Friday, December 30, 2011

Remember This...

Have you ever left an enlightening conference or meeting wishing you could remember every little thing you'd learned? I have.

Over the years I've attended thousands of conferences, symposia, classes and meetings of both a secular and spiritual nature. While I've been uplifted at each of these meetings, I've always left frustrated at my inability to remember every little thing I've learned. In recent weeks I've been to several missionary meetings. These same feelings of frustration return as I quickly forget the details of my spiritual experiences.

We may not be able to remember all things—indeed, we should not be frustrated with ourselves when we don't—but there are a few imperative things we must remember.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf touched on five of these key things—these "forget-me-nots"—in a recent General Conference address—

God is fully aware that we are not perfect. He loves us anyway
1) Forget not to be patient with yourself. God is fully aware that we are not perfect. Many are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.

2) Forget not the difference between a good sacrifice and a foolish sacrifice. An acceptable sacrifice is when we give up something good for something of far greater worth. There are so many good things to do, but we can’t do all of them. Our Heavenly Father is most pleased when we sacrifice something good for something far greater with an eternal perspective.

3) Forget not to be happy now. Never stop striving for the best that is within you. Never stop hoping for all of the righteous desires of your heart. But don’t close your eyes and hearts to the simple and elegant beauties of each day’s ordinary moments that make up a rich, well-lived life. The happiest people I know are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.

4) Forget not the “why” of the gospel. When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us the gospel as a pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.

5) Forget not that the Lord loves you. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, you are not forgotten. No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. In fact, He loves you with an infinite love. Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Forgiveness Flour

The Christmas season is a perfect time to reflect on our Savior's love for us. One of the greatest gifts He has given us is forgiveness. Whether we are on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness, we are blessed with peace and understanding when we apply the atonement in our lives.

We're all familiar with the popular saying, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." Too often we fall far short of divinity when we shamefully hold grudges, harbor resentment, foster hate and refuse to show or receive kindness.

My aunt made me aware of a wonderful story that expresses this concept so well:

Marguerite Stewart

When I went to the door, at the whisper of knocking,
I saw Simeon Gantner's daughter, Kathleen, standing
There, in her shawl and her shame, sent to ask
"Forgiveness Flour" for her bread. "Forgiveness Flour,"
We call it in our corner. If one has erred, one
Is sent to ask for flour of his neighbors. If they loan it
To him, that means he can stay, but if they refuse, he had
Best take himself off. I looked at Kathleen . . .
What a jewel of a daughter, though not much like her
Father, more's the pity. "I'll give you flour," I
Said, and went to measure it. Measuring was the rub.
If I gave too much, neighbors would think I made sin
Easy, but if I gave too little, they would label me
"Close." While I stood measuring, Joel, my husband
Came in from the mill, a great bag of flour on his
Shoulder, and seeing her there, shrinking in the
Doorway, he tossed the bag at her feet. "Here, take
All of it." And so she had flour for many loaves,
While I stood measuring.

Madison U. Sowell, in an October 1996 BYU devotional, commented—

The phrase "While I stood measuring" characterizes too many of us too much of the time. We metaphorically "measure flour" in an attempt not to be overgenerous in our mercy. At the same time we pray that God will throw a bag of flour at our feet--that is, that he will be boundless in his mercy toward us.

This Christmas season and always, let us be merciful and forgiving toward others that God may be merciful and forgiving toward us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Away for Christmas

For years I've listened to—and loved—the Christmas classic "I'll Be Home for Christmas." You know the familiar tune:

I'll be home for Christmas,
you can count on me;
Please have snow and mistletoe
and presents on the tree.

Christmas eve will find me
where the lovelight gleams;
I'll be home for Christmas
if only in my dreams.

Until this year, I never had to wonder what it would be like to be away for Christmas; I've always made it home. Until this year, Christmas meant turkey dinner at Grandma's house with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. It meant giving and receiving presents from friends and family. It meant a flurry of snowstorms and frozen ground, sparkling lights and events downtown. It meant a healthy dose of my favorite music, from Handel and Bach to Karen Carpenter and Mannheim Steamroller. It meant wassail and egg nog and cookies and caroling.

The best Christmas album of all time: Christmas Portrait by the Carpenters
But this year Christmas means something different. You see, I won't be home for Christmas. I'll be away—by choice—and home will be just a dream. That's because I'm serving as a full-time missionary in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I'm spending time away from my family so that I can share a message about eternal family relationships with people I do not even know. My understanding of God's plan is so important to me that I want to share it with everybody I can, even if that means passing up Grandma's cooking.

What I've learned is that is doesn't matter so much where I am for Christmas as it does who is in my heart at Christmas. At home or away I'll still be thinking about my family. I'll still reflect on memories with friends. And yes, I might even start humming a Karen Carpenter tune or two.

But this year I get the added bonus of sharing a message about the Savior with my new friends. I may not know them yet, but I love them.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

So said Jean Valjean in the timeless drama Les Miserables.

I've seen the face of God many times over in Tennessee.