Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reclaiming Child-Like Awe and Wonder in the Face of Suffering

The willingness to return to the child-like awe and wonder of Life in spite of the trials and tragedies that beset us in our lives is one the greatest defenses we have against the snares of resentment and self-pity. It's voluntarily returning to the paradise and innocence of Eden, but this time with the intelligence and wisdom gained through our struggles on earth. It is standing uprightly and boldly before God, in spite of the scars we bear in our nakedness because we are confident in His Love.

The Buddha teaches that life is suffering. That is true. It's when we are open to reconciling that suffering with God we receive a deeper measure of Love and a greater understanding of the pain. Those who surrender themselves to the hands of God see God's hands in all things. They evolve through their trials. They can appreciate life, the good and the bad, much more deeply because they comprehend the meaning of the experiences. They can experience the highs of life in fullness because they've sunk low enough to discover their foundation in Jesus Christ. They can love deeper because they are acquainted with grief and familiar with sorrow.

Life is full of storms but peace is still attainable in the midst of such chaos. Jordan Peterson taught me in his book about chaos that you have to be alert when you're suffering, you have to be alert to the beauty in life, the unexpected beauty of life. You have to look for that little bit of sparkling crystal in the darkness when things are bad. You have to look and see where things are still beautiful.

If we chose to see and appreciate the transcendent beauty of life in the face of suffering and struggle, maybe we would see God. We would see light and be filled with that light. The world would shine brighter through our light instead of darkening though our resentment. We could reclaim our child-like awe for life and bring Heaven on Earth.

More Moab Thoughts

June 5th, 2019

Sometimes in order for God to show us our foundation, He will need to wash away the muck in our life. That process can spiral us towards rock bottom, but that is the rock we need to build upon. That process of washing is usually full of painful disappointments. I've learned we can react in two ways to Life's painful lessons:
1. Shut off the pain by closing off our heart. This will cause us to grow resentful and bitter towards life, darkening our eyes to only see meaningless suffering, making us feel as the ever victim to life's injustices. Hate will consume us.
2. Opening our heart to God. This will cause us to feel even more pain, but that pain lets us know that our heart is still alive. Suffering will have meaning and we will see God's hand in every trial. Our appreciation for what is good, true, and beautiful will deepen and Love will envelop us.

רוּחַ - ruach

May 19th, 2019

Rauch- In Hebrew, it means breath, wind, or spirit
Ruach can be soft, gentle, and reassuring as it caresses you through the cool breeze of day, singing the warm melodies of spring and summer
It can scorch and leave lands barren with the dry heat of a drought, invading cities with the oppressive dark haboobs of the desert sand
Ruach can call you to adventure, inviting you to pursue your personal legend while carrying with it the scent and song of true love
Or as it did on this peak, Willard's Fin, AKA Lighting Rock, it can chill your face sending shivers down your spine while nearly knocking you down to your knees, deafening you as it roars it's magnificent and awesome power
These pictures may seem pretty peaceful and serene, and the majority of the hike up was. But as we approach the top things became suddenly intense. I think between the snowmelt which created many rapid rivers down the mountain face, the fresh ongoing rainstorm, and the shape of Willard's Fin it was a perfect environment for fierce and fridged gusts of air to encircle us up on "Lighting Rock". We could not hear each other over the chaotic roar of the wind. The wind chill was so cold that my phone kept dying despite it being fully charged. Major photo credit to @parker1349 , he was about to collapse because of the crushing force of the wind making it hard to stand and difficult to breathe, yet he still managed to get some awesome shots.
Live from the breath of Life
Fill yourself with the Spirit
Let His winds carry you
Embrace and inhale the ruach of God

Parker and I went up to Willard's Fin to commune with and worship God.  Hiking up mountains has become a normal thing for Sunday Sabbath Day observance.   At the top the wind was so powerful and chilling Parker couldn't spend too much time and had to descend before me.  I spent some time alone in the roaring wind.  I began to pray to God about my particular issues and offerings.  As I did the winds ceased.  When I ended my prayer the wind resumed its mighty roar.   

I met up with Parker little ways down the fin.  We found shelter among the rocks and trees around the spot the last photo above was captured at.  Despite the covering, the wind was still deafening (Well maybe not for Parker ;) ) 

Here we began to break and bless the sacrament.  As we did the winds once again ceased and remain calm.  While we enjoyed the Lord's Supper I asked the question out loud, "I know there are references in scripture to God's voice be likened unto rushing waters, Is there any references in scripture to God's voice being like roaring wind?" 

Parker mutter the word "Ruach". At that precise moment, the wind roared through the trees and rocks, louder than what we experienced at the fin.  It shooks and startled us.  It was so sudden and grand that it left us speechless for many seconds as we processed what just happen.  We then burst into laughter!

Moving - May 14th

I love how Mother Earth changes. I love how the moon that dances around Her is constantly waxing or waning, leaving time for dark nights of epic star gazing or serene moonlit evenings. I love observing the passing of Her seasons, appreciating all the diversity of Her unique beauty that can only be celebrated in specific seasons when conditions are just right.
Life is constantly moving- constantly progressing into something more through creation or decaying through entropy. Nature is a constant state of change and transformation and if we want to engage Life we need to learn how to embrace change and transformation ourselves. Acknowledge the season of life we are in and seek to understand how we can develop through it the fullest.
I moved to Cache Valley at the end of fall. I left at the start of spring. I had plans to enjoy the summer outdoors this place has to offer, but Life is taking me elsewhere.
Logan is known for it's fridged winters, and I resided here through those dark cold months. In that time I experienced many struggles and wrestled with my own darkness many times. However, I was never alone in it. I had my best friends and I had my God, Jesus Christ, in every difficulty. My time in Cache Valley was not what I expected it to be like, but it was beautiful none-the-less. I value what I learned and discovered here in the dark and cold time, blessing both the positive and negative experiences as beneficial. I hope to take that experience and light into the brighter days and warmer seasons Life has in store.

Random Thoughts on Relationships- Ongoing Goofy and Awkward Stumble Towards the Kingdom of God

May 6th 2019

The space that couples create for each other needs to have God within it or else we idolize our partner in that relationship. If we derive our identity and power from them instead of our inner relationship with God then it leads to resentment, frustration, and anger when the fixation of our happiness (our significant other) reveals it's imperfect, ungodly, and human flaws. No one is perfect. There is no such thing a perfect man or perfect woman because we are all flawed in this fallen world. So I think it is so important that a couple be not ashamed of each other's nakedness. (vulnerabilities, insecurities, flaws) and embark on the journey of healing together. We are all naked before God. We can't stand boldly before Him if we are too concerned with cowering in insecurity and crafting the fig leaves of our perfect facades when He comes looking for us. If we can learn to be comfortable and open in our brokenness with the people we are closest with in this life, and truly be known by them for our beauty and our messiness instead of fearing their judgment and rejection, then maybe it would be easier for us to approach God in our own brokenness. Maybe the path to the Kingdom of God is not a graceful elegant solo dance through the gates of paradise while the angles applaud for us. Maybes it is more of an ongoing goofy and awkward stumble with the people we come to love and the only way we can make it is if we are to bear one another's burdens. And we can't bear one another's burdens unless we are willing to disrobe our baggage and be seen in our vulnerability.

We [men] have shame, we have deep shame, but when we reach out and tell our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us." And he said, "And before you say anything about those mean fathers and those coaches and those brothers and those bully friends, my wife and three daughters, the ones who you just signed the books for, they had rather see me die on top of my white horse than have to watch me fall off." 
"I've come to this belief that, if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man. And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I'll show you a guy who's done his work and a man who doesn't derive his power from controlling and fixing everything." 
-Brene Brown, "Men, Women, and Worthiness" two excepts from that audible production. Listening to it a third time ans still learning so much. Would highly recommend.

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.