Monday, August 5, 2013

A Blanket of Words

Words come off pages, or screens, or through ear buds as I go about my day.  I've been so thirsty this week, but what I have sipped each day has not quenched my thirst.  I begin to think an I.V. is necessary. So I keep connecting to the Source: while in the car, while cleaning, while reading to my kids, while watching with my kids. The watery words of Light float together in my mind.  They turn into threads. I stop and weave them here on the page - it's a blanket of guidance and comfort for the day. 

...And if my heart and flesh are weak

To bear an untried pain,

The bruised reed He will not break,

But strengthen and sustain.

~ "The Eternal Goodness" by John Greenleaf Whittier

Today, I choose to believe in the enabling power of God's grace. To believe I am not alone. That God knows me. I choose to do all I know how to invite that strength to sustain me. 

"The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one's personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. . . What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. . . The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we "get it right." It is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts." (The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, p. 4-5)

What am I choosing to believe?  About myself? About others? About God? What do my choices reveal? 

Farewell! a long farewell to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: today he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost;
And - when he thinks, good easy man, full surely 
His greatness is a-ripening - nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do. I have ventur'd,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
This many summers in a sea of glory,
But far beyond my depth; my high blown pride
At length broke under me, and now has left me,
Weary . . . to the mercy of a rude stream.
~ Wosley's Farewell to His Greatness, From Henry VIII attributed to John Fletcher

I have ventured beyond my depth.  My high blown pride has broke under me. How does it go? The answers you seek are tied to the person you are?

Question: “In the book you talk about that ultimately the gift of charity possesses us, we don’t posses it.  How do we know if charity is possessing us and how do you, being an apostle, notice as a quorum that you collectively are possessed of charity?”

Elder Bednar’s Answer: “You’ll have to listen carefully to this answer, okay?  It will strike a little abruptly given the nature of your question.  I really believe it’s not like I have it or I don’t.  It’s a matter of increasingly being possessed of charity.  The more we have it, the more we quit wondering if we have it.  We get in a mode of, “I want to get this!” And I would suggest that the very mode of “I want to get this” gets in the way of us getting it. So, that’s a turn to the Savior because we’re trying to get it, but there’s a little bit of looking back, which is the “I want this.”

 . . . A spiritual gift like charity is bestowed upon us when God trusts us to be a tool in his hands through whom a blessing can be delivered to somebody else.  You get charity when God can deliver the associated blessings of that to somebody else.  I don’t think we can ever get those [spiritual gifts] because we want them.  The more we get out of the way, the more it can be brought to us.” 
  (Transcription from Act in Doctrine DVD by David A. Bednar)
Can I ever be trusted? Can I ever be an instrument well-tuned and in working order, flexible, playable to the will of God? It is a daily struggle. But...
"Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Him. He knows that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit. That struggle will develop your immortal character as you perfect your capacity to identify His will in your life through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. . . Personal communication with God through the Holy Spirit is a reality.  To me it is as literally real as life itself and far more precious than all of the treasures of the earth. . . 
Satan tries to blur reality and confuse you by tempting you to incorporate false principles into your life. Father in Heaven can clarify your life by sharing correct principles through the Holy Ghost. How you exercise your moral agency will determine which of these two influences will be predominant in your life." (Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy by Richard G. Scott, pg. 38-39)

The threads circle back. "What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love."  

“Let me see if I can put two or three things together.  The character of Christ turns out instead of in. Putting off the natural man and becoming a saint by the power of the atonement and with the increased capacity that comes through the enabling power of the atonement, we make a turn away from self and to God. . . we use our agency to make that turn and we initiate the turn by using our agency to accept the terms and conditions of covenants that God has established.  We don’t set the terms and conditions of a covenant, God does. Whenever we accept the terms and conditions of a covenant, we not only exercise our agency, but we expend it. That doesn't mean you lose it. It means it changes.  In a very significant way. 

I’ve always been bothered by baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who use agency as the justification to sin. “I have my agency and I’m just not going to pay my tithing.” That to me indicates that they do not understand the relationship between agency and covenants.

Now consider the sequence of the three elements of the baptismal covenant: First, willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. Second, always remember Him. Third, keep the commandments.  Sequence is instructive.

As we exercise our agency to accept the baptismal covenant, it’s no longer about me anymore, it’s about Him. And the statement, “Well, I have my agency, I’m not going to pay my tithing.” Is about me.  That’s not who we are anymore. Before entering into the covenant, agency operated at an individual level.  Kind of like a free agent in sports, you could negotiate with any team you want.
But whenever you accepted the covenant, exercised your agency, were baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by someone who had the authority, you are no longer your own agent.  Now you’re His. And your agency becomes representative of Him, not just, “What I want.” Willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember Him, because He comes first. It’s not about what I want after I’m baptized. And keep the commandments so that I can be worthy to have his Spirit, which not only blesses me, but more importantly it helps me to represent Him.
So to say after having been baptized: “I have my agency and I choose not to do this” which is a commandment or in keeping with the covenants - is not an option.  Now that may be too strongly stated.  People will say, “Well, I still have my agency, I don’t have to do it.” No.  It is now a repudiation of the responsibility to represent Him.  That’s called breaking a covenant. And that’s a big difference than just the individual exercise of agency.

The character of Christ is what? Turning out. Natural man, natural woman turns in.  What’s each covenant? Baptism, priesthood, temple - each covenant is a continuation of turning out.  Not my will, but thy will be done.  We can never say that the way the Savior did, because we are not called upon to do what he did, but we are to emulate him and his character which is to turn out instead of in.  Not my will, but thy will. Agency and covenants.  I think we talk about these things as little separate topics. So we give a fifty minute lesson on agency and a few weeks later we give one on covenants.  The power comes when they are tied together and we see how exercising agency to accept God’s terms and conditions of a covenant are linked.  As all things are gathered together in one, that’s where the power comes.  In learning understanding and living the doctrine of Christ.  And most importantly, acting in it.” 
(Transcription from Act in Doctrine DVD by David A. Bednar)
I had it wrong in Beyond Walls. This is the present moment. And the present thing to do? Find the Presence within by turning outward. Again. Every present moment.  It's not about me.  I have made covenants. It's not about what I want.  He comes first. And how does he use his agency? 

"God chooses to love us. And if love means responsibility, sacrifice, vulnerability, then God's decision to love us is the most stupendously sublime moment in the history of time. He chooses to love even at, necessarily at, the price of vulnerability. . . His freely made choice to inaugurate and sustain costly loving relationships is the very core of His divine identity." (The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, p. 24)