Inner Reflection

39 years ago while on a mission for my church in South Korea, my grandfather wrote me a letter and asked if I was someone who set goals at the beginning of the year to accomplish something or someone who was content in trying to do their best throughout the year.

I am more of the former–someone who tries to do their best in any given situation.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have or set goals for myself.

It seems at the beginning of the year is a time when many people think about what they want to accomplish that year.

The first step in setting a goal like this, or in evaluating where you are at during the year, is to have some time of inner reflection; or a self evaluation.

It’s hard to know where you want to go or what you want to do, if you don’t know first where you are.

In the Bible in 2nd Corinthians it challenges us to “Examine Yourselves”.

We all need to take time to look inside and discover who we are and ask ourselves are we the type of person we want to be. Is our external demeaner or person a reflection of what we are inside, or is it something else?

If we want to be more or do more, then we start where we are at now and figure out actions–or goals– to be where we want to be.

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.

Peter Drucker

Take time to reflect, re-adjust or re-prioritize if needed, and then put a plan into action that can propel you forward. Our self examination or reflection should prompt actions. There is always something we can do better.

You never know what you can become until you start to know who you are and that knowledge starts with an inner reflection.

For me, that reflection helps to re-center my relationship with God and my family, and if needed, to re-align my actions to accomplish the goals I have for myself.

Gifts to Him

It never gets old to hear the story of Christmas…the story of Jesus Christ. But that story wasn’t the beginning and it isn’t the end. The story of Christ is our story too. We are all living it.

The story of Christ and the story of Christmas is in the invitation to Come to Him. Through the scriptures, Jesus himself beckoned us to “Incline your ear”, “Come unto me”, “Return to me”, and “Walk with me”. In return he has promised, “A new heart will I give you”, “I have redeemed thee; thou art mine,” “Fear not”, “Find rest”, and “I will ease your burdens.”

So where do you fit into the story of Christ?

We’ve all heard the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus. I would invite all of us to also give a gift to Him. But what do you give to someone that has everything? 

We give of ourselves. 

What gift could you give to Jesus? Is it a gift of doing away with a bad habit, a gift of studying his life more, a gift of obedience or sacrifice?. Are we able to gift him forgiveness for someone that has wronged us, or give to him the gift of greater diligence in ministering to and serving others?

Just like our relationship with the Savior is personal, so will each of our gifts be personal and individual. 

The glad tidings that the shepherds were told out in the fields is the same tidings we bear witness of today. That Christ, the Creator of the world, the great Jehovah of the old Testament, the Lamb of God, the first born Son of our Father, and the Savior of us all– lives!

He lives today!

During times of blessings and joy may we turn to him in gratitude but also realize that in times of difficulties our trials are designed to bring us closer to him in humility. 

 At this time of year as we celebrate his birth and life let’s remember that his glorious and marvelous story is not done and that we are all a part of it.

As the Shepherds and Wise men came to him let us all come to Him and follow Him, be strengthened, and find joy. 

Where do you fit into the story of Jesus Christ?

What gift can you give to Him?

Consider Your Ways

In Haggai (in the Old Testament) the Lord asks us to Consider Your ways.

As we approach a new year, it’s a great time to look at our life and consider if it is where we want it to be; not necessarily in terms of job, wealth, or status, but are we the type of person we want to be?

Are we putting our time and effort into the right areas of our life to become the person we were meant to be? If not, now is always a great time for a self evaluation.

We all occasionally get distracted from why we are here and divert our energies somewhere else. One of Satan’s most powerful weapons is to distract us with good and better causes which, in times of need, may blind and bind us away from the very best cause–the very work that called us into this world.

BONNIE H. cordon Oct 2021

Haggai goes on to say: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”

Do we find ourselves spinning our wheels sometimes, or engaged in activities that don’t really satisfy us deep down inside?

“Consider Your Ways,” the Lord repeats.

It’s always great to take some time pondering, thinking, and reflecting on our life. The end or beginning of the year seems to be a natural time for this. Maybe list out some new goals or attributes you want to develop. Do you need to be nicer, serve others, live the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully?

What good things are distracting you from focusing on the great things in life? Maybe a part of your reflection is to not just do something more or better but to eliminate something that isn’t as good to have time to focus on something new. Something that can bring you more fulfillment and direction in your life.

For me, as I consider my ways, one thing might be limiting social media in favor of reading more uplifting material.

How can you have more focus in your life? You are the only one that can determine that!

So, “Consider your ways” and start on a new journey of becoming more than you are now.

Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience is the ability to adapt or to respond to a stressful or unexpected situation or crises.

This can include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or social resilience.

But how do we develop it?

Like anything else it takes practice and some self-introspection.

Dr. Ginsburg, human development expert mentions five components that help us to be more resilient: “Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, and Contribution”.

Many of these have to do with us getting help from and though others. Let other trusted people into your life whether it’s a friend, therapist, church leader, or family member. Choose someone that you can share with and receive support from.

When we work together cooperatively, . . . we can accomplish anything. When we do so, we eliminate the weakness of one person standing alone and substitute the strength of many serving together.

Thomas s monson, may 1999

As we become more aware of triggers and stress and how we personally deal with those circumstances we can better put into place tools that can help us deal with a crisis. 

One way I deal with this in my life is through my faith in God and Jesus Christ. By knowing there is a higher power than me, I can put my trust in them. Knowing that they have a plan for me helps me to look at things from a broader perspective—one that helps to minimize the current stressful situation.

An exercise that can be beneficial to us all is to write down stressful situations that might arise, and then next to it record possible responses to those situations, and then think about practices/actions that we could do to overcome those situations.

For me I find that hiking in nature, taking a walk, reading the scriptures, and spending time with family help me to overcome stress in my life. But with all these other tools I cannot do it without centering my thoughts, actions, and life around Jesus Christ.

in John 16:33 it says: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

It isn’t always easy to deal with a crisis in our life, but no one is ever alone. The fix may not come quickly but It can come. Focus on what you CAN control and not on what you can’t, talk to someone, practice positive responsive behaviors, and eventually you will build a character of an emotionally resilient person.

What have you found in your life to help you be more emotionally resilient?

“Bad things” vs “Hard things”

Many times when some difficulty, trial, or tragedy strikes, somewhere we might hear the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

This past week as I studied the book of Job in the bible, many of his friends ask the same thing of him.

But what is bad?

is it bad to lose a job but to humble yourself and learn a new skill or trade or be open to moving somewhere else where new opportunities are?

Is it bad when we are hit with a disease or an accident that teaches us patience, helps us learn to love someone more as we care for them, or causes us to to turn to God for comfort?

Are any of our daily trials, struggles, or difficulties really bad, if in the end they make us a stronger, better, more forgiving, trusting, insightful, or loving person

Can something really be that bad if it causes us to be better in the end?

I think it may be better to talk about “hard or difficult things happening to good people” rather than “bad things”.

Life can be hard, but it is during those hard times that we learn who we are, develop eternal traits, and become more like Jesus Christ. In truth, we learn more during our difficult times than our good times.

Any trial we face can be very difficult and hard in the moment, but in the end if it makes us better, more like our Father in Heaven then it is not a bad thing. Our Father uses or allows trials/difficulties to make us into the type of person that will be able to live with him again.

Just like any athlete or musician will attest, it is the grueling hours of practice and discipline and hard work that help them to be better.

Job recognized this when he said, “But he knoweth the way that I take; When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as Gold.”

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

Orson F. Whitney

None of us will escape hard or difficult times in life, but instead of looking at them as “bad”, let’s see what we can learn from them, and how we can be better for them.

We can all do hard things!

Are you an optimist?

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

A few weeks ago at church we were studying in Numbers 14 in the Bible in which Moses sends out 12 spies to look at the land that the Lord wants them to inhabit.

Ten of the men come back and tell how wonderful the land is, but that the cities are too big, the walls are too tall, and the people are too strong.  They even go so far to say that they should find another leader to take them back to Egypt.

However two men, Caleb and Joshua gave a good report and were ready to go in and inhabit the land.

So all 12 men saw the same thing; what made the difference?

The two men said “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14:8)

So the difference is not in the situation itself, but how they looked at the situation. Caleb and Joshua looked at it with the Lord on their side. Specifically they had hope in his promises.

Hope is trust in god’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future…

James E. Faust, Oct 1999

So with eyes toward God and his promises and hope in him we can find optimism in our own lives. 

As we face situations, let’s look for the positives, the possibilities, and the good.  In doing so we will find great joy and happiness in our life. We will find other people enjoy being around us, and that we have purpose in what we do.

You will experience greater joy in life as you eradicate adult-onset pessimism and substitute childlike optimism. 

Optimism is a virtue that allows us to see God’s loving hand in the details of our life.

Anthony D. Perkins, Oct 2006

How do you see the world around you?

It’s much more enjoyable to be an optimist!

There are no dead ends

The other day while hiking I came to the end of a path and it just stopped. The all-trails map I had on my phone said it continued on; connecting with another path in just a short distance.

I turned a different way down another dirt forest road thinking I might have made a mistake, but it took me in the opposite direction. I was getting a little discouraged and was about to turn around.

I went once again went to where the trail ended and looked around more carefully, but to no avail. All there was was forest and leaves and logs. So with my map in hand I took a deep breath and headed straight into uncharted territory–toward where the path should have been.

Hiking up hill and over stones and sticks and around a few trees I finally–about 20 feet later found a faint path that soon led me to my final destination at the summit.

I could have given up. I could have turned around. But I really wanted to get to my destination. With a little extra perseverance, walking into the forest for a bit, and taking some extra time, I did get to where I wanted to go and enjoyed the extra beauty on the way.

In life we may feel at times that there is a roadblock in front of where we want to go. We may not see any way to get to our destination.

We may try right and left but its not the right path. We may feel lost or discouraged.

But just like on my hike, sometimes we may need to go forward into unplanned or unfamiliar areas–with faith relying both upon what we know and a prayer and help from God.

Don’t give up. don’t think you can’t do it.

With a little more effort and faith push forward until you are back on the path to where you want to be. What you learned along the way may be valuable to you in the long-term.

There are no dead ends. There is always a way out. What you learn in one failure you utilize in your next success.

Henry FORD

In my life, the things that give me this extra push forward are prayer, reading the scriptures, helping others, and listening to the spirit of the Holy Ghost.

It isn’t always easy, and sometimes my path in life goes into unfamiliar or unmapped areas, but if I stay focused I can reach the summit.

Never let something block your path without trying all you can to find your destination.

Yoke Ourselves with Jesus Christ

What is a yoke and why do we want to be yoked to Christ?

From Matthew 11:28-30 we read:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laded, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest until your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

A yoke is beam of wood fitted to 2 ox’s shoulders that maximize the pulling force, but also offer the least pain and most comfort to the ox. To function properly they are fitted for the particular ox. And when yoked together they can accomplish so much more than they can alone.

I love the imagery of this scripture of coming to Christ in this way,  but have always been bothered a bit about Him saying His yoke is easy.

What do you mean His yoke is easy? 

He suffered in the garden for all of us, endured a false trial, friends betrayal, and other injustices throughout his short life. And in the end he gave up his life on the cross in a barbaric matter.

How could His yoke be easy and His burden light?

Then I had a new thought—a switch in perspective.

Maybe He means that if we come to Him during our life, His yoke is easier than if we go at it alone.

If we try to go through our own trials, burdens, sins, and difficulties by ourselves—making choices alone, that definitely could be more difficult than if we have someone to share them with.

If we turn our burdens over to Him, that burden—that load—that yoke becomes lighter.  Not from any doing of our own, but because of what he did for us—and continues to do.

As we share the yoke with him, we maximize what we can do together and minimize the pain in doing so. And that yoke is perfectly matched to our own needs individually.

A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one to bear could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke. His yoke requires a great and earnest effort, but for those who truly are converted, the yoke is easy and the burden becomes light.

Howard W. Hunter Oct 1990

Don’t go at it alone. 

Invite Christ to be part of your burdens.  Share his yoke—take it upon you—and you will find great peace and rest.

Through the Fog

The last few weeks I have gone hiking twice where it became foggy around me. As I did so I was reminded of an experience I had years ago while living in Southern California.

At the time, I was only living a few miles from where I worked in a small business complex. As I headed outside that morning I was barely able to see across the street because the fog was so thick.

I had to be very careful maneuvering out of the neighborhood. The main street had two lanes each way and in order to see where I was going and stay in a straight line I had to straddle the dotted line between the two lanes going my way.

I had made this trip a hundred times before, but now all of a sudden my way was blocked by a wall of fog. However, I could see small signs along the way that helped guide me forward.

Through the gloom I could see the faint signal helping me to know I was at the next major intersection. The lighted sign of a business shone through allowing me to keep moving forward. Then I saw the large shadowed silhouette of trees looming through the fog which let me know that I was by the large park that was near my office.

As I turned into a driveway I could see the fog swirling around the parking lot lights and knew I had finally arrived.

Looking back on this experience I can realize that no matter how thick the fog was, my destination was still there and the sun was still above me, it was just blocked momentarily by the fog. 

But by paying careful attention to a few markers along the way I was still able to make it through safely. 

In our life we may encounter moments of fog that appear to blog our progress. But we too can get help from small markers along the way. A phone call from a friend, a short prayer to our Heavenly Father, awareness of other blessings around us, words of inspiration in a scripture, and keeping faith that our destination is still there.

God’s word is tailor-made for gray-slush days. It sends a beam of light through the fog. It signals safely when we fear we’ll never make it through.

Charles R. Swindoll

The “foggy” trial and circumstance we may periodically find ourselves in is as temporary as the fog blocking the sunshine on my way to work that day. It will lift, and when it does we can find ourselves in one of two places. We will still be on the same true path forward or we can be diverted and be lost.

To stay on the right path during these difficult times we need to focus on things of eternal nature. Just as the sun is still there behind the fog, the eternal Son of god, Jesus Christ is always shinning and ready to reach out and help us if we stay focused on him.

Jesus Christ is the Light and Life of the world. Let him walk before you and he will light the way.

Renewal

A year ago we had some horrendous fires east of us here in Oregon. It burned over 1 million acres, including a lot of my favorite hiking places as it destroyed small towns, upheaved peoples lives, and devastated such a large area.

This last week I participated in a service project at church to help clean up one of the state parks that was affected. We cleaned out burnt logs and plants, weeded camping spots, cleared trails, and replaced new walkways.

Afterwards I drove a bit farther to one of my favorite places that was hit hard. One park next to the Santiam river was totally destroyed and is closed, but I went down a small road on the other side of the river. There I saw whole swaths of burnt forest, houses still being rebuilt, and land that had been cleared after the fires.

As you can see in this picture, although the trees are still bare and burned, grasses, small plants, and bushes have begun growing again. Someday the forest will return.

Life is being renewed. 

In the dictionary, “renew” means to give fresh life or strength to, re-establish something, or resume an activity.

Whenever I am frustrated or experience my own trials I remember things like this and know that I can also be renewed. I can find new strength or enthusiasm or re-establish a positive relationship.

This may be through prayer, scriptures, being out in nature, enjoying time with a friend, meditating, or pondering our priorities in life.

Just like the forest, we can grow once again. It may start off small–just a few small blades of grass or a bush–or a small task, or new goal, but we can grow once again into a mighty forest.

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