Monday, December 16, 2013

Ransom Captive Israel

Yesterday I drove 45 minutes to a different ward to speak in their Sacrament Meeting. It was a beautiful, cold Sunday morning. I played a new Vocal Point Christmas music video on my phone. (Rest assured, I was driving and was obviously just listening, not watching or being distracted by their handsome bundled-up faces.)

The first line caused a gush of gratitude for the Savior. I felt the Spirit from my head down to my foot on the gas pedal.  "O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel."

What a perfect line! We, as a people, are Israel. And we are captive because of sin. Yet the ransom has been paid! We can be free from the captivity of our sins.

I thought of my new friend Nicholas. Earlier this year he was a  blonde-ponytailed, hippie-type young man who tended to smoke, drink, and do drugs and roller blade all around Sedona.  The sister missionaries contacted him on the street. I met him when he was investigating the church when I got home from my mission in October. And yesterday, I was driving to the chapel where I would see him be confirmed after being baptized on Saturday. Watching this amazing young man has brought all who know him so much happiness. He is now clean-cut and converted. He is more active than the average member. He went to a mission prep class the same day he became a member. And he says he's never been as happy as he has been as he's lived the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says he knows he is doing the right thing. "A step in the light is right," is one of his personal statements. And oh what a step into the light he has made.

Nicholas accepted the ransom that Jesus Christ has paid.

 I thought of what I learned about the Light of Christ on my mission (I've been thinking about light a lot lately). I wrote once, "Truly.... every good thing, all light, all life, everything uplifting and ennobling and joyful and beautiful and all influence for good comes because of Jesus Christ. There is no joy without the Light of Christ (Alma 28:14). I think of all the happy moments I`ve experienced--the list could go on with cherished memories from playing in the treehouse with Hope to the day I got my mission call, from fun FHE`s and Sunday walks to the joy of a good cross country race to the beauty of a sunrise on an African safari or the sunset on the Holy City from my Jerusalem balcony--and I realize that every little detail is in my life because of the Savior. "I am the light and the life of the world" has a whole new meaning for me.....I am so thankful for every happy moment our dear Savior has allowed me to enjoy. And I am so thankful to be aware of the many happy moments that are being created through missionary work all across the face of the earth. "

 "The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who 'hearkeneth to the voice' to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost." (Bible Dictionary) And that is exactly what happened to Nicholas.  Mis felicidades mas profundas, amigo. :)

The world is chock-full of the light of Christ, whether we realize it or not. It is leading the honest in heart to take the steps necessary to become un-captivated, thanks to the Ransom paid.

That's How the Light Gets In

And in despair, I bowed my head. "There is no peace on earth," I said. "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will towards men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men."

I remember singing this song one Sunday in a mental hospital in Provo where my ward went as a service to the people there. The Spirit surged through me. The Spirit and hope of Christmastime filled me up.

Through a combination of events and encounters, I was recently made more aware of the state of the world and just how enticing and powerful and influential Satan is in it. It sounds pessimistic, I know. Maybe it's because I'm having to speak of other things besides the gospel all day. Maybe it's because I have been reading/listening to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that is all about how the Devil tempts us, and I've seen how true those tricks are and how well they work on me and those I know. Maybe its from seeing the news (most of which is sad news) on the TV as I run on the treadmill at Snap Fitness. Maybe it's from catching up with old friends and seeing how some of them have fallen away from the path they know to be right. Maybe it's from seeing good, strong, amazing members of the church give in and settle for a lower standard of excellence. Whatever the combination is, I found myself melancholy and overwhelmed with the sheer darkness of the world. Much like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote the above Christmas carol, I thought to myself, "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

But, God is not dead nor doth He sleep. So, that moment of sadness was but a short one. I know that the light of Christ is thousands of watts more brilliant than the the musty haze of the adversary that fogs our vision for a time.

I recently listened to a BYU devotional in which Tyler Jarvis talks about how paralyzing our desire for perfection can be. He quotes Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem.”

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

That's just it. It seems that there IS a crack in everything. There is evil where we least expect it. There is unwanted weakness in ourselves. 

However, thanks to the Light of the World, that darkness can be penetrated-through and eliminated.  

Our bells are cracked. Yes, as sincere as our desires are to be perfect bells, we are all a little cracked. As much as we all want "world peace," that dream is a little cracked, too. 

But how THANKFUL I am for those cracks! Yes, how thankful I am for the cracks in the world, for the weaknesses, trials, and even the failures. For without the moments of darkness, would we recognize the light? Would we turn to Him? 

The bells that were heard on Christmas day might have had cracks in them, too. But they were ringing because the atonement of Christ makes each of us able to function even though we're imperfect. His light makes this cracked world a world of HOPE. 

"But let us ring those bells that still can ring. Stop worrying about your failure to achieve perfection. Instead, embrace the light and healing power of Christ that come in through our cracks and imperfections." Tyler Jarvis

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guilt-less Chocolate Treats

I came home to a practically Joel-Furhman-approved kitchen. His name is almost sure to come up at our house if we start talking food, so let me tell you that this guy has taught us all to avoid meat, to eat more plant-based foods than animal-based foods, and to avoid refined sugar and white flour almost completely. I'm not at all strict with it (I am secretly super happy when someone gives me desserts and I feel like I have to eat it to be polite) but in general I'm loving having so many healthy things available. Waking up to a green smoothie every single day (aka salad in a glass for those unfamiliar with putting spinach in your blender) is quite the switch from my limited diet in Paraguay where the healthiest things I ate were bananas and mangos. I'm so thankful my mom has helped all of us eat like this. However, we still find ourselves hankering for something sweet and substantial, so I must share my latest gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate findings. They are delicious, actually. You'll never believe there's no sugar in them. As Christmas comes along and you want to concoct up something delicious but not feel guilty, try these out:

Honey PB No-Bake Chocolate Cookies by Rita Bigham (an awesome lady in our ward who has some excellent cookbooks!)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 t vanilla

Boil honey and butter for 1 minute. Stir in cocoa, peanut  butter, oats, and vanilla. Spoon mixture onto waxed paper and divide into 24 mounds.

Cocoa-Date Truffles

1 cup walnuts
10-12 medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Process in a food processor until smooth. You can add coconut flakes, vanilla, sunflower seeds, almonds, raisins, etc. Form into truffle-size balls and enjoy.  If you know anyone who only eats raw food, this is perfect for them, too!

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