Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Choice of Gardens

I’ve written about Progressivism before and about my ultimate question concerning the movement: Progress to what end? If we continue on a progressive path what is our destination? Well, an answer finally dawned on me. We are heading backwards. Like as far backwards as you can go. The Progressive agenda is one of a “Great Society” a Utopia of sorts. Equality for Progressives is not just equal rights, its equal things and little to no competition, because they don’t want anyone feeling bad about themselves. In that way it is also a lack of pain. The government will just take care of all your problems. There won’t be any difference of opinion. We’ll all just be the same. It is in essence recreating Eden.

Now the Garden of Eden was obviously a terrific and beautiful place. Everybody did really get along there. There was no conflict, not even between animals. What a spiffy place!! Seriously there are some things about it that are really attractive.
But, here’s the thing, Adam and Eve did not even know what a great place it was. They did not have joy in Eden. Why? Because they had nothing to distinguish it from, there was no pain, no suffering, and no opposition. They were, perhaps blissfully so, ignorant of any problems. But, they were ignorant of the good things too.

Man became fallen. But, when we fall that is when we look up. What we find is our own potential. I’m reminded of a quote from cyclist Lance Armstrong “The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son and a father.” Armstrong found a strength that he did not know he had. Pain and suffering ended up being a life changing experience for the positive. Progressivism with its non feeling pain ways would rob us of an important element of character development. The more we “progress” the more we morally and characteristically become stagnant and even start to decay.

For me, even more important than character development is spiritual development. This is particularly so because I believe your character has even greater potential when you turn to God to not just reach your potential but have Him lift you. We look up from our fallen state, to The Lord and realize He can make much more out of us, than we can make of ourselves. My trials have not made me a better person, my trials bring me to my knees, to the Lord, and He makes me a better person. As much as morality and character has been weakened, it seems spiritual decay is even more rampant (at least generally).

I’m reminded of another Garden, the one at Gethsemane. There our dear Savior suffered far beyond our comprehension. Because of Him and His Atonement we can experience pain and sorrow (whatever their causes from sin to conditions of humanity) and yet through Him be made far better than we could be without Him. He can turn difficult situations and experiences into immense joy. As Governor Sarah Palin stated after the birth of her grandson “When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn’t it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?”

So, while those of the Progressive persuasion try to shield us from pain they also stunt our growth. They also fail to realize that the schemes of men just never work out right. Divine guidance is such an important key. There are many who are personally being strengthened as they make decisions to reach for their own potential and/or to reach to God, in facing difficult trials. But, it would certainly be wonderful if we as a nation were encouraged to be doing so now.

So, keep Eden where it is, firmly in the past. I’ll take the pain, I’ll take Gethsemane. Let us go through the trial, quit trying to cover with a band-aid the gaping wounds that will eventually break out. By all means I believe we need to protect ourselves and our nation from outside attack. But, we also need to face the consequences of irresponsibility.

Years ago I had the blessing of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane on several occasions. Now, I’m not much of a poet, but every once in a while a poem is the exact best way to express myself. During one visit under the shade of an olive tree this is what I wrote:

Gethsemane: 28/5/97

Some self-imposed trial weighs heavy on a soul,
Longing to let go she reaches out, side to side, downward, anywhere.
Pulling back finding hands bearing a broken heart,
Desperation seizes a long fought for soul.
Firmly grasping the pieces of her heart, she bows under the fear
And crying out in pain, silently to others, she collapses.
Out of some painful mist she sees a hand,
Raising her head slowly she strains to make out the marks.
Somewhere in her racked mind a small voice cries, “I know that hand”
She strains to look past the hand.
Gently the hand guides her chin up until she finds His eyes.
The voice says again, “I know those eyes.”
A loving memory fills the soul and dissembles the fear and pain,
A memory unentangled in finite realms,
Not one of perfect vision, but one of feeling.
The voice she recognizes as her own
Then she sees her younger self, the child who knew Him perfectly.
“It’s Him. He loves you”
Trusting the child that once was, she stands with His strength.
He opens His arms,
And into His embrace she falls.
The tears she weeps are cleansing, the pain leaves.
Again the feeling memory of long ago comes back.
There in His arms she remembers His lifetime.
His life was lived in love, in suffering all things for all He loved.
She sees in hearts vision a Garden and there culminated all,
The pain, the sorrow, the sin, the trials, the wars of infinity.
The child again speaks, “He knows you.”
“He does. He knows all sorrow and all joy that is mine,” she answers.
She finds herself again on the ground, this time kneeling with new found gratitude and joy.
Her heart whole. She again gives it to Him.


God blesses America. I pray that He will continue to do so. I think most of us remember what September 11th felt like and what we as a nation became at that time. We don’t need to go through another horrible experience like that to be strengthened and reach out and up. We could look at this economic turbulence now and face the pain. If we face it now we can get through it and become stronger and better. The sooner we do it the better, because as the government continues to interfere the problem only gets worse.

Given the choice I say keep Eden, I’ll take Gethsemane. I’d rather know pain than to not grow. I’d rather know sorrow than to not know Christ.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Apple Cup Casualty;UPDATE (scroll down)

The Apple Cup Casualty

I was born and raised in Washington State. To be really specific I was born in Pullman Washington home of Washington State University, was raised a WSU cougar fan and graduated from WSU. I am a sports fan. I tell people I like sports enough that I got a degree in it (Sport Psychology). Growing up I watched a lot of sports and especially Cougar football. The biggest game of the year was when WSU plays against UW. This game is affectionately known as The Apple Cup. Apple for Washington which is famous for them, and Cup because its not a bowel game but close. The game is played every year alternating sites between the schools. Growing up it felt like Apple Cup was another holiday. We would sometimes get Cougar Ice Cream and or Cougar Chips to celebrate the occasion.

When I went to WSU as a student I finally got to witness Apple Cup live and in person at Martin Stadium in Pullman. What a blast that was. For one of the games there was a bunch of us waiting to get into the stadium. There was alot of nervous energy, and in our excitement somebody launched a donut into the air. Within seconds the sky was littered with donuts. I guess that was a favorite treat that day. I felt kind of bad for the girl standing close to me who got hit by a jelly, but I confess that I could not help myself and picked the donut up and chucked it back up into the air. During the game, which is played in November, it started to snow. When it starts to snow in Pullman during the Apple Cup the cougar fans know we have a distinct advantage. The cheers that greeted the snowfall was immense. There is just nothing like Apple Cup in Martin Stadium.

So, you are probably asking yourself why in the world I am writing about The Apple Cup on my blog. Well, I have forewarned that sports would be a recurring topic for me. But, The Apple Cup has become a recent casualty of liberalism/progressivism.
My beautiful home state of Washington happens to be one of those liberal/progressive states. This is mostly due to the fact that the western side of the state (where Seattle is) is more populous and yes more liberal. It is somewhat irksome, but I choose to live in the state and so have to manage.

Being as the state is liberal/progressive the state government is also. This means they follow the one stage type thinking that is so pervasive of their ideology. They see a "problem" and then look for the way the government can fix the supposed problem (which as I've outlined before the government usually stinks at doing). So, they spend a bunch of money. Of course they get that money from taxes but also from borrowing. Washington like so many other states is in debt. This year like no other has caused state governments to realize they must cut their spending. So, Washington has decided to cut spending in areas such as prisons and education. I might have gone for some other routes myself, but oh well. The state universities have had their state aid severely cut. As a result the schools are now looking for ways to bring in money themselves.

WSU and UW in an attempt to bring in a couple million to their schools have decided that Apple Cup will now be played every year in the stadium that the Seattle Seahawks play in. They sportingly have decided that the schools will continue to alternate which team is the home team. If it seems unreasonable to think that WSU fans will feel at home in Seattle that's because it is unreasonable.

I know it is just a football game. But, for crying out loud it's also a tradition especially for someone like me. Gone forever is the chance to watch Apple Cup in Martin Stadium in the snow (unless global warming causes it to snow in Seattle in November). This has hurt me in a way that kind of surprised me. I see it as a direct result of the liberal/progressive agenda. There was no forward thinking. And the decision by the schools shows a continued lack of forward thinking. WSU is going to lose more support and more money.

I apologize if this seems trivial. But, for a person who was born and raised a Cougar it breaks my heart.

UPDATE:
Well, it turns out I was not the only angry Cougar! It also turns out that sometimes the voice of the people is good enough to affect change. WSU has pulled out of the talks for moving Apple Cup. The beloved tradition will continue! I am thrilled and proud of all the Cougar fans that voiced their opinion and got the right thing to happen. Go Cougs!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Keeper of the Flame

I wrote in my most recent blog about Governor Palin's Right to Life Speech. I decided to try my hand at making a video tribute with my favorite part of the speech as the centerpiece. I'm debuting it here. I hope you like it, thanks for taking the time to watch.
video

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Heart Condition

Do you know what the fight or flight response is? Most have heard of it. Basically whenever we feel that we are under physical threat our bodies get us ready to fight or run away. Some also add in the freeze response. A huge part of that response is driven by the heart. It rushes blood out to our extremities. This actually causes little micro tears in our blood vessels. So, at the same time it is rushing blood through our system there is also a rush of cholesterol which acts as a glue that repairs all the tears. Fascinating stuff.

Well, the fight or flight response does not just get started when we are under physical threat, it also does when we are feeling emotionally threatened. It is called the stress response. The emotional equivalent to fight or flight is anger and fear. They are protective emotions and they serve a purpose. But, if we are constantly under threat we are constantly feeling stressed, fear and/or anger. The heart gets all overworked. Things like cholesterol gets out of control.

In my work as a mental health therapist I use biofeedback techniques one of which is Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training. In doing this training I have learned some fascinating things about the heart. Guess what it doesn't just pump blood.
The heart is also a gland. That means it produces hormones. One of those is a hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is nicknamed the "bonding hormone." It is the hormone that is present when we feel attached or bonded to people. For example, Oxytocin floods the body of a woman giving birth. That is part of the immediate connection a mother and her child have with one another. When the heart is messed up, so is the production of Oxytocin. Our connection with one another is damaged.

The heart has glia, which is neuronal material. That's right your heart has its own little brain. The heart has memory. The heart is the center for emotion. Also, the heart has an incredibly strong connection to the brain itself. In fact the communication between the heart and brain is dominated by the heart. When the heart is healthy brain function improves. When the heart is in the middle of the stress response the brain has difficulty making rational decisions.

Why the heck am I blogging about this? The reason is I see the anger and the hate and the vitriol that seems to be infecting American society on every side. I am shocked by it.

I think one of the prime examples is looking at the treatment of Sarah Palin not just during the campaign but continuing. Here is a person who agree with her or not is at the very least good and decent. Yet, people either love her or hate her. Why the hate? I just don't get it. I watched a speech she gave tonight at a pro-life event. I was touched by her realness. She got teary eyed when speaking about the birth of her precious little son. I wonder how can anyone hate her? Disagree with her fine, but anger and hate?

(Here's a link to watch the speech, I highly recommend doing so, it was amazing:

http://www.conservatives4palin.com/2009/04/right-to-life-dinner-video-live-feed.html

She is not the only example. And by no means do I think that people on the other side of me politically are the only ones that are so angry and hateful. If you ever read comments after news articles and such you see this back and forth vileness being spewed out. It is so disheartening (and yes I say that intentionally).
So, the effect of all this anger and hate and fear is that it is damaging our hearts. We are more stressed than we need to be. We are not connecting with each other. And we are not allowing ourselves to speak rationally with each other especially when we disagree.

The Scriptures say that in the last days men's hearts shall fail them. I must say that I am deeply concerned by what I see today.

I myself want to make a concerted effort to improve my heart health. Here's another thing. A person can be brain dead and still be alive. But, if the heart stops thats it. The heart always wins. Get in touch with your heart. You can do it by breathing deeply. Also, you can change the way you feel. I think most of us recognize how quickly we can switch to anger. But, guess what you can just as quickly switch to a positive emotion. One of the healthiest emotions cardiologically is appreciation. There is actually a change in heart wave patterns when a person switches to feeling appreciation. So, think about what you appreciate from your favorite food, to a favorite place, to holding one of your favorite people in your arms.

Get your heart healthy. We are going to need it in these trying times. You can learn more about the heart at HeartMath.com.
God Bless
Sarah

Friday, April 10, 2009

For Easter

I love the Savior Jesus Christ. He is my Savior in every way that I can think of, and in countless ways I have yet to realize. There is no better friend, and no finer hero. He is the source of all goodness. His Atoning sacrifice, I think, is one of the hardest things to explain in words. But, I know how it feels to have it applied in my life.

A story I heard while in Jerusalem really stuck with me, and I wanted to share it here. My classmates and I were doing a walking tour of the last week of Christ’s mortal life. We came to a spot near the ancient Temple grounds. Our group leader told us about Neil Armstrong’s visit to Jerusalem years ago. When he was in the same spot we were, he asked his tour guide if there was one spot where it was known for sure that Christ would have walked. The tour guide pointed out that there at the steps leading to the gates to get into the Temple grounds Christ most surely would have walked. Neil Armstrong then went over and stood on the steps and turned to his group and told them that it meant more to him to be standing in that spot than it did to walk on the moon. After hearing that story I too went over to that spot and took a picture of my foot on the steps.

My time there in Israel is still one of the great highlights of my life. I have wonderful memories of being in holy places. My two favorite places on the planet are The Garden of Gethsemane and the Galilee region because of spiritual experiences I had there.

But, one of the themes that my group had was to not only walk where Christ walked but to walk how he walked. That is something that I have continued to try to do.
As this Easter approaches I have thought more about that. There is so much work that I need to do in my own life. Christ is many things, and one of those is that He is our greatest example.

I need to be kinder. I need to be more forgiving. I need to see others more as Christ would see them.

I know this is a short post. But, I just wanted to encourage all of us this blessed Easter season to think more about walking how He walked. A while back I was thinking about my gratitude for the Savior and wondering how best to express that to Him. I actually made it a matter of prayer. The answer to how best to thank Christ was spoken pretty clearly to my heart, By the way you live your life.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

To Be Filled

A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Native American Sweat Lodge. I had been working at Native American Connections in Phoenix for a while and so had been able to witness and participate in several traditions and ceremonial experiences. I was touched by the chance to participate in the Sweat Lodge which many consider to be a sacred ceremony. Having that experience made me understand better why it is revered in that way.

I do not want to go into too much detail, because I do not wish to offend the Native culture. But, I will say that I was moved by the chance to reflect, to be near others, and to pray in the heart and out loud for others. It was humbling.
When asked about it later, I noted that for me it was akin to fasting. I found that there in the Sweat Lodge I felt a cleansing, of being emptied out of impurities and filled up with gratitude and with love for others. That is what I experience often with fasting.

I had the opportunity again today to fast. When it is done with sincerity the experience is the emptying out of food so that you can be filled with The Spirit.
It’s a simple and yet profound concept.

As I have reflected on these experiences, Sweat Lodge and fasting, I have wondered about other areas in our lives where this concept ought to be applied.
If we want to be filled with understanding we must first empty ourselves of presumptions and misinformation. If we want to be filled with faith we must first empty ourselves of doubt. If we want to be filled with love we must first empty ourselves of hate.

Why is it that we cling so much to things that just are not good for us? I have been saddened again and again to see the hate and belittlement that is thrown around at people. If some do not agree with each other than far too often the response is to dismiss and just spew out insults. I have seen that especially in comment sections on internet stories. There will be these back and forth fightings with words that serve no purpose other than to degrade.

Why not just empty ourselves of it? Let the anger, the assumptions and the hate go.
When we are truly willing to empty it out we can be filled with something else.
This is a very individualistic experience. It’s one that of necessity requires humility and the acceptance of whatever it is that God would have you be filled with.

The greatest thing we can be filled with is charity, the pure love of Christ. That is something that I try to continually seek. To have charity means that you can see others as Christ sees them. He is moved by compassion towards all of us, even those who despise Him. We too ought to be able to be filled with such love even towards those with whom we disagree.

I realize this may seem to have very little to do with being Conservative. But, it is everything to do with who I want to be as a person. When I break down my most basic relationship with others, I see myself simply as a sister. If I am truly to live up to that I have much to empty myself of, and much to be filled with. I want to be able to work with others with an unconditional positive regard for them.

There in that Sweat Lodge I felt connected to not just my Native American sisters there, but also to humanity in general. It was good to empty myself to a purer form, even if the moment was relatively fleeting. Moments like that give you hope that more moments can happen and with greater duration.

Life is truly about what we become. What will I, what will you be filled with?