The ones I like the most. For whatever reason.

Self-imposed limitations

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Your spiritual ecosystem

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I know that my redeemer lives

Today, instead of some flowery metaphor, or some humorous take on the news, or anything else, I simply wanted to bear testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that He lives.  That this mighty man born under such lowly circumstances in Bethlehem, was far more than just a man, and his life far more than just a sweet story of sacrifice and inspiration.

Rather, it laid the breastwork for our salvation.  It provided the foundation upon which we can build our own lives, overcome both sin and death, and be exalted with our families in the presence of our Father in heaven for all eternity.

His death on the cross, His atonement in Gethsemane, and the gospel truths that he taught are eternal, and were given specifically for your and my benefit because of his great love.  What’s more, the fullness of His teachings, of His gospel has been restored to the earth today.

I know of Him not because I’ve seen him in the flesh, but because I’ve been blessed to feel and observe the constant and unmistakable influence of His hands so regularly in my life that I would be blind to not recognize it.

I’ve felt the rich confirmation of the spirit as I’ve pondered His life, and the role of his life in my own.  I know that He cares about me and you in ways that we cannot possibly comprehend, and that he’s anxious for each of us to be able to unequivocally sing the words:

I know that my redeemer lives.

Rusty

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Seeking for evidence

Recently the topic of evidence-seeking has come up frequently in comments on my posts, and I decided it warranted further exploration.

Is it weakness or folly to believe without evidence as Larry suggests in the comments here?  Or is it weakness or folly to require evidence to believe?

Must one have physical proof in order to believe something, or does that illustrate a crippled faith? 

Certainly the carnal man prefers evidence, as solid and irrefutable as we can get, for our minds seek naturally for such proof.  To proceed without proof, or evidence, is risky.  As such, throughout biblical history we find such sign seekers… those unwilling to believe without some sort of evidence or sign. 

But of these sign seekers we read… “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, this is an evil generation:  they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29).  And in Mark we find that when the Pharisees came questioning Jesus, they sought from him a sign from heaven, and Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12)

So should we seek for evidence?  In Hebrews 11 (the great dissertation on faith by Paul), we find that faith IS evidence:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Clearly, we need not see to believe. 

Verse 7:  “By faith Noah, being bwarned of God of things not seen as yet, cmoved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”

Did Noah require evidence before building the ark?  When God told him that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights, did he say “prove it”?  He didn’t need to, for his faith was sufficient for action.

Verse 8:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Did Abraham require proof, or evidence before he acted?  Or was his faith sufficient?

What about Sarah in v.10, did she require evidence to have a child?  Or in v. 17, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his very son, did he require evidence that this was necessary, or did he move on faith alone?  In v. 29 when Moses approached the Red Sea, did he need evidence that he could part the sea or did he simply believe?

Were these people weak for not requiring evidence, or strong for not needing it.

In life we progress line upon line, precept upon precept.  While the need for evidence might be a suitable start, there needs to come a time in our spiritual progression where we graduate from the requirement of such a crutch, where our faith becomes like that of Moses, Abraham, and Noah, enabling us to act based on nothing more than faith alone.  Enabling us to act based on a witness from the spirit, and not some physical manifestation that our path is sure. 

But even those who have asked such questions are coming close without knowing it.  For as the Lord said to Thomas, who doubted his resurrection “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Here the Lord not only confirms that more blessed are they for whom faith is sufficient, but that they themselves, having not seen Jesus, yet who believe in him, have shown themselves capable of belief without proof.

While God may find it within His wisdom to provide evidence where he may, far be it from me to require it of him. 

True faith does not require evidence.  And while the wisdom of the world might find this imprudent, or call it weak, the wisdom of the world is not what I seek, but the strength of the faith of Noah, Moses, Abraham, and of all the great prophets, for God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).

Rusty

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Gravity’s lesson on influence (watch your environment)

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Do you measure yourself?

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The 3 D’s of Exalted Living

Decisions Determine Direction.  The point is that everything matters, even the small things. They matter to God (he’s Omnicaring), and it should matter to you, because every decision you make impacts the direction of your life.

If, for instance, you’re heading on a course due north, in a perfectly straight line, and then you vary, if only by a portion of 1 degree… over time, that tiny variation of your course will equate to a monumental change in your destination.

It all happens by degrees.  Every decision matters.

In a jet, if a pilot is flying around 500 mph and drifts by only one degree, he will be miles off course in a matter of only a few minutes.

Today, life flies by us at blazing speeds.  We live in an age of unprecedented momentum and make countless decisions, most of them, almost unwittingly.  In such an environment, we cannot be too vigilant about the impact of our actions. 

Let’s consider, as an example, the following illustration of a vehicle heading due north.  Pretend the vehicle represents you and a completely righteous course of life – with your entire focus on godliness.  But notice what a dramatic change only a few recurring alterations can make in your vision.

car_view.jpg

This is how Satan works.   He doesn’t really think he can get us to make radical changes all at once, because such an abrupt change of our vision would certainly be noticed, and we’d self-correct our course. 

Instead, he tries to get us to make slight changes in our course, changes that seem a “natural extension” of our current course, and that only slightly alter our vision.

In this way he “lulls us away into carnal security” (2 Nephi 28:21).  It’s all about change by degrees.  That’s how he works.  I call it “Spiritual Entropy” (blog post).

Every decision we make alters the direction we’re heading, so we cannot be cavalier about the decisions we make, and must be terrifically tuned to alterations in our course.

But how do you do that.  How do you know when you’re being lulled off course?  I submit that there are two primary ways we can stave off this tactic.

First, we must implement within our lives the regular recurrence of mechanisms that sharpen our vision of Godliness.  Regular scripture study, daily prayer, weekly church attendance, etc.  These simple things are those that most clearly reinforce that vision of Godliness.  The more regularly we do them, the more habitually they become a part of our lives, the more crystal clear that vision of Godliness becomes, and the starker are the events when our vision shifts beyond where it should.

That’s how we “stay in tune” (blog post). 

Secondly, we must subject ourselves to frequent course-correcting criticism.  We must regularly check ourselves, analyze our lives, look around us, at where we’re heading, at what we’re doing, and compare that with the vision of what we would have that to be.

Now of course, God expects us to live a life full of little twists and turns, that’s why he sent His Son.  But the farther we depart from the path of exalted living, the path pre-trodden by the Savior and countless others, the more difficult life becomes, and the more difficult it is to return.  So it’s far easier to hold counsel with the Lord in regular intervals, and look upon your life for areas in need of correction.  Just don’t dwell on your past unhealthily (see “beware the rear view mirror“).

So remember the 3 D’s of Exalted Living – Decisions Determine Direction. 

Rusty

A windshield wiper for life

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With God, nothing is impossible

Perched upon the precipice of the past,
And engulfed in the darkness of doubt,
You gaze at the chasm of change before you.

Fear’s destructive power presses upon you,
It clouds your vision and erodes your commitment.
It stifles your thoughts and saturates your senses.

You wonder if it’s possible, if you should even try,
But then you remember…

I am a child of Royal birth,
My Father is King, of Heaven and earth.
My spirit was born in the courts on high,
A child beloved, a Prince am I

Sparked by hope, and spurred by the spirit,
You realize that with God, nothing is impossible.

Rusty

Cycle Time – the power of frequency

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Recognizing the spirit, lessons from a cell phone

Have you ever really considered the typical cell phone user?

It’s quite entertaining, cell phones are just funny.  Everybody’s got to have one (I’ve got 5… no really).  And you take it with you wherever you go, because, well, someone might have to talk to you. 

First, there’s the heart stopping power of “the cell phone ring”.  I’m convinced there’s some chemical reaction that happens in our brains when a cell phone rings.  People can recognize a cell phone ringing from a mile away. You can be in the middle of grand central station, someone’s cell phone will go off and immediately everyone’s heads will turn, and everybody thinks the same thought…”somebody better get that”.  

And all you hear about these days are cell phones; plans, rates, minutes, coverage, new phones, etc.  A new phone will come out, and I’ll literally think “I’ve got to go get it!  I could get better reception!  I could get better battery life!  People will be able to get a hold of me better!”  I could be cooler.  It’s insanity.

And it’s all about reception these days, reception and coverage.  Have you ever been driving down the road when someone calls you?  First, you have that unmistakable feeling of being important.  And if you have a flip phone you feel extra cool as you open it crisply with the well practiced flip of your thumb. 

But have you ever picked up the phone and realized you can only hear two or three words a sentence?  You’ve got a bad reception! 

I don’t know about you, but in instances like that, I’ve actually panicked.  I mean… what if I miss something!

So what’s the first thing that you do?  You take your eyes off the road to see how many bars you have.  Now this is a scary moment.  Not because you’re concerned you might crash as you take your eyes off the road, no, it’s because in that critical 2-3 seconds while you’re looking at your phone the person on the other end just might say something that you’ll miss.  You end up doing this funny little jerk-motion to see how quickly you can look, then get the phone back to your ear.

So you take the risk and look at your phone, and realize you’ve only got one bar.  There’s something strange that takes place when you realize you only have one bar.  It’s like an autoimmune response of the body.  Immediately those chemicals flow from your brain and you begin frantically searching for any way possible to improve reception!

In times like this I’ve found myself suddenly accelerating, somehow trying to get out of this “dead zone” as fast as possible.  Yes, call me an idiot, I’ve even found myself changing lanes!  Somehow thinking “you know, maybe if I move 10 feet in THIS direction suddenly it’ll get better”!

But even if you’re not in your car, you still find this autoimmune response active.  You see people ducking and weaving their heads, hurrying out into the open, all the time repeating “can you hear me now!?!”

The bottom line is this…we spend a lot of time worrying about our cell phones, worrying about coverage and reception, wondering how many bars we have.  But how often are we even considering our spiritual reception?  We’ve got these finely tuned autoimmune responses that detect and react when our phones go choppy, but we’re not nearly as sensitive and quick to react when we lose connection with the Holy Ghost.

Otherwise we’d hear people walking around saying “can you feel me now?”

With a cell phone, there are simply places where the signal from the towers just won’t penetrate.  Similarly with the spirit we go places, or find ourselves in situations or conversations where our spiritual reception drops, or where the spirit just can’t get through.  How crucial it is to be as sensitive to that dropped connection with the spirit, but it’s just not something we’ve “dialed” in to.  It’s somehow less real.

I hear people asking each other strange questions like “how many bars do you get in the delta center?”, like it’s some sort of universally understood trivia game, and people will know.  “How many bars do you get in up at Snowbird?” or even more specific, “You know that stretch of freeway on I-215 East side southbound, by the airport?  How many bars do you get there?”  People can answer that.

We need to be equally adept at knowing and recognizing the instances of the spirit in our lives; equally concerned when those instances become infrequent; and equally sensitive to feeling when that spiritual reception drops.  We need to ask ourselves, with much more regularity with regards to our spiritual sensitivity…”how many ‘bars’ do I have right now?”

So how DO you acquire this spiritual sensitivity?  How do you increase your familiarity with the spirit, and become agile in getting it back when it leaves?

Frequent Use

One method, I’d say, has a lot to do with frequency.

I travel a bit, and it never ceases to humor me, how often people will talk on their cell phones.  It’s not uncommon when I’ll hear people walking into the airport on their phones saying “Okay, I just got to the airport, I’m ‘gonna go get checked in”.  Then, moments later, they’re back on the phone “okay, I just got through security”. Then later “my plane just arrived, we’re boarding now”.  Then “Okay, we just landed, I’m going to go get my luggage”, and then yet again when they finally get out to passenger pickup.

Is an airport experience really so entertaining that people WANT a blow by blow report?  I don’t think so, I’ve BEEN to the airport.  I think it’s simply because we can.  You know, in the “good ‘ol days” you used to simply send your itinerary to whoever was going to pick you up, they’d check to see if your flight was on time, and somehow, magically, when you walked out of the airport there they were!  How in the world did they do that?

You see people in meetings, in school, on vacations, everywhere on their cell phones, and when they’re not talking on it they’re “text messaging”. 

Have you ever tried text messaging, it’s one of the most inefficient methods of communication, and designed terribly.  We took a 12 button phone keypad and turned it into a 62 button keyboard.  It takes 5 minutes to write one sentence, and yet we do it!  We’ll undergo tremendous pain just to make sure we’re communicating.

How has this happened?  Somehow the cell phone has made communication real, tangible, immediate, and convenient. 

I actually think that if Heavenly Father got a cell phone, we’d talk to him more.

I can just see kids in school, with their cell phones out text messaging….”H-e-a-v-e-n-l-y  F-a-t-h-e-r,…t-a-k-i-n-g    t-e-s-t…  d-i-d-n-‘-t   s-t-u-d-y …..NEED HELP!

Of course he could set us all up on the “Family Plan”, there’d be no such thing as “weekend” or “rollover” minutes.  I can see the ad now…

Heavenly Mobile
Best coverage available
Pray as you go

With heavenly mobile you get more spirit in more places.

But why does it take a cell phone?  Does it somehow become more “real” for us to have an actual device in our hands…”This is how I talk to my Father.”  Why doesn’t prayer suffice?

It does, the only thing a cell phone has going for it, is that we use it all the time.  I guarantee that if you begin to pray with as much regularity as you talk on the phone, you’ll find yourself much more capable at discerning the spirit.  Its companionship will much more constant and durable.  And its departure will become much more easily recognizable. This is the key.  If you want to boost your ability to recognize the departure of the spirit, increase the regularity of when you feel it, so that when it leaves, you can literally feel it leave. 

Keeping your phone charged

Certainly we can increase the regularity with which we do the big things, like attend the temple, but what’s most important is the day to day things, reading scriptures, saying prayers, having family night (our kids are RELYING on us to make sure they feel the spirit), and other more common, but daily events that keep us spiritually charged (which I talk more about here, and here).

If you want to use your cell phone, you have to keep it charged.  You plug it in.  I’ve seen the terrified look on people’s faces when they go to use their cell phone, because they need it, and they find they forgot to charge it.

We’ve all been there, we go scrambling to find someone with a similar phone who may have a charger.  They’ve built these little “charger stations” in airports and other places now where those who forgot to charge their phone can pay to get a quick boost.  You can buy all kinds of “charger accessories” now, where you can charge it in your car, on the go, you can buy extra batteries, and so forth.

How much more terrifying is it to find ourselves in a situation where we desperately need the guidance of the spirit, but we find that because we’ve not invested the small daily time to pray and study the scriptures, we’ve lost its companionship?  We were not spiritually charged.

Reception – based on location.

One more way to help ensure your ability to recognize the spirit, and be sensitive to its presence, is by focusing on your location.

We’ve talked about cell phone users walking around trying to find somewhere with better reception, rushing into open areas, ducking around corners, trying to find someplace with a clear reception.

In the church we have a phrase for that…”Stand ye in holy places”. 

Certainly it’s not always feasible to literally stand in holy places, but we can also make our own holy places by sanctifying where we are with righteous works.  You can make your bedroom a holy place by making it a sanctuary of the spirit.  A place where you study and pray:  a place where you listen and learn.

By standing in Holy Places, you’re guaranteed a powerful reception, and the more regularity with which you put yourself in places like this, the more stark the difference will be when you suddenly find yourself without.  What’s more, by knowing the moment of it’s departure, you can more quickly identify what caused it to leave, and it’s far easier to retrieve right then, than hours later, days later, weeks later, or years later.

No busy signal

God lives, our Savior lives, the Holy Ghost is real, and the three of them work constantly for our benefit.  They’re always available.  You’ll never get a busy signal if you reach out to them.  We’ve been given the gift of the spirit and the companionship of the Holy Ghost as a solid testimony of the love of God and his never ending interest in our eternal welfare.

It’s crucial for us learn to recognize the spirit, to understand the way it works, and to give adequate urgency to maintaining his companionship.  Our capacity to recognize the spirit and tune ourselves to its promptings is one of the most important keys to spiritual success in this life.

Rusty

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I have a dream

 Tonight I came home from work, pulled into the driveway, and burst into the house with my typical loud and obnoxious “HELLOOOO MY FAMILYYYY” greeting.  That’s always followed by a stampede of 5 pairs of little feet, rushing to hug Daddy first (my favorite part of the day).

Then, of course, is a chaotic rush of everyone trying to tell me about their day first.  Each person tries so hard to patiently wait their turn, but occasionally just bursts out like some sort of water balloon filled too tightly – it cracks me up.

But today, after the novelty of my arrival wore off, dinner was done, and dishes were cleaned, I sat down on the couch with my 8 year old and asked him to show me his report card and other school work.

He proudly opened up his school folder to a yellow sheet of paper and said “Dad, first I want to show you this, I thought of you when I wrote this, let me read it to you…. And don’t read ahead!”

Here is what he wrote:

I have a dream

“I have a dream that I will be a good father when I grow up.  And that my kids will like me as a father.  Because I want to have fun with them so they won’t be unhappy.  I will take them out to the theaters to watch shows and go by them ice cream.  I’ll take them to bed on my shoulders, and tuck them in every night.”

What a way to top off a day.  And Tyson, I have the same dream, now and for eternity.

Rusty