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 http://biblehub.com/greek/1922.htm 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:  http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-2-traits-2014-11
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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

...ye shall have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of.....

I have decided that there is a difference between "choosing to be happy" and being of good cheer. One cannot nor should not always choose to be happy. If so, we would never mourn with those who mourn, we would never experience the sobering, tutoring process of loss, and we would not experience empathy for those who struggle or who suffer pain or injustice or abuse.
On the other hand, to me being of good cheer as found in the 16th chapter of the book of John means possessing a grounded, calm sense of peace, laced with hope, that is pretty constant in both times of celebration as well as times of deep sorrow, fear, confusion, anger or suffering. It enables us to act positively and calmly and effectively to navigate those struggles in our own lives and to assist others with more open eyes and hearts.
Good cheer dwells comfortably with and deals peaceably and carefully with the reality of a far from perfect existence and the loss of dreams. Choosing to be happy too often tries to pretend that those imperfections and losses should be ignored or glossed over, which, I believe, can actually prevent our spiritual growth.
So, with the grace of God, I will not "choose to be happy" but I do hope to be "of good cheer".

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Just because it seems like a good idea here doesn't mean it makes sense there.

For Americans in particular, life in a global Church means realizing that just because something seems a no-brainer here doesn’t mean it plays out that way everywhere.”

~John J. Allen, Jr., associate editor of the Catholic journal "Crux", at the end of his interesting article about current catholic debates in India.

True about my church too.

The sentence above is towards the end of the second part of the interesting article that you can find HERE.



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Taking a Nap

Luke 8:
22
"Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples...
23
But as they sailed he fell asleep..."

Drawing by Ali Wright, shared with permission.  Thanks, Ali.

Good for me to remember at times when a nap is needful but my North American culturalized brain objects to my taking one.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On writing fiction. From William Faulkner's 1950 Nobel Speech in Stockholm

...the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-speech.html

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Friday, July 03, 2015

Speaking Under the Stars

I've been reading the last chapters of the book of John.

I noticed Jesus' words at the end of chapter 14:  "Arise, let us go hence."

Then chapters 15-17 continue the discourse that he began as he and his disciples sat together at the passover feast and the end of that (chapter 17) is his wonderful intercessory prayer.

So I imagined that these chapters may have been a message to his disciples, spoken out of doors, beneath a night sky, somewhere between the upper room in Jerusalem and the Gethsemane garden.

Cloudy or clear, given the general absence of light pollution, the sky would have been magnificent.





And I imagine, under that night sky, these phrases:

"All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you."

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace."

"O Father...I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from the, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them."

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them through thy truth."

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;"




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

John 16 Jesus' message to his 12.

There will come a time when people will see you as dangerous and will think that killing you and your message is a service to God.

When someone thinks like that, it is a sure indication that they do not know God.

When such times come, do not be taken by surprise.  I'm telling you ahead of time so that it will not throw you off.

When I am no longer physically with you, be assured that I will send the Comforter to be with you.

He will show where right and wrong judgment lie by showing and testifying that I have gone to be with the Father.  And he will convince people of the reality of divine judgment by showing that the prince of this world is judged.

When the Holy Spirit comes he will guide you, speaking the word of God, alerting you as to what will come and testifying of the glory given to me.  All things of the Father are mine and the Holy Spirit will receive of that from me and share what he receives with you.

There will be times of deep sorrow and difficulty ahead.  But, be assured, the magnitude of the joy that will follow will make that sorrow seem like simply an instructive, challenging, new experience.

There will be sad times, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice with a kind of joy that no person's actions or words can ever stop.

When you need something, ask in my name.  But ask directly of the Father yourself.  You do not need for me to pray for you.  You can pray directly to Him.  He loves you.  He loves that you love me and that you understand that I came from Him.  Ask Him directly, and experience the joy of receiving communication and instruction and help from Him.

Shortly things will become so scary that you will scatter and leave me alone.  But I am not alone. The Father is with me.

Why have I told you all this? So that you may understand that, as you stay connected with me, you will have access to what you need in order to feel peace in your heart.

Tribulation is part of life and you will experience it.  However, be hopeful and of good cheer. Continue to do good. The reality is that because of who I am and  what I do  I  am able to undo and overpower the effects of anything bad, wicked, catastrophic,  tragic, unfair, unjust, sinful, horribly misguided or destructive that this life or the people in it did, does or will inflict upon you and anyone else.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Both Feet Forward"


My friend J. shared the audio of Scott Swofford's Devotional Address with me.  Honesty, humility, interested listening, real appreciation and love in our discipleship vs.our tendency to point out the virtues of what we know and what we hope we are.   Well worth the 25 minutes of listening.

I'm leaving links here so that I can find and review it again.

http://www.byutv.org/watch/b6ed3495-be74-42ae-850c-a43f5beaf34f/byu-devotional-address-scott-swofford-111114

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6GB9uv2S58

Monday, June 08, 2015

Interpreting Reactions

"As a psychotherapist, one of the themes I constantly talk about with my clients is that perception is critical. Some expats view any anxiety about their life abroad as a sign of how exciting their new life is, and thus thrive upon it. Others, however, feel their worry is a tell tale sign that they have made a mistake, and start to panic. How you interpret not only your new environment, but your reactions to it, is critical."  ~~ Joshua Wood


It strikes me that this applies well to me right now.

Good to remember.  How I interpret my own automatic or initial emotional or physical reactions to my situation is critical to my perception of my situation and therefore what I assume will follow.

And though one cannot usually choose one's own immediate physical or emotional reaction to a new geographic, cognizant or situational  reality, one can choose how one interprets that reaction.

L. tends to interpret the emotions brought about by new situations as manifestations of the arrival of new and exciting challenges and so he gets antsy to get going and doing.  I tend to interpret emotions experienced in new situations as a message that I should carefully, slowly and methodically explore and figure out stuff in order to avoid making really stupid decisions.  

I wonder how much of that difference between us is personality and how much of it is the fact that one of us is a foot taller, twice as strong and about 100 lbs heavier than the other.

Fortunately, we're used to each other's automatic initial reaction interpretations.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

One of the benefits of arriving here in June

Mangosteens are still in season!
There is nothing quite like a chilled mangosteen for dessert on a hot day.
Truly marvelous.
(And the mangoes are good too!)


Saturday, June 06, 2015

Starting the Journey

We headed west on Friday morning, had a hugely long layover in Los Angeles that was made much sweeter by some lovely time with BrieAnn who took the time to come and talk and enjoy the huge space which is LAX's international terminal.

On the way we stopped in Kita Konabalu, Malaysia as we were accompanying Elder Chew, who lives there, home.  It's lovely.  Lush, green, with islands off the coast.  I can see why it is a popular destination for vacationers on this side of the world.  We got to meet his family at the airport and then later, with his district president (who also met us and got us to our hotel) were able to visit Elder Chew's family and talk with them for a while.  They seem like a gentle family who have been through a lot.  And we could tell that their district president cared about them.

We left the hotel for an early flight out the next morning. Our friends, the Kanes, arrived in Kota Kinabalu a day later, starting their next stint as directors of LDScharities work (they previously worked at that in Indonesia).  They are marvelously upbeat and adventurous people (they met 30+ years ago on a beach in Goa, India: he was backpacking around the continent and she had come south after spending a couple of weeks trekking with friends in Pakistan)  .I think they will be perfect for the job.

We arrived in Phnom Penh and were greeted by a cheerful group of fellow volunteer mission workers, some doing humanitarian projects, others managing the Perpetual Education Fund (a loan program for post-secondary vocational and technical education that you can read about here), handling clerical work or working on community relations.  They are a cheerful, friendly bunch.

President Moon, us, Elder and Sister Gatherum (LDSCharities), Elder Hollenzer (office support) 
Elder and Sister Oveson (Perpetual Education Fund and CES), Elder and Sister Van Broklin (public affairs).

We were perched in an apartment on the 3rd floor of a building near the middle of the city.  Perched, because we're transient, waiting for final word on our visas (Good News yesterday!  They've been approved and after a final look over by the government's security department, should arrive next week) and this apartment was available for a few days before the next set of mission workers arrive.  They arrive tomorrow, so we're packing up again and will settle on another perch for a few more days until we have visas in hand.

Jet lag means we're awake quite early, which means we've been out and walking before the traffic gets crazy busy.  Some photos from some of those walks:



The next day we headed to the mission office where there was some leader-training going on with some of the young missionaries.  This was what we found at the front door:


Cambodia is a shoes-off-in-the-house country.

To keep ourselves busy while visa-waiting we've spent some time on the east side of the city with a couple of fine young Vietnamese speaking missionaries (young men) and a couple of open-hearted Khmer speaking missionaries (young women) who had visits to make and have met some really good-hearted people in that process. And we took Ngoc's friend Kimlen and her younger sister out for dinner one evening.    Kimlen is a radiologist/ultrasound technician who did her medical studies in Vietnam and became fast friends with Ngoc while there.  Now she is back in Cambodia and has a husband and a 4 month old baby, the latter of whom she sees only intermittently as the little boy, in Cambodia-family tradition, is being taken care of by his grandmother who lives several hours away in Kampong Cham.  Kimlen  invited us to see the palace complex and the National Museum (an amazing array of archaeological artifacts and ancient sculpture) with her and her sister and cousin the next morning.  So we did.  




While planning our time together we'd invited her to visit with two of our Cambodian sister missionaries and tour the south stake center.  Ngoc had told her about missionaries and about the changes in her life after listening to what they had to say so she was interested.

So after her sister and cousin headed back to their studies we took a tuk-tuk to the stake center and sat through a very lovely teaching time unable to understand a word of what was said but thoroughly enjoying watching the interest, laughter, kindness, and sympathy that moved across all three of their faces at different times during the conversation.  They are three very good young women.

I wish I had a photo of the south stake center to show you.  It is a big, airy, three story building with high, high ceilings, big open spaces like terraces and classrooms that you enter from large open-ended, shady corridors that the breeze moves through.  The conversation we had we held on the ground floor shaded foyer, a huge, open (no doors anywhere, just high, see-through metal gates that are closed at night) entryway that took up the middle third of the building with views of the expansive entryway and beyond to the street, the broad stairs leading up to the second floor, and the wide corridors on either side.  It was really the perfect kind of architecture for the climate and setting.  I was really impressed at what the architects had created and very much enjoyed the shade and the breeze and the expansive feel that resulted from their work.



Friday, June 05, 2015

John 10 The Door to the Sheepfold, Or, We're All Just a Bunch of Dedicated Hireling Shepherds

A. verse. 2: “He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” vs. 1: “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”

B. verse 3: The porter opens the door to the shepherd and the sheep hear his voice when he calls them by name. And they follow him, for they know his voice. vs. 4: But they will not follow the voice of a stranger.

C. verse 7: Jesus said “I am the door.” Going in and out through the door will enable you to be saved, to go in and call the sheep, and go out with them and find them pasture.

D verse 14: “I am also the good shepherd... I give my life for the sheep.” (Hirelings, on the other hand, don't have what it takes to save the sheep from the wolf.

E. verse. 8: All that came before Jesus (JST, “and who did not testify of me”) are a thief and a robber (did not come in by the door and are not recognized by the sheep).

So...Would you be a shepherd to the Lord's sheep?

1. Enter the sheepfold. Enter it through Christ. If you try to enter it any other way, you're just a thief. (Interesting question as you read through...stealing what? How? Quite a few possible answers.)

2. If the porter (Christ—2Ne 9:41 also refers to to Christ as the porter.. “he employeth no servant there”) knows you and trusts you and vice versa then he will open the door (open himself) for you to do your work through him. (I can do all things through Christ...(Philippians 4:13))

3. When you do the work that way
   a. You know and love the sheep.
    b. The sheep know and recognize and trust you. 
    c. You and the porter know and love and trust each other as well.

In other words, you have developed relationships of care, trust, interest and love with both Christ and those you are "shepherding".
And therefore: the sheep have learned that they can trust you and will be much more likely to follow you out of the fold and on to green pasture....

4. through the door (which is Christ).

Going in and out of the sheepfold via Christ not only enables your own reception of Christ's salvation, but also enables you to enter the sheepfold, call to the sheep, have them follow you out (also via Christ) so you can help them find good pasture.

However, remember, you are only a hireling shepherd. It is only the good shepherd himself who has the power to save them from the wolf. Though you may have developed a totally committed relationship with the good shepherd and know and love those sheep, you don't have what it takes to do that. Only He has what it takes to do that.

There's an interesting article by Darren Schmidt about his journey of learning practical ways of teaching his children to see Christ as the way if you wish to peruse it, HERE.


Friday, May 29, 2015

May 29th, 2015

It's been an informative and good week.  Usually welfare/humanitarian training starts on a Monday with a trip to Salt Lake City and orientation on the resources there, but since Monday was a holiday and most of the people we were going to meet with at their work sites had the day off, we got a day off too (followed by a pretty intense three days as they crammed everything else in the amount of time remaining). So on Monday we were able to go with Lewis's cousin Art to the cemetery where their parents are buried, take the Frontrunner  (commuter train) up to SLC to meet up with one of Lewis's best friends for lunch, and later have dinner with Bro. and Sis. Christensen who has accepted and assignment to be responsible for us and the other volunteer missionaries in Cambodia and Vietname starting next month.  All of those were pleasant and informative interactions.  And I was impressed by the Frontrunner.  It's very nice addition to the transportation options in the metro area here.

Tuesday through Thursday has been full of good information mostly about the process of partnering with good in-country organizations, sustainability, cooperative skills and analysis of projects in the planning, ongoing and follow-up stages of any work we do.  There was helpful discussion of maintaining cooperative relationships, being aware of motives, involvement of recipients, areas of focus where out-of-country church sponsored volunteer resources are currently available (vision, clean water, maternal and infant care, wheelchairs, food production and immunizations), how to find in-country partners for those and other areas of need, and how to handle various issues of bribes and corruption when it's encountered.  (answer: it depends)

Now it is Friday.  We're packing suitcases, doing laundry and heading out in a couple of hours.  The itinerary includes Los Angeles to Hong Kong, to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur and then finally to Phnom Penh.  We expect to arrive exhausted, purchase our Cambodian visas in the airport when we get there (Vietnam ones still in process, who knows....) and try to keep our eyes from constantly shutting in profound sleep whenever we sit down during our first days there.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

To See and Be Seen, To Know and Be Known

"To see and be seen": the phrase used to express those situations where people gather with their best foot forward to watch and be impressed by others and with hopes of being respected and seen as worthy in turn.

"To know as we are known": the phrase Paul uses in 1st Corinthians 13, his powerful piece on love/charity, to speak about the clarity of vision that is ours when "that which is perfect has come".

That which is perfect: Christ.  When we are more like Christ, when we are in and with Christ, we are better able to know as He knows us.

And how does he know us?  What's that like?  And what does it mean to know the way he knows us?

I believe "know as we are known" means that we know, understand and respond to others (and to ourselves) the way Jesus does.

Last night I gave myself an assignment to read various pieces of scripture that describe how Jesus knows, understands and responds to us.

Loves beyond our comprehension
Creates opportunities for growth
Responds with mercy and full willingness to assist
Makes sacrifices to help us reunite with God
Is willing to work long, long, long term with us
Sees our brotherhood/sisterhood clearly and positively
Loves and is willing to help all, regardless of their goodness or lack thereof
Welcomes repentance and is patient with that process
Welcomes collaboration with him regardless of degree of aptitude
Is completely honest about himself and what he understands and what  he (compassionately and honestly) understands aboutus
Is wise in all he does

At the Priesthood session of General Conference Dieter Uchtdorf discussed the difference between going to church "to see and be seen" and going through life "to know as we are known".

He said:


The greatest, most capable, most accomplished man who ever walked this earth was also the most humble. He performed some of His most impressive service in private moments, with only a few observers, whom He asked to “tell no man” what He had done. When someone called Him “good,” He quickly deflected the compliment, insisting that only God is truly good. Clearly the praise of the world meant nothing to Him; His single purpose was to serve His Father and “do always those things that please him.” We would do well to follow the example of our Master.

... this is our high and holy calling—to be agents of Jesus Christ, to love as He loved, to serve as He served, to “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees,” to “look [after] the poor and the needy,” and to care for the widows and orphans.

I pray... that as we serve in our families, quorums, wards, stakes, communities, and nations, we will resist the temptation to draw attention to ourselves and, instead, strive for a far greater honor: to become humble, genuine disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we do so, we will find ourselves walking the path that leads to our best, most genuine, and noblest selves. 

He also said:

I am here because I desire with all my heart to follow my Master, Jesus Christ. I yearn to do all that He asks of me in this great cause. I hunger to be edified by the Holy Spirit and hear the voice of God as He speaks through His ordained servants. I am here to become a better man, to be lifted by the inspiring examples of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to learn how to more effectively minister to those in need.

In short, I am here because I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.


When I am wherever I am, I am called to the state of knowing others as Christ knows me; with pure, wise love, with clarity, with honesty about myself and others, with willingness to help, with sisterhood, to welcome change, to work hard and long and without concern about who sees or who thinks what, or how I am seen.

We are called to love God as he loves us and to let that work in our souls so that what He or others think of us is not what we are concerned about.  But rather what we yearn for is to walk all our lives "abiding in him" and with his Spirit (John 15) seeing and knowing as He does, ourselves, our friends, our enemies, our relatives, our strangers, those who make life hard for us and those who are sweet savor to our souls.


We are not called to be individually righteous and seen, we are called to abide in Him and know others the way he knows us.  And then act with that knowing.






Saturday, April 11, 2015

Political derision or fear among us.

“There is nothing in the world more deleterious or harmful to the human family than hatred, prejudice, suspicion, and the attitude that some people have toward their fellows, of unkindness." 
“Whenever your politics cause you to speak unkindly of your brethren, know this, that you are upon dangerous ground.” 
~George Albert Smith

"Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.”
~Gordon B. Hinckley
 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The "only true church" thing

B. brought up that slide-off your-tongue phrase that's so often glibly borrowed from the Doctrine and Covenants and tossed at the end of declarations of belief.



I must say that I am bothered by the way it's used and really bothered by the way it's often translated by whoever hears it.  Generally, in my opinion, by rank and file members it is often (though not always) used as an expression of

a. I'm not sure how to end my remarks, so I'll end with this. It's familiar..
b. I'm subconsciously feeling insecure on some level, so affiliating myself with something that is exclusive in it's goodness makes me feel more confident or safe.
c. I think this church is a good place for me to be and it's a good place for you to be too.
d. I've felt a spiritual confirmation as I've followed or prayed over this church, so it must be right.

And of course the other problem is that it's almost always generally interpreted by others as "other churches are wrong".  And that is ALWAYS counterproductive.

So I decided to do some research on what other people have written about what that phrase means.  I realize that I cannot get everyone else to stop and think about what they say or how they are perceived when they slide that phrase into a talk, testimony or discussion.  But I can learn better what it means so that I can articulate in more accurately in order to increase my own precision in communication and for increased comprehension by those who hear me.

So one article HERE, states that the phrase simply refers to three things about the church:

1. The church contains the "fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ", 
which:, in essence and by definition  includes three things: a) our unique understanding of "the plan of salvation" which includes a) assurance that we lived as spirits before we came to this earth, b) the affirmation that this mortal life has a purpose and c) the teaching that our highest aspiration is to become like our heavenly parents.

And I believe those three things.

2.  The church includes the power of the priesthood. We often think that's just talking about who has received God's authority to do what, but it's far more than that.  I wrote more about that HERE.  In a nutshell, priesthood power, the power of God to do his work, given to his children,  is real.

And I believe that it is real and working in the lives of women and men of God in this church.  I have seen it, felt it, watched it, and been humbled to be a vehicle for its healing (both physical and spiritual) and enlightening effect in the lives of my brothers and sisters in ways that I feel are too profound to articulate.  And I have been aided, healed, enlightened and comforted by that same power of God conducted via the words, actions and ordinances of brothers and sisters who served as conduits of priesthood power as well.

That does not mean I have not seen the power of God work through people of other faiths.  I have.  It just means I have seen it play out powerfully in this one. 

(I've also seen people horribly fail at this in the church, but that's fodder for another conversation.)

3. It contains revealed truth about the nature of God and our relationship to Him.
And, frankly our belief in the nature of God does distinguish us from the formal creeds of most Christian denominations. Our understanding of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, though incomplete (as are all understandings of Deity) are different in our understanding of their relationship and distinctiveness when compared with other faiths.

That difference in our understanding strengthens our beliefs about God ( many of which coincide with those of various of our Christian friends); that Jesus Christ is the begotten son of God, the Eternal Father, that he is the creator of this world, that his life and words are to be our pattern for living, and that because of His Resurrection, all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. And, with that, we believe that it is Jesus whose atoning sacrifice paid for the sin of Adam.  And that sacrifice also opened the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins, cleansed by God and changed by God's grace and work in our lives, and able to abide in God's presence.

And those are things I believe as well.

So...The church's teachings and practices contain divinely inspired insights into premortal existence, purpose of life and eternal life, include the power of God as it works through his disciples who seek to walk according to His will,  and contain truthful teachings about the reality and nature of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and the way they have worked and still work so divinely in our lives to bring us into harmony and unity with them.   ---  That is the meaning of the phrase.

You are free to use that instead of the phrase any time.  Maybe that will help.