Monday, July 31, 2017

Fear Not, Do Not Fear - 365 times in the scriptures

Education Week, BYU-Idaho
Godfidence: Facing Fear and Finding Freedom
Eric Richards

Some would argue that what made the works of Edgar Allan Poe so well known and albeit, spooky, was the fact that he played on the common fears of society at the time. It is interesting that a lot of these fears that were common in his time, are still common today.

The talk started by outlining the top common fears of society including: fear of spiders, snakes, small spaces, clowns, and heights. In this discussion, it was easy for me to see the role of "fear" and how it can prevent growth, overwhelm our faculties, and potentially take us captive.

Brother Richards shared some interesting stats about fear in the scriptures, including that the words "fear not" are mentioned 365 times in the scriptures; one for each day of the year. (I loved this insight!)

There are three insights from the talk that resonated with me including:
  • God is good: a light-hearted tale
  • Anchoring the boat: minimal drift
  • But if not: I will still have faith
God is Good: a light-hearted tale
Painting by Robert Barrett
Brother Richards tells the tale of a young man sitting on a bench reading the scriptures. After every verse, he would declare, "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! God is Good!" He was so vocal many would stop and look over to see what all the commotion was. 

Amidst his declarations, a well-known, scholarly gentleman stopped by to understand his enthusiasm and demonstrate his scholarly know-how.

Scholar: What scripture are you reading young man, and why the declaration?

Young Man: I just got to the part where Moses is leading his people out of captivity, and parts the Red Sea. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise Jesus! God is Good!

Scholar: I hate to tell you this, but perhaps I should. Historians, archaeologists, geologists, and other theologians have recently discovered that about that time there was a huge drought, which means that the Red Sea was only about 6 inches.

The Young Man was down trodden, thanked the scholar for his insight. The scholar left the young man, and quite proud of himself for fixing the presumed error of a 'miraculous' event, as proved by science. 

All of a sudden, he hears the young man proclaim "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Good is Good."

Rushing back over, the scholarly gentleman inquires why, when after he corrected the young man the first time, was he now proclaiming praise.

Young Man: I just got to the verse where the Pharoah's soldiers reached the river. If what you said was correct, the Pharoah's soldiers all drowned in 6 inches of water! What a miracle! Praise Jesus.

I loved how this story demonstrates that even amidst the know-hows or naysayers of the world, that we can still be fearless because we know that God is Good. When we have a knowledge of this, even a slight knowledge, it will work in our favor.

One thing Brother Erickson said was that fearlessness is NOT the absence of fear - it is living a life of faith, in spite of fear. Choosing to cling to the promises we have made to God (our covenants) despite the situation at hand, has the potential to influence how we choose to walk. And when we walk in faith, we will have more courage than we thought.

Anchoring the Boat: Minimal Drift

Brother Richards has a lineage of what he calls the Island people. He said that the new Disney movie, Moana, had a profound impact on him, because he comes from that lineage. The next story was about this idea of 'anchoring the boats.' I pictured Moana the whole time he spoke.

In the past, when the island people worked at sea for a living, the chiefs and other experienced sailors would teach the youth about the importance of anchoring their boats. They explained that a sailor must anchor their boats to avoid losing their boats. The anchor allowed for minimum drift and was still able to function because it hadn't been tossed to and fro with the natural elements of the sea. Anchoring in a swift amount of time was crucial when sailors would see storms coming in.

To practice this feet, the young sailors would throw out their anchors, and when the anchor didn't hit the bedrock, the would pull it up, sail a distance, and scout for the perfect place to anchor.

The experienced sailors would shake their heads against this practice. What the young men couldn't see from the shore was 1. How far off they traveled to find the perfect place to anchor 2. Exposure to other dangers in the water in areas that are not as well known, and 3. How time got away from them, the storms approaching faster, as they scouted for the perfect place to anchor.

They missed the importance of the exercise.

What they were taught is that when they need to anchor 'now', they need to anchor in the spot indicated. If they run out of rope, the pull the anchor up, add more line, and try to anchor once more.

The point I loved was when we are anchored to Christ, yes, there could be drift - that is part of being mortal, but we will not drift too far. In addition, we cannot look for other places to anchor. We must anchor where we stand now....not hoping for a proverbial perfect location. The location is set and it is perfect.

But If Not: I Will Still Have Faith 

Brother Richards spoke of many stories in the scriptures and in church history that speak of courage, and strength to do the right thing. My favorite story of the event was the answer that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego gave when King Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to worship the golden idol and deny their God. As the story continues, they refuse to worship a false idol, and the King threatens that he will throw them into a fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 states:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up

My favorite thing: our God is a God of all power. He CAN certainly deliver us. But, if he doesn't, we will still believe in God. I love it. What conviction. What courage. 


From Ruth Fazal's album cover: Deeper by Oliver Pengilley
When I am ready to take up my anchor and start to doubt His word or His promises, or start to doubt myself, I also need to remember that Heavenly Father has asked me, and all of us to take Him to the place where I started to doubt, or lost trust - take Him to the place where I/you were bullied, abused, mistreated - let Him in on the process of those feelings, memories, emotions. ...and trust that He has the ability to heal.

Psalms 118 was not placed in the DEAD CENTER of the Bible for now reason. There are 594 chapters before and 594 chapters after. It is the 1188 Psalm (118 verse 8) that states: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." When I put my confidence in him, my fears become a little more manageable.
Even when I am feeling tossed by the wind, or struggling to help a teething 1 year old, or making it through a 'relapse' of a loved one, or feeling undervalued, all I need to do is remember: God is a God of ALL power. He has the ability to deliver me. BUT IF NOT - I still believe in God.

That, my friends is the ability to defeat fear. That is courage!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Offering a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit to Jesus Christ

I am currently attending Education Week at BYU-Idaho. Even if I hadn't signed up for all of Education Week, the opening lecture from Gerald Lund was enough to make this experience worth it.

The entirety of the talk was based around the approach that we hardly consider when speaking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Typically, when we discuss or think about the Atonement we consider two perspectives:

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son of God OR The Atonement of Jesus Christ, as it applies to humanity (to me).

The approach Brother Lund took was The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the mortal man, or the Son of Mary.

There were five aspects we discussed about Jesus Christ, the mortal man and the symbolism embedded with what, as a mortal, He experienced, including:
  • Knowest thou the condescension of God
  • I, God, have suffered thees things for all
  • Abba, Father
  • A broken heart and a contrite spirit
  • Ye must be born again
There were so many beautiful things we discussed, but the one that resonated and stuck out to me the most was this idea of what it meant to Jesus Christ as he experienced a broken heart and what it means to truly be born again. I will only discuss the first one in this particular post.

Broken Heart
The act of crucifying as a form of capitol punishment was developed by the Assyrians, but 'perfected' by the Romans. Where crucifixion was used as a means to an end, the Romans designed it to prolong, instead of hasten death. It was not unusual for a victim to live up to 5-6 days.

I came home and researched the physiology of a crucifixion, and what it would do the human body. I found an article entitled, The Science of the Crucifixion by Cathleen Shrier Ph.D. with Azusa Pacific University.

The article states:

"Normally, to breathe in, the diaphragm (the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) must move down. This enlarges the chest cavity and air automatically moves into the lungs (inhalation). To exhale, the diaphragm rises up, which compresses the air in the lungs and forces the air out (exhalation). As Jesus hangs on the cross, the weight of His body pulls down on the diaphragm and the air moves into His lungs and remains there. Jesus must push up on His nailed feet (causing more pain) to exhale."

"The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim.5 The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture.6"

While gruesome and completely horrific, these facts are important to note as Brother Lund described the physiological state of Jesus Christ as his mortal body experienced a crucifixion done by the Romans, and as supported by the article above.

In John 19:34 as the Romans went to check to make sure Jesus Christ was really dead, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." 

We can gather at this point that Jesus Christ could have died from a heart attack, as alluded to in the article above. As James E. Talmage states in Jesus the Christ, "Great mental stress, poignant emotion either of grief or joy, and intense spiritual struggle are among the recognized causes of heart rupture. The present writer believes that the Lord Jesus died of a broken heart."

John 13:15 says " For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.It makes so much more sense to me why, when we covenant with our Heavenly Father that we too must offer up a broken heart."

And as we are commanded to do what He has done, He asks us to offer Him a broken heart and contrite spirit that we may live again (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8).

This idea of a broken heart is tied to the covenants we make at baptism. When I go into 'being born again', I will share how I made some of these connections for the first time. I can say that I now have a more profound attention and respect for the sacrament I am offered every Sunday - which provides an opportunity for me to renew my covenants by taking the figurative blood and body of Jesus Christ with the bread and water.

Painting by Elizabeth Wang
Even in the Darkness of our Sufferings
Jesus is With Us
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has always been hard for me to hear. I always skipped the details, or left the room if they were discussed because I couldn't bear to hear about the cruelty. Today, I listened with different ears.

And, as I did, one thing became abundantly clear: I know without a doubt that my brother, Jesus Christ loves me beyond what I am capable of understanding. This love that He has for me is unique, personal, and intimate. He has a deep personal love for all of His children, which is also unique, personal and intimate with each of them.

My love for the Savior and what He for me as the a Son of God, and as a mortal man, has exponentially increased since this morning. I left feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Taking Time to Ponder: Being OK With Where I Am

Remember my last post - where I talked about spending time with Little Bundle? Over the course of the last several months, Little Bundle learned to crawl, eats solids (wahoo), and is very curious. I love seeing this development and growth in him. It keeps us both busy...and I like it that way.

One thing I am still learning though, is being able to accomplish the goals I have made...and have broken, and made again, but still be able to be with Little Bundle. I am not sure what this looks like yet, and don't have any advice for what to do to have a balanced life.

But I can say that today, while listening to Marfa Lights 1 by Deuter, I looked out my window and just looked. I breathed in deep breaths. I raised my standing desk and stood. I stretched and lengthened. I pondered. Really pondered.

I have been thinking about what's next for me lately. Often when I start thinking too far ahead, I don't see the Lord working miracles in my life because I end up getting nervous and anxious. I start doing things out of context and stepping on a lot of toes in the process. 

Two days ago I listened to this great BYU devotional talk about women, perseverance, education, direction, persistence, and devotion to God. The message was beautiful and clear. At a different point in my life, I could have been empowered by it. But this time, I needed to disregard it in order to keep my mind sound and open. I finally feel like I am in a good place. I am not saying that I am too content (because being content is sometimes not a good thing). I am saying that I am in a good place emotionally, spiritually...ok, maybe not physically (but I have accepted this). 

When I start questioning where I am, or the next step, I start going faster than I have strength, and end up crashing hard. Crashing hard hurts. It has taken almost my whole life to finally figure out that I will get to where I need to at the time and pace that I need to - and that God is more than happy with that. For those of us who already burden ourselves with "I am not good enough" or "I am never happy until...." I have found that it is better to allow the Lord's plans to unfold, instead of trying to unfold them too early.

That is why I am happy with where I am. I want to take this time to ponder, but not have anxiety. I want to be ok with the fact that I am still growing, and I know that it won't be as painful because I am taking a step back. 

  • I have plans to pursue my PhD, but not right now.
  • I spot clean until I have time to deep clean, because I would rather spend time with Little Bundle.
  • I choose to eat as healthy as I can, go on walks, and live an active lifestyle....with Little Bundle in mind....but am not overly concerned about my baby weight and trying to lose it.
  • I choose to stay in my marriage in spite of all those around me that see so many things that could be improved, or that they deem as "wrong".
  • I am happy with my current work position and find joy with my team and who I serve. Sure I am interested in progress and upward movement, but not right now.
  • Sure I wish I had enough energy at the end of the day to blog, read, plan meals, etc. And eventually I will start to bring these things back into my life, but not as full force as I have in the past. And I am OK with that.
  • I will take the time to have 10 minutes of ponder time a day. Perhaps in the morning at work, just like today - where I can remind myself that my life is wonderful.
It is remarkable how many times I have to tell myself that I am OK with where I am in life. Admittedly, this time around has been less painful and enjoyable....and it has taken a long time for me to get to this point.

Go me.

AND Go YOU, all my amazing anxiously engaged friends,...if you have been able to get to this point too.