Monday, 24 April 2017

Congratulate Me! Today I Peed in the Potty!

I like to think my appreciation for affirmation and praise is only human.  Perhaps it is fuelled by my low self-esteem that is buoyed up by the praise others give. I like to be acknowledged.  I have been thinking about integrity.  Integrity is taking onus to do what is right even when no one is around to clap for me.  When people are new to church, their efforts are acknowledged.  They are asked if they have been reading the Book of Mormon and receive affirmation for a positive response.  They begin to learn that these habits are good.  This is much the same as to how we treat young children.  They are praised when they zip up their own coat, eat all their food and pee in the potty.  Eventually the child is expected to carry on these habits without receiving praise.  When I was a child, it was expected that at the end of the meal I took my dishes to the dishwasher, and expressed gratitude for the meal.  Perhaps at one point I received praise for these behaviours.  I do not remember that, but I do remember the gentle reminders to clear my dishes.  When I am at my mom’s home I perform these habits, partly because they have become part of my nature, and partly because, whether my mom expresses it verbally or not, she is pleased by this routine.  This is the transition which needs to happen with my faith developing habits.  If I expect human, or even divine, praise every time I say a personal prayer, read my scriptures or go to church, I am going to be very disappointed.  As much as I long for this kudos, I am missing the point.  The point isn’t to get a pat on the back every time I do good.  I need to do that which is good even when no one cares, because it is good.  I can do it knowing God is pleased, whether I can feel his pleasure or not.  I should do it because peeing in the potty is better than peeing in my pants, and if I don’t zip up my coat, I will get cold.  I should do it because as I take care of myself, I can take care of others, I can acknowledge their efforts with understanding that some of the littlest tasks take great effort.  And as I do the little tasks, they will become habits, they will become part of my nature and I will become one who seeks to please God if people notice, or even if they don’t.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Saying Good Bye to My Past

As I have been unpacking my belongings, I have found all sorts.  Notebooks filled with stories, a bag full of dreadlocks, clothing I forgot about, a box of photos I have yet to look through, and three hockey pucks (but I have yet to locate my skates).  among all of this I have also found reminders of who I used to be and what used to be important to me, bits of my past with which I can no longer identify.  Though I know this, I do not want to let go.  I am great at trying to justify my reasoning.  After all, isn’t having my selves lined with books that speak agains my beliefs evidence as to how strong my faith really is?  After all, I still do think that closets are for clothes.
Those are the two categories of belongings onto which I am holding.  Many of the books which speak against the Church i have never even read.  Sometimes I think I ought to read them to get my money’s worth.  My knowledge as to what critics say against the Church is no indication as to how strong my faith is.  I knew much of the critique before I has any faith.  Furthermore, I have no intention to read the literature, and just having it on myself is not going to do anyone any good.  I could give the books away, but I do not think they well do any good for anybody.  
The other category could be summed up as gay pride.  As I was driving earlier this week I came to understand that pride cannot be part of my life.  I feel this is counter-cultural, and all of societies reasons are my means of justifying holding on to this piece of my past.  I echo the words of society, it is who I am, I cannot change, i am not bad.  And perhaps it is part of who I am, perhaps it will never change, and quite certainly God created me good, but all that considered, pride is not the way forward.  If the opposite of pride is denial, that is not the answer, nor is the answer somewhere between those two points.  I would posit that it is some place two feet above.  I can acknowledge and accept that I am attracted to women without making it a point of pride.
Philippians 3:7-8: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
I must put my past behind me, recognize that it is rubbish and rest in the rewards Christ has offered.  It is time for church, but I must pass by the recycle bin first.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

No More Whining

In my sister’s car I noticed a container of brightly coloured Tic Tacs.  I picked them up and my sister informed me that they are for those who put on their straps themselves without whining.  Feeling a childish sense of pride, I pointed to my secured seatbelt and happily took a Tic Tac.  I had, after all, put it on without complaining.  I was reflecting on this experience as I walked to church this morning.  I was wondering what made it so hard for my three year old nephew to put on his straps, and for me a returned missionary, to go to church, without whining.  For my nephew, perhaps when he knows what he has to do, whining is a way to keep hold of a little bit of control.  I may be no different.  I know it is important for me to go to Church.  I know it is required if I am going to receive all the blessings God wants to give me, if I am going to progress and become who I want to become.  For my nephew to receive a candy, it is not good enough for him merely to get the straps on himself, he must do it without whining.  When he does, the candy is guaranteed.  I am sure the same is true with me and God.  His promises are sure.  I believe that if I go to Church, digging in my heels and whining, he will still bless me, but I will be miserable. If I cheerfully go to church, holding nothing back, not even my attitude, he will pour out blessings in abundance, and I will be able to receive them all.  Until I give all, I will not be able to receive all the Father has to give.  This reminded me of a talk given by Neal A. Maxwell in which he concludes “Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!”  I want that total victory, and so I must totally surrender.  Cheerfully. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Blessed to Love

The main idea which stood out to me when my stake president laid his hands on my head and set me apart to serve a full time mission was that I would be blessed to love.  Even as he said it, I selfishly wished that he blessed me instead to be loved.  Though I do not always comprehend, I know the blessing he gave me is far greater than the one I hoped for.  It is greater to love than to be loved, harder too.  On my mission, I many times prayed that I may love those around me. Many times I was able to love them and focus upon them, rather than on me. 
I miss that blessing.  Now I am as I was before: I want to be loved.  I want to be noticed, valued, cared for.  I am seeking affirmation.  All of that I want on my terms.  I’m waiting around for someone to tell me I am spectacular.  I do not want to do anything to gain that approval.  I just want to be.  The truth is, when I laze around, I am not all that spectacular.  I am far from living up to my potential.  The truth is, as long as I am focused on others loving me, I am missing the point. 
I miss being a set apart missionary, because I miss that blessing.  That blessing, however, is not limited to me as a missionary.  Love is not just an attribute of a missionary, but a defining characteristic of Jesus Christ.   Now, even now, I, even me, can be filled with Christ-like love.  Moroni (Moroni 7:47) invites us to pray for that love, with all of our energy.  It is not that I should pray for that love, so others will love me in return.  Rather, I should seek to have Christ-like love that I may be like Jesus Christ.