Christians are to be Christ-like. One of the best way to do so is by performing service. During His earthly ministry, not only did Christ teach and preach, but He served others: He healed the sick, ate with the poor and sinners, and forgave. He is our King, Lord, and Savior. But, He acted as a servant during His life: during the Last Supper, He washed the feet of His disciples! We should follow His example of having a servant’s heart.
Well, it typically seems like when my interests online wane, my interest in reading waxes. This month for the Reading Roundup, I actually read and completed four books! I’m so proud of myself! However, one isn’t pictured below because it was an e-book.
Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling
I had loved reading Mindy’s first book, so I was excited to read this book, especially since I had watched all of the Mindy Project. This one was a bit more thematic, especially when it came to the empowerment of women and working hard to follow after your dreams. Mindy talked a lot about how she still is an ordinary person, and to be honest, I believe it. She was very clear on her sometimes disdain for her body, looks, and eating habits. I liked this book a whole lot more than her first. I feel like I really caught a glimpse of her in real life and separated that from her Mindy character–and that was a big point of hers. She hated being seen as Mindy Lahiri in real life.
Miriam: Book 2 of Treasures of the Nile by Mesu Andrews
* I received this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*
This is the second in Andrews’s Treasures of the Nile series. I read and reviewed her first book, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and when I found out that she was writing a second, but it wouldn’t be published until 2016, I couldn’t wait. So, I was very excited to read this one!
Miriam takes place a long time after the first book. Miriam is now 80 rather than the young woman helping to raise her brother Moses and keeping his birth a secret. Moses has already run away to Midian for 40 years. Miriam is known as a seeress, a prophetess, able to communicate with El Shaddai–an ancient name for the Hebrew God. But, He has recently been quiet towards her…and then Moses returns with the news that Yahweh, El Shaddai’s true name, has communicated with him and told him to free the Hebrew slaves. The book follows Miriam as she struggles with her new relationship with a suddenly unknown God and her nephew (Aaron’s son), Eleazar, a slave-warrior who is the body guard to Pharaoh’s first born son and how he grapples with loyalty and protection and believing in his Hebrew heritage’s religion.
Again, Andrews did a great job developing her characters. I loved seeing Miriam struggle with her personal relationship with God. It was so poignant. He never changed, but her understanding of Him did and that was hard for her to grasp. It really spoke to me because of my trial of faith last year. However, I did feel that the book followed Eleazar more than Miriam. And, as the 10 plagues of Egypt continued, Andrews seemed to speed up the pacing, which was a bit sad. However, I do really hope that she writes a third about the 40 year journey in the wilderness!
The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel
This is a WWII book, as is obvious by the front cover. Inge, a Austrian Jew, has to say good-bye to her best friend, Leisolette, as she moves to Germany to go to a Hitler Youth program against her will. Inge receives a journal from her grandpa and writes her feelings about the fast changes of Austrian nationalism to complete acceptance of Hitler’s idealism.
I did feel like the author tried to make it Anne Frank-ish, but with a hint more sarcasm as Inge makes fun of the idea of naming a journal, etc. Also, the back cover leads the reader to think that Inge and Leisolette’s “forbidden” friendship is the main plot of the story, but it really is only mention in the very beginning of the book, then the last 1/3 of the book. However, it was a quick read and I didn’t like putting it down. A lot of it was open and honest, like Anne Frank’s journal because Orgel said that this book was based off many experiences she had herself as a young Jew in Austria during Hitler’s raise to power.
Understanding Your Endowment by Cory B. Jensen
This is a Mormon book, with Mormon theology in it, so I’m sorry if it isn’t of interest to my other readers. But, it was definitely of interest to me.
For those who don’t understand, the endowment is the “ritual” of ordinances and covenants we make the first time we go through an LDS temple. A lot of it is very confusing to those who go through for the first time. Mainly, because we aren’t really sure what to expect. What happens in an LDS temple is personal and sacred dealing with our personal relationship with Christ and understanding His saving Grace and His plan for us on a deeper, more intimate level. Because of this sacredness, we don’t really discuss much about it outside of the temple–it’s sacred, not secret.
I, personally, received my endowment four years ago, a week before I got married. I have been through the temple numerous times since then, repeating these ordinances and watching a sister-in-law, a brother, and a sister go through their own endowments. Every single time I go, I experience and learn something new–that is the point of the endowment. However, it also happens to be a point of questioning for many. Many think it is too Mason-based, some think it is ridiculous, some don’t understand the deeper levels, etc. That is why I was really interested in reading this book. Although I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand everything about the endowment or the reasons behind it, I do feel pretty comfortable with it. I wasn’t necessarily confused the first time I went through. But, that is because I am very good with symbolism and its intertwining with history. It’s always been an interest of mine. Yet, this past year, I’ve been trying to understand my faith and beliefs on a deeper level. And that’s what I liked about this book. Jensen tries to peel back layer after layer and made you realize that each part of the endowment meant, symbolized, promised, and required numerous different things. It was real interesting to think of the endowment in some different ways I never had before. I suggest all Mormons read this book! Honestly, it should be part of Temple Prep curriculum!
What books did you read this month?
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, representing Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, treading on palm leaves, before He spent the last week of His mortal life. But, as we know, a week later, three days after He was crucified and died for our sins, He was resurrected. And because of Him, we, too, can taste everlasting life. #Hallelujah, He lives!
[ctt title=”#Hallelujah! He lives!” tweet=”Follow Him and find new life! Happy Easter 2016 season. #hallelujah #sharegoodness” coverup=”yQifl”]
I love the Easter season. Easter represents spring, new beginnings, new life. And how appropriate that Spring begins around Easter. Spring in it’s eternity represents Christ’s resurrection. Because of His death, we may live. Because of Him, I belong to a hopeful church. Because of Him, I know I can see my family again after death.
I have been very lucky in my life not to have known the loss of a dear one. I have known both sets of grandparents in my life. However, my maternal grandmother died when I was one. I grew up hearing about Grandma Rhea. I grew up hearing farm stories about her youth from my dad. I grew up hearing about how she cared for my mother when she was newly wed as a barely-20-year old. I grew up hearing how I look a lot like her. I grew up seeing a sketching of her in my living room, her kind eyes always beaming down on me. I grew up with my family wrapping ourselves in a quilt made of her old clothing. I grew up believing that she is my guardian angel. Because of Christ, I know that I will see her again, and this time, I will know her. #Hallelujah
My paternal grandpa passed away on Christmas Day 2014. We all knew it was inevitable. He was suffering from very poor health for years before, and it was finally time for him to leave us and return to our Father. Even though my grandfather made mistakes in how he treated people and himself throughout his life, his grandchildren were his pride and joy. He loved us to no ends. I remember having tickle fights with him. He taught me how to play chess and cribbage. He would always invite us to sit on his lap while he sped down the road and popped wheelies in his electric wheelchair (giving my mom and grandma heart attacks in doing so). He always wanted to see us. My grandpa was declining in health and in a nursing home when I was married in August 2012. He was even worse when I gave birth to Rhys in July 2014. When Rhys was about a month old, we visited my grandpa. He teared up when he saw Rhys, his 7th great-grandchild. One of the most precious pictures I have of my grandpa is of his big, old, withered hand, holding Rhys’s tiny, new, perfect hand. I cherish that photo. Because of Christ, I know that I will see him again, and he will be able to play with Rhys even more vigorously than he ever was able to play with me. #Hallelujah
This Easter season, I challenge you to think more of our Savior, Jesus Christ, than of Easter bunny and eggs and chocolate. Think of those you have lost and who can be with you again through the Resurrection of Christ. Follow Him and find new life. Repent of your sins, try to be more like Him, and feel His love and Grace and Life within you.
What makes you say Hallelujah this Easter?
He Is Risen
- 1. He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.He has burst his three days’ prison;Let the whole wide earth rejoice.Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory.
2. Come with high and holy hymning;Chant our Lord’s triumphant lay.Not one darksome cloud is dimmingYonder glorious morning ray,Breaking o’er the purple east,
Symbol of our Easter feast.
3. He is risen! He is risen!He hath opened heaven’s gate.We are free from sin’s dark prison,Risen to a holier state.And a brighter Easter beamOn our longing eyes shall stream.
**Click here to learn more about the Easter 2016 #Hallelujah campaign.
I feel as if I have rediscovered grace this past year. Working through my trial of faith and coming to grips with what I believe, as well as my own interpretation has caused this. Two sources have really helped my understanding of grace (President Uchtdorf’s talks and the Continuous Conversion), and I really feel like I am just beginning to truly understand grace within the Mormon perspective.
What I have come to realize is that I didn’t really understand the concept of grace before last year. I mean, I knew what it was and how it worked with the atonement, but I didn’t understand the depth and the purity of grace. And, sadly, I’ve come to notice that many of us in the LDS Church misinterpret what grace really is (that’s why I loved the Continuous Conversion and Uchtdorf’s talks because they are trying to reestablish what it is).
Yes, we as LDS members believe in works. No, we don’t believe that they come before grace or above grace or instead of grace. Grace is everything. Grace is the all. Grace is how we are saved. But, we still have commandments to follow, standards to uphold, and charitable works to accomplish. That is one thing that has always bugged me about some followers of other religions. They tend to use grace as an excuse.[ctt title=”Don’t use Grace as an excuse!” tweet=”Don’t use Grace as an excuse! @themorrelltale” coverup=”VF8Ws”]
Grace as an Excuse
Ever since focusing more on the grace of our Lord and Savior, I’ve noticed that phrase a lot more in social media. It could be something hopeful as “I had a really tough day, I’ve been super busy and my mood has been low, but I have to give myself grace and I’ll get though it.” That’s a good way of using grace–we forgive ourselves and lift ourselves up out of our rut with hope.
But, then there are times like this, “I didn’t go to the gym today, but I’m giving myself grace.” “I know I said no more coke this month, but I really needed it because today has been crazy, so I’ll give myself grace.” Honestly, to me, those uses of “grace” just seem like an excuse. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before, which talks about habits, keeping habits, and staying away from things that break habits. There was a chapter about rewards and a chapter about loopholes. This is true to point on that–we sometimes turn “grace” in our lives into excuses or loopholes to get out of responsibilities or habits or resolutions. We need to stop that.
There are also those who profess to be Christians but don’t necessarily live a Christian lifestyle. They proclaim they believe in Christ as their Savior, therefore they are saved by grace, then go about their daily lives. If they sin, it doesn’t matter, they are saved by grace. They can live how they want because it doesn’t matter–they are saved by grace. That isn’t how grace works. That is being a hypocrite: “Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 27:25). God doesn’t want us to live our sinful lives. That’s not what grace is supposed to be used for.
Grace Improves Us
Yes, grace forgives sin. But, we have to repent of that sin. We have to actively try better, actively be better. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is my absolute favorite general authority and has such an eloquent understanding of the Gospel. Talking about grace, he said,
But the grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation—as wonderful as it is—does not fulfill the Father’s aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him.
With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward.[ctt title=”With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward.” tweet=”‘With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backward; it leads upward.’ #grace @themorrelltale” coverup=”69mRV”]
It leads to heights we can scarcely comprehend! It leads to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father, where we, surrounded by our loved ones, receive “of his fulness, and of his glory.” All things are ours, and we are Christ’s. Indeed, all that the Father hath shall be given unto us.
To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being “born again; yea, born of God, changed from [our worldly] and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God,becoming his sons and daughters.”
I have recently realized that the Gospel is one of continuous progression, not perfection as the goal. The only ones who can ever be perfect are Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But, we can continue to progress. That is the wonderful thing about His grace–it allows us to transcend our sinful mortal state and return to him! But, we have to show that we are worthy by showing that we want it desperately.
The prophet Moroni begged us to “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (Moroni 10:32)
Grace Leads us to Obey
We need to lead the lives that God wants us to live. That is why He has given us commandments. That is why He has told us how to live throughout His earthly ministry. He doesn’t want us to say, “I am saved by His Grace” and be done with it. No. Our job isn’t done yet.
President Uchtdorf (can’t you tell I absolutely love him!) said,
The prophet Nephi made an important contribution to our understanding of God’s grace when he declared,“We labor diligently … to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase “after all we can do.” We must understand that“after” does not equal “because.”
We are not saved “because” of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?
I feel that this is the biggest misunderstood concept of LDS theology by both Mormons and other Christians.[ctt title=”Is the concept of grace and works misunderstood by the majority of Christians?” tweet=”Is the concept of grace and works misunderstood by the majority of Christians? #grace @themorrelltale” coverup=”pe5m_”] Christ doesn’t meet us half way. He reaches down to the very depths to lift us up. We don’t have to rise at all to meet him. However, does He want us to have our backs turned and just wait for Him? No! We should continually keep our eyes on Him and still reach for Him, knowing that He will help us. We should be anxiously engaged in trying to reach Him, with full understanding that we can’t do it without Him. We should show our love for Him and His wonderful gift of Grace. We aren’t repaying Him…there is no way we could ever do that. We are just showing Him that we love Him. After all, actions speak louder than words:
If grace is a gift of God, why then is obedience to God’s commandments so important? Why bother with God’s commandments—or repentance, for that matter? Why not just admit we’re sinful and let God save us?
Or, to put the question in Paul’s words, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Paul’s answer is simple and clear: “God forbid.”27
Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments ofGod—out of love for Him!
Trying to understand God’s gift of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him,and it leads us back to His presence. “The Spirit of the Lord [our God]” brings about such “a mighty change in us, … that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (President Uchtdorf)
In conclusion, I urge you Christians, please don’t use grace as an excuse. Have your face directed towards Gods at all times. Continually be trying to find Him and reach Him. Allow His grace to change and improve you. Be an example. Shine His light through your words and actions for other to see so that they may find Him and be blessed by His grace as well.
Click here to learn more about the LDS interpretation of Grace.
How do you use Grace in your life?
I am always interested in the similarities and differences in different religions. I believe that all religions have grains and seeds of the One Truth. So, when I saw this book on one of the display shelves in the library, I was very interested in what this book had to say about the ending days and Islamic jihad and how it’s related to Christianity.
The author, interestingly enough, is of Egyptian and Middle Eastern descent, even though he is a Christian and was one of the founding pastors of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. Michael Youssef explains on the back cover that he would “provide answers that are concise and biblically accurate.” As a historian, this really intrigued me because it seemed like it would be a pretty unbiased book, though with a hint of Christian perspective.
But, I was wrong.
The first few chapters were interesting. It talked about some of the basic of Islam, as well as the historic culture of the Arabs and how that influenced the culture of Islam. Just like Mormonism, sometimes it’s hard to tell between the culture and the actual religion. However, I already knew that information from high school and college history classes. But, I don’t really keep up with the news well, so the next part was interesting to me: he explained the difference between “moderate” Muslims (the ones that believe their religion is one of peace), ISIS, The Islamic State, The Muslim Brotherhood, Al’Qaeda, and other fractions and fanatic/terrorist groups.
Once Youssef set that up, he started to sound very anti-Islam on a whole. He said that those fanatic groups, although evil, had more of a truth on what the Koran says than the “moderate” Muslims. He would like to believe the “moderate” Muslims were the true Muslims, but they didn’t really understand their Allah’s commands of subjugation and creating a world caliphate according to the Koran. He used passages from the Koran to show that the goal of Muslim religion is to dominate the world into a theological dictatorship known as the World Caliphate. He claims that the word Islam doesn’t come from the Arab word for peace, but subjugation. He says that the violent actions against infidels, unbelievers, and hypocrites, is the true jihad, and jihad of inner struggles and against Satan are secondary. He says that most governments, including the US’s has been compromised by Islamists connected to the Brotherhood and they are taking down our government and subjecting us very subtly from the inside out.
I hated the way Youssef started to sound! He also used Bible quotes to prove that the AntiChrist will be the Islamic prophesied savior, their version of a Messiah. He uses Bible prophecies to connect them to Muslims, as if Islam is the Devil’s tool. It made me sick. Half the book just sounded like he was better because he was Christian and automatically saved. It read very conspiracy theory. I mean, he says he has studied this and researched it and read sources of all sides. Well, I have read the Koran as well, and have had numerous Muslim friends. The Koran was peaceful and respected the Christians and Jews (although almost in a patronizing way) and a lot of the teachings of the Koran is parallel to the teachings of the Bible! Also, for crying out loud! Using the Koranic passages that talk of war against non-Muslims during the time of Muhammad to show how “evil” Islam is…does he not realize that God of the Jews commanded them to do the same to non-Jews in the Old Testament, even to kill all the herds and animals of the tribes they were to decimate?!?!
Overall, this was a really disappointing book. Although, it did teach me a little bit more about the fanatic Islamist groups. It was also a little ironic because I had finished it a few days before the Paris attacks, and I had started to write this post during the weekend. We now know that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, as well as a few other suicide bombings (and then, coincidentally, a few natural disasters) in other countries on the same day. So, there was a little apoplectic/conspiratorial part of me that thought, “he was right!!” But, that only lasted for 5 minutes.
What is your opinion on this book, the attacks on Paris, and just current news with fanatic Islamist groups?