Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Listening and confidence

In a meeting or on the phone….

Note:  This is not a post that is written in response  to national or regional politics.  Though there may be some tangential connections, my thoughts here are directed at interactions with people who are speaking to you or to a group with which you have elected to gather in order to listen to them.  This is not about our responses to soundbites and debates in the news media or our responses to the individuals who show up in those soundbites and debates.  That is fodder for another post.

Recently I sat in a meeting where a woman that I dearly love spoke of truths I understand.

I have noticed that when  I love a well-meaning person who is speaking at a meeting or in a personal conversation, the virtuous positions they espouse sink more deeply into my heart than when I am reserved in my affection for him or her.  And, similarly, when listening to someone I dearly love espouse understanding that I think  is seriously flawed, I am more easily able to forgive and  and not be overwhelmed with sorrow, anger or dismay over the less virtuous positions he or she may advocate than when I am reserved in my affection,  and, from there, simply continue on wisely and well  in what I understand  to be wisest and best.

So, I am learning, brotherly love not only increases my ability to recognize and embrace what is wise and good, but it also increases my ability to proceed in that good path wisely and confidently, minimally upset by misguided and wrong statements pronounced by someone who means well but does not understand or even rejects  the good that I understand.

Therefore, when I am  seated in a meeting, or am in a conversation, listening to a well-meaning person who doesn’t understand the goodness or virtue that  I understand and love, if I feel  my anger and frustration levels rising, or my sorrow start to become overwhelming, I may wish to take stock of my personal commitment to the development and practice of brotherly love.

I have learned that though anger or angst or dismay  may impel me to higher levels of energy, brotherly love gives me greater ability to proceed, undisturbed, in the course I understand to be wisest, most virtuous and best with greater effectiveness and with calm confidence when someone  who I think should know better because of the evidence and information they have, rejects that course.

 “Let thy bowels be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God…”
Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

Confidence in what you believe is good, maintained in a soul committed to brotherly love, I have found, is more effective,  unperturbable, and empowering than confidence in what you believe is good mixed with angst, dismay, frustration or anger brought on because you have not yet chosen  brotherly love in a relationship with someone who is espousing what you believe is a very wrong course.  Charity towards all, regardless of the presence or total absence of mutual comprehension,  does, it seems, directly affect your ability to move forward with calm, unaffected confidence.

As a side note,  over 40 years ago a  teacher once asked why I thought the phrase “and to the household of faith” was in that verse, above, in Doctrine and Covenants 121 that speaks of waxing strong in confidence as one pursues a virtuous course of thinking and action.   Why  mention that household when that subset is already part of the set of “all men”.  I have thought about that question many times.

I think I understand better now why that is there.

Monday, February 06, 2017

A Guide to Letting Go of Your Perfectly Good Things

This post is from Zoe Kim who blogs on http://www.theminimalistplate.com/

Keeping it here for future reference and discussion.

Finding our lives under everything we own is more than clearing away just junk. Often it requires removing good quality things. Expensive things. Useful things. Admired things. Fancy things. It means letting go of perfectly good stuff in order to pursue something more meaningful.
began de-owning my excess six years ago. My husband deployed frequently and we had two children under five. I was spending more time doing something with our stuff than doing something with my family.
With my husband half-way across the world, the kids and I had to pack up to move again. It was our third move in six years, but this one was just down the street. How difficult could that be?
Well, the process of personally packing, unpacking, and organizing all of our stuff drained the joy right out of me—for two months. I wanted to take my kids to the beach, play at the park, and listen to their laughter. But I was exhausted, and stressed. Busy taking care of all our stuff.
It was in that stress, exhaustion, and desire to live better that I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I began to see the real cost of our stuff— and it was way overpriced!
I started peeling away the layers of excess. And I was on a roll—until I hit that layer of perfectly good things! Valuable things that people spent much time and life to purchase. I felt wasteful and sick at the thought of giving it away. This was good stuff— wasn’t it? Maybe so. But I was learning, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” —Henry Thoreau
It is possible to break through the layer of perfectly good things. Through the process, I learned these practical steps:
1. Accept the mistake. Often, we will see many mistakes as we start to purge all the ‘good stuff.’ Acknowledge it was a mistake so you can move on. Keeping something that does not add value to your life keeps you stuck holding on to the mistake.
2. Shift your perspective. As I journey further into minimalism, I realized there is far more joy in giving things away than can ever be found in owning more.
3. Designate a spot. In the beginning, I would walk through my house and see things I thought I wanted to donate but they stayed put until I set up a spot to start putting it all. Set up a box, closet or room to place your donation items. Remove them from your house often.
4. Community. Share your excess with your community. Donate books to schools and libraries. Donate clothing and other household goods to local foster care organizations, shelters, and your local food pantry.
5. Experiment. Experimentation by elimination has helped me shed the layers of good stuff quicker. I simplified my beauty and bath routine by removing 60-80% of my products. Much to my surprise, many things I kept had no real value to my day.
6. Keep your eye on your why. In times of discouragement, make a choice to focus on why you are giving perfectly good things away. Remember, you’re giving up the good for the best.
7. Ask yourself better questions.
Does it serve its purpose—to serve my purpose?
We’re often not consciously thinking about our motives when we keep things, but everything has a cost. How much are you willing to sacrifice your passion and purpose for possessions? Some of our things serve a purpose. The important things give our lives meaning and joy. The useless ones just drain our time.
Can this be useful to someone else?
When we hold on to good things we do not need, we keep them from being helpful to others. I used to think it would be wasteful just to give things away that were barely used or not used at all—especially if they weren’t cheap. But then I thought, what if I just own my mistake in buying this thing by giving it away.
Would I leave this as someone else’s’ responsibility?
With my spouse deployed in harm’s way, I was expected to plan. I filled out the spouse deployment form—pages filled with detailed questions and answers should my husband be killed. Experiences like these gave me more prudence. What will the state of my stuff look like when I’m no longer here? Do I enjoy this enough to leave if for someone to take care of—because it will be my family taking care of it someday?
How do you want to live your life?
Own too much, and you’ll live a life owned by your stuff. Say yes when you should say no and you’ll live a life organized by others. Keep more than you need, and you’ll give less to those in need.
The journey to minimalism might look like it’s about going through and purging your possessions. But it’s much more about going through your heart. “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” Marie Kondo
I’ve often wondered if I would have journeyed into minimalism had we not experienced the active duty military life. If we hadn’t moved so often and been stretched in stress, would I have kept it all put-away—like organized hoarding happily?
Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the experiences which brought me to the path to living more intentionally with a lot less.
ZoĆ« Kim blogs at The Minimalist Plate where she inspires others to live an intentional life by owning less, creating new habits, and cultivating opportunities to give.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Luke 24. Counseling together. Learning from each other. Avoiding being fools and slow of heart to believe.

Luke 24

They [Mary Magdalene, Joanna, James' mother Mary, and other women] found the sepulchre empty and encountered “two men in shining garments” who said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

And the women “remembered [Jesus'] words”!!!! Oh yes!! That's right!! He did!! and so they went, bringing the news of their experience with the angels to the eleven apostles, most certainly reminding them, as they had been reminded, of what Jesus had said about being crucified and rising again on the third day.

Which experiences and things the apostles apparently did not only not remember, but also pooh-poohed the women's words as “idle tales” and did not believe them...

though Peter did, to his credit, go and look for himself, and wonder, afterwards, at the empty tomb that he found.

I think we may have found here, in the early church, an example of an extreme lack of the skill of counseling together, an inability of one group of people to consider the information from another, likely due to their sex in this case, but which in other cases may be due to different things that make the one group fail to listen or believe the words of another, simply because they are “other” and their ideas, perspectives and experiences are very different than our current patterns of thinking.

So...next, that same day, we have the “road to Emmaus” story, where two are traveling and encounter the resurrected Jesus, and do not realize who he is, and tell him their understanding of what happened over the last three days and of the odd, and not quite believed, tale the women had told. And what does Jesus say?

“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”

And then, later, he sits down with those two, and the eleven, and once again, unfolds the details in the scriptures that he had told them before and that they had not remembered, and which failure to remember abetted their discounting of what the women had been reminded of and believed.

One message I suspect that may have had running though their minds: "I should have listened to them.  It would have been less awkward for me now, if I had.  And I certainly would have saved myself many hours of grief."

I really hope that no heavenly messenger or other divine being ever again has good cause to say to me, “O fool, and slow of heart to believe...” due to my out of hand rejection of the beliefs and experiences of others who have joined me in councils and conferences and circles of conversation, or whose experiences and words preceded mine by many years; rejecting because they are, in my mind, “other”, people whose experiences or perspectives or energy levels or understanding or cultural background, or ethnicity, or sex or age or anything else make me subconsciously discount their stories or the news they bring.

I'm certain that I have deserved it sometimes. It is an easy habit to fall into and a difficult one to recognize in oneself and then totally eradicate instead of laughing and excusing one's behavior, or becoming defensive or irritated or dismissive when it is pointed out.

So, once again, I am in awe of the careful, patient, thoughtful, listeners I know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

God's Love.

"No mistake, sin, or choice will change God’s love for us. That does not mean sinful conduct is condoned, nor does it remove our obligation to repent when sins are committed. But do not forget, Heavenly Father knows and loves each of you, and He is always ready to help."
Ronald Rasband, "Lest Thou Forget", October 2016

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A New Year. Renewed Life? Day 5

Day 5: A reflection on the good that what we  have omitted rather than the not so good we have committed.

This is the last of the 5 days of reflection.  And I find it particularly hopeful because it requires that I look carefully at what moral principles I am already converted to and use those as the basis for reflection.  It is easier it be asked to recommit to things that you already wish to do, but just haven't made the time or preparations for instead of being asked to stop doing stuff that you are indulging in and aren't sure you really want to give up.

So today’s piece focuses on actions that are the results of our decisions based upon our own internal priorites and moral compasses rather than prescribed external requirements of avoidance of evil: Things like Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself. When smitten, turn the other cheek. When asked for a coat, give your cloak also. Forgive, not just once but seventy times seven,  all of which require an inner commitment and a personal moral evaluation. This was the essence of the new gospel. There is, if you look at it carefully,  more emphasis on perceive, choose and do in the gospel than on do not.

Moral agency has been given to each of us to make choices as to things to do and ways to respond.  And it is good to reflect on and recommit ourselves and our resources to the actions and understandings that we believe are good, but to which we neglect to commit sufficient time or resources in our busy pursuit of other demands or interests in our lives.

What are the moral priorities in your life to which you would be wise to recommit your time, talents and resource and make plans to incorporate better in your life?  What actions and responses would increase in your life if you did so?

For each person the answer will be different.  Here are some questions to ask yourself, or to get you thinking about other questions that would apply to you.

After each of the following questions, pause and listen for God's impressions.

Questions for reflection: (a) Am I  neglecting regular time in thoughtful study of scripture and meditation thereon? ___ (b)  Have I recognized certain sins in my life but failed to fully repent and make restitution? ___ (c) Do I neglect to speak truth? ___ (d) Have I neglected to use my gifts and talents to bless others? ___   (e) Have I failed to treat others with whom I disagree with wise forbearance? ___ (f) Am I daily forgetting to seek to reflect God’s grace in my interactions and choices? ___ (g) Am I failing to donate resources to help those who are less fortunate than I?  (h) Have I neglected to work at improving my marriage and family life? ___ (i) Do I fail to regularly communicate with God?

It’s a new year, and a new time, with time for reflection, increased understanding and thoughtful change.  Writing what you wish to implement anew in your life will help.

All this for some enlightening and hopeful understanding and course correction that will increase the peace in your heart,  the wise, accurate hope in your perceptions, and an increased ability to recognize and find greater comprehension in the resultant good changes in your life and in the lives of others.  Enjoy.

A blessed New Year to you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Year. Renewed Life? Day 4

Day 3 gave me some good food for thought about how well or not I forgive others' failures in my heart.  Unlike God, who chooses and decides with infinite comprehension to forgive or not, we are called to hand up our sinned-against anguish to Him to deal with in infinite justice or mercy, as is best.  Wise handing up is hard.  And forgiveness is not always easy.  But it is, I believe, infinitely liberating. 

(note: Forgiveness does not mean that we cease to work for justice in this life or excuse sin, but it does enable us so that we may be liberated to work for justice without rancor or hatred or fear, working instead out of compassion for those wronged and a focus on repairing and healing, not retribution.)

So perhaps its appropriate that the hope in today's reflection hinges upon understanding better the process of God's gift of forgiveness to me as I seek Him and seek to change who I am.  I sense that that may also ultimately be similarly infinitely liberating as is our forgiveness of others.

Day 4: Victory Over Sins of Commission

...will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”
3 Nephi 9:

Repentance, if you look at the Greek and Hebrew words used in the New and Old Testament, refers to a change of heart; changing what you love and who you want to be and the resultant change of direction in your life.

And sins of commission are the times when we do, say or think anything God has forbidden or warned against. Repentance, therefore, in a religious sense, is becoming a person whose change of heart reflects a change of what you love; turning you into a person who, in spite of the attraction of various actions forbidden by God, loves and is committed to God and goodness and finds light and peace enough in that commitment to enable him or her to choose God and goodness instead of choosing indulgence in that which God has warned against.

The things warned against can be anything from actions and words to thoughts or relationships. The trick is to be brave enough to see them for what they are and address them, seeking to change so that we love and to act in goodness, rather than excusing our forays into indulging in wrong things, or hoping that maybe God will act like an indulgent, unconcerned babysitter towards us and our sins, rather than a loving and concerned father.

There are a myriad of questions we can ask ourselves as we reflect. Below are a few. You may find that there are others that better address the areas in which a change of heart will be wise repentance for you. So, if it's helpful, write them instead. The key is to be honest with yourself about which questions will help you make that change in what and who you love so that your actions will reflect that.

Some possible questions for reflection: (a) Am I engaged in any form of physical, mental, online or phone immorality or unethical behavior? ___ (b) Do the things I read or watch for entertainment celebrate or embody glorifying violence against or the objectification of others? ___ (c) Do I have habits that abuse or neglect my body? ___ (d) Are there things or people that I trust more than I trust God?___ (e) Am I a thoughtful, wise steward with my financial resources? ___ (f) Am I in any way harsh or unkind to others? ___ (g) Which sins do I confess but still have trouble fully forsaking? ___ (h) Have I abused God's grace by taking sin lightly? ___

Repentance is hard because it involves change. Trying to do it by simply gritting your teeth, listing what you will do and won't do, and exercising self-mastery may help you change your actions and is very helpful in this process. But we are also seeking a step beyond that; not just a change in what we do, but also in who and what (God and mankind and goodness) we love more than we love our own self-indulgence in less-worthy actions. And we can pray for that.  It is charity.

Charity ...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth...
Cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all... and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him, wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love

Moroni 7:45-48

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year. Renewed Life? Day 3

Day 2 gave me one more reminder of my need to be slow to wrath and to leaps into intense speech.

Here is Day 3.

Right Relationships and Wise Reconciliation

"So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  
Matthew 5:23-24  

 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 
John 13:34-35  

"Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves."
 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

With God, everything is about relationships. At its heart, spirituality is about loving God and one another and listening to God and to each other. We place ourselves far from God when we fail to love and fail to listen.

Questions for reflection: (a) Is there anyone (past or present) that I realize I have offended but to whom have not apologized? ___ (b) Have I failed to seek full reconciliation and make restitution to anyone I have harmed? ___ (c) Do I harbor the slightest unforgiveness and anger toward anyone? ___ (d) Do I privately rehearse angry things I would like to say to certain people? ___ (e) Have I become less able to respond with love because of disappointments with God or with others? ___ (f) As a parent, am I serving and guiding my family both temporally and spiritually? ___ (g) Have I in any way failed to treat my parents kindly and patiently? ___ (h) Have I spoken or e-mailed destructively about anyone? ___ (i) Have I publicly criticized or maligned someone I personally know who is trying to do good but is doing so imperfectly? ___ (j) Have I forwarded criticism that fosters nothing but hate, despising or great fear? (k) Am I involved in any form of gossip or fear-mongering? ___ (l) Do I tend to hurt and offend people with my words or e-mails? ___ (m) Is there any pattern of failing to forgive others, including spiritual leaders, whose imperfections disappoint me? ___

Relationships are tricky. Some people are extremely hard to love. Sometimes our efforts at reconciliation are tossed back in our faces with rejection and vitriol. Sometimes people are destructive and dangerous. Sometimes our sense of hurt or fear makes the thought of loving terrifying. 

 But loving and is not embracing. And loving is not excusing.   Loving is seeing others with God's eyes, which are full of grace and truth. 

Forgiving is not embracing.  It is letting go of the hardness in our hearts, handing the hurt up to God to heal and moving forward in peace and goodwill and wisdom.

 When we turn to God for clear revelation of specific steps we may need to take to repair our hearts and make relationships better there are answers. Resolve to be utterly honest with yourself and resist the human tendency to rationalize the sin of failing to love.

For prayer and repentance, determine now to put off sins of relationship. These hurts can be handed up to God as we move forward towards increased ability to love and listen.

Are there certain people to whom I should apologize? ___ Do I need to take specific steps of restitution? ____ (Restitution means repaying something I have taken or publicly seeking to restore a reputation I have damaged.) Is there some offense or bitterness I need to finally release? ___

Be completely honest with God and yourself. If people are coming to mind with whom you need to make a contact for reconciliation, or patterns in your responses to others that need to be changed, that is likely God speaking to your heart. Take time to write out specific steps you may feel guided to take.

Praying to be able to see another the way God sees him or her, and how to respond and move forward with both love and wisdom, really does work.