Personal Commitment: Month 11

March’s Review

For March my intention was to have a resurgence in saying a prayer and then doing the first good thing that came to mind, all to invite God’s spirit into my life. I also set a reminder on my phone, just to be sure that I didn’t forget what goal I was actually supposed to be working on.

And I did remember my goal, and I did try to implement it throughout the month, but if I’m being completely honest I was pretty halfhearted in my efforts. I believe that when the initial excitement of a new ritual fades, if I haven’t established a regular routine to carry me through the doldrums, it then becomes a monotony to keep carrying forward. That’s exactly what happened here.

In other words, I struggle in the department of making small, lasting changes to my life. And while I know I must continue to rely on grace for my heart to be truly changed, I also believe that a person is capable of carrying out one small improvement after another until they have become something greater than what they once were.

To be sure, I have been able to make some real, lasting changes in the past. This whole blog is one of those changes, and through it I have had the most regular scripture study of my life. But where that particular change was a success, many others have fallen to the wayside, including this one of a pray-and-do-something-good ritual.

April’s Commitment)

So I stopped to consider where the weak link is in that pray-and-do-something-good ritual, and I realized it was in the very first step. The fact is I have had some heartfelt, meaningful prayers in my life, but never as a regular practice. I am too often distracted, or self-conscious, or anxious about getting on to other things in my day.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. One of the foundational pillars of spiritual practice has always been prayer, and that is one area that I have been consistently lacking. So I will make this month’s commitment very simple: to pursue deep, meaningful prayer on a consistent basis. I still like the idea of my pray-and-do-something-good ritual, but I need to exercise myself in its first half before the whole thing can be complete.

Now in order to have more meaningful prayers there are two specific aspects of prayer that I will be working on. The first is praying out loud. Whenever I pray out loud I am more able to connect to the moment. I am very self-conscious about it, though, and so that it means taking the time to find a private place where I am unlikely to be overheard. This will be easier in some places than in others. While I am at work will be particularly tricky, and I’m going to have to spend some time figuring out a solution there.

The other aspect I will be focusing on is to remove the temptation to finish my prayers quickly so that I can get on to the rest of my day. I am in such a rush to take care of all my errands and hobbies that I forget that they will be performed better if I have taken the time to set my foundation first. I want to get into the habit of putting the rest of the world on hold when it is time to be with God, not the other way around.

On May 1st I’ll let you know how this journey is going. I will let you know how I did at finding secret closets to pray aloud, I will let you know how I did at setting aside the to-do lists that distract me from the moment, and I will let you know how my prayers are shaping up as a result.

Thank you.

Personal Commitment: Month 10

February’s Review

Well…I’m feeling very embarrassed as I write this review for last month’s commitment. There were a few times this month that I realized I had slipped from my commitment and tried to refresh it. But I did so from my memory of what that commitment was, and just now as I sat down to write this review I realized that I had been remembering it incorrectly!

I was remembering January’s commitment: doubling down on two-hour check-ins to ground myself to the moment. Which is still a great practice, and one that I do want to continue with, but that’s just not the commitment I actually made for February!

For February I had wanted to establish a ritual of prayer and then doing the first good thing I could think of. The intention was to pair my faith with action, and thus invite God’s spirit into my life. I had wanted to do this every morning, every time I changed my setting, and whenever I had felt like I had slipped from my spiritual connection.

But given that I didn’t even remember this commitment, I really didn’t follow it.

March’s Commitment)

Well, I’ll just try it again. I knew this practice would take some time to become regular habit. Missteps on the path of improvement were to be expected. The proper way forward is to pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue as before.

So for March I will be renewing my commitment for February. I am going to pair it with a new reminder, though. I have set an alarm on my phone that will go off every Monday and instruct me to go and read my commitment, just to be sure that I am remembering the plan correctly and acting on it.

On April 1st I’ll let you know how I did at actually remembering the commitment, how I did at performing it, and what I saw as a result of doing so.

Thank you.

Solemnity and Joy- Numbers 10:10, Hosea 2:11

Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God.

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.


Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days ye shall blow with the trumpets
Her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts
When we talk about solemn occasions what first comes to mind might be a sad event, such as a funeral or a departure. And certainly those moments do call for solemnness, but they are not the only ones.
These verses make mention of Israel’s “solemn days,” and how they were part of their feasts, festivals, annual observations, and even celebrations. One of their “solemn days” was Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. On this day two goats were brought to the priest. One of them was set free, while the other had the sins of the people placed upon it. Then the scapegoat was sacrificed, making an atonement was made for the peoples’ wrongs.
Obviously this was all symbolic of Christ’s future sacrifice, which is certainly a good and a glad thing for all of us…but also something that we hold in reverent respect due to the great price he paid.
Thus we see, there is nothing paradoxical about the idea of a good solemnity. Yes, solemn can mean a type of sadness, but it can also mean being respectful, reverential, and in awe.

Personal Commitment: Month 9

January’s Review

For January I recommitted to regular, two-hour checkins to ground myself and to refresh my efforts to live as my best self. Throughout the month I found a great deal of vitality enter my spiritual life through this practice.

During this month I also shared an epiphany that I had through the process. I had been striving to invite God’s help, but not following it with an immediate effort to do some small, good thing. Over the past weeks I have tried to correct this by beginning a new ritual where I invoke God’s help, but then pair that request by doing whatever my conscience is currently prompting me to do. It is usually a small thing, and many times I don’t understand what good is even going to be accomplished by it, but it just feels right so I do it. There is a strong sense in this of putting an offering on the altar, giving a small sacrifice to deepen the sincerity of my intentions.

Just this last week I had a moment where I was already feeling tired and depleted, but I knew the right thing was to start playing with my children. I paused to ground myself, prayed for God to come into my heart and make me alive for the task, and then paired that request with my own effort to invent a new game to play with them. And as I was in the process of giving what little I could, I felt the vitality flowing back into my heart and I was able to really lean into the moment and have a wonderful time with my children.

I want to keep chasing experiences like that.

February’s Commitment)

And so this new ritual will be my guide during the month of February. I will start every day with this pattern of prayer and doing the first good thing I can think of. I will do it again each time I change my setting, such as when arriving at work or back at home. I will do it any time that I realize I am slipping into an autopilot mode of apathy and distractedness.

My goal is to make this practice become the new baseline for me. I want to repeat it so many times that it becomes routine, as standard a part of life as studying the scriptures became through doing this blog. This is the next step in my permanent development.

As with any lifestyle change, I assume this will take a lot of work and a lot of recommitment to really stick. So I’m approaching it with the mindset that this a long term effort, not just an exercise for February. In future months my checkin will likely be to modify this commitment as necessary and refresh my resolve to it. Come back at the start of March to hear how it’s going.

Thank you.

The Need for Refreshing- Summary

This study has been an excellent grounding experience for me. I have, at times, made the mistake of reaching for the great and monumental things at the expense of the daily essentials. This study helped me to verbalize the folly I always felt in that.

Since I was a small boy I have had daily and weekly rituals, such as reading the scriptures, praying, and partaking of the sacrament. Usually I did not come to them with real meaning, though, I came only to check them off a list. It was like I came to a feast, but only to watch others eat.

Within the last two years I have made a real effort to start feasting for myself. It is amazing to me how much richness I was missing out on, how much strength comes from these little, regular observances. Having had such an awakening, I decided to do a study on why these small moments matter so much. Here are three key principles that I found.

Discipleship is Built on Regular Consistency

We always love to hear stories of monumental moments. Things like a heavenly vision that turned a sinner into a saint, or a noble stand that defeated every enemy, or a single sacrifice that made up for all wrongs.
We wish to have these moments in our lives. Some quick, intense fix that will forever turn us into the people we wish to be. A moment of such magnitude that its ripples course through us all the rest of our lives.
It’s a nice thought, but that simply isn’t how it works. Life does not come with a “flip of the light-switch” solution. Life was not given to us as a single day, but as thousands. Our victories are not meant to be measured as one great rock, then, but as thousands of small stones, accumulated one at a time, and carefully stacked into a great whole.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
Alma 37:6- 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

Sacraments Refresh the Spirit

Aristotle observed that “we are what we repeatedly do.” I wish to be a disciple of Christ, and so I must consistently follow His example.
But there is to every regular practice a resistance. Some days discipleship comes easily, it feels like the most natural and fitting thing to do. But many days it feels like it doesn’t fit me at all, like I’m trying to wear a coat that is too big. The natural inclination is to say “maybe tomorrow, then, but not today.” We might even reason to ourselves that forced discipleship isn’t even discipleship at all, so why bother? The Lord loves a “cheerful giver,” not a begrudging one, right?
But that is the beauty of the sacrament, and prayer, and scripture study. They are designed to take the crufty heart and breath new life into it. Come lethargic, come worn out, come feeling incomplete and unworthy, all are welcome. But do, at least, come willing to let the light in.
Romans 12:2- And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Jeremiah 31:25 (BSB)- For I will refresh the weary soul and replenish all who are weak.

God Sends Us Reminders

Sometimes we forget that God is fighting fiercely for us. At least I know that I do. I tell myself that I darn well better be consistent in my spiritual exercises, otherwise I’ll lose myself and no one will check up on me. I suppose if we’re only talking about other mortals, then there might be some truth to that. I don’t have anyone calling me up and asking “Did you say your morning prayer today? Did you lay your sins on the altar when taking the sacrament? Do you feel spiritually awake right now?”
And sometimes I would have liked to have had someone to call me out, because I didn’t have good answers to those questions and I needed someone to awaken my soul. But then, as I think about it, each one of those times someone did come knocking.
Because, you see, every time I miss a prayer, there was a person left waiting at the table who felt my absence just as much I feel His. There is someone who knows that just as much as I need to recommit to Him, I also need to feel again His commitment to me. There is someone who is asking me every day to let Him love me. And He doesn’t stop until at last I do open the door and I weep for having ever shut Him out.
Revelation 3:20- Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.