Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Infinite possibilities...

So, after a lengthy break from writing anything due to the holidays, I was reading this morning before taking some time to work on pottery and encountered the following:

Jeremiah 18: 3-4:
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

And it seemed so familiar to me that I realized that our lives are really like that in the Lord's hands. He tries to make us into something pleasing only to have us wobble off balance or end up a little off kilter. So he then remakes us into something more balanced. And he does it over and over again - as many times as it takes. 
In working with clay for the last 18 months, I've come to appreciate the efficiency of the medium. As long as the clay hasn't been fired, it can be broken up, rehydrated and wedged to use again to throw or build with. None of it is wasted. If you really want perfection, you can try over and over again until you achieve it and then fire it to preserve it. If we are the clay, doesn't that imply infinite possibilities for each of us to achieve perfection? I think so. 

An interesting thought, and it left me with a little smile all day long. And now that Trevor has been trying out the wheel and experiencing the feel of it for himself, it's fun to watch how it draws him in and captivates his attention. There is something very addictive about creating something, and because there really isn't a failure unless you quit, it can be very satisfying. I suspect he'll be as hooked as I am in a very short period of time. 

The possibility of being able to try until it works is very appealing, and realizing that our lives can be that way is equally encouraging. As long as we remember that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Putting Christ back into Christmas

So, in today's lesson we were discussing the ideology of the sacrament and how it relates to us. It was pretty deep doctrine and left me thinking a great deal. Particularly the nature of the contract we enter into when partaking of the sacrament each week. The terms are clearly laid out in the prayers offered for each portion of the sacrament:

Doctrine & Covenants 20:77, 79

77O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this abread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and bwitness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his ccommandments which he has given them; that they may always have his dSpirit to be with them. Amen.

79O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this awine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

In the blessing of the bread, each member of the congregation partaking witnesses their willingness to bear the name of Christ, always remember him and keep his commandments. In return each is promised to have his Spirit to be with them. The blessing of the water is important in its differences. We witness of the rememberance we have already promised in return for the continued blessing of his Spirit. The second confirms and seals the first agreement. And just like the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, the full covenant is incomplete without both parts.

I hadn't really considered that before. The other part that really caught my attention was the wording of the first blessing - "and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son." We are not saying we will, but rather that we want to. We are witnessing a  commitment that acknowledges the difficulty of the task and accounts for our possible failure from time to time.

The concept of willingness versus will really intrigues me. It's the idea that our success is more likely when we express willingness or intent rather than a flat avowal to do. When I say I'm going to stick to a diet and never cheat again, I am condemning myself to fail. But if instead I tell myself it's going to be hard and sometimes I will slip and falter, I am more likely to persist in trying. We have made the task  more possible to achieve somehow. And connecting that idea to the gospel and the doctrines I believe in is a refreshing adventure sometimes. And at this time of year, revisiting the level of commitment I make to bearing Christ's name is always worthwhile. It makes it more meaningful that we have devoted this entire season to celebrating his life and consequent sacrifice on our behalf. A wonderful gift at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

icky poo...

So, in the spirit of giving, our adolescent cat decided to knock on the back door at lunch time to share his achievement - a very dead mouse. I naturally didn't let him in and was treated to the sound of him banging his prize against the door periodically as he tossed it into the air to play. This went on for some time and I asked myself why it bothered me so intensely. I mean, he's only marginally domesticated (like all cats) and his primary purpose really is to control the rodent population, so why did it make my skin crawl to visualize what he was doing. There was absolutely no way I was letting him in.

Should I have been proud he was fulfilling his purpose? I don't know. I honestly don't think that "positive reinforcement" has much effect on felines. They pretty much please themselves. I was secretly grateful that he was capable of annihilating vermin so efficiently, but I really didn't want to witness it.

Which makes me wonder about a lot of things. I like chicken, but there is no way you'd ever catch me killing or witnessing the killing of said bird. I like my food sanitized by the venue of the supermarket in most cases. I don't mind gardening and picking produce, but I suspect if I had to take on the hunter/gatherer role, I'd likely be a vegan. Unless someone offered to do it for me...and that's precisely the issue, isn't it? There are simply some jobs that we cannot fathom being able to perform. For some people it's the cooking, for others it's the cleaning, or the driving, or changing the diapers, or even making the phone calls. Everyone has particular task that they dread and avoid at all costs. I still remember how difficult it was for me to cut a chicken up for preparing fried chicken. I honestly had to force myself to listen to the bones cracking under the cleaver and the slimy flesh parting beneath the blade. It's still not my favorite job but I've learned to just distance myself from it and get on with it. So maybe that's all it is - I'm just not naturally gifted at the distancing part. But because society reinforces my dislike and enables my avoidance, I'm not about to stop buying my meat butchered and packaged. Not for a long time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

minding the details

As the normal hoopla of preparing for Christmas continues, I can't help but think again about how driven we are to get things right. We hunt for just the right ornaments, just the right recipes, the perfect gifts, the right Christmas outfits...What is it all about really? Why do we feel this compulsion to do it right? Who's marking the test? What happens if we don't get a good mark? Kind of interesting to consider. And what happens when you don't feel like it?

I remember a Christmas several years ago (more than 10) when I really didn't feel it. It came right down to the last few days before Christmas and I was still feeling pretty grinchy about the whole process. Things were tight financially and the job situation was not very secure. I remember that I was down in the basement tidying up the toys yet again, listening to Barber's Adagio and finally all the emotions just overflowed. I cried until I couldn't see and was so congested I couldn't even blow my nose. But it fixed something as I let go. I surrendered myself to the powerlessness of life and gave it into the hands of the only truly competent individual I know, my Savior. Things didn't magically become better overnight, but the season continued without me resenting it anymore. I was able to laugh at the continued chaos and see my blessings in the midst of the adversity. I will always remember that Christmas. I tasted the freedom of not having to be perfect for a while. I still slip up sometimes and let expectations dictate too much, but each year I get a little better at savoring the feeling that can come to us if we pause long enough in our racing to see just how much we are loved and saved from ourselves.

There's a funny scripture in Abraham 4:18 that brought it all back to mind this morning - the way we try to make sure everything is going to go perfectly according to plan.

 And the Gods watched those things which they had aordered until they obeyed.

I have done that so many times. And the very nature of mortality is to have the things we order defy us on a regular basis. It's why our hair doesn't go well sometimes, why that poorly timed blemish shows up on school picture day, and why no matter how hard we try or how well-intentioned we are, we're often programmed to fail. Because that's the way it's supposed to be. Otherwise we would persist in the misconception that we are the masters of our destiny and make even nastier messes of our existence. I'm very good at it, believe me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Life isn't always about what we want...

I've been thinking a lot about that idea. It seems to be a popular message. We quote it as the reason why we can't always do the things that make us happy, or why we must do things that don't make us happy. We use it to reason with a child when they balk at doing something unpleasant. And while it seems true in a lot of cases, I suspect it's really not true in most. Because I'm coming to see more and more that what we want usually determines exactly what our life is all about.

What we spend our time thinking about is usually what motivates us much of the time. If we think about food all the time, we usually have deeply rooted issues with eating and food. I've heard so many stories about people who have dealt with starvation or abject poverty that spend the rest of their lives making sure there is always food to be found nearby. They often create little caches of food around them to make sure they will never go without again. And what about individuals in the world who seem driven to achieve great things. When someone analyzes their lives they usually discover that the drive was almost always internal and self-sustained. What those people wanted became their lives.

Which makes me wonder what is it that I want out of life. What do I think about repetitively? What's on my wish list? It's kind of an interesting experience to ponder that idea. Because obviously there are things that we want that we often wish we didn't want. What about those things - those natural tendencies that we struggle to overcome and eliminate from our lives because we feel they are destructive or wrong? Isn't our daily struggle often all about that battle? Perhaps it would be better to rephrase the statement as, "Life is always about what we want and what we choose to do about it." Maybe if we realized that we would be think a little more about the choices we do make.

I had a pretty good week. It was exhausting and filled with busyness, but it was good. I got to see that my pottery is a worthwhile quest because much of it sold in the sale. I got to feel like my contributions at work are also worthwhile. I got to spend time with my husband remembering what a blessing he is in my life. I got to feel a little of that Christmas spark that always helps me feel the excitement of the season. And when I analyze it based on that statement, I can see how directly my happiness relates to how well I discharged my agency.

There have been times in my life when I've felt trapped by obligations that I resent and they've built up to the point where I almost become angry and resentful. And when I really think about that I realize it's because I've been feeling that my agency has been violated. I have been denied the opportunity to really choose for myself what I should be doing. Whenever I make sure I have opportunities to choose what I want, I'm better able to deal with those "no choosing" events and get through them emotionally sound. Funny that it's taken so very long to figure that balance out. I don't always get it right, but when I do, a busy week isn't so bad. I'm hoping to keep that balance intact for Christmas. I'm not advocating doing whatever we please all the time, but rather giving ourselves the opportunity to see our agency positively in action from time to time to make sure we still feel that we are the ones determining what our lives are all about. Because that's really the purpose for us all being here on earth, isn't it - learning to be the masters of our will in choosing the right path.