Friday, November 13, 2015

What E. said when she was writing about what N. said and what she thought about that.

He said that while consequences always have to play out and we don’t always get rescued from them, and it may take time and work for us to change our behaviors, it does not take any additional time or energy for the atonement to cover our sins.

They are already paid.

We don’t need to shout out the behaviors or choices of others or ourselves, and lose our voices screaming the cost of it all.

Because it’s already paid.

We can’t disappoint God, because he already knows us perfectly.

It means, though, that [we really should not be devastated by] disappoint[ment in ourselves], because what we thought was disappointment is really an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly and more accurately.

C.S. Lewis said that because God knows all (which is not the same as causing all), our experience of the present moment is like God’s experience of the past, present, and future all at once.  The more we live in the present, rather than lost in the past or worried about the future, the more accurately we will learn to see ourselves the way God see[s] us.”

Sunday, November 08, 2015

What manner of men (or women) ought ye to be?

I am thinking about how very blessed so very many of us are.

And I am thinking how often our emotional wounds, due to rejection, derision, threats, false friends, loneliness in the midst of crowds, being deeply and caustically misunderstood or disenchanted, and having family members that oppose us or believe we are tragically deluded, haunt us to such a degree that what gratitude we may feel for the blessings we have received is deeply overshadowed by a belief that we will only be at peace if those wounding experiences are removed not only from our lives but the lives of everyone else we care about.

And I am thinking about Jesus, who spent much of his ministry with his person and his teaching consistently rejected, derided, threatened, misrepresented and ultimately heart-wrenchingly betrayed. He experienced feeling alone and caustically or ignorantly misunderstood, having beloved family members thinking he was all wrong and without a family home to welcome him. And he also knew (and said) that many of the people he dearly loved, who sought to live the kind of life he demonstrated, faced the same and would experience the same throughout their own lives as well.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

And yet he faced those experiences and that knowledge with calm, immovable, love and hope, both for those who suffered and for those who on purpose, or inadvertently, caused suffering. He knew and lived peace. 

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you...Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

He spoke calmly, and immovably for what he believed was right when others, both the powerful and the weak, derided both him and his ideas. And having said it, usually calmly, and occasionally very, very unmistakably clearly, he let it be and focused on blessing those at hand who were in need. He taught and spoke without needing for others to agree or “see his point of view”. He did not fear the hurtful results of others failing to heed his words. And he did not anguish over not making everything right and fair and good and “the way it should be”, right now.  I think it is because he truly understood mercy and grace.

He spoke the truth without monitoring how it was received and without losing hope when it was not heeded. And he did not ostracize or fear to encounter those who rejected what he said (unless, of course, they were setting about to stone him, and even then it was a calm quiet, “passing out of their midst”). In the synagogue and in the temple and on the side of the hill overlooking the sea and everywhere else he was the Prince of Peace. He was hope for us and trust in God personified. He just WAS.

Or, you might say, He just IS.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch--Clarity, Trust and Equanimity in Missionary Work

My respect for the clarity, trust and equanimity of these two struck me this morning.

Paul speaking in the synagogue in Antioch:
Acts, chapter 13
"'Therefore, brothers and sisters, know this: Through Jesus we proclaimed forgiveness of sins to you. From all those sins from which a person couldn’t be put in right relationship with God through Moses’ Law,  through Jesus that person who believes is put in right relationship with God. Take care that the prophets’ words don’t apply to you:
 Look, you scoffers,
    marvel and die.
I’m going to do work in your day —
    a work you won’t believe
    even if someone told you.”[Hab. 1:5]
" As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people urged them to speak about these things again on the next Sabbath. When the people in the synagogue were dismissed, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who urged them to remain faithful to the message of God’s grace.  

"On the next Sabbath, almost everyone in the city gathered to hear the Lord’s word. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were overcome with jealousy. They argued against what Paul was saying by slandering him.  Speaking courageously, Paul and Barnabas said, “We had to speak God’s word to you first. Since you reject it and show that you are unworthy to receive eternal life, we will turn to the Gentiles. This is what the Lord commanded us:
"I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
so that you could bring salvation to the end of the earth.”[Isaiah 49:6]
 "When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the Lord’s word. Everyone who was appointed for eternal life believed,  and the Lord’s word was broadcast throughout the entire region.  However, the Jews provoked the prominent women, as well as the city’s leaders. They instigated others to harass Paul and Barnabas, and threw them out of their district.  Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet and went to Iconium.  Because of the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the disciples were overflowing with happiness."
As an aside, I have heard many conjectures about what exactly "shake the dust of your feet" means. Some of them were less charitable than others. I think the one I've pasted below makes sense.  It reminds me of the patient comment of a friend whose beloved husband was making stupid choices that she could not change. 
"I hand him up to God", she smiled.  
No rancor, no holier-than-thou, just a recognition that she had done that which she could, that she would continue to love, and that she could also gratefully trust God to do healing and teaching beyond what she was able to do in their committed relationship. 
Shaking off the dust:  "There are situations in our lives where God calls us to stand firm, proclaim truth, and give patient testimony. Sometimes we need to continue until we see the results of that testimony. Other times God gives us the freedom to... figuratively “shake the dust off our feet” when, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, we surrender those people to the Lord."
I trust God with that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brother Durrant's talk.

I learned something listening to Brother Durrant’s talk at General Conference, which I got to hear this past weekend.

What I learned: that it is never wise to choose a topic to speak on in church based upon 1) a practice that you feel you are very good at or 2) a practice that you created and used with energy and enthusiasm in a previous calling. His was a talk built on a framework of favorite behaviors, not gospel preaching. Yes there was some gospel, but the framework was behaviors. And an effective sermon must have gospel as its framework and it must be spoken with a keen sense of one’s own inadequacies, not one’s sense of success.

Brother Durrant did both numbers 1 and 2. He spoke about finances and saving (his professional field, in which, I gather, he as been successful) and about the “ponderize” plan that he implemented with great enthusiasm as a mission president in Texas.

As a result, like all talks of that type, the talk simply did not carry the weight and power that a conference talk can when it is simply very thoughtful, inspired, humble explanations of essential truths and divine inspiration.
The enthusiastic merchandising by his son only pointed out again that “ponderizing” was a family tradition, a practice enthusiastically embraced and enjoyed and found to be helpful by an LDS family. And simply that.

And I think that the merchandising plan put together by his son shows a concerning combining of capitalism and gospel that, if it were my son, would get the thorough kibosh from me.

Ultimately, I feel sorry for Brother Durrant.  If he has not learned what he needed to learn from the experience, I feel sorry for him for that. If he has or does learn what he needs to from this experience, it will be a heavy and troubling load for to him to carry as he serves in his new calling, knowing that it was likely the only opportunity he will have to speak in that forum, and that he had fallen short of the mark to serve it as wisely as he could have.

So probably my wisest response will be to pray for him.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Pondering a Mystery--I got asked a question yesterday

So this post is just to write down and sort through my understanding after a friend asked me yesterday what I thought about the phrase "calling and election made sure" (CAEMS), 2nd Peter 1:10,.and what that involves.
Much of CAEMS speculation has been influenced by some statements made by Bruce McConkie in his 3 volume set of “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” and which are cited in the “Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles” CES textbook. In light of the fact that on the cover page of that three volume set is written “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or of Deseret Book”, and that CES textbooks are definitely not scripture, I feel no compunction to automatically consider what is written there as truth. And my personal study which I did in response to the calling to teach the scriptures in seminary has led me to a different understanding.
What I have found:
2nd Peter 1:
CAEMS is closely tied to
Knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ (“Epignosis” is the word used for “knowledge” in this passage. See for an analysis of what that word means.) (vs.2)
Which “epignosis” multiplies your experience with grace and peace. (vs.2)
That opens the door for us to “partake of the divine nature” and be disinclined to selfishness, self-indulgence and lust. (vs 4)
Peter also says that cultivating diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge (epignosis), temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity is essential to coming to and remaining in a knowledge (epignosis) of Christ because, without cultivating those attributes in our lives,
  1. we are unfruitful or barren in our knowledge (epignosis) of Christ.
  2. we become short-sighted instead of seeing the eternal perspective
  3. we forget our repentance and that we received forgiveness
  4. we fall
    (vs 5-10)
The “calling” is a calling to “glory and virtue” (vs. 3)
What is glory? It is working to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of others, not yourself. (Moses 1:39)
What is virtue? It is a high standard of moral goodness in all aspects of life.

Cliff note version: Knowing God in an “epignosis” way increases your experience with divine grace and peace and, by its nature and course of effect in your life, creates a calling and election (as in I'm calling you and choosing you to do something). In other words, an epignosis-based (knowing in a way that is more than just summarily “knowing about”), discipleship-based relationship with the Father and the Son brings a renewed personal divine invitation and appointment, a calling and election, to participate more fully in the work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of your fellow men and to continue to humbly and diligently seek to nurture in yourself the attributes of Christ in order to do so. We make it “sure” by responding to that call and doing that work with Him and continuing in grace and godly character.

What confuses some people:
I think what confuses people are the following:
  1. They think that what they are supposed to seek is the promise of having “made it into the celestial kingdom”. Instead it is that we are to seek to know, experience and love God, embrace and incorporate his virtues in their lives and with that, respond to a personal, divine call and appointment to work with God for the salvation of others. (See Cliff notes above.)
  2. They read the words of Joseph Smith “I should think that all faithful Latter-day Saints would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 5:388) And they think that that refers to a done deal. There were lots of debates and discussion about this being a done deal and what the parameters of that "doneness" were.
    Well, it seems that sealings are not a done deal when they are pronounced. (Though there are people who hope that this one is the exception to that rule and early church members thought it might.) Blessings sealed upon individuals are not done deals. They are dependent upon faithfulness in discipleship in all godly ways. They are not “you've made it, don't worry” or “you will get X, don't worry”. Rather they are profound, personal messages from God that say “I'm real, I'm with you, continue faithful and work with me, and light and love and glory will be possible” and those divine messages change us and move us to seek Him and work with Him more.
  3. They read Joseph Smith's words “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150) and and "After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands) ... then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,, p. 150) and they think that God is talking about a done deal based on merit
    But a calling and election made sure is not a guarantee (see #2) nor is it a merit-based decree. A calling and election is a profound experience of being called, and being designated to DO AND BE  (or continue to do and be) something (and not necessarily a specific calling in the church either). It is not a calling to receive a reward. We rise to that calling to do and be, ie: we “make it sure”, as we work to serve the Lord and as we seek to become like him as we do that work and with his grace and mercy become more one with Him.  
    (The word "sure" has many different meanings.  I believe the closest definition here is "act with unfailing dependability" or "constancy".  We make a calling to do and be "sure" when we we act in it with devoted dependability and constancy.)
    Determination to serve God may start with a personal decision but I believe it moves from simple self-mastery to “real” determination as a result of epignosis of God and, with his grace, developing godly attributes and then encountering that personal divine testimony of the absolute reality of God and God's personal invitation/calling to serve. It part of the process of becoming like Him.  And when we are like Him, through his grace and mercy, we may live with Him.
  4. They read Doctrine and Covenants 131:5-6 and think that sealed up means done deal. It's not a done deal. See #2 above. Also, 131:5-6 is not an exposition on the nature of the "more sure word of prophecy" but is actually an answer to a question about that phrase in 2nd Peter. The question was, "Can a man be have 'the more sure word of prophecy' without knowing that he does?".  And the answer is in verse 6, no, he cannot.  If you have experienced that sealing experience you would know you had.
Of course, since such an experience of “calling and election” and the process of “making sure”are, by their very nature and due to the nature of the one who experiences them (think “humble and loving and respectful of that which is sacred”) of a personally sacred nature, practically speaking, the ones who have experienced or are experiencing these, generally don't talk about it much. . Unfortunately that leads to lots of imaginative speculation and rumor. I expect that, since it is such a personal experience, it is likely that each experience would be different, and not exactly the same for each person.
I find no compelling reason to believe that it is only experienced in rooms in temples (one of the speculations I encounter every once in a while).  Though that might happen for some. There are rarely, if ever, reports or discussions of "second annointings" (which were considered the highest temple ordinance and connected to CAEMS and oft discussed and, on occasion performed in the early LDS church) these days and the understanding of what they are has changed from what people thought they were and how they related to "calling and election made sure" in early church history.  Reading the quotes from J.S. above or the words of Peter, it seems clear that this process of CAEMS is meant to involve solemn interaction with God, but I don't see enough there to state that it requires certain rites, though, who knows, some may feel like it should and for all I know, God may use that medium with them should they need or hope for that.  He is, after all, a very personal God in spite of all of us humans constantly trying to institutionalize his work and reduce it to formulas.
Reading the history of early church "second annointings" in Nauvoo and Utah it seems that for many decades people felt like such rites were required for it CAEMS to happen, but it seems that as understanding of what "calling and election made sure" means changed and the problematical nature of discernment as to the best time for it to happen in a person's life (always a problem with rite that gets institutionalized) grew, second annointings were slowly reduced, leaving the CAEMS process the opportunity to be recognized in personal lives in more personal ways..  And, given the deeply personal nature of that a CAEMS experience, I think that general deinstitutionalization was wise.  I have no problem with temple rites changing.  Usually they change for the better.
Since those who do know from personal experience what a CAEMS process in ones life is like also, understandably,  generally tend not to jump into conversations on the subject to share their experiences, we can all continue to believe what we believe about the experience just fine, whether we agree or not.
In the end, hopefully, we all will eventually, in this life or the life to come, find out for ourselves.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bids and Responses and Scanning

This morning I woke up thinking of three things.  
1. The challenge of talking about thought processes in order to facilitate coordination between people who are working together.  For example, two people work on a project together, a change in timing or resources occurs, both think of responses to those changes and act on them, but fail to actually talk about or discuss the responses they have to those changes or the changes they are planning to implement, resulting in mild confusion and/or jumping to unverified conclusions. 
2. The principle of "the purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship", ie. no matter what task you are involved in, a primary and essential element of that task is the strengthening of the relationships of those involved in it. For example, washing the dishes with your daughter:  The purpose is not so much getting the dishes perfectly clean, but rather to strengthen your relationship as you work together.
3. The practice of responding to "bids".  It goes like this.  Throughout the day, partners make requests for connection, what John Gottman calls “bids.” and which he explains as follows in an article here:
For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.
The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.
People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”
These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. ...
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right..." 
My decision this morning: work on those three.
And, in light of number 1, talk to L. about that decision.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fortitude, Humility, Kindness, Gratitude and Love Unfeigned...and Yoga

Kindness in words creates confidence. 
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. 
Kindness in giving creates love. 

~~Lao Tsu

Never assume you have figured anyone or anything out. 
Never boil someone down to a cliché and certainly not to an epithet. 
Never assume that because you discover a hard question, the answer is an exit rather than renewed perspective. 
Even if the answer IS an exit, be sure it is done with respect and gratitude, not with anger and insults. 
Anger serves no one well and hurts many. If anger [or insults, be they sarcastic, snide or epithetic, voiced or unspoken] is your default response to discomfort in any relationship (including your relationship to faith or to the sacred), take up yoga. At least for starters.

~~Margaret Young
Interview with Stephen Marsh, September 4, 2015