I Usually Don’t Know it’s Revelation…

jesus-at-the-door-39617-galleryPersonal revelation is a tricky thing. Too much of it and our agency may be infringed upon. Too little of it and we’re literally on our own, rudderless in a sense. Receiving direction from the heavens when needed in quite a blessing–a miracle in any sense of the word. The problem is, I’m not expert, even after decades of trying to become one. I’m not sure I’m better at recognizing promptings and direction now compared to a year ago or even a decade ago. Maybe I am. I really just don’t know.

Sometimes when we’re sharing an experience with someone (in a class or a personal conversation or a post) we say something like, “The spirit told me to…” or “I felt prompted to…” and we go on with the story. I’ve done that, I’m sure of it. And there are worse things in the world. The funny thing is this: I rarely know the Lord is prompting me when He is. On a few occasions I’ve felt sure the Holy Ghost was whispering to me, but those occasions are actually pretty rare.

More often, I think that maybe there is a chance I’ve been prompted. Not totally sure, but maybe.

I’m just not always sure. So I will have this thought or feeling or nudge (probably my favorite description of a prompting from God) and I’ll wonder about it a little. But it is a nudge toward something good or helpful or charitable, so I’ll move forward not knowing for sure if God’s hand is in this moment or not. Often, good things will come of it. Periodically, amazing or miraculous things will come of it. And as I look back over the situation and story it will become obvious that I had received a prompting or guidance and that the Lord was working in our lives. But I typically don’t know for sure until after the whole story is over.

Interestingly, we find this idea in the Book of Mormon, in the report of Nephi:

12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

15 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. (1 Nephi 17:12-15)

The Lord seems to be saying to Nephi, “You’ll be led, but you won’t really know it for sure until after you’ve arrived in the promised land and avoided the destruction in Jerusalem.” They would hopefully trust the Lord and sense that there was a divine hand in their lives, but they wouldn’t know for sure until after they had arrived in the promised land (v. 14). Nephi determined to strive to keep the commandments so that he could eventually received that assurance (v. 15).

We can trust the Lord. We can act on promptings. We may not be totally sure that we’re being prompted, but as we act in faith, the assurances will come as we look back.

Sometimes our lives are like neo-impressionistic art. The dots of color that make up the moments and events of our days can appear unconnected and chaotic at times. We can’t see any order to them. We can’t imagine that they have a purpose at all.

However, when we step back and take an eternal perspective, when we look at our lives in the frame of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can begin to see how the various dots in our lives interconnect. We may not be able to see the entire picture just yet, but we’ll see enough to trust that there is a beautiful, grand design. And as we strive to trust God and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, one day we will see the finished product, and we will know that the very hand of God was directing and guiding our steps.

We will know that the Master Artist had a plan for those random dots all along. We will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.

I have certainly seen this in my own life.

An Evening with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults • January 14, 2018

Maybe the “trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6) that has to come before you receive a witness is, at least sometimes, just not knowing for sure but moving forward anyway…

Be Encouraging,

BJM

When You List Your Personal Strengths, Are You Remembering This One?

unspecifiedWe really, really look forward to Mondays. That’s “Email Day” around here. Each week I update our missionary-son, Landon, on our lives and share a short gospel principle that’s, hopefully, encouraging. I also ask him three to five questions about himself and his mission experience.

Last week one of my questions invited him to list some of the strengths, gifts, or talents he’s noticing he is developing. I thought I’d hear him talk about some newfound courage or ability to love others or a developed work-ethic. His answer (and what follows is all he wrote about it) caught me a little off guard:

“I think I’ve just realized my weak spots right now. I have noticed that now when things get rough the first thing I do is turn to the Lord. Which if you count Him as my strength, I guess there’s one.” (Elder Mickelson, January 2017)

Each of us possess talents and talents-in-embryo. We each have strengths and gifts. But when we’re in a covenant relationship with the Savior, He becomes our greatest Gift. Many of us take courage when approaching a challenge when we’re reminded of some gift that will give us an advantage in the sticky situation. But, doesn’t having the Savior as our Advocate, Redeemer, and Savior give us the ultimate advantage in mortality.

The next time you are facing a problem, remember to list all of your gifts, especially the ultimate Gift. He is our greatest source of strength…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

The Gift of Tongues, Courage, and Our Son the Missionary (a letter to Landon)…

unspecifiedI wrote to Landon today and sent the letter through the Church’s “pouch” system, which is great but slow. Not knowing exactly when the letter will arrive in Mexico, I tried to share some ideas with him that will not be “old” no matter when the letter arrives. Here’s part of the letter:

“Dear Landon (sent through the Pouch on Jan. 3, 2017) (sorry for the small font size and spacing…gotta keep it under a page!)

“Man, I wish these letters could make it to you the next day like in the MTC! I loved knowing you could hear from us in just 24 hours most days. Knowing this letter may take a month to get to you isn’t very fun! But, I want you to get physical mail every once in while and the emails are more “conversational” so these letters will be more just me sharing things about the gospel as if we were sitting on the couch downstairs. I miss our gospel conversations!

“I learned a pretty important truth from one of my students and I know we’ve talked about it before but I want to share it again. In fact, I’ll be sharing two things today and both are important to missionary work and the work of salvation in general [I’m not including the second idea in this blog post]. Here’s the first truth…

“I was asking my students about the “gift of tongues” and what was required to receive that gift. Of course, the students mentioned praying for the gift and studying the language which are obviously important and I’m sure you’re working on those two. But one student surprised me a little with her answer. She said, “Courage is the most important thing. Once I decided to just try to speak to people in their language, knowing that I’d mess it up and a few people would laugh a little or make fun, my language skills took off and I really noticed the gift of tongues.” Most of the class nodded. When I pressed them a little, they all said that they had to just get over the fear of messing up in front of others. Interestingly, trying to use the gift before they had the gift was actually part of receiving the gift. They saw real growth when they showed the Lord that they weren’t going to let fear dictate their progress or actions.

“I think it is true of all gifts, and there are more gifts available than just the ones listed in the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 12 and Moroni 10 and D&C 46. In fact, there are endless gifts to help us overcome endless mortal weaknesses. If we are trying to develop the spiritual gift of forgiveness, we have to be a little gutsy and forgive someone who may hurt us again. Or if we are trying to develop the gift of service we have to go out of our comfort zones and offer help even when it is uncomfortable. So here’s the principle: Qualifying for the gifts of the Spirit requires courage. When I was a bishop, I prayed for the gift of discernment which means, in part, the ability to know the thoughts and intents of the hearts (through the Spirit) of those I was serving. I prayed for it, a lot. There were times when I would sense someone was struggling after passing them in the hallway or seeing them in sacrament meeting. I would worry though that if I asked them, they’d look at me weird and tell me that they were fine and then I’d look like a overly-worried, nosey bishop. But after a while, I decided to just ask people when I had those moments and hoped that they’d feel my love and God’s love and even if I was wrong, they’d know I was asking because of that love. So, I got brave and started opening my mouth more. And 9 times out of 10 they were struggling. Maybe 9.5 times out of 10. And that gift grew and developed and was a real blessing to certain ward members and to me. But it wouldn’t have developed had I not got over myself and my fears and started just acting. I’m grateful the Lord was willing to bless others through that gift, but courage was a key.

“So, how can you take your courage up a notch? What can you do today to show the Lord that you won’t get in your own way when it comes to the gift of tongues? How can you muster even more courage to just go and talk, open your mouth, regardless of your current skill level?

“I know that as you continue to show the Lord your courage (and I know you are courageous, or you wouldn’t be out there in Mexico surrounded by strangers!), He will literally fill your mouth with His words, in the language of the people you’re serving…”

There’s a few more paragraphs in the letter and the font was so small he may not even be able to read it. I hope the idea of developing courage is a blessing to him and the missionaries around him. It has been to me!

Be Encouraging…

BJM

 

2017 Goals, Projects, Challenges, and Zuckerberg…

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A note on my iPhone

I set almost the same goals every year. Basically they have to do with journal writing, scripture study, prayer, and exercise. At this point they’re not really goals or New Year’s resolutions. They’re just reminders of things I’m already planning on doing. And that’s kind of lame but I get stuff done every year so I guess that’s good…

A few weeks ago I read about Mark Zuckerberg’s report on his “Zuckerberg Challenge” for 2016… For some reason it really caught my attention. Every year for the past few years (I don’t know how long actually) Zuckerberg decides to work on a “project” or “challenge” for the year and he discusses it at the start of the year on, well, Facebook, of course…I’m quite excited to read about his 2017 goal, which he hasn’t announced as of this writing.

Here are the Zuckerberg challanges I’ve read about…If you are interested in reading more about any of these challenges, you’ll have to look them up yourself..they’re easy to find:

  • 2009: Wear a tie to work every day.
  • 2010: Learn Mandarin.
  • 2011: Only eat animals he kills himself.
  • 2012: Code every day.
  • 2013: Meet a new person outside of Facebook every day.
  • 2014: Write one thoughtful thank-you note every day.
  • 2015 : Read a book every 2 weeks.
  • 2016: To build an AI for his house and run 365 miles

It really got me thinking about my goal-setting and I’ve decided that rather than set my same old New Year’s resolutions, I am going to work on projects during 2017. Here are the projects and here are the reasons behind them:

Run 100 miles (all outside) and do 10,000 push-ups during 2017

I decided on these two related goals mostly because I really don’t want to do either of these and I feel like it is important to prove to myself that I can do things I don’t want to do. I already lift weights three times a week and do a little cardio each time, but I think it is important to do a little more. I don’t like running and I don’t like pushups. I know 100 miles over the course of 365 days is no big deal for most runners (Janese does that in a month or less), but last year I probably ran 11 miles or 15 or maybe 17 or something. So this will be good to work on. And I’ll need to average 192.307692308 pushups a week to reach my goal of 10,000. Again, not a big deal, but I’m already lifting three times a week so this will be on top of that. This will also help fill in on the days I don’t get to lift.

Read 6 books that are out of my interest circle during 2017
I don’t know how to explain how I’ll pick the 6 books. These will just be 6 books that I would not normally read. And, on top of these six, I’ll still be reading all of the books I will normally read, plus scripture study. I have a book a friend recommended which I initially had zero interest in. But after reading the front flap I decided to give it a try. I read about 30 pages and then got caught up in other books that are more my style. So I’m going to start with that book and then order five more books over the course of 2017 that are not in my normal interest circle.
Create a $500 local scholarship or donation to a university or trade school during 2017
I think attending college or a trade school is a big deal. It is also expensive. We’re not rich, but I am able to do a lot of photography each year for which I’m very grateful. I don’t know how to start a scholarship or how to go about making a donation, but I’ll figure all of that out and hopefully ease the burden by a little bit for a student somewhere. Details to come…as soon as I figure out any of the details…$500 is the goal, but that may change depending on what I learn during this process.
Complete questions from my childhood book during 2017
I started working on a project in 2011 where I answer 365 questions about my childhood. I had planned on printing them up for our children. Even though I work on it here and there, I’m only on about question 200 or so. So I plan on completing this project and getting the book ready for print before 2017 is over. I may get it printed or not this year, but I will have it written, edited, and formatted for print by the end of the year. Then I’ll make decisions about where to print and will print 10 copies so my children can each have one and I’ll have a few extra for when they lose them…
Why did I tell you?
I don’t really know. I don’t expect you to join with me on any of these (unless you want to help with the scholarship and make it larger than $500), and I promise not to constantly post about my projects. I think sharing it with others makes me feel a little more accountable even though I don’t really need anyone to specifically check in on me. And maybe it’ll get you thinking about your goals, projects, 2017 challenges, or whatever…
#2017MickelsonChallenge

A Letter to Our Missionary Son…

mickelson-and-coronadoOur oldest son has spent 6 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City and recently flew to Guadalajara where he will spend the next 22 months or so. We email him each week and I try to write a letter to him each week as well…Here is a recent letter I sent, hoping he’d receive it close to when he arrived in his new area:

December 20, 2016 (Pouch)

Dear Landon…

This is my first letter through the Pouch system and I’ll be interested to see how it works. I’m writing this on Tuesday, December 20 and will mail it today so keep track and let me know how long it takes for this to get into your hands. My guess is that it will go from here (Logan) to Salt Lake, to your mission office and then must be hand-delivered by an office elder to you, right? So that may take some time. I know that I can email you each week and I will always do that, but I like writing these so that you have a physical copy of some of the things I would like to share with you and teach you that I think will bless you. I would imagine you will not be able to print the emails so you don’t have access to them throughout the week. Anyway, let me know how this goes and how often do these pouch letters are delivered to you.

I can’t believe you are in Guadalajara!!! You’ve met President and Sister Clayton, been interviewed, met the APs, and met your trainer! You’ve also been assigned you first area and are meeting ward or branch members and a few of the people in your teaching pool I would imagine. So awesome. You may also feel a little overwhelmed with it all and a little frustrated with the language, even though I think it has been coming along pretty well according to your reports from the MTC. So, you have a few decisions to make. In case you’ve not already made them, here are some ideas:

  1. Decide right now that obedience is the first law of heaven
  2. Decide right now that loving your companion doesn’t depend on what he’s like as much as on you choosing to love and serve him
  3. Decide that the Book of Mormon isn’t only central to your investigators’ conversions, but to yours
  4. Decide to follow the council of the Mission President no matter what
  5. Decide to trust in the Lord

You’ve already learned how to overcome frustration or discouragement or homesickness while in the MTC, or at least part of how to do that. And to be honest, you’ve learned things that most parents only dream of their son learning as an 18-year-old. Where else can this kind of growth happen? I love where you are and what you’re doing! You have already learned how to lean on the Lord for help and I promise you, Heavenly Father knows exactly where you are and what worries and excites you! I promise that is true.

We are so excited to hear the details of Guadalajara and the Claytons and your trainer and district and zone. This is it. You’re the real deal now. It is high adventure from here on out. Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared this: “Now we are entering times wherein there will be for all of us as Church members, in my judgment, some special challenges which will require of us that we follow the Brethren. All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it’s high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways” (“The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity,” in A Symposium on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979], p. 12) There will be boring moments in the missionary field and slow times for sure, but you out there, in the middle of the Lord’s work!!! You have a family that loves you and thinks about you all of the time and misses you and prays for you multiple times a day. You have a companion who loves you. You have a mission president who loves you. You have friends who love you. You have people from the other side of the veil who will help you and whisper to you and encourage you through the Spirit (2 Nephi 32:2). And, you are blessed with talents and gift more than most. Use them.

I love you more than you can know!

Love,

Dad

One last “Dad Time”…

mic_6827-copyKinda weird to recognize “lasts” before they happen. Usually we don’t think of something as being our “last time” until after it has happened and then there is a death or something and we don’t get the chance to do it again, whatever “it” is. Not this time. I’ve known this “last” was coming for years.

I hold father’s interviews on the first Sunday of each month. We call them “dad time”. Our family has been holding these “interviews” since Landon, our oldest, was just a baby. We’ve missed a few months over the last eighteen years, but not many. I think we refer to them as “dad time” since “interviews” makes them sound much more formal than they were ever intended to be. Really, one child at a time, we hang out in one of the rooms of our home and just talk. We talk about whatever they want. These sessions don’t last more than about ten minutes each. There’s no lecturing. There’s a lot of listening. It’s been nice. A lot of laughing, as you can imagine if you know us.

Since Landon is the oldest, he’s been in on more of these than any of the other children. We used to lay on our backs in the hallway of our previous home and put our feet up on the walls and talk. He’d sing songs he was learning in church or school. He’d recite the alphabet. We’d laugh a lot. I’d ask him about school, friends, chores, mom. As he got older we’d sit in my room and talk about sports, school responsibilities, friend relationships, girls. We’ve talked about sex, the internet, alcohol, peer pressure, disappointments, triumphs. We’ve talked about serving as a missionary and worshipping in the temple. We’ve talked about marriage. Sometimes we’ve just talked about kind of nothing…just little things that were going on. We’ve done so many that very few of these interviews really stand out.

Once, when Landon was about five or six, he had kind of a letdown birthday moment, right in the middle of the party. Trying to be brave, he didn’t cry in front of the grandparents and cousins, but I could tell he was really sad and disappointed. During a quiet moment in the party, he walked over to me, climbed up on my lap and said, “Dad, could we do a ‘dad time’?” I guess he thought it would help him get through his struggle.

Today is the first Sunday of November, and the last Sunday that Landon will be in our home as a permanent resident. He’ll be off to Mexico in a little over a week, to serve that mission we talked about so many times. So…many…times. Today is our last “dad time” for awhile.

The goal wasn’t to hold eighteen years’ worth of interviews. It was to build a relationship. It was to make it so very clear that he, and each of our children, could come to us anytime and share anything. It was to express love and dedication and support. It was to make it crystal clear that no matter what had taken place over the course of the month–whether there were good choices or bad–Dad was always going to love them and want to hear from them. No matter what.

I’m excited for these next two years. We’ll communicate through letters and emails and a few treasured phone calls or Skype sessions while he is serving in Mexico. We’ll send packages and celebrate success and pray for help when there are the inevitable struggles. What a blessing, for sure.

But I can’t wait until that next “dad time”…

Be encouraging, as always,

BJM