Friday, March 16, 2012

Let the Holy Spirit Guide

The Unspeakable Gift of the Holy Ghost
I came to earth with power to choose.
Good choices bless me and my family too.
As a child of God I receive special light.
The Holy Ghost helps me to know what is right.

I love this primary song which teaches about two of my favorite gifts, agency and the Holy Ghost.

I received the gift of agency when I was born. I brought it with me. Agency was so important to our Heavenly Father’s plant that a war was fought in heaven so that we could have it here on earth.

I love the gift of agency, but making good choices is not always easy. To help me make good choices, after my baptism, I received the remarkable gift of the Holy Ghost.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is unlike any other gift I have ever received. I will never outgrow it. It will never wear out. It will never break. It will never go out of style. It is a gift that will last my whole life, and I can use it every day.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Holy Ghost is described as an unspeakable gift. “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost is so valuable that a wealthy man might pay to receive this gift if he understood its worth, but it is not for sale. It is only available through Priesthood Authority.

Personal Revelation
We believe in revelation. Our prophet receives revelation for the Church. Our Bishop receives revelation for the ward. Parents can receive revelation for their families. But there is more. We believe in personal revelation, through the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Personal revelation is just that. Personal. Because my needs are not like yours, revelation does not come in just one size. It comes tailor-made to suit our individual needs.

I can get revelation on my “to do” list, while you are getting revelation on your sick child. You can get revelation on your budget, while I am getting revelation about my health. You can get revelation about your calling, while I am getting revelation on my wandering child.

As a child, I sometimes wondered how we could each get revelation at the same time. How can the Holy Ghost talk to me and you at the same time? How can he be everywhere at once? I learned that the Holy Ghost can be compared to the sun.

The sun is not standing next to me, but I can see its light and feel its warmth every day. You can feel it too. All over the world people can be warmed by the sun. The Holy Ghost works in much the same way.

In our family we have a fun tradition. When someone in our family is baptized they receive a Holy Ghost Box. The box is decorated to look like a gift, and it contains objects that represent the Holy Ghost in some way. Some of our favorites are a flashlight, a compass, and a small piece of blanket material.

The Spirit Giveth Light
A flashlight is a handy thing to have when you are walking around in the dark. In life, we sometimes walk in darkness, because we don’t know what to do. We may also walk in darkness when we are confronted with evil.

“And the spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.”

Most of us find the Holy Ghost helpful when making big decisions. Who shall I marry? Where shall I go to college? Which house should I buy? Should I take this job? I find that the Holy Ghost can help me not only with big decisions, but also with every day decisions.

One Sunday night, I was overwhelmed with the things on my “to do” list for Monday morning. It was tempting to get an early start on the laundry and housework, but I wanted to keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

I prayed for guidance, and the Holy Ghost gave me specific instructions on things I could do to make Monday go smoother, without breaking the Sabbath day.

All things Which You Should Do
A compass is a handy thing to have with you when you are hiking in the mountains. It can help you if you are lost. In life there are many kinds of mountains, and there is more than one way to be lost. The Holy Ghost can help us when we don’t know what to do.

“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”

One day I had a desire to go to the temple. I had an evening assignment for which I wanted to be in tune. I planned my day to include the temple. You can guess what happened. Everything went wrong. I planned to go in the morning. It didn’t work out. I lost my car keys. I couldn’t find my recommend.

I planned to go in the early afternoon. I got an urgent phone call. Someone needed my help.

By mid-afternoon, it looked impossible and I was wearing out. I needed a nap. I would not be able to go to the temple that day. Disappointed, I lay down for a nap, and was soon awakened by an urgent prompting. “Go to the temple, NOW.”

Now? I wondered. Is there even time? Barely. I hurriedly dressed and left immediately with just enough time to do initiatory and get back for my assignment.

In the temple, as my names were being prepared, I noticed a patron’s name on the wall. Cindy Jewkes. My college roommate was Cindy Jewkes. We had lost touch with each other. Could it be the same Cindy?

I approached a woman waiting her turn. It took a moment for us to recognize each other. We had changed a bit. We had just enough time for a hug and to exchange contact information before her name was called.

The window of time was narrow. Had I been five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, I would have missed her.

Our True Eternal Friend
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance…”

Because the Holy Ghost is the comforter, we include a small piece of soft blanket material in each Holy Ghost Box.

When Christ was on the earth he promised he would send
The Holy Ghost to comfort us our true eternal friend.

We all will have times when we need the comfort that the Holy Ghost can give. I remember a time in my life when I was very sad and worried. Something in my life had gone terribly wrong, and there was nothing I could do. It was out of my control. I desperately needed the comforter.

I prayed for Heavenly Father to send the Holy Ghost to comfort me. For many days, I had the comforting words of hymns come into my mind during the day. The words were sweet and meaningful. They brought peace into my heart.

Let the Spirit heal our hearts
Through his quiet, gentle pow’r.
May we purify our lives
To receive him hour by hour.

Please come back tomorrow for part 2 of Let the Holy Spirit Guide

Linda Garner

Let the Holy Spirit Guide part 2

Trust in that Spirit
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. (D&C 11:12)

The Holy Ghost can prompt us to do good things. Once I made several pies for something special. Without meaning to, I made an extra. As I looked at that extra pie, some words came into my mind. “This pie is not for you.”

It’s not for me? I wondered. Who is it for? I remember opening my front door and looking around. I tried to guess who I was supposed to give the pie to? Was it them? Or them? Or maybe them? No, came the answer.

Later in the day, a name popped into my head, and I was surprised to find out who the pie was for. It was for someone I didn’t like very much. I wasn’t very anxious to take over the pie, but I did. I didn’t know if I would be welcome, but I was. I was invited in. We had a good visit, and I made a new friend.

A Still Small Voice
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. Because he doesn’t have a body he can speak to us in a very personal way, spirit to spirit. He speaks to us through thoughts and feelings. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”

We speak of the whispering of the Holy Ghost or the still small voice. Much like the Liahona, he works according to our faith and diligence. We may not hear him if we are not listening. We may not hear him if we are disobedient. We may not hear him if we are distracted by the noises of the world.

It’s important to be worthy. Being worthy does not mean being perfect. Being worthy means being clean. We do our best and we repent often. The Holy Ghost can help us to know when we need to repent. He can help us stay worthy.

To Guide Me, To Save Me
Through a still small voice
The Spirit speaks to me,
To guide me to save me
From the evil I may see.

The Holy Ghost can warn us of danger. When my 15 year old grandson was a toddler, I had him with me in the car. We were turning left on a green arrow. The road was mostly clear. In the distance there was an approaching car. I had time to make the turn, but something held me back.

I didn’t feel a prompting. No words came into my mind, but I was not moving. That distant car sped up and ran a red light. We would have been hit, and probably in the very spot where my grandson was sitting in his car seat. The Holy Ghost saved his life.

You May Know The Truth of all Things
Moroni promises us “by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things.” I learned some precious truths one summer afternoon while I was hiking at girls’ camp more than 40 years ago, when my friends and I made an unwise decision.

I was seventeen, and so were my friends. The five of us were soon to be seniors. We were so close to our independence we could almost taste it. We had taken the traditional hike with the others.

It was a long hike that led to a beautiful lake, where we ate our lunch and played in the water. Later, as we headed back to camp, we wanted to be on our own, and we found excuses to hang back from the group, letting the distance grow between us and the others. At last we were alone.

It was a happy time. We talked. We sang. We laughed. We relished the day, right up until the very moment that the trail disappeared into a bog.

We were surprised. We had forgotten about this part of the hike, the part where the trail ended. We had always been following someone else. We had never had to do this alone. Our leaders knew the way.

It was such a short distance to camp, how hard could it be? Were there other markers that our leaders had relied on? We searched, but found nothing.

We knew we were close, so we pressed on, and soon found ourselves wandering in completely unfamiliar territory. We were getting farther away. Were we wandering in circles? How long had we been lost?

Lost? It was hard to admit. Just a short time ago, we had been invincible.

We didn’t know what to do. Tempers flared. We began to argue. Everyone had an idea, but no one had a solution. Finally, someone became humble enough to suggest a prayer. I wish it had been me.

Five frightened girls knelt in an unfamiliar forest and prayed for help. Peace descended as softly as April snow. When we stood again, we knew which way to go, and we stumbled into camp some time later, tired, hungry, wiser, and yes, from the opposite side of camp.

That was the day the Holy Ghost became real to me. That was the day that I understood how much my Heavenly Father loved me. That was the day that I knew for sure that I really was his daughter and that I would never be alone. That was the day that my faith grew muscle and my testimony found its voice.

That was the day that the Holy Ghost became my best friend. I hope that He is your friend too.

Linda Garner

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gratitude for the Wayward Child

He was seventeen when he told us. “Mom, Dad, you’ve been great parents. You’ve done your job. It’s up to me now.” And then he dropped the bomb. “I’m not following your rules anymore.”

We were stunned. He had struggled some with gospel principles and with parental authority, but we had never expected this. How do you respond when your child says I’m not following your rules anymore?

Over my dead body? Enjoy your rebellion? Come back when you grow up?
I was devastated. I couldn’t think of anything wise to say, so I said simply, “I really want my boy back.”

He put his arm around me and said, “Come on, Mom. Don’t you believe in the promise of Family Home Evening?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then there’s nothing to worry about. I’ll be back.”

Actually there was a lot to worry about, but I appreciated his tender reassurance.
The promise of Family Home Evening. I’ve been searching for the words we clung to in those years. There are some good quotes around, but none are the exact quote that we hung on our wall. As I recall, it came from the First Presidency and was printed in a particular family home evening manual. The idea was that if you are faithful in holding your family home evenings, though children may stray, they will return. The quote had made an impression on my wandering child.

Free to Choose

In the weeks that followed we realized how little control we had over our son’s choices. There was nothing we could do to change his mind or to control his environment. Curfew was a thing of the past. Often he didn’t come home at all. Sometimes we didn’t see him for days. We had unanswered questions about his behavior. We seldom knew where he was.

Some parents faced with this kind of dilemma have asked a child to move out. We wondered about this choice. Because we had no younger children in the home we weren’t worried about his influence on them. We prayed for guidance and felt that keeping our door open to him was important. Whenever he came home he could be reminded of family values and have a chance, however briefly, to feel the spirit.
With that thought in mind we wanted the Holy Ghost in our home. We worked to stay close to Heavenly Father, to keep our spirits up ,and to be open to heavenly guidance. We prayed constantly.

When a child wanders, many parents feel guilt and shame. Where did we go wrong? What did we do to deserve this? are some of the thoughts that may intrude on the parents of wayward children. I understand these feelings, but I never went there. I knew this wasn’t my fault. I am not responsible for someone else’s choices.
Though I didn’t feel guilty, I was in pain. My heart hurt in a way that I had never known. The fabric of my eternal family was torn. I couldn’t repair the damage. I bled emotionally. I didn’t mind suffering for my own choices, but I really hated suffering for someone else’s. I felt powerless.

I had lots of questions. My husband and I had followed the recipe. We were married in the temple. We taught our children the gospel. We took them to Church. We had family home evening, family prayer, scripture study. How could this happen to us?
I wanted my child fixed. I wondered what I could do. What could I say that would make a difference?

If I couldn’t fix him, I wanted Heavenly Father to fix him. What was taking Him so long? He sent an angel to Alma’s son. Wasn’t my son just as important? Was I praying hard enough? Should I fast longer? Go to the temple more often? Was I using the right words when I prayed?

When the pain began to dull, I was ready to learn. Life is a good teacher.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose capitivity and death according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”

Force is the devil’s plan. My husband and I understood this with new clarity. Agency is our Savior’s plan. How much did I love agency? Did I believe in my son’s right to Choose the Wrong?

I could not control my son. I could not choose for him. I could not carry him kicking and screaming into the Celestial Kingdom. I could not make him love the gospel. What weapons did I have to win this battle?

I searched for answers. As a family we fasted, prayed, and hoped. Surprisingly, the spirit whispered, “love.”

UnConditional Love

“…that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend…and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge…”

Love. It was all I had. Would it be enough?

Can you love someone who has hurt you, disappointed you, rejected you? There was no doubt. I did. The ache in my heart testified of this.

I pondered the words unconditional love. Could I love as God loves? Could I love unconditionally? For the first time I began to understand the un part of unconditional love. This was new territory. Most of my experience with life and with love had been conditional. I was about to test the unconditional nature of my own heart.

Loving unconditionally does not mean acceptance of bad behavior, or tolerance of sin. It doesn’t mean I approve of unrighteous choices. It means I will always love my son no matter what he does. Always. Unconditional love does not mean I cannot set boundaries. Some behavior is unacceptable in my home. My son can learn respect for my boundaries.

The Shepherd will find His Sheep

“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.”
For me, this was a cloudy and dark day, but I began to trust the shepherd. I began to trust the atonement. I had always assumed the atonement to be a powerful gift for the righteous. Was there more? Did Jesus have power to influence my wandering child?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
My son had kept his first estate. Was he one of Christ’s sheep? Could Jesus bring him home?

“You parents of the willful and the wayward! Don’t give them up. Don’t cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The Shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours--long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them.”

Letting go of pain and control allowed me to learn to trust . I learned to trust my Father’s plan, the Plan of Salvation. My Father has a plan for all his children even my wandering son. I know this is true. The spirit has assured us with confidence that he will return. We have learned that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Through love, our Father sent his only begotten son. Through love our Savior gave the most amazing gift of all.

As I learned to trust I found peace. I learned the power of love to heal relationships. I learned to concentrate on my own growth, and my own spirituality.

Gratitude for Growth

Some years have passed since the day my son chose a different path. He was the first, but not the last. There have been many bumps in the road. There has also been progress. Much of it has been painful, but I don’t hurt anymore. I don’t hurt, because I have learned to trust Our Heavenly Father’s Plan. They are His children. He knows how to bring them home.

Watching people change is like watching grass grow. The changes are almost imperceptible, until one day you notice growth. I think of this whenever it’s time to cut the grass, and it gives me hope.

My children are not the only ones who are growing. I have grown too.
I adore my obedient children and enjoy their involvement in the gospel plan. I appreciate them for validating my parenting. It is easy to feel like a failure when children wander. In truth, I believe we take far too much credit when our children succeed, and far too much blame when our children struggle. We are responsible to teach, but the choices belong to them.

I have learned more about the gospel from my wandering children than I have learned from the obedient ones. I have learned to honor agency, to practice unconditional love, and to embrace the power of the atonement. I have learned to trust our Father’s plan, and his beloved Son, who is mighty to save.

I am grateful that Heavenly Father trusted me with some of his difficult children. They have been my teachers and I look forward to the day when they remember who they are and claim the blessings of obedience through their righteousness.

I long to sit down in the temple with all my children. I have the witness of the spirit that the hoped-for day will come. For now, that is enough.

Linda Garner

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Want to feel close to the Savior as you finish the Christmas season? Click here to watch a beautiful video.
May the sweet memory of Christmas spill into your New Year, filling it with love, joy, and peace.

Linda Garner

Monday, December 26, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: After Christmas

The Message:
In the tradition of the shepherds and the wisemen, we will give many gifts this Holiday season. Some will be meaningful, some will be frivolous. Some will be gaily wrapped, others unwrappable. Some will be expensive, some will come from the heart. None can match the priceless gift that was given to us.

Will we bring a gift to our worship? What might we offer as we kneel before the manger? Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh seem strangely out of place this time.

What might we give as we kneel before the cross? Even a lamb will not do this time, for Jesus was the sacrificial lamb. Perhaps we might give a favorite sin, a heavy burden, a prideful spirit. Perhaps we could give obedience, our love, our will. Perhaps, we could offer our hands or even our heart.

And should we choose to give our heart to Jesus, he would give to us a new heart...a softer more obedient heart. He would take us and make us his. He would teach us to be like him.

I¹m Trying To Be Like Jesus (Children¹s Songbook p. 78)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Day

The Message:
In reality, the search for Jesus will take us far beyond the manger in Bethlehem. If we would truly follow the star we must go to Nazareth, to Galilea, to Jerusalem. We must find not only the infant Jesus, but Jesus the man.

We must find the fisher of men, the teacher, the leader, the healer, the friend.

We will find him by the sea of Galilea. We will find him on the Mount of Olives. We will find him on the dusty roads of Palestine. We will find him with the leper, the adulterer, the crippled, the sick.

Ultimately, if we would find Jesus, we must follow the star to the Garden of Gethsamane, to Golgatha, and to the Garden Tomb. Our worship must take us past the manger to kneel at the cross, for here he finished his work.

The gift was complete. This is the gift that matters most--the gift of all gifts--the gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Without Easter there could not be a Christmas. This is the gift of which the angels exultantly sang ...good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Joy to the World, the Lord is Come! Hail redemptions happy dawn!

Choose Your Favorite:
Joy to the World (Hymns p.201)
I Stand All Amazed (Hymns 193)
He Sent His Son (Children¹s Songbook p. 35)

*Note: There is one final message to be read on or before New Years Day. It will be posted tomorrow. It is a sweet finish to the Countdown til Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Day Five

Historians tell us that the wise men did not really kneel at the manger. They came much later, perhaps as much as two years later.

The wise men, or Magi, came from afar, and unlike the common, humble shepherds were men of wealth, influence, and power, perhaps even kings.

And so we see that the Savior did not come to just one nation or class of people. The Savior’s mission was to all people, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, humble and influential, Jew and gentile. All men, no matter what their race or station can come to the Savior and become whole. We are reminded that when he comes again every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.

We feel a sense of wonder as we imagine the Wise Men opening their treasures for the small Jesus. Their gifts were so well chosen.

Gold, a gift reserved for royalty, a gift representing a crown, a gift befitting a king.

Frankincense, a type of incense used by the priests in the temple . This was given as a symbol of his priesthood, his divine power, his Priestly nature. Frankincense was used in the temple for sacrificial offerings, and was given to the baby Jesus--Jesus, who would one day teach us much about sacrifice--Jesus, who had come to sacrifice himself for us, that we might live again.

The third gift, myrhh, was a type of perfume used for burial, a gentle reminder that Jesus would one day die for us.

Don't you love these images:

Learned men searching for Jesus, the source of truth and knowledge;

Influential men traveling through the darkness, to find the light of the world,following the star to seek the bright and morning star.

Perhaps even Kings, bowing before the King of Kings.

Sing: With Wondering Awe (Hymns p. 210)

*Note: There is an additional message which you can read on Christmas Day, or sometime next week. I think you'll enjoy it. It will be posted tomorrow.