Sunday, October 19, 2008

And off they go.....

'Twas a blessed day....

Blessed are the poor in spirit

I've been thinking about the phrase "poor in spirit" this week, trying to figure out more clearly what exactly that means. The footnotes in my Bible say "pride, humility" so I've been working on clarifying the former and then taking its opposite to try to define poor in spirit a little better.

Here's what I found:

Deut. 8: 8-11 Pride is thinking you got where you are due to your own power and skills. This is one result of neglecting to keep and remember God's commandments. So the opposite (poor in spirit) could be said to be realizing and acknowledging that you got where you are by the grace of God and remembering and keeping his commandments with gratitude for that grace.

Philippians 4:11-13 Pride is discontentment with the current state; ie. focused on what you don't have or where you are not. Poor in spirit would then be being able to be content in whatever state you find yourself, focused more on responding well to the current situation instead of on what you do or do not have.

Psalm 62:10 Pride is, when riches increase, you set your heart on them. Being poor in spirit would be not setting your heart on riches when they come.

Psalm 10:2-4 Pride means you tend to persecute the poor and lay traps for others, boasting about what you love or want and admiring others who have those things. Pride will not seek after God, assuming that you can handle whatever comes on your own. Poor in spirit, on the other hand, means that you have compassion on the poor and do not take advantage of others. You are not a "respecter of persons". You realize that your ability to weather adversity is not just your doing but that you depend on the Lord to be able to do so.

Isaiah 65: 1-5 Pride means you are full of your own thoughts, upscaling worship and not keeping the commandments that are out of fashion. You are elitist and unwilling to mingle with people you see as "less holy". Poor in spirit means that you are interested in God's will and doing things they way he has outlined. You are not stand-offish.

I ran across a piece written by Curtis DeGraw who wrote about being raised in an economically poor family but not recognizing that he was poor until he hit high school and became aware of all the things other kids had that he didn't have and could not purchase. He wrote:

Spiritual poverty is the lack of ability to acquire spiritual things. It implies an awareness of things desired that are beyond one's ability to have or do - since recognition of poverty is a real part of the effects of poverty. It also means that if there are spiritual things that truly are necessary but out of one's spiritual price range, one must rely on another person to provide them.

I am intrigued by the notion that, until you recognize you are lacking spiritual growth and need a Savior to provide that, you will remain spiritually poor. You may be humble and good, but not "spiritually rich". That makes the addition of the phrase "who come unto me" found in the 3rd Nephi version of the beatitudes suddenly make more logical sense. Being poor in spirit, using DeGraw's analogy, may simply be the opposite of being proud (and that is a good thing) but when it is coupled with a realization that the only way to make your humility holy or spiritually rich is through the redemption of Christ and his grace and you act accordingly, then it leads to the blessing of being a part of the kingdom of heaven. That's why "coming unto him" brings that attendant blessedness.

Still mulling, but that's what I've been thinking about this week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Transitions are a challenge no matter what your age.

I found this on the blog of a student here in Maine. I thought it would be good to keep track of while we muddle through our transition to a different state.
So if you hear of me planning a trip back to Maine again or start finding reflections on settling into a new place on this blog, chalk it up to my taking some of these suggestions to heart.

With the whirlwind of things to do, it often isn’t until long after the move that one starts feeling the emotional symptoms caused by moving. Uprooting your entire life, and starting from scratch is one of the most difficult struggles one will have to face in their life. Getting situated and used to a new house, job, and school, while at the same time coping with loneliness, and trying to meet new people, can be exhausting and extremely difficult. Staying positive and making a real effort to become a part of the community will make the transition much easier.
Unpacking. When it comes to unpacking get it done, but don’t make yourself sick over it. Set yourself goals to get done on a daily and weekly basis. Until it is finished do a regular amount of unpacking every day. Allow yourself time each day to relax, and do some things that will take your mind off the move and eliminate stress.
Make your new house your home. If your landlord permits paint the walls. Hang up photos and artwork. Begin personalizing your home as soon as you get there. At the end of the day, when you feel lost, sad, or lonely, returning to a home that reflects who you are, and is filled with the things you love is the least you can do for yourself to feel more comfortable.
Pick up where you left off in your old home. Were you half way through a novel before you left? Do you do yoga every morning before breakfast? Do you have only one sleeve left to knit on the sweater you are making? Unpack these things first and work on them in between spurts of unpacking your home. Doing things that you would have done in your old home, will not only help you relax, but also aid in making your new house feel like home.
Make friends. This is probably the hardest part of a move for anyone. As children we were able to make friends with everyone on the playground simply by joining them in a game of tag. As adults it is much more difficult. Our personalities and interests have developed and finding others who’s interests compliment ours is much more difficult. The only way to really start making friends is by getting involved in activities, and getting out there. Yes, it may be easier to sit around the house watching reruns of The Office, but by taking a risk and striking up conversations or complimenting people around you, you are one step closer to a potential new friend.
Get Active. As soon as you get to your new destination start getting out in the community. Enroll in a dance class at the local community college, join a gym, or go to art openings. Not only will this take your mind off the stress of your move, but will most likely speed up the process of making friends. Look for a free local publication that lists events in the community. Look for fliers for shows when you stop in to get coffee in the morning. Look on Craigslist for weekend events, and search Yelp for good music venues. Find a place you like, and become a regular there. Over time friendships will naturally develop.
Get to know your new town. Spend time every day becoming more well acquainted with your new surroundings, the local movie theatre, where the closest park is, what streets are dead ends, etc. Get in the car, and drive around various neighborhoods. Don’t be afraid to get lost. I find that I learn the most about a city when I do get lost. Use the luxuries of the internet to help you find establishments that interest you. Look up all the coffee shops or sushi restaurants in your area, then do a drive by with each one on your list.
Stay in regular contact with friends and family back home. Write emails, talk on the phone, and send snail mail. Make it a point to talk to family and close friends at least once a week. If you get free weekend minutes on your phone plan this is a great time to take advantage of them, while at the same time catching up with loved ones. If sudden bursts of loneliness come on, don’t hesitate to call up someone you miss, and tell them how you are feeling.
Start planning a visit home. By planning a date of when you will return back for a visit you will greatly eliminate the initial shock of leaving. Letting others know when you are going to see them next will give you and them something to look forward to.
Start a blog devoted to your new life. Take pictures of your journey to your new home and write a short entry every day. Post photos from when you painted the walls, the mess of boxes in your living room, and how it gradually comes together. Write about how much you miss having lunch on Fridays with your cousin. Before you leave give out the address to all your friends and family so they can follow along and comment on everything you are doing.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

From Lewis's talk today

Lewis spoke in church today and shared what he'd learned about taking the Lord's admonitions and examples of how we should work together in our councils (he outlined 7 of them) and using those principles in our personal counseling with the Lord. Here's part of what he shared.

Applying the Seven Habits of Effective Councils to our personal prayers
Is prayer a council? Definitely. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” (Alma 37:37) The instruction to counsel should resonate with latter day saints that there is a council involved. How might the seven habits therefore impact personal prayer?
Counsel together often—what more frequently repeated admonition is there in the scriptures than “pray always?” When I find myself getting casual and more distant from the Lord, it is apparent who has moved, said Pres. Kimball. Frequency does not equal effectiveness, but it is a start. “When thou risest up, when thou liest down, goeth in, cometh out” all are times for prayer
Invite the spirit—without the spirit our prayers “bounce off the ceiling” are hollow, or tinny. Yet in other situations, “they did not multiply many words, for it was given them what they should say” Prayer is inherently spiritual communication, so without the spirit, there is only empty words, vain (ineffective) thoughts.
How do we do this in prayer? The things we do in other settings might help—sing, count blessings, reflect on your testimony, start with the scriptures, participate in ordinances (sacrament, temple, etc.)
Counsel about individuals, one by one—we are definitely more able to hear the nudges and promptings of the spirit when the topic is small, defined, limited to a single issue or individual. “Bless us with world peace” gets a different kind of response than “help me to have peace in my interactions with bobby” This is not just due to our inability to take celestial shorthand fast enough, but more likely related to how Heavenly Father looks at his children one by one.
Make assignments, track, etc. We are often eager to ask the Lord things, in essence giving him his assignments. But as we counsel with the Lord, the questions we ought to be asking are, “what can I do about….or would it help if I did….” And as we listen for the inclination or direction back, we are getting Our assignments.
Not many people write down what they pray about—and hopefully we will remember to report back, but actually the reality is that it sometimes takes longer than a day to fulfill one or more of these assignments and we may actually forget what we prayed over and why. The Lord doesn’t of course, but it is harder for him to show us his hand in our lives if we don’t take time to reflect on what our assignments were, what we asked the Lord to do, and then act to do our part. As we look back, we will thus be better able to see that he has also fulfilled his assignments. (Consider Pres. Eyering’s story about the import of recording the hand of God in his life—Ensign Nov 2007—“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.
Return and report—Rarely are our answers or solutions we seek from the Lord had in a single action or assignment. If we don’t come back and report on our progress, we are not as likely to receive the next step of instructions toward the solution. (Imagine putting together a model, and the first instruction says, “open the glue” We do that and assume that’s it for instruction so we go on to put piece after piece together with the glue, only later to find out that we left out an important step involving part A, hole 4, and so forth.)
Rejoice in successes—the Lord saw each step of the creation, “it was good” indicating to me that he was pleased and rejoiced with each successfully completed step in the process. Our faith and testimony is increased, when we allow the Lord to pat us on the back for successfully having followed his stepwise instruction.” And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and, behold, all things which I had made were very agood” (Moses 2:31)
Take the time to be united, one—We don’t wrestle with God so much to persuade him to our way of thinking, to conform him to what we think is right, so much as to learn to adjust our will to his. As the Savior said, “not my will, but thine be done.” Yet at the same time, his greatest wish for us as his disciples, as expressed in the great intercessory prayer (John 17) was “that they[we] may be aone, even as we[he and his father] are bone.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Imaginative Play

There was a segment played on NPR this morning. It discussed findings that indicate that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.

You can read it here.
Or listen to it here.

"According to Berk, one reason make-believe is such a powerful tool for building self-discipline is because during make-believe, children engage in what's called private speech: They talk to themselves about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
"'In fact, if we compare preschoolers' activities and the amount of private speech that occurs across them, we find that this self-regulating language is highest during make-believe play,' Berk says. 'And this type of self-regulating language… has been shown in many studies to be predictive of executive functions.'
"'And it's not just children who use private speech to control themselves. If we look at adult use of private speech,' Berk says, 'we're often using it to surmount obstacles, to master cognitive and social skills, and to manage our emotions.'
"Unfortunately, the more structured the play, the more children's private speech declines. Essentially, because children's play is so focused on lessons and leagues, and because kids' toys increasingly inhibit imaginative play, kids aren't getting a chance to practice policing themselves. When they have that opportunity, says Berk, the results are clear: Self-regulation improves."
It made so much sense I felt like standing up and shouting "Amen!".

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for setting this pattern for us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Food for Thought

Ignore the advertisement at the beginning. However, it is interesting to juxtapose the ad with the thoughts expressed in the last interview of the video.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Winter evening

I love this place.