Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Standing -

Today I stood my ground - I valued myself enough to be firm. 
And I haven't felt this strong in ages. 
Firm and true. Indeed. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

We're All In This Together -

Sermon given on 12/28/14

We Are All In This Together

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible.  But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life.

Compassion is the new fashion –

I love folk, bluegrass, and old-time gospel music. Rhonda Vincent, a bluegrass and gospel musician sings, “There are many people who will say they’re Christians and they live like Christians on the Sabbath day. But come Monday morning till the coming Sunday they will fight their neighbor all along the way. Well you don’t love God if you don’t love your neighbor. If you gossip about him, if you never have mercy, if he gets into trouble and you don’t try to help him, then you don’t love your neighbor and you don’t love God.”

Regardless of one’s race, religion, gender, or proximity, we are all neighbors. This does not mean just the person who lives next door or the person whose office is next to yours, but also anyone you interact with on an ongoing basis. The ASL sign for neighbor is: “Near – Person,” neighbor, or the person in close proximity to you. This means your mail carrier, the cashier at Target, the boy who mows your lawn, or the person sitting next to you on the bus or at the theater, the woman who cleans your business.

One’s neighbor also includes anyone beaten down and left by the roadside – be they homeless, destitute, hungry, or sick – whether that’s physically or emotionally. It can be easy to judge those with obvious weaknesses and speculate about all of the mistakes they have made in their lives which have brought them to this point of weakness. Administering justice, in this sense, is often what we are inclined do.
I suggest that rather than judge others and seek justice, we should show mercy and minister to, or serve, others.


All religions, all cultures have what Christians call the 2nd commandment (1st, Love thy God, and the 2nd is likened unto it): Love thy neighbor as thyself (Matt. 22:39). In more secular terms this is known as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Or – today, the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Regardless, the Golden Rule is known for its: Simplicity – easy to understand, not as easy to live. Greatness is matched by the difficulty in living it. Universality – what is it that attracts people of all cultures? It speaks to the goodness in all of us, and it inspires us and challenges us to be this type of person every day. Power – ability to summarize a large body of moral teaching, in very few words. (Paul McKenna)

Our greatest blessings and deepest joys can come from helping others, from opening our hearts to others. While it is true we serve those we love, we can also love those we serve.

Some folks still believe that they can cheat, lie, or steal from others without hurting themselves in the process. The problem is that none of us can ever truly get ahead by stepping on others. The fastest way to become successful – by any real measure of success – is to serve others. Even for those of us who understand this principle, perfectly, it’s still a good idea to reflect and recognize this now and then, so self-defeating selfishness doesn’t creep into our lives.

An elderly man watched his wife, of more than 40 years, go blind. She had always liked to look nice, from her hair to her attire to her nails. One day her husband noticed her nails were chipped. He knew if she tipped her head correctly she would see this chipping and be embarrassed. So, he painted her nails. A brother who had a long-standing disagreement with his younger sister, one day noticed tears in her eyes. He put his pride aside, swallowed, and asked her what was wrong. This gesture, this selfless moment, began a renewal of their friendship. A son, upon seeing his aging father for the first time in a year, realized that he was not much younger than his father was, when the son was a “handful.” And in that realization the son saw his father’s strictness for love, and amends were made.

Many of us yearn for experiences like this, for opportunities such as these. Even when we make mistakes we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings – in spite of ourselves – even when we don’t deserve it.

The measure of a man is not on the greatness of his soul, but on his reaching out, in love, to those around him.

Poem: Abou Ben Adhem, James Henry Leigh Hunt

(The name derives from Ibrahim ibn Adham, taken from the poem Abou Ben (son or daughter of) Adhem by James Henry Leigh Hunt; 1834, Poet was 50 years old.) Abou Ben Adhem was a Muslim mystic, or Sufi, in Persia who was venerated as a saint after his death (circa AD 777). Writers of English-language religion and history books usually refer to him as Ibrahim ibn (or bin) Adham. Like the famous Roman Catholic ascetic, Saint Francis of Assisi, Ibrahim ibn Adham gave up a life of luxury in exchange for a simple life devoted to his fellow man and to God. Ibrahim's description of the moment of his conversion to a new lifestyle appears in Tabaqat al-Sufiya, a book about Sufism by Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, who died in AD 1021.
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:— 
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Love, the Golden Mean, these are the beginnings, the middles, and the ends of being “more” than just ourselves. Love comforts, counsels, cures, consoles, It leads us through valleys of darkness, and can lead us to the glory and grandeur of a higher life. When one man was asked why he had so many friends, and how he retained and remembered them, answered, “It is because I possess the principle of love.” (Joseph Smith)

We are taught that charity is the pure love of Christ. We are not to judge unrighteously – or sentence someone based on our own preconceived notions of their wrong-doings – who, what, where, how, and why – this is for the courts – both heavenly and earthly, as we see in Psalm 89:14: Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face,” but to show mercy – I’m so sorry; I may not understand how you got where you are, but how can I help? This is where we can follow Christ’s admonition to Come, follow me. Not come follow me as a demand, but Come, a request, with a comma or a pause for us to get close enough that we can then follow Him. 

Jesus taught and then set the example for following Him. His traits included: love, meekness, humility, compassion, longing for righteousness, being prayerful, merciful, and pure in heart. We are told, by example, to forgive everyone, to love our enemies, to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile. Not that justice is never shown, but that mercy can often highlighted. God mercifully provided us with a Savior, but He will also judge His people. A Civil Right saying suggests we, “Pursue justice, show mercy.”

When we move through life releasing judgments and looking beyond appearances, we begin to appreciate others in a new way. It doesn’t mean we will suddenly, nor should we, like everyone, but it does mean we can see the goodness. My prayer is that we don’t wait until a crisis, divorce, broken ribs, a car accident, a move, a birth or death, or a sign-up list, to become aware of who our neighbors are and how we can best serve them, mercifully. I believe if we take the phrase, “Come, follow me,” as literal direction. LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said, “One cannot be merciful to others without receiving a harvest of mercy in return.” Remember, if you don’t love your neighbor, then you don’t love God.

Albert Einstein said, “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Affirmation: Today, I release all judgments. I accept that we are all different, yet all divine. I know every time I look into the eyes of another I am seeing God expressing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In The Dark Street Shineth -

Tonight I have the privilege of hosting a candle light service at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Below is my sermon. Merry Christmas to you, thanks for making this drive with me.

The Christmas story begins in darkness. There was darkness of oppression, there was darkness of persecution, there was a darkness of disillusionment. There was a loss of faith, a loss of hope.

As true as it was then, it is true again now. We may feel as if we live in a world of darkness; there are wars, rumors of war, hunger and unemployment, racism, loneliness, and often a sense of emptiness.

Thus, Christmas can be a difficult time for those who carry the burden of hard work, stressful family situations, poor health, personal loss. I have experienced darkness in all of these realms, as most of us have. But it is in the darkness, as we become acquainted with the night, that we can then begin to find light. I received two bits of great advice while going through my own struggles – one being, “Become friends with the night.” In acknowledging the dark – whether it’s anger, pain, despair, we can then begin to look for light. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “People who walk in darkness have seen a great light.” John’s Gospel records, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is why we can sing, with affirmation, about the Son of God, Love’s pure Light. “Yet, in the dark street shineth the everlasting light.” Pope Francis said, “Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And this is true with pain, anger, frustration, fear, emptiness. Acknowledge the darkness, then reach toward the light – friends, family, medical caregivers, your Higher Power. If we can remember that Christ came into our world to lift up all those who are bowed down, heavily laden, then we can find comfort.

Jesus explained his God-given mission on earth, “To proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” (Luke 4:18) Jesus came to lift our burdens so we can raise our eyes to welcome Him. His light brings us hope. His light is eternal, it is not a temporary flicker. We need to remember that; there are times, in then events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives that we may feel the light snuffed out. Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

The Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light, His light, still shines.  When the world heard that Christ was born, followed by a bright shining star/light, marking the place of His birth, there was great hope – the light of the world had arrived.  I am convinced this was not by accident. I see the stars at night as that continual reminder, that in the sea of darkness, the light keeps us moving forward. Today we can be His light, we can allow His light to shine through us. We can do this by lending a hand, sharing a smile, giving words of kindness, and acknowledging other’s pain. In the midst of pain and suffering, the darkness is real; but because of Christmas, it will never be so dark that we cannot see the light.

O Little Town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
 Are met in thee tonight.

One of our greatest needs today is to find hope, to know that life is worth living, no matter what. In Jesus Christ we can cling to the hope that life overcomes death, love conquers hate, and truth will prevail over falsehood. It is the light of hope and the light of Jesus Christ that leads the way and dispels the gloom. Faith in Christ is not a leap into the dark; it’s a step into the Light. In Psalms 37:14, we read, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

It is my prayer that the light of Christmas will shine for you and will enlighten the dark corners of your life, and that you too, will discover your way along your journey, because He lives, His light does shine.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Be The Light -

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” - Hamilton Wright Mabie, American essayist, critic

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, the day of Winter Solstice.

In the Northern hemisphere, December is the season of darkness. The days grow darker, as they grow colder, reaching their peak at the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21. On this day, the earth begins to change its tilt, and slowly but surely, the days will begin to lengthen.
Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It marks the beginning of the Winter Solstice, an astronomical event, as well as a pagan celebration. The word "solstice" comes from two Latin words: "sol," meaning sun, and "sistere," meaning day. So, "Solstice' means "Day of the Sun."
In ancient times, the darkness could be terrifying. People were afraid that the days might just keep getting shorter until it was always night. They had celebrations of light to try to encourage the sun to come back to them. As people became more sophisticated and they knew the sun would return after this date in winter, they still celebrated it with many festivities. All of these celebrations had something to do with fire and the coming of light back to the world.
While light is celebrated as a major aspect of the Winter Solstice, it also reminds us that darkness has it attributes too. Babies grow in the darkness of the womb. Plants and flowers begin in the darkness of the seed and soil. The ideas and creativity of our minds springs from the dark interiors of our brain. The darkness also accentuates the light. We would not be able to see the stars without the dark cover that holds them in the sky.
The Winter Solstice, therefore, is a celebration of the birth of the sun, of light and of life. It honors the light, as well as the darkness, without which there would be no light. In a time of darkness, there is light to be found in the flames of an evening fire, in the winter stars shining down on us in familiar constellations, and in the candles of our faith traditions. We all can celebrate the Winter Solstice with the light of love we share during this holiday season. Rejoice!
Dar Williams’ The Christians and the Pagans 

Yule is deeply rooted in the cycle of the year; it is the seed time of year; the longest night and the shortest day, where the Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. In a poetic sense it is on this, the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of our souls,’ that there springs the new spark of home, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World.
He Is The Gift

Christmas, particularly gifting, is so important to the entire world, regardless of religious persuasion - this time of year cannot be avoided. There are gifts that are often attributed to those given to the Christ Child. These are the gifts of joy, light, hope, love, and peace. While this is a Christian sermon, regardless of your beliefs in Jesus Christ or in Christianity, you cannot escape the Christmas holidays!

The Gifts of the Christ Child By Louise Wardwell

The little Christ Child came with gifts
For every girl and boy.
For every man and woman, too,
He brought the gift of joy.
The brightest star that ever beamed
Shone on that holy night.
Into the darkness of man’s fears
He brought the gift of light.
With promise of eternal life
To all who would believe,
He brought the wondrous gift of hope
And bade all men receive.
And then the greatest gift of all
Came down from heaven above,
A brotherhood to all mankind. . .
He brought the gift of love.
And all men of goodwill He blessed
With faith that would increase
To fill men’s hearts for evermore.
He brought the gift of peace.
I have no worthy gifts to give,
But treasures rich and rare–
The joy, the light, hope, love and peace
He gave to me, I’ll share.
For those of you who are seeking light in dark places, may you find it. For those of you who have found light, may you share it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Broken Things to Mend -

Sunday's sermon was on a topic dear to me - being broken and healing. Whether we're broken physically, emotionally, spiritually, we all can heal - and a belief in a God of second chances makes this possible. Below is the sermon, with hyper-links to the music I used. Happy week, ya'll -

Broken Things To Mend –
How do I go from broken, to mending, to being an instrument in His hands?

AA's Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We all face personal trials, family struggles, or as one Christian leader said, “tsunami’s of the soul.” Jesus Christ taught, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  

Broken Things, Sara Reeves

Step 3 is where we must be willing to turn our will over to a power great than ourselves. For most of our lives we are selfish folks. “I do it myself” is often the first sentence from a child’s mouth. And we constantly hear this from those around us – “do it yourself,” “try it for yourself,” and our selfishness is reinforced. USA citizens value autonomy – I will take care of myself, I can do it myself. And we function this way . . . until . . . And we still think we can carry on by ourselves – we are often too down the hole to see that we are not whole, and that what we need can make us whole, and it is not, as the Big Book says, “John Barleycorn,” or his friends to heal us. Only the Healer has that power, and that is where we surrender, arms up, and say, “Here I am, help me heal.” Because while our will is in His hands, we still must follow His direction.

This step can be pretty tough, but surrendering is the beginning of healing. What does someone who is drowning do? They thrash around, moving, bobbing, reaching up, and creating a current that drags the body down. What should that someone do? Relax, let go, and let the buoyancy of the water push us upward, to safety.

We must have a desire to heal, and to believe that we can heal. We don’t necessarily need to have a bucket load of faith in this process, just a kernel, a particle, as we move into the place of surrender and safety. This is the first step out of despair.

So – we turn our will and our lives over to our Higher Power. And we heal – until we think we’re healed enough that “I can do it by myself,” “I’ve got it, God, I’m OK now,” and we try, and we fall, and we get up, and we try again, and we fall, and that is where we learn that turning our will and our lives over to God is not just a one-time, one-need effort, but a life-long action, that takes submitting ourselves to that power greater than ourselves.

Once “submitting” we can see, “this is the way to a faith that works.” The first 2 steps are about reflection, but Step 3 requires action – action to step away from ourselves and step toward that Higher Power. And we have to have faith that His will will heal us, faith that going this alone will not do us any good. In fact we think we can keep God out of our lives, but how about trying, based on the results of those around us, to let go and let God?

And this is where I find beauty – by surrendering and becoming dependent on our Higher Power, we actually become independent. Drink, drugs, sex, have not given us independence, that’s for sure! What? Yes – let’s look at this – objectively – “Every modern house has electric wiring carrying power and light to its interior. We are delighted with this dependence; our main hope is that nothing will ever cut off the supply of this current. And by accepting this, we are dependent on this power source;” but we become more independent and self-sufficient because of it. Power is what is needed here – electricity meets our daily needs and our emergencies as well. Think about the medical world and the role electricity/power plays there.

So why is it any different with our own power supply? As much as we want to have the right to act as we want, we don’t want anyone meddling on our issues, no advice, I want to make my decisions for me. And besides that, who can I trust – I trusted . . . and I gave up more than I ever gained.
Take a look in the mirror and do you see someone who is self-sufficient? If you do now, remember back to when you entered detox or this program. Did you see independence or dependence – someone filled with fear, anger, self-righteousness?

Relying on that Higher Power brings about self-sufficiency, if we become dependent on His will. We’re not talking about becoming emotionally dependent on someone else, too often that keeps us in the hole that we’ve been in. During WW II, man recovering alcoholics went to war – and a concern was if they would be able to “stand up under fire,” and stay sober. Well, the stats came in, and guess what – they did; they had fewer lapses and binges then the AA folks at home. Why? Because they had to depend on their Higher Power, which became a significant source of strength. 

Turning our will over is tough – we have families, financial obligations, jobs, relationships, “friends,” who are all dependent on us. How can we walk away from them, just to become dependent on something else? And then we’re told to find a sponsor, and rely on that sponsor, have faith in the sponsor. And we have pain, and we can’t kill that pain the way we used to. That’s where the rest of the steps come into play – we have to continually work on our sobriety – by becoming dependent on our Higher Power, so we can become independent souls – who do not depend on those things that have brought us to this place.

“It is when we try to make our will conform with God’s that we begin to use it rightly. To all of us, this was a most wonderful revelation. Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God’s intention for us. . . . Step 3 opens the door to this possibility.”

In times of insecurity, we have to still simply ask, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.”

And we begin to mend – our brokenness begins to heal, to become whole, to fill that void, that hole, with goodness.

What do we do with our brokenness? That’s right – “do.” As we heal, we need to step out of ourselves, out of that selfish, narcissistic self, and give of ourselves, or as I taught my children, you can’t be a selfish, you need to be a sharefish. And finally, finally, our cups are full enough to give – to share. We all know we can’t serve or share what we don’t have.

We don’t need anything more than our love for ourselves and our desire to love others, to share.

I’ve been lost in my own healing, and I had to make a conscious effort, and decision this summer to no longer be “sick” and be ready and able to give. I remember the day when I thought, “OK, Ronda, it’s time to give back, if only in tiny ways.” As Mahatma Gandhi taught, “How can I make a difference so that I may bring peace to the world that I love and cherish so much? A name flickers instantly in my mind.”

Dec. 8 meditation in 24 Hours in a Day states, “’And greater works than this shall ye do.’ We can do greater works when we have more experience of the new way of life. We can have all the power we need from the Unseen God. We can have His grace, His spirit, to make us effective as we go along each day. Opportunities for a better world are all around us. Greater works can we do. But we do not work alone. The power of God is behind all good works.”

CNN Heroes Tribute Narayanan Krishnan

While we may not need to devote our entire lives to “service,” we can serve, quietly, and as heroically as Krishnan. 

And this is the way we heal – by finally, finally, reaching outside of ourselves, reaching toward others – we reach to them when we surrender to win, and we continue to reach as we share, sponsor, connect. No longer is there the disconnect between our brokenness and our goodness – because out of weak things come strength; a broken bone is strong where it mends, and we are just like that. And in our brokenness – strengthened, we help others begin to heal their brokenness – the circle continues.

“Be not afraid, only believe.” May we all know that we can be made whole, we can mend, our brokenness can be our strength.

Amazing Grace, Chris Tomlin

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday Sermon - Gratitude

I gave my first Sunday sermon, at the Cirque Lodge, yesterday. I was told to expect 2-4 people, there were 8, which was awesome. I gave this first sermon on Gratitude, breaking it down into 3 points, with a call to action at the end of the sermon. The entire service was about 45 minutes. I need to add more worship/music time next Sunday. I am happy. Below is that sermon.

If you have suggestions for interfaith sermons, topics you would like to see addressed, great readings, experiences, quotes, please, please send them my way:

Dec. 7. 2014 Sermon

People passing through the same events will respond differently.

·         There are many things we cannot control in our lives. This is clear in our own experiences and in scriptures, even with people like Job of the Old Testament —health, wealth, relationships, success are not certain. In many instances we can’t decide what is going to happen to us—all we can decide is how to interpret and react to events. *Share text from Shirlene

·         Every day we make some kind of decision to choose faith or fear, hope or despair, charity or selfishness, love or hate, knowledge or ignorance, pride or humility, and gratitude or ingratitude. Today I want to talk about how we can choose gratitude. (I recognize Thanksgiving has passed, but just because it is over doesn’t mean we should cease to be thankful. The Christmas season can foster greed if we get caught up in all the commercialization.) *We ask children – what are you asking for, what do you want, rather than, what are you giving?

Now I ask, what separates those who interpret life gratefully from those who don’t? In my research I’ve found three things that are hindrances to gratitude.

1. Pride
Pride prevents us from being grateful. I love Christian leader Ezra T. Benson’s talk: Beware of Pride. In it he states:

“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.

In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”

President Benson goes on to say: “Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”

* Reading:
“Take full account of the excellencies which you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” — Marcus Aurelius

* Continue:
We are surrounded by people who are like us but more or less bright or witty or a little taller or shorter, or a bit more or less thin, or somewhat poorer or richer, or more or less charismatic, or more or less accomplished, or whatever.

We are constantly appraising and giving value to who we are and who others are through friends/acquaintances, GPA or years of education, salary, age, number of children, job title, etc. And this is troublesome.

Comparing ourselves to others is incongruent with gratitude because as President Benson states, “pride is hatred, hostility to, or a state of opposition—certainly out of line with gratitude which is a readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness.”

When we are competitively comparing ourselves against others we are less likely to compliment others, find joy in their accomplishments, and be happy with our own journey through life. It’s easy to be disoriented when we are caught up in comparisons because we see the highlight reel from others and see our own behind the scenes production. *I compare my worst to someone else’s best, and therein lies the self-centered sin of comparison – I will never measure up.

People’s worth can’t be quantified—and neither can our individual value. People are not the best or worst things they have done and we can’t see what others have passed through. All we know is that “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God” and every person on the earth has a soul.

So what’s the answer to pride getting in the way of gratitude? President Benson states:

“God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.

“We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement, forgiving those who have offended us by rendering selfless service, by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God, and by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.”

Humility is a choice, much like gratitude.

2. Getting caught up on “endings” gets in the way of gratitude
German author Dieter Uchtdorf gave a great talk on gratitude, stating:
“Often [those who are ungrateful experience] grief caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true.”

Sooner or later, all of us experience times when the fabric of our world appears to tear at the seams, leaving us alone, frustrated, and adrift. It’s easy to be caught up in the disorientation of daily drudgery and to feel too busy to be happy and grateful. In such times it’s particularly easy to be caught up on endings.

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let's not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

There is always something to be grateful for, even when life seems hard. When times are tough, whether we are having a bad day or stuck in what may feel like an endless rut, it can be difficult to take the time to feel grateful. Yet, that is when gratitude can be most important. If we can look at our lives, during periods of challenge, and find something to be grateful for, then we can transform our realities in an instant. There are blessings to be found everywhere. When we are focusing on what is negative, our abundance can be easy to miss. Instead, choosing to find what already exists in our lives that we can appreciate can change what we see in our world. We start to notice one blessing, and then another.

* Examples

When we constantly choose to be grateful, we notice that every breath is a miracle and each smile becomes a gift. We begin to understand that difficulties are also invaluable lessons. The sun is always shining for us when we are grateful, even if it is hidden behind clouds on a rainy day. A simple sandwich becomes a feast, and a trinket is transformed into a treasure. Living in a state of gratitude allows us to spread our abundance because that is the energy that we emanate from our beings. Because the world reflects back to us what we embody, the additional blessings that inevitably flow our way give us even more to be grateful for. The universe wants to shower us with blessings. The more we appreciate life, the more life appreciates and bestows us with more goodness.

God can work with us no matter how discouraged we feel at times.

There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

This too shall pass.

So how do we prevent fixating on endings from interfering with feelings of gratitude in our current circumstances? Keeping perspective seems to be the answer. For me, resetting perspective when times are tough comes from contemplation and prayer, talking to family and friends, and choosing to turn attention away from areas of life I can’t control to things I can control.

3. Fixed expectations for the future get in the way of gratitude
The beauty and horror of life is that we don’t know what the future holds, but we should have goals we are working toward. It is easy to get frustrated when life happens and things get hard. Sometimes the hard times bring the biggest blessings.

The Farmer's Judgment—A Sufi Tale
Once upon a time there was a farmer who had some land a ways outside the village. He had a son to help him and one good horse. Indeed, it was a magnificent horse. 

So magnificent, that when the King passed through the village, he heard about the horse and asked to see it. 

The King was so impressed that he offered the farmer a considerable amount of gold for the horse. But the farmer would not part with his horse, and the King went away.

The next day, the horse ran away!

The villagers rushed to the farmer and exclaimed, "Oh, how awful. Your horse is gone and you don't have the gold! What a bad thing has happened to you!"

The Farmer replied, "Well, I don't know that it's a bad thing, but I do know my horse is gone and that I don't have the gold."

A few days later, the Farmer's horse returned. And, not only did the horse come back, he brought six wild and beautiful horses with him. Each would be worth a great sum once they were broken and trained.

When the villagers heard, they rushed out to see the horses and to say to the Farmer, "Oh, you were right! It was not a bad thing that your horse ran away.  Now he has returned and brought you six more fine horses. It is a good thing!"

"I don't know if it's a good thing or not," the Farmer said. "I just
know that my horse has come back and brought me six more horses."

The following day the Farmer's son was trying to break one of the wild horses and he fell off and broke both his legs. Again the Villagers visited the Farmer and they exclaimed, "Oh, you were right! It was a bad thing that your horse came back with six more horses. Now, your son has broken both legs and cannot help you with your crops. Surely you will suffer great losses. Oh, what a bad thing!"

And the Farmer said, "Well, I don't know whether it's a bad thing or not. I only know that my son was thrown from a horse and that both his legs are broken."

The next day the King returned to the village. He was leading his soldiers to the border where the kingdom was engaged in a terrible battle with a neighboring country. The enemy was fierce and most of the young soldiers were marching to their death.

As the King passed through the village he rounded up all the young men to join in the fighting. Of course, the Farmer's son, with his broken legs, did not have to go.

After the King and his men left, the Villagers rushed to the Farmer and exclaimed, "Oh, you were right! It was a good thing that your son fell off the horse and broke his legs. Now he will certainly not die in this war as will so many other young men.

The Farmer replied, "Well, I don't know if it's a good thing, or not. But I know that my son did not have to go with the King to fight this battle.

And so the story goes....

Uncertainty is one of the few certain things in our life and we can’t interpret single threads in the tapestry of our lives independently. We can make ourselves miserable trying to appraise every event in life as good or bad.

I’ve read that a blessing is anything that brings us closer to God—not just things that bring comfort and immediate happiness.

As the farmer in prior story, we don’t know what a turn of events will lead to.

In Psalms we’re told, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Finally Hinckley stated: “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

If there is only one outcome in our lives that we will accept to make us happy, we will almost invariably be unhappy.

Gratitude can be learned. A few ways we can develop gratitude include:
·         Gratitude lists
·         Contemplation
·         Consistent expressions of gratitude – a letter, note, simple “thank you”
·         Pray for it. Gratitude is a gift from God.

* Call to Action:
It’s my hope that we can have the strength and desire to choose to be humble and not live through comparisons that we can value and appreciate one another.

That we don’t fixate on endings in life by having an eye of faith towards the future and a belief that God can and will do miracles in our lives.

Finally it’s my prayer that we can accept the tapestries of our lives as a weaving of events that cannot be clearly categorized as good or bad.

And that we can thank God every day for beautiful moments, encouraging relationships, and tender mercies along our way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Breathe -

Have you ever been in a space where you didn't know you were holding your breath until you exhaled?

I visited my radiation oncologist, Dr. Clark, today. I have had every 3 months visits with both oncologists (Dr. Rich, chemo) since finishing treatment in April, 2013. Every 3 months I have blood drawn, boobs handled, and stats taken. Between tests and appointments, this is really about a week every 3 months tied up in doctor and lab appointments.

Today, sweet Dr. Clark graduated me to, "See you in a year, with a mammogram next September." With those kind words I sighed, and I looked forward.

Life goes on, thank heavens.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The News -

As I mentioned two posts ago, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and that's where I've been the past two weeks, and where I see myself being this month.

By the way, in the extended Walker family, the first two words out of our mouth on the first day of the month should be, "Rabbit, rabbit." In this way you will bring good luck to you and yours throughout the month. I usually remember and say "Rabbit, rabbit," but this morning, I forgot. Dang.

About three weeks ago I was hired by Cirque Lodge, a alcohol and drug treatment center, in Orem and Sundance, to be their chaplain. To say I'm giddy with excitement would be downplaying the emotions I'm having.

 A fellow chaplain recommended me for this position, and my interview with the directors was awesome. I really felt like I was in the right place at the right time. The fifteen minute interview turned into an hour long conversation, and I was prepared, naturally, without any feeling of being stumped by the questions, nor cocky with answers. I was me, all me, and they liked me!

I was interviewed for the job of giving a Sunday service and sermon for Cirque clients. However, after our conversation, they asked me to present two spirituality groups a week along with the Sunday service, which begins this next Sunday, Dec. 7. I am their Interfaith Chaplain!

I have conducted three spirituality groups. They have gone quite well, and the staff has been more than helpful and complimentary. The topics for the last three groups have been on joy and happiness, and on gratitude and living in Thanksgiving daily.

In addition to grading forty-three research portfolios this past week, I organized four file drawers, dumping papers, organizing papers, and while doing so, organizing my own process for moving forward with this role. I am a collector of thoughts, articles, poetry, that have made an impact on me. Interestingly, my father has done similarly through the years, and I credit him for me acquiring this habit. So now I have this awesome drawer filled with files of topics I can use for these groups and the Sunday service.

The toughest part of this, so far, is just not thinking about this role. Every where I look I see a sermon or a message that I can deliver. There are metaphors all around me! So I'm taking notes whenever I come up with, or see, or hear, an idea, and I'm racking my brain to find resources that will tie in to these topics - videos, Ted talks, music (I used Lucinda Williams "Joy" for the first presentation).

The clients are recovering addicts, and Cirque uses the AA 12 Step program as their method of rehab. I am grateful that I have had AA in my life; I'm grateful that Scott is a recovering alcoholic, that he has shared his knowledge of the steps with me, and that we both have worked the steps. In fact, the AA 12 Steps was the first bit of our conversation on our very first date.

So here I am, starting new, pushing myself out of that comfort zone into a new place, and I am overwhelmed and exhilarated.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Yes, please.