Monday, March 28, 2016

Peeking Into Paradise - In Pictures

Beloved and I went for a walk on Friday, which in Hawaii, happens to be Prince Kuhio Day - a lovely little holiday honoring the last prince of Hawaii, who was never allowed to claim his throne, and so, he became a statesman and represented his people in the Hawaiian Congress.

So, we ended up at the Valley of the Temples. For those of you who have not been there, it's a very large cemetery on the leeward side of the island (about 16 miles south of us). This particular cemetery boasts a sea view (well, if you look just over there to the left.....you might just catch it).


So, do you see it? We were literally at the top back corner of this extremely large cemetery, and that's all we saw.

Doesn't matter, the place is still gorgeous.

The most famous section of the park if the Byodo-In Temple. I wrote about that a while ago. It is an exact replica of a famous temple in Japan. It's a lovely place to visit.


One of the charming aspects of Valley of the Temples are the many faith based or family based memorials, mausoleums and chapels.


One way or another, everyone was represented.









Some of the more unusual markers











 Two tributes really touched my heart. I hope you take a moment to read the sentiments:

"In response to the promise of liberty, opportunity, justice, and freedom of religion, we left our native lands which we loved so dearly and, coming from the farthest corners of the world, we arrived in America. We fished her waters, farmed her fields, worked in her factories, sold her produce and realized that here in this beautiful land, we had fulfilled our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children. Now united as one people, we work toward our goal of living as equal Americans.

God bless America and the good people who made her strong.

Such an excellent point. Most all of our citizens came from somewhere else. It is our ancestors who dreamed of freedom, and longed for dignity. They came and worked hard, sacrificing even their loved ones back home to partake in the bounty offered in this new world. These are our people, and we are theirs.



First Resurrection

Dedicated to the memory of those members of the Iglasia Ni Christo (Church of Christ) who  have steadfastly and unwaveringly labored and served in the name of our Lord Jests Christ and almighty God, for they shall take part in the first resurrection:

...and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God, they had not worshipped the beast, or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years, and this is the first resurrection.

Blessed and holy are they who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelations 20:4-6 - NEV)


What better place to honor the knowledge that we will all be resurrected than this sacred place of rest for so many loved ones?





I felt such peace and love here. Months ago, on our first visit, Beloved and I saw families who were litrealy having a b'bq with Grandpa. An elderly Asian woman was set in a comfy old beach chair next to her husband's headstone.  The son cooked on a portable grill. The wife and children tended to the gravesite, weeding, changing out the flowers, .... and they were laughing, and loving and enjoying their day. No sorrow - because they knewthat they would be together again.

I'm so glad we came here this weekend. It has made the resurrection so alive and real to me. I have no fear of death. Why should I? My Heavenly Father loves me, and will welcome me to paradise with open arms when it is my turn. I have great confidence that my family is there too - all of them. Because they are good people. Because they also are children of God. Because he loves them as much as I do. I miss them, but I no longer grieve for them, because they are still my family exactly as they've always been. How grateful I am for that knowledge and that comfort.

So, to round up my little tour of the Valley of the Temples, let me tell you about an added bonus. There is a dear little section for one's beloved pets, which considering what we discovered next, got me to wondering.

You see, the cemetery is literally overrun by cats.

Dozens and dozens of cats!


Kinda creepy, kinda fun, kinda stinky.

A woman was walking around the spacious grounds with a large container of cat food, pouring a little here, a little there. None of them looked like they were starving.

I don't suppose they get to use that pet section when they head off to kitty heaven but they sure seem to be having a marvelous time while they're still alive.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thoughts on "Fun, Happiness and Joy"

The following are my thoughts on the difference between Fun, Happiness and Joy and the significance in each. I have been working on this thought for years and hope it provides you with some opportunity to reflect on the beauty and importance of the Gospel of Christ in our lives.

Have you ever noticed when a child does something funny, that they want to do it again....and again ... and again until, it's no longer funny? They liked what happened. They liked how it felt. They want to feel it again. Much like a lab rat trained to press a button for food, stimuli, or medication.... people who prioritize 'fun' prioritize immediate needs.

1st Corinthians 13:11 reads: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.



Fun is a childish thing. It's the playgrounds, the funny movies, the trips to Disneyland. It's a double-dare, seat of your pants type of experience. Fun can be selfish, it can be rude and insensitive. Fun can also be relaxing, entertaining and lighthearted. It can form bonds or throw up walls. It all depends on personal preferences and values.

I love to have fun. I love to laugh, to play, to have a great and enjoyable time. But people cannot sustain themselves on 'fun'. Fun is temporal and temporary, and is never satisfactory in the long term. In fact, fun is best in doses, a break from normal life. Otherwise, it becomes commonplace and worse yet, expected.


Happiness

For many people, achieving happiness is mistaken for the lesser goal of 'having fun'. They become convinced that having more 'fun' will make them 'happy'. But I have discovered that happiness is neither immediate nor based solely on pleasure. Rather, it comes from obtaining a level of satisfaction from a job well done, a perfect moment in life, a beautiful site or condition. Happiness feels secure, and in this crazy world, security is everything.

But even happiness is ultimately temporary. That new car will not always be shiny. The adorable baby may become a moody teen. That spouse will pout or yell or get angry. That perfect house will someday be old and worn down.




And then?

That depends on your attitude and your ability to adjust to change and challenges. It also depends on where you focus your priorities. As we move away from selfish pleasures, we move towards genuine happiness. The type that actually sticks to your ribs, so to speak.

I have met people in Peru living in the most dire of situations who found happiness in their hard work, their daily devotion and most of all, in the people they love. Conversely, I have found people with great wealth who never seemed to know a day's happiness. I'm not saying that there aren't people with money who are happy, even very happy. But it's not based off of what they have, but rather, who they are and what they cherish most in life. Happiness, I have discovered, comes from one's ability to appreciate and own who they are, and where they are going. Happiness takes work, especially the ability to live beyond the focus of here and now. 

Yet even happiness has limitations. I believe that this is because happiness is an emotion - one that can change in a flash, simply based off of what is happening in that moment. So, happiness, while wonderful, is still somewhat short-sighted for followers of Christ. Let me illustrate:

When Moses went to the Mount to learn of and bring back the higher law, the newly freed Hebrews, fearing they had been abandoned, built images of the gods taught to them by the Egyptians. Through these actions they proved that they were incapable of understanding the depth and purpose of the higher law, which was the law eventually introduced by Christ during His mortal ministry. 

The Hebrews saw their circumstances as diminished, because they could not keep site of the ultimate goal, which was to be reintroduced into their true position as 'the chosen people'. Great rewards awaited them, but because they could not see themselves as 'free', they turned back to what felt comfortable and easy, hoping that it would address their fear and bring back some physical safety..

And yet, God was merciful. Rather than 'punishing' the Hebrews, Heavenly Father actually showed great patience.  He recognized that the Hebrews were incapable of living the higher law given to Moses at that moment. So he gave them the lesser or Aaronic law instead. This law spoke of truth in a way that they could understand, where there were consequences to one's actions, and where good behavior was rewarded and bad behavior was punished. It worked off of the basic formula that 1+1=2, and where doing "this", while not doing "that" would bring you happiness. Therefore, we see that happiness is conditional.





Happiness is a gift, something to be cherished and sought. But I see it more as a classroom, training us when we're ready to seek even more for ourselves and others, which is the ultimate source of happiness.....

Joy

According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, joy is "a condition of great happiness coming from righteous living."  I agree. True joy is an eternal principal.

Joy is based on a noble desire to serve the highest law, which the Lord, himself provided for us. It is a desire and focus of serving and loving others beyond the instinctual attitude of 'what's in it for me'. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate reward. It is love in it's purest form.

Think about a time when you felt true joy.

I know of one particular experience that brings me great joy to this day. I am a convert to the LDS faith. That said, I had a wonderful childhood, filled with loving parents and great experiences. I joined the Church as an adult, where II learned that families could be united forever through temple ordinances. I was the only member of my family, but I longed for the same experience as families raised in the faith - one of eternal vision and ties. I worked to build that type of family with my own husband and children. But I found myself wishing that I had come from such roots, and that I had the knowledge and (quite honestly) the courage to offer those eternal bonds to my parents and siblings. Luckily, I know that Heavenly Father loves and blesses all His children. I know that He provided a way for everyone to have the chance to hear, and decide for themselves whether they could know and follow the Savior of the World. This news gave me much joy when I first learned about it back in 1976 and comforts and guides me to this day. Heavenly Father is a God of love, forgiveness and equity.....and, He honors and upholds family bonds. 


2011 was a particularly rough year, as both of my parents left this mortal existence. I love them and miss them greatly to this day.

But in 2013 I received a great blessing. I knelt at an altar in a temple of the Lord with two of my children and my husband and were sealed to my parents and a sister who proceeded them into immortality. On this day, I felt a deep connection to the family I love so very dearly and miss so very much, and I felt pure joy.

As my husband, children and I entered the Celestial Room of the temple afterwards, I looked up and saw a beautiful depiction of two loving parents and their daughter sitting in a beautiful, and obviously heavenly, garden. I could not contain the tears, knowing that this now was my legacy - my hope for the eternities. 


Again, I was enveloped in pure joy, and it was wonderful, glorious, and beyond description.

I have decided that, given the choice, I want to learn how to always choose joy. Notice that I said "learn". Being human, I am certainly not there yet. But I also know that I am - as are we all - a child of a loving and powerful Heavenly Father, and that from that truth, I have all of the keys necessary to achieve the eternal happiness offered through the atonement of Christ.




I have broken these thoughts down into a table format - which always helps me when I'm working my way through a complex thought:

Feeling
FUN
HAPPINESS
JOY
Focus
Operating from a physical condition -
Carnal/Temporal
Operating from an emotional condition - Emotion based
Operating from a God-like condition (pure and selfless)
Eternally based
Duration
Momentary
Conditional ("This happened, so I feel happy")
Eternal
Pro
Easily obtainable (at first)
Satisfying. Sanctioned by God.
Leading to eternal progress.
Eternal - the ultimate goal
Con
Short – even addictive in nature. 
Difficult to maintain long term as temporal beings ("That was difficult, so I am no longer happy")
Unusual even to achieve (at first). Takes study, faith, trial and error and commitment. 
When obtained
Based on physical/temporal gratification
Based off of a simplified view of God's law - “Do this to get that”
Based on eternal principals - Sacrifice, mercy, charity, faith.
Scriptural base
Mosiah 3:19  For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ……
2 Nephi 5:27  And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.
2 Nephi 2:25  … men are, that they might have joy.