Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Family Home Evening - Music

After reading a chapter 26 from Ezra Taft Benson's God, Family, Country, and listening to THIS talk, my husband and I decided, since we have a houseful of music-loving teenagers, we would do the "music" test we had done to us when we were in Seminary. Here's what we did:

1. We took excerpts from our lesson FROM HERE. We emphasized the power of music (for good and for bad) as we shared stories from Heber J. Grant and personal experiences when music affected the way we felt or thought. We discussed why it is important to listen to music that not only uplifts but supports the doctrine of the family.

2. Each person had a piece of paper and a pencil. My husband chose nine pieces of music to which we would listen for a minute or so. We were instructed to write down our impressions of the music on our paper. The closing of eyes was HIGHLY encouraged.

3. For those who need a little help with a diverse playlist, here are the artists/songs we used and the order in which they were played:
     Drake - Jumpman
     Jim Brickman - Battle Hymn of the Republic
     Keith Urban - Raise 'Em Up
     Black Sabbath - Ironman
     Beyonce - Drunk in Love
     Lionel Richie - Endless Love
     Rush - Spirit of Radio
     Meagan Trainor - All About that Bass
     Paul Cardall - Nearer My God To Thee

4. Following our listening and writing assignment, we openly discussed what we thought and how we felt. It was eye opening to each of us what music does to our minds and our hearts and how it affects the spirit of our home.

We ended with this thought: "The more [enticing] the music by which false doctrine is sung, the more dangerous it becomes." -Heber J. Grant

*Not to deter from your personal or collective experience, I will write about the things I learned on a different post.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Light, Creation and Parenthood

Just some thoughts for today . . .


by Sarah Knapton, science editor (The Telegraph)
26 APRIL 2016 • 11:49AM

Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.

Not only is it an incredible spectacle, highlighting the very moment that a new life begins, the size of the flash can be used to determine the quality of the fertilised egg.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.


My thoughts:
1. Think of the very profound similarities with the creation of our Universe:
"And God said, Let there be lights and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good" (Genesis 1:3-4)

2. Think about the Light of Christ:
"The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience.

"The Light of Christ 'proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.' It is 'the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed' (D&C 88:12-13; see also D&C 88:6-11). This power is an influence for good in the lives of all people (see John 1:9; D&C 93:2). In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, or the Light of Life."

3. Then think about the God-given powers of procreation with which we have been entrusted for such a minute period of time. How are we using those powers? This week I read an incredible talk by Bruce K. Satterfield. In part he taught:

"There are at least three reasons [why mortality is a test for parenthood].

"First, spirit bodies have no capacity to bear offspring. Therefore, each spirit would be given a physical body endowed by God with the power to propagate.

"Second, it is essential that the bodies given to God’s spirit offspring were to be mortal and finite because the power to procreate would be granted on a limited basis and only for time. If, while in mortality, God’s children use the procreative powers within the bounds he has set, and if they devote their best efforts to the raising of a righteous family unto God, then they will be found worthy of Godhood and granted the fulness of God’s creative powers in the eternities. If, however, they are found unworthy by misusing these powers, or foregoing the opportunity to bear children, or attach greater importance to worldly things over the raising of a righteous family, the creative powers will be forever removed from them.

"Third, only in the face of good and evil, can we choose for ourselves the priority of righteous parenthood. One of the reasons we have come to mortality is to experience the knowledge of good and evil. With the contrasts of these opposites plainly discernible, we demonstrate by our choices what we really desire. Only when we overcome the opposition of worldly concerns and focus our lives on the raising of a righteous family, can we prove to God (and ourselves!) that His work and glory is our work and glory. Thus the central focus of our coming into this mortal probation is to marry and raise a righteous family. This is the central purpose of our existence."

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Molting Has Taught Me

I have been studying THIS TALK from General Conference. And here is what I am learning.

Molting is like like repentance. It doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime, it happens over and over and over again. Most living creatures go through a molting/shedding process that not only allows new skin to replace old skin, it allows the new skin to develop with the growing, changing body.

The word molt is derived from the Latin word “mutuare” which means to “to be shed” or “to change.”

For example, dogs shed their fur twice a year. Spring to get rid of their thick, winter coat; fall to get ready for the thick, winter fur to come back in.

Birds molt. Some birds, such as ducks, swans, and pelicans, molt ALL their feathers at the same time and remain vulnerable for a two week period and cannot fly during this time. Other birds partially molt. Their feathers are gradually lost and replaced. For some breeds, this molting process takes several years. Molting keeps birds in their top flying condition.

Reptiles shed. Snakes shed their skin in one piece, while lizards shed their skin in patches. Depending on age and rate of growth, shedding takes place on a regular basis and is usually facilitated as a reptile rubs against hard twigs or stones.

Arthropods (crabs, lobsters, krill, arachnids) grow an exoskeleton and regularly molt when the body has outgrown the outer shell. Arachnids regularly grow and their molting period is usually accompanied by long periods of fasts and reclusiveness. In arthropods, the new exoskeleton is soft and begins to harden after the molting has taken place. A butterfly’s cocoon is a form of molt.

Amphibians shed regularly. Some shed every three months (once a season) and the process takes a day. Most amphibians eat their skin after it has been shed.

Humans shed. We shed dead skin everyday – over a million skin cells every 24 hours! The process of getting a new layer of skin takes about a month. The skin we have right now is not the same skin we had a 30 days ago!

I find it interesting that it is natural for the bodies of living creatures to change. Almost without us doing anything, our bodies find ways to become new: new skin, new hair, new fingernails. We do virtually nothing to facilitate these changes. They are a natural and phenomenal part of being alive.

Repentance is a process just like molting. Elder Vinas reminds me that, “It is important that we realize that just like the remission of sins, repentance is a process and not something that happens at one particular moment. It requires consistency in each of its steps (italics added).”

Much like molting, there is a process that happens before new skin is made and old skin is replaced. Yet, unlike the natural occurrence of shedding or molting, repentance needs to be sought after, continued, and regularly (daily) applied. Elder Vinas teaches, “The moment we begin to remember Him and keep His commandments every day—and not just on the Sabbath day—is when the remission of our sins begins to gradually take effect and His promise of having His Spirit with us begins to be fulfilled.”

I think about the birds that molt all their feathers as once and have to stop flying for a short period of time. Sometimes, that is what is required of me when I have had to go through certain periods of repentance. I have been blessed that stronger, feathered birds have protected me during these vulnerable times so that I had enough time to grow back my wings to fly.

I also think about the shedding of snakes and lizards. Sometimes repentance cannot be complete until I face and acknowledge issues that are very hard and very difficult. Shedding myself of practices or attitudes that have caused hurt to others or habits that have been long embedded into my soul can only be brought out and sloughed off with the help of others as they pull me and push me through the necessary rough terrains, leaving me to feel bruised and broken for a while.

Much like arthropods, repentance makes way for the development of a new structure on which I can build. Periods of fasting and finding quiet places of solitude to ponder and receive divine guidance assists me in the process. Eventually, the correct process of repentance transforms me, and I enjoy flying more than I enjoy hanging around. Repentance makes me more at home as a butterfly than wrapped up in a cocoon.

Then there are those amphibians - eating their skin. Sometimes, repentance requires that I swallow my pride. All of it. In one big gulp.

I am learning, ever learning, that the replacement of my spiritual skin (repentance), gives an opportunity for me to have moments when I can see God reflected in my countenance. Repentance gives me the desire for His Spirit to influence more of my spirit more often than it does. Repentance gives me more hope in His goodness, in His grace, and in His holiness.

I may not be able to change the world, but through repentance and faith on the Lord, I can certainly change myself. I can become a very good molter!

Check out these cool websites about molting and shedding:
National Geographic
Reptile Skin Shedding
About Birds

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Taxes Taught Me

My husband has been self employed for 13+ years.

Last weekend, my husband put all our tax info together to submit it to our accountant. I, for the first time in his self-employed years, put a great deal of tax information together. Detailed. Itemized. Extensive. I thought I did a great job!

However, the information that I gave to my husband only frustrated him. I had given him a monthly breakdown of what he wanted, but he needed more details and less details.

He needed break downs in one category here and less detail in another there. And as he explained this HUGE dilemma to me, things started heating up.Fortunately, with a spreadsheet program, it is simple to bring up the information or total up needed information simply by using a formula and copying it from column to column.

But that’s not what my husband saw.

Nope. He saw a sheet of paper sitting in front of him with information that to him was quite limited and unusable. No matter what I did to explain to him that the information he needed was all in the computer and just a few moments away, he was frustrated! From his point of view and limited understanding of all the information that had been meticulously inputted, he was quite certain that he would have to spend the whole ENTIRE day figuring out the information the way he always did. (Because he felt I didn’t do it correctly).

Let me just say the conflict was palpable. (Conflict, mind you, not contention).

Throughout the rest of the day I reflected upon this circumstance. I realized that my husband examining his one sheet of really good information and me seeing the entire spreadsheet and knowing the crucial formulas is a lot like my relationship to God. It wasn’t like my husband had to go manually find his information that would have taken an entire day . . . all he had to do was ask.

Because the information and the formulas were already there.

I recognized there have been so many times in my life that my view of the whole picture is so limited, no matter how careful the details in front of me and unfortunately, I’ve thrown a tantrum letting God know that He really didn’t give me all the information I needed; that I really I didn’t know any better what I needed to know; and that His answer, well, His answer really wasn’t the right one.

This little weekend experience made it certain to me that God is in the details, and instead of being frustrated that I can't see His whole picture, I should take a big breath and ASK!

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dial Your Trial

This was in my mailer a few weeks ago.

And I have been pondering on it ever since. . .

If trials were given to us based only upon us asking for them, what kind of trials would I actually choose?

Honestly, I wouldn't even call the number. Even if it was toll free!

And maybe if I chose something small and measly and mostly (entirely) undifficult, perhaps a 3 day/2 night vacation get away would be a good enough reward for completing my trial.

But I am learning that real-life, probationary-state trials are never free.

And I don't get to choose them because rarely do they come welcomed.

Because life's trials have driven me to my knees. They have brought me to repentance. They have stretched my capacity to feel, to want, to love. They have etched marks of wisdom and experience in the fleshy parts of my heart.

Trials, indeed, have changed (and continue to change) my life.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Which General Conference Talk Was Your Favorite?

I remember as a young girl, I would always ask my mother a very simple after every General Conference, "Which talk was your favorite?"

In my young mind, the question was very simple because I, of course, had one favorite talk that I loved.

But she always responded, "I really liked all of them."

"No mom," I would retort, "you can only choose one. One speaker. One talk. Which one?"

"But I can't," she would always answer. "I loved all of them!"

So tonight, as we gathered as a family to share what we learned from General Conference this weekend, one my sons asked, "So mom, which talk was your favorite?"

And guess how I answered?

"It's soooo hard for me to choose because I really, really, really liked them all."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

When Life is Like Delicious, Warm, Banana Bread Gone Wrong

Bananas have been sitting in my kitchen for almost two weeks. I really believe my children have not eaten them on purpose because they are anticipating the moment they can cut into warm banana bread filled with mini chocolate chips and a mix of almond/vanilla/coconut flavorings.

Today, I decided to make a double batch. My twelve year old was salivating before I had even preheated the oven. I knew the loaves would be gone before their Dad got home from work. My four year old helped as we carefully measured the sugar, the salt, the flour, and the oil. I watched as she carefully and excitedly cracked the eggs in to a separate measuring cup and slowly poured them into the batter. Then, there were the chocolate chips. Ah, chocolate! Then it was grease and flour the pans. Pour in the batter, Place them in the oven.

Within a short time, the smell of warm, delicious banana bread began wafting through the house. Mix that with the first day of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and you’ve got yourself a house full of boys out of control.

With about 10 minutes bake time left, and an upset by Yale over Baylor, I peeked in the oven to gloat over my (and my four year old’s) banana sensation. And to my dismay, here is what I found.

Six loaves of temptingly delicious smelling banana bread that had everything doubled but the flour. I HAD FORGOTTEN TO DOUBLE THE FLOUR!!! I was heartsick. All those bananas. All those eggs and oil and . . . the chocolate?!

Boy, my children were they going to be severely disappointed to find their warm deliciousness in the trash.

Today I realized that sometimes life is like delicious, warm banana bread gone wrong. Sometimes, I forget to do just one thing and instead of being able to salvage the whole, I have to start over. And that's not always what I want to do because starting over is not easy.

Starting over is hard!

But I am learning that when I do start over, God will provide.

He always provides.

So tomorrow I will try my hand again at banana bread. After all, I still have a bunch of ripe bananas in my kitchen, a bag of mini chocolate chips in my freezer, and tomorrow is another exciting day of March Madness!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rejoicing Rather than Retaliating?

Because this week our topic in communications is about conflict, our class assignment was to read and discuss Alma 60-61.

Yes, it's the scathing letter from Captain Moroni to Govenor Pahoran and how he, Moroni, accused him, Pahoran of “exceedingly great neglect” - not just once or twice, but THREE times!

Pahoran was accused of being thoughtless, slothful, lazy, disobedient to God’s commandments, and outright blamed for the hunger and starvation that nearly attributed to the perishing of the Nephite armies.

And interestingly, after all of that, Pahoran’s response, in a nutshell, was “it mattereth not.”

Why didn’t it matter to Pahoran?

Why wasn’t he angry, upset, infuriated, and defensive?

Why did Pahoran respond to Moroni with compassion and understanding? What was up with that man?

So read carefully last night, eager to make a noteworthy contribution to our discussion. But more importantly, I wanted to understand how I could be more Pahoran-like especially when accusatory, contentious, “them there are fighting words” conflict breaks out and instead of listening and discussing opposing ideas, I’m foaming at the mouth and about to go into cardiac arrest!

Then, I found something that caught my eye and caused my heart to understand what allowed Pahoran to receive Moroni’s words as a complementary rather than adversarially.

I found it in verse 19 as Pahoran writes: And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren.

You mean, Pahoran was concerned about what to do and in his desire to find the correct answer, he was praying and along came Moroni’s epistle which was the just right answer?

You mean all those scathing, biting, cutting words were received joyfully because they were THE answer to Pahorn’s prayers?

Which has made me ponder this all day: Would I be able to recognize an answer to a prayer if it came at me in the same way Moroni came at Pahoran?

Or would I be too caught up in finding ways to retaliate rather than rejoice?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Treasure in Heaven

When I was 10, my parents sponsored a Chinese family from Vietnam. A widowed mother with a 16 year old daughter and a 10 year old son.

They lived next door to us for a few years and I was intrigued.

They spoke Cantonese and I didn’t understand a single word.

They ate rice with chopsticks in a sitting/squatting position.

They burned incense and drank hot tea.

They were poor and they were grateful. So grateful to be in America.

Today, I attended the mother’s funeral.

It was different than any funeral I have ever attended in my life for it followed Buddhist traditions and rituals. And I was intrigued because I didn’t understand, and so badly wanted to. So I asked a lot of questions and they were so kind to teach me. Teach me about what they believed.

Before the casket was lowered into the ground, family members burned incense and made a fire using special papers which they carefully placed into a fire pit. I was told that this enabled the dead to take these belongings with the in the afterlife.

A boxful of assorted special papers of a few different colors and something that looked like faux gold bouillon were burned. Most of the “paper” included stacks and stacks and stacks of faux $100 bills.

“Why are they burning money?” my 4 year old whispered.

“It’s not real.” I noted.

“That’s good,” she replied, “because they could use that money.”

They also burned pictures. Pictures of their mother. The burning lasted for a while.

When all box of papers were burned, the family opened a stock pot that contained previously burned ashes. As they slowly poured these ashes over the last of the burning papers, I noticed REAL $100 dollar bills amidst the ashes, somewhat charred, but mostly intact fall freely from the pot and into the fire.

The bills were not a few in number.

My first thought made my eye grow big as saucers. Because this family would not be consider wealthy by any means. Certainly that money could be put to better use than be thrown into the fire.

Then I realized we don't take it with us anyway.

This family’s final offering was laying up for their mother, in the way that they believed, her treasure in heaven.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Need to Taste

I haven’t had a cold like this in years. In years!
Head pain complete with such intense sinus pressure that, if only it could be released, would be enough to make Old Faithful look like a splash pool for pre-schoolers.
But along with this miserableness – the ocular strain, the runny/stuffy nose, and the throbbing, constant ache radiating up and down my neck – I CAN’T TASTE A THING.
Not a darn thing.
Not the saltiness of the gravy with the buttery mashed potatoes.
Not the tang of the icy lemonade.
Not even the delicious after taste of dark chocolate hinting of mint or raspberry.
And not being able to taste has made eating a burden.
Gratefully there’s texture, because for right now Doritos and Jell-O taste exactly the same.

This week I have learned that having no sense of taste leaves me without the desire to eat.
Me! I have no desire to eat!
Which means there is nothing to enjoy.
And there is nothing to hate as well.
So I wait for hunger to set in and I eat because I have to . . not because I want to.

Which has made me better understand why Adam and Eve had to partake of the fruit and leave the Garden.
Not that they couldn’t taste. . . because the scriptures plainly say that the tree was good for food and pleasant to the eyes . . .
But because living in that Garden, as beautiful as it was (constant temperature, constant landscape, constant food), didn’t allow Adam and Eve to "taste. "

Once Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they discovered purpose.
They discovered how to taste.
And they quickly discovered that there was joy, because there was sorrow.
And there was hope because there was despair.
And there was happiness because there was sadness.

Which brings me to agency. My ability to choose. My ability to “taste.”
Tasting allows me to to discover for myself what I love, what I hate, and what I will, at all costs, avoid.
Thus, being able to taste becomes less about filling my hunger and more about filling my soul with that which will bring me fulfillment and nourishment and strength.
Agency then, is not just about having to choose – it’s about wanting to choose.

I become filled with those choices I make.

(Gosh, I can't wait until I can taste again!)