April 25, 2010

clasped in His arms

i gave a talk in sacrament meeting today. the topic given to me was "how the arm of the Lord has been revealed in my life." i had two weeks to prepare and in that time i thought long and hard about what i wanted to say and how i would say it. since i spent so much time on it, i thought i'd post the main message here.

in mormon 5:11 it says, "for i know that such will sorrow for the calamity of the house of Israel; yea, they will sorrow for the destruction of this people; they will sorrow that this people had not repented that they might have been clasped in the arms of Jesus.

there are several different 'arms of the Lord' that we read about in the scriptures and that we experience in our own lives. here are the ones i came up with:

the arm of patience and comfort
butterflies have a very symbolic, sentimental meaning for me. Such a fitting metaphor of how when a caterpillar is wrapped in its cocoon wriggling, struggling, and thinking that this may very well be the end of its life, it finally bursts out of its cage as a beautiful butterfly. i've felt like a caterpillar many times in my life which led to some amazing "butterfly" experiences. one such experience was in the fall of 2008. by the all-knowing grace of my heavenly father, i made it through several rigorous rounds of seminary teacher training and was given my own two seminary classes to teach. i was placed at a junior high in highland, utah and given my own office, my own classroom, and that meant my own walls to decorate – yikes, that was scary! i started a blog to write down my experiences while teaching those 9th graders – i wrote this in my first ‘journal entry’ on my blog:

“sometimes i feel so overwhelmed, frustrated, and far - far - behind where i should be. other times i stand in awe of how powerful the spirit is and what it can do. what a blessing i've received, but what a weight on my shoulders! [these students] are caterpillars in their own right. i don't know everything that is going on in their lives, but i can see the result. i see the pain they're trying to hide. i see the behavior problems that stem from hard family life. how beautiful it is that heavenly father loves each one of them! how beautiful it is that he knows exactly what they're going through! how beautiful it is that he knows how to comfort his children and lift them from their sorrow!... as i wriggle and struggle through this year on working toward becoming a butterfly, i know that my students are as well. i have faith that the holy ghost will lead all of us in the direction we need to go. just you wait.... there are some stunningly gorgeous butterflies just waiting to spread their wings and fly.”

it takes quite a while for caterpillars to become butterflies, yet when we allow Heavenly Father to take us in his arms and comfort us through our “cocoon” experiences, we receive piece and comfort. he has patience for us, so why can we not have patience with ourselves? maybe we need to appreciate those moments of pure trial because that is when we can feel pure comfort from the Lord. i know my Heavenly Father loves me. at times I can just see Him looking down from heaven saying, "lacey, lacey, lacey .... don't you get it? it's going to be ok. stop worrying. you're doing your best, don't punish yourself in vain." it's then that i can feel His arms around me, warming my heart and soothing my troubled mind.

arms of consecration
is the next arm i thought of. it's interesting to me that in all my twenty-two years, i never really understood what the word consecrate means. the dictionary states that the word "consecrate" means to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of deity. in 2 nephi 2:2 lehi speaks to his son saying, “nevertheless, jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and He shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” i think this means that all of our sorrows, our trials, our heartaches and everything else we experience in this life are all made sacred in our Savior because these times are actually sacred learning experiences. isn’t that a neat thought?
president hunter said, “whatever Jesus lays His hands upon lives. if Jesus lays His hands upon a marriage, it lives. if He is allowed to lay His hands on the family, it lives. Jesus will lift and raise every man to a new and better life who will permit the savior to take him by the hand.
i want to take the Savior by the hand and receive that promised blessing. i just need to remember that it’s up to me. i need to open the door to the Him, walk Him into my heart, and keep Him at the highest priority. if i do that, i know that all the hurt and pain in this life will be for a reason and that it will eventually make me a better, stronger person.
i am reminded of the scripture in alma 26:11-12 that say, “i do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and i will rejoice in my God. yea, i know that i am nothing; as to my own strength i am weak; therefore i will not boast of myself, but i will boast of my God, for in His strength i can do all things.”
i don’t know if anyone is familiar with “the twelve steps” first authored by alcoholics anonymous, but they are used in most addiction treatment plans. i stumbled upon a book and pamphlet sold in deseret book that are the church’s literature that incorporate the twelve steps with the book of mormon. the first step is to admit we our powerless. the second step is to believe that a power greater than ourselves – God – can restore us to complete spiritual health. with God, all things are possible. next is the:

arms of revelation
the arm of revelation is a vital piece in our lives, though we sometimes forget we have authority to receive it. in a book by don h. staheli entitled 'just hold me', he tells us, “through the sweet whisperings of the spirit, as a voice in our mind or a feeling in our heart, or by the counsel of a caring person who sees and understands our plight, guidance will come. comfort and reassurance will arrive, and we can find safety and love in His waiting arms.”
revelation, in the many different ways that it can come to us, will always lead us right into the arms of our Savior. if we heed the promptings of the spirit, receive the Lord’s arm of revelation, we will always be on the right track.

now, revelation is closely related to the Savior’s:

arms that leads
in 2 nephi 4:18-21 it reads, “my God hath been my support; He hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and He hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with His love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.”
the arm of the Lord is always offered to the righteous that need guidance. this arm often joins with the arm that comforts, that loves, and that gives revelation.

when it came to the end of my seminary teaching semester, i was informed that i would not be asked to continue. while many tender hearts tried to comfort me with words of encouragement or possible reasons for why this was happening to me, i was not ready. i was not ready to face the pain, the hurt, that heartbreak. those were months that i spent living in a state of hell on earth. someone once told me that “hell” means to be stuck, unable to progress and move forward. that is exactly what happened. again, the Savior’s patience with me through this trying time is something i’m still trying to understand. when He knew i was ready, the Lord revealed His arm to lead me where i needed to go. as i look back at that year, and even through my whole life, i now see that His arm was always there - leading me to safety, to opportunities, to wherever i needed to be. i was never lost from His sight.

arms of forgiveness
is the next one. because we are each human, we will inevitably make mistakes. there are always things we can be better at. when we seek for forgiveness from the Lord with sincerity, we will always find Him waiting with open arms. quoting again from 'just hold me' it reads, “when the world calls to us, should we drift a bit toward the siren song or even fall headlong into the grasp of evil hands, we can come to our senses and run to the sheltering arms of the Savior.” the atonement is the greatest act of love and mercy, the greatest blessing ever performed. the blessing of the sacrament is essentially in seeing the arms of our Heavenly Father and our Savior wrapped around us in forgiveness. in alma 32:13 it says that when a man is compelled to be humble and seeks repentance, surely, they shall find mercy. well i, for one, know that i need His mercy. and that is the next arm.

arms of mercy
in mosiah 29:20 it says, "but behold, He did deliver them because they did humble themselves before Him; and because they cried mightily unto Him He did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with His power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in Him.
Also, in helaman 3:27 it reads, "thus we may see that the lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name."

last semester i was having a really hard time with my car. it had been giving me trouble for quite some time and my mechanic looked at it several times, always concluding there was nothing wrong with it as far as he could tell. there is something wrong, however, when your car's battery dies in the middle of a busy road for no apparent reason. i was in the middle of that busy road in the dark wondering what to do when along came a kind-hearted stranger asking if they could help in any way. however, this 'good samaritan' was not actually a stranger, rather my sister's cherished best friend. to my ears, her voice was that of an angel. on that patience-trying night there was only one voice that could have made all my frustrations flee, and there she was. this angel on earth was there for me {again} even when she didn't know who it was who needed her help. i don't know how she was able to turn a somewhat dreadful experience of pushing a huge car down the street all by ourselves seem like fun, but she did. she's amazing. through chelsey that night, i saw the arm of mercy revealed in my life again. the tender mercies of the Lord are everywhere once we try to see them.

arms of love
is the final arm of the Lord that i want to discuss. we know of the Savior's atonement for us and that it brings salvation, but did you know that salvation means to save or preserve something precious. Christ’s atonement is His testimony to us of how precious we are to Him and to the Father.
in the book 'just hold me' it says, “the loving arms of the Savior are open wide to receive us – that when no one else seems to be around, when others do not appear to understand or even pay attention to our need for a hug, He is there.”
in 2 nephi 1:15, lehi expresses, “behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; i have beheld His glory, and i am encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.”
in doctrine and covenants 6:20, the Lord spoke to oliver cowdrey. instead of his name, though, let us each insert our own names in oliver’s place – because it applies to us as well. “behold, thou art [lacey], and i have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and i will encircle thee in the arms of my love.” that is our promise!

~the arms of patience and comfort, consecration, revelation, the leads, forgiveness, mercy, love~

i love my Father in Heaven. i love my Savior Jesus Christ. i am so grateful for the knowledge i have of the restored gospel on the earth today and for my testimony of things unseen. the Lord will always reveal his arm to us when we seek Him. i am so grateful for the tender mercies He blesses me with every day.

in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.