about God in front of them, that is not your fault. Of course, you should always try to be tactful and respectful, but not simply silent for fear of offending someone. Sometimes it is better to state something you know is true, even if you know it will be hard for the person to hear. I say this because of my personal experience being on the end of the one who was hearing something hard. When I was in my last year of high school I started hanging around with a boy who did not respect my religious beliefs and was consumed in about every bad habit I can think of, but because I liked him, I put up with it. Slowly I began to be more and more distant from my friends, family, and God. A lot of my friends didn't say much about it to me, in fact they just started not talking to me, or they would go silent when I would talk about the boy I was dating. After a few months of this, I was talking with one of my friends and I started to bring up the topic of my boyfriend again. To my surprise he started to give me what for. He told me that I was being selfish, setting a very poor example, and that I had shut out those who had really cared about me, including God. He was very straight-forward and didn't try to play the politically correct game; he didn't worry about offending me, because he was standing up for what he knew was right.

At first I was a upset that he thought negatively about me, but as I thought about it I realized that he didn't think poorly of me, he thought poorly of my behavior. The more I thought about it, the more I knew he was right. It took me a while, but I was able to remove myself from that situation and come back to my family, friends, and God. I remember distinctly the moment I started to feel close to God again, and I was grateful that someone had the courage to stand up for what was right, even if I didn't like hearing it at the time.

Sharing our beliefs doesn't always have to be that dramatic. You don't have to search for a person with views opposite yours in order to talk about God. All you need to do is include your views on God in every day conversations. Did you do really well on a test for school? Think about how God influenced that outcome, and when you share your score with your roommates, tell them how God helped you. Was someone especially nice to you? Maybe they stopped in order to let you merge during heavy traffic, or let you go ahead in the line at the grocery store. Share that with others, and while doing so, point out how Christ-like it was of them or how it helped you feel God's love for you. It's really simple, and yet so hard because we forget that God is in the details.

When you open up and share with others what you believe about God they will respect you more, and start opening up about their beliefs too. Even if the beliefs aren't the same, it doesn't have to be a competition. Focus on the similarities and how you can strengthen each other. My best friend does not share the same religion that I do, but we love to talk about God and His influence in our lives, and it's never competitive. It's actually very fulfilling and satisfying to be able to talk about God just as we talk about work, school, families, or other events in our lives that are common and normal.

If God has taken the time to manifest Himself in our lives, we shouldn't be afraid to share our testimony of Him with others. Maybe your experiences with prayer, faith, or church are exactly what someone else needs to hear in order to make the resolve to come closer to God. Perhaps God has placed you in the situation with that person so that they can hear what you have to say. You never know if He is counting on you to help bring someone closer to Him through opening your mouth and sharing what you know is true. Even if it's just "I believe that God is real", it is something valuable that can be shared. Share the light you have! That's why God gave it to you!

Let me tell you about procrastination...but not right now...

It has been some time since we posted, hasn't it?  As you can see, we are definitely human and oftentimes have troubles with procrastination and putting things off.  Why do you think we do that?  What is it about our natures that almost drives us to put things off, to procrastinate, to be "lazy"?  I definitely will appreciate comments and ideas on this question.  But I will share a few thoughts of my own and will put special emphasis on how this question affects the family.
We are taught in the scriptures of the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness, the Plan of Redemption, etc.  It has many names.  But essentially it is God's plan for us to return to Him.  Part of this plan requires us to come here to earth and be tested, be tried.  We lived with God before we were born, and we chose to come here to this earth.  We passed through a veil of forgetfulness that doesn't allow us in this life to remember what we knew before.  Can you see the importance of that?  How easy would it be if we knew why we were here, where we were going, and where we came from?  How easy would it be if we knew with a complete certainty our purpose and destination?  
But we don't.  At least, we don't remember.  But God loves His children more than we can imagine, and because of this He has called men in all ages to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to His children, to invite them to come unto Christ, to be saved, and to ultimately return to His presence.
But, you're asking, what does this have to do with procrastination?  Well, you see, it all kind of boils down to this scripture taught by a servant of God, and recorded in a sacred volume called the Book of Mormon:
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed." (Alma 32:32-33)
Does that make sense?  There's a lot in there.  Essentially, we first learn that this life is the time we are given to prepare.  It's a life where we learn and progress and sin and are tried and fall down and get up. Over and over.  So it is today, the day of this life, that we need to perform our labors.  But what happens?  We get that "drive" to procrastinate.  What is the problem with procrastinating?  Amulek (the speaker here in these verses) tells us quite clearly: if we do not "improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed."  
So if we procrastinate the good things, eventually it will be too late.  Now, who would want that to happen?  Satan.  He does not want us to progress and learn.  He wants us to put other, less important things in front of that which we really should be doing.  And so that's why we have that tendency.  As fallen men, we have that fallen, innate "desire" to put off the hard things and to do the easy things.  In this way, Satan can distract us so that we don't do that which we need to do in this life in order to return to God.
How does this look in a family?  
It may sound like this: "I am so tired.  It's been a long day at work.  I know that I need to take time with my kids, but I'm just so tired!  I just want to relax, watch TV, read a book, and go to bed.  I can play with them tomorrow."  
Or it may sound like this: "It sounds like Julie is having a really hard time.  I know that she's been having a rough time at college, but I'm sure that she'll be fine.  She is our daughter after all.  She's made of tough stuff.  I won't worry about bothering her by calling her today.  I'll call her tomorrow to check on her."  
It may feel like this: "I feel that these kinds of shows our kids are watching just aren't helping them at all.  They've got foul language, not the best dressed actresses, and way too much violence.  But the kids and my husband love them so much!  What can I do?  Well, I'll let them watch it tonight and then maybe I'll talk to them tomorrow before they watch the next one..."
We all know how each of these situations ends.  It never gets done.  Why?  Because the next day, when the same situation comes up, you rationalize and put it off another day.  Why do we let ourselves do it?  Because we get rid of that nagging feeling of "oh, I should do this now" by "committing" ourselves to do it the next day.  We've "solved" the problem and can have a "clear" conscience.
Can we see how this is a tool of Satan?  How he is trying with everything he's got to get us to not forget eternal relationships.  To not help and serve our brother or sister.  To not change someone's life for the better by showing them a better way.
Brothers and Sisters (and I call you that because you all are my spiritual brothers and sisters), I invite us all to stop procrastinating.  Recognize who it's coming from.  Recognize the tainted tauntings of the evil one, the hollow hopes given by Satan, and above all, the incorrect ideas that he puts in your head to appease your natural man.
Let us take the opportunity to lift our brother.  Let us choose to do what is best right now.  Let us be what God knows that we can be.  And I promise that as we do so, we will finally reach a part of our potential and will finally be moving, unchecked, down the path of eternal life that will ultimately land us and our families at the right hand of God.

Additional reading: