Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lost Ones

I taught Relief Society today, and it has me thinking. Since it's been a while since I've written on my blog, and since writing helps me articulate my thoughts sometimes, it's time for another post.

Luke chapter 15 contains three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. As I thought about these parables and as we talked about them in our meeting today, I had some insights that seemed relevant and worth sharing.

Look first at the story lines themselves.

Man has 100 sheep > he discovers 1 is lost > he leaves 99 to search for the lost 1 > when he finds it he carries it home, rejoicing > he recruits all his friends to rejoice too
Woman has 10 coins > she discovers 1 is lost > she lights a candle and searches the house > when she finds it she rejoices > she recruits all her friends to rejoice too
Man and his wife have 2 sons > 1 takes his inheritance and leaves > they wait and watch > the son comes to himself and comes home > parents rejoice and kill the fatted calf (thus, they must have recruited all their friends to rejoice, or who would have eaten all that meat?)

What can we learn?

- It doesn't matter if there are 2, or 10, or 100 (or 10 billion, for that matter), the lost one is noticed as missing. And when a lost one is found, there is joy and rejoicing. This is not the kind of joy you keep to yourself, a silent celebration or a little happy dance - this is the call all your friends and throw a party kind of rejoicing! The love for the lost one is so great it is a thing worth universally sharing when the lost one is found.

- Some are lost because they stop paying attention or wander off looking for greener pastures, some are lost because we stop paying attention, and some choose to walk away. The reason for leaving is irrelevant to the joy and rejoicing that takes place when the lost one is found, or the love we have for the lost one.

- Some are found because there is an intense search and they are carried home on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, some are found because there is an intense search and they are discovered with light, and some are found when they come to themselves and choose to walk back. The method of being found is also irrelevant to the joy and rejoicing that takes place when the lost one is found.

- Sometimes we search. Sometimes we watch and wait. Always we love. But the only one who knows whether to search or watch and wait is the Father of us all, and He will tell us through His Holy Spirit how to find, love, and minister to those who are lost.

- All of us are lost ones, at some point (or many points) in our lives. According to Elder Holland, "except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing". So whether we have wandered off, stopped paying attention, or deliberately walked away, the Good Shepherd and His servants are searching, watching, and/or waiting for us.

- Thus, rather than be jealous that the guy who screwed up is getting all the attention, we can rejoice with Him when one of His children is found, because we've been there, we've felt His love, and we know how good it is to have everyone together again.

For me, this underscored the critical need for me to always remember Jesus and to seek to always have His Spirit to be with me. Otherwise, how will I know what to do to show the right kind of love to everyone around me, lost or found?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What I'm Thinking About

My first season of singing with the Salt Lake Choral Artists has been over for two weeks, and I'm already missing it. That must mean it was a good decision to join. Now I just have to figure out what to do to fill my time until the fall when it starts up again... Next year's season is going to be awesome - John Rutter, an Easter Passion, some Bluegrass, and more. I'm kind of excited already, and the first practice is still over 3 months away. :-)

As I was preparing for today's Sunday School lesson this weekend, I rediscovered a scripture that gave me lots to think about. It's in D&C 109:50-53. Referring to the people who persecuted and drove the Saints out of their homes, Joseph Smith prayed:

Have mercy, O Lord ... that they may cease to spoil, that they may repent of their sins if repentance is to be found; But if they will not, make bare thine arm, O Lord, and redeem that which thou didst appoint a Zion unto thy people. And if it cannot be otherwise, ... may thine anger be kindled, and thine indignation fall upon them, that they may be wasted away, both root and branch, from under heaven; But inasmuch as they will repent, thou art gracious and merciful, and wilt turn away thy wrath when thou lookest upon the face of thine Anointed [Jesus Christ].

Here is what struck me about these verses - the word anger comes from Old Norse angr, meaning "grief", and angra, meaning "vex". It would not surprise me one bit if our Father, as a loving parent, sees our unwise (and sometimes downright wicked) choices and feels anger - not in the modern sense of the word, but rather in the sense of intense grief. That makes the next section of the scripture even more touching - when in His grief or anger, He turns to look upon the face of His Only Begotten Son, who has atoned for the sins of the world, including the very sins that made our Father grieved, the Father's feelings of grief are replaced with grace and mercy. The atoning blood of Jesus and the love that motivated it make possible the repentance (re-turning toward God) of each of God's children. And when we re-turn to Him, He can freely forgive us because of that atonement.

Speaking of repentance, here is a quote that I absolutely LOVE by Elder Weatherford T Clayton:

As we act on His words, we are doing something called repenting. In the New Testament, repentance comes from the word metanoeó, from the words metá and noeó, meaning "to change one's mind or purpose." Isn't that interesting? Every time we turn more to Christ, we are repenting - we are following Him. When we sincerely pray to the Father, in a very real sense we are repenting. When we read the scriptures and ponder them, we are repenting. As we make changes because of what we are learning about Christ and His gospel, we are repenting. When we do things that make us better, kinder, gentler, more sensitive, more spiritual, more virtuous, and truer, we are repenting. Whenever we choose the better path, we are repenting. Though we all repent of things that are sinful in our lives, most of our repenting comes from hearing His words and doing them - from turning to Him.

Isn't that cool? It is so much easier for me to relate to than the steps of repentance that I learned as a child (recognize, regret, confess, forsake, make restitution, etc. - they aren't wrong, but they are perhaps incomplete, because they assume that repenting only has to do with sin). Read the rest of Elder Clayton's talk here (it's a BYU devotional, totally worth your time).

And those are my thoughts for tonight. Happy Sabbath!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A(n Almost) Two Year Update

You will be pleased to know I have moved back into the 21st century, and I now have internet at home. The lack of internet was also my reason for ignoring this blog for nearly a year... so I figured I had better post now that I am left without excuse. Thanks, Google Fiber! (And no, that's not sarcastic. Internet at home is basically life-changing. I have so many more options!)

It has been exactly 23 months since my final round of chemotherapy; in one month, I will pass the two-year mark. Recently, I have decided I am really and truly "back to normal" (yes, I know it is for the eighth or ninth time, but this time it's for reals!). What tipped me off was that I could spend a whole afternoon shopping with my sister - after a morning of being on my feet at choir rehearsal - and have fun without needing a week to recover! And then my interest in doing optional activities skyrocketed... and I have started wanting to do things that require emotional investment. That has been kind of strange, to be honest. It's been a long time since I've had emotional energy for optional stuff. I am still figuring out what to do with this newfound capacity. :-)

I should probably also note that having emotional energy for optional stuff only happened after I worked through the emotional aftermath of treatments and recovery. Around the same time I realized I was physically "back to normal", there were a few months during which I had to work through some significant (for me) anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms. Getting my annual physical was a stressful experience; going to the dentist to get cavities filled was even more difficult. After some searching and studying, I discovered a few things that helped tremendously: daily guided meditation (I use an app called Headspace), and expressing my anxieties and asking for what I think will help. Doing the latter helped me to feel like I was acting and not just being acted upon - and the experiences were better as a result. The former is so good for me, it's helping in multiple areas of my life, not just with anxiety. I highly recommend it.

It is interesting to consider that when I meet people now, they won't know by looking at me that I once had cancer. There are a whole pile of people in Arizona who only knew me when I was sick. There is another set of people here who met me just as I was finishing treatments, and who have watched me recover. But now, my hair is long enough to look intentional, I am back to my old self physically and emotionally, and there are no obvious signs (other than a few scars and tiny tattoos) that would indicate what has happened to me - which is good. I have moved on. Cancer doesn't define me, and never will. It was a defining experience in my life, to be sure, and was a sacred time of learning and growth, but my identity is distinct from that experience.

So I guess this is my way of saying to the cancer experience, Goodbye forever. I'm sure I'll find new ways of progressing now.

In other news, spring has sprung in Utah, hopefully for good this time, and I am looking forward to warm days and sunshine. That said, I also should admit that I spent much of the afternoon coming up with good reasons why later was a better time to start working in the yard. This year I have decided that I don't really want to do all the work my yard requires, so I need to choose which parts to hire out and which parts to ignore. I have a feeling there won't be much left to do after that. :-) It sort of makes me wonder why I bought a house with a yard (instead of a condo with someone else who does the yard), but it's too late now. I'm committed to this neighborhood. So, here I will stay. Dandelions and all.