Sunday, October 23, 2016

Not Much of a Problem

On second thought, my "problem" of not being able to say "no" to service requests isn't really that big of a problem, and it's certainly not the biggest problem I have. I have much bigger and more important problems than that. So, while I could worry about spending too much of my time helping others or allowing others to take advantage of me, I could instead work on the other problems I have, like  procrastinating and staying up too late.

Habitually giving service isn't the worst thing in the world. I'm sure I receive blessings for it, and it improves the lives of others, so it's not all bad. It may be part of an underlying problem which I should definitely work on, but as problems go, this compulsion of mine isn't all that problematic. I can live with it for a few more years while I work on my other problems. Yes, it's something I'd like to work on, but I have other problems I should work on first, so while feeling constrained to give service can be irritating and awfully inconvenient sometimes, solving this particular "problem" is not my top priority.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I Have a Problem

I have a problem. Actually, I have several problems, but the problem that's bugging me right now is that I'm not good at saying "no." Saying "no" is a valuable, sometimes vital skill, and I am not good at it. So when people make requests of me, even when those requests require a good deal of sacrifice on my part, I rarely say "no."

I should change that. Service is good and all that, but too much of it can be unhealthy. One should not serve other's needs at the expense of serving their own. We each need to deal with our own problems before we can solve other people's.

That's not true, is it? Solving other people's problems can be part of how we solve ours. We can, and sometimes should, solve other people's problems, despite having unsolved problems of our own.

What if I rephrased it? We each need to become self-sufficient before we can try to meet others' needs as well. No, that doesn't work, either. None of us can be completely self-sufficient, and as long as we're sharing, or at least trading resources, none of us need to be.

"We can't help others while we, ourselves, need help"? Wrong.

"We can't give to others unless we have sufficient for ourselves"? I think I'm getting closer.

I think that what I'm trying to say is that I need to spend more time taking care of the things I need to take care of, like my homework and my callings, and less time taking care of the things other people want me to take care of. There's only so much "me" to go around, and some of me is already spoken for by my personal obligations. If I have any "me" leftover after I do what I need to do, I'll see what I can do for you, but even then, I'm not sure I always should.

I haven't been myself lately, and I think that part of the reason for that is that I'm burning myself out. I'm trying to do too much for too many people, and eventually, something is going to have to give. I can't keep this up forever. At some point, I'm going to have to say "no."

I tried to say "no" today. I was supposed to attend three meetings today (one training meeting and two firesides), but I also had homework to do, and I really needed to take a break, so I decided to only attend the training meeting. I said "no" to the meetings that I had felt obligated to attend. But just as I was getting into my math homework, I got a call asking me if I could help some people move furniture from one house to another. And I just couldn't say "no." I ended up spending the rest of the day moving furniture and boxes because I was too service-oriented and weak-willed to keep my already-too-short weekend to myself.

I have a problem. I have a very serious problem. I need to learn how to say "no" without going on to say "no problem." I need to learn to put my foot down. I need to learn how to be selfish, to take care of myself, to make sure I take care of my own needs before I spend my limited resources solving others'. I know that other people need help, and I know that I have opportunities to help them, but if I keep this up, I am going to need some serious help as well. I don't mean to be rude; I almost never mean to be rude, but I have my own problems to worry about. And my inability to refuse to help others is one of them.

Friday, October 21, 2016

As Close as a Prayer

I know that you don't really need me to post ANOTHER blog post today, and I may technically not need to, either, since I posted a "blog post" warning you that I was about to post a bunch of blog posts, but I don't think that one counts. Besides, since I'm already setting a record for the highest number of blog posts I've posted on a single day; why not set that record one post higher?

In her October 2016 talk, The Soul’s Sincere Desire, Sister Carol F. McConkie shared some wisdom from the father of President Henry B. Eyring. Sister McConkie related that as President Eyring's father experienced a particularly painful and difficult trial, he turned to the Lord, teaching his children, by example, to "never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer."

In our times of trial, we need to remember to turn to God for comfort. He is eager and able to comfort us and sustain us through any and all of our trials; all we have to do is ask. Sometimes, the help we receive from out Heavenly Father isn't as complete as we would like it to be. Sometimes, facing our trials is still a struggle, even with God's help. But God has promised that He "will not leave you comfortless," but that He "will come to you," if you call (See John 14:18). In life, we will have to face trials, but we will never have to face them alone.

I am grateful for God's ever-accessible love and comfort. I don't access that comfort as often as I should, but I'm glad to know and to be reminded that it's always there, always within reach, never farther than a few sincere words away. I know that God knows, from personal experience, how hard life is, and that He is always ready to comfort and to help those who experience it. He will be there for you. No matter what your trial is or what caused it, all you need to do is pray to God, and He will come and comfort you.

Children of God - Sons and Daughters of God

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Yesterday, in Institute, our teacher shared a quote which I only half-remember, and I cannot remember who said it, but it goes something like “Genius is becoming what you were all along.” Having shared this in a gospel setting, our teacher then asked, “What were we all along?” to which someone replied “Sons of God.” There were no women in the classroom at the time, and actually, I'm glad there weren't, because otherwise, the answer might have been “Children of God,” which carries a different connotation in my mind than “Sons and Daughters of God.”

We are always, and will always be, children of God. We didn't do anything to earn that relationship, and nothing we or anyone else can do can destroy it. Part of our eternal identity is that we are children of God. Because we are His children, God loves us with an infinite amount of paternal love.

However, being God's children doesn't mean that we love Him. After all, Satan and his angels are also children of God. God still loves them, but they certainly do not love Him. So, being children of God doesn't say much about us. Everyone we know, other than God Himself and possibly the Holy Ghost, is a child of God. And I don't think it's possible for us to “become” children of God because we already are children of God. However, the way I see it, becoming Sons and Daughters of God means something completely different.

I think that we become Sons and Daughters of God by returning the love that He shows us. We become His Sons and Daughters by listening to Him, obeying Him, and ultimately becoming like Him. We become His Sons and Daughters by being His children in likeness as well as in lineage.

We were children of God since before we were born, but becoming Sons and Daughters of God is the reason for which we were born. We were sent here for many reasons, including to gain bodies and experience and to make choices and grow in righteousness. All of these things lead to us becoming more like our Heavenly Father, which is what makes us His heavenly children. We have the “children” part down. What we need to become is “heavenly.”

When I see myself as a Son of God, I see myself as more than just His offspring, though that part is certainly included. I see myself as someone much like Him, only younger and much less mature. I see myself as someone who can become like Him, develop all the traits that He has, and ultimately qualify for all the blessings He enjoys. A child of God is someone who came from heaven; a Son or Daughter of God is someone who is on the path of going back. We are all children of God. The purpose of God's plan is to make us His Sons and Daughters as well.

Nimble Innovator - Opportunities for Improvement

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nimble Innovator is a rather unassuming Magic: the Gathering card. A 2/2 for four, it is an especially weak creature for its mana cost. Usually, when a creature has a high cost and low power and toughness, you can expect it to have a good ability. Nimble Innovator's ability is “When Nimble Innovator enters the battlefield, draw card.” This basically means that your reward for playing Nimble Innovator is that it gives you the chance of drawing something better. And considering Nimble Innovator's value as a card on it's own, your odds of doing so are fairly good.

Yet the Innovator's flavor text suggests that it is undaunted by its relative weakness, and that it's confident that the card you'll draw from its ability will be a good one. In fact, its flavor text demonstrates a wise and plucky attitude that we could all benefit from developing:

“A failure is simply another opportunity for improvement. Just wait until you see what I come up with next.”

We all have many experiences that the Nimble Innovator would call “opportunities for improvement,” and I'm sure that's exactly what God designed them to be. God sent us here so we could learn and grow, and we gain more growth and experience from failure than from success. God doesn't want our failings to discourage us. Rather, He wants us to use them as opportunities to improve.

What most impresses me about the Innovator's attitude, however, is not his attitude toward failure, but rather his willingness to try again. When he says “Just wait until you see what I come up with next,” he says not only that he will try again, but also that he thinks he will see at least some success on his next attempt. Many people, after having failed, would come to expect more failure, and may even grow to believe that they are a failure. But the Nimble Innovator doesn't have that problem. Despite being a below-average card, he is not held back by a fear of not being able to measure up. Even after failure, the Nimble Innovator is willing, even eager, to make subsequent attempts. Were they not a nameless fictional character printed on a common collectible card, I would expect that the Nimble Innovator would go far in life.

I think that if we were to develop the Innovator's attitude by looking at failure as an opportunity to improve and being willing, if not eager, to learn and to try again, we will ultimately accomplish a lot more than the Innovator would in a Magic deck. We, too, may be fairly weak and unimpressive now, but if we learn from our failings and us them as opportunities to grow, we will eventually grow more capable than we could ever dream of being. We have infinite potential, and we achieve that potential by learning from our mistakes. We can learn from our failures. We can use them. We can take advantage of our “opportunities for improvement” until we reach the point where improvement is no longer needed. I believe that if we adopt the Nimble Innovator's attitude toward failure, failure will no longer be such a negative experience for us, and over time, we will grow to experience it less frequently until we no longer experience it at all.

What I Gained From Losing Access to the Internet

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I took my laptop to school today, thinking that I'd be able to connect to the WiFi at the Institute, but apparently, they're having Internet troubles, too. A part of me thinks that was my fault. A part of me thinks that God has some special reason for not letting me connect to the Internet. I'm not sure what that reason is, but I have a few ideas of what it might be.

It may be that there's some lesson God wants me to learn from not being able to connect to the Internet. I sometimes see spiritual lessons in everyday experiences. Maybe there's a lesson God wants me to learn from this. I'm not entirely sure what that lesson might be, except that we can always connect to God, but maybe there's another lesson that God would like me to learn.

Or maybe God just wants me to take a break from regular Internet usage. I hear that the Internet can be addicting, and that, in order to overcome an addiction, a person has to abstain from the addictive substance or practice for an extended period of time. If God wants me to cut back on my Internet habit, maybe He's temporarily preventing me from accessing the Internet to help me get started.

It could be that there's something in particular about the Internet right now from which God is trying to protect me. Maybe there's a video on YouTube that I would watch, but that I shouldn't. Maybe there's a post on Facebook right now that would shake my faith if I saw it. It's possible that something online would have a strongly negative influence if I were to access it right now, and God is trying to protect me from it.

Of these three ideas, I think that the second one is the most likely. The Internet is a powerful tool for connecting people from around the world, but it is also good at building barriers between people who are sitting right next to each other. Before our Internet went out, I would spend most of my time in the evenings watching YouTube videos with headphones on. Since our Internet went out, our family started reading together between dinner and family prayer. It's been really nice. I often turn to the Internet for stress-relief and amusement. Maybe God wants me to spend more time with my family instead.

I don't think I'm going to fully disconnect from the Internet any time soon. For one thing, I'm going to have to post these blog posts eventually, and for another thing, the Internet is far too useful a tool to swear off completely. I will log on again. But hopefully, from now on, or at least for a little while after our Internet comes back on, I won't go online as frequently or stay online as long as I did and would like to. My family is more important than the Internet, so I should definitely spend more time with them than I spend online. Maybe that's the lesson God wanted me to learn from not being able to connect to the Internet.

Decisions and Influence

Monday, October 17, 2016

I have once again been thinking about the duelling concepts of agency and obedience. It strikes me as odd that God gave us our agency, only to turn around and ask us to yield to His will anyway. However, I've realized that God's plan for each of us is not quite as strict or linear as I had thought. We still have a good deal of leeway, even when we are committed to following God's path.

And there's something else. Besides the many choices that God is okay with us making, there are many other choices that are not acceptable. These are the decisions that Satan tempts us to make. So, on the one hand, we could yield to God's influence and follow one of the many acceptable paths, or we could yield to Satan's influence and follow any other path. With every choice we make, we yield to either one or the other.

I had thought, and hoped, that I could make my own decisions – choose my own path, rather than being told what to do by some otherworldly influence. I felt that I didn't want to be restricted to the one path God wanted me to follow, but I had decided that I didn't want to follow the path that Satan would lead me down, either. However, even with an infinite set of options, those may be my only two choices. There are a host of good things that God would be happy to see me do, and Satan has a myriad of temptations. Between the two of them, every choice I could possibly make is advocated or opposed by one or the other of them.

If you remember a blog post of mine from ages ago, I blogged about agency through an analogy about red and green branches. Each branch on a tree is a choice that we could make. The green branches represent good choices, while the red branches represent bad ones. I had thought that there were at least some brown, or neutral, branches, but I don't think that's the case. I now think that all of the branches are either red or green, that all choices are either good or bad. At one point, I also thought (rather pessimistically) that there was only one green branch and that all the other branches were red, but now I don't think that's the case, either. I think that there are a lot of green branches, but still a lot of red branches, perhaps an even and infinite number of each.

I don't like the idea of having my choices made for me. I don't like the idea of there being only one good path that I'm supposed to follow. Besides, it just doesn't make sense, considering how important God thought it was for us to have our agency. I'm comforted by the belief that there are many choices I could make that would be good, and that I am free to make whichever choice I want. The idea that all branches are either red or green is also strangely liberating. It means that, for every choice I could make, there's someone who wants me to make that choice and someone else who doesn't. They each try to influence my decision, but I ultimately get to decide whom I follow. I always end up following someone else's influence, and that kind of stinks, but I get to decide whose influence I follow and how strongly I let their influence weigh into my decision.

Though rather deeply entrenched in the battle of good and evil, I still have surprisingly many options, and though each side pulls on me more strongly than I would like, I have the final say. I don't have to become a slave to either God or Satan. I can serve God and still be my own man. My freedom to choose is very important to me, just as it was to Him. I want to do the right thing, but I want that to be my choice, not His. In a way, I'm grateful that I don't always feel inspiration. If I did, I'd probably feel like God is always trying to tell me what to do. Instead, He gives me the freedom to make my own choices. I just hope He also blesses me with the wisdom to make the right ones.