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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

how christmas stole the grinch

I feel sad that this year I admit freely that I have little or no Christmas spirit in me. It’s not that I don’t believe in and celebrate the birth of Jesus, but rather that I live in a cold, commercial and abrasive town known as New York City that sometimes acts as a barrier to my ability to be kind, loving, thoughtful and more Christlike.

Usually my heart is beaming with Christmas joy, holiday music and a sense of charity towards others, but this year something was missing. I didn’t attend any holiday parties, serve the homeless or foster youth or go caroling; I felt no need to be filled with love and share that love with others. I usually pride myself on presenting my church’s congregation with a Christmas song medley masterpiece that I mulled over since September, not this year; I just didn’t have it in me.

Other than being a resident of New York City, I can’t help to wonder what else has contributed to this down-trodden spirit of mine. I see commercials on television and YouTube clips that friends share on Facebook of others sharing the magic and love of Christmastime with their loved ones or those in need and though I may be touched for a moment, there hasn’t being that deep impact I look forward to each year. This is the time of year I look forward to when I feel like despite all that is wrong in my life or in the world, everything will be okay. It’s when I recognize that Christ was born on Earth long ago, He came to help mankind and He did through His awesome and everlasting Atonement. That’s the good news and the joy of the gospel that I know to be true and that I feel within me; He came, He lived, He taught, He led the way, He died for us and now He lives again!

So why can’t I allow even these thoughts I am writing permeate my cold heart and make it grow three sizes in one day like the Grinch when he sees Christmas come anyway despite his trying to destroy it? I am sure the answer is to ask for God’s love and feel the Christmas spirit, to help others feel it through acts of service and to find ways to surround myself with uplifting situations that spark within me the feelings of charity, peace, joy and love. I suppose this problem isn’t necessarily related to or isolated to Christmas either; maybe it’s time to find time each day to allow God to take control and priority in my life and not my own selfish desires.

Every Christmastime I think of the gifts that were bestowed to the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Faith, love and devotion were given by the shepherds; gold, frankincense and myrrh given by the wise men. The gifts  of the wise men were not given as mere tokens, but as support to the family who were escaping the wicked king. They would need these gifts to buy to food, supplies, transportation and to buy passageway into Egypt. These seem small gifts compared to the mighty gift that Jesus would someday give to the world, but they were necessary for their physical survival, just as the Atonement is necessary for our spiritual survival.

Around this time I wonder what gift I could give to Christ for His love and many, great sacrifices. Of course, no gift that I can give will measure up to the eternal measure of the Atonement. All I can truly give the Savior is my heart, my faith, love and devotion as the shepherds did. I feel that the greatest gift I can give to the Lord is to allow Him into my heart and let Him lead me. In Job 23:10 it reads, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” As I allow Him to test and try me, He refines me into a worthy gift for the kingdom; I come forth refined as gold; a gift fit for a King.

I may have not found a way to melt my heart completely this year, but it helps that I am around family and that I know I have friends and family around the world who love me, even if I am Grinch. My Christmas wish is to allow the gifts of our King into my heart and as it permeates, I may return that gift to Him in the form of my faith, love and devotion. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Letter and Call for Action from a friend

A Letter and Call for Action from a friend:

"Dear Friends, Family and Business Associates-

Recently I vowed to serve my nation as a member of the Armed Forces. It is something that I feel compelled to do, something that I feel is right, something that I feel is my role. It may seem out of character, but truly what is out-of-character about wanting to protect and serve the nation I call home? Being a member of the military requires the highest moral standards and requires living up to a creed of excellence far above the rest of society.

However, there is legislation that prevents all member of the armed service from serving with Honor in everything that they do. This legislation, Don't Ask Don't Tell, requires service men and women to lie about something so very trivial. It is also discriminatory and flies in the face of the very freedoms that the military seeks to protect.

"Liberty and justice for all." That is the pledge of allegiance that I remember saying each and every day as a young school boy. I don't recall saying 'liberty for those that i like and not for anyone else', or 'justice for those I deem religiously acceptable,' or 'liberty and justice all except the gays.' That wasn't the lesson that I was
taught. I was taught by my parents, my teachers, my friends that anyone with a dream and a desire to abide by the laws of this land that protect ALL could achieve their dream and become great. So I ask each of you to please support the repeal of DADT and support those men and women that seek to become great and do great things in the service of this nation.

Regardless of your faith, your political party, or your personal feelings this is the right thing to do and must be done. Please stand with the President, whether you like him or not, as he tries to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Please call your Congressmen and ask them to support the Repeal of DADT

Contact your Senators and ask them to support equality for all and Repeal DADT

I just did will you join me? 

-N. E.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

please exit to the left

Another World AIDS Day has come and gone. This year I have resisted becoming too involved with all the ceremonies, news of progress, politics, policy and the many obstacles that still stand in the way of a true cure. I have glanced at the news as it has come and I do believe we're getting closer, but for me I have to focus on other parts of my life because HIV is not who I am.

After being diagnosed five years ago, I have gone all over the place with this disease; low T-cells, high T-cells, undetectable, detectable, healthy and not so healthy. I started taking three pills a day to help suppress my high viral load; now I take just one. I now take Lexapro to buffer the side effects of my potent HIV pill, a prescribed daily vitamin, medication for my thyroid problem and prescribed Naproxen to alleviate my arthritis. At only six pills a day, I understand that I am fully blessed by God, medicine and modern-day science because I'm alive and others are not. I will never really be able to complain about this disease because I will most likely never have a reason to. More people with HIV/AIDS are living longer like my mother who at 62 years old is at least a 20 year old survivor. Long life is certainly something to be thankful for. This recent Thanksgiving I sat at my table with my roommates and thanked God for my health and strength; in one simple phrase: L'Chaim or 'to life' as my Jewish family around the world would say. That said: Happy Hanukkah my friends and family; may the lights of the menorah shine long and bright! Thank God for the miracles, redemption, mighty deeds, saving acts and wonders that He wrought for our ancestors and for us today!

Moving on...

Lately, I have been dreaming a lot because my HIV medication's side effects include vivid dreams, hallucinations and sometimes, night terrors. Most nights I have three separate dreams that are usually unrelated. The first dream is usually associated with whatever comes to mind as I fall asleep like what I just finished watching on TV, a recent conversation or random thoughts from the day. The second dream is usually related to me and/or my family members and is based on past events from reality; these can be the most frightening and I usually wake up shortly after they end. The third dream is usually associated with something crazy, random and probably more of a hallucination than anything else. By that time, my cat has climbed into my bed and started attacking my hands or face, sirens and construction outside begin to become louder and my stomach hurts for food.

The other night I had this dream that was very powerful to me and I woke up with some weird feelings about what occurred. The dream was the second one of the night, so I felt it was about me, but I wasn't in it that I could tell. The dream took place in the Garden of Eden and I watched the events unfold involving God, Adam and Eve take place that wasn't exactly how the Bible tells it in my mind. I remember Adam and Eve being very innocent and blissfully ignorant, but they were frustrated because they weren't sure what else to do other than enjoy life in the garden naming animals and laying around naked. Plus, they wanted to be like God and they sensed something was missing from their lives that caused them to be unlike Him. They were constantly looking for ways to be different, but they always reverted back to being innocent and ignorant instead of changing who they were and what they did.

Later in the dream, Eve gave into temptation and Adam followed her because he wanted to see what it was like and didn't want to be alone. Was this the first act of peer pressure? Probably not. But, Adam and Eve were excited, scared, full of joy and sadness simultaneously. They weren't able to control their new-found emotions and feelings. They hid from God because although they were glad they had these new feelings, it went against what they were told to do: don't eat this fruit.

When God confronted them, Adam and Eve didn't cower before Him; they argued with Him, they cried, they tried to explain why their decision was right, they didn't understand why God would put the fruit there if He didn't want them to take it. The argument went on for some time, but finally God told them they had to leave, but that He still loved them dearly. Adam and Eve wept, but they obeyed God and followed His angel out of the garden they knew to be home and into the rough, callous Earth that would be their new home.

It was a very dramatic dream and it made me feel angry and sad because this deep part of me says to myself: I don't want to leave the garden, I don't want to be cut off from your presence, I don't want to feel pain, but I do want to love, follow and be like you, Father. Why must it be like this?

The answer is in the good news; the gospel plan of happiness and salvation.

I feel this dream is so relevant to me because there is a deep part of me that doesn't want to leave the garden, or be cut off or to feel pain, but I have to because I have eaten the fruit. So, here I am on this rough, callous Earth still desiring to love, follow and be like my Father.

Later in the dream I saw Adam and Eve struggle for years and years to stay close to God, keep commandments and live their earthly lives. In the dream it took Adam years to be worthy of God's priesthood and to work miracles in His name. It took years for the altar sacrifices to be worthy enough for God's approval and blessing, but they still did it and pressed on.

How am I not in the same boat as Adam and Eve in this dream?

I am struggling to stay close to God, to follow Him and live this earthly life. I do press forward, doing what I can or am willing to do, but I don't feel it is enough to be worthy for His approval and blessings. I am sure Adam and Eve, in this dream, said to God, "I want, I want, I want" and never received because they needed to grow and be tested; in many ways I am in the same situation.

I know this has come up a few times on this blog and within conversations I've had with many of you and others. I do want to be worthy for God's approval and blessings. I do want to be re-baptized and have all my blessings restored and others bestowed upon me. Right now, though, it feels like I keep saying I want, I want, I want and I'm not placing sacrifices upon the altar that show my true sacrifice and desires. In many ways, I feel like I have lost the knowledge, power and willingness to do it anymore and overcome the obstacles I face which are not unlike many of yours and others'.

I believe in the power of dreams and visions and I know that God has given me the gift to interpret dreams and visions properly so that I may draw closer to Him. I know that this dream tells me that everyone, including Adam and Eve, have had to and do fight and struggle to love, follow and be like God.

To live this earthly life, we give up the innocence, the ignorant bliss and the constant presence of God and we must trek forward through trials, tribulations, pain, sorrow, loss and sadness. The good news of the gospel is that we have not been left alone to do any of this on our own because of the great Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the true gospel restored by Joseph Smith, the many revelations, keys, ordinances and blessings of the Church of Jesus Christ, a living, modern-day prophet and the power and gift of the Holy Ghost. All these things bring joy, happiness, love, life, blessings, gifts, gain and peace.

And to all this I say once again, L'Chaim! Thank God for the miracles, redemption, mighty deeds, saving acts and wonders that He wrought for our ancestors and for us today!

You have been caught Jey Walking!