It was an interesting morning and it went poorly for one main reason, I made something too important.

I got up early to exercise. When you’re a mom, sometimes the only time you can get exercise is when your kids are still asleep. But before exercising, I got out bread that had been undergoing a slow rise in the fridge overnight. I’d made the starter two days before, formed the loaves only the prior day, and was very excited, this day, to see this Sicilian-inspired bread come to fruition. I needed it to come to temperature while I was working out so that I could begin baking it as soon as I was done. One hour.

But, while I was working out, my very young daughter woke up early. I was right in the middle and she wanted me to help her get a bowl of cereal. I told her firmly, “I’m working out, you’ll just have to sit on the couch and wait.” However, for a 4-year-old, 30-minutes is an eternity, and she simply wouldn’t quit bugging me. I really was frustrated. I just wanted to finish. I didn’t want to break my momentum in the work-out for the five minutes it would take to get her breakfast.

Then, as I was gruffly dealing with my daughter every 30-seconds, with an angry repetition of, “You’ll have to wait!” my sister came in (who was staying with me for a bit) and asked something about the oven. I didn’t hear much of anything she said, as I was already in a tiff. So, I loudly pronounced, “The oven isn’t on.” Somehow it didn’t occur to me she was about to try and bake something.

The next 30 minutes were quite similar with my little girl. I just wanted to get my workout in. Then, I would be totally available. Whatever was needed. Why couldn’t she wait? But, our mini-argument persisted.

At last, the workout was over. I sighed and huffed and slammed cupboards (a little bit) went into the kitchen to get my 4-year-old a bowl of cereal, only to see something cooking in the oven. My bread was just about to temperature and if I didn’t put it in, in the next 20 minutes, it was going to over prove. My first thought was, “Why didn’t my sister say she wanted to cook something!”

I got my little girl a bowl of cereal and huffed and puffed around the kitchen. My sister was off getting ready. Devastated at the 40+ minute cooking time I guessed was needed for her food, I shoved my bread back in the fridge wanting to cry for all the effort lost. Then, when my sister came out, I politely chastised her for not noticing my bread sitting there and putting something in the oven.

“I told you I needed to bake something. I asked if it was okay. When you didn’t say much, I figured I was clear,” she answered.

“But, didn’t you see my bread?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s why I asked. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to inconvenience you,” she said with complete sincerity.

I felt bad that I had chastised her, but I was also still upset about my bread. I was also miffed that I’d let my temper rule my interaction with my daughter too. I told her it was no big deal, but my heart wasn’t yet quite in agreement with my words. I headed off to my room to get ready myself, and a recent situation with my daughter popped into my head.

Anna, it’s time to get off your computer. You’ve been playing it all afternoon.

We were on a trip far from home and without toys, as we packed light, my little girl was relegated to a computer and an empty apartment. Quite difficult for a 4-year-old. She began to complain and throw a fit.

Computer time is a privilege. If you throw a fit, you’re going to get in trouble.

But she threw a fit, and I was quickly upset. However, I calmed myself down and proceeded to teach her.

I know you love to play your computer. I know it’s fun. I know there’s not a lot to do here when we’re not out doing stuff on this trip. But is your computer more important than me or your dad?

She answered, “No.”

That’s right. So even though it makes you sad to stop, it’s more important to be nice to the people you love than to yell and scream and throw a fit. We let you play a long time!

No sooner had this memory finished replaying than all my frustration about the bread, getting my daughter breakfast, and arguing with her for the last 30 minutes of my workout; it all went away. I had made my workout too important. I had made it more important than my daughter. I had made it more important than listening to my sister.

I immediately went out and told my sister, “Sorry for being so frustrated. There would never have been an issue if I’d simply stopped my workout for five minutes to get Anna breakfast. Then, I would have heard your question and we could have communicated just fine. Then, both your meal and my bread would have made it into the oven without any confusion. I made my workout too important. I’m sorry.”

My sister frankly forgave me. And I made the same apology to my little girl. The hardest part was realizing that it was me, not them, who had caused the frustration by elevating something less important above things that were very important.

What Do You Make Too Important?

The world tells us frequently to place self-care above all else. It tells us to make time for me. It tells us we’re worth it. And, the world is not wrong. Self-care is important. We do need time for ourselves. We are worth it. But some things are more important even than self-care, time to oneself, and our self-esteem. Those things are Christlike attributes, qualities, and actions. That thing is our relationship with God.

We do need to be mindful of self. But, our spiritual self, our progression toward godliness, is far more important than even the perfect skincare routine or workout regimen we’ve set up. It’s more important than inconveniences or putting out fires in our home or work. It’s more important than everything else.

A five-minute break in my workout was not going to derail my self-care regimen. And I acted like it would. And taking care of my little girl…well, she’s my world. If I have to gain five pounds to treat her as I ought every day, that’s worth far more to me, it’s far more important. Her feelings, her health, they are more important than whatever continuity I lose by pausing my work out for 5 measly minutes.

I’ve done this before in years past. I’ve taken the time to run 3 miles and prioritized it above date time with my spouse to go out for an ice cream, because I didn’t want to gain weight. I could still have run 3 miles at a different time. I was very active. And yet I made my image more important than time and good food with the very best company. I placed an activity above my loved ones.

One thing the gospel of Jesus Christ does is it teaches us how to prioritize. Tithing before bills. Sunday worship and sacrament ordinances before weekend activities. Scriptures daily. Family Sunday School weekly. Prayer morning, noon, night, and in our heart all day. And most importantly, God before self.

Our relationship with God is more important than everything else in this world. And if we honor it, the rest will take care of itself. It’s that simple.

But, too often we act out of fear, or prideful independence, or determination to achieve, that we make the things of this world (important or not) more important than God. Had I simply put God first by acting Christlike with my little girl, a whole morning would have gone differently. It made me think, “What else in my life am I making too important?”

Prioritizing in a Godly Manner Doesn’t Mean You Have to Give Up Everything

Sometimes when the Holy Spirit chastises me like this, my first reaction is, “Well, I guess I have to give up exercising altogether. I’ll just gain weight and all my clothes will look terrible, and I don’t have the money for a whole new wardrobe… I’ll just become a mess. It’s so unfair.” Yes, I’m that kind of drama queen.

But that is not what God expected me to do. He knows self-care is important. He merely expected me to act how I feel and according to what His Spirit has taught me is right. My daughter and my sister are more important than working out. Period. So, I merely needed to stop for 5 minutes, or even 10, to take care of those that are important and that I love. Then, I could return to my less important self-care workout, for me. Lots of levels of important, but taken care of in the best order.

It’s Time to Evaluate

Want something, but going after it requires you to compromise your morals or standards? What you want is important, right? It’s a house, or a car, a date, a job, a promotion, or a vacation, or something else. Maybe it’s even more significant than that. But, the fast way to getting it means making what you want more important than God. You think that once having it you’ll get your priorities straight again, but it’s never that easy. Once you make God less important getting Him back to the top becomes herculean.  

Stick to your belief that God is the most important. Put Him first and you’ll end up not with exactly what you want. Nope. You’ll get something, what you need, and it will be way better—far better—than what you were after initially.

Like playing video games, watching Netflix, or surfing social media, but fail to have time to read your scriptures and prepare your Come Follow Me? Which is more important? God, or those things? If it’s God, then put Him first. You’ll be surprised that you’ll still have time for all that you like to do, and you may even find that much of it becomes less desirable to you and that you feel prompted to replace it with things that really build you up, make you healthy, happy, and peaceful.

Have a job you love but it conflicts with Sundays? Negotiate with your company, or look for a new position that allows you to put God first on His Holy Day. Make the sacrifice to make Him more important than your fear of not doing what you love or not having enough money. Do it, and He’ll bless you not only with the job you need and the resources you need to “make ends meet,” but He’ll give you something that will lead to greater job satisfaction and greater growth opportunities.

Afraid to pay tithing? Worldly math doesn’t give God credit. Godly math is a higher law than worldly math. That’s it. God’s math is more accurate and more real than what we have here on earth. We’ve yet to discover all that God knows about numbers. So, when He says to pay tithing, to make Him more important. He’s worth trusting.

Afraid to change friends because the friends you have pull you away from God and family? Afraid to be persecuted or alone? What is more important? Put God first. Find people and situations that strengthen your relationship with Him. Stay in those places and with those people. Do so, and God will bless you with truer friends, more loyal friends, and more peace and happiness than you ever could have imagined before.

It’s a scary leap putting God first. It’s hard to make Him more important than our dreams and desires. But, as I learned in my difficult morning, everything would have gone so much better…everything would have been more peaceful…I would have had a better day if I had only remembered “what is most important.”

BT

I never thought I would ever want to give up chocolate (regular chocolate that is). Now, some people may not like it, but I believe, on the whole, most people like some form of chocolate. Myself, I prefer dark chocolate.

When I met my husband, the first thing he warned me was that if I hooked up with him I would lose all desire for regular, store-bought chocolate. Why? Because he makes his own chocolate. He sources the beans, he roasts them, cracks them, turns them into chocolate liquor, adds a few (very few) ingredients, and then grinds the whole thing into the absolute best chocolate I have ever eaten.

It’s hard to describe my husband’s chocolate to most other people. And this is simply because they’ve never had anything like it. So, when I say, “It’s really good. It’s way better than other chocolate.” They simply smile and nod—humoring me, of course. I know what they’re thinking because it’s the same thing I thought when my husband told me the desire for all other chocolate would die after having his chocolate.

Arrogant? No. Boastful? Maybe. True? Yes.

And, so it must be for other people. If they wish to have the “best chocolate” they must be willing to let the desire for the “regular stuff” die. And the same goes for love. There’s regular, over-processed, homogenized (made to taste all the same every time you eat it) chocolate, which is great comparison for “being in love.” Then, there’s the bean-to-bar chocolate, which is a great comparison for “true love.” The former always leaves you wanting more and never is enough because it’s pleasures just can’t seem to last. The latter, however, is so “real” that it provides something lasting.

Being “in love” is not all it’s cracked up to be because it is not “true”

For all relationships, there’s a sort of “in love” period. I fall in love with my four-year-old every day. She’ll do something absolutely adorable or amazing or intelligent beyond her years and I simply swoon. Best friends (plutonic) have beginning moments where they find they have so much in common and trust in each other gets reinforced, and it’s very like a type of “in love” feeling. BFF necklaces are exchanged and they can’t spend enough time together. Then, especially romantic relationships start with infatuation and transition (often quickly) to being “in love.”

But, in every relationship, this “in love” feeling always eventually gets challenged by what I like to call “reality.” My four-year-old succumbs to an irrational fit. A best friend finds an interest apart from us, or fails to be there when we need them. And, especially, in a romantic relationship, the infatuation begins to wear off when the person holding our romantic interest does something that goes against our expectations or some of their negative traits begin to show up more frequently. Basically, we get hurt. All relationships hurt us, then the walls of “in love” come crashing down.

And this is when being in love suddenly becomes a problem. Because it is a drug of sorts; a euphoric haze that has us living in an idealistic cloud world. It’s awesome. There’s no denying it. But, the higher we jump the harder we fall. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t jump high. But I am merely indicating that the capacity for hurt increases in proportion to the bliss.

The bliss, we signed up for. The hurt, not so much. And this is where a very critical relationship death must take place in order for us to move beyond being “in love” to a very special thing called “true love.”

In other words, being “in love” cannot be our main goal. If it is, we will consistently settle for mediocre chocolate instead of graduating to the “real stuff.” And, let me tell you, mediocre chocolate never satisfies. We always go back for more and more, often binging on what is a very good treat. But in binging we end up sick, and very likely overweight. In a literal way, when we binge on the idea of being “in love” we end up with continual disappointment and the heavy weight of emotional issues. We focus all our efforts on producing the ideals (in ourselves or another) that created our in-love feelings to begin with. Losing weight, new clothes, more time together, more expensive dates, more expensive jewelry, and yet…it just doesn’t seem to last.

Perhaps the worst thing about “being in love” is that it can never be “true love.” It can only lead to true love. It is, as nearly as I can figure, a necessary beginning to true love—because it leads us to make promises and commitments—but it can never be, in and of itself, true love. Being in love puts us in a haze so that we will make covenants, commitments, and bind ourselves to other people. Then, when the haze of “in love” wears thin, or off completely, we are bound by the promises we’ve made when “in love” even though we no longer feel in love. It is from this point, this death of “being in love” that we have at last placed ourselves within the range to progress toward true love.

True love requires the death of being in love

Now that I have had amazing chocolate, I can tell you from experience that the depth of taste, flavor, and nutrition of high quality chocolate (true chocolate) is such that I am satisfied after a 1 ounce bar. And I can bask in the glow of the experience easily rather than running back to the bowl for another fix. How? Because I am not attempting to recreate a feeling that has long past. The effects of it are still with me.

True love is the same. Because true love proceeds from a depth of understanding, a deliberate use free will, and personal character development it provides an ongoing security and satisfaction that being “in love” can simply never match. It stays with us. It doesn’t fade as long as we deliberately choose it.

True love is a result that comes from depth of understanding about people. People who find true love understand that no person, no matter how wonderful, can be perfect. No person can satisfy all of another person’s needs and should not be expected to. No person can be exactly what he or she has always dreamed of and expected him/her to be.

True love is also a result that comes from a depth of understand about self. People who find true love understand that they, themselves, can’t be perfect either. They understand that they can’t be another person’s all any more than the reverse; and that no amount of perfection on their part makes them more or less worth being loved by another.

Now, this understanding doesn’t mean that individuals don’t need to try to be their best selves. But, that it something that is individual, and not controllable (ultimately) by the other individual. And, no successful relationship can exist when one or the other individual presupposes that any amount of perfection on his/her part (or manipulation or coercion) will produce the ideal in the other. This is why it is so key to be careful who we fall in love with. A commitment is not lessened because we allowed ourselves to fall in love with someone who is not the kind of person we can live with. It only makes the commitment more difficult. We can control who we fall in love, or at least minimally who we make commitments with.

[For more commentary on being careful who we establish relationships with, please listen to my podcast The Stuff You Should Know About Relationships]

True love results from you, or I—once understanding our own and other’s imperfections—deliberating choosing to love anyway. We see an imperfect individual—once beyond the haze of being “in love”—and we choose to love them anyway. We choose to love someone even though they don’t meet all of our needs. We choose to love someone anyway even though they have the potential to hurt us as times—and often do.

Why would we choose to love when faced with reality instead of going back to finding another “in love” experience? Because learning to love as an act of our own deliberate will rather than because a mere feeling compels us to do so results in something that has the power to last. We can’t make any “in love” experience last. But, we can make our own love last forever. And, such a deliberate choice to love allows us to experience a fundamental and godly change in our very natures and internal character.

When we learn to love because we want to be a loving person, and because we genuinely want to influence others to be their best no matter what we receive in return, we experience a depth of peace and strength in our personal character that can’t be undone. True love becomes about us in an unselfish way because it is no longer dependent upon the actions of others. True love is freeing! We also begin to become godly and our power to influence others for good increases exponentially because our love can’t be wiped away simply by a change of feeling.

Haven’t you ever wondered how God can be so loving and so powerful at the same time?

Let me quote some C.S. Lewis here to make my point (reference in footnote):

But what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons… But there is also another reason of which I am very sure, though I find it a little hard to explain.

It is hard to explain because so many people cannot be brought to realize that when B is better than C, A may be even better than B. They like thinking in terms of good and bad, not of good, better, and best, or bad, worse, and worst…

What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being is love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness. But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.’ Being in love is a good thing. But it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was no ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, and your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.

Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

People get the idea from [media] that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change—not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last… The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this really mean it would be better not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. …if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more, it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. …the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying a good thing will not really live until it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned [person] for the rest of your life.

Death is not the end, it is the beginning

In gospel of Jesus Christ, the ultimate belief is that Christ’s death brought about the reality of eternal life. Death brought about life. The atonement of Jesus Christ (which encompasses His suffering for and paying Justice for our sins as well as His resurrection which vicariously allows us to be resurrected someday) is about sacrificing something to gain our greatest desire—life. And since God’s love is that which, by His will, brought about the death and resurrection of Christ (John 3:16); and God is love, then it would naturally follow that true love of any kind (paternal, friendship, or romantic/marriage) must follow the same pattern: the death and sacrifice of being ‘in love’ puts us in a position to progress toward real love, or love that is true.

Whether it is a child, sibling, friend, relative, or a current/future spouse, no love can be true until we are willing to stop pursuing the ‘in love’ feeling. If we do all that we do, in relationships, to seek that ‘in love’ feeling, we will consistently find ourselves disappointed. We will find that we are manipulative, selfishly motivated, easily offended and hurt, and possibly abusive (in many ways).

If we wish to save any relationship we must begin by first divorcing ourselves from our ‘in love’ ideals; that other people will meet our expectations or eventually act the way we wish. Or that somehow continually to re-invent and re-imagine ourselves (superficially) will return to us, or recreate, all of the sentimental in-love experiences we remember from the past. We must learn to love truly. We must learn to love because we wish to be loving, not because we are trying to manufacture a certain type of relationship or a certain feeling within that relationship.

True love is, and always will be, independent of our feelings. And only when we let the ‘in love’ feeling die will we at last open ourselves up to the ability to experience love in more powerful, and ultimately more exciting and lasting ways.

So, it’s about time to let go of your “store-bought” chocolate (i.e. love) and open yourself up to the idea that while some things are worse than regular chocolate (going without, I suppose), that does not make it great and most certainly not the best that there is available. Let your desire for only being ‘in love’ die and begin the process of seeking for the kind of love that builds, sustains, secures, heals, and nourishes forever.

BT


[1] The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics ©2002 by C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. | Mere Christianity ©1952, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed ©1980 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., Christian Behaviour, Christian Marriage, pp. 92-94.

Doctrine: God is the exact opposite of casual. If we expect Him to be personal then we cannot expect Him to be casual. If we want a personal relationship with Him then we cannot be casual either.

The origin of the word “friend” has it’s root meaning from Indo-European “to love.” And yet, where once the term friend truly meant someone close to us—whom we knew and loved; in modern times we now use the word friend casually; meaning loosely, without much thought or premeditation, relaxed, indefinite, and in a less meaningful sense. It means everything from acquaintance to someone remotely connected to us through other acquaintances—which person could not truly be categorized as a real friend (by actual definition).

I grew up in a world only barely impacted by the Internet, social media, and texting. Yet, now these three mediums for communication have literally become powerhouses changing the social, emotional, and psychological makeup of the entire world. Indeed, how we find, create, enter, and maintain relationships (whether romantic, family, or friend) has been drastically affected by the way we communicate socially, which is now primarily online, or through an electronic device. The nature of communication and relationships has changed and so also our proper perceptions of them.

In conjunction with these societal changes, our perception of what our relationship with God should be has also changed. And, in many cases, not for the better. The generation born in the 90s knows no other world than the one before us now. And, to them everyone is a “friend.” And, that casual assignment of such a powerful word has stretched to their expectations of God.

The whole world has become casual about so much, and so people now assume or expect God to be casual. He is NOT.

Young pretty woman using social media on her smartphone

We preach that God is personal. That Christ is our friend. And people today suddenly assume that means He’s on Facebook—spiritually. They assume they can talk to God casually. They assume that He will answer casually. When they say, “God’s my friend,” they literally view Him as a casual FB buddy who follows their timeline and posts emoticons and silly comments.

People seem to believe that God is casual about communication. That He should respond immediately to all “texts,” and post status updates if He’s going to take a while to get back to us. People suddenly expect God to spill His guts “online” for the whole world to see because that’s what “friends” do. They expect God to post selfies and enjoy and repost innocent (if a bit crude) jokes. After all, it’s all in fun, right? God should be able to handle a little humor.

Now, I’m the first to claim God as my truest friend. He has been there for me when no one else could be. He is loyal. He is true. He tells me the truth about myself even when I might rather not hear it. He doesn’t beat around the bush. I know exactly what He expects out of our relationship. He’s never failed me. He hasn’t always explained everything, immediately; but to date, I can say confidently that He’s answered all my sincere, genuine questions. But even though He’s personal with me, I would certainly never label Him my buddy. Such a term is too casual for the kind of relationship, the kind of friendship I enjoy with God. And to label it so would diminish, rather than support, who He is to me.

God is not a casual pal. The word casual means: relaxed, unconcerned, laid back, acting without much thought or premeditation, acting without sufficient care or preparation, not regular or permanent, temporary, happening by chance, accidental, happening without formality of manner, informal…

God is the exact opposite of casual. He is deliberate, concerned, focused, acting only with thought and premeditation, acting with sufficient care and preparation, regular, permanent, fixed, acting by choice, purposeful, acts with formality of manner, formal… It is because He is NOT casual that He is able to be personal. A casual being cannot be personal because the very nature of “personal” is sacred, deep, and attaching. We cannot attach ourselves, ultimately, to people who are casual—they simply can’t be trusted.

If God were casual being then He could not be a personal God, and in fact, He would not be a God at all.

However, it is His lack of casualness and His incredible personal nature that often confuses and discourages the modern world from forging ties with Him. They want Him to care less and expect less. But, unfortunately, He cares perfectly and always has the highest expectations. And so, the modern generation struggles to come to know Him because they are unwilling to bend to His terms for a relationship. They want Him to be deep with them without them having to be deep in return.

Society, for all that it claims, is actually more impersonal than ever before. And God, cannot be impersonal. He is our Father. Thus, He refuses casual and impersonal relationships. For He wants only serious and personal relationships with His children. And, consequently, it is only that type of relationship that will enable us to come to know Him, become like Him, and live in His presence forever (St. John 17:3).

C.S Lewis has a brilliant quote in The Problem of Pain that perfectly describes the world today as regards their desire for a casual relationship with God. He says:

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception:  I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that, God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.

This year I took time out to watch the Face-to-Face with Elder Holland and President Eyring (which I highly recommend all of you watch by clicking on the link provided). I was merely interested, as any of us should be when two apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ, take time out to have a candid conversation with the youth of the world, as to what they would talk about. So, I listened to it.

I didn’t realize it was going to last as long as it did. But, once I got rolling I didn’t want it to end. They said so many wonderful things. But, in response to a question from a girl who was struggling with her relationship with God, they said some of the most astounding things.

The girl was struggling to establish a back-and-forth dialogue with God. She was trying to talk to Him in her prayers and get immediate responses back, etc. I remember listening harder, because I was certain these two Christlike men would give us all the answer to this personal dialogue with the Almighty that we all fundamentally desire. And yet, their response was unlike anything I expected. They, instead of giving the recipe for “chatting with God” like we tend to expect these days, they both indicated the exact opposite.

I don’t remember their exact words (you really should go listen to it on your own). I only remember the distinct impression I got when President Eyring talked about when he prays he imagines himself approaching the throne of God. This image, of approaching God on a throne, hit me powerfully: GOD IS PERSONAL, BUT HE IS NOT CASUAL. I was then grateful for the two apostles’ reassurances that in all their experiences, they, neither of them, had ever had the privilege of having God, the Father, carry on a casual back-and-forth conversation with them. They reminded the youth, and me, that God is our Father, but He is also the Almighty God, Creator of worlds without end, and in no uncertain terms, Master of the Universe.

While God is love we must also respect the type of being He is and how He is capable of being Love. One does not become all-loving by being casual in any way. Thus, though God is personal with us, and we should be ourselves when we approach Him, we should not be casual in our conversations with Him nor should we expect Him to be casual with us or to be satisfied with a casual relationship.

After listening to President Eyring’s comments, I remember thinking I almost wanted to laugh. Why had I, or this girl, ever expected God to be casual when His very station requires that He be the exact opposite? Why would any of us imagine that we, in our limited mortal station, could converse—as if with a Facebook friend—with the Almighty God. I hadn’t even realized that I had been harboring that incorrect ideal, and yet after hearing this Face-to-Face, it occurred to me that in many ways I had been attempting to formulate an idea of God and prayer that was far more casual than it should be. It has changed me and my prayers for good. They will never be the same, and I can tell you that they are far better than they have ever been.

Now, lest anyone think I’m trying to present God as a being we can’t approach, let me clarify. God is our Father. He wants us to come before Him and we desire it (whether we recognize it or not). But, how we approach Him and how we expect to converse with Him is not casual, nor should we ever treat it as such. Because if we consider our supplications and applications to Him as casual (relaxed, unconcerned, laid back, acting without much thought or premeditation, acting without sufficient care or preparation, not regular or permanent, temporary, happening by chance, accidental, happening without formality of manner, informal…) then how can we expect Him to take such conversation or applications seriously? Do we take them seriously?

In order for us to have a relationship with God we must take that relationship seriously.

Yes, we can be ourselves. But, we need to be respectful. Yes, we can talk to Him about everything. But, we need to take those conversations seriously. Yes, we can pray anywhere. But, when we pray, we need to focus on that prayer and care about it. It shouldn’t be a passing thought that we toss into the air and hope God catches it.

I don’t take seriously the sentence someone yells to me in the wind as they drive by in a car with their radio blazing and horn honking. Do you? I don’t take seriously a sentence my husband says to me if he’s saying it half-heartedly while he’s surfing the Internet. Would you? Do we expect the God of the Universe, and our Eternal Father, to take seriously casual conversation that neither increases our relationship with Him nor shows a sincere desire to listen to what He might actually have to say to us? Or, do we ask and ask and ask Him for guidance and help, but expect His instructions to allow us to remain casual in our observance of His commandments?

God has everything we want IF we are willing to take Him, His plan, and His communications with us seriously. That means we listen with the intent to obey and we ask with the intent to bend our will to His, not the other way around.

God, our Father, spends every moment of His eternity trying to help us become like Him (Moses 1:39). He has offered up His Only Begotten Son, willingly, that we might each, individually, have the chance to choose to become like Him and spend eternity with Him, working by His side to exalt others. Thus, He takes His relationship with us so seriously that He doesn’t waste time with casual conversation. What good to Him is ‘shooting the breeze?’ What serious love, mercy, grace, repentance, and eternal progression we are willing to receive, He offers to us in whatever doses we are willing to receive them when we approach Him deliberately and purposefully. If we approach Him not at all, He reminds us of His love and expectations through others.Young  girl using smart phone,Social media concept.

So, it does us no good to insist that God get to know us on our casual, relaxed terms. It does us no good to try to force the God of the Universe to “chill out” and simply let us do as we want, and when we feel like it we’ll try to do a few of the things He asks. To do so is to ask Him to love us less, which He cannot do, for His love is perfect. And His perfect love requires that He never desist in offering us all that He has on His terms, which are the only terms upon which His powers and glory can be received.

I have spent years trying to get to know God better. I didn’t always know that I was doing it. I was just trying to keep commandments, get answers to hard questions, and try to understand how He worked. And, in consequence of my deliberate, purposeful, determined efforts, I was surprised to find out that I was getting to know Him. Far be it from me to claim that I understand God. I don’t think that’s possible. But, as much as I am able, I am learning who He is, how He works, and how to learn more and more about Him. It has brought so much light and understanding into my life that I weep to see so many so oblivious to Him and His outstretched hands. They simply mentally bat those eternal hands aside because they don’t want to take seriously the conditions necessary to grab hold.

I cry in my head, “I know Him! He loves you! Please take some time to get to know Him! The answers to everything come in time…I know, I’ve tested it. Please try it! You’ll be so much happier!” Sometimes I cry it in my blogs…like this one…

But, for most, God is still—in their minds—a casual acquaintance; a distant friend on social media connected to them distantly through other family and friends. They ignore most of His “posts.” They view Him as external and unknowable. They have no desire to know Him—yet. And, yet, He waits and waits and waits and waits for them. “Come unto me,” He says in a very personal, deliberate, and loving manner.

So, if you find you are struggling in your relationship and prayers to God, perhaps it may help you to consider that while He is personal, He is not casual. And, perhaps the more seriously you take your relationship with Him the more quickly you’ll find that it blossoms and grows into something not unlike what Christ offered to the woman at the well; the kind of relationship that will sustain you through all others, because it’s the only relationship with the power you need. You can’t get it anywhere else. Not from children, friends, from a romantic relationship, and not even from a treasured spouse. Those relationships generate power only as they are approached through your relationship with God.

As C.S. Lewis said (Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3:

…What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they…could…invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside of God, apart from God.  And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why this can never succeed is this.  God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.  A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion.  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.

That is the key to history.  Terrific energy is expended—civilizations are built up—excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong.  Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back to misery and ruin.  In fact, the machine conks.  It seems to start up all right and run a few yards, and then it breaks down.  They are trying to run it on the wrong juice.  That is what Satan has done to us humans.

As long as we expect God to be casual we will fail to find a truly satisfying and fulfilling personal relationship with Him. This lack of a personal relationship with God will prevent us from finding ultimate peace and happiness in our lives. We need that personal relationship with Him to thrive, not just survive. But, in order to do that, we have to get out of this casual mind set. We have to become serious about God and choose Him deliberately (as He has chosen and loved us), not casually—as we seem determined to do.

BT

Doctrine: The Gift of the Holy Ghost is about being in constant communication with the Almighty God. The baptism of fire, or the Holy Ghost, is prerequisite to entering God’s celestial kingdom. God’s commandments are how we gain spiritual reception and receive His messages, guidance, correction, and inspiration. When we place ourselves in places and circumstances that allow us to get the spiritual reception we need, the Holy Ghost can deliver His heavenly correspondence. By communicating with God, and especially by receiving His messages, we come to know Him!

If you are Christian, then what you are trying to become is more “like Jesus.” This results in a desire to emulate and to invite others to also emulate Him. However, if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you aspire not only to emulate Christ and invite others to do so, but to actually become like Him, which includes inheriting and sharing in His glory (Romans 8:16-17).

When we are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we covenant to:

  • Take upon us the name of Jesus Christ
  • To keep God’s commandments and progress toward higher covenants
  • To help, serve, bear with, and bless our fellow men
  • To live worthy of the companionship of the Gift of the Holy Ghost

We promise to do all these things in exchange for one major promised blessing: that His Spirit may always be with us (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79; Mosiah 18:8-10).

It may seem like a lot of effort for one primary accompanying gift. But, OH what a gift it is.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11), which Christ, Himself, said was prerequisite to entering His kingdom (John 3:5). The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the gift of eventual sanctification, perfection, and holiness akin to that of Christ. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is about being in constant communication with the Almighty as He tells us what we need to do to become like Him and inherit and share all that He has and His glory.

QUESTION: So, how do we get this constant 24/7 communication and instruction from the Holy Spirit that will help us in our goal to become godly?

ANSWER: We place ourselves in places and circumstances that allow us to get the spiritual reception we need so that the Holy Ghost can deliver His heavenly correspondence.

That’s it, huh? Yep. Think about. How hard is it to make/get a phone call or a send/receive a text message with only one bar? How difficult is it to upload or download files with a spotty Wi-fi connection? And these are just worldly metaphors. When it comes to divine communication, the strength of our connection and service provider makes all the difference.human hand using smartphone on white background

If you want to know why it makes a difference whether you go to church or not, you need only ask yourself the following type of questions:

What happens when I go to church that enables me to get messages from the Holy Ghost that I may not be able to get while sitting at home?

What happens when I accept a calling at church and fulfill it that doesn’t happen when I’m merely a spectator?

Church is one of the places we can increase our number of spiritual service bars or strengthen our spiritual Wi-fi connection.

If you want to know why it makes a difference to read your scriptures, you need only ask yourself the following type of questions:

What happens when I read God’s word that enables me to get messages from the Holy Ghost that I may not be able to get by reading other things?

What happens when I study the scriptures looking for answers to a problem that doesn’t happen when I merely sit on my couch and complain that I have a problem?

The shear act of exerting mental and physical effort toward something increases the strength of our spiritual connection.

If you want to know why it makes a difference to pray even though God already knows your thoughts, feelings, and future, you need only ask yourself the following:

What happens in my mind when I get on my knees and talk to God?

What happens to my logic and reasoning as I try to seek God’s help or explain my troubles to Him?

What happens when I confess my sins to God and ask for Him to forgive me that doesn’t happen when I don’t consciously approach Him?

Now, it’s possible to pray with vain repetitions and not do much to change our spiritual reception. That is akin to uploading your files but not downloading the response. It’s also quite possible to pray and ask God what decision to make and yet be unwilling to accept His answer. In these cases, we may be trying to get a message, but we keep failing to receive it based on our lack of humility and submission to His actual answer. God doesn’t send messages we are not prepared for. Hence, the need for us to do the things He requires so that we are willing and prepared.

Every commandment we have, no matter how small or simple it seems, has the ability (as we keep it) to open our minds and hearts up to communication from the Holy Ghost. When we open up our hearts and minds, the Holy Ghost can tell us the next step we need to take to inherit eternal life. He can tell us what we’re doing right, where we’re close but need to refocus, and what we need to improve upon, change, or forsake. He can help us to forgive. He can grant us peace while we persevere through a trial. He can open our eyes to the struggles of others so that we can help them. Every message we get from Him we get by placing ourselves in circumstances where our thoughts and actions will best open us up to God’s guidance.

By communicating with God, and especially by receiving His messages, we come to know Him! It is the only way to do so. Yet, many Christians (and that includes those who claim to be Mormons) today are happy to settle for a one-sided relationship with God, and only when it suits their needs. Indeed, modern views of God and His commandments are preached by those who are the worst kind of follower—fair weather friends—who abandon God anytime loyalty requires sacrifice, struggle, patience, long-suffering, charity, or effort.

In Alma 37:6 we read:

Mobile Phone Signal Search

And now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

God’s simple requests and commands to get spiritual reception baffle even the most devout when they fail to understand their incredible and necessary purpose—to create opportunities for us to receive heavenly communication and develop a relationship with God.

A person can’t truly claim to have a relationship with God if they don’t try to communicate with Him (especially receiving communication from Him) in even small ways. Showing up for twice a year holidays is not a relationship. As well, if they keep a selective list of commandments and agree with only some beliefs then they are not the religion they call themselves by, they are their own religion and have created their own god (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16). We can claim to be Christian, but if we don’t attempt to at least emulate Christ and “keep His commandments,” than we aren’t truly His (John 14:15). If we claim to be Mormon and yet make no attempt to become godly and enter into the strait and narrow path that allows us to inherit His glory (Doctrine and Covenants 132:21-25), then we are not keeping our baptismal covenants (priesthood covenants, or temple covenants). We are of those who say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works” (Matthew 7:22)? God’s answer to this minimal or partial conversion to His plan was this (Matthew 7:2123):

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven… And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

This is also reminiscent of the parable of the ten virgins. Remember the ten virgins were likened unto the Kingdom of God, which is His church (or those who claim to be of His church). The five foolish virgins were rejected because Christ knew them not, meaning also that those foolish virgins didn’t know Him, either (Matthew 25:1-12).

If we don’t live our lives so that we can receive correspondence from the Almighty, how can we say we love Him? We don’t even know Him! It’s like having a thousand celestial text messages sitting out in the limbo of cell phone towers waiting for us to put ourselves in places where we get service. And then, we can still only get one message at a time and respond to it before the next one will come. Meaning, that occasional moments of reception a few times a week simply isn’t going to cut it.

In Mosiah 5:13 it says:

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

For this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent (John 17:3).

To know God is to know His voice, which we can’t know if we purposefully choose to avoid receiving messages from that voice. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments and follow Him (John 10:14-16). For, the things that He has done we are commanded also to do (3 Nephi 27:21-22).

So, maybe you pray, but you don’t attend church and you knowingly break commandments. Failed connection. You’re missing tons of messages. So, maybe you attend church, but you don’t read or study your scriptures. Failed connection. You’re still missing many messages. So, maybe you attend church but you refuse to accept a calling. Failed connection. I could go on and on with temple attendance and many other things God has asked us to do; and most of them are small and simple things. If you are ignoring one or many of these things, you’re still missing messages. In fact, you are spurning them because of your pride. And, the longer you go without good spiritual reception (on a consistent, constant basis) the longer it will take you to truly come to know God and to understand the path He wishes you to take in order to inherit His glory and to become like Him.

God is the one who established the spiritual reception guidelines (i.e.commands). They include daily prayers with real intent, daily scripture study, daily service to our fellow men, keeping the Sabbath Day holy, attending the temple, and NOT doing many things. He gave us those commandments so that we could get to know Him, correspond with Him, and become like Him. And He gave us those commandments, which if we keep, we will have constant, 24/7 guidance and help from Him. That’s what we covenant to do when we are baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Most of us rarely miss a text message or social media post from mere acquaintances. Indeed, we can hardly set down our electronic devices for fear of missing one of those cursory messages. How sad, then, that we do not treat messages from God with at least the same urgency because we don’t want to do what it takes to “get spiritual reception.”

BT