Thursday, November 29, 2007

So Elder Lund says. . .

Wow, has this been an intense week or what!?!? Monday, in class we got to study the bread that the children of Israel dubbed, "What is it?" or in other words=Manna. The children of Israel had just been delivered, two months into their journey which would eventually last 40 years they started murmuring about water, then about food. So the Lord provides bread from heaven and quails to nourish the children of Israel. We focused our class discussion mainly on "Relying on the Lord, without murmuring." However, near the end of class I asked for students to share something that they could take home from this lesson, and one student said, "I was looking at how they were murmuring, but still the Lord blessed them with manna and I'm just amazed at the Savior's love." We ended on that.

Then, real life came into the picture. That night I got invited to teach an institute class from such a good friend that I had no way of saying "no." It would be fine, but I had a pretty busy day that day and knew that I would not be able to prepare a whole lot. Add to that, the lurking thought of an interview with a general authority the next day. This was scary for me. "Institute? There gonna expect me to know something. There gonna want me to share all these cool Hebrew word etymologies and such, and I'm just a part-time seminary teacher." So, basically, I was really nervous and knew that I wouldn't even have a chance to prepare a lot. But, I went. I got there about an hour early. I would be covering over 20 chapters so I tried to cover as much as I could. I still felt terrible. Then, people started coming in. I started shaking hands and getting names. One was a fellow student teacher. Another was a graduate from Timpanogos High School who was in a class that I had subbed for on a few occasions. Slowly, the nerves faded. Well, to make a long story short (too late) it was one of the greatest experiences of my life! I learned so much from them and left on a huge spiritual high. I could think of nothing better to lead into my general authority visit. I was driving home and trying to think of why I was so blessed. I crammed to prepare (because I really just was short on time), and I don't even remember saying a verbal, conscious plea for help--and then, Boom! It hit me. "I'm just amazed at the Savior's love." She had nailed it, and I was amazed at His love, which was so undeservingly poured out on me and those students that night.

The next day was amazing. CJ and I got all dressed and ready for the interview. The drive up we discussed potential questions we might encounter and tried to organize our thoughts. We pull into the underground parking after getting security approval, and start walking towards the entrance of the Church Office Building. The nerves came now; but they weren't overwhelming. We got badges and made our way up to the 3rd floor of the west wing where Elder Lund's office was. He opened the door, came out and greeted us with such a warm smile--melting away the last streams of anxiety. We sat and talked for about 25 minutes about his experience in CES (he said 35 years), what led us to CES, and then some standardized church employment question. The interview had come to a close. So, then, Elder Lund says, "I'm happy to fully recommend you without any reservations."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward

Exodus 14 contains the account of the children of Israel's delivery from the oncoming Egyptians by way of the Red Sea. The Red Sea was the obstacle that was preventing them from getting to the promised land and receiving the blessings that the Lord had in store for them. We also meet obstacles that prevent us, challenges if you will, that are in the way of our receiving great blessings. Interesting to note that the Lord has all power. He could have easily taken away the sea; He could have flew them over the sea; He could have sent them a boat or built a bridge...With all at His hands; however, He chose to give them a way through the Red Sea.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Trust and Plagues

Moses saw the Lord and received instructions from Him at the burning bush. Mainly, that he would be God's instrument in delivering the children of Israel from bondage. All of Moses' concerns were taken care of by the Lord; i.e. he gave him Aaron to be a spokesman. On the first attempt to have Pharaoh release the children of Israel, things took a turn for the worse--Pharaoh just made the work harder for the slaves. Moses then, near the end of Ch. 5 of Exodus asks the Lord, "Wherefore hast thou so [badly treated] this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered this people at all." This young prophet was meeting some adversity pretty early on. Has that ever happened to you, when you go to do what you know the Lord asked you to do and it seems to just go wrong. Pres. Hinckley had a similar experience to Moses on his mission in wondering why he was there and what good he was doing. It's an amazing experience to read Exodus 6:1-8 and read the Lord's response (oh, and bonus points if you remember the response the Pres. Hinckley got from his dad). As you read those verses; all of which is the Lord speaking to Moses; circle the word "I". And tell me what you think the Lord wanted Moses to learn.

Two parts for today=Part two is the continuation and on into the plagues. So, Moses and Aaron turn their rod into a snake, but so do Pharaoh's magicians. Pharaoh still isn't impressed with God's power, although their snake ate all of his magicians' snakes (cool picture huh?) and still refuses to let His people go. So, on come the plagues. To introduce this in class, I asked the students if God loves His children. They said, "Yes." So, then I asked, "Well, does He love all of His children?" To which they also responded in the affirmative. Then, I asked, "Why then did he send these awful plagues on the Egyptians (I almost wrote Fijians--I must be tired)?" They gave some great answers. Looking through the story (we covered Exodus 7-10 today) you can see God's love in this story. 1-the children of Israel were protected 2- God kept trying not to have these plagues come, but Pharaoh kept hardening his heart (make sure you check the JST in the footnotes for that one). God kept giving Egypt the chance, but Pharaoh refused. We talked also of how these plagues foreshadow events prior to the Second Coming and I asked the class, "How then are we gonna be okay from all these bad things that will happen?" A popular, but very quiet girl in the back of the room (who I even have a hard time getting to read out loud to the class) mouthed something. I asked her what she said. Then she spoke up saying, "If we are close to God, then we will be protected." I was so "ploud" (if I can schnike that word) of her. It was perfect and way better than I could've put it. I wrote it up on the board and even used it for the entire next period. How true that is! If we will be covenant people and stay close to Him, He really will protect us. So, does God love His children? All of them? Does God love you? Even if "plagues" or hardships are coming your way, I testify that He does!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The good kind of Fear

We know that fear is the opposite of faith, therefore a bad thing. However, this interesting word is used differently throughout the Bible, as we know, to mean= respect. Here is a great example of what it can do to help us.
Revolving around the story of Moses' birth and delivery (his life was even about delivery during his delivery) we find a short but empowering account of two righteous midwives--Shiphrah and Puah. The Pharaoh had already enslaved the children of Israel and was now instructing these midwives that when they "do the office of a midwife" that if the child should be a boy, then they should kill him. We read that the midwives "feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them." Further down we get the therefore. "Therefore, God dealt well with the midwives." If we fear God, (respect, love, revere Him) more than man, then God will deal well with us!

We discussed in class how different the world would be, if we feared God more than man. They came up with a pretty exciting list. What do you think?

P.S. Interestingly enough, the two midwives are mentioned by name, however, the king, Pharaoh is only referred to by his title...Does God care about power or prestige, or obedience and dedication to Him?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I love seminary!

Friday was a lot of fun for us in class. First of all we started a new daily scripture study project. Now we are building a temple. I took a picture of a temple and cut it into 104 pieces and for every 7 consecutive days that they read they get one piece to build a temple. They're pretty excited about it. I wasn't sure how well it'd go over, since our first project was such a hit, I was hoping this wouldn't be a let down. For their daily reading they were getting stones to bury Goliath.The stones worked well and Goliath was successfully buried. So, we had a ceremony. We read 1 Sam. 17: 48-51 where David slays Goliath with his stone, then goes over to him and with Goliath's own sword cuts off his head. I looked up slowly and said, "So" and paused, "We need to get that head off!" The boys were more than happy to oblige.

Then we made stickers to show their contribution. I hope that this next project will be just as successful!!

In other news, we've finished Genesis and are on to Exodus. They'll be a lot of misconceptions I'm sure with the popularity of Prince of Egypt (not complaining, it's a good movie, just not 100% scripturally sound), but I'm hoping that that familiarity will get them EXCITED to learn and discover principles for them. We just barely got started with the first chapter of Exodus and looked at how the children of Israel became slaves at the rise of a new king who "knew not Joseph." He feared that they were becoming too mighty and numerous and devised a plan for them to become slaves and "made their lives bitter with hard bondage" and "made [them] to serve with rigour." We did an activity with this idea and then I asked them to jump into verse 12 and try to find a principle. It reads: "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they [the Egyptians] were grieved because of the children of Israel." I asked how many had found one, and about 10 hands went up. I then said, "Ok, if you weren't able to find one, raise your hand. The ones who did find one go help those who haven't yet." I ran to help a young woman on the front row. We read the verse and I prompted her saying, "So, the harder they had to work made them ____" Her eyes lit up! She almost shouted, "STRONGER!" I said, "Yeah" and gave her a high five. She was excited. Then I invited the class to write their principle on the board. She looked up at me and so innocently asked, "What was it again?" I helped her remember and she quickly bounded to the board and wrote her principle up and was even more excited when I asked them to put their name by their principle.

One last thing: our discussion on growing from adversity and hard situations needed a little disclaimer. Yes, we can grow from being put through hard work and even spiritual trials, but we must remain faithful. One student clued in on this brilliantly and this was her principle:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good news!

So the students took surveys about seminary and the results are in--Seminary works. It's so exciting to see, so I'm just gonna put up some of their comments.

"[Seminary] has helped me to recognize and feel the Spirit on a daily basis.

I like "the overall feeling that seminary brings. It has helped me look at life in a new way"

"Before seminary I used to never read my scriptures and now I always do and always bare my testimony."

I like "how much happier I feel when I go home"

"It helps my personal scripture reading go better. I can understand what I am reading. I learn tips to make my reading more spiritual."

Way to go guys!!
I'm just curious, but how would any of you describe your experience in seminary?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Is such pride in my son a sin?"

Pride has a very negative connotation in our religion, as it should. It is the universal sin. And I am in no way opposing that. The way in which I will use that word in this post will refer to joy and rejoicing in others' accomplishments. A little disclaimer never hurt anybody right? [and bonus points if you can guess the movie quote--the title of this post; it's in quotes]

So there have been some moments in my adult life that have made me very proud. Here are two pictures reenacting a moment that brought such pride into my heart. Viana, one day took this awesome Toy Story Wreath and started teaching her little sister who all of the characters were. It was so cute and it warmed my heart.

This was a wonderful experience, however, it was overshadowed when for the first time in praying Viana said after the prompt "in the name," from CJ, "Jesus Christ...AMEN!" It was so exciting to hear her use His full name in a prayer. Alma said to his son Shiblon, "I trust that I have shall have great joy in you." Viana learning how to pray in the name of our Savior brought great joy to me.

In class, my 6th period has certainly brought great joy to me. Something happened. Someone flipped a switch and there hands have started coming up to share. I am so proud of them. I wish to single one of them out for her incredible accomplishments. When school started her father came in to tell me that she may be a bit behind others, because they hadn't been to church in 4 years and he hadn't taught her much from the scriptures. Well, yesterday, this young woman with a darker shade of red hair and freckles raised her hand and shared a lesson that she had applied. She stated simply, "Family Home Evening." She further explained that in fulfillment of an invitation from class, "We prayed, read the scriptures and talked about seminary."

Today, her hand was up again. I had asked the class when they had been blessed by the priesthood. She told of her mother having a serious surgery in the which she received a priesthood blessing and made it through the surgery okay. I am so PROUD of her and her growth. Isaiah, in speaking of the last days taught, "...And a little child shall lead them."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Apply and Remember

I feel like I am person with lots of good intentions. I always think of cool things to do and often end up not doing them; even times I feel that I'm inspired to do things and still fall short...I know, sad, isn't it? But what can I do to improve, to grow and to overcome being stuck on good intentions. 2 of my favorite scriptures from King Benjamin teach some principles that hit me this weekend, and I then shared them in class today. Both are in Mosiah 4, verse 10 and then verse 30. Let's see what King Benjamin instructs us on this:
10 "And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them." Of course believing is not enough, although a crucial and vital first step. We need to apply what we've gained, what we've learned into our lives. Just do those things we feel we ought to do. Take what we learn in classes and in the scriptures and incorporate them into what we do so that it changes us. Viana illustrated this from learning a simple pattern in a children's book. The next book she picked up, she applied that pattern. If only I were more like her. When have you seen a blessing come from application of a lesson learned??

30 "But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." I know that I need to watch my thoughts, what I say and what I do, but do I always remember it? I don't think it's a question of understanding the fact that improper thoughts, words and deeds offend the Spirit, but more a remembering that when in the scenario to prevent us from sin. I was blessed by remembering yesterday. I went to go and get a drink and then the thought came...I'm fasting. So I restrained. When those thoughts, songs, videos, etc come that we know can offend the Spirit, we need to remember it and act accordingly. How has remembering helped you to restrain??
Remembering to apply can lead us to accomplishing what the Lord would have us do.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ode to Joseph

Joseph was an amazing man. He lived a life that foreshadowed the Savior. He was on track. He was on the ball! That reminds me of a joke. Two ants lived on a golf course. A golfer was swinging and terribly missing. His club pounded into the ground with every swing. The one ant looked to the other ant and said, "If we're gonna make it, we better get on the ball!"

Pharaoh, king and ruler of all of Egypt said this of Joseph, "Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" To have the Spirit we need to be on the ball. Do we need the Spirit? Of course. An example to illustrate. A blonde haired young woman in my seminary class stood at the front of class to share a story. Her grandfather (there must've been a grandfather theme or something...) was taking the family camping. They found the perfect spot. Got out, unloaded, and set up their tent. Grandpa then said, "We need to go." He felt they shouldn't stay there and had to repack the truck, including take down and put away the tent (I don't know about you, but not my favorite extracurricular activity). They found a new spot and all was well. Upon returning home from the trip they saw on the news that there had been a flood in the area of the first camping spot. What can we do to make sure we are on the ball enough to make it; to receive the guidance necessary for unseen events, as well as day to day guidance? What are some things you do to keep the Spirit in your life?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trials and Blessings

Can trials be blessings?? A question that we all hope the answer to is always a definite and resounding YES! Although at the time it may be hard to see, I believe trials do have a purpose and that they can be blessings, if we persevere and move forward with faith. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, then sold as a slave. But it didn't end there. The next thirteen years he spent working as a slave for Potiphar and in jail. He was falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. I don't know if Joseph felt he was being blessed during these periods of adversity, but seeing the big picture of his story can help. Was this a blessing? If Joseph had not been sold by his brothers and had not been falsely accused he could not have had the Spirit with him to interpret the dream of the butler (cause they wouldn't have met), who then referred Pharaoh to Joseph which allowed Joseph to become second in command in all of Egypt and work out a plan to save the whole nation from famine, including the very brothers who betrayed him. Does this story sound familiar? I don't mean just from Genesis or Broadway even, for it is found in the New Testament as well. Our Savior was betrayed, accused, unjustly sentenced, sold at the price of a slave all so that He, our Brother, could work out the plan by which we are saved. Joseph, like the Savior, had to descend below all things to be in a position to save. Well, what does this have to do with us? The Savior has already wrought out a perfect atonement to save us all...hasn't He? Yes, He has. But this illustrates that there is a purpose in trials and shows how trials can be blessings if we remain faithful. During class today, a young woman with long brown hair, sitting near the back, had her face turn red, and it seemed as though tears welled up in her eyes. Something from the lesson had touched her. After class I asked her about it. She then recounted a story of her grandfather. It echoed events from Joseph's experience and brought her mind to reflect on it. Her grandfather was accused of molesting a neighbor girl and imprisoned for it, despite constantly pleading innocence. His Stake President prayed earnestly to know about this man and he received an answer. The grandfather was innocent, he had been unjustly imprisoned. But that was not all in the revelation. He was told that the man had a mission to fulfill. After two years in prison her grandfather was found innocent and released, but not before converting a handful of inmates to the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel. His trial put him in a position to bless others. If he had been angry and chose to curse God for this injustice, he would not have been in tune to preach the Gospel. He was faithful even in the face of bitter adversity. I testify that the scriptures are real! They are for us today and they teach us that if we are faithful even the hardest of trials can turn out to be blessings.