Tag Archives: grace

How Are You Doing with Those Resolutions?

So, here we are one week into the new year. How are you doing with those new year resolutions?

Yeah—me too.

But I’ll keep trying.

I gave up making long lists years ago. All of my resolutions could be summarized, really, in a few words often sung by Latter-day Saint children: “I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m following in His ways . . .” All of the other ideas for resolutions come down to this, one way or another. I know I am imperfect, but I am trying to become more like the One who never fell into imperfection.

It is embarrassing to tell you this. Anyone who knows me knows how far from perfect I am.

It is painful for me to think about the audacity of this idea—humiliating, really. It makes me cringe to think how ashamed I would be of so many things if I were in the presence of Jesus Christ. And yet I am joyful when I understand that He wants to forgive me.

He said, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). He said, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I don’t think He was kidding about either of those things. When I think of how far I have to go, the thought is terrifying in one way, and exhausting.

Maybe you feel the same way about His commandment. Anyone might be tempted to think, “How could I ever do this?” But I don’t think He meant we have to do it by tomorrow, or even by the end of this year.

If I get to the end of this year and feel like I’m better than at the beginning, then I can hope. If I keep getting a little better day by day, then I can hope for salvation through His grace. There is no other way.

I have found that I have to reduce this following Him, this striving for perfection, to one day at a time. At the beginning of the day, I pray for help to handle the things that I know may be spiritual challenges for me, along with stumbling blocks that I cannot foresee. That is the only way I know to approach this challenge. Maybe a stronger person could improve by leaps and bounds. But for me, it requires baby steps, one day at a time.

How am I doing so far today? Well, so far I’ve already felt pride and anger and impatience.

But I tried to help the person who made me feel those things, and now I feel better about him.

Maybe that’s progress.

How Good Are You?

Matt 548

We live in a world that beats us down. We are surrounded by forces that tend to make us feel small and worthless sometimes. In this kind of world, it’s important that we learn to recognize good—especially the good within ourselves.

Granted, we all fall short of perfection. It is part of our mortal condition. We have weaknesses that we surrender to all too easily, and we have help in our failures, because none of us is strong enough by ourselves to stand up to the devil one on one.

I believe in a real devil—the personage we call Satan. He exists, and he hates every one of us on earth because we enjoy the privilege of living here in mortality—a privilege he lost by rebellion before we came here. The devil will do anything to make us miserable as he is.

It is in his best interest for people not to believe in him. That way he can work without our being aware of his influence. If he confronted us directly, many would resist being manipulated. It is better for him if he can simply whisper to us, inviting us to indulge in the weaknesses that he knows we have.

Usually we fall into sin without thinking about the end result. That is why we need Jesus Christ and the grace He offers.

“Be ye perfect,” He said in the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48). Would He give us a commandment that is impossible? No. But it is important that we understand all the things “perfect” may mean. The Greek word in the biblical text means complete, or fully developed. We might say this means being of full integrity—endeavoring always to practice what we say we believe. We may not reach this level all the time, but we are expected to try. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery—a sin worthy of death under the Mosaic law—and then He said to her, “Go, and sin no more.” That is what is expected of each of us.John 811

We have sinned in the past, and we will continue to struggle and fall. Because of this, we would be eternally lost without the grace of Christ. But He expects us to get up and try again.

Why would He willingly suffer and die for our sins? Because it was a commitment He made before coming to earth? Yes. But there was something more. He saw enough good in each of us to feel we are worth saving. Despite all of the times that we fail, He loves us.

It is important to see the good in ourselves without becoming proud of it. In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis explained that the way for the devil to distract us from doing good is to get us to stop and pat ourselves on the back for it. We need to find the balance that lets us recognize good within ourselves while we still plead to God for the forgiveness He offers through the grace of His Beloved Son. No matter how much good we might do, that grace is still essential to our salvation.

When we find the good within ourselves, this will help us understand how to heed His repeated admonitions to “go, and do” (Luke 10:37) and to “follow me” (Matthew 9:9, 10:38). In what shall we follow Him? In doing the kind of works that He did. The good and strength within us can be used to lift others. (See Hebrews 12:12.)

You have many weaknesses. When the devil tells you that you are no good because of them, or when you cringe at the unworthiness within yourself, you must remember that you also have strengths.

So here is today’s thought to ponder as you try to take up your cross and follow Him: How good are you?


Lasting Impressions

How much does a falling leaf weigh?


Found on a sidewalk beneath some trees, in passing.

This one made quite an impression. Its mark is embedded in concrete, destined to be there for a lifetime at least, or until the sidewalk crumbles. Who would have thought this possible?

And yet, there are other marks we make that will last for a lifetime, even though they may be invisible. They may mar and weaken, even though we can’t see them. Sometimes we may be completely unaware we have made them. The words that left the mark may be long forgotten by us—but perhaps not by others who heard them.

There is an incident from my sophomore creative writing class that still haunts me morfe than 50 years later. The teacher required us to in our stories or poems or whatever the assignment anonymously, and then other class members would read them, without knowing who wrote them, and comment. That day it was a lovely poem about a woman the writer obviously revered. The words reminded me, a budding photographer, of a beautiful photo I had seen in a magazine ad—something one would not have expected to find in an advertisement for laundry detergent. I commented with some admiration that it reminded me of a soap ad—but with 19-year-old bravado, I tried not to sound emotional because I thought I needed to maintain a certain level of macho. A few minutes later in the discussion, I realized the young woman across the aisle was crying. She raised her hand and confessed that the poem was so heartfelt because she had written it about her beloved grandmother. Cool, I thought. I also had a beloved grandmother and felt she probably deserved the same kind of praise.

It was quite literally years later that it came to me one day why that young woman had probably cried. My words, meant as guarded admiration, may have sounded instead like harsh deprecation. And I have wished for many years since then that I could find that woman and tell her how beautiful and meaningful that poem was to me. I have prayed to the Lord to comfort her if she still carries that memory, to help her to know that she touched hearts with her words.

How many times through the years have I said something similar that might have had a hurtful impact while I walked away unknowing?

I have tried never to use labeling words when talking to a child or grandchild, my spouse or others—words like “You’re so _________________,” or “You always ________________,” or “You just can’t stop . . . .” And yet as I write this, I look back on other times when I did exactly that.

If only I could recognize all those times and take back my words or provide some emotional or spiritual balm! (I have heard that Brigham Young once advised his associates never to chastise anyone beyond their own ability to provide balm for the wound.)

All too well, I know how those words can leave lasting impressions. I still remember the student teacher in my eighth grade shop class who told me, “You make my life miserable.” I remember the high school friend whom I dumped because he called me a hypocrite; I was too proud to admit that he was probably right. For years after that shop teacher’s remark, I accepted the idea that I was probably clumsy and inept when it came to any kind of handwork, and as a high school senior I lost a friendship that might have strengthened both our lives.

Many times I have prayed that the Lord will show me how to build other people up. Often I have prayed that He will comfort them where I have failed or inadvertently caused hurt instead.

May He apply to them the grace I would like to ask Him to extend to me. May I never again make deep, damaging marks in someone vulnerable and impressionable.

Comprehending His Love and Grace


When we come to the Fountain of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, with humble and contrite hearts, His grace can open the way to heaven’s greatest blessings.

The theme was obeying God so we can fully enjoy all the blessings He is willing to give us. The speaker was a man who has been a leader in my church for 30 years, helping members in many countries know and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. The power of his spirit is compelling. I know that he knows what he is talking about when he speaks of the love of our Heavenly Father and the mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ.

He was speaking of the sacrifice of our Lord, who gave His life to pay for our sins—of the incomparable cruelty of crucifixion, of the unimaginable pain that we cannot know. He was speaking of the incomprehensible love of Jesus Christ for us—the love that motivated Him to make His atoning sacrifice on our behalf.

Incomprehensible is the right word here. I cannot comprehend how He could love us so much, unworthy creatures that we are. And make no mistake, I think of myself as among the least of the least.

Each day the news media are full of the latest stories of depredation and corruption among the children of God. The local tabloid paper fills its first several pages with stories of murder, robbery, abuse, theft, conspiracy, collusion, and secret corruption that has come to light. But I do not have to go that far afield to be aware of mortal weakness. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see an example. Surely my life alone could never be worth such a sacrifice as He made. Perhaps collectively, we—all of humanity as a group—are worth saving, but just one—well, just this one . . . how could it be?

The speaker I heard today pointed out that we dare not judge, even ourselves. If the Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father, determined that the sacrifice was worthwhile, we dare not say otherwise. We dare not refuse or second-guess His mercy and His grace. We must understand that He finds us worthwhile, and we are therefore bound to respect His judgment and honor His sacrifice by obeying His commandments.

I pledge to try again. Despite weakness, despite my foolishness, arrogance, and pride, I pledge to try again. I pray that He will help me see the right course each day. I am too deeply grateful for His love to be able to express my feelings with words.

But I still do not fully comprehend His love—not in the sense of understanding how completely it envelops and penetrates me.

I must say with the hymn writer:

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me,

I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled, and died.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me

Enough to die for me,

Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me! (Charles H. Gabriel)