Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Privilege of Kindness

In this post: 3 stories of kindness, superficial expressions of love and porcupines

“Love is expressed in many recognizable ways: a smile, a wave, a kind comment, a compliment. Other expressions may be more subtle, such as showing interest in another’s activities, teaching a principle with kindness and patience, visiting one who is ill or homebound. These words and actions and many others can communicate love.” 

A friend once offered me a bowl of cantaloupe when I visited her house.  I was so grateful that she was willing to share with me that day not just cantaloupe but friendship.

Another time, a friend called and said let’s go to lunch for your birthday.  I was blessed to spend an hour in her company.  She and I talked about all the joys and sorrows of motherhood and laughed.  It was so nice to know that I’m not the only one in the trenches.

Once I listened as a friend told of her upcoming move and how she would have to give away a small rockable baby bed known as a bassinet.  I knew of a pregnant woman who needed all the things for a baby.  I recounted her story and soon I was coordinating the transfer of this baby bed to it’s new home.  It is a privilege to serve others.

Each of these stories is a small moment of loving kindness.  I have been lucky to know good people all through my life.  I have been touched by the small and simple ways that they have communicated their love to me.

I have also often felt isolated.  I have kept my loneliness to myself.  I have found few safe harbors for the real me.  Few have shown interest in my world.  Few have listened.

I think there are superficial and deeper expressions of love.

It is easy to smile and wave.  Lots of people offer this kind of love.

It is a little harder to be kind because kindness requires knowledge of the situation and a thoughtful response.

It is harder still to listen and pass no judgement.  Or to forgive when your patience has been stretched to the limit.

Then there is communicating love to a porcupine (someone who rebuffs your attempts).

I have been both kind and porcupine.

When loving kindness is offered it should be acknowledged and appreciated.  It was wrong of me to be a porcupine.  And in dealing with porcupines, never give up.  Love never fails.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mending a Rift with God

“That there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.” - 1 Cor 1:10

Spirituality is sometimes stifled because the connection we feel with God is weak or nonexistent.  The connection with God is an important aspect of vibrant spirituality.  I have experienced this distant or nonexistent connection so I know what it feels like to know God is not near. 

First lets talk about mending rifts with people and then we’ll see what is necessary to mend a rift with God.  A rift is a “tear” in a relationship that strains it.  Rifts are a natural part of growth and change.  Fixing rifts is essential to maintaining healthy relationships. The following components are required to be successful at fixing rifts.

  1. Value the relationship - This is about intent.  There are lots of pretty words out there but actions show where true intentions lie.  In mending rifts, I have found that intent undermines success if it isn’t aligned with our words.
  2. Honesty - Rifts occur when I do something that damages the relationship and then continue on without honestly communicating about the damage.
  3. Personal Responsibility - This is about not taking all the blame and also about not blaming someone else for the entire problem.  It is knowing what the consequences were to my actions.
  4. Pulling together - This is about both people in a relationship pulling.  It would be nice if someone else would do the work of maintaining the relationship through building and repairing but if I’m in the relationship than it’s my relationship and I’m responsible to maintain it.
  5. Dialogue - If you are unwilling to budge then the goal is to move from gridlock to dialogue.  Dialogue works when we are calmly interacting with another person in a way that is looking for solutions or possible compromise.
Embroidery courtesy Janet Haigh

“for thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning.” - Ruth 3:10


In working on a relationship with God, I have to want the relationship more than I want other things.  This requires self-control to slow down my day enough to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer.  I have to be honest about how I have contributed to the poor connection I feel with God and set boundaries for myself so that I don’t keep undermining my spirituality.  I have to show up and be real in my prayers.  I have to pull myself closer to God.  He never moves.  He is constant.  I’m the one who is distant and I have to maintain the relationship by mending the tears.  I can dialogue with God in many ways as I continually look for solutions or possible compromises.

I have stories and examples but I’m cutting to the chase to make this post efficient and to the point.  I hope you’ll forgive me for writing without the fluff especially those that really appreciate learning from stories.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Shame vs. Guilt

In this post:  Guilt is natural - Shame is man-made - healthy communities - born innocent

Guilt is a feeling that I’ve done something bad and it encourages actions to be fixed.

Shame is a feeling that I’m a bad person and it discourages change because it is based on the lie that I’m bad and no choices will change that.

Guilt is a natural, God-given feeling.  It helps me know when I’m misaligned with God’s will.  It is conducive to repentance.  Actions can be fixed.  No one is perfect but if they keep trying, they will improve.

Shame is a man-made feeling.  God doesn’t use it, but humans do.  Humans create a power differential between themselves and other people when they want to keep them in a one-down relationship.

God is the perfect mentor.  He is interested in guiding and lifting his children up to a perfect state with him.  Humans in one-down relationships are not interested in equality.  Parents are naturally in a one-down relationship with their children but they can be mentors and lift their children up to maturity and eventual equality.  Parents or adults who seek to keep their children beneath them use shame, criticism and fear of abandonment.  This is a corruption of healthy relationships.

Shame doesn’t apply in healthy relationships.   In healthy relationships two or more people interact with each other in equality.  They are free to be themselves without fear of criticism or rejection.  Most people don’t get to choose their coworkers, their constituents or the people in their community so their only choice is to be adaptable.  We adapt to the bad in others and get along in spite of it.  Even the aspects of a person’s character that interfere with the flow can be compensated for in a healthy community.  That’s grace.  

Village courtesy SaiVin

It is a commonly held belief that we are born bad.  And some even believe there is nothing we can do because of the Fall to be good.  I think this idea ought to be flatly rejected.  It promotes Satan’s agenda to keep us all from reaching our potential.  I think we are born innocent.  Throughout our lives we choose either good or evil and at the end of our lives we reap what we have sown.

It was after reading Daring Greatly that I began to think about the difference between shame and guilt.  And after the last couple posts, I felt I ought to at least define the two terms.  

Challenge:  See your guilt as a gift pointing the way to spiritual health.  Take courage, repent of just one thing today.  You will feel better.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Computation of Steps to a Beginning Knowledge of God

In this post:  equations for baptism - equations for repentance - equations for knowledge of God
 Light at Witte Museum  

Math is a universal language.  One aspect of its beauty is how it describes laws with formulas which provide the same answer every time.  In a world where so many things are subjective, it is nice to have a concrete playing field.  In this post, I’m going to combine mathematics and religion.  The mathematical terms I’m going to use are:

language   |      mathematical symbol
is/are/be               =
and                      +
without                  -

The religious text I’m going to describe mathematically is Mosiah 18:8-10

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

In this text it says:

Desire + bear burdens + mourn + comfort + stand as witnesses = prepared to be baptized

I want to interpret it a little so I’m going to add

Desire to come to God 
+ willing to bear the burden of living among imperfect people + willing to mourn for own sins 
+ willing to forgive others who mourn 
+ willing to comfort the weak 
+ willing to stand for God and defend truth 
= prepared to be baptized

Now here’s another equation:

+ repentance 
a beginning knowledge of God - burden of guilt + an endowment of power

If we consider the steps of repentance as:
acknowledge sins 
+ confess 
+ forsake 
+ make restitution 
+ time to demonstrate a commitment to change 
+ time to strengthen defenses 
+ self forgiveness 
+ Divine forgiveness

and we substitute that in for repentance in the previous equation

and if we consider the following:
baptism = passing through a gate in a clean state 
+ self knowledge of cleanliness

and we substitute that in for baptism then we get (briefly):

gate baptism 
+ cleanliness 
+ repentance 
+ self forgiveness 
+ divine forgiveness 
= knowledge of God + power

Read more here:  Ordinances and Covenants