It's Christmas time once more! Now that we've had Thanksgiving, the anticipation increases for my favorite holiday of the year – Christmas! What can I say? There's the family and friends, the food, the general holiday cheer, and the lights that go up everywhere turning our communities into a real work of art at night. What's not to love?
Speaking of lighting things up, this Saturday the Church will begin the third year of its Light the World campaign. The Church intrigued me when it started this program two years ago. Then last year they took the sharing theme up a notch. This time around, I’m quite impressed with what they've done. They've really taken things up a notch, or two, or three! And that's pretty incredible because it has even started yet!
Perhaps the best part is how easy the Church is making it for everyone to participate. They really made it easy for people to find channels through which they can share their goodness and light the world. As the Master said,
We now have before us the glorious opportunity to light the world yet again
Light your world and community
I love how the Church has broken down the four weeks of December into different focus areas for sharing goodness with others. The Church has made short but powerful videos to introduce each week — perfect for sharing through whatever medium. And the Church has once again provided a calendar offering great ideas for each week.
The first week is dedicated to lighting your world. We can each help someone else in another part of the world by sharing stories on social media, making donations to help a global cause, collecting supplies to help war refugees, or seeking those from other cultures to learn their story. I love the ideas on the calendar related to refugees and increasing our awareness of what’s happening outside our First-World lives.
The second week is dedicated to lighting your community. Suggestions here include performing anonymous service for a neighbor, volunteering at a homeless shelter, donating blood, and cleaning a church building. The calendar lists some additional suggestions. I love how the Church offers some great suggestions but then also leaves space for individuals to follow promptings to pursue a different direction
Light your family and faith
The third week is dedicated to lighting your family. Suggestions here include calling your parents, writing a handwritten note to a family member, learning about a family member and sharing his or her story, and gifting the Savior's picture to a child. I love the additional suggestion in the calendar to tell a family member at the dinner table why he or she is loved. That just seems really creative and insightful at the same time.
And then, continuing with the pattern of increasingly tightening circles of influence, the last week of December (which contains Christmas Day), is dedicated to lighting your faith. Suggestions here include attending a religious service, turning off the smartphone to provide time to reflect, adopting some of the Light the World ideas as New Year's resolutions, and taking time to memorize verses of scripture.
Again, the calendar has the idea I like best — offer a kneeling prayer every morning during the week. There's something about kneeling that transforms prayer. And when you combine that with offering only thanks (which I talked about last week during the program), the humility from the kneeling magnifies the gratitude. It's a great way to start the day.
Share your light
The Church has really outdone itself once more with their Light the World campaign for this year. We all have so much goodness to give that can bring light into the lives of others. We don't have that goodness so we can keep it to ourselves. Like light, goodness isn’t meant to be hidden or hoarded but shared and savored. In fact, the only way truly to savor goodness is to share it. And the Church is making it very easy for us to do just that.
And everyone can do that. We should never discount the goodness we have because it lacks some character we see in someone else's goodness. We have the goodness we have because someone needs to receive it from us. Light is always welcome, no matter how dim it may be.
Shining the light we have within us embodies the true spirit of the Christmas season. It embraces the essence of following the Savior Jesus Christ. Whether or not you decide to participate in the Church’s Light the World effort, don't hide the light you have. Let the goodness God has placed within you shine forth. When you do, you'll have more joy in your journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
counterfeits, Sister Michelle Craig spoke of counterfeits in the women’s meeting of the last General Conference. Though I'm not a woman, I read the talks from that session after Conference, just like the sisters have been doing with the priesthood session for years. And I found Sister Craig’s address entitled “Divine Discount” quite applicable for LDS singles everywhere.
Recognize the gap
Everyone at one time or another feels they exist beneath their own capacity. Depending on our chosen perspective, recognizing that gap can motivate us to action or paralyze us into inaction. Action feeds divine discontent, a yearning that propels us to reach higher and become something more than we were before. Inaction feeds disillusioned discouragement, Satan’s counterfeit for divine discontent.
As Sister Craig shared,
How many of us have heard that message before, that we aren’t good enough? Of course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ says we are good enough. But if we still have habits of negative self talk, it can be all too easy to believe Satan’s lying counterfeits.
Action is the key
Sister Craig teaches the importance of action. When the Prophet Joseph felt concerned as a boy about his shortcomings, he asked, “What is to be done?” (JS-H 1:10) and then acted in faith. He went to the scriptures, responded to the invitation in James 1:5 to “ask of God” and ushered in the Restoration.
Likewise, when we feel the gap between what we are and what we would like to become, we should take action. In my own life, I’ve found that staying inactive just breeds more disillusionment and discouragement. It’s easier to talk yourself into deeper negative emotions like doubt, despair, and hopelessness when you aren’t doing anything. But when we do something — anything — that action can open the door of possibility, which can help us to believe our tomorrow can be brighter than our today, that our lives really can improve. That belief is the first step to hope, encouragement, and happiness.
We embrace another source of inaction when we entertain endless debates over whether the promptings we receive to do good come from the Spirit or our own thoughts. Again, action is the key. When we receive an idea to bring goodness into the world, we should focus less on the source of the idea and more on executing it. Sister Craig tells a wonderful story about a seamstress named Susan who followed a prompting to make a tie for President Spencer W. Kimball but then backed off while en route to deliver it. President Kimball’s wife Camille saw Susan at that critical moment and invited her forward, telling her “never [to] suppress a generous thought.” Sister Craig loves that, and so do I. “Never suppress a generous thought.”
Sister Craig continues,
I love that perspective on time management. How often in our focus on getting things done do we miss the opportunity to make people’s lives better? Becoming something more is about the quality of what we are and not just the quantity of what we can accomplish.
Trust in the Lord
Of course, becoming more is meaningless if it doesn’t near us to the Lord. Sister Craig taught that divine discontent will lead us to humility and a recognition that with Christ we can be and do anything. Such a recognition opposes Satan’s counterfeit message that we’re not enough, that we’ll never achieve our righteous desires or accomplish anything worthwhile in this life.
I love Sister Craig’s perspective on the miracles the Savior performed. They “often begin with a recognition of want, need, failure, or inadequacy,” but when individuals gave the Lord their all anyway, He provided the miracle.
Sister Craig expounds,
We can achieve our righteous desires if we approach the Lord in humility, give our all to whatever instructions He reveals to us through the Spirit, and then rely upon Him to make the miracle happen. Whenever we feel we are far beneath our potential, divine discontent can bring us closer to the Lord as we act in faith, follow promptings to do good, and trust in the Lord. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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