Monthly Archives: August 2014

Help: Encircled about in the Arms of His Love

Sometimes, when I feel discouraged and am trying my best to make important changes in my life, I can lose sight of the startling and critical fact that I am not alone.  The Lord is always with me, arms around me, walking my path with me, sustaining and supporting me, carrying me when necessary.  The scriptures abound with confirmation of this.

Isaiah 41:10,13 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness…For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”

When I first became aware of this scripture, I pondered how the Lord could hold my right hand. He must be right next to me! Holy cow!  I am standing here, looking at this same incredible mountain that I have to climb, but now He is standing next to me, holding my right hand.  He can do anything!  If He is holding my right hand, together we can do anything!

I began wearing bangle bracelets on my right wrist to remind me always that he is holding my hand.  I still wear them.

Eventually I came across a slightly different picture described in the scriptures. The Lord could still be holding my right hand, but he is also on my left! I am “encircled about in the arms of His love!”  I love that image!

D&C84:88 “…I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

2 Nephi 1:15  “… I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”

Doctrine and Covenants 6:20 “…Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.

Mom helping toddler girl write name on pictureBut what would that look like in my life, I wondered.  A picture came into my mind of me holding a small child.  We are sitting at a table. The child has just drawn a picture – mostly just lines on the page: joyous, exuberant scribbles. Now she wants me to help her write her name.  I don’t do it for her. I hold her gently on my lap, my right hand over hers as she holds the crayon. Together we slowly and carefully write her name on her picture.  She is so proud!  And then, done with my help, she hops off my lap and is on to other things. Perhaps that is how Christ has me encircled in the arms of His love. When I am willing to come to Him for help, he gently cradles me, lovingly reaches around me and guides me to be able to do all things that he would like me to do.

 Moroni 7:33And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”

There is nothing too small to ask for His help with.  Am I having trouble getting to bed early or getting to sleep or getting up early or reading my scriptures or getting to work on time or finding a job or magnifying my calling or dealing with stress or changing my behavior or being kind to my family or giving up my addiction?  Those things are all “expedient in [Him].” I pray for the desire and the willingness to walk the Lord’s path for me always; to come to Him for His help whenever I need it; to be grateful for his power, strength, gifts, talents, and abilities; to always remember that I am encircled about in the arms of His love, and that he is right next to me. I am never alone.

  • Can you image the Lord being right next to you, holding your hand?
  • How would that change your life?
  • What might you be able to do with His guidance that you are having trouble doing now?
  • Are you willing to turn to Him for His help?


Forgiveness – the Essence of Step 8

Forgive others and reward yourself with peace.
(Found on Lisa Raye’s Facebook Page.)

Forgiveness is the central principal discussed in Step 8 of the 12 Steps.  All things are created spiritually before they are created physically. (See Moses 3:5–7Genesis 2:4–5.) Step 8 is the spiritual creation of the reconciliation and restitution that will actually happen in Step 9. In order for me to accomplish this spiritual creation, I need to become intimately acquainted with forgiveness.

Step 8 asks me to consider two different aspects of forgiveness: asking others to forgive me, and forgiving those who have hurt me.  In either case, sometimes the other person isn’t even aware that they need my forgiveness or that I need theirs.  It is interesting to me to ponder how easily people give and take offense in this world, sometimes without even being aware of it. Sometimes people hold resentment in their hearts for years, sapping them of joy and preventing them from living in a state of peace.

Forgiving Others

When I hold resentment in my heart, I am the one who suffers.  I have heard it said that holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It tears me up inside, consumes my spiritual and emotional energy, and blocks me from feeling the Spirit. Some people think that we should only forgive someone if they apologize.  If the offender doesn’t apologize they don’t deserve my forgiveness, they reason. We don’t forgive others because they deserve it. We forgive others because we deserve it! (shared at church recently by Deron Brent Horne). I hate living in a state of resentment!  I owe it to myself to let go of those feelings and let them float out of my life like helium-filled balloons.  I do it for myself, as a way of taking care of myself.  I do it to get my life back, and my laugh back. How, you ask? Here are two methods that help me.

Tell Myself Another Story

When someone does something that makes me angry I learned from Kimberly Schneider to tell myself a different story. I ask myself this question: “Under what circumstance could this person’s actions have made sense?”  Then I make up a story, which I know is probably not true, but makes me feel better and more able to blow off the perceived offense.  Did someone cut me off in traffic?  They might be worried about something that is going on at home, and I might have been in their blind spot.  Did someone fail to deliver on a promise? Perhaps they got a bad night’s sleep or a call from someone with bad news or they were just having a senior moment. The story doesn’t matter!  Just thinking about the incident in this way helps me to let go of it.

Detach with Love

I learned in Al Anon years ago about how to “detach with love.” It is a principle that enables me to not take offense, and to let go of resentment toward someone close to me who says or does something that hurts me.  Rather than obsessing about what happened or what was said, I separate myself from the offense without separating myself from the person.  For me it works like this. I have an imaginary bubble that I can deploy at a moment’s notice. It surrounds me and a little bit of personal space.  The person on the outside of the bubble may be lashing out at me, hurling hurtful words in my direction, and my bubble allows the message in without the hurt.  If there is any truth in the message that I need to consider and respond to, I can do so, without getting caught up in the delivery method. The negative aspects stay on the outside of the bubble, with the person they come from. I can still love them, but I don’t have to allow their words to hurt me.

Asking for Forgiveness

When I make a list of people who have hurt me and forgive them, as Step 8 asks me to do, I am having a very personal and meaningful experience with forgiveness.  What better way to prepare myself to ask others for their forgiveness?! If I have done things that were harmful towards someone else, who might be hurting inside because of my actions, even if I make amends, or restitution, it might be very difficult for them to forgive me.  When I, myself, have recently gone through the process of forgiving others, I am in a better position to understand how difficult it may be for someone to forgive me, even if they are willing to do it. In Step 8 I am not actually asking anyone for forgiveness; I am becoming willing to make amends and to be reconciled to those I have hurt.  I won’t actually figure out exactly how I will approach the other person until Step 9, and I certainly will not be actually making the amends or making restitution until I get to Step 9.  But until I truly become willing to do it, and let the Lord heal my heart, I will never be ready to do it, and will live with broken relationships indefinitely.

  • What resentments are you holding in your heart?
  • What are you willing to do to let go of them so that you can progress?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to be reconciled to those you have hurt? If not, what can you do to help you become willing?


Developing Humility

Walking the humility tightropeDeveloping humility is like learning to walk a high wire.  We have to maintain balance.  We fall to the “pride” side when we do not take full responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings, fail to acknowledge our guilt, and try to shift blame to others.  We fall to the “self-critical” side when we take on guilt and shame that we didn’t earn and don’t deserve.

Just like a tightrope walker in the circus, we can walk the high wire successfully by using a rod to help keep us balanced. For me the rod is my commitment to fully embrace the Atonement and apply it in my life. In order to do this, I study scriptures, ponder, pray and meditate, take a daily inventory of my shortcomings and turn to the Lord for help to make amends as needed and overcome my weaknesses. The more time and effort I put into these activities each day, the longer my rod becomes.  The longer my rod, the easier it is for me to traverse the wire and develop true humility.

  • Can you think of a time when you have fallen to the “pride” side of humility?
  • Can you think of a time when you have fallen to the “self-critical” side?
  • What are you willing to do to lengthen your balancing rod?


Acceptance: Identifying the Things I Cannot Change

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.The Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930’s or 40’s begins with 3 lines that are well known to people with and without 12-Step experience.

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I have been pondering how to distinguish the things I can change from those that I cannot change. Niebuhr says that wisdom will help us to know the difference, and I certainly pray for wisdom. But other than receiving direct personal revelation about specific things in my life, I would like to have some guidelines for this sorting process.

I know that I can only change myself; trying to change someone else is clearly unwise and usually backfires. In the case of my aging parents, I can try to be sure they get the care that they need, and show them my love in every way I know how, but I cannot control the outcome. I have no control over their illnesses and infirmities. I cannot add one day to their lives nor can I spare them the confusion and frustration they sometimes experience.

But what about children? There the boundaries are not so clear. When they were very small, of course, I controlled everything about their lives, but even then, even my best efforts to comfort and console them and meet their physical needs did not always stop their tears.

The boundaries get more blurry as they get older. For a while I could “make them” do what I wanted (which might not have been such a great idea even then) but eventually my ability to do that disappeared. If a teenager decides that they are simply not going to do something (or are going to do something ill-advised), regardless of the consequences, there is not much a parent can do.

But don’t I have a responsibility to teach this teenager life skills? To keep them safe? To make sure that they develop the good habits that will serve them well as adults? To ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes I did, so they won’t suffer the same consequences I had to suffer?

Sadly, I must admit to myself that once I have made my best effort to give them the information they need, and teach them how to do the things they need to do, my part is done. If I demand that they comply (thereby taking away their agency) I risk ruining the relationship and pushing them to rebel. If they choose to ignore what I have taught and showed them, they will have to live with the consequences, both current and future. My acceptance of my limitations regarding the things I cannot change brings me peace and serenity.  Trying to control what I cannot change brings frustration, heartbreak and chaos.

Most importantly, I need to model healthy, mature behavior by working my own program, including taking my own inventory and maintaining my own sobriety. The rest of the Serenity Prayer gives me guidelines for living my own life.

Serenity Prayer
By Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

  • What distressing issues in your life are not within your control? Are you willing to turn them over to God?
  • Is there anything that you have been trying to control without success? Write about whether it is within your area of stewardship or not.
  • Choose something that you need to work on in your own life and seek guidance on how to approach it.  Make a plan.