Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Best Is Yet To Be!

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas Season and have increased in your knowledge and appreciation of our Savior and the Gift of his birth.  And even more than that, the Gift of his life and his atonement and all that he has given us.  I also hope that you enjoyed many lovely times with your family and friends around the cultural traditions of this season and that you had a lot of fun together and made some wonderful memories.  In just a few hours it will be time to usher in the new year! 

For many 2012 has been a stellar year filled with lots of good things.  For some it has been very sorrowful and filled with trials and major challenges that we wondered if we could overcome.  For most of us it has been a real slice of life; with some of all of the above included. 

I am often glad that this life is marked by time.  New beginnings, new years and new days seem essential to mortals seeking change and progression.  I have often thought about how strange life would be if it was just one very long, long day.  Life always looks fresh and new in the morning and I love that.  So congratulations, we have all survived 2012!  I am sure we are all filled with the hope that 2013 will be a wonderful new year.  People are amazingly resilient and always hopeful...thank heavens.

Around the world a new year signals a natural time of reorganizing our priorities and setting goals; a time of change and improvement and for many the making of New Year's resolutions. 

 A few weeks go I was thinking..."I really don't think I even want to make new resolutions this year."  There are so many years that go by when we enthusiastically make resolutions and then they fizzle out by Valentine's Day.  I thought about that and started to ponder why that is.  Why do we fade out and give up so quickly? Some years I feel the fervor of making resolutions, but this year I just wasn't.  I should have known a talk in Sacrament meeting was in the offing.  I am thankful for it though, it did change my paradigms about New Year's resolutions quite a bit.   The person giving the talk in church always seems to benefit the most.

While preparing this week I have been studying some of the words of the prophets and apostles and the scriptures to seek an answer regarding the fizzle phenomenon that goes beyond our just being lazy.  It has got to be more than that.  

 In a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland entitled The Best Is Yet To Be~{Ensign January 2010} he said, " we all knew we would face challenges and trials when we came here and would have to overcome them....we signed up for them so we could progress eternally.  It is part of God's plan and he is with us and on our side."   This was a key for me in overcoming my desire to forego even thinking about making changes.  God is on our side he wants us to succeed.  This brought to my mind the scripture,"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13.  When we partner with the Savior and our Heavenly Father we can succeed! 

It made me think of a quote I had read from President Kimball years ago.  In The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball he said, "Now when a man has been created in the image of God and in his likeness, then limitations are, for man nonexistent except as a man limits himself." Can you even imagine the power in that?  "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he!" Proverbs 23:7 

While searching for that quote I also ran across some of President Kimball's teachings on worldly knowledge and wisdom and Godly knowledge and wisdom.  It made me realize that perhaps one of the failings of traditional goal setting is that one can find lots of worldly knowledge on how to to it, but perhaps our success rate would be higher it we applied the doctrine of eternal progression and the Godly purpose and wisdom in that to our efforts.

Elder Holland tells us that "the start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock in our lives, measured against the backdrop of where we have been.  He said he didn't want to talk about resolutions but about the past and the future with an eye towards any time of transition and change in our lives and, he said...those moments come virtually every day."  

To me this is saying that our lives are fluid and we cannot just make a resolution on January 1st and then not return to it often to make course corrections that enable us to keep going and succeed.  The desire to make a change has to take on a life of its own and cannot remain static.

Our Heavenly Father of course knew this when he gave us the gift of his Only Begotten Son.  The gift of Christ's atonement is the gift of change in our lives through our repentance and sincere desire to change coupled with his grace.  He is so very patient with us because he knows our potential.  He knew this could not happen once a year via a resolution.  

This is a daily process of growth and progression.  This is a partnership with Christ where we receive an endowment.  He gives us something huge that we cannot do on our own.  It is full of his love and grace and only requires the best effort we can give in return.  We need to have daily reminders of this and regular repentance is a part of that and the Sacrament once week to 'always remember him' is also in the equation.  That is required of us along with accountability, hard work and flexibility and time and commitment.
  That feels decidedly different to me than making resolution on paper and then forgetting where it is three weeks later. I am beginning to understand the difference at a deeper level. 

 Is it any wonder that even a Prophet of the Lord, Spencer W. Kimball, cited his favorite hymn as, I Need Thee Every Hour?"

Elder Holland goes on to use Luke 17:32 as his scriptural theme for his talk where the Savior cautions "Remember Lot's wife."  He then takes us back to Genesis 19 and that story of Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord having had as much as he could stand of the worst that men and women could do, told Lot and his family to flee because those cities were about to be destroyed.  The Lord said, "Escape for thy life and look not behind thee." 

When they reached the outskirts of city and escaped to the mountains, fire and brimstone rained down from the Lord and destroyed those cities and the surrounding plains.  Quoting Elder Holland, "Surely with the Lord's council-"Look Not Behind Thee" ringing clearly in her ears,  Lot's wife the record says, 'looked back' and she was turned to a pillar of salt."

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"Just what did she do that was so bad?  As a student of history Elder Holland said, I have thought about this and offer a partial answer.  Apparently what was wrong with Lot's wife was that she wasn't just looking back, in her heart she wanted to go back.  It would appear that even before she was past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had to offer her.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell so aptly put it, "Such people know they should a have their primary residence in Zion, but they hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon."

When we are having problems keeping up with our goals could it be that we really just don't want to do them?  We know we should want to, it is expected of us, the right thing to do no doubt, but in our heart of hearts are we resistant to giving up our problem or establishing new behavior?  We love our comfort zones and do not want to change, not really.  This really inspired me because I know this is one of the variables for me at times and I suspect for others also. 

Are we like Lot's wife -not having the faith to recognize that what the Lord wants for us is better than we we have settled for ourselves? This is key to achieving our goals.  Ya Gotta Wanna!  It has to be a 100% desire to step away from the mistakes of the past, live fully-focused in the present and look to the future with faith.

Elder Holland tells us "not to dwell in the past, but to learn from it.  We are to forgive ourselves and others for mistakes and move forward in faith."  He tell us, "we are to look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.  Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives."

We are to forgive ourselves for past failures at achieving goals and begin again with faith.  We are to forgive and forget the past mistakes of others and allow them to repent and change.  It appears we have enough to worry about on our own without holding another's progress hostage.  They are entitled to the same things we are.  

I feel this is especially true with people we are close to like family and good friends.  We have to stop unrighteously judging people with thoughts like, that is just the way so and so is.  She will never change.  What more can we expect from him?  He is not capable of that accomplishment, the record speaks for itself.  These types of expectations from important people in our lives can literally cripple us as we try to move forward and change and benefit from the atonement of Jesus Christ.  How heartbreaking it would be to know that we had held a person back from reaching their full potential by our thoughtless, self-righteous attitudes. 

Satan knows that this earth life is given to us to make changes and growth towards becoming like our Heavenly Father.  He uses his mighty tool of Discouragement with tremendous success among many of us.  We have to remember he can only bruise our heel but we can crush his head.   We have Christ's power to fortify us while he does not.

It is time for us to believe Christ when he tells us we can become like him by following him and keeping God's commandments.  It is time for us to stop the negative self-talking and wallowing in our failures that continue to hold us back.  What we can do to another with our unrighteous and non-productive judgements we can do to ourselves as well.  In the words of President Dieter Uchtdorf we need to just "Stop It!" 

It is time to focus daily on the things we want to improve upon and having faith to move forward, planning, working hard and trusting in our God.

Maybe it is time to set aside what we call New Year's resolutions and to commit to doing it with a combination of Worldly Wisdom and Godly Wisdom. 

If we really want something and we follow Christ's prescribed way to achieve it,  and if we realize we can do anything with his help it could make all the difference in 2013 and throughout our journey back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ which is our target.  Jim always tells me that when biking you always end up going in the direction you are looking.  That principle applies to living as well.   Where we are looking and focusing is exactly where we will end up. 

The things I have studied and learned from our trusted leaders and the scriptures have helped me see more clearly why more is needed than the worldly wisdom of achieving my goals.  I feel inspired to work harder and increase my faith in God and also in myself.  May I be among the first to wish you all A Very Happy New Year and may we all reach our full potential using Godly wisdom!

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Sister Susie said...

I don't know if my first remark got recorded or not. I forgot to sign in first!

Thank you for giving me so much to study about! I have never been one to look back, except for the good times. Some of my friends have said they would like to be a teenager again. I have never had that desire. I guess I'm like Paul in the New Testament. I look forward to the prize GOD has instore for those who love Him.

I look forward to what the LORD has instore for me. Happy New Year to you and yours, Susan.

Mommy said...

love, love, love, love, love. you inspired some thoughts on my blog...

Marie said...

What a fabulously powerful talk Bonnie. I wish I could have heard you deliver it in person. I am sure that anyone who was there heard just what they needed to hear. You have a fabulous way of putting things. Thanks for that! xxoo