Saturday, September 21, 2019

Firey Serpents

Imagine for a moment that you are a member of the ancient children of Israel. You've been freed from the bondage of Egypt led by your new prophet Moses. Its been a rough ride, you've been chased by Egyptians, had to walk through the red sea but remained dry.  You've eaten manna when you were starving, though you had no idea what it was.  You magically drank water from a rock when none was available and all this you know, was provided by God through Moses. Now, just when you think things are going to settle down for a bit, out of nowhere comes a herd of fiery serpents like nothing you've ever seen.  They fly out of the sky attack and bite you, and others around you. You become deathly ill, and know that you will surely die without a blessing, or really even a miracle. Then comes Moses saying all you have to do to be healed and live is look at a serpent fashioned upon a rod posted high in the midst of Israel. Sounds a little far fetched right? So tell me, do you look? 

6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
7 ¶ Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.  (Numbers 21 6-9)

The question of how to access and obtain blessings or even miracles has been the subject of theological debate for centuries. I personally just finished an intro to religions humanity class for nursing school and I learned of many religions which teach that blessings are completely earned; we receive them only through our works. Others, particularly in the western part of the world, contend that God has already chosen who He will bless and how; thankfully though, both concepts are flawed.

 Elder Dale G. Renlund Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches us that  "Blessings from heaven are neither earned by frenetically accruing “good deed coupons” nor by helplessly waiting to see if we win the blessing lottery. However, "faith-inspired actions on our part, both initial and ongoing, are essential."

With this in mind let me ask you a question.  Do you have blessings you stand in need of or desire? How do you receive your blessings from God? Do you just sit and wait and hope, or do you take action, and like the children of Israel who lived.  All who looked as directed by Moses, accessed the powers of heaven and were healed. Others who were bitten and did not look died. Maybe they lacked the faith to look or did not believe that such a simple action could truly bring the promised healing. Or perhaps they willfully hardened their hearts, rejecting the counsel of God’s prophet. But the lesson we learn from the story is that we too, like the children of Israel, must act on our faith in Jesus Christ to be blessed.

Through the prophet Joseph Smith we know that God has revealed that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”  Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21

 In other words, you do not earn a blessing; but you do have to qualify for it. We see this with the children of Israel as they qualified for the blessing of healing because they followed, or obeyed, the direction of their prophet in doing something that to them I am sure sounded crazy, but because they had faith, they obeyed and lived.

It may though, sound a little misleading when using the words, "qualify for a blessing" In some ways when you first just hear those words it sounds much like other religions mentioned that require good works, repetitive prayers, or winning the blessing lottery. In simple truth however, what the phrase is teaching us is that to receive a blessing from God, or in order to qualify for blessing, all we have to do is have faith. But, is that really all there is to it?

There are times when it doesn't feel that simple, and in fact it may not be. Sometimes energy is needed for blessings. Sometimes it requires more than just looking. Sometimes continuous repeated, faith-filled actions are required.

 Elder Dale G. Renlund continues to teach us on this subject explaining that in building a bonfire the wood pile must receive a constant supply of oxygen to burn to a blaze. Similarly Faith in Christ requires ongoing action or figurative oxygen, for our personal blaze of blessings. Small actions fuel our ability to walk along the covenant path and lead to the greatest blessings God can offer. But oxygen of faith flows only if we keep moving our feet. As we have learned through the scriptures, sometimes we need to make a bow and arrow before revelation comes as to where we should search for food. "Sometimes we need to make tools before revelations come as to how to build a ship. Sometimes, at the direction of the Lord’s prophet, we need to bake a small cake from the little oil and flour we have to receive an unfailing cruse of oil and barrel of flour. And sometimes we need to “be still and know that [God is] God” and trust in His timing."  This is in particular being something we need to focus on.  

When searching, praying and hoping for blessings it is important to remember that not only do we need to have faith and fuel the fire, but also that blessings come on God’s timetable. If a desired blessing from God has not been received—yet—you do not need to go crazy, wondering what more you need to do. Instead, heed Joseph Smith’s counsel to “cheerfully do all things that lie in [your] power; and then … stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the … arm [of God] … revealed.

Most of you know my personal story, as I have testified many times of my trial with severe, incapacitating migraine headaches.  For 28 years I suffered repeatedly.  Some days all I could do was sleep on the bathroom floor due to excessive vomiting, and some days it required an ambulance ride to the hospital where I begged for release from the pain.  My migraines were so frequent and debilitating that I could not hold down a job, I missed family activities and time with my children, family and friends from church would constantly have to rescue me and drive me to the doctor for help, I remember a time when I rode in the passenger side of my sister's car with my head in a bucket due to vomiting and another when my visiting teacher came to my house and had to come into my bedroom lift me out of bed, dress me and carry me to the car to go get help.

Many people don't understand migraines and sometimes my family or doctors didn't, to them it was just another headache and I was seen as weak.  But my struggle was/is real and it was horrendous.  I cried and begged and pleaded in my prayers for help and sometimes I would just pray the end would come and I could go home to Father in Heaven and rest.  I prayed and prayed for help, I received blessing after blessing, and for many years I thought I was being punished, that the Lord had forgotten me, or that I hadn't done enough to receive healing or even help.  But in reality he was helping me I just didn't understand his timing.

At the peak of my illness, a new drug was put on the market and this one little pill allowed me to gain relief from the pain within a couple of hours therefore I was able to better hold down jobs.  There was a catch though, the cost of the drug, because it is one that migraine sufferers can't live without, spiked and due to the frequency of my attacks the cost would sometimes be over $800 a month.  But it was a blessing I was so grateful for as there was finally help. The drug became so popular among those that suffered that a discount card became available and I  was then better able to obtain the medication I needed, another blessing that I just had to be still and wait for.

A few years later, though the migraines began to worsen and even with medication I couldn't function.  I thought as before that I was just not good enough to receive a blessing.  No matter how much I prayed or what I did there was no improvement and things were actually worsening by the day.  This was my fiery serpent and I was near death from its bite.  

Then I had a blessing.  A young missionary serving in our ward, was called to give me a blessing on a particularly hard event when I was so incapacitated that all I could do was lay on the bed while he administered I couldn't even open my eyes or acknowledge him I just laid there as if dead.  Its a day I'll never forget.  I did gain relief from the pain with that blessing but I also gained counsel.  The young elder told me that he had the strong impression from Father in Heaven to tell me that I was not doing anything wrong and should not beat myself up.  The migraines would never go away, it would be a trial that I would have for the rest of my natural life.  But he also told me that Heavenly Father would not leave me alone, that he would provide an escape from the pain and I would be able to manage.

I felt the spirit so strong from that blessing, not only was I healed from immediate pain, but when the elder spoke to me I knew he was relaying an important message.  So I took note and stopped beating myself up and got to work.  As I continued in prayer I began to research and within a few weeks I had gained enough knowledge and information about allergies dealing with food, medication and outdoor, that I believed I knew how to treat my illness and get relief if I could get help from a doctor.  I was led out of the blue to a doctor I didn't know but who listened and I became his patient and he did the proper testing and sure enough I am allergic to so many things that the doc laughingly told me I needed a bubble to live in.  However with this new information I was able to make enough lifestyle changes in foods and medication to gain some relief, I could see the light to the escape route, I only needed to look.

In the following years since, I have had times of suffering but there has always been an escape.  When I didn't have money for medicines, someone always appeared to help.  When the medicines were particularly hard on my body because I had to use so much, I was immediately relieved for a day or two and able to gain strength.  And after 28 years and an acceptance of my trial and complete trust in Father to lead me so that I could function.  I was lead to people who had information that would indeed provide a complete escape.  Interestingly enough that came from here right here in our ward.

I had always wondered why Heavenly Father would send me here so far away from my home and family and I must admit I came here pouting a bit.  But if he hadn't sent me here and I hadn't followed the intuition to move, even when advised against it.  If I hadn't acted and done my best to put my best foot forward,  I would have never known about NAET acupuncture that has literally saved my life.
Now as long as I follow treatment guidelines Father has given me with diet, and acupuncture, my headaches are minimal and no longer incapacitating.  And though they still do come, I have found that since being called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher, I am released from the pain when I have to teach.

The fiery serpent bit me, severely, and I would have surely died, without help but thankfully, I had enough faith to look, as the Israelites did and as I did and do, He indeed provides an escape. But I had to have the faith, I had to put in the work, I had to trust Him.

What is your fiery serpent.  Do you stand in need, is there something you desire, do you need help.  I am sure you do, we all have serpents that could easily do us in.  

So the message I leave with you today is that I pray you will seek for help with those things you stand most in need of, I pray you will not become discouraged, I pray you will not give up or beat yourself up, but that you will be able to hear and allow the Holy Ghost to guide and direct you so that you, like the children of Israel, will also look, and “abound with blessings.”

I testify boldly that your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, live, they are real, they are tangible, and they are concerned with your welfare, They delight to bless you.  They will not leave you without or comfortless.  Let us begin today to pray for ourselves and for others, that we have the faith we need to qualify that we may abound with blessings and I do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Dixie Dawn <3 
Public talk for September 22, 2019 
Sacrament Meeting
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints