Stilling the storms of life: The time I was put on church probation

Isaiah 1.18 bigIt’s been a long, and noisy week here in the Bloggernacle, hasn’t it?

I have to admit I am tired of all of the back and forth, the sides, the contention, the news stories, the blog posts … so very tried. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I stepped into Church on Sunday. I sat down on the chair with my kids and our stuff and waited for Sacrament Meeting to start. The organist started playing some of my favorite hymns and I just sat and listened and quietly sang along,

“Jesus lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me O my Savior hide, till the storm of life is past. Safe into thy haven guide, oh receive my soul at last.”

“Precious Savior dear Redeemer, Thy sweet message now impart. May thy spirit pure and fervid, enter every timid heart. Carry there the swift conviction, turning back the sinful tide. Precious Savior dear Redeemer, may each soul in thee abide.”

“Jesus Savior pilot me, over life’s tempestuous sea. Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass came from thee: Jesus Savior, pilot me.”

“Master the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high! The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. The wind and the waves shall obey thy will, peace be still. Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever may be. No waters can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace be still, peace be still. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace, peace, be still.”

I needed to hear those particular hymns and have those words going thru my mind as I began my Sunday worship. Those songs and those words melted a lot of my fatigue away. The words of the Sacrament prayers were especially powerful to me as well, and I felt very refreshed as these prayers were spoken. I also thought a little deeper about what it meant to take upon me the name of Christ, and the promise to always have His spirit to be with me. It was a comfort and a blessing to think of the atoning blood of Christ washing away my scarlet sins – making them white as snow.

My thoughts turned very briefly to many years before, as I sat in my bishop’s office confessing my sins and asking for help. That was a hard day, one of the hardest in my life. The decision to go to him for help was one that I knew I needed to make, but was afraid to make; I was embarrassed – for all of the reasons you might expect. But I made the choice to go and to ask for help.

In that meeting I was put on probation.

Bishop was not angry, or judgmental. In fact, he was quite the opposite, and full of love and concern for me and my spiritual well being. As part of my probation he asked that I refrain from taking the sacrament, and that I not comment in meetings or say prayers in the course of the church service. He encouraged me to come to Church and to stay for the full 3 hours and to sit in the chapel during Sacrament Meeting. He gave me some homework to do as well – passages of scripture to read and think about. He asked me to keep a journal of my experiences, but that he would not ask me to share that with him. He asked me to pray for specific things: forgiveness, and to be able to feel the Atonement and the love of Christ as I worked thru my problems. We met together a few more times during my probation and each meeting was a blessing. I could feel the grace of the Lord and the Atonement working in me and on me, to change me into something better. As Bishop prayed for me and as I prayed for myself in those meetings, I could feel the tremendous love that my Heavenly Father had for me, just for me, pouring down on me, healing me, cleaning me, and making me whole again.

If life had a rewind button, I wouldn’t make the choices again that landed me in that bishop’s office and on probation. However, that probation taught me so much about what is important. Not being able to fully participate at church was a humbling experience. It taught me to appreciate the full fellowship of my membership in the Church. It taught me, as the words of the hymns suggest, to fly to the bosom of my Savior for help. It taught me to abide in the Lord. It provided me a course correction back to Jesus Christ, and it showed me that truly He is the one who stills the storms of life. The beauty of The Plan of Salvation is that we do have a Savior provided for us. He has already done the hard work, and asks that we come to Him with our weaknesses, our trials and our sins to be healed, to be forgiven and to have the storms of our lives stilled. He can do these things. He wants to do these things for us, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves and to take Him up on His offer.

Is Sacrament Meeting Broken?

I have attended some exceptionally inspiring sacrament meetings.  In fact, just this past Sunday we attended my brother’s ward for their baby’s blessing, and the ward presented a fantastic meeting of speakers and musical numbers from a special needs youth group in the Salt Lake City area.  I was near tears at the end because of the Spirit present.

Unfortunately, those kinds of meetings seem to me to be the exception.  I have wondered if sacrament meetings are broken most of the time.  Consider this from marketer Seth Godin, from his blog today: Continue reading

Teaching the Gospel of Repentance

Picture this scenario: You’re in Sunday School, and the teacher has just given a passionate lesson, full of scriptures and quotes from the prophet and personal testimony, about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Throughout the lesson, she repeatedly invites members of the class to think of ways they could do better at making the Sabbath a holy day for them and their family. At some point, towards the end of the lesson, someone raises their hand, and says something like this (probably in different words, but to the same effect): “This is all true, but we need to remember that we can’t run faster than we have strength. Also, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we aren’t perfect. God will accept us as we are, and we should remember that. Let’s remember that most of us are probably doing alright.”

Have any of you had this experience? I have, and I suspect many others have too. In fact, I suspect most of us have been in a position where we’ve wanted to make a comment like this. This is because all of us can probably think of ways we could do better at keeping the Sabbath, fasting, missionary work, home teaching, scripture study, loving, praying, or whatever the specific topic of the day is. And since we all know that there are things we can do better (since there always are and always will be), teachers, leaders, and bloggers who remind us of the disparity between our ideals and our practice often incite a hidden guilt within us, a guilt that calls out for reassurance. We realize how truly inadequate we really are, and we want so badly to hear instead that we are doing ok. We sometimes experience these invitations as accusations that we aren’t doing enough. Continue reading

Sacrament Meeting Does That.

Source: PreparedNotScared.Blogspot

I remember when I was very small—maybe four or five, sitting on a cushioned chapel bench and staring up into Mama’s face during the Sacrament prayer. Her face looked very serious, and her lips moved in sync with the words the priest spoke. Always. I asked her why she did that. She told me it helped her think about the words that were being spoken. As she sat with her head bowed and eyes closed throughout the passing of the bread and water, I thought about the words she had spoken.

Continue reading