Saturday, July 30, 2016

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Miracles are any unusual occurrence or coincidence that can be explained as resulting from Divine Providence. Jesus did many miracles but not all who were there believed. For example it says in Mark 6:52 that when the people in the ship saw him walking on water, they were amazed and wondered (not believing) because their hearts were hardened.

When a miracle occurs in your life, a skeptical reaction comes from a hard (or injured) heart. Skepticism is a reaction that contains doubt.

Miracles don’t result in faith or belief. Faith must precede a miracle.

To demonstrate that your faith must precede a miracle, let me describe two miracles and you gauge your reaction.

Miracle 1
During the American Revolution, the soldiers were struggling to survive one particularly harsh winter. Early that Spring on February 23, 1778, a miracle occurred. Shad, a type of Herring that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, came up Schuylkill River that runs through Valley Forge. They normally arrive in peak numbers in late April to early May. If you are skeptical that Shad coming to spawn is evidence of Divine Providence, you join with others who claim that George Washington, an experienced fisherman, knew Shad came up that river and that is why he picked it. It is considered a miracle because their early arrival saved the soldiers from certain death, and thus the American's fight for freedom.

Miracle 2
During the summer of 1848 in Salt Lake City, just as grains began to ripen, thousands of crickets came down from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and began eating the crops. The people looked with horror at these insects because the loss of crops meant starvation that winter. They tried to fight off the crickets with brooms, shovels, water and even fire. In desperation, they had a special fast to petition God for help with this problem. To confirm their faith, thousands of seagulls arrived on the scene.  The seagulls ate the crickets, but they did more than eat them. They ate crickets until they were full, then flew to the nearest stream, took a sip of water and spat out what they had eaten.  They did this for three weeks until all the crickets were gone. The fact that seagulls eat crickets is not surprising. The unusual behavior of the seagulls in this particular instance was deemed a miracle by those who asked God for help. If you are skeptical that this can be explained as evidence of Divine Providence, you are not alone.

Miracles that occurred in the past do not require faith because we know that they occurred and we have no need of faith. This is explained by Alma when he says

“Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” (Alma 32:17-18)

When faith precedes a miracle, then the miracle confirms the faith and the faith becomes stronger and more resistant to doubt. Consider these two examples of faith that preceded a miracle. 

Miracle 3
A man was caught by surprise when a magnitude - 7.5 earthquake occurred near his home in Argentina. After assessing the damages, he quickly rode a bicycle to the house of his mother who lived nearby. She was ok, but her house was destroyed. She asked her son to save a few items that were in the rubble and while doing so, he discovered two glass bottles of fresh water that were undamaged. His mother had heard the prophet Spencer W Kimball counsel members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to store food and water in preparation for future emergencies. She believed and acted without knowing when the next emergency would occur.  When the earthquake occurred a few months later, her faith was confirmed. The miracle was in the coincidental safety of a glass item in the midst of total destruction. (Source Ensign Magazine August 2016, p. 74)

Miracle 4
Second, A man came to an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and requested a blessing for his son. His son was born blind, deaf, and dumb with no coordination in his muscles such that he could not even crawl by the time he was five years old. The apostle, Matthew Cowley (1897-1953) blessed the child according to the will of the Lord. Within a few weeks he received a letter thanking him because the child was crawling after a ball and could both see and hear. (Source Ensign Magazine August 2016, p. 80)

In both cases, the person(s) had faith first and then witnessed a miracle second.

The result is an increase of faith. God is willing to manifest himself to those who believe. A little bit of faith is often rewarded by small coincidences and sometimes miracles.

Moroni said, “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6) A witness may be in any form from a feeling of comfort to a display of Divine Providence.

I know that God lives because of the many witnesses that I have received confirming my faith. These things may seem small and inconsequential to a skeptic, but to me, they provide a strong defense against the doubts that I occasionally have. I encourage you to nourish your faith.  Miracles will follow.

Images used by permission
updated 8/14/16

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On the Path to Emotional Freedom

The longer I live, the more I realize that the reality of who I am is much less than who I could be.  I have quirks, hang-ups, idiosyncrasies and neuroses that prevent me from being true to the ideal that Jesus inspires. In Romans it says “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”  

The death of God’s son guarantees that I will return to God’s presence.  I can accept the reality of myself including my weaknesses and show up at his gate with all of them in tow — or I can be “saved by his life.”  By that phrase I mean, that if I implement the pattern of his life into my own life, I will be empowered to rise above the craziness and the dross of my neuroses will be burned away through the fire of repentance.

My last post about breaking bonds focused on the service and fellowship that is required to be freed from some of those bonds. In addition to that, I must study and gain knowledge.  The first kind of knowledge is self-awareness.  I have to become aware of my hang-ups if I am to choose the path that leads to another reality. 

I have spent a good part of my life trying to achieve emotional freedom.  This post will point you to resources that I have used and some that I hope to dig into in the future.  The emphasis on this is that studying a problem is essential to solving it.  In spiritual things, we sometimes mistakenly think that God will answer our prayers just because it says in the Bible that he will. In D&C 9:7 it says, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”  The thinking that goes beyond asking is the knowledge that we must gain.  God can give us knowledge but he knows how much we benefit when we work to understand a subject. He has our best interest at heart when he doesn’t just hand us the answer. I encourage you to pray, study, and dig deeper with faith and not give up. You can be free.

Principles on the Path to Freedom
  1. Gain physical strength for the journey by taking nutritional supplements to support my pancreas and immune system. (Book: Food is Your Best Medicine by Henry Bieler)
  2. Utilize the services of a BodyTalk professional healer.
  3. Read Books (See list below)
  4. Go on a Vision Quest (book: Grandfather by Tom Brown Jr)
  5. Journal in a place where all emotional tension can be explored without fear as it arises: Stop running from pain
  6. Draw with the left hand in a sketchbook (book: Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method for Liberating Your Inner Self)
  7. Write goals for 10 years, 5 years and 1 year (describe in the present tense as if they are already a reality)
  8. Build self esteem by exploring personal strengths, accomplishments, values, describe self
  9. Ask for insight from God for understanding problems and finding solutions, put faith in His all-seeing eye
  10. Rely on Jesus Christ’s atonement to repent of false beliefs, misdeeds, and to forgive others
The Steps to Healing 
  1. Recognition and realization
  2. Remove myself from situations that hurt and don’t take personally the other person’s disorder / no blame
  3. Moving forward, not sitting back and accepting the way things are
  4. Think about boundaries (what are my needs and rights?)
  5. Processing emotions through verbalizing, drawing, journaling - being honest
  6. Organize and make sense of my trauma/trials
  7. Open up to learning and the work that leads to growth
  8. Unconditionally love myself (self esteem)
  9. Being in the present and creating a new future (goal setting with near term benchmarks)
  10. Realizing the importance of support (counseling, friends, relatives)
  11. Regaining control of my emotional stability, thoughts, actions
  12. Centering the responsibility within myself for my actions and emotions
Reading List

Happiness Books
The Bible, Psalm 23
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson
The Heart’s Key to Health, Happiness, and Success by Steven H Horne
*Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron
Seasons of a Woman’s Life by Daniel J Levinson (He also wrote Seasons of a Man’s Life)
Love 2.0 by Barbara L Fredrickson
*Authentic Happiness by Martin E P Seligman

What is the Happiness Advantage?

Love / Marriage Books
The Road Less Traveled by Scott M Peck
Communication Miracles for Couples by Jonathan Robinson
And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M Brotherson (religious)
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M Gottman
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
Love and War by John Eldredge
Hiding From Love by John Townsend
The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

On Transformation
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The 8th Habit by Stephen R Covey
The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder
(On the Law of the Wall) Student Whisperer by Oliver DeMille and Tiffany Earl
*The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
*The Inside-Out Revolution By Michael Neill
*Willpower by Roy F Baumeister
*Focal Point by Brian Tracy

On Being Honest
Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

Debbie Ford: Light Up Your Life from Within

On Abandonment, Idolizing, Abuse, Grief, Attachment
The Journey from Heartbreak to Connection
Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst
Adult Attachment and Couple Psychotherapy:  The ‘secure base’ in Practice and Research by Christopher Clulow
*Healing the Tiger By Peter Levine

On Being Yourself and Rejection of Self
Appelemando’s Dream by Patricia Polacco
*Marianne Williamson on Self-Esteem by Marianne Williamson
*Within: A Spiritual Awakening to Love & Weight Loss by Habib Sadeghi
The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle
Being Enough By Chieko Okasaki (religious)

Chieko Okazaki speech "Rowing Your Boat"
On Anger
Good and Angry by Joanne Miller
*The Surprising Purpose of Anger by Marshall B Rosenberg

On Mother Wounds
Mothering Ourselves by Evelyn S Bassoff
Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina W Brown
Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John M Gottman
*The Mom Factor by Henry Cloud
On Healing Emotional Wounds
Growing Beyond Emotional Pain by John D Preston
(Especially Negativity)  Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff

Dr Judith Orloff 1 of 6 videos

Treating Intimacy Issues of Traumatized People by Patricia L Sheehan (Source: my personal files)

* indicates that I have not yet read this book

All images used with permission

Friday, July 1, 2016

Breaking Every Bond

A person in bondage used to mean slavery.  The bond was anything that took away their freedom.  God cares about people who are enslaved. This post is about breaking the bonds that enslave us spiritually.

Here’s how it works.  God calls people who are already free. They come together as a church to gather those who are enslaved. They take the message to the east and the west, to the north and the south any way that they can.  

Everyone who comes together must be obedient as best they can and exercise faith. In Sabbath-day worship, God pours out his Spirit upon them. This strengthens them to do the work that will break the bond. Worshiping together and feeling God’s Spirit begins to weaken the bond but it is not enough.

Everyone has to go out into the towns and villages around where they live and preach repentance. This will bring more people into the fellowship of the saints who need to be freed. But more importantly, the message of repentance inspires those that teach it to use it. The process of repentance breaks bonds.

Satan seeks to destroy people by enslaving them and taking away their choices. People who begin to choose to obey God’s laws begin to evict Satan from their lives. The truth is that it is very hard for an enslaved person to keep God’s laws. The Sabbath-day worship provides the momentum needed to enable people to do just that.

Through a combination of all these things, together with the protection of the vulnerable who are making changes, will break every bond (in time). In the meantime, all of us must visit the poor, the needy, and the fatherless and do all in our power to alleviate their suffering. Organizing such visits so that everyone visits between 1-5 families sure makes it easier to cover a lot of ground.

The freedom that God has planned for us is not possible if we keep ourselves aloof from the church. Because freedom comes with time. The church offers us protection but it also gives us a way to help others break their bonds of slavery. How can I expect to only be the recipient of God’s gift of freedom? First I must serve, by teaching the process to others, alleviating their suffering and living in obedience to the laws that are prerequisite to freedom.  Then I will be set free myself.

The process of becoming free happens on an individual level and among people working together in the same community.  The church may be global, but the work is done as a small scale. How can I be free just by being part of a global organization? I have to work among my congregation and those that live in towns and villages around me. I have to worship on the Sabbath to strengthen others. If my community is too large, the poor and needy might get lost and forgotten. The breaking of bonds requires that the poor and the needy be found and assisted. The message of repentance has to be taught (not by someone else — but by me and not just at church but in one-on-one interactions).

If I attend church and find that the majority of the congregation is not free but actually enslaved in some way, I will not be surprised. This is what a congregation should look like.  The members should be talking about the baby steps that are making them more free every day. If everyone is listening to one person and no one even knows who the poor and the needy are in the congregation than the process of breaking bonds has not been organized or begun.

I believe that the bonds Satan uses to enslave us include:
unforgiven hurts
dependance on welfare
mental illness
and many other things.

If you have been enslaved by any of these things you will know how important one-on-one interactions and the protection of community are in recovery. I hope that this post helps explain why and how the church also plays an important role in recovery. This post doesn’t spend much time on the process of repentance but that is the one-on-one relationship with God that ultimately frees us. I just want to emphasize that God is not going to free us just to see us fall back into a deeper pit.  He loves us too much to free us in an unprotected environment where Satan can exploit our vulnerabilities. If you are surprised that God has not freed you yet, maybe you haven’t thought about how loving it is of him to wait until you are in a safe place before he cuts your bonds.

The source for the idea behind this post is D&C 44