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.
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.”
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.
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.
that rather than judge others and seek justice, we should show mercy and
minister to, or serve, others.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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 fromIbrahim ibn Adham, taken from the poemAbou Ben (son or daughter of)
AdhembyJames 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
andhistorybooks 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 inTabaqat
al-Sufiya, abookabout 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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“Blessed is the season which engages the
whole world in a conspiracy of love.”-Hamilton Wright Mabie, American
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
“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,
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.
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
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.
need anything more than our love for ourselves and our desire to love others,
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
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
afraid, only believe.” May we all know that we can be made whole, we can mend,
our brokenness can be our strength.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 7. 2014 Sermon
People passing through the same events will respond
·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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
·Consistent expressions of gratitude – a letter,
note, simple “thank you”
·Pray for it. Gratitude is a gift from God.
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
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
And that we can thank God every day for beautiful moments,
encouraging relationships, and tender mercies along our way.
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.
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.
I've been uncomfortable in this post-cancer comfort zone for the past 15 months. A year ago July, right after getting my left arm in a lovely pink wrist to shoulder cast, The still small voice told me, "The life you have been leading no longer suits you." So I've been trying to stay as far away from that life as possible. However, that's where my interests lie, that's where I'm comfortable, and that is where I've been for the past 8 years - teach, write, chaplain, volunteer, church, parent . . . And yet these places are no longer providing me with what I need - a challenge, stability, excitement, comfort. And though these words are oxymoron's, they are what I've been quietly searching for, waiting for - for my life to begin - to be uncomfortable in the search for a different kind of comfort.
I have found portions of this - in a few places, but consolidating these pieces under one umbrella has been tough. One thing I'm trying not to do is lead a disjointed life - where I'm wearing too many hats, doing too many things, while still being able to be independent, work from home, write, teach, care for others. A tall order, particularly because I can no longer multi-task, have a scattered "focus," or carry too many identities - anxiety and disjointedness take over, and I fall and fail at all.
So while I'm waiting, and wondering, and scrambling, and searching, and being, I've put the word out, sent a prayer to the heavens, stayed tuned in to the pulse of my interests and stayed published, presented, certified, active in the various professional communities where my interests lie.
I've also wondered what to do with this blog. I'm ready to move past cancer, but I'm don't want to put this blog and my writing away - I like creating, I like writing, I like this electronic journal!
And pleas were answered this month - November, the month of gratitude, has been the month for me to make some changes, to move forward - in goodness and in gratitude.
More to come - but I'm in my lane, and as anxious as I am for this new opportunity, I need the challenge and the comfort I'm finding here - at the end of my comfort zone -
On Friday and Saturday I had the opportunity to spend time with some of my favorite people, the folklorists of Utah. Many have been my teachers, my mentors, my co-students, my colleagues, and all are my friends. I spoke with one of my professors and his wife - they have a son who has colorectal cancer, has had for quite some time, and with a weekly or monthly dose of chemo, he is living. He is taking advantage of his long cancer journey to educate the medical world about cancer - and how to answer sensitive questions that may or may not be asked by those going through cancer. Face it - until you have cancer and have been going through treatments, you don't even know what to ask. This man is providing answers for those who will come after him. I like that - although he is not healthy, he can still provide, his expertise, along with his education, will benefit others.
And so I have thought about what I wrote, way last January, 2013, about cancer culture, and I'm reprinting a edited version of 3 posts, below. Enjoy!
Cancer Culture - The
ways of the folk are divided into three categories: make (material), say
(cultural), do (customary). In every day culture or folk ways, these could be:
Make - Sunday dinner - the same meal every
Sunday, which then becomes customary as well.
Say - How did you sleep? Don't be late for school? How
was your day? Good grief it's cold, Hi, Hey, Howdy, Whassup - these are
things we say on a regular basis, words that are expected to come from us.
Do - make our bed a particular way, wear a specific
clothing item for a specific day/time/event. Pray over the food, don't
speak with food in our mouths. Check Facebook first thing when we get to
work. And these happen on a regular basis.
When we make, say, do
these "all the time" they become customs or habits, and when we
involve others in our doing, they become traditions.
This happens also with
Make - fruit cake for Christmas, colored eggs for
Easter, corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. Or - Christmas
decorations, birthday cakes, reservations at the restaurant we ate at on
our first date (which becomes a "do").
Say - Happy New Year, Happy Singles Awareness Day,
Another Year Older, sing - Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you .
Do - Go to the restaurant we went to on our first date
every year (reflected in the "make"), go to Island Park for our
family reunion every other year, give gifts for birthdays, fold our arms
in worship service.
And now to Cancer
I'm not sure if I can
make this into an itemized list, so let me describe what I've experienced -
Say - there are words that are only understood by those
experiencing cancer and cancer treatments. "I'm a stage 1, grade 3,
triple negative." "Oh, that's a cute hat." With the reply,
"It's not there just for beauty." And the reply, "I'm a
survivor; I . . . " Or, IV therapy, hydration, dex, let me know,
terminal, metastasized, every 3 weeks, there goes a nail, no hair -
anywhere; radiation tattoo, port, chemo sick.
And words cancer folks
don't use - victim, patient, it could be worse, cheer up - which then would
define who the insiders are and who the outsiders are - by the words, phrases
Do - Clothing - v-neck t-shirts, button down the
front shirts, stretchy pants, warm socks, layers, hats with liners,
ill-fitting wigs. I have clothes I haven't worn this fall/winter because I
don't have hats/scarves that match them! I have a pair of Dansko shoes I
have not worn, because I haven't gone anyplace fancy enough to wear them!
I know which yarn is the best yarn for hats, how to wash hats, how to tie
scarves, how cold the back of my neck gets and how to wear a scarf and a
hat together, and the beauty of wearing a hat to bed! I dress up for chemo
and IV therapy - a lady last week told me, "You are the best dressed
of all of Dr. Rich's patients. I know, I've been watching." Ha! What
an award to win - something that doesn't matter to the outsider's world,
but for insider's, it's "important"!
And blankets - which belong in the make and do
categories - the chemo room is cool, chemotherapy itself is not warm, and
most chemo patients are cold from their situations. So a blanket - this
season it's a "minky," (flannel, fleece) are so important. If you
bring your own blanket, it's usually a gift - which is another
"do," someone "made" and gifted you with that
blanket. I've written about blankets in another post. As you can see from
these pictures, there are fleece scarves and knitted or crocheted caps.
These are gifts to the chemo unit - things that people make and then
Make - We make traditions! Some of those in the cancer
The biggest traditions and initiation rites are that
of giving and receiving - cancer patients, survivors, and their loved
ones are gracious with tips for making it through this journey. They can
give advice, always preceded and ending with a hug. Their advice is a
gift. Those without cancer experience - no advice please.The patient
moves from beginner to experienced once their first treatment is
finished. Now they are part of the community - and are welcomed - with a
Graduation is another ritual that only is important in
the cancer world. In chemotherapy, once the last chemo treatment is
finished, the patient gets to ring a ship's bell and receives a bottle of
carbonated apple juice. The patient brings in a treat for everyone -
usually donuts, bagels, or a cake. There is applause, pictures, and
that's it! Scott and I wore our "Thank you" t-shirts and brought
donuts. This ritual is taught by example, nothing is said or shared about
it, you just follow what has already been done.
The radiation oncology department does similar.
I forgot to mention making hats - and giving them. I
have soooo many, most are awesome, some are cute, and I've received a few
that I will donate. I have never worn a hat, seriously never, and it has
taken some getting used to. But I have grown dependent on them, and I
think I look pretty darn good!
There is also lots of breast cancer jewelry - just
like hats, some tacky, some nice. I will wear some of what I've received
as gifts until I finish my treatments.
Food plays an important role in a cancer patient's
life. Food is something we make, say, and do.
What to eat - advice is given, and stories are told,
about what to avoid and what to embrace. Every breast cancer patient I
spoke with could eat the Dreyer's fruit juice bars and Creamies brand
creamcicles. Most folks liked yogurt as well.
What not to eat - avoid spicy foods, but eat foods
with flavor. Some foods will have a metallic taste because of chemo, some
people eat with plastic utensils during chemo, some say that chemo and
food are similar to pregnancy and food - you don't know what you want to
eat until the moment you're hungry. It's hard to cook while having chemo
for this reason. It's also hard to bring in food for chemo patients
because of this. (The first 2 months I lost 10 pounds because of my
aversion to food. The second 2 months I gained 12 pounds because I was
ravenous and on steroids.)
Of course there are things that benefit the cancer
patient as much as the prescriptions given. And even oncology and
radiation nurses share these tips.
Candied ginger is great for nausea, so are See's Dark
Chocolate Peppermint Patties!
Tea Tree Oil and Sally Hansen Hard as Nails are good
for preserving nails. As is Gold Bond ultra-strength lotion.
Rub tea tree oil on bald head during radiation.
Senna is a natural stool softener - keep it on hand,
don't use prescriptions for this.
Bathe in Celtic Sea Salts to reduce water
retention and to leach toxins out of your system.
More Do (unspoken rules):
Naps are expected, and talking about taking naps or
naps is expected and encouraged. 2 naps a day are applauded.
Exercise is as important as a nap - 30 minutes a day
of walking is said to encourage healing.
Complaining is just fine, whining is not. Complaints
about things one cannot control are expected: fingernail and toenail
loss, smells, chemo breath, chemo taste, port access, blood drawn, weight
loss, weight gain, chemo brain (forgetfulness, names, slow response),
tingling in hands and feet, exhaustion, pain. Supporters can complain as
well. Aches and pains can be compared, but not trumped.
Manners are important - thank you, please, you're
welcome, no smells (no perfume or heavy scents in chemo room).
Sickness is allowed in chemo room, but do not talk
about those who are/were sick and their sickness outside of the
Chemo room remains quiet and calm. No speaking on
phones (text or go into the hall, which is awkward with an IV tower).
IPads, Kindles, IPods, books are acceptable forms of entertainment. So is
sleep. Not really a place to socialize.
Do Not (unspoken rules):
Outsiders cannot give advice.
Sharing tips is great, giving advice is not so
No joking about cancer by outsiders.
Self-help books, mind over body books,
alternative treatments books.
Cancer life is a liminal space - which cannot be
judged or compared (I have never worn a hat in my entire life, pre-chemo.
Now, I must.).
Don't visit cancer patient during chemo or radiation
treatments, unless invited.
Those of us with cancer need support and outside of the amazingly
spectacular medical team I see 4 levels of support:
1.Trusted 2 or 3
1.These are the folks you
sleep with, eat with, who see you naked (physically and emotionally), and are
very close in proximity.
1.These are people who
have had cancer, or have been part of this first group with a loved one. They
are the folks who can be subjectively objective about cancer - sharing the
tips, listening with empathetic ears, who can understand the aches and pukes,
and who can tell you, "You go, girl," when you need that. They are
also the ones who can say to a #1, "When my wife . . ." or, "My
daughter made me . . ." They answer questions without asking
2.I belong to a Breast
Cancer online support group where I've been able to do a daily check-in, where
I've been able to ask simple questions, and where I've gone to hear others'
stories (thank you Colt for finding this for me).
1.Oh goodness, this
category is hard. I now understand why sports' teams have cheerleaders. Their
encouragement, shouts from the sidelines are great motivation for working hard.
They may have no experience with cancer, but they know their "team,"
and they have the love and separation to be able to be a strength to the
1.Not that the above don't
give care, but these are the silent ones, not necessarily part of that
inner-circle, but eager to help however they can.
So there you have it,
cancer culture and cancer community.