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I wish I could have come up with a snappier title, but I can’t.
Unless I’m traveling or sick, I usually make it to church on Sunday mornings, not because I’m a holy roller but because I need help. I understand all about loving one another, turning the other cheek, and practicing forgiveness, but there’s something about being in the midst of like-minded people (and sinners) that reinforces my desire to go from okay to good to better to best in thought and deed.
But yesterday we were traveling, and I found myself feeling a little fidgety and ill-at ease. I needed the communion of my church friends to buoy me up. I wanted to hear some beautiful hymns and ponder the mysteries of life and death and what comes after our tenure here on Earth…and what came before. I could have read about all those things and more, but reading wasn’t sufficient yesterday.
As we cruised along towards home, I recalled an article I’d read about Joel Osteen the day before and decided to listen to one of his podcasts. According to Success magazine, he’s “the most popular minister on the planet” and has a net worth between 40 and 60 million dollars. In addition to being able to pay bills, Osteen’s idea of prosperity includes having good relationships, feeling peace, and being able to bless someone else.
I know a lot of people don’t like him. They say he’s more into optimism and positive psychology than into theology. “A motivational speaker with a religious bent,” Osteen stays away from heavy discussions of Satan and hell. Maybe that’s why I like him.
Oops, the cat’s out of the bag. I do sort of like him, probably because he thinks like I do in some ways. I too feel that a person’s thoughts are central in determining destiny, and Joel says, “Your life follows your thoughts.” It’s not rocket science, but there’s truth in that simple statement.
Osteen’s philosophy is akin to cognitive psychology. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and change your world.” He wasn’t a psychologist, but he was, like Osteen, a minister, one who focused on the power of thoughts. Detractors would say that positive thinking is more of an armchair activity while positive psychology is aligned with replicable scientific activity, and they’d be correct. Still….
But back to Joel Osteen. His 10.5 million dollar house bothers some people, and while that doesn’t endear me to him, it doesn’t completely turn me off either. I realize that everything’s relative. I have acquaintances who live in houses worth between three and four hundred thousand dollars and some who live in mobile homes, apartments, and condos. All have homes more spacious, safe, and comfortable than many (most?) of the world’s population.
As I wrote the above sentence, I recalled a sign outside of Food for the Soul that I saw this morning. Positioned out near the street so that passers-by could see it, the sign announced that the homeless shelter would be open tonight.
I missed being in church yesterday, but I like thinking, “You have gifts and talents in you right now that you haven’t tapped into.” There are so many people who need to hear that message, so many people I could share it with. While I would have heard and been inspired by speakers, prayers, hymns, and hugs had I been in a chapel with others yesterday, I might not have heard Osteen’s message.
And maybe his is the one I most needed to hear…and share.
Joining the LDS church 32 years ago was a big decision, not one that I considered lightly. I knew that if I converted to what many call “Mormonism,” there would be some backlash and downright discomfort on the part of many. And yet, I knew what I knew with my head and felt what I felt with my spirit and heart. How could I deny such a force?
I said yes and have never looked back.
Today in church I pondered for the umpteenth time what it is that’s so off-putting about Mormonism. Is it because it’s strange and peculiar for those in the Bible belt? Are its precepts and guidelines too demanding? Is the way too straight? It could be that many (most?) people don’t believe there can be prophets on the earth today.
Now Moses…that was a man, a prophet with name recognition and credibility, one who saw God face-to-face and who gave us the Ten Commandments. Even people who don’t live by these directives give lip service to their usefulness and credit to the prophet who wrote them on stone.
And of course Moses isn’t the only one. To name a few, there are Joshua, Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. If I’m mentioning Moses, then I must include his sister Miriam who has long been accepted as a prophetess. And there’s Anna, an elderly New Testament prophetess who instantly recognized the Messiah though he was but a babe.
But what 2015? Doesn’t it make sense that the world is in need of prophets today, ones that understand current issues and challenges? Pornography, drug addiction, gender issues (and transgender ones), mass killings, broken homes, hungry children, homelessness, and a myriad of other contemporary problems plague our society. Couldn’t this ol’ world benefit from the words of a prophet?
I think yes. That’s where Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comes in. His message is simple. Love one another. Follow the example of the Savior.
Here are some of his words I used in a lesson this morning: “Love should be the heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. I would hope that we could strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do now destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”
I’m not trying to stir up contention. I’m a lover, not a fighter. It’s just that as I consider the recent horror that took place in Charleston, I’m reminded that love is the answer to every question. Rich or poor, black or white, American or Haitian, we are all children of the same Creator. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. After telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves, Christ remarks that there is no greater commandment.
President Monson says we cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey, and I concur. I want to be a forgiving, compassionate, turn-the-other-cheek type of gal, and that’s the kind of instruction I pretty much always get at church.
I went to a beautiful backyard wedding last night, Carol and Randy’s. On the way home, we talked about what made the event especially nice, and we finally decided that it was EVERYTHING. From the setting to the music and food and special combination of people, we loved it. Oh, and then there’s the fact that love was involved; that always adds the icing on the cake (quite a cliché, but still true).
It rained all the way to Sumter, and the closer we got to the house, the heavier the showers became. When we arrived, the bride’s son-in-law was standing barefoot in the drive, umbrella overhead, directing guests back to their cars to wait it out. The family had been closely watching the weather reports, and all were confident that the storm would pass by 5:00. Sure enough, the downpour turned to a light sprinkle, and by the time we made it to the backyard, we put our umbrellas away. I loved the symbolism of the cleansing rain followed by the life-giving sun.
The back yard was beautifully decorated, and as we waited for the nuptials to begin, we watched as several close friends and family members wiped down tables and chairs, one of whom was Marna. She had come from Wilmington and at the moment, clad in her wedding attire and white tennis shoes, was working diligently to help sop up the rain with a thick towel. In case you’re wondering, yes, she later changed from the wet tennis shoes to a pair of stylish white sandals. (Marna, we miss you at CCTC!)
The music was provided by two of my co-workers, T-Bo and Jackson, and by Brent, a fabulous DJ; all three did a great job of adding just the right musical ambience to the evening. The co-worker duo played their guitars, and T-Bo sang a few of Carol’s favorites including “Love Remains.” It was beautiful, and I became quite emotional as I listened carefully to the words of the song. I think the setting beneath the trees, glistening after the spring showers, added to the sentimental feelings. And lest I forget, two birds soared high between the treetops during the vows, a sight that seemed to say, “We’re in love too!”
Vows complete, Carol’s brother, a minister who had conducted the service, pronounced them husband and wife, and everyone clapped. As the afternoon and evening progressed, people chatted, danced to the DJ’s selections (each carefully selected by Carol and Randy), reunited with old friends, ate scrumptious barbeque and the fixin’s, shared stories, and laughed a lot. Everyone was happy for the couple and grateful for love, sweet love. I met a couple who met (or re-met?) at their 15th high school reunion a few decades ago and married not quite two months later. We chatted briefly about the importance of timing, but before I could hear more about their romance, my hubby snagged me to go to the drink table with him.
I must share this. While we were eating, Nancy, a friend and techno-savvy person, came to our table and asked each couple for advice to give Carol and Randy. It was impromptu, but I think we did “okay” in our brief videotaping segments. Rex and Patricia advice was to remember that each of them loved the other more than anyone else in the world. In their case, whenever either of them gets perturbed, they think, “No one loves me more than Patrica (or Rex),” and that thought quells acrimony or annoyance. Patricia went on to say that although he doesn’t drink coffee, Rex gets up every morning and fixes it for her. One day when he didn’t have time to prepare it (can’t remember the reason), he went to Baker’s Sweets, a local eatery and coffee shop, and bought her a cup. That’s love. The rest of us gave some pretty good advice too, but I don’t have time to write about it now. Maybe later.
People drank peach tea and wine, ate fruit and wedding cookies, and savored barbeque and rice. They thought about love and families and connections. “The sun comes up and seasons change, but though it all, love remains.” A good time was had by all, and I hope the Brileys have a long and happy life together.
This is my catch-all blog, the one where I can rant and rave and vent and expound as much as my heart desires. It’s not centered on one theme like religion, politics, families, or cooking.
You’re as likely to read something about exercise here as about the poverty in Burundi and how embarrassed I sometimes feel to have so much when those folks have so little. I just ate a piece of chocolate with almonds and am wondering how widespread that delectable treat is in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Oops, I strayed from my topic. Since I can write about anything I want to on this blog, today I’m focusing on love.
I never leave church without feeling spiritually energized. The peace and love that surrounds me is palpable. I kid you not. Then there are those lessons and talks and hymns that never fail to touch, educate, or affect me in some way. On Sunday, one of the teachers mentioned one little sentence that I keep thinking of, especially in light of a couple of situations that have been troubling me lately.
Here’s what she said: “The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love.” While that’s something that I already knew, I needed to be reminded of it. If you say you love God but make disparaging remarks about people of other races, ethnic groups, or social classes, you might want to examine your heart. If that sounds snarky, it’s because I need to work on that love thing too, and that realization puts me on the defensive.
I don’t have a problem with loving people who are “different” from me. I sincerely believe that we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father and that He doesn’t love me more because I’m a white middle-class person with the good fortune to have been born in America. Instead, I think He might actually expect more of me because of those reasons. “To whom much is given, much is required” and all that.
Lately I’ve been full of that loving feeling—for my family. My son and his wife just had a new baby, and I’m already in love with her little rosebud face. I enjoyed staying with the family and taking care of the little ones last week and am looking forward to doing more of the same soon.
There’s more. I helped someone with some troubling internet connections last week, and I cut some of my students some slack when they missed their due dates. I cooked a delicious pot of chili for my husband yesterday, but really, Y’all, that was easy stuff and required little exertion on my part.
But there are a couple of situations going on in my neighborhood that I’m concerned about. What am I doing to ameliorate them? Nothing. Nada. Not a darned thing except talk about them with my husband and friends. Talk is cheap. And yet, when does one know when to cross the line between minding your own business and helping someone who’s cold, hungry, neglected, or _______________?
This morning I’m sitting in my nice cozy home watching the gas logs flicker and flame while I know for a fact that one of my neighbors has no electricity. There are other sad scenarios being acted out all over town. I’m thinking of how the Savior (sorry if I offend anyone here) was virtually homeless during the last few years of His life, and yet that didn’t stop Him from helping and healing and doing good.
What am I doing? Nothing yet. Just writing and thinking.
What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I think kindness and compassion go a long way, and that’s something I can do more of. It’s a start, right?
I’m looking forward to going to church today. Boy, do I need it! Whoever said it was a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints nailed it. I go, not because I’m a Miss Goody Two Shoes, but because I need help remembering and applying all the things I need to do to feel peace…and to live a happy and effective life. There’s often a difference between what He says for us to do and what I actually do, and attending church with like-minded individuals helps me to try a little harder.
He says to love one another. We love those who are most like us, those of a similar social class, religious affiliation, race, and ethnicity. If someone is a Hindu, Jew, or Greek Orthodox, and we are Christians, well, you know what I’m saying. Woe unto those people for being so ill informed and heathen. I seriously do not have a problem with this one, but I have seen it over and over and over again in other Christians. If anyone reading this ever sees me demonstrating (by word or deed) intolerance or prejudice, please call me out on it.
And about that love thing, we often find it easier to love those who love us. If someone ignores us, hurts our feelings, or fails to appreciate us, then that person must have a problem! He or she is therefore unworthy of our love. To take that a step further, some people are so busy loving one another outside of their own homes that they have very little left to offer their own families. I’ve been guilty of this.
He also says to forgive one another. Seventy times seven and all that. But that’s hard to do. In fact, it’s evidently so hard that a member of our bishopric in Camden gave a talk about it last Sunday. Brother Adams reminded us to be humble, meek, and lowly of heart, and among several other scriptures, read Matthew 6: 14-15:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
That’s scary stuff! If we don’t forgive, then neither will He.
And how can anyone who knows anything at all about Christ remember His betrayal in the garden and his words from the cross? “Father forgive them.” If I had been in His position, I definitely would not have been so benevolent. But I’m trying. Just about anyone who knows me has heard me say that the combination of religion and psychology have saved my life (figuratively) many times.
I’m reminded of David A. Bednar’s statement that we choose to be offended. It’s a personal choice. As a person who loves cognitive psychology, I can see the truth in that. For my own mental and emotional health, I choose to turn the other cheek, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and not to take things personally. Not doing so is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Crazy, huh? And yet, I’ve been there, done that. It’s no fun.
I’m wondering how many stories there are in the scriptures about love and forgiveness. Christ and his mistreatment and suffering top the list. Then there are the prodigal son, Joseph and his brothers, and Jacob and Esau. And yet, sometimes we look right over these and other stories and think they are for OTHER PEOPLE. As most intro psychology students can tell you, we just don’t see ourselves the way we really are. It’s a protective mechanism.
No rat poison for this gal. I refuse to be offended and plan to look for the good in everyone I meet–and to try to love them in the best way I can. That doesn’t mean taking them in to raise. It means “in the best way I can.”
I met Ahmed about 20 years ago. I’d never seen or known anyone like him in my entire life. Quiet and attentive, he was a student in one of my classes. One day I distributed a handout of a dozen commonly used clichés as a way of introducing the topic of the day, communication, and I was a little surprised when Ahmed didn’t get a single one right. Didn’t people from Egypt know what “as the crow flies” meant?
After graduation, Ahmed was hired by the college to work in the IT department, and one of his primary duties was to help instructors who were teaching what we called teleclasses. Since we had three campuses, this teaching format allowed us to transmit our classes from one campus to the other two, thus cutting down on travel time and allowing more student needs to be met.
That’s when I really got to know this outstanding young man. His huge brown eyes and serene demeanor were arresting, and his calm competence impressed everyone. One day as he was working with me, he seemed a little weak, and I asked if Ahmed if he wanted to break for lunch. He said no and remarked that it was Ramadan and that he had not yet become accustomed to the day long fast.
Being nosey, I had to ask what that was. I learned that Ramadan is a sacred month of the year, a period in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting encourages spiritual reflection and takes the focus off of worldly activities. It also helps one develop more compassion and empathy for the less fortunate, thus increasing charity towards others.
Intrigued, I purchased The World’s Religions by Huston Smith and my awakening began.Some more serious scholars may scoff at Smith’s work, but if not for his easy-to-understand and comprehensive overview of the world’s major religions, I might still be a narrow-minded Southern gal who understood God only in the way I had been taught.
Recently I read Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being and fell in love with (talk about clichés!) her writing and perspective. Towards the end of the book, Dillard brings up an incident that involved the disappearance of a child on a school field trip. On May 4, 1995, Suri Feldman and her classmates were in a state park in CT. Suri wandered away from the group, and her absence was noticed when it was time to load the buses and leave.
Concern was especially high because of the murder of a young girl a few months prior. The missing child was Jewish, and here’s what happened. “Among the thousand volunteers searching for Suri Feldman were six hundred Hasidim, bearded men in black three-piece suits, who drove from New York, from Montreal, Boston, and Washington, D.C.” When Suri was found a few days later, thirsty but fine, “the Hasids in the woods danced.”
When the vehicle bearing her drove into the Brooklyn parking lot, it could scarcely move. Hasids filled the lot, Hasids in black coats from the eighteenth century and black beards and black hats. A local volunteer said, “I’ve never seen so many people dance in a circle.”
The LDS community is pretty tight, and yet I marvel at the concern and support for Suri and her family. Two of the tenets of our faith are family and service to others, and we earnestly strive to walk the talk. Still, what support there was for this family! To me, it’s “pure religion, undefiled.”
Hmmm. Where was I? What was the point of these stories? Truth is everywhere. Why do some people want to argue points of doctrine and berate others’ way of worshipping? It’s pointless and ineffective.
Why can’t we just love one another?
“I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” That’s a line from one of my favorite movies, and I’m using it to follow through with a WordPress writing prompt: Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!
Yesterday my daughter Carrie shared a blog on Facebook about pit bulls and how they are often unfairly maligned. In this post, a 4-year-old child had been attacked by a pit bull and will be permanently disfigured because of the assault. I couldn’t bear to look at the picture of him. Too heartbreaking. Animal lovers are raising money for the dog’s defense (I guess he has a lawyer) while meanwhile this child, Kevin, has to breathe and eat through a tube.
Don’t even bother telling me that the child’s mother should have been watching him more carefully or that pit bulls are normally adorable. I’m close-minded on this one and would say without hesitation, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” In Moonrise Kingdom, that’s what Sam says to Suzy after she tells him that sometimes she wishes she had been an orphan.
Sam and Suzy are running away together, and at some point they even manage to get married before her parents, Social Services, the town police force (Bruce Willis), and the Boy Scout leaders find them. Sam’s parents are deceased, and he had been living in a foster home and knew firsthand how difficult being an orphan could be.
I love the quote because it applies to so many circumstances in life. Below are several examples of things I hear and read on a frequent basis:
Mormons aren’t Christians. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Homosexuals are going to hell. “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re….” As an aside, I just have to share something I realized yesterday. Jesus said this about homosexuality: NOTHING. Interesting, huh?
Southerners are illiterate bumpkins. “I love you, but you don’t know….”
God loves the believers (American Christians) more than he does the Hindus, Jews, or Muslims. “I love you, but….”
Mormonism is a cult. “I love you.”
Here’s what Mormons believe. Whether black, white, red, yellow, polka dotted, rich, poor, Buddhist, dull, clever, beach bum, Bedouin, gay, strong, or weak, we’re all brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father who loves us all.
And about those pit bulls, they’re dangerous.
So if you and I are having a conversation, and I’m smiling sweetly at something you’re saying but am not speaking, it’s because I’m thinking, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
How you feel about love these days? That’s my writing prompt for today, and it’s just what I needed to get my muse mojo going. After the sights and sounds of love that I experienced this week, the prompt is perfect. Every day for the past several days, I’ve been privileged to look into the faces of people dear to me and to hold my grandchildren close to my heart. I’m fascinated with Ethan’s blond hair and Olivia’s steadily increasing vocabulary. And the Maseda grands who live near Savannah? Each one is remarkable and well-loved.
It’s easy to love my grandchildren and their parents. In fact, I love all of my family, including the extended ones and the ones I don’t get to see often. My friends are dear to my heart too. I’ve studied several theories of friendship over the years, and I must admit that they all apply to my friendly relations. Some of us have been friends since we were preschoolers while others arrived more recently on the scene. Still, I love them all.
But what about those “other people,” the ones who are “different” from you and me? Aren’t we supposed to love them too? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately too, largely because of Independence Day and the huge variety of people I’ve seen. Honestly, at the Myrtle Beach State Park this week, I’ve seen just about every shape, size, race, ethnicity, and race that there is. I’ve heard several different languages and sniffed numerous aromas emanating from the picnic tables and grills at the state park.
And how do I feel about it? I LOVE it! I love the diversity of people, customs, language, and traditions, and I love the USA. It’s a land choice above all other lands, and thankfully at some time in the past some of my ancestors made the decision to immigrate here. So did yours, unless you’re a Native American.
Back to love. Love is the most important emotion and force in the universe. It motivates us to action, soothes our wounds, binds us together, helps us grow, and sometimes breaks our hearts. Love is much more important than all the silver and gold in the world although everything, including love, goes a little more smoothly with money. I’d like a little silver and gold too. It’s just that for the essence of life, nothing can beat love.
There are several definitions of love, but the one I’m thinking of this morning has to do with what Christ said when delivering the second greatest commandment. In case you’re like me and need a little reminder of what that is and where to find it, look in Matthew 22:39: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Try to love this person if you can.” He essentially commanded us to do it.
He didn’t say love the people of your tribe, family, race, social class, or political party ONLY. It’s funny how things you learn as a child stick with you, and yesterday as I walked along the beach, I saw such a diversity of people that I kept hearing the refrain of “Red and yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It’s hard to do sometimes. Those people talking with the funny accents as I waited for them to finish rinsing their feet and chairs and buckets weren’t feeling too much love from a sandy-coated, hot me.
What I’m getting at is that it’s easier to love people that you’re related or who are in your friendship circle. It’s harder to love those who speak a different language, worship a different god, or have a different complexion. At the same time, is it okay to pick and choose the commandments we follow?
Tell me what you think, my fellow Americans. I keep thinking of examples of love I’ve seen this week, enough for another blog post. Stay tuned. I’ll write that one tomorrow.
I sure will be glad when I get the keyboard for my iPad. I ordered it through Groupon last night, and they say it usually takes about two weeks to arrive. In the meantime, this morning I’m using the old hunt and peck method of typing on my awesome iPad. Love it!
And love is what this short post is about, love and a movie. DH and I saw Silver Linings Playbook the other evening, and I’ve been thinking about just what it was about the flick that impressed us so much. Well sure, there’s the superb acting. If possible, Robert DeNiro gets better and better. And his wife in the movie was perfectly typecast. So was his buddy.
And then, of cours, there are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence who are phenomenal. I was so entranced by their dance scenes that I told my husband I wanted to take dance lessons so that I could dance like Jenniger Lawrence. Usually tactful and nice, he said without hesitation, “You’re no Jennifer Lawrence.” And after a moment, “But then I’m no Bradley Coopet either.”
But dancing and acting and betting on Eagles’ games is not what really makes the movie so memorable. It’s love. Yep, love sweet love. Everyone in the movie has some human quirkiness going on, and some are more wounded, twisted, or confused than others. Still, despite all of the actors’ warts and wens, there’s the redeeming power of love.
If you want to be touched emotionally, put this movie on your “to see” list. The dynamics between the characters will both amuse and inspire you. And honestly, at some point, they might even sadden you. Still, it’s a great “heart” movie that you don’t want to miss.
In the meantime, share some love today. You never know what secret sorrow might be hidden within the human heart. I’ m not saying that you/we can save the world on this Valentine’s Day. I’m just saying that we should all send a little more love out into the universe today.