Sunday, November 1, 2015

We are Rich

When I was a child my mom always said that we were rich because we had the gospel of Jesus Christ. This week those words bubbled up to the surface of my thoughts as I was dancing to the jolly refrain of bagpipes with my own little ones. Right now we don't have a lot of fancy things or a whole lot of money. We live in a basement apartment. We are totally on WIC. We buy most of our clothes at goodwill. But there in the music, and the whirl of laughing babies, and the ease and bliss of movement, I just became aware of how abundant our little life really is, of how sweet it is. And it is this way because of Jesus.

He has given me the guidance, the truth, and the spirit of courage. Because of Him I know I am of great worth. Because of Him I know I have an eternal life to live. Because of Him I have been able to create wholesome and enduring and ever-blooming relationships.

 Yesterday I was watching the live-action Cinderella starring Lily James. I love her line: "Kindness is free. Love is free." And I would add, laughter is free; friendship is free; dancing is free; humor is free; devotion is free, Forgiveness, mercy, time, attention, imagination, optimism, patience, prayer--these are free. God says, "Freely you have received, freely give." Jesus offers us free resurrection. And free opportunity to change and become. Everything that has true staying power is the milk and honey that Jesus invites us to enjoy "without money and without price."

I am grateful this day for the eternal riches of truth, family, and opportunity to grow. Today in prayer I felt the holy spirit listening to my hopes and questions and I felt comforted and refreshed by that warming presence. Earlier this week I received answers to prayers. So I'm grateful for a personal, approachable God who is involved with the very braiding and weaving of the fabric of every life. Because of him, we are all, infinitely, incandescently, rich.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Recipe for a Holy Day

Today I spoke at church and so I thought I’d just share that talk with everyone this week. Here it is:

Brothers and Sisters, good morning. Today I’m going to talk about the power of the Sabbath day and what makes it holy. I hope that we will feel the Holy Ghost swell our hearts wide open and give us the desire and energy to change where we know we should change so that we can all grow into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

President Nelson recently interpreted the scripture “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” to mean that the Sabbath is a gift from God to man.  I think this interpretation is really beautiful. It just fits with the character of God.  It tastes good. He wants us to become like Him and everything in the gospel plan points us up the path to a fullness of joy and knowledge, power and perfect love. If the Sabbath is a gift to mankind, I suppose that means that abiding by its precepts does something tremendous for our souls. After all, such is the nature of a heavenly gift.

But what does a holy Sabbath day look like to our dear Father in Heaven?  Or in other words, what does keeping the Sabbath day look like? The scriptures describe what I find to be four golden ingredients that together make a Sabbath day holy day.  They are Sacrament, Singleness of heart to God, Stillness, and Service. These are of course umbrellas that contain overlapping spiritual doctrines. Let’s look at what each of them offers us in turn.

First, Sacrament

In order to be made holy, we must first be made clean. So the lord asks us to “go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day…”  Jesus has the power to forgive sins because he suffered for them in our behalf. In this way he took our names upon himself. In order to be made clean, we must now take upon ourselves His name. He only asks us to offer him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The sacrament offers us a ritual rich with imagery to teach us about the atonement. His blood and his broken body are spread out before our eyes and offered to us individually and freely. The sacrament asks us to see ourselves in our own carnal natures and then to put off that natural man and come unto Christ. We have a chance to think of him, to repent for the things we have done against God and self and neighbor, and to be cleansed and prepared to receive the Holy Ghost, whose presence is sanctifying. This is using the atonement. The sacrament readies us to be what Elder Enzio Busche describes as a doer of His deeds and a speaker of His words. It helps us to become like Him.

Second, Singleness of Heart

The Sabbath is a day to be completely focused on God. It is to the days of the week what the sacrament is to the Sabbath itself: a period of time for consecration on holy things. In doctrine and covenants the Lord says that on the Sabbath “let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart.” In another section it reads that “If thy eye be single thy whole body shall be filled with light.”  As we go about the Sabbath day, even the small things can be done with a holy spirit. Some people do this by listening to or singing hymns, praying in their minds as they go about any needed task, meditating on spiritual topics or anything of the sort. This singleness of heart lets in spiritual light. That light gives us the desire to live similarly throughout the rest of the week. It provides us with a renewed perspective of faith; it endows us with a sense of love for all people; it grants us great deals of energy and even enthusiasm for the eternal salvation of all mankind. It gives our discipleship wings. I love these words in Isaiah on giving up our own pleasures for God’s on the Sabbath:

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” This directly feeds into the third ingredient of a Sabbath day.


The Lord asks us to rest from our labors on the Sabbath day but he doesn’t ask us to rest from his. Quite the contrary. He asks us to speak his words, do his pleasure, live his ways. Each Sabbath is a great opportunity to ask God what we can do for Him. Jesus preached, healed, forgave sins, and blessed on the Sabbath. He said that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. I’ll always remember our good neighbor Spencer Denison. He home taught a man who had been coming to church only occasionally. One day that man bore his testimony. He said he was more deeply converted to the gospel because Spencer had spent the previous Sunday helping him with a flooded basement. Spencer had simply gone to check on him. He found him in need. He went home, changed out of his suit and tie, and returned to relieve his neighbor.  May we all have the courage to do good on the Sabbath day and to follow the sometimes uncomfortable suggestions that the spirit makes to us. God promises to make such a Sabbath a delight.

Now let’s consider the fourth ingredient of a Sabbath day, Stillness.

The scriptures are peppered with verses about the Sabbath as a day of rest. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean sleep. I love naps and they can be invigorating. But when I look at a totality of scriptures, I see a different vision for the idea of rest.  They say things like “Be still and know that I am God.” “Look unto me in every thought,” and “Pray always.”  The Sabbath is an opportunity to say prayers. Really meaningful prayers. Some of my most beautiful experiences with God have come on Sundays, in the golden light of quiet afternoon warmth. I love praying out of doors and out loud, like Enoch. I love the luxury of no time limits, no people secretly wishing I would say amen already. In these prayers we can converse with our Heavenly Father. We can know him intimately. In this stillness, we become acquainted with his goodly character and partake of his sweet love. It is in this stillness or rest that I have come to know each spiritual truth that I know.  How much do we want to know Him? We must spend quiet time with Him because the spirit speaks in a still, small voice.  Aside from prayers that are full of words, we can also offer God a quiet and meek spirit for him to inspire. Meditation creates this kind of atmosphere.

So it is that by filling our Sabbaths with meaningful, conscious Sacramental worship, singleness of heart in all of our activities or tasks, service in his name, and stillness in prayer and meditation, we are made holy.

Spending our time in these ways shows God that we really do love Him and that we are grateful for His merciful plan of redemption. The scriptures say that God considers the Sabbath to be “a sign between me and the Children of Israel forever…” Elder Mark Petersen explains that the Sabbath is a sign to us that God lives.  President Nelson tells us that it is a sign to God that we love him. Doesn’t that just make wonderful sense? Of course doing his will and trying to reach him and be like him is a sign of love and adoration. When we aren’t sure if something we want to do is right for Sunday we can ask ourselves what kind of message or sign it sends to God about our love for Him and His beloved son.

I believe in the power of the Sabbath day. I know that when we keep the Sabbath day holy we are made holy—into the kind of beings that can abide His glory and enjoy it. I know he wants these beautiful blessings for all of us. May we each put our hearts and minds more fully into keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Hello again!

Tonight I feel grateful:

Grateful for this weekend's fall walk that smelled like mulch and fresh air, for how it was full of kind and flowing conversation about life as it is and will be and could be; grateful for renewed ambition, for inspiration to write and create; grateful for happy morning greetings from little james; grateful for the chance to grow in love with my husband; that he burst into the house tonight saying, "i just heard the best symphony!"; grateful for our kids; grateful for Jesus Christ, for the holy spirit, for Sunday drives with an angel mother, for my new nephew and that he is finally home from the hospital and doing well; for Alma 32, for how Meg feels warm and heavy as I hold her, for lemon cream pie and happy company and a Sabbath rest. Have a lovely week everyone! 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Child of Light

A day when I felt like a child of light 

I've been thinking about my shadow self. The natural woman who is weak and liable to stray from love. The girl who slinks into my head to convince me that I'm 

and unremarkable.

She tells my heart that I am nothing to be taken seriously and that I have nothing to offer others. She critiques my posture and my appearance in general. She laughs at my attempts to create, at all my projects and plans. She holds my dreams for ransom over my head. She takes every opportunity to tell me I'm wrong or pious or small. She guilt trips me for decisions made or for choosing to have faith. Under her gaze I feel so completely ill at ease, awkward, anxious, and easily angered. 

Lately, I've let her reign. I've literally felt her hot anger boiling under my chest for the dumbest things. I've felt her sense of comparison rotting my interior gardens; seen her unbelief clouding my spiritual vision; heard her barking demand for fairness, for "justice," for recognition. I've believed some of her smoothest arguments. I've held on to her judgements. 

Doing so always has a sickening effect. 

But happily I find, as I did this week, that light casts her out. In sincere prayer I feel the Holy Spirit's comforting presence. I have to ask myself--if I really am so ugly, unlovable, and unremarkable, then why would such a beautiful, loving, exceptional, heavenly visitation happen to me and so often, and just at the moment of need or humble appeal? 

The answer comes and with the light. It vibrates over me in a joyous outpouring of loving kindness that I can feel on a cellular level. It tells me:

You are a child of light. 
You are loved and worth loving. 
You are endowed with divine gifts and you have something to contribute. 
Trust me. 

And it takes away all worry in its wake. I'm left in the warmth of its golden splendor, the comfort of pure truth, truths that feel like peace and hope.

So advice to me: when the shadow self comes, pray. The light will cast her out. And simultaneously, it will change you into a kindred spirit, giving you divine deposits of beauty, strength and talent. You need never fear. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

For Thy Good

A joyful hello to you!

Parenting taught me a lesson this week on the price of growth and the nature of love.

It happened when my little James woke up with a fever in the thick of the night. Marc and I scrambled about in the dark for medicine and then I sat James on my knees, fighting the urge to hug his hot little body. Shivering, he cried "I hold you! I hold you!" He felt freezing, but I knew that what he wanted was not what he needed to get better. As Marc rubbed a cold wet wash cloth across his burning back, and James arched away crying for warmth, I thought about how I act in the face of healing or growth of any kind.  Do I resist the medicine of the soul? Do I beg for convenience when outreach and service are the real answers to my aches and pains?

Sometimes I feel like motherhood is too demanding. I'm all dry and drained. In that moment of trying to care for a sick child at night, God reminded me that this is His work and that His love can sometimes ask us to feel a whole range of emotions that call out the best in us and tutor us to become noble and wise and selfless. I've wondered why, when I'm cold, God would give me a cold wash cloth instead of a warm blanket. The answer is that he loves His children and knows a bigger, fuller story for our futures than we do. He wants to give us something better than what we can imagine for ourselves, and sometimes the price of learning is discomfort, even pain.

I'll leave you with his wisdom regarding given by the Lord to Joseph Smith about the purpose of adversity:

 "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." ~ D&C 122:7

Sunday, August 30, 2015

An Unexpected Feast

"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." 

Jeremiah 29:13

I was perusing the September issue of the Ensign magazine earlier this week, expecting a pleasant experience but nothing super special. To my surprise, what began as a casual read soon became a lovely spiritual feast--one of those exceptional meals that delights with every bite and leaves one feeling springy and renewed. Each story, sermon and essay opened some invisible hatch to heaven for me. I was bathed in exquisite, comforting warmth again and again. These were my favorite bits: 

Henry B. Eyring's thoughts on prayer. I love how he writes--so simply. He makes every word matter. Every sentence feels so intentional, natural, gentle and true. He especially inspired me to continue a culture of fervent prayer with my kids. Each morning we say an opening prayer over breakfast to bless the day with kindness and patience and joy. Some days I feel like maybe what I'm doing doesn't matter. But when I read President Eyring's words, God told me that it matters more than I can possibly comprehend. I also felt endowed with the energy and strength to be more genuine in prayer and more receptive to God's loving counsel. I felt assured that He is there. 

I loved the suggestions given on marriage from an anonymous therapist. She talks about how many people may have stable marriages but oddly few couples actively try to better them. I loved that she said to talk to your companion about what you hope your relationship can become in five, ten or twenty years. I saw a flash of what I hope to be like for Marc and that made me see areas in my behavior that I can ask for heavenly help to change. I noticed spiritual gifts to seek out. My favorite thing she said was actually a quote by President Howard W. Hunter. I don't have it in front of me at the moment but it went something like "everything that Jesus puts his hands on lives...if he puts his hands on your marriage, it lives...if he puts his hands on your family, it lives..." That rang true to me. Especially in the sense that when we keep our covenants, the divine nature enters our relationships and makes them holy. Suddenly I saw that being sealed to someone for time and all eternity means being able to enjoy a perfect, God-like relationship because of keeping covenants that let the Lord bless it into that kind of living organism. 

I also loved an article written by a temple sealer on marriage. Someone asked him why the temple endowment dwells so much on Adam and Eve if it is supposed to be about Christ. He responds that it is the story of two people accepting the atonement. It shows us how to accept it and make it an active agent in our lives. He references the temple's use of altars as symbols of sacrifice. His words really opened my mind up to appreciate the temple and what it can teach me about the purpose of life and partnership and parenting and the process of being refined by the spirit. 

I went to bed feeling as light as a feather. The spirit is such a delight, and such a need, really. I don't realize sometimes until I feel replenished by it, how thirsty I was, how limp and starving. But I find that it is there, again and again, waiting patiently for me to receive it. I know God is so aware of our spiritual needs. He will come to us, especially if we invite Him in. Inviting Him in can start with a simple gesture, like asking a question in prayer and actually waiting for a reply, or sitting still after reading a scripture, or serving a friend, or even just glancing over the Ensign at the end of a long day. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Deepest Doctrines

Lovely reader, hello!

I've been thinking about this speech given at a FAIR conference a few days ago by a rather young woman named Cassandra Hedelius. It impressed me by its frankness on the subject of something she refers to as Mormon Gnosticism: an attitude or belief system of practicing or non-practicing Mormons that emphasizes personal revelation and "deep doctrines" lost or unknown by the general body of the church and de-emphasizes the need for prophets or an organized church. By constructing a scriptural framework for how revelation is received for the church, Hedelius demonstrates that the notions of Gnostic thinkers do not hold as truth under pressure.

Upon reading it, the spirit really cleared my mind and energized my heart. This paragraph particularly sung to me:

"There are no 'deep doctrines,' because there are no shallow doctrines that we can outgrow and deemphasize. The deepest doctrines are faith in Christ, repentance, obedience, and service."

I have to admit that there have been and sometimes still are times when I think I'm a better thinker or a more spiritual person than my fellow church members. Reading this helped me want to reach out and be kind and serve in the church rather than judge or withdraw from others.

It also made me feel more grateful for the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, for simple, beautiful truths that cannot crumble. Truths like Jesus Christ is our savior, or the perfect doctrine that because of Christ we can repent and be clean. I'm grateful for personal revelation. The gift of the Holy Ghost is a stunning and real power that gives incredible comfort, guidance and protection. I'm equally grateful that pure authority to perform saving ordinances exists, that the living Christ speaks today--and clearly through a church. I'm grateful this church exists to turn hearts toward each other. The spirit really does inspire sociality and unanimity. I feel peace in these things and wanted to write them and leave them with you. I guess there is so much more I could say about it, but sometimes less is more.