Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Worry

The Burden of Worry

I have often quoted the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance worker, Corrie ten Boom, in saying “Worry doesn’t relieve tomorrow of its sorrow, but empties today of its strength.” (In reality, there are sources that attribute this statement to other people, but because of my admiration of this woman, I choose to attach her name to it). With that in mind, I wrote the following back on 26 September 2004:

People generally recognize the negative impact of worry – with its increase of stress levels and anxiety, but many still engage in it. At times it seems almost like a familiar comfort for the worrier.

In reality, of course, worry is simply paying in advance for something we don’t even want. If we don’t want it, why pay for it, and why pre-pay? But there is another fault with worry that causes it to border on self-indulgence.

Worry is indeed a very selfish thing. When a person engages in worry, where is that person’s focus? Is focus directed toward the betterment of other people? No! In fact, the worrier’s attention is all self-directed. The worry centers on the feelings of the worrier. True, it may at times involve a person that the worrier cares about and the worrier’s desire that nothing bad happens to that person, but it still applies primarily to the worrier’s feelings.

Let us contrast this to a higher plane of life. Does a righteous God feel worry? Did Jesus suffer the effects of worry? No! Not even in His mortality, while looking through His own glass relatively darkly did he display worry. He showed love, genuine caring, real concern, but never worry. In fact, he chides Martha for her worrying about Mary’s lack of help in the kitchen: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things (Luke 10:41 – note that “careful” at the time of the King James translation carried the meaning that “worry” later assumed).

As the Apostle Paul explains, “the greatest of these is charity” or love (I Corinthians, 13:13). Mormon demonstrates that love is a power akin to faith. These three remain: faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7). Love implies pro-active action; concern is focused outward toward some other entity. The locus of control remains internal, but the attention directs itself away from the self.

Worry, however, remains self-directed, focused inwardly. As such, it acts as a parasite, feeding upon and cankering the soul. The word “worry” originally had the meaning ‘to strangle.’ Our indulgence in worry may be momentarily satisfying, but like many self-indulgent acts, worry is, in reality, self-destructive. We simply strangle ourselves.

Cigarettes provide temporary physical pleasure but cause hideous physical harm. Worry likewise provides temporary spiritual/emotional pleasure, but creates long-lasting damage to the spirit. That makes it an act of self-loathing. Given that we cannot love another any more than we love ourselves, it is supremely selfish – counter to the love of God.

Divesting ourselves of worry makes us happier and more God-like.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Testimonies in Poetry

A month or so ago it was my assignment to teach the high priests group, and the topic was Testimony of Jesus Christ. I thought about all the various testimonies we have in the scriptures, and recalling them reminded me that many of them attain a high level of eloquence, even poetry. I collected some of these together, which we read together during our meeting time. I like them enough - for the content as well as for the beauty of the language - that I wanted to share them here.

Testimonies in Poetry

Beauty and Eloquence in the Spirit

The Apostle, Paul, reminding the Hebrews of their core beliefs:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…

Hebrews 1:1-3

Some 550 years before the birth of the Messiah, on the Western Hemisphere, a prophet reveals his source of knowledge of events to come – the revelations of God (note, too, that Christ is merely the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah):

For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.

Jacob 4:4, 8

The beloved Apostle knew the Lord well; in introducing his account of the Lord’s mission, he testifies:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1-5

It strikes us ironic that so many people who respect the Savior as a great teacher, philosopher even, overlook his very specific testimony of himself:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

John 17:3

Stephen indicted the Sanhedrin who sought to discredit the true Messiah by pointing out in a grandly eloquent manner how the entire history of Israel, from Abraham to the present, testified of Christ. Enraged, they began to physically assault him; filled with the Holy Spirit, he gave this testimony before they stoned him to death:

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Acts 7:55-56

Again the Beloved, declares the Lord as our source of light; if we disregard His light, we stumble in darkness:

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

I John 1:5-7

Latter day revelation testifies in support of John of the light that emanates from God through His Son to illuminate the entire universe and each of us individually:

This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

Doctrine & Covenants 88:4-13

Moroni spent several decades alone, with the companionship only of the Holy Ghost and, possibly, the Three Nephites. He must have pondered much the things of God. We know that he was keenly interested in us who live in the last days. His stated purpose in preserving the sacred record compiled by his father, Mormon, was to bear testimony to us, Jew, Lamanite and Gentile, in the latter days of the goodness and grace of God of the sacred mission and atonement of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He surely gave long thought to his final statement to us. These are Moroni’s last words after spending many long years alone: his final words of wisdom imparted to us of the latter days:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

Moroni 10:32-33

And finally, from one who witnessed the Lord numerous times, seeing Him and hearing His voice as he did the Lord’s bidding in restoring the Lord’s Church prior to His coming again, his great testimony, last of all:

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24

Stirring and beautiful words indeed.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Thy Will - My Will

The ideas here came to me while enjoying Sacrament Meeting; now I would like to share them with you:

Precious Fruit

A world obsessed with self-indulgence can,
It seems, see nothing but its own desires;
Its denizens run blindly to and fro,
Not seeing what is vital in a life
Of meaning on eternal planes; unseen
Flows water giving everlasting life.
Except the Lord shall build the house the work
Is vain of those that build.

My will is not
Of consequence in lasting views; I wish
Instead to sublimate my will to Thine,
My Holy Father, doing nothing but
What pleases Thee, serves Thee and glorifies

Thy name.
My will must be to trust in Him,
The Lord, with all mine heart, and lean not on
Mine own weak understanding. If in all
My ways I can acknowledge Him, He shall
Direct my paths. The fruit of God’s great love
Is sweet above all sweet and white above
All white and pure above all pure; so I
Shall feast upon this fruit until I’m filled,
That I will neither hunger nor will thirst
Forever in the joy of God’s own grace.

(cf. Psalm 127:1; Proverb 3:5; Alma 32:42)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Knowing Him

Jesus as Icon

A friend shared the following essay in Sunday School this morning, and it had a positive impact on me. I know that in talking to my clients on a daily basis, I often mention the fact that we as human beings tend to live with routines that develop habits, and sometimes these habits don’t welcome change in the routine.

There are times when use of auto-pilot in our activities is a necessary means of avoiding burnout. However, this should never govern our relationship with God or His Son. If living with mindless routine can harm the health of a marriage relationship, imagine what it can do to our relationship with the Savior. Given that this is the most vital relationship we can possibly ever have (see my June 24th entry), we had better recognize the need to take conscious and pro-active steps to make this relationship a living relationship and anything but routine.

The focus of my thoughts here is an article – a book chapter, actually – by a minister at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio named Max Lucado. He has written over 50 books with 28 million of them in print, so I am surprised that I had never heard of him before. Having read this, I probably will get better acquainted with him.

He writes of how he spent a summer while a college student in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and first saw the gigantic statue called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This mammoth monolith stands 90 feet tall on a 2,330 foot tall mountain that stands within the city limits and is visible from all over the city.

Reverend Lucado continues: “Below me was Rio. Seven million people swarming on the lush green mountains that crash into the bright blue Atlantic. Behind me was the Christ the Redeemer statue. As I looked at the towering edifice through my telephoto lens, two ironies caught my attention.

“I couldn’t help but notice the blind eyes. Now, I know what you are thinking – all statues have blind eyes. You are right, they do. But it’s as if the sculptor of this statue intended that the eyes be blind. There are no pupils to suggest vision. There are no circles to suggest sight. There are only Little Orphan Annie openings.

“I lowered my camera to my waist. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind? Eyes fixated on the horizon, refusing to see the mass of people at its feet?

“I saw the second irony as I again raised my camera. I followed the features downward, past the strong nose, past the prominent chin, past the neck. My focus came to rest on the cloak of the statue. On the outside of the cloak there is a heart – a Valentine’s heart; a simple heart.

“A stone heart.

“The unintended symbolism staggered me. What kind of redeemer is this? Heart mad of stone? Held together not with passion and love, but by concrete and mortar. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind eyes and stony heart?

“I’ve since learned the answer to my own question: What kind of redeemer is this? Exactly the kind of redeemer most people have.

“Oh, most people would not admit to having a blind redeemer with a stone heart. But take a close look.

“For some, Jesus is a good luck charm: the ‘Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer.’ Pocket sized, handy, easily packaged, easily understood, easily diagramed. You can put his picture on your wall or you can stick it in your wallet as insurance. You can frame him. Dangle him from your rear view mirror or glue him to your dashboard.

“His specialty? Getting you out of a jam. Need a parking place? Rub the redeemer. Need help on a quiz? Pull out the rabbit’s foot. No need to have a relationship with him. No need to love him. Just keep him in your pocket next to your four-leaf clover.

“For many he’s an ‘Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer.’ New jobs. Pink Cadillacs. New and improved spouses. Your wish is his command. And what’s more, he conveniently reenters the lamp when you don’t want him around.

“For others, Jesus is a ‘Monty Hall Redeemer.’ ‘All right, Jesus, let’s make a deal. For firty-two Sundays a year, I’ll put on a costume – coat and tie, hat and hose – and I’ll endure any sermon you throw at me. In exchange, yhou give me the grace behind pearly gate number three.’

“The Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer, the Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer, the Monty Hall Redeemer – few demands, no challenges, no need for sacrifice, no need for commitment.”

Although many conservative Christians fault us Mormons for believing that we have to do something toward our salvation (after all, who are we to take Paul literally when he writes: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” - Philippians 2:12?), this good man states unequivocally that we must do much more than just call him “Lord, Lord” (cf. Luke 6: 46).

If we want to be with the Lord for eternity we need to know Him. You must know Him to the best of our abilities here, and we must continue to seek after Him after our mortal probation. We must love Him, and if we love Him we will show Him the respect of keeping His commandments and doing His will.

As we continue to do His will and obey Him, we personify His advice to the Nephrites (and, of course, to us): “…what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).“

Here and now, as Natural Men, this is anything but routine or habitual for us. It takes conscious effort – for now. After all, it is not accidental that He tells us that what separates those who dwell in His presence for eternity from the “honorable men of the earth” who enjoy a lesser glory is that the first group remains “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”

For this, we need a real and loving relationship with the Lord. Seeing Him as an icon or no more than a graven image will not save us. But, as we all know, nothing is more important.