Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Because He Lives: Meditations on Christ

Because Christ lives...
My ancestors came to America to worship in peace

Because he lives...
They made laws that protected religious freedom

Because he lives...
My ancestors joined with other Mormon converts and moved West to Illinois
Nauvoo, IL

Because he lives...
They moved West again to worship in peace

Monday, March 23, 2015

Defiance not Fear Part II

This post continues on the ideas presented in Part I

Monica Lewinsky

Recently Monica Lewinsky spoke about her experience with public humiliation at TED.  She messed up when, at age 22, she "fell in love with my boss."  The consequence was a traumatic loss of identity.  

In speaking out, she is now changing from weak to strong.  She says, its "Time to stop tiptoeing around my past … Time to take back my narrative."  (Source)  She is standing in honesty and that is a strong position.  But she is nervous about what the media will do with her next.  Her goal is to give hope to others that suffer from cyber-bullying by showing that she survived. 

What she is not doing is accepting responsibility for allowing a sexual relationship with a married man.  I don't think her stance is strong enough to repair her public reputation but it might work for private relationships.  

Standing in virtue is stronger than standing in honesty.  Monica is going to have a hard time proving her righteousness to the media.  In less public cases, a person can change and their friends and acquaintances see evidence of the change.  After the change, defiance of evil will not be regarded with skepticism.

What I'm getting at is that when a person takes a stand on an issue -- any issue, the casual observer must make a call.  Is this person credible?  After the person is evaluated, the observer takes a look at the issue.  Does this issue as presented have merit and deserve my public support?

You will never see a person take a stand in favor of an issue they have a problem with and for which their credibility will be questioned.  They may stand against the issue or even publicly ridicule those who do stand in favor.  The strength to stand is based on the foundation of truth you rest on.

The Eternal Perspective

Our Heavenly Father looks at things differently than we do.  He sees Monica's heart in three dimensional beauty.  He knows exactly where she is at in her walk to a holy place of strength and radiance. He doesn't need her to state that or prove it.  

He is truly empathetic.  Christ suffered public humiliation among friends and neighbors as well as at his trial.  He knows what it feels like to be regarded with skepticism.  He never condemned the sinner but encouraged them to change and "sin no more."  

He sees her overcoming her fear and speaking to her accusers (the public).  He knows how difficult that is.  We all do and we can all admire her courage.

Growing Stronger

Daring greatly is about owning the story and changing the ending.  In Brown's book, Daring Greatly, she says, "The space between our practiced values and our aspirational values is the value gap." The  path to strength takes us across this value gap.  

As we make our move, it is important to surround ourselves with people who are empathetic and encouraging.  The journey takes time.  It requires envisioning the future many times and committing to get there no matter what it takes.  I admire those who take the first step and the second step and persist even when the opposition mounts. 

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you:  I came to live out loud"  - Emile Zola

When Living Out Loud Requires Grace 

It is through grace that the Lord gives strength and assistance to those of us who would not otherwise be able maintain momentum if left to ourselves.

What I see is that staying the "victim" makes us relinquish our gifts and the good we can do with them in the world.  As Shakespeare so aptly put it, "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." Let's move past the past.

My biggest fear was to say the truth about a personal issue.  Once I said it, the door opened for me to live out loud.  I wouldn't say that I immediately flew free.  My experience showed me how my fear is debilitating.  The truth frees me.  The only thing stopping me from growth continues to be fear.  It takes courage to be honest and to face the consequences.  I know that grace multiplies my efforts to do the right thing.

This verse says, "Kick out the old man!"
"put off...the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph 4:22-24)
And here's a video challenge focusing on fear -- of getting dirty.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST TRY:  Fighting Valiantly 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Defiance Not Fear

Peter denied Jesus three times.  Peter was the chief apostle, the one to lead the church after Jesus died.  Jesus knew Peter would deny him before he did it.  (Luke 22:34)  

What does this say about Jesus?
Jesus knows our weak points.  He has already seen what we will do.  He has already paid the price of our sins before we commit them.

What does this say about Peter?
Peter was valuable to Jesus as a leader.  Jesus picked him to be the chief apostle, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you"  (John 15:16)  Peter was weak but when he saw that Jesus didn't reject him, he became strong.  He could have hidden in his shame and stayed weak.  Instead he changed from weak and fearful to courageous -- even defiant.  Maybe he said to himself, "I was weak once, but never again."

Jesus calls for us to be strong for him.  He calls us even when we are weak.  He doesn't want us to allow our guilty consciences to stop us.  He wants us to grow stronger.  It is Satan who says make aprons of fig leaves and hide.

Another Bible figure messed up royally and was still "called" to do a great work.  Aaron made a golden calf for the Children of Israel to worship.  "And the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him..." (Deut 9:20)  But Moses offered a sin offering in his behalf and pled with the Lord.  Aaron eventually was given the solemn responsibility to minister in the holiest places of the temple. (Ex 28:35)  He changed from weak to strong.

These examples show that being strong often comes after being weak.  It is never good to sin but as weakness changes to strength, righteous defiance replaces fear.

How do weaknesses become strengths?

We have to humble ourselves before God and accept responsibility for our choices. 

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. " (Ether 12:27

We stand in honesty before God and offer to change because we love Him.  There is no stronger motive.  Change brings new life.  It is the beginning of better days.

If you liked this post you might also like this post about courage:  In Confidence is Your Strength  

The title for this post comes from Henry W Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride.  It says, "A cry of defiance and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forever-more!"

The painting of Peter's denial by Carl Bloch is used with permission

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Biblical Evidence of my Previous Life

Where do babies come from?  This innocent question comes from those who contemplate the mortal birth of a human child.  It is a question that has arisen in every age.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
- William Wordsworth

The Old Testament gives us an ancient answer to this question in Jeremiah 1:4-5.  “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Obviously the human body is formed in a mother’s womb.  But where does the human soul come from?  Jeremiah tells us that God knows each soul and gives some a special assignment to speak as a prophet on His behalf.  I wonder if God gave me the assignment to be a mother and raise my children in righteousness.  He certainly gave the assignment of mother to Eve.

The New Testament book of John records Jesus’ teaching about the premortal life.  In one place He says, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?  It is the spirit that quickeneth…” (John 6:62-63)  In another he says, “Verily, verily, I say not you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

In Jesus use of the word “before” he is referring to his premortal life.  He equates the place where he goes after death with the place he came from before life.  He tells the Jews that he existed before Abraham.  Surely there is a name for this place.  I don’t know it but Jude calls it the “first estate” (Jude 1:6).  God is there.  I think all souls were there before birth and all souls return —which makes this life neither the beginning nor the end.

What was life like before this life?  Jesus said of his Father, “I know him, for I am from him, and he hath sent me.”  (John 7:29)  This shows that our souls not only existed but were sentient.  Unlike me, Jesus brought knowledge with him to this life.  I have no memory of a previous life.  But I believe that like Jesus, I knew God, my soul’s father.

If I knew and was known by God before my earthly birth.  If I received an assignment like Jeremiah if to do nothing more than be a mother, then I can imagine that my Father prepared me for my assignment.  Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)  I believe that Jesus was taught and that I was taught in the life before this life.  What I was taught, I cannot remember.  Yet this idea reinforces my sense of value in my Father’s eyes.  I was loved “before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

So if I existed before this mortal life began and was loved, then this Earth was created for me.  The beauty and majesty of this world is a gift from my Creator.  It represents the time and efforts of his mind made manifest in the flesh.  In my exploration of this Earth, I am exploring his mind even if I cannot understand how he made it all.  I can see what he was thinking about and how carefully he made it all fit together.  It is amazing!

And after my time here on Earth for exploring is over, I will ascend like Jesus back into the presence of God and see His face.  I am certain that I will have a new perspective on things after my earthly experience.  I hope that my experiences will prove useful in the next life and not just hold me back, like oversized baggage, from fully participating in the next life.

If you liked this post you might like one I wrote about the resurrection:  Gates of Heaven

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Be Free!

Depression is the surest sign that you are stuck.  Growth is not happening.  I've been there and it feels so impossible -- like trying to push an elephant uphill.

The weeds of evil seem impossible to remove when they've been growing for a long time.  Until we acknowledge evil and face it head-on, there is no chance to fly away.  The truth is, we want to blame someone else for the losses incurred by stuckness.  And someone else may have locked us in a cage.  However, the answer doesn't lie in blame.  If it did, we'd be waiting endlessly for the person who locked us up to come along with the key.

God gave each of us "wings."  They are the ability we have to choose.  No one can take away our ability to choose.  They may try to convince us that we have no choice.  We may believe them for a time.  The truth is that we choose to believe them and we choose to stay in the cage.

How is this possible?

The cages we're in have to be identified.  That is why we can't just fly away.  Introspection may help us to identify our condition.  But just as quick as we know the lie that the cage represents and replace it with the truth, we are free.

That is the power in Jesus' words, "I am the truth" and "The truth shall make you free."

That all sounds so simple. So lets have ourselves a real life example.

CS Lewis had a number of tragedies early in life that put a literal cage around him.  His mother died when he was ten.  He was immediately shipped off to a horrible boarding school, Wynyard, where he witnessed repeated physical child abuse.  The images of abuse tortured him. But what is worse, these images got twisted into his emerging sexuality.  They stimulated a sexual response that trapped him in an imaginary world.  Other situational events put pressure on him to choose evil which he resisted as best he could.

Through a process of writing a mythological tale called Dymer, Lewis was able to discover that he had created the monster in his mind through some of his choices.  (I would argue that he was also given a monster at Wynyard).  He faced the monster and "killed" it.  The result was that he was able to begin resolving his issues of faith and gradually he came to accept Christianity.  (Source:  Jack by George Sayer)

Some of the cages I've identified are emotions.  Some are false "I am" statements.  Some are based on false assumptions we make about ourselves that protect another person.  Some are taught to us by someone we respect.

Vincent Van Gogh said: "In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it; what it is he can’t clearly remember,and he has vague ideas and says to himself, “the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood,” and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage. And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering. “Look, there’s an idler,” says another passing bird — that fellow’s a sort of man of leisure. And yet the prisoner lives and doesn’t die; nothing of what’s going on within shows outside, he’s in good health, he’s rather cheerful in the sunshine. But then comes the season of migration. A bout of melancholy — but, say the children who look after him, he’s got everything that he needs in his cage, after all — but he looks at the sky outside, heavy with storm clouds, and within himself feels a rebellion against fate. I’m in a cage, I’m in a cage, and so I lack for nothing, you fools! Me, I have everything I need! Ah, for pity’s sake, freedom, to be a bird like other birds!
An idle man like that resembles an idle bird like that.…You may not always be able to say what it is that confines, that immures, that seems to bury, and yet you feel [the] bars."  Source
One key to unlocking the cage and being free is in the truth.  So if I assumed I am ugly, the key is in seeing the truth about my intrinsic beauty.  If I assumed that I can't do it, then I need to be brave and try to do the thing I fear.  I can be free and being free is worth it.  I've made a short video about this.

Jesus offers us hope when he says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)  He is stronger than all the evils of mortality.  His way will take us through this world and into a better one.  I'm sure of this.

Another key unlocking the cage is forgiveness.  Forgiveness releases blame and anger and allows you to move on to other life experiences.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” 
– Lewis Smedes

A third key that might be helpful is finding a reason to leave the cage.  Mission is the God-given assignment to act on the gifts God has given us.  It is a reason for living.   I've written about mission here.

Jesus offers us hope when he says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)  He is stronger than all the evils of mortality.  His way will take us through this world and into a better one.  I'm sure of this.

If you liked this post you might like Beaty of Holiness

Birdcage image courtesy Frank Serritelli/Flickr

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Spiritual Well of Strength

my 3 y.o.
Choirs of angels sang at our house.  The fact that they sang Darth Vader's March is a little ironic.  The occasion for celebration was that my son, recently turned 3, was moved to big kid status.  Now he gets a gummy vitamin at dinner.  Everyone should be cheered on by loving family members as they move through life from little kid to big kid status.  That this is not a given, is heartbreaking, but not show stopping.

This post is about relying on a well of strength to get through life.  It can be accessed by anyone.  Here's how:

I study my Core Book.  My Core Book is where I find right and wrong and the important truth that I am a Child of God and He is cheering for me.  Your Core Book may be different than mine, but it should have truths that encourage you.

I keep a small book by my bedside labeled Gratitude.  I write down the little miracles that occur everyday in my life.  I believe that if I notice good things, they will keep coming and I will have the eyes to see them.
I think a pocket Hymnal is a well of strength.  Rhyming words set to music can force out the darkest thoughts.  I don't think listening to a CD has the same effect.  It's too easy to tune out.  The words of the hymns have to go through me -- so I learn them, sing them, and internalize their message.

A small mirror with the words "I love myself just the way I am" is the perfect reminder I am beautiful and that that I am loved.  In a world of excessive selfishness, this is not to be flaunted narcissistically. This is something I use in my private moments of desperation.

A prayer for strength.  The words escape me when I'm really struggling.  If I can just read and repeat my prayer request, and maybe fill in the details.

A sense of humor takes the edge off stressful times.  Inner strength is surely the flexibility to see things in more than one way.

writing with tangibles
Like the mirror, a couple of tangibles help me make it through the bad days.  They are Lavender oil, tissues and a letter I've written to myself.  I want to give you some examples of the letters.  These are composed for this post and not the ones I read to myself, but they give the idea.


I believe that survival is a choice.  I can either let the bad times paralyze me or I can pick up my tools and dig myself out.  I know how it feels to be stuck.  I'm here to say that life has a way of coming back around.  I've seen the rain stop and the rainbows appear.  Dream of rainbows.  It's the beautiful dreamers that make beautiful things happen.