Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Yoke

In Matthew 11 the Savior makes an invitation to us:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I've heard this set of verses explained I don't know how many times, and all of those teachers said about the same thing: If you cast your burdens on the wagon the Lord is pulling and join Him at the yoke then you will have an easier load, as He is much stronger.
As I read those words a similar yet different interpretation comes to me, and I thought I should share it.
You see, perhaps I'm an aberration, but I've never found the yoke of living the gospel to be the heavy thing in my life. People talk about the struggle to remain worthy, to keep keeping the commandments through temptations, and my heart aches for them (not because I am any better than them, because I have my own short comings and sins) because for me it is different.
You see, when I have a load that is heavy, it's usually because it's a load that I've taken on myself. It's something that I have chosen to carry in spite of warnings or the direction of heaven. When I read those words, "Come unto me... and I will give you rest," I read them literally. Rest.
It doesn't say in those lines, "I will help you pull your load." Does it? Look again, it doesn't. It says we need to take HIS yoke, for HIS burden is light.
Think about it, what are the things that you absolutely must carry in life?

Are they your work? Or are they really God's work through you? Is your family not God's family? Does He not care for them more than you? Are your friends not God's own children also? Your work, is it how you earn a living, or is it something God has given you, a vehicle with which to do good for His children? Your money, is it yours? Your health, is that yours or is it the Lord's work that you help him in through obedience? Canst thou make one hair of thy head black or white?
You see, it is not your yoke, it is not your burden, it is the Lord's.
The keys to applying this is in those verses too:
Come unto Him
Learn of Him
Become like Him, meek and lowly in heart
Our Lord talks over and over about losing your life, for His sake. Perhaps He was speaking literally to his Apostles, who would eventually die for the name of Christ. Perhaps He was speaking to you and me. What life are you holding onto? What things are you not giving up? What hurt or anger are you poisoning yourself with?
Why do you refuse to forsake the yoke of bondage?
His yoke is easy, His burden is light. If you will forsake all else to take it up with Him you will find how EASY it really is, you will find how RESTFUL it really is. Come, learn, become like Him, take upon you this yoke, you won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Words?

Why Words?

I wonder what it is
about the setting of the sun
that brings the pen to paper,
a new poem begun.

Why waits the flow of thoughts
 for three slumbering heads
and the calling of my bed?

Why now, when I’m resigned
to another day lost and gone
and I turn to take my rest
do I feel that yearning in my breast?

Like warriors reach for swords
I reach for keys or pen,
but then again,
no, I reach for words.

the intangible substance
with which inexpertly
I frame existence

the shadows of starlight
wrapped lazily around a single thought
as if with their gossamer tendrils
they could frame it, shape it, define its edges
and place it in the hands of another.

Nay, and ne; naam, and nein,
as if any guttural spewing
of the lips and tongue could express
even the memory
of the things I have felt,
the visions I have seen.

No, words will never do,
best cut them up and make Paper Mache
to patch and pat around the Milky Way,

they are little labels
that I stick-stick-stick
to folks and fables.

I cover the whole world
in pulp and pen,
and why do I do this
time and time again?

Because language,
words and rhyme,
is the closest man can get
to the expressions of the divine.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Desert

I can't tell you how many times I have read The Book of Mormon, I lost count at 16, and that was years ago. I could probably read it a hundred-thousand times more and still get something different out of it every time.

Right now I'm in the back, in Mormon, and yet my heart is still in First Nephi. I keep circling back to those few chapters in my mind, because that story has so much more meaning for me now.
You see, for those who haven't read it, in First Nephi we read the account of Nephi, a young man whose father just happens to be called of God as a Prophet. His father, Lehi, is a contemporary of Jeremiah and warns the people of Jerusalem to repent or Babylon is going to sack them.
Of course no one listens, in fact there are those who wish to kill Lehi. The Lord does not allow this and tells Lehi to flee, taking only what he and his family will need to survive. The Lord promises them a choice land for their inheritance, and leads them across the desert, across the sea, and to the Americas.

It's a lovely tale, one that has a lot of meaning for someone who was just lead thousands of miles from the place she called home. I have gained a lot from reading it and drawing parallels from my life to Nephi's life. I feel a special bond with him, especially as on at least one line of my family tree we are related.

What has really stuck out to me lately, something that I really didn't think about before, is that Nephi obeyed, and the blessings were not all immediate. Neither was his life a bed of roses after he uprooted it and moved across the world for The Lord. No, indeed, things were pretty hard for him at times and seasons right up to his dying day.

I think back to when he was in the desert with his family. Here he was, doing what The Lord ordered, and yet he and his family suffered hunger, thirst, fatigue, blistering sun, and bitterly cold desert nights. There was equipment failure, short tempers, outright abuse. Yet he just kept trusting in The Lord.

As I  travel in my own desert, feeling the heat, on the one hand I marvel at his patience and fortitude. On the other, I understand him all the more. I look at my trials, and hard and confusing as they are, they are so much better than what I escaped. I don't understand why I am being lead so far from my former life, but I trust the hand that is leading me. I keep encountering more and more problems on my journey, but... honestly at this point I don't know what else to do EXCEPT turn to The Lord.

He always provides. It hasn't been what I imagined (but let's face it I have an over-active imagination.) It hasn't been easy. However, it hasn't been terribly hard either. Really, it's like I hit my knees and God opens the way. I walk it and I'm fine.

It's humbling. Sometimes because I have to ask for and accept help when I've always been a do-it-myself-er. Other times it's humbling because I have to admit to people that I'm here because God brought me here, and all of this is out of my hands. The way it is most humbling though is that I am learning one agonizing moment at a time to be humble before The Lord. He knows so much better than I, He knows the path, He knew the end from the beginning, and me? I'm just the un-educated child He's trying to help. I know nothing, except that the failures are mine and the successes are His, and that I need Him if I am going to survive this desert.

I am so thankful for this desert. I'm thankful for the promise of inheritance on the other side of it, but today I'm just thankful that I'm going through all this, because I can feel Him with me, and this is the love I cannot, will not, live without.

Monday, October 22, 2012



but not alone,
guided by an unseen hand.
Sure only in that stable grip
as I travel far across the land.

to a new place,
wear a new face,
to stop and stand and watch and wait,
as I struggle to

than the dawn,
the night soon to be gone,
I search each face, I search each set
of eyes.

by thread
I cut the rope
that binds me
to all I have held so tightly,
all I have held so firmly,
letting go of all security.

at last,
I feel nothing
but the torture of this


(Apparently it's a good night for poetry, my bro sent me one earlier.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Lesson from Water

I saw a picture earlier today of a pair of adrenaline junkies paddling amidst this brown, roiling water. Naturally as the sports-un-enthusiast I am, I looked at the picture, not with eyes that envied the sportsmen, but with eyes that saw only the disposition of the water.
I thought about what it took to make "white" water, how a million disturbances under the surface caused it to twist and churn and splash about completely opposite to its usual easiest-course approach. That's why the water was so brown, it was churning up all the filth it otherwise would have flowed right over, and because of the disturbances in its course it had lost its usual ability to reflect that which was above it.
Sometimes I find that I am like that water. A few rocks in my way and I'm churning in the muck, unable to properly reflect, tossed about, and nearly out of control. Rocks are inevitable, I'm afraid, in the course of life, and we all have our own rough water times.
The beautiful thing is, the river doesn't let the rocks dam it, it doesn't let them dry it up, it just keeps on running. It keeps on running the course carved for it, until it is through the rapids and once again able to reflect and flow and nourish all around it.
If you are in the rapids, just hang on. The peaceful times will return, and soon you will look up and thank God for getting you through it. You will look up and your countenenace will refect that higher one, and you will be at peace, clean, pure, and ever moving towards your destination.

Monday, October 01, 2012

My LDS Romance Novel

Just noting for posterity and my beloved predecessors that today I finished the first draft of the book I started Thanksgiving of last year. It wasn't the fastest first draft ever, but at over 60,000 words I'm quite content with my accomplishment.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Spotlight

It's a Hollywood cliche', the aspiring young actress dreams of life on Broadway with a thousand people watching and the spotlight shining directly on her. I have to wonder how many girls really want that spotlight, and if they think they do, how they would really feel to be in it.
I've only been in the spotlight a few times in my life, and to be honest, it's a bit frightening. It's not the light, it's the darkness, the darkness that thickens all around you when that spot is shining directly on your face. It's the things in the darkness you can't see, like the edge of the stage, the critics with their judgements, those are the things that you fear while you are blind to them.
If you look around, you can see a little, clearly for a yard or less on either side, then perhaps dimly another few feet, but that's it, that's all the space you have to move. Imagine having to dance in that little spot of light, having to trust that you haven't become disoriented and moved too close to the orchestra pit where one false step would be a crippling fall.
With time, with experience, with long practice you can get used to the spotlight. You develop a sense for how far you can go in any direction, you learn to enjoy the warmth on your face and the one on one relationship with that distant light. Indeed there can come a point where a person is completely at home in that narrow light, can perform without a fear or a flaw under its brilliant power day after week after year.
Me, I'm not there yet. I'm working on it, but sometimes I still fear those things in the dark. I can't see them, couldn't prove with my eyes if there is a single critic out there, but I still think they are there and it gives me a little case of stage fright.
I'm not giving up the light though, I'm going to focus on it. I'm going to let that light warm me until it has melted away my final fear. I'm going to walk just as far as it illuminates for me. I'm going to trust that when there are real dangers the light will reveal them to me. I'm going to sing and dance and pour out my heart and trust that somehow the light will carry what I have to offer into the hearts of those in the dark.
For I was born to be in the spotlight, and so, dear friend, were you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Best Boss

When I was Primary President my Stake Primary President (ie, my boss) said something that completely flummoxed me at the time. She said to do my calling in a way that trained my counselors to do my calling one day. I looked at her, then at my counselors (who had both been in that gig before) and wondered what on earth I had to teach THEM.

I probably failed them, sigh, but thank goodness God is not failing me. God is the Best Boss.

That doesn't mean He's bossy, God really isn't as bossy as people think. He has put all this effort into giving us commandments, He continuously sends messengers so that all who have the desire can hear His voice, but He isn't bossy.

To be honest, sometimes I wish he was a bit more bossy, that in this time in my life when so much hangs on my every action, when an errant toe could change so much, He would just tell me what to do. I mean, there are the commandments obviously, but those are just His way of helping me hear. The rest I have to figure out on my own, by using the resources He has given me.

I think that is what really defines a good boss, someone who is more focused on helping his or her staff to become better than on the product. The product will never be perfect until the staff is perfect, so a good Boss focuses on helping the staff grow.

As uncomfortable and inconvenient as it may be sometimes, He's helping each of us grow. I look at my trials of the last year or so and I'm starting to see how I have grown, how I have changed, how I have become a better person.

I still have a long way to go, but I think that each of us needs to somehow get to the point where we stop resenting our Boss and instead catch the company vision. There is a better way, and if we work with our Boss we can get there.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Goodbye

"Goodbye," a word we use so often. Sometimes it is casual, sometimes it is thankful, and sometimes we wonder how on earth taking leave of someone so dear could possibly be good.

I've been saying a lot of goodbyes lately, and it has made me stop and think about what this goodbye stage of my life means. Goodbye ward, goodbye adoptive family, goodbye friends so dear, goodbye house, goodbye work, goodbye South, I leave so much with mixed emotions.

The other day I reached to comfort a child at work who was crying for her mother, and ended up battling tears myself. I'm leaving my babies, the children I have rocked, kissed better, tickled, made up stories for, and helped potty train. I'm leaving children who learned to walk before my eyes and who are now eagerly anticipating the first day of Kindergarten.

I'm leaving the people who literally held me up during the hardest days of my life. I'm leaving people who gave to me out of their poverty when my need was great. I'm leaving a community where I had a real niche, where I was needed and recognised. I'm leaving a community where me being ME was something people loved.

I go to church and wrap my arms around sister after sister, and pray they will take care of one another, for I would have happily cocooned myself in their presence the rest of my life if that had been the path God held for me.

But no, that is not my path. God has something different for me, some secret surprise that I guess at over and over, but I know that it will be better than anything I've imagined. That's the way He gives you know. Look at what he's done for me so far.

So I say "Goodbye" over and over, fully meaning each time the ancient meaning behind the modern phrase, "God be with you."

Yes, God be with you my friends, sisters, brothers, Southern ladies and gentlemen. God be with you best YMCA in the world. God be with you little ward. God be with you little ones who have grown so fast. God be with you my Asian family who has taught me so much.

God be with you all my dear ones, and may we meet once again in His presence our association to renew, for our love has always remained in spite of the miles and years.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Ups and Downs

I was running with my dogs this morning (thanks be to the dear friend who taught me that expensive running shoes are bad for feet like mine, whodathunk?!) and came upon the section of my neighborhood that is often referred to as roller-coaster-road. Now roller-coaster road has always daunted me in the past. It's only about a third of a mile long, but getting up those two steep hills is MURDER on an out of shape body like mine. I tried something new today though. Instead of walking down the hill and then huffing and puffing my way up the other side I put power in my step and RAN down the hill and then RAN up the other side.
It was so much easier than walking it!
I realised as I crested the second rise that this may very well be the answer to how it is I've gotten through all of this lately. You see my previous trials in life I approached with a lot of trepidation. This one I approached with a lot of prayer. I saw it coming and put the power of the spirit in my step, and look at me, at the top of the rise and still going.
Now, I'm not bragging, and I know I'm not done yet. I know I've got lots of dips, hills, and curves in my future. I'm not even done with this section of my road yet and who knows what kinds of curves my road will take.
The point is, I'm not scared, and I know I can do it, because I have this power behind my step that will take me further than I ever thought I'd be able to go.
God and me, we make a pretty good team.
So, my dear friend, next time you see your life taking a steep downhill slide and you are dreading the climb back to your previously enjoyed elevation, just think about roller-coaster-road and put a little power in your step. I think you'll like how it feels on the other side.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Expedient, Faith, Power

Hello my lovelies.
I gave a talk this Sunday. I can’t copy and paste the text because I have been trying to be more like a High Councilman and come prepared, but let the spirit talk through me instead of reading all the clever little things I had written down. So I went in there with just a few notes, scriptures, and a lot of prayer. I wanted to share some of it with you though, because this talk… I feel like it encapsulates this pivotal moment in my Eternal Progression.
The verse that the Bishop assigned me was Moroni 7:33, which reads:
And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.
Now, go back and read it again. Done? Okay.
This verse has three key words that I will touch on today. The first is Expedient, the second is Faith, and the third is Power.
Expedient is used several times in the scriptures. Now, I need you to open up another window and read the following verses on or get out your scriptures and do it old school, D&C 88:63-65, D&C 18:18, and D&C 122: 6-9. Go ahead, I’ll wait, and you may want to mark them.
Yes, I know the word expedient wasn’t in that last one, but the definition was, in a way. You see something that is expedient, as defined in the dictionary, is something that is useful in bringing about a desired result.
Now, what is God’s desired result for us? My 9 year old knew that right away, go read Moses 1:39. The entire purpose of God’s existence is his children, to bring about our immortality, but more importantly, most importantly, our Eternal Life.
God’s purpose is not to see us all live in mansions, it is not to make sure that we never go hungry, it is not to protect us from hardship or sorrow. He sees that our trials are EXPEDIENT.
I want you to do something for me (I made the congregation close their eyes, but obviously in print you can’t do that). I want you to picture the thing in life you fear the most, be it death, or deprivation, be it losing your kids, or living in the streets, whatever your personal hell-on-earth is, you picture that.
Now, the worst has happened. Is God still with you? Does God still love you? Is his hand still outstretched for you?
Then what are you afraid of?
Let’s talk about Faith. We all know that miracles are brought about by faith. Right? Christianity 101 there, faith precedes the miracle; Christ didn’t do miracles that he didn’t connect with the faith of the recipients. This leads us to ask ourselves, “What miracles am I denying myself by my lack of faith? If I had more faith, if I was better at having faith, would I have more miracles?”
And that is where we go wrong.
You see Christ does not expect our faith to be perfect. He expects us to grow our faith, constantly improve it, but he knows it is a process (if you have any questions about how this process works, go read Alma 32.) The thing is though, he is so anxious to bless us, he loves us so much, he will do as much as he can to meet us, to “reach our reaching.” In Mark 9 there was that boy who was taken by an unclean spirit, and his father asked Jesus to heal him. Jesus asked about the father’s faith and he said, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”
Help thou my unbelief, I cannot tell you how many times I have said the same words in the last few months. I can tell you that as much faith as you have, if you will extend it, and sometimes you have to extend ALL of it, but if you will extend it, it will be enough, he will make up the difference.
Now let’s look at 1 Peter 1:7, done reading? Good. So here our faith is likened to gold and he spells out that it has to be refined. Refining gold is an incredibly harsh process. Google it, you’ll see, repetitive heat, acid washes, beatings. Well, that’s what your faith has to go through, because it is expedient.
I know, it sounds scary, but that leads us to my favorite part.
If we have faith we will have the Power to do whatsoever is expedient.
Knowing what is expedient in your life is hard. I mean, is this a trial we can dance around, avoid? Or does God need us to go through it? It’s a highly individual, personal question every time, and it always has been.
When Jacob faced Esau, after all those years, it was personal, and Jacob’s prayer for help was answered in the most powerful, personal way. When Moses faced Pharaoh, it was personal, he had personally rejected this man whom he had grown up with. When David faced Goliath, it was personal, it was individual, but he had the power of God’s promises and commandments and his faith in the expediency of his actions.
That power through faith was with Daniel in the lion’s den. It was with Micah, Jeremiah, and Lehi as they cried repentance. Things didn’t go all skipping through daisies for them either, but that’s okay, because it was expedient for them.
The apostles found it was expedient to cast out devils and heal people, and through the proper application of faith they had the power. Stephen was transfigured and stood with great power before the Sanhedrin. Nephi faced Laban, but more difficult and more personal, he faced Laman and Lemuel again and again with faith and power, and through that he accomplished the expedient, he crossed an ocean, he lead his people in righteousness.
By that power of faith Ammon preached to Lamoni, who had a nasty habit of killing people. And Alma, oh beloved Alma, Alma the Elder, who cried to the Lord over his wayward son, he had such faith too. When his son was carried into him, when his son laid in basically a coma for three days, he rejoiced inside, because he could see, where most of us would not, that this was expedient. His faith gave him power and peace to get through that.
Now, I want you to read 2 Timothy 1:7.
This verse means so much to me, because a dear friend quoted it to me at a moment when I needed it so very, very much. I wrote it on my hand, in permanent ink, and I kept refreshing it until it had sunk into my soul. Power, love, a sound mind, those are the gifts of the spirit that are available to us through our faith during times of trial. Those are the things we have access to if we refuse to allow Satan to cloud our minds with fear. Those are the things that are just a moment away.
Reach for them. Extend your hand into the darkness and I promise you that God’s hand is right there ready to grasp yours, because he has been reaching for you the whole time. I know he is, because he loves you like he loves me, and he has reached my reaching and performed a million miracles for me. For this I will be eternally thankful and love him all the more every day.
In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.