Tag: church

Christmas RS Lesson

Today I had a wonderful experience. I got to teach Relief Society (Women’s organization at church) for the first time in a long time. I had the choice of any talk from General Conference and I decided on one called Try Try Try by President Eyring. Here is the talk if you would like to read it (I think it would be encouraging to those of any faith).

The main thrust of the talk is about overcoming hard times and never giving up hope. Naturally it being Christmas time I decided to relate the talk to this time of year. I created a powerpoint to walk through the lesson, which I don’t always do but it just felt like the right approach this time.

try try try

Then I created slides of important quotes from the talk and questions to ask the class:

try try try3

Then just for fun I added in some famous quotes from Christmas movies.

try try try2

I was a little nervous going into it because technology can go very wrong and I am a bit rusty teaching (I was a Sunday school teacher for over 5 years in my late 20s so I was basically a pro!). The RS presidency went above and beyond to help me and were amazing and several of my friends came to listen to my lesson, which was very sweet.

To my relief it all went very well. Everyone made great comments and we had an uplifting discussion. I feel very inspired!

Here is the full powerpoint as a video. Feel free to use it as a family home evening lesson or anything else that might be helpful for you and let me know how it goes.

Merry Christmas!

 

I Fought Satan

“I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him”  Martin Luther.

I promise this will be my last religious post for a little while.  I’m afraid I’ve had that subject on my mind of late.  The title of this post refers to an experience from my mission.  One of my companions struggled to learn the missionary lessons and remember when it was her time to share with investigators.  To mitigate this problem I developed lessons using large art posters produced by the church.  When she saw her picture she knew it was time to speak.

To get more practice we gave the lesson to members as a family home evening presentation.  At the time there was a great family called the Bolin’s that had an energetic son named Wilhamayus (not sure if I spelled that right).  He was so excited about the gospel and loved watching church movies and reading the scriptures.

One day we decided to practice our lesson for Wilhamayus and his family and they were excited as usual.  When we got to the Joseph Smith picture he looked at it and said without missing a beat- ‘That’s Joseph Smith.  He fought Satan”.

What he was referring to was the feeling the Prophet Joseph got before having what we refer to as the First Vision.  He talks about being overcome by an evil spirit, of an actual being trying to prevent him from conversing with God.  We believe Joseph persevered, clinging to God, eventually seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ.

I was thinking about Wilhamayus’ statement “He fought Satan” this week.  Because of some personal challenges, particularly the constant struggle of my health, I’ve been feeling a little blue.  At one moment I felt almost overcome by a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair.  My world felt out of control and there is nothing I hate more than that.  I felt angry, upset and frustrated.

Trying to find relief I opened my scriptures and read Joseph’s story.  Then I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. I realized Satan is trying to get me down.  He knows I have power to make a difference in the world, and he doesn’t want that.  He wants me to be unhappy and even angry.  He wants to thwart my legacy and leave me bitter and resentful.  He wants me to focus on what I don’t have, instead of my many blessings.

Closing my scriptures I realized “I fought Satan”.  I fought Satan that day when I turned to my scriptures and I fight him every time I decide to follow Christ. Everyday that I make a good choice, a choice to be happy, to serve others, to obey God’s laws, I fight Satan.  We all do.  Every good choice we make is a victory in the war against Satan and his minions.

I had thought about my own weakness and the power of Satan many times but never quite in this way.  That he knows my frailty and will try to use it against me to help his cause.  He knows when I feel blue it is more difficult for me to serve God and feel the Holy Spirit.  He knows this and monopolizes it.

Since that moment of clarity I’ve had passing thoughts of sadness and loneliness but each time I said to myself ‘Satan, you aren’t going to win. No, not this time.  Get out of my head’.  As I’ve prayed and relied on God, I have felt my Heavenly Father’s presence stronger than ever.

Will I have bad days, sad days? Of course, and perhaps a certain degree of self-recognition is healthy (we don’t want to hold everything inside or be a doormat); however, it is a spot if left unchecked that Satan can use to reduce my happiness and my effectiveness in spreading God’s word.  I know that now and I’m on the watch for it!

It’s like CS Lewis said “there is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan”

One more C.S. Lewis quote “The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”  So true!

Remember that you can be a warrior for Christ and this will not only make the world a better place but immeasurably increase your personal happiness.

I know this is true!

PS.  Whoever sent me the valentines flowers- thanks! It made my day!

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is understood as the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others without them being directly communicated intentionally.

Sympathy is a feeling of care and understanding for suffering beings.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

Recently I’ve had some trials which I can’t get into but which have been tough for me to absorb.  Being single I have leaned more on my friends than ever before.  What has amazed me the most is the empathy I’ve felt.  Not just sympathy (a feeling of caring) but empathy, someone truly experiencing my thoughts, emotions and experiences.  Is there a greater gift we can give than empathy?  The hard times in life are almost always made harder by their accompanying loneliness.

What’s really impressed me is people that I thought for sure would not understand how I feel, have been amazingly empathetic. Having empathy allows you to focus on the feelings of others and less on the situation at hand. You could in fact think the person is quite wrong and behaving incorrectly but with empathy you are focusing on how they feel, what thoughts are in their heart.   Seeing all the empathy given me of late, makes me want to improve that virtue in my own life. Not just be sympathetic but empathetic as well.

When you are single I think it is easier than ever to feel lonely and that nobody understands.   You have no ready companion to share your thoughts with and this can be lonely.  Thank goodness God has given me great friends who never let me feel alone that long.

I remember when I was so unhappy at my old job.  Every day I would come home angry, resentful, depressed, and frustrated and it felt like there was a dark cloud over my life.   Some people would have a hard time even sympathizing with my situation let alone empathizing with it.  I had a good job in a tough economy.  I worked with some nice people.  I made enough money to support myself and go to school.  I was healthy, had great friends, and a faith to lean on.  Indeed there were plenty of things to be happy about and I did my best to feel those things.

But still the problem persisted.  The sadness persisted. The anger persisted. I held it all inside (didn’t have a blog back then… 🙂 )

There were many people who showed true empathy during this time but one person sticks out.  At the time I was working at the Mt.  Timpanogas temple.  Working at the temple met so much to me and gave me such relief, but I felt conflicted.  How could I work at the temple when everyday I felt anger and resentment towards this boss.  Each day I thought I’d forgiven her and then she would find a way to rewound me.   Her disdain and criticism were unyielding- almost never giving me a chance to see her in a kinder way.

Anyway, I felt guilty for serving in the temple and feeling this way.  I decided I would have to quit because I wasn’t worthy enough.  I made an appointment with the Temple Matron (kind of the lead woman in the temple) and we chatted.  I told her how I was feeling.  She gave me some wise advice:

“The temple is not for perfect people.  The temple is for perfecting the people”.

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years.  That life is not for perfect people, its for perfecting people.  Trials are not for perfect people, its for perfecting people.  Change is not for perfect people, its for perfecting people.

The knowledge that I can work through trials and sins in my own imperfect way is so comforting.  That working through feelings and forgiveness did not make me unworthy.  It meant I was trying and that’s all we can do.  There may be instances where nobody in the world can empathize with how I really feel.  That is when I turn to Jesus Christ and He can perfectly empathize because he has felt it and believes in me perfectly.

I’m so grateful for all those that have empathized or sympathized with me.  I am so not perfect and I wish I responded perfectly to every challenge but God knows the intent of my heart.  He knows that I want to do the right thing.  He also knows the pain of my heart and even as with hating my job it might not make any sense to the world, it makes sense to him.  I started a relationship with God as my father when I was 14 and He has never abandoned me.  He has taught me, answered my questions and led me through every trial.

I like this definition of empathy by Marvin J.  Ashton, especially the last part.  I’m working on this:

“empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and to feel what he feels. Meaningful help can never be given without empathy for the recipient. This requires gaining the confidence of the person; listening with eyes, ears, and heart; trying to comprehend how this person feels; and then letting him know by your personal performance that you really understand. One who really understands and practices empathy doesn’t solve another’s problems, doesn’t argue, doesn’t top his story, make accusations, or take away free agency. He merely helps the person build his self-reliance and self-image so he can try to find his own solutions.”

Aren’t the people who treat you that way just the best? Doesn’t it mean everything just to feel that someone understands?  I know when I was sad with my job it meant everything that someone would try to see things from my perspective. This was much better than any advice I got. Being understood by God is great but being understood by the world is also wonderful.

Anyway, I hope I can try to be more empathetic with those around me.  To see things as they see them.  To listen more and be more observant of their needs.   To experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others.  That is my new goal.