The person behind the most obvious characteristic

I’ve been pondering how I can better love those around me. I have friends with all sorts of mental, physical, emotional, and religious challenges. From depression to anxiety to eating disorders, fibromyalgia, homosexuality, autism, substance addiction, to pornography addiction.

These things–especially depending on how often my friends mention or focus on it–often become the basis for how I perceive them.

“Jeff is a really good guy, even though he’s addicted to pornography.”

“Amy is super-productive for someone with depression.”

“Emily is really cool for a lesbian.”

“Alfred is the best divorced guy I know.”

And perceiving them this way is wrong.

Heavenly Father loves each of us because of who we are, not what challenges us. When we consider the eternal perspective, we must realize that what people many struggle with the most are not eternal aspects of their character.

The fact I spent the last six months incredibly depressed are not an eternal aspect of who I am. However, it taught me critical lessons about myself and empathizing with others and impacts my return to Father’s waiting arms.

My friends may experience pain and trials. They may be depressed, divorced, missing limbs, chemically imbalanced, same-sex attracted, or all of those.

They are children of a Loving God. They may or may not accept that fact. But I can. I can love them for who they are. I can love them for their eternal characteristics–characteristics that may be strengthened by their challenges.

So the way I perceive them, the way I love them must be informed that these trials are temporary. After mortality ends, none of these things will be challenges they face. Anxiety, depression, amputation, same-sex attraction, divorce, eating disorders, addiction, and so many other things won’t affect us any more.

Those then won’t be the things that define my perceptions of my friends. Nor should they be now. If I can change my above perceptions to:

“Jeff is a really good guy.”

“Amy is quite productive.”

“Emily is really cool.”

“Alfred is one of the best guys I know.”

Then I show the love Father does and I focus on their whole worth as God intended.

The people I meet are not defined only by their most obvious characteristic(s). Those characteristics and experiences might end up making them better people, but they are temporary. They will not last beyond mortality. And if I do not recognize that, I do myself and them a disservice.

Peace

As you might gather from reading the myriad things I blog about, there’s a lot going through my head.  It can get really loud in there.  Between over-analyzing almost everything I hear and thinking about far too many things, I find I need to do a clean-out nearly weekly.

I find the best thing for that is to attend an LDS temple.  The closest one for me is in Provo Utah, pictured below (link).

My appreciation to Kevin Miller photography for posting this picture.  He’s got a great eye.

Anyway, aside from being picturesquely located across the globe (an image search for LDS temples can back me up), temples provide a place where members of the LDS Church can go to worship God, perform saving ordinances for those who have died, and receive revelation.

I want to focus on the last point.  Because my mind is so busy, I face two big problems: (1) I have so much vying for thought resources (I’m describing my brain like a computer…) that it’s hard to take time to seek revelation, and (2) revelation comes so quietly that I often don’t recognize it, or I just ignore it.

Knowing this, I’ve tried to be more still mentally, but that hasn’t always worked.  At the temple, I choose to focus on only one thing: serving God and those who have passed before me.  In doing so, I quiet the other thoughts rampaging through my mind.  Peace comes.  Other important thoughts surface (think balls that have been underwater coming to the top–sometimes they surface and jump up, sometimes they just come to the surface.  Because I am at peace, the thoughts tend to come gently and one-at-a-time.  This allows me to handle each one in turn and set my thoughts (and my life) in order.

I leave refreshed and prepared to face another week.  I am grateful to live five minutes from one of the beautiful places of worship.  My consistent attendance and service therein have immensely blessed my life and have prepared me to face much more than I could have otherwise.

Experiences there and throughout my life have convinced me I have a loving Heavenly Father who cares about every experience I have.  And because He is a loving God, He loves each other person on Earth just as much.  We all experience different trials, but there are meant to prepare us to live with Him eternally.  Temple attendance brings me peace and clears my mind so I can focus on what is eternally important, and not just what my scattered mind tells me is important.

Me, the Bari-tenor

So I love to sing.  Not that I’m particularly talented, mind you.  I just love to do it.  For most of my semi-adult life (age 14 on) I’ve considered myself a bass.  I’ve got good low range (I bottom out around D2/C2–deep C or “the C below ‘low C'”) and I can push myself to reach E4 (F4 on a really good day–just above middle C (C4)).

And then one day, singing in my car I realizes there aren’t many cool songs for basses.  Thus I must improve my upper range and become a baritone or 2nd tenor.  Boy, that was fun.  So I’ve been experimenting with singing tenor in church choir.  Lucky for me, I live in an area where tenors are in plentiful supply (usually good tenors are the hardest to find at church).  Thus I have the ability to hear a good tenor in both ear and match where I need to pitch my voice.

Stretching my limits has been very fun.  I sang a song over summer that required a G4 (a step and a half above my normal max) that I had to falsetto, but it has been fun to learn to hear the higher range of notes.  Bass is easy to pick out because it is the lowest note you hear.

So anyway, I can sing bass better than most, and my tenor is coming along, if a little short on the upper end.  Either way I love it.

Worship

I love Sundays. I just do. They are probably my favourite days of the week. Each is slightly different and each has so many similarities.

Following the direction of the scriptures, Sunday is my day of rest. Regardless of how much homework I have, I choose not to do it on Sundays so my entire day can be spent in some form of worship.
Sound a little weird? Perhaps. But by worship I don’t mean saying recited prayers endlessly from sun-up to sun-down. I think that’s weird. I don’t think that would entirely encapsulate ‘worship.’
Worship to me is more. But because it is so abstract we will each have our own definition of what worship entails. Sunday (sabbath) worship to me involves service and friendship. It includes praying, study of the scriptures, and attending church. But it is more a way of living than a set pattern of activities every week.
This weekly pattern of worship (in whatever form I can find it each week) brings a renewal of strength (see Isaiah 40:31) that I’ve never found anywhere else. It recharges my batteries for the upcoming week. It makes me use my time more wisely throughout the week. It helps me build friendships. It helps me understand the mind of God because Christ said to know God is to have eternal life (see John 17:3), the greatest of all gifts. And that’s a gift I want. And a gift I want everyone else to share with me.
Why would you not want to share the greatest gift that one could receive?