Saturday, March 17, 2018

Make Your Trials Transformative

When you take an important test that you hope to achieve something with, do you simply wait for the test to be over and hope it finishes?

Do you begrudgingly fill in the answers and just watch for the clock to run out?

Many of us, I'm certain, don't enjoy taking tests, even when they are important, but how do we best make use of the tests we are given? 

Do we simply run through and give random answers?   Or do we watch the clock and try to do our best?  Or do we ignore the clock entirely and just focus on the test?

Test generally aren't fun, though some people enjoy them.  But the reality is, we are in a giant one right now called "life".  Our mortal experience.  There isn't any other test right now that we are taking that is so important and has so much weighing upon how we do.

We may be given little time.

We may be given a lot.

We may be given a very hard test full of complex and painful and long problems.

We may be tested with seeming ease and simplicity.

But in the end, whatever form it comes in, however our life is, this is a test.

And it's up to us as to what we make of it.

We can just "fill in random answers" and say that nothing matters, the test isn't important and simply hand it in. 

We can turn the test in early and say that we aren't fit to try or that it's too hard and we simply want out, and walk out of the room, not having finished it, to be graded on what we did complete.

We can simply watch the clock and wait for the test to be over, and act as though test taking is simply being in the room for the time of the testing period.

Or, we can do our best and use all the time we've given, take what we've learned from the earliest problems in the test and apply them to the later ones, as this test is one that gets harder the longer you take it - always matched to your ability and where you are.

We can simply pass the time...or we can work to pass the test.

But there is another option beyond just passing the test that's available to us.   We can allow the testing process to become transformative rather than simply endured and passed.   We can become better test-takers.  We can, no matter how hard and painful the test is or becomes, learn to enjoy conquering it and become something more than simply a test-taker.

So it is with our trials, more specifically.

We can simply pass the time. 

We or we can conquer our trials to the utmost best of our ability and become stronger as a result.

Like baby ducklings who have to peck their way out of their egg to hatch, the goal isn't simply to get out of the egg.  It's the getting out of the egg that strengthens them and prepares them to survive.  Passing that first test of even getting out of their egg and being left to do it, is a transformative experience that makes them ready to live. 

And so it is with life. 

So how do you view your trials?  As an obstacle?  A pain?  An endurance ordeal?  Or as an opportunity to make something better of yourself to prepare you for what's next....because you have the gospel?  Because you know what this is all about?

Let your tests and trials refine you and strengthen you and transform you, don't simply pass the time through them - and this, like the duckling, prepares you for life with our Heavenly Father. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Prayer and Throwing Papers at the DMV

I've not been very good at prayer in my life.

I've tended to think "God knows everything, right? So why pray?"

I've asked father in the past how I do on my prayers.

The answer I got was that it's more like I'm waltzing into the DMV and throwing a stack of papers on their desk, telling them "Fix this!" and then running out.

As for praying, though, how was I doing it?

Sometimes it feels like this....
I would pray while I was driving. 

While I was stuck in traffic.

While I was racing into the building to work.

While I was racing home.

While I was scrambling to get an errand complete.

Always while doing something else.


Because focusing on prayer and holding still in one spot...isn't my strong suit.

A very very difficult life-circumstance that has pushed me beyond anything I've ever thought I'd be capable of for going on two decades now had recently found me - again - bitter, hopeless, helpless, miserable, without faith....just waiting.

And why pray?

It seemed God wasn't going to fix what I struggled with in front of me.  Prayers seemed to not be being answered the way I wanted.  It felt like Father was going to do his own thing and the reality was for me, I was just there to buckle down and wait out the storm.

And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited....and waited.

Until waiting became it's own exercise in endurance and I just simply ceased being 'well' amid the trials. My health is being affected, the ability to keep up in life diminished....why pray?  Nothing was changing!  So I waited, and waited some more, and then waited some more after that.

It eventually became clear that unless something changed...I wasn't going to successfully complete my mission.

Desperation drove me to prayer again - this time while doing nothing else.  Just praying. 

I felt peace wash over me.  My stress abated.  I felt energy and optimism.  And heaven suddenly became visible through the veil and they said "If you only knew how close heaven was, we are right here."

Having had such an incredible experience with prayer after so much storminess in life, I knew I would be remiss the next day - and every other day - by not praying, but also believed I had finally found the solution to my life's problems.

I again had a wonderful experience of peace and my troubles washed away the next day, but I also felt promptings and understanding that I require as a father to my family.  Suddenly, things were becoming clearer. I had discovered an answer to something I had struggled with through this entire trial / ordeal.

I had seen prayer as simply as a means to solve problems - ask Father to do this, he does it, life goes on, we complete the mission, and are all home in time to celebrate the completion of earth life.  Now I was finding, in addition to listening for answers to the questions I asked, sometimes you just need to meditate and listen to for God to speak to you however he will on whatever he needs to tell you.  It's about returning to my Father and reuniting my spirit with his and being connected with heaven again. It's about having heavenly energy infused with our soul.  It's about being washed clean.  It's about leaving those burdens behind.  But more importantly, it's about seeing things differently. 

I used to grow tired of having to look at things differently.  I didn't want to see things differently.  I'll tell you what I wanted to see - things BE different.  Not just looking at the problem from a different angle and going "Yup, problem's still there!  There it is....from another lovely angle....that's my hideous, grotesque, monstrous, unwieldy, ugly problem....right there.  Can't miss it.  Not even from this angle."

But until you see it differently, you're not going to be able to do anything differently. 

And father has a different perspective that we can use...if we will.  He won't force it on us.  He will let us struggle, or we can use the power of prayer and press ahead.

Having rich, truly meaningful prayer is a blessing indeed that I will never forsake ever again in life's storms - make time to pray as well as take time - not just to listen - but to experience prayer. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Being Humble and Humility: A Source of Power and Strength

Being humbled is often seen as just getting dragged through the mud in life, and our egos being torn down.

But humility is actually a source of quiet and incredible eternal strength.

When we are humble, we not only know what we aren't, we also learn what we eternally are.

Christ was humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and stated very quietly yet directly what he was. He never apologized for nor denied who or what he was - as many might think would be what humility is today, an apology or denial of ability.

He was both quiet and confident about who he was,

Perhaps no greater illustration of Christ's humility came than when he was temped of the devil.  The devil tempted him with the doubt - that diabolical and satanic "if" as in "IF thou be the son of God...."

egos are like this...
Christ knew he was the son of God.  And he certainly didn't need to argue with the Father of Lies about it or prove it to him.  He simply replied with scripture - his own words - and then told him to get lost.

But with humility comes stability, steadiness - we aren't so easily blown about to protect our pride.  And we don't collapse like a card house when jostled.

Humility is strength.

(I get the impression there's more to this in the future, but for now this will suffice and I'll add to it later if something strikes me and re-post it).

Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Imperfect Messiah

Many of us may be critical of our church leaders who serve the Lord.

We may notice their flaws, or their weaknesses, or their idiosyncrasies or habits that somehow in our minds disqualify them from the Lord's service.

In doing so we may miss their good qualities that the Lord is using to build his kingdom.

And then we say "Why, if I had lived in the time of Jesus Christ, I would have known he was the messiah!  I wouldn't have called for him to be crucified!  How could they not see that  he was the messiah?  What a bunch of fools!"

...and yet....that very tendency of criticism and missing the righteous qualities are exactly how they missed the messiah in the first place and it turns out we aren't much different than they. 

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.(Matthew 11).

Christ was a righteous man but in many ways they expected something more of him that they thought would be more obvious of a king or a messiah and yet....they missed the righteousness that was right in front of him (let alone however many miracles) and only saw what they thought were imperfections .

(Meanwhile John the Baptist was even more austere in his living than the Savior was but they dismissed John as just crazy - kinda reminds me of the mentality in our media today. 

This in mind, the counsel
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (3 Nephi 14)  carries more weight. 

If you aren't laden with sin, you can see more clearly their righteousness and are less likely to err in calling for the death of and turning away from the counsel of what you think is an imperfect messiah.

Monday, February 12, 2018

We Fall So We Can Learn To Get Back Up

My wife taught gospel principles the other day as she's the gospel principles teacher - and the lesson was on the fall of Adam and Eve.

She pointed out something I'd never considered before.   While Eve gets an awful rap in the Christian world for her actions....without which none of her critics would be alive had she not given birth to them to come....

Eve was as a child.  She was innocent.  She didn't know what a lie was.  She had no reason not to believe Satan.  She was caught as a child between two alternatives and she wanted something righteous very badly and was lied to about how to get it which caused her death.

Now think about that, Satan willing to lie to a child to get her killed....split her from her companion eternally if possible and break her heart....make him have to decide to die as well....

Pretty horrific stuff.

I'd thought before that Adam and Eve could have fulfilled Father's plan without falling and that the fall wasn't necessary.

I think in one sense I wasn't entirely incorrect.

It's often said that without the fall Adam and Eve "couldn't" have children. 2 Nephi 2 we read Lehi's writing:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

It only says they would not have had children, it doesn't mean they could not. 

Father in Heaven has a celestialized body that's perfectly functional in every way, it makes no sense to think that God created paradisaical bodies for Adam and Eve and gave them a commandment to have children which their bodies were incapable of keeping.  

I think there's a lot more here to these events and principles than I'm able to articulate here or even comprehend at this point in this stage of mortality. 

I do know that Lucifer fell and was more than eager to have Michael fall as well like him and drag him down and claim him. 

But we also have this scripture also in 2 Nephi: 

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

I think the point is, while they were created with all they needed, including the opportunity and freedom to choose for themselves, the experiences and blessings that come from mortality and the fall can't be achieved without mortality and the fall. 

But in the end to wrap it up, Lehi speaks further: 
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

The fall was necessary to give the experiences that only a fall can bring.  And Father prepared a way from the beginning - the plan we all agreed on before this life - for us to make it back after this plunge of faith.      

But anyways, the point being, we've fallen and we will get back up with the Savior's help.

And he fixes our skinned knees as we grow up.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Stereotypical Mormon Life

like this? ;)

I've often heard people say that they had a stereotypical Mormon life before they left the church.

adjective: stereotypical

relating to a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Well....that being said, what is the "stereotypical" Mormon life? 

Seeings how we come from a million-plus different walks of life with us being in so many countries...I'm not sure there is a "stereotype" that fits reality for us. 

We all have problems. 

We have addictions.   Struggles in our families.  Personal challenges.  Abuse. Mental health issues.  Economic problems.  Disabilities. Geographical issues.   Sometimes several of these in the same family in different combinations.....we each are different. 

And we're just trying to hold to the gospel the best we can to struggle through it. 

So that being said, as we all have different struggles...what's stereotypical about any of it? 

What's "typical"? 

Not much I think.  Unless you count the desire to return to our Father in Heaven. And that we're his children. 

I heard someone the other day say something to the effect of how their patriarchal blessing didn't come true - even though they were the "typical" Mormon.  How they led the good life but still things didn't work out.  How the promises of the Lord somehow don't apply to them.  

This is my testimony about the typical Mormon life and blessings not coming true: 

We have to work for it.  

We have to make it happen. 

Those blessings are promises conditional on your - our - obedience and faithfulness.  

I know one thing is that  God gives us impossible blessings - unless we turn to him and rely on him. 

As for whether our blessings didn't come true - the other thing I know is that they aren't all slated for this life of mortality.  

But as for the rest, if we feel our blessings aren't coming true, then we need to take that up with Father.  We have to examine ourselves and find out what we've done and not done that may have hindered or helped your course.                   

James 1:5 - it.  

We need to ask God what's up. 

We need to tell him we want our blessings and ask for help.  

But "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say and when ye do not what I say ye have no promise".                                                                                              

I do know that our patriarchal blessings are written with the knowledge of the end from the beginning, so if we are going to stumble...that's already known, and may be accounted for. 

As for life being hard, well, he maketh the rain fall on the just and the unjust, the sun to rise on the righteous and the wicked. Each of us has our own unique path to follow.

Perhaps it's easy to try to compare ourselves to others because that's how we figure this world out as humans, by looking around and trying to do what others do.  But the key I think is to realize when and where we need to put our feet on our own path and find our own way back without comparing and being held back by comparisons.

And as for being able to successfully navigate back to father...well...I'm not sure that's typical and maybe that's why there's so many blessings for doing so.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Marriage: Repent!

For those who are new here, I'm a mental health counselor - and I work with a lot of abuse and marriages falling apart as a part of my profession.

I also live in Mormon country where a good portion of my clients are LDS - and have abused their spouses and families and hence get treated by me.

As my profession is separate from my religion, the counsel given professionally isn't what the church gives and often divorce is seen as an option and healthiest for both parties. 

Often the church is viewed, professionally, in a negative light because of the tendency to push couples together in marriage rather than apart.

Tonight as I watched another relationship get torpedoed and another abusive marriage begin to sink with the professional recommendation from my colleague to the abuser that perhaps divorce is the answer, I came to understand the counsel that the church gives in marriage to push couples together as often as possible.

I've come to know personally in prayer while reflecting on my profession that Father does not look kindly on abusive marriages, and that the warning in the Proclamation on the Family is correct, those who abuse spouse or offspring will one day stand accountable before God. 

And that in mind, I found a quote from Spencer W. Kimball regarding marriage - it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price. …

Summed up: A righteous man and righteous woman can find happiness together and be successful because they will be righteous.

But why the counsel to make the marriage work, to stick together?

Well...there are certain eternal blessings that can't be had outside of the family, and our salvation and exaltation hangs on keeping the covenants we have made (recognizing that an eternal sealing is different than a secular marriage in some regards).

But the counsel of the church isn't just to "stay married."

The point isn't to just co-habitate.

The point isn't to just have parents in proximity to offpsring by being under the same roof.

The point is to repent, work together, and keep those covenants.

The wife can't do it by herself.  The husband can't do it alone either.   They twain are one.   And the first commandment is to love God, the second to love our neighbor and that includes our spouse.

Marriage isn't a suicide mission and there are times when it's appropriate to divorce - a necessity and approved and commanded by the spirit.  But before all that - to repent and work together to the utmost of our ability.

In lieu of repentance, divorce is a very poor substitute - it's not a solution to a lack of repentance in your relationship.

Is marriage hard?  You bet!  Ask me how I know!  But can severe challenges be overcome?

If you're both willing to work at it, yes.   Sometimes one will be up and pulling the other while they are down, and other times the other will be being pulled along on this trial of a journey called mortality in the covenants called marriage and love.

Sticking it out may be what's required until one or both gains additional skills and blessings can be had all the way around and meanwhile it hurts - not hurting in marriage isn't part of the covenant.  It's going to hurt.  You're going to be forced together, stumble, trip, fall, trip each other and wear each others' rough edges off in a relationship that's going to be closer than anything else in this world.

But the point isn't to hit the eject button and bail and forego repentance when it gets tough
, neither is it to just pay bills together - the point is to be happy and work and sacrifice and respect each other - develop it if it isn't there. 

But chasing after other imaginary green pastures was never the counsel, nor was strapping yourself to the deck of the Titanic, metaphorically speaking.

Repent: And grow  love. 

And be in love like these two....