Let Him In: A Christmas Message

Let Him In

I have a message for you. Because I delivered it as a talk during a Holiday dinner a few weeks ago, I call it a Christmas message. But really, it’s mostly just a message about the man whose birth we happen to celebrate this month.

That said, I hope it infuses some of that elusive Christmas spirit into your life. After all, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ.

So, without further delay:

Let Him In
By Angelica Hagman

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a baby boy was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. But despite his humble beginnings, there resided in that tiny boy the power to save humankind – yes, even you and me – if we would only let him.

Sounds like a fairytale, doesn’t it? The story of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is laced with miracles that seem more like products of a vivid imagination than reality.

Prophesies heralding his birth? Check.
The ability to immediately heal the sick with little more than a word? Check.
The power to raise people – including himself – from the dead? Check.

Yes, it does sound like a fairytale.

But we have to face reality: We desperately need that baby boy.

Our goal is to return to God.
But because we all sin, we are all unclean.
And no unclean thing can dwell with God.

Luckily, that baby boy grows from Jesus, the carpenter’s son, to Christ, the promised Messiah. He becomes our Savior who, through the miraculous event we call the Atonement, takes our blood red sins upon himself and washes them away.

On one main condition, that is:
That we let Him.

Now, travel back with me in time, about 2,000 years, to a little town called Bethlehem.

The poor innkeeper is – to put it in modern terms – seriously stressing out. Caesar Augustus is taxing the whole Roman Empire. Bethlehem is one of the places to register, and because of it, business has never been this good!

The innkeeper knows he should be happy about this, but his poor little inn and his head are about to explode. The guests are practically sleeping on top of each other, and still people keep pounding on that door, pleading, pleading, pleading for a room, a bed, a dusty corner, anything! It’s enough to drive a person insane.

The innkeeper feels bad, having to turn them away. And not just because of the money he could have made off them. Okay, maybe mostly because of the money.

But seriously – having to turn away a pregnant woman? Really, really pregnant by the looks of it. He feels like a villain to send off the young couple, but there really is no room…

And now the question becomes:

If the innkeeper had known that young woman was pregnant with the baby boy who could save his soul, would he have offered up his own bed?

Or maybe that isn’t the question.

Elder Maxwell once said, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”

I’d read this quote out of its original context before. As it turns out, the quote wasn’t pulled out of a Christmas talk – it was a pulled out of a talk about taking the step from casual to complete discipleship.

Huh. Interesting.

So perhaps the real question is this:

Do we let Christ in? Do I let Christ in?

And I’m not just talking about letting Him do his job as my Savior by cleansing me from sin.

I’m talking about really letting Him in.

Like you, I am an innkeeper.

But my inn, my life…well, it isn’t really mine.

Christ, my Creator, built it.
And not only did He build it, He paid for it with his own blood.
And even with me as a lousy innkeeper/tenant, He tries to maintain it the best He can.
And if I would only let Him, my inn would be the best – and most cutely decorated, I might add – it can be.

Some would take issue with what I just said.
I’m smart and successful because I made myself so!

Sure. Now try that without the brain God is lending you.

Is my inn too crowded for Christ?
Why am I not giving up my bed for Him?
Why am I not making Him the center of my life?
Why am I not letting Him in?

I am an inn and Christ is knocking on my door. On everyone’s door, He knocks. Not very loudly either, except in rare cases where the person behind the door is hard of hearing. But, even if He has to wait for a really, really long time, He never forces that door open.

We have to open it. We have to let Him in.
And not just once. Time and time again, we shut Him out.
We have to let Him back in.

Christ, through His Atonement, owns us. But He loves us, so He doesn’t make us His slaves. We have to choose to serve Him.

There is really only one thing we can give Him – our will.

We have to open the door.

But what’s in it for me? I ask. If I let Christ in, I’m going to have to give up some favorite sins and bad habits. I’m going to have to live in a way and do things that are actually good for me. I’m going to have to fight against doubt and uncertainty. I will have to accept that some questions will not be answered when I want them to, and perhaps not in this lifetime. I might even have to suffer ridicule or much worse for His sake.

Why let Him in?

“He can save me” is a pretty good reason, I guess, but I’ll offer three more, with the word inn as an acronym:

I for Illuminate.
N for Navigate.
And N for Nourish

I for Illuminate

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

How dark is it inside the walls of your inn?

Personally, I am no stranger to darkness. Since my teens, maybe even earlier, I have struggled with anxiety and depression.

But even if you are the happiest person to walk the earth, Christ’s light will benefit you.

Think about it:

Light, to help you better see the furniture before you bump into it.
Or Legos, before you step on them! And trust me, that really hurts…
Brighter colors…a better sense of space…and it’s so much easier to get things done when you can actually see!

Christ’s light will help us see things clearer. It will help us discern between good and evil, and between good, better, and best. It will fill our minds with knowledge, and our souls with joy.

What can Christ’s illumination do for your inn?

N for Navigate

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal.
Chart and compass came from thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

These words from the hymn Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, say it well.

Like the star of Bethlehem, Christ can not only fill us with light, but also provide guidance and direction to our lives. And if we let Him, He can steer us. Not only through the trials of life back to our heavenly home, but more. From danger. From pursuits that add little to our lives. To adventures. To experiences that make our lives riches.

What can Christ’s navigation do for your inn?

N for Nourish

Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” (2 Ne 26:25)

Don’t you just love Christmas dinner? If we let Him, Christ can be Christmas dinner to our souls.

When Mary Magdalene mistook the newly-resurrected Jesus for the gardener, she wasn’t completely wrong.

Not only does Christ feed us.
In a sense, we are his plants, and He is the master gardener.
And more.
He is the soil.
He is the water.
He is the sun.

What can Christ’s nourishment do for your inn?

So. Christ can offer illumination, navigation, and nourishment. What else, you ask?

How about courage, confidence, and comfort?
How about purpose, peace, and prosperity of spirit?
How about strength, support, and serenity?
How about I stop alliterating and get to the conclusion already? =)

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a baby boy was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. But despite his humble beginnings, there resided in that tiny boy the power to save humankind – yes, even you and me – if we would only let him.

If we would only let Him in.

It’s not a fairytale.

“Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is standing by the door to each of our inns. He is waiting to illuminate, navigate, and nourish us, and much more. He is knocking, hoping we’ll let Him in.

So let’s not keep Him waiting.

Ensign article

Today, I discovered that my article in the August 2014 issue of Ensign Magazine is already online! To find out how the article connects to the three handsome guys with me in this photo, read it here. 

Hfam

A Valentine’s Day Tribute

herdis

A woman who changed my life died this week.

My husband’s grandmother was 92 years old when she drew her final breath. The last several years of her life, Herdis was confined to her home and later nursing home because of chronic health and pain problems, but she kept her mental clarity almost until the end.

She lived a simple life, and spent much of it alone in a small one-bedroom apartment. She worked briefly during her youth, mostly as help in private households and shops, but worldly distinctions and riches were never her lot. Then again, she didn’t strive for those anyway. Partly because of her mother’s childhood poverty, Herdis thought more about achieving universal equality than acquiring personal wealth.

To most people, Herdis is just another kind old sick person who finally died.

To me, however, she is a big part of who I am.

See, Herdis is one of the major reasons I became a writer. Her stories about life as a young woman in German-occupied Denmark during World War II captivated me.

Someone ought to write about this, I remember thinking.

And later: Maybe that someone ought to be me.

Almost seven years ago, I embarked on the project I still call The Big Book. It’s fiction, but it does take place in Denmark during the Second World War.

It’s nowhere near done, by the way. Fairly early on, I realized I needed to develop my writing skills significantly before The Big Book became something worth reading.

One day, I hope to finish The Big Book. Maybe it will be my crowning masterpiece. In the meantime, I write novel after novel, hoping I’m improving with every painful page.

Writing has changed my life. It infuses me with more anxiety and joy than I can sometimes handle. By now, writing is tied to my identity. If someone forcibly stripped me of the title Writer – the title I’ve finally dared adopt – I would feel lost. Useless, even.

In other words, Herdis didn’t only point me to writing: she helped shape my identity. She changed my life.

During the past few years, Herdis harbored one main desire: to leave this life. Day after day after day of miserable pain, of spending all day in bed with closed eyes, of waiting for sleep that doesn’t refresh…it’s demoralizing, to say the least. And because her health declined even further in the past few weeks, her whole family has prayed and fasted that her desire would finally be granted.

On Saturday, three days before Herdis passed, I spent some time in the temple, praying for and thinking about her. It was a very special time, and I brimmed with gratitude for this woman who means so much to me. Even as I prayed for her healthy heart to stop beating, I wanted her there with me.

I will miss her warm, caring way. I will miss her food, especially her Danske bøffer and apelsinfromage.

And oh, how I will miss her stories.

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” (Alma 37:6)

And now a personal message to Herdis:

Tillykke med Valentinsdag! – Grattis på Alla Hjärtans Dag! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thank you. I love you. I wish I could have given you one last hug.

Also, please help me finish The Big Book someday. I already know who to dedicate it to.

Exciting News!

Photo illustration by Welden C. Andersen

Photo illustration by Welden C. Andersen

I just came home to a very fun surprise. On our doorstep, I found an envelope containing this month’s New Era (the LDS magazine for youth) and MY ARTICLE IS IN IT! About a year ago the magazine let me know they might publish the article, but since it hadn’t happened yet I figured it wouldn’t happen at all. Considering some of the negative feelings I had about myself earlier today, I suspect Heavenly Father wanted to teach me a lesson.

All I can say is…goosebumps!

Read the article here.

Five Lessons Learned from Switching Blog Platforms

What a real keyboard looks like. =)

Along with my decision to take this blog public, I decided to switch blog platforms. As it turns out, the added flexibility of the new platform meant MAJOR HEADACHE.

Setting up the new blog was not only frustrating(!!!!!!), but also costly. Partly because I don’t expect to recoup any costs, I can’t help but think: why exactly am I paying to feel like an idiot? And more importantly: will it really make a difference to my readers if I switch from the easier free blog platform to the technologically complicated expensive one?

Only time will tell if the switch in platforms will be worth it in the long run. In the mean time, I am squeezing out all the lessons I can from this experience to justify my blood, sweat, and tears.

So without further ado, here are five lessons I learned from switching blog platforms:

1. The instructions don’t always work. Let me tell you, I followed those instructions perfectly. But wait…what happened to my pictures? Why can’t I install the theme? And why on earth did the whole site suddenly go blank (I mean, completely blank)? And then when I finally found instructions on how to fix these issues (which turned out to be known bugs in the system), those technologically complex instructions might as well have been in Japanese! Which brings me to my next lesson:

2. Some things are just over your head. Oh, how I wish I could speak technology (without actually having to learn it word by word). But I’m learning a lot trying to put this blog together. Let’s hope I am less clueless by the time I switch platforms for my writing blog! (I dread the day)

3. When you think that everything that can possibly go wrong is going wrong…you’re probably wrong. Yes, I experienced some major issues while setting up the new blog, but I’m sure many more problems could have made me want to tear my hair out.

4. Sometimes you just need to start over. In my case, I had to recreate the entire site three times. The recommended fixes and “kind-of-starting-over” things just wouldn’t work.

5. One-click solutions to problems are fabulous…but they often don’t exist. Err, I mean, struggling to find solutions also has benefits! By the end of an extremely (extremely!) frustrating evening of blog switching, I had actually learned one or two new things. (Hello, FTP Client!) Finally getting it right made me feel kind of proud for persevering and figuring things out. And just a tiny bit less like an idiot.

There you go—I gave it a try! However, you’ll have to figure out on your own how to apply these lessons to spiritual matters and to life in general. My brain is too fried from switching blog platforms to do it for you…

The Pain of Going Public

With this post, I cross the bridge from private to public blog!

Today, I am taking this blog public. Oh, my.

When I first started Feast on the Word, I decided to keep the blog private, allowing only those I invited by email to read it. My reasons for keeping it private were manifold.

For one, privacy means less pressure. For me, blogging is an intense pursuit. Not only is it time consuming, but I labor over what to say and even more over how to say it. The pressure to write well already existed when the blog was private: now, it’s staggering. Also, because I write many of my blog posts with an LDS audience (and those familiar with our faith and scriptures) in mind, opening the blog up to people not of my religion makes things more complicated.

Another reason I’ve kept the blog private: comments. People can be nasty to your face, but boy can they be nasty in the comments section! I created this blog to share beautiful aspects of the gospel and the scriptures, as well as to increase my own spirituality: mean comments kind of put a damper on those things! Thus far, my comments section has been an awesome place: my husband, bless his pretty little face, will make sure it stays that way. =)

In short, making the blog public adds a whole lot of PAIN. (plus, I probably need to increase my posting frequency!)

So, now that I’ve complained about how much harder my life will become by taking the blog public (sorry)…why did I even decide to do it in the first place? You can probably guess.

I felt I should. *sigh*

And with that feeling came a scripture (hint from above, anyone?):

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16)

The thing is: I am not ashamed of the gospel. My faith is the best part of me. HOWEVER: I may be just a little “ashamed” to share the gospel with those not of my faith.

Why, you ask? For starters:

-My faith is such a big part of who I am. It influences pretty much everything in my life. Can you see how scary it gets to share your beliefs? To me, sharing bits and pieces of the gospel is much like sharing only one or two things about yourself to a stranger (yes, it is true that I don’t eat enough broccoli and almost never do my hair, but I am so much more!). Also, an attack on the gospel (which is difficult enough by itself) feels like an attack on me and I am a fragile being. Plus, because my faith defines who I am and what I do, people judge my religion based on ME. Which brings me to the really, really frightening part…

-I am not perfect. Surprise, surprise! (HA!) In fact, sometimes I can’t stand myself. I doubt. I fear. I fail. My weaknesses and sins disgust me. Good thing the atonement is real! But being a painfully imperfect work-in-progress means I sometimes hesitate to share the gospel and my gospel-related thoughts. Not only is my spiritual understanding imperfect because I am, but I really should be MUCH better proof of how awesome the gospel is!

Despite my fears, shame, and inherent tendency to keep my faith and gospel-related thoughts private, another scripture springs up to comfort me:

“Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit.” (D&C 35:13)

Hello, is this scripture written just for me or what?! I am weak. I am unlearned. I am despised (or at least despicable!).

My expectations for this blog are pretty modest. By taking my blog public, I will probably not “thrash the nations by the power of [the] Spirit.” I’ll probably be happy if I have twenty (ten? five? two?) regular readers.

But maybe the Holy Spirit can use my words—despite their and my imperfections—to whisper peace to just one stranger’s heart. To remind that person that God is no stranger, that He is anxious to prove He is the bestest of friends.

Stranger, I gladly suffer the pain of going public for you. Even if that stranger turns out to be me.

General Conference is Over…Now What??

Ensign cover from the October 2011 General Conference

Ensign cover from the October 2011 General Conference

I hope you had the opportunity to watch or listen to General Conference this past weekend. What a great blessing to figuratively sit at the feet of prophets, apostles, and other church leaders, truly feasting on the words of Christ!

Then again…now that a few days have passed, how much of what was said do you actually remember? And if you have children, how much were you able to hear in the first place?? With a baby and toddler in the house, the ability to focus around here was…limited. Add to that my pretty worthless memory, and you can guess how much I retained!

Luckily, conference isn’t over! Well, the sessions ended, but there is so much left to do. And rereading and/or listening to the talks? Just the beginning.

I want to share three ways I plan to keep this General Conference fresh in my mind until the next one. Maybe you want to join me?

1. Act on promptings. One of the great things about General Conference is the personal revelation we receive about ways we need to improve (help this person, work on that principle, dive into family history, etc). On the other hand, it’s so easy to neglect acting on those thoughts! As I continue to study the talks, I expect I will receive further promptings: I just need to make sure I heed those subtle calls to action.

2. Devise an action plan. To help me act on the promptings and thoughts I receive, I will probably have to make myself accountable in some way. Otherwise, it’s just too easy for me to forget or procrastinate. Action plans help me get things done, even when it comes to spiritual matters. Outlining the “hows” and “whens” turns the general into the specific. Deadlines (if applicable) create a sense of urgency. I may even set a reward (chocolate) or inflict a punishment (removal of chocolate) to get things done!

3. Let the words sink deep into my heart. Studying the talks over and over definitely helps this happen. So does memorizing passages and putting quotations in conspicuous places. One of the surest ways to have the words sink deep into my heart though—to have them really become part of who I am and how I think—is to take them personally. The words aren’t just words: they are words directed at me by my Heavenly Father through his servants. Just keeping that simple thought in mind helps me pay more attention! And come on, how awesome would it be to always have thoughts like the following stamped on my heart?

“Disciples of Jesus Christ…know you could pile up the accumulated currency of the entire world and it could not buy a loaf of bread in the economy of heaven.”  

“The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls.  He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use – in His own way and for His holy purposes – those who incline their hearts to Him.” 

“…the Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul”

(Quotes from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk “You Matter to Him” in the October 2011 General Conference)

I am very excited to receive next month’s Ensign so I can really dig into the talks. While I wait for the Ensign to arrive in the mail, I will use the church’s online resources to refresh my memory of what was actually said this past weekend!

Any favorites from this General Conference?

Welcome to “Feast on the Word!”

Welcome to my shiny new blog! In this first post, I delve into the intent of this blog and what I mean by “feasting on the word.” I’m also sticking this piece into the “about this blog” section so I can remember why I’m doing this in the first place! =)

I hope my post inspires you to gain even more gospel insight today!

Thanks,

Angelica

“…feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 2 Nephi 32:3

I am not a so-called “scriptorian,” an expert on the scriptures. But I do love the gospel and the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. I didn’t start this blog with the intent to teach: I did so to invite others to learn right along with me. The insights I receive when I read the scriptures and ponder the gospel infuse me with joy and excitement. I want to share those insights and feelings with you and encourage you to experience them for yourself by feasting on the word.

Brigham Young lamented: “[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to … direct [us]. … I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges” (Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 3 Dec. 1867, 2).

The Lord wants to direct us through the Holy Ghost. One excellent way he does this is through the words of the scriptures and living prophets.

The question is: do we let the Lord teach and direct us?

The Lord will never force-feed us. By studying the scriptures and his gospel, we show the Lord we are open to his teaching and direction. But it’s still a matter of degree. When we read the scriptures “because we have to,” or read without really thinking about what we’re reading, how open to his guidance are we really? Besides, what message does our half-hearted efforts send to the Lord? He’s prepared glorious dishes for each of us. Should we be surprised if he’s more willing to share them with us when we show some enthusiasm rather than make faces and whine and wrinkle our noses with each bite? Or worse, ignore the well spread table altogether?

With this blog, I am making a conscious effort to not live “beneath [my] privileges.” So many times in my life (like, all the time?), I have been satisfied with breadcrumbs when the Lord is offering me the feast of a lifetime every single day. And we never have to get tired of that feast because there’s always something new to discover, some exotic flavor or dish that will tantalize our spiritual taste buds.

To me, feasting means not only to partake freely but also to savor every flavor, to enjoy every bite. To appreciate smell and taste, but also texture, color, shape…To the best of my (very limited) abilities, I strive to do that on this blog.

I invite you to Feast on the Word right along with me. Let’s dig in!