Saturday, April 25, 2009

So Grandma Mary is dead

It happened just a few days ago. I've been reading Plato's Phaedo about how death isn't to be feared and we should look forwards to directly comprehending absolute truth and then an email comes in saying death is real to me right now because Grandma Mary died. I've felt emotionally kind of dazed, sort of unable to sort it all out. I think the worst thing about it is feeling like I never really had a chance to know her. Chalk it up to my just not being socially aware, or maybe it was so taboo to speak of I don't know, but I hadn't even realized who Grandma Mary was or how she fit into the family story (she was a step grandmother actually... way more story to it than would be appropriate to blog), and then not so long after she's dead. Feel like I only really met her once, though part of that is because at the one family reunion I might have spent some time there was no one my age and the adults were boring me so I spent the entire event secluded reading a book. I knew her death was going to be soon, but I thought she had a couple of months left to her. In any case, I've emotionally stabilized for now in my own confused un-self-aware way. I just arrived in town for the memorial service today, so we'll see how long that lasts. In the meantime I'm enjoying seeing family members that I haven't seen for a while.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Be careful what you boast...

So a while ago Bonnie Jean and I went to Ihop and we tried some of their crepes. I don't recall the name of the dish, but I recall telling Bonnie that I was pretty sure I could make it better myself. Imagine a crepe filled with scrambled eggs, a few vegetables, and covered with holandaise sauce. At that point my taste buds are screaming, way too much egg, where's the seasoning?, and why can we only put a very few different vegetables on any given dish? So Bonnie Jean started craving this dish, and remembering that I claimed I could do better so she asked me to give it a whirl. I kept the scrambled eggs in the middle, but a lot fewer of them, seasoned with a little italian seasoning, and mixed with onion, green pepper, and mushroom. Along side the egg went avacado, tomato, swiss cheese, and chicken marinated in a lemon pepper sauce. I replaced the holandaise sauce with a garlic and oregano flavored white sauce. The marinade was Bonnie Jean's idea, and really made the recipe.

I definitely like my creation better than Ihop's, but I'd better be careful with my boasting at restaurants, Bonnie Jean might ask me to pull through with it again, and even if I succeeded experiments like this are a lot of work.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weaknesses becoming Strengths

Today’s General Conference talks included some mentioning of weaknesses being strengths that really touched a chord in me. I’ve been intending to blog on this subject since coming across it while reading Tad Callister’s “The Infinite Atonement” but I just hadn’t gotten around to finishing the post. Since conference discussed the subject so beautifully I figured I would finish it.

I think the doctrine of weaknesses turning into strengths as commonly discussed among the LDS people if often very underdeveloped. I’m passionate on this subject because it came up when I tried to go on a mission. There was a suggestion that if I simply prayed with enough faith my Aspeger’s syndrome would disappear and I would meet the new qualifications for missionary service because the scriptures promise that weak things shall become strong in Ether 12:27.

The context for this passage I find all important. Moroni is praying for greater eloquence in writing. Most of us stop reading and start the Sunday School lesson right where the Lord tells Moroni that his weakness will be turned to a strength. But we miss the beauty of when the Lord tells Moroni that his lack of eloquence actually has a reason in the divine plan, that with this lack of eloquence God intends to test to latter day readers on their charity and humility. Instead of overwhelming the readers with powerful rhetoric, Moroni’s words are supposed to be a test to see if latter day readers will humble themselves enough to have charity towards Moroni and see past his writing to the inspiration of the Lord behind it. (See Ether 12:26 and 35). But the scriptures never actually say Moroni’s writing was improved.

There are nuanced reasons why our weaknesses are often not changed to strengths when or how we’d like them to no matter how much faith we have. Consider the story of the man born blind, who the apostles asked if was born blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents. The sublime answer was “neither, but that the Glory of God may be made manifest.” It wasn’t a lack of humility or of faith or of failing to ask for the blessing that had failed to transform the weakness into a strength. It was for the Glory of God. Most of us stop reading right there. We are so caught up in the beauty of the act of healing manifesting the Glory of God that we don’t consider that Christ didn’t say the healing had been done for the Glory of God (though it showed it), it was the birth in blindness. It would be very inconsistent with the love of God if an entire life was darkened in blindness just so that Christ could have a moment of glory healing him. I think one way or another Christ really meant that something about the man’s life being blind helped bring about the purposes of God in his life and the life of others around him, and that the healing just was a very powerful way of showing that no sin was involved. I think anyone with a family member afflicted with a weakness that they’ve learned to love as part of the person will be able to testify that in the weakness the Glory of God is manifest because dealing with those weaknesses transforms us. Our capacity to love is enhanced.

Another reason weakness might not be removed is that having them causes us to build compensating strengths that, in the eternal perspective, are more urgently needed. The prime example that we ignore all too frequently is that weaknesses bring humility, which is an essential characteristic for our perfection. The scriptures speaking on the subject in Ether 12:25-37 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 emphasize this as the central function of weakness. By emphasizing faith and humility as the only steps necessary to change a weakness to a strength, as we often do when we read the classic verse in Ether out of context, we misunderstand humility. It is more than having the faith to be healed. Its following up any prayer on the subject of our weakness with “Thy will be done” and being willing to accept the answer if the Spirit tells us that our weakness exists so that the purposes of God might be made manifest.

I suggest a new attitude towards weakness. First, we should live worthy to be blessed and humbly pray for the alleviation. Second, we should believe that if faithful we will be blessed with “all that the Father hath” and know that that includes perfection in all things, coming line upon line, precept upon precept. Third, we should do as Paul directs and take joy in our weaknesses. As stated in 2nd Corinthians:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

With this new understanding we can find the peace promised by the scriptures in spite of afflictions and learn to accept the blessing of God necessary to His purposes in whatever form they come in, whether to us they seem weaknesses or strengths. And, when God decides to bless us to be able to do His will by removing the infirmity whether in this life or the next, we will be ready and humble enough to accept it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Feeling flat

My rear wheel has an affinity for metal spikes. Yesterday as I was biking to work I chanced to look down at the sidewalk and see the remains of a glass bottle and thought to myself, "wow that could pop my tires." Less than a minute later I start feeling a rumbly feeling from underneath me. I dismount and discovered my rear wheel had no air. Even with running part of the rest of the way to work I was still late. Biking uses different muscles than running and I rarely run anywhere anymore. Anyhow, when I get to work I find a small metal spike in my tire. Not too unlike the last heavy wire that flattened me a long time ago. This inner tube is puncture resistant so it takes something nasty to get it.

In any case when I get back home I try to patch the tube. But it is not destined to go smoothly. One of my break pads is apparently cracked and despite my care it actually seems to come apart while I disengage the wheel. Then when I try to remove the inner tube I forgot (or did I never learn?) that the stem where the air is pumped in can be a little stuck in the rim of the wheel. Though I was trying to be gentle I manage to rip the inner tube right off the stem. So much for a patch job. To add insult to injury as I pull the tube out the last patch job (from the last time I got spiked) tears loose. Once I get the rest of the tube out I find another metal wire in my tube. So even if I hadn't ripped my stem off I would have needed 3 patches to fix it (one to repair the existing patch, one for the spike I found at work, and one for the wire) and I only have 2 patches left, so this tube was a gonner one way or another. After doing the customary search for additional sharp objects poking through the tire I fit one of my old tubes back in the wheel. I don't have any puncture resistant spares so I'd be a sitting duck for the thorns that litter this town. As one of my coworkers put it I might last on the way to the grocery store but not on the way back home. Before putting it back on I proceed to pump it back up. Wrong move. A fully inflated back tire is next to impossible to get on and off, at least when the break joints are stiff with dust and mud. So I take the air back out and put the wheel on. I finally get it screwed into position and start to reinflate it. During a break I try to give the wheel an experimental spin and it gets stuck. Closer inspection reveals that a lip of the tire that was firmly in the rim to start with decided to jump out. So I let the air out, reposition the tire in the rim, and reinflate. Then I realize I forgot to position the chain. So then I deinflate the wheel and remove it, put the chain back on properly this time and then reinflate it. By this time I'm tired of using the tiny hand pump I have for roadside emergencies and dig out my wifes full sized airpump. In no time I've got it up to pressure, which on this bike is 40-65 PSI. I'm really tired of pumping by now so I only bother pumping it to 45, though since I don't off road at all 65 would be better. I stand up, stretch, and listen with dismay as a swoosh of air comes out of the tire. I'm back to square one.

By this time I'm seriously sick of the entire business. Instead of tearing it apart again to see if my earlier patch job failed (this non puncture resistant tube had its share of thorns before I replaced it), whether I missed something poking through the tire, or whether I popped it myself by pinching it with my tools while I seated the tire in the rim... I just took it into the shop since the breaks needed fixing anyways. Theoretically, I'll be wheeling around again by the day after tomorrow.