Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another Trip

Yesterday evening we did another trip to the hospital.  I was experiencing some severe abdominal pain, and we wanted to rule out many possible issues, which we did.  It is quite possible that I have never endured such horrid pain in my life as I did for those hours while we tried to get medical care and medicinal relief.  What was interesting to me is that I was given a do-over chance.  The last time I was admitted I prayed for help, but then got distracted.  This time prayer was all I did, as it seemed the doctors and nurses were able to find no solution, no medication to help ease the pain for quite some time.

Unique to this prayer was that it was all out loud.  I told my family, "You're gonna hear me talk to Jesus a lot..."  They laughed, but it was true.  And it felt good.

I think it would do us a lot of good to talk out loud to Jesus and our Heavenly Parents a whole lot more, even when we're not sick.  When I got home, I attempted to meditate to help my body calm down while I waited for the hours to pass until I could try the new prescription they gave me.  I didn't care if anyone heard me talking out loud in my room, but I hope Jesus heard.  Once 1:52 am rolled around and I took the new meds, I got answer – relief –to my many prayers.  :)

What do you pray for?  Did you find this post useful in any way?  If so, please leave me a comment.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Glory to God

Last week I got to perform a somewhat difficult number on the piano, to accompany a friend at church.  She was singing "Gesu Bambino" for a Relief Society Christmas dinner, and gave me the music to learn just under a week before we were to perform it.  I practiced my heart out, and when the night of the performance came, I prayed.

I've played the piano since I was very young, so I would say to most, with an aire of humility, that I'm a pretty good pianist.  I can sightread well, differentiate a singer's wishes with ease, and do quite well accompanying.  But usually, at least once a song, there are flub-ups, especially if I haven't had months to hone the piece.  With months of practice, I can play a song with my eyes closed.  This was not the case last week.

However, last week I tried something different.  Typically before a performance, I will pray and ask God to help me perform well.  I ask to not make a fool of myself, not lose pages off the piano, not lose my place, not have a train wreck on the keys.  All of these have happened to me or others, so I pray that none of those things will happen.  Often I'll pray while I'm playing a song, so when anxious jitters come, they will hopefully quickly dissipate and allow me to focus on the notes with clarity.

What was unique about last week's performance was that I had 5 friends attending the event who were not members of my faith.  They decided on a whim, after I had invited them earlier that day, that they would join the activity, and it would be their first encounter in an LDS meetinghouse.  (Who could turn down a free dinner with free babysitting and great music and devotions?)  Before I left the house, I prayed, fervently, that the night would be inspiring for them.  That they would be uplifted, draw closer to God, and be edified by the events.  I prayed for help in playing this newly learned song, for no disasters, and for any glory that I might receive to be given to HIM, rather than to me.  I didn't desire any attention, and recognition, any praise for my skills and lifetime of practice.  I asked for maybe a little inspired help from the composer, if such a thing were possible.  None of this has ever occurred to me before as something to pray for, besides basic enlightenment or edification for the audience.

Beautifully enough, my fingers played well.  One of my best performances ever, I would say.  Beautiful piano and fortissimo sounds, beautiful changes in pace and spacing.  Dramatic sounds, beautiful words sung by the vocalist.  No train wrecks, no lost pages, no losing my place on the page.  I think my fingers may have missed one note.  Just one.  

Interestingly, no one really said anything to me, besides my mom, pointing out mildly that it sounded nice.  One of the sisters commented in her talk that she believed angels were singing with us tonight, which is something else I added to my prayer request.  But beyond that, I got no glory.

It was awesome.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Passionate Moments

Tonight I had a very passionate moment.  Not in a romantic sense, but as in a "heated" discussion. A friend and I were talking about politics, and I usually avoid talking about such things with anyone anymore.  It's not because I don't care, but it's because I care too much, and have not yet figured out how to talk about them without elevating my blood pressure substantially.  I start shaking.  It usually feels contentious.  I feel SO passionate about what I believe that it's hard to control it.  It's hard to keep enlightened.  My "circuits" go haywire and it's hard to get them back in line.

The subject of our discussion was the topic of responsibility, although I never addressed it as such.  In the thick of it, my friend said it's likely we'll never agree on these things, but I think it's just the contrary.  We agree on so much, but she doesn't realize it, thanks to the perceptions of what "party" she thinks I belong to.  I don't belong to any party, and I feel like the American two-party system is one of the greatest devices of the adversary.  Because some people link themselves to a party, they often completely shut out the fact that so many of us agree on so many things.  If we could forget the labels and talk about principles, we would get so much farther.

Principle one: agency.  In the beginning of creation, we had a war over agency.  Do we not all agree about agency?  We all did, at one point, because that's how we got here.  Two thirds of the hosts of heaven agreed that we wanted the option to choose to return to God the Father, while one third followed Lucifer's plan, to have our choices already made for us.

I don't know of anyone who enjoys slavery, or doing something because someone else demands it of them.  Yes, some people like direction, but no one wants to be forced to do something they don't believe in doing.  Agency is something so important God's children warred over it, and continue to do so.

Principle two: consequence.  There are consequences for the decisions made with that agency.  One of Satan's greatest tools is leading us to think there are no consequences to nature's laws, and there is no devil.  Yea, sin a little, because there is "no devil", "no hell".

Principle three: responsibility.  We are responsible for the consequences that occur when we utilize the agency that God has given us.  God does not remove our agency, nor does He remove our responsibility.

So many of the issues facing those engaged in political debate comes from a multitude of perceptions on what we do with that agency.  America is based on Judeo-Christian set of ideals and morals.  It is not legal, ethical, or accepted to kill or steal.  The other commandments of the 10 given to Moses seem to growingly become more "optional" to some.  Adultery?  Ah, why not?  Bearing false witness?  No harm, there, unless you get caught.  Then there might be some shame, but people get over it.  How about coveting?  We covet ALL the time.  It is a way of life.  If it weren't, there would be no magazines glorifying Hollywood, no big deal the day after Thanksgiving, and little to no debt in our households.

Our society has become so twisted.  At this point, there is no recognition of principle two or three.  We want agency, because we get the quick fruits of our "labors".  But we don't want the slow, real fruits.

We want sex, but many don't want a baby.  So we fight over to legalize the consequence of the sex.  We then get to "choose" what to do with the consequence.  Kill it, or let it live?  Our country has fought for decades over this one.  Those who support life fight for it.  Some who support "choice" fight to keep control of the ability to cancel the natural consequence, while others under their umbrella don't want that option taken away for others, even though they don't support it themselves.

We want our government to spend money on us, to support us, and to give us physical, emotional, and even spiritual security.  We have "welfare", to take of the sick, afflicted, hungry and homeless.  We have "social security", and trust that if we work hard, the government – our fellow man – will pay us to live, down the road.  Some trust so much in this that they think they can quit providing for themselves because someone else will, when they hit an arbitrary age.

Where in scripture does it say that at age 65 we can quit providing for ourselves?  Our families?  Where does it say our bodies shall give out and be incapable of doing anything of use, beyond sitting on a beach chair in a yacht?  

Where in scripture does it say we can have sex, and kill the baby if we don't want it?

Where in scripture does it say we can buy things we don't have money for, and then make someone else pay for it, to the tone of $16 TRILLION?  This is the quickest, most preposterous slavery I have ever heard of.  When GW Bush was in office, the Dems cared about the excessive debt of war.  When Obama's in office, the Reps now care about the excessive debt of the recovery bailouts.  Obama supporters blame Bush for getting us in the mess, and Bush supporters blame Barney Frank and Fanny & Freddie for pushing for poor people to be able to get loans they couldn't afford.  It's clear we all agree we don't like debt and lack of consequences, unless it's our guy in the Oval Office.  Then it seems ok.

Where in scripture does it say the other people who live near or around me are now responsible to pay my medical bills, if I by chance have some freak accident or life-changing disease?

Why is it your responsibility to buy me a cell phone, if I don't make enough income to call 911 if I have a medical emergency?

Why do the taxes of those who have jobs get to pay for your food stamps?  Why do we have food stamps?  Is it really that we can't afford food, or we can't afford the "needs" – cell phones, cable tv, trips to fast food joints, $3.59/gallon gas to take trips?

Christ tells us to be our brother's keeper, to love one another, to do unto others as we would have them to unto us.  He did NOT tell us to force one another to do so.  How will God look upon us if we force others to care for us when we can't care for ourselves?  This is contrary to the agency which God gives us.  But 51% of this country now feels it is appropriate to pass that "agency", that "consequence", that "responsibility" to the government – to our fellow citizens – to decide.

Quite frankly, I don't trust any of them to keep their genitals in their own pants, let alone decide what I can do with my own money, time, retirement, and womb.  And I don't trust other Americans to hold them to any standard of decency to do the same either.

The only one I trust?  God.

God help us.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nephi's Isaiah, by Denver Snuffer Review

I don't know how to even start sharing how thankful I am for this book.

A little over a year ago I began reading Denver Snuffer's works.  I was a bit hesitant to begin The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord through the Veil, due to the implications on the cover and the title.  I was hesitant to explore books that weren't "Deseret Book" approved.  A trusted friend recommended it, however, and due to consistent reading of these books, my entire concept of the gospel feels 180 degrees changed, improved, and enlightened.  I am so thankful to God for the books coming out of the keys at Denver Snuffer's computer.  They are truly inspired.  

Nephi's Isaiah is a companion to The Second Comforter, and leads the reader to an enhanced study of the The Book of Mormon.  I always wondered why Nephi took up such great space in The Book of Mormon to cite Isaiah, especially if he knew that we would already have Isaiah's words to read from the Bible.  This book presents a "why", and also a new way to read it.  

There are so many ideas presented in this book that I could likely take a paragraph and blog about it for a week.  If I could quote a few of them, I would, but the book is copyrighted, with no permissions given for quoting, so I avoid doing so... especially since the author is a lawyer. :)  

I have never been very much inclined to read nonfiction gospel study works.  I get bored quickly, and often don't enjoy the simplicity of some of the books, or the odd focuses on the author.  This piece does none of that.  It's not senseless writing, or intended to give the reader excuses on why they can ease up on strict commandments.  It's bold, just like Nephi.  It's clarifying, and makes words and customs easier to understand, and quite frankly, answers so many of the "whys" which I've been looking for answers for for years.  

One point I really enjoyed near the ending is how it is pointed out that Nephi did not have a broad audience to preach to.  He likely felt small, or incidental among his people, even though he was their leader.  He saw our day, but it is clear that he leads more people now than he ever did in mortality.  I find the idea fascinating.  

And as expected from this author, he never takes credit, but acknowledges that anything useful is from God and Nephi, and says that anything useless is his fault.  Always makes me laugh a little.  If we could all be so humble.  

What are your thoughts?  Have you tried any of Snuffer's books?  Would you try one?  Please share if this review has helped you in some way.  Thanks! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

When I Vote

I fully intend to never make this a forum for political debate.  However there are a few thoughts that I have been considering, as to why I vote without question for who I get to vote for this upcoming election.

(photo source - not sure if it's 100% the original)
I've been pondering a lot lately, the idea of "pro-choice" vs. "pro-life".  My body looks a lot like this one, and as I ponder that fact, it brings me to both gratitude and agency.

Gratitude – I am beyond thankful for my ability to easily and quickly be able to perpetuate life.  It was never a struggle for me, although I usually didn't enjoy the uncomfortable nature of being pregnant.  I am very petite, so when I am "great with child" I really look like a bus.  There is no where for the baby to go but OUT, so it looks like I have a full size basketball under my shirt at about, oh, 7 months along.  I'm jealous of the taller women, who don't become a walking projectile as fast as I do.  And I'm not that proud of sharing my stretched, saggy belly with others, but I also don't worry about it too much.  In heaven I trust all the stretches will be worked out.  Currently it reminds me of my ridiculously awesome children.

Agency –  this is something so powerful that the whole hosts of heaven fought over it.  Children of God found it so important that they took up sides, and some lost their ability to have life.  It is why we are here – those of us who supported agency got the chance to use it.  I am staunchly pro-agency, and I cannot stand it when someone condescendingly tells me to do something I don't want to do.

I am also staunchly in favor of letting the living live, or the conceived live, no matter the cause of their conception.

Life is so incredibly valuable.  The other day I read a very well done article which lays out many details of what is considered and what isn't, in terms of being pro-choice and pro-life.  The author writes in some gory detail many facets of abortion that most of us would rather not hear, and that many blindly ignore.  These are some of the details that affect my vote this upcoming election.

I don't pretend to go and tell people what they should do to their bodies.  I don't go telling strangers not to have sex when they're not married.  I don't tell people to not have babies when they have no ability or comprehension of what it takes to raise them.  I believe life is precious, and regardless of the source of the life, I believe it should have a chance to live, whether it be by rape, incest, or happily conceived in marriage.  Does that mean I think it is easy?  Is life easy for anyone???

When I vote, I will be voting for someone who supports any and all babies' rights to life.  In the United States, one of our candidates believes in letting the local states decide on the issue, although he is personally in support of life.  The other candidate is pro-abortion, and has voted in the past to support partial birth abortion, which is one of the most grotesque, evil, and horrific practices of our day.  I grieve for the state of the soul of the woman who allows this to be done to her child, and the doctors who are so hardened that they can perform it.  If most citizens were aware of what actually transpires in an abortion, I feel their stance on the issue would likely be seriously reconsidered.  Certainly I have never heard a woman brag about how proud she was that she killed the life within her.  And a woman who does this to a child outside the body is hauled off to jail.  The dichotomy makes no sense.

God has already decided what He wants us to do with life.  Jeremiah 1:5:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
We are to value it, above all the riches of the universe, no matter how it was conceived.  We had life before conception, and God knows us personally.  Does he not have a plan for us, who our parents will be, and when we come here, and why?

I hope and pray that politics aside, people will consider life when they vote, no matter who they're choosing between, no matter what country or what position they're voting for.

That's all I have to say about that.  

What do you think? Has this post impacted you in any way? Please share your thoughts, if so.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Church Clothes

As the weather's been slowly turning to cold in central Pennsylvania, I've been pondering a few things about clothing.  Most of my clothing are bagged up in a storage unit in Utah, so I've been rotating the same 3 pairs of pants each day.  Realizing that this is more pants than many people in the world even own, I've tried reflecting on gratitude, and enjoying this more simple wardrobe.  (Thankfully, I have about 20 shirts to rotate through, but they're mostly solid colors.  I have to wonder if people get sick of seeing me in another crew-neck, bright colored shirt with the same cardigan over it.)

Last week I talked with my friend, who shared an experience of a little boy in church who couldn't afford anything but his play clothes to wear to church.  He typically showed up in jeans, until the Sunday when his Primary President pointed out in her lesson how it's important to not wear play clothes to church.  Of course, she didn't single him out by name.  But this was the last Sunday my friend has seen him at church.  Do you think he felt a little unwelcome?  Or maybe he went home and told his parents, "I'm not allowed to go to church unless I have dress pants."  I wonder if any of the other kids felt inclined to tease him or laugh at his jeans.

(photo source - what a great dress code website!) 
When I hear stories of this, I'm tempted to wear pants to church.  That, and the fact that the guys in suits get to control the thermostat, while I'm culturally expected to show up in a skirt.  No one prohibits me from wearing a suit like them, but surely I know I'd get the looks, and most certainly a joke from the members who think I should know better... like my mom.  

Beyond me wearing pants, however, I understand we're expected to wear our "Sunday Best".  But who determines that?  Would Jesus show up to church in a suit and tie?  Or would he make sure his hair were parted on the side, and slicked with hair gel?  Would it be trimmed above the ear and the collar?  Just curious.

(Another great pic from Ben Lippen Dress Code's blog. Don't know where they got the pics, but thank you!) 
Alma warns us of becoming lifted up by our "costly apparel" and our cultural expectations.  We hear about this in Alma 4: 6-15.  I'll share verse 6 and 8.

And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. (vs. 6)
For they (meaning Alma and other leaders) saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure. (vs. 8, words in italics added by me) 
These people had been a humble people, and because of their humility, they began to be industrious and prosper.  Because they became so prosperous, they then became lifted up in their own eyes, and changing their priorities, such that being scornful to one another did not cause them to realize their growing lack of charity – or pure love of Christ – toward one another.

So dare I wear pants to church?  Will I get persecuted?  I'm not really one to care to perform social experiments, just to see if I can get people riled up.  But I'm almost tempted to wear pants, just because it really doesn't matter, and it might just help some future investigator feel a little more comfortable being in our houses of worship.

And to push the issue farther, I'd wager a guess that no where in the scriptures does it say that women need to wear a skirt to church, little boys need to wear polyester pants and not jeans with holes, and that men must wear a tailored suit with tie to be appropriately dressed.  I can guarantee that little boy in my friend's church didn't care that his pants didn't fit the bill, until sister Primary President ridiculed him, albeit not by name.

This issue grieves me.  I know it's not that big of a deal, but it was big enough for Alma to give up the judgment seat when this kind of pettiness happened in his day.  He gave it up to Nephihah,
And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.  (Alma 4:19

What do you think?  Has this post impacted you in any way?  Please share your thoughts, if so.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How We Roll

I just caught a quick glimpse of this image, copied from "Joseph Smith, the Prophet"'s Nerdbook page.  (I wonder if Joseph Smith thinks it's great, having his own Nerdbook page.  Wonder who writes on his behalf?:)

(Sorry, they didn't give a photo source and I have no idea who did it! But it's nice, isn't it? :)
It made me laugh.  Today I was reading in Denver Snuffer's Nephi's Isaiah, and he spent quite a bit of time explaining a discrepancy between Lucy Mack Smith's account of what happened to the plates.  Lucy writes that Joseph gave the plates to the Angel Moroni, and most Mormons repeat that that's what happened to them.  But Snuffer takes a moment to clarify what scripture, in particular Nephi, dictates, and it's different than what Lucy's account describes.  (He also explains how Lucy's account is true, yet not accurate if questioning where the plates are now.)  Snuffer actually takes time to evaluate the details in the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, as well as the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses (both located in every Book of Mormon).  He highlights key differences in wording, and illustrates exactly how the plates were indeed returned to the place where Joseph was instructed to return them, rather than taken away completely by Moroni.  Yes, Joseph did return them to Moroni for a time, who then shared them with the "three", but he then returned them back to Joseph, who then, as it lists in the Testimony of the Eight, showed the plates to them for their account.  But only the observant or questioning would notice the difference in the current residence for the plates.

Anyways... all of this back and forth in the book shortly led to how we obtain a witness of the Holy Ghost, and it was quite an interesting take on the Holy Ghost.  In fact, it's one of the best descriptions and clarifications on the Holy Ghost I've ever read.  (This post leads up an incredibly well done series that has changed my understanding of the Holy Spirit.)  We, as Mormons, do a great job at confusing a lot of what's written in scripture.  But I really love that this gospel at it's heart, is so simple.  

So why the picture?  Joseph communicated quite a bit with angels, and when reading his accounts and seeing beautiful depictions, I think it's fun to realize that the paintings can never do the real experiences justice.  But I applaud the artists for trying.  What a beautiful depiction.  

And why is it funny?  Who gave these angels permission to stand upon the podium?  Was that ledge put there for angels to descend upon?  Probably.  (I can just hear them saying, "That's how we roll!":)  Could you ever imagine doing this as a mortal?  The audacity!  Now try envisioning how fun it would be if angels appeared in sacrament meeting, and decided to make their appearance by standing upon the pulpit.  That would be quite the sacrament meeting.  I hope someday they do it, just because.