Thursday, May 31, 2012

Avoiding The Pit of Illusion

Most of us recognize that emotions such as anger, jealousy, and resentment are negative emotions that push us into the Pit of Illusion and separate us from the Spirit. But there are other negative emotions that dump us into the Pit that we often fail to recognize. These are usually emotions we feel have been thrust upon us by others and so we have no control over them; but we do!

In the last General Conference (April 2012) Elder Richard G. Scott said, “There are some practical principles that enhance revelation. First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight.” Anger, we recognize as keeping us from the Spirit but being hurt or becoming defensive when someone mistreats us are not usually recognized as Pit of Illusion feelings.

As James instructed, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Wrath does mean anger, but the Greek word could also be translated, “agitation of the soul,” and things like taking offense, self-pity, defensiveness, depression, dismay, discouragement are all negative emotions that are agitation of the soul. When we Live in Truth we strive to avoid any negative emotion that dumps us in the Pit of Illusion and separates us from the Spirit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Because He Loves Me

In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, we read, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him" (Hebrews 12:5). In English that word chastening carries with it a feeling of punishment, but in the Greek from which our New Testament was translated the word means, "instruction which aims at increasing virtue." That settles into my heart a lot better than the feeling of punishment. We all, being parents and teachers, know the importance of giving and receiving instruction intended to help the person being taught, and when we are Living in Truth we welcome such instruction.

Paul goes on to say, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby' (12:11). I say, "Amen to that!" Exercised means "the act of bringing into play or realizing in action."  So chastening brings about righteousness.

Paul also draws a comparison between an earthly father (12:7) who chastises because he loves his son and wants his son to grow up to be a happy, functioning, capable adult. If the father didn't think the child could comprehend the lesson and grow from it, he wouldn't instruct him. Likewise, God chastens because He loves me, and because He wants me to grow into a happy, functioning, celestial being.

As Paul says, no one likes being chastised, but the consequence of such correction is worth everything we endure. Being chastened means God loves us and that he knows we can do better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sure Happiness

Sometimes life is deceptive. For example, we look at happy people and after talking with them for a while we realize that they are also very grateful people. The gratitude seeps into their conversation not in a scripted way, but naturally as if it bubbles out of them whether they want it to or not. So we go away thinking they are happy because they have so much to be grateful for. That is the illusion!

If you talk longer or get to know these people more you realize they are not grateful because they are happy, they are happy because they are grateful. The secret to happiness and love is gratitude. Gratitude is also the secret to Living in Truth. When we are looking for those Golden Goods and rejoice in them, and give thanks for them, we are happy and filled with love.

In short, happiness does not ensure gratitude, but gratitude always ensures happiness.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Life is a Gift

To celebrate memorial day we took our Utah children and grandchildren to my father's grave and to Mr. J's parent's graves. We put flowers on the tombstones and talked about memories we had of our parents. It was a wonderful experience, but there was one thing that happened that has left me wallowing in a sense of my own mortality.

I grew up across the street from the Centerville City Cemetery--a beautiful cemetery sitting on the side of the mountain overlooking the Great Salt Lake. I spent hours and hours in that park as a child playing and reading tombstones and wondering about the lives of the peole buried there. I never knew the people but learned their names and which tombstones belonged to whom and being endowed with a marvelous imagination many of those people "came to life" in my mind. I know it sounds crazy, but I gave many of them a story and often talked to them about their lives and mine.

Well, I haven't been back to the cemetery since Dad died five years ago, and that was in January when it was too cold and snow covered to walk around and find all my old "friends."  But yesterday I did walk around and was shocked how much it has changed and how many new graves have filled the place. But most shocking was the fact that almost every tombstone I read was someone I had known. These were no longer strangers I imagined to be friends, these were my friends! Memories sprang to life of times I'd spent with the person--Church leaders, Young Women leaders, friends' parents, some were even friends!, and then there were school teachers and shopkeepers and people I had interacted with at various times in my life. It was, to say the least, sobering.

So today I am filled with a deep sense of my own mortality and have decided that while Memorial Day is a wonderful day to remember those who have passed on, it is also a wonderful day to celebrate the fact that we are still here. As a matter of fact, perhaps the very best way to honor those who have gone on is to honor the life itself. So drink in this day, appreciate every thing you see and hear, and savor every wonderful moment. Life is a gift to be cherished!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Finding the Golden Goods

Here in Utah it is an overcast, gray day. It is the kind of heavy, gray sky that looks like it will begin to weep at any moment, and it is tempting to give in to the gloominess and turn gray and weep yourself, especially when it is a weekend like this that SHOULD BE a sunny, cheerful, holiday type day. But as the SHOULD BE in the thinking process warns us, that is Pit of Illusion thinking and it only brings Unnecessary Pain.

When you Live in Truth, however, these gray days are exciting. They bring an opportunity that sunny days don't and that is the chance to go sluething for Golden Goods. As you all know, gold is almost always hidden and in order to find it miners have to use time and effort and tools to go searching for it. It takes much more effort to find gold than it does to find sandstone, but the effort is worth it.

So today we get to go mining for Golden Goods by looking under the gray and finding all the wonderful good things the day has to offer. It is nice and cool so I don' have to run the air conditioning. It is too windy and cool to work in the yard so I get to catch up on some things in the house that I'm behind on. Since Mr. J isn't working in the yard I get to spend more time with him and the extra time that we have that was slated for yard work we are now spending finding some family things to share with our children on Memorial Day. That is much better than getting a few weeds out of the way!

It's a rich, wonderful, happy Living in Truth day when you go searching for Golden Goods. The searching is an adventure and the finding is a delight!

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Delight

I was just sitting here thinking, “I need chocolate.” Mind you, I stay away from sugar because sugar doesn’t like me—it makes me sick. The other strange thing about this thought is that I’ve never liked chocolate. All my life if given a choice I’ve gone with caramel, never chocolate. But the last year I’ve fallen in love with dark chocolate which I seldom get to eat because as I told you, sugar doesn’t like me. But now I find myself wanting it every once in awhile and today when the wanting came I realize it isn’t the eating of the chocolate as much as it is the comfort of the chocolate that is so appealing. There is something very consoling about the rich flavor of the dark chocolate melting over the tongue, bringing the taste buds to life, tantalizing the nose with the found-nowhere-else rich scent that chocolate possesses, and teasing me with the bitter yet sweet dilemma that dark chocolate causes.

So I am about to give in and have one square of my very favorite, Amano, dark chocolate (I’ll try Dos Rios today!) and while it melts in my mouth I’m going to savor the flavor and the feelings and the gratitude it fills me with.

God put some wonderful things on this earth. Which of his creations is filling you with delight today?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being Succored

I wanted to share today one of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis: 

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. . . . You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

On days when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I remember this quote and it reminds me not only that I am not alone, but that my Savior, who walks with me through life, knows exactly what I am feeling not because He has studied it or learned about it but because He has experienced it. AND that means He knows how to help me. He has conquered whatever I am battling against and He knows how to withstand it! 

As Paul says, “For in that [Jesus Christ] himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Succor mean to “run under” which gives me the mental image of my Savior holding me aloft in order to help me through my trials, temptations, and battles.

Oh, how grateful I am for a Savior!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Need Straightening

Christianity teaches us that "the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam" (Mosiah 3:19). In other words, because of the Fall of Adam, we are born into a telestial world as “natural” or “fallen” creatures and the task of life is to be raised up—to become spiritual and saved creatures. C. S. Lewis explains it this way, "Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms" (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 59). Lewis goes on to explain why this is so important. "A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers-including even his power to revolt. . . . It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower."

In another of Lewis's works, a science fiction novel entitled Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis uses a word to describe our fallen condition that I like better than carnal or fallen. Lewis says we are “bent.” In the book, when the scientist, Ransom, describes the dangerous motives of other space travelers to the inhabitants of the planet Malachandra, he says they are “bent” which implies that they are distorted rather than broken. 

The thing I like best is that something bent can usually be bent back or corrected. This gives me a mental picture of me bent with sin and my Savior taking me by the hand and straightening me out. Yes, it is painful at times, but if I hang in there and don’t resist, I will be straightened. I will be saved. I won’t be bent forever. I like that a lot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Disregard

Forgive yourself and move on!
One of the reasons I love teaching the epistles of Paul is because Paul understood what it means to Live in Truth, and he teaches me so much about it. For example in his letter to the Philippians he says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth into those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13).  In my own words, Paul says that he hasn’t learned much, but he does know one thing and that is that the past is past and we should disregard it and move forward. That doesn’t mean we don’t remember the past and learn from it, but we don’t dwell on the past and let it ruin our future.

When you stop to think about it, Paul had a lot of baggage from his past. Once he came to know that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah how his conscience must have pricked him knowing that he had assented to the death of Stephen, and that he had brought great harm on families by taking parents who believed away to prison. Imagine how haunted he would have been by the remembered cries of those children after he came to be a believer himself. Paul could have had a great pity party, wallowed in his horrendous mistakes until they debilitated him, and never done any good.

But he didn’t! Paul disregarded those things from his past and reached forth into the future and did so much good. That’s Living in Truth!