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.

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.