Merry Christmas everyone!!! I feel like it’s well within my rights to say that since Thanksgiving is over. And to be completely honest, we’ve been preparing for Christmas since September because we’re just those sorts of jolly people! So let the Christmas bells start ringing!
In all reality though, in spite of the Christmas spirit, it was a tough week. It’s funny how that happens isn’t it? When it feels like you’re peaking and having a really good week, the next week comes around and it’s nowhere near as good. Maybe it’s different for other people, but for me, I always have to be mindful that not all good times last. Naturally when you hit a peak, then there’s a decline. I don’t wanna focus too much on that because hey, positivity is the key to happiness and you can choose to be happy no matter what the situation is! And just like there’s always a decline after a peak, there’s also always an uptick once you’ve hit rock-bottom. In any case, this was not going to be my little spiritual message of the week. That will come later.
With Christmas coming around the corner, we’re starting to see all sorts of Christmas lights being put up all around the city and it’s pretty awesome. We got to help put up the christmas tree at the branch building, which was a struggle because the building is so big (like, there’s multiple attics to it), so it was a struggle to find which closet it was in. We eventually found the box sitting in an unused bathroom, in the bathtub. Why there’s a bathtub in a church building, I have no idea, but it all worked out. In terms of investigators, we didn’t get a lot of lessons in this week Because Elder Tri has come down with multiple illnesses. But with a lot fo prayer, fasting, and even a priesthood blessing, we were able to get a few lessons in. Remember Em Nguyen, the less-active boy that went on the hike and offered his help in missionary lessons. Well we invited him to help us with one of our lessons this weekend and it was one of the most powerful lessons we’ve ever had. The Spirit guided us missionaries in that lesson and we got a strong conviction towards baptism out of Anh Phuc, the investigator we were teaching. Realistically, we might have to push back a couple baptismal dates because a lot of our investigators are too busy to meet us more than once a week, which makes it tough to teach them everything they need to know to prepare for baptism. But besides that little hiccup, we have a strong investigator.
Kind of going along with this train of thought about the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit/Spirit of God topic, I’ve learned a different perspective of the Holy Ghost as I was studying. I’m going to quote something that I found in a book I was reading this week that said “The Holy Ghost is a gentleman. It will not enter where it is not invited.” That struck me. I think comparing the Holy Ghost to a gentleman is one of the most accurate analogies I’ve ever heard. And it’s true isn’t it? In the scriptures, the Holy Ghost can only present itself “unto” our hearts, but it will not go against our freedom to choose and force itself “into” our hearts. Forced conversion is not true conversion. We have to decide to open ourselves up to its influence and then do it in order to feel its presence in our lives. And there’s a lot of things we can learn from that, especially when we focus on the word “gentleman”. What sorts of places would a gentleman go to? Would he go to a crazy rave? Would he go to bar filled with people who are under the influence and not in control of themselves? Would he be at a party filled with addictive and harmful substances? No. Being a Celestial Being of perfect dignity and peace, the Holy Ghost would never stoop low enough to be found in places like that. So what does that mean for us? If we want to feel its presence in our lives, will we also put ourselves in those environments? I think not. The situations that we place ourselves in and the people that we interact with influence the state of our hearts, and the Holy Ghost will not enter a heart that is more set on things like intense partying, heavy drinking, drugs, or bad language. At the same time I don’t think that is a set in stone rule. After all, Christ interacted with sinners and raised them up rather than be brought down. He’s very much an exception to that rule. For us imperfect human beings, it’s so much easier to be brought down by the things around us, which is why I think that we are taught to surround ourselves with good people and spiritually clean environments. Those things teach our hearts to be more receptive to the presence of the Holy Ghost, and it is in those times and places where we can feel true joy and true peace, “not as the world giveth”, but the peace and joy that comes from Heaven.
It’s a hard concept to grasp, especially for those that haven’t experienced that joy I’m talking about, and it’s still hard for me to understand. But let me tell you, that rush that you feel when you’re on a roller coaster, that sense wild fun you feel when you’re at a party with your friends, the feeling of “It’s LIT” when you’re at a concert, that is NOT the joy and happiness that I’m talking about. For those reading this right now that perhaps might still be confused, trust me when I tell you that there’s MORE. There’s so much more to happiness than what this world offers. I’ve felt it. It’s not the adrenaline rush of doing something crazy, it’s not “turning up” and “raising the roof”. It’s the feeling you get when you help another person, when you sacrifice for someone else, when you dedicate yourself to a cause that is higher than yourself. This joy comes from knowing who you are, why you are here, and where you are going (in the scope of eternity I mean). Brothers and Sisters, I can tell you that I have felt true joy in knowing that I am a child of God and coming closer to Him as I’m on this journey of giving 2 years of my life to the service of others so that they can know that for themselves. And so in the Spirit of Christmas, that becomes all the more important. In the days leading up to Christmas, I want to ask everyone: What are you willing to give up/change/do in order to sanctify your heart so that you can feel the Holy Ghost and this joy that I’m talking about? What are you willing to give to others and by extension Christ as a gift this Christmas? I encourage everyone to ponder on that and in the coming weeks, really try to work on that. I promise that as you do that, little by little, over time you will come to feel that joy. It’s taken me years, but it’s worth it, and that’s the first Christmas message I want to leave with you all this month.
I love you all and hope you are all doing well,