Monday, March 23, 2015

Let it go

Today I discovered that a book I had sold had been lost by the post office.  And I could not find the tracking number.

So I had to trust the buyer's claim that the book never arrived and issue him a refund.

As I talked myself down from my annoyance I used the phrase "let it go".

And then I wondered....will the movie, "Frozen", change the way that phrase is perceived by the youngest generation?

Instead of meaning, "ease your emotional angst and stop focusing on this annoying or bothersome issue and free yourself to move on" will it be thought to mean "stop holding back and express what you are feeling to the nth degree"?

And what confusion will that cause between my generation and theirs when my generation suggests that they "let it go"?

And if it does change in meaning, what new phrase will we develop to replace the older meaning?

Monday, March 02, 2015

1st Nephi 8, Finding your way to the tree

Lehi finds his way after responding to a call to follow a heavenly messenger, traveling through hours of a dark and dreary waste,

                                      praying for mercy, then seeing the tree, and walking to it.

Sariah, Nephi and Sam find their way when, while they were not far from the tree but weren't sure where they should go, Lehi spots them and calls out to them about enjoying the fruit of the tree.  And they just walk to it.

Others arrive because they see the tree and start to head towards the path that leads toward it and then, when they mists of darkness make it difficult to find their way, they hold onto the rod by the path and feel their way towards the tree, even though they can no longer see it.

The tree is surrounded by a "large and spacious" field.

(Interesting that the building in the story is "great and spacious".)

What strikes me?  This:

That some find their way through response to a divine call which results in going through darkness in a journey and they don't see the tree until after the darkness is dispelled following prayers for aid and mercy.  And then, after all that, it's just a walk towards what they see.

Some aren't dealing with darkness, they just don't see the tree until someone who loves them turns their attention to it.  And from there it's just a short walk.

Some see the tree and start towards it and then darkness comes and they can't see it anymore.  So they grab onto the rod and just keep going until they reach the tree.  It is interesting to note that, at the end of that journey they "fall down" (vs. 30) and partake of the fruit.  It sounds like this is an exhausting process.


There's not one universal way to make the journey.  Not all journeys require a rod, not all journeys involve darkness.  Some involve divine messages.  Some involve mortal communication. Some are long and arduous, some are short and relatively simple.   They all will get you there.

There's no assumption that you will see or have a vision of the tree or know that it is there as you start the journey or that you will see it for the entire duration of the journey.  Some see the tree at the beginning, some at the end, some in the middle of their walk.

And just as there is room for lots of people in the great and spacious building, there is room for lots of people in the great and spacious field surrounding the tree, regardless of which method, (divinely inspired difficult wander, quick enlightened walk or grabbing the rod) you use to arrive.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

John 6:28-71 Creating a community of followers of Christ

In the second half of the sixth chapter of John there is a conversation between "the people" and Jesus that starts simply with their question of "how did you get here on the other side of the Sea of Galilee without us seeing you go?".  From there it moves to a discussion of the bread that he had miraculously provided for them the day before to a discussion of manna, to the bread of life.

It's a rather long and interested discussion as New Testament discussions go.

One thing I recently learned was that the Jews of that era had a traditional belief that, just as the great prophet Moses had given the people manna, "the bread of God", so would the great Messiah, when he came, give the people "the bread of God" as well.  So that's likely why, with the bread of the day before and the hope for a looked-for manna-bearing Messiah, they bring up the story of the manna which leads, in turn,  to the discussion of the bread of life.  

Jesus says in this chapter that just as God had sent manna (the bread of God) in Moses' time to sustain the mortal life his people, so has he sent the bread of God (manna) in the time of the Messiah to sustain the everlasting life of his people.  And that bread is him.

Now, it's interesting to me how the various people in this episode respond.  But first, it's important to note that all of the people in this scene are people who have come to listen to Jesus.  Some of them came in the boat with him. Some made the long journey across the water to get to where he was once they figured out that he'd left.  Others were already living on this side of the lake and had come to listen.  All of them were interested in hearing what he had to say, either having already decided to follow him or trying to figure out if they should or wished to follow him.  They were a community of seekers.

Like, you might say, the congregation I attend, and, if you attend a congregation, probably like yours as well.

As the conversation continues there are a number of reactions.  There are some who don't get it because they don't understand Jesus' meaning.  (vs. 41-42)  There are some who just don't believe him on this particular teaching but are willing to stay and keep discussing..  (vs. 64).  There are some who don't understand him and think what he's saying is too much and leave, at least for now. (vs. 66)  There are some who think they get it, at least the part about him being the Christ, though we know that there is much that they have yet to learn (vs.67-69).  And there are some who just don't get it at all, have potential to cause harm, and don't leave. (vs. 70-71)

I'm betting that in your congregation, like mine, there are corresponding individuals as well (as well as other situations of being that are not in the above list).  

Jesus engages all of them in the conversation instead of dividing and creating separate groups to talk with. He's willing to address and interact with a community of seekers that involves various levels of comprehension.  And so the ones who stay as part of that conversation are a very diverse bunch in terms of their comprehension and understanding.

So I think about myself and the community of seekers I worship with.  What do I learn?  

I learn that in the eyes of Jesus, we are seen as a community and that he teaches all of us together, regardless the current status of our comprehension or faith.  

I learn that there will be people in my congregation who understand Jesus' message the way I do, and, because our particular congregation is organized by geographic location and is not self-selected due to our having similar understandings there will plenty who understand and apply Jesus' message differently; some who understand it better than I do, and some who find it more confusing than I do, and some who really are missing the major points and have potential to do serious harm.  Though Jesus hopes we will eventually all  become one as he is one with the Father (John 15) he understands that that happens one person at a time and so he doesn't require that all of his disciples be at a similar level of understanding at the same time, or even  progressing,  in order to be part of the community..

Thinking about the trajectory of belief that Peter will undergo as the story continues, I learn that I and every other well meaning disciple still have much learning to do.

And, by extrapolation, if we all in that community are either learning good or heading treacherously towards dangerous error or muttering about what we don't yet understand, or feeling confused by what we've heard, or any combination of the above, then we are all, personally, in a state of flux.  Which means that we, as a congregation or community of seekers, will never, at least in this life, all be at the same level of understanding at the same time.  And Jesus understands that.

And that last paragraph is good for us to know.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Shuv. Metanoeo

L. and I were talking about the Hebrew and Greek words translated as "repent" in the Old and New Testaments this morning.  "Shuv", the most commonly found one in the O.T., means to turn, return, or come back.  "Metanoeo" can be described as a change of mind, thought, or thinking, a turning back to the Lord that changes our very essence.

We talked about how repentance is seen as a coming back to God, or a refocus on our merging our will with His, or a turn to his grace.  And L. mentioned that it occurred to him that the same sort of healing process starts to happen not only as we turn towards God and away from our own sins, but also as we turn our minds towards God and away from the sins of those whose sins have caused us immense pain as well.

Jesus said "In the world you shall have tribulation".  And we do.  Even he himself could not escape the pain and sorrow the world was to give him.

Wayne Muller  pointed out in his writings that the thing is that, rather than fully acknowledge and accept that pain and sorrow, when it comes, as part of mortal life that takes place in the time it happens, we instead habitually seek to name or blame the ones whose sin "caused" us this or that particular pain.  Or, if we feel guilty about blaming that person, we subconsciously find other actions done by other people to blame for the pain we feel--as if it weren't for them and the stupid things they do or did, we wouldn't be dealing with this pain and its attendant sorrow.

Sin is one thing that may be assignated as perpetrated by an individual.  But pain is independent of that.  Pain just is. It is  something that blows through our lives and opens great depths of emotion. And it "is" in the life of each individual, sinner or sinned against, innocent or guilty, malicious or clueless, independent of the side or position taken in any conflict or relationship in any area of life. Removing our focus from the sin committed against us or against those we love--removing the notion that our pain was caused by that sin-- and understanding that the sin and the pain we feel are two independent things, allows us to see our pain face to face, accepting it for what it is and begin to truly grieve, which softens the pain and starts to allow us to let go.  

Our challenge is simply to let what was true be true: We were hurt. It was real. What we needed, and hoped for and longed for was not there. When we simply and independently acknowledge the deep sadness of that loss, the pain and/or the loneliness, when we simply grieve over deeply painful experiences without "if onlys" or "whys", but just fully face, name and acknowledge the hurt and pain we feel we are on the way to closing the story and healing and "turning back" (shuv) to the sense of life with God and changing [metanoeo] the core of our being.. 

Years ago I served as moral support for a friend in group therapy sessions she was participating in to deal with childhood abuse.  I learned the value of naming the pain.  It seems that just as "repenting" (shuv, matanoeo) of sin requires naming that sin clearly and fully without blaming others or casting blame on your circumstances, so does turning and transforming from pain require naming our pain, clearly and fully, without blaming others or their actions or seeking to name the reasons "why".  

It is when we name our pain, independent of the actions of others, divorced from the blaming (logical or diverted) we've married it to, and bring that to God, that we have turned to him with what he can heal in us.   All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be, slowly and surely, swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.  But we must know, speak and bring that pain by itself..

And that turning to Him with the fully named pain, without its being attached to anything else, is what starts us on the path to freedom from the past, letting go of our rancor or anxiety and pain, free to be born fresh into this moment, slowly but surely increasingly unencumbered by our endless struggles with past stories and able to see the now more clearly.  It does not mean that we will not be sad anymore or ever again.  It will just mean that we are on your way to becoming people for whom sadness grief and pain have become the author of greater understanding and peace and universal in our life instead of the author of misery and anxiety and a troubled mind.

Ette Hillesum, a holocaust survivor, wrote:

And you must be able to bear your sorrow: even if it seems to crush you, you will be able to stand up again, for human beings are so strong, and your sorrow must become an integral part of yourself; you musn't run away from it.
...Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate.  

There's a helpful exercise and meditation to consider HERE, on pp 13-17, if you are interested.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Disappointment and Nonattachment

From Legacy of the Heart, by Wayne Muller

" As children we tended to have definite ideas about how things should be.  Parents shouldn't fight, mothers should be reliable, father's shouldn't yell or hit us, , families should be caring and happy.  We had a powerful sense of what was fair, and we insistently believed that everyone should be kind, that our parents shouldn't be mean, and no one should be angry.  The more we experienced our family's hurt, anger or impatience, the more tightly we held onto our expectation that we should all be more loving.  Even as the fabric of our family unraveled...we secretly continued to expect that somehow everyone would snap out of it and become the warm, loving family we never had.

"But we were inevitably given less than we expected...Every time we expected more than we were given, with every heart's desire that never came true, we became more and more disappointed.

"We carried a picture of our perfect family in our minds eye, but the world around us never matched that picture.  Every time...after every fight or violation, a small piece of our heart would break, and we would being to feel a  sense of  hopelessness that perhaps the needs of our hearts would remain forever unfulfilled. As our tender dreams and wishes were shattered again and again, some of us eventually began to suspect that we might spend our entire lives wishing for things that would never come true.

"...[E]ven when a moment of happiness spontaneously arose, we still found ourselves feeling cautious and watchful, waiting for the moment when the happiness would end.  Even as we tried our best to enjoy whatever happiness came along, we had eventually become so accustomed to being let down by the broken promises of our family story that we soon learned always to look behind the happiness, probing for the inevitable suffering, the hidden catch, the certain disappointment that was to come.

"We were so accustomed to unmasking the illusion of happiness that even when everyone seemed to be having a good time, we suspected they were only pretending...A smiling face was likely to mask darker things--and so, over time, we learned to equate the dark side with the truth.  Pain and sorrow had come in so many ways and so many forms, eventually suffering began to seem more real, more honest, than happiness.

"We concluded that the people who seemed happy were those who just couldn't see what we saw, who were too dull or ignorant to see the "real" painful truth about things....

"Each family has its own reservoirs of regrets, of opportunities lost, unfortunate relatives, unsatisfying jobs or bad marriages. As children of these families we become used to uncovering whatever darkness and disappointment lay hidden beneath the surface...After a while, we learned to protect our hearts by altering our expectations to fit the shape of our childhood scars.  Rather than expect the best , we begin to expect the worst....

"How do we free ourselves from this cycle of expectation, disappointment, and despair?  We may begin by acknowledging that we will never be totally free from hurt and sadness.  When we lose the job or the promotion we worked so hard for...when our spouse asks for a divorce, when we lose a good friend to cancer, we will inevitably feel the sadness and grief that accompany any loss.

"If we can never escape the pain of being human, how, then can we heal ourselves of disappointment and lingering despair?  We are trapped between two old patterns of thinking.  On the one hand, we still carry our passionate childhood belief that the world should change and that everyone should stop dying or leaving or being mean.  People should simply come together and rebuild the world the way it was supposed to be in the first place.  While this is a beautiful dream, and something to which we may dedicate our lives, simply holding a wish in our heart does not necessarily make it come true.

"The alternative, however, is to expect the worst.

"If anticipating the best brings us disappointment and expecting the worst leads to despair, then we feel damned whichever way we turn.  How do we imagine we can ever find peace?

"One method is to experiment with the idea that we may allow all of our expectations--the bad ones and the good ones, the big and the small ones--to gradually hold less importance, to recede into the background of our lives.  This is a difficult practice.  Our lives are drenched with expectations for every situation.  We cling to a set of old, tarnished blueprints, maps for safety and protection we drew up when we were small and afraid.  Then we stumble from place to place, urging the world to perfectly match these blueprints, terrified the world will not turn out the way we want, and disappointed when it turns out the way we feared.  Only when we free ourselves from the prison of our expectations are we able to meet the world afresh and see it with new eyes.  If we allow our attachments to recede, even for an instance, we are more free to appreciate what we have been given and to see more clearly the fullness of who we have become..

"Our challenge is to learn to meet whatever is in this moment without condition, without comparing to what should have been.  Practicing nonattachment, letting go of our expectations and meeting the moment face to face..unencumbered by our holding onto what should or shoudn't have been, we are free to experience the wonder of our life just as it is, with our sorrows and joys simply providing color and texture.."

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Right Tools for the Job

In the course of my life I have interacted with two different good people who have very similar gifts and challenges.  They are both friendly and engaging and intelligent.  They are both blunt speakers and they both have a reduced ability to comprehend or care how their blunt words are received.  They speak confidently and authoritatively what they believe is true, illustrate and back up their points articulately and, when it comes to conversations, are only at peace when they've been the last one to speak.

What an interesting set of gifts and challenges..

So, today I was thinking about gifts and challenges and the work we engage in.

One of these two friends of mine has chosen a profession where those gifts and challenges have served her and others well.  She is a lawyer and is a fabulous, successful and daunting courtroom presence and ally for abused and fearful individuals in divorce cases.  My other friend has chosen a profession where his gifts and challenges make his work difficult, and he is mystified and frustrated when he finds that he has alienated coworkers.  He cannot understand why what seems so right to him seems so wrong to them.

If he were a well-trained and experienced search and rescue coordinator, he'd be exactly the sort of person I'd want heading my local search and rescue teams   If he'd chosen a military profession he'd have just the right set of gifts to get a bunch of young marines to not only shape up but fly right and live straight. Political experience? He could testify to Congress in no uncertain terms about the ramifications of a bill they were considering, and like my other friend, with good legal training he'd be an effective legal advocate for the abused or intimidated.

But years ago he chose a different profession.  And though he finds the work interesting and engaging and he's financially successful at it, he continues to experience the frustrations I mentioned at a higher than average frequency.

While mulling these observations I remembered something my father said in a group conversation about a book.  In it is a man on a road trip on a motorcycle.  In that narrative the motorcycle breaks down on a stretch of highway and the author describes the range of emotions a man can experience when that happens.

"How do you think or respond," asked one of the group, "when something like that happens to you; when something you need to work, breaks?  Do you get angry, do you get discouraged, do you blame yourself or someone else, do you get frustrated?  What do you do?"

Various people gave various answers.  My father's honest answer when he was asked was, "I generally think that the problem is that I don't yet have the right tools."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Primary song lyrics I appreciate

"I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world Heavenly Father created...."

"I'll walk with you, I'll talk with you....."

"I'm trying to be like Jesus, I'm following in his ways. I'm trying to live as he did, in all that I do and say."

"Jesus said love everyone..."

"As I have loved you, love one another."

"Tell me the stories of Jesus"

"Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way."

"..for reverence is love"."

"Thank thee, God for everything."

"I thank thee, dear Father in heaven above, for thy goodness and mercy, thy kindness and love."

"Red is for courage to do what is right, yellow for service from morning till night."

and, just because it bounces and teaches at the same time and makes me smile

"For some must push and some must pull..."

What would be on your list?

Primary song lyrics I'd change

There are many Primary songs I like, but there are a few I'd change the words to

"I belong to the church of....."      No, the church does not own me.  I choose it and own it as mine to work in and serve in.  I belong to Christ.

"There's a right way to live and be happy..."   Actually, there's a right way to live and find Christ's peace.  Sorrow comes to all of us in this life.

"It is choosing the right every day..."   and also repenting and turning to the Lord when you mess up all the time too.  You should not automatically assume that success, peace or happiness is only achieved if you never choose the wrong.  Repentance is every day too.

"Follow the prophet...he knows the way...."  Well, it's way more complicated than that. Follow Jesus, listen to prophets, respond to what the Holy Spirit tells you is light and truth, forgive people called as prophets their weaknesses and appreciate their strengths, continue in faith.  Yup. Way more complicated.

"Scripture power, the power to win...."   Win? Really?  This life is not a competition.  Time in the scriptures increases discernment of what is wise and good and needful in life and in order to become a better disciple.  But it does not give you "power to win".  It actually decreases your interest in "winning".

Any Primary lyrics you'd change?