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.

Clutter

Look around you–is your life full of clutter?

When my children were younger and we would go on family vacations I loved being in a hotel room. It was clutter-free; no toys laying around or anything shoved into the corners.

When I would get home, our house looked so crowded. There were so many things everywhere! Immediately my apprehension went up and I was more tense. How was I going to get anything done?

Now our house wasn’t that bad, but compared to the clean hotel room we had a lot more things lying around. I realized that the hotel room isn’t really set-up to live in. But I still felt some anxiety when I got home.

The last time we moved we downsized quite a bit. I spent a month going to the dump or to goodwill almost every day to get rid of all the things that didn’t really matter.

Now our home is much less cluttered and it feels great! I know where things are, and each time I enter inside I feel good. I can relax with no apprehension or worries about feeling overcrowded with things.

But what about our own lives? Do we have clutter that is keeping us from accomplishing things?

Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.

peter walsh

Each of us should take time looking at the activities in our own lives. Are we crowding so many things in that we are frustrated, or tense, or irritable, or just plain stressed out?

We can make an inventory on what we are spending our time on. Then list what our goals and dreams are. Are what we are spending time on leading to those goals or are they distracting from it?

A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of. It is a life in which the things you have surrounded yourself with, and allow to use up your time, are controlling you and negatively influencing your happiness and eternal progress.

william r bradford April 1992

The things we spend our time and focus on will dictate the outcome of our lives. Are we focused on the right thing?

Is there some clutter that we need to get rid of in our own personal lives in order to get the results we want and to become the type of person we want to be?

If so, start now to de-clutter. Get rid of something that is distracting you from your goals.

Focus on the eternal, on your relationship with God, and on helping others.

And before you know it your life will have more peace and direction and be clutter-free!

Spiritual Power

There are many types of power in the world.

Political Power, physical power, and natural power are a few.

Many years ago I worked for McDonnell Douglas, an Airplane manufacturer in Long Beach California. At the time they were building a new airplane; the MD-11. This plane sat 280-400 people, weighed six hundred thousand pounds, and had engines large enough to fly 7-10K miles without stopping. 

When it came time for the first inaugural flight, we were allowed to go up on the roof of our six-story office building which was next to the airport. I remember watching it go slowly to the other end of the runway and then you could hear the roar of the powerful engines as the plane started moving faster and faster. Then miraculously this huge plane lifted up in the air and flew right over our heads, tipping its wings to us. 

The crowd cheered at this amazing site. I could hardly believe there was something that was so powerful to lift that large plane off the ground.

But with all the power in the world, what kind of power has the ability to last the longest and do the most good.

Personal Spiritual power. Because it comes from within. It comes from the spirit inside of us; that portion of our being that came from God.

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.  He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.  Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life.”

Ezra taft benson

So real power; eternal power; ultimate power comes from God, our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. And we get that power into our own lives by looking outward towards others and helping and serving them.

The source of our spiritual power is the Lord!  The ultimate source of spiritual power is God our Father.  The messenger of this power is the Holy ghost.  This power differs from electrical power. An electrical appliance consumes power.  The use of His spiritual power replenishes our power.  While electrical power can be used only for measured periods of time, spiritual power can be used for time and eternity!

Russell M nelson

Spiritual Power will change the world much quicker and more efficiently than political, monetary, physical, or natural power.

Spiritual power isn’t concerned with always being right, with treating others differently, or subjecting others to our own whims. Spiritual power is concerned about the eternal welfare of each and every persons soul.

Let’s think about what we can do in our own lives to have more spiritual power. As we do so we will be able to lift others, feel more joy, and be better able to prioritize all that we do.

Take a Step

Nature has a way of helping me to strive to be better.

On my hikes I always marvel at the majestic beauty around me. The tall and straight trees, amazing mountains, and inspiring waterfalls always instill in me the desire to do better.

A few weeks ago we stopped by Smith Rock (East of Sisters Oregon) on the way back from a weeklong vacation. I was caught up in the majesty of these tall and imposing rocks with a picturesque river winding through them. 

I saw steep switched back trails up the sides and I know many people go rock climbing there. Unfortunately it was too hot that day for me to do much more than just hike down to the water and back up again.

But as I stood at the base of Smith Rock and looked up I thought about what it must take to climb those rocks. How can people do that?

The answer came to me…one step at a time.

We all strive to do new things in our life; some of us have natural abilities and others have to work harder. But we can all try.

And that trying comes one step at a time. It may be a small step or a large one. 

But striving to do more, be more, and accomplish something in life begins with a single step forward.

Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.

Shannon L. Alder

What is it you want to do? What is it you want to be? 

Make a plan and start.

Take courage and inspiration from nature around you. A single wildflower may grow quickly or a tall tree, deep ravine, or mighty rock structure may have taken hundreds or thousands of years.  

For you it may take a day, week, month, or years and years to become what you want to be…but start now.

Everything worthwhile in your life starts with a choice. 

A choice to move forward one step at a time.

Zeal

In the Book of Mormon one of my favorite words is Zeal!  This is a word that denotes a strong feeling. It means ardent, excitement, ferver, and enthusiasm.

We see it first in Mosiah 27:35 where the sons of Mosiah after being converted to the gospel go about “zealously striving to repair all the injuries” they had done while preaching against the church before their conversion.

Then we see it in Alma 21:23 where King Lamoni (son) is taught by Ammon and his people were zealous for keeping the commandments of God.”

Later in Alma 27:27, 30 all of the Lamanites that had now accepted the truth and had been converted were “distinguished for their zeal towards God and also towards men…” and “they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord.”

It is great to see how Ammon (and his brothers) zeal lead to the zeal with King Lamoni and his people, and then spread to all the Lamanites that believed.

Do we feel zeal in our life? And if not, how can we?

The answer lies in the story of these sons of Mosiah. In Alma 17:2-4 we read:

…for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.

And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him.

We see in the above versus that they searched the scriptures, prayed, fasted, and confessed their sins. By doing this they had the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

All of these people had zeal in their lives because they took the time and performed the steps nessesary to have the spirit of revelation with them. When we have revelation, or inspiration as it is called many times, with us in our daily life we feel an excitement for life and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Then we are in a position to help others feel this zeal and influcence our friends, families, wards, cities, and nations.

What steps do we need to do better to have this kind of zeal in our own life? Prioritize them now and don’t miss out on this feeling.

Learn more about the Sons of Mosiah and those they taught in this video. https://youtu.be/znleUXF1nW4

Be of Good Cheer

How do we find courage to carry on during difficult moments of life?

The following story was told by S. Gifford Neilson,

“In 1978, I stood on a football field in a stadium packed with 65,000 fans. In front of me were several very large opponents who looked like they wanted to take my head off. It was my first game as a starting quarterback in the National Football League, and we were playing the reigning Super Bowl champions. To be honest, I questioned whether I was good enough to be on the field. I dropped back to throw my first pass, and as I released the ball, I was hit harder than I’d ever been hit before. At that moment, lying under a pile of those massive athletes, I wondered what I was doing there. I had a decision to make. Would I let my doubts overtake me, or would I find courage and strength to get up and to carry on?

He went on to say that many of the challenges in our lives would be more important than his football game.

For strength during difficult times I turn to the Lord, Jesus Christ for help.

I turn to him through prayers to Heavenly Father that are said in the name of Jesus Christ. I turn to him through the scriptures, and I turn to him in my heart as I contemplate his life and sacrifice for me.

At one time Jesus had sent his disciples away on a ship, but a terrible storm arose. In the middle of the storm they thought they would perish but then a person came to them, walking on the water. At first they were afraid, but then they heard him speak.

Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

Matt 14:27

Later he told Peter to “Come” to him on the water.

Throughout history Jesus Christ helps to lift us from our daily challenges and struggles by telling us such invitations and encouragement as Come unto me, Follow me, Be strong and of a good courage, Repent, Believe, and I am the light of the world.

All of these phrases should give us hope and help us not to fear. We learn, that we are never alone and that there is always someone that understands us.

We find courage to get through difficult times by allowing Jesus Christ into our lives, following the commandments of Heavenly Father, and listening to the whisperings and comfort of the Holy Ghost.

We can’t do it alone—we need help.

And one of those that is always there to help us is our Redeemer, our Lord, and our Savior Jesus Christ. His way offers us peace and endurance and hope.

His way is the only way to have the courage to overcome doubts, fears, and challenges in our life.

As we make a life long study of Jesus and try to emulate him, turn to him, and have faith in him, we will be blessed with his spirt in our life.

In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Why Read?

There is magic in reading!

And Knowledge.

And Adventure.

And Excitement.

And Fun.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life

walt disney

I love books. I always have. I remember my mom taking me to the library as a young child and checking out as many books as I could. And then going back the next week and doing the same.  And the next … and on and on.

There is rarely a day gone by that I haven’t read something.

I love the feeling of being whisked away to a new place or time. I laugh and cry and yell out in anger or delight as the characters move through life. 

Their lives become a part of mine and in doing so I am able to experience far more than I could have on my own.

So why should we read?

Books can help us learn new and exciting things, can calm us during times of stress, and give us hours of enjoyment. 

Whether we read for fun, to be uplifted, or to gain knowledge, books can stretch the bounds of our intellect and imagination and give us so much more than just the words written on the pages. They can give us hope, love, a sense of being, and triumph.

Find a good book today and dive right in!

Cohesion and Unity

We can learn many things from nature.

One is cohesion and unity.

The beauty in nature is not because everything is the same but happens because everything is different.

And these differences work together to create harmony, unity, and beauty.

Each plant, no matter how small or large helps to create the whole picture.

Each tree whether full of leaves, or misshapen, or even decayed on the ground add life and beauty and interest to what we see and enjoy.

In nature nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they are still beautiful.

Alice walker

With people, think how boring it would be if we were all the same—same thoughts, same perspective, same color, size, or shape, or same talents. That wouldn’t make a very exciting world to live in.

It is our differences that make us better as a whole. It is sharing our talents, celebrating our heritage, and working together no matter our differences that creates unity, cohesion, and beauty in life.

Look around you and enjoy the beauty of nature…and of your fellow human beings!

Listening

In a conversation with others, how often are we only half listening?

If most of you are like me, many times I am already thinking about the next thing I’m going to say, or a rebuttal for the argument, or something else entirely.

By doing so did we miss something important or even the real underlying message of the person we are talking with?

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Stephen R. Covey

Today in church we had a short lesson that incorporated 5 things good listeners do.

  1. Give them time – Give people time to respond and don’t be afraid of silence. People are still thinking when it is silent, and maybe that thinking time gets them to where they need to be.
  2. Pay Attention – We think faster than others speak. We should be paying attention to their words rather than already formulating what we are going to say next.
  3. Clarify – Ask questions to make sure you are understanding what they are really saying.
  4. Reflect – Paraphrase what you heard and how you understand things. This will help them know that you are listening and make sure there is no misunderstanding.
  5. Find Common Ground – We won’t always agree on everything. But we can usually find something that we agree on, even if it is a basic problem. In the end it may just be agreeing to disagree in order to not cause any undue contention.

These skills can be used to listen to anyone—at work, school, neighbors, church, and family.  Think about them next time you have a conversation and you may find out a lot more about the person you are talking to than you thought.

From a spiritual or gospel sense the most important thing is to listen to God and Christ through the Holy Spirit. If we give spiritual things time, pay attention to what we feel, clarify and reflect through prayers or by discussing with someone else knowledgeable, and then find something that You and God can work on together to help better yourself, we can become not only a better listener, but a better follower of Jesus  Christ.

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God…

Moroni 8:8 (book of Mormon)

As we become better listeners we become better friends, are able to help and support others, and become closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Let’s all try to hear and truly understand what others are trying to say to us before we answer.

Let’s listen more often and become better listeners.  

God Among Us

Today in church we discussed a recent talk in our General Conference entitled  “God Among us”.

Many of us shared things, especially over this past year, where our faith may have been strengthened or wavered.

This past year has been difficult for people who have dealt with loneliness, bad health, loss of jobs, or even worse loss of loved ones. Many have questioned where God is through all of this.

But God lives and he is still here!

He knows us and knows what we are going through.

“When we feel insignificant, cast off, and forgotten, we learn that we may be assured that God has not forgotten us—in fact, that He offers to all His children something unimaginable…”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf april 2021

I think that having faith in God helps us to get through our trials. It gives us hope in something bigger than ourselves. An eternal perspective over a mortal one.

Personally I try and look for the good things around me when I am in the midst of troubles. 

I see God in his beautiful creations as I hike, in the faces of my small grandchildren, in the service of a member of my church to another in need, and in being given peace internally even though there may be turmoil all around.

The best way to see God among us is to serve, help, and lift others. As we do so we become more aware of our own blessings that we’ve been given. And can see his majesty in our own lives.

If you want to see God in your life, sit down and start writing out a list of all the good you have in your life, no matter how small or big. Think of people, places, health, conveniences, inventions, food, faith, knowledge, church, etc. We live in a marvelous time.

As you do so, you might be surprised in how much God has blessed your life.

He has always been there…and will always be among us!

It is not him who turns away, but it is us.

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