You’re trying way too hard to get to Heaven

My life—as of late—has done a complete 180.

As I write this there’s a million other to-do’s on my mind, one of which includes the pile of laundry sneering at me from across the room. Oh and I can’t forget the bunny cages. *Sigh* It’s becoming a lot to handle.

A different job. Different schedule. Different faces that I see every day. Different church calling. You name it, and it’s most likely different now. I’m not trying to complain, since we all carry a load, but it’s a good way to preface something that’s been on my mind.

So here I sit–dirty laundry and all.

All my life I’ve worked in journalism, whether it be for the local paper or a news station, so my recent switch to sales and eventually marketing has been a culture shock to say the very least. Especially commission. Good ol’ commission that can make the greatest of people turn into vicious blood-thirsty wolverines. *Not saying that my co-workers are like that, of course.*

When I first began the job after all my training, I couldn’t help but feel anxiety about my commission. How much I get each day depends strictly upon how well I do with a customer and how much they fork over. I dictate grocery money, whether or not my husband can afford his batch of school books, or if my rent gets paid on time. Simply showing up for work doesn’t cut it here. I’ve found myself dwelling on it quite a bit since my first day—and at times I’ve worked myself into a panic. What if I don’t do enough? What if the customer just walks out on me? What if I mess up on a presentation of one of the products and the sale goes south from there? Worries, worries, worries. It never ends.

Image

But then, it happened. As usual, the Lord decided to step in.

The help came in the form of my new manager. As if my manager Mike sensed my tension, he sat down with me just a day or so ago and simply stated that if you come in and just think about commission or how high your stats are, you’ll never find success. Commission takes care of itself when you decide to take care of the people. “Make a friend, make a sale,” he said to me with an easy shrug.

Simple as that.

I stewed on what Mike said all day, turning it over and over in my head until I got home that night.

My husband came to me with a scripture he had in his hand while I made dinner. “The love of many will wax cold”, he read in one verse. “Men’s hearts shall fail them” he read in another. What do you think those verses mean? he asked me.

And that’s when it struck me. Call it a lightning bolt, if you will, or an “Aha” moment. But it was one of those times where everything gelled together, and I was reminded of something I had forgotten.

In every area of my life I’ve been worrying and stressing and focusing inward–and I know I’m not alone in that.

Image

We go through our weeks stressed to the max while trying to earn the most money, have the most crafty and color-coordinated and clean house on the block, trying to get all the ironing and laundry AND dishes done on the same day. Trying to be the one to have the perfect church lessons written out and prepared each sunday. Trying to check off all the to-do’s and then some. Trying to do our visiting teaching each month and attend every activity so we can cross it out on the list.

We’re trying too hard to get to Heaven.

And in turn, our hearts are failing us. Even more so, we’re failing each other.

It’s hard to express how profound this was to me. It was so simple to Mike to toss out the fact that selfless sales are the successful sales. It wasn’t a huge revelation for Matt to read that our hearts are failing us. But for me, the reminders changed everything.

The Savior is a perfect example of it. Not once during Jesus’ ministry on earth did He do anything simply to “check it off” the list. He didn’t heal the blind because it was scheduled for that day. He didn’t tell Peter to give up fishing and follow Him because He assumed it would further his success as a prophet. He didn’t forgive the prostitute because He wanted others to praise Him for His kindness or mercy. He didn’t scream through forty-something lashings to prove his strength to the world.

Image

He did everything because of love. Simple as that.

His concerns were never with where he was going because He knew that would take care of itself. His concern was with us.

 “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, … whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45.)

Image

It’s a reminder I think we all need, whether we’re juggling two jobs or juggling two babies on the hip; whether we’re the head of cub scouts or the head of a company; whether we sit in the same pew every sunday and know all the answers to all the doctrinal questions or struggle to wake up on time. We need to remember that the Lord never called us to be perfect. But He did call us to love.

With recognition of the things that need to change in our lives and the perspectives that need to be adjusted, we can start out on the road to recovery from selfishness.

I hope to be more like that–in every area of my life, really. I strive to be more like Mike, who shrugs at the worry of commission and worries more about the guest who is struggling with a payment plan. I strive to be more like my Dad, who always taught me to “listen more” to others and talk less. I strive to be more like the Savior, who never thought a second about his own entry into Heaven, simply because he wanted to lead us to the gates first. I strive to be more like the sparrow, who depends on the rain and the seeds and the air under its small wings so fully that it doesn’t even give it a second thought that it might not be there tomorrow.

Image

Only then–when we stop worrying about conquering the world–will we find peace. Only then–when our hearts turn outward–will we revive our failing, worried, stressed, self-centered, aching hearts.

It’s time to stop trying so hard that we grow cold to what matters.

 

I don’t know about you, but I want to live the kind of life so that when I do finally show up to those pearly gates– I won’t be standing there alone.

 

A word from Mr. Lemmon: It’s time to look outward

 My husband isn’t a writer. He’s not what he would even consider “creative” or artsy. He’s a nursing student on track for an RN next year and most of his days are inundated with numbers, long words I can’t even pronounce, stacks of books, and hour after hour of studying every single muscle, organ, and disease you can imagine. But “I’m not a writer” he told me three–maybe four–times before he showed this to me, telling me it’s something that’s been heavy on his mind lately. And I guess I’d have to disagree with him there.

You see, we’re all writers when we have something to say. And I think he said it perfectly. 

 

As I sit reflecting the world we now live in, I feel a sense of urgency in our need to change. Most especially in the youth and the twenty-somethings. Although there is much good in the world and I recognize there are countless acts of kindness that go unnoticed, I would like to highlight what could make our human relationships much more enjoyable.

Although I’m not going gray, I don’t own a home, I don’t have children, and I’m still in college I feel like my generation growing up was so much different. I grew up with computers that had green and orange screens which ran off MS-DOS. (Before the days of Windows) I grew up when the number of cell phones were scarce, not in every hand. In fact I didn’t own my first cell phone until I was 17 or 18 which didn’t even have a camera, and I had to pay for each text I sent and received. Before I continue to age myself any further (I know I’m not THAT old) I’d like to get into the heart of the matter.

I have noticed ever since cell phones have become glued to our hands and have overrun our attention, human relationships are dwindling. Now I’m not saying that cell phones or technology are sinful, I just feel it has gone too far. Let me explain.

One word has recently come into our dictionaries and more so our everyday vocabulary. That word? Selfie. What word is found in Selfie? You guessed it. Self. But I’m not immune to it. At least when I was a teenager. Even before the word selfie existed I got my ol’ point and shoot digital camera and tried to look so good for I don’t even know who. I would put on my new, favorite shirt. I’d pop the collar, cause that was “cool” then. I would take 20 or 30 to get the best one. I look back and realize that there was a need for validation. Validation from friends. From girls. From classmates. But it wasn’t until later that I realized the validation I truly craved and needed in life is from my Father in Heaven—and He didn’t even care to look at those pictures.

IM001265

We are created in the image of God, however, we are not God’s gift to the world. Who was God’s gift to the world? Jesus Christ. The Savior of the world and our ultimate example. Still, many focus and are obsessed with themselves. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 we read:

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…”

You may be thinking, why are you complaining and not giving any solution? Well, this morning I read in the April 2014 Ensign, a church magazine, “A focus on self is not the path to happiness. Rather, joy is found in surrendering our egos in service to others.”

hugging jesus

                Let us spend more quality time with one another and take pictures that will treasure memories. Let us find true enjoyment other than praying others will “comment” on, “like”, or “retweet” our latest self-portrait. Let us give a loving hand to someone who needs it. Let us spend our days serving our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us visit those who need our love and encouragement.

We are the Lord’s hands. I am confident His hands would not be magnifying himself. His hands would be serving others.

               

The four simple truths that matter most: And why we often forget them

My favorite teachers are three and a half feet tall.

They snort when they laugh, they get sticky hands when they eat suckers, and they hoard the crayons when they draw pictures.

My favorite teachers have barely filled in their school shoes, they still wear bows in their braids, and they dream of being astronauts, doctors, and missionaries in different countries.

They come in the shape of my nieces and nephews–and also my primary kids.

Image

Primary is a class we teach every sunday at church–and for the past year I’ve seen the same group of kids go from pre-school to Kindergarten. And from barely talking *because they’re playing the shy card* to barely letting me get a word in edgewise.

They’ve been my pseudo-children in a sense–and they’ve been some of my greatest teachers.

It really hit me yesterday how much they’ve grown in front of my very eyes, reminding me every week of why we’re here on earth, what we’re meant to do, and who we’re called to be like. Back to the basics, they teach me. Keep life simple.

And simplicity can be so hard.

Yesterday was one of those *Wow, I’m learning more from these kids than they are from me* days. I have those days a lot. But yesterday was something out of the ordinary, really.

 

I came to church straight from a work meeting, and I was frazzled beyond belief. Is there even enough hours in the day? I’m not convinced quite yet that 24 are enough. My mind was nowhere where it should have been, but I quickly rushed to class and tried to get in the mindset of the lesson.

We were teaching about the holy spirit. As we talked, the kids, one by one, all wanted to share stories. That’s not an uncommon thing really–but these stories seemed uncommon. Uncommonly simple and profound all at the same time. With these stories I was reminded of four simple things that I think we ALL tend to forget as soon as we grow out of our size four shoes, stop coloring out of the lines and no longer consider Spider Man our greatest hero.

It was good to get a reminder.

Kindness matters. 

David–one of the boys in my class– reminded me of a motto that I’ve always tried to live by. He told a story of a little boy in his kindergarten class who isn’t very nice. He says rude things to people and kind of likes to be alone. One day at recess the boy was coloring outside and the breeze whisked away a couple of his pages. Without even thinking David scrambled after them and retrieved the papers, bringing them back to the boy and letting him know that a good trick is to keep the loose papers under his foot while he’s drawing so they won’t blow away. I asked David why he helped the little boy out when he’s been nothing but mean to him. “Because it doesn’t matter how he is,” he responded matter-of-factly. “I’m supposed to be kind.”

How often do we forget kindness? We live in a society and a world where many believe that kindness is something to be earned, deserved, or given if the mood is right. But kindness–in its simplest and truest form–is actually running after those runaway papers in the wind simply because that’s what Christ would do.

Prayer works.

After David’s story, Kali’s hand shot up. It wasn’t about kindness, she prefaced, but prayer. Her dad had recently traveled to Mexico and when he came back from the trip he had given her a charm bracelet with beautiful stones. Well one day, she explained, the bracelet went missing and she couldn’t find it anywhere. She searched and searched and searched and finally she fell on her knees and prayed that she would PLEASE find that pretty bracelet from her Dad. After saying amen she had a feeling to check under the stairs. And there it was. Does Heavenly Father care about your bracelet? I asked. “Probably not,” she shrugged. “But he cares about me.”

Did you think to pray?

Count your blessings–then share them.

I sometimes forget this one and I bet you do too. Count your blessings, we hear. Count your blessing, Name them one by one, we sing. But what good is hoarding the blessings and not sharing them? As I watch these kids I’m reminded of the importance of sharing every piece of everything. They don’t hesitate to tell the new kid in class about Jesus. They don’t hesitate to share their jelly beans or share how to spell the word Heaven on the chalk board. They go to school each day and share with their teachers what they did at church, not even giving a second thought about how it may be perceived. They share the good news of everything that comes their way. Why don’t we?

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” is one of my favorite quotes. And as I observe my class I often see a class full of blazing candles–all flaming like torches as they seek out wicks that have dried out.

Follow where others try to lead.

We’re a society aimed toward being revolutionary. Changing the world. Discovering new planets, changing the way politics operate, or being top in sales at our firm. And that’s perfectly okay to aim high. But whatever happened to the virtue of following? In the attempts to forge a new path I think it can be easy to forget that we’ve had many saints, prophets–even the Savior himself– pave the way already. We’ve had pioneers walk miles to reach a common place of rest, hearts all turned toward the same Zion. We’ve had prophets teach the same stories and generations of family members instill the same traditions and morals. We have so many heroes to emulate. “She wants to be just like you,” I’ve had mothers say to me when talking about their kids in my class. They never say, “She hopes to be way better than you”.

There’s so much fear nowadays in mediocrity and not enough desire to uphold the things that generations before us fought for.

Image

I could honestly go on and on about the things I’ve learned from these kids. But the simple things are my favorite. And the older I get the more I need to be reminded of the basics. The simple things that keep families together and the beggars with change in their pockets. It’s the simple things that were once preached on mountain tops and etched in stone and written by hand on parchment only to be passed down to us. It’s the simple things that turn us from a hardened, bustling, distracted adult into a child again– fresh from Heaven, and at the Savior’s feet. The beauty in the gospel–and in life– lies in its simplicity.

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “…Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is simple. It really, really is.
And I’m grateful to all my three-foot something giants for showing me that.
Image

There’s no such thing as being ‘drunk in love’, Beyonce: And our kids need to learn that.

I must be getting old.

Because more and more our society surprises me. And not in a good way.

The other night one of the anchors at the station that I work at came in with her I-Pod and a wide-eyed expression.

“Have you heard the song ‘Drunk in Love’ from Beyonce yet?” she asked me. No, I hadn’t. In fact, I tend to be horrible with song names, especially when 95 percent of mainstream music all sounds the same anyway.

“Well, don’t!” she warned before I could say anything. “It’s the most explicit song I’ve ever heard. And that’s saying something.”

Well, here’s something to learn about me. If you tell me not to do something, I’m like a toddler with a hot stove. I’ll touch it. And then I’ll regret it within seconds. So, like clockwork, I punched the song title into youtube and could barely get through the entire video–complete with lyrics–before I exited out of the tab and realized my jaw had gone slack. I knew mainstream culture was headed down an ugly path with sexual innuendos and half-naked advertisements and rappers going off about drugs and clubs and trigger-happy gangs. But still, time and again, the media and society prove to me that, oh just you wait–it can and WILL get so much worse.

Image

I decided I’d never listen to that song again. Until I heard it tonight after stepping into a store on my break to look around and I almost got whacked in the face with the glass door. The kid ahead of me, no older than seventeen, let it fall behind him even though I entered right after him and his blond girlfriend. The couple held a phone between the two of them that played that darn song again and as I walked slowly through the racks and aisles I could hear them chattering over the music and making a mess out of the spring dress aisle. They laughed and more than once I overheard him call her a name no woman should ever be called. When they were in view I could tell she was getting annoyed with him and pushed him a couple times when he touched her from behind and told her she was acting dumb. Drunk in love.

The scene played out perfectly to the music I think.

And somewhere, underneath the annoyance that had built up since getting hit by the door he failed to hold open, I felt a hint of sadness that our kids, some as young as five and others as old as me, are being taught what love is by the lyrics of songs like these. They’re being shown what love is in movie theaters and on billboards and reality TV.

Image

 

And the music of the world is loud.

Chivalry slowly dies with each generation as ladies forget how to be ladies and as gentleman are no longer instructed to open the door. Girls are being instructed by these lyrics to raise the hemlines of skirts and put up with being used and slobbered over like a steak because THAT is how you get love. Boys are being told to take control, to seek after sex whenever it’s wanted, and to mistreat their mothers, their girlfriends, and their future wives. Girls are subtly told to look up to the women who are photoshopped on magazines and who belt out sassy tunes about “giving it all up” while boys are told girls SHOULD look that way…and should give it up.

Do I sound old-fashioned? If the answer you came up with is yes, than that proves to me how far we’ve fallen. I don’t know why respecting ourselves and striving for love that respects and strengthens and empowers us has become a vintage antique on a dusty shelf. 

Even Heavenly Father knew this time would come, though. It’s something we all have to prepare for. In Isaiah 5:20 it says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”

Image

Bitter, drunk love. I couldn’t help but watch these teenagers chat alongside those lyrics as I browsed the store, wondering about the voice of his mother or the advice of her father. Perhaps they were taught everything right and the world just became too loud. Perhaps they were taught only by the world and no one else. Or maybe things have become so perverted, so mangled and distorted–that there’s nothing out of the ordinary with singing along to, “Can’t keep your eyes off my *****, daddy. Drunk in love, I want you.”

I’m not a mother yet and I can’t imagine the difficulties of raising a child in a world that no longer whispers, but screams. I don’t know everything there is to know about child rearing or advising or guiding and I’m not here to say that I do. But I do know that Satan is attacking everything that Heavenly Father put into place. Family. Marriage. Love. Kindness.

And I know that the only way to not be for it is to be against it. Dress against it. Listen against it. Speak against it. Teach your kids against it. Walk against it.

Because we’re falling, and fast. Yes, there’s good in the world. Of course there is. But we still have far to go as society is in rapid decline within the media and within our culture.

There should be more boys opening doors. There should be more girls demanding respect by what they say and wear and do. There should be more role models to look towards other than pop stars in bikinis and actors with three women on their arms. There should be more love–the real kind of love that is slowly becoming old-fashioned and out-of-date. 

Image

There’s no such thing as being “drunk in love” like the song states. There’s no such thing as love that comes from one-night stands or “smoking all night” or giving in to something that’s so plainly wrong. There’s no such thing as happiness through defilement. 

The scary thing is– the world and all things that tear holes in the fabric of truth know that those messages aren’t real. But it wants you to be so “drunk” that you forget it..

And it wants our kids to never learn it.

“I left Christianity because of the people”

“I left Christianity because of the people.”

The words hurt my heart yesterday as I chatted with a good friend of mine. We were discussing religion. God. People. Mainstream Christianity. Topics that went hand in hand with some e-mails I sifted through while I sat on my break. One email in particular stuck out to me and I shared it with him.

I won’t quote it word for word or tell you who wrote this email (Totally not my style). And I hate giving attention to negativity–but this one, in turn, made me seek for the positive. *That’s “worth-sharing” material in my book*

The long winded email elaborately stated that I’m not a Christian because I don’t read the Bible. He told me Mormons go to Hell. It stated that I’m confused and hurting over the loss of a parent because I’m not a Christian and God isn’t on my side. BUT, *they kindly interjected* if I confess my sins and look for a different church, THEN I’ll be saved.

Image

When I read this yesterday, I couldn’t help but share some of it with my friend. And that’s when he told me, straight out, “I left Christianity because of the people.”

Now, bear in mind, my friend *We’ll call him Dan* is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s hilarious. He talks about his wife as if she’s made of gold. He works hard every single day. And without saying it, he certainly shows that he believes that kindness matters. So this was a side of Dan I hadn’t seen before as we discussed religion. I never knew that he used to be an active church member, in love with the word of God and over-scheduled with church events. I never knew that people–like the one who sent me that email–taught him a whole different lesson about Christianity.

Image

So–how could I NOT write about it??

Sitting there with Dan and hearing his story, I rewinded five years back to before I joined the LDS church.

I was what you would call a church floater for a time, bouncing around from one non-denominational church to another, joining different congregations and getting baptized into several different fonts. I floated–never really finding answers to all of my questions–yet settling down in a Pentecostal church until I was 18 and *had* to leave. I just couldn’t stay anymore. It wasn’t anything personal–it was just I really needed to find truth and answers to my nagging questions. Needless to say, through a friend, two missionaries, and 7 sleepless nights reading an old copy of The Book of Mormon, I found the light I’d been craving all along.

Now, five years later, one BYU-Idaho education later, a hundred missionary opportunities later, a dozen temple trips later–I don’t hesitate to still call myself a Christian. Oh–and I sure don’t let dust collect on my Bible either.

I am a Mormon and I am Christian. 

Image

I strive to be the kind of Christian that people like Dan feel comfortable talking to. The kind of Christian who doesn’t cut into this story and tell him to get his hiney back to church or he’ll face hellfire. The kind of Christian who has about five gay friends who *know* I’m Mormon and actually love it. The kind of Christian who goes to church because it’s a hospital for the sick, not a temple of the proud. The kind of Christian who shares a testimony of Christ simply because I *love* people–not because I love how much I know.

Image

I strive to be the kind of Christian who continues to adore people of varying faiths and different cultures–enjoying the unique perspectives and different acts of love and worship. I strive to be the kind of Christian who puts kindness before “being right” and love before condemnation. I strive to be the kind of Christian who doesn’t throw scripture in someone’s face, yelling out random verses to prove I’m a “scriptorian”, but to embrace scripture and try to live it to the best of my ability. I strive to be like so many of you reading this now–of all different faiths and backgrounds–who simply have it nailed on the head on how to love, how to serve, and how to emulate the Savior’s example.

Image

Yes, you choose to be offended. You can read a talk about that right here.

BUT you can also choose to be offensive. To be brash. To be hurtful. To use your status as a Christian to raise yourself up above everyone else and look down with haughty eyes. You can choose. (There’s a talk about that too! Right here)

Don’t be the reason someone leaves Christianity. Don’t be the reason someone feels like the outcast in your world.

Image

Instead, choose to be more like Him every day.

I found that when I choose that, I can honestly set aside pride and the need to be “right” or “heard”, and in turn–more people will listen to what I believe and even if they don’t believe the same thing–well, at least they feel God’s love in the process.

Because LOVE is what being a Christian is all about.

THAT, you might say, is my religion.