Painting by Minerva Teirchart
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:13-14
There is an interesting contrast here between pleasure and delight: Pleasure is specifically characterized as man’s pleasure, in some translations as man’s business, and delight is of the Lord and of those who find delight in communing and being one with Him. In Hebrew the word for delight indicates that which is exquisite as well as that which is soft and pliable. To me this softness and pliability can be understood as applying in at least two ways: First, God is soft with His people. He does not coerce, control, or manipulate. He speaks with a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and offers the indescribable joy of His association. Second, to commune with Him we too must be soft and pliable, and if we do so with real, heartfelt desire to be one with Him above all other objectives we can receive that which is exquisitely delightful—His spirit and association, to the extent we desire it, in a powerful and transformative manner.
He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. 2 Nephi 4:21
God knows that this is not generally a natural state of desire for His children, so, He leads those who will follow along gradually, again, without coercion, control, or manipulation from one state of desire to the next until by His grace those who choose Him become in the end through a change in nature like Him.
Christ is radical in many ways, some of them small, soft ways. As illustrated in the scriptural account of His life He is never too busy for those in His immediate presence. He does not keep a schedule and makes very few appointments. He does not commit Himself to human designs and institutions because He knew what was in man (John 2:25), and so He always provides a clear choice between the life He lives and offers and that existence offered by corrupt man. He is never in a hurry. He stops by wells and road sides and turns back when a woman touches the border of His garment with faith to be healed. He stops continually in His path to talk with the humblest of people, to bless them with a taste of who He is and the spirit within Him, giving them the opportunity to freely choose, follow, and become one with Him.
One of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus is found in Luke 10:38-42:
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Mary chooses and hears His word—the truth and light that He is from the beginning of creation.
What else is of anything close to the same importance?
Returning to Isaiah 58, and the Sabbath, it is interesting to me that the other major topic in this chapter is fasting, which is often done on the Sabbath, and which has the same primary purpose as the Sabbath—to turn from the things of the world and choose that one thing Mary chooses, to commune and be one with God. Choosing as Mary chooses we can delight ourselves in the Lord, and He will cause us to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, this phrase communicating transcendence from the world and feeding upon Christ, the bread of life.
There is nothing more important to me than my knowledge of Jesus Christ and the unfailing goodness, strength, light, and perfection that He is. I am nothing without Him, and He is everything to me.
To learn more about the Ten Commandments you can go here.
I was sitting in church recently when it was announced that a young man from our ward had returned home early from his mission due to some health issues. My heart hurt for his young missionary, not only for the physical but the mental anguish he was possibly experiencing. I immediately wanted to tell him about my great-grandfather, Ralph Cutler. An extraordinary man, who was loved and revered by all who knew him, but who also had to come home early from his mission because of health reasons.
He was so sick when he got home his sister Jane recorded that, "Ralph nearly died after he returned from his mission he was so ill. There was one night that we really feared for his life."
In his own words, "I might state here that I felt that my mission was a huge failure because I was terribly handicapped by my old intestinal trouble that bothered me most of the time and prevented me from putting my best and whole effort into the work and was unable to partake of and enjoy the hospitality of the people and to do the work required of a missionary... I gradually got weaker and finally had to give up in November 1900 and come home, a disappointed and heart broken man."
His daughter Alice May records, "Now, lest the reader be led into believing that Ralph Cutler's mission was, as he said, "a huge failure," a perusal of his missionary journal reveals a different point of view. Though his mission was shortened to eleven months, it was one of many varied and worthwhile experiences of fearlessly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ralph Cutler was a strong advocate and firm defender of the faith, whether preaching on the street corners in the cities or in the schools, churches, and homes of the country. His gift for oration, brought to fore more extensively on his mission while preaching on his first principles of the gospel, prompted one gentleman to remark at the close of a street meeting in Columbus, Ohio, that Elder Cutler "was a good enough orator to be in congress."
As I reflect on Grandpa Ralph's life, I am humbled by his goodness and perseverance. Coming home early from his mission was difficult and something that he anguished, but it did not define him and spent his life doing good, defending the faith and testifying of Christ. His posterity calls his name blessed. I gain strength from the way he lived his life and through the words he recorded for his posterity. Without his journals, I would have known that on January 9, 1900, he had his photograph taken with his companion by a traveling photographer after visiting with 7 families. He made the annotation larger and with capital letters of his beautiful script and he recorded that it cost him $1.00. I know how frugal he was with his money, but I am so thankful he spent the money so that I can show my children what he looked like as a young missionary at 26 years old, who was ordained as a Seventy in December of 1899.
Had he not kept a journal I would have missed out learning that he kept track of all of his expenses and the total of his life as a missionary was only $209.30. Or that one day after his meetings he spent the afternoon at the "National House of Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. A lovely place containing a group of beautiful buildings where 6,000 old soldiers have their home." (You can read more about the location here where I found this photograph.). I learned about some of his struggles, the interesting people he met and most importantly I learned about his resilience. Despite his illness, he still got up and worked as hard as he could. He found the inner strength to be obedient in spite of the pain and hardships.
So to this young missionary who returned home early, you are in the company of great men and women for whatever reason could not fulfill their entire time as missionaries. What defines you will be how you live the remaining part of your life.
Reading Grandpa Ralph's words makes me think back to my mission, the differences, the similarities, the love of the Lord. I am so thankful he took the time to write about his experiences teaching, I am grateful for his grandson, Theodore who scanned and digitized his journal for us as posterity. I appreciate that my father, another grandson, has made it possible for me to read the life of his grandfather from any location in the world. It has been a treasure in my life.
Today I consider what I will do to preserve my own missionary experience for my posterity. With the technology of my smartphone and a scanning app like, TurboScan or Google Photo Scan, in a matter of minutes I can preserve the words and experiences for future generations, and perhaps someone someday will find comfort in my short time as a missionary, because I too was unable to serve all 18 months, but I treasure every single day spent as a missionary and would not change a thing.
"Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” (Elder Jeffery R. Holland, "None Were With Him", General Conference, April 2009)
A couple of days ago I was reading Jacob 3:1-2 as I have been focusing on the topic of prayer this past week:
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
I love these two verses and have found great comfort and guidance in them throughout my life but on Monday the phrase, "feast upon his love" penetrated my heart in a way that I had to ask myself if I had ever really read the words before. I'm love and am familiar with the idea of feasting on the Word (2 Nephi 32:3), but feasting on His love felt like a revelation. So I contemplated and then I sent out a text message to some very wise and wonderful people:
From my study this morning, Jacob 3:2 talks about "feasting upon His love." We all know and understand what it means to feast upon His word, how does one go about feasting upon His love?
You can comment below, email me, text me, call me and we'll go to lunch and talk about it, but I would love to know your thoughts and feelings. The lunch offer applies to anyone who I've already asked.
I am compiling my thoughts and am writing something for next week, but for today, will you share a little bit of your heart with me.
You can download this print as a reminder if you would like.
Download Akimball_feastuponHislove (8.5x11 pdf)
It has been so lovely each morning to talk about the Savior's life and have this fun poster for them to look at and be reminded of the stories. I laminated ours so that we could use it again. I think I will make a small version for gifts.
A couple of people have asked about our Easter traditions so I thought I would just tell you here:
We do very little for Easter. We just try and focus on Christ. Easter baskets with the bunny didn't happen, not that there is anything wrong with that, it was just something I didn’t want to do. I wanted one holiday that wasn’t commercialized. There were plenty of egg/treat hunts with family and around town, so one more here at home felt excessive. When the girls were little, they got matching Easter dresses, but even that tradition is gone. So really, it boils down to me being lazy. I know you understand the constant go, go, go of time and activities, responsibilities, etc. Easter has become a let it all go kind of holiday and be simple. I love visiting with family. I love talking about Jesus.
Psalm 22 is a wonderful example of the richness and depth of meaning that can be derived from almost every word as it is written in Hebrew. There are several words and phrases in particular that do not make a lot of sense in English in this Psalm that in Hebrew have tremendous meaning. As one example (see this post) that I wrote about a couple of years ago, verse six begins with But I am a worm, and no man, and from a superficial reading of that phrase it certainly makes no sense. Why compare Christ to a worm?
A more in depth examination of the language found here uncovers beautiful symbolism and profound meaning: There are three Hebrew words that are translated into worm in English, and the two occurring most frequently refer to entirely different creatures and carry completely opposite symbolic meanings. Both of these Hebrew words are found in Job 25:6 and are translated as worm in English:
How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm?
Again, in the English translation finding meaning is difficult, but turning to the Hebrew provides tremendous meaning. The first worm in this verse, which is associated with imperfect man, in Hebrew refers to a typical worm, which is involved in the process of decomposition and returning living matter into the earth. The second worm, which is associated with God in this verse, in Hebrew is a different creature altogether and is associated with life and new life in a wonderful way both in reality and symbolically.
This second worm is the crimson worm (coccus ilicis). When the female crimson worm gives birth she attaches herself to a tree or other form of wood and makes a hard shell. She attaches so securely to the wood that the shell cannot be removed without tearing her flesh completely apart and killing her. After attaching to the tree she then lays her eggs under her body, which is under the protective shell. When the baby worms hatch they remain there where the mother worm provides protection, and where they feed on the still living body of the mother worm. After a few days the young worms are able to live on their own, and at that point the mother worm dies, oozing in her death a crimson dye, which stains the wood to which she is attached as well as staining the baby worms so that they are colored crimson for the remainder of their lives. Finally, three days after her death the mother crimson worm loses her crimson color, turns into a white wax, and falls to the ground.
This entire process is richly symbolic of the sacrifice of Christ, as He died for us on the cross, and in that sacrifice makes us His children; as He provides protection from evil and becomes for us the bread of life; as He bled from every pore, and we are washed clean and transformed through His blood; and finally as He voluntarily lay down His life on the cross and three days later took His body up again in His resurrection, transformed and perfected.
Returning to Psalm 22:6, Christ is well typified by the female crimson worm who gives life to her children through her total sacrifice and death, and just as that creature is wholly different from a typical worm who is associated with decay and the earth, Christ is no man, in that He is completely different from fallen man in His sinless nature and matchless character.
One characteristic of the crimson worm and its symbolism of Christ that is particularly meaningful to me is the securely fixed attachment the crimson worm makes to the wood. There is nothing that can dissuade and prevent the crimson worm from making her sacrifice for her children except external force beyond her own strength, leading to her death.
Similarly, the atoning sacrifice of Christ is firmly secured from before the creation due to His completely pure and infinite love for His children. One crucial and comforting difference between the crimson worm and Christ here is that in the case of Christ there is no opposing power able to overcome His love and power and by force prevent Him from accomplishing His mission. Death did not and cannot overcome Him; He conquered death. Hell did not and cannot overcome Him; He conquered hell. He overcame all things and truly is the resurrection and the life.
Another word that is profoundly meaningful to me in Psalm 22 is found in verse two. Verses one and two read as follows with this word being the last word of verse two:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
The Hebrew word translated as silent comes from a root verb that means to be brought to silence, to be cut off or destroyed. This verb appears in a number of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Silent derived from this root verb is a noun rather than an adjective as it is translated in English at the end of this second verse. This noun only appears four times in the Old Testament, in each case in the Psalms, and it describes the condition of waiting in stillness for salvation. It is meaningful to me that each of the four occurrences of this word appears in the Psalms, as it is David who waits in stillness with expectation for the Lord to redeem him from hell. (see Psalm 16:10) One example of this usage is found in Psalm 62:1, translated as waiteth:
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.
Significantly the occurrence of this word in Psalm 22 is different from the other three occurrences in that in this psalm it appears as a lack of expectation--it is clear that for the Messiah there is no waiting in stillness for salvation. He bears the full weight, horror, and agony of the pains, sickness, death, and sin of His people, and through this infinite and unfathomable sacrifice He is salvation, not being saved but providing salvation, not being delivered from His suffering but overcoming all things and becoming the Great Deliverer.
Another meaningful link in Hebrew with this word is with earth, man, and blood. In this sense this wording could indicate that there is no earthliness to him, or as in the above, that he is no earthly man. It may also be meaningful in the sense of its link to blood: This second phrase of the second verse specifically is linked to the night, and it is in the darkness of the night before the crucifixion that Christ bled from every pore, leading to questions in my mind: Did Christ shed all of His blood from His body during His suffering both in the garden and on the cross, and thereby, as that phrase could be understood, in the night literally there is no blood to him? When His suffering was finished was He filled with spirit rather than blood as part of the process of His unique death, resurrection, and judgement. One other component of His suffering that may be related to His loss of blood is that He suffered thirst more than is possible for mortal man to suffer:
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. Mosiah 3:7
These questions remain without answer for me. I feel strongly in these matters not to express my musings and opinions as more than that. In general with Christ I am careful not to limit Him, place human characteristics of imperfection on Him, or feel that I am able to comprehend Him beyond a point in my thoughts due to the limitations of my own mind and heart--not presuming to fathom the Unfathomable. It is enough for me to think of Him often, asking the questions, contemplating, worshipping, and engaging in my own stillness and waiting for salvation made possible by all that Christ did, offers, and is.
My scripture journal has become one of my most cherished journals and I am always excited to spend time with the Lord as I study.
I started it in 2012 (see this post) and have had a few variations and different notebooks as I have tried to work out my system. You can see all the posts and progress using this link: scriptures (journals and more). It was fun to see the different downloads and how my system has evolved over the last 5 years. I currently only keep two journals: main and Book of Mormon. I have consolidated and that could change again in the future, but for right now I like having the conference journal mixed in with everything else. You can see all the conference journal links at the end of this post: here.
In the past, I have sketchnoted and written down many of the quotes and ideas that I wanted to remember and then included some typed or handwritten thoughts and impressions, the reasons why I studied this particular topic or talk. I included art that was meaningful and it was visually appealing and I learned a great deal. However, I spent so much time sometimes rewriting entire talks because I wanted to include the quote I was referencing and I don't have time for that. One day while I was thinking about how to make this easier, the quiet whispering of the Spirit reminded me that I could use the same format or idea as my Book of Mormon journal. I could cut out portions of the printed talk, adhere them to my journal. It's not a novel concept for some reason it resonated in a new way for me.
So I now print a talk off on a sheet of paper (or label paper) in two or three columns and adhere the text onto the pages leaving me room to write and thoughts and feelings.
Here is an example of one of a talk I am currently studying: Covenant Keepers from Wendy Watson Nelson. Download Covenantkeepers_nelson
Another option is to buy two copies of the conference Ensign issues and cut them apart; this might be the most economical approach for the next 6 months.
Then I start studying and it becomes a mess of this and that as I get off on tangents and other scriptures. It's chaos and it's wonderful! This particular talk by Sheri Dew titled "Will You Engage in the Wrestle?" has become a friend. That sounds crazy I know, but I learned so much in ways and about things I didn't anticipate. I love the unexpected things that I have learned and once again I have found added comfort and peace in the word of God.
I usually add post it notes when I run out of room or glue in another sheet of lined paper for more thoughts. I have found answers to questions I didn't know I was seeking and solutions to situations I have been searching for as I spend meaningful time communicating with God.
A few more shots of where I am working right now. I probably have 3 or 4 talks I am studying, the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and then a random collection of scriptures on self-mastery that have been interesting in their direction and flow. I never know where I am going to start my studying each day or end up. I am still working through my patriarchal blessing (templates found in this post) which has lead me to D&C 89 which has moved me to yet another area. Studying and compiling everything on the computer would probably be easier chronologically, but this crazy mess works for me.
In the top photos, I needed a little more room to write some final thoughts so I included a card with a painting of my uncle and aunt that my cousin painted. I think there should be beauty along with the function.
I have started adding a pretty title page to help keep things organized and because they are pretty. The "Daughters of God" was a Relief Society lesson that I felt really strongly I needed to study a little more. I even included the questions, but I haven't gotten around to answering them yet. The sweet photo of the little girl praying is Samantha when she was about 3, so adding photos (just printed on plain copy paper) has been a fun addition that I will add here and there. You can download this formatted lesson here: Download DaughtersOfGod_Hinckley
For organizational purposes, I also add washi tape to the edges of the different talks/sections/themes. It started out with a random color selection, but I think I might color code it using the same scripture marking colors just to help me find things easier. You can see my code here. Once again my Moleskine journal is packed and overflowing, but the binding is holding up to the added pages and weight. It's a workhorse.
What ideas and practices have been working for you? How can I help make your lives easier? Is there something you have been hoping to use but haven't found what you are looking for?
I love the scriptures. I love the words of the prophets and disciples. I love my time with the Lord and if I can help you love your time with Him it would be an honor. For He is the source of all peace and comfort.
After a quick text one morning that read, "Can you think of any of our ancestor stories that typified these attributes: Faith, Hope, Compassion, forgiveness, repentance, gratitude, God's Word/Scriptures, Prayer? (Part of the #princeofpeace campaign)" My beautiful mother-in-law immediately responded, "I just thought of one about my maternal grandfather and the scriptures. I will look it up to get the exact words. He was my favorite grandparent - so kind, gentle and faithful." She then sent me this letter written to her parents:
A quick login to FamilySearch and I found a photo of the house. Can you see the scene in your mind as you peek into the window?
At Grandpa Peterson’s funeral, this was recorded, "Stake President Golden A. Carlson paid high tribute to Bishop Peterson on the knowledge he had of the gospel. Relating an incident where Bishop Peterson had given a lesson in a Stake High Priest class, and how intelligently and well it was presented. President Carlson told of how he with the class were amazed that day as they listened to Bishop Peterson at the age of eighty-four years quote verse after verse of the scriptures without reference or notes.”
I thought about Grandpa Peterson as I was looking up a scripture on my phone the other day. As my children walked by did they know, I was looking up a scripture or uploading a photo to Instagram? Would someone looking in my window in the early morning seeing the glow of the computer know what I was doing? The convenience and information at my fingertips is beautiful, I can look-up and find any quote or scripture when my mind only remembers a fragment, but this image of great-grandpa Peterson sitting in his rocking chair, next to the wood stove and oil lamp is now forever etched in my mind. I don't think that the same can be said for me.
So I've tried to use the paper copy of my scriptures more often this past week, not because I want to be a postcard image, but because I want my children to have no doubt as to what I am doing.I want them to know how important the word of God is to me. I want them to think about Grandpa Peterson when they are alone and no one is looking. What do they choose to do, will they choose the word of God or another form of entertainment. Which will bring lasting peace?
I want them to think about Grandpa Peterson when they are alone and no one is looking. What do they choose to do, will they choose the word of God or another form of entertainment. Which will bring lasting peace? I want them to understand that their actions today can affect generations to come, so what will they choose?
Most importantly, I want them to know that Jesus is the Christ and that they can find His story, His teachings, and His love in the pages of scriptures we often take for granted. He is the only source for peace. He is our Redeemer and Savior. How I love Him.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about the upcoming Easter campaign #PrinceofPeace that will go live March 31 at mormon.org/easter. It's beautiful. It has a similar feel to the #LightTheWorld and the activities and videos each day of Holy Week will be a great addition to our Easter celebration. I have been thinking about what I can post to add to the campaign these last few weeks; what would be meaningful, what would benefit "my audience?" At one point I was even lured by the idea of being featured in one of the media outlets, but that was not a significant reason for me to participate, phew. As I thought about the presentation and information given this was the idea that pierced my heart.
Christmas is an outward show of our love for Christ, while Easter is for inward reflection of our relationship with Him.
As I look back on my Christmas vs. Easter preparations, I can see that over and over again in my life. It has certainly held true this year as I have contemplated Easter the past few weeks and reflected on my relationship with Christ. I have spent more time in the scriptures the past little while searching, not for anything specific but just being immersed in the word of God and it’s been beautiful. I have prayed more, again nothing specific although plenty to occupy my mind and heart. As a result, I have felt closer to the Father, more peace, and direction.
The reality is then this:
There is nothing I can share that will bring you closer to Christ.
I would never be so presumptuous as to think that I have that kind of power or influence, nor do I want it. Your relationship with Christ is your own, and you have to put in the work, which in my experience takes very little effort. It seems like I give very little energy for huge benefits. However or in whatever manner you choose to celebrate Easter I hope that you will take time for the holy. "The Beauty of Holiness" by Carol F. McConkie was a great reminder. Look for ways to focus more on Christ this season.
(If you click on the image it should bring up the original size up for easier viewing)
I have enjoyed thinking about these different attributes and the people who have influenced me, who had been an example of faith, compassion, forgiveness, etc. Their lives and experiences have blessed me in ways I can't express but cherish. There are some truly amazing people in this world. I have also thought about different ancestors whose stories I want to share. I am excited to share this Easter season with my family.
Another beautiful way to celebrate Easter would be to see "Savior of the World." Our stake has been working for months and months rehearsing this beautiful program. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use some of the set design and costumes from the original production as well as professionals who help with the production. A couple of my children have been involved in the production, and it's been lovely hearing them talk about the preparations.
Email me, and I will give you all the details. It will be beautiful.
If you are looking for something to study the Names of Christ booklet has proven meaningful for me, and I was so thrilled when the #princeofpeace featured the same painting as the booklet by Heinrich Hofmann.