Sunday, April 25, 2010

They are free to choose...

Over the last week or so, maybe the last two weeks or so, I've been studying a little about liberty and choice. It all got started with the new health care bill that the government has passed. Now whether this is constitutional or worthwhile or anything in that regard is really beside the point. It made me start thinking about liberty because of the restrictions on freedom that it would necessarily imply by increasing the role of government in our lives. If anyone has any doubt about the importance of freedom they can have a look at the books of Moses, Abraham or Revelation. We had a war in heaven over that very idea, a war for agency, a war for the right to choose and not to be dictated to.

Similarly we had a war just over two-hundred years ago over the same things, many of you may remember it as the Revolutionary War. Our Founding Fathers wanted the freedom to choose, to do right by their neighbor or to leave him destitute. Their job was not to set up a moral code for the emerging nation but to allow them the choice to follow God or not, to be good or bad people, to work hard and prosper or to spend their days in idleness and to degenerate as a consequence. It didn't matter what they chose but that they could do so. As the prophets and apostles have taught us, this nation and more especially the Constitution was setup and inspired by the Lord to preserve freedom. That is what the Lord wanted for his people because, in this, they could exercise His greatest gift to them in this life; Agency.

As i have had the opportunity to study these last weeks i have been impressed by the emphasis that the scriptures place on choice. I've read lots of impressive things, several scriptures that talk of the importance of proper instruction and persuasion as a recipe for the making of good choices as well as the counter argument that no one should be forced to choose right. As i learned about the Lord's model of choice i also could see the opposite, Satan's plan for us. It is clear in the scriptures that just as the Lord will never force us to do anything, in defense of our agency and freedom, Satan seeks to dictate to us, to lock us into addiction, to give us oppressive and invasive influences in our lives. He wants nothing more than to force us to do anything. It isn't always that he would force us to do the most evil thing possible at any given time but the simple act of removing our agency, our freedom to choose, would be enough to foil our role in the Father's plan and more specifically to restrict and put in bondage the great and noble ones that were so independent and powerful in the pre-earth life.

Today i had the opportunity to study extensively 2 Nephi 2:27. It's almost as well know to the members of the church as 1 Nephi 3:7 but today it took on new meaning:

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediator of all men; or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself."

There are several things that i would like to point out, but first i need to make the disclaimer that i am in no way expressing the "absolute" interpretation of this verse or even the necessary views of the church but what as been impressed upon my mind as i read.

First we know that men are free, but only free according to the flesh. We've often heard it said that we are free to choose but not to choose the consequences of those choices. I think it is a little cliche because i have always thought that the consequences should be taken into account as part of the choice but it is true nonetheless. I believe that this is what this line is referring to when it says that we are "free according to the flesh"; we have no freedom of consequence.

Next it begins to point out the choice, essentially Liberty or Captivity, both provided by different authors. I think that it is important that the word "or" is include because we must understand that there is no middle ground, we must choose one or the other. The choice is between discipline, that begets liberty and freedom, and instant gratification, which begets addiction and captivity.

Note: When it says that Satan seeks to make us miserable like unto him i think, too often, we assume that it is referring to the choices we make while in captivity that make us miserable and while i believe that to be part of it i would also submit that the very act of being without a choice is what makes us miserable. Addiction and captivity, because they clash so sharply with the freedom inherent in our spirits, will not allow us to be happy. It put a whole new spin on the idea of existing that we might have joy.

Now, the grand question, where am i going with all of this? Partly i wrote this for myself; to express it imprints it more firmly on my mind. The other part is because of the abject fear i feel when i think of where our nation is headed. If we go down this road it will only lead to the entrapment and imprisonment in the ignominious bondage of our eternal and majestic souls. The choice is our to make for now, but in all honesty, if Satan can't get us with an addiction, he'll do it through entitlements, "free" health care (i know it's not free but there are many who think that it will be), redistribution of wealth, government welfare and any other handout that the government or man can think up.

Our Founding Fathers fought and many died to make us free, the battle between the anti-federalist and federalists over the Constitution begged the same question. History many times glorifies the anti-federalists for their desire to maintain a smaller government. These same historians turn around and say that the government must assert itself ever more to take care of all the citizens of the country. Even the Federalists who sought for a larger and stronger central government in their day would be appalled at the misuse of that idea. Government was never meant to "take care" of everyone but to preserve the freedom to allow the people to take care of themselves and each other.

I guess the basic idea i want to get across is that all of us have already fought a war to preserve our agency and the fathers of this country did it again in this life. We can't afford to allow all the sacrifices made in those wars be in vain. It has been foretold that the Constitution would hang by a thread. It would seem that that day is upon us.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I didn't MEAN to...

You know the tragedy of that phrase is that it is supposed to make everything that happened un-happen, it's supposed to make it all better despite the obvious fact that it doesn't.

We act as if by saying that if the act performed, words spoken, or hurt given, wasn't "intended" then it is less real of a hurt or simply a more cope-able pain. The fact is that it doesn't. I know this sounds immature and i can feel the "mature" side of me saying, "Karl, you don't want to write this, it doesn't help anything," but i think i must beg to differ. Somethings are simply better when you get them off your chest.

The only consolation of the "I didn't meant to..." phrase is that it does in fact make it much easier to forgive and forget but it still leaves you with "Pain, lots of pain."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Special Need

I don't know how much i want to say in this post because the experience that is involved was singular in my life and extremely special to me. I don't know if i will ever forget it.

At work yesterday i arrived almost simultaneous with a group of the likes i had never seen. I got clocked in and came back out to the front to see a group of approx. 15 severely handicapped youth, probably all between the ages of 12 and 18 though i can't be sure. All i could think at first was that i didn't want to be caught gawking, so i went about my business treating them like any other table in the restaurant. In time though i couldn't help but notice certain things, acts of such selflessness that i was shocked. There was a teacher with them and three or four techs. I never did glean what they were doing there on a Saturday since i knew for a fact that they were all members of the same class or than it was a "special day" but i guess the reason they came wasn't really important.

After about 30 min or so i took the opportunity to ask the teacher a few questions (that's how i found out that some of the kids were techs, there to help the teacher with the group). She simply explained who she was and we chatted a little about the group. She seemed so happy.

Getting to the point as i watched them subtly for the hour or so that they were there the teacher never sat, she didn't eat, she simply went around helping her kids. She looked out for them, showed them that she loved them through conversation, attention and the help she gave. Despite the obvious discomfort throughout the whole meal she never stopped smiling and laughing, she was just SO passionate about what she was doing. As i watched how the kids looked at her i could see how much they loved her in return and i was suddenly struck by the majesty of it all. Here she was on a day she had off, she didn't have to be with her kids on a Saturday but chose to. I have spent some time over the last two days really considering what i saw and maybe more importantly the need that exists in the world; a special need for special children.

Obviously there have been some changes in my life as of late that have made me a little more aware of situations like these, that have made me pay more attention to the issue at hand, but point is the need is real. I am so grateful for those educators that take on this task because, though different, there can be no doubt in my mind that this is at least a slightly harder position to hold as an educator, and truthfully the power of all of this was not the act of an educator of but one who was willing to love unconditionally. It all seemed to surreal and yet so wonderful. Like I've said, i don't know if i will ever forget it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just a Little Chat

Today i had a talk with my Mom about one of the most stressful things that i have ever encountered in my life and i was delighted to see the effect the conversation had on me.

First off i just have to say how grateful i am for my relationship with my mom. I know not all people feel this way and certainly not all guys but i can and usually do talk to my mom about everything. Life in general, accomplishments, mistakes, stresses, the gospel, you name it. We can talk about everything and it has been a constant source of wisdom and guidance throughout my life.

So after talking to my mom about all this stuff and what i thought about it and what she thought and her telling me that this difficult circumstance was "exactly what i needed" i was shocked and pleased to find that for the most part the stress had been lifted. Obviously the situation was still very really and difficult but i had a new perspective on it, i was able to have some hope regarding the whole thing rather than seeing it as a lost cause (which in and of itself is so unlike me).

Sometimes i guess we just need to talk things out as people. We need to opportunity to bounce ideas off of somebody and all the better if that person is wise. It's surprising what a little chat can do for you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

That Which We Cannot Have

It seems a peculiar quality in us humans that we always seem to want either that which we cannot have or do not deserve. I've even found this same condition in myself. I am inclined to view this as a problem, a flaw in human nature but i have decided against it because in all truthfulness i am not qualified to decide what is and is not good or praise-worthy about the innate human condition.

Now that being said this post may be a little to emotionally revealing for some of you who may be reading so if you are easily unnerved or "creeped-out" i would suggest turning away...or at least navigating away from this page.

There is someone that i believe is exceptional, someone who means a great deal to me that just recently came into my life. Well that statement isn't completely accurate. She came into my life some time ago but we had been out of contact for years. Now to be honest i didn't think much of her when i first met her, in fact, though her personality was intriguing i was to shallow to see who she was and was only interested because she seemed to be so taken with me. I regret that now but really it wasn't the time and certainly there was not place for any legitimate "romantic" hopes so could i go back, i don't know that i would do anything differently...i digress.

As i had the opportunity at the beginning of this month to get to know her again i quickly realized two things, one that she was far too good for me, someone i could never have or even deserve, and second that i was falling for her. She seemed to be everything i would ever want which was such a paradox to me, knowing as i did, that i could never merit such a person. Now just to be clear i don't want you to think that i am simply putting on a face of false humility or being self-deprecating, that just isn't me...frankly i love myself too much. The point is that i could espouse to you the many qualities that make her so great but in a very real sense it would be a great disrespectful to her to give such information without proper consent.

So anyway in accordance with societal customs i asked her out on a date and she said yes. So we went out, it was something simple but it was such a great date. Now i don't know how much she enjoyed it but it really was the best date i have had post-mission. Now to all those who know me, they know that i take disappointment in stride and really nothing can get me down. I would say that it is because i don't care enough about things in life, i put very few things as a priority above my own happiness. My mother would say it is just my carefree nature...regardless of the cause i was surprised by my reaction to the succeeding events.

As happy and blissful as i felt the night of the date and during the following day, it was just a mirror image of how i felt come Sunday. Now in her defense she has been nothing but kind, genuine, civil, honest, and direct with me (you would expect no less from someone like her) but of course i felt very differently about things than she did...

The inspiration for writing all of this came tonight as i thought back on it all, still feeling very much the same (not sad, i mean feeling the same about her), and worst knowing that she feels the same as she did as well. I realized that nothing i do, no matter how creative or "cute", or impressive will ever change her mind. Only her choice and her feelings will be able to achieve that...and so i have come full circle. It is the sad state of the Human Condition that we want what we can't have. We seek what we think we most want only to be denied it when it is found. This may be a little melodramatic but the feelings are real.

I haven't lost all hope, despite the appearance this post portrays. I am a little worried that if she were to stumble upon this blog she would immediately abandon any small interest she may still have in me but i needed this opportunity to put my thoughts down somewhere, to write. There is power in the writing, i just hope there is enough.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The 9th Branch

Today was an interesting Sunday for me. It was the first Sunday back to my singles branch in nearly two months, having spent the last 8 or so Sundays at the wards of family members or at homecomings or farewells of friends. I'll admit that i was even a little nervous to be going back the the 9th Branch after so long, nervous about how I'd feel and just what would be the general response. Much to my surprise and joy i found that i felt a sense of belonging that was inexplicable. That'd be why i can't explain it.

To truly understand why this was such a surprise and a big deal I'll have to go back a ways: When i first got home from my mission i was asked by my new Stake President to attend the Singles Branch here in the stake. He said that it would be a great opportunity to strengthen the stake and help out others that had recently returned from their missions. I of course agreed to go and go i did...for about 2 weeks. My friend Chase got home soon after and i began attending a singles ward in T-ville where he lives and i lived. It was great and i really enjoyed it there, in a way it was like a mini high school reunion. Of course all of that changed when after a few more weeks i needed to renew my Temple Recommend.

I went and saw my family ward Bishop and had my interview then went to the Stake Presidents office. He took one look at the new recommend and nailed me. He asked my why i wasn't attending the singles branch and lovingly corrected and properly chastised me. It hurt at the time but i really can't complain, it was necessary. He recommitted me to go to the singles branch making it very clear to me that i didn't have to attend and that i had my agency (a sure way to make anyone feel guilty whether you want to or not. So feeling a little ashamed i repented and began attending the singles branch. It was fine, i have no complaints and i have met some great people but i didn't feel "so" good about it...until today that is.

Today was just an all around strangely wonderful day. I feel like my head all of the sudden is on straight. The spirit was felt, revelation received and it was just great. The disturbing thing though was that i felt almost attacked in someways. I came to realize that what i was doing, which by no means was bad, wasn't what I'm supposed to be doing. It's funny how it works, funny how it feels.

All i know is that there are certain capabilities, spiritual gifts that we are given, opportunities that we have. With those in union we are expected to achieve certain things, and not just for ourselves or even our families but for the nation as a whole. I've been thinking a lot about the mysteriously elusive citation that we hear all of the time in the church that designates the "Elders of Zion" as the rescuing force when the "Constitution hangs by a thread". In my mind there can be nothing more terrifying than the thought that Constitution will be in peril and more and more it seems like that days is approaching quickly.

I don't know what I've gotten myself off on now but i do know that this country is of the utmost worth and that with the privilege of living here and of having these rights comes certain inescapable responsibilities: "Where much is given much is required."

Anyway i guess in closing i am just really grateful for the 9th Branch and the spirit of belonging and of peace that seems to be part of the very air you breath there. Just another one of those tender mercies.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Curve Balls: You don't see 'em 'till you do

It's amazing what you realize, what you learn when things are so polarized. Unfamiliar experiences have so much to offer, they shock you into a new view on life. Just a couple weeks ago, okay maybe not weeks, a month or so ago, my grandmother that lives with us had a stroke. It was a different experience, especially seeing it happen right in front of me. It made me think of what she used to say so often: "I've been short of breath lately, my doctor says that it could be a problem with my heart but i don't see how that could be, I've never had heart problems before."

It seems so silly for her to maintain that outlook on life because of course the first time you have a problem it is just that, the first time. We don't usually have a warning of things to come, we aren't told, "Hey by the way, tomorrow at 6:32 pm there's going to be a new trial coming your way, something life changing and very difficult, here's you fair warning." Though nice, it isn't feasible nor does it quite jive with the eternal necessity of the Plan.

Lately I've given some serious thought to the to this idea. Last Monday something happened to me that i perceive to be genuinely life changing. It was certainly a curve ball, something i certainly never would have seen coming and if you had asked me a week ago, i would have said that i would hate for it to happen. (Again an interesting point, another reason the Lord can't tell us when he's about to do something) As it is now, though it has been painful it would seem that it will continue to be painful, i am extremely grateful for the happening.

Sometimes it just bazaar how things can change so fast, change without warning, and in ways that you yourself wouldn't have picked or even thought wise. This is the strangest feeling i have ever felt, and not a pleasant one, yet...i wouldn't trade it away, i wouldn't wish it away.

Well now, i'm just rambling but maybe in the future i can be more straight forward about all of this but i guess for now this will have to do.