I am not sure who is the star of this painting, the bird or the log.
Simple Thoughts for a Christian Life
Following the example of Jesus Christ is not a trivial thing. It takes a lot of work in the midst of the difficulties of our lives and those around us. However, the fundamentals of the gospel of Christ are not complicated. In listening to a number of people lately, I have boiled it down to 4 pairs of words.
Charity and Virtue are two words that capture the life we are supposed to be living. Charity has been defined a “the pure love of Christ” [Mor 7:47]. I like to think of that kind of pure love for someone to be the willingness to do what truly best for them. If we have that Christ-like charity we will really want what is best for everyone rather than what we want ourselves.
Virtue, particularly in our thoughts, is our first line of defense against wrongdoing. No bad deed occurred without preceding unvirtuous thoughts. Virtuous thought can prevent any number of painful mistakes.
Return and receive
Knowing where we are going, why we are following Christ and what we hope to gain is critical to staying the course. It is hard to keep working at something for no particular reason. M. Russell Ballard recently gave a talk in which he captured the goals of a follower of Christ in these two words: return and receive.
As followers of Christ, practicing charity and virtue, we hope to return to our Father in Heaven and receive all of the blessings that he has prepared for his children. That is the goal of a Christ-like life. God is our Father and has prepared this life so that we can choose what we want to be. If we choose to follow Christ then we can return to our Father. We can choose other goals and receive the fruits of those choices, but the goal of a Christ-like life is to return to our Father and receive what he has prepared for us.
Rationalize and Rebel
Living a charitable and virtuous life is hard. Lots of people do lots of unlovable things. In our media saturated world, maintaining virtuous thoughts can be a challenge. We all have thoughts, feelings and sometimes actions that we are not proud of.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made it possible to repent of our mistakes and to recover from our failings. What a blessing that is. It is the only thing that makes progress possible. However, all of us find ourselves repeatedly repenting of the same mistakes. After a while it does not feel like we are repenting or progressing at all. This gets very discouraging.
J. Devn Cornish recently gave a talk in which he indicated that the key is to not rationalize and not rebel. When we do something, see something or feel something that we should not have, it is easy to say “that was no big deal.” That is rationalization. The problem is that by minimizing and excusing the mistake we block ourselves from repenting. Not repenting prevents us from returning to a Christ-like life. As long as we are not rationalizing away our mistakes we can fix them, with Christ’s help.
Rebellion is worse. That is when we refuse to follow him. Someone else’s mistake is too hurtful to forgive. Someone deserved what we did to them. We rather enjoy pornography rather than fleeing from it. As long as we are in rebellion, we deny ourselves the opportunity for improvement that Christ offers. We drift away from a life of charity and virtue. We are no longer on that path to return and receive.
However, if we do not rationalize and we do not rebel Christ’s Atonement can help us back. We can enjoy the fact that although we are mortal and fallible, the goal is still ours to achieve.
Scripture and Spirit
The discussion above generally applies to everyone. However, we are not living everyone’s life. We are living ours. We need guidance as to the specific choices that we personally need to make right now.
Our personal guideposts come from scripture and the Holy Spirit. Scripture is words received from God, by prophets, written down and preserved for us. We can’t achieve the Father’s goals for us if we will not pay attention to he who set it. Daily scripture study serves as markers and reminders of things we need to fix or places we may not have noticed are in need of repair.
The greatest guidance of all is the Holy Spirit. It is his role to show each of us, individually, what we need to do today to live a more Christ-like life. It is through his guidance that we get down to the real nitty-gritty of day to day choices.
So there you have it. Following Christ in 8 words. We should live a life of charity (love) and virtue which will lead us to return to God our Father and receive all the blessings he has for us. If we fail we can continuously repent and improve provided we do not rationalize our sins or rebel against a Christ-like life. We can best see our own personal way back to God through scripture and spirit.
In a world filled with war, illness, abuse and greed many ask why a loving God would allow such things to be. As I have pondered this question, I think there are three reasons: teaching, agency and perspective. God wants to teach the important lessons that each one of us needs to know and he wants us to make choices for ourselves. God is also interested in the long term, way beyond just this life as we know it.
God created this world so that we, his children, could come and learn lessons for ourselves. These are not lessons of math, literature or economics, but character, strength of purpose and love. He is interested in who we become rather than what we know. God knows us individually and personally in ways that I do not understand. Because of this he sends each of us into our own personal life challenges. As a teacher I always gave hard assignments, not to punish my students but to build their success. Illness, disability, devastating family situations and war are all challenges from which we can learn. One must take great care with this principle. Just because some of us have lessons to learn does not justify those who cause the pain or refuse to help. How we respond to the suffering of others is enormously important to our Father in Heaven. “It serves them right” is not a principle taught by God. Continue reading “Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?”
It is Easter morning 2017. Most of my neighborhood is still asleep and the sky is just starting to brighten over the mountains. Easter is such a special day.
When God, our Father, sent us to this earth he gave us agency to choose how we would live. Many of us choose love and caring for those around us. Many choose hate and war against those who are different. Many choose to build good families while others choose sexual behaviors that tear at or eliminate the foundation of a family. All of us unintentionally harm others and suffer the purposeful or unintended consequences of the acts of others.
Into a world filled with the pain caused by people’s choices was born Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father and Mary of Nazareth. Because of his special role as the Son of God he could choose not to die. But he did choose to die so that we might live again. He committed no sin himself, but chose to pay the consequences of the choices of all of us, his brothers and sisters.
Because of his sacrifice we may live again. Because of his sacrifice we may overcome the consequences of our mistakes and those of others. It is now our choice whether we will follow him and avail ourselves of what he has to offer. This is the hope of Easter. This is the hope of Christ. This is my hope on this quiet morning. I choose to follow him as best I can.
Author: Douglass Freeman
Personal Rating: 5/5
Washington is the fundamental figure of the Revolution. Revolutions are plagued by their leaders converting their prestige into dictatorship. The institutions that we have in the United States exist because of Washington. He was continually mistreated by Congress during the Revolution yet he consistently respected and supported their authority. Cromwell did not do as well. He was harshly vilified by Jefferson’s publicity machine yet refused to curb the press or attack is opponents. His army wanted to make him king but he refused. His power and integrity allowed our country to escape the consequences of so many revolutions.
Author: David McCullough
Personal Rating: 4/5
John Adams was a patriot that sacrificed his life for the cause of founding the United States. He sacrificed it not in dying for it but by working for it for decades. He was honestly a flawed human being with problems with anger and self importance. However, his effort and hard work cannot be denied. He was the loser in the political battles with Jefferson but still an important figure. A great read.
Author: Ron Chernow
Personal Rating: 5/5
I have always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson. However, I was concerned about Jefferson’s treatment of Washington and his non-involvement in most of the Revolution. Hamilton is always portrayed as the “royalist” defeated by the “populist” Jefferson.
Chernow’s book sheds a lot of good light on this subject. He clearly points out that Hamilton, the “royalist”, was the one who worked his way up from nothing to eventually establish the economic basis of our country’s treasury and never owned a slave. Jefferson, the “populist”, inherited wealth that he ran into debt and lived off of slaves who he never freed.
H. Rider Haggard wrote many stories, mostly about Africa. The Allan Quatermain stories are the ones I enjoy the most. They are pure escape adventures in east Africa. I like older novels because there is none of the gratuitous sex and graphic violence in modern novels.
The one downside of his work is the obvious view of other ethnicities as being second class. Blacks and Arabs are fundamentally assumed to be wicked and/of lazy and unteachable. It is interesting, however, that despite this second class view the protagonist repeatedly finds respect and capability in those same people. Haggard is almost mocking the prejudices of his day by repeatedly having his hero surprised by unexpected qualities and abilities in black people. It feels a little bit like Mark Twain. “They” are not supposed to be as good as experience regularly shows us “they” are.
Still working on my watercolors. The shape turned out easier than getting the smooth surface of the petals right.
A good friend thought it was a rose made of prosciutto.
A “Hawaiian Cardinal” that we saw on Oahu. It really is a Brazilian Taneger that came to Hawaii quite some time ago. We found him in the parking lot outside of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. My wife took the picture and I painted him in our granddaughter Tansy’s hospital room. She like to watch me paint when she was too sick to do anything else.