Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is the Gospel Stifling?

Someone said to me recently, "Karen, you need to relax a little.  It is no big deal to watch _____, or to let your kids ______.  You're not going to go to hell if you let yourself have fun once in a while".   I left the actions blank because I can't remember exactly what it was that we were discussing and it wasn't what caught my attention.  I just remember feeling confused about the perspective of why I was choosing not to do those things.

Am I worried about the punishments I will receive if I do not live each and every gospel law that I know of?  To be honest, thoughts like that are so far from my mind that the comment caught me off guard.  I appreciated it though, because it gave me a new perspective of how some people could find the gospel quite stifling.  I am an advocate and great believer in the cause of freedom.  I love being able to choose and I tend to rebel if someone tells me I have to do things a certain way.  I love having agency and I try to do my best to advocate more freedom and less laws in our government.  If I saw the Gospel as a set of rules, I would probably feel rather stifled and a little rebellious to it, to be honest.

Perhaps I did see it that way before I came to understand it as I do now.  I guess the understanding I have may come from choosing to obey even when it feels stifling, only to discover (after the obedience) that I was seeing things all wrong and that what I was being asked to do actually brought me joy, peace and much more freedom - freedom to see things as they really are, to understand things a little deeper, and to gain the spiritual sensitivity to sense the path of freedom (the path to God) a little more keenly.

Instead of seeing the Gospel as a set of rules, I see it as a path to joy.  We are free to get off the path all we want, but all those detours are dead ends and keep us from getting to the real adventure and the beautiful view ahead.  I don't choose to not watch an unwholesome movie because I think I will be punished for my choice - I choose it because I know how I will feel if I choose to do something else, I know I will feel close to God, worthy of His guiding Spirit, peace in my heart and love in my soul.  Why would I give that up for any length of time just to hear some crude humor or see violent action?  It just doesn't make sense to me, it's not even tempting anymore since I am so aware of the difference.  I am a pretty great mother, friend and person when I am facing towards God (and I feel so at peace and full of joy in all I do - even if it's washing dishes), but I have to admit that I am pretty crummy when I turn away, even if it's just momentarily to glance at worldly things for a moment (and I feel grumpy, sorry for myself and under-appreciated).  Why would I choose to bring that upon myself and my family?

Now, I should say that I am far from perfect, and I experience moments of turning away every day.  That is how I know what it feels like.  But I am so grateful to be able to recognize the difference and the source of my feelings and to know the way back by reaching to my Savior.  I'd be lost without this knowledge and certainly on a different (and miserable) path. 

I have been studying Isaiah lately, and trying to learn some things about what is expected of me.  I have been learning how those who want to be able to stand in the presence of God need to pass through a refiner's fire and prove that they are willing to stand with God no matter what.  This can be a sobering thought as we contemplate what we may have to endure, but I really don't think we have to wait for some future trial to show the Lord we will stand by Him no matter what.  This is from my journal this morning:

"Life is a refiner's fire.  Every single day we have different circumstances and how we react or act in those circumstances (not the circumstances themselves) is the test of our willingness to stand with God no matter what.

"I don't need a major trial right now to see if I will stand with God - am I willing to stand with Him when the house is a mess or do I give in to self-pity and frustration? Am I willing to stand with God when children are rude to each other (or to me) or do I give in to angry feelings that drive the spirit away? Am I willing to stand by God when the spirit tells me to say or do something or am I too worried about what people think (even after I have already said it and then I let those worries drag me down)? Am I willing to stand with Him even when I'm tired?"
Those are the questions I am trying to answer today.  I see things so clearly sometimes, but it is so easy for me to get distracted with the cares of this world and forget what is most important.  I think it is pride and selfishness that get in my way.  When I am humble and ask myself, "what would God have me do right now?" I have great peace in my heart, regardless of what I "get done" or thought I should have gotten done.  Many things on my "to do" list are not getting done lately because I am expecting baby #7 (due in August!) and I tend to move a lot slower (because of my energy level - I'm not huge yet) than I used to.

Anyway, I felt like I should blog today, so I put in some pictures (see previous post), and wrote down some of my recent thoughts.  Hopefully it is of help to someone, or to myself at some future point.  I feel like I have spent too long on it now though so I better go get ready for church :-)

P.S. I have been reading some great books lately.  I recommend "Visions of Glory" by John Pontius and "Joan of Arc" by Mark Twain.  My favorite movies lately are "Gifted Hands" and "Agenda: Grinding America Down".  You can watch Agenda for free for a limited time here: And I heard that Gifted Hands (a movie about the life of Ben Carson - a very inspirational man) is available for free on  My friend, Becky, also told me of another great resource for inspirational movies:

Glimpses into the last several months

Here are some glimpses into our last several months. They are not in chronological order since I uploaded from two different cameras and I didn't want to take the time to organize by date, but the first several are from our trip to St. George earlier this month. Then it moves to some Christmas and birthdays and things. I haven't taken the time to update our latest so this is my attempt at preserving some memories, however scattered they may be ;-)
This was a fun vacation. We shared a condo with some friends and got to visit Snow Canyon a few times, Brigham Young's winter home, some parks and a museum, we played games and got to go swimming.

Christmas Nativity Play with some friends for Family Home Evening

Little Miss on her birthday morning.  She chose to take the family to "Planet Play" to celebrate
The Girls at Ben Behunin's stairwell - an amazing author, potter and man.
Little Miss doing a solo in a choir concert
Bud and Spice doing a solo in choir
Bud opening a compass from his grandma at Christmas
Little Miss gets crochet things for Christmas
500 piece puzzle completed
Ray is one cool looking soldier
Ray and Gem dancing to Bud's great music.  Gem spends a lot of time trying to imitate Ray's cool "jump off the stairs" move.

Bud's Birthday morning at Grandma's house
Ray and Gem playing with markers while we are distracted doing "Family School"