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.

~Mom<3 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Zoramites Became Lamanites

Dear Austin,

For behold, it came to pass that the Zoramites became Lamanites; therefore, in the commencement of the eighteenth year the people of the Nephites saw that the Lamanites were coming upon them; therefore they made preparations for war; yea, they gathered together their armies in the land of Jershon. - Alma 43:4

The other day I was led to this verse.  The first line stopped me in my tracks.

"...the Zoramites became Lamanites..."  

The situation of the Zoramites has fascinated me for what feels like several years now.  Their entire situation leaves me so much to ponder.  How is it that an entire city, or group of people, so easily can join in with a group of people esteemed as their enemies, for so long before?  It seems like an easy transition, because shortly after, the Zoramites are coming against the Nephites, with the Lamanites.  What is it that allowed them to acclimate so quickly?  Just curious.  Was it because their sins were the same?  If their worst sin was the oddity of their pompous prayer, their worship only on Sundays, and the costliness of their apparel and their shunning of the poor, how is it that they fit in so quickly with the Lamanites?  

~Mom<3

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bald Eagles in Utah



The symbol of freedom, bald eagle, are dying in hoardes in Utah.  No one knows why.  Reported yesterday, Sunday, 12/22/2013.

The day before was 12/21/2013, the Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year for the northern hemisphere.

The day before was the eve of the Winter Solstice.  Gay marriage was deemed constitutional in Utah.  

A few days before polygamy was ruled as un-prosecutable in Utah.  

Utah is the home of the headquarters of the LDS Church.  

Utah is also the first state in the nation to allow polygamy and homosexual unions.  

The irony is the judge making the decision was appointed by a Democrat and approved by a Republican.  

Bald eagles are dying in hoardes in Utah.  No one knows why. 



Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Moving Christmas Rendition

Dear Magdalene,

Today we showed up late for church.  Since it was the Sunday before Christmas, showing up late meant there were no empty seats, except for the front corner pew.  We made it in time to sit before the sacrament hymn ended, and all six of us squished in the small space.

The meeting was beautiful, as it always is for Christmas.  But I must report that my favorite part was the last two songs.  The full choir was in front of us.  There were two of the best piano players sitting at the piano (meaning two men with big, strong hands), an organist at the organ, three violinists and one bass violinist, all with instruments ready to go.  Sister Mecham (my fav) warned the congregation that once the song starts, "Get ready cause it's really gonna move."  The pianists began the introduction to the song, and then it began.  The large choir, the two pianists, one organist, three violinists, one bass violinist, and one large, packed congregation began singing Angels We Have Heard On High.  And it moved.

The we switched into Hark The Herald Angels Sing.  And it moved.

I don't think I've sat in a sacrament meeting so powerful.  Maybe I have, but it's been a very long time since such power has been sustained.  I think Daddy was moved from the get go, as was I.  I don't know how anybody sang, but it seemed everyone was.

Because we were in the front corner pew, we had the best seats in the house.  We got the fullness of sound from the strings, the bulk of volume from the choir, and the rest of the congregation coming from behind.  This is praise!  This is faith.  This is inspiration.  This is what a heavenly host might begin to sound like.  I envisioned that Christ could have appeared in the space between me and the choir on the podium, and none of us would have been surprised.

If that's what heavenly choirs sound like, I think I should much like to participate.  Definitely something worth sitting in the front left few for the rest of my time at church, if that's what it sounds like there.

Moving, indeed.

~Mom<3  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Is This Idea Sacrilege?

I don't know if I'm pushing hot buttons, or posing a very inappropriate question.  I mean it in the highest form of respect.  

Due to reading yesterday that 1276 tickets were given to homeless persons last year for trespassing, when I saw a friend post this picture today, my brain/heart put two and two together.  


Would this not make a fabulous homeless shelter for those 1276 that are in need of warmth?  Maybe they might even be able to be put to work to finish it.  

I'm not playing devil's advocate.  I'm serious.  We have 140+ temples constructed or in the works.  Would just one homeless shelter sponsored by our tithes be inappropriate?  

If you object, please enlighten me as to why.  Please use scripture though.

~Jen<3

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Response to the 1276 Beggars

A friend posted this article on their facebook page, and asked for thoughts of others:


I commented, and read the other comments, mostly saying to avoid and don't pay the beggars, but a few that said contrary to that.  Then someone shared this:

"This is from my buddy who is or was homeless good perspective: Don't give the people flying signs money, most of them are using the money for drugs. Give them food, clothing, single sheet flannel blankets, that's it. I would only give them money if they look like they are taking care of themselves, and you get the feeling that they look like they will put it to good use. I will see the same person in the same spot for 6 months. They aren't going anywhere. By that time, they aren't doing anything good with the money. Don't get me wrong, I am sure there is an exception.
There are much better ways to help, although they are not nearly as easy as handing out money. Donate clothing, hygeine packs (ziplock bag with hotel soap, shampoo, and whatever is affordable...some of these shelters/charities have requirements). The biggest help is in the form of pushing for completely different policy. The homeless shelter in salt lake cut its housing in half about 6 months ago, so there are going to be hundreds sleeping on the street this winter. To be honest, I think salt lake city is trying/hoping that many of these people will leave this winter...and it will work to some degree.
The police hand out thousands, no joke, of tickets to the homeless for blocking a thorough fair, because a homeless person is sitting on the curb. They handed out 1276 tickets last year, for the two blocks next to the homeless shelter for the homeless "criminally tresspassing". Most of them were for walking across a parking lot. I know, I got one of them.

Get community leaders (they aren't leaders, they are business folks with agendas) to consider and take different approaches to handling the homeless. Over half of the homeless have two showers, and two washers and driers, provided by the Catholic Church (side note: the LDS church donates blankets, but has no shelter for the poor. It's only interesting, when the LDS consider this the home base for their ideology).
Let them know of the bishops warehouse on 8th south and 7th west. They allow people to do menial work in exchange for food and clothing. Great program.

The Mission, 5th south and 4th west, provides free hot meals and clothing.

There is a health clinic, the "4th street clinic", on 4th south and 4th west that provides almost all non-emergency medical help."

I don't agree with not giving them money.  Even if they're drug addicts, they use drugs to fill a need.  It's up to you to discern what you can or can't give.  But DO SOMETHING!!!!!

No shelter???

1276 tickets???

My response on the thread:

"Hebrews 13:2: 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." I will turn around in traffic to give to a beggar, provided I don't see them texting on their iphone. Either way, I try to keep a little food in my car to offer, so if I don't have money I can at least offer food. "Are we not all beggars?" King B."
Heaven help us!!!  I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.  This is insanity.  PUT THEM UP FOR FREE IN THE MALL!!!  

Monday, November 25, 2013

JST Gen 14

Dear Josten,

I've been pondering and studying tithing for a very long time.  I don't know what has possessed me to be so fascinated with the topic.  Perhaps it has something to do with the law of consecration, feeling poor, and lots of complaints I hear from people about our church building a shopping mall with their for-profit arm.

The other day I read something for what felt like the first time.  It's the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 14:25-40.  I won't cite it all, but a few verses are particularly applicable to tithing.

Before I proceed, let me share the traditional narrative and counsel.  We pay the Lord first, correct?  We receive income, we pay one tenth, and then spend the rest as we need.  I have heard this lots over the pulpit, and remember sharing those thoughts myself from time to time when asked to give talks in the past.  Yet the account we generally reference never really made complete sense, as there were always for/against arguments on tithing gross or net income from various parties.

The narrative is that it is a lesser law.  The law of consecration was not able to be fully followed, so the Lord kind of gave us a break and allowed us to live this lesser law.  When we get it right, I suppose we believe we'll step up into the higher law.  Although in essence, we agree to this law at baptism: to bear one another's burdens.

Anyways... at the end of Genesis 14, there is a set of Joseph Smith Translation verses which are truly phenomenal to the doctrine.  Do we believe it, or our rational and tradition?

36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.
37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;
38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.
39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.
40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.
The highlighted verses struck me.  Tithes are for the poor, according to this revealed scripture.  Because we interpret it differently now than what is declared here, do we feel we can change the scripture to fit our current beliefs?  Or do we need to change our current beliefs to fit the scripture?

Yesterday on my Facebook wall, someone was well researched enough to copy and past the following.
"I tithe because I strive to be obedient and it is a covenant I have made as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My “task” is to be obedient – I give the Lord my tithes. Once it leaves my hands, someone else’s stewardship is to use that money wisely. It is the Lord’s money.

Tithing funds are used to support five key areas of the church: (1) Provide places of worship (2) Provide education programs including universities, seminary and institute (3) support the world wide missionary program; (4) Build and operate temples and support the family history programs and last but not least (5) support the church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid programs – these service people all over the world whether they are members or not. (Source: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/.../church-financial... )
Tithing funds are not used to build shopping centers. The church has an arm of the church that is “for profit” – and the church pays taxes on those businesses. For more information, please see www.lds.org, or www.mormon.org or www.mormonnewsroom.org.)

There are many good organizations that can use our time and our money and we are blessed to be able to support them. How fortunate we are to have some “extra” to share with other children of our Heavenly Father."

So... tithing funds are used to provide chapels (and other places of "worship"), education programs, missionary work, temples, family history projects, and finally support the poor.  In that order?  I don't know.  Apparently it is (once again) not my reponsibility to question.  However I am commanded to give (or not give) common consent.  ("And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen." D&C 26:2)  Is it more imperative that I agree with what the living oracles of the church newsroom decide?  Or what a man who communed with God revealed through scripture?  And if those in the church newsroom and the powers that govern tithing funds decide that they can distribute offerings to whichever funds need them the most, who is to say where or how my tithing will be distributed?  But does it matter?  Am I supposed to believe, as my friend commented, that it is the Lord's money, once it leaves my hands?

Point #2:  Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.  Which God had given him more than that which he had need.  This hit my heart.  This is not "pay the Lord first".  This reads to me as "take care of your needs, then tithe of the excess".  IF each member knew this scripture, would there be any trouble whatsoever in members having any problem paying their tithing?  If there was no excess, there is no payment.  If there is excess, it is no struggle, no question of faith to pay a tenth.  It is, in fact, very, very generous of a loving God, to allow us this privilege.  It warms my heart.

Josten, this is a very simple way to better keep the commandments of God.  With this much leeway, if you had such excess after meeting your needs, would you not feel more inclined to give to other charities as well?
This scripture was so exciting to me that it brought me joy.  For a very long time I have deliberated this principle.  I've read others' takes on it, read the Ensign and Conference Reports.  But this is scripture, and I believe it.  I worship no man but God, and oh, what a blessing!

Next step: better understand the law of consecration.  Working on it!

Love you,
~Mom<3  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Typhoon Missionaries

This evening I read a beautiful poetic article about LDS missionaries pulling faith from fear during Typhoon Haiyan.  You can read it here, for it is the reference point for which this post is made.

(photo source: Ravell Call, Deseret News)

The story elaborates about how several sister missionaries survived the recent storm.  Miraculously they were provided a way to escape the aftermath, which is unfolding for those who were not so fortunate to find a way out, who likely remain fighting for scraps of food in the desolation.

After reading the article, and pondering the idea that many around the world would do anything they could to be drop-shipped to the Philippines to be able to help the survivors, I am scratching my head as to why these 204 missionaries were pulled out of the country.  Death is all around.  People are desperate for food, and it's likely pouring in, although probably no where near what is needed to survive.  Maybe that's why.  Maybe they needed to get out of the devastation, and allow food and resources to go to the locals.  My mind and heart are wondering, what are missionaries for, if not to serve?  Their job is not only to teach, or is it?

Recently I read on a blog where the author had a suggestion for what they hoped would be announced at General Conference regarding missionary work.  I really liked it.  They supposed how cool it would be for missionaries to be able to dress in regular clothes, and be out ministering through service to the local communities.  At 5 pm, they would get back in their suits after dinner, and spend the evening proselyting with the help of members at a time when fathers are generally home, and the elders (at least) can get into homes without having to reschedule until there is another male present.  I really loved that idea, because it seems like knocking doors is not the most effective way, at least 24-7.  But getting out there in street clothes, tags on, asking every person they meet, "Hey, what can I do to serve/help you?" –would that not be a wondrous sight to behold?

I am so glad the missionaries in the Philippines are safe, but I'm a little jealous, and somewhat sad that they were not permitted to regroup, reassess, and find a way to make God's presence known.  I pray that while they're in another area of the Philippines, they can get any emotional help they might need, as they'll likely experience nightmares from the horrors of what they've seen.  Yet in the aftermath of the storm, I'm really pondering the idea that in disasters like these, we are being tested as to our resolve and interest in being an instrument in God's hands.

Love and prayers for all those affected.

~Jen<3

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Death of a Friend

Yesterday a longtime friend of the family underwent a double mastectomy.  For those unfamiliar with medical speak, that meant that the tissue held within the breasts are removed, the breast skin sealed up, and sometimes implants are later used to replace the tissue.  It is a very painful process.

Two days ago, when I heard the news about yesterday's surgery, I also happened to unpack a box of things that had been in storage for over a year and a half.  Stuffed in the box was a pink breast cancer awareness shirt I had received as a gift from a different friend, nearly three years ago when she got diagnosed with breast cancer.  She purchased a pink shirt with the classic pink ribbon, only this one had a heart drawn with the ribbon.  She had given one to me and several other friends in her tight circle of friends.  We watched and journeyed with her through her own double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and healing.  I remember sitting in the hospital room as she awoke from the anesthesia, and her bedroom from time to time through her healing.  Calling it painful and arduous would be an understatement.

Karol Truman writes that cancers of the female organs are indicative of many core issues.  Some big ones are "unresolved resentments", "holding onto deep anger, resentment, hate, revenge or jealousy", or "not open to 'light' or divine help" (Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, p.235).  In my Connective Tissue courses in massage school, we learned that the chest/heart area was responsible for issues of the "heart".  (duh- lol!)  In one instance, the instructor placed her left hand on my heart under the drape, and simply told me with her eyes to "let go".  It was as if something magical happened, because I could feel all sorts of pain rushing through, being released.  I had instant tears, and didn't even quite know why.  Too bad everyone can't go to massage school – that kind of bodywork is priceless.

Regardless of the conscious or subconscious cause of breast cancer, yesterday I had cause to reflect, being so greatly reminded of the old friend (via the shirt), and the cancer of both women, and where I have been in the two years since the death of the woman who gave me the shirt.  She's very much among the living, I presume, but the friendship is deceased.  In so many ways, her passing instigated the changes in me that have taken place ever since; they have been deep and will be longer lasting than the friendship was.  

The breast contains and protects the heart.  My heart was completely broken, smashed to smithereens, and then rebuilt by God himself.  There is no other way to explain it.  It had to happen, because I would not allow for change otherwise, and openly admitted such.  I refused to move away from the woman, would never reject her phone calls, and put our visits and gatherings above the needs of my children and family, and unless the friendship was demolished, I would have stayed and stewed in Utah Valley quite possibly for the rest of my life.  When I write so frequently in my posts here about idol worship, it hits so powerfully home to me, because I was the worst of the worshipers of this graven image of a goddess.

When the friendship was smashed with an iron rod, I was gently given a pillar to lean on.  I received a blessing from God through a friend, which warned me of the dissolving of the friendship, and the opening of my heart, the pain, the tears, and the healing and metamorphosis that would take place.  In the two years since the woman wrote me a long, horridly horrifying letter, I have "shifted" in ways formerly unimaginable, such that I doubt she would recognize me, were we to talk again.  And I have no desire for her to recognize me, because I no longer worship her.

I bear no ill will, and I was actually able to wear that shirt yesterday, with a prayer in my heart for both women struck by breast cancer.  Other times when I had seen the shirt in the box, I could hardly touch it, and preferred to leave it sit there until I had the gumption to throw it away, burn it, or donate it.  Somehow, I was able to put it on my body, and my heart felt nothing but gratitude.

Without her, I would not have been so openly introduced to so many people who taught me so many wonderful things.  I hate to give her too much credit, but I would not have been introduced to energy work.  I would likely have never met my close friend and mentor, who cared to teach me muscle testing, and the cascading effects that have come from that:  I would not be a massage therapist.  I would not be working with doTERRA as a business.  I would not be rubbing shoulders with people in my upline and downline who I truly love and cherish with my entire soul, because from them too I have learned so much.  I would not have a "downline", because there was no chance in hail that I would've grown a business with it had I stayed in Utah, and I left Utah to get away from any chance of ever seeing her or her "circle" again.  I would not have 10 awesome brother-sister-friends from massage school.  I would not have a massage business in my home.  I would not be working from home.  I would not have picked up various books that are now my go-to sources for spiritual education.  I am eternally indebted and thankful for the once friendship, and two year old death of a friendship, which has changed my life.


The leaves fall
The tree waits
For a new beginning
It held all along within 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hysterical

Dear Austin,

I found this so funny - had to share with you.  I'm sure you'll love it, when you're old enough to understand it yourself!



http://motabenquirer.blogspot.com/2013/08/completely-exhausted-new-parents-sleep.html

Read it.

Love you!
~Mom<3

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A History of Halloween

One of my favorite radio personalities posted this on his Facebook wall tonight:

Halloween is one of the worlds most ancient holidays originating in Ireland nearly 3000 years ago. It was believed that on the night of October 31st the veil between the spirit world and the physical world was so thin that the dead could commune with the living. They called it Samhain, pronounced Sow-en.
The shamans/priests would bring messages from the Other Side and predict the future for the year to come. The villagers would wear animals skins and carve scary faces in gourds to scare away the evil spirits and they would offer gifts to the dead away from their homes to keep them out.
It was a time to remember those who had died the year before; a time to acknowledge the pain of the loss and let it go. In essence it was a time for closure. Mexico's day of the dead is a modern version of this.
As a kid my first stop for trick or treating was at my Grandma's house. She liked to see my costume and be the first to drop candy in my bag, a fun but short tradition. She's on the Other Side now, but I think of those memories every Halloween.
My grandmother actually visited me on Halloween once. She impressed her energy on a woman who stopped by my house late that night with some trick or treaters. Left me speechless but it was good to see her. I think maybe the ancient Irish were on to something about the veil being thin.
I'm taking my little ones trick or treating tonight. And while I'm not planning on a visit I'll definitely keep an eye out just in case. You may wish to do the same. Maybe one of your loved ones will show up to say hello:-)
Happy Halloween folks, enjoy the night!  (Steve from "Believe with Steve Godfrey" - see here for source)
Truth.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Lesson on Jesus

Last week in Primary I was supposed to share a lesson with my 6 year olds about how "Jesus Said to Love Everyone".  Rather than drone on about stories that my class has historically not enjoyed, of late I have ended up winging the lesson.  Not to put the parents into a state of worry, let me clarify.  We certainly study the scriptures and learn of God, but not in the recommended fashion.  See, we actually open up the scriptures, and devote most of the class to direct scripture.  Yes, they are only six.  But they seem to love it a lot more than the stories in the pink manual that really don't edify.

This past week we focused on this verse:
"And behold, I am the light and the life of the world..."
taken from 3 Nephi 11:11.  (Angel numbers there.)

Does Jesus mess around, when he talks?  Does he insert twists and half truths, or is it ALL truth?

I reaffirmed in this class that Christ is God, the source of ALL truth.  We discussed what LIGHT is.  What is light?

We turned off the lights.  We turned them on again.  We talked about the sun, and how the earth circles around it.  We talked about how without the sun, there would be no life.  The plants would not grow, for without the sun, photosynthesis would not take place.  (Ok, didn't use that big word!)  Gardens would not grow, we would not see one another.  We talked about the darkness that preceded Christ's visit to these people, and how after all the destruction, the tempests, the whirlwinds, the earthquakes, the cities being raised up and buried by ocean waters, how there was NO light for three days.  The light and the life of the world was removed, symbolically and literally.  Three days of utter and complete darkness.  I wonder if the Holy Spirit was permitted to remain with those righteous, or if all influence of God departed.  There was certainly a great amount of weeping and wailing.

Think about it.  Electricity is energy.  The sun emits energy, constantly.  Without the sun's radiance, we would have no life.  No purity, no cleansing, no fire.  The breath we take, every moment, every unconscious, unthinking second, every breath comes from God.  Christ is the center of it all.  Without him, we have no life.  He is within us, and without our spirit's connection to his, we would be nothing, for when his influence on our body leaves, it is left but a carcass.  Christ is the life of the world.

It was a very enlightening class.  I was touched to hear one of the children's mothers report on Facebook that her son (in my class) was excited to see a bright light in the sky and thought it was Jesus coming.  I always wonder the same, and wonder when it'll happen.  Hoping I'm ready, but realizing that I'm not there yet.  Thank Jesus for an atonement.

~Jen<3

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Awakenings

I'm having a challenging time knowing where to start with some of the things I want to share.  Things have been mounting, exponentially, in the last few weeks, and I've learned so many wonderful new bits of knowledge that I don't know where to start.

A few things have been brought to my attention.  There was a book written, and has been catching some great reviews, such that I'm wanting to get my hands on it!  It's been ablaze on many blogs this week.  I don't know how some people keep their finger on the pulse, but I'm thankful at least someone's involved in what's hot off the press.

The book's called The Cultural History of the Book of Mormon, and is written by Mormon anthropologist, Daymon Smith.  If I didn't have three or four books already on my list of books to catch up on, I'd have bought it yesterday.  But maybe, just maybe, he'll find out that I'm a book reviewer (mostly on my other blog) and he'll offer me a free copy of the whole series. ;)  haha!  I'm looking forward to reading it though.  I read through a paper he gave at a Brazilian conference and was thoroughly enlightened.

I'm not sure how much I'll have to read to get the point though, as the other reviewers have shared enough that I think I get the main point.  Here are two great reviews: Rock Waterman's and Denver Snuffer's.  If you're a little lazy, I'll tell you the point, the bottom line, the lesson.

Read the Book of Mormon with NO preconceived notions, no links to other religions, no links to your own religion.  Read it at face value, and see what you get.

After understanding the bottom line, I am intrigued.  Several thoughts brought up, like the word "restoration" and "Bible" have got me so ponderous that I wish I could just sit and reread the Book of Mormon over again.  I was a bit grateful to have already read it many, many times, so that when things were brought up for consideration, I knew exactly where to dig to find my own answers.

I don't know if this'll sound all that cryptic, but I am so excited with the things that are coming forth these past few months.  Snuffer's also done a series of talks that I find simply intriguing, and while it helps to have read his books, my understanding is that the talks are given with the idea that there will be non-members of the LDS faith present at them.  So anyone could read and find things worth pondering.  Some people like to bicker over technicalities, and I find I don't have time for that, unless there's some serious content issues.  The content is fascinating, and it resonates over any other author out there, despite people trying to make sure I'm not having the wool pulled over my eyes.  I'll link to the talks, and feel free to read and comment.

Boise - Be of Good Cheer

Idaho Falls - Lectures on Faith

Logan - Repentance

Centerville - Covenants

And this one - The First Three Words - BLEW MY MIND!!!  It has several accounts of the King Follet Discourse, by Joseph Smith.  I've been in the LDS Church for 35 years and never read it!!!  If you want to understand about the nature of God, read it.  Now.  And don't wait for it to come up in Sunday School, because this kind of doctrine has loooong been removed from our curriculum.  But that doesn't mean we're not supposed to ponder and learn about it.  Absolutely awesome stuff!

There are a few other talks on his website, and I'll comment on those as I read them.  I've got lots of catching up to do, but I wanted to share how thoroughly thrilled I am with what I've learned.  I only wish I had more people to join in the discussion with me.

~Jen:)


Friday, October 4, 2013

"And the serpent said..." (Moses 4:10)

Dear Magdalene,

And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; (Moses 4:10)
This was the verse which came to mind this morning - Moses 4:10.  So I go there, and I read it.

What does that verse mean?  The serpent is referring to Satan; the woman referred to is Eve, mother of all living on this earth.  Satan tells Eve she shall not surely die.  But she surely did, although it took a couple hundred years.

Interesting that Satan presents himself as a serpent, or is described as a serpent.  Jesus is also described as such, symbolically.  This is represented when Moses held a serpent on a stick, and the children of Israel were told to look upon it and they would be saved from poisonous bites of fiery flying serpents (see 1 Ne. 17:41).  Look upon a serpent, representing Christ, and be deceived by a serpent, representing Satan.  It is interesting to note that in essence, Satan is telling Eve that he doesn't exist.  Death, hell, and Satan himself don't exist.  It does not matter what Eve does, what she eats, because there are no consequences.  In essence.

I wonder how much that lie continues to be purported today.  We always think of the "sinners" who are doing all sorts of catastrophic things.  Murderers, those involved with whoredoms, drugs...  Do we realize that one of the devil's greatest tools is telling us to think he does not exist?  And if we believe that lie, what then?  Do we think it doesn't matter how we treat one another?  Do we think that understanding God's words don't matter?  Do we twist God's words, like Satan does, to work according to our desires?

One interesting instance on this is the Word of Wisdom.  God states in it that it is to be "sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom..." (D.& C. 89:2)  We have twisted these words.  I cannot find any place where it was revealed, "thus saith the Lord", that this is no longer simply a greeting.  I cannot find where any living prophet declared this to be null and void.  But now it is a required belief and adherence to this is required to partake of sacred ordinances.

In the Word of Wisdom, we are instructed to drink wine for the holy sacrament, and how to do so safely.  We are an industrious people, yet we don't know how to follow the Lord's command in using it for our sacred ordinances.  Wine-making was a major trade of early saints, and breweries were prolific in Utah in the late 1800's-early 1900s.  Regardless, can you imagine what effect it might have, drinking red wine, representing the red blood of the Savior, during the holy ordinance?  I know it "doesn't matter" what we drink - it could be kool-aid.  But we're kind of lazy, aren't we?  It doesn't matter to take the effort to make wine rather than water, to have a more exact replication of this, and because at some point along the way it was preferable or "revealed" that "water was ok", we no longer utilize this sacred symbolic tool, used limitlessly throughout the holy scriptures.

What makes me laugh is that in talking to the primary children the other day, asking about wine in the scriptures, one little boy exclaimed, "Wine is POISON!!!"

"The inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father..."  

Yes, little man!  Wine is not good!  But wait.

"...only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.  And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, or your own make."                (D.& C. 89: 5-6, emphasis added)

Well, we follow the counsel of our leaders, and we are never ever led astray.  I would simply like to know when the Lord revealed through revelation that this is no longer his requirement for his holy ordinances, as when we change God's ordinances, we corrupt them.

Ahh well.  There is no death, and the words of God do not matter to the great Tempter, and so they likely won't matter to those who believe that variety of serpent.  I hope and pray that some day our living prophets will encourage us to believe the words God has revealed, as he is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I am concerned, as when I make any effort to point out scripture to any latter-day saint, they only fall back on follow the prophet, and frankly, I find that verse no where in scripture.  But for today, I will keep an ear out to discern which voice I am hearing when I am told there is no death.

Love you baby,
~Mom<3 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 21, 2013

Dear Josten,

Yesterday marks 190 years since a very remarkable day.  Sitting on the fall equinox, September 21, 1823 marked the day that the angel named Moroni visited Joseph smith, 190 years ago.

186 years ago on September 21, 1827 the plates that would become the Book of Mormon were released from the vault in which they stood, to be translated and scrutinized the world over.  An amazing book it is.  Yesterday marks a very eventful day indeed.  I wonder if anyone else noticed.

It was also a full moon.

Fall equinox, 190/186 year anniversary, and full moon.  Stars are probably aligning, but I know too little about them to make any comments.  Hope someone else does. :)


Fun fact: you can balance eggs on end relatively easily on the quarterly equinox.  This one was done at my home in Utah, back on December 21, 2010.  Pretty fun to give a round.

Love you!
~Mom<3

Friday, September 13, 2013

Helaman 5:12

Dear Daniel,

This is for you and everyone.

"And now, Daniel, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that you must build your foundation that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which you are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12, adapted to your name)

This morning I was led to read Helaman 5:10.  It turns out my friend (who doesn't really know me, but I'd like to consider him my friend) got spanked and excommunicated by the church.  Amazingly, he seems to feel no hostility or resentment toward anyone involved.  I am amazed by his pure love of Christ.

Helaman 5:10 tells me

And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom (these are pretty awesome words, and I do remember them) in the city of Ammonihah (which had since become destroyed, as he and Alma warned/prophecied); for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.

Big difference noted.  The Lord will not come to redeem us in our sins, but from our sins.  What, exactly, does that mean?  The next verse tells us that the difference is repentance.  And I learned from Denver and my other friend Daniel that repent means "to turn" to God.  Denver wrote that to repent in Greek means "to come home".  I really love that, much better than the Latin translation, "to feel sorrow" or "to feel pain".  Interesting, indeed, that we choose the negative connotation.  God would have us return home, wouldn't he?

I love you.
~Mom<3  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Emotionally Invested

Dear Austin, 

You know what it's like to be emotionally invested, don't you?  You're so young, but you love a game for Pappy and WaWa's iPad, called Minecraft.  You love to play when  you wake up, when you're in the car, in church, wherever.  I almost have to pick a fight to get you off of it.  We could say that you're addicted, but I also think there's an emotional investment.  You really like playing it, building things on it, and creating.  

I'd have to say that mommy's emotionally invested too.  I've been learning so many wonderful new things the last few years that it's changed me.  People might wonder if I'm still "on track" on where I should be, but I have to wonder where that "track" was leading me.  Quite frankly, it was a track of stagnation, although I really didn't have a clue as to how stagnant I had become.  I have been inspired to reach into the mysteries that Alma teaches us to to dig into.  
9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.  (Alma 12:9-11)
I was led to explore mysteries.  I'm not sure why God saw fit to inspire me in this direction, but I seemed to be instilled with a curiosity on things that were considered "mysterious", and began to actually find answers.  One of the sources was Denver Snuffer's books.

Every time I would explore downloading some of the writings of Parley P. Pratt from Amazon, they would recommend this one book by Denver Snuffer.  I found it curious that he used a line we hear in the temple on the cover.  Did that mean he exposed things that shouldn't be exposed?  I was very hesitant.  But when a soon-to-be dear friend said that he had read it, and highly recommended it, I trusted it was safe to explore.

It's been about 2 years since I discovered The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord through the Veil.  It took me 2 months to read it, which is slower than I've read and finished most other books I had been reading at the time.  (I would peel through LDS romance novels every two-three days or so, so this was a drastic change for me at that time in my life.)  I share it with most of my friends.  It changed my life; how?

It inspired me by asking questions.  Why this?  Why that?  Why do I do what I do?  Do I do what I do because it's supposed to be that way?  Am I truly doing things the way God wants them done, or the way man requires?  Why do certain things not make sense in the scriptures?

For the first time ever, some things began to make sense, not because the words were changed, but because my rosey glass were unfogged a little, and I can see more clearly.  And even though we walk in the smog of this world, things are getting clearer. 

This morning I read something from one of Denver's more recent books, Remembering the Covenant, Vol. 2.  This can also be found online, but I bought the book so I could underline things I liked more readily.
Having the Gospel understood is the first step, of course. As a group, there is such a poor command of the scriptures that we have some considerable study before us. Passing familiarity with some scriptures is not of much use. They are the standard given to us to help reveal the basis for becoming a covenant people.  (source here)
Ouch!  Did we just get spanked?  I think we've gotten spanked in the scriptures too (D.&C. 84), when the Lord places a condemnation on us for not using the Book of Mormon like we ought.  (We treat it "lightly".)  But we got another one from Ezra Taft Benson back in the 80's, and I'm really not convinced we've changed much since then.  Do we study our scriptures any more than we did then?  How about in Church?  We're not even supposed to crack our scriptures in sacrament meeting anymore.  Wha-what???

So I've been moved by his words - meaning Denver's reiteration of the Lord's in scripture.  They've moved me to improve my studies, my searching, my studying.  I have found a ridiculous wealth of information that the LDS Church has published for our behalf, whether it be through BYU, the Joseph Smith Papers websites, or other sites.  Finding this wealth that goes completely unnoticed in preference for articles written by the "Church Magazines Department" just astounds me.  I've come to learn, Austin, that I am at the point of relying on outside studies for my growth, if I don't want to stagnate.  And if I stagnate, I harden.  And if I harden, I am led captive by the devil.  Hail no!

That said, I am not afraid of reading things online.  My faith is firm such that I'm not bothered to be troubled by people nit pick over the veracity of the Book of Mormon.  I already know it's true, so I'm more inclined to feel sad that they're bible bashing over the possibility of more scripture.  I'd rather dig into varying thoughts among those who also believe it to be true, and there are so many possibilities!

The last paragraph I read this morning in Remembering the Covenant, Vol. 2 really moved me as well.  Here 'tis:
There is no one else who you need to look to other than the Lord. There is enough revealed in the Book of Mormon to tell you what you must do to become part of His people. You don't need me, or a program, or a leader, other than Christ. He has offered the opportunity for each of us to become part of His people.  (source here again)
Lest some take this the wrong way, let me warn that if this offends, it is indicative of being led captive by the devil.  The Lord does not command us to follow a man, despite primary songs that tell us to.  The Lord tells us to "come follow me"; it is not "come follow a man who follows me, and then you are guaranteed to never be led astray".  This sounds an awful lot like another plan, which allows for control, dominion, and chains.  God will stretch us.  He will lead us sometimes in ways, like Abraham, that we might think are not always what is expected.  But take confidence that when you know you are being taught of God, you are being taught of God. 

Two days ago Brother Snuffer experienced a disciplinary council, which is the MOST BIZARRE THOUGHT to me.  Continuously in his books, he stresses the need to continue forth in this church, despite the evidence that we have been led to various traditions that might not be the Lord's way.  He tells us that we are to come to God, face to face, and we are to continue in this work.  He makes no profit from his books; they all get donated to various funds, some of which are the Church's.

I find myself strangely emotionally invested.

I wonder: was Abinadi considered one in opposition to the "church"?
Was Lehi considered one in opposition to the "church"?
Was Ether considered one in opposition to the "church"?
How about Jeremiah?
And Isaiah?
And Malachi?
And Ezekiel?
And Peter?
And Paul?
And John?

Which leads me to the next trail of thoughts:

Is the canon closed?
Does God only allow men in positions of leadership to speak on His behalf?
If John the Beloved appeared to you, would you be allowed to share such an experience?
Would you believe someone if they told you he had appeared to him?
Is it possible that Denver has invited people closer to Christ than they have otherwise been?

I haven't read  Passing the Heavenly Gift yet, which is the book which has apparently led to the disciplinary council.  I have it on my bookshelf, in line to be read after Remembering the Covenant, Vol. 3.  I might just skip that one so I can see what all the hubbub's about.  But I have found nothing thus far which would lead me to think he has need to be excommunicated.  On the contrary, I see some of the heathenous things that come out of our mouths, and wonder at the irony of the whole situation.  It is ridiculous.

Whatever happens, he needs no defense, and this is not my effort to defend.  But I find myself strangely, ridiculously, emotionally invested in him, his family, and whatever comes of this.  I am ridiculously grateful to have been pulled to stumble across the books which have come from his "desk".

Somehow it feels like a stoning.  We ought to take care with paying attention to our reactions.

Read these books sweetheart.  You will be enlightened if you read with an open heart.

Love you,
~Mom<3

Friday, July 12, 2013

Your Dream Last Night

Magdalene,

Tonight you began telling us a "story".  You have always been a wonderful storyteller, but it has been a long time since you have offered to tell us a story at bedtime.  Tonight it began with a fuzzy winter glove of mine.

You put it on your hand, and began teaching us about death and the resurrection.

"This, is like you.  The glove is your body, and this (your hand) is you!  When you die, your body goes here (in the ground), and your spirit goes up here (arm in the air, swimming)."

It quickly turned from a story to an account of a dream, apparently from last night.

"I saw Grandma last night."

What???  I believe in dreams.  You had my rapt attention.

What did she look like?  What was she wearing?

"She was wearing white earrings," you said.

Were they hoops or just small earrings?

"They were round circles, like this big." (You made a circle with your thumb and index finger.

I asked you if she was old or young, or just looked like Grandma.  "She just looked like Grandma."  You said she hugged you, and then flew up in the sky.

How did she fly?  "With her wings."

What were her wings like?  I'd never seen angel wings.  "They were big.  Angel wings.  You know, like a pegasus."  Oh.

Next you cooly and calmly said that Jesus and Mary were there too.  Not Grandma, but Mary.

Was Jesus a baby?

"No.  They were both grown up."

Did you see anyone else?

"Yeah, Alma was there.  The older one.  You know, the one who was with Noah.  Not Noah and the ark, but the other Noah.  The king."

Oh.  What did Alma look like?

"He had white hair."

Really?  Wait, are you sure it was Alma?

 "Um, yeah.  It wasn't the younger one, it was the dad."

Oh.  Wow!

So what did they say?

"Um, they were eating."

Eating?

"Yeah."

Were they at a picnic table, or a dinner table?  Or just walking around?

"They were at a picnic table."

Oh.  Just eating?  I can't remember if you said they were eating or just talking.  Maybe you remember?

What else happened?

"Abinadi was there."

Really?

"Yeah.  The one with the handcuffs."



Oh.  Did he have handcuffs on in your dream?

"No.  He was just... normal."

Oh.  And what about Grandma?  Did she say anything else?

"No.  She just gave me wings, and I flew up with her."

And then what?

"That was all."

Oh.  Okay.  So then you woke up?

"Yeah."

Okay.

Just thought you might want to remember this dream.  I know it would take me a long time to write in your journal.  Typing goes much faster.

Love you baby!
~Mom<3

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jesus' Wheels

Dear Josten,

Today was a delightful day at church, wasn't it?  A member of the Temple Presidency spoke to us with his wife during Sacrament Meeting.  We learned about the Holy Ghost in Primary, and after church, we got to witness a baptism and confirmation.

Twice within and after the meetings I got to walk out to the car, and in the parking lot saw two of the shiniest black cars I'd ever seen.  Both belonged to members; one to the visiting member of the Temple Presidency and the other to a member of the ward.

(photo source)

As I said, both cars were black.  One was an SUV, and one was some sort of modified hot rod.  I was struck by how shiny and clean each appeared.  They were clearly brand new – models I had never seen before on the road.  I will admit that I was struck with intense jealousy, but it wasn't that I wanted those cars, but I wanted the ability to purchase the kind of cars that hey had, if I wanted to.  We talked about coveting on the way home, and it occurred to me that this is probably one of the more less spoken of commandments of those given to Moses so long ago, and also repeated by Abinadi to King Noah.


"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s."  (Exodus 20:17)


"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s." (Mosiah 13:24)

The Lord goes even further in a commandment to Martin Harris, about 1829: 

And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God— (D&C 19:26)
Makes me wonder if that commandment is extended to us.  That's a whole other question I should probably not delve too far into for one post.

So when we got home, and were visiting after dinner, I posed the question: If Jesus were mortal again, and couldn't appear by descending and ascending and doing marvelous means of appearing and disappearing, what car would he drive?  I was wondering if it'd be an old jaloppy that needs a good re-paint, with broken windows and door handles, or something shiny like what I saw in the church parking lot.

(photo source)

You first guessed he would drive a Ferrari.  "No wait, a minivan."

Interesting food for thought!  I guess it's good that Jesus doesn't need to drive.  From what I have read and learned, he has much better means of transportation, way better than cars.

~Mom<3 :)  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Are We Really Idolators?

Dear Daniel,

Would I be off track if I said I think that many of us are idolators?  Meaning, we worship false gods?  You are not old enough to understand this at present.  Your favorite thing is your "BB", and that's about all you need to be happy.

There seems to be a high that comes when we find something to connect with and worship.  I remember once meeting someone who I was a major fan of.  I was so excited to meet her that I began coughing because my mouth got so dry from the excitement of it all.  I chalked it up to being excited to meet a new friend.  But no matter what I thought then, I realize now I was idol worshiping.  Oh, thou fabulous famous person, you are so much better than I am and so I'm hyperventilating at your greatness.  Kind of repulsing when I think of it.

Should we ever be so anxious/excited to see a living human being that we get that nervous?  Should we care if a human being touches our hand at a concert or devotional, simply because they're famous?  Should we hang posters of baseball players in our bedrooms, because they're quite talented?  Should we look up to them as role models?

(photo source)

In regards to our religion, I was struck by an article I stumbled upon where someone posted about the oddity of being offended when a church leader's name is read in the news without including the middle initial. I found myself guilty.  Why would I be offended that a church leader's name would be read just like any other human being, without their middle initial?  Are they all lawyers, or clothiers (like "Joseph A. Banks")?


(photo source)

Having realized this, I feel a little sheepish, reading some of the LDS themed online articles which are written solely for the purpose of allowing voyeurism of these men and women.  It doesn't feel comfortable anymore.

Putting one human being, or any kind of fandom, above or before God, is idolatry.  Worshiping a false god.

(photo source)

It might not be a golden calf, like Aaron shaped at the children of Israel's wishes.  It might be more subtle than that, but in some ways, it's still overt and highly visible, if we take a moment to ponder it.  Like my post a bit ago, where I was lamenting how little money I had.  Idol worship.  GUILTY!!!

Some worship status.  Some worship fame, or public acclaim.  Some worship worldly goods, like a fine, clean home.  Some worship news figures, some worship sports and either watch or play all day.  Some obsess over the latest music, their musical talents, or other hobbies like art, travel, homemaking, or business.  Some (like me) have trouble with addictions like facebook or texting, or even blogging or surfing the net.  Some have addictions to political parties, and only their party will save the country, the continent, or the world.  Others worship more severe addictions that I prefer not to even speak of.

As a country, President Kimball lamented that we trusted more in the arm of the flesh, building up a massive military, than the arm of God.  We worship the salvation and security promised by guns and steel, rather than praying to God for our salvation, like the Nephites or Ammonites did.  We are idol worshipers.

Daniel, it's time to change.  I'm not quite sure how, besides first becoming aware of it.  It's certainly hard to overcome our habits.  But to know Him is to overcome the idols.

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." - John 17:3

~Mom<3 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb

Dear Austin,

My grandmother used to have a favorite song that she always wanted to sing for others in Sacrament Meeting.  It was a song called "Redeemed".  I may have written about it before but it points out that the singer is "Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb".  Especially after my last post, I have something to write about being redeemed from.

Last week was pretty tough.  When I wrote the post to Magdalene, I felt about as low as I'd felt in a very long time.  I could have been very content to go live under a rock somewhere, and forget all our financial worries.  Having felt ridiculously horrible I called a friend and asked for some help.  I was given some very wise counsel, which helped me arise from my stupor of depression.

Interestingly enough, the next day something incredible happened.  I got to attend a field trip with Magdalene to a butterfly museum.  The day was hot and sticky, and sitting on a bus with 45 screaming first graders was not what I expected.  However I got to observe and enjoy the beauty of butterflies while chaperoning 6 very unique children.  It was enough to stress me out, to say the least.

However I took a few pictures, and shared them with my friend.  It was pointed out to me, that the butterfly is representative of "transformation".  When I arrived home from the trip, I had received an unexpected bill.  Several months before, I had applied for "charity aid" to cover the remainder of my hospital bill from when my appendix had been removed last November.  I hadn't heard anything since a month or two ago, so receiving the bill signaled that I had not qualified for the assistance.  One more bill to add to the pile.

But my heart was calm.  I wasn't worried, and I knew God would take care of me.  I had been transformed, from even just the day before.

Opening up the bill, I saw the $13,000+ amount due for hospital services.  I also knew there was another one sitting somewhere in my home which was $500+ for the physician's bill.  Flipping the bill over, I found the number for the financial services department.  I figured if anything, I'd better get on a payment plan; first though, I would inquire about what happened with the charitable thing.

When I spoke with Todd, he put me on hold for a few minutes.  I started cleaning the kitchen while I waited.  He came back on, and said something that was half cut off.  "What?" I asked him.  "The charges are dropped.  You owe nothing," he said.

Shut the heck up.  WHAT???  The charges are cleared???  We qualified.  $13,500+ in medical bills were wiped completely away.  It was as if we had won the lottery.  (Your dad had actually purchased a ticket a few nights prior.  It was the first time I was ever glad he did.)  But this was better.  I knew this came straight from the hand of God.  I cried, but this time, as opposed to the day before, they were tears of sheer joy.

I have heard my friend say that we must know the bitterness of hell to understand the joys of heaven.  That was indeed the case.  I don't know that I've ever felt such pure love from Christ as I have last week.  It would take us months, if not years to pay off that bill.  We could have not done it without a miracle.  Receiving this miracle was one of the most powerful feelings in the world.  It made feeling poor entirely worth it, to know that what I experienced was completely, sheerly, wholly the goodness and complete MERCY of GOD.  There is no other way around it.  God is so, so, so, so good.

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  I cannot even begin to fathom, when all is said and done, and we meet God at His judgment bar, how incredible it will feel to know that we will be redeemed from sin because of the work of redemption He has given to us.  What an incredible, priceless gift that not even money can buy.

~Mom<3

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Current Great Depression

Dear Magdalene,

I've been meaning to write you some things for some time, but haven't really known where to start.  I hesitate broadcasting what I'm about to write online, but something keeps nagging at me to do it.  I hope that's ok.

This post might not be very inspiring, but I also feel the need to write it for a place to compare your future from.  While we don't exactly know how things will be in the future, being able to look to the present, which will soon be the past, is often nice as a reference point.  I hope what lies ahead is better, yet I'm trying to be grateful for what we have today.

About two weeks ago we all went to the local school carnival.  You and your little brothers wanted to play games, which all required tickets.  Most of all, you wanted to go through the bouncy house thing, which cost $2 a run through.  Each run through would take about 30 seconds.  While that might be pocket change for some people, paying $6 for three of my kids to have 30 seconds of fun just seemed wasteful.  It's a miracle you didn't meltdown in screaming that you couldn't go through.  I'm guessing it's because your friends were around.  Despite my stinginess, something inside me broke at not being willing to pay that for your limited enjoyment.  I had $5 to spend for the day.

I'd like to tell you what kind of work it takes for our family to earn $6.00.  Many people might laugh at this, but some will understand completely.  To make $6, Daddy has to throw boxes at work for about 35 minutes.  That's a lot of money, and a great paying job, if it were in a country like Thailand or India.  For us, it doesn't make ends meet.  But it's the best we've been able to find so far.  And Daddy drives 45 minutes to get there.  I know you don't realize why he's never here when you are, but let me explain Dad's schedule.  He's up most days at 5:30.  He works in town from 6am to 2pm.  He comes home, catches a power nap, and leaves between 3 and 4pm to drive 45 minutes so he can throw boxes for the next 5-6 hours.  He gets home about 10 to 11pm, showers (because he's filthy and often all scratched up from all the boxes).  He crashes in bed about 11:30pm, and the next day he starts all over.  He even gets to work Sundays.  They generously let him off for Church, but he surmised they wouldn't hire him unless he was willing to work when they wanted him to.  And we needed the income, so he agreed.

Two months ago we had a chance to get ahead.  Because our income is so low, we got some "Obama money" as many call it.  A fat old tax refund of about $8000.  That would take your dad at least 6 months of income to bring in, before expenses and what not.  It felt like the windows of heaven were opened.  I cried, because it felt like such a generous gift.  We figured out how we could spend it wisely, and even pondered how we could invest a small sum into a potential business, while paying down our debt significantly.

Within a week of receiving that check, your grandma passed away.  Daddy flew to Utah to try to see her before she passed.  The money was a Godsend, and made it possible for you and me and your brothers to join him for the funeral, which proved a wise investment.  Daddy needed our support.  However, airfare wasn't cheap, and because we left all our things in Utah when we left last summer, we realized it was the only time we could pack it up to bring it home.  So another $2000+ went toward moving our things to join us in PA.  We had a small buffer left from Obama's "stash" – (I say that facetiously.  Many of our friends would scorn the fact that we even got it.  It's at the expense of their taxes.  It certainly does not come from Obama's pocket or book sales.) – so we listed our home that Grandma was living in for sale, and hoped it would sell quick.  It's been two months, and it's still on the market.  We even offered to finance people.

All this said, we're trying, honey.  I wish I could blow $2 for you to laugh for 30 seconds.  I wish I could buy you anything you'd ever want, but the truth is, I don't even know how to pay the bills – and there are many.  To add insult to injury, we are now responsible for our share of Grandma's funeral costs.  $2500 bill started yesterday in $25 increments.  We'll be lucky if we can pay it in the next 5 years.  I don't even know the interest rate, but I wasn't given an option in the first place about anything pertaining to it, so I just leave it up to Daddy to worry about.

I don't know how to make things better.  My hope is that I can get my own starter business off the ground soon enough.  It's slow going, and the massage element will likely destroy my body over the next few years if I'm not careful.  The reason I'm sharing this is, I want you to know we are trying our best.  We are working our asses off, quite literally.  We're already living with your other grandparents, and I'm not sure what else to do to cut costs.  Daddy's already working two jobs, and despite being highly qualified, the good paying jobs are just slim, and those hiring can be especially picky, as the hiring pool is large.  College was a waste, but we believed what everyone told us.  Don't believe everything everyone tells you.  I'm finding that most of the time, they're all wrong.  But there are a few inspired people out there, who will help keep you straight.

There is a spiritual element in this.  I don't glory in being broke, and believe being "poor" is a state of mind.  However it's so easy to see how being broke can lead to being poor.  That said, Jesus warned us about wealth.  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  That verse resonated so many times, as I see countless people driving in surely hard earned shiny new cars, enjoying travel, fun, food, and all the luxuries that come with wealth, while I trust that my meager investments in oils and massage tools will someday get us there.  But why?  Why do I seek after that, if Christ says it is harder to get to heaven that way?  And why does he say that?  What is it about wealth that makes it hard?

I would guess it's the blind eye toward the poor, and the priority of bigger and greater over helping those who cannot cover the basics.  The whole of America is guilty of this, even among many like us who are without much income.  In our "broke" state never have to worry that we'll have food in our cupboards.  No, we have a stash of dead food to last us at least 18 months.

I hope that in writing this, you and I both have a point of reference to look back on, and smile at how far we've come.  We all hope that things get better, but the truth is we're in an economic depression.  The news media will never call it that, because their guy is in office, but it is what it is.  Our great-grandparents experienced this, and now we get to.  I wish we could have their words to read, to see how they got by, or how they made dandelion soup, but they were too busy working their butts off just to make ends meet.  Maybe that's why we only have the records of the rich.  We sure don't have many journals from farm laborers, coal miners, and the steel workers that are in our family tree, but it's the bankers and politicians who show up in the biographical annals.  Maybe that's why the generic name of the father of your illegitimate great-great-great-grandfather is only listed on the birth certificate, because he could afford to keep his fatherhood off the other published records for us to find – although it is likely he was one of the most prominent men in the state.  Today, I think it's sad what we value.  I hope in all this, you and I learn something more than the value of money.  And I hope I can teach you how not to melt down when you don't get what you want.  Laughs are much more enjoyable than tears, especially when I'm the one who gets to do most of the listening.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Seer Stones

Dear Josten,

Today my scripture study led me someplace really unique, and some big words are sticking out at me.

Last week in the mail, you saw how I received a big box of stones.  They were a graduation gift, and WaWa let me open them up early.  They were a set of 57 massage stones, to be used in a "hot stone" massage.  We were all overjoyed, even though you and your siblings really didn't know what we all so excited about.

Yesterday, when doing some blog exploring, I can across a really interesting site called One Climbs.  The author created an image of what s/he believes the interpreters used by Joseph Smith looked like, when he translated the Book of Mormon.  (If s/he gives me permission, I'll update this post and include the artwork.)  They included "seer stones", and the depiction is quite fascinating.  Made me want to explore the topic some more.

(When I took this pic, I had no idea this post would be written a few days later... or that this would have such a fun connotation to this post!)

So this morning, as I opened up my scriptures, I knew it was time again to do my time tested method of deciding where to read: close my eyes and ask "where should I read today?"  It's been a few weeks since I had the time to just sit and listen to the answer, even though it usually pops in my head before I get to finish asking the question.  D&C 32.

This section is quite short actually.  And some words and phrases impressed me.  It's a revelation given to Parley P. Pratt.  Love him.  (Read The Key to the Science of Theology on my bookshelf, or for free on the Kindle App by clicking that link.  He has some marvelous thoughts on angels, spirits, and dreams, which few contemporary authors have expounded upon.  Love that book.)  Anyways, using the footnotes next to Parley's name, I went to D&C 50:37 and started skimming what was going on there for him.  A few verses down, verse 44 says

Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall.

Did somebody just say stone?  Last night after thinking about the seer stones used for translation, I remember learning somewhere along the way about two of the stones used by the brother of Jared.  When preparing to cross the ocean, the brother of Jared was perplexed as to how there would be light within the barges which the Lord instructed him to build.  The brother of Jared asked the Lord to touch 16 stones so that they would give light within the barges.  After the Nephite civilization was destroyed (whether it be their structure, or their lives in general), Moroni deposited the plates he inscribed upon, along with a breatsplate, the sword of Laban, and the Urim and Thummim.  My understanding is that there were two of these stones, touched by the finger of the Lord, which made up the U&T.

(Not quite like the Urim & Thummim... but close?:)

Back to the verse, the Lord is the good shepherd, the stone of Israel.  It was His light, his finger touching stones, that gave literal light within the barges.  It was these stones, touched by his finger, that allowed for the Book of Mormon to be translated.  If we build upon Him, we shall never fall.

I flipped back to D&C 32, and skimmed the page.  On the right side, I found D&C 33:13.

And upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

We used to refer to this idea on my mission, when teaching the 3rd discussion.  We would say that Christ was the foundation, Peter the chief cornerstone, and then start building a makeshift church with Dixie cups.  We would end up focusing the remainder of the discussion on the church as a whole, and less on the idea that Christ is the rock.  But for this post, I want to re-focus back on the rock.  What does that mean, really?  If we build on Him?  Feel free to let that sit with you for awhile.  There are lots of references to Him being the rock EVERYwhere.

In some of the random classes I've been to over the years, I've learned some fun properties about rocks.  This year in school you learned all about the rock cycles.  How rocks are forms, how long they take to form, and different things they can/can't do.  In my classes, I've learned how some rocks like quartz are actually some of the best conductors of electricity on the planet.  How interesting that the Source of Light would touch His finger on 16 rocks, at the request of Jared's brother, and those stones would hold the energy from his touch for months while they crossed the ocean(s).

Another thought I saw someone present on another blog's comment thread is that we need to depend more upon God Himself, rather than people, an institution, or even our own intuition.  That last one struck me.  So very true.  I should not be trusting my intuition so wholly as I should be trusting God Himself.  I do not know of any source in the scriptures where I am told to trust myself, but only the Spirit of God within me.  Perhaps that's what I'm getting at, when I say or am told to "trust your/my gut".  Perhaps my intuition is based upon my connection to God, but even my intuition has been known to make mistakes.

Anyways, very long post.  I hope you get the idea.  Run with it!

Love you!
~Mom<3 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spirit Sensitivity

Dear Daniel,

I'm DONE!!!  Today I took my final examination required to become a massage therapist.  When I began this blog over a year and a half ago (?), I never expected that this "major shift" would turn me into a massage therapist!  But here we are, and I'm almost done.  In a few days you'll have your mommy completely home again, and we can make as many messes as we want.

(Thank you for the beautiful flowers! xoxo!)

I've missed getting to spend my days with you and Austin.  Sure, the older ones were at school all day, and mostly I'd be here for them.  I hope you and your siblings weren't traumatized by hanging out with your pappy and daddy half the days.  I know lots of people do that situation, where the mom just isn't able to be in the home.  But this decision felt hard for me, despite its rightness, because it didn't make sense in so many ways.  I remember worrying to one of my classmates, saying those exact "I hope my boys aren't traumatized" words.  She said to me, "They'll be just fine!"  Hopefully time proves her right. You seem to be just fine.

There's a magical discovery that happened during these months of school.  There is a power in our bodies that few of us realize, and it is the power of one's spirit.  Generally we neglect, and many even deny, that such a thing is there.  But when we die, it is our ever-living spirit which carries on, while our bodies return to the ground from whence we are told they came.  In practicing massage, I have learned to greater feel my own spirit, and the literal impact it can have on the spirits of others.

I remember several years ago, not quite understanding why my own spirit seemed so unique.  Some situations bothered me more than they would bother the average person.  WaWa always said that I needed to "toughen up" my skin, and not be so sensitive.  At times she's right, but I'm observing that it is my sensitive skin that is in fact a gift.  I don't need to necessarily please other people, or worry about holding up my pride.  It doesn't matter if I'm the only one to ever apologize for doing something wrong, while the other party feels their pride in "being right".  It'll work itself out.  I trust that being sensitive and impacted by the spirits and energies of others is part of who I am, and part of the gifts that God has given me.

Perhaps this might not be that insightful for you, and perhaps it will be.  Some people take offense at things that should not be taken offense at, and it will be up to you to forgive them, and not let their negative spirits cut into your beautiful, sensitive spirit.  You seem to be as easily affected by others' energies as I am, so will warn you that this can hurt, when you are unprepared.  But get prepared.  Take care of your body, and show it respect, so that you appreciate and protect the gift that is inherent in you, as it is in me.

You are my sunshine...
I'm so glad I get to spend more time with you.  It is the biggest relief, to know that I can now be home with you each and every day if I want to.  I hope that with accomplishing this remarkable goal, it will bless your life as you grow.  It certainly has awakened a power I never knew existed.

xoxoxoxo
~Mom<3