Interrupted time and attention can be enough

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1989 Conference.
As part of my effort to learn more about revelation and how God speaks to me, I've kept a little journal the last few years where I write God's tender mercies and "the things of my soul." This record of God's goodness to ME, personally, has become so precious to me! I love to write in it and I love to read it. Sometimes I feel like there is almost too much goodness, too much revelation, for me to record! But other times I feel sad because it seems like a long time since I've been able to write anything there. I wonder what has changed; why I'm not feeling as close to God as I have at other times, and if I should be doing something differently.

I'm not discounting the idea that I should. I know there are lots of times when I'm failing to do things that would help me live closer to the spirit. It just seems so hard to keep my mind on the things of God with so many interruptions and errands and immediate needs. I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to stay focused on anything for more than a few minutes! There are so many times when I truly need God's help but I'm just…too busy or distracted to remember to ask Him!

Anyway, I was comforted to read this from Elder Packer:
Things of the Spirit need not—indeed, should not—require our uninterrupted time and attention. Ordinary work-a-day things occupy most of our attention. And that is as it should be. We are mortal beings living in this physical world. 
Spiritual things are like leavening. By measure they may be very small, but by influence they affect all that we do. Continuing revelation is fundamental to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I know there has to be a balance. Sister Craig gave that great talk recently about carving out time to be still and listen for God, and I do seek and crave that focused time. I am always wishing it could be longer and deeper and less interrupted! But Elder Packer makes it sound here like everyone feels this way, and that even my small amounts of focus and my tiny glimpses of revelation could spread out and be enough to "leaven" my whole life into a worthwhile offering. That's encouraging to me.

I've also been thinking about the role of covenants in all this—the fact that our covenants tie us to the Savior in this special way that almost seems like it's giving Him permission to intervene in our lives even when we forget or are too distracted to ask. I like to think of it that way, anyway—that my covenants are an umbrella putting me under God's protection even during all those times my attention is drawn away from Him. My hope is that the power of those covenants will draw me back to Jesus Christ and give Him just enough influence to get my attention when, through laziness or carelessness or just busy-ness, I start to drift away.


I saw a field of sunflowers over by the high school and decided it was a good excuse to get out the real camera, which I use far too infrequently these days! Phone pictures are so good—they're almost always good enough—but whenever I see photos from the real camera, I remember how much I like them. Can you believe, by the way, that fields of sunflowers like this just grow?? Without anyone planting them? I will never stop being amazed by wildflowers.
Of course I took along all who were willing to come be my photo subjects! (Though I don't think Ziggy quite knew what he was agreeing to…but he's always up for going somewhere in the car!) When we got to the field there were a few other cars there and several teenage girls arranging themselves artfully for selfies. They'd hop out, toss their hair a bit, make kissy lips, and then jump back in their cars and drive off. Ha! 
The field had another attraction: this "heffator backhoe," as Ziggy would call it. I let the boys climb all over it so they'd be in a good mood. :) The girls liked climbing in it too!
Ziggy wanted to get into the scoop, but when he got close to it he became very alarmed and tried to change his mind. He had to satisfy himself that it wasn't going to turn on and start scooping him before he was okay.
Teddy climbed up for a picture. He climbs everywhere with his cast, and the doctor didn't say not to, so I just…let him.
It was really fun to wander through the sunflowers—it's like a corn maze, but less sculpted. There were little clearings and paths; places where the sunflowers were taller than our heads and places where they were tiny baby ones as high as our knees. It was dirty and the sunflowers were scratchy (fine for me in my long pants, but not for the shorts-wearers among us) and the ground was uneven, but there was just something…adventurous and brave about it. The kids liked striking off on their own and feeling like they were hidden in their own little secret hideaways when they crouched down. The boys keep asking me if we can go back.

Shun Contention. Seek Godliness.

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1989 Conference.
It's weird. If you had asked me 20 years ago if contention was a problem in my life, I would have said no way. I considered myself a pretty easygoing, non-confrontational, even patient person (ha! what did I know?) and I figured that since I didn't like contention, it would be pretty easy to avoid it.

Now I feel like contention—dealing with it, trying to avoid it, trying to inspire those around me to avoid it—is a major everyday issue. It's one of the things I get most discouraged about in both family life and society, and it seems to be only getting worse all the time.

President Nelson spoke about contention in his Maxwellishly-titled talk, "The Canker of Contention." Here are a few excerpts:
My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention. How easy it is, yet how wrong it is, to allow habits of contention to pervade matters of spiritual significance, because contention is forbidden by divine decree…
The work of the adversary may be likened to loading guns in opposition to the work of God. Salvos containing germs of contention are aimed and fired at strategic targets essential to that holy work. These vital targets include—in addition to the individual—the family, leaders of the Church, and divine doctrine.
This made me shudder: "salvos containing germs of contention"! Ugh! But it's true and I can think of about fifteen of these just offhand—topics that I could bring up in pretty much any group of people and instantly cause an argument. The thing that makes me feel worst about it, though, is that I know I'm not immune myself. And half the time I don't know which way I'm failing the most—by not defending my faith and beliefs vigorously enough, or by not being compassionate enough toward those who want to attack them. It's easy enough to say (as President Nelson does in this talk) "we can disagree without being disagreeable"—but exactly how to do that is a pretty big question for me, both on a macro level in society and on a micro level in my own home!

Luckily this talk has some ideas about that:
What can we do to combat this canker of contention? What steps may each of us take to supplant the spirit of contention with a spirit of personal peace? 
To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.”
"A man of understanding holdeth his peace"…that's pretty powerful. To me, it means being reeeeally selective about the times I even get into those argumentative "discussions" at all. But, unfortunately, I have also learned that I can't actually avoid them altogether, especially when the contention has an urgent consequence or is within my own family. President Nelson advises:
But the ultimate step lies beyond beginning control of expression. Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God. Heed carefully this scripture: 
“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” 
Thus, love of God should be our aim.…
Through love of God, the pain caused by the fiery canker of contention will be extinguished from the soul.…
Shun contention. Seek godliness. Be enlightened by eternal truth. Be like-minded with the Lord in love and united with Him in faith. Then shall “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” be yours, to bless you and your posterity through generations yet to come.
I keep wishing I could "shun contention" by going off to live all by myself in a hermit's cottage in the mountains. I would only let people who agree with me in every particular come to visit. :) But I have to assume that such a life wouldn't teach me the lessons I needed to learn. I need to learn how to shun contention here in the real world, in the middle of messy, contentious, aggravating real life. I need to learn how to seek godliness as contention's antidote. And I have to just hope and trust that my children and those around me will someday decide within themselves to do the same!

Other posts in this series:

Become your own judges—by Nathaniel Givens
The Kindred Family—by G.
And my soul cries "Is anyone there?"—by Jan Tolman

Whacking, romping, hobbling

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top