Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Delicate Flower

It's a beautiful spring day and flowers are beginning to bloom in some areas here in Utah, and so I decided to go for a run up a mountain peak to clear my mind. It was only a 2000 foot elevation change, but at this time of year it was enough to see the differing stages of development of new life that spring ushers in.
At the base of the trail the trees had fully sprouted with new leaves, and flowers were all along the path. As I ascended, however, the amount of life steadily decreased. About halfway up the trail I could appreciate leaves on stems just beginning to sprout, but as soon as I came across thick snow all I found was barren branches with dead or no leaves. The path was dangerous due to the slippery snow and I fell and stumbled multiple times.
As I climbed I figured I would not be able to appreciate any wildflowers at the top as I did in the beginning of making this ascent because the conditions were not ripe for any growth.
Then I came across these flowers at the peak. They were the only plant life I could find up there. (Not including pine trees) I only took close up photos but if I would have taken this picture a couple steps back at a different angle you would be able to see that the flowers were semi-sheltered by the outcropping cavity of a rock.
When we pursue our dreams and make that upward climb the journey will get more and more treacherous. The bliss of spring we enjoyed at the beginning of the Path may not be so readily accessible as the conditions become more extreme in our ascent. We will be tested and have to endure struggle, issues, and hardships.
I want to appreciate the glorious views the mountain peaks have to offer- I want to experience life to it's full potential, but I am weak. I am a delicate flower! I stumble, fall, and experience pain which I don't fully know how to reconcile. At times that pain causes my own heart to wilter, and in my pain I sometimes hurt others.
But I still desire to enjoy the glorious views life has to offer.
I can only stand in such high places if I do so in the protective shelter of my Rock. Only under That protection will life flourish upon the mountain tops.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Love Requires Action

Love is not something you can discover from the isolated seclusion of your study room with your nose buried in a book or behind a screen as a "keyboard warrior". Love requires a response, an action, for it to be valid
"If you love me, keep my commandments." -John 14:15
Many translations of the Bible render that verse as 
"If you love me, you WILL keep my commandments"-John 14:15 (emphasis mine)

The statement, "You will keep my commandments", does not entail that becoming a disciple of Christ will subject us to a power-hungry God who wishes to devoid us of free will as an act of worship, rather, if we truly love God, keeping His commandments will be a no brainer as the desire to watch and heed Him grows within our hearts. God grants according to our desires (Alma 29:4), but if we delight in the Lord, he will GIVE us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4) The will to obey God will flow freely through a loving relationship with Him.
And so the fruit of Love is action. You WIll do something for the person you love. Love needs to be expressed in order to be authentic. Saying "you love someone" doesn't hold any weight if we aren't holding space for that person in our life through our undivided attention and conscious awareness of them. Talk is cheap, you don't confess your love, you show it.
Simply stating our belief in God is not love. Love requires action to be valid. Action is what distinguishes mere belief from faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and faith, without works, is dead. (Hew 11:6, James 2 ) Likewise, love without its appropriate response is a hollow shell. We can't fake Love, nor can we fabricate authentic discipleship to Christ. We embody His Love, we become Love, and that Love flows through us.
True love is unconditional, but it always manifests through actions. We may think God doesn't love us because we can't see His actions on our behalf, but just as a teenager may be resentful and despiteful towards their own parent's inability to raise them properly, that same child as an adult may be brought to tears as they grow to recognize on a deep and personal level through parenting their own children the struggles and sacrifices made by their own mom and dad for them. The deeper we enter into the Way of following Christ, the more and more we will come to comprehend the sacrifices made by God for us. We will see and recognize more and more His unwavering devotion to uphold and sustain us on a daily basis. The more we draw near unto God, the more we will see Him in everything, the more in awe we will be of his presence. We will be humbled again and again of his intimate awareness of each of us. The more we will want to love in return because we will know that He first loved us. (1st John 4)
So love requires a response, an action, for it to be real. It can't be discovered though secluding oneself in isolation. It requires we step into the light to engage with heaven and earth. We need to wrestle, to lay hold, to God and the goodness, truth, and beauty He desires to bestow unto us. The Divine calls us to awake and arise so that we can penetrate life with our presence and attention. From God's love we give, create, and hold space for others to do the same.
If you love someone, it will move you. If you love God, you WILL keep His commandments.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Secret Angels

Single people can still have a fun and fulfilling Valentine's Day instead of being bitterly single.
So I decided to dress like Cupid the angel for work today.
A patient of mine always tells me that great learning comes from kindness. I found that to be incredibly true in my life. So choose to be a messenger of Love for the people in your sphere of influence. Minister love to everyone in your life to become an angel on Earth.
Came across this today for the first time while driving to work, very fitting for the theme of my day:
What do you know of angels?
They are heavenly creatures sent by God with wings.
Not all have wings, according to the Bible, there are many different kinds of angels…cherubim, seraphim, warring angels, ministering angels, and then there are the other angels.
“The other angels, you ask?”
The earth angels are those who walk the earth in flesh and blood, His earth division…different but angels nonetheless. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for angel is malakh and in the New Testament, the word in Greek is Angelos. ‘Then spoke Haggai, the Lord’s malakh.’ And of the man known as John the Baptizer, the Messiah said, ‘This is He of whom it is written, “Behold I will send My angelos.” Haggai and John were both of flesh and blood, and yet they are both called angels-angels of God.
An angel is a ‘being’ sent by God, a messenger, an emissary on divine assignment, bringing God’s message. So who are the earth angels? Those who are born again and bear the message of heaven to those who dwell on earth. The message is “The Good News,” in Greek it is called the euangel, in English the evangel, as in evangelism. Within each of these words is another word. Yes, the word angel, it is no accident, for if you will bear the message of heaven to those of earth, your life will become angelic.
Today be someone’s angel and start fulfilling your angelic mission by spreading the good news of the Kingdom. Let us represent the Kingdom well…
-paraphased from Johnathan Cahn, "Book of Mysteries", Chapter: The Mystery of the Secret Angels

Monday, January 21, 2019

Braving the Wilderness of the Soul

When we embark on a journey of the soul to salvation there is always going to be those first few miles we find incredibly thrilling as we discover new things and venture out into new and unexplored terrain. Then time passes, and we find ourselves traversing through the vast and barren wilderness and that novelty that initially excited us into this grand adventure begins to fade. The heat begins to boil our tempers. We may find ourselves hungry and thirsty. Long dark and cold nights leave us lonely, and the prolong solitude feels to erode our soul.

We realize that the strait and narrow path we entered into is not a straight and easy shot to heaven. It seems too difficult to brave the wilderness of our soul that even the shackles of slavery and carnal security of the city walls we left behind begin to entice to us, but its deep in the heart of the wilderness where we will find God, and so we must learn to be true to our wild heart if we are to brave the wilderness of our soul.  

The Midbar- Johnathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries

He took me out in the desert to an immense valley surrounded by reddish mountains, which turned increasingly purple and blue as they extended out into the far distance.
"What words come to your mind," said the teacher, "when you look at the desert wilderness?"
"Dry ...barren ...austere ...severe ...hard ...forbidding ..."
"And when people go through hard times - times of loss, crisis, tragedy, loneliness, conflict, hardship, problems, separation, tears - they speak of going through the wilderness. And yet the wilderness is a holy place. It was in a desert wilderness that God gave His Law, His Word, and where He revealed His presence. The wilderness is holy."
"So the hard times in our lives are holy?"
"For those who are His children, yes."
"How so?"
"In Hebrew, the wilderness is called the midbar. Midbar comes from the root ward dabar. And dabar means to speak. What is the wilderness? It is the midbar. And what is the midbar? It is the place of God's speaking, the place of His voice. It's where God especially talks to us. Why did He bring His people into the wilderness, into the midbar? So He could speak to them. He brought Moses into the midbar to speak to him in a still, small voice. So too He brings us into the wilderness that He might speak to us."
"What is it about the wilderness that makes it the place of God's speaking?"
"Look around you," he said. "What do you see?"
"Rock, sand, mountains - not much."
"That's why," said the teacher. "God speaks, but we don't hear. We have too many distractions. But in the wilderness the distractions are gone. So God brings us to the wilderness that we might hear His voice. Therefore, do not fear or despise the wilderness of your life, and don't despise His removing of the distractions. Rather embrace it. Draw closer to Him. And listen to what He is saying. Seek to hear His voice, and you will hear Him. For the wilderness in your life is not just a wilderness. It is holy ground ...the midbar ...the place of His voice."

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Empathy and Being Moved with Compassion

I often spend late evenings in the gym working out, alone, reflecting on life while music or youtube videos play through my headphones.  Yesterday, the following segment below played.  I don't know who it's by, I just know it is from a speech on depression, a particular demon I often find myself struggling with.  The imagery spoke loudly to me.   

Picture yourself in an open area where there are no bodies and no shelter and there is a storm above you. The storm represents the situations in your life. you don’t tell anybody what you’re going through because first of all they wouldn’t understand and second of all they can’t even help you anyways. You’re in this storm and you’re down on your knees, cold and you’re weak and you feel like this is the end.What kind of purpose do we have to live? Are you just here to live to die? I mean is there not a purpose for me? Is there not a purpose in life? 
Are you not still here?
There are some things in life that are out of your control, that you can’t change and you’ve got to live with. The choice that we have though is to either give up or keep on going.And it’s not the end until you’ve given up.You are still here. And just the fact that you’re here should persuade you that you have another chance to get back up. 
You don’t have to do this alone. Hold on to that person who you think might help you. And imagine them right now saying that they can’t stop the storm right now, but they will hold you and keep you warm until the storm passes. Because when they hold you the storm is still there, but it’s okay because there with you all the way. 
Don’t give up. There’s still hope.  
Alma 7:11-12

Today I kept seeing and hearing a particular name of God: Immanuel which means God is with us.  

Immanuel in the storm-  God is with us in the storm, holding us, keeping us warm, until that storm passes!

God is with us in our suffering, God is with us in our pleasure.  God is with us in our trials, God is with us in our triumphs. God is with us in our addictions, God is with us in our freedom. God is with us in our heartbreaks, God is with us in our joys. God is with us in our loneliness, God is always with us. Are we with Him? Immanuel! 

The name Immanuel is profound to me concerning the nature of Christ and our ability to also perform miracles and usher in God's Love on earth.   There is a word that is often mentioned in scripture before a miracle or healing would occur:

Compassion, or moved with compassion, or had compassion.  

The Latin root word for Compassion comes from compatÄ«, which means to suffer with. 

Christ is Immanuel, so He will suffer with us through the storm, He will experience with us our pain and struggle.  Compassion is a state of being Jesus was in before performing miracles.  Perhaps it is the same state of being we must be in if we are to facilitate and minister the power of God to others.

I want to dive just a little deeper into the word "Compassion".  Consider the following dialogue between an Abbot monk and seeker of Truth, Gregg Braiden.  

At one monastery, I asked the abbot, “In your tradition, what is the force that connects everything in the universe?” He answered with a single word. I thought it was a mistranslation, so I asked our translator to ask him again, and he came back with that same word: “Compassion.” 
I said, “Wait a minute. Is compassion a force of nature that connects everything in the universe—or is it an experience that we have in our hearts?” After the translator had made sure he understand exactly what I’d asked, he answered again with one word: “Yes.”

Compassion or love is a force, from the heart, that transcends material reality.  It is interconnected in everything.  It is the light of Christ that fills the immensity of space, (D&C 88:6-13)  Everything in creation is sustained and powered by that light.  This is why when people recount mystical experiences where they reach a "Nirvana" state, are translated, or are "quickened" by the spirit they will often mention a loss of self (ego) while their soul expands beyond the physical constraints of their body and they feel at-one with everything in the universe.  They attain to this state because they are tapping into the Light of Christ.  They are filled with compassion and are therefore experiencing a more transcendent reality.   It is love because they see the reflection of God in themselves and in all of creation.

When acting as physical beings we are limited by our 5 physical senses.  Throughout our lives we are trained to rely wholly upon our physical senses.  We, therefore, create for ourselves an isolated island of perceived reality in which we spend all our days walking around in.  We interact with other people, but due to ego, we find ourselves so caught up in our own little island of reality we rarely, if not ever, discover the beauty of walking in a shared reality with another being.  Yes, we may have shared experiences with fellow voyagers in this world, but how often have we actually had a shared reality with another soul?  

Sometimes we think the only way to create coherence in a disconnected world is to understand our own isolated island of reality so well so that we can go about imposing our little island upon others.   We do this in the intellectual arena through preaching, proselyting, and philosophizing.  We see others as lacking in understanding and equate their suffering to the lack of understanding which we possess.   We love to play the hero who knows best and attempt to critique and correct everything in their life.  We have sympathy for them and will often find ourselves preaching to them, trying to fix their dilemmas from the righteousness of our own little-isolated island of reality.  

That method can accomplish coherence to a degree, but it only creates unity of mind, and not of heart.  We are to be of both "one heart and one mind".  Creating unity by imposing our isolated island of reality upon one another will cause our lips to draw near unto one another, but leave our hearts far separated.

The way we can transcend the oceans that separate each of our isolated islands of reality is empathy.  

Having empathy is allowing ourselves to be in a vulnerable place where we experience the feelings and thoughts of another soul.  Instead of having sympathy for them- trying to fix their problems by imposing your ideas from your "superior" island of reality onto them- you instead enter into their island and fully experience their world with them.  You don't judge their world or try an align it to the way your world is.   You simply hold space and remain fully present with them.    You become an archetypical Eem-anu-el because you are with them- in better or worse.   You have compassion because you suffer with them.   You may not be able to stop the storm over their life but you will hold them through it.

Sympathy vs Empathy 

When in this state of compassion (empathy) you are tapping into the force that connects everything in nature together.   There you will find yourself in a place where you can be "moved with compassion"  and be a conduit to usher in God's love and perform miracles.

These are just my thoughts, conclusions I have come to so far based on personal experiences.  If you are reading this take it with a grain of salt and ponder them a bit.    Most of my experience with God have been in solitude, but there have been a couple of times in my life where I have experienced the supernatural power of God in a group setting.  During these times we were not trapped in isolated islands of reality.  We crossed the oceans dividing our souls and shared in a reality far greater.   It didn't come about through zealous and intense preaching.  It didn't come about through magic incantations of precise words.    We had our hearts open and vulnerable to one another and to God.  There was no judgment, no sympathy.  Just empathy, love, and compassion.   In that place and moment we were truly one heart and one mind.


Jonathan Chan: "Book of Mysteries"

I'm going to teach you how to speak Hebrew,” said the teacher, “or at least one sentence.”
“I’m ready.”

“The Hebrew word for with is eem. And the word for us is anu.”
“Eem . . . anu,” I said.
“And the word for God is El.”

“So how would you say ‘With us is God’?” he asked.
“Eem . . . anu . . . El.”
“Say it again.”
“Eem . . . anu . . . El. Eem anu El . . . Immanuel!”

“Yes, Immanuel. So Isaiah prophesied of Messiah, ‘A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a child and shall call Him Immanuel.’”
“The Name of Messiah.”

“And more than a name. In Hebrew, it’s a sentence. It’s a declaration, a reality. It’s the reality of Messiah. His very life on earth was this Hebrew sentence, a declaration in Hebrew—eem anu El.”

“How was His life a sentence?” I asked.
“When He was sorrowful. Who was it who was sorrowful?”

“It was Immanuel in sorrow,” said the teacher, “Eem anu El in sorrow. It forms a sentence: ‘God is with us in sorrow.’

And when He was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the storm, it was Immanuel in the storm. Eem anu El in the storm. It forms another sentence: ‘God is with us in the storm.’

And when He was despised and rejected of men, it was eem anu El in rejection.”
“God is with us in rejection,” I replied.

“When He hung on the cross in judgment, it was eem anu El in judgment.”
“God is with us in judgment.”

“And when He ascended to heaven, where He is, it is eem anu El forever.”
“God is with us forever.”

“Immanuel came into the world and to every circumstance of life, so that we could say, ‘At all times, in all places, in every circumstance . . . eem anu El, God is with us . . . always.’”

The Mission: Today, practice the Hebrew of His name. In every circumstance speak and fathom the reality of eem anu El—God is with you, always.

Isaiah 7:14
Matthew 1:21–25
Luke 8:22–25

Alma 7:11-12

Marriage was established at the beginning as a covenant by the word and authority of God, between the woman and God, the man and woman, and the man and God.
(Answer and Covenant)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Gratitude for the Scars

"The wound is the place where the light enters you."
- Rumi
My face and hands still bear scars from this incident.  I was very self-conscience about them for a long time, but now I am grateful for them.  They serve as a reminder of a pivotal time in my life.  This incident temporarily left my faced ugly and marred and injured my wrist which prevented me from working out.  In a sense, it stripped me of my physical identity for a season, but that is what caused me to begin seeking to discover my spiritual identity.  Light began to enter into me through those wounds. 

I am grateful for weaknesses.  This past year I have had so many of them laid out before me.  Its been a terrifying endeavor venturing into those deep wounds, but it's deep in our weakness where the true strength of the heart is discovered.   It is through our brokenness we find God and the divine within. 

Strength and weaknesses are one-in-the-same at the core, not mutually exclusive.  The only way out is in.  The only way out of your weaknesses is by going in and seeing the truth about who you are, and that means owning all of the possibilities.  You cannot get to your strength except by traveling through your weaknesses, owning them and allowing the potential that lies within your light to transform them into powerful strengths.   
Where your weaknesses are, there will your strengths be also.
-Staci Sadler, "Aura Personalities"
2nd Corinthians 12:9, Ether 12:27 

I am grateful for wounds and weaknesses- they have given God the opportunity to come through for me.   I have gratitude for the scars- they bear witness of the healing received through my Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach.  Now all I have is this sword and I give it to whomever wishes to continue his pilgrimage.  I carry with me the marks and scars of battles- they are the witnesses of what I suffered and the rewards of what I conquered.   
These are the beloved marks and scars that will open the gates of Paradise to me.  There was a time when I used to listen to tales of bravery.  There was a time when I lived only because I needed to live.  But now I live because I am a warrior and because I wish one day to be in the company of Him whom I have fought so hard 
-John Bunyan

Happy Thanksgiving Davis County!