Thursday, 31 May 2012 0 comments

Keep going

I remember several occasions when I have felt down right awful about something I have done wrong.

I’d spend hours, even days trying to feel better about it. I’d pray all the time, I’d read scriptures, seek reassurance from church leaders or family. 

One devastating consistent phrase I had entering my head was ‘the Lord was slow to hear their cries because of their iniquities’.

This is a verse of scripture in Mosiah. The anxiety and distress at this would be enormous. This must be the reason I don't feel an answer or forgiveness.

Are all my efforts in vain because the Lord has stopped being willing to hearr me because of my sins? Am I past feeling maybe? Is he not answering because ‘In the day of my peace I esteemed lightly his counsel', but now I’m in trouble I 'feel after him’? (another scripture this time from D&C)

These all must be true as that’s what the scriptures say and I can find evidence of being slow to turn to the Lord. I mean I don’t always say my prayers morning and evening. I don’t always study the scriptures daily and I can identify a million and one things I’ve done wrong.

I’m the most hopeless person alive. I can’t even get out of bed I feel so hopeless. To get out of bed is just pretending things are ok. I must do something drastic, like lose my life for his sake and try to bargain or reason with God. 'Give me an answer and I'll devote everything to you forever'.

It’s lucky the church doesn’t have monasteries because I’d be in one having left my whole life behind and I'd be wearing sackcloth and ashes, whipping myself and praying non-stop.

Today, I have learnt something as I read the scriptures where the phrased that plagued me were. It’s simply this – Keep Going.

I honestly have never noticed before, but from the same verse that the Mosiah quote is from and the verse immediately following the D&C verse are these lines

‘nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens......And it came to pass that they began to prosper by degrees in the land ......’ (Mosiah 21:15-16)

‘Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.’ (D&C 101:9)

The Mosiah scripture tells us that despite being slow to hear their cries, he did still hear them and not only that but he helped them. He did prosper them by degrees.

The D&C scripture even tells us that ‘notwithstanding’ their sins the Saviour would be filled with compassion and remember mercy.

If I had ever Kept going and read a little bit more I could have found some comfort to the worry I had.

Even though I felt He wasn’t listening; He was.
Even though I felt He won’t forgive my wrongs; He will.
Even though I felt He woudln't help; He would

We don't need to fix everything today. We don't need the definitive answer today. This is no longer faith, this is demanding an answer. A large part of our faith will be the fact we don't have that answer but continue anyway. We must trust that he will help us by degrees, bit by bit.

It’s funny how we can have thoughts or interpret things to fit our mood or our current understanding, even if it’s wrong.

Feed the hope that is deep within you. Resolve to keep going before you let despair set in. There is nothing you have done that can separate you from the Lord and his atonement. 

Identify and ask some more questions of negative thoughts. Don't take a negative thought at face value.

Part of the answer may be in the next verse, in the next day or in the next conversation.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 2 comments

A new perspective on repentance

How long does it take to repent of something?

Would you guess a few days? A few weeks? A few years? A few decades?

From youth I have been taught about 4 steps to repentance, those being

1)Recognise that you have sinned
2)Remorse and feeling Godly sorrow for the sin
3)Restore what you can to right the wrong
4)Refrain from committing that sin again

While I think this is a nice way to encapsulate the necessary elements involved in repentance, it gives no attention or detail to timeframe.

The assumption, at least to me, is that also these must run in order from 1 to 4 and as soon as possible.

If we focus on such formulaic approaches to the gospel I believe, from experience, that we lose the reason for or the hope that should come from repentance. We can become consumed with ticking the boxes rather than having a cathartic experience where we get to breathe, ponder and develop.

My previous train of thought has been that I should be experiencing something Like Enos or Alma the Younger or Saul where my process of recognition to refraining is the same timeframe they have experienced. Enos prayed for around two days and got his answer, Alma saw an angel and then spent three days and nights being wracked with torment to receive forgiveness and Saul, it seemed like a few moments as far as the scriptures indicate.

My conclusion when thinking about these stories? These experiences are not the norm. Each story of repentance found in the scriptures highlights the recognizing, remorse, restoring and refraining in one nicely condensed chapter.

Maybe the purpose of these stories is to encapsulate the key points or factors of repentance. What these prophets chose to write were the most important points of the experience for future readers to get the most benefit. They are not to prescribe a time frame or pattern to how these things will or should unfold in our own lives.

It is far too rigid to say that we must recognise a sin, immediately feel guilty for it, restore what we can immediately and confess as soon as possible and then mentally say you aren’t going to do it again. And if you don’t do this quickly, you are not worthy and are unable to continue with life as you are being a fraud and living a lie.  It doesn’t and can’t work like that; at least I hope it doesn’t.

We will become so focused on each element or get stuck on one more than the others. By mentally focusing on the step-by-step process we don’t get to feel the hope and peace that comes from reaching the milestone of each part naturally.
Recognition - As we all do things wrong, more than likely on a daily basis, whether by committing a sin or omitting something that is right, and then potentially doing something wrong when we didn’t know it’s wrong at the time, we can become reduced to a quivering wreck thinking that we need to analyse every move we make to prevent a sinful act or at worst recognise it when it happens. This is not a happy way to live. I’ve felt this.

Have you ever realised at some later date that a previous action of yours was wrong? I have felt fine about something for a number of years, and only then have I recognised the error of my ways. If the above approach was taken, the world would come crashing down as I have just lived the last few years as a sinner. When I look back though, I would say I have been happy during those years, I would say I had spiritual experiences and I would have said that I had felt good about myself from time to time.

 Either those feelings were an utter lie and fabrication that I had made up, or it did actually happen that way. The Lord still blessed me and the spirit still came to me despite the fact I didn’t realise something was wrong. I could say the same for times when I had recognised the sin but maybe kept on doing it, or didn’t immediately move to the sorrow and remorse phase.

Remorse – I have spent time focusing on remorse, wondering if I am feeling bad enough or do I really understand the consequences of my actions, because only then would I feel bad enough. I have learnt a valuable lesson; you can never feel badly enough that it makes you feel better. If you are trying to feel as bad as you can about something, then you are facing the wrong direction. You will feel worse and worse and worse.

Correct me if I’m wrong though, isn’t that the point of repentance and the atonement that we don’t need to suffer this? The sorrow should be simply that we recognise it’s against the laws of God and we have not lived up to them, but there is a way to repair it.

Restore – No matter what sin we have committed, no matter who was the victim, we cannot restore fully that which was damaged by our sin. Any course of action we take, we do not have a ‘restore’ function like a computers hard drive. The only thing that would be effective is a time machine, and I’ve not seen one of those since I watched Back to the Future III.

So immediately we need to understand that we are restoring what we can, where we can. We will always have to rely on someone else to make up the difference or accept our incomplete offering. Even in a victim doesn’t accept, it is then up to the Lord to decide and rule. He may accept your offering even if the victim does not.

Refrain – This is an interesting one for me. An alcoholic who wants to refrain from alcohol and even attends AA meetings is more than likely going to have a relapse. Alcohol has become so much a part of his nature that he literally has to retrain himself, reprogramme his responses and change his circumstances. Relapses back to alcoholism, while not the end goal can even be helpful to getting to the end goal as it helps point out where there is still a weakness. We all, like the alcoholic have habitual or natural weaknesses and overcoming these immediately overnight is not a rational possibility.

Reading the scripture that says  ‘…but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return’ (D&C 82:7) strikes fear into the heart and you then feel like you are never free from your weaknesses so relapsing or making the same mistake again is comparable to spiritual death, or being imprisoned by your sins. I mean how can you argue with this? It’s scripture right??

I have an even more interesting scripture to hopefully support all of my points above

The Apostle Paul spoke of a Thorn in the flesh, ‘the messenger from Satan to buffet me’, that he obviously recognised as a weakness and even felt badly about it. So much so that he asked the Lord to make it depart from him.

Now we don’t know what this Thorn was, there has been much speculation from physical ailments, to temptations, to sins and even speech impediments. For my purpose it doesn’t matter what it actually was. It is the Lord’s reply that I think teaches the eternal principle

‘And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ 2 Cor 12:9

So the Lord says, I don’t need all of your challenges or weaknesses to be resolved. I could take them and remove them, but maybe you need that as it is the way I am able to be a part of your life and it is the main component of you realising you need me.

It can work this way because as the Lord says ‘My grace is sufficient’. The atonement will cover all errors we are striving to overcome.

We then find Paul saying he ‘glories in his infirmities’ and takes ‘pleasure in infirmities’ as this is what allows ‘the power of Christ’ to rest upon him, and say only when he is weak is he actually strong.

Despite this infirmity, we all know the Lord still used Paul and inspired him and blessed him and gave him revelations. He can do the same to us. If the Lord was looking for a perfect vessel to get stuff done, or for us to be perfect before he will deal with us, nothing would ever change.

Neal A Maxwell shared a story of Lorenzo Snow who, while being well acquainted with Joseph Smith, recognised what Joseph’s weaknesses were. Lorenzo Snow’s reaction to seeing Joseph’s imperfections was that he thought it marvelous that the Lord could still work through him, and that he then concluded that there was some hope for him.

For every person and for every sin the steps outlined above can come in any order. We may stop doing something wrong but not feel the sorrow or confess it right away. We might recognise the sin but not stop committing it right away.

It can take time to recognise and it can take time to feel the necessary sorrow, it can take time to restore and it can take time to learn how to refrain.

We can’t all change everything overnight. That’s why we have a lifetime and beyond to change our wrongs and weaknesses and an atonement to make up where we are completely unable.

I think this is what is meant by repentance, a hopeful attempt to make up for where we fall short. It is a process that when looked upon correctly is a motivation to be better and not a crippling way to punish ourselves or have God punish us.

This is a gentler, milder, more loving approach that I am beginning to think and hope is what is meant by repentance. Focusing on the steps or one individual step more than the others can only bring despair, hurt, fear and low self esteem. They will become a burden or a dam to our happiness, hope and progression, and unless I’m wrong that’s not what the Gospel proposes for anyone who commits a sin, even multiple times.

I believe the Lord wants us to think ‘what’s the right thing to do’, then try to do it. He wants us to act.  If we then find out we were wrong or we blatantly chose something wrong, then it can be dealt with and we can change. It might not be overnight or over three nights, but we’ve got the rest of our lives to find our way home. We are not to worry about wrong doing so much that it actually prevents us from doing anything good.

We can feel disappointed with life, ourselves and others, but we never have to feel discouraged.
Monday, 28 May 2012 0 comments

100 things I love in life

In an effort to be mindful of all the wonderful things I love in life I challenged myself to think of 100 things I like or love.

These are in no specific order

·         Bed – my memory foam bed
·         Sherlock Holmes stories
·         Drawing cartoons
·         Salted Butter
·         Listening to rain – when nice and warm in the house
·         Cuddling my wife
·         Singing in the car when I’m alone
·         Warm towels when just out the bath/shower
·         Milk Chocolate
·         Cinnamon candles – for anytime of the near not just Christmas
·         Bootcut jeans
·         Microsoft excel - Geek power
·         Yo mamma jokes
·         My kid’s sense of humour – both are hilarious
·         McDonalds fries
·         Snooker – watching and playing
·         Deep couches
·         Duvets – my item of choice if I can only have one
·         Rambo & Die Hard – Movies that bring out the caveman in you
·         My man bag
·         Sky plus
·         Quirky people - you know the ones, just a bit..... different!
·         Beautiful gardens (just don’t ask me to be the gardener)
·         Alone time
·         My wife’s excitedness - She's very exciteable
·         Reading ‘classic’ novels
·         Camp fires
·         Bacon and eggs
·         Notebooks & Diaries
·         Sunday afternoon naps
·         Cufflinks
·         Good aftershave
·         Window seats on planes
·         Comedians – Lee Evans, Mitch Hedberg and many others
·         Fresh bed sheets
·         Second hand bookshops
·         Card games
·         Clean teeth
·         Hotel stays
·         9 hours sleep – because it’s more than 8
·         Conspiracy theories
·         Tidy desk for work
·         Photoshop
·         Cheese & Onion sandwiches
·         Complaining/Moaning about stuff – Need to make this a dislike!
·         My wife’s baking
·         Making others laugh
·         Sunny days
·         Internet
·         ‘To kill a mockingbird’ book and movie - First insight into racism in my life
·         Fine line pens
·         Driving
·         Spending money
·         My Mum and Dad
·         Head scratches - I'd let you scratch my head all day long
·         Buffet restaurants
·         BB guns
·         Pocoyo
·         Go Karting
·         Cheesecake
·         Safari parks
·         Music – especially Funk music
·         Bentleys – but I don’t have one
·         Watching boring sports – bowling, darts, golf, table tennis
·         TV in my bedroom - which I don't have at present :(
·         Well ironed shirts
·         Watching and reading the news – BBC News and Fox News (for a laugh)
·         Egyptology – What the heck did they know that we don’t?
·         Pepsi Max - Normal or cherry I don't mind
·         Date nights
·         Finding money you didn’t know you had
·         Socks - Generally black socks
·         Good kitchen knives
·         Scarves
·         Fluffy carpets and bare feet
·         Getting stuff for free
·         Smartphones – HTC Desire just now
·         Welsh cakes
·         Comfy clothes
·         Fresh air
·         Yorkshire puddings
·         American TV dramas - Criminal minds, Mentalist, House, Lie to me and on and on
·         Swings in the park
·         Wales
·         Cooking meals – not baking
·         Clean car - inside and out
·         Cinema
·         Brown leather shoes
·         Headphones
·         Meringues
·         Basset Hounds
·         Truth
·         Photo’s of space - planets, galaxies, anything
·         Chinese takeaway
·         Documentaries
·         Ipods
·         Lake District - Like a second home to me
·         Salad sandwiches
·         Laughing so hard you can’t breathe

·         Bus journeys
Friday, 25 May 2012 0 comments

Best argument for being yourself I've ever heard

My Bishop at church said something to me a few weeks ago and it was simply this

'Just Be yourself'

Haven't been able to get this song out of my head since!!

If you don't smile at this on a Friday afternoon, there's something seriously wrong!!

Cameo - Just be Yourself

Thursday, 24 May 2012 1 comments

OCD - Nice to finally be introduced

Having looked around the internet I find that people with OCD all have a common obssession and compulsion - Talking about their OCD! At least online. With friends and family it may be a different story and something they hide.

At least online they can become a bit OCD about OCD.

There is something therapeutic in this though. The therapy of talking about it is the means whereby they can keep reminding themselves that it is OCD and that their thoughts are not real or justified. It helps relabel the thoughts as a symptom of a condition rather than a thought that means something deeply significant.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is essentially a person getting thoughts in their head that are disturbing, worrying or panic inducing. These can vary from person to person because just as each person is unique, so are the worrying thoughts unique to each individual. These thoughts compel people to perform some routine or ritual that will hopefully help calm them down and feel in control again. It never really works, but temporarily the compulsion may bring some relief.

Often the question asked by a sufferer of OCD is ‘Why am I having these thoughts?’

For over 10 years now I’ve always been told I am depressed or anxious. It ticked some boxes but never gave a full explanation. I was too scared to tell the doctor what my thoughts were about because I didn’t see the thought itself as a symptom, but something personal.

Within the last month I have felt the answer has come. I found information on Scrupulosity and Pure-O OCD. The descriptions found were really enlightening because it was the first time I could see my thought pattern and feelings perfectly described.

I went to share this with my doctor, and the key here was telling him exactly what my thoughts were about, and he confirmed that the thought itself is very much a symptom and it was necessary to look at the thought as well as the physical reaction for a diagnosis to be given.

He started me on a course of Clomipramine (Anafranil) 50mg to increase to 100mg after a time. All I can say is that things are slowly getting better and better.

I have previously been on many SSRI’s and had varying results. Seroxat didn’t work, Paroxetine (citalopram) kind of worked but I felt more anxious, Cipralex (escitalopram) was great and I was on this the longest, fluoxetine (prozac) had no beneficial results at all.

Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant that has been commonly used for treating OCD for decades. They believe it has largely been superseded by SSRI’s (probably why escitalopram worked well for me) because they tend to have less side effects, but since taking this new medication I feel things are better than they have been for a long time.

I am also seeing a counsellor and will be starting CBT within the coming months.

I’ve felt crap on and off for 13 years and now I have a diagnosis that feels right and explains how I feel, I am going to do absolutely everything I can do make life better.

I need to remind myself that it is OCD so I don’t get stuck in the thought spiral. Here are the keys that make me believe it’s OCD –

·         It all starts with a thought
·         The thought brings uncontrollable anxiety and panic attacks that are beyond control
·         I have a ritual of thoughts and actions I run through to try and find an answer for the the thought because I have to ‘fix’ it.
·         That ritual NEVER fixes it, but reassures for a few seconds, minutes and if lucky a couple of hours.
·         I withdraw from life and can’t function while I am battling with this process.
·         The fact I respond to medication indicates a medical condition

Here’s some information that has started the journey to save me –
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 0 comments

Broader thinking, while narrow is the way

This may be a long read, but hopefully worth it.

What do you think when you read this scripture?

'And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

It has been an assumption of mine from previous readings that the righteous here were all baptised members of the church who had known the Gospel and kept the commandments the best they could. However, this got me to wondering,  if that was the case there would be no need for them to ask the question ‘When’ did we do these things?

The fact this question is asked suggests these people either were trying to pin point the time they'd served the Lord directly and therefore didn't understand the Gospel concept that when serving others they were serving Christ, or they did not know anything of the Lord and his Gospel at all.

Either way these righteous people may not all be the temple recommend carrying members I initially thought.

Just like being baptised and holding a temple recommend doesn’t guarantee you Celestial glory, neither does not being baptised or a holder of a temple recommend exclude you from being righteous.

This might need explained more before some church member starts to hyper-ventilate.

Here's my thoughts why. If these people don’t know the Gospel or they don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ, it means they lived their lives performing acts of kindness and service because they wanted to and because it felt right. An act of kindness from one soul to another without any thought taken other than they wanted to serve and help.

For such people it could never have been a motivating factor that the church taught them it was correct. They had no feelings that they should do it because they are a member of the only true Church. No sense of doing it because they will be blessed if they do. No Eternal glory on the line if they don’t.

Rather than knowingly doing something because it’s Christlike, these people truly are Christlike, with no external motivations or compulsions.

Christ is looking for people who have these attributes as part of them. Without any prior knowledge they have gone with that instinct, that inner sense that something is right, and done it. They then have lived their life by this. They may not have ever had the scriptures or heard what prophets have said. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway because they were that kind of person of their own free will and choice.

Thinking along these lines suggests three basic attributes that must be part of us to be classed as righteous –

Seek to do the right thing – We must listen to our conscience. That spark of light or goodness in all of us that we can choose to embrace or supress. Give that small piece of Godliness within each of us the chance to flourish.

Love for our fellow man – We need to love other people. Love those people we are around. Realise they are just on the same journey as us and will face many of the same daily problems.

Be willing to help anyone – If there is someone in need, we will be willing to help with no thought for reward. We will be happy because of  that feeling we get for having been of use to someone who needed us.

The daily mistakes and transgressions of life through our own weakness, infirmities or lack of knowledge do not stop us because the Grace of Christ and the atonement can sweep those up if our characters and desires are right.

Being inside the church does not make a righteous person, nor does being outside the church make a person automatically unrighteous.

Narrow is the way, but as we are not the judge or the jury we must have broader thinking and not be so judgemental.

Being judgemental or making a ‘righteous judgement’ creates a hard black and white approach to life where you certainly think you know where you stand but this doesn't allow for any error, kindness or gentleness. It even makes the times you are showing love and concern based upon certain criteria.

I feel I should be less critical and judgmental of others and myself. I am ultimately not my own judge. I must be willing to let Christ judge me. I have no doubt he would be kinder to me than I am to myself anyway.

We are to live our lives the best we can. We are to go to work and have families and have friendships and live the human experience to the fullest with the guides being what we are fortunate enough to learn along the way and what our conscience tells us. Let's not judge others or ourselves too harshly. That job is for someone much better than us.

Friday, 18 May 2012 0 comments

Writing therapy

This blog is going to be about my life, it’s fantastic times, challenges, unique situations and therapy.

I have often thought that the idea of writing a blog was quite an indulgent thing to do if it is about your own life, and not some ‘interesting’ subject that is of use to people.

I understand the connotations of what I have just typed – I have implied that I am not interesting to others.

However, I have come to a conclusion recently that it is not up to me whether my life or what I write is found to be interesting. It may not be interesting and a rollicking good read, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be helpful to me, or someone else for that matter.

I suppose in choosing to blog rather than keep a personal handwritten journal is twofold.

Firstly, hoping something you write may be of use to others.  While looking online I have found blogs and websites that I can relate to, that help me understand my own life and its quirks. Who’s to say whether someone might benefit from something I post? They also might not, but you’d never know unless you tried.

Secondly, a personal journal would not give the sense that my thoughts are being exposed to another. This in itself is quite a freeing concept. While sorting out my own thoughts and challenges I feel like a blog exposes and shares the process with other people. They may choose not to read it, but the fact it is there to be read is enough to make it feel more like a shared experience rather than a solitary moment.

I'm going to keep a personal journal, and then use all of those ramblings, distill it down into a more cohesive idea and then blog about it.

Here’s what convinced me

About me – I have what you may call a blessed life. There really isn’t very much for me to complain about. I was raised in a great family with great parents and great siblings. I am also married with a beautiful wife and beautiful children. I have always had the opportunity to get a job, to study and generally do what I choose. My only challenge in life has been depression, anxiety and potentially Pure-O OCD. I say ‘potentially’ because this is a new diagnosis that was always explained away as anxiety or depression. However, it feels like a better fit and more accurately describes my thinking and general life. This blog is part of that journey. Oh and I am a Mormon or Latter-day Saint, hence the title of my blog.