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Friday, January 17, 2014

Sacred Silence

Below is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting last Sunday.  Enjoy!

I've been asked to talk about “Rising Up and Continuing on the Path Toward Spiritual Goals.”

I think this is pretty timely, because it’s the first of the year, and lots of people have New Years resolutions to accomplish some personal spiritual goals.

Several years ago this week, my wife and I had been attending a married student ward and made a New Years resolution to attend a new ward -- this ward.

And in that time, I've seen lots of births, a few deaths, happy and sad tears, mistakes and jokes, and quite a few people go “Whew, what did I get myself into?”  But to be perfectly transparent, over the years,

  • I've seen members cry in our meetings because their spouse wasn't active, or even a member of the church.
  • I've seen us cope with family members in jail, pregnant yet out of wedlock, run away, addicted to porn or drugs or gambling, abusive or neglecting. 
  • Some of us have been shrunken with sadness or drowning in debt. 
  • I've seen some of us chronically depressed, gripped by anxiety, schizophrenia and even suicidal tendencies.
  • I've seen us deal with a life-long disabilities, terminal disease and sudden death.
  • I've seen some of us hurt -- and I mean really hurt -- by others.

I've seen more than one of us put on the happiest, smiliest face we could possibly imagine at church, and then when I visited them at home right after the block meetings, I've seen their sad countenances and tear-stained faces.

In those many years here, some of us have folded under the pressure.  They turned their backs on God and the church and haven’t looked back.

Yet some of us -- some of whom are here today -- did something else...something so wonderful, so spiritually significant, that miracles took place.

They not only rose up, but also continued on a much higher spiritual path.

They aimed higher, reached farther and attained greater than they ever thought possible.

And the kicker is: they all did was...Just.  One.  Thing.
There’s a story about a Japanese Zen master who was once visited by a university professor, who came to inquire and learn from the master.

It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning as he was in impressing the master with his own opinions and knowledge. The master listened patiently and finally suggested they have tea. The master poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the cup overflowing until he could no longer restrain himself. “The cup is overfull, no more will go in,” he said.

The master said, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Like the university professor, our cups are overflowing with cares, concerns and worries about ourselves, our families, our jobs, our health, the world, as well as the past, present and future.

It’s no wonder that we find solutions to our problems so elusive at times.  Our cups are so overflowing, we are unable to tune in and receive wisdom from Our Master.

And so what do we do?  We rely on OUR mortal abilities and OUR mortal wisdom and OUR mortal relationships to resolve those cares, concerns and worries.

And how how quickly we find out -- as Moses did -- that we are nothing.

The Savior, however, teaches us a different way.

In Mark 4:39, the Master showed us exactly what to do when the storms of life are beating upon us:
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
This was the literal fulfillment of Psalm 107:29
"He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still."
He also used the phrase “be still” to comfort the Saints as they were enduring great persecution:
“Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (D&C 101:16)
Moses understood this concept, too.  In Exodus 14:13, he said
"Stand still, and see the salvation of God."  
Right after that, through the power of God, he divided the Red Sea.

There’s something god-like about stillness.  Indeed, we read in 1 Kings 19:12, in 1 Nephi 17:45 and in D&C 85:6 that the Spirit speaks to us how?  With a STILL, small voice.
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So, HOW do we hear the still, small voice?  Do we just switch it on?  Do we just wait for it until it decides to say, “Hi, how’s it going?”

No.

D&C 52:14 says God will give us a pattern in all things.  And in this case, He definitely did.  We can find the pattern for enjoying stillness in the lives of Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Nephi, Enos, the Brother of Jared, Joseph Smith, the Savior and more.

What did they all do to enjoy stillness and obtain God’s help?

They physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually left behind the world.  They emptied their cups.  And that made room for them to receive more that the Lord wanted to give them -- greater ability to aim higher, reach farther and attain greater than we think possible.

This process recently led Pres. Monson to ask,
"In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation – even thoughts of timeless truths?" ("The Race of Life," April 2012 General Conference) 
Did you catch that?  Pres. Monson gave us a key word that summarizes this whole process.  Let me give it to you one more time:
"In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation – even thoughts of timeless truths?" 
Meditation!  Not chanting mantras or sitting in a corner or bowing to something.  Instead, just going off somewhere quiet and secluded, emptying your mind of thoughts and emotions, and listening to God as He seeks to quiet our storms and replace them with peace and hope and love and enlightenment.

I quote Pres. David O. McKay in the June, 1967 Improvement Era:
“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion.
In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation. 
Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord" (Pres. David O. McKay, “Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life,” Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80–82).
Let me repeat that last part: “Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord"

That’s what Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Nephi, Enos, the Brother of Jared, Joseph Smith and the Savior did.  That’s what our fellow ward members -- who had significant challenges -- did.  And in the process, some us saw our spouses re-embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we saw family members conquer their personal demons, we saw people rise above death and disease -- including terminal-stage cancer -- and those who have been hurt be healed again.

I started my speech by talking about “Rising Up and Continuing on the Path Toward Spiritual Goals.”

The pattern to do that is perfectly clear.  It’s what TWO latter-day prophets told us to consider doing:

Meditate.  For a few minutes everyday, empty your cup.  Shed yourself of all those cares and concerns and worries, and give them to Christ.  Do it until you feel calm and peaceful.  Be still.  Then let Him fill you up with thoughts and feelings and insights that will tell you ALL things that you must do.

And in so doing, you will find Him.

Yes, you will feel impure. Sinful. Wrong. Unclean. Unholy. Unrighteous.  In fact, you’ll likely think you're totally unworthy of His -- a God's -- personal attention.

You couldn't be more wrong, because when you are with Christ, He will not judge you.  He will not condemn you.  He will not guilt trip you.  Instead, He will calm the storms of your life OR He will calm you.  Regardless, like the woman caught in adultery, you will wet His feet with your tears...even before you hear Him say that your sins are forgiven.

You see, He has so much compassion, acceptance, understanding, positiveness and hope, that He will instantly exceed all your expectations, yet remain the humblest of all of God’s sons.  He will leave you without mortal words to describe His majesty and His unconditional love for you, yet testifying as I can (and I choose my words carefully) that:

I know that my Redeemer lives.

I know that He is so anxious to listen to you, to talk to you, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to take every one of those pains and burdens that you're carrying with you right now, and then strengthen you, uplift you, inspire you, elevate you -- and yes, to eternally save you...to heights you never thought you were able -- or worthy -- to attain.

And -- even more than that, and even in this life -- He is anxious to hold you again in His arms...to show you the things He did for you almost 2,000 years ago, and all the things that await you as you place Him first in your life.

You really can overcome the impossible, and know -- as I do -- that your greatest accomplishments are not behind you...as your destiny lies above you.

This is my invitation to you, and I leave it with you in the holy and sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, that is the most incredible talk. I just cried through the whole thing. My favorite thing to do at the cabin is to ride away on the quad and find a place all alone and TALK to God….empty MY cup and fill it again. I need to find (create) those opportunities wherever I am…..more often.

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  2. Thank you for your wonderful post. I have a surround sound system connected to my internet. I have downloaded many inspiring instrumental hymns and other beautifully inspired music as well. I turn it on every night and fall as sleep unto the Lord and awake unto the Lord for the music plays all night. This quiet, peaceful meditation experience fills me with such joy and peace. I am reminded of the song by Hilary Weeks, one of my favorite artist, “He’ll Speak Peace.” Her message fits right in with this post.

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    1. Would you mind giving us a list of the beautiful instrumental and inspired music that you have downloaded so that we can have this wonderful help in our meditative process? It would really be a great help and appreciated.
      Thank you

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  3. wonderful talk, and thank you for sharing it here!

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing the light of Christ with us! Living in this fast paced world, I have not ever taken the time to "meditate" - something that I know could bring added light into my life and so I just want to thank you so much for your testimony and for these words of wisdom...I know they come from God! Thank you dear Brother!

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