Sunday, March 9, 2014

Family ward

Today I went to the family ward with my mom. It really is such an endearing place to me. I'm not entirely sure why. I enjoy going and being there because children are unpretentious and I dunno it just seems that there is authenticity. Maybe that is just a natural product of child rearing. I enjoy authenticity. I like when black means black and white means white and I don't have to rely on some super power to understand what's going on between people.

As the chapel began to fill I sat and listened to the prelude music. As the meeting began there was a little family of three who made their way to sit two rows in front of me. I've seen this family before. They have a little girl, about age 3, with baby-short curly hair- the kind of baby hair that has never been cut because it hasn't really grown at all yet. She has fair skin and blue eyes with flaming red hair, a round face and dimples in both cheeks. And she is really loud. Especially when she doesn't get her way, she decides to be very vocal. As they walked into the chapel the mother led the group, a Yoda backpack slung over her right shoulder. The Yoda backpack was made to look like Yoda rather than a bag. The arms reached up on the shoulders where the straps of a back back would be, and the legs were positioned to give the effect of Yoda piggybacking on his carrier. It was kind of cool looking, and hilarious as she came in with Yoda's realistic head bobbing on her back. As she day down she kind of tossed the back and Yoda ended up with his elbow resting on the back of the bench and his face smiling at me as if he'd turned around to say "see you, I do". I was grateful when Yoda fell forward and looked another way. 

The talks focused on the atonement. Which is something that I always feel like I don't understand. It is all encompassing, bigger than my finite self can comprehend at the moment. The Atonement is this thing that enables change, makes better the hurts that happen as a result of our own behavior, and the behavior of others over which we have no control. No one is beyond the reach of His divine love and there is nothing that can't be overcome when the Atonement is involved. Any price that needed to be paid or will need to be paid is already settled and I am absolved of any "debt" owed as long as I believe that he can do that. Logically I understand all this. In essence the Atonement is the center of this "plan of happiness" because it is the only way that the plan can be accomplished. 

It seems so simple, right? Just look and live. And yet it is not as easy as that, is it? Is there some hard thing involved to accomplish? Some task(s)? Some quest? Sometimes I'm not sure what is involved actually, and I feel the pressure of paradox between what is my part in working out my salvation, and what is the Savior's part in saving me.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Onto something else

New place, new blog right? I need to get out of San Antonio for a while. I took a contract job in Mexia, TX for 10 weeks or so. I think it will be good.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


For whatever reason there have been kindness-promoting posters up at one of the schools I'm at. One in particular caught my eye. "I believe in the magic of kindness" it read. Kindness is quite a magical thing. It is hard and soft at the same time. It is a little thing that sometimes comes at a great price. And Paul said of kindness' big sister charity, that without it nothing else matters. I think that kindness is important.

I want to be kind. I want to have charity for everyone all the time, but that isn't always easy. I struggle with pride. I struggle with jealousy, doubt, insecurity, fear, loneliness, and depression, just to name a few. It is hard for me to be kind to someone that isn't kind back. It is hard for me to be kind when I feel used because I feel stupid for having been so gullible as to allow someone to use me.
But I do believe in the magic of kindness. I believe that it can change hearts, even in the age when men's hearts are failing them. I believe that kindness is the path the savior walked, even when it cut his feet. Kindness is about something powerful and mighty. It is one of those small things that makes great things come to pass.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


This topic has come up several times the past couple of weeks. Naturally because of that it has been on my mind a little more.
Last Sunday there was a lesson on Elder Bednar's talk from October 2012 General Conference "Converted Unto The Lord".
And then in Institute Wednesday, that talk was the topic, and then this Sunday the lesson from the Lorenzo Snow book was titled "Lifelong Conversion: Continuing to Advance in the Principles of Truth".
Something that struck a cord with me is that both Elder Bednar and President Snow indicated that conversion is indicated by what a person does.
"Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received—with a heart that is willing and for righteous reasons. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion"

"So in regard to us, respecting the things which we are undertaking. If we expect to improve, to advance in the work immediately before us, and finally to obtain possession of those gifts and glories, coming up to that condition of exaltation we anticipate, we must take thought and reflect, we must exert ourselves, and that too to the utmost of our ability."

Isn't this the principle of "Never Suppress a Generous Thought"?

What I mean is, when one is converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ they have to understand what that is. The Gospel of Jesus Christ includes that the Savior came to Earth, suffered for all, and rose again. But it also includes a little more than that. You see, the Gospel, this "good news" is about a covenant relationship. The good news is more than the fact that someone loves us in spite of us not deserving it, but also that we can change and become something different than we are. And honestly, changing and becoming different is the only way to share the good news. We have to change enough to allow goodness to work through us to touch someone else. Otherwise if we don't, well we can't produce goodness in and of ourselves. That isn't possible. And because we can't that means that we can't touch someone for good, or even share the good news.

But I digress. When someone understands that the Gospel, the good news, has two parts, what He does and what I do, that's when more than a superficial smattering of the good news can be made manifest.
Christ's own words illustrate what the Gospel is and what it is all about.
"13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you -- that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil --
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day" (3 Nephi 27:13-22).

Conversion has to do with what we do with our understanding/testimony/knowledge about Christ's role and our own role. In my personal experience many people I have encountered understand the Savior's role a little easier than they understand their own. His grace is a completely free gift. But that doesn't mean we don't have to work. We just don't have to work for that.

Because conversion is related to acting we must understand our role in the good news as well. Christ was plain; our role is to have faith, repent, be baptized and then sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and be faithful until the end.
Christ simplified our side of things further when he instructed Hyrum Smith in D&C 11:20, "Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength".

And it kind of makes sense as to why it was simplified to simply "keep my commandments". If we do that, then we will be having faith, repenting of sin (what is sin? Is it anything that draws us away from God? Is it anything that God wouldn't think or do?) and allowing the Holy Ghost to sanctify us.

Christ further simplified our part to some hard hearted Pharisees who asked what the most important commandment was.
" 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

1. Love God
2. Love others

And of course if we love God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind we will also be loving others and keeping the second commandment.

In essence the summation of our part in the gospel and what Christ said to Hyrum, is to love God with our everything. That doesn't mean to love God when it is easy, or convenient, or most beneficial to me. It doesn't mean I love God when I remember, when I feel like it, or when it is what I want to do. By extension, it doesn't mean to love his children when convenient, easy, beneficial to me, when I feel like it, or only when I remember. It means to love Him with everything, it means to love them with everything. Obviously this isn't an overnight kind of thing but a line upon line kind of process. And like all gospel processes it starts out with a desire, with wanting to Him and to love people with ALL your heart, soul, might, strength, and might.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40)"

Which is why conversion is about never suppressing a generous thought.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Theme

As I was trying to come up with my theme, I realized that all the mutual themes have posters (and sometimes they have many posters) so I decided that mine must have a poster as well (perhaps someday I will invest in some real software like photoshop). The themes also have theme songs and full albums, so stay tuned for that!!

But seriously, part of what I wanted to introduce this theme with is a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland called "Remember Lott's Wife".
Apparantly the second shorted verse in all scripture is when the Savior counseled his disciples to "remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). What exactly did they need to remember? Elder Holland says it nicely:
"The original story, of course, comes to us out of the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, when the Lord, having had as much as He could stand of the worst that men and women could do, told Lot and his family to flee because those cities were about to be destroyed. “Escape for thy life,” the Lord said, “look not behind thee . . . ; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17; emphasis added).
With less than immediate obedience and more than a little negotiation, Lot and his family ultimately did leave town, but just in the nick of time...
Then our theme today comes in the next verse. Surely, surely, with the Lord’s counsel “look not behind thee” ringing clearly in her ears, Lot’s wife, the record says, “looked back,” and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
In the time we have this morning, I am not going to talk to you about the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor of the comparison the Lord Himself has made to those days and our own time. I am not even going to talk about obedience and disobedience. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes about looking back and looking ahead."

Waiting on the Lord is looking ahead. I've been thinking the past several days about looking back and looking ahead. True, our human experiences create in large part who we are. This is part of why Adam and Eve had to leave the garden of Eden, they needed a full human experience with all of its opposition. They could not become without the experience. And neither can we. But how do we separate, and sometimes reconcile, looking back and looking ahead?

For Lot's wife "it isn’t just that she looked back; she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin.
So, as a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind."

"We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences, but not the ashes." Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we have the beautiful opportunity to come to this mortal life and have all the experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and some people get a lot more bad and ugly than others!) but only retain those glowing embers of light and goodness (because we all get some of those too). The Atonement makes it possible to come to this fallen world but not stay in a fallen state.

"Faith is always pointed to the future." Waiting on the Lord means not doubting the Lord's ability to give me something better than I already had. Waiting on the Lord means believing that things which lay ahead can be as good as moments left behind, and in many instances better than what's been before.

Faith pointed to the future does not include being tied to past mistakes (your own or those of others). Repent and forgive, with sincere and whole-hearted repentance and a belief that people can change and improve.

I often find myself asking, "Is there any future for me? What does a new year or a new semester or a new major or a new romance hold for me? Will I be safe? Will life be sound? Can I trust in the Lord and in the future? Or would it be better to look back, to go back, to go home?"

"To all such of every generation, [Elder Holland] call[s] out, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the “high priest of good things to come.”

Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord.

Themes are not without planned activities...
1. Read the entirety of Elder Holland's BYU devotional "Remember Lot's Wife"
2. Read 2 Nephi 2 from the perspective of looking back and looking ahead
3. Record your thoughts
4. How do you demonstrate faith in your everyday life? Decide how you will be conscious about your efforts to develop/use faith.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Theme

I have a friend who recently described to me that each year she creates a theme for herself. This is something I would like to try this year. I personally think that New Year's resolutions are a bit over rated as they usually run out of steam almost as fast as they are decided upon. I'm all for setting goals, so it isn't that, but I'm also realistic when it comes to goal setting, and I think goals should be SMART.
Its funny because a lot of things that I, and people in general, want to achieve aren't usually something that follows the above pattern. Usually it is Measurable and Time-Bound that kick things out, but that is the beauty of a theme. A theme can be a foundation behind some of the goals I set for myself this year. A theme can actually encompass those immeasurable and timeless things like having greater charity, learning to love, learning to forgive, being more kind, etc.

Picking a theme took careful thought. What do I want to focus on for a whole year? And what is something I can have enough stamina for through the course of a whole year. I want to be more grateful, I want to learn from my mistakes and stop repeating them, I want to get married, I want to have a family, I want to do something meaningful and important, I want to matter to people in my everyday life, I want to be good, I want to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior, I want to be happy. How do you put all that in a theme?

After careful thought, reading through several talks, some studies on gratitude, heart, and strength, and reviewing some of the mutual themes and activities for those themes, my heart settled on Psalm 27:14:
"Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord.
I plan on doing a lot with this theme. And you are invited to read and complete suggested activities throughout the year. Better yet, come up with a personal theme for yourself and focus on it for a whole year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Christmas Truce by Fritz Vincken
" It was Christmas Eve, and the last, desperate German offensive of  World War II raged around our tiny cabin. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door... "

When we heard the knock on our door that Christmas Eve in 1944, neither Mother nor I had the slightest inkling of the quiet miracle that lay in store for us.

I was 12 then, and we were living in a small cottage in the Hürtgen Forest, near the German-Belgian border. Father had stayed at the cottage on hunting weekends before the war; when Allied bombers partly destroyed our hometown of Aachen, he sent us to live there. He had been ordered into the civil-defense fire guard in the border town of Monschau, four miles away.

"You'll be safe in the woods," he had told me. "Take care of Mother. Now you're the man of the family."

But, nine days before Christmas, Field Marshal von Rundstedt had launched the last, desperate German offensive of the war, and now, as I went to the door, the Battle of the Bulge was raging all around us. We heard the incessant booming of field guns; planes soared continuously overhead; at night, searchlights stabbed through the darkness. Thousands of Allied and German soldiers were fighting and dying nearby.

When that first knock came, Mother quickly blew out the candles; then, as I went to answer it, she stepped ahead of me and pushed open the door. Outside, like phantoms against the snowclad trees, stood two steel-helmeted men. One of them spoke to Mother in a language we did not understand, pointing to a third man lying in the snow. She realized before I did that these were American soldiers. Enemies!

Mother stood silent, motionless, her hand on my shoulder. They were armed and could have forced their entrance, yet they stood there and asked with their eyes. And the wounded man seemed more dead than alive. "Kommt rein," Mother said finally. "Come in." The soldiers carried their comrade inside and stretched him out on my bed.

None of them understood German. Mother tried French, and one of the soldiers could converse in that language. As Mother went to look after the wounded man, she said to me, "The fingers of those two are numb. Take off their jackets and boots, and bring in a bucket of snow." Soon I was rubbing their blue feet with snow.

We learned that the stocky, dark- haired fellow was Jim; his friend, tall and slender, was Robin. Harry, the wounded one, was now sleeping on my bed, his face as white as the snow outside. They'd lost their battalion and had wandered in the forest for three days, looking for the Americans, hiding from the Germans. They hadn't shaved, but still, without their heavy coats, they looked merely like big boys. And that was the way Mother began to treat them.

Now Mother said to me, "Go get Hermann. And bring six potatoes."
This was a serious departure from our pre-Christmas plans. Hermann was the plump rooster(named after portly Hermann G ring, Hitler's No. 2, for whom Mother had little affection) that we had been fattening for weeks in the hope that Father would be home for Christmas. But, some hours before, when it was obvious that Father would not make it, Mother had decided that Hermann should live a few more days, in case Father could get home for New Year's. Now she had changed her mind again: Hermann would serve an immediate, pressing purpose.

While Jim and I helped with the cooking, Robin took care of Harry. He had a bullet through his upper leg, and had almost bled to death. Mother tore a bedsheet into long strips for bandages.

Soon, the tempting smell of roast chicken permeated our room. I was setting the table when once again there came a knock at the door. 

Expecting to find more lost Americans, I opened the door without hesitation. There stood four soldiers, wearing uniforms quite familiar to me after five years of war. They were Wehrmacht¡ªGermans!
I was paralyzed with fear. Although still a child, I knew the harsh law: sheltering enemy soldiers constituted high treason. We could all be shot! Mother was frightened, too. Her face was white, but she stepped outside and said, quietly, "Fröhliche Weihnachten." The soldiers wished her a Merry Christmas, too.

"We have lost our regiment and would like to wait for daylight," explained the corporal. "Can we rest here?"
"Of course," Mother replied, with a calmness born of panic. "You can also have a fine, warm meal and eat till the pot is empty."
The Germans smiled as they sniffed the aroma through the half-open door. "But," Mother added firmly, "we have three other guests, whom you may not consider friends." Now her voice was suddenly sterner than I'd ever heard it before. "This is Christmas Eve, and there will be no shooting here."

"Who's inside?" the corporal demanded. "Amerikaner?"
Mother looked at each frost-chilled face. "Listen," she said slowly. "You could be my sons, and so could those in there. A boy with a gunshot wound, fighting for his life. His two friends¡ªlost like you and just as hungry and exhausted as you are. This one night," she turned to the corporal and raised her voice a little, "this Christmas night, let us forget about killing."
The corporal stared at her. There were two or three endless seconds of silence. Then Mother put an end to indecision. "Enough talking!" she ordered and clapped her hands sharply. "Please put your weapons here on the woodpile¡ªand hurry up before the others eat the dinner!"
Dazedly, the four soldiers placed their arms on the pile of firewood just inside the door: three carbines, a light machine gun and two bazookas. Meanwhile, Mother was speaking French rapidly to Jim. He said something in English, and to my amazement I saw the American boys, too, turn their weapons over to Mother.

Now, as Germans and Americans tensely rubbed elbows in the small room, Mother was really on her mettle. Never losing her smile, she tried to find a seat for everyone. We had only three chairs, but Mother's bed was big, and on it she placed two of the newcomers side by side with Jim and Robin.
Despite the strained atmosphere, Mother went right on preparing dinner. But Hermann wasn't going to grow any bigger, and now there were four more mouths to feed. "Quick," she whispered to me, "get more potatoes and some oats. These boys are hungry, and a starving man is an angry one."

While foraging in the storage room, I heard Harry moan. When I returned, one of the Germans had put on his glasses to inspect the American's wound. "Do you belong to the medical corps?" Mother asked him. "No," he answered. "But I studied medicine at Heidelberg until a few months ago." Thanks to the cold, he told the Americans in what sounded like fairly good English, Harry's wound hadn't become infected. "He is suffering from a severe loss of blood," he explained to Mother. "What he needs is rest and nourishment."

Relaxation was now beginning to replace suspicion. Even to me, all the soldiers looked very young as we sat there together. Heinz and Willi, both from Cologne, were 16. The German corporal, at 23, was the oldest of them all. From his food bag he drew out a bottle of red wine, and Heinz managed to find a loaf of rye bread. Mother cut that in small pieces to be served with the dinner; half the wine, however, she put away¡ª"for the wounded boy."

Then Mother said grace. I noticed that there were tears in her eyes as she said the old, familiar words, "Komm, Herr Jesus. Be our guest." And as I looked around the table, I saw tears, too, in the eyes of the battle-weary soldiers, boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home.

Just before midnight, Mother went to the doorstep and asked us to join her to look up at the Star of Bethlehem. We all stood beside her except Harry, who was sleeping. For all of us during that moment of silence, looking at the brightest star in the heavens, the war was a distant, almost-forgotten thing.

Our private armistice continued next morning. Harry woke in the early hours, and swallowed some broth that Mother fed him. With the dawn, it was apparent that he was becoming stronger. Mother now made him an invigorating drink from our one egg, the rest of the corporal's wine and some sugar. Everyone else had oatmeal. Afterward, two poles and Mother's best tablecloth were fashioned into a stretcher for Harry.
The corporal then advised the Americans how to find their way back to their lines. Looking over Jim's map, the corporal pointed out a stream. "Continue along this creek," he said, "and you will find the 1st Army rebuilding its forces on its upper course." The medical student relayed the information in English.

"Why don't we head for Monschau?" Jim had the student ask. "Nein!" the corporal exclaimed. "We've retaken Monschau."
Now Mother gave them all back their weapons. "Be careful, boys," she said. "I want you to get home someday where you belong. God bless you all!" The German and American soldiers shook hands, and we watched them disappear in opposite directions.

When I returned inside, Mother had brought out the old family Bible. I glanced over her shoulder. The book was open to the Christmas story, the Birth in the Manger and how the Wise Men came from afar bearing their gifts. Her finger was tracing the last line from Matthew 2:12: "...they departed into their own country another way."

Friday, December 21, 2012

A brief treatise on time

Earlier this week I was at dinner with a couple of friends. One of the people, one who has always struck me as very busy, commented that not having time for a person didn't mean she didn't care. I thought about this for the next few days and had a couple more experiences with the concept, but have come to the conclusion that in relationships (i.e. when we have to deal with people) time is a valuable commodity. It is like the flour in a cake, the egg in a quiche, the meat in a Sunday roast. It is the foundation of a building. Without time there is no relationship.

I realize that different people speak different love languages. That for some the giving of service or gifts or words or touch is more important than the gift of time. It is interesting though how time is an element of each of those other gifts. What gift is more meaningful? One that someone has put time and effort into? Or whatever was the first item he saw when he walked through the doors at wal-mart? What service is more meaningful? Sure I'll help you out with bathing the kids and putting them to bed tonight, or I spent all day at work making money to pay the bills, and now you want more of my time? What gift of touch is more meaningful? A pat on the head or a long embrace? Which words say more "I care about you"? I'm so glad you are here! We couldn't have done it without you! You look so good today by the way. Or does 'sup send the better message?

As one to whom the love language of time speaks very loudly, nothing says "I don't love you" like "I don't want to spend time with you". I've done enough people watching to know that universally people spend their time on the things that they feel are the highest priority. That priority list doesn't always stay the same of course, it is fluctuating as things move around in the time management matrix. And even though gifts and words don't speak as loudly to me, I still understand that an untouched or cast aside gift, says I didn't want it. Not giving a birthday gift to someone who speaks the language of gifts, doesn't say I love you. Withholding physical affection from someone who speaks touch, doesn't say I love you. Neglecting to say thank you, and not giving or withholding compliments doesn't say I love you to the person who speaks words. Ignoring bids of attention for help, refusing to take out the trash, or lend a hand, or even being unaware of when you could have helped out, doesn't say I love you to the person who speaks service.

Lately I've been thinking about why time does speak loudly to me. I realized that in great measure love spelled T-I-M-E to me. But why?

I went and read Elder Uchtdorf's 2010 October General Conference talk "of things that matter most", because that's where I heard that quote about how love is spelled. He talks about how the basics are related to maintaining four types of relationships.
"As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life."

Relationship #1: God
"We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].” To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Wait we need meaningful time alone when strengthening our relationship with God? Why did he say just that? He didn't use the word gifts, touch, or service, he only implied them in the gifts of obedience and temple work. (Both of which require time, actually). But the part about being still, doesn't that mean waiting on The Lord, being patient? Is patience a gift of time?

Relationship #2: Family
"Our second key relationship is with our families. Since “no other success can compensate for failure” here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship."

Families have to do stuff together! He said simple things. "Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home". And talking with each other (instead of about each other- telling friends about what a great soccer player your son is isn't the same as telling your son that he is a good soccer player) is important.
As a single adult, I don't yet have my own family. Many times singles refer to roommates, friends, and wards at their surrogate families. If these people really are surrogate families, wouldn't the things Elder Uchtdorf said apply? Would there be more harmony in homes where groups of single people live if they took time for each other? Would there be more harmony in Wards if they took time to do things together? I'm having a difficult time pulling out the languages of gifts, words, service, and touch in what he said about families. It seems like with children and spouses there really is no way around it. You can't give your kids cool presents at Christmas but not spend time with them, thinking that they will feel loved. The absent father who sends money, provides for all the temporal needs, isn't the same as the father who also gives his presence as his present.

Relationship #3: Fellowman
"The third key relationship we have is with our fellowman. We build this relationship one person at a time—by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents. I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen. And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people."

Service really stands out to me here, putting the needs of someone else above your own. There are so many ways to love people, depending on what they need. But I think the key is being aware of what they need, which to me just goes back to time. How would you know that Sister Jones needs a ride to the airport if all you ever did was wave at church? She wouldn't ask you! How would you know that Sister Davis needs a babysitter for 30 minutes so she can go pick up her daughter who missed the bus home, if you weren't close? Nobody wants to burden anyone else so they don't ask favors from people they aren't close to. But I think Heavenly Father wants us to learn to ask favors from each other... Because doesn't he want us to take care of each other? Doesn't he want us to give our time to each other? Building relationships one person at a time seems like it would require time. When we divide our time between too many, does that effect the quality? Does it effect the individuality? Do we begin to see the needs of others more in a generalized "I'm-not-wearing-my-glasses" kind of way, instead of seeing their needs in a specific and individual "now-that-I-got-glasses-I-can-see-the-individual-leaves-on-the-trees kind of way?

Relationship #4: Yourself
"The fourth key relationship is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential."

Reduce the rush. Did he mean the noise too? And take the TIME to get to know yourself better. I have to spend time with myself!? To me this part brings things full circle. "Be still, and know that I am God". Will giving gifts to myself help me to love me? Will serving myself help me to love me? Will having a bunch of friends help me to love me?

"Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most."

Did Elder Uchtdorf say all that because his love language is quality time? Or is time really the foundational principle behind love, behind charity?

Is what matters most to me, what I love, really where I spend the most of my time? And if it is, I think maybe I need to evaluate my time every so often like I evaluate my budget every so often. Where do I spend my time? Who do I spend it with? What do I spend it on? There are no rollover minutes. At the end of the day, that's all there is. And at the end of the day, have I paid attention to the divine things that matter most?

"My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of The Lord" (Jeffery R. Holland, Oct 2012).

The crowning characteristic of love is loyalty. Can you imagine the conversation before The Lord? "I did care! Just because I didn't have time to go to church doesn't mean I didn't care! Just because I didn't get to the temple doesn't mean I didn't think it wasn't important! I didn't do my visiting teaching, but of course those sisters were important, they are thy children! Sure I didn't help my old lady neighbor but that doesn't mean I didn't care! I was busy, Lord! You understand how it is with work, and traveling and planning vacations, and my calling, and my kids, and all the things I had to do... But even though I didn't give my time to you, you were still important to me. I never hurt anybody, I was good person. "Yea lord, thou knowest that I love thee? Oh to stand with confidence and say that.

"This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do. We feed His lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel: keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures, and emulating His love. We feed His sheep in the Church as we serve in priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations. And we feed His sheep throughout the world by being good Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and all who are in need" (Robert D. Hales, Oct 2012).

"I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.
There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere...
Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others...
Charity, that pure love of Christ, is manifest when a group of young women from a singles ward travels hundreds of miles to attend the funeral services for the mother of one of their Relief Society sisters. Charity is shown when devoted visiting teachers return month after month, year after year to the same uninterested, somewhat critical sister. It is evident when an elderly widow is remembered and taken to ward functions and to Relief Society activities. It is felt when the sister sitting alone in Relief Society receives the invitation, “Come—sit by us.”
In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.
Charity has been defined as “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love,” the “pure love of Christ … ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”
“Charity never faileth.” May this long-enduring Relief Society motto, this timeless truth, guide you in everything you do. May it permeate your very souls and find expression in all your thoughts and actions" (Thomas S. Monson, Oct 2010).

Charity, especially the kind from the above quote, seems to me to have a foundation in time. Patience with someone who has let us down.. Isn't that giving them time? Visiting teaching... Doesn't that take time? Kindness... Isn't that time? Forgiveness... I know that one requires time! (Lol)

Why does time speak loudly to me? Is it because it really is everywhere? Or do I see it everywhere because it speaks to me? Is it really foundational to love and charity? Or do I just see it as such because it is what I want to see?

The person I talked with at dinner earlier this week mentions almost every time that I see her, that we need to get together. We still haven't yet. She hasn't had time. Lol. I give her the benefit of the doubt... But after an extended period of that, the benefit part seems to wane and all that is left is the doubt. Did you really want to do something?
But if love is time...
Psalm 27:14
Then I also need to give my time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fall

Tomorrow is supposed to be cold. Cold mornings make me want to stay snuggled in bed. But I love the fall afternoons and the cool breezes. It is perfect running weather.

Lately (the past 3 or 4 months) I feel a significant lack of belonging. I'm not sure where I fit. Or if I even do. It feels like too many pups and too few teats and it isn't my personality to shove another out of the way (assert myself?) just so i can get mine. Maybe if I'd gone to byui (ha!) or worked at ussa (ha!). But comraderie is only part of belonging. I feel no sense of community. I have no people. I'd initially tried very hard to find a niche and resist that "seat's taken!" voice that has berated me for several years now. Admittedly, there was a time when I was beginning to feel like I had a place, that I belonged (I even almost changed my address on my driver's license!), but I lost whatever place it was, like a rug pulled out from under my feet and I landed hard on my rear. And now I'm just feeling part of the adversity of destroyed confidence and shaken sense of self worth, I suppose. I feel like I've been knocked off balance and lost my sense of equilibrium. Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace when I feel like one of the fall leaves, withering and brown, trembling for dear life at the slightest breeze?

Is this just part of the natural man existence? Part of The Fall? At times I feel like my sins and weaknesses so easily beset me. That I'm so easily beset because I have trouble letting go, and letting God. I was trying to think about what it was exactly that is so hard. I think it is when things aren't fair, when I perceive injustice, when I feel used, when I feel abused. But I need to remember that just because its not fair or right, doesn't mean it won't end up being ok, and it doesn't mean that I'm being used and it doesn't mean that I'm abused. At least not always.

Someone recently sent me this quote:
"We make New Year's resolutions to chip away at some weakness and then make the same resolutions a year later, and a year later, wondering how long God will put up with us. We bury ourselves for less than stellar Sunday school lessons, our annoyances with our children, our lackluster prayers, our 15 extra pounds, our irritability with coworkers, our messy garage, our lack of professional development and take it as a given that God's reaction to these sins and weaknesses would be disappointment, even anger for our lack of commitment, charity, obedience, or sacrifice. We contemplate longingly how much better our lives would be if we could just get rid of these pesky weaknesses that undermine our strengths and separate us from God... Weakness can actually contribute enormously toward spiritual progress and joy if we respond to them with humility and the ability to learn. Great strengths can come out of weaknesses. Such strengths are grounded in the lessons, perspectives, and virtues we can gain as we turn to God with our limitations, pain, disease, struggle, and affliction. This is not to suggest, however, that God wants us to be constantly preoccupied with our weaknesses. Of course we want to improve, but in that process it is vital that we not lose sight of our strengths – our gifts, our goodness, our talents, our virtues. Although weakness can be our great tutor and the seedbed of our greatest learning, ultimately, I believe we are here to magnify our strengths, our callings, and our gifts– not to magnify our brokenness."

All people are broken. No matter how awesome they think they are (and I think those who toot their own horns about their awesomeness are blind in a way, and it's sad because change can't happen, potential can't be realized while unaware. And that's for anyone, own-horn tooter or not. You cannot change what you cannot or are unwilling to see). All people are broken because of The Fall. And because they are broken they have the potential to be so much more than if they'd never been broken or never had weaknesses. But there has to be a balance and perhaps the strengths we now have were once weaknesses turned through His grace, and our present weaknesses are strengths not yet turned through His grace.

I recently read an article on the unrelated topic of feminism.
The author talked about The Fall, that while it often is thought of as a curse, it is really a blessing (because of Christ's Atonement- without that it would be a curse!) "Jesus’ performance of the Atonement repaid Mother Eve’s faith in the Plan, her courageous opening of the door represented by the First Tree [the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil]".

Am I in any way like Eve? Full of faith in the Plan? Courageous enough to partake of that fruit from that tree? (I guess I ended up on this planet because I chose to partake of it.) Since the fruit of the tree of life was sweet above all that is sweet, does that mean the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was bitter? or maybe bittersweet? I've had some pretty bitter experiences. But I've had some sweet ones too. Or maybe the sweet ones have come as I've partaken of the Savior and His goodness.

I appreciate the fall trees, all their vibrant colors and beauty. And I'm even beginning to appreciate the tree of The Fall and what it has brought to me.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I really love Thanksgiving. I think it is actually my favorite. Growing up we frequently spent Thanksgiving with my mom's sister and her family. Her family is the reason why I went to Texas A&M, so you can imagine what fun it was to be there during Thanksgiving.

I had a couple of friends who each day this month have posted on their blogs about the things that they are thankful for. I really like that. I think it is really neat and I have enjoyed reading what they have written.

Gratitude is good.