Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Spirit Hungered. My Tummy Growled.

Fast Sunday is coming up soon. I always initially have a hard time with the first Sunday of the month.  The night before I lay in bed thinking that when I wake up in the morning I am going to skip my favorite part of the day. Then my second favorite part of the day. Eating brings me joy. It's in my Top 5. (Gospel, Family, Food, Laughing, Learning).

Fasting is one of those things that I have done because I've been taught by good, faithful parents to do so.  I did it to be obedient, not because I had a testimony of it. In my mind it strikes me as being backwards. Going without food brings more spirituality than with? The results of my fasting is usually hunger, headaches, and grouchiness. NOT exactly a spiritual experience.

A couple years ago I decided to fast about fasting. After praying I reached over and picked up my scriptures, randomly opening up to a page. (I know you always hear these stories. Look! It really happens! To normal people :) ) I opened up to 3rd Nephi 12:6: "And blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost."

I have always taken this passage of scripture to be symbolic. Reading it then I took it literally as well. As I said, I fasted because I wanted to be obedient. I went hungry and I didn't submit to my tummy growlings to be righteous. As a trial of my faith. I didn't know why but I did it anyway. I know the Lord recognizes my desire to be faithful. Similar to when Adam answered the Angel's inquiries as to why he performed sacrifice. "I know not, save the Lord commanded me" (Moses 5:30).
This gospel is a gospel of mastering the natural man. Every prophet, apostle, and disciple of Christ teach about loving others, forgiving them as well as ourselves, and giving the benefit of the doubt. One of my all time favorite scriptures is found in the epistle of John, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world". {You're probably thinking that I've taken one of my frequented vacations in tangent-ville. No worries. It will all connect. It's the gospel. It ALL connects! ;) }

He's talking to us, isn't he? Yes! Because WE are divine. We are also of this world. Our divine spirit is enclosed in our mortal, natural man bodies. We are taught in this scripture we can and we WILL overcome our carnal appetites. We fast to prove to ourselves that we ARE stronger than our natural man. (To a point, I wouldn't attempt it beyond a couple days unless I absolutely had too. 2 meals or 24 hours is good enough for this girl.)

Our carnal appetites don't just end with food. There's a long list. By this simple once a month demonstration I prove to mostly myself (because God already knows what I'm capable of and it doesn't matter what other people think) my ability to master myself. My ability with His help, to come off conquerer! President Uchtdorf said, "We must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord's way".

Through this simple act of faith and small sacrifice, I demonstrate to Heavenly Father my willingness to obey and to put my natural man desires on hold. To show him I have faith in his way and his knowledge, not just mine. And then... he blesses me! Through something so simple.

When we fast,  we are starving the natural man in each of us to feed our spirits. Because we have the power to shun evil and feast upon righteousness.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Who We Really Are

There are a couple of things I could always count on as a child. My mom catching my brother and I every time we would sneak twinkies out of the pantry, my older brother's teasing, and visits to Wyoming every summer to visit my Grandparents. I LOVED visiting my grandparents. Swimming lessons, ice cream on Friday nights, playing with cousins, and watching movies that could only be found in my grandma's basement. Although I would look forward to being in Wyoming with my grandpa and grandma, I did NOT look forward to the drive. Not only was it was 6 long and dreary hours, but we had to spend most of them driving through Yellowstone National Park. I hated it. Completely dreaded the drive.  To this day all I think of when I see red twizzlers (a staple for the ride from Idaho to Wyoming) are stinky hot pots and geysers, and the dizziness I felt looking out at the blur of brown and green as we passed thousands of pine trees. Blech. To me, the national park was common. And boring.

A few years ago I took a geology class. It opened my eyes to what a treasure Yellowstone really is. I was amazed. My professor took us on a tour of Yellowstone, stopping the bus often as we drove through the park to allow us a closer look at the wonders that were almost right out our back door. All these years I spent dreading the ride through this forest, not realizing the treasure it is on our earth. People from all over the world travel by bus and plane just to spend a few hours to enjoy the scenery there.

I have spent my life learning and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since birth I have been taught very basic simple truths about who I am, why I am here, and how much our Father in Heaven loves me. To me, this knowledge was common sense. Everyone knew what I know.

Six months ago I embarked into my mission adventure. I quickly realized what a treasure the gospel and its teachings are. I found out that though it is simple, the things I know are not common. I have the jewels of the most worth.

I know I am a daughter of God with the potential to become like He is. I lived with him before I came here. He loves us more than we can even comprehend. This earth was created specifically for each one of us to progress towards the divine destiny He has planned for us. His plan is made possible because of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Simple, right? Yet, reality shifting.

This knowledge has affected the choices I have made all through out my life, whether I realized it or not. I don't think I ever consciously even thought about it. It became a part of me.

Deep in the heart of humanity is a homesickness that many feel yet do not understand. The adversary is doing an excellent job at helping us to forget simple truths. Because if the adversary can persuade us to forget who our Father is, we forget who we can become. Our choices reflect our understanding of this simple treasure of knowledge. This is knowledge of hope and happiness.

I am Sister Ashcraft, daughter of God. :) "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I shall preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:9).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fairy Tales and Scripture Reading

How many of you have heard, "Reading the scriptures will change your life"?

I have. Lots. Throughout the years I would at times skeptically wonder, "Really? Reading a couple words on a page is going to make my day better? It's going to change who I am? What I want? What I see? I don't get it."

Many latter-day prophets have promised that a careful reading of the Book of Mormon can do nothing short of generating many miracles.

I thought it sounded like a fairy tale. Magic. Read....>Poof<!! Instant better day! Just by reading a couple pages out of some book. Then again, it's not just 'some book'. I've come to realize it's THE book. I've heard variations of this promise throughout my life. Just enough times to take the challenge. I put it to the test. You know what I discovered? Fairy tales are more than real.* And this promise is secure and tight. It works!

I was confused, yet pleasantly so, when my days WOULD go better when I read the Book of Mormon. I couldn't figure it out. I was baffled and befuddled. I really DID become a better, happier version of myself. I loved others more. My perspective shifted. If I wasn't paying close attention I may have even missed the subtle, yet ironically enough, drastic change in myself. That left a big question to be answered...How?

I pondered upon these things for awhile. I know I don't understand it perfectly, but I do know that it's not magic. It's something better. It's the light of Christ. When we read The Book of Mormon, we are inviting into our lives the words of Christ, which in turn bring his power. Little by little, bit by bit. The power to change all of my spiritual anatomy problems including my hard heart, my stiff neck, my deaf ears and my blind eyes. It changes what I see, because it changes me.

The scriptures are jam-packed with how powerful the word of God is. My favorite example is in Alma 31:5:

"... preaching of the word... had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else..."

Yep. That is pretty powerful. There's more. Just to name a few, in Helaman 3:29, "whosoever will lay hold upon the word of God" will be able to cut through the countless deceptive snares of the adversary. Jacob teaches us the word of God heals wounded souls. Psalms 119 says the word will show our feet where to go. Nephi testifies that the word of God will teach us all things we should do. Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that it is through the word of God that men become perfected. Helaman shows the way in Helaman 15:7-8. Because God's word leads us to act in faith to repent. Repentance is the process our hearts are changed. Repeating this process over and over again allows us to become firmer and more steadfast in the faith.

Amazing. I could go on all day. I won't though. {I think I heard you just breathe a sigh of relief.} We both have got to get moving and acting upon the word.  :)

I love God's word! FEAST upon the words. And never hunger.

* " Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but they tell us dragons can be defeated." - Neil Gaiman