Spending Time with Christ

We had a lesson in church about Christ-like attributes. The teacher said that we become like the people we spend the most time with, so to imagine what we would be like if the person we spend the most time with is Christ. I have been thinking about that a lot since then.

Naturally, I am not very Christ-like. I believe in justice more than mercy. I do not love very easily or forgive very quickly. I am often selfish and afraid. But, especially recently, I spend a lot of time with Christ. I pray all the time. I listen to music and talks and books about Christ. I read and write about Christ. I try to do what he asks and act as he would. I try to consistently give him all that I am. And slowly, but surely, I have noticed myself becoming more Christ-like.

I want you to know that becoming more like Christ really is as simple as spending time with him. Praying is my favorite thing in the world. Talking to someone I know loves me and wants me to be better and understands everything, is the best feeling I know. God is listening. He is there for you. He loves you. Spend time with him, and I promise you will find yourself becoming more like him.

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Becoming Amazing

I went to a retirement party last week for one of my friends from work. It was interesting to me how no one really talked about what she did at work or about her work ethic. Instead, they talked about her Christ-like service and love and the way she kept the spirit with her. I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to be like that someday.”

There are amazing people in my life, and there have been amazing people in my life. I always wondered what it took to be like them. I wondered if I could ever be like them and how I could work towards that goal. What I have realized is that it is the choices people make that make them amazing.

It is my belief that there is nothing inherit about a person that makes them amazing, at least no more so than the rest of us. The fact that we are alive and breathing is in itself an amazing thing, but what is it that makes us look up to and admire others? It is their choices.

The people I admire most have chosen to follow God. They consistently make or have made choices to serve God and those around them. When I see that service and I see their love for those around them, I just think, “I want to be like that.”

The truly amazing thing is that I can be. By consistently choosing to follow Christ, by being observant and responding to people’s needs, by relying on the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement, I can be like the people I most admire. And more importantly, I can become like the person I admire most, Jesus Christ. And you can too.

Praying Always

Prayer is a relationship. Our prayers are not singular events or single moments of getting on our knees. Prayers can and should be a continuation of our daily conversation with God.

I believe that praying always is more of an attitude than an event. Praying always doesn’t mean opening a prayer to God the Father and closing it in the name of Jesus Christ. Praying always is living your life worthy to have Christ’s spirit with you. It is having a friendship so close with God that when we say our prayer at the end of the day, it’s like we never stopped talking.

Praying always means that you have a continuous conversation with God- consistently aligning your will with His. It is following promptings you receive and asking God throughout the day what else you can do. It is being observant of others and their needs and acting as Christ would.

Praying always is creating a two-way relationship with God, showing God that you will stop to listen when He tells you something or gives you an answer you have been searching for. We cannot expect God to be there for us when we need Him if we haven’t put in the time to get to know Him.

God is our father. He is your father. I think He must have become emotional as He gave His final counsel before sending us to Earth. I imagine the conversation to have gone a little like this:

“My dear child, I am sending you to Earth because there are things you need to learn there that you cannot experience here. But the world can be hard and I am afraid you will forget me. Please don’t forget me. Please seek me. Please pray to me, because I will miss you.”

Don’t make God miss you. He loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants to develop a relationship with you. He loves you. Please pray to Him. I promise He will listen.

Continue in Prayer

Sometimes we feel our prayers aren’t answered even though we’re praying for good things. Sometimes this means we need to change our prayers, and sometimes it means we need to pray for other things while we wait for God’s timing.

Two examples in my life illustrate these points.

The first was praying for a friend. I prayed for 15 years for a friend who would spend time with me. I had people who were friendly towards me, but no one who would consistently spend time with me. I wasn’t invited to birthday parties. I wasn’t invited to sleepovers. I wasn’t invited to come over after school. And I didn’t feel welcome when someone took pity on me and did invite me to something.

So I prayed over and over for just someone that I could feel like wanted me around. And it took 15 years. It took 15 years for that prayer to be answered. But it has been answered over and over again over the last 5-6 years. And every time I think about it, I’m not bitter that it took so long. I’m just grateful for how miraculously it was answered and for how grateful I feel now because of how long it took.

The second example illustrates the need for changing my prayers. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. I have prayed for depression to be taken away. I prayed for life to not be so hard. But I was answered that depression would not go away for me. Instead, I was prompted to pray for things like strength to not listen to my suicidal thoughts, peace despite the whirlwinds of anxiety, patience in my trials, and perseverance to handle it all.

No, not all of our prayers will be answered with miraculous healing or changing of our situation. Sometimes our prayers are answered by us changing instead, and perhaps those are the most miraculous answers of all.

Prayer

I gave a talk last week about prayer. I tried to talk about all of the things I wish I would have known or been taught 10 years ago, but that I have learned through reading, talks, and experiences since then. Anyway, I thought I would share those thoughts with all of you since you might like to know as well. I’m going to break up my talk into a few topics and multiple posts to make it easier to read and understand.

Promptings are a form of praying

One of my favorite definitions of prayer comes from the Bible Dictionary: Prayer is “the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.”

By this definition, promptings that we choose to follow are prayers because our will is brought into correspondence with God’s. In this sense, praying always is simply continually aligning our will to God’s.

Short disclaimer: Except for the quotes, all statements made and views represented are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect accepted doctrine. 

Mission Updates

I originally started this blog to have a place to update people about my service mission. When that mission ended early, I decided to convert this to a place for spiritual insights and experiences.

But right now, I just want to pretend that I went on a mission like other people’s missions. I want to talk about companions and mission stories and spiritual experiences. I want to feel like I have a story to tell, and no matter how dull or everyday it may seem, it’s important because it’s my story.

So even though I don’t wear the name tag and I’ve done my job as an employee for about as long as my mission would have been and if I was a missionary, I would have been released 6 months ago… I’m going to post like I don’t know any of those facts, like I’m serving a regular mission and writing updates for everyone back home to read.

Here goes:

I got a new companion last week. She’s with me three days a week, which is nice because I have my other companions the other two days. It’s been interesting talking to her and getting to know her. We have a lot in common.

I’m really starting to like Utah. I know I’ve been here for two years already, but the first year kind of didn’t count because I was just getting used to the idea of being a missionary and didn’t do much else but learn my job and try to cope with not going on a regular mission. The second year was a lot better, but it mostly just focused on me becoming better and learning to be the person God needs me to be. This year, I feel like I can actually focus on other people and have fun without worrying about my own insecurities.

I still feel like a missionary even though I have been released for 17 months and only served for 7 months. I kind of feel more like a missionary now, like a trainer, like I have companions. Being an extended missionary is hard, but it’s worth it. I love my work. I love knowing I’m contributing to the kingdom.

Maybe service missions aren’t like other missions, but I feel like I am doing a great work. I am strengthening my testimony. I am becoming closer to Christ. I love my Savior and I am so grateful to be able to serve him in this capacity.

Courage

Lately, I have been reading several stories from President Monson. Something that has really impacted me is what he says about promptings. Many of his stories related times when responding immediately to promptings saved someone’s life. And he said that he learned to never postpone a prompting and that he wants God to know that if he needs something done, he can count on him to do it.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few months. It’s really hard to commit to following all the promptings God gives you right away. It’s hard partly because it’s super scary and partly because I don’t know for sure when thoughts are promptings or just me. It says in the scriptures though that anything that persuades people to do good is from God. So to be safe, I just assume all of my good thoughts are promptings. That leaves the second part, that promptings are super scary.

I have never felt scared more often than I do now. Every time I get a prompting, I just think, “oh, man… What do I do now?” It’s scary doing good things for people. It’s scary talking to people or making comments. Every time I do, it causes extreme anxiety and discomfort. I worry about what I’m doing from the time I get the prompting until long after I’ve done whatever I was prompted to do. But courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the decision to act despite being afraid.

Yes, I feel more scared than ever before. But I am listening to those fears less than I ever have before. It’s still scary. I still worry about having a panic attack or things going horribly wrong. But I would rather be anxious and afraid by doing good than comfortable in my complacency by failing to act to improve someone’s life. Following promptings doesn’t usually mean saving people’s lives, but I just think that maybe it will make someone less sad just a little faster, and that is worth all the anxiety I go through to do it.

But if Not

Live freely. Live joyfully. Live like you know the plan God has for you.
But… Don’t be afraid to hurt. Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t be afraid to be lonely.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is where Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo say that the Lord is able to deliver them, but if not, they will still only worship God.

I think about that over and over with my trials. Sometimes, the answer is a pure and simple no. Sometimes God says something like, “No, you need this more than you need me to take it away.”

I know it’s hard to believe. I get it. How can something this hard or this painful possibly mean that God loves you? But I believe it. Yes, God could take away all my problems, but the fact that He doesn’t is not an indication that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t there.

I have asked for God to take away my autism, depression, gender identity issues, and health problems. So far, the answer has been no. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that though. I don’t know who I would be without all of these problems, or the good that I could do if I didn’t struggle with these things. However, I do have a glimpse of the good I have done because of my problems.

I know I have saved lives, changed people, given hope, been an example, and made a difference- all because I suffered. So, when I get a no answer, or when I ask for a yes, I’ll continue to say, “but if not, I’ll still believe,” because I know that God has a much bigger plan for me.

Life isn’t always easy. It gets hard and you forget how to breathe sometimes. But there is a God who loves you, and He can carry you through and lift your burdens so you can hardly feel them, but if not, know this… it will be for the good. Maybe not necessarily your good, at least not at first… but someone’s good.

Finding the Lord

A few months ago, I drove down a street I never drive down and saw a nativity scene. I thought it was strange that someone would have the manger scene up before Halloween, but it made me feel so peaceful that I decided maybe having Christmas stuff up early really isn’t so bad. The most interesting part of this story is that I have driven down that same street numerous times since then, and have never seen that nativity scene again.

This last time that I drove down it, I was listening to the Forgotten Carols and the song, “I Cannot Find My Way” came on. As I listened to the song and searched for that scene of the wisemen bringing gifts to baby Jesus that gave me hope a few months ago, I thought about finding Christ. Maybe I just saw that scene that day because I needed that hope. I don’t need a manger scene to find Christ though. He is all around.

“Three kings found the Lord and so can we.”

Condescension of God

To fully understand this post, you should read 1 Nephi chapter 11, especially verses 13-23. You can access it by clicking here.

Today at church we discussed 1 John 4:9-10.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

This verse reminded me of 1 Nephi chapter 11. In that chapter, Nephi is trying to understand a dream his father had. He sees the tree of life with fruit that is sweet above all, but doesn’t understand what that tree or the fruit symbolizes.

He is shown the virgin Mary and asked, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” He responds, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” Nephi then sees that Christ is born and understands that the tree symbolizes the love of God.

It is interesting to me that after seeing Christ come into the world, Nephi immediately understands that the most precious thing available to us is the love of God. That event is so important because of everything that happened because of it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”

The love of God isn’t just precious because of what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ did for us, but also because we can spread that love to do good to others.

Christ coming to Earth was a condescension because he gave up the glory of being God. Coming to Earth was not a step down for us. It was a step up, an ascension, because Christ stepped down to lift us up. We came to Earth to become like God. He came to Earth to become like us. So that he could understand us and love us, and to let us know that he understands and loves us.

So how can we condescend like Christ did for us?

By helping others up. Going to their level, having compassion, suffering with them to show them love.

In this Christmas season, I hope you are reminded of how much God loves you. I hope you are reminded that Christ’s birth was the ultimate symbol of God’s love because it led to the ultimate sacrifice because of that love. I also hope that you spread that love. Christ came to give us hope, to give us purpose, to give us a reason to keep trying. I hope that we can do the same for others.