Seeing Others As They May Become

Many years ago, when I was in high school, there was a young man by the name of Carl who expressed quite a bit of interest in me. When my debate coach got wind of Carl’s interest, she quickly expressed her opinion. She warned me to stay away from him – telling me that I was too good for him.

My coach was well meaning but somewhat misguided. I know she was trying to be protective of me but she didn’t really understand the good heart this young man had.

I didn’t actually date Carl but I ended up having a few conversations with him. His was a life filled with difficulty and tragedy. His parents were divorced. His father had abandoned the family. His mother was alcoholic and not inclined to look after her son. The only positive thing he seemed to have in his life was a grandfather that loved and cared for him.

By all outward appearances, Carl was not the kind of guy someone would want their daughter hanging out with. At the tender age of 18 Carl had alcohol abuse issues of his own, got a girl pregnant, lived on his own and was well-known for racing (and wrecking) cars and trucks on country roads.

Would Carl have been a positive influence on me? The answer is probably no. However, there is more to this story that needs expressing. After my conversations with Carl, it was plain to me (even back then) that the greatest tragedy of his life was the ability of his life circumstances to convince him that he was of no worth.

Certainly, his parents had done little to convince Carl of his worth and potential. Apparently, the influence of friends and other family members was not able to get the job done either. At the age of 20, Carl committed suicide.

I was reminded of Carl’s tragic story as President Monson spoke of “Seeing others as they may become” at our most recent general conference.

It is not hard for me to believe that Carl could have been helped immensely by others seeing him as he had the potential to become – instead of judging him and determining that he was not “good enough”.

By the time Carl took his life, he had married, divorced and become the father of a little girl. In his own way, by taking his life, Carl had perpetuated his family’s tradition of father abandonment.

It was a somber day the day I heard of Carl’s death. I remembered only too well the last time I had seen Carl – most of all, I remembered that I had ignored him. I did not say hi or acknowledge him in any way. Needless to say, on that day long past, I had made no effort to see Carl as he might have become and I certainly did nothing to help him to feel better about himself. It was a haunting thought for me as I realized that just one kind word, one kind gesture or just one person’s ability to acknowledge Carl’s inherent worth might have literally saved his life and saved his small daughter from a life without her father. I might have been that person but instead, I had ignored him.

We can all think of a time when someone’s small gesture, warm smile or act of kindness has been huge in its impact on us. President Monson’s words have reminded me of my own need to make a difference in the lives of others. I am also reminded that my efforts do not have to be on a grand scale to be meaningful or to make a difference.

If others have made a difference in your life or if you have a story in which you or someone you know benefited by someone’s act of kindness and/or ability to look upon the heart instead of outward appearances and you would be willing to share, please send your story to me at joannaoblander@mail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Who God Is

Doorway to Heaven

Have you ever found that your interpretation of who God is has changed with where you are in your life and the situations that you are or have faced?

There was once a time when my understanding of God was greatly influenced by where I saw myself. If I believed that my life was in a good place and filled with blessings – then God loved me and all was well. However, if the events surrounding my life seemed unfair – then I would question God’s love for me and wonder what I had done to deserve my circumstances.

I was fairly young during those times of uncertainty and doubt. Over  time, life experiences (which relied heavily on God’s guidance) showed me that even though life was not always fair – my Father in Heaven was always there and always helping me (even if the help came in ways I had not requested or did not always understand).

I am a witness not only of God’s existence but of his character and perfection. Why I have been blessed to be such a witness I cannot say. I can only say that apparently God knows my heart and knows my capacity to witness of His perfection better than I do.
Many life experiences have given me that witness but the crowning event of my “witnessing” came on a night that I had prayed to my Heavenly Father and expressed to Him my intent to end my life the next day. It was on that night, after my tearful prayer, that I was escorted back to that place where we (you and I) were being prepared to come to earth.

I think you could call the place I visited heaven. Whether it was literally heaven or not doesn’t really matter to me. God was there and a spirit of love so powerful that all partakers of that environment revered our Father in Heaven, loved, honored, &served each other, and wanted to make the most of our divine potential. In a word – it was glorious and heaven like place even if it wasn’t heaven.

It was there that I was shown a meeting that I had once had with my Father in Heaven. It was during that meeting that I came to know, in ways I can only describe as profound, the complete perfection and all knowing intelligence of my Creator.

That meeting taught me that my Creator has great expectations of me, loves me perfectly and completely, knows me and my potential in ways I have not yet begun to comprehend, and is my ardent and most devoted supporter and guide. I also was shown that He is not a respecter of persons –in other words, those feelings and desire to teach and guide me were not isolated to just me but extended to each and every one of His children.

I saw preparations taking place in that place I will call heaven. I think the best comparison I could make of what I saw is to compare it to a major opening of a massive department store. Everyone was being trained and given a part in deciding which “department(s)” (life experiences) they would participate in. No detail was overlooked and great attention was given to making sure that individuals were matched with those “departments” which would give them most opportunity for learning and advancement. So intensive was that training that no one walked away from their training without being fully and completely prepared for the “department store” work that they would participate in. Those preparations were the most complete and best organized training event I have ever witnessed.

Of course, after the training comes the real deal – earth life. How amazing to know that we were all so incredibly trained and prepared and yet we have come to earth with memories of our training erased. It would almost seem like a cruel trick were it not that we were each sent here with a couple of guides – guides called our conscience and our heart. We each have been blessed to inherently know right from wrong and to feel God’s love for us in our hearts. Though we can ignore those feelings and that guidance and, as a result, have those gifts overshadowed by selfishness and disobedience to God’s commandments; we also have the choice to utilize those gifts, refine our ability to use them and utilize them in ways that will make ourselves and the world around us better.
As we open our hearts and follow our conscience, we are allowed to know our Creator better; more freely feel His perfect love for us and better understand our own potential and worth.

I don’t know how long I was allowed to stay in that glorious place I call heaven but I know that I will never be the same as a result of that precious experience.  That glimpse I was given of my Father in Heaven will remain with me forever. The truth of who my Divine Father is and what He desires for each of us resonates within my heart and soul:

•    He is perfect, unchanging, and loving. Any human efforts to make him mortal or to change Him are only human efforts to remove Him and His divinity from our lives. He is the God of Adam, Moses, and Paul. As such, the teachings revealed to and taught by them still apply now as much as they did then.

•    He is the Creator of this earth and all that lives here. As such, He is completely aware of each hair on our heads, each leaf that leaves the branch of a tree, and every feather on the body of a bird. I cannot even remotely begin to explain how He does it – I just know that He can and He does.

•    He is a God of truth and righteousness. His work is to guide us to truth, enable us to develop our God- like potential and to help us improve and be better.

•    He is a God of complete knowledge and intelligence. He knows us. He knows our potential and He knows how to guide us to reach it. While I was in heaven, I saw that my Heavenly Father’s understanding of me would not stifle me and impair me in any way. He sees beyond my own limited perspective and knows not only my complete potential but what will provide me with the greatest fulfillment and joy. I only have to be a willing participant.

•    He is a God of justice and mercy. To revert back to my department store example, there will come a time for “employee reviews”. As such, it is important that we live in accordance with those things we know to be true and right. We will all return and we will all be judged. He will extend all of the mercy that we deserve but He will not reward us equally. His perfect discernment will take into account our experiences, our knowledge and our works. His reward will not be one of “one size fits all”. Each of us will be given the reward that we deserve based on His perfect understanding.

•    He is a Divine mentor. We have no greater supporter, fan, or counselor. He is truly there for us if we are willing to reach out to Him and to embrace Him and His truth.

•    He is a God of inspiration. God will guide us, inspire us, and provide us with all the help we need (notice I did not say all the guidance we want). He is our unfailing source of support. We have the gifts of prayer and personal revelation available to us 24/7 as long as we are willing to ask, listen and then follow through with the guidance we are given.

I am grateful to know who God is. I am grateful for the many profound blessings which are a part of my life because of His guidance and support in my life. I am grateful for His perfection and for His love and I am grateful to be able to call Him Father.

What life experiences have you had with our creator? What experiences have increased your faith and how? What wonderful things has our Father in Heaven taught you? I look forward to hearing your stories!

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We Can Change the Influence of Evil

Stairs to Heaven

As I observe the world around me – I cannot help but make comparisons. After witnessing the majesty of heaven, my observations of the world will never be the same.

I have noticed that many people are afraid to “draw a line in the sand”. What I mean by that is that they try to find a way to make everything and most everyone okay. I realize that there was once a time past in which the judgments of others were harsher, more vocal and less forgiving. I am not suggesting that the days of teachers who rapped rulers on student’s knuckles should return. Yet, I would encourage our nation to embrace being individuals and communities of responsibility.

In heaven, there was no evil. It was as though the atmosphere there was infused with truth (and maybe it was). Void from heaven were lies, rationalization, and self-deprecation. Dominant was an attitude of service, gratitude, and love.

I believe that sin is the willful transgression of divine (God’s) law. A good definition of evil is defined as morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked. Therefore, sinning is evil or wicked. I believe that it is important to recognize the negative influence that sin has upon the earth we live on and the lives we live. Nothing good comes from sin (evil) and never will.

I recognize as a witness of heaven that I am blessed to have an understanding of heaven and its virtues that few others have. It is because of that understanding that I feel a responsibility to help others know and understand the virtues of heaven and the God who created us. We were born into this world to learn and grow in positive godlike ways. However, we are free to choose the blessings that come with embracing God and his ways or the snares and degradation that comes with rejecting Him.

Oh how I wish that each of us could enjoy just five minutes in heaven. Though I fully understand why that cannot be case, I also understand the change that would be pervasive in this world if such could be the case. One taste of heaven and you would never want or be willing to settle for anything less.

Yet, if we truly want to experience heaven on earth, we have to be willing to pay the price and walk the walk. The sublimity of heaven is not reached by lowering our behavior nor our standards.  Those who seek heaven’s influence would consistently display the following characteristics:

•    Honesty
•    Self respect
•    Integrity
•    A desire to serve
•    Devotion to family and marriage relationships
•    Morality
•    Humility (which is not the same as submissiveness)
•    Chaste/Virtuous
•    Advocate of truth
•    Prayerful
•    Seek to be a positive influence
•    A devotion to God and all that is good and true
•    Accepting of God’s perfection, his unchanging character and the eternal nature of His laws

In the world around us, I see an abundant use of lies, rationalization and evil influence. I see behaviors, choices and attitudes that contribute more to a hell on earth than to a heaven on earth. I see men (and women) who are concerned more with self-gratification and concerned less with their positive influence. I see companies who are more concerned with their profits than they are with their products, services, and employees. I see the epidemic use of situational ethics and morality (the bending, twisting, and altering of God’s character and commandments to suit their wants and purposes). Worse yet, despite all of the evidences ever-present upon this earth testifying of God’s hand in its creation, we are seeing a minority of those who passionately embrace immorality raise a voice that is louder and heard more frequently than the voice of those who know and follow God.

We are soon the see the results of a presidential election. Do we want to see a man lead us whose party has abandoned God and who disrespects the sacredness of life or do we want to see a man whose life has embraced service, a love of God and who is devoted to promoting strong families and marriages?

As Gorden B. Hinckley once stated, “I think the Lord would say to us, Rise, and stand upon they feet, and speak up for truth and goodness and decency and virtue.”

How those who follow God vote in the next few weeks will matter greatly. However, how we choose to conduct our lives and influence the world around us will matter even more. There is always opposition and there always will be but we can and do have the power within us to make this world a better place – a heaven on earth. All we have to do is believe and be willing to stand for truth and righteousness.

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