Monday, November 1, 2010

In Narnia Again

The Dawn Treader is probably my favorite of the Narnia books. At least, it was. As I grow, my favorites change. Lewis explains that any book that's good to read as a child should be good to read as an adult. Narnia for me is like that. But as the reason I like them changes, my favorites change too. For example, when I was little, I definitely didn't like The Silver Chair. This summer, in preparation for class, I re-read the entire series. I absolutely LOVED The Silver Chair this time through. Partially because I had just hiked through a mountain cave that week, but also, I think, because I appreciated different elements of the story. 

Last time I read Narnia, two years ago, I wanted the feel of something more, something beyond my boring, normal life. The sense of potential. Dawn Treader gives that in spades. I feel great ability, adventure, and shared excitement with the children. The Silver Chair brings out the weaknesses of the children much more strongly. It wasn't such a heroes and villains story. Sure there were good guys and bad guys and a great adventure, but there was more. I didn't need what else was there. It was just a good story, and Dawn Treader gave me more of what I needed in my life. But now I am older and I see that life is that exciting. I don't need the Dawn Treader to let me feel that feeling of journeying and adventuring. Now The Silver Chair shows me a mirror where I can see the mistakes I have and may yet make. 

Reading these books again and again as I grow helps to illustrate how lasting and true a good book is. The meaning and significance may change over time, but a good book can always offer me something important to my life, whether it's the first or thousand and first read. I still read my favorite picture books because where they once gave me limitless thoughts of grown-up adventures, now they provide me with peaceful images of childhood joy.

"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man nothing else that he builds ever lasts monuments fall; nations perish; civilization grow old and die out; new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on. Still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts, of the hearts of men centuries dead.” -Clarence Day

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seeking the Wandering

Often you hear of Christ the Good Shepard searching for His lost sheep. Usually this conjures up images of various Mormon paintings and the idea of a lost soul wandering in sin. The "black sheep" are also the "lost sheep." They don't know where they should be, and they really don't care. Tonight, as I was reading for my New Testament class, I read a story that changes that image for me.

In John chapter nine, the story is told of a man, "blind from birth" who is healed by the Savior. After he is healed, the man returns to his home and is seen by many who know him as the one who "sat and begged." The Pharisees claim that whoever healed him is a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath, but others argue that a sinner can't perform such miracles. The city is in an uproar. They go to the man's parents, demanding to know the full story. The parents decide to stay out of it. They affirm that the man is their son, and tell their friends "he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself." I immediately thought of a man about my age. Across cultures and ages, 21 has been the basic point for a man to come of age, give or take a few years. If he wasn't my age, this man was probably younger than me.

As the interrogation continues, he resolutely sticks to his faith in the man who healed him. When asked once more to explain how it happened, "He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again?" When his testimony is bluntly rejected, he is cast out from the city.

Now comes the important part. Jesus often seems to wander around the Judean countryside with little purpose or direction. On His way, He meets people and performs miracles. But verse 35 says "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" He had heard that someone had been cast out for His sake, and He found him. That means He was searching. The Shepherd was seeking His lost sheep. But this sheep wasn't a sinner. This sheep was a faithful follower of Christ. He didn't know where he needed to be or what to do, but he was firm in the faith of what he did know.

Every faithful disciple of Jesus has days where they feel lost and alone. This world is scary and confusing. It is impossible for us in our mortal life to always know where we should go. But we can be sure that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is always looking for us. He will be there and seek us when we stumble. As we wander the hills of this world, trying to find Him, He is walking them too. He searches for us, calling our name. As we call back to Him, we will eventually come Home and dwell with Jesus and Our Father.

I know that God lives. I know that Christ is my redeemer. I know that He will continually seek us and not allow us to become lost so long as we are searching faithfully for Him. As we search prayerfully with faith, we will be aided in our journey home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Off a Cliff into the Sky

Last week, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. Either that or I had just jumped off a cliff and was falling rapidly to the ground. Life was out of control. I couldn’t go back. Where I was, no one would come. I didn’t want them to, it was too bad. Only Christ could come, and that was because He knew the way out. But I didn’t look to see. I just curled up into the fetal position and tried to ignore the situation.

And then my dear friend Heather ignored my grouchy demeanor. She could tell I would probably snap at her, but she didn’t really care. Or if she did, it didn’t faze her. The fact that people could still get to me where I was is probably what snapped me out of it. As the realization of where I was at, where I had come to, sunk in, I finally uncurled and looked around. The night was still dark. At 1 in the morning, all I knew was that Heavenly Father loved me enough to keep two worthy young men awake to come and give me a blessing in response to a single phone call. At 3 in the morning, all I knew was that I was lost. There was a path I was supposed to be on, and I couldn’t see it.

Thursday felt like a long, slow climb. I was trying to enjoy the last day a very important friend would be in town. I was trying to understand where I found myself. I wasn’t ahead in classes any more, and my head was almost constantly hurting. I told my supervisor that I didn’t feel well, and probably couldn’t come to work the next day. I also had a test Friday.

My friend who was leaving told me it was a wall, not a pit. He said I just had to find the way around it. I still haven’t, but I’ve found something better. It wasn’t a wall. I was right at first. I was either in a pit or falling off a cliff. For us earth-bound mortals, that is terrifying. But I’m not meant to be earth-bound. The fear carried on, and like any rational being, I wished I could fly. I stretched out wings I didn’t have two days ago, just to find that overnight, they had grown. Weak and new, I could barely glide. Even now, I’m just coasting, but each day makes them stronger. The ground is no longer hurtling toward me; the pit doesn’t seem so deep.

As I learn to fly, there will be harsh cross winds and bad weather. But there will also be amazing views and sweeping sensations. I no longer need to fear heights. I can reach as high as my wings can take me. Heavenly Father has let me fall as low as I was willing to let myself go, and now He has given me wings to return again and beyond. I will follow His instructions and make the most of my angel wings.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Faith, My Belief, My Testimony

I have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't need to justify my beliefs. No one can take my testimony from me.

I don't need to justify church policies. Modesty guidelines, the word of wisdom, the teachings of church leaders. I believe these come from God. My obedience is the way I show my faith and love. I give Him my will, and all glory.

If I believe in a doctrine, and the Spirit of God has witnessed to me that it is true, it is. Church policy won't change the truth. The gospel of Christ is separate from policy that assists men in their mortal weakness. If ever something seems to change, it's because the Church of Jesus must adjust its temporal policy to make up for the frailties of men. It will work in whatever way we need to bring us closer to Christ and into the Church of the Firstborn. The essential church of the gospel, the eternal Church of the Firstborn, never changes. It is eternal. Here, all doctrine is practiced correctly and fully. This is where I am going.

I don't want to get caught up in the policy, in the culture. It distracts from the big picture, from the gospel, from the essential truths of eternity. Now in my life is the time to find out where I am going. The gospel directs me. I follow church policy out of obedience and a desire to do God's will. But where my faith is placed is a much stronger rock. It is the rock of the gospel, the atonement, the gift of Christ, of eternity.

* * * * *

I have made baptismal covenants. These ask of me to obey God and repent of my sins. I have faith in that covenant and the blessings God has promised me. This faith does not need proof, and sways to no disproof. It is the reason I don't ever need to doubt.

In the past, I have enjoyed hearing scientific explanations for Bible stories. Now I realize I don't need them. Yes, they are interesting, but nothing more. Miracles and the power of God don't need to be justified by science, and many times can't be. That's part of why they are miracles.

LDS Hymn 137

The witness of the Holy Ghost,
As borne by those who know,
Has lifted me again to thee,
O Father of my soul.

I know that thou art in thy heav'n.
I know the Savior reigns.
I know a prophet speaks to us
For our eternal gain.

My eyes are wet; my heart is full.
The Spirit speaks today.
O Lord, wilt thou my life renew
And in my bosom stay.

As testimony fills my heart,
It dulls the pain of days.
For one brief moment, heaven's view
Appears before my gaze.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stretching My Wings

I stand on the brink, the edge of something new. Life is changing again. I feel like I want to sprout wings and fly. No longer will I just quietly fill my role. I will define my role. I am growing, learning, changing. The opportunities I have today may never come again. What I choose to do with them will shape my life.

When else will I be this free? I have no family to look after, no career to support. I have a flexible, student job. Summer classes haven’t started yet. I have transportation around town, and just enough savings to go further once or twice. Life has barely begun for the woman I am becoming. Now is when I can decide what she will do.

I began to realize this a month or two ago. I can push the limits, challenge the boundaries that I have lived in all my life. Many are self-imposed rules, and these are the most flexible. But right now I have very few other rules. So I decided to push.

Several failed attempts ended in finally finding a ride to southern California and back. At the same time, my money ran out, my anticipated hours at work got cut in half, and my scholarship wasn’t for as much as I needed. So I bought a sixty dollar bus ticket for my trip. Then I hired out my services as an apartment cleaner in my complex for check-out week. Four days of scrubbing later, I was significantly better off monetarily. And I was still going on my random trip to California.

During my trip, I began to see more of what I was, and what I could be. I saw also what I would never be, the things I could never have. But that only increased my desire to become the best I could. Empowered, motivated, and inspired I began my journey home. Halfway home, I discovered some things that tried to crush my sense of power. A new fear crept into my heart.

Back at my apartment, my emotions couldn’t decide what to do. One moment I was on top of the world, the next I was almost shaking with confusion and sorrow. Details of the situation will make no difference. The simple description of my state is all that is needed to understand what happened next. I went to visit a friend upon whose wisdom I often rely. As I poured out my heart to her, a new realization of my role began to form.

My growth, my learning, my study, everything that had lifted me up to such a great height the week before, was still there. I am not perfect. Nowhere near it. But I am strong. As a young adult, I have become an individual. Individuals have power and freedom, but they also have responsibility. My responsibility is unexpected and unwanted. But I am ready for it. Without realizing, I was preparing during the last few months, and particularly this past week, for just this challenge.

Satan fights hard. He wants to bring us down. He will attack us in any way he can devise. He will come through our wishes and dreams to offer us what we want. He will come through our family to weaken our most fundamental stronghold. But we can stop him. I can hold him back. And I will. I will stand strong as a witness of Christ, and I will fight Satan. My Heavenly Father has given me power, and I will now use it to hold back the darkness that threatens those I care for. Every child of God here on earth has that power, if only they will accept the responsibility that comes with it. Take up your power, and take up your task. Press forward with faith and stand strong. Don’t let him win.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joy in Suffering

A discussion on suffering can take many avenues. You can start with a question: Why do people suffer? Is suffering necessary? You can relate an experience, and focus on what was learned or what was lost. You can talk about reducing suffering or enduring suffering. There are so many perspectives because everyone suffers. But what is suffering? I particularly like the definition of suffering I found online. Suffering (verb without object): to endure… patiently or willingly.

Suffering is an underlying current that reaches every corner of life. At all times, there is a longing that cannot be satisfied, a dream that cannot be reached. Enduring that stream of sorrow and desire without letting it affect daily life constitutes true suffering. Every day of my life, no matter how satisfied I am with the current situation, I want more. Not in a greedy, self-centered way, but in a manner that reflects the plan of God’s whole creation and glory. Progression is the key point. I am progressing toward eternal life. I am working to progress to exaltation. Once I reach exaltation, I will receive of God’s glory and progress to greater glory and light.

I desire progression. Innately and divinely within every human soul is the dream of progression. Each day we live our lives, hoping to make it further, to make it higher. We strive to improve ourselves in any way we can. Why do we do this? It is how we suffer. We must endure this mortal probation. We willingly selected to come to earth, to gain a body that can sustain injury, to experience emotions that can feel deep hurt. Each day, as children of a Divine Father, we endure the aches and pains of mortality, willingly and patiently.

We suffer through this mortal existence, but that is not a depressing or hateful idea. Suffering intrinsically includes enduring. We need only strive to suffer with joy, and we will reach our goal. Each day, when the pain of being far from our eternal home resonates beneath our emotions, we search for ways to be happy, to be joyful, and to be productive. Working toward dreams is a fulfilling activity. When I am making personal progress toward a goal, I am more satisfied with my life and more joyful in my suffering.

As I continue on my journey forward and upward, I will continue to find joy. When I love even the most difficult circumstances, I will know that I have fully understood and accepted the idea of suffering and enduring. Life is hard, and life is long, but it is worth every moment.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to the Basics

As the new year gets underway, changes can occur suddenly. I’ve moved into a new apartment with roommates I love, even though I’d never met them. My classes are new and my work schedule changed. Even church has changed. We are in a new room, and Relief Society is using a new book, Gospel Principles.

When this new book was announced, I heard several responses. Some thought that another book that had been planned was just not ready, so this was to hold us over for a year. Others thought that it was a sign that an influx of new members around the world was imminent. Most of the opinions were negative. “I want the meat of the gospel, not the milk.” The most ardent opinion was expressed by a friend of mine who is a convert. For her, the milk was given at 16 years of age. It was recently learned and taken fully to heart. My opinion however, is that this is a much needed lesson manual. We need to really understand the milk before we can consider the meat.

In my experience, the basic principles of the gospel, those that are vital to salvation and even exaltation, are covered in Primary, and then become part of “The List.” Read your scriptures, pray, go to church, fast. We rattle them off as quick fixes to the problem of the teacher picking on us. Or we are told “don’t just give me the list, think about it.” I feel that this list is much more important than we realize. I personally believe the church is true. I follow the teachings. But I often don’t have a testimony of those teachings. I will readily admit that I don’t read my scriptures every day. Why should I? It’s just part of “The List,” and since I’m doing all the things that require thinking, do I need to worry about that? YES. I do need to read my scriptures every day. I am working hard to make that change in my life. If it’s just a basic though, why do I need it so desperately? I need it because the deeper aspects of the gospel will never be understandable without a basic understanding of the scriptures.

The entire gospel principles book is full of these gems. I was so excited to get my hands on it yesterday in church. The very first lesson was on the reality of God, who He is, that He loves me. Last summer, I received a stunning witness that this is true. It changed my perspective on the gospel. I no longer live it because my parents taught me to and I believe them. I live the gospel because I know that my Heavenly Father wants me to, so that I can come home to Him. This change happened when I was 19 years old. Young women of 14 and 15 years old are treated as if they should have this type of understanding of the gospel. I believe that many of them don’t have that witness. I didn’t. And I don’t think that’s bad, or unnatural. We are taught well and act on the teachings of our parents. Members raised in the church may not have a strong testimony of these basics.

As we study the gospel principles this year, I pray to receive a witness from the spirit of their truthfulness. If we approach this study with excitement and dedication, I believe all members around the world will find something new that will strengthen their testimony and possibly change their life. We cannot contemplate the deepest aspects of the gospel without first knowing the basics. It would be like telling a 5th grader to solve a quadratic equation. Someday that 5th grader will learn and understand quadratic equations. But first we need to teach them how to multiply and divide whole numbers.

I for one am very excited about the upcoming year. Honestly, I have never been so excited for a church manual. I know that if I give my fullest to the lessons, I will learn and grow this year as I come to understand basic principles of the gospel I follow.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Martin's Cove

Cowboy poetry, it was a passion with my grandpa. Old George, the man who worked on a ranch until the cancer was so bad he couldn't get out of bed. In the final weeks of his life, my grandpa worked to memorize one more poem. He could only remember scattered lines, and often asked for my help. Almost every time I went to see him, he would point to the large poster with the poem inscribed on in and ask me to read it to him.

Now, in his memory, I want to share this poem. I can't find it anywhere else. It's as if his poster is the only record of this piece of art. Please read and enjoy the poem. Now anyone can read it, and I think that's what my grandpa would love.

Martin's Cove
by Mick Kaser

By now it was into November
they knew they'd started too late
The Devil was hunkered down waitin'
hidin' behind Devil's Gate

The bears had holed up for the winter
the Natives had even pulled out
The weather was not fit for pilgrims
not now... and not here abouts

Should have wintered in Florence
August was too late to start
To make things worse, these people
were pushin' and pullin' hand carts

Mormon converts from England
worshipping God in their own way
Left Liverpool in eight ships
and crossed the Atlantic in May

Then landed in New York City
two thousand emigrants in all
Rode the Rock Island Railroad
to the Iowa River that fall

That's where the problems first started
'cause the guys buildin' the carts
Didn't know these folks were comin'
were all out of lumber and parts

So, it was three weeks or better
before they could get on the road
Four to five hundred pounds per cart
was about the average load

They sang as they left Iowa City
"Come Ye Saints" most likely the song
They were happy just to be movin'
for now, they rolled right along

Most of the axles were wooden
the lumber was green, had not cured
A man named Savage objected
but no one payed heed to his words

He'd rather have holed up 'til springtime
'cause he knew what lie ahead
The Saints wouldn't listen to logic
or the wise words this man said

One thousand thirty stubborn miles
if they hurried, did not dally
Sixty five days hard travel
from Florence to Salt Lake Valley

So they ferried the dirty Missouri
swollen by late August rains
And followed the Platte through Nebraska
amazed at the long endless plains

Three humans harnessed like oxen
pushin' and pullin' that weight
Up hill from Winter Quarters
seven hundred miles... Devil's Gate

Their journey thus far had been pleasant
free of serious mishap
But when they left Fort Laramie
the gate slammed shut on the trap

Their rations were starting to dwindle
they had to lighten their load
South Pass was still ninety five miles
and they had to cross 'fore it snowed

All their earthly belongings
in the carts, or strapped on their backs
They counted the days past Fort Laramie
by the empty flour sacks

They dumped some baggage at Deer Creek
and crossed over Muddy Creek Ridge
They'd not pay toll to the gentiles
to use their Platte River Bridge

Instead they forded Last Crossing
pushin' and pullin' those carts
The first party finally made it
after three or four shakey starts

Froze to the bone were these mortals
in ice water up past their hips
But nary a word of dissension
passed through their near frozen lips

The water was waist high in places
there was no wood for a fire
They slipped and fell in their traces
and the water just kept creepin' higher

One thing led to another
all the well laid plans went amuck
Half the time they were mired down
the other half they were stuck

Thirteen souls did not make Horse Creek
they passed on during the night
Seven more didn't make Sweetwater
they passed on after day light

Before they'd wrestled the Devil
Fifty six brave souls had gone
They took one look at Sweetwater
and could not find faith to go on

But their rations had dwindled to nothin'
four ounces of flour per day
They remembered the meadow at Deer Creek
and the warm robes they'd cast away

They found relief in a horseshoe ravine
snow was a foot and a half deep
Their numbers were less every mornin'
as more passed on in their sleep

The wind howled like a banshee
cut right through thin clothes like a knife
And chased them down in their haven
and caught them and snuffed out dear life

The cold cut clear to the marrow
the mercury said one below
Twenty two more souls departed
before they decided to go

They could barely see 'cross the river
the blizzard holed on with rage
And so they left martin's Haven
and twenty two friends 'neath the sage

Then the sun game out at Three Crossings
was their luck beginning to change
Was that a rider they saw comin'
or were they perplexed and deranged

No! Their eyes had not deceived them
though the sun made them squint and strain
'Cause see... this angel on horse back
was ahead of a wagon train

It was like these heroes had halos
that encircled their heads like a ring
To a thousand half frozen mortals
that rider on horse back had wings

Food and clothes from the valley
tears pulled like strings on their hearts
From here on they'd ride in the wagons
and not have to pull those damn carts

Many bold souls that left England
would not complete this travail
Two hundred plus, counting Willie's,
would be buried along side the trail

There is a price to pay in all ventures
and this journey had taken its toll
there were two hundred more saints in Heaven
when Saint Peter took the last roll

It's easy to look back and wonder
how these folks got in this fix
But you won't know lest you've been there
Martin's Cove... eighteen fifty six
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