Thursday, November 29, 2012

Can Ye Feel So Now?

As I was pondering what to share today, the scriptures in Alma 5 came to mind.  The prophet Alma had just resigned his position as chief judge over the land so that he could devote himself completely to the work of the ministry.  His first stop on his missionary journey was the capital city of Zarahemla.  The people there were in a bit of a rough spot, and were not keeping the commandments of God as they ought to.  Alma later describes his personal feelings during this time as ones of "wading through much affliction and sorrow" (Alma 7:5).

Reviewing the chapter, Alma begins by reminding the people of how their fathers had been blessed by the Lord.  He then proceeds to ask them a large number of questions, inviting them to look upon their own hearts and ponder their commitment.  One of the questions in particular spoke to my soul as I pondered the current state of my marriage:
"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" -Alma 5:26
How many of us experienced a change of heart when we got married?  How many of us felt to sing the song of redeeming love on our wedding day?  I would wager that most (if not all) of us felt this way.  While I was dating my wife, I felt my heart turn toward her.  On our wedding day, I was overwhelmed with joy, love, happiness and the Spirit.

Now to Alma's question.  Can ye feel so now?

How are the feelings once the honeymoon period inevitably ends?  What about when you are tired and grumpy from caring for an infant at all hours of the day and night?  What about when work drains the very last drop of energy from your body before you get home?  What about when there are disagreements with no easy solution?  What about when challenges, trials, and heartaches come knocking at the door?

Can ye feel so now?

It is so very easy to get swept up in the day to day of our lives, and forget why we got married to our sweetheart in the first place.  I understand.  I've been there.  It's a hard place to be.  Sometimes the song of redeeming love and the change of heart can feel very far away indeed.

Can ye feel so now?  If not, there is a way back.

As always, the Lord has answers.  After Alma asks this important question, he directs us to prepare.  He then directs us to the One who can best help us to prepare, even the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.  Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;"  -Alma 5:33-34
The Lord is ever ready to come to our assistance.  And the way to do so is simple (I say simple, not easy).  It is to repent, and return unto Him.  It is to go back to the basics.

Not feeling those loving feelings?  Go back to the basics that brought you those feelings in the first place!  Love is an action first, and a feeling second.  Become a student of your spouse.  Get to know them again.  Spend time doing enjoyable things together.  Pray together.  Study your scriptures together.  Laugh.  Play.  Get back to the simple things, and you can enjoy the simple blessings that are promised to the faithful.

Can ye feel so now?  If not, you can feel so again.  Begin today.  Pick one small thing, and do it.  You might be surprised at the results!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Thread, White Thread

I don't like discomfort.  Pain is something I try to avoid at all costs.  Sometimes I think I would enjoy a life of "vanilla peace".  You know, the kind where nothing bad ever seems to happen and things move along smoothly.  However, as nice as it sometimes sounds, that sort of life is not really the pattern for growth.

I have slowly been learning to face my pain, rather than run and hide from it.  It has been uncomfortable for sure, but it has also been remarkably healing.  And I've learned several things.

First, the pain is not unbearable.  The same God who promises that I will not be tempted above that which I can bear also does not allow me to suffer pain beyond what I can bear (although sometimes I wish He didn't trust me so much).

Second, I've learned that the pain passes.  In some ways, it is like a large wave of water in the ocean.  The wave will wash over me, and then it passes, and I have some moments of calm before the next wave comes in.  In the past, I was afraid that the pain would be overwhelming, and it wouldn't leave me.  I'd be stuck in it.  But it turns out that is not the case.

Third, I've learned that there is peace on the other side of the pain.  This point was the one that I did not see coming.  I figured that working through pain would leave me exhausted (which it indeed does on many occasions).  But there is also peace from the Spirit once the pain has passed.  In some ways, there is more peace on the other side, because the pain, having been heard and felt, no longer blocks the flow of the Spirit.

Finally, I've learned that as much as I enjoy the white threads in the tapestry of my life, the black threads are just as valuable in creating the entire picture.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


They have been doing construction at my work for the past couple of months.  Removing the old cubes and offices to make room for newer ones (I won't say improved, because I liked the old ones better, but I digress).

We were given plenty of notice when they were about to begin the first set of construction.  Still, I was surprised when I came in on a Monday morning to see a wooden wall blocking off the entrance to the section they were working on.  I was more surprised when I checked from another side, and found that the entire area had been gutted.  I had walked through the area on the previous Friday, and everything was normal, as I remembered it.  I was amazed at how quickly they could take everything down.

Building up the new area took the better part of a month.  I have actually moved into the new area temporarily, until they finish my final location.  The construction company has subsequently finished the second area, and moved on to the third.  I took a quick glance at the third construction area the other day, and saw that it was in the freshly gutted stage.  All of the cubicles, offices, and even the carpets are gone.  But the area is not entirely bare.  There are a handful of thick metal beams going from floor to ceiling, which support the level above.  These beams (I don't know the official construction term) form the framework upon which the new offices and cubicles will be built, and are an essential part of the structural integrity of the building.

In a previous post, I talked about the foundation on which marital and personal healing should be built.  Today, I want to talk a little bit more about where we go after we get a firm foundation.  As always, the Lord has given us direction on this through His holy prophets.  I will be taking my comments from the Family Proclamation:
"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." -The Family: A Proclamation to the World
If you have not yet read this inspired document, you can read the entire proclamation here.

Any of these principles could fill several blog posts.  Perhaps I will do a series on them at some point.  But for now, I wish to focus on two things:

1) These principles are based on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is our foundation.  The teachings and principles that He gives to us are the framework.  Once we have our foundation, we need a strong and solid framework on which to build the rest of our marriage or personal life.  The teachings of the Master provide us with this framework.

2) Since these are principles, they are unchanging by their nature.

One of the great comforts I find in the Gospel is its unchanging nature.  Life changes and moves at an ever increasing pace.  Philosophies and teachings change almost as often as the weather.  Things that were once accepted by the greater community are being challenged, derided, and even sometimes discarded.  In the midst of all of this chaos, it is comforting to know that what the Lord has given us is unchanging and eternal.  A principle that is true today was true yesterday, and will be true tomorrow.  Thus, we can build our framework without fear of it becoming outdated.

Although I have focused my comments today on building and healing a marriage, these same principles will also do wonders in personal healing.

Take a moment or two today and review this list of principles.  Pick one that speaks to you, and strive to make it a bigger part of your life.  I promise that the Lord will bless you as you do so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lord, Is It I?

This year has been a year of healing and change for me, as well as one that has been eye-opening in many ways.  Earlier in the year, I ended a long-standing relationship with computer games, a relationship which was keeping me in the dark about a great many things.  The computer game addiction is worth a whole series of posts, which I will eventually do.  But today, I want to focus on what I have seen in the months since I quit playing computer games.

I have seen a Mark who is not quite as innocent a victim as I have painted myself out to be.  It was very easy to point outward to other things as the reasons why there was a lack of closeness in my relationship with my wife.  She is tired from taking care of the kids all day.  She has had a rough day.  The kids are making me feel tired.  It's been a long day of work.  And on and on and on.

I played the martyr card early and often.  I wasn't blatant and obvious about it, but it permeated the way I interacted with my wife, and to a lesser extent, my kids.  I allowed myself to believe that circumstances were beyond my control, and that I would be the super-husband and super-dad, forever working and ever underappreciated.  Even though I didn't see a way to change, I would be faithful to my covenants.

Now there is some truth in those statements, right?  Of course I should be faithful to my covenants.  There are times in life when I will need to step up and provide a little bit of extra.  But the statements are not fully true.  And the most dangerous kind of lie is the one that is mixed with a careful portion of the truth.

As I have become more aware over the past few months, the Spirit has gently indicated that I might want to reconsider some of my views.  I have prayed for my eyes and ears to be opened.  And I have seen more of the truth, even though some of it has been painful:
  • The truth is that the responsibility for my happiness and closeness is not "out there".  It is inside me.
  • The truth is that while circumstances are sometimes beyond my control, my attitude is always under my control.
  • The truth is that I can be faithful and pleasant at the same time.
  • The truth is that much of my own loneliness, and the delay of promised blessings in my relationship, are due to my own choices.
  • The truth is that my choices have caused great pain, not just to me, but also to the lives of those who I love, foremost among them my beloved wife.
There is pain in the truth.  And yet there is also power.

For if these things are external, there is no hope of changing them.  I am truly stuck.  But if they are the result of my choices, then I have the power to choose differently.  There is still time to change my ways.  There is time to do the right thing, for the right reasons, with the right attitude.  There is a word for this.  It is repentance.

The disciples who were with Jesus in his earthly ministry give us a good example of how to do this.  At the Last Supper, Jesus announced that one of His disciples would betray Him.  To their credit, the apostles did not nudge each other and whisper, "I'll bet it's old Judas.  He's sure been acting strange lately."  Instead, they were sorrowful, and asked earnestly, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:21-22)

Rather than looking around me at all of the things that are "causing" me to behave a certain way, I want to live with a "Lord, is it I?" attitude.  Is there contention in my home?  Distance?  A lack of promised blessings?  What am I contributing to the problem?  What is my part?  What can I change?

Lord, is it I?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Atonement

Today's quote is compliments of President Packer, from the most recent General Conference:

"No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, 'Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.'" —Boyd K. Packer, "The Atonement", Liahona and Ensign, November 2012
As one who often feels guilt for my past actions and inactions, I am deeply grateful for a loving Savior who made it possible for me to be healed, and also to choose differently in the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Simple Question

I'm feeling a bit frazzled today, so today's thought will be a short one.  It is taken from a recent post from Corey over at Simple Marriage.  The post there is even shorter than this one, so I will share it in its entirety here:
Would you want to be married to you?
Please take a few moments to seriously ponder this question.  Oh, and if you are like me, you might want to do your pondering with the Lord in prayer.  This question should bring thoughtful reflection, not shame.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Do we "deserve" love?

I had a rough patch the other day.  As I was driving somewhere, I was pondering what more I needed to do to deserve love.  The Spirit stopped me with a soft, yet direct question: "Is love something that is deserved?"  I thought about it some.  Does Jesus love me because I deserve it?  What about my children?  Have they done something to deserve my love?  Is love a commodity that can be earned?

The truest and highest form of love is unconditional.  This is the kind of love that Heavenly Father and Jesus have for us.  As we read in the New Testament:
We love him, because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19
Ideally, this is also the kind of love that we show for our spouse and children.  That is, unconditional love.  I am not there yet, but I am striving to get there.

There is also another person that needs our unconditional love.  That is ourselves.  This one is even harder for me.  I struggle mightily to love myself, especially when I make mistakes.  And yet, the love that I feel for my family and others flows from the love I feel for myself.

I hope that I may draw closer to the Lord.  His love is unconditional and unending.  There is a limitless supply for all who will come unto Him:
Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  2 Nephi 9:50
May we feast upon His love, and then share it with those around us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

We need the family more than ever

Part of what lead me to create this blog was my discovery of the Christian marriage blogging community.  There are many wonderful people out there who are blogging about marriage and family, and are teaching the truth according to the principles found in the Bible.  Some of them are listed in the sidebar, should you be interested in reading them.  I highly recommend them.

Today's post is from Canadian writer Sheila Wray Gregoire's website To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.  She speaks about the increased need for strong families in today's world.  Here is an excerpt from the article:
"And so we need, more than ever, to have strong families. We need a buffer from the storm, and that is why God gave us each other. We need to commit to loving our families, commit to nurturing and growing our families, and commit to showing others what a true community looks like.
Two thousand years ago the Christians were able to do that because they loved each other, and through that love they were strong enough to help others."
You can read the whole article here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seeking for help

I injured my shoulder about a month and a half ago moving furniture.  It's been a little bit sore ever since.  Not sore enough to cause a lot of pain, but enough to be uncomfortable.  Enough to remind me that it is there.  Today I finally made an appointment to go and see the doctor, since it doesn't seem to be getting better on its own.

Although my immediate pain is physical, this also applies to emotional, mental, and spiritual pain.  Sometimes we have hurts that aren't so visible or obvious.  They don't hurt enough to stop us in our day to day lives, but they do make us uncomfortable.  They prevent us from functioning fully.  And just as a doctor can help me with my shoulder, loving leaders, mentors, friends, and the Holy Ghost can help us with our less visible pains.  We need others to help us in our need.

And above all, let us remember the Master Physician, who has the answers to all of our pains.  He knows exactly what you are feeling, because He experienced it Himself.  As Isaiah wrote:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:3-5
Come unto the Savior, and find sweet peace and reassurance at His feet.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More about foundations

As a follow-up from last night's post about foundation, this scripture came to mind:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  Helaman 5:12
Jesus is the only sure rock and foundation, for both our personal lives and our marriages.

Friday, November 2, 2012


The other day, I was thinking about the movie "The Mountain of the Lord".  Specifically, I was thinking about the part of the movie where Johnston's army is approaching the city.  This requires the saints to bury the foundation of the temple to prevent the holy ground from being desecrated.  After the immediate threat of the army has passed, the foundation is exhumed so that the construction of the temple may continue.

Unfortunately, the foundation is discovered to have cracks in it, which will not support the weight of a granite temple.  Despondent, President Young vows not to move from the spot until he knows what he is to do.

Later in the day, Elder Woodruff comes to visit with President Young.  Elder Woodruff suggests a new plan of action.  The new approach will create a stable foundation, but will also require that the entire existing foundation be removed.  Nine years of labor have already been been put into the temple construction, and it will be necessary to start all over again.  This is indeed what is done.

There are several things that can be taken from this experience that apply to our marriages:

 1) Sometimes it is necessary to start over

Undoubtably, it was heartbreaking to throw away nine years of toil, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears.  And yet the purpose of the temple was to stand through the Millenium.  If they had continued to build on a damaged foundation, how long would it have been until the temple collapsed?  Then the foundation would still need to be removed, along with everything else that had collapsed on top of it.  They would have only been delaying the inevitable by trying to build on a damaged foundation.

Are there parts of our marriage that are build on a damaged foundation?  Have we built, expecting the other person to "complete us"?  Did we marry solely based on feelings of infatuation that have faded?  Are we relying on our own efforts too much?  Are there more serious issues, such as pornography, abuse, or an affair?  Are our marriages balanced precariously on a broken block of stone, nearing the point of collapse?

In many cases, a marriage may be on strong footings, and need only a small amount of renovation.  But sometimes all of the broken pieces need to come up so that a sure and strong foundation can be put in its place.  If you feel you are in this situation, please don't delay.  A broken foundation will not get better on its own.

2) Sometimes we need the help of other people

President Young was the prophet, and had spent a considerable amount of time praying and pondering on what to do.  But it was not until Elder Woodruff came and spoke with him that he was able to move forward with what needed to be done.

We are not sent to this earth to be alone in our struggles.  Prayerfully consider where you can turn to for help.  A loving bishop or a kind, supportive counselor can provide a listening ear and a helping hand.  You may also be able to find a mentor couple, who may have had similar experiences to yours.

I would be cautious about going to family or friends.  While they do care about you, they may be too close to the situation to provide an objective point of view.

The Lord knows your situation better than I do.  If you ask Him, He will direct you to someone who can help.  While the Lord can certainly meet all of our needs, He often works through other people.  He understands that sometimes we need to see the ear that is listening to us, and feel a physical hand of comfort on our shoulders.

3) Remember who your foundation is

I have saved the most important point for last.  We often look to others to be our foundation, whether it is our spouse, parent, friend, or leader.  While all of these people can be helpful, they cannot provide us with what we truly need.  The scriptures teach us where our foundation is to be found:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.  Ephesians 2:19-20
Whether your foundation needs only a few bricks replaced, or a complete removal, be sure that you are built on the chief cornerstone.  Jesus loves you, and He very much wants your marriage to succeed.