Monday, December 03, 2018

Grace

When I look up the word “grace” in various dictionaries, the meanings of the word are 
multitudinous.   Sometimes a dictionary will include archaic or obsolete definitions, and one of 
those that comes up occasionally is “ready willingness to help”.

This relates strongly to a theological concept that was a part of early separatist (Puritan) theology
in the 1600s in England.  David Clarkson (1622-1686), a well known separatist minister in England, wrote and preached and described God’s grace as a great willingness of the part of God “to do 
good freely, willing to help in time of need”, going on to discuss the throne of grace and the 
mercy-seat of God as description of a God full of both grace and mercy, writing “And what is 
mercy but a willingness to pity and relieve? And what is grace but a willingness to do it freely, a 
free willingness”.

His writings were widely published and studied for the next two centuries, including during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. You can find this subject outlined in volume 3 of his works which was published by a group of Presbyterian scholars in 1865 in Edinburgh.
(Works of David Clarkson, volume 3,  p. 140-141)

In the LDS Bible Dictionary, as well as in many modern Protestant glossaries, the focus of the definition of grace is on the divine means of help or strength given through the bounteous mercy and 
love of Jesus Christ, It is portrayed as the means by which we receive divine assistance or as the enabling assistance itself.

However, by Clarkson’s definition, what that Bible Dictionary is describing as grace is actually not grace, but rather it is the result of grace in a believer’s life.To him and others grace is God’s great willingness to extend His powerful help and strength to us.

I find that when I read the scriptures with that more obsolete definition in mind, my understanding of God takes a slight change, and I read the passages of grace reflecting more in the very nature and willingness of God to help, instead of simply the majesty and power of that help which He 
bestows.  It transforms my relationship with Him and my understanding of His approachability.

I think it likely that Joseph Smith would have been very familiar with that Clarkson/Presbyterian 
definition of grace as he translated the Book of Mormon, considering his various family members who had been “proselyted to the Presbyterian church” and had joined it.

And considering the huge plethora of situations outlined in the Book of Mormon where good 
people face very difficult and often fearful personal or community problems that they plead to God for help with, it seems fitting that this older definition and understanding of grace would be 
appropriate for its translation as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

New verses for the hymn# 27, “Praise to the Man”

Praise to the Lord, our Savior, Redeemer,
Praise for His love which removes all doubt and fear.
Blessed by His grace we receive hope and mercy.
His name forever and ever we revere.

Chorus:
Jesus, our Savior, Hosannah forever!
Forces of darkness will fight Him in vain.
We love His teachings, His plan of salvation,
And His atonement which heals our grief and pain.

Great is His power and endless His glory.
Ever the keys to salvation He will hold.
Blessed by His gospel, we renew our devotion.
May we be counted the sheep of His fold.

Chorus

Praise for His sacrifice.  He offers salvation.
Faith, hope and love are the essence of His plan.
Grateful we join with the millions who love Him,
Speak of His gospel, and serve their fellow man.

Chorus

Monday, November 26, 2018

I have never been fond of goals

But that is likely because I do not have a very healthy relationship with them.

This week I found the following written by Leo Babauta.  I think this is good advice for me as I contemplate making that relationship more helpful and healthy.

The Usual Way of Working With Goals

The first way to work with sailing to a certain port is the traditional goal-setting way:
  • You fix your sights on that port (the goal) and map a route to get there.
  • But things don’t go as planned (maybe you didn’t work hard enough, got distracted, or other things came up) and now you feel discouraged.
  • You can either give it up entirely, because the goal is making you feel pretty bad about yourself … or you can hold firm to the goal and resolve to do better.
  • A storm hits you, then your boat starts falling apart, and you get sick during the journey. You start using your lack of progress towards you goal to beat yourself up more, feel shame, think of yourself as a failure, get frustrated with the world.
  • Maybe you give up, or maybe you firmly stick with the destination and get some new resolve.
  • But maybe you learn more about this destination as you travel toward it, and learn that it’s not really what you want. Maybe you find other ports that would actually be better to sail toward, that you didn’t know about before.
  • Nope! You have to stick to the port you originally chose! No flexibility, the goal is the most important thing.
  • Maybe (if you’re tenacious and also lucky) you get to your port. You feel a momentary happiness at your accomplishment, but this destination isn’t what you envisioned it to be. It’s not the solution to all your problems, not the joy you hoped it would be, and you feel let down.
  • You immediately start thinking about your next destination, and barely notice the one you made it to.
As you can see, there are a lot of elements here that aren’t helpful:
  1. Using the goal to beat yourself up and create shame, guilt, disappointment.
  2. Sticking firmly to the goal even when you learn about better opportunities along the way, with no flexibility.
  3. Thinking that there’s something magical about reaching the goal that will change your life in some way (rarely true).
  4. The forward looking mindset (instead of looking at the present) will not end when you reach the goal, but will cause you to look toward the next goal immediately (maybe even while you’re heading toward the first goal).
So what’s a more helpful way? An intentional, conscious way of working with goals.

An Intentional Way of Working with Goals

Imagine instead that you aimed for sailing for that port … but worked with that aim in a more intentional, conscious way:
  1. You think of this goal as an intention that you’re setting as you start out, a way to guide your direction in the current moment, not a fixed path.
  2. You don’t think of the port (the goal) as a fixed outcome that you need to hold onto tightly, but rather just a way to guide yourself right now.
  3. When you do notice yourself attached to the fantasy of your goal, you practice loosening your grip on it, and focus instead on the present moment. What action can you take right now that’s aligned with your intention?
  4. Regularly check in with yourself, “What’s the most loving act I can take right now? What action right now would be aligned with my intention? What can I appreciate about this moment?”
  5. Allow yourself to be flexible — if you’re not tightly attached to the goal, you can shift as you learn more, as you sail on your journey and understand the journey more, as you find new opportunities that might be more aligned with your deeper purpose.
  6. If/when you do arrive at your destination, stop and be present with it, appreciating your journey, appreciating where you are, without immediately turning to the next thing.
This is a more flexible way of working with goals, and a more present-focused way of working, more intentional. The goal doesn’t become the most important thing — though it is helpful — the present moment and your actions and appreciation in the moment become the most important things.

zenhabits.net/intentionality/

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

FDR’s second inaugural address, 1937

Some quotes from that address that seem particularly pertinent to us now and in the coming years:

“To hold to progress today, however, is...difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.”

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays.”

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

“Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when the people receive true information of all that government does.
“If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore, strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace.”

You can find the full address at the web site below.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

“...and we shall be brought to stand before God” Alma 11:43-44,45

No matter what your politics, or whom you believe, the following is true.

When we desperately hope that the actions we took and the practices we indulged in did not cause us to do something stupid and that someone might find out about them...when we we fear that our actions may have led to harm to ourselves more than we fear that they may have harmed others...when we obfuscate in order to avoid discussing the things we did that might have led, with without our intending to, to harming others or ourselves, whether or not they actually did result in harm, we are on the very human, but very slippery and soul killing slope of fear, pride, dishonesty and loss of integrity.

It takes immense courage and nobility of soul to avoid that slide and face the loss of power, the derision, the sense of shame and and the terrifying sense of personal failure that will result if we speak the full truth about ourselves.

Almost all of us are not fully capable of instinctively rising to that level of courage and honesty.  For almost all of us, our first and strongest instinct is preservation of our sense of ourselves and our actions being acceptable, or at least, excusable.

But we whether we choose to speak the truth about our stupid habits or our awful actions, or our fully consciously chosen sins now, and suffer the frightening, ominous consequences now (and experience the freedom that comes from that truth speaking as well), or not, we are guaranteed that we will be irrevocably required to fully understand the truth about all of those things and that they will be, at a completely unavoidable time, fully, and completely publicly known.

We may choose: now or later.

Those who understand the freedom to change and the freedom from fear that comes from full self-knowledge and acknowledgement of stupidity, thoughtlessness and sin will choose it sooner, in spite of the immediate and sometimes extreme pain and difficult consequences it causes to themselves and to those who hoped they were better than they are.

Those who do not will continue to add to the pile of destructive speech and actions that haunt them, consciously or subconsciously, and the obfuscations, and the misplaced hope that nothing bad resulted, until that final, guaranteed, irrevocable unveiling of the full truth and all its consequences happens.

No wonder Zeezrom trembled when he began to see.*

There are two questions that come to each of us from this truth.
Which path will we choose?
And how will we teach the rising generation?

*Alma 11:43-44, 46

Friday, August 17, 2018

Watching a perfect parent. Matthew 5:48

If God, our Father, is the model for parenting a child, it is good to consider what kind of a parent we have noticed that He is.

A father who:
answers our requests and questions,
provides watchcare over us,
helps us to overcome our challenges,
is patient with our incomplete understanding,
is willing to forgive,
responds with welcome when we turn to Him,
comforts us when we are sad,
has patience with and compassion for our weaknesses,
is ready and willing to help us,
encourages us and expresses appreciation for our imperfect efforts to do good,
is completely and compassionately honest and worthy of our trust,
gives wise guidance and parameters,
asks honest questions,
provides books that teach truth and offer thoughtful guidelines

That looks like a good list of characteristics and actions to carefully try to incorporate in my own parenting and grandparenting.


  This is one of my very favorite photos of a listening  parent. I love the look of careful attention in the adult's face.
I don't know who took it, but you can find it on this web page:
http://blog.themancompany.com/how-to-be-a-friend-to-your-kid/attachment/2219/



Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading "Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood", by George MacDonald

“I am now getting old—faster and faster. I cannot help my gray hairs, nor the wrinkles that gather so slowly yet ruthlessly; no, nor the quaver that will come in my voice, not the sense of being feeble in the knees, even when I walk only across the floor of my study. But I have not got used to age yet. I do not FEEL one atom older than I did at three-and-twenty. Nay, to tell all the truth, I feel a good deal younger.—For then I only felt that a man had to take up his cross; whereas now I feel that a man has to follow Him; and that makes an unspeakable difference.”



“I love a parson, sir. And I'll tell you for why, sir. He's got a good telescope, and he gits to the masthead, and he looks out. And he sings out, 'Land ahead!' or 'Breakers ahead!' and gives directions accordin'. Only I can't always make out what he says. But when he shuts up his spyglass, and comes down the riggin', and talks to us like one man to another, then I don't know what I should do without the parson....

“I resolved to try all I could to be the same man in the pulpit that I was out of it. Some may be inclined to say that I had better have formed the resolution to be the same man out of the pulpit that I was in it. But the one will go quite right with the other. Out of the pulpit I would be the same man I was in it—seeing and feeling the realities of the unseen; and in the pulpit I would be the same man I was out of it—taking facts as they are, and dealing with things as they show themselves in the world.”