Sunday, March 27, 2016

The "R's of the Atonement

I like to create word tricks to help me learn and remember things.

I'm the Beehive Counselor in my ward, and at one point I had 21 Beehives. So, I created an anagram of all their names so I could remember them in my prayers or on email lists. 

Beachcommber Bliss Kave  {Bree, Eden, Aydia, Cassidy, Hannah, Courtney, Olivia, Maya, Maddie, Brooke, Eden (yes, I had two Edens), Rachel, Brynlee, Laine, Isabella, Sheridan, Sydney, Kaidyn, Anika, Victoria, Elizabeth} 

But, onto the real point of this post...

Studying, learning, and applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a life-long eternal pursuit. Over the last several years, I've decided to come up with my own word tricks to better understand the Atonement. 

For me, there are three major aspects of the Atonement:

1) Resurrection -- the 'free' {because we kept our first estate} gift of immortality and a body that will be perfect. Often, we focus on this aspect when we lose someone, or have health issues. Since both have happened to me too often for someone my age, this aspect of the Atonement is very real and something I am grateful for and hope for and look forward to and RELY on every day. 

2) Repentance -- the gift of hope -- knowing that the first tiny mistake we made after baptism didn't doom us to eternal misery and woe. We can repent. We can progress and become clean through the blood of our Savior. I lasted about three hours after my baptism at age 8 before I messed up. That's it. Three hours. But.... I had also received the gift of the Holy Ghost that morning... and the Holy Ghost prompted my doomed eight-year old self to repent. Because of the repentance aspect of the Atonement... all was not lost! I went in my closet (lest my siblings or parents walk in on me and see me praying in the middle of the day) and said a prayer where I sincerely repented. Immediately I felt clean and pure! Since that day... let's just say sometimes I don't even make it three hours between needing to apply the repentance aspect of the Atonement in my life. 

3) Real Power -- Elder Bednar labeled this the 'enabling power of the Atonement'. The scriptures refer to it as Grace. If Grace started with an R, then that's what I would have called it. But, I like my word tricks... This is the aspect of the Atonement that Alma referred to in Alma 7:12 

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Boldness added for emphasis)

The Savior's Atonement included Him going through every know trial and affliction ACCORDING TO THE FLESH (not according to His Divine half) SO that He would know ACCORDING TO THE FLESH how to succor (HELP, give us REAL power) to get us through our trial and infirmities. There is REAL power in the Atonement in knowing that we are not alone -- that He has been through what we are going through and has suffered as a mortal has. He can then bestow upon us the power, the courage, the hope, the faith to take the next step -- whatever it may be. 

I have too many examples of this aspect of the Atonement in my life to list any. Just know that applying this aspect of the Atonement has made me who I am today. 

As I pondered these "R" words of the Atonement, other R words came to mind:

Remember - {remember the Atonement as we partake of the sacrament. Remember His sacrifice and love for us}

Rely - Turn to Him in all things. He knows. We can trust Him. We can Rely on Him.

Relief - There is tremendous relief in the Atonement. We can feel the relief the saints of Alma the Elder's day felt -- our burdens can be lightened because our backs can be strengthened.

Revelation - We can receive personal revelation as to what we are to do by turning to the Savior.

Resilience - One of the definitions of this word is "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties" -- if that is not one of the benefits of applying the Atonement -- I don't know what is.

Rescue -- The Savior's Atonement literally rescues us for an otherwise certain endless torment as captives to the Devil

Reflect -- The Atonement allows us to reflect on all the blessings of our lives and all the blessings in store for us.

Realize -- How wonderful is the day when we realize the Atonement was for each one of us.

Receive -- We need to receive His saving grace into our lives.

Reason -- You are the reason the Savior performed His Atonement -- every single aspect of it. Reverence -- In understanding the Atonement, we should view it with the reverence it deserves.

Reconcile - A definition of this is "to bring back in harmony one with another". Again -- the point of the Atonement was to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. I have to thank my Gospel Doctrine teacher for sharing this definition. I loved it.

Finally, as I was teaching my Beehives about the Atonement today, the spirit whispered one final "R" word -- and perhaps it is the most important of all of them. As we learn about the Atonement, as we apply each aspect to our lives as needed and as often as needed, we develop a RELATIONSHIP with our Savior -- which I believe is what it is all about. 

I'm so blessed to have a relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ. It is a relationship I treasure and one I plan on improving every day.  

On this Easter Sunday, may your RELATIONSHIP to the Savior grow as you apply each aspect of His greatest of all gifts -- the Atonement.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Writing prompt #23: "She studied her face in the mirror"...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #23: Start with "She studied her face in the mirror"

She studied her face in the mirror. Her eyes stared back at her, the same ombre of blue to green emanating from the jet black pupil to the furry outer fringes. 

I guess they didn't think he'd notice my eyes, she thought to herself, seeing the tiny freckle that nestled on her left tear duct. A brown spot friends and strangers alike had kindly whispered to her must have been some leftover mascara puddled into a pinpoint. 

"It's a freckle," she'd say. And they'd correct her, until she wiped at it for their sakes and they saw it wouldn't dislodge.

"I didn't think freckles could grow there," they'd say.

"Freckles can grow anywhere," She'd say, repeating the words her opthamologist had told her years ago.

Would her unusual freckle give her away? Suddenly, that was all she could see in the strange reflection mirroring her every expression. Her nose was slimmer, though still sporting blacks and blues from the reconstructive surgery. Her cheek bones more defined. Her double chin gone.

The wrinkles that had been her constant companion as of late still wrote her worries across her forehead and around her eyes. But they had to make her seem at least close to her real age. But would it be enough? Would her secret stay safe now, after so many doctors and staff and worked on her? Supposedly they'd never been told her identity, her reason for the face reorganization.

She thought back to the night only one month ago when she had returned to the office to grab a file, and she thought no one was there. But, boy, had she been wrong.

How would you continue this????

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Writing prompt #22: It was a dark and stormy night

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #22: It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night. The thunder reached in the window and shook my out of bed, the lightning illuminated the destruction outside from the wind and the rain. I reached for my bunny and ran to the door. I was almost nine years old. Too old to be scared of a stupid storm. I turned around, determined to be strong, when the sky lit up like the devil's clawed fingers grasping for me. I opened the door and started to turn towards my parent's room when I hard the voice.

A man yelled at someone -- angry, uneven words stabbing in the dark.

"Calm down!" Another male voice spit back. My dad. Who was he talking to? I crept down the hallway to the section just before the turn and carefully peered around the corner. The front door creaked open, shining with the rhythm of the wild wind, letting in whistles and moans and raindrops the size of nickels. And neither of them even noticed me, or cared.

"Tell my exactly what happened."

"She's dead! She's dead -- he killer her!" The man paced around, blood splotched all over his shirt.

"Who is dead?" My dad asked.

"My wife."

"How? What? No!" My dad shouted. "What have you done?"

(side note -- this scene ended up making its way (with some changes) into a pivotal point in my first book "Clicked")

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Writing prompt #21: Phone call in the middle of the night...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #21: You receive a phone call in the middle of the night...

"Everything okay?" he murmurs, a hand reaching over to find me in the darkness. Nothing good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night. He knows that. I know that. Correction. I knew that. This could be it -- the answers I've been asking for. Praying for. Paying for.

"Wrong number," I whisper, turning away slightly so his hand retraces its step to his side. I lay there, counting in my head. Listening until his breathing lengthens and deepens. Until I know he won't notice my absence.

I count to ten -- slowly -- for good measure and deftly slip out of the sheets, padding over to my closet where I slip on some clothes by moonlight. Tiptoeing down the hall and to the side door, the one I know won't beep its opening.

And there it is. A black limo, windows tinted, though it is hardly necessary on a cloudy night like this. I steel myself, square my shoulders, and walk straight towards it. Just before I can open the door, it opens from the inside. A beefy man steps out and asks me to splay myself against the car. I hesitate for a second before I see her legs -- in the car. I can't believe she's here. I can't believe she came. Yes, of course I'll splay.

My heart rate picks up as he frisks me thoroughly before giving me a nod. I step inside and see the most influential woman in the world sitting across from me: The President of the United States, and, as I just discovered, my birth mother.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Writing prompt #20: They say everyone always has a dream...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #20: They say everyone always has a dream....

"You might have heard this poem before," she said, un-creasing a paper and brushing back a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She adjusted her glasses, bringing the page in and out of focus until it was just right.

I looked down at the remnants of my potluck dinner, several pieces of print mix doused in a delicious dressing, but something -- some part had been extremely bitter - -almost causing me to gag and I couldn't tell what kind of lettuce was guilty. So, I gave it up entirely I eyed my neighbor's half-eaten cheesecake. I should have gotten that instead of what was obviously a store-bought cookie. Oh well, I can't get up now.

The lady continued her poem - one I had heard before. "Oh when I can drive -- then I'll be happy.... Oh when I can get out of my parent's house, then I'll be happy. Then college exams, then graduation, then marriage, longing for kids, all things always blocked the voice's path to happiness. "When my kids aren't so young -- when they go to school -- I'll finally have time to be happy --When they graduate, when they get married, when I can retire, when I ....

Misery. The poem defined pure, unadulterated misery.

My first child was at home, sleeping in all her four-month glory and my husband just starting a new job. I was happy. Right then. Right there. I would not depend on dreams, on tomorrows, on next steps even, to deliver delight.

I would choose happiness now. I said it over and over to myself. No stage of life is without its own joys. No tomorrow can possibly be better than the today, because tomorrows are shadows -- ungraspable and fleeting.

I have not been perfect in my 27-year-old self declaration, but for the most part, I can say that that poem did its job. And today, I am happy in today.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Prompt #19: Brrring

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing Prompt #19 -- The sound: Brrrring

Brrring -- brring -- brring. What is that horrible noise? Oh, the construction next door. Some poor worker must be slaving away with a sledge hammer. Wow, his rhythm is perfect; too perfect. Brring -- brring.

Alarm clock. I reach my hand out and fumble around on my desk for the little button to end my misery. Is it a snooze day? What day is it? What do I have going on? Think? I try clear the fog of my dream, still nestling around me -- a ball of yarn longing to be unfurled. It was a nice dream, that much I still taste.

I eventually deny it any more time and roll out of bed, my pajamas more wrinkled than my thoughts, and stretch my arms as high as they can go. I walk over to the bulletin board by my desk and finger through the myriad of papers, business cards, and ephemera tacked on. Where did I put that? Think - what color was it? Blue. Some shade of blue - with a camera logo on it. Makes sense. She's a photographer.

I find it tripled under some Chinese take out coupons and a notice of some recall on my Toyota.

"Rrff, rrff," my Labradoodle comes bounding in - sensing I was finally awake and ready to play. I burrow my head in her furry goodness.

"Come on, Cinnamon," I say, "Let's go get ourselves a job."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Women's Conference Notes

Last Saturday, I got to teach at our Stake Women's conference. It was an incredible experience -- mainly the preparing for the conference, but also the teaching. Here is a very jagged outline of my lesson. You'll have to insert dialog and commentary as you see fit. My topic was "Who are you little one? And what will you become through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?" I took about 3 minutes to talk about those two questions, and then added a third "How can who we are becoming (through the Atonement of Jesus Christ) help others?"

A Palace under construction...

* Who are you little one?
A daughter of God. The plan of salvation/ happiness and then your plan w/in that plan.

*What will you become through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

RESURRECTION: Immortal, resurrected beings
REPENTENCE: Repented, clean, worthy to live with the Father
RESILIENCE: the capacity to recover from difficulties; Enabling power of the Atonement: Strengthened, improved, who we are meant to be.

C.S. Lewis quote
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.

Write down 3 trials that you have had to overcome or deal with.

Now, next to each one, write down qualities or attributes you’ve developed or sharpened or strengthened because you have turned to the Savior. 

Share some of these — Write on the board next to second question.
Side note: this is the WHY behind our trials. God needs us to BECOME these things. 

NOW, I’m going to add a question: HOW CAN WHO WE ARE BECOMING HELP OTHERS? (Becoming, not become — it’s an ongoing process)
-too often, discussion of trials or adversities stops with the why and what we can learn, as if our own betterment in life were the only end goal. But everything about the gospel is to help others.

The qualities and attributes we developed or learned from trials are to bless others.
These are gifts to us from our Savior
Gifts of the Spirit — always to bless others
Parable of the Talents — do we bury our gifts? — Think of the list of qualities or attributes we’ve gained or been given as talents - or gifts from our Lord. Now re-read the parable.
Lovest Thou Me? Savior and Peter.  After 3 years spent by the side of the Savior, learning, being trained and being taught all of these attributes and qualities, after the death of the Savior, Peter and the others returned to their boats and their fish. They had missed the mark that the Savior wanted them to use all that they had learned to bless the lives of others. (Feed my Sheep)

Elder Holland’s quote: 

“We have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before.” - Elder Holland

Have we been changed by the Atonement? Then we cannot quit and we cannot go back. After our encounter with the Son of God — after His atoning influence in our lives, — nothing is ever again to be as it was before. As changed individuals, we can look forward and look upwards, whilst on bended knee asking for guidance to know which neighbors to bless, which children to protect and how. Which poor (in spirit, in mind, in friendship) to lift up, which truth to defend by our own experiences. We have good to do. You have unique good to do because of how the atonement has helped you. You can now share that knowledge with those who are grasping for a sliver of hope.

Parable of the talents:  (v. 16 ‘went and traded with the same’) — Prayer for guidance, always following the spirit to know who could use your help, and how to best help.

Examples: My health / panic attacks - able to help others and be a physical, tangible someone they can talk to or hold on to while they turn to the Savior. “The light from my refining fire can illuminate someone else’s path” - Josie Thompson

One of the main differences between a cottage and a palace is that a palace can provide shelter to so many more people struggling through their own personal rainstorms. We were meant to be palaces. 

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