Shake It Off and Step It Up

Yesterday, for the first time—if you can believe it—I heard the parable of the old mule who fell into a dry well. At the bottom of the well, the mule brayed and pawed and kicked, trying to free himself from the pit that seemed his doom.

The farmer came to the edge of the well and looked down. In the dim light, he saw the plight of his mule. Too heavy and uncooperative to lift out, he decided to gather a few neighbors to help him bury the tired, old critter in the well.

When the first shovelful hit the mule’s back, he trembled and shook the dirt off. As each shovelful fell on his back and neck and head, he shook the dirt off and stamped it down with his hooves. Before long, he noticed that, instead of being buried alive, he was actually getting closer to the top of the well!

After several hours and many shovelfuls of dirt, the animal’s head popped up over the edge of the well, and with some effort, and to the relief of his erstwhile undertakers, the exhausted mule stepped out from what had at first seemed to be the end of him. 

We can shake off difficulties, opposition, and trials, and use the aftermath to step it up, to move to a higher place than could otherwise be possible. I don’t believe God would permit trials in our lives if they did not fill an eternal purpose. Thanks to this old story, I now have a new mantra: “Shake it off and step it up.”

Proverbs on Prosperity: Honor the Lord with Your Substance

To me, the first law of wealth, the first and foremost principle of prosperity, is to truly honor the one from Whom our wealth comes, our Heavenly Father. As the Lord said to Moses:

And [if] thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth . . . thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17–18.)

Think about this with me for a few minutes. Did you create your life and can you alone preserve it? Did you create the planet you live on? Did you create apples or oranges or chocolate? Did these things just happen by a chance atomic collision? They did not.

I’m looking right now at my desk calculator. Did that calculator just show up there by chance? How did that little mass of plastic and electronics appear? Like all creation, intelligence and planning went behind it. Though I have a few ideas, I don’t know who created it, where it was created, or how it was created it, but does that mean that is just poofed into existence?

What about that piece of chevron amethyst on my desk. Was that formed by chance? Was there no intelligence behind that combination of minerals? Is is just a fluke? Just because we don’t know exactly where or how it came into existence doesn’t mean its existence is arbitrary. What is intelligence if it is not rooted in choice? What is choice if it is not governed by law?

What happens when we honor the Lord with this world’s goods? What happens when we freely give back at least a portion of what He has given us? Early in the Book of Proverbs we find these words:

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9–10.)

The Lord asks us to love and honor Him. One way we can demonstrate that honor is by restoring, at least in part, the means or substance He gives to us. And what will He do for those who honor Him from the heart?

Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30.)

Through the centuries, at least from the time of Abraham and Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18–20), men and women of God have honored Him by the payment of tithes. We first read of tithing in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. We also read of it in the last book of that volume. Through Malachi the Lord promised us abundant blessings when we honor Him with our tithes:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:10–12.)

Anyone who has paid tithing by faith has experienced miracles, and those miracles, an interdependence between man and Maker, become a way of life. The Psalmist wrote of such men and women:

Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalms 112:1–3.)

This is a principle we can believe in. It is a law of heaven, of the universe, that when we honor God He will likewise honor us. It is a law of reciprocation, a law of the harvest, that what we sow we shall reap (see Galatians 6:7; D&C 6:33; compare Job 4:8).

This kind of wealth and honor do not come by chance: they come by law. If they come by any other way, by any degree of greed, deception, or thievery, they will be fleeting. That is something you can count on.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Proverbs 22:4.)

Grace and the Motor Home

Courtesy Wikicommons

A few weeks back, we were discussing grace in priesthood meeting in the homeless branch where we serve. The discussions in those meetings are some of the most energetic doctrinal conversations I have ever heard. Opinions are rarely defended and the atonement and power of grace are held up. It’s a blessing.

Anyway, one of our number raised his hand and told a story. He told of buying an old motor home and spending several days getting it in running order. When he finally got it running, and he took it for a drive, it broke down. He was stuck, by himself, on the side of the road. He didn’t know what to do. The hulking mass of steel and wood was too heavy for him to push off the road alone.

Finally, it struck him. He said to himself, “If I want help, I’d better go out there and push this motor home with all I’ve got. Then help will come my way.”

So that’s what he did. He got out and and pushed, alone. But he was only alone for five minutes. Soon two others showed up and together they were able to in the motor home off the road where it could safely repose until more help arrived.

He likened his experience to the grace of God. Yes, often, God helps us when we don’t deserve it, but more often than no, grace arrives when we are doing our best, reaching out, reaching up, giving our best.

Our plea for grace is not a Lazy-Boy-and-remote experience. We have to get up out of our chairs, if we are able. We have to put the remote down, as we must. We have to do something, as any good father would require, before we are empowered to solve a problem or receive help from others.

Grace is the power to do things, without which we could not do them. It is the power of God in our lives to take positive action. I am not saying that we can earn grace, but we certainly can hasten its arrival by getting up and doing something, in faith. Grace is a call to action.

Often but not always, sincere, devoted, prayer-braced action is the photosynthesis of grace. Grace is costly, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. The cost is discipleship and the price is action.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8.)

Dear Drugs and Alcohol

I attended an addiction recovery meeting tonight. We hold them every Wednesday evening at a homeless branch in downtown Salt Lake City. Four people showed up with tales of woe and personal victory. It was a powerful meeting.

At the end of the session, one of the missionaries read this letter from a former addict. It moved me.

I don’t know who wrote it. I wish I could give her credit. Whoever you are, thank you. I believe that there’s someone out there who needs to read what you wrote tonight.

August 13, 2014

Dear Drugs and Alcohol,

   I am writing this letter to say goodbye. We have been together for 27 years. I must move on. This is why:

   At the beginning of our relationship you made me feel like I was a part of something special. I felt like I had found my place in life. I thought that, with you, I would have fun doing anything. Nothing felt complete unless you were there.

   As time went on, I allowed you to consume my every thought and action. Instead of feeling free and belonging, I felt alone, trapped, and ashamed. You took all of my attention and time. Together we hurt everyone I love and care about. Any of the dreams I had felt out of reach. You took everything away from me, and I still only wanted more of you. I lost myself and almost lost my life.

   I have experienced and seen you run families, friendships, and love. You have taken so many good people’s lives. My own life became a daily struggle to survive with you in it.

   Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I choose my life and my family’s future. I know you will always be close by, so I want you to know I will always be on high alert for your destructive and manipulative ways. I have found myself by letting you go and I have joined the fight against you.

Forever mine,

Unknown

Proverbs on Prosperity: Introduction

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryMoney. It can free or enslave us, devastate and deliver us, distract and deceive us, help us or hold us back.

It can get awfully annoying and confusing. There are so many messages about money and prosperity in the world. It seems that money can be anything we want it to be, depending on the day and the motive. You can have plenty of it and be miserable, or very little of it, but as happy as a blue jay on a Sunday morning. Why?

Figuring out money can get discouraging. It has been for me, honestly, as I’ve tried to figure out how to get it, hold it, make it grow, and share it. I grapple with those ideas on too many days. I’m still working to set aside my anxiety around it, and finding a better pasture for my mind to graze.

Money is more than a good education and a good job. It’s about honesty and courage and wisdom. It’s about trust and risk, being generous and believing in the generosity of heaven. It’s about trying and not giving up. Forgiving yourself, believing in yourself, and trusting God’s ways.

I look for spiritual answers to life’s questions. Those are the one’s that make the most sense to me. Those are the ones I hang onto.

The scriptures contain the wisdom of the ages on wealth and prosperity. One book in the Bible particularly, The Book of Proverbs, has over 80 passages (listed below) on the subject, in 31 chapters. I’ve studied these passages and I’d like to share what I’ve learned from them with you. I am still studying and learning, of course. And I’ll learn even more as I organize and present my thoughts to you.

Some of the topics I’ll cover are honoring God with our means, the importance of diligence and honesty, the plight of the poor, and the sad state of the sluggard.

Proverbs seems like a good place to focus my attention as I look for heaven-grade answers to my questions about wealth and prosperity. I’ve found almost 30 topics discussed on these subjects in this ancient book, parts of which are 2,500 to 3,000 years old. I’ll also cross-reference scriptures throughout the standard works: the Bible (King James version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.