From Darkness to Light

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We have all heard the old adage that it is always darkest before the dawn.  I wonder if that is largely due to the fact that by the time dawn comes, we have spent considerable time in the darkest night, and as the sun shines the light is warm and bright, penetrating our souls with a renewed energy.

I love sunrise as much as I love sunset.  It creates a perfect balance in nature when the sun sets on one day, a new dawn is just around the corner.  As the sun sets, we gradually witness a dimming and diminishing light, we are never thrust from the light to the darkness, it is a gradual process.

Conversely, the same is true at each sunrise.  The sky slowly begins to glow in the horizon with the coming of the sun, it gradually increases in brightness and brilliance and then we are able to bask in the warmth of the sun after it has risen.

Our lives too are never thrust into darkness.  As we sin, we move away from the light until we find ourselves surrounded in darkness, unable to feel the warmth nor experience the brightness of the light available through Jesus Christ.  As we partake of the Atonement and correct our course, we too must allow for the gradual increase an light as we move toward our Savior.  As we continue on the path leading to his love, we enter into more and more of the light and leave the darkness behind.  Oftentimes, it is this journey through the darkness, back towards the light that can seem the darkest for us as our lives readjust to the warmth that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Would you have Crucified Christ?

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I have often said that it our own insecurities that fuel our need to judge others.These insecurities when combined with other insecure individuals can hit a fever pitch within communities who share a similar belief.  Communities wherein are found a dominant religion are more subject to this fever pitch than others.  My comments are centered around the state of Utah and the LDS faith that are dominant in that area, yet I know that the same holds true in other communities where any religion is dominant.

I have wrestled with this post much over the past months.  I have been prompted many times to write regarding this subject yet have great trepidation in doing so.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I live in the Salt Lake Valley.  My faith in the teachings of the Church are secure and firm as I deeply understand the principle teachings of our church, yet I find tremendous disappointment in the vast insecurities of both the members and former members and their incessant need to judge, shame and ostracize others.

One rule in this post, there will be no toleration for any negative attacks towards this church or any other religion in the comments of this post, they will be removed.  This is about individuals and their own insecurities, not a church.

I have heard it said that we should treat others as we would treat our Savior Jesus Christ.  That we should love one another, serve one another and lift one anothers burdens. If that being so, if we cause harm in any way to another are we not guilty of violating this?  Would we have also participated in the crucifixion of Christ if our actions today towards others hurt and destroy?

In a society with a dominant religion, many people feel that in order to fit in that they must belong to that particular faith.   While many would argue that is not the case and that those members are warm, loving and welcoming people, I disagree.  As a member of that dominant religion, this is simply untrue.

Anyone reading this blog knows and understands that my life simply does not fit with the ideal Mormon home and family.  I have personally experienced and felt the cruel, harsh and painful comments, actions, and judgements of those with “holier than thou” attitudes towards others.  If it were not for my deep testimony and belief in the teachings, I would have left this church years ago based upon the actions of those in the community.

I see this happen regularly within our community, where those who struggle in life due to circumstances created either by others, fate or themselves, who have trials sometimes too much too bear are ostracized by the very people whom you would think would practice what their church teaches and “love one another” even as Jesus Christ loves each of us.

My experiences from coming home from my mission onward to today have created empathy within me to see others for who they are, not who anyone thinks they should be!  The church teaches that one of its missions on earth is the perfecting of the saints.  Perfecting is a process as no one on this earth is or ever will be perfect.  That one perfect individual, our Savior has already come and no one else will ever be perfect.  Perfecting requires work and time, not the here and now.

So with that clear principle, why do others in communities with dominant religions judge those who are not perfect?  Why are so many ostracized, criticized, shamed or belittled for not being perfect?  For being different?  For not believing? and why is it that those who choose to leave the church become worse than those within in their attacks and persecution of others?

The answer is personal insecurity.  Those who shame, judge, criticize or ostracize others are deeply insecure that others may find that they too are not perfect and therefore find themselves subject to the same unrealistic standards they force upon others.  Ones they know they cannot possibly live up to.  They misdirect the attention from themselves towards those who are different or struggling in some way to avoid the self reflection within themselves, as they most certainly would be repulsed by what they see staring back at them when their own standards are applied.

So if you are one who finds the need to comment, avoid, shame or judge others who are different, look in the mirror and see what true hatred and animosity looks like,  If you stop your kids from playing with someone who is of a different religion, avoid those with tattoos, smokers, coffee drinkers or drinkers of alcohol; if you invite one family and not another to the neighborhood barbeque because they are different or not a member, if you wave to one neighbor who attends church but look away at the one who doesn’t then STOP IT! Stop crucifying others and start living what you profess and begin to replace your own personal insecurities with love and compassion.

Are you the Pharisee or Sadducee within the church who pressed for Christ’s crucifixion or the sinner believing in Christ and his redemptive power to heal?  Would you have crucified Christ?  What do your personal actions in how you treat, talk, and respond to others say about you?

The person you are directing your judgment towards, avoiding, shaming or ostracizing more than likely understands love, empathy, compassion and service greater than you ever could.  All Christlike qualities.  I for one stand with those who have felt betrayed, scorned, ridiculed, shamed and judged within a community for a life given and not chosen.

As we find our path and choose our way in life we do so within our own abilities and control.  We accept and move forward in life with those things we cannot control, such as illness and other peoples choices.

What we see in others is a reflection of what we see in ourselves.

 

A moment to ponder; Facing the Judgements

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Moments spent pondering creates opportunities for us to learn and be taught by the spirit.  Many times these quiet moments of reflection allow me the ability to resolve issues and challenges I may be facing.  Recently I dealt with someone from my past that has been extremely judgmental of me and the issues I have faced in my life.  A moment to ponder this morning provided extreme clarity on the issue.

A judgmental individual is a stigma that is difficult at best to overcome, especially for individuals whose holier than thou attitudes have created extreme duress and difficulty for others along the way.  Try as one might to move beyond that reputation, every future encounter with someone who was on the receiving end of a judgment views that person with extreme prejudice, and almost certainly never to trust again.

This weekend I had to opportunity to bump into a local dentist of ours who lives in the neighborhood and at one point we attended church together. Just over ten years ago while my family was being torn apart from some repeated affairs of my ex, this individual assisted my ex in hiding the affairs and in preventing me from seeing my son for some time.  During this extremely difficult and challenging time, as i dealt with the heartache of another affair, the desire to see my son and the desire to keep our family together which we did for another 3 years, this neighbor became very judgmental of me as I fought to keep our family together,  I watched as I would walk down the hall at church to see him notice me and walk to other way.  He was my dentist for a short time prior to this and I soon found it impossible to get an appointment with him.  I noticed that he became indifferent with many people around him and began to treat others equally as poor as I was being treated.  I watched him as his anger got out of control in a basketball game and he picked another player up by the throat and choked him, while pinning him against the wall.  It appeared that this man’s world too was falling apart.

I struggled with this for some time.  I wondered what I had done to this person, whom I considered a friend both in and out of church.  Someone whom I had respected over the years.  I am certain that he too may have been facing his own demons.  Over the years, this has bothered me greatly.  I must admit that at times I wondered if he too may have been having an affair with my wife. Maybe he hoped that she would leave me and he could step in.  Over time I dismissed these ideas and attempted to move on.  I stopped by his office once or twice, trying to open doors again.  He would have nothing to do with me.  I still have no idea what I may have done that so deeply offended this individual.  I could think of nothing.

Sunday I bumped into him again.  A decade has passed and I am no closer to understanding this than I was when it was fresh and he and my ex were close friends.  I had personally thought that I had moved past it, then he did the same cold calculated move as always in the past.  He looked at me, said hello to my mother and without a word to me turned and walked out the door. The coldness towards me that came from this man would refreeze the polar ice caps.

I have thought much about this encounter this week.  At first I was angry with the arrogance and judgmental nature this man has and continues to  display towards me.  Then I took a moment to ponder and pray.

On my drive into work this morning, after I had said my prayers to forgive again and move on, in the quiet moments in the car a thought entered my mind.   Maybe he is not being arrogant or judgmental at all.  Could it be that he is so deeply ashamed of his actions  over all these years that he does not know how to react and his shame drives him from my presence?  Maybe this man is carrying a burden from past events that prevents him from being able to face someone he has wronged?  Maybe facing me brings back unresolved and possibly unrepentant issues from his past?  I do not know.

I do know that what I felt today was significant.  I was able to see someone whom has judged and treated me poorly for all these years in a different light. One where maybe what i interpreted as him being judgmental was actually his sorrow and shame for the past.  There are always two sides.  I in fact over the years began judging him based upon the judgements I felt coming from him.

My eyes were opened this morning.   I wonder when we stand before God, how many of us will feel the shame of our unrepentant actions and be like my friend, unable to stay in the same room or look upon him, as my friend was with me.  How much heartache  will that shame bring when we face our God and not some neighbor, or some stranger.  “For inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my bretheren, ye have done it unto me.”  We will have a sudden knowledge of all our past actions towards others.

I know I see the world differently today after a moment to ponder.

FINDING JOY IN THE JOURNEY

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Finding joy in our journey here on earth at times can seem daunting as life’s challenges and obstacles can create sometimes seemingly overwhelming sadness, sorrow and depression. Overcoming this cycle many of us find ourselves in at one point or another in this life is key to finding that lasting joy we all seek.  It is upon learning, understanding, believing and then acting upon the belief, that we are in control of our own happiness and joy, that we can finally take control of our own lives. We can discover the true joy that exists and that we alone control.  Perspective, gratitude and focus are some of the most powerful tools we have at our own personal disposal to change our own lives and find Joy in the journey.  We alone control these tools, ones that can be used to change or destroy our lives.  The choice is ours and ours alone, no one else can control that choice but ourselves.

Perspective and how we view ourselves, others around us, the circumstances we find ourselves in and the world around is critical to the level of happiness and joy we can attain in this life.  By shifting our perspective towards a more positive outlook and looking at things from a broader view of the world we can eliminate much of our self doubt we encounter along the way.  We will discover as we look through different lenses that the most difficult of life’s events can be overcome and that these moments can make us stronger. We will gain wisdom, understanding and clarity as we widen our view with which we see things.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Gratitude provides us the opportunity in our lives to see the blessings we are given each day.  As we identify and write down the things we are grateful for our hearts and minds will be opened to seeing the positive in our lives.   It may be as simple as a shirt on our backs, a dry place to sleep, to our children and families.  Sincere gratitude for what we have in our lives and the blessings we are given, opens our hearts to recognizing that happiness does not come from no problems in our lives, it comes from our abilities to handle the problems we are given.  Epicurus said it best “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Be grateful in all things.

Focus is a fundamental key to finding joy in our lives,  The law of attraction is immensely powerful, we attract into our lives that which we focus upon. Finding a clear perspective in everything allows us to master this law of attraction and bring these things into our lives we all desire, for “man is that he might have joy.”  The things that we focus upon in life are the things we attract in our life.  If we spend our time and effort focusing upon the negative things that happen to us, our circumstances, or what we deem “unfair” we will attract more the those negative situations into our lives.  An individual who is sick and spends their time focused on the sickness, always seems to get more sick.  Individuals who focus on others, and service to others, are always surrounded by great friends while those that focus inward and their loneliness, find themselves more lonely.  A positive focus in life will bring about positive effects in our lives.  We master that where we spend our time and energy (focus).

Our lives are meant to be filled with happiness, joy and love.    We alone control our success or failure in these areas.  We are the captain of our own ship, the choices we make with our perspectives, gratitude and focus will determine the level of success in life we find.

“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.”  Steve Maraboli

Look to the Light, and Live!

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We each experience pain and heartache in our life.  These pains can become deep emotional scars that paralyze us from experiencing the joys that are to be found in this life.  Finding joy in the journey can be difficult when the pains and wounds are so deep that despair almost seems inevitable.  These wounds can become chains binding us from feeling anything but sorrow and despair.

Many times these pains come from those we have allowed into our lives, to be part of our life and to share our journey with. It can be from death to disagreements to rejection, anything,  that create this intense pain, sorrow and loss.  Sometimes they are family members, spouses, children, neighbors, friends and even our church leaders.  Whoever they may be, many times this heartache burns deep within our souls and left unattended can crush our ability and desire to press forward.  These sorrows for many create the inability to trust another, to open themselves up to another, to love again or let anyone close.  It affects current and future relationships.  The ghosts of the past haunt the individuals present and future happiness, becoming victims again to the already overwhelming sadness and heartache, thus creating a vicious cycle of sorrow.

One of my favorite speakers/authors Jack Christensen taught me a lesson that has never left me in his talk/book “Healing the Wounded Soul.”  Jack explains that many of our wounds need to be healed from the inside out.  He also explains that many people react through outward behaviors based upon deep emotional wounds.

It was upon listening to his talk that I was able to finally look deep inside of me in an attempt to discover what my wounds were and as I pondered this, I allowed the Atonement of Jesus Christ to work within me to identify the wounds that were causing my sorrow and to begin the healing process. I never fully understood nor comprehended how these wounds, hidden from not only everyone else, but from myself for years had impacted my life.  The freedom that entered my life upon conquering these wounds and allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to heal me from the inside out has been life changing. Not only has it allowed me to find true love with my beloved wife, it has also changed my eyes and how I view others who are hurting and manifesting that through their outward behaviors.   I see others differently than ever before.

As we struggle in life and deal with past wounds, as well as the current ones, if we look to our Savior and allow Him to enter our life, He can heal us from the inside out, the way we are meant to heal and thus eliminating the scars that come when we try to heal ourselves from the outside in.  We can find the inner peace and joy in our lives that can never be taken from us.  We can prevent our past from damaging our dreams for the future.  We can reclaim our lives and find joy in the journey as we look to the light, and live.

SMALL MOMENTS AND THE GRANDEST OF MEMORIES – A Fathers Heartache part 8

I finally had the most wonderful and  AMAZING time with my children on Halloween.   I have waited 8 years for this moment to come, when Halloween would fall on my day for a visit.  In years past I would attend … Continue reading

A NEW DAWN

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Halloween: a day where people dress up in costume to be someone they are not, or maybe to show the world who they really are or long to be.  As I spent the drive to work this morning pondering this phenomenon, my mind raced to thoughts of who I am.

The expectations on me as a child and young man were great, and I often felt overwhelmed as a result of them.  I remember many times being told by my family, teachers, religious leaders, and neighbors that I would do great things in life. I expected this of myself as I had heard this my entire life.  As I graduated from High School and then left to serve a mission for my church, I felt the overwhelming weight of the world on my shoulders as these expectations had hit a fever pitch.

There is nothing quite like it in the world of letting down those whose expectations are so incredibly high.  Through personal choices, circumstances beyond my control and the choices of others my life has been quite different from what everyone else envisioned for me, and who and what I was to become.  I find it amazing how people will place incredibly high expectations on another persons life and then abandon them in times of need, despair and discouragement.  It has taken me a lifetime of dealing with the disappointments of others because my life had not turned out how they wanted it to and the accompanying reactions that went with it.

So that brings me back to who I am now.  I am a son of God.  I am deeply in love with my beloved Wife, I absolutely adore my children. I am a devoted husband, father, brother, son, uncle, cousin. I have been very successful in my careers and I do my best to serve others and help my community. I am extremely happy with every aspect of my life, for which I have control over.  I feel confident that I can overcome anything in life, because my life,  the life that I have been given that upset so many other people along the way for letting them down, has created strength in me, an inner peace,  that not many understand, nor recognize.  It is a quiet strength within me, a certain and unshakeable knowledge in who I am, and what my deep potential in life is.  This potential has nothing to do with what others desire, it has everything to do with what my Heavenly Father desires.

There were many discouraging, hurtful and frustrating challenges that I faced with others opinions of who and what I should be and what my life should be.   It was upon overcoming the obstacles that they placed in front of me that I was able rid myself of the chains they placed upon me and become more than they could ever have imagined.

This certain and complete knowledge provides untold strength that resonates deep within my soul, strength I know that will keep my feet firmly planted on solid ground, regardless of what life may bring.

I have learned, just as every sunset brings us closer to a new dawn, every challenge overcome brings us closer to the Son.

A BLESSED WEEK – A Fathers Heartache part 7

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The school that my children attend is year round.  They are on a track schedule where they are out of school for 3 weeks and then go back for 12 weeks and then off again.  During the 3 weeks from school, I am able to spend time with them for one week during each off track cycle.   I look forward with great anticipation for this golden moment in time.  This is a time for my children and I to reconnect, a time when we can let our walls down and strengthen our relationship.

Last week was one of those precious moments in time that I treasure above everything else.

I left the office at noon everyday last week in an effort to maximize every single second I could with my dear children.  We went to the movies, the arcade, the ballpark.  We carved our pumpkins and went for hikes.  We laughed and we cried together.  It is in these tender moments of mercy that I am able to have with my children that keep me energized and capable of continuing on during the difficult times in between.

My children were able to participate in the primary program on Sunday. I fought the tears as I watched them sing and give their little parts during the program.  It was the first time I had ever been able to see them in a primary program, I savored the moment watching them.  During dinner Sunday night, my dear wife asked the kids what they liked most about spending this week with us, the answer that my son gave me brought tears to my eyes as he replied, “our family and being part of it.” Words are incapable of expressing what I felt at that moment.

Sunday night, as I sat on the couch with Londyn laying in one arm and Bridger laying on the other, we reflected together on the fun times we had during the week.  I was able to tell both of them how deeply I love them and how grateful I am to be their dad.  We cried together as we felt the realization that our week together was coming to a close.  We took courage and strength in knowing this would be a short week apart as the coming Halloween and weekend would be spent together, our first Halloween that had fallen on a night with dad.

As I dropped them off early Monday morning, on my way to work, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the time I was able to spend with them.  I pondered the coming silence I knew would take place without the phone calls and communication.  I looked forward to the coming weekend and holding them in my arms again.

I live for these moments with my children.  I yearn to be a full time dad to them, to tuck them in each night and to hug and kiss them each day.  It is through the weeks like we just shared that I know I am making a difference in their lives, and they in mine.

MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH – The story of William and Elizabeth Xavier Tait

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In 1842, while on a mission to Scotland, Parley P Pratt met and baptized a young man named William Tait.  Sometime after his baptism William joined the British Military and was sent to Bombay India where he met a beautiful Indian woman named Elizabeth Xavier.  Elizabeth was a member of the royal family in India, she was a woman of privilege, highly educated, attended by servants and familiar with the finer things in life.

William and Elizabeth fell madly in love.  William had continued to profess his beliefs in the mormon church, although it had been 8 years since his baptism and he had no contact with the church members.  Elizabeth, was in love with a man who was out of her culture and out of her family’s religion.  She was upper class and expected to marry within her culture and religion.  She married William in 1850 and joined the church in 1852 when Elder Hugh Findlay was called to serve a mission in Bombay, India.  She was ostracized and disowned by her family.

William served in the Branch Presidency of the fledgling branch and helped bring 19 souls to the gospel, He and Elizabeth had two children while in India, Her younger son passed away of cholera while in India, her oldest son John would leave with his Father to join the saints in Salt Lake while Elizabeth, now pregnant would remain behind while she delivered her baby and then she would quickly join them.

On April 22, 1855 Mary Ann Tait was born. Then on Monday October 15, 1855 Elizabeth finally set sail to Liverpool England with her infant daughter Mary Ann,  after a torrent of pleas from her people to stay and abandon this church and people.  While on her journey, little Mary Ann contracted pneumonia and died, only to be buried in Liverpool.   Lonely and distraught Elizabeth could not go on.  She was heartbroken and longed for William.  An inspired mission president of the Liverpool mission encouraged her to Move forward in faith.  Elizabeths soul ached as she boarded the ship Enoch Train which departed Liverpool for Boston on March 22, 1856 leaving her dear Mary Ann behind.

Elizabeths journey would continue where she would join the ill fated Willie Handcart Company.  Alone she traveled pulling a handcart as she witnessed and lived the many tragic events that occurred in that fateful journey.  It is reported that William was part of the rescue party that left Salt Lake in October 1856 to rescue his beloved bride and daughter, for William did not yet know that Mary Ann had passed away.  When Elizabeth saw Williams red hair and red beard reportedly her screams filled with tears of Joy at the reunion could be heard echoing in the camp.

Elizabeths story doesn’t end there.  William and Elizabeth settled in Cedar City Utah, yet her most formidable challenge was still ahead of her.  You see, Elizabeth had incredibly dark skin as a result of being of India descent, she was the target of discrimination, her wealthy upbringing provided an initial lack of preparation as pioneer, as such, she was ostracized and treated poorly by her relief society sisters.

Elizabeth had given up her wealth, her religion, her culture, her family, her people, her status, her children, suffered immensely crossing the plains, to become ostracized and treated  poorly by her adopted house of Israel.

Her story doesn’t end there!  William and Elizabeth are my Great Great Great Grandparents.  They taught us through their faithfulness and example how to Move Forward in Faith:

You see,   William and Elizabeth never questioned the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

They had a great love for the Lord and a deep testimony and conviction of their Savior and his love and atoning sacrifice for us:

They listened to and abided the counsel of the prophet and apostles.

They kept an ETERNAL perspective on life.

They exercised FAITH, they understood well that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mindset and that without faith there cannot be any hope

They heeded and hearkened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost

They served the Lord in every capacity asked to do so. They walked to the edge of the light.  They lived and understood Ether 12:6 “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith”

They found Joy in the Journey

They Proceeded with Trust in the Lord

They did not take counsel from their own FEARS

They waited patiently upon the Lord and his revelation for them

They knew and understood that God would provide

And they MOVED FORWARD in all things asked of them, understanding that Faith Precedes the Miracle.

In D & C 121: 7-8 we read that “Peace be unto thy soul:”   “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but for small moment:”  “And if then thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high:  Thou shalt triumph over thy foes.”

The Lord is providing comfort and speaking peace to us.  He wants us to be at peace and have joy.  He wants to exalt us if we will endure well.  To endure well we must be moving forward.   We must do so in Faith.   Sometimes we must move forward in faith until our way is illuminated.  The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God, line upon line, precept upon precept,

When we are uncertain of the path ahead, we fill up our hearts with faith, go forward into the unknown and stop and pray again and again,  Then we move forward.  Faith is a principle of action.  The answers to prayer and the solutions to our problems generally come as we begin to act.

May we always act in Faith as we move forward in this Joyous Gospel plan.  May our testimonies reside in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in his atonement.