Archive for March, 2010

Draw Out Thy Soul to the Hungry

The last couple of weeks have been an interesting roller coaster, though it could probably be said that each and every week is a roller coaster here on the mother ship that is our Earth.  I am knee deep in starting up a business – which I’ll briefly touch on at some point in the future as it relates to the times and seasons we’re now approaching – and have been spending a fair amount of time noodling different ideas, iterations and options.  Sometimes I get to the point where I don’t really know what to address here on this blog.

This [blog] truly has been something which was created and started as a way to journal my life and thoughts for this year 2010, not knowing if I would/will go on with it after that point.  I have come to appreciate many blogs out there on the ephemeral internet we so much rely on in today’s society but they all, in one way or another, leave a noticeable void.  It has taken me a while to understand why and, even though I do not fully understand this void and what it means to me personally, I hope that mine leaves a void in your life as well.  Why this is so will be explained later on, but suffice it to say that everything you encounter in life, everything you experience, everything you do, should be seen as a mere stop along the road of life.  Nothing short of Christ and Zion should ever be seen as a destination.  Though it is true that there are plateaus along the way, the rest stops we see on virtually every interstate highway should be just that in our life…mere resting stops.  We all need them.  But we must all leave them, too.  They are never meant to be our end all or anything more than a night’s stay in some hotel room in the middle of this journey.  Therefore, no matter what you find here, rest assured that it will never save.  It will never exalt.

There is a reason why I lay this out.  That reason is a bit difficult to explain, but I will try.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve met some wonderful – new to me – people who are helping me along my journey to Christ.  They do not know that they are helping me, as I’ve never been one to express my gratitude in such evangelical terms.  I am the worse for it, but I do offer silent gratitude when in secret, which I hope eventually reaches that person, in some karmic way.

That being said, one of the greatest things I currently struggle with is the source of the truth I seek for.  As my blog states, and as some of you may have wondered, the “truthmarche” portion of this blog is so entitled as to call upon the French word for “marche” (I’m having a hard time with accents on this keyboard, so that should read “marsh-ay”).  A marche, for anyone familiar with other cultures, is a daily or weekly event much like a farmer’s market, though much larger and more popular.  Vendors come from all around, set up their booths, and customers come and pick through and over the things they want to find.  Truthmarch means, to me, a chance I have – personally – to come to the source of truth, find them, pick them up or out from the crap that surrounds it, and use it or apply it to my life.

This is a struggle at times because, as many of you may have noted, truth is all too often veiled in human understanding, relative meanings, or, worse, purposefully hidden from the world.  How this relates to some of those people I’ve recently met is that often, at this stage in life, how I find truth is predicated on a couple of things.  Most of the truth I find only comes after I ask for it…but rarely (not yet, at least) does it come in the form of direct content from Christ, the Father or any other divine being.  Usually, it’s through those that read this blog, friends I speak with, websites (blogs) I visit, books I read and so on.

I admittedly struggle with the reception of truth in this manner.  My struggle largely lies with trying to understand at what point am I relying on faith for the truth, and at what point am I relying on the books?  Is there a difference?  If I ask God for truth and God, in His ultimate wisdom, wants to give me the truth of such-and-such a thing, then how will He give it?  Will He give it to me in the form of revelation?  Will it happen in the form of something I stumble across – be it a book, website, blog, etc?  How do I differentiate between something that is from faith, and something that is from seek[ing] diligently?

The reason for these questions has only, once again, come to the forefront of my mind because of something one of these recent acquaintances stated.  Their statement was based on having God fill voids, fill our minds, fill our hearts, teach us, inspire us, etc., and refraining from seeking validation from others, other groups, other websites, other people.  So, in thinking on this person’s response, the questions I previously posed once again came to mind.

Where and how does God inspire and teach us?  This is no vain question…I really want to know.  I really want to know how to learn by faith.  What does it mean to learn by faith?  How does God fill my own voids as I seek to replace the cracked foundations of my childhood with stones hewn by Christ himself?

When I think of voids being filled, Nephi’s story is the one which typically comes to mind.  His father, in the opening chapters of 1 Nephi, relates a dream or vision he had on the subject of God’s love.  Nephi heard his father’s story, then turned to validation from God.  Laman and Lemuel heard the same story, but turned to Nephi for validation…and hardened their hearts.  This then leads to Nephi receiving instructions on how to build a ship…a boat built after the manner of the Lord (verse 8).

Though this is all well and good, what did Nephi do during the “many days” they were in the land of Bountiful?  Did those “many days” have anything to do with his ability to hear the voice of the Lord?  Even this line of thinking, in my view, is faulty.  These questions – and similar questions – are all built off the foundation of one person, one person acting for him or herself with disregard to others.  Is it fair to go down a route where we consider only what Nephi was doing for Nephi and in the best interests of Nephi?

I have a friend who was hit by a train.  Literally.  In the midst of that experience he passed away and died.  Some of the things he remembers from his visit to the other side was how he saw his young family – his wife and kids – and the suffering they would experience with him dying.  He remembers, then, being given the choice to remain there in the afterlife, where it was blissful behind compare, or coming back to earth.  He remembers seeing the agony – and feeling the agony – of his family at the almost-loss of their father and husband.  He chose to return to earth, knowing what he was giving up, because he couldn’t imagine putting his family through that, even though it would have been great for him to remain in the afterlife.  He chose to return to earth in order to help others…

How does this relate to this post?  My question is such that I often focus on what is best for me, making sure that I’m not trying to stoke my ego and do things for my own benefit, or, conversely, not do things because I perceive the doing of said things will stoke my ego.

In listening to a book recommended to me by one of these recent acquaintances, I learned something new.  In the closing chapters of A New Earth, he discusses enthusiasm and how it relates to our work and what we do.  He stated how we are not to go to work to seek to be rich, to seek to be popular, to be a famous actor or actress, to be a famous writer or other aspirations.  Rather, we set out to do work that inspires others.  Be it a waitress, garbage man, executive or whatever your passion in life, we do it to inspire others.  To bring them into a state of mindfulness where the present has real meaning.

That, to me, applies to this situation.  Regardless of everything I’ve touched on and written above, do we do things for selfish reasons – because it will or will not stoke my ego – or do we do things to inspire others?

Tolle states it as follows:

Enjoyment of what you are doing, combined with a goal or vision that you work toward, becomes enthusiasm. Even though you have a goal, what you are doing in the present moment needs to remain the focal point of your attention; otherwise, you fall out of alignment with universal purpose.

Make sure your vision or goal is not an inflated image of yourself and therefore a concealed form of ego, such as wanting to become a movie star, a famous writer, or a wealthy entrepreneur. Also make sure your goal is not focused on having this or that, such as a mansion by the sea, your own company, or ten million dollars in the bank. An enlarged image of yourself or a vision of yourself having this or that are all static goals and therefore don’t empower you. Instead, make sure your goals are dynamic, that is to say, point toward an activity that you are engaged in and through which you are connected to other human beings as well as to the whole.

Instead of seeing yourself as a famous actor or writer and so on, see yourself inspiring countless people with your work and enriching their lives. Feel how that activity enriches or deepens not only your life but that of countless others. Feel yourself being an opening through which energy flows from the unmanifested Source of all life through you for the benefit of all.

In closing, I think there are a couple of scriptures which, paired together, get to the point I’ve struggled to arrive at.  Wherever we’re at, whatever we’re doing, there are people who need inspiration, who need the light of Christ in their lives.  If we are to establish Zion, seeking after Zion in our solitary manner, then we’ll never get there.  Zion will only come as we create a unity of faith, as we uplift others and touch their hearts.

Philippians 1:27:

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ … that ye astand fast in one spirit, with bone cmind dstriving together for the faith of the gospel;

D&C 108:7

…  astrengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.

And, lastly Isaiah 58:10-11:

10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the ahungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light brise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

11 And the Lord shall aguide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in bdrought, and cmake fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a dspring of water, whose waters fail not.

12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

I think this last one is especially beautiful.  It will play an integral role in my next post as well.  How often have I approached situations wondering only what I can get out of them, how the conversations effect me personally (both from how it will stoke my ego or give me some knowledge I needed), how often have I failed “draw out [my] soul” to the spiritually hungry because I was afraid to say something, because I didn’t want to join the conversation, because I was shy or too proud. How often have I been a coward, afraid of teaching by the Spirit and thereby chasing the Spirit away, drawing in my soul from those that were hungry or afflicted?

Returning to the picture I used with this post.  I took this picture in the middle of Death Valley just last weekend, a couple of miles west of Stovepipe Wells.  Several things about Death Valley impressed me.  The landscape was phenomenal.  From towering mountains, to a small oasis (Scotty’s Castle), to sand dunes, dry lake beds, canyons and such.  Amazing diversity.  What also was impressed upon my mind was the dryness of the area.  Water, it would seem, was nowhere to be found.  The recommendations to travel with plenty of water is very apropos.  But, in relation to this post, this flower stuck out to me.  Here is a small, seemingly insignificant flower flourishing in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.  Is it, too, like many of us, in need of someone to draw out their soul to it, to feed and water it with the Living Bread and Living Water, or at the very least point out where those living essentials can be found?  Only you know the answer to that question, as it’s intensely individual in it’s application.

May God grant us all the ability and Spirit to seek and establish Zion by drawing out our soul for those hungry and afflicted souls where we can, of whom I am one.

All I have to say is: Amen

“The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” – Psalms 69:9

This scripture is referenced, by the apostles, in the account contained in John 2 where Christ chased out the moneychangers from the temple.  When the apostles saw Jesus chase them out with such emotion, they were left few words to say, but “the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.”

The question remains: how does this play out in our lives?  As one of my friends likes to say, the importance of this passage is in its application.  The following comes from Paramahansa Yogananda and can be found in the first volume of his work, The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You

“The subjective admonition to be drawn from this action of Jesus in the temple is that the sincere worshiper of God must reverentially observe the law of devoted concentration.  To give superficial attention to one’s prayers, while entertaining in the background of the mind thoughts of one’s life enterprises – getting and having, planning and doing – is to take the name of God in vain.  The manifesting power of concentration comes from centering the mind upon one thing at a time.  “Buying and selling” – the unending “busy-ness” of material life – should be carried on in the marketplace of one’s duties; whereas it is distractingly intrusive in the temple of prayer – just as an altar and preaching in a shop would be an unwelcome imposition on the legitimate conduct of commerce.  Halfhearted, unconcentrated mental rambling during the time of prayer brings neither a response from God nor the focused power of attention necessary for material success.

“Though God tries to respond to the earnest prayers of His children, His voice resonating in intuition-felt peace is wholly distorted by restlessness-producing transactions between the senses and the outer world, and by the aroused attention-demanding associated thoughts.  The Lord recedes humbly into a remote silence when the temple of His devotee’s concentration becomes a noisy marketplace desecrated by these mercenaries of material consciousness.  Soul intuition – the inner Christlike preceptor and guide of man’s sublime thoughts and feelings – must come and wield with will power the whip of spiritual discipline and self-control to drive out the intruders.  Repeated practice of scientific techniques of meditation fully concentrates the attention within, blessing the temple of inner communion with a tranquil surcease of sensory commerce.  The devotee’s consciousness is thereby restored to a sanctuary of silence, wherein alone is possible true worship of God.[1]

[1] Meditation – concentration upon God – is the portal through which every seeker of every faith must pass in order to contact God.  Withdrawal of the consciousness from the world and the senses for the purpose of communing with God was taught by Christ in these words:  “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet [draw the mind within], and when thou hast shut thy door [the door of the body and senses], pray to thy Father which is in secret [within you]” (Matthew 6:6; see Discourse 28).

Wordle: LDS

For the past month or so I’ve been compiling a rather benign spreadsheet.  I’ve been gathering news articles on the Church, either through Mormon Times, LDS Church News, Deseret News, and the Church Website.  It started out thanks to this article and sort of snowballed from there into a list of 35 different articles.

What I did was a simple search of various “terms,” as a way of trying to pigeon hole the focus of the article – not the topic – but where the focus is (on a person, a place, an organization, Christ, etc).  I am quite sure there are better ways to do this, more refined, more accurate, but this is what I came up with.

First, for the visual learners, a simple click on this link will take you to a word cloud of this search/project.  This word cloud is made up of the first 15 articles I scanned/searched.  The more prominent the word in those articles, the larger the word will be in the word cloud.  Quite useful, methinks, and instructive.

Second, for the number oriented folk…here’s what I found.  I limited my search to a couple of categories, namely (a) Church/LDS/Mormon, (b) President/Presidency, (c) Prophet, (d) Monson / Hinckley, (e) Apostle / Elder, (f) Lord, (g) Savior, (h) Jesus, and (i) Christ.  I did a search in each of the articles for these terms and tallied them up just to see how the news, events and such were being reported and, as a result, how members were viewing the information.

Of all these categories, there were a total of 752 terms queried.  These 752 terms consisted of the following:

Church / LDS / Mormon:  248x (7.29x per article)
Apostle / Elder:  232x (6.82x per article)
President / Presidency:  87x (2.56x per article)
Monson / Hinckley:  54x (1.59x per article)
Christ:  39x (1.15x per article)
Jesus:  35x (1.03x per article)
Prophet:  25x (0.74x per article)
Lord:  21x (0.62x per article)
Savior:  11x (0.32x per article)

I also did a slightly altered tally for the terms Christ and Jesus.  If we remove those instances where “Jesus” and “Christ” were only stated in unison with the name of the Church, then the number of times these words were used dwindles to 7 (“Jesus”) and 3 (“Christ”), or approximately 0.21x and 0.09x per article, respectively.

Does this show where our focus lies?  I also noticed a tendency towards self-congratulating articles, either on how much good the Church’s humanitarian efforts are, or how great Mormons are at rendering service in natural disasters, though this is difficult to put into one of these types of analyses, no matter how imperfect this particular one is.

Anyway…thought you’d all like to see it.  Really, the word cloud shows it all.