Sunday, March 23, 2014

Being an Instrument

When I was first married there was a series of visiting teaching messages (for the women of the church to share with one another during monthly visits) that were centered around the theme of being steadfast and immoveable. I remember one lesson in particular which had the title of "being an instrument in the hands of God by being steadfast and immoveable." I talked with the other woman I was with about the idea, and she said that it confused her. How could someone do anything if they were being immoveable? So I shared what had come to me when I read it. A sculptor, potter, painter, or writer needs a tool (chisel, brush, pen, etc) that will not move on its own. The artist needs a tool that will be reliable and still, so that s/he can guide it and have it go where s/he wants. If the painter's brush droops the paint will get in the wrong place. If the potter's tool bends then the clay will not be crafted in the way s/he wanted it to be.

In order to be a tool in the Lord's hands, our job is to be available, and to be steady, but not to try to do everything ourselves.


Somewhere in my late teens I started singing in church. Or rather, I'd been singing musical numbers in church for years, but somewhere in my late teens I got up the confidence to start singing solos. I liked singing, I liked performing, but I also have always known that singing in church is not a performance or a recital. Singing in church is about bringing the Spirit into the space. And so before I sang I always prayed that I could be a conduit for the spirit. That the Lord would use me and my voice to speak to the members of the congregation.
It has always worked.


Recently I moved to a new city and a new congregation. I had called ahead to find out when and where church meetings were, and so someone had my name...and even before I had moved the compassionate service leader Sister J had called me. She is a woman of generous size and spirit, who knows everyone's business and everyone's needs (because she calls and asks) and then she doesn't take no for an answer in taking care of people. Two weeks after my arrival she called me again, to see how we were getting settled in, and whether we needed anything. She apologized that she had not called sooner, but explained that she had been called upon to help arrange a very unexpected funeral and that that had consumed much of her time. She mentioned, almost in passing, that the one thing she still needed was a musical number, and that she was not sure what she would do for that. I responded instinctively, almost without thought. "If you can find an accompanist, I can sing."
"I can play," Sister J said. "Is 'How Great Thou Art' ok?"

And with that it was decided. I was going to sing at a stranger's funeral. Now truth be told, this was not the first  nor even the second time I have sung at a funeral where I did not know the deceased; but it was the first time where I really did not know anyone.
Especially in the context of this funeral, where a young father had died unexpectedly, I knew the grief at this funeral would be extra acute, and that music is a powerful medium. I felt awkward and I felt pressure and nervousness that I have not felt about church music in a long time. 

When I was rehearsing with Sister J, she started singing along at one point. Then she apologized. "I got caught up in it," she said, "this song moves me so much. I don't mean to steal your thunder if I start singing along at the funeral."
"Singing in church is never about thunder" I replied.
She hesitated, as though she had not thought about it that way. "You're right," she responded, "it's not." 

The rehearsal was ok, but particularly with the high note at the end I felt like I was not singing it very well. I knew this funeral was important for all the family who would be bidding a premature farewell to their son, brother, and father, so for a day and a half I did what I always do. I prayed that I could be a conduit for The Spirit...but something still felt off. I couldn't quite place it, but I knew that what needed to come through me at this gathering was not like most meetings.

As I pulled into the parking lot with ten minutes to go until the funeral, I still felt shaky. I took the key out of the ignition, bowed my head, and murmured one last prayer...and the words came to me "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace."
An instrument of peace. That was precisely what I needed to be. Calm came over me.
So I prayed St. Francis' phrase over and over as I walked into the chapel. When my turn came I walked up to the podium and started to sing...and then I gripped onto the side of the podium and just held on as the music poured through me with the words and notes all where they should be.


An instrument is a still thing. I played the flute for a couple of years as a tween, and I can tell you that no matter how shiny that flute was, it couldn't do anything unless I held it, pressed the keys, and gave it my breath.
Yesterday I was an instrument with endless potential but little possibility except in the hands and with the breath of Someone else.
I am grateful for the opportunity, and touched by the experience. Because as much as I (hope I) gave the family the peace they needed yesterday, my own soul was filled too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Winter Gear Storage

I am currently adjusting our family of five into living in an apartment that is a little under 1000 square feet. We were already pretty minimalist about our possessions after several major moves and having to fit everything into storage. However one thing I'm still refining is fitting everything into a small space AND still being able to find what we need.

One thing we need pretty often is winter gear such as mittens, hats, scarves, and so on. The thing about this type of gear is that when a four-year-old goes out to play in the snow, his mittens get wet, so when he wants to play two hours later, he needs a second set of mittens... this makes for lots of mittens. Not to mention things like "cold weather" gear or "I'll be outside for 15 minutes" gear versus "obscenely cold weather" gear or "I'm going fishing in twenty-below" gear.

Needless to say, there is a lot of this type of gear around our house.  And for the last three or four years it has basically all just ended up in a plastic bin or box... lots of harried looking for the other mitten in the set, lots of "but I need the other hat because this one is his" and so on.

Then inspiration struck.

$11 and five minutes of effort later we have everything where we can see it. Mittens are paired with their mates, scarves, hats, earmuffs, and everything is easy to reach.

Most of these seem to be "over the door" style organizers. If you have a regular closet door, perfect! Or maybe you can hang it on the back of your entry door. If not, three little nails and a little wall space (as I did here) works pretty easily too.

Greene's "Plan B" in the Trenches

A few years ago I wrote a review of Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child" and in that I explained about Plan B. (Yeah folks, this is a parenting post, not a birth control one.)
Dr Greene discusses 3 plans: Plans A, B, and C.
Plan A is where the Adult forces his will on the child...
Plan C is where the adult capitulates and just lets the Child do what he pleases...
Plan B is to utilize what Dr Greene calls "collaborative problem solving" (CPS) to find solutions that will solve the concerns of Both adult and child.
This last weekend I had a chance to use collaborative problem solving to find a Plan B with my thirteen-year old Wolf.
The scenario was thus: I have established a household policy that food and drink (with the exception of closeable water bottles) remains in the kitchen/dining area. More especially, food is definitely not allowed in bedrooms. Wolf is well aware of this policy, and breaks it repeatedly. (I only catch him actually eating in his room occasionally, but there are often empty wrappers or crumbs in his room, so the evidence is obvious. And this has been going on since he was four. When he was little I tried to focus on teaching him better, as he got older I started punishing...the behavior has never changed.) Of course in addition to breaking the rule, he also is sneaky about it so as to be able to get away with it, so he's adding deceit to disobedience, and sometimes lying on top of the whole pile. Last week he did that (lying on top of it all) and I lost my temper at him. I decided it was time to step back and bust out some CPS about this.
oh look, he's not the only one!

CPS can be hard for a parent, because it means that *I* have to be willing to compromise too. But it's also a recognition that I can still get what is most important to me, while still giving my kid a chance to have something that is important to him, and give him some practice in collaboration, problem solving, and compromise. (Yes I like and still use the Oxford comma, bite me!)

I began by clearing the air about my outburst the other night. I asked him why he'd lied to me, and if he'd really thought he could get away with it. He said no, he was pretty sure I knew, but he knew that lying would get yelling, whereas if he had only gotten caught with the soda can--and not lied about it--then he would have gotten a lecture. He just wanted it over fast so he chose lying/yelling.


My concern
Alright. So, I had already considered my position, and I knew my most important concern in this conflict. I am concerned about mess. I don't want crumbs, or spills, or sticky spots, or wrappers, or garbage in his room. I'm concerned about it attracting insects or vermin partly, but I also just think it's really gross to have crumbs in your bed and wrappers on the floor.
His concern
Wolf considered, and concluded that he really only wants to eat in his room when he is playing games on his computer because he doesn't want to be interrupted. (The computer is only a few months old so I don't know what his excuse was for the last nine years, but we'll work with this for now and re-evaluate as necessary.) He has no problems leaving his room for a snack when he's supposed to be doing homework! But he plays some online real-time games with his cousin or other friends, and if he's absent from the game for five or ten minutes his character could get booted off the server.
Our collaborative compromise
I will get him a garbage can for his bedroom--he hasn't had one, but promises to utilize it if one is present. He will handle emptying it as well.
He is considering purchasing an anti-tipping or spill-proof cup (with his own money) to use in his room.
He has to ask an adult before taking a snack--to ensure that the food he wants isn't earmarked for something, or that dinner isn't imminent, or that sort of thing.
With those criteria met, he may take food to his room when gaming. This may be a weekends-only thing, or (depending on his homework load) an after-homework thing.

When I raised the point of having to have homework done before playing, he asked if we could adjust that a little "perhaps one late assignment per week?" I gave him a full-blown stink eye and told him I wasn't going to go for that idea. Then I nudged him to articulate his desire in a different way, and he was able to explain that after six hours at school he just wants a little break before diving into the homework. Now THAT I can support. His school day lets out at 2:30, so we've agreed that he has to get started on homework by 4. (Of course, if he is really eager to get to his games, he may change his mind about this schedule, because I'm still thinking no games before homework...but maybe that will be another Plan B for us to play with.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Proper Fit

(Public Service Warning--for my two male readers, go ahead and invite your wives to read this post, but it probably won't hold much interest for you... I certainly don't mind if you read it, but it's one of those extra-girly sorts of posts, so proceed at your own risk. ☺ )

Over Christmas break I had a professional bra fitting.

Can I just say wow, and I wish I'd done it years ago?!

For the last *ahem* years I've always carefully followed the measuring directions, and for all these years I've been getting bras that more or less fit...some more, some less... Two bras of the same size would fit differently, and I had a hard time judging how well a particular style might fit until I actually tried it on. The problem is that I wore a size that is not carried on most store racks--I have a small band but a large cup and it's difficult to find a bra in my size, let alone enough options to be able to choose the one that fits the best. For most of my life I have bought bras via catalogs because that was the only place I could find my size, and as I said, some fit, but some did not. The problem with catalog ordering of course is that if you decide to send back the bra, then you have to wait weeks to get a new one, not to mention that the new one may or may not fit any better...

Four years ago I went to Victoria's Secret and had a bra fitting there, and they told me that I had been wearing the correct size all along (but gave me some help with finding styles/fabric types that would be better for my particular breast shape). I was so proud of myself, look, I've been wearing the right size all along... They say that 80% of women wear the wrong bra size, but look at me, I wasn't one of them!

Except that I was.

I was resigned to the idea that no busty lady bra fits the way that the smaller size bras fit on the models in the pictures. I was resigned to the idea that bras simply aren't comfortable if you're busty. I accepted that busty ladies just can't get anything that really supports or really stops the bounce...

I was wrong.

In the last few months I've been introduced to a few things by a few friends. They pointed me to places like this (photos) and this (photos) and this (good explanations but no photos) which illustrate what a bad fitting bra looks like...and I realized that I had multiple symptoms of bad-fitting-bra syndrome.
Then they sent me here, and said to try fitting method 2. You see, the method that many of us have been using for measuring was developed in a time when bras were made of stiff fabrics (rather than the stretchy ones we have now). The method simply isn't accurate anymore. The correct method is to measure your ribcage under your bust, and then use that number (add 1 if it's odd), but do not add 4-5 inches! Then lean over so that your torso is parallel to the floor, and measure around your unrestrained breasts and see how far they hang. Then take the difference between those two measurements. When I re-measured with this new method, "my size" went down two band sizes and up five (five!) cup sizes.Yes, I had a small band and large cup to begin with: now that status was exponentially increased.
At this site you begin by entering the current bra size you wear, and then answer some questions about fit (where the underwire lies, how far the band pulls out, etc), and it will tell you what your correct size should be. The answer it gave me was the same as the measuring method on that last site.

Fantasie bra "jana" goes up to K cups

So then I found a boutique that actually carried my size. (It's hard to find places that carry J cups, but they do exist. Larger than G is pretty much only made in Europe so you'll have to find a place that imports. Use the methods above to get a good estimate of your size and then find a boutique that says they have that size...don't risk doing a fitting at a place that doesn't carry your size!!!)
These import stores will be expensive. There's no way around that. I tried on six different bras in my size (yes, those two sites above had given me the correct size). I also tried on a few that were one band size or cup size over, just to make sure. Of the six, only one really fit well. Even among bras from the same company, different styles fit differently. I confess this made me a little nervous about ordering additional bras online... and it's definitely a reason to get a proper in-person fitting.

I paid $68 for that bra that fit. (Yes this means I'm still wearing some that don't fit right because buying new bras is going to take a little time to afford...). $60-70+ is a pretty common price for these imported bras, however if you're a really busty person you're going to run into that same price range in most places online as well (and there will be shipping to boot). So you might as well go to a brick and mortar store where you can try things on.

Places that are good for fittings: Nordstroms, Dillards, and import boutiques.
Places that are not good for fittings: anyplace with a limited size range in stock (including Victoria Secret). Basically if they don't carry bands from 28-48, and cups from A-J (or at least A-G if you're not so busty), then don't waste your time there.

Always remember:
If anything gapes, or pokes, or bulges, then it's not a good bra for you. Period. Try a different one. Bra shopping may not seem like fun, but having the right bra can make you so much more comfortable that it's worth it to get a good one.
Finally, because I know not everyone is willing to pay those prices, and I know that not everyone HAS to pay those prices because not everyone has the sizing issues that I do, I will mention some places I like to actually buy bras. It's true, they are online/catalog sources, so yes, there is that risk of ordering a bra that doesn't fit well and needing to exchange it. However, at least for me, having a professional in-person fitting has taught me what features and fabrics to look for, as well as obviously what my correct size is. So I hope in the future I will have a lot more 'hits' and a lot fewer 'misses' even with catalog ordering. Because it's awfully hard to find my size on the rack, and when I do there aren't many choices and/or they're really expensive.

  • HerRoom has an excellent style guide section where you can enter information about your breast shape and size (there are drawings, not photos to refer to) and it will give you recommendations about what styles will suit you. They also have a full range of sizes, including those good import brands. Fantasie is the brand of the bra that I liked best at the boutique. (This blog post also has some guides of what styles suit what shapes, including photos comparing.)
  • Marks and Spencer is a UK store (as opposed to a US Store with european brands). You will pay a bit in shipping, however the bra prices are significantly lower than most of the import places I've seen ($30-40 rather than $60+). So in the long run I think the prices are better. They make their own products, rather than carrying other brands, however their quality is highly recommended and I plan to try them out. If you buy internationally, be sure to check the size correlations, because US sizing and UK or French sizing are all different! More info on that here.
  • OneHanesPlace is an outlet catalog--wide selection of name brand regular bras, very good prices, up to DD and some F
  • Lane Bryant's Cacique line of bras have some nice larger cups (although they don't go into bands smaller than 36). In bands over 40 they go up to J, though the smaller band sizes stop at G. They also routinely run "buy 2 get 2 free" sales, bringing the average price per bra down to $20 or so (if you buy 4). They carry a really wide variety of colors and styles though, which can be nice for someone wanting to stay away from the 'granny bra' look.
  • Birth&Baby nursing bras (I posted about them here). Also, this site has some additional info on getting a proper size nursing bra (and has some brand recommendations).
There are several more sites out there that carry the size range imports, such as Fig Leaves or Bravissimo, however I have not checked them out yet.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rising Water

This morning I was browsing pinterest and this photo caught my eye:

It got me to thinking about rocks; specifically about wet rocks...

More than once I've sat on the shore of a body of water and noticed how different a rock can look when it's wet as compared to when it's dry.

In every case, the change I have observed is that the wet rock is prettier. Its natural features of stripes or speckles or color variation (or even just its natural color) are enhanced and given definition by the presence of water.

When they are dry, the rocks all look more or less alike, but when they are wet they are unique.

My husband found a large pretty stone in a river last summer and wanted to bring it home for our garden, but once it dried out it became quite dull. He has actually decided that he'd like to put some kind of lacquer on it so that it will maintain its 'wet' look even when not submerged. Because it's a better or more appealing rock when it is paired with water.

Water is, in many senses, the antithesis of stone. Stone is simple, solid, stable, and more or less immoveable. Water is fluid and flowing, changeable, and sensitive to its surroundings.

The only way for a rock to maintain the beauty of the water is for it to be submersed repeatedly or at length. In other words, it is immersion in opposition that creates the beauty.

In longer spans of time water can change rock even more, by shaping and smoothing it through gradual erosion. I realize the metaphor here isn't perfect, but I did at least want to give a nod to the idea that it's not just about beauty or definition.

The point is that opposition, though unpleasant or even painful in the moment, can be beneficial or improving in the longer run. It can show us the best version of ourselves. It pushes us through the changes that refine us.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homemade "Poopourri"

First things first: If you have never heard of poopourri, please take a moment to watch this, ok?

Now that you know what it is, I will just say that it works, and is a real savior of a product for a household with only one bathroom!

However, it is $10 per 2oz bottle, and that struck us being a smidge on the spendy side. So we did a little research into whether we could create our own. (Do take a minute to look at the official website and note the amusing names for their various scent combinations though, they are hilarious!)

Test 1: putting a few drops of plain essential oil into the toilet DOES do the job. However the bottles can be a little messy or easy to spill, and it did seem like it gave more oil than we really needed...which makes me mildly concerned about pipes and so on.
Verdict: functional but not ideal

Test 2: witch hazel with essential oil. This works fabulously!
We used 4 oz bottles, filled them most of the way with witch hazel, and then added 20-25 drops of essential oil. (If you do a different size, just use 7-8 drops oil per oz of witch hazel.) You can add any oil you like, whatever scent combinations you find appealing. We did one with equal parts grapefruit and lime, and one with about 15 drops orange and 8 drops clove, and one with close to equal parts fir and juniper which my Hubby thinks smells just like a christmas tree.
Each oz is good for 75ish uses, depending on how much you use, so the whole bottle is 300 uses, give or take.

And, the best part was that this recipe cost us about $4-5 per bottle (depending on the oils), and that included the glass bottles! So that's 1/4 the cost of the commercial stuff (half the price per bottle x double the bottle size). Alaska is not the cheapest of places either, so I imagine that in some parts of the country would be even cheaper.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Claim You

I vividly remember the day that I listened to Joanna Brooks' speech at the 2011 Mormon Stories Conference in SLC.  She talked about her Mormon heritage, and then about how many different kinds of people there are who have Mormonism in their bones. She celebrated the diversity, and then said loudly and passionately "We Claim You!"

At the time I was feeling quite awkward about my relationship with the LDS church. My husband had disaffiliated from Mormonism just a few months before, and I suddenly found how disenfranchised I felt now that I was in a "part-member home" and had "no priesthood in the home." The kids saw daddy staying home from church and they didn't want to go either. I found myself often going to church alone. I found myself missing church more than I ever would have in my youth. My husband's faith transition had been happening simultaneously with my own, but our conclusions had been different: he was done with it, but I could not be. Mormonism is in my bones. I'm not the same kind of Mormon as I once was though. For so many reasons I cannot return to the safe, sweet way I used to live.

Being an outsider is nothing new though. I have always been an outsider. As a kid I was homeschooled. Now I'm a hearty supporter of homeschooling, but it made me an outsider at church because I was the only one.

And I realized that we make many kinds of outsiders.

And here's the thing. A lot of people have looked at the PANTS event and concluded that it is about female ordination. Or that it is about LGBTQ something or other (because of the suffragette purple I suppose). Or that it's about feminism in general. Or trying to attract attention and create contention. Or trying to put down women who wear dresses or are satisfied with the status quo. Or about trying to prove a point.

I will grant that last one. It IS about trying to prove a point: It is about proving that we believe that love is bigger than judgment. It is about saying to all those outsiders WE CLAIM YOU and we love you and we count you among our brothers and sisters.

  • To the young person who is homeschooled and always feels left out; I claim you.
  • To the one who is 'weird'; I claim you.
  • To the one who is whispered about behind his or her back; I claim you and promise those whispers will never come from me.
  • To the one who is overweight; I love you.
  • To the one dealing with an eating disorder; I love you. 
  • To the one who has ever felt awkward because your clothes were 'wrong' or 'not stylish' or 'uncool'; I claim you and I understand.
  • To the sister who is disenfranchised because she is unmarried, divorced, or otherwise "does not have the priesthood in her home"; I claim you and support you
  • To the sister who wants children but cannot have them; I love you, I understand you, and I support you more than you realize.
  • To the sister who does not want children; I claim you and respect your choice.
  • To the sexual abuse survivor; I accept you, love you, and do not blame you for what happened to you.
  • To the one who is the only member in her or his household; I claim you and support you.
  • To the one who is struggling to find her or his place in the church; I claim you and I am your sister no matter what.
  • To the one who has been so hurt that you cannot bear to come to church anymore; I claim you and I love you.
  • To the one who wears pants to church because the weather is cold, because you have small children or a calling in the nursery, because you play the organ in church, because you have a health condition, because you don't have a dress, or simply because you feel more comfortable or confident in pants; I claim you, I support you, and I stand with you this year and last year and every year.
Pants for church in 2013

This is me actually 'in church' today via conference call. Cuz that's how it is in the Alaskan bush.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear

Last year, on December 16, women around the world joined in wearing pants to church. I had mixed feelings about it. I supported the idea of feminists doing something instead of just talking about it, but I had been more in the mood for a letter writing campaign or something. But pants was the choice and so I supported it. I still had mixed feelings about wearing pants myself, but I decided to go with it because I remembered having felt judgmental towards pants-wearers in the past, and decided that it was worthwhile to take a conscious stance against judgmentalism. As I said then:
I have never ever worn pants to church. It so happens that I love wearing dresses and skirts, and often wear them on weekdays. I don't particularly want to wear pants to church. BUT, I will be doing so because of this experience. I will be wearing pants to church to be an example to my children that I really do believe that "the lord looketh on the heart [rather than the outward appearance]." I believe in walking the talk. Is wearing pants to church a big deal? No. Will this single event bring about any of the other changes that the All Enlisted movement is hoping for? Not really. But we hope that it will help people to take a look at themselves and their socio-cultural prejudices, and take the opportunity to practice a little non-judgment.
Wow, I had no idea what would follow. Dozens of people (family and friends and total strangers all in chorus) told me that wearing pants was a total non-issue, and that there was no point. Then they told me that I shouldn't do it because it was a point of contention and that contention is of the Devil. Aside from being confused about how pants-wearing can be simultaneously a non-issue and a point of contention, my attention came sharply into focus on two points.
  1. All the contention came from outside the pants-wearing group. (This seemed to prove that it was NOT a non-issue.)
  2. I was scared to wear pants to church.
Scared!! Of wearing pants!! Wow was that a realization. Especially with the knowledge that I was living in a tiny branch in rural Alaska where frankly nobody would care what I wore so long as I showed up. But I was doubly nervous about it because I was supposed to sing in church on that day, and in a congregation of 15 that meets in a room the size of a typical primary room... my pants would be as bold as could be.

But then a scripture came to mind. "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). I remembered that fear is the opposite of faith. I remembered the reasons why I supported this whole idea. And on Sunday, December 16, 2012, thirty miles above the Arctic Circle at -16 Fahrenheit, I wore pants to church.

The blouse had pink and purple embroidery so I had my purple too
Can you what happened? Absolutely nothing. I sang in church. In my pants. People told me how well I sang. No one said a word about the pants. Because it was a complete non-issue for all of them.

Except that it was not a non-issue for me. I practiced faith over fear, and love over judgment. And I will do it again.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Warrior for Peace

Nelson Mandela died this week. In response, the interwebs have lit up with quotes and (in our graphic-heavy culture) memes featuring quotes. Yesterday as I saw my facebook feed fill up with these images and quotes I was struck by something.

Do you see it? Do you see the pattern? Warrior, conquer, victory, front lines, weapon... A man famous for his efforts toward peace is constantly using the language of war. And for good reason.
As another blogger put it
News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist — all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
As Mandela himself explained
"I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone...Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence."

As a man who loved and wanted peace, Mandala also had the wisdom to recognize that there are times when conflict and force are necessary. He spoke of using sabotage rather than outright attacks whenever he could, in order to preserve human life whenever possible. But he did not hesitate to do what needed to be done to achieve the goals he had in mind. 

This man of peace was a warrior, because he made the choices to do what had to be done in order to effectively get the results he wanted. Now I'm not saying that most of us will ever face a time where physical violence is the appropriate approach, but there is a time for talking and gentle civil disobedience, but there is also a time for confrontation and outright rebellion. I always advocate using the gentlest measure that will accomplish the task at hand, but if persuasion has no effect then yes, there is a time for action.
Women in this country asked for the right to vote for twenty years. Then they stood in front of the White House with signs that threw the president's words back in his teeth, Alice Paul handcuffed herself to the White House fence, and she and others went to jail and participated in hunger strikes because they were willing to become martyrs if needbe. Not all confrontation has to be violent, but it is confrontation nonetheless, and can be powerful in places where gentle persuasion was not. Discussion is GOOD and sometimes it is effective (and when it is, hallelujah). But action is also GOOD and even aggressive action has a place when other means are unsuccessful.
Over time some things improve, but do not be so complacent as to think that the world is perfect yet. There are battles still to be fought; are you willing to stand and participate?

And for good measure, a few final thoughts from a man who should be remembered for both aspects: his desire for peace and equality, AND his willingness to stand up and literally fight to achieve those goals.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”(Margaret Mead)

Do not be blind to your own privilege. Prejudice is everywhere, and that is a battle that can be won more effectively in individual hearts than in legislative chambers.

Love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Loving God More than We Love The World"

I'm teaching the lesson in Relief Society (the women's organization) in church today. Here is the outline of my lesson. The lesson from the manual is here. My thanks to The Exponent for their ideas about the lesson as well (I used several of them).

The parts in bold are the section headings from the manual. The parts in italics are the questions I asked of the class (and the parts [in brackets] following them are answers I anticipate, or the direction I will guide the discussion into if needed]. Quoted things are indented.

The title of this lesson is “Loving God more than we love the world”

I want to begin by defining what it is to love God, and then move into what it is to love the world.

 In October 2012 conference Elder Holland told the story of the eleven remaining apostles immediately after Christ’s death and resurrection. They were not sure what they should do now that Christ was not there, so they returned to their fishing boats. Christ came to them on the beach and told them that they should not be still fishing, because they should be changed because of their time with Him. This is when He asks Peter “do you love me” and Peter says yes he does. Jesus tells him “if you love me, feed my sheep.”

[quoting from his talk]
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. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword” to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live. 

I have often noticed that basically every commandment we have, from the ten commandments on down, falls into one of the “two great commandments” of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. All hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ~ John Lennon 
We’ve been told that faith is the opposite of fear, and also that it drives it out. I like this comparison of faith and love, because it goes right along with the idea that if we have the faith to love God, then we’ll show it in fearless love of others.

God shows us an example of unconditional love, forgiving us our faults and offering support in our struggles. Julian of Norwich was an early Christian mystic and she said “If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

As our Heavenly Parents love us, so we are to show our love in return by serving our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? In the story of the Good Samaritan the neighbor was simply someone who was there, who was willing and able to help, regardless of religious, political, or economic differences.

What acts does Elder Holland suggest we perform to show our love for God? 
[neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, truth to defend, wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship]

How do you show love for God in your daily acts? 

[Going back to faith and love over fear…my story of picking up the old man on Christmas Eve if there is time]

Christ says that when we do something for another person—ANY other person—then we are doing it for Him. When we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, we are loving God.

Most of us have probably heard the quote from President Kimball “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”

I really like the way that Mother Theresa put it “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
Do you ever feel like God’s little pencil? In what ways? 

When people allow worldliness to pervade their minds and hearts, they turn their backs on eternal principles. 

Now that we’ve established what it looks like to love God, let’s move on to what it is to love the world.

In this lesson, President Snow discusses a time in church history where many people had powerful spiritual experiences during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, including prophesying, speaking in tongues, and seeing and hearing angels. Shortly afterward there was a great deal of speculation—financial risk-taking—going on in the area. Many of the church members got involved in it, and divisions and contention came among them because of it. At every level people were leaving the church, even including several of the apostles, all because their focus on personal gain—or potential personal gain—was the center of their focus and they stopped remembering the Lord.

So what do we mean when we talk about “worldliness” or loving the world? 
How did it happen then? How can it happen to us now? 

From the manual:
The god of the world is the gold and the silver. The world worships this god. It is all-powerful to them, though they might not be willing to acknowledge it. Now, it is designed, in the providence of God, that the Latter-day Saints should show whether they have so far advanced in the knowledge, in the wisdom and in the power of God that they cannot be overcome by the god of the world. We must come to that point. We have also got to reach another standard, a higher plane: we have got to love God more than we love the world, more than we love gold or silver, and love our neighbor as ourselves. 
Can someone do their callings, pay their tithing, read their scriptures, come to meetings every week and still succumb to worldliness?
[Obviously yes]
Are there people outside the church who are loving and serving and doing good in the world?
[Obviously yes]

We have covenanted to separate ourselves from worldliness and devote ourselves to the kingdom of God. 

From the manual:
I thank God that in these times of corruption and wickedness in the world, we have holy and righteous men and women who can devote those superior talents which God has bestowed upon them to His praise and glory. And I might say further, that there are thousands of virtuous and honorable men and women, whom the Lord has gathered out from the nations, that are also willing to devote their time and talents to aid in accomplishing the work of God in the interest of His children. 
How do you avoid worldliness in your daily life? 
How can we help others do so?
[working long hours instead of spending time with family or other loved ones, focusing on social status, overconsumption of worldly goods, vanity, intolerance of other cultures, religions, political positions, _________]

From Matthew 6:
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
24 No [one] can serve two masters. 

We follow the Savior’s example when we refuse to trade the glories of eternity for the riches of the world.

From the manual:
Now let me ask the question, Who [does] possess anything, who can really and truly call any of this world’s goods [her] own? I do not presume to, I am merely a steward over a very little, and unto God I am held accountable for its use and disposition… Who shall say that the rich, or those that possess many talents, have any better hope or prospect to inherit these blessings than the poor, or those who have but one talent? As I understand it, [one person] who lives according to the law of the Gospel, and is honest and faithful in his [or her] calling, that [person] is just as eligible to the receiving of these and all the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant as any other [person]. 
I think sometimes we have a hard time translating Jesus’ example to a modern context. He walked around the desert healing people and telling stories, but we have jobs and kids and laundry to do. However there is a modern day person who I think does an amazing job of following the Savior’s example and that is Pope Francis. I’m hoping that you have seen some of the many articles about him. He may not heal people or feed them by the thousand, but he does talk with them, pray with them, and hug them. He made the Vatican get rid of the expensive mercedes and since then he’s been using inexpensive and used vehicles. He keeps setting aside the extravagant things, and instead spending his time and energy with people, especially those who are poor, sick, disabled, disfigured, or otherwise disenfranchised.

From Matthew 25
34 Then shall the King say unto them…Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 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, ye have done it unto me.
What can we do to make sure we are loving God more than the world?

 My testimony that serving others makes us happy. 

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