How Can God Let Bad Things Happen?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is agnostic. Life has been very difficult for her the last few years. She has an aging mother to care for, a demanding job, and her life always seems to demand more than she can deliver.

As someone who has always “just” known that God exists, it is hard for me to relate to the difficult time that some have in recognizing God’s hand in this globe we inhabit. I know that the destructive acts of man and the gut-wrenching experiences that life sometimes hands out are some of the main reasons that cause some to question God’s existence. I have heard many express how they cannot understand how God could let those things happen if He is truly the loving God that so many of us describe and/or believe in.

I would wonder how a loving God could allow such things too if it weren’t for the fact that I understand that this life is, in a very real way, a school and to remove our ability to make decisions (even bad ones) would negate much of our ability to learn. One of the principal reasons for this “earth school” is to teach us faith, hope and love.

If God were to match each sinister act with an immediate punishment and every good act with an immediate blessing – it would not be long before mankind would figure out how the consequence “thing” worked.  That might sound wonderful but it would completely eliminate our ability to effectively develop faith, hope and love.

In fact, if all consequences were immediate, it would only be a short amount of time before our ability to learn, as God’s plan is designed, would be completely compromised. No longer would we learn or strive to be better because of love, hope, a desire to build faith, or other selfless reasons. Instead, ours would be a world in which we were doing all the right things but for all the wrong reasons.

It would be like reaching the summit of Mount Everest without climbing. That experience void of preparation, challenges, and overcoming those challenges would be no more gratifying than brushing your teeth. No learning process or growth would have been involved.

This life is about personal growth, developing faith, becoming better and making the world around us a better place to be. As we strive to align our wills with God’s will – doing so for the right reasons and not because we have to or because we are being selfishly motivated is what will make our experiences gratifying.

Have you had an experience that developed your faith, taught you about hope or helped you to be more loving? Please share it with me at joannaoblander@mail.com

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Centering God Around Your Life

November is always a time of reflecting on the great blessings in my life. Every time I check my Facebook page I see friends posting about the things in their life that they are thankful for. The Thanksgiving Holiday Season is great for helping each of us pause and reflect on the many things we each have to be thankful for!

There was once a time in my life when I was overseeing a household of 6 children, handling the bookkeeping of two businesses, helping my husband run those same two businesses, taking care of a responsible job in my church, and coping with 24/7 migraine headaches.

Back then, life had many grueling days but it also had its blessings. The thing that I remember most about those years in my life is my mindset. I so desperately wanted to be a good person and to take care of my husband and children and I so often neglected myself in the process.

24 hours in a day were never enough for me. My family dubbed me with the well-deserved nickname of Jo Mario. My nickname referred to my driving (I had sooo many errands!) but it also referred to my never-set-still way of handling life.

I still remember the day. I was zipping around town running my never-ending list of errands and a voice (from heaven) screamed at me, “YOU ARE RUNNING ON ADRENALINE!!!” I remember the fear I felt as the message was delivered but I also remember my thoughts. My thoughts replied to the voice – How else am I going to get everything done? Yet, I knew I had been given an important warning.

Well, within a year or so my adrenaline reserves had been exhausted, my health was in shambles and severe depression had me suicidal.

Had I listened to my heavenly warning, my health, depression and life would have been in much better shape. However, back then, although I knew that I was being forewarned and I technically knew that my warning was coming from God – I didn’t fully understand what God could do for me if I listened to Him and allowed him to guide my life.

In my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, the first chapter opens with my visit to heaven and my meeting with God. That visit came as a result of my decision to end my life the next day. My visit to heaven taught me more about life (in the brief time that I was there) than over 50 years of life has taught me.

I believe that I was allowed to visit heaven not only to save my life – but to help others both save and find purpose in their own lives.

While in heaven, I was allowed to see myself and the relationships I had been a part of. I was able to see the incredible difference that centering my existence on the truths that God taught and exemplified made. I saw that centering my actions and intent around God did not make me less or a clone or diminish me in any way. Instead, centering my actions and intent around God provided me with the tools to reach my full potential and enabled me to maximize the passions, talents, and gifts that made me uniquely me. In other words, handing over the “clay” of my life to that perfect sculptor we refer to as God enabled all the assistance and tools necessary for me to become to be a masterpiece instead of the primitive sculpture I would become if left to my own devices.

Throughout the rest of my life I will be a masterpiece in the making because I have opted to center God around my life. Every aspect and area of my life is made better, easier and more abundant because my Creator is a part of it. That does not mean that my life does not have challenges or that it is easy. Virtually every day is filled with learning experiences that stretch me beyond my comfort zone. However, as I allow myself to be stretched, I continuously witness better results and deeper joy than I have ever experienced before.
I no longer run on adrenaline (and my health has improved as a result!), I no longer rely solely on my own wisdom and I listen when I am given heavenly promptings. Also, I make my spiritual, emotional and physical well-being a priority. I make time to feast daily from the scriptures and inspirational materials, I work on my relationships and my emotional health, and I exercise and eat healthy foods.

It’s like the story of the rocks in the jar:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table in front of him.

Then he produced about a dozen fist sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.
“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

Once again he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches us is:

‘If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

If you are interested in fulfilling the purpose that you and your life are uniquely meant to fill – remember to center God around your life and to make Him your biggest “rock”.

I have found using the following recipe daily to be especially effective in creating a life full of purpose and abundance: (These are my big rocks!)

•    1 session of scripture study
•    At least 3 personal prayers
•    A healthy dose of humility and teachability
•    20 minutes of exercise
•    Consistent efforts to show love to family and friends
•    Taking at least 20 minutes to turn off noise of the world to listen and meditate (I often do this while I am driving.)
•    Eating healthy meals
•    Feeding my mind positive, educational literature and inspirational music
•    Looking for and recognizing the abundance of blessings in my life
•    Taking time to serve others
•    Turning to my Heavenly Father for guidance and answers
•    1 Giant helping of exercising Faith

I would love to hear your inspirational stories of how our Heavenly Father has helped you in your life! Please send them to me at joanna.oblander@mail.com

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We Have Been Set Up for Success!!!

I was reading chapter 41 of Alma the other day. Verse 8 caught my attention.  It says:
“Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever may walk therein and be saved.

When I saw the pre-existence and the extensive preparations that were taking place to prepare each of us to come to earth – I was so impressed with just how organized and extensive those preparations were.

I have been to some very well organized events in my lifetime. Some of them so well organized that I was left in awe of how well the organizers had prepared for and anticipated every need. Yet, I have never seen anything like what I saw taking place in heaven to prepare us for our lives on earth.

It all makes perfect sense – after all our Heavenly Father is perfect. He loves us perfectly and certainly has the ability to prepare us for life perfectly as well.

So when I read Alma 41:8 it was another affirmation of truth that I already knew but still – a really important reminder.

The way has already been prepared. Isn’t it wonderful to know that every essential preparation has already been made? Every single one of us has been a recipient of that preparation.

All that is left now is the execution of the preparations. That is where our responsibility comes in. We must have the desire and be willing to “walk therein and be saved”.
I can’t help but feel amazed to know that the success of every life past, present and future has been prepared for and that all of the tools, assistance and strength that are needed to guarantee our success are in place.

We are not guaranteed that the efforts that will be needed will be minimal. In fact, we can pretty much be sure that the whole process will require our best efforts. But…where else can you get that kind of deal? It’s like Heavenly Father telling us that if we give Him our best effort – He will take that effort, combine it with the power of the Atonement and then guarantee that we win the ultimate prize or reward!

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And They Lived Happily Ever After

I love Disney …in fact the last time my family went to Disneyland, I was right there in the middle of the pack helping my grandchildren (mostly my granddaughters) get their pictures taken with Disney Royalty. However, if there is one concern I have with Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White and their fellow princesses it is that they all have a happy ever after that seems to come magically without any effort.

Love and marriage between a man and a woman is meant to be happily ever after but in real life it only comes with deliberate effort.

I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful marriage. My husband and I have been married for over 34 years now. In celebrity years, that is almost forever!

You might think that we have just been extra lucky or that each of us has an extraordinary amount of patience.

The truth is that we have been very blessed and we ALSO have been willing to cherish our marriage, make it a priority, and work really hard at keeping our relationship strong and healthy.

For us, getting to know each other is an unending process. We both understand that our courtship and relationship building did not end with “I Do” – it is an essential daily component of our marriage.

These things have been important to the success of my marriage and I believe they are important to other successful marriages as well:

·    We are best friends
·    We set aside time for date nights and other “Just Us” activities
·    We have interests in common and we do things together
·    We are committed to working out our differences
·    We share common values and beliefs
·    We understand the importance of being unselfish
·    We know that the best gift we could ever give our children is parents who are lovingly     committed to each other
·    We have fun together
·    We recognize that every worthwhile endeavor (including our marriage) requires good old fashioned work
·    We genuinely like and respect each other
·    We are able to acknowledge and honor our differences
·    Probably most important – We make God an essential part of our marriage

My husband and I were both eye witnesses to the less than stellar marriages of our parents. Those marriages eventually ended in divorce. However, even though we have witnessed troubled marriages within our circle of family and friends, we have also been blessed to witness some really wonderful marriages. Those strong marriages have been an important example for me and my husband.

Marriage is meant to be a wonderful and fulfilling experience and when the right attitudes and priorities are in place – I know it can be all of that and more.

Although wearing crowns and dressing up in gowns and tuxedos isn’t likely to do much for our marriages – marriage really can be Happily Ever After! Happily Forever after We Give Our Best Efforts to our Marriage!

PS – For those married couples who struggle with their relationship in the bedroom – a really wonderful and sensitive book that I would highly recommend is And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson.

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