Monday, October 27, 2014

Adversary

Most understand the feelings of having a foe, enemy, opponent, rival, or opposition. I have felt very real opposition in my life. Being a people-pleaser, it has been hard for me to have enemies, or opposition. I have come to understand opposition as something that needs to exist, so that I can learn what it means to truly have joy, to learn and progress, and to conquer the feelings I have when I find out I have an enemy. Being a religious person, I have learned a great deal about loving my enemies, and still have yet to understand Christlike love in all it verities. 

In the past several years, I have also come to understand and acknowledge an enemy that is so tricky, the tactics are hardly recognizable. I shared something with someone close to me about the real pull of an unseen enemy - the adversary. As I described my feelings and how I came to recognize this unseen adversary, the response I received was, " Huh, weird." At first, I was taken aback. I recoiled into my defensive shell thinking: "Weird, she dares call this weird, this is real!"

I realized that how I was speaking about what I was experiencing may seem weird to someone who may not have thought about the idea before. Hence, this post. When I say that there is an unforeseen enemy called the adversary, this is what I mean:

  • There are dark influences that would have us believe we are nothing
  • The adversary cannot touch us - not tangible
  • The adversary can whisper lies
  • The adversary cannot make choices for us
  • How we react to this adversary is up to us - the adversary cannot force us to do anything
  • The adversary is not to be confused with the effects of someone who has been psychologically diagnosed

There may be several who disagree with me or feel I am giving credence to something purely unbelievable. Thank you for your opinion and for allowing me to express mine. 

I recently had a friend post the following quote:

"Whenever the adversary cannot persuade imperfect yet striving [people] such as you to abandon your belief in a personal and loving God, he employs a vicious campaign to put as much distance as possible between you and God. The adversary knows that faith in Christ—the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles—goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies—lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme.

As long as you allow these voices to chisel away at your soul, you can’t approach the throne of God with real confidence. Whatever you do, whatever you pray for, whatever hopes for a miracle you may have, there will always be just enough self-doubt chipping away at your faith—not only your faith in God but also your confidence in yourself. Living the gospel in this manner is no fun, nor is it very healthy. Above all, it is completely unnecessary! The decision to change is yours—and yours alone." -Elder Jörg Klebingat
Before I understood what the adversary really is, I was stuck in this trap of self-doubt. I ended up blaming myself, then getting angry with myself and others. Granted I can choose how I react to this information...but sometimes, just sometimes I wished I knew how to deal with it better.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Calm After the Storm

 
Some may have heard the adage "the calm before the storm," but what about the calm after the storm? One of my earlier posts discussed my recent stormy moment. It wasn't monstrous like some of the storms I have faced, but a storm nonetheless.

I have lately been reminded of a subject spoken of by one of my favorite religion professors, Michael Wilcox, who discusses the parable of the 4th watch. I remember the first time I heard this, and how much I felt like I had reached the 3rd watch a lot in my life, waiting, hoping, trying to have faith that things would be all right. I was happy when Brother Wilcox came out with a recording of one of my favorite talks The Fourth Watch: Receiving Divine Help When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered.

In the product description of his audio book, it says, "The wind was fierce, and the disciples of Jesus had long rowed against it before the Lord finally came to them, walking on the water in the fourth watch of the night-somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M. When our trials go on indefinitely, we should not assume that God does not hear our prayers, or that He does not care, or that we are unworthy. Perhaps we have not yet reached the "fourth watch." This comforting message increases our faith and patience, offers profound hope and solace, and explains how the Lord often works with us."

I was in the middle of the 3rd watch last time you heard from me. Pleading, praying,and doing what I could to live the way I needed to live to be a good Christian, I was often tired and exhausted. Giving up was not an option, but I felt I was doing what I needed to and that life was as good as it was going to get. Oh, how weak that thought was/is.

Over and over again, I have needed to learn that an unseen, insurmountable, happiness comes during the 4th watch. It has never failed me...and yet I doubt it every time. I forget that while the 4th watch moment may not last as long as I would like, it always comes...and I am always happier than I could ever imagine. 

I think I discussed this already, but it seems that my moments of 'happy' don't last as long as the moments of unhappy. I find this phenomenon everywhere, in movies, in the scriptures, everywhere. It has been a lifelong goal to find happiness in the journey, even if that journey is in the 2nd or 3rd watch - to find my happy during those times too.

The past several months, I felt I was doing a pretty good job. It wasn't until the beginning of this month that I can say I am truly happy...I reached the 4th watch....and you know what, it feels good. 

Is it worth it to hang on and find those little moments of happy, yes. Is it important to be obedient to a Father in Heaven who loves me and believe that it is through Jesus Christ that I can be truly happy, yes. Does it feel good to go from hope to knowledge, yes! Am I perfect at understanding this all the time, even through the little trials, no. But I am striving to be.

Happy feels so good. 

One Last Thought by Jeffrey R. Holland in the talk An High Priest of Good Things to Come:

"...it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” 8 Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” 9 Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!"

*Painting 1, Christ Walking on Water, by Julius von Klever
**Painting 2, They Hear My Voice, by Jeff Smith

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Simple Thought

This struck me today.

Simple Thought, by Barbara Bush

"At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Online Quizzes: Yes, I Love Them

Upon letting everyone on Facebook know that I was designated Jean Grey from X-men based on an online quiz, I had a friend post "I don't, and recommend no one else ever take these "quizzes". They are all really attempts by "big data" to get you to divulge more personal information than you otherwise would. They make billions, and all you get for it is "knowing" which X-Woman "you are most like" (in " because its not like they put a lot of thought into it....that would cost more money and reduce their profits). Quit giving them this stuff for free..."

I appreciate his sentiment, but you know, I really like the quizzes....when they are done well. 

During my first job at The Summit Group Communications, I was asked to take a Predictive Index test, very similar to the Myers Briggs Type Test. It was amazing to read the results as they very clearly described some of my traits, how I reacted in certain situations, etc. I have always enjoyed taking them just to see their accuracy.

Today I took one, and I really liked the result. The quiz was, what classic novel would you be. This was my result."Empathetic and Family Oriented, E. B. White's CHARLOTTE'S WEB does a lovely job of describing your homey life. Kind and understanding, your are the epitome of empathy, and have a true gift for confiding in others. You tend to be an optimist, or try to be anyway, but have had your fair share of grievances. You are a rare individual in your ability to recognize that no one would be able to appreciate the good times, without having first experienced the bad."

I wasn't sure what direction I want to take this post. I even re-wrote it several times. I had statements like:
  • Quizzes do not define me
  • Even having taken Myers Briggs back in the day, the results would be different now
  • I like knowing what Disney character I would be
  • I find joy in knowing who I am, even if it means that I took a predictive test in order to discover something about me that I didn't know
  • I like learning about myself, particularly about how my strengths and weaknesses work so that I can improve my weaknesses
In the end, I decided not to elaborate on any of those points mentioned above, and just wanted to say...thank you quizzes. Even though you are gathering data from me, I liked this novel quiz....a lot. Even if you are getting billions from your research - good for you for being smart enough to come up with a brilliant way to make money. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Questions About Happiness

I wanted to ask you some questions about happiness, as related to an earlier post:


  1. How do you feel/find joy in your journey?
  2. Is finding joy in the journey something you have to work at - one that you have to concentrate on everyday? If so, what techniques do you employ?
  3. What do you do to empower your faith?
  4. Do you feel that searching for happiness is counterproductive? Why or why not?


I would love to hear from you.

Book Review: I Need More Time to Read!

It got to the point that I would rather read a book than have a conversation with my sweetheart. My dishes piled in the sink (which is actually my worst pet peeve), important documents and such laid on the kitchen table for days with no regard (bills, what are those?), and my back hurt from all the positions I tried in order to get comfortable so I could read for hours on end. Yes, I love reading. And no, I haven't discovered how I can get the most out of reading unless I lock myself in my room and read for hours on end. 

Once I discover the secret, I will tell you. Unless you have already figure it out. Have you?

Here is my book review for the past two months:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - 5*
I love this book. It opened my mind to what someone who has cancer might feel. I was pleased with the character development, humor, and realness of the story. I pondered the author's note and have to admit, it put a bad taste in my mouth. I thought, just let me believe what I want to believe. I questioned whether or not the statement was intended to stop fan mail inquiring about the realness of the characters...so, I guess I can understand that. It was also apparent that this notion, or bias, made it into the story. I feel that while real and valid, it came across as pompous.

Otherwise, I enjoyed his character's pros about life and what it means to feel fulfilled, what each person thinks their value is to society, and how a teenager might react to deep rooted beliefs when 'doomed' from the beginning. I have no doubt I would have challenged my belief system knowing I was born to die a potentially early death.


Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt - 3.5*
It was fun to be a teenager again when I read this book. I loved the premise of a teenager doing away with technology in response to her boyfriend who cheated on her with an online girl, and as a way to heal. The story line was clever and witty. I really got into the book, seeing that one of my dreams is to be a consignment/antique dealer. I would love to own a store! In that way, I loved it. The characters were well developed. Sometimes I was lost from chapter to chapter, and I had to make some assumptions in order to make the story feel more smooth. However, I have found this phenomenon (jumping) in Young Adult fiction, so it may be a common denominator in this genre. Perhaps due to our ADHD society??

The Titan's Curse (book 3 of the Percy Jackson series) by Rick Riordan - 3.5*
I love the Percy Jackson series. I have started looking up the different Gods and Goddesses to understand their powers and dominion. It would be nice if the book had an index of these different characters and their roles. As mentioned before, I have a hard time with how adults present a young person's behavior and reactions. Sometimes I felt that Percy was portrayed more like a 6 year old rather than a 14-16 year old. But, I only know how I was at that age, not how boys are - so I can't say. I loved the story line, but felt that the development of the story was shortened because of the timeline of events (days). 

There was too much too fast. I felt this way about The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis. I think if the development and speed were more tied together, I would have liked it more. The book was also a little predictable - key words and phrases to introduce the plot turns and twists were a little too noticeable, but perhaps this was done for the real demographic of the book series.

Out to Canaan (book 4 in the Mitford series) by Jan Karon - 5*
I thoroughly enjoy this series. I like how in the past several books, I have escaped into this wonderful little town, and have become my own character in the book. The characters have come to life for me. I find myself wishing the best for them, rooting them on during turbulent moments, wishing and praying that there were more people like Tim Kavanaugh, who only sees the good in people (even in his nemesis..on occasion).

The Last Great Dance on Earth by Sandra Gulland - 5*
Fantastic series. In the end, I was sad for our dear Josephine. The period dramatizations led me to explore this era even more - I ended up learning more about Marie Antoinette. While it may have been fiction, I appreciated the referenced dates and timeline. The character of Josephine throughout the entire series remained fluid and within controlled dimensions - in fact, all Gulland's characters were well characterized and never stepped out of their individual spheres.

Recently my friend posed the question of what books she should read. I copied down the responses to her query and have included them in this blog post. In addition, the BBC often has great recommendations on books, although I personally exercise a screening test based on the book description. Here is that list. My apologies if some things are spelled wrong:

1. Seabiscuit - Hildebrandt
2. Unbroken – Hildebrandt
3. Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
4. Wrenched: The Legacy of the Monkey Wrench Gang
5. The Other Typist: Suzanne Rindell
6. Orphan Master’s Son: Adam Johnson
7. The Alladin factor: Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen
8. Thorn birds: Colleen McCullough 
9. Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell
10. Art of Racing in the Rain: Garth Stein 
11. Glass Castle: A Memoir 
12. These is my Words: Nancy Turner 
13. The shoe makers wife: Adriana Trigiani
14. The rent collector: Camron Wright
15. The historian: Elizabeth Kostova
16. The crocodile on the sandbank: Elizabeth Peters
17. Bartimaues series: Jonathan Stroud
18. Tasha Alexander's series
a. The Counterfeit Heiress
b. Behind the Shattered Glass
c. Death in the Floating City
d. And only to Deceive
19. The Name of the Wind: Patrick Rothfuss
20. Mistborn: Brandon Sanderson
21. Wheel of Time series: Robert Jordan
22. Blackmoore: Julianne Donaldson
23. Mortal instruments series: Cassandra Clare
a. City of Heavenly Fire
b. City of Bones
c. City of Lost Souls
24. Fabric of the World: Lee Hardy
25. Memoirs of an imagery friend: Matthew Dicks

27. Storyteller: Jodi Picouit



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bound Decisions Lead to Happiness, Right?

“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. 

Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” - Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I listened to this interesting TED talk from Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, this book I read a while back. When I read the book, I wasn't on a quest to find happiness (might I remind my readers, searching for happiness is almost counterproductive). At the time, reading this book was an assignment. As such, I skimmed through the pages, and didn't have any major takeaways, because I wasn't engaged. Then I 'stumbled' (pun intended) on this TED talk.

The quote above is heavy, at best. I still have a hard time understanding everything. However, I like how Dan Gilbert explains in his theory of happiness that YES, there are some ideas that are better than others when it comes to the "happiness" outcome. In addition, because there are some decisions that are better than others, I should have preferences on how to make decisions that in turn influence happier outcomes. 

Maybe you have heard the adage that despite our circumstances we can be happy. What I understood from the talk is that my personal commitment to decisions makes me a direct "influencer" of my personal happiness and outcome. Gilbert points out that decisions that are bound bring about happier outcomes by nature. 

For example, my personal ambition or anything else I pursue that lacks boundaries could mean that I will do whatever want/need in order to get to the next level. In other words, if I have personal drive and ambition without personal rules, I am more likely to hurt others and even myself. Without a personal commitment to common sense or moral judgement, I could still get what I want, but my happiness factor would be lower than if I had certain personal rules in place.

What do you think? Do you think that you are prone to be more happy when you have personal rules in place?