Friday, September 20, 2013

Play it Cool

Life can be a rough game sometimes.  We all know that, and we have all experienced it in some measure or other.  But one tool that can open doors, help us recover from disappointment and remind us that the difficulties we face are truly only temporary is when we keep our chins up and smile. One gentleman was accidentally kind enough to teach me the power of keeping a smile in spite of overwhelming momentary failure. 

I have to admit, this is one of my absolutely favorite random memories.  I cannot think of it without grinning ear to ear.  Some years ago I visited Cancun for a week and in the normal course of shopping, playing, sight seeing and the like I found myself on a bus headed back to my beach side resort. It had been a long day and I was listlessly gazing out the bus window when we came to a stop beside a car dealership.  Almost immediately a salesman caught sight of me, grinned, stood up tall, straightened his shoulders and proceeded to strut forward toward the bus keeping the "I'm way too cool" smile on his face and a well practiced smolder in his eyes directed at me.  He was swaggering along watching me and obviously feeling himself a very hot item.  I don't know how long he had been working at this particular dealership but apparently he forgot momentarily that there was a step right in front of him.  You can imagine what happened. Trip!  His face and chest didn't hit the floor exactly but it was about as dramatic as you please.  I love anything classic and that was definitely a classic blunder that immediately sent me into hysterical peals of laughter.  But as soon as he steadied himself he looked up with a sheepish but very confident "I'm still cool.  Really!"  kind of smile.  I saluted him army style then and the bus proceeded on its way.  

It really is impossible to look down on someone who keeps a smile in spite of extreme embarrassment.  No matter how devastated we may feel on the inside, it doesn't generally help to get angry, beat ourselves up, or judge ourselves negatively in any way.  Just keep that smile on your face and the next time you may "trip up" in trying to accomplish a certain end, just remember the guy who tripped down the stairs trying to smolder a strange woman.  It just might inspire a grin, and that makes all the difference.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beautiful is a State of Mind

Sometimes we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others.  Sometimes we feel badly about ourselves because we see others who may have a better body, more attractive face, or socially graceful manners.  But comparison, as God has been quite amazing in illustrating to me, is the death of self love.  Let us compare ourselves to others and we will usually find ourselves coming up short.  Certainly there will be days when another will gain a blessing we want and in truth, we never need prove jealous.  We just need to rejoice in who we are and be the best people we can be. 

God illustrated this for me in a way I am not likely to ever forget some months ago.  Now, I must begin by saying that I have a fairly comfortable self image.  I work hard at the gym, I eat healthily, and I recognize that my worth is not based on my appearance.  Yet I too am human.  One day while I was stretching out after an intense work out, I caught in the corner of my eye a brief glimpse of a gorgeous woman, clad in skin tight black, whose movements were smooth and elegant and whose physique, it seemed to me, was one of those that heaven sent to this earth to make everyone else envious.  For a moment I began to get upset, to compare myself to this woman, and to feel negatively about myself in her wake.  It was only for a moment, but it was an extremely bitter one.  Then I caught myself and reminded myself that I could still be friendly and amiable and Christlike to this woman to whom I knew I could simply never compare in physical beauty, that she was her own kind of beautiful and that didn't have any bearing at all on me.  Her loveliness didn't negate my own personal worth.  I looked back up, determined to be calm and loving toward this woman and in looking at her again I realized that the image I had seen had been a reflection of myself in a mirror. 

My dear brethren and sisters, the most beautiful thing we can do has nothing to do with our external shell.  Even models often feel badly about their appearance.  What creates most powerfully a sense of personal beauty is how we choose to feel about ourselves.  That is where our true identities exist and our purest appearance makes itself manifest.  Beauty isn't about the body.  It's about the mind.  If we choose to think that we are beautiful, we will be and in truth, we will also find that others gravitate toward us more naturally.  And when we realize that we don't have to compare to anyone else, our own personal attractiveness can downright surprise us.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Did You Get Away With It?

Dante reserved the lowest circle of hell for betrayers.  They are frozen in ice to some extent, depending on the severity of their crimes.  These are people who thought they were getting ahead, getting away with something at the expense of someone else and in the hereafter found themselves unable to move.  It inspires a great deal of thought.  In all my many years of counseling people through their troubles and helping them walk away from their vices and as a very imperfect human myself, I think I can understand every single vice out there except one.  It is the nonsensical idea that certain, not all, people gain a kind of high level thrill at the idea of doing something wrong and being able to get away with it.

Allow me to dump some ice cold water on this idea, my friends.  We aren't getting away with anything.  Period.  One person I was counseling was beyond elusive and sneaky to the point that I was not certain of all that he was doing.  I just knew he was violent, depressed and didn't always make a great deal of logical sense.  I felt impressed at one point to tell him "the gig's up.  I feel impressed to tell you that you need to come clean with everything right now, or all those things you have been trying to hide from the Lord will come crashing down on top of you."  These were not my words for until that moment I had never considered that someone would try to hide anything from an omniscient God or think that they could.  The idea makes no logical sense.  But it scared the man stiff and that night was the turning point of his life when he began the long, painful road of reform. 

Even if we aren't threatened with the fires (or ice) of hell, do we really gain anything substantial when we knowingly, rebelliously chose to throw righteous action to the wind?  Do we not sell ourselves short, weaken our inner strength, and cast aside our own divine natures?  I have often thought of it this way: for all my insistence that I am justified, that it isn't so bad or the like, I cannot change the fact that every misdeed on my part is another lash of the whip as it were on the back of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I would rather take that injury on my own back, and to have a perfect Being take it for me is a greater crime than I can bear to purposefully inflict upon Him.  So the next time we think "I can get away with this" let us please remember for our sakes and for His that every deed is noticed and every rebellious act has its eventual consequence.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Of Seizures and Charity

I don't usually wear the fact that I have certain kinds of convulsive seizures on my sleeve.  Life is about much more than that.  Indeed, most people who know me do not realize that I am prone to such traumatic fits.  And those who do know tend to forget it quickly.  A sweet friend told me recently that she frequently forgets that aspect about me and was rather amazed that I accomplish as much as I do in spite of that condition in my life.  These seizures are violent, potentially lethal, inspired by trauma, and severely limit or completely destroy my ability to function in certain respects. 

My friends, not one of us has a perfect life.  We all face trials and troubles.  We all have things that hold us back and frustrate our aspirations.  But it doesn't have to become our identities, and it doesn't have to be the primary focus in our lives.  I think of Jesus leaving Gethsemane, literally dripping with pain, suffering for the sins of those who had injured Him, and finding Himself arrested.  In the midst of that dramatic moment He turns from His own pain to heal the much slighter pain of the guard whose ear had been sliced completely off.  Were you or I in His place, would we have stopped to care about a comparatively minor thing like that? 

We have the commandments of God before us, to remember patience, faith, hope, and charity.  Period.  We do not have the command to be selfless and think of others provided we have nothing dramatic and frustrating in our lives.  We do not have the command to live a Christlike like except when we are under exquisite pain.  I firmly believe that when we meet the Lord at the judgment bar, He will not say "what trials did I give you?" but rather something more along the lines of, "how well did you strive to handle the commandments of gentleness and kindness that I gave you in spite of the trials I knew you needed?"  What happens to us does not matter nearly as much as how we choose to retain our Christlike charity in spite of any opposition. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Familial Conversation

I wander through a sacred, joyful night
And contemplate sweet movements in the sky.
How wondrous God's eternal judgments prove
In earth.  Now lofty heaven gathers nigh

To comfort martyred souls still drawing breath
Within this mortal journey here below,
And angels tread through barren waste to give
New innocence and let such blessings flow

As He directs, for elements themselves
Obey His law.  The sainted cosmos weak -
Without his strength the stars withdraw and fade
To wait upon His will, His word to seek.

They glitter on this holy night.  I watch
And pray with heart, once trembling, calm and mild
For He who makes the heavens laugh or weep
Looks gently down upon His wand'ring child.

Respecting Men

Now this is a topic about which I have long wanted to write, one very much near and dear to my heart and about which I have felt passionately my entire life.  I realize I have of late been writing much that nods to the glory of womanhood, and as a member of that sex I have every right to do so.  I have had several gentlemen in the last few days be so kind as to agree with me in placing women on a pedestal even to the degrading and abasing of their own gender.  But glorifying femininity does not in any manner demean or belittle masculinity and I have always had a very deep and abiding respect for men, their divinely given roles, and their individual potential as sons of God.  There is something tremendously powerful about a man and the divine worth he has.  And all men have exquisite amounts of divine worth.

Brethren, I understand that in many shows, movies and the like men are degraded and referred to as unintelligent and weak.  Please know that there is at least one woman in this world who vehemently disagrees with such ideas.  Within each and every man there exists a soul that has potential to shine brilliantly and eternally, that unleashed in purity has the power to overcome every obstacle the devil or this world can devise.  This is a truth I have known and felt keenly from my infancy and those who know me most intimately can attest that I believe and follow this doctrine even to the point of exceeding recklessness. 

You may not realize it yourselves but there is an aura emanating from you, each one of you without exception, that testifies of your individual potential.  That vibe of masculinity if you will, comes through and is strongest when a man is living an upright and morally admirable life.  Many years ago I was sitting on the floor watching a show and a guy I only somewhat knew happened to be standing next to me.  He was minding his own business, arms crossed, and was tapping his foot to the music.  He was not the type of guy to prove a temptation to me but as I sat next to him something hit me with tremendous force.  It was as though a great and overwhelming manly power wafted from him to me and for a moment there I had to catch my breath and shake off the dizzying intoxication I suddenly felt.  Had he chosen to act at that moment I likely would have ended up dating him.  I learned later that he was a very morally upstanding, innocent, righteous fellow and by the unstoppable power of his spirit I have no reason to doubt the genuine goodness I saw in his outward actions.  My brethren, look for that potential within yourselves, learn to recognize it and rejoice in fulfilling all that God intended you to be.  Chances are, you are far more exquisite in every way than you know.