I have concluded…..I am not great at eliminating counter productivity from my life. In striving for greater spirituality and a closer, more genuine relationship with God, sin gets in the way. Preacherontheweb would say I am a baby in not choosing a better maturation path. Yes, I am childish. This is not entirely a bad thing. Sometimes, though, I am a crowing Peter Pan. Others might describe me as a problem person. I don’t want to be a problem person.
A needful sorting of wheat from chaff should could be a goal of mine. And yet I procrastinate. You would have thought I’d have come to this conclusion with all of my head-butting. Last weekend I attempted grabbing myself by the horns…in goats. As a result, I have had a stiff neck all week. Also, I forgot and missed a much needed neck kneading massage last Wednesday, and could not reschedule for sooner than a month or more out. I resolved to schedule with someone new…..an unknown healer.
I concluded, maybe God is trying to get my attention. Maybe this stiff neck is a sign that I need to change more. Maybe I should not procrastinate the day of a more full and complete repentance any longer. Maybe it is well past the time to forsake, and for goodness sake, to MOVE ON! This is scary, because moving on means additional loss and loneliness in my mind and heart. Pain. How do I transfer a dependency on a person to a dependency on Jesus?
What I started in healing over the holidays….seems to have stalled out. Some days I’m off, and some days I’m on, sort of like water in a fuel line. I start up, go along for a bit moving ahead and then sputter and stop. Start over. Some days barely getting the engine started before flooding out again. Other days roll along a bit better. And yet, I still have this stiff neckedness in my engine block.
Pride, in the physical form of “pain in the neck” increasingly makes physical and cognitive activities painful. Swimming has become more challenging. Line of symmetry, arm pull, side breathing… difficult. Running much tighter than normal. Being void of pain, something I have taken for granted…..not possible. Limited range of motion also limits my outlook and vision. Pain becomes an additional distraction from teaching. This pain might not have been, if I had done things differently. I am reminded of PRIDE every time I turn my neck, and each time I look to give attention to things outside of myself. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Still stiff necked! Baaaah! Where do I turn for peace and for pain relief?
I chose wisely in attending church today. From the last row of folding chairs, it is a good thing that the pulpit was directly in front of me. The youth speaker addressed repentence. The Stake speaker, was very likeable, and energetic. She made me smile and peaked interest at times with scripture references that spoke to my soul. But the needful messages and whisperings were at times interrupted by the topic and predictabliity of it all. She spoke on education and the need for it in progressing in this life. Rhetoric.
Rhetoric is fine. Just boring, and bland. It is milk, not solid food. Advice, not greater light. “Knowledge is the only thing we can take with us when we die,” she cites. I think knowledge is not everything. We learn and then in time we lose this. Her quote is something that surfaces sometimes in the talks of lay people of my culture. I think it would work better if the word “knowledge” were replaced with the variable k, where k equals “love” or “wisdom.” Using the substitution property, the statemenet reads differently:
“Wisdom” is the only thing we can take with us. or “Love” is the only thing we can take with us.
How does one acquire wisdom and love in this life in building better character? Through experience. Through suffering and loss? Through gratitude? Through awareness? Through sacrifice? Through forgiving others? Through service. In losing oneself to others and to the will of God? Yes to all of these.
I raised my head more to listen to the next person rise a little higher with the pulpit and speak on the Law of Sacrifice. This doctorinal precept is not unique to Mormonism. It is a component of a strong Christian foundation for a better lived life. A stone near the keystone, in constructing increased faith in Jesus. I raised my head and opened my heart to words of wisdom. Sacrifice is a key to opening knowledge and wisdom. It comes from love, and results in……love. Hm.
Sacrifice has existed from the beginning of time. While I like to think TIME is an invention of man, I do not think man created Sacrifice. I think God gave it as a commandment maybe.
I have been taught that God has always been and will always be, regardless of the ways humans describe His being. Mormonism teaches that God has a plan for His children. There was a dialogue and counsel with His children, intelligences, in a life pre-existent to an Earthly probation. Jesus volunteered to be a sacrificial lamb for our sins in glorifying His father. Satan offered to fulfil this same role for his own glory. God dismissed Lucifer and Lucifer’s self serving plan and expelled him and one third of the host of heaven. Christ came to Earth as a baby in the flesh. He served his mortal mission and ministry into manhood. The Son of God died and rose on the third day assuring all a resurrection. His Grace will provide the possiblity of eternal joy through life in His presence. This is the story I have been taught from near birth.
In times well before the life and ministry of Jesus, there were prophets who believed in a Savior who would come. Abraham was prepared and set forth in giving Isaac, his son to God as a sacrifice. This was a type of things to come. The Lord stilled Abraham’s sacrificial blade, sparing the prophet’s son. This is a lesson in putting God’s will above our own. I have heard this story numerous times, but fall short in applying putting God’s will before my own will.
There are multiple other human examples of selfless sacrifice in behalf of others over our own selfish wishes and desires. Worthy examples can likely be found in a reading of the lives of scriptural prophets, and even some of our Country’s greatest leaders such as Washington, and Lincoln, who interestingly enough, was an atheist at one time. Patriotic service people throughout generations and world wars have sacrificed for love of country and freedom. Our young LDS sons and daughters who travel abroad and embark in spreading the good word of Christ gladly, joyously sacrifice. They call a world to repentence and commitment to covenant with Christ to keep God’s Commandments and always remember Him. Why don’t I always remember?
Other examples of sacrifice include some of the world’s greatest teachers and mystics. I have known and know less known teachers at my work place who sacrifice time to reteach concepts, or who listen to small ones in social struggling, or who listen to reading in a reading campaign to bring about progress. Some hand out ice packs. 🙂 I have also heard of Principals giving up a portion of paid salary to fund additional needed staffing, in an effort to reduce class size for the sake of children and teachers. This is compassionate. This is generous. This is sacrifice with pure motivation. This is beyond what many of us are willing to do for others. This is amazing, and truly a reflection of God’s Grace played out in human form. I think of the young rich man who asked Jesus, “Lord how do I get into Heaven?” to which Jesus replied sell all of your Earthly possessions and give this to the poor. Then, come follow me.” I am not sure that young man was able to do this thing. Some people CAN and DO in their own ways.
Living the Law of Sacrifice brings joy and blessings. Some people can not understand the motivation for doing this thing. The voices of self and gain are loud. The still, soft voice speaks not in ways of the world. It speaks Love. It is the Christian way. It is quite ordinary, but often done so quietly that it is not seen or heard. This is as God suggests. “But go into your closet to pray….” It is done without recognition or recompense. Without vain words and repitition. When sacrifice, service, love is discovered, it is sometimes applauded, received with gratitude. Sometimes…. debated. It may even be the subject of lunch in the lounge, or on social media and facebook. It is judged and questioned. Why?
People want to talk, understand, and judge. Fact is….sacrifice should be simply acknowledged, accepted, and received as a gift. Now days sacrifice has become the new Ripley’s Believe it or NOT, and somewhat mystified as extraordinary. In many cases in a world of hate, competition, deception….it is the exception.
A person comes to the decision to sacrifice from a place of faith and love. If the motive is anything less than these, then it is counterfit, fraudulent, and rooted in self promotion and ego to be seen of men. If this is the case, in time it is found out, and met with feelings of stupor, regret, dissapointment, disappointment, guilt for wrong motives.
Love must be given with no thought of oneself, and no thought of receiving anything in return. This is the Law of Attraction, or the law of love. This is a Universal law. A law of God and of Christ. Other Earthly mystics, and world religious leaders and avatars have come to know it and emulate it. It is not a creation of man, but it can be magnified by man. It is a truth that has always been, regardles of who has known it, and regardless or how well it has been lived.
And so I sat in church, not long after having taken the Lord’s supper in memory of the crucified. I sat there pondering my inadequacies. Repenting….week after week. I sat there still and silent, attempting to be present, attempting an open heart, with tears rolling down my face. I listened to the speaker teach on Sacrifice. He said God wants us to Sacrifice in three major ways:
1. God wants us to love Him. From us he wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I am pretty good at being broken. I need to make my life whole. I can not do this alone. As I humble myself, repent, pray, and seek to follow God’s will, not my own……I can approach this in loving others appropriately. “If ye have done it unto the least of these, my bretheren, ye have done it unto me.” Sometimes my gut response is to do something that “I” want to do. I am good at self. I am getting better at recognizing this thing and then choosing the opposite of what I want. Sometimes this works.
2. God wants us to love others as ourselves. He wants us to sacrifice ourselves and our TIME in the spirit of LOVE. My son is giving two years of his life in this manner. He is an inspiration. Loving God, this is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like unto it.
3. God wants us to sacrifice our means….to give monitarily. Thus tithes and offerings. Charity. Outreach. There are several individuals at my school who do this thing. For some money is the big stumbling block.
The blessing of sacrifice comes in the faith that we grow and exercise from a place of LOVE for God and our fellow brothers and sisters. The blessing is the love and peace that we feel and that returns to us. The Law of attraction sees to this. What one gives, one receives. “Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened up unto you. Seek and ye shall find.” This is the creative process. Many people choose to fear or complain rather than ask, act, or risk rejection.
In closing, the speaker challenged his audience to consider how we can better live our lives through applying the law of sacrifice. I thought, what CAN I do? Just because I should, and because I CAN, doesn’t mean I will. I must WiLL toward my Father’s WILL. In doing so I have faith I WILL find joy. But this is not easy. I kick and stub my toe on so many stumbling blocks, on pride, and on favorite sins. WILL I WILL MY WILL TO THE FATHER? I KNOW I should do this thing.
I sat there and then later at home at the kitchen table over lunch, in the rehash of what each of us learned today at church……..thinking. Sometimes procrastination brings sorrow and undesirable outcomes. I think on a scripture, “Do not procrastinate the day of your repentence.” This is more than a death bed consideration, as I can be found in my lazy girl recliner, my spiritual death chair on any given day, or my Select Number Imperfect Sleeper Sinful Death Bed on any given night. Forget to say prayers.
I ponder on the Hale Theater production of Les Miserables. I am reminded of the devastations I have created in my own life and the pain and suffering I have incurred on the paths of others whom I love because of my own weakness. My heart breaks in thinking back to an exchange I had in the church corridore with a friend, former Bishop, whose wife has what has been called an incurable clear cell cancer. This week the family is going to the same Les Miserables production that Delanie and I attended and wept through a week ago. I can not imagine the emotion the collective family will feel in this outing. Anticipation of death, and the loss of a most beloved one almost made sure in only being given six months to live. I can not even imagine this and do it justice with my empathy. I pray they can defy these odds in living a miracle. I believe in miracles.
I pull into my driveway after church. It is a beautiful, second day of Spring afternoon. The sky is clear and blue like loving kind eyes. There are no clouds in sight for miles. The singing apple tree is singing away and chiming “Welcome Home.” Serius radio is playing Amazing Grace in a wonderful Bible belt way. It is indeed a sweet sound. I listen to the words intently as I idle in the driveway.
The concept of Grace has taken first place and top priority in my “Strait Way to New” way of life, in increasingly seeking God’s and Christ’s mercy….in feeling the forgiveness of others…..in forgiving myself. Some days I succeed in feeling better and in healing. Other days not so much. Time will heal, but focus on Jesus will help most.
I think of this wonderous gift of GRACE. This is what will speak peace to Bishop Ron and to dear Jane. I have felt this healing power before in past years of wayward youth. I have been reminded of this more recently in my reckless, foolish adulthood.
I am grateful for the law of love. I am grateful for forgiveness. After all, forgiveness is love. Love is for……giving. Thank you. I pray I can sacrifice my sins for giving something better to God and to those around me. I pray I can find focus and remember best motives. And so I attempt making a list almost daily of things I love and I am grateful for. Sometimes I do this in my brief morning prayer in the parking lot. Sometimes I just pause to breath life for a moment during planning time, or when a student says something lovely and remarkable to a peer.
I think on personal struggles that over a life time I have come to know as favorite sins. I imagine a Giant Red Cursive “C” or “L” or “F” on an uncomfortablly warm, scratchy wool sweater. I imagine myself picking out with a sharp exacting tool, extra stong, tiny, tightly machine made stitches from a monogramed stiff bold letter, on what appears as a team sweater or hoodie. Little by little, over time….maybe I remove the scarlet label of “Carnal,” “Lascivious,” “Lust,” or “Fleshy.” These things that feel so good toward selfish lies that I subscribe to. I wonder if I will ever complete this brave remaking toward holier, and to the sewing of another different letterhead……”A” for “Appropriate,”L” for “Love”…..”PL”….”Pure Love” of Christ.
I don’t know. I doubt and fear much. In much thinking, little doing…. I mostly stumble. Sometimes pick myself up and redirect toward faith. Even though I feel I am lonely in this…..I am not alone. He is with me. I must remember He is with me as I make another list. My checklist of sins to master sit in opposition to the things I love and celebrate. My sin list is as long as my blessing list. I place a finger on the grand master of sins and I wonder…..
One day I will take my splendid # 2.5 pencil and check that one off. One day, I will scratch that.