Thunker’s Weblog


Eenie, Meenie, Miney…

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Decisions, decisions…

Every day we get to make choices.  In fact, we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day.  From whether to get out of bed or not to the choice of what to have for lunch, choices are part of our daily lives.

Choices play a tremendous role in the lives of religious people.  We have a binary relationship with choice, assigning it either a good or bad based on the Ten Commandments.  Many of us then lead our lives held up against the divine checklist and measuring our goodness, self-worth and social standing by our compliance or non-compliance.

I believe in Heavenly Father’s plan for us, choice has always been one of the biggest parts of His plan.  And choice has been with us since our very beginnings.  The story of Adam and Eve totally revolves around choice.  Eat the fruit or not eat the fruit: that is the question.

We are all familiar with the ancient prophet-general Joshua’s statement on choice.  The Israelites were clearing Canaan to inhabit that land.  The people in Canaan were pagan, worshiping a host of deities.  Joshua puts a choice before Israel in Joshua 24:15:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The choice put before the Israelites was not a new one.  After Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Lord gave a similar choice to Israel.  In Exodus 20:3, the Lord states:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Coming out of Egypt with its polytheistic culture of Ra and Osiris and the host of other deities, Israel was very familiar with the practice of worshiping multiple gods and in having the Creation revolve around stories of these gods.  Polytheism was the cultural and religious norm, not the worship of a single deity.  All of the ancient civilizations were polytheistic.  The world of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Egyptians all revolved around polytheism.  And Israel lived among, traded, bartered and fought with all of these peoples.

Monotheism was a bit odd for the time and a sharp delineation between the Israelites and all of their geographical neighbors.  And the theme of God pleading, commanding and reminding Israel to remember Him flows through the scriptural record of Israel’s choices.  In the Old Testament, Israel’s greatest failing is their choice to forget God and worship something or someone else besides God.

If we move forward to the New Testament era, the principle of choice permeates the teachings of the Savior, as well.  What is really interesting here is that the context of choice changes.  While the Old Testament focuses on choosing between idols of stone and wood and the living God, the teachings of Jesus take choice to a deeper level of understanding and application.

For example, in Luke 10 we read of Jesus asking the lawyer what the law says about gaining eternal life.  Instead of listing out the commandments in Exodus 10, the lawyer encapsulates the intent behind the commandments.  He says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:27)

And Jesus’ response corroborates the lawyer’s answer.  “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28)  There is no surprise in the Savior’s response, as if the lawyer’s response was a new theology or anything.  The lawyer’s response was one already accepted in that time.  And with the lawyer’s response comes a new component in what should motivate our choices: love.

Instead of making choices based on fear that heaven will send bolts of lightning down on us if we err, the teaching is that we are not to be distracted away from God through our love for Him.  We see this in Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse is really a reiteration of Exodus 20, where Israel is told, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The cultural context has changed from polytheism to individual desire.  But the desires, whether worshiping an idol or taking our focus away from God and putting them on the mammon of materiality, are identical.  And it is here we learn about an aspect of sin and one way in which God views sin.

N.T, Wright, an Anglican biblical scholar at the University of Edinburgh, states it this way. “That’s how sin happens.  It isn’t just that there is a bunch of rules and we ponder, ‘Shall I keep them or not?’  In actuality, [we’ve] been secretly in love with one or more…idols.  [We’ve] been worshiping the creature rather than the creator.” (Lenten Devotional, 2017)

Sin is indeed the failure to do what God has asked us to do.  Yet before the act, before the misstep, before the deed, there is the choice and what desire drives that choice.  And that is what God is after.  He is not after a group of people stuck in a lock-stepped march back to heaven.  He wants our hearts to bend towards Him as he reaches for us.  He does not want us to get distracted with our idols of this age.  Whether it be politics, career, relationships or school, He wants our actions to be driven by choices that are driven by love and desire for Him.

And how do we develop this love for Him and not for the things of our world?  You’ll have to come back next time to read my thoughts on that.

Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.

 

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To Wait or Not To Wait…

Robert Wheadon-126x150

One of the things I lack is vast amounts of patience.  I’m ready to jump on board with any technology that allows me to access data faster or research information.  I want things now.  I don’t want to wait too long for my book to come from Amazon, or wait in line at McDonald’s for my Big Mac.  It’s supposed to be fast food, right?

Obviously, I need some improvement.  By learning patience, I will save myself from getting all bound up in feelings of frustration, annoyance and outright anger. And I might master my soul…

In Luke, the Savior said:

19 In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19)

In New Testament Greek, the word “possess” also has connotations of control over or mastery, as well as acquire or win.  If you drop one of those related terms in place of “possess” you gain a clearer vision of the verse and the Savior’s message here.

As a parent, I get to deal with patience quite a bit.  As a parent, patience becomes the antidote I preach to my children when they want something in the moment.  Like me, sometimes they just want something now.  And children become very adept at vocalizing their immediate want very early in life.  In response, I’ve become very adept at telling them, “Be patient.”  I’m not really teaching them patience when I say that.  I’m teaching them the universal parental signal to be quiet and quit bugging me.

However…..

Real patience contains ingredients of humility and faith.  As children of God, how many times have we sent our wants heavenward in prayer?  Have we prayed over children, spouses, family, jobs, or direction in life?  Of course we have.  Have our prayers been immediately answered how we desire?  Of course not.  When the heavens seem silent and answers are far away, it is very hard to hear the words, “Be patient.”  It takes large dollops of faith and humility to place ourselves in God’s care and say, “Thy will be done,” rather than rage when our mortal will is not accommodated.  And yet this is one of mortality’s lessons.

It helps me realize the importance of patience when I think of the perfect patience Heavenly Father has with His children.  We stumble and fall like so many toddlers learning to walk in this life.  And still, He is always patient, always there, encouraging us to keep trying, keep reaching for His light and keep walking that narrow path back to Him.

Our amount of patience can also be a means of measurement of our amount of charity.  Just before the Savior presents the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responds to a lawyer.  The lawyer asks the conditions to gain eternal life.  The Savior responds with a question:  What does the scriptures say?  The lawyer astutely answers from the law of Moses – Love God and love your neighbor.

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

I think the practice of patience with those in our lives helps us obey that commandment in a much richer and Christ-like manner.  If I am patient, I am not busy passing judgement.  If I am patient, I am less concerned about my own personal agenda and more about the needs of others.  If I am patient, I will try and see life with the view of others rather than my own myopic vision.

Joseph Smith wrote: “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” (D&C 67:13)

The practicing of patience is a divine attribute of our Heavenly Father.  We should practice patience, as well.  We are trying to become like God, one small, stumbling step at a time.  Let’s be patient with ourselves, our fellow travelers in life, and faithfully patient that all is in God’s hands and He is guiding us home.

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   Be kind, make good memories, and come back soon.



What If I Don’t Want To?

Robert Wheadon-126x150

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,                                                                                                     I shall not live in vain;                                                                                                                                     If I can ease one life the aching,                                                                                                                Or cool one pain,                                                                                                                                            Or help one fainting robin                                                                                                                     Unto his nest again,                                                                                                                                         I shall not live in vain.”                                                                                                                                   (Emily Dickinson, VI)

Emily Dickinson is one of America’s greats.  Her poetry is sensitive, thought-provoking and emotive.  I love this poem of hers, as it expresses so many of the desires of seekers of truth.  Being concerned with lifting the burdens of the weary, easing the souls of the downtrodden and caring for the casualties of this world is a job not for the half-hearted.  It is, however, a job for the meek.

Meekness is not for the timid. You have to be tough to be meek.  Yet, in society, the word portrays weakness, softness, and lacking in worldly worth.  A meek person is seen as afraid of whatever shadow might appear and cause one to tremble, shudder and hide.

The word, “humility,” gets tossed around with frequency in conjunction with meekness.  I believe humility brings us closer to the true nature of meekness, but not all the way.  The two traits are siblings on the same strait and narrow course.  Yet, why even talk about the meekness?

Well, there is a lot riding on this word.  Remember the Savior’s words in the Sermon on the Mount?  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5.)  That is quite a weighty promise, especially if the promised inheritance is a divinely cleansed, celestially blessed earth.  I’m not sure I want the planet in its current state.  The future, though, is promised to be bright! (Revelations 21:1)

So, let’s examine meekness and why practicing meekness is not for the weak-kneed.  At it’s locus, the quality of meekness is enshrined in the hearts of the teachable.

Meekness is at the center of a disciple’s life.  Without the willingness to use our faith to look heavenward as our trials, cares and concerns seem to be crashing all around our heads, we tend to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” (Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”)  To possess faith requires meekness;  we humbly accept that God will wipe away our tears and bear us up to a brighter day.  It is recognition that we cannot return to heaven solely by our own merits, but through the sacrifice of God’s Son, that shows the power of meekness.  To know that God is God and we are His children allows us to put ourselves aside and put our trust in Him.

It seems meekness is one of those things that, like most things, we work at and learn over a lifetime.  And we need to.  We like to hang on to things and not turn them over to God.  We think we know better, gifting ourselves with more wisdom than spiritual insight would allow.  For example, we love our material possessions.  It’s not a new problem.  It is a persistent one, though.  Remember the young man’s encounter with the Savior in the New Testament?  The young man approached and asked what we all ask:

“…what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (Matt. 19:16)

The Savior responded initially with counsel to live the ten commandments.  And then:

“20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:20-22)

I am not suggesting we all sell everything we have and head to a hermitage.  Rather, here then is the question to ask ourselves.  What are we too prideful or even afraid to give up to continue our journey towards Jesus?  For the young man, he wasn’t willing to divulge himself of possessions, of which he had many.

What do we hang on to?  Do we hang on to pride, or selfishness, or of taking offense?  All of these attributes keep the doors of meekness and humility closed.

We all ask what do we need in order to gain eternal life.  Are we willing to accept God’s answer and act upon it?

God has given each of us agency, the freedom to choose light or darkness.  And God would have it no other way.  There is no divine cattle-prod forcing us onto the path.  We have to want it enough to choose it and choose Him.  Meekness is advanced discipleship.  Meekness is thoughtfulness.  Meekness is listening for God’s strong, yet quiet whispers to us each day.  Meekness is trying to maintain a perspective on eternity rather than the short-sighted view of mortality.

Once, a lawyer in the law came to Jesus and asked Him the same question that the young man had posited.  The lawyer said:

25 ¶And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

The answer supplied by the lawyer, of loving God and neighbor, is both motivational and directional.  Yes, we are to love God and others and demonstrate that love.  The two commandments also focus us away from ourselves and towards God and His children.  That is meekness.

Meekness concentrates us on daily discovering what God wants to teach us, rather than our myopic, limited view that we already know it all.

So, time for a wake up call!  Let’s get meek!IMG_0196

Be kind, make good memories and come back soon.