Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Struggle

Life is a struggle to break out of the cocoon.  We break out of the first one at birth -- the cocoon of the womb.  We break out again as we leave childhood and enter adulthood.  We break out of assumptions about our worth.  We break out of cultural stereotypes that try to limit us.  We break free from abuse and the pain it causes.

Once I was watching a monarch butterfly caterpillar that was feeding in my own garden on milkweed that I planted for it.  I hoped it would form a cocoon.  But it started eating a leaf from the wrong end -- the end attached to the plant.  It fell out of the milkweed plant.  It had no speed or dexterity.  The lizard was watching it also and ate it up.

We must struggle to grow and break out of our safety cocoon but we must not fall into the open mouth of a lizard.  We must achieve our destiny.  We are extraordinary and it is the cocoon that limits our ability to fly.  Once we have finished struggling our beautiful wings unfold and we fly.

Reach for and grab hold of the truth.  
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:32

Monday, September 15, 2014

Spirituality: The Heart’s Treasure

In this post:  Ideas that are corrosive, Universal truths, Core Books, Spirituality defined 

The law of the harvest is that a good tree produces good fruit and a good heart says and does good things. (Matt 12:33-35)  I talked about harvesting things in my last post entitled the Parable of the Sower

Everything we see, read, think and believe becomes the treasure of our hearts.  So I see a movie and the quote stays with me, 

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? (You’ve Got Mail)  

I read Shakespeare and I stop to think about, 

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. (Twelfth Night)  

I believe that God has prepared a way for me to accomplish great things (1 Ne. 3:7) and together these three plus opportunity result in me doing hard things.

From QuotesEverlasting
The heart’s treasure grows throughout our lives and is only tarnished by the evil things we see, think and believe.  In Colossians we are warned, 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”  

This makes me think that certain ideas are corrosive.  They eat away our faith and hope.  They deceive us into hating our fellow men.  Can we really allow this to happen?

It is a universal law of nature that nothing is wasted.  There is an efficiency to the efforts of the plant and animal kingdoms.  If we are to live by this law we must not waste our time in mindless pursuits.  We run the risk of polluting God’s kingdom with our hearts’ treasure.  

D&C 84: 58-59, 85
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.
59 For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.
85 …treasure up in your minds continually the words of life…

The words of life are found in your Core Book.  My Core Books are scriptural and classic*.  Yours might be the same as mine or they might be something else.  A Core Book holds the truths we are guided by in life.  These truths produce the blessings of strong relationships, stable lives and solid homes or the condemnation of broken homes.  I think life is about testing out truths and finding the best ones to be guided by.  There is no shame in brokenness unless we never find the higher truth and live by it.  Once we find the truth, we must sell all we have to obtain it, just like the parable of the pearl in a field.

Matt 13:44
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Spirituality reflects a heart’s treasure of Divine and universal truths.  It is an openness to the words of life wherever they are found.  It is a preference for ideas that guide and benefit the soul.  Spirituality happens when, “the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34)

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*If you liked this post or want to see my Core Book list, you might like my Principles of Spiritual Nutrition.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Parable of the Sower

Jesus taught using parables, short symbolic stories, so that the listener would understand only if they knew of the symbols being used.  This prevented the uneducated from being condemned if they rejected Jesus’ message because they didn’t understand the message.  In this post I will explain the symbolism as clearly as I can.  There is plenty of food for thought.

One of the few parables which has an interpretation given in scripture is the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.  The story goes... that a farmer is planting seeds.  Some of his seeds fell outside (“by the wayside”) of his prepared ground.  They were “devoured” by birds.  Some of his seeds fell where there wasn’t much earth and after they sprouted they were scorched by the sun.  Some fell “among thorns” possibly weeds and were “choked” or crowded out by the faster growing weeds.  Lastly some seeds fell on good ground and produced a harvest for the farmer of 100%, 60% or 30% depending on other factors.

The symbolic meaning is explained later in the same chapter.  The farmer is anyone spreading the gospel message.  When someone hears the message, their response is symbolized by the ground’s fertility as described in the parable.  For example, if a person hears the word of God and doesn’t understand it, they are like the seeds that fell outside the prepared ground.  Something devours the seed before it has a chance to sprout.  In the parable it’s birds.  The birds symbolize the devil.  Peter warned later in the New Testament book of 1 Peter, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

The second soil described in the parable is rocky.  In the interpretation, the person hears the word of God and accepts it to grow but then problems arise or someone mocks and the new ideas are scorched.  They are left to wither and the person moves on to other ideas and projects.

The third scenario is that the seed falls among thorns, or weeds.  In this case, the person hears the word of God but the stresses of life, especially dishonesty and wealth, crowd out the seed so that it can’t grow.  The ideas of the gospel were good but they were crowded out by faster growing interests.

Finally some seeds are planted in good ground.  This is symbolic of the person who hears the word of God and understands it.  The harvest is symbolic of the fruits of gospel principles in blessing people’s lives.  Sometimes the blessings are bountiful like a 100% return on an investments.  Sometimes the blessings are fewer like a 30% return.  

Painting by Camille Pissarro

Now most people don’t need an education to understand how seeds work.  However, the truly educated then and now would recognize some of the symbols.  For example, Ezekiel is the only Old Testament prophet who spoke of “stony hearts.”  He said that God would give you an new heart and that it would be like having a bountiful harvest.  In fact Ezekiel says that other people would marvel that desolate ground could bring a harvest like the Garden of Eden.  (Ezek 36:34-35)

Jeremiah another Old Testament prophet advised the House of Israel not to plant among thorns.   He compared sins to thorns and prophesied that the “lion” would make the land so desolate that the “heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished and the prophets shall wonder.”  So an educated person might have heard of Jeremiah’s prophesies and know about the destruction but may not have equated it with the reaction of people to God’s word.

Jesus was a master teacher.  He brought images into his parables that reminded people of the teachings of the prophets.  He gave people something new to think about in terms of seeds and hearts and harvests.  He protected the ignorant.  He challenged the religious elite.  He invites us all to bear fruit.
Image from Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Beauty of Holiness

In reading the Bible this week I came across this phrase, “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”  Ps 29:2  It got me thinking about the connection between beauty and holiness.

We live in a Beauty-obsessed culture
  • fake hair color
  • botox
  • fake nails

Superfoods courtesy Dr. Rebecca
We also like things that are exotic, rare and unusual.  Just look at what people are eating now — super foods…which are?  Food labeled as exotic, rare or unusual.

But what about NATURAL physical beauty
it doesn’t take a lot of effort to be natural
clear skin
shiny hair
healthy body

  The glory of young men is their strength and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” (Proverbs 20:29)

Both pale skin and dark skin are naturally beautiful where artificially tanned skin is…well…fake.  Grey hair is beautiful in it’s season just like winter is beautiful.

Spirituality is a natural form of beauty
  • It isn’t easily faked but it is used sometimes to describe  agnostics.
  • It is apparent in a person’s smile when it lights up the eyes.
  • It is faith expressed in manner and persona.
  • It shows up in people of every culture and religion.

Jesus talked about the fake spirituality of the Pharisees when he said, “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  (Matt 23:28) People have all kinds of reasons for faking it.  Acceptance/rejection would rank pretty high on the list of reasons I think.

The beauty of holiness is natural beauty magnified.

“Holiness is the strength of the soul. It comes by faith and through obedience to God’s laws and ordinances. God then purifies the heart by faith, and the heart becomes purged from that which is profane and unworthy. When holiness is achieved by conforming to God’s will, one knows intuitively that which is wrong and that which is right before the Lord.” (James E Faust)

  • Holiness is a feeling that surrounds sacred things.
  • It can be felt in the home for the home as a haven for families is a sacred place.
  • It is a reflection of cleanliness and dedication to God.
  • This kind of beauty touches my soul in a powerful way.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness seems to inspire an attitude of deep reverence and clean conscience.  

Anything less is mockery.

Question:  What kind of beauty is important to you?