Saturday, April 29, 2017

Heaven's Knapsack: How the Lord Provides in Times of Need

Analogy between My Father's Dragon and Real Life

To You:

A while ago we were given a whole box full of children's chapter books. As I combed through the books with excitement, I was thrilled with the classics I found buried and anticipated reading some new adventures with my children. There was one thin book that especially caught my eye, My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

All illustrations from My Father's Dragon are from here.
Copyright not renewed.

As I looked at the picture on the cover, a nostalgic feeling swept over me. I used to love story time in school, sitting in a warm room after recess, listening to the teacher's voice bring the characters to life. There are many specific books I remember hearing, including My Father's Dragon.

I remembered loving the story, yet I could not remember any details except something about fruit trees. I was immediately excited to read the story aloud with my little ones.

My Father's Dragon proved to be a success again all these years later. I was surprised by the book's simple tale, but the kids were fully entertained by Elmer's adventures and the straightforward tone of silly passages.

One of the funniest themes in My Father's Dragon is Elmer's packing and use of his knapsack. In the story, Elmer learns of an island where wild animals rule. They have captured a baby dragon and use him as a slave to carry them across the river. Elmer decides to go rescue the baby dragon and packs his knapsack to go.

Of course, in his knapsack, Elmer packs "chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a hairbrush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying 'Cranberry,' some clean clothes, and enough food to last" (My Father's Dragon, page 18).

The real fun and clever story telling comes as Elmer uses each item in his pack to escape treacherous animals and dangerous situations. For example, Elmer evades an arm-twisting gorilla when monkeys surround the creature to see his fleas through Elmer's magnifying glasses. A ferocious lion is appeased with new ribbons for his unruly mane, and alligators turn from predators into a bridge through the expert use of lollipops.

Elmer has two more books and over the ensuing weeks we read them all, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then went on to the next choice for bedtime story.

Well, yesterday I listened to a religious speech that led my thoughts back to My Father's Dragon. In the speech, Joseph Brough says, "Heavenly Father knows what you and I need better than anyone else. As a result, He has developed a personal care package suited to each one of us."

The thought struck me that the Lord has provided each of us with just such a life-saving knapsack as Elmer had.

Heaven's Knapsack

Our knapsacks from Heaven, or care packages as Brough calls them, contain such things as "the Holy Ghost, commandments, scriptures, prayer, prophets, apostles, parents, grandparents, local Church leaders, and many others." Some of these gifts, like the scriptures, are given to all. Other items, experiences, or people in our care packages are personalized just for us.

Just as Elmer found lollipops when he faced hungry alligators, we often find the Lord has already provided when we face life's challenges.
All illustrations from My Father's Dragon are from here.
Copyright not renewed.

The provision may come as a remembrance of what a friend has recently shared that uplifts and guides. The provision may be a "coincidence" that helps us feel someone understands our needs. The provision may be the scriptures or prayer that are constantly available for our profit.

The Lord sent us to earth with all the gifts we need to return to Him.

Today I address three myths that stand in the way of our feeling the reality of that truth. As we overcome these myths, we more fully recognize the Lord's provisions in our lives.

Myth #1: I do not have what it takes.

Sometimes we don't feel we have what it takes to overcome a challenge. We lack confidence, either in ourselves or in what we've been given from God. We may think our tools are lacking.

We may have cause to ask, "Really Lord? You are giving me hair bows? You know these are lions, right?"
All illustrations from My Father's Dragon are from here.
Copyright not renewed.

But the Lord in His infinite wisdom does know that they are lions, real lions. And He knows perfectly how to provide for our needs.
All illustrations from My Father's Dragon are from here.
Copyright not renewed.
I have seen this to be true especially of prayer and scripture study. Sometimes we want something more from the Lord, something different or bigger or more grandiose, a miracle of sorts. More often than not, however, I have found the answers to my challenges through the simple yet profoundly powerful experiences of prayer and scripture study.

You do have what it takes to overcome life's challenges. The Lord provides.

Myth #2: I always know when God is working in my life, and it's not today.

Maybe it's been a bad day, or a bad week, or even a bad year. Hey, we've had those.

We might not always understand why we have been given certain commandments, situations, or acquaintances in our knapsacks.

We might be tempted to think that the Lord is taking a break from our lives.

It may happen that you receive an answer to a prayer that doesn't make sense.

Sometimes we feel directed to do something and do not know why.

Elmer may have wondered, "Why do I need six magnifying glasses? Won't one do?" We may question, "Why do I have to deal with this certain person? Or go this specific way? Or deal without this request?"

We may not understand the events of our lives.

But the Lord does.
All illustrations from My Father's Dragon are from here.
Copyright not renewed.

Many years ago, we were searching for a new job out of school. I was pregnant at the time. My husband felt inspired to look in a specific city where we had not planned to live and later to apply for a specific job that didn't even fit his job description. As the situation worked out, he was hired for the job we had hoped for.

We were grateful for a job, but we didn't understand why the Lord put this specific job into our knapsack until months later. Among other blessings, this job presented just the opportunities and timing we needed to provide medical care for our child that was born premature.

We have often looked back at the details of this period in our lives and wondered at how immaculately the Lord guided and provided.

God is working out the details of your life too. Trust Him.

Myth #3 The Lord provides for others, but I am not worthy.

Many of us may believe that God is able to provide all the blessings we need and desire, but may question, "Why would He do that for me?"

Maybe we feel ourselves unworthy of the Lord's care and attention. Maybe we feel He saves His help for the truly needy, and I am just normal.

For many reasons, many of us believe the greatest of the Lord's blessings are reserved for others.

I want to share that I know the Lord's blessings are limitless. He wants to give freely to all. Some of those blessings require our asking for them. Some of those blessings require an expression of faith before we recognize them for what they truly are.

However, the blessings of the Lord are there. They are always there because He loves us infinitely and knows us perfectly.

The Lord loves YOU infinitely and knows YOU perfectly.

Psalm 23 beautifully describes the sentiment.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

God is good. He provides all we need. He is able to lead us to eternal places of peace.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
(I do not have any rights to the video: I just love it. ;)

The greatest Gift we are given in our knapsack is the life and atonement of Jesus Christ. He is the way to lasting joy and eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father and loved ones.

I hope as you go through life you will feel buoyed up by Heaven's knapsack you are invited to carry. I hope you feel God's love and guidance in your life.


How have you seen the Lord provide for you or your family in times of need? Have you ever realized the Lord had already provided when a need arose? Please share in the comments. I love hearing from you.

This post may be shared at some or all of the Link Parties I love.  Thank you for hosting!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Preparing for Spiritual Enlightenment

To You:

If you had the chance to travel back in time and listen to Moses or Isaiah, Peter or Paul, would you? These were not only good men, but also men called of God as prophets. And if such a trip were possible, how would you prepare for it? I'm sure there would be some physical preparation in deciding what to pack, but more importantly, there would be spiritual preparation. How would you prepare yourself for spiritual enlightenment?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) look forward to a similar experience. We believe that there are men called of God today as prophets, seers, and revelators. They travel the world instructing congregations and leading the expansive church. Twice a year in a gathering called General Conference, these men and other leaders speak to the world in six sessions covering twelve hours over two weekends.

Many churches have similar gatherings or other holidays that they look forward to as opportunities for spiritual growth.

Today in our Sunday worship services, we were encouraged to prepare ourselves for the upcoming General Conference. We were taught that how much we prepare will be commensurate to how much we get out of the experience.

As I thought about this challenge, I brainstormed a list of ways to prepare to hear a prophet speak. If you were taking that trip back in time, or in looking forward to your own similar experience, would you do any of the following?

  • Become familiar with the faces of those who might speak.
  • Memorize the speakers names and learn about their backgrounds.
  • Read what the speakers had previously taught.
  • Make a plan for helping yourself and your children focus during the talks.
  • Review your personal notes and thoughts from similar earlier experiences.
  • Define a question or specific challenge you hope to learn about.
  • Evaluate how you had changed or grown from similar opportunities in the past.
  • Pray for guidance and growth.

Each of these activities might help us look forward with anticipation to and increase our learning from the event.

However, spiritual enlightenment and inspiration can be a daily occurrence. While a special conference or holiday is one such opportunity, we don't need to wait for one in order to learn from the Lord.

What is the key to being prepared for spiritual enlightenment? How can we invite more spiritual inspiration into our lives?

I thought about my specific list and how those activities could be organized under principles. Two ideas emerged.

In order to prepare ourselves for spiritual inspiration, we need to reflectively appreciate what we have already been given, and we need to humbly seek more.

Each of us has been given so much to learn from. We all have sacred text or scripture. Do we show our gratitude for the Lord's word by spending meaningful time in it each day? We have also each been blessed with unique experiences for growth. Do we record those life experiences and the things we learn? Do we revisit life's teaching moments? Do we give thanks in prayer and action for the lessons we have learned?

If we are not grateful for what we have received in the past, we are less likely to receive more.

We also need to humbly seek more inspiration. The moment we think we have learned it all is the moment we will stop learning completely.

Humility, in much of society, is seen as a weakness or something to overcome. We are taught to be strong and independent. Yes, we are taught it is important to listen to others, but more so in order to understand "where they're coming from" rather than because they have something valuable to teach us. Without humility, we can fall into the trap of believing we are better than others, we already have life figured out, and others do not have anything to offer us.

This pride can eventually lead us to feel that we have learned all we need to from the Lord as well. This kind of thinking includes the thought that God has already taught me all He will, now I just need to put it into practice.

Who are we to limit the teachings of the Lord? If He wants to give me more, why would I say, "No thank you?"

Instead, we ought to approach each day with an open heart and an open mind, "serving the Lord with all humility of mind" (Acts 20:19). Do we have our ears and hearts open to learn from any source the Lord might use today?

We are taught, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

What a beautiful promise! Our land can be healed! I believe this is our land as a people, but also our land as individuals and families. This is our promise if we humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord, and turn away from the habits and actions we have learned to be wrong.

Did we pray this morning to learn more? Do we regularly pray for growth according to God's will? Did we pray for help to turn away from wrong? Do we seek the Lord's face?

I have found the teachings of James to be true: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10). We do not even comprehend the heights to which the Lord can lift us.

As we approach each day with gratitude for lessons learned and humility of heart and mind moving forward, we send a clear message to God: I want to learn everything you can teach me. That is the soul that is prepared for spiritual enlightenment.

Love, Marielle

 What event(s) do you look forward to as opportunities to learn? How do you prepare yourself for daily spiritual inspiration? Please comment, as I love learning from you.

Interested in listening in to LDS General Conference? You can listen from home and all are invited...

While I am a well-meaning member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all views expressed are my own.

This post may be shared at some or all of the Link Parties I love.  Thank you for hosting!