Friday, March 28, 2014

The Dork Dot, Three By Three

Well hey, P-day is on Friday in the MTC!! So I get to write today!

 So whatever scary stories that circulate around about the MTC, I don't know where they come from. So far it basically just feels like a big EFY, except advanced mode. More purpose, more work, and everyone actually sleeps at night instead of staying up late talkinga bout boys.

 Seriously, though, the MTC is awesome. I haven't been scared or nervous since getting out of the car with my suitcase. The Spirit is suuuuper strong and incredible, and I feel totally at peace with what I'm doing and what I've chosen. It feels like someone set my bones on fire, and I've felt the Savior's intense love constantly. It's made it easy to love everyone here. It's amazing and I love it.

 I'm so grateful I'm not learning a language. All the hours of personal study can be solely focused on the scriptures, or expanding more on what someone said in class or in a devotional. i can't imagine trying to learn Finnish or Russian on top of all that, haha.

 It's COLD here!! :C I came packed for Arizona, but it's still winter in Utah! I have two companions, and one's from Utah and the other's from Canada, so I don't get much sympathy, hahaha. 50 should be warm, right?

 My companions are the coolest people ever. I really struck lucky. We've really hit it off, and we've become tight like unto a dish. We're in a trio, and we have a whole room to ourself. Three girls in a room for six. Friendships just seem to work well in threes, and prayers and conversation. I love being in a trio. The actual work with three is hard, though. It's hard enough reconciling two schedules, two teaching styles, two ways of thinking, two directions...add a third person and things just get crazy. But we've been great. 

 I'm not gonna lie, it's WIERD when people call me Sister Stratford. I'm like, that's my mom....

 A lot of people are overwhelmed the first few days. I don't feel overwhelemed, but I do feel TIRED. Already the first day. I'm always tired anyway, but it gets hard at the end of the day. It comes and goes, thankfully it's not constant. The problem is spiritual experiences really tire me out, and I usually respond to them by taking a nap. So when I'm learning so much and the Spirit's so strong and all that, I still feel like I'm on fire, I'm just tired. 

 I'm also sore, but in a good way. There was an early morning yoga class my roommates went to, and we have gym time, and they have some nice equipment so I decided to try and get my legs stronger. Well, all the good muscles in my body are sore, so hopefully a little more strengths been added...haha. Don't know how strong I can get until we leave.

 I don't have a lot of time today, but I love you all!! I'm so grateful to be here and I'm excited to head out to Arizona!! (it's 12 days, btw, not 10. I was wrong. Apr 8, we ship out!)

 Love you tons! <3

 ~Sister Stratford

Saturday, March 22, 2014

From the Tournament

(For those of you who don't know, I was part of an OCT (original character tournament) on DeviantArt couple years back. It's been over for a long time, but I kept in contact with the judges and some of the contestants, and we've communicated (read "hung out") almost daily. We've been really close and I'll miss them very, very much. They've been amazing friends, especially through some lonely times. 

 Today they wrote me some amazing goodbyes that I want to share on this blog, because I love them so much and they're absolutely fantastic.
 I wish I had time to write out individual notes, but I hope to be in touch with you guys for a good long while, and I'm so grateful that I got to meet you! You've been a huge blessing in my life!)

As most of you know by now one of our amazing finalists :icontenlongfingers: is heading out for 18 months.  So I think it's only right we give her a proper Trinity send off c: ....and by that I mean FEELS FOR EVERYONE!

"LF you've been so amazing through this entire tourney, everyone has, and you've been one of those people that contributed to making this such an amazing experience.  We've loved getting to know you, and your amazing characters, we can never thank you enough for how much you've contributed to this tournament. Your wonderful upbeat attitude and your love for stories has really shined bright throughout your time here with us in Trinity, and I swear it's infectious XD I, and I'm sure the rest of us, know you're going to do amazing on your mission because of that, you get to go out and share that amazing warmth that you've touched us all with.  We're all going to miss you so much, but know that we're all equally proud of you and we're very excited for you to get this opportunity!  

It's been an amazing past couple of years getting to know you, and just know that at the end of eighteen months you're going to have a group of friends waiting eagerly to welcome you home. (and tackle you xD ) " ~Kit

"I wish you good luck, and hope you have a fantastic time" ~Webs

"LF, you’ve been such an awesome person to get to know and meet.  Your creativity has always amazed me, and it was awesome getting to watch you, and everyone else, improve in their story telling, creativity, and abilities to express those stories.  It’s been amazing, getting to know you and an honor to be called one of your friends.  I pray that on your mission you have a good time, and really get all out of it you need, if not more.  We’ll all be awaiting your return with much eagerness and anticipation, excited to hear about your adventures and what in all you experienced.  But first, you have to go on those adventures, to lay your own path and leave your own tracks before you can go back and describe them to us.
Life is a journey, and you’re taking a large step in your life right now.  Just know that while your family at home awaits your return, your internet friends, or “family” in the nutjar, too, will be waiting.
Have a great time, and happy trails!  Godspeed!" ~ Kiku

On behalf of everyone here at Trinity, we love you LF!

~The Trinity Judges

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Pure Love of Christ: What It's All About (Mission Farewell)

(It's tradition for a Mormon Missionary to speak in Church before they leave to go on their mission. This was my "Farewell Talk", and I spent around a week and a half on it. Hope you enjoy!)

Moroni 7:45-48 is a scripture mastery. I should have it memorized, but I don’t, so I’m just going to read it here.
While I read it, I want you to think about this question: What is Charity?
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity,which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
So what is Charity? Were you able to answer that question?
The simple definition, the one we learned in high school early morning seminar, is “Charity is the pure love of Christ.” This is the simplest, cleanest, most perfect definition you can have.
But even that perfect definition doesn’t always seem so clear. It’s easy to say it’s the pure love of Christ and not fully understand what that means.
Charity is an awesome word. it’s so perfect in the scriptures, no other word would do. It’s a word that should have a lot of complex, multi-faceted connotations and definitions whenever we hear it. For all its awesomeness, though, the common English language doesn’t use it as perfectly as the Scriptures.
But it’s so important to know because it’s a commandment. Here it is in 2 Nephi 26:30
30 Behold, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity
The Lord commands it. It’s so important to make sure we understand exactly what we’re being commanded to have.
So I just kind of want to explore all the scriptural usages of the word Charity.
Elder Holland, one of Christ’s twelve Apostles today, wrote a book of insights he titled “Christ and the New Covenant.” He talked a bit about the different versions of Charity, a vertical Charity and a horizontal Charity.
Let’s pretend I have a whiteboard up here. On my right, I’m going to draw a vertical two-way arrow. God is on top, and man is on bottom. This relationship is called Charity.
Then on my left, I’m going to draw a horizontal two-way arrow. Man is on one side, and man is on the other. This relationship will be labelled Charity, also.
Earlier we said that the seminary definition of Charity is the pure love of Christ. If we accept that definition, then what would be the vertical Charity?
I’m going to read from Moroni 7 again, starting from 46 this time, and I’m going to replace the word Charity with something else.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not the Atonement, ye are nothing, for the Atonement never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto the Atonement,which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But the Atonement is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God.
And while we’re still thinking about it this way, I also want to share Ether 12:33-34

33 And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.

34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

There will be more Charity scriptures coming up, and I want you to keep this in your mind as we explore more facets of Charity.
So, now this horizontal Charity, the Charity between man and man. What exactly does that mean?
We get a long list from Moroni 7:45, and it can seem overwhelming, but when you really look at it, it all boils down to having the attributes of Christ:
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Because it’s so much of a grocery list, I want to share some examples. While I was browsing the internet, I found a cute little post where adults asked Children what love was to them. They gave some of the purest, most Christ-like examples I’ve heard.

‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’

‘If you want to learn to love better , you should start with a friend who you hate”

‘When my grandmother got arthritis , she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time , even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’

‘Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas when you stop opening presents.’

‘Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.’

I love what they said. It refreshed my view on Charity and how it can be given. And the fact that it is often given in the simplest of ways, without glory or recognition, on a daily (even hourly!) basis.
And the best part is, out of the long list you can find on the internet, not one of the children said “love is when mommy tells daddy she loves him.” They were actions and behaviors. And some of them, like the one who talked about Christmas, were about feeling the Spirit.
Another example of this precious, child-like love comes from Steven E. Snow in the October General Conference in 2007. He shared this story about the Children he met in Africa.

“We were assigned to a district conference in Jinja, Uganda. Early Saturday morning before our meetings began, we took the opportunity to tour a new chapel in the area. As we arrived at the building, we were greeted by a young boy of three to four years of age. He had come to the Church grounds to see what was going on. Struck by his broad smile, Sister Snow reached in her purse and handed him a wrapped piece of hard butterscotch candy. He was delighted.
We spent a few minutes touring the chapel before returning outside. We were met by more than a dozen smiling children, who each wanted to meet the new neighborhood candy lady.
Phyllis was heartbroken, as she had given the boy her last piece of candy. She disappointedly gestured to the children there was no more. The small boy who initially greeted us then handed the candy back to Sister Snow, gesturing for her to unwrap it. With a heavy heart, Phyllis did so, fully expecting the boy to pop the butterscotch candy into his mouth in full view of his envious friends.
Instead, to our great surprise, he went to each of his friends, who stuck out their tongues and received one delicious lick of the butterscotch candy. The young boy continued around the circle, occasionally taking his own lick, until the candy was gone.
Now, one can argue the lack of sanitation with this gesture of sharing, but no one can dispute the example set by this young boy.”
My grandmother had a very wise saying. She used to say, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” And it’s true, you can’t. Not real love, not Charity.
What are some ways we can have more Charity in our lives? There might be some big changes, but as we’ve seen, love is often shown through small ways, without glory or recognition. What are the small changes we can make in our lives?
And what are some ways to learn how to really love, the kind of love that compels us to give and serve?
It’s really important, and I really urge you to ponder and pray about it.
I’m going to read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Everything we do and say has to be done with Charity in the name of Christ.
All gifts and talents have to be used with Charity if they’re going to be used to their furthest capacity, to make others happy and to build up the Kingdom of God.
Now, it’s important that we don’t have these two definitions separated in our mind.
Charity is not just the vertical Charity or horizontal Charity. It’s already been defined. As Moroni said, it’s the pure love of Christ, and that’s the only definition. There’s only one. Those two have to be married together, to create a single multi-facted stone, or a third dimension z-axis that brings horizontal and vertical together.
We have the words of Paul and Moroni and all of that goodness, but what was the Savior’s direct commandment? When he gave it himself, in his own words?

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you

How do we love as Christ loves?
And how does the Christ love us?
Jesus Christ loves us whether we deserve it or not. That’s the pure love of Christ.
He gave His life for us. He suffered for all our sins, knowing many wouldn’t even appreciate what he’s done for them. He never turns away from us. And when we turn away from Him, he’s always there waiting, ever patient, ever loving, ever merciful.
We are mortal, and loving as He loved seems impossible. He saved the world from sin! We certainly can’t save anyone, not even ourselves.
But there is a way to love as Christ love. We can serve one another, forgive, be patient, understanding, and kind, whether they deserve it or not.
And if we do, we can be the Lord’s tender mercies. We can be each others’ blessings and answers to prayers.
We can be a part of God’s vertical Charity to our spiritual brothers and sisters.
I’d like to share a song lyric by Matthew West, a Christian songwriter. The song is called “Do something.”
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
...He said, “I did, I created you”
As a teenager would say, “it’s not just a principle, or just a description!
“It’s a way of life!
“It’s a religion.
That’s what Charity, the pure love of Christ, is all about.
Brothers and sister, Invite you to reread this scriptures tonight, in Moroni 7 in the Book of Mormon and John 13 in the New Testament, and to really think on them, and to learn for yourselves of the truth written there. I invite you to look for personal ways to apply the amazing commandment and gift of Charity in your lives and in the lives of those around you.
I know this gift is real. I know Charity is the pure love of Christ.
I know Christ lives, that he suffered for our sins, died on the cross, and rose again on the third day. I know He’s there with his hands outstretched to us, always beckoning us to come unto Him.
I Know that He organized this Church with His own hands, that it is the same Church he organized during his mortal ministry two thousand years ago.
I am so excited and grateful to be healthy and able enough to serve Him for a short time, and to serve the people in Arizona, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to bring others closer to Christ. I love teaching about Christ.
I know He lives. He does live, and He does love us. And I love Him with all my heart.
And I say these things in His name, Jesus Christ, Amen.
-Chris Stratford
March 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The God of Angel Armies

One of my favorite songs right now. I absolutely love it, and I'm kinda-sorta hoping I could maybe get it approved so I can listen to it on my mission. The packet says "Anything that can be played at a baptism, or whatever you can download from the site. It's neither, but it could pass for an EFY song, right?