Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Keep the Lower Lights Burning

Note the lights on the shore
Even while those around us may be using Survival Strategies against us, we can live Paradoxically and feel Sustainable Joy despite them.  This is because Jesus lives.  It is because he is King of Paradoxical Strategies.  He walks with all those who will walk in his ways.  Now and forever.

Because that is true we have the power to Paradoxically “keep the lower lights burning” for our Survival children, spouses, family members, neighbors, friends, etc.  When we stay true to Christ, the party, the safety, the love, and the Sustainable Joy is always right here within the family.  Watch the following video for the story behind the "lower lights."


Listen:  “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” A Cappella sung by Dan Ellison, Spencer Ellison, Steven Jensen and Trevor Nielsen

Figure 1 describes how Paradoxical Strategies--sacrificing first--might be difficult in the beginning, but overtime our ability to sacrifice and our faith increase.  This causes the perceived intensity of the sacrifice to decrease while Sustainable Joy increases. 
When we use Survival Strategies, we hurt other people.  They suffer and we don't...at least in the beginning.  What makes Survival Strategies bad for us are the end results.  They don’t last.  And things end up worse than they were when we started.  When we seek to get what we want first regardless of the desires and feelings of others, we end up not getting what we want at all.  Of course there is a draw to Survival Strategies because often times we do get what we want at first.  We may even be living the good life now, seemingly winning the game while others are losing.  But the issue is, that’s all going to end.  It never fails to end when we employ Survival Strategies.

Figure 2 describes the full story behind Survival of the Fittest Strategies.  In the beginning our perceived intensity of Joy is high.  We’re riding high.  Everything is great!  The sacrifice required of us for the Joy we’re receiving is minuscule.  We like it that way.  Get what we want for the least amount of sacrifice.  But over time, the Effects of Joy decrease.  What’s happening is our Effect Sensors are becoming numb to the Pseudo Joy.  Without an appropriate level of sacrifice, feelings of boredom, lethargy, apathy, and stagnancy are the result.  The initial Pseudo Joy puts a smoke screen up so we aren’t completely aware of the incremental decrease of real Sustainable Joy.  The Survival Effects kill our motivation to sacrifice.  If we don’t sacrifice at the level we’re capable of, we’re not working our faith muscles.  Atrophy occurs.  As the perceived intensity of Pseudo Joy wanes, normal level sacrifices seem over-the-top hard.  Even though we’re doing close to nothing, the perceived intensity of such a sacrifice seems beyond our capacity to bear.  This robs us of our motivation to sacrifice.  It makes us think we need to go hunting for more of that Pseudo Joy to resolve the conflict.  It turns our arrows to Survival of the Fittest Strategies.  We’re like a black hole.  We need to suck the Joy out of others to feel good.  We need to somehow regain that state of getting what we want for the least amount of sacrifice.  We’re basically forced to use Survival of the Fittest Strategies to obtain our desires and resolve our conflicts.

One very prominent Survival of the Fittest Pseudo Joy Effect is the acceptance and praise of the world.  When the world goes against Jesus Christ and his Paradoxical Strategies, it serves as a smoke screen to the real Joy we receive from choosing to live his ways.  Here are some examples.

Herod and John the Baptist
Herod was a man who was in an authoritative position during the life of Christ and John the Baptist.  He was a tetrarch, which is a governor of one of four divisions of a country or province.  When he heard John the Baptist teach, he believed in him but wasn't baptized.  Herod committed sin when he took his brother Philip’s wife unlawfully.  John called him on this and so Herod put him in prison.  Herodias was the name of Philip’s wife and she too was angry with John for calling them on their adultery.  She set up a scheme to trick Herod into ordering John’s death.  She had her daughter go dance for him and when she pleased him,

“...he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.  And she, being instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.  And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.” ~Matthew 14:7-9

So he believed in John and knew he was a man of God but because he feared losing the good opinion of the people, he folded under their pressure.  It’s a sacrifice to stand up for what is right and what is not generally accepted.  Herod would not make that sacrifice.  He feared the people more than he feared God.  He took the easy way out—Survival of the Fittest Strategies.  But what is it like for Herod now?  The majority of us who believe in Christ look upon him as a bad example.  He is not accepted among us.  We see that when presented with a challenge to choose Paradoxical or Survival, he chose Survival.  None of us would want to be governed by such a man.  He showed his true colors.  Full story found in Matthew 14  and Mark 6:16-29

Paul & King Agrippa
On the other hand, Paul was a believer.  He was persecuted, abused, beat, whipped, shipwrecked, and imprisoned but continued to stand for God using Paradoxical Strategies.  On one occasion he had to stand before King Agrippa and and another man in authority, named Festus, to declare his faith in Christ.  At one point Festus said he was mad. 

“But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” ~ Acts 26:25

That’s a sacrifice.  To be accused of being mad when we are speaking the words of truth and soberness is painful.  It’s also totally frustrating.  King Agrippa almost changes his colors but then doesn’t.

“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” ~Acts 26:28

The Paradoxical Results for Paul:

He is one of our most esteemed heroes and role models.
Agrippa—who is he?

Lazarus and the Rich Man
There are a couple of people in the new testament with the name Lazarus.  One was in a parable Jesus told. This parable demonstrates Survival and Paradoxical Results pretty efficiently.

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.  But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” ~Luke 16:19-31
That’s a pretty clear warning about what our eventual results are going to be given our present choices.  But because we’re still in the middle of the game and we haven’t reached the final result, we may look around at the Survival people and think they’re winning and that it pays to use Survival Strategies.  But to this the Lord says,

“Your words have been stout against me...Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?  And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” ~Malachi 3:13-18

This is the Paradoxical result:

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.  And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” ~Malachi 3:13-18

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~Matthew 6:33

Getting the House Clean
So let’s bring these epic scriptural stories and words of counsel down to our everyday life. As a mother, my endless desire is to get the house clean.  I want my kids to help with this.  How do I use Paradoxical Strategies as opposed to Survival of the Fittest Strategies to accomplish this goal?  If I put my desire to have a clean house above them, I get angry at them for messing it up and for not helping to clean it.  That is Survival thinking.  It will result in forcing them to clean and in them disliking cleaning.  I know this because I’ve not only tried it but am repeatedly sucked into this way of thinking.  But here is what my Paradoxical Cause has taught me to do:  Center your desires up on training them to make and keep their commitments.  Teach them that is how to obtain Sustainable Joy.  It’s the only way to develop confidence.  When you voluntarily make commitments with those you love and then keep them, you make that love an action word.  You grow the love.  You grow the Joy.  Train them to work out of love for their team, for confidence, for Joy instead of out of fear that they will get in trouble if they don't.

This is an endless battle for me.  It’s so easy for me to get frustrated because they don’t see or value the Sustainable Joy in it.  They don’t want to commit or keep their commitments.  They don’t see the value of this team—the family.  They want to belong to all kinds of other teams first.  They complain about not having any friends.  But why not start with the friendships made in the family?  Why not be a true friend here?  Then take those same skills and use them in their other relationships.  That is Paradoxical!
Kid Survival of the Fittest Strategies are seeking to be apart of all kinds of other teams without first seeking to be apart of the family team.  Fun and popularity are the readily seen Pseudo Joys they seek after.

I once watched the making of the “Lord of the Rings” with my kids.  Wow, those people were having the time of their lives working and sacrificing!  What would it be like to be apart of that team?  Everyone worked together on a common goal.  So many people made and kept their commitments to each other in order to bring about this amazing end product.  That’s Joy.  

So why can’t  the family’s goals be equally (if not way more) important?  Why can’t family members see that what creates that love, friendship, and excitement in the journey is everyone’s valuing the team, their fellow team members, and common goals?  Why go out looking for another team that’s more happening, more important, more fun, more exciting?  This is my answer:  It takes a leap of faith in Jesus Christ to choose to make and keep our commitments to our family.  “The Lord of the Rings” was already a hit movie when we saw the making of it.  The successful results were readily seen.  Everyone wants to be apart of a successful result but not everyone wants to take the risk of devoting oneself to an effort that doesn’t yet have a readily seen fun, successful ending.  However, because of all of the stories in the scriptures that witness to us of Jesus Christ, his Paradoxical Strategies, and successful endings we can see with eyes of faith that obtaining our own successful ending is only a matter of time.  That is faith in Christ.

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” ~Alma 32:21

Seminary Tables
I taught seminary a few years ago.  We had a stake scripture chase activity.  Students and teachers met at the stake center in the gym.  There were various round tables set up.  As the youth came in they picked what table they wanted to sit at.  I watched as a popular table formed.  A few kids were apparently the popular kids and others their followers.  After the popular kids’ table was filled with people, a couple of the popular kids got up and moved to a different table just to see if people would follow them.  The result was that many did.  Other did not.  Some who originally were sitting with us also got up to find the most popular tables.  No one wanted to be with the unpopular people.  And the unpopular people were the apparent losers.  The people who would not play this game just stayed where they were regardless of being left alone.  The popular kids were using Survival of the Fittest Strategies.  I know they didn't completely understand what they were doing but this whole scene made me sick.

Listen:  “Popular” from the Broadway play, "Wicked" 

So if kids do this with their own families, what the heck, right?  They are always looking to be where the fun and popularity is.  Fun first.  No work.  No sacrifice.  They want to be apart of the “in-crowd.”  They don’t want to be left out.  But all the while they are the ones leaving their family and others out, not caring about the first team they were assigned to, not realizing the joy and happiness that come from sincerely valuing what they already have.  And we demonstrate how we value our family by making and keeping commitments to them.  We all work together to live.  Why turn your parents into nags?  Why tempt them to turn to Survival of the Fittest Strategies to get you to do your part?  Kids live in the house.  They eat there.  They use the facilities.  They leave their stuff around.  Because they are partaking of the privileges of the family, they are inherently bound to the commitments.  When they complain, whine, and try every means to get out of keeping their commitments, they are Survival.  They are communicating through their actions that they will not love their parents or siblings through voluntary Paradoxical Strategies.  Now I know they are young and still learning and many are not even consciously doing this but that doesn’t change the fact that they are indeed practicing Survival of the Fittest Strategies to obtain their desires and resolve their conflicts.  That will bug us parents even though (or especially because) we have committed to Paradoxical Strategies.

How can a happy family be established with such people?  This is when the sacrifices parents have to make increase in magnitude.  It hurts.  And the pain lasts for so long.  In fact most kids don’t change their colors until after they leave home.  So how can there be love at home?  And why won’t they change their colors before leaving?  If they continue in Survival Strategies all the way up till they leave, they will never know the Joy that comes from pulling together as a family.  And without that, they are unprotected.  They will seek to be on every other team and never feel like they belong anywhere. 

Mice and Fairy Godmother symbols of Heaven's help.
So how can parents form a loving team in the face of most of their family members turning Survival?  It is imperative to have a team of people where all are working to make and keep commitments to each other voluntarily.  Who will be the team members if all the children are straying from the flock?

May I suggest that God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and all the angels are apart of our team.  If we are choosing Paradoxical Strategies we have the whole of heaven on our side. 

Aragorn & the Spirits of the Dead Army
In the movie, “Lord of the Rings, Return of the King,” Aragorn is the leader of the armies fighting against an innumerable host of Orks.  The Orks are the bad guys and are using Survival Strategies to get what they want.  The good guys are way out-numbered and don’t know how they are going to defeat these creeps.  Aragorn gets the idea to summon the spirits of the dead.  Now these spirits are kind of scary and seem to have been bad during their lifetimes.  They are now living in an eternal hell.  Aragorn has the power to release them from this hell if they will change their colors now and fight for the good guys.  They do.  With their help the Orks are destroyed and the war ends.

Fear Not!
In 2 Kings another story like this takes place but this one is real.  The prophet Elisha and the people of Israel (good guys) are surrounded by the Syrian’s horses and chariots (bad guys) by night.

“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And [Elisha’s] servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?  And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” ~2 Kings 6:15-17

So the spirits of heaven who are on our side are not evil spirits that have a debt to pay to get out of hell.  They are spirits of light and love, who lived their lives Paradoxically while they were on the earth.  They are ALL on our side.  When it seems like we are too few in number and we’re left alone to do the work and to create love at home on our own, it’s important to remember that we are never alone.  Heaven is with us.  The party is here.  The happiness is right here in the family.  While we do have to wait for the Paradoxical results, when all people, motives, and deeds are made known, we don’t have to wait for the kingdom of heaven.  It is at hand.  And this is where Sustainable Joy comes from.  It is ours when we choose to obtain our goals and resolve our conflicts using Paradoxical Strategies. 

Ending with the beginning--lower lights metaphor: The lower lights on the shore may not seem very valuable. We may even feel like we're alone there. We may not even realize the impact we're having on the lives of our children and others. But when we keep our light burning and align it with the Light in the light house through Paradoxical Strategies, our light is the most valuable it can be, regardless of the choices and evaluations of others.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:16