Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Display A New Spirit

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.” Mark 16:9-12

It is perhaps only a cold comfort, but comforting it is, to learn that the Apostles were as cynical and materialistic as we can be today. Not one of them would believe what they hadn't seen with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, or touch with their own hands. Thomas is only the most famous doubter of them all, used by Jesus as an example, and a foil, for teaching (again!) about cynicism and implicit trust.

The Apostles grew up being told that God’s presence was obvious in the miracles He performed. He punished those who offended Him and blessed those who obeyed the rules. And, those men who became church leaders were also rich, proving that those who obeyed all the rules very carefully were blessed the most. Finally, God would occasionally send angels to His chosen people to tell them His messages. So their whole attitude was that for God to be present, He had to show Himself in some concrete way. When Jesus said things like, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father,” He was introducing an entirely new idea.

This idea may be new to us, too! How do we expect the Lord to show up in our life? Could it be that the Lord can show Himself to us only to the degree that we first trust in Him? How many opportunities to be blessed have we missed because we stopped to wonder whether the Lord would bless us or not? How many visions of the Lord's love in people have we missed because we wanted proof of the person’s reliability, or because they didn’t look like us? How many people have we hurt when we refused their testimony because it didn't jibe with the evidence of our own senses, the fallibility of which we conveniently ignore? How many times have we been right instead of kind?

If my physical senses were more powerful in my life than the evidence of my spirit, then perhaps I would believe if I had had seven devils cast out of me. If that is the way the Lord reveals Himself to me then I could believe anything. If there is no reliable witness beyond my five senses, then if some slick operator played on my grief and passed himself off as Jesus, doing some slick disappearing trick, I would be gullible enough to believe.

So my belief in my Savior is not based on sense experience. It is much more firmly based than that. And it is not irrational or nonsensical; it is not intellectually empty. It is not dependent on my ideas, but on the internal evidence, the reasoning power of love, which I know I do not originate. My belief in my Savior excites my emotions, moves my spirit, and feeds my soul. My belief in my Savior motivates me to seek the balance of influences; to reject cynicism and materialism and join my beliefs and my feelings together into a coherent whole. I believe God is a spirit, and I am completely convinced of His actuality. I may not be able to see Him with my physical eyes, but I believe the report of His Word and my whole experience.

We can thus celebrate His resurrection displaying our spirit in broad daylight. Our love of what is good and true and our belief in His mercy will bring something new into the world. He will be the visible God living in us for all to see!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ya See...

According to the God's Word, there is a distinction between prediction and perception. Prediction is foresight, seeing future events in the present. Perception, on the other hand, is being so present you can have assurance about the future.

I don’t know how many times I have made predictions, thinking I was being so perceptive. In helping people I have occasionally made suggestions. There have been many times that I said, “If you do A, then B will happen” as if I was in control of the outcome of their behavior! That certainly works in physics, but not in the realm of human nature.

The times I have perceived something, I was not led to announce to someone what he or she ought to do! Rather I was led to see something about them (or me!) that led me to do something for them! My concern was not for what happened next, WHAT they would then do. Rather it was that my love for them - in their present condition - was FELT.

Perhaps this is a subtle distinction between prediction and perception. Certain behaviors inevitably lead to certain results. We can say we can predict them. And you may have a perception about a certain situation that tells you something about how it will end. But there is a great difference between your attitude about what is going to happen and your perception about the state of current affairs.

When you predict the future, all the various paths you might take are, in your thinking, closed off to you (even though in reality they might be good paths to take). When you perceive something about your present and where you are heading - like the bad feeling of a guilty conscience - that will motivate you to action. You still take a specific path – if you change your behavior - but your attitude is one of the searching for the Lord’s will.

Predictions, which take the path of least resistance, are most often negative and loud. It takes less spiritual energy to negate something than to create something new. This is why it is easier to tear something down and to build it. Putting things into order is a slow process; shaking them into disorder is very fast, as shown by hurricane Katrina. Predictions are loud because in themselves they are weak. Internally, predictions are a lot of hot air. And, as we all have done, when we want our ideas to win, regardless of their merit, we shout them. Surely, therefore, you have found yourself yelling “Ya see, I told you so!!”

Predicting is easy. Perception is scary. You can make a prediction and walk away, as it were - even if it is your own life you are making the prediction about. When you perceive something about your life, you are immediately challenged to change. And, what is more, you challenge yourself within your own mind. This perception is the Holy Spirit reaching into your mind. The feelings you have are reawakened feelings for what was good planted in your mind by the Lord since your infancy.

Thus the Word encourages us to pursue a life that will prepare the soil of our minds for the planting of perception. “No one can see with perception what he does no know and believe. Thus no one can be granted an ability to see perceptively any good of love or truth of faith except through cognitions [concepts], which enable him to know what good and truth is and the nature of it.” (Arcana Celestia n.1802) I can make predictions without any understanding of the matter. However, an assurance that I am making the correct choice - a perception of good and truth - can be given only to the degree that I know and believe what I am considering. (And remember that belief involves loving and doing what is known).

While it is easy for me to pronounce, “Ya see, what I think is...” it is much more delightful, more deeply satisfying, and much more useful to those around me if I be quiet and allow the Lord to speak to me through the love for truth He has planted in my unconscious mind and through conscience. It is better to perceive that predict!