Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We Are All Connected

I think I’ve had quite my share of strange experiences for my  34 years. I sometimes wonder how these experiences have shaped me in ways that I’m not cognizant of. I consider myself a very sensitive soul, perceptive of other’s emotions and feelings, and I deeply care about other people. Everyone we come across leaves some sort of impression upon us, in varying degrees that we might not be aware of. The stranger that smiles at you, or the friend who is struggling with a problem, they all leave some imprint of energy on us, good and bad.

When I was 12, I remember going to bed and leaving my window open for some fresh air. Shortly thereafter I heard a car screeching to a halt, a man pleading for his life, one gunshot, then silence. When I was in my early 20s, I found a man on trail that had shot himself in the head. He was still breathing, but died shortly afterwards at the hospital. He had suffered a lifetime of depression and called it quits. Not long after that I found a woman who had taken a lethal dose of heroine, she lay with her wedding photo on her chest. Then there was the time seeing a man on his hands and knees while a gun was held to the back of his head. In all these circumstances, the feelings I can recall were of extreme desperation. The people in the situations were desperate, some for relief from pain, some for their lives. Thoreau was correct in saying, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I have wondered about the loneliness those people felt in those moments, the loneliness in their desperation. The man pleading for his life but found no one to help him. The man taking his life alone on the trail, he had family, but was alone in his despair. The woman with the wedding photo, I never found out her story, but she died alone, her wedding photo clearly a reminder of something she once held dear. The man on his hands and knees, well that’s a long story with a bizarre twist.

The underlying theme through all of this, again loneliness and desperation; a sad, but common tale. The truth is that none of us are ever actually alone, although we might feel that we are. With my Judeo-Christian belief, I know that God is always with me and aware of me. But I want to point out that we are also never truly alone because if you looked at this world with such refined vision as to see it on a molecular level, you would see there we are all connected to this world and each other. There is no separation between you and me - where your atoms end and mine begin. This is something Hindu mystics have long understood, the interconnectedness of everything. When you hurt, I hurt, and vice versa. The effects of violence, cruelty, and suffering reverberate throughout the world like ripples in a pond, eventually reaching all of us. What more need do we have in doing good knowing that what we send out in the world will ripple its way back to us. If all one can do in starting to spread goodness begins with a self-centered desire to not recur their own wrath, well at least that is a start.

Our thoughts and feelings leave impressions on others. Life is difficult enough for all of us; let’s not add to others' grief with negative thoughts let alone negative actions.  Your thoughts about others have a very real affect on them as well as yourself. We can’t compel other people to change their thoughts and actions, but we can change ourselves, and that has very real consequences. If we all changed our thoughts to love for others, perhaps those sinking in despair and loneliness would eventually feel the ripple of positive energy, maybe it would give them a glimmer of hope, enough for one minute to change the trajectory of their existence. Perhaps those wishing to harm others might for one second rethink their actions. After all, those wishing harm to others really are just experiencing their own form of desperation that they are unwilling to acknowledge or confront.

We are all connected, though not all are in-tuned to see and feel it. If you focus, feel, and listen with your spirit, you will perceive it. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

I read this quote by Ghandi as was deeply impressed by its many applications:

“Detachment is not indifference. It is the prerequisite for effective involvement. Often what we think is best for others is distorted by our attachment to our opinions: we want others to be happy in the way we think they should be happy. It is only when we want nothing for ourselves that we are able to see clearly into others’ needs and understand how to serve them.”
“By detachment i mean that you must not worry whether the desired result follows from your action or not, so long as your motive is pure, your means correct. Really, it means that things will come right in the end if you take care of the means and leave the rest to Him.”

I thought about how what Ghandi said applies to love, and how we love others. To truly love another person should be a selfless endeavor, not seeking your own gratification or desired results of your action of loving. As Christ taught, charity seeketh not her own. True charity, true agape, true love seeks for no reward. By attaching desired results to our actions, we will likely be disappointed as the results are not ours to determine, only God determines the results of our actions. What is important is that our motives for loving are purely out of sincere care and concern for another, a Godly love without expectations, for then we become one with God.

How often do we witness other people’s versions of “love” where their personal opinions, goals, and motives are pushed onto the beloved, seeking what they believe the beloved needs or should have or feel. This is not love, this is self-gratification and self-interest. To truly love another is to separate our own ego and detach our own self-interests from their needs. Yet, we live in a world where the self-gratification is lauded and given undue value - especially in western individualistic societies.

This is what I want to truly develop: love that seeks no reward. To serve others and love others without the hope and expectation of return. Because if I am seeking reward, I am not truly practicing charity. I am completely humbled in recognizing that what I often thought was loving others had the hidden egocentric agenda of reward seeking. I am humbled in the recognition that developing a sincerely charitable character is going to be a lifelong endeavor. I pray for the Lord’s help in refining me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Battle Eternal

The Battle Eternal 
by Heather Larson (November 2014)

What should a heart be allowed?
To fight with reason,
Pulling at the tethers,
And scar the weary organ?

Where is your treasure?
Is it the ethos of man?
Or the pathos of spirit
Groomed by ancient Apollo?

If history has proven little,
It is that man is folly,
His wisdom infernal,
With reason guiding his gun.

Leave degenerate logic
To the worlds of men.
Search the divine will,
Let Deus and heart be your guide.

Somewhere in the Mojave desert.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

In Mark 9, a man cries out to Jesus to cast out the foul spirit in his son. The Lord let’s him know that all things are possible, if he can believe. The desperate father with tears in his eyes declares he believes, but asks for the Savior to make up the difference in what he lacks - his unbelief. The word used in the Greek New Testament is apistia, from the word apistos (antonym is pistos: trusting, loyal to faith, faithfull). Apistos is used throughout the New Testament with a variety of connotations, depending on the context. Often, it means a lack of faith, lack of trust, but it can also relate to the difficulty in trusting or believing something due to sheer incredibility. All of the Lord’s miracles were incredible, I’m sure even seeing those miracles in person would be difficult for many to believe what they just witnessed with their own eyes, nevertheless, the Lord performed those miracles, they did happen and yet many still did not believe (apistos).

So how do we overcome our own apistia? If apistos relates to a lack of trust, then perhaps it is only through coming to know our Savior Jesus Christ, knowing who He really is and how much He loves us, that we can trust Him. When we trust Him, we can overcome our apistia, He will make up for it if we just put our trust in Him and exercise a particle of faith.

Why was it so difficult for many of the Jewish elite, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, to believe (have pistos) in the miracles and teachings of Christ? The Sadducees were the jewish political arm of the second temple period. Their primary concern seemed to be maintaining status quo and not upsetting the roman rulers, and thereby avoiding another possible siege. They were prominent men in social/political standing and they were also the high priesthood who maintained the temple. They  allowed many hellenistic ideologies into the jewish church in order to make the religion more palatable to the people at the time and not upset their rulers. They claimed strict observance of the Torah, yet espoused many beliefs contradictory to its teachings - as Jesus often had to correct them and show them how their beliefs were not in line with the scriptures. Then we have the apistos of the Pharisees, a group of knowledgeable men steeped in the traditions of their fathers. They used oral tradition to allow rules, and rules, and more rules to dominate every aspect of what they deemed was a proper Jewish life. Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees, pointing out their hypocrisy - which they didn’t take very well. In Matthew 23 the Savior lists all of their “woes”, showing how greatly they have erred.

Matthew 23
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (make converts, but they lack the power of salvation)
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! (covenants don’t count unless you pay)
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (practice the letter of the law, but forget the spirit of it. don’t practice or preach the more important aspects of the gospel)
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (appearance of godliness, but are full of greed and excess)
30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (their religion descended from those who persecuted the prophets and distorted the word of God)

It is easy to see how a society raised in the traditions and religion of Sadducees and Pharisees would have a very difficult time recognizing and accepting the Savior and believing in His power and miracles. Had they truly understood the scriptures, and not pharisaic interpretation, they might have recognized Christ. Their apistos was understandable as they allowed themselves to either be so much more concerned with the world (Sadducees) or so tightly bound to the traditions of their fathers (Pharisees) that their minds were darkened in unbelief. Do we recognize these traits in ourselves? Perhaps this is why Christ taught that we must come to Him as a little child:

Mosiah 3:19 “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

If we are to put off our own apistia, we must become as a little child. One who trusts their Father and elder brother, one who believes that the Father knows more than they do, who doesn’t trust others above their own parent, one who humbly submits to their parent’s will, one who trusts that their parent will do what’s best for them.

Lord, help thou mine own apistia.

Beautiful sunrise and church near my house.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Search for Truth

I believe humanity has been given a divine mandate to search for truth, to obtain knowledge in all its forms, and I believe that no one has a monopoly on eternal truth. Many of the teachings of the Buddha will resonate with Christians, as well as the teachings of Hinduism and Taoism. The Quran contains many things that Mormons will relate to and recognize as well. I’m a Mormon, and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that it was restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Sadly, his life was cut short by men who conspired to kill him – the reasons for the conspiracies are myriad, but suffice it to say that people put their own agendas before God’s and subsequently killed one of his messengers. Perhaps if Joseph had been allowed to live a bit longer, we would have received more revelations about this world and the eternities. We don’t have all the knowledge just yet. It still needs to be searched out, and we as individuals have a divine right and mandate to find it. We may need to wade through the mud and clutter of falsities that exist, but if we sincerely seek for truth, the author of all truth (God) will help us find it and will confirm that truth to us. 

Joseph Smith once said:
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” (History of The Church, 3:295).

It is up to us to stretch our minds in searching for the truth about this life, the designs of God, the reality of eternities.  Just like stretching our muscles, sometimes stretching our minds is an uncomfortable process. We have to go a little farther each time, making our minds a little more flexible in allowing the Author of all truth to give us a little more. For myself, this has at times been a really difficult experience, bordering on painful, but in order to learn and grow, we really do have to “search into and contemplate the darkest abyss.” Often, that abyss is our own pride and stubbornness. We have to be careful in assuming we already know all there is to know.

Over the past year, the Lord had to break me down in order to teach me. I came to a place where I felt I really didn't know anything at all and that I might be totally wrong about what I thought I knew. It was absolutely the most humbling experience of my life. I had to become as a little child, in that I relied completely on the Lord to teach me and guide me through a sea of doubt and confusion. Through this experience, I came out with something more precious to me than anything else - absolute dependence on the God who made me and His son Jesus Christ. Which is what He wants for all of His children, He wants us to depend on Him alone, not anyone else, no matter their credentials. Once we come to rely on the Lord, and learn who He is, His character, understand His love for us and others, we can TRUST Him in leading us to salvation.

We can’t let fear stop us from searching for more. We can’t let anyone tell us to be wary of searching out the mysteries of God, because He intends for us to find them. If you are Mormon and believe in the divine calling of Joseph Smith, you then must also believe what he taught, which is: “When we know how to come to him [God], he begins to unfold the heavens to us and tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us.” (Joseph Smith - King Follet Discourse)

And this: “Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (Joseph Smith History 1:74)

And we are all entitled to enlightenment as the Bible teaches in Acts 10:34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:” 

There were years in which I spent feeling stagnant in my growth and knowledge of Christ's gospel, of the wonders of this universe. I bought the cultural assumption that I should avoid searching for the "deep doctrine" and the mysteries of God, ignoring what was taught in scripture and by Joseph Smith - that I should be hungrily searching for the knowledge of God. “… A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.” (Joseph Smith - History of the Church 4:588)

And as a Book of Mormon prophet lamented: “...I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge...” (2 Nephi 32:7)

So here I am, searching and stretching and learning. When we are ready to learn, and expand our minds, the God of this universe will answer and fill our minds with divine intelligence. We just have to be prepared to receive it, and be prepared to be surprised.

My pondering place

The Rebirth of my Blog

I started this blog years ago, but sort of lost interest and focus after a while. I think part of it was that I wasn’t ready to be totally open and vulnerable with my thoughts and writing. Blogging is incredibly vulnerable, you open yourself up to every wannabe critic, you open yourself up to your friends and family in ways you have previously kept to yourself. But, I’ve learned that being vulnerable is a liberating experience and worth the effort. So in the rebirth of my blog, there will be no structure or theme. It will just be my thoughts, which one day might be about the gospel of Jesus Christ and another day it might be about something trivial like clothes and hair.

These are my thoughts and opinions. While I describe myself as "Mormon", I don't represent this broad world religion in any official capacity. I'm just a girl living my life and thinking about things... a lot. My mind doesn't stop, it's always searching, always trying to absorb the information contained in this world. Sometimes it give me headaches! 

We’ll see where this goes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What I did today

Today was about two of my favorite loves, painting my nails and hiking.

So in preparation for Easter, here are my nails. I used Essie Turquoise and Caicos and some white nail polish. Pretty cute I think!

After the paint dried I went for nice little hike in my favorite canyon. It was perfectly beautiful and peaceful out there.