Sunday, October 25, 2015

Increase Your Talents



The tagline on my other blog, www.LysandraJames.com, reads, "Chasing dreams and chasing dragons with a laugh and a laptop." Since adopting that mindset, my life has become far better than I ever believed possible.

Last Friday, I reached a milestone in my dream chasing - I completed the first draft of my current work-in-progress. It's a YA urban fantasy about the realms of Shadow and Light and those chosen to maintain the border. While it's far from a finished product, it's the result of hard work and persistence.

Achieving this goal wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken the time to nurture and increase the talents my Heavenly Father so graciously bestowed upon me. Classes, books, articles, writing groups and conferences - all have helped me to reach this point in my dream chasing.

The Lord encourages us to increase our talents.

In the parable of the talents in the New Testament, a man was preparing for a long journey. Before he left, he called together his servants. To the first, he gave five talents; to the second, he gave two talents; and to the third, he gave one talent. A talent was a measure of currency equal to 3000 shekels of silver or gold - not a small sum.

The man then left on his journey.

While he was gone, the first servant took his five talents and traded with others, increasing his sum by twofold. The second servant did the same.

The third servant, fearful of losing his talent, dug a hole and hid it in the earth.

After some time, the lord of the servants returned and "reckoneth with them". To the servants who increased their talents, the lord said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

The servant who had hidden his talent was rebuked for his sloth and fear. His talent was taken from him and given to the first servant. (Matthew 25:14-30)

The Lord has likewise bestowed upon each of us talents. Some are blessed with many talents, others only a few. These talents are given so we can assist our Heavenly Father in His great work, each according to our predestined role. If we work hard and actively seek to improve ourselves, our talents will increase and multiply.

However, if we allow our talents to lie dormant, they will fade and be taken from us. Just as a pianist must continually practice to preserve her skill, so must we continually practice in our individual talents to move forward.

Talents come in many forms. They can be obvious: music, writing, sports, crafts, leadership. Or they can be subtle: patience, charity, listening ear, belief, endurance. Through introspection and personal prayer, you can uncover your hidden talents and put them to good use.

Our Lord desires for us to multiply our talents, to become the best we can be. He needs us to reach our potential so we can build His kingdom. So let your talents shine. Develop them, grow them, share them. Become the soul your Father in Heaven knows you can be.

I believe I can do it.

I believe you can do it, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words


A couple of months ago, I was sitting on my front porch waiting for my oldest son to return home from school. His bus pulled up to the stop down the street and let off the kids. A girl rushed ahead of the rest and stopped. She slipped off her shoes and continued to walk barefoot.

Two boys, upon seeing this, yelled out taunts. "What's that smell? Whoo, put your shoes back on!"

The girl ignored them and continued to walk, but I couldn't pretend I hadn't heard those words. I called them out and warned them if I ever saw them do that again, I would have words with their parents.

Even though the situation had been dealt with, I often wonder about that girl. How did those words affect her?

Growing up, there were things said to and about me that still haunt me today. Some were deliberate. Others spoken in the heat of anger or frustration. Sometimes, it was the lack of words that stung the most.

Words are most powerful things, capable of starting wars and destroying relationships. Cruel words can never be erased. I once read a story that illustrates that point beautifully. A teacher had her students hold a piece of paper.

"This is a person," she said. "Look at how pure and perfect it is." She then had them crumple their paper into a ball.


"This is what happens when that person is bullied." She instructed the students to uncrumple the paper and smooth out the wrinkles as best they could. While many made a valiant effort, no one was able to erase the lines completely.


Just as uncrumpling the paper will make it usable again, apologizing and making amends can help repair a situation, but there will always be evidence of the damage inflicted.

Bullying is only one aspect of this. While I never experienced true bullying, I have been hurt by words carelessly spoken. In fact, those the words spoken in a careless moment have been the ones that have hurt the most.

The hymn "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words" was  composed while Brother Joseph L. Townsend, the composer, was serving in the superintendency of a very large Sunday School.

Let us oft speak kinds words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heathers,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

Like the sunbeams of morn on the mountains,
The soul they awake to good cheer;
Like the murmur of cool, pleasant fountains,
They fall in sweet cadences near,
Let's oft, then, in kindly toned voices,
Our mutual friendship renew,
Till heart meets with heart and rejoices
In friendship that ever is true.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

In the book Our Latter-Day Hymns: Stories and Messages of the Hymns by Karen Lynn Davidson, it quotes an excerpt from the Juvenile Instructor, published in 1879:
"[Brother Townsend] heard a number of fault-finding remarks among the people. It occurred to him how much finer it would be if he could hear kind words spoken oftener. With this thought in mind he wrote the song which has been translated into many languages. Some have called it his best sermon. It is said that it stopped the gossiping tongues of the people and produced a kindlier feeling in the town where he lived."
Let us oft speak kind words to each other. May we be the good memories in people's lives instead of the bad. For "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)
 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Work and My Glory


In the Sunday afternoon session of last week's LDS General Conference, Brother Devin G. Durrant - First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency - challenged us to "ponderize" a scripture every week. He went on to explain that to ponderize a scripture meant not only to memorize it, but to ponder its meaning.

This talk came at a most opportune time since I had been wondering how to best follow my late uncle's example of knowing key scriptures by heart. The true challenge was knowing where to start. There are so many wonderful passages to choose from. But at the conclusion of Brother Durrant's talk, I looked at my 14yo son and realized the answer was simple - scripture mastery.

For those of you not familiar with that term, it refers to a collection of scriptures chosen by the leaders of the church for our youth to learn and memorize through the seminary program.

To keep it simple, I chose the first scripture in the list of scripture mastery verses.

Moses 1:39 - "For behold, this is my work and my glory -
to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

It seemed the perfect choice - short, sweet, and one I already knew from my days in seminary. I wrote the verse on an index card and hung it on our fridge above the ice dispenser where I was sure to see it often.

The first couple of days, I merely reacquainted myself with the words, committing them to memory. It wasn't until I began to ponder their meaning that my eyes were opened to their majesty and grace.

God, our Heavenly Father - all-knowing and all-powerful - chose for His crowning glory to give us, His spirit sons and daughters, the opportunity to become like Him. Out of everything He could do, He chose us as His work. He chose us to be his glory.

Us.

When I think on that, I find myself awed and humbled that someone so noble and divine cares enough about me to devote His time, His energy, His focus toward bringing me home. I can think of no greater gift, no greater act of service. And because of that, I know I am loved. I am wanted. I matter.

I will never look at another scripture the same way again.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Words of the Prophets

The Words of the Prophets - www.believeisaverb.com

The 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took place this weekend and was broadcast throughout the world. For the first time in a very long time, I sat and watched it in my home, surrounded by my family.

At first, I had intended to choose a single talk upon which I would base this week's post. As I listened, though, I realized that choice would be nearly impossible to make. So many things spoken by the apostles and prophets of our church resonated deeply with me. It would be like trying to choose a favorite sunrise. Each illuminated my life and opened my eyes to things the Lord expects of me.

So I choose to share those words that touched me the most - quoted from the church's official website, www.lds.org, in hopes that you will be touched by the holy spirit and find the answers you seek.


General Women's Session

*While part of General Conference, the General Women's Session is traditionally held the weekend prior to the main body of the conference.
"I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of the love that our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally." ~ Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency
In addition to this quote, I found President Uchtdorf's talk from this session especially inspiring and beautiful, which is why I based last week's post on his words.

Saturday Morning Session

"God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is really a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"God will help you become something greater than you ever thought possible. And you will discover that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed working in your life." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"The world in which we live is similar to the potter’s spinning wheel, and the speed of that wheel is increasing. Like the clay on the potter’s wheel, we must be centered as well. Our core, the center of our lives, must be Jesus Christ and His gospel. Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep His commandments with exactness." ~ Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy
"If our lives are centered in Jesus Christ, He can successfully mold us into who we need to be in order to return to His and Heavenly Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ." ~ Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy

Saturday Afternoon Session

"Remember, no one can reach upward for you. Only your faith and prayers will cause you to lift yourself and have a mighty change of heart. Only your resolve to be obedient can change your life." ~ Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." ~ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
 "Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world. In the past, the world competed for our children’s energy and their time. Today it fights for their identity and their mind. Many loud and prominent voices are trying to define who our children are and what they should believe. We cannot let society give our family a makeover in the image of the world. We must win this battle. Everything depends on it." ~ Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy
 "Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities." ~ Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Priesthood Session

"Faith does not fall upon us by chance nor stay with us by birthright. … The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice." ~ Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle
"Heavenly Father has prepared for His children a spiritual feast, offering every kind of exquisite food imaginable—and yet, instead of enjoying these spiritual gifts, the cynics content themselves with observing from a distance, sipping from their cups of skepticism, doubt, and disrespect." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
"Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage." ~ President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
 "We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. … May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe." ~ President Thomas S. Monson 

Sunday Morning Session 

Before I present quotes from this session, I must preface them with my own testimony of our blessed prophet and president of our church. Today, as I watched him speak, I was filled with a certainty beyond which doubt could ever reach, that he truly is a prophet of God. My soul sang with the words he spake and as he desperately struggled to bear his glorious testimony of Christ, I felt my spirit cry out to give him the strength to continue just a bit longer. For he truly is the mouthpiece of Christ and I yearn to hear what our Lord has to say through his trusted servant.

That said, as I listened to President Nelson speak, my soul once again felt the stirrings of the Comforter and I know the Lord's plan is sure. When the time comes for President Monson to join the righteous men who have gone before, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will be in good hands.

"As we make Christ the center of our lives, our fears will be replaced by the courage of our convictions." ~ President Thomas S. Monson
"Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind as directed by the Spirit?" ~ President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as “a contributing and full partner” as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence." ~ President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity." ~  President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"True disciples of Christ are not looking to make excuses for the doctrine when it doesn’t fit the world’s current concepts. … True disciples represent the Lord when it may not be convenient to do so. True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them." ~ Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy

 Sunday Afternoon Session

"A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another." ~ Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"I invite you to 'ponderize' one verse of scripture each week. The word ponderize is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart. So what does it mean to ponderize? I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization." ~ Brother Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency
"However, the purpose of our lives is not merely to endure trials. Heavenly Father sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Redeemer so we could overcome the trials we face on this earth; in other words, He makes our weak things become strong, He atones for our sins and our imperfections, and He makes it possible for us to obtain immortality and eternal life." ~ Elder Koichi Aoyagi of the Seventy
"These men [speaking of the presidency and apostles] have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration." ~ Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 Final Thoughts

When the scriptures tell us to 'feast upon the words of Christ', it is through the words of our prophets at this spiritually filling conference we are blessed to have twice a year. My heart is full and my soul must take time to digest all that has been taught and shared. I am truly grateful to have such worthy men and women at the head of this amazing organization. They lead us through the storms of life and aid us in our times of need. And for this, I must raise my voice in praise and joy. 

Thank you, dear Father! Thank you now and forevermore! Glory to God in the highest!

In the beloved name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, amen.