Monday, December 29, 2014

O, that I were an angel...

Last time I read Alma 29, I had a different understanding of it that shed some light on my own personal experiences.  I was reminded of this again today, and wanted to get it written down.  (I figured I might as well share!)

In Alma 29, Alma writes about his desire to share the gospel to every person, every nation.  He writes:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.
I always felt that Alma was being too hard on himself.  How is that a sin, to want to preach the gospel? And then I figured that his was a sin of ingratitude.  Displeasing to the Lord, certainly, but not really on the same level as some of his previous sins.

Then I started looking at what Alma really wanted.  Did he really want to be an angel?  Or did he just want the opportunity to share his powerful testimony with every soul on earth?  Being an angel, with all that heavenly power, was the only way he could see that his desire could be fulfilled.

But the Lord knew differently.  Alma preached and bore testimony as he was able, and faithfully wrote on the plates as he had been commanded.  And look what has happened.  Because he obeyed the commands of the Lord, his powerful testimony has been translated into 82 languages and shared all over the world for more then 200 years as a part of the Book of Mormon.  How many people has Alma influenced?  Did he not get his wish, just in a different way than he could possibly foresee?

So what about me?  I have tried for the last few years to move forward with a school--something I feel that is one of my special gifts.  But all of *my* efforts at doing this have failed, even as I have tried to do so with the guidance of the Lord.  Finally I have just given up.  If the Lord wants me to be involved in starting a school, He's just going to have to make that happen.  Silly me.  That should have been my attitude all along.  God has certainly given me the talents I want so much to use in His service.  But I need to trust Him to provide the way.  And just like with Alma, it probably won't look the way I think it should, simply because my understanding is so minute and finite.  But hindsight is a wonderful thing.  I can see as I look back that the Lord is active in my life, and is arranging things in such a way that I will have opportunity to use my talents to bless others, in ways that will be far more effective and far-reaching that anything I could imagine.  I just need to let go of my idea and trust in His.

Turns out that Alma's sin (and mine) was not just ingratitude, it was also trusting in the arm of flesh.  By wanting something and figuring that I know how to do it (and telling the Lord that this is the way it should be), I'm not putting my faith in Him.  By "giving up" I have actually put myself in a position of greater power (because it's His power) to accomplish all these things.  Instead of working for worldly goals, I am striving to stay in tune, to love my family, to strengthen my testimony, and be ready to serve however God wants me to.  My focus, because it is on things of the Spirit (instead of on a huge, temporal project), is bringing me closer to my true desires than my efforts to accomplish them have ever done.  It's a paradox, for sure.  But it is also more peaceful, and more certain that what I want is on it's way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Laws of Thought and Prosperity

A few years ago I wrote some articles on the Laws of Thought as I went through Leslie Householders Mentor Training program.  I wanted to post them here, but my saved files of these articles all seem to be corrupted somehow.  Fortunately, I had to submit them for publication on another website.  Rather than reposting them here, I'm adding the links.  I want to type new ones, anyway--I need the refresher, and the experiences of the past few years have enhanced my understanding, and I want that understanding reflected in my posts.  The new ones I'll add to this site as I get them done (and probably publish on as well).  I'm also including a few other articles I've written that are related to the Laws of Thought.

The Law of Perpetual Transmutation
The Law of Relativity
The Law of Vibration
The Law of Polarity
The Law of Cause and Effect
The Law of Rhythm
The Law of Gestation

Other articles:

What Do I Have To Be Thankful For?
Facing the Uncomfortable Truth
Silencing the Shoulds
Thoughts on the Nature of God

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Choosing Happiness

I was talking to my sweet daughter the other day.  She is of an age and a temperament that makes not getting her way an absolutely miserable experience.  I was trying to help her through a particularly upsetting disappointment, when she asked me the $64,000 question: “How can I be happy when I’m just NOT?!”

Admittedly, I have been struggling with the same question—I, who have studied and taught principles that lead to happiness!  So when I found myself answering her question, I knew the answer was a gift from my Heavenly Father, an answer that was as much for me as it was for her. 

The answer consisted of three choices: 1) choose to be happy; 2) choose to be flexible; 3) choose to be grateful.

First, there is power in making a choice.  The opportunity and ability to be happy is always present, but it requires that we make a choice to lay hold upon those gifts.  Making that choice literally bestows upon you the power to think differently, the power to initiate change in your attitude first, and then in your circumstances.  YOU are the agent of change in your life, and change of any kind begins with a CHOICE.
Choosing to be happy in the face of disappointing circumstances can be difficult.  It requires that you view life and happiness from a long-term perspective.  For instance, will this particular circumstance alter your happiness five or ten years from now?  It could, if you choose to become bitter about the disappointment, but what if you get your way?  Will having things go as you desire them to make you happier in the future?  Sometimes this is a difficult question to answer.  But learning to see things from a long-term perspective, learning to believe in the possibility of happiness even if we don’t get our way now is a skill, one that can be learned, practiced, and developed.

Choosing to be flexible is a partner to choosing to be happy.   Sometimes happiness requires flexibility (I know this--I am very practiced in inflexibiltiy).  Life is full of surprises.  If we determine that our happiness is dependent upon a particular outcome, with all the possible variables, we can be setting ourselves up for failure. I remember back to my wedding reception.  I hired a company to come and decorate the church where my reception was held, and was so excited about the decor.  The crowning piece was to be an antique sleigh, perfect for my winter wedding celebration.  The day before the reception, I learned that the sleigh would not fit through the doors of the church.  The piece I was so excited about would not be a part of my decor in the way I had envisioned.  The decorator brought another, smaller, wicker sleigh.  Not what I wanted.  But not really the point of the day.  It wasn't the decor I had planned, but the reception was still perfect.  Perfect because my happiness was centered in being married to my best friend and sweetheart, not in the decor of the building.  Choosing to be happy often requires flexibility.

Most important is gratitude.  Recognizing the fact that there is much to be grateful for in spite of disappointing circumstances is the key that makes happiness and flexibility possible.  Gratitude changes our perspective.  Gratitude opens our eyes to the reality of the blessings and abundance all around us, even if we previously only saw lack.  Gratitude for our current circumstances--whatever they may be--actually allows us to receive more: more abundance, more peace, more joy, more love.Whenever disappointment or depression sets in, start with gratitude.  It will turn everything around.

My daughter, true to her age and temperament, dismissed these ideas, telling me that she had heard that the opposite was true.  Her teacher had told her of a boy who was assigned to write about his future life.  He was required to re-write and revise it until it became very detailed.  When he grew up, he discovered that every detail in that assignment was fulfilled in his life.  How can you be flexible when you’re supposed to be specific?

It was a question I had asked myself.  If the achievement of a goal requires such specificity that you can see it and feel it before it happens, where does flexibility come in?  Again, the answer came to me as a gift.  I asked her if she had ever been driving, and had to take a detour.  Detours come when, for some reason, the route we are traveling cannot get us safely to our destination.  In spite of how inconvenient they sometimes seem, they are intended to get us safely to our destination when our originally planned route will not.  How effective would it be to reach a detour sign and, rather than follow it, throw a tantrum about not being able to use the route you had planned?  Sometimes the detours take longer than we had planned.  But if we keep following them, trusting in the fact that they are helping us get to where we want to go, we will eventually arrive.  Without flexibility, however, we would find ourselves stuck at a roadblock with no hope of getting to our desired destination.

I have had the experience in the past year of not achieving many of my goals.  It has been discouraging to see what I want, and then have everything NOT turn out.  But what I have realized is that the goals that I didn’t achieve were goals that were the means to my end—my preferred route, so to speak, to get my ultimate goal of life fulfillment and happiness.  I haven’t failed because I haven’t achieved, rather, the experiences of this year have helped me to identify and clarify what I want most, and helped me to see that sometimes not getting what I want now is really helping me to get what I want later.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Thoughts on Modesty

Several months ago, a bunch of blog posts about modesty were going viral all over my facebook newsfeed. Everyone wanted to get their two cents in on the issue.  I read a lot of posts because I wanted to see other perspectives, and answer the burning question: why?  My oldest has asked "why?" about modesty since she was eight years old, and I never felt like I had an adequate answer.  But I discovered an interesting thing as I read multiple blog posts on the subject: no one else did, either.

There were posts that were quoted texts from meetings where bishops or stake presidents had been counseling youth that had some good points in them.  And then there were comments and counter-posts indicating that the original posts had missed the mark.  I felt that the commenters were also right.  Some commenters were even offended, crying sexism and hypocrisy over the way other bloggers stated their positions.  And they all had their points.  I even made an attempt at organizing a post in my own mind about the whys, but never got very far.  Finally, I asked.  Why, Heavenly Father, does modesty matter?

I was a little surprised by the answer I got.  It was so simple (as are most of the answers I get when I ask): modesty is important because it helps us to be closer to God.  When we dress modestly, we are not focused on the world: fashion, body image, being sexy.  It frees the mind to focus on higher things.  It allows us to see true beauty instead of getting mired in our "natural man" responses (see Mosiah 3:19).

Don't get me wrong.  Man and woman and the bodies we all inhabit are beautiful--the crowning creations of our Father in Heaven.  But as Mosiah 3:19 tells us, we are dual beings.  We all have within us the seed of Divinity, but we are mortals and subject to the baseness of mortality.  Our goal is to overcome that.  But we can't if we are steeping ourselves in it.  Modesty is a way of keeping out thoughts higher and living a little closer to God.  So many of the "dos and don'ts" in the church are exactly that--ways of keeping us closer to God--but are misconstrued as being yet another commandment.  It can make it seem like we have commandments for the sake of commandments.  But that is not the case.  As the Lord tells us in Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  If we truly want to become like God, then this gives us an opportunity to practice keeping our thoughts on a higher plane.

I reached one other conclusion about modesty, particularly about the way it is taught to the youth (and especially young women).  The reasons that are given about why it is important to be modest often miss the mark. They are not the reasons to be modest, they are the benefits of being modest.  One of the benefits of being modest is that it helps us to stay chaste.  But when youth--young women in particular, since that is where the focus seems to fall--are told that they need to dress modestly so that they can avoid pre-marital sex, it puts the burden of sexual purity entirely on the girls.  "Girls, don't dress immodestly, or boys will see you as objects and be after only one thing."  It may be partly true and well intended, but does that mean that a girl who is dressed "immodestly" is asking for sex?  And on the flip side, what about the modestly-dressed girl who finds herself a victim of rape?  Wasn't modesty supposed to be a protection against such a thing?  When sexual purity is touted as the reason for being modest, there are a host of associated (and incorrect) conclusions that can be drawn.

Here are some of the other benefits of modesty I came up with:
Helps keep our thoughts pure
Helps us support others in keeping their thoughts pure (I do think it's an important way that young women can support young men in honoring their priesthood)
Takes our focus off the things of the world: fashion, body image, coarse language, material possesions (we often associate modesty only with dress, but it's more of a state of mind than a state of dress.  See the definition of modest here)
Prepares youth for keeping temple covenants
Allows the Spirit to be present more abundantly in our lives

Read about Dress and Appearance in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.