[This is a continuation of part 1.]
Laurel Christensen went on to talk about her action plan in obtaining her goals. Goals that would bring about good change; help her improve; become. Lucky for me, the goals foremost in my mind are similar to Laurel’s (‘weight’, she whispers).
Action Item 1: Praying with faith
Sounds like common sense again – another duh moment. But again, flesh it out. Think about your personal prayers. This is usually when I want to stop thinking about it too much, because I already know I need to improve with my personal prayers. I’ll confess, I struggle with them and I am always feeling guilty about my prayers. I didn’t always struggle with personal prayers; it’s a cycle I go through. I have these glorious moments of enlightenment, I feel all good, in tune, and happy with myself. And I pray. I do the things we are told to do. And suddenly, life becomes busier. I take on more projects, I schedule my time away, and I simply don’t consider praying until I’m half asleep in a warm bed that I simply cannot get out of.
The funny thing is, I am always listening out for new insight and advice from church conferences and meetings, and the message that usually hits me the most is the same thing over and over. Pray. Gosh, that can be annoying. Are you sure there is nothing more complicated to do, or something deeper to sink my teeth into? Sigh. Well, you know what? The basics are not easy. Clearly, or they would not be spoken about over and over. A wise relief society teacher said something last week when I visited my old ward. The lesson was on the recent General Conference talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Waiting on the Road to Damascus, and the message was essentially about waiting for a lightning bolt or sign from the heavens, and in the meantime procrastinating our lives away. She (the teacher) said, regarding the basics like personal prayer and daily scripture study, that the simple things we are told to do over and over are our great weapons in this day and age. Our own personal armour of God. Hmm, I’ve not thought of personal prayer as a weapon before. I’m going out to war today; I’m only wearing the loin cloth, so I better arm myself with a lotta prayer.I am totally digressing here from the messages obtained from Laurel. But whatever – this is important to me. And quite frankly, it is important to you. Just because I now have several alarms on my phone to ensure we pray as a family (of two!) before I leave for work in the early hours and before he leaves for work in the late hours doesn’t mean we’re good. How well do we pray? We’ve just reflected on the literal relationship between ourselves and our God, and on discovering that it is a parental relationship, do we converse as such? Are you chatting to God on a regular basis all the things you would say to your earthly parents? This means so much to me. Because we should be pouring out all of our disappointments, our challenges, and stupid moments and crumbling times to Him – not just for help, but for support, for guidance, for a listening ear. We should also be telling him about our happy times, our joys, what made us smile that day, how our day went. Pretty sure He wants to know.
Returning back to Laurel, in relation to praying with faith, she told us women to remember to ASK for what we wanted in prayer. It sounds simple, even unnecessary as God already knows what we want, but we have to do the actual asking. At this point, you have surely thought of some areas to improve on. How about we have an intermission then, and you go and call on your Heavenly Father, right now. Go tell him what’s on your mind, what you are having trouble with, what you are happy about, what you have accomplished today, and hope to accomplish today.
We’ll reconvene in a moment.
The thing is, when we don’t pray with sincerity, when we don’t report our lives or our family’s lives, or ask him for what we need, we are putting restrictions on ourselves. The changes we want to make, the progress we want to make – all of it is going to be a tough struggle without divine help. Why would you want to make life any harder?!
She told us about her week at a health resort where she almost died on a treadmill. On one particular day – Treading Thursday – she had to really push herself on the treadmill. Amongst all the crying, gasping for air, and repeating “I’m gonna die!”, the trainer kept telling her “Stop standing in the way of yourself.” So Laurel’s next question to us was: What else have you been standing in the way from?
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (Ephesians 3:2)
Action Item 2: Thinking with faithApparently there is power in thinking with faith. That’s what Laurel said. And I love the example she gave from the book of Genesis. It is a story we all know well, but I never really saw it the way she told it. (It was definitely a lot funnier when she told it.)
Joseph, the one with the famous coat and the loving dad, had visions when he was young, visions which were pretty clear cut. He was going to be a great man, a ruler. If you had a similar vision, what you expect from life? Well, let’s look at what happened in his life. In Genesis 37, his brothers threw him into a pit. They wanted to slay him, but the pit was more convenient. They then sold him into slavery. Do you think he questioned his vision? Um, I’m in a pit; I guess I read that vision wrong. Joseph then lives as a slave, and in Genesis 39, he ends up in jail. Good one, Potiphar’s wife.
Now some of us may say: I’m in a pit; the Lord knows I’m in a pit; therefore He must want me in the pit. Or: I’m a lowly slave, but the Lord knows I’m a slave; if He didn’t want me to be a slave, he’d change it. So I’ll just remain a slave. Oh look, I’m in jail, but He knows I’m in jail, so I’ll just wait here until He gets me out.
We’re talking about thinking with faith, here. This has to mean a lot more than just thinking positive thoughts. You can remain in a pit, in jail, or as a slave, and still be optimistic about your situation. Thinking with faith has to be more than that. Joseph believed in the vision he had received. He believed it would be true. Laurel had to change her thoughts to believe she could really achieve her goals. Not just hope it. We need to stop hoping that something might change, and have the faith that it will. Now look at 39:21. “But the Lord was with Joseph”. That is mentioned a few times in these chapters. Joseph wasn’t alone in his journey, and he certainly didn’t question what life dealt him. He probably didn’t understand how those early visions were going to come to pass, but he obviously trusted in the Lord. His faith allowed his character to be built.
And, having had that empowering vision of what he could become, he had to have known God was with him, and therefore he continually thought with faith.
Laurel then quoted Sheri Dew: Where you are today is no surprise to God.
From all this, I learn that it is more than okay to have hopes, dreams, goals, desires. These are what we should be communicating to our Father in Heaven, and we should be having faith in that communication and our progress, not the outcome being given to us.
Action Item 3: Living with faith
After having discussed praying with faith and thinking with faith, what do you think living with faith is? How is that a separate action item from the previous two?
Well, remember to align yourself with Heavenly Father’s will.
In a brilliant talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, we were told by an apostle of the Lord the following:
Yes, there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. … Don’t give in. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. He wants everyone to be miserable like until himself. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.