Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Isometrics of Casting Off Our Old Selves

NOTE: This is a long post. But I've broken it up into section headings to make it seem shorter, because I feel like it's all important, juicy stuff. (:

Hello hello!

Making a mid-week post today because the source I've taken from for this blog post was extra long and so I read it over the last week. However, if you have some spare time (even if it's just a few minutes every day for a week), I suggest you read Neal A. Maxwell's talk, “If Thou Endure Well.” Fantastic. I promise.

I feel like this last week has been a little bit of a spiritual bootcamp for me, or at least a bootcamp for my sense of how I'm doing. Every month or so, I feel like I get into a restless mindset that reminds me that I'm not doing as well as I should be, so I get into gear and motivate myself until I run out of steam and become restless again later. I wish it weren't so cyclical, so hopefully every time I wake myself up from my spiritual snooze, I hope that it's a more powerful awakening with a better resolve not to slack on things of importance.

Here's how I came to my state of awakening this time: I was sitting in a writer's group at work, pitching sketches for Studio C, and I just felt awful. I hadn't written good material, and everybody knew I hadn't written good material, but I was still frustrated with everyone's feedback. I wanted something good said to me; I wanted some positive feedback, and I was getting more and more frustrated with my lack of positive feedback and everyone else's abundance of it. How's that for a red flag? As Jeffrey R. Holland put it, “Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!”

Even when we left the meeting and a family was touring the broadcasting building and wanted a picture with us, I remember feeling even more annoyed that the family kept talking to one or two other people in our group of writers and not to me. I mean, how dense can we get when we don't have the Spirit with us? It's easy to see that now, but at the time, I just felt awful. That night, when I was reflecting back on my day, I finally saw what a mess I was in. I had been self-centered. I had been doing things for glory and not for the building up of my Heavenly Father's kingdom, and it had made me turn so far inward that I couldn't see much outside of my own problems. This is a prime example of what Maxwell calls being “mired in the ooze of self-pity” (“Meek and Lowly”).

Well, thank goodness I saw this because now I'm on the mend. And this talk totally helped me, so hopefully it will help any of you who are trying to put away the natural man, as well. I feel like there are a few steps I go through every time I engage in discarding my old self, so I will outline this post in those experiences:

1. I feel guilty

This is the first stage I enter when I start to make a change in myself. I started feeling it that night after work when I realized what a doofus I was being and how I might've treated those around me. As Maxwell says, “The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance” (Notwithstanding My Weakness”). The person I want to become is very far from the person I am now, but when I recognize that, I am motivated to make the trek.

Obviously, to feel that motivation, this stage can't last too long to be effective. Maxwell remarks, “We have great expectations, and then must endure the difference between what we could be and what we are and to try to make of that some useful ‘divine discontent’  rather than corrosive affliction of the self.” I can't beat myself up about the habits I've collected. Instead, I need to find good habits to develop and reignite my desire to be close to God.

2. I feel a desire to change

This desire is very important. We cannot make any movement in our trek toward God, we cannot make any strides in our discipleship, unless we desire to do so. This desire is so important because we can “let it work in [us], even until [we] believe in a manner that [we] can give place for a portion of [his] words” (Alma 32:27).

3. I ask God for help
As soon as I get on my knees in humility for all of the work I've got ahead of me, I feel a warmth rush over me and an overwhelming feeling of love fills my heart. This is God's way of thanking me for coming to Him. Of course! God wants to help us! There is proof in each of these experiences of divine discontent that He loves us and wants to help us change. As Maxwell noted,
So much of life’s curriculum … consists of efforts by the Lord to get and to keep our attention. Ironically, the stimuli he uses are often that which is seen by us as something to endure. Sometimes what we are being asked to endure is his help. Help to draw us away from the cares of the world. Help to draw us away from self-centeredness. Attention-getting help, when the still small voice has been ignored by us. Help in the shaping of our souls. And help to keep the promises we made so long ago to him and to ourselves. Thus there is clearly no immunity from these stimuli. There cannot be. No immunity from afflictions. There cannot be. Whether the afflictions are self-induced as most of them are, or are of the divine tutorial type, it matters not. Either way, the Lord can help us in a most interesting manner. Our afflictions, said Alma can be quote “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).

How often have I ignored feelings of being stagnant because I do not want to make the effort to awake from those spiritual snoozes? How often have I ignored the feeling to look outside myself? These are the moments that I can be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” I should not treat them as bothers or burdens, but as gifts.

4. I use resources from God to strengthen my resolve and change my perspective

We have so many resources at our disposal! We can pray, we can attend the temple, we can read our scriptures. There are many lines of communication between us and God, and what may have been a resource we took for granted can truly become a helpful resource in our quest for motivation and the desire to change. Take the scriptures for example--it is easy to see reading your scriptures every day as drudgery, but how joyful it can be when you recognize these books as sources of truth and light--as the source of answers to your struggles.
This staying power about which we’re speaking requires strength, and that strength is to be achieved by feasting upon the gospel of Jesus Christ regularly, deeply and perceptively. If you and I go undernourished by the gospel feast which God has generously spread before us, we’re vulnerable, instead of durable. As Paul intriguingly warned, we then become “wearied and faint in our minds” (Hebrews 12:3). Think upon that, brothers and sisters. There are some among us who have become intellectually weary and faint in their minds because they are malnourished, they are not partaking regularly of the fullness of the gospel feast. Instead you and I brothers and sisters should partake from that feast in the spiritual rhythm which Alma described as thanksgiving daily. (Maxwell)
When I read this from Maxwell's talk, I recognized a need to shift my perspective. As of late, I've been reading my scriptures late at night, before I go to bed, and I haven't been getting anything out of them because of how tired I am. But one morning, when I had time for myself, I started reading this Maxwell talk and the principles in it touched me in ways I was not able to receive when reading my scriptures so late at night. I realized that the answers I was getting that morning while intently searching Neal A. Maxwell's words were from God and that I could get answers like that often if I made time in the day to devote myself to this search.

5. My personal habits begin to change
This stage can be very slow, as Maxwell said, “The fact is, that as one might begin for instance to move away from self-centeredness toward compassion and empathy, that slow shift may be hardly perceptible. Trying to watch it would be like trying watch the grass grow. But the change occurs. And the quiet periods of life often lend themselves to this sort of alignment.” I like that Maxwell mentions the quiet periods of life, because that is where I often sense changes in my life, when I am quietly reflecting.

I must note, however, that these changes do not happen simply because I read my scriptures more and ask God for help. They happen through trial and error, and, over time, with a readier mindset to change because I more easily recognize my mistakes. When at one point it took weeks of muddling through self-pity and envy and other dark feelings before I'd finally had enough of these sins of commission and wanted to change, I can eventually recognize more quickly when I am off track simply by committing sins of omission. As Maxwell mentioned in his talk, Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father, “Once the telestial sins are left behind and henceforth avoided, the focus falls ever more on the sins of omission. These omissions signify a lack of qualifying fully for the celestial kingdom. Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission, but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions.”

Focusing more closely on these sins of omission allows me to be on guard when I make a mistake--and I make many--so that I can hopefully correct that mistake in the future. I guess I don't notice so much the change in my habits during this stage as I do the change in my focus on these habits. I am more aware and thus more ready to change.

6. I am more helpful to those around me
This is usually the last step for me because service is a tough principle for me to adopt. Even in my goals to build up the kingdom of God, I usually see my contributions in terms of my effect on people. How can I write better sketches to uplift my audience? How can I write better blogs to help my readers? How can I use my talents to help those around me? These are not necessarily bad thoughts at all, and when I use my talents with the intent to help others, I generally do feel more aligned with God. But I exercise this form of service and charity much more than the Christ-like, nitty gritty acts of person-to-person interaction and upliftment.

There was one Sunday a few months ago where I felt impressed to write a note to my Relief Society president from my ward. She and I were not close at all, in fact, I found her personality to be rather different from mine and so assumed that we would probably not be very close. However, this one Sunday, I felt impressed to write a personal note to her. I do not receive many of these kinds of impressions you hear of in Conference and from other in-tune people, so I decided to follow it because who knew when I'd get this impression again? As I sat down to write this note, feelings of love flowed over me for this girl. Yes, she communicated her feelings differently than I did, and yes, she and I had different perspectives on many things, but I didn't see that at all when I wrote this note. I saw my sister. I saw a girl who was struggling under the weight of her calling and feeling distressed with the circumstances in other areas of her life that made her feel small and alone. I saw that! And I can guarantee that wasn't because of my people skills. It was because the Lord saw an opportunity to use me as an instrument to uplift one of His daughters. I cite that experience because I haven't had one like that since, but it's stuck with me and served as a reminder to me that I can be an instrument in God's hands for personal acts of service.

7. I feel truly one with God
This is because God and I share delight in the same event--the refining of my spirit. Even though I usually do not see all of the changes happening in me, as noted in step number five, I feel a change in my perspective. I feel the presence of the Spirit in my life more fully. That which might have been a burden before is now a joy. I find joy in obeying God because I can feel all of the wonderful effects of living the life He wants for me.

This is truly a beautiful stage to find myself in. I don't know that I've reached it just yet during this particular set of isometrics, but I look forward to reaching that point, and that desire is what fuels me to keep chipping away at my old self.

8. I am open to further shaping of my soul
By this point, my spirit has softened up a lot. I feel joy instead of resistance when met with an opportunity to grow because I know I am growing closer to the Savior. I need to work to keep my spirit soft, though, and that requires what Maxwell calls “Graceful endurance, and it includes becoming and growing. It includes, but is not limited to, hanging on for one moment more. It is as has been observed, a circumstance in which ‘all virtues at the testing point take the form of courage’ (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters). And then after you and I have passed breaking points without breaking, our virtues take the form of endurance.” It is utilizing these virtues we've gained when it comes time to be tested and stretched again that really keeps us close to God. We must remember that we've gained more tools in our fight against our old selves and we must remember that the fight is ongoing.

Obviously, this wasn't meant to be easy. “Endurance is also the recognition that the very process of being born again is not a one-time-thing. Hence Paul said that he ‘died daily.’ 1 Cor 15:31. Such is the process, of putting off the old self as one becomes a woman or a man of God ... It is that stern competition of what we are in the process of becoming which is assaulted and attacked by that which we are that provides this tremendous isometrics in which we’re to pull free, cast off that which is not good, which we have been.”

This openness to being shaped and refined does not stay. It requires a new resolve every day to be open to refinement. This openness means I must keep my will flexible, and be willing to submit my will to God. Christ was the perfect example of this submissiveness when He performed the Atonement for all of us:
Think about it, brothers and sisters … as the pressure of that enormous weight of the awful arithmetic of atonement fell upon [Jesus], beginning to intensify in Gethsemane and in Calvary, we find Jesus groaning under the weight thereof, needing to be strengthened by an angel who appeared to strengthen him. That perfect soul untouched by sin, then took upon him all our sins. Even though he was intellectually brilliant, uniquely so, even though he was the creator of other worlds and he knew what he had to do, when the moment came, since he had never passed personally through an atonement himself, it was much much worse than even he with his brilliant mind could possibly have imagined. Hence the great soul cry [My God, my God, why . . . ] and in one of the gospels, only one, does he, Jesus, in his pleading to the Father plead that the cup pass from him, but Jesus also said, ‘Father, all things are possible unto thee” (Mark 14:26) take this cup from me. I do not presume to know what went through his mind. Whether there might have been a moment in which he wondered if there could be some other way, he quoted back to the Father that which he as Jehovah had said to Abraham ‘is anything to hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). He quoted back that scriptural statement which he had used a number of times in his ministry, that to him that believeth all things are possible. So great was his agony as he felt the weight of the atonement, that he made that special pleading. And then in spiritual submissiveness, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” 
It is enormously important that Jesus’ grip on himself is seen as our grip on eternity for in fact it was, on that occasion. Now significantly, being spiritually submissive as he was to perfection has been something he has now laid upon us as his followers, when he said ‘and what manner of men (and women) ought ye to be and I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Ne 27:27). Incorporated therefore in our developmental objectives is the acquisition and the further refinement in each of us of that spiritual submissiveness about which we’re speaking, which requires that we endure to the end. In fact, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Christian virtues, one of which we’re speaking about tonight spiritual submissiveness and enduring well to the end, are those qualities which will rise with us in the resurrection, and not much else. And to the degree that we have developed them in ourselves in this life we will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:11).
Christ’s submission is the perfect example of how our attitudes should be toward our Father in heaven. Again and again, we must sacrifice our comfort, habits, time, talents—we must consecrate ourselves to God, and in so doing, submit our wills to Him.

Flat periods may come

In fact, they will come. Maxwell noted, “There are also the flat periods in life which may be those periods when before new lessons come in upon us. The past lessons of life are allowed to seep quietly and deeply into the marrow of our souls. These outwardly flat periods of life when enduring well may not seem to be purposeful are probably the period of time in which quietly attitudinal realignments are occurring within our hearts and within our minds. And this means frankly that an experience must not only be passed through but absorbed into the marrow of the soul. Thus, when we really look at it, it is we, not God who need more time.”

Constantly reshaping ourselves and submitting our wills to God is hard to do when we're asked to do it every day for the rest of eternity. But that is why we must constantly refuel our desires to change. These desires are fueled by the recognition of the why behind the what. And a big why in this process is God's love for us:
[God] would not be a loving Father if he ignored our imperfections and we must not forget that he would not be a true Father if he were content with you and me as we now are… “For all those who will not endure chastening but deny me cannot be sanctified” (D&C 101:5). Why is non-endurance a denial of the Lord? Because giving up is a denial of the Lord’s loving capacity to see us through all these things. Giving up, suggests that God is less than he really is. It is a denial of his divine attributes, and also a denial of our own possibilities. We should therefore brothers and sisters see life as being comprised of clusters of soul-stretching experiences. Even when these are overlain by seeming ordinariness or are wrapped in routine.
God wants us to always be improving. So there are some times when we seem to be experiencing flat moments. These moments are when we can adjust the more subtle traits in ourselves that are hindering our ability to come that much closer to being God-like. When I am experiencing divine discontent, it is an opportunity to change something that God wants me to change.

It is also important to keep an eternal perspective. What may seem like drudgery after a while ("Do I have to read my scriptures tonight?" "I'm not going to hell if I complain about my co-worker." Etc.) can instead be seen as another stepping stone in our big change, our intense progression towards a perfect goal--Godhood. As Maxwell put it, “So much of mortality of necessity involves teeth to be brushed, beds to be made, cars to be fixed, diapers to be changed, groceries to be bought and on and on those endless chores go. They are mundane matters. But in the midst of these things is the real business of living. A friendship to be formed. A marriage to be mended. A truth to be driven home. A child to be encouraged. A Christian attribute to be further refined and developed.”

The take home message
This is the process of life. The gathering of Christ-like attributes is how we measure our progress in this world. As Maxwell notes, “This life is not lineal it is experiential. It is not really chronological, though we use clocks and calendars and wristwatches. It is essentially experiential. Someone said it well, ‘We live in deeds, not years, in thoughts, not breaths, in feelings, not figures on a dial and we really should count times, by heart throbs’ (Phillip James Bailey).”

I have a testimony that these little struggles we have within ourselves are how we make it back to God, inch by inch. It is important to treat each battle we wage with reverence and that we are in communication with our Father about how this will play into the grand scheme of things. As President Gordon B. Hinckley's father said, “When a man makes war on his own weaknesses he engages in the holiest war that mortals ever wage. The reward that comes from victory in this struggle is the most enduring, most satisfying, and the most exquisite that man ever experiences. … The power to do what we ought to do is the greatest freedom” (Bryant S. Hinckley).

I promise that when you recognize the importance of what you're doing when you make the decision to change, you will start to lengthen your perspective so that eventually, it will see eternally, as our Father in Heaven sees. And that makes you free. Free from the ooze of self-pity. Free from the short-sighted perspective that comes with selfishness. Free from the boundaries Satan has set for you as a mere mortal. Free from any doubt you've ever had about your worth and your potential. This is how we become like God.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Failures vs. Opportunities

Well, we are back home from all the traveling! After throwing out all the spoiled food in our cabinets and opening all our wedding presents from the reception, we sat back, looked around, and thought, "This is home. This is life." It's a lovely life.

I say that right this second because I have to document every time I truly feel that way and am not weighed down by stresses, frustrations, or trials. This last week has been particularly stressful as we've dealt with some news that could be bad, but maybe not. You know how it goes--some questions can't be answered right now. Time is such a meanie in that sense, innit? At any rate, I'm a worrier, and of course, with any uncertain news, I automatically think the worst and worry about every little thing. I haven't been sleeping much and because of that, I've been less exhilarated and thrilled with the experiences of every day life, which is a habit I always try to foster.

Stephen suggested last night that we fast today about this uncertain news, and so we prayed and fasted that the news be good. I felt the need, however, to also fast for steadfastness in case the news were bad. To continue being a strong disciple of Christ, no matter what our current situation. Well, I guarantee every time that the Lord will answer your prayer when you pray for help in being a steadfast disciple of Him. Today, I'd like to talk about some insight I've received. It's not news to anyone, but those are often the lessons we need the most--because we keep learning them and re-learning them over and over throughout life. They are the lessons that will eventually get rid of our dross and help us to become who we are meant to be.

The first answer the Lord gave me came when I was reading a talk by Neal A. Maxwell called "Brim With Joy." That is a wonderful talk in itself, but Maxwell quoted Brigham Young a few times. This morning, I read the following quote from President Young:
When the Latter-day Saints make up their minds to endure, for the kingdom of God's sake, whatsoever shall come, whether poverty or riches, whether sickness or to be driven by mobs, they will sayit is all right, and [they] will honor the hand of the Lord in it, and in all things, and serve Him to the end of their lives, according to the best of their ability. . . . If you have not made up your minds for this, the quicker you do so the better. [JD 1:338; emphasis added]
Elder Maxwell emphasized the blessings of this principle, the perspective of saying, "It is all right" when we are steadfast. When I read this, though, I was drawn to the stipulations. We may have this perspective when we make up our minds to endure for the kingdom of God's sake. It is when we have an eye single to the glory of God that we can see ourselves and our lives more the way He sees us, and can then feel that things will be all right.

As a support to that answer, our opening hymn in church today was "O My Father." I've sung this hymn a lot, but today, the words in the last verse particularly pierced me: "Then, at length, when I've completed all you sent me forth to do, with your mutual approbation let me come and dwell with you." I had the distinct impression that God has sent me forth to do much in the building up of His kingdom. He has faith in me and in what I will do with the time He has given me. I must constantly be mindful of how I am using my time here and how I am contributing to the building of God's kingdom here on earth. It was a moment where I was reminded and motivated to act (the moment I decided I would try posting more regularly again on this blog, in fact).

Another answer came in the third hour of church, when a woman whose name I don't know gave a lesson about... oh gosh. I can't remember everything the lesson was about. I remember she used Nerf guns to illustrate the principle of achieving a goal (or hitting a target) with and without the help of someone who has more perspective than you. However, I took note of something she said that struck me. She said that when we are doing the Lord's will, we cannot fail. We think we have failed, but the Lord knows this is not true. I was very moved by this idea. We really do see failures sometimes in our lives, but where we see failures, the Lord sees opportunities. Do not be stopped by your circumstances.

This idea was developed more when I got home and talked with Stephen about the principles we'd learned in Sunday school. Our teacher talked about how she didn't see Satan as being so much the embodiment of all evil or anything, like we may depict him with horns, a tail, and engulfed in flames. She said she thinks of Satan more as a man who has had his priorities mixed up. Stephen and I talked more about this after church and thought of how frustrated Satan must be because he probably still believes his plan is better. Which, from Satan's perspective, his plan would be better because he wouldn't be as miserable as he is now. As it is, Satan and all of his followers are miserable and they must think it's because God's plan isn't the best one. While their priorities are clearly misaligned, it made me realize how easy it is to get off track and be consumed with our plans when we're not humble and watchful enough to see God's plan for us. Of course we become frustrated, stressed, and sad when we do not look up and see that this failure is really an opportunity.

I say the word, "opportunity," thinking of what Neal A. Maxwell said in his talk, "In Him All Things Hold Together." He says that "for the serious disciple, the cardinal attributes exemplified by Jesus are not optional. These developmental milestones take the form of traits, traits that mark the trail to be traveled." I love that he says that these traits are developmental milestones. I take that to mean that while we may measure our lives in terms of events and goals we've set, Heavenly Father measures our lives in terms of what characteristics we've adopted to become more like Him and our Savior. This life is measured in our refinement, and when we realize that, we come to see so many trials not as failures, but simply as other routes (better routes, usually) that will help us progress in our lives when we see that progress is an internal process.

How wonderful is that?! This day has answered my prayers. It has given me power to refine myself into a better being that is more like my Savior. The trials set before me might not be easy, and I may need to rely on the Lord much more heavily than myself sometimes, but that is not a failure. It is an opportunity for me to see how I may be better used as an instrument in God's hands. I promise you that if you ask God what He has sent you here to do, you will begin to see a vision of who you can become. And as you take these opportunities in this life to teach yourself and refine your spirit, you'll be so delighted to see yourself becoming more like that vision of a better you. The lifestyle of a disciple of Christ is not a passive one. We have been sent here to help, uplift, and illuminate the world. We are building up the kingdom of our Father in Heaven, who has a plan for us that entails nothing but the utmost and perfect joy. I know this is true. I promise it is, and you will feel the truth of this principle as well when you come to see your circumstances as He sees them. And in a little while, when you need reminding, you can see them again and again, as is the process of this miraculous gospel.

I hope you all have a lovely day. And that you have many opportunities to become the people God wants you to be.

While writing this blog post, I was reminded of some ideas from a couple lessons I'd taught in Relief Society a few months ago, so I thought I'd post them here in case anyone wants more quotes/scriptures on the matter:
Henry B. Eyring's "Where is The Pavilion" lesson plan

PPS- I suggest that you seek after the company of those who can help you have a better perspective in challenging moments-- both a perspective about how small your challenge really is, as well as how mighty you are in comparison to your challenge. Thank you, Stephen.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Unleashing the Dormant Spirit


Well, it's been a while, yes? I've had this post stewing around in my mind for a few weeks, but now, as my sweet husband sleeps in the next room of our exotically humble beachside Mexican hotel, I had the strong desire to sit down and write.

Today is my birthday. It's been glorious! We went to church, and some wonderful friends sent Stephen with gifts from them so that I could open a small pile of presents this morning. I got married last week and am on my honeymoon. Life is definitely at a peak right now.

And I have to remind myself during these peaks that there are higher peaks to be found if you think to look up. It may be easy to plateau and snooze during these times of abundance, but I have been reminded today that there is a wonderful opportunity to progress even now, at what seems to be the height of my happiness.

I have been pondering on what is needed to make a good marriage—I've just entered into one, after all—and I've come to realize (on a much smaller scale than many who've been wedded much longer than me) that humility is a key aspect of any successful relationship. After all, you live with someone else now. There is no “privacy of a 'dressing room'” as Neal A. Maxwell says, “to be alone with ourselves, for the home gives us a great chance to align our public and private behavior, to reduce the hypocrisy in our lives, to be more congruent with Christ.” I have come to see more weaknesses in myself through the reflection of my spouse than most soul searching I do on my own. But this is the blessing of married life because, when presented with these weaknesses, we can either embrace the opportunities to learn, or we can turn away with pride and insist on staying the same, on foregoing the chiseling of our souls that can refine us into more perfect beings. This is something I will have to learn again and again as I face my weaknesses and—with the help of my Savior—turn them into strengths.

What I am speaking of is the whole point of life — to become like our Savior, Jesus Christ — and that seems impossible, doesn't it? Well, one seemingly simple aid to this process is what Elder F. Enzio Busche speaks of in his talk, “Unleashing the Dormant Spirit.” He tells us bluntly, “You want to be good and to do good. That is commendable. But the greatest achievement that can be reached in our lives is to be under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost. Then he will teach us what is really good and necessary to do.” Elder Busche acknowledges the impossibility of the refining process without divine help when he says:
We cannot have a successful mission [or marriage or life or etc.] until we learn how to behave or learn what to do so that the Spirit will endow us with power and all the other gifts. None of us can afford to be without them. None of us has enough wisdom, enough intelligence, enough knowledge, enough skills, or enough courage, by ourselves, to master our lives and even to succeed in life unless we learn what it means to surrender ourselves into the arms of the Lord and be filled with the Spirit. He wants to empower us with the gifts that he has promised to give to each of his disciples who has made sacred covenants with him.
We need the Spirit. We need God's messenger—this beautiful gift we are given when we promise to follow Christ—in order to keep a check on ourselves, as it can be so easy to go off the path a little bit and find ourselves jaded and lacking motivation. This is why we need to be meek. We need to be honest with ourselves. Elder Busche notes that “When we can, in an honest reflection, say: ‘Yes, I am a disciple of Christ, I’m willing to sacrifice my own will, my habits, attitudes, and selfish desires, and endure the hurt and the pain that such reflections cause, and bring to him as a sacrifice a broken heart and a meek spirit,’ he will baptize us ‘with fire and with the Holy Ghost,’ and we will not be deceived (see 3 Nephi 9:20).” We need to take the opportunities life gives us to see who we really are—our gifts and our faults—and use those opportunities to come to the Lord and sanctify ourselves. We need to sacrifice so that we can truly be happy.

It really does seem impossible, but WE CAN DO IT! That's why we have the Spirit in the first place! So that He may guide us through this life until we return to our Heavenly Father. The Spirit does more than tell us when we are about to get hit by a car or (for a select few) the correct answer on an exam. “This Spirit lets us develop the true potential of our intellectual capabilities and delivers even the motivation to use it... under the influence of the Spirit, all uncomfortable things—such as hard work… going the extra mile… overcoming flaws of character, and other things requiring sacrifice—are easy. It [becomes] clear that under the influence of the Spirit we act in wisdom. We see the complexity of a problem in its simple parts, and we see the possible solutions unfolding in front of our eyes—to our own surprise. In other words, our creativity is developed and multiplied. That which is a burden without it becomes a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost” (F. Enzio Busche).

Isn't that wonderful to think about?! That which is a burden without it becomes a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost! Do you ever feel that way? I know that sometimes, when I am not necessarily in the right frame of mind, going to church or reading my scriptures late at night or talking to someone who seems lonely all seem like drudgery. The repentance process can seem tiring. Developing a better relationship with God can seem difficult. But with the Spirit, it is a privilege!

So how can we begin to live life under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost?

First, we must possess a desire for His company. Our motivation is what will fuel us in any spiritual direction. If we do not desire it, it will not happen.
When we read the scriptures carefully, we can learn that the Lord, through his prophets, leads us to understand our need to look at our own desires. I have asked myself several times, Why would the author of our eternal existence, whom we are allowed to call reverently Heavenly Father, ask us, through his prophets, to look at our desires?… Desires are working in us. All of our life’s actions are the result of our desires. When we want to honor the great gift of the Spirit, which God has given us, we have to become aware of whether we are under its influence or not. When we are not satisfied with the world of our own feelings—when we are grouchy and unhappy or we are slothful or sloppy—we must know that we are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. People who sin are not under his influence. They have not put on the armor of God. They are not in a state of, awakening. 
The Spirit of Christ teaches us that we must pray, that we must ask for the things that we seek. As we read in 2 Nephi 32:8: “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit . . . ye would know that ye must pray.” But before we can do this with focus, we have to become aware of a multitude of defined or undefined, conscious or subconscious desires. We have to learn to bring them to our awareness, to analyze them, to categorize them, and to bring them in to order according to priorities. When we do not do this, we will be condemned to remain, in our prayers, on a superficial level, or even on the level of formality, where there are no answers or there are only imagined answers. But there are always hundreds of different desires fighting for supremacy within us. The act of categorizing them is a very painful, but needful act to become, in the eyes of God, a mature person and to be taken seriously. So often we say things that we really don’t mean. Sometimes we want to be funny and, in reality, we chase the Spirit away. We cannot be lightminded and expect the Spirit to take us seriously. We need to be thorough and responsible for the Spirit to take notice. When we are not organized and focused, we may wish for things that are really irrelevant or even dangerous… Our physical body is mostly capable of reflecting the self-centered orientation of the foolishness of the flesh. But the real part of us, or the real me, the spirit child of God, on the other hand, is the author of our righteous desires, of our hunger for salvation, and of our longing to eventually become reunited with our heavenly home. When the Light of Christ is able to penetrate our hearts, prompted by the enlightened testimony of truth by a focused teacher, it will cause in us a state of awakening, an awakening of the real me, the child of God, so that we can learn to channel our desires to focus on our true needs. (F. Enzio Busche)
What do we desire right now? When I read this, I resolved to make a list and focus on how to turn my desires toward the most important things.

Second, we need to have faith. And not just have faith, we need to use faith. We hear often that faith is an action, but Elder Busche puts it well when he says, “The ordinances and principles of the restored gospel are the vehicles to fill us with the Holy Spirit, but serving without joyfulness, as we just heard, is an abomination in the eyes of God and will bear no fruit. We call the acts of righteously focused and magnified desires faith, and upon the principle of faith are the powers of heaven moved, through the workings of the Holy Spirit.” Faith is not just belief. It is the demonstration of our actions. When we have the desire to act under the influence of the Holy Ghost, we must act on that desire and obey the commandments of God. That is how we receive more light and truth. We receive the presence of God's Spirit when we do what we know is right. And when we obey His commandments with the focused desires of perpetually acting under righteous influences, we are that much closer to achieving what we so diligently exercise our faith to obtain.

Sometimes we will fall off the map. We will lose our way or even just lose our desire. Elder Busche addresses this as well. He says, “When we are off target, we will not feel the confidence and joy and power of the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, we will have to learn to direct our desires toward repentance—we must change to bring us back on target.” The Atonement of Christ is not just to cleanse ourselves of sins of commission, but also those of omission. We can be cleansed through the Atonement, and then, through the miracle of Christ's sacrifice, we can obtain the motivation to get back on track again and keep climbing up.

Elder Busche ends his talk addressing ways to fuel our motivation and desires. The printed version is here, but if you'd like to hear it, there's a beautiful video of it here on YouTube.
It is also obvious that without constant efforts, it will be very difficult to always be focused on our most righteous desires. Therefore, I want to share with you a vehicle, an instrument, that I developed some time ago for myself and for my family. It can assist us to reach our focus as we read the suggested vision of true discipleship as a Latter-day Saint. It helps when, from time to time, we ponder and seek identification with the following thoughts: 
• Embrace this day with an enthusiastic welcome, no matter how it looks. The covenant with God to which you are true enables you to become enlightened by him, and nothing is impossible for you. 
• When you are physically sick, tired, or in despair, steer your thoughts away from yourself and direct them, in gratitude and love, toward God. 
• In your life there have to be challenges. They will either bring you closer to God and therefore make you stronger, or they can destroy you. But you make the decision of which road you take. 
• First and foremost, you are a spirit child of God. If you neglect to feed your spirit, you will reap unhappiness. Don’t permit anything to detract you from this awareness. 
• You cannot communicate with God unless you have first sacrificed your self-oriented natural man and have brought yourself into the lower levels of meekness, to become acceptable for the Light of Christ. 
• Put all frustrations, hurt feelings, and grumblings into the perspective of your eternal hope. Light will flow into your soul. 
• Pause to ponder the suffering Christ felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the awareness of the depth of gratitude for him, you appreciate every opportunity to show your love for him by diligently serving in his Church. 
• God knows that you are not perfect. As you suffer about your imperfections, he will give you comfort and suggestions of where to improve. 
• God knows better than you what you need. He always attempts to speak to you. Listen, and follow the uncomfortable suggestions that he makes to us—everything will fall into its place. 
• Avoid any fear like your worst enemy, but magnify your fear about the consequences of sin. 
• When you cannot love someone, look into that person’s eyes long enough to find the hidden rudiments of the child of God in him. 
• Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed. In the case of your own children or subordinates, where you have the responsibility to judge, help them to become their own judges. 
• If someone hurts you so much that your feelings seem to choke you, forgive and you will be free again. 
• Avoid at all cost any pessimistic, negative, or criticizing thoughts. If you cannot cut them out, they will do you harm. On the road toward salvation, let questions arise but  never doubts. If something is wrong, God will give you clarity but never doubts. 
• Avoid rush and haste and uncontrolled words. Divine light develops in places of peace and quiet. Be aware of that as you enter places of worship. 
• Be not so much concerned about what you do, but do what you do with all your heart, might, and strength. In thoroughness is satisfaction. 
• You want to be good and to do good. That is commendable. But the greatest achievement that can be reached in our lives is to be under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost. Then he will teach us what is really good and necessary to do. 
• The pain of sacrifice lasts only one moment. It is the fear of the pain of sacrifice that makes you hesitate to do it. 
• Be grateful for every opportunity to serve. It helps you more than those you serve.And finally, when you are compelled to give up something or when things that are dear to you are withdrawn from you, know that this is your lesson to be learned right now. But know also that, as you are learning this lesson, God wants to give you something better.
Whew! I know this is a lot to take in. I guess that might be why I've waited so long to write this blog post. But I had to put it all down here because this is the path to Eternal Life. This is how we reach our Father in Heaven. Through the companionship of His Spirit. The path of discipleship is not the easiest path. It requires an active approach. We must always be on guard against potential distractions or habits that will take us away from the person we're trying to be. We cannot be passive. But I know we can receive help in this lifestyle if we sincerely ask for it. Just as no marriage can truly thrive without the help of God and the presence of His Spirit in the home, none of us can really progress without searching for God's presence to help us improve, little by little, until we are amazed at who we have become and how truly beautiful the entire process was.

So find that motivation inside of you. Grab hold of it. Then keep yourself humble so that you can hear where the Spirit is telling you to go. I promise, it's the best place to be.