Monday, May 26, 2014

12 May 2014 - Becoming Alive in Christ

Disclaimer: this email is LOOOOOONGGGGG

My dear kinfolk.

It was wonderful to talk with you yesterday.  Wonderful.  I had this whole long list of specific questions I wanted to ask each one of you, and in the end I just talked the whole time!  Sorry!  But all the same I loved just being with you for a milisecond.  I had been feeling marginally fragile lately -- I mean, I'm totally fine -- but just inside me I was feeling a tiny bit vulnerable and alone, and talking to you all was like a booster shot.  I left feeling fortelecida (strengthened) and tranquila (peaceful).  Thank you.  I love you.

AND NEXT TIME WE TALK IT WILL BE IN THE FLESH!!!!!!!!!  I am not even going to pretend that I am not 3 gazillion percent excited for that.

But I am also ridiculously happy and grateful that I get 4 more precious months out here on the front lines. 

A few notable moments from the week:

I think it can be really funny when people give us false numbers.  One time a kid in Evora gave us the number of the fire station!  Ha!  Last week or so a lady gave us a number that turned out to be her ex-husband and we accidentally called it twice!  whooops...

We knocked a door and heard some intense sniffing on the other side and I said to Sis. Giberson, "It's either a dog or a really weird person...."

Lidia told us that she wants to come back to Christ and that when she does, it is going to be in this church!  Boo-yeah!!!

We did a division with Porto in which I felt for the first time ever that I was truly able to fulfill the part of this calling to minister.  It was a sweet tender mercy for me and I felt like so many of the life experiences I had in the years leading up to my mission prepared me to be helpful to another person.  Such a gift.

A few weeks ago we taught a lesson in the church with our ward mission leader (he actually taught it, we were there for support and clarification) in which he taught the Plan of Salvation DEEP version, including veil of forgetfulness, seven creative periods, KOLOB, baptisms for the dead, etc.  Sister Giberson and I looked at each other wide eyed sooo many times during that lesson.  We would have stopped it if it hadn't been being taught to Armando, who can handle that.  Anyway, at the end our ward mission leader (who is wonderful, by the way!) said he was going to write one more word on the board to tie it all together.  We were sure it would be Expiacao (atonement), to bring it all back to Christ.  He picked up the chalk and wrote in big block letter, "INFERNO", which means HELL.  hahahahaha soo good.

Okay.  Last week in President's email he taught us about the principle of Becoming Alive in Christ and invited us to "write a letter to your family sharing what you believe about this concept".  I decided there was no time like the present, so I have some thoughts for you.

First, some quotes from his letter that got me thinking:

" missionaries we can move closer to Christ. As we do, we will come to more fully understand his atonement and that change in us will result in new feelings, including a strong desire to invite others to the atoning power and the restored church.  In other words, a change can take place in us in which the atonement ceases to be a concept and instead becomes an emotional reality.  The scriptures refer to this as becoming more Alive in Christ. (2 Nephi 25: 25-26) 

"If we are willing to regularly ask and respond to the question, What can I do right now to move closer to Jesus Christ? ... with continuous movement towards Chrst we become Alive in Christ and we obrtain the gifts of the Sprirt.  With the gifts of the Spirit we are better able to bring others to Christ."

"As we come to understand the Atonement, our desires change..." (pmg)

I have studied and thought about this a lot this week.  It is true that our hearts and desires can be changed by Christ!  I have seen this during and before my mission, in myself and others.  This transformation is the most breathtaking, worthwhile process imaginable.  

To me, becoming alive in Christ requires a choice to do so.  Choose the gospel.  Live it 100%.  Do truth. (John 3:21)  Make God's love a part of your every day by the way to treat yourself and others.  There is profound power and promise in this type of brave surrender.  

2 Nephi 9:50 "Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yeah, come buy wine and milk without money and without price."

John 4:14 "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

COME.  DRINK.  These are active verbs.  Christ is so eager to offer us this river of living water -- to vivificar-nos (make us alive) -- but He cannot make us come, He cannot make us drink.  Becoming alive in Him requires willingness.

Are we willing to say, as the woman of Samaria, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." (John 4:15)?

Are we willing to jump in the river and swim and splash and let it carry us to glory?

How deep is that river?  (go listen to that Mason Jennings song, please.)

How often do I sit on the river bank, comfortable to dip only my toes in the current, clinging to the stagnant, non-dynamic but nonetheless comfortable riverbank?

When will we take that brave leap and immerse ourselves in the Water that changeth not, yet changes us continuously and relentlessly for the better?

Also, HOW?  How do we take that leap?  How do we become alive in Christ?

I sometimes feel intimidated by how pitifully far I am from this type of consecration.  President quoted somebody in his letter saying, "With this fulfillment of love in our hearts, we will never be happy anymore just by being ourselves or living our own lives.  We will not be satisfied until we have surrendered our lives into the arms of the living Christ, and until He has become the doer of all our dees and He has become the speaker of all our words.  As He has said, I am the vine, ye are the branches. he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5)"

This both inspires and intimidates me.  I want to get to that point!  But I am painfully aware of how far away I am.

That being said, I am convinced that this, like everything else that really creates lasting change, is a process.  It is realized through small and simple things, one at a time; letting go, bit by bit, over and over, of the things tying us to the shore.

I like the concreteness of President's suggestion: asking ourselves in every moment, "What can I do right now to move closer to Jesus Christ?"

Here's an example; something I am changing to try to be more involved in this process:

As I reflected on what I can do to move closer to Jesus Christ, I decided that I need to improve the quality of my personal prayers.  What happens is that I kneel by (or in) my bed at night and I'm so wiped out that I don't focus at all and my prayer starts out with "Father, I am SO TIRED..." and shortly turns into a sor of half-asleep state of wishy washy thanks and requests that honestly does nothing for my personal relationship with God.

What I really crave is some quality time alone with God, which ironically as missionaries we almost cannot ever have.  But to create a little more of that and to improve the meaningfulness of my prayers, I have committed to pray, alone, out loud, at least one time per day.

What we have started doing is that right before bed, I go into the kitchen and Sister Giberson stays in the bedroom.  This way we can both pray aloud.

I climb onto the big armchair by the fridge and sit, hugging my knees, face pointed to the sky, eyes open but lights off, and I talk to my Father in Heaven.  

I find that this way I stay more awake and focused, but I am going to try it kneeling tonight.  I am already noticing a difference.  The first time I did it I felt such a sensation of relief.  This is what I'd been missing!!  A closeness, an openness, a sort of just being with God.

I hope to report to you that by June my prayers have become increasinly meaningful.

This is just one example of a specific thing I am trying to do to move closer to Christ.  I would love other ideas!  There are countless possibilities.  I invite each of you to choose something specific you can change or do in your life to move closer to Christ.  I truly believe that it is through small and simple changes (change=repentance!!) that we grab onto the anchor Christ offers us and undergo transformation.

So, to sum up.  What do I believe about the concept of becoming alive in Christ?  

I believe it is possible.

I believe it is the most worthwhile quest we can undertake.

I have seen it happen; I know Christ has the power and grace and willingness to change our hearts.

I believe becoming alive in Christ is a process of renewal and rebirth that should never cease.

I believe it takes a lot of courage and trust and humility and creativity and tenacity.

I believe that this type of abundant life (John 10:10) and aliveness is what brings us true joy.

I believe that Father in Heaven and our Brother Savior are ever invested in helping us acheive the most abundant of all aliveness -- eternal life.

I am inexpressibly grateful for the opportunity of striving to be a participant in this quest, despite my many defects and faults.

More than anything, I desire to become alive in Christ.

Family, I love you!  I am unable to express or even contain how grateful I am for each one of you.  You are magnificent!

Love you love you!

Sister Sandholtz

I printed your emails and haven't read them yet, but I saw a line about Nate-ified palavra de sabedoria pamphlets and I want to see them!!  No one throw them away!! 

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