Sunday, March 20, 2016

Your Story, You Chose the Ending

Life is all about having fun.  Being crazy and enjoying the adventure.

I perfectly remember the day many years ago as if it were yesterday.  I had just returned from serving a mission for my faith for two years.  I was working in a Steak House,  and I had a great day job,  I had a Firebird Pontiac  car, (that's another story) and I had friends for the first time in my life.   Everything was great, except me.  I was not happy.  I complained all the time, whined about everything to everyone and just plain hated life.

My Grandmother was my best friend and worst enemy.  We loved each other, but both of us were so head strong.  I still am.  We fought all the time,  especially before my mission.  We would fight and I would leave and slam the door determined I would not come back.  In a few days I would show up again and we would laugh and start over again.   She was an amazing  woman and I know she loved me.

One particularly hard day I complained to her about everything that was going on in my life.  She listened as I told her about everything that was wrong.  It was crazy.  Later that day as I sat whining at work my spiritual leader showed up and sat me down and gave it to me.  Come to find out my Grandmother had called him and reported to him how miserable I was about everything.  That's how she was.

He totally gave it to me.  Wow.  As it turned out it was one of those days when I was ready to listen and learn.  He totally told me how out of line I was with all my whining and complaining.  And then he gently but with a firm hand told me that no matter how bad life was, and he named everything I has been complaining about.  From my job to my car door my mom had just dented,  he went down the list.  When he finished going down the list he said "Brad,  no matter how life is treating you, no matter what is wrong, you have the choice to be happy.  If your car is damaged,  if your job sucks, you make the choice, you choose to be happy.  It's a choice".

For some reason I actually listened and learned.  Happiness is a choice.  I am in charge of how I feel and I have learned no matter what I can choose to be happy.  And I have learned that I still need to be reminded of that from time to time.  It does get ruff sometimes and I have to remind myself that I am ultimately in control of my own personal happiness.

Our lives are stories.  Stories that can change, inspire, motive, and move forward whether we like it or not.  Our personal stories can be what ever we want them to be, sad, boring, happy, exciting, we choose.

The first few years of my life,  actually the first 18 years were really hard.  I was abused and struggled everyday to be happy.   I served a mission for two years and for the first 9 months I struggled with learning how to be happy and how to write a story that had meaning.

After my mission I struggled with life and with all the challenges I was faced with.  Life is a struggle in so many ways.  But the best medicine in life is to put on our "Emerald City Glasses" and go forward.  I have been accused of wearing those glasses often.  I decided once to take them off and see life for what it really is,  wow I decided it was much better with the glasses on.  In other words life is better when we look for the good and choose to be happy.

Often the hardest things in life have the easiest solutions and the easy things seem the hardest.   It is easy to say "I choose to be happy" and hard to actually do it.  It takes practice and persistence, but as in all things the more we try the better we get.

Each of us have hard challenges.  In fact I don't know one single person who is challenge free.  As I take the time to listen to others I am so grateful for my challenges and often marvel at the strength of others in the face of  huge adversity and  over whelming challenges.  Some of the happiest people I know are burdened with huge challenges, yet they seem to move forward.  In all cases as I learn about them I discover that each has made a choice to move forward and be happy.

As we write our own stories we decide if the story is going to have a happy ending.  We make the choice about the journey.   Is it going to be filled with happy moments each day or are we going to spend our precious time suffering because life is not what we imagined in to be.  It is easy to fall into the habit of complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves.  No matter what the trial we face in this life we can choose to be happy and find joy in each day.

I remember one day years ago I was driving in my car and on that particular day I was feeling especially blessed.  I asked God "How do I show you how grateful I am" and  in one of those rare moments I received  the answer almost immediately  in my mind.  "You show your gratitude to God by enjoying what you have".  So simple, yet so true.   God joys in our appreciation of what we have and he finds great joy when we can learn to choose to be happy and enjoy the journey.

One of the hardest things to do it to step up and be happy.  And I am not perfect at it, and often we let the unhappiness of others effect our happiness.  We cannot take responsibly of the choice others make.   We can encourage and inspire, but ultimately the choice to be happy is a personal one that each individual has their own responsibility to do.   We don't need to carry the burden of others who are struggling with the choice to be happy.

How is your story going?   Is ti field with you and happiness along the way or is it filled with sadness, dread, and despair.

My personal leader was so right.  At that time in my life nothing changed.  My car was still dented,  my job was still hard, life was just plain hard.  But guess what it all changed in just a moment.  The moment it to me to just decide to be happy,  to make the choice to be happy no matter what.   I am grateful for a leader that took the time to tell me straight out that I had a choice about my own personal story.  And I decided I wanted a happy ending, and not just a happy ending, but I want a happy journey.

Have a happy day,   it's your choice.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Trial of Abraham

Often in life we are asked to do things that we do not understand.  Many of us have burdens that weigh us done and often we wonder how we can carry such a burden.  Often times we wonder why when it seems we are doing all we can to do the right thing, yet we feel we are being punished.  How could a loving God do what he is doing to us?   I have questioned that many times in my life and still do at times.  I feel I am a somewhat good person, yet I wonder why I have so many hard challenges, and they just seem to keep coming.

Such must have been the case with Father Abraham.  A prophet of God.  One of the mighty and great ones that walked on the earth.  He was obedient to all of God's commandments, yet he was asked to do hard things.  Things that would probably shake most to the very core.   Can you imagine being asked to sacrifice your only son.  Especially when you felt to the very core it was wrong   I cannot imagine the pain Father Abraham must have felt.  Do you think that perhaps as he was walking he questioned the Lord in his heart.   Do you think he pondered all the good he had done and possibly wondered why he was asked to do such a thing.  Thoughts must have crossed his mind like,  I am a good man.  I have done all I could to obey.  And then other thoughts like,  If only I had been better or I must not be good, and even,  Does the Lord love me.  How could he if he asks things that break my heart and the hearts of those I love.

I cannot believe that Abraham went with out questioning in his heart the deed the Lord had required of him.  The questioning is never wrong, but what we learn from Father Abraham is that complete obedience is required, even when we don't understand.

Most of us want to see perfectly the outcome before we act.  That is not how the Lord works.   He ask hard things of us and steps back, giving us often the courage, but not the understanding.  As we push forward with courage and do the hard thing the Lord has asked, we grow,  and when we have grown sufficient in our faith and devotion then the understanding comes.

My heart aches as I ponder what Abraham's day must have been like.  Not just the day
 but months and weeks leading up to that day.  I have also thought that his life didn't really get easier after the trial, but most certainly he gained a greater understanding of God and with that he was better able to handle the trials he had.

And then I think,  many of us face the same challenges in our personal lives.  At least to us they seem greater and harder then the trial of Abraham and to perfectly honest to us  they probably are.  Abraham's trial is so much like the ones we have in our lives.  I look at trials of many around me.   Same Sex Attraction,  Addictions,  Divorce, Wayward Children, Abuse, Mental Issues, and so many more and those that are struggling must feel like Father Abraham.  Abandoned and left alone with out understanding or comprehension why a Loving God would do such a thing.

In the story we don't often think about Issac and his trial.  His future looked bleak.  In fact in his eyes he had no future,  he was doing what his father had asked,  he trusted him and followed.  How often do we need to follow with such complete obedience,  even when we don't understand?

I want to share a very personal experience with you.   A couple of years ago I was promoted, very forcefully that I was supposed to open up and share what I had learned over the years personally about Same Gender Attraction.   The trials and struggles that I had endured were personal and tender.  I was not sure how on earth I could open up and I knew I was not ready for what would come.  I was not sure if I was ready to share that sacred part of my life with others.   I knew I would be labeled Gay and that many would not understand what I was doing.  Yet the feelings could not be set aside.   I knew with all my heart what I was supposed to do.

I have to say the past two years have been the hardest couple of years in my life and it is not getting easier.  I have been called Gay and I have been greatly misunderstood and yes,  I have questioned often the wisdom of opening that door.

In a sense it has been my Abrahamic trial.

This is what I have learned.  When we follow with obedience the things we know are true and the will of the Lord it always, always works out.  That does not mean we understand why, or what we are doing, but as we move forward we come to understand God's hand in our lives.   Often times the knife is raised and  we are to the point of total pain, but when it seems like we are at the end we see the light.  Does it mean it gets easier or the trails fade away?   Absolutely not.  Abraham's life was far from easy after the Lord told him to not slay his son, but Abraham was a better stronger person.

I still am faced with challenges that try my faith,  but I have to say the last two years have been filled with great learning, joy, and yes challenges.  I have learned to understand more how God works in our lives to help us grow and more important I have come to understand how important it is to follow him regardless and trust in his plan regardless of what the world is screaming at me or even those that are close to me are screaming at me.  First and foremost I trust in God's plan for me and all else seems unimportant compared to that.

I have learned that people will judge me before taking the time to understand, but I find great comfort knowing that I am on God's errand and as long as I stay faithful and follow with obedience, even at times blind obedience,  always without fail I am lifted and sustained in all things.

No matter what our personal Abrahamic Trials, there will always be light and God will always step in and lift us up to the trail.  Often times we place great men like Abraham high on a pedestal,  yet our trials to us and God are of equal importance in that to each of us it seems like we are asked to sacrifice a child.  The pain is no less then what Abraham felt.  We need to understand that is what makes Abraham so great is that he followed with complete obedience,  that does not mean he didn't question or even complain, but it does mean he was completely willing to do all God asked.  That is the value of the story.  Are we willing to do what ever the Lord asks,  no matter how hard,  no matter what the world is telling us,  no matter what we might be asked to give up.. That is the question.

I love God and his wisdom in sending us trails that strengthen and lift us.

Greatest success to each of you as you personally face your Abrahamic Trails remembering that God does ask hard things, but also remembering that his intent is not to punish us, but build us up to really and truly become men like Abraham, consecrated to the will of God.


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