Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moons

From Adam Benner, owner of Eye of the Lens Photography:

You can find his Facebook page here: Eye of the Lens Photography.  

Those are some phenomenal skills.  Talk about natural beauty in the heavens.

(I babysat him once when he was a kid.  ;)


Monday, April 7, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sell all that Thou Hast

Dear Josten,

I've been thinking A LOT lately about a few verses of scripture.  They have been hot on my mind, and I frequently hear these verses recited of late:  

“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:22-25)

These words have left a strong impression on me, and I have been trying to "lighten the load" of "stuff" I have in my home.  The other day, as I was de-cluttering, pondering these verses yet again, something dawned on me, and I want to share it with you so I don't forget.

I often wondered why Jesus didn't just tell this rich man to just donate his stuff to the Goodwill, Jubilee, or Deseret Industries?  Why does he tell him to "sell" all that he had?  Should I be selling what I have, and giving the money to the poor?  Attempting to sell what I have would not be worth the time to sell.  It's not worth anything, and if it is, my time is more valuable than to try to sell it.

This is where bells went off in my head.  As far as material possessions, while I have enough for my needs, when it comes to selling anything in the area in which I live, I am poor!  Aha!!!  hahaha!!!  After months and months of pondering these verses, I realized it.  I am poor, at least in terms of financial wealth.  There are only a few items that would garner more than a few dollars at a yard sale, and that is my bed and my electric piano.  Everything else would be chump change!  For this scenario, the instruction is clear.

If I had money, I would give.  King Benjamin reports:
And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.  (Mosiah 4:24)
I would love to give anything I had to the poor, if I knew what was needed.  I am quite positive that there is great room for improvement here, and am by no means perfect.  For the time being, I donate what I feel I should to our local thrift store.  We don't have many visibly homeless in our town, but I would gladly give as needed.  After so much time pondering these verses, I am grateful to have had an "aha" moment.  And I look forward to the day in which I can have more to give!



Dear Daniel,

There is a law, irrevocably decreed...

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. - Jesus (Luke 6:31)
Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.  - Jesus (D&C 6:33)
Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been – if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.  Now behold, this is the voice of the angel, crying unto the people.  -Alma (Alma 9:28-9)
We reap what we sow.  As we treat others, we shall so be treated.  This has been called a "Universal Truth", and I believe it.  Take care to treat others, regardless of who they are, with love, respect, and kindness.

Love you!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nephite Woman

Dear Austin,

I had a really unique opportunity in Primary today.  One of the counselors teaching Sharing Time asked me to pretend I was a Nephite woman, present when the Saviour appeared after His resurrection.  All the parts were written out for me; I could read the card if I wanted, but it was requested that I pretend to be the woman.

As I read through the card I pondered what it might have been like for that woman.  Enduring three days of earthquakes, tempests, lightnings... I think of the scariest of storms we have experienced in our lives, and I imagine this was much, much worse.  Houses toppling, land shifting, rains, fires, and complete darkness for three days.  Can you imagine three days of cries, sobbings, fear and hunger?  We struggle to fast for 24 hours!  What did they do for those three days?

The card said that after three days, a light appeared in the heavens.  I've learned that it was probably many months after the darkness that the Saviour appeared.  Probably more like 10, and it was at the temple at Bountiful.  What was powerful to me is that last night I stumbled across this site, and the author shared his powerful experiences of touching the nail prints in Jesus's hands, feet, and side.  Reading it last night brought me to tears, and I found it a miracle that today, reading the card and what I was being asked to "pretend" was just too coincidental to not be a miracle.

So with some trepidation I stood up at my turn to "pretend" to be this Nephite woman.  Imagining losing children or spouse in this earthquake, or surviving such an ordeal.  Waiting 10 months to wonder what would happen next.  Traveling to the temple for worship, trusting that what I was doing was still correct, despite the wait, the death, the destruction apparent all around, and trying to reconstruct it all.  Showing up at the right time and there, as luck and privilege would have it, I get to be present for when my God appears.  Hearing the testimonies of leaders and prophets testify of this moment for years, and finally getting to see for my own eyes!  And then to be invited to touch those hands, those feet, and that side for myself.  Tears were the only thing that came today.  What a powerful privilege and blessing that must have been for that Nephite woman.  I hope someday that we too can experience that.  Strive for it.  Believe it can happen, and do everything you can to get there.

Love you baby!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Dear Magdalene,

There are some ugly people out there.  I'm not talking about the deformed or crippled.  I'm talking about those who are so internally pained and torn that they are ugly.  They let their biases, criticisms, and unkindness deform them, to where they are abrasive, rude, and mean, no matter what circumstances come their way.

One suggestion.  Cast out the devil in them, and leave.

I have learned that when you try to fight the devil, you typically lose.  But it takes two to fight, and asking your Savior to step in and do the battle is the only way to come out alive.  Don't even try it alone.  Let beauty overcome the ugly, and know that beauty comes from a connection to God.

When you feel like you can't do it alone, pray.  If you feel like you're not reaching heaven, pray harder.  Pray until you connect, and if you don't, keep praying.  Pray to come off conquerer, and pray to win the "battle".  It is a battle.  It is real, and if you wonder why sometimes working with some people leaves you shaking, realize that you have just met a devil, or a human possessed with one (or many).  Cast them out, leave them be, and then pray for protection.  They are real, and so is God.  He is more powerful than all of them, and refusing to be contentious is the first step in overcoming.

Love you baby,

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rest from thy Labors

Dear Josten, 

Well, you're witnessing it live and in the flesh.  Your mom's experienced a quick case of burnout, and it only took about 5 weeks.  Today after church, I slept for about four hours.  It's been a rough week.  On top of it, Sundays are at very least not a morning of rest.  

We arise, shower, eat, dress in our best, gather books, bags, gadgets, and load into the car.  We drive to church, and you and your siblings wiggle through the sacrament.  If we let you play video games, you are calm.  If we don't, you are wiggly and need drinks, bathroom trips, and more.  

After sacrament meeting, we go to Primary.  We all go to Primary, except for Dad.  I go from wrangling four young kids between the ages of 3 and 10, to up to nine 3- and 4-year olds.  The other teacher and I are to help keep all 7-9 (usually it's just 7 that show up on any given week) reverent through Opening Exercises, Singing Time and Sharing Time.  If my calculations are right, this is asking a young child to sit still for about 2 hours and 10 minutes, minus the walk from the chapel to the Primary room.  I wouldn't take my child to a movie theater for a movie that long, cartoon or no.  Then we go to class, where we squish in the almost-largest of the classrooms (which is still only about 9' x 8' or so.  The class could be divided.  That would mean two more teachers would need to be called from an ever-growing list of adults who hang in the hall, since I would not want to be left alone with even 3-4 of the children.  You never know what needs will arise.  
9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer. (D.&.C. 59: 9-14)

Oblantions, defined on link above, describes "oblations" as "offerings, whether of time, talents, or means, in service of God and fellowman".  Google defines it as a thing presented or offered to God or a god.  I find the difference a little startling.  Oblations on lds.org appears to be more of sacrifice of time, talents, etc. in service.  Oblations on Google appears more strictly as an offering directly to God.  I know King Benjamin says when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God.  But this is not service.  This is oblations - an "offering".  How would church look like if we took this literally?  How would our Sabbath days play out?

Could you imagine going to church, offering oblations and sacraments, confessing our sins to our brethren, and resting from our labors?  What would it look like to publicly humble ourselves before our brethren, confessing out sins?  Would we be more apt to help one another through true struggles, rather than hiding them under blankets and rugs?

How would it look like if the bishopric got to sit with their families and multiple children, so the wives would be more inclined to rest, rather than struggle for reverence through talks and recitations of conference talks?  How about meetings before and after church?  How about three hours of meetings, period?  What if our worship looked more like worship than a funeral?

What about rejoicing and prayer?

What about vows being offered on all days?

What about fasting?  Should it be every Sunday?  Or just one?

I love going to church, don't get me wrong.  Sunday used to be my favorite day of the week before I had kids, and it still kind of is.  But now it has turned into a struggle, and I ponder why God would give these counsels to Joseph if He intended for us to struggle to maintain the image of quiet, seen and not heard children for three hours of what we call worship.  And in case anyone disagrees, why do we need to take our children out of the sacrament room when they're noisy?  Sure, it's not a rule.  But the fact that it is expected as a courtesy tells me that what we are doing is certainly worth considering, in relation to the commandment above.  It's not worship, it's really not.  How do we overcome what we have become?

I hope by the time you really get to read this that things have changed.  We shifted from a multi-meetings-a-week routing to this three hour block, and yet we still have mid-week meetings, for some of us multiple times a week.  I yearn for a day of more simplicity, truth, and wholeness in worship.

Love you,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What I Wish I Could Say

Dear Daniel,

Next week I will be privileged to become your new Sunbeams teacher.  While you might not be aware of class differences in Primary, right now I'm teaching the 5 and 6 year olds.  I have been with this same group of kids for over a year now.  I won't speak too proudly, but I've been content overall with keeping my cool with this age range.  There've been no explosions or embarrassing teacher meltdowns thus far.  It's a tough bunch to keep corralled, but they're a very good (and small) group of kids, thankfully.

In general I've had problems with the lesson manuals, and I've attempted to stick with the theme of the scripture noted in the lesson, rather than the endless stories the manual directs me to share to entertain the kids.

Well this week, I got hit with a stomach bug.  It's been one of the stronger varieties, and yes, I've used our oils to temper it.  But it still kicked my butt horizontal for two days, and you seem to be taking round 2 of it yourself, although only in regards to fevers and runny noses this round.  I hope you get better soon.

I'm writing a little sideways, after attempting to find a substitute.  I teach five children.  One will be out of town.  When asking the parents (first) if they could sub, two moms said they've also got sick kids, and won't likely be at church.  That left 2 parents.  One said she could, but she was also teaching Gospel Doctrine during the 2nd hour.  (SUPERMOM.)  I told her I would come back to her if I found no one else.

One dad said, and I will quote, "I'm very busy during church."  Gee, thanks Dad!  What a stellar example of Priesthood in action, stepping up to bat to participate in your awesome son's class, where I've shown up for the last 52+ weeks.  Shithead.  He's the Sunday School President.  My dad is too - at the Stake level.  I wonder if he'd be too "busy" to show up for this guy's son.

He may be kidding, but I'm not.  It's reasons like this that the Ordain Women movement has taken hold.  Priesthood holders, where the hell are you???  Besides decking up when it's time to show up for a Priesthood blessing in the middle of the night, what do you do to show up for your families?  Your kids?  I cannot ever get one man to sub for my class, including my own husband -- who by the way, is supposed to be my "co-teacher", but asked to be released.  Are you too busy chatting it up in the halls during Sunday School, to show up for your kids?  (I counted four Priesthood holders enjoying joke hour in the hall last Sunday.)  Or too busy making sure all the teachers show up to their classes under your "control" or "jurisdiction"?  Maybe you've got hours and hours and hours of endless correlation meetings before church, and organizing your every-night-of-the-week meetings takes up all of church time, so you just can't help out when the Primary teacher gets sick or has another commitment once in a while.  This is not what it should be.

Daniel, when you get old enough to be a priest, or a "high priest" at that, show up for your own kids, as well as other kids (especially those who don't have a man for a father), not just in the suit and tie, but when their teacher asks you to help them one damn Sunday out of the year.  It's really not that terrible.  In fact, I'm growingly confident that I'd rather spend my days with the Primary kids than with many of the lofty adults.

Nobody'd perfect, but "too busy" is a shitty answer.  I'll let Jesus judge beyond that.  I'll work on my Christian attitude in the meantime.  Apparently I'm not perfect yet either.