Sunday, March 31, 2013

Whether it is cultural or genetic, we all seem to hold on to our oldest jeans for as long as possible.  Despite their faded and tattered appearance, they fit so well and they are just so comfortable.  They are irreplaceable; after all, we have been wearing them for years and we will never find a sufficient substitute.  But there comes a day when we must make the choice to throw our jeans out.  It is the time for us to get some better ones, jeans without stains and tears.  It is hard.  We must trust our ability to give up our old jeans, but we can soon come to find that our newly purchased jeans fit just as well as the old ones.  They may even fit better and it is clear that they look fresh. 

Like our old jeans, there comes the time when we must shed our spiritual clothing.  Sewn by our daily choices and actions, our spiritual clothing becomes tattered and worn.  We can become accustomed to the appearance and feel of our clothes.  We will forget or make excuses to not change these clothes, but when we do so, we forget how good new clothes can feel. 

It is unnecessary for us to feel the shame from wearing our faded and torn spiritual clothing.  Many times we find it too difficult to leave it for new clothing, but by doing so we discount the power and purpose of the Atonement.  We say, “There are just too many tears and too many stains.”  We reason: The feelings of guilt and inadequacy are better than facing the reality.

There are never too many stains.  There are never too many holes.  Christ does not repair our spiritual clothing, he replaces it. 

He is not here.  He is risen.  We must seek Him out.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New York is a gross place. I love New York but that does not mean that it smells nice.  The streets are filled with thousands of people at all hours of the day.  The flashing lights from Times Square reflect into my hotel room.  Police cars rush by ever fifteen minutes; yet, since arriving to the city about twelve hours ago, I have found pockets of time which have allowed me to feel a great peace. 

We can feel the Spirit when we think with perspective.

Maybe it is my keen sense for the workings of the concrete jungle that has led to many people asking me today where I am from (not), but each time I am able to proudly state, “Newtown, Connecticut,” my answer is met with surprise.  Over the past months, I have thought about the innocent victims and their families who have been forced to face sheer devastation. While visiting Ground Zero today, I was reminded of another tragedy, one that could have potentially changed my family forever.

Events such as these are often incomprehensible, but by seeking clarity not through a perfect understanding, but through perspective, we can be led to peace.  For me, this peace comes from my growing respect for God’s plan and His timing.  Easier said than done, but by aiming to understand His power and His will, we can be guided to comfort.  

We can feel the Spirit always.

Trinity Church is a magnificent structure.  While sitting in the pews, a friend leaned over to me and asked, “Can you feel the Spirit in other churches?”  Of course you can!  The Spirit within Trinity Church was so strong, despite the many shuffling through its corridors this afternoon.  My friend and I felt this presence because we have felt a similar feeling many times before.  If we listen, the Spirit can be present anywhere. 

Although I know that the Spirit is a being who works in harmony with God and Jesus Christ, I like to think of him as a force.  His amazing power has the ability to slip under any door or turn any corner.  He will show up when and where a recipient is ready to listen.

We are all entitled and able to feel the Spirit.
For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated. –Doctrine and Covenants 1:2

I am thankful for my relationship with the Spirit.  The guidance it offers me is unparalleled to my personal ability to discern right from wrong and better from best. 

The Church is true, even in Midtown.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When you are a musician playing in a venue, you put your trust in the sound guy.  Tom or Steve or Joe is responsible for your ability to hear yourself and other band members, the balance of sound between you and the other performers, as well as everything that the audience hears.  The only problem is that Tom is usually far from the stage in the back of the venue.  Those lucky enough to have a sound check before the performance may get a few seconds of across-the-venue talk with Tom but communication is almost always done through the musician-created language of hand signals. 

Among the cords and instruments covering the stage is the most important communicative device available to you: wedges, also called monitors, which are speakers that perform instant playback of the live music.  The musicians are each miked individually but each musician can form their own compilation of the live parts through their wedges; therefore, a musician can hear a lot or a little of their own sound and varying levels of the other musicians. 

It is important you to hear yourself at every moment of the performance.  If you cannot hear your own sound, you may be playing or singing out-of-tune or ahead or behind the beat.  In a venue, whether large or small, acoustics can present a deceiving sound.  Because of this, you and other musicians can always communicate with Tom.  He is responsible and always waiting to help you get what you need through your wedges.  Any performer can order more volume of lead vocal or backup guitar so that they can get a better picture of the situation and adjust themselves accordingly.   An aware musician and their communication with the always-aware Tom can make for an excellent performance. 

Like a musician, we are entitled to constant communication with a perfectly aware being to ensure our correctness or find our necessary course correction.  Prayer, like hand signals to Tom, is relatively simple to learn; yet, in the heat of the moment, many of us forget its usefulness, similar to the nervous or unprepared performer who fails to remember their easily accessible resource.  When we, the unrehearsed musician, can decide to call upon the powers of Heaven, we can receive abundant guidance and find our way.  We are already fluent in the divine language of prayer; we simply must remember to use it to our greatest advantage.

Every person has a divine entitlement to the reception of personal revelation.  Prayer works because God is listening.  The Church is true.  

"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call."  -Joel 2:32

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Jesus is Our Brother

A father gathered his children at the start of the school year; "We are going to go on a trip this summer and we are going to travel the world.”  The children were gladdened by the opportunity they would be given.  Their father continued in giving his children instructions; “I am excited to take you all on this trip.  I am going to require that you do a few things, though, so that I can ensure that you are focused and prepared for this trip.  First, I want all of you to make grades that qualify you for the honor role.  Second, you must attend 75% of you church meetings.  Third, you must earn $300 so that you can have spending money while we are traveling.”

For many of the children, these expectations seemed difficult to achieve, but because they had a great desire to travel the world, they prepared to do what they could to meet the set expectations.  Their father spent the next months reminding them of the requirements for the trip and offering great amounts of encouragement; “I want you all to be able to attend this trip.  If you need help in making good grades, I will assist you with your homework.  If you have trouble attending your church meetings, I will wake you up and take you.  If you find it difficult to earn money, I will find odd jobs around the house for you to do.  I am always here and I am always willing to help you.”

When the end of the school year came, the father gathered his children like he did months earlier; “Children, I am excited that we will be leaving for our trip soon.  I know that you have spent months working hard so that we could all travel together and see so many new and exciting places.  So, how have you done in reaching your goals?”  The first child to respond said, “I made the honor roll and I attended 75% of my meetings, but I only could earn $150.”  The second child similarly reported, “I made the right amount of money and I made great grades, but I just could not get up enough for seminary each morning.”  The third child followed, “I tried really hard, but I was only able to attend my church meetings.  I could not make the money and my grades were not good enough.”

The children were saddened as they looked back on their hard work to only see that they could not live up to the standards set for them by their father.  “Well, I am sorry for you all.  I know that the rules I set were hard to reach but you also understood that if you did not accomplish them, you could not come on the trip,” the father said.  It was time for the oldest son to report on his progress; “Father, I knew that my younger siblings would likely fall short, so I did all I could in consideration of their ability.  I not only made the honor role, I made perfect grades in every class.  I also attended all of my church meetings, not just 75%.  I even took on additional jobs and made $3000.  I pushed myself to my limit so that I could make up for the shortcomings of my siblings.”  Now, each child would be able to go on the trip.  

Jesus Christ suffered so that in our faults and weaknesses, we could still be able to return to live with God our Father.  The Father wants the best for us and therefore sets for us the highest standards.  He understands our imperfections, though, and He sent our older brother, Christ, so that we are redeemed.  In these things I have faith and hope.