Friday, November 28, 2014

Is Longsuffering a Virtue?

In this post:  Spiritual help to control emotions, using logic to overcome anxiety

I don’t think that it’s a virtue to suffer.  I think there are a few virtues that are developed in longsuffering.  This post is about one of the virtues that I found.

Long-suffering is mentioned in the Bible usually in a string of virtues like this one…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”
Galatians 5:22

Everything sounds happy — except that long-suffering stuff.

From my life...
So my kids can sometimes drive me crazy when they try to do a task and need so much help that it would have been faster if I’d done it myself.  Like the time one of my kids was assigned to put away the food processor.  He took it apart, put the base away and asked where I wanted the bowl.  Well of course they are stored together.  However he couldn’t get the bowl to attach to the base because there is a safety mechanism in the lid.  And then he couldn’t get the whole thing into the cupboard without jamming it in sideways and when it looked like he was going to break it the way he was messing with it, I about lost my temper.  You know, expensive tool — dumb kid.

So after getting a bit miffed, I took myself aside for some emotional self-regulation.  In this case, I did some fine motor detailing of my toenails with a paintbrush.  Another time, I took myself for a walk.  These are strategies for dealing with emotional flooding.  Everyone gets angry.  Not everyone knows how to recognize the signs of flooding and what to do next.  When you stop at the first sign of flooding and give your amygdala a chance to calm down, you are exercising a virtue of emotional self-control.  It is this virtue that, I think, is behind longsuffering.  When I retain control of my emotions, I can suffer long without suffering.  It’s an amazing power, if you think about it.

In the Bible verse I quoted, it says that the Spirit helps us to be longsuffering.  I stay close to God and the love that flows from Him and when life gets bad, He’ll help me to remember to stay in control of my emotions.  

The reason fine motor skills help when trying to self-regulate is that concentration at a detailed level uses the left hemisphere of the brain and shuts down the emotionally flooded right hemisphere.  A long walk helps to release endorphins but it also gives me the chance to breathe slowly and realize that I’m no longer in a high stress situation.  The amygdala is no longer needed and my reason returns.  Even just turning on a fan and listening intently to the white noise of it’s motor whirring can calm the emotional side.

I’m a novice at this virtue.  I can see that my anger is unhelpful.  I can sometimes see when I’m “flooded.”  I have started to practice the self-regulation techniques above.  I can see that they help.  I wish I could self-regulate to the level that I didn’t let my voice even show the least bit of annoyance.  That would be awesome!  

Read more by searching “emotional flooding” or read this article...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spiritual Self Reliance

In this post: spirituality is learned, the Bible as a conversation between prophets, new possibilities

My baby is learning to walk.  He relies on me to hold his hands and he takes teeny tiny steps forward.  He wants to go forward but he doesn’t quite know how unless he’s crawling.  But none of us crawl.  We all walk.  “There has to be a way,” he thinks.  So up he goes and along the couch he inches.

Walking spiritually can be much the same.  Prayer is learned by imitating someone else and imagining God listening.  Reading the Bible can be a slow process much like inching along a couch.  Exercising faith in unseen things can feel a lot like stumbling blindly in the dark.

I remember the first time I read the Old Testament in the Bible.  I got bogged down in the seemingly endless chronologies (family lineages along tribal lines).  I wondered why there were so many proverbs.  I was unimpressed to find that First and Second Kings were “repeated” in First and Second Chronicles.  I finished the OT like I finish long-distance runs — exhausted.

A lot has changed since that first read.  Now when I read the Old Testament, the words ooze sweet honey into my heart.  I read the words and the poetic images don’t just fly over my head, I catch them.  I can remember now where I’ve seen that imagery before and how it was used.  I connect the dots between one prophet and others that came after him.  It’s like one prophet said it and another one caught it and threw it to a third.  Then I come along and see them playing with words and I join them.  It’s thrilling to be in a conversation with the prophets in the Old Testament.

The Vineyard in Isaiah 5 - from my sketchbook

For example:  In Jacob’s blessing to his sons, Judah is compared to a lion.  Then when the King of the Moabites sees the children of Israel defending upon him, he asks the prophet Balaam to bless him but the prophet says that Israel will rise up like a great lion (Num 23:24).  Then Isaiah picks up the image when he says that lions will roar at the Lord’s vineyard.  When I read these verses and others like them, I am transported into a world where lions were a ferocious predator to be feared.  The word pictures convey the intensity of the prophet’s warnings better than any string of expletives.  

So how do I go from crawling to walking to running in my spirituality?

Crawling is hearing, believing and relying on the faith and testimony of others.  It is not about knowing answers to the many questions.  There has to be a way and somehow I will find it.

Walking is like putting the steps together to gain individual truths.  Each person “has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God.” (G.B. Hinckley) This comes inch by inch.  It starts with desire.  It includes a serious study of the scriptures.  It takes deep thinking, sincere asking in prayer and maybe more.

Running is transforming spiritual understanding into perspective, motivation and a foundation for growth.  It is confidence that the principles work every time.  It is a reason for hope.  It is a protective shield against darkness and confusion.  

I have seen the excitement in my baby’s eye when the freedom to walk opens up a whole world of possibilities.  I know it takes time, but it is worth it.  It is exhilarating!

If you liked this post, you might also like My Personal Connection to the Children of Israel

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Last Days Parables

Image of the Parables from my Sketchbook
My art is amateur at best but it was interesting to compile images from all these parables into one composite.  For additional study, the links take you to the chapters where each one is referred to in scripture.

Parables of the Last Days
The Ten Virgins - Matt 25:1-13, D&C 45: 56-57D&C 63:54
The Fig Tree - Matt 24:32-33Mark 13:28-29Luke 21:29-31D&C 35:16JS-M 1:38-40
The Hen - Matt 23:37-38Luke 13:34-353 Ne 10:4-6D&C 43:24-25
The Wheat & the Tares - Matt 13:24-30 & 36-43D&C 86:1-7D&C 101:64-68D&C 38:12
The Supper - Matt 22:1-14Luke 14:16-24Rev 19:7-9D&C 58:8-12D&C 65:3
The Thief - Matt 24:42-441 Thes 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10D&C 106:4-5
The Net - Matt 13:47-50
The Stone - Dan 2:34-45Dan 8:25D&C 65:2
The Horns - Dan 7:1-28
The Seven Angels/Seals - Rev 8

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fighting Valiantly

In this post:  motherhood, marriage, the dichotomy of envy and pride

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” an imperative that goes deeper than chatting over the fence once in a while. (Matt 22:39)  Loving my neighbor is right in the center of a spectrum that describes my outlook.  If I feel worse than my neighbor, I envy his strength or her beauty.  I might even be happy if he stumbles or she embarrasses herself.  If I feel better than my neighbor, I have pride in my heart.  I’m critical of the things he does or smug in my own standing.  Theodore Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” has no illusions about his achievements because he knows how little they are. "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood..." (see image for full text)

Image courtesy Chris Tan
One arena I fight in is called motherhood.  I hope for the day when my face won’t be dirty but with a crawling baby, a potty-training toddler, a reluctant reader, a couple of tarantula-hugging youngsters, a pre-teen and two real teens to wrangle — I feel like I ride a bucking bronco most days.  In Texas we say, “the only way to drive cattle fast is slowly.”  And that’s about how progress goes in mothering youngsters.  On a good day, the sink is clear of dishes.  And those kinds of days are rare.  Victory may be coming but it’s too soon to call.  Defeat is nipping at my heels.  The secret is to hold on tight and not get thrown.  

Image courtesy Brandy

Paul said to the Galatians, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” (Gal 6:3-4)  When my face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, I’m too busy to be better than my neighbor.  It’s when I’m idle that I get to deceiving myself with comparisons.  

In another arena I’m a wife and companion.  Marriage is not a lazy river.  The battle is about staying connected, staying engaged and being true.  Lately I’ve recovered some lost ground, but its been a losing streak.  The weight of pregnancy, business travel, church assignments, community service, everything good we do puts pressure on that knot we tied at the altar.  Defending marriage is not for mercenaries.  I fight this battle because I care about my children, my unborn grandchildren and all the people who are connected to me through the ties called family.  Marriage is what connects us all together.  Family is the fabric of society and it is a worthy cause that the brave fight for on a daily basis.

“The Lord needs valiant servants,
To do his work in the latter day,
Who follow the teachings of Jesus
And serve his people in a loving way.
I will be his servant
And keep my cov'nants valiantly.
I'll stand for truth. I'll stand for right.
The Lord can depend on me.”

(Lyrics by Vanja Watkins to the song “I Will be Valiant”)

I believe that I’ve been given a lot to fight for…home, family, truth.  I’ve had a few wins and a lot of losses.  I haven’t given up yet and neither should you.  We’re prepping for the knock-down drag out fight prophesied in the Last days.  A fight about truth, family, power and dominion.  I believe that the valiant will win the fight for Christ.  Isaiah prophesies, “I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.”  (Isa 60:15) I’d like to see that joy when the fight is finally won.

To read Roosevelt's speech click here

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Eternal Reality

Jesus said in John 12:31-33 , “Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.  This he said signifying what death he should die.”

Jesus was born, of royal birth, heir to the throne of David.  He came with a message of salvation and his followers hoped that he would save them from the Romans.  He knew that the people wanted a king and he knew that he was the Savior prophesied to come, but he also knew that he had to give his life first.  Knowing all that, it must have been tempting to ride through the city on a donkey and see the masses waving palm fronds in adoration.  A little fame can be intoxicating.  However, true to his godly nature, he never deviated from the will of the Father and sacrificed everything on the cross.

Now think about his followers.  They had a somewhat foggy idea of who he was.  When Jesus asked, they answered, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matt 16:14)  The more they saw of his miracles, the more they imagined miraculous ways that he could make their lives better.  When he died at the hands of the “Romans,” they went back to their normal lives, fishing, etc. (John 21:3)  The whole mission of Jesus, with his followers demoralized, could have petered out -- but it didn’t.

The followers imagined Jesus’ mission as a king and created a false hope in their minds that he was come to reign.  Jesus always knew the truth and he tried to prepare his followers for his death and their roles to play after he was gone. 

We, too, view life and God’s purposes in it from our own point of view.  We see what is happening to us and imagine falsely what it all must mean.  Then when our hopes are dashed by reality, we grieve.  Lost in a mist of past hopes, present hopelessness, and future uncertainty, we flounder.  

The truth is that Jesus is a king and that he will come to reign.  But he will not just reign in Jerusalem, he will reign over the whole Earth.  What he could have been then is eclipsed by what he will be in the eternal scheme of things.  Only he understood the eternal reality.  His followers couldn’t see it.  We can’t see it. 

The future plans God has for us are more grand and glorious that anything we can imagine.  They include mansions and thrones and power beyond belief.  So when a child dies and our heart breaks for all the things unsaid and memories never made, we are crying because we can’t see.  When everything seems lost, we must remember that Christ calmly gave up everything.  His mission is to prepare us for the role we will play in his Heavenly Kingdom.  Our job is to follow his direction and prepare even if life throws curve balls and we find ourselves being taught through suffering.  There is a purpose to it all.  We can’t see it, but He can.  Every promise He has ever made will be fulfilled.  We can count on that.

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