Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pulling Carts of Sin

If you've been reading this blog long, you know that I love the visual images presented in the scriptures. One of my favorite pictures is painted by Isaiah in Isaiah 5:18 (also 2 Ne 15:18). The image is of us pulling on a rope attached to a heavy cart. As Isaiah puts it: "Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope." At first when I'd see this picture in my head it filled me with sadness. It sometimes still does, but more often now it makes me chuckle.

Think about it. Isaiah is telling us that sin and vanity are like ropes that bind us to a heavy, heavy load. The load we drag around with us, the load that weighs us down, consists of such things as depression, discouragement, guilt, pride, self-doubt, grudges, and any of the other negative feelings caused by sin. Once you get the picture in your head of a weary, feeble, sad person, the rope of sin over his shoulder digging more painfully into the muscle with every step as he drags the enormous load everywhere he goes, you see that every step gets harder and more painful. But all he needs to do to stop hurting and make his journey easier is to let go of the rope! It is so simple. How easy the journey would be without the heavy cart. And the irony? That's what makes me chuckle. No one needs to pull such a cart. Lugging the cart is self-inflicted pain. So why do we drag heavy loads around? Many reasons, but most of them boil down to pride. We can't admit we're wrong. We can't admit that all this junk we've been hauling behind us wasn't necessary. We're too embarrassed to admit our mistakes and repent. We are stuck in our old ways and too proud to learn something new.

But without the cart, we have the energy and the ability to skip—no make that dance—the path of life. Without the heavy cart obstacles in the road are a nuisance, but not insurmountable. Without the cart, the journey of life is a joy, not a burden. So let go.

Let us leave the cart with all its burdens behind, and let God take our blistered hands and help us along the path. He will, if we will let go of the rope and put our weary hands in His healing hands.

Photo from Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Looking Back

Yesterday Carl and I celebrated our 41 wedding anniversary. We spent the entire day together driving around Wasatch and Summit counties trying to find a cabin or mountain lot we could afford to buy so we could have the mountain cabin retreat we've always dreamed about. We found a lot of beautiful places for sale, but most were far out of our price range. We'll keep dreaming, looking, and keep hoping, but in the meantime we know that even if our mountain cabin dream never comes true we have ten amazing children that we love and they love us. I wouldn't trade any of my unfulfilled material dreams for what we now have.

It was difficult when they were growing up and we had even less than we have now to make a decision to have more children. It would have been nice to have a boat or a motorhome or a bigger, nicer house with nicer furniture. It would have been great to give more lessons and opportunities to the children. It would have been nice to have taken them on exotic trips or to have given them more of everything parents give children. But from the vantage point of 41 years I am more certain than ever that I made the right choice.

There is not one single one of my children that I could live without. They bring me so much joy. Oh, it hasn't all been roses and chocolate. We've had our struggles. We've lived through health problems, stresses, rebellions, emotional breakdowns, financial crisis and all the other fretful things that go with family life. But what I can say now, is that it has all been worth it. My children make me laugh. They call just when I need comfort and encouragement. They keep me humble. They know me better than anyone else and like me in spite of my faults. They keep me company (when they are here and through telephone visits). They bring me incredible joy as I watch them doing the things I taught them to do. That is one of the surprises of old age—discovering how much joy it brings you when you see your children doing what is right. Another surprise is watching them do things you never did teach them. Every one of them has skills and talents that I don't have. Every one of them has learned and surpassed me! What a delight.

Forty-one years! It started out with the two of us and now there are 50 (next month there will be 51!) of us. I am so grateful for the years and for the family! I can't even put into words what it means to me. God has been so good to me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Power In Thought

At one point in the Bible we find King David thanking God for all He has given them in order to build a temple. After David praises God, he asks that God will help the people always remember the things they are seeing—the abundance of luxurious materials that have been given them to build the temple. As King David says, "Keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee" (1 Chronicles 29:18).

Alma in the Book of Mormon urges the people of Zarahemla to do a similar thing. He says, "Now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?" (Alma 5:6). Both King David and Alma recognize the power our thoughts have on us. Thoughts determine all action and behavior. If we are continually savoring good thoughts, our actions will naturally be good.

David and Alma want their people to choose to fill their minds with thoughts of gratitude and wonder and praise because they know the power of good thoughts. They know that the power isn't just in having positive thoughts. The power comes from centering our thoughts on God and His goodness—on what He has done and will do and is doing for us. The more we remember Him, the more we use our imagination to think about him, the more faith and hope and joy come into our lives. What we think about is a choice. The faith, hope, and joy are a consequence of that choice.

There is power in allowing our minds to consciously review all that is good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Fountain of Living Water

I haven't swum for years, but that doesn't change the fact that I am part fish. I love the water. I don't like to just splash around and play in the water. I love to swim laps or better still to swim in a lake where you can just go and go and go without hitting a wall. There's a freedom in swimming that I imagine is something like flying. The water holding you in a gentle caress, stroking your shoulders as you rhythmically paddle on, and whishing a foreign ballad in your ears as you go is enchanting. For some reason when I'm in the water I feel one with the earth; one with God's universe.

But water is so much more than recreation. My body is 60% water! I love drinking water. I delight in a warm shower or soaking in a hot tub. Cleaning a kitchen would be torture without water and I can't even imagine how you'd ever get your clothes or dishes clean without it. I look forward to walking in spring showers and feeling the rain tickle my face. On any given day, take note how often water plays a part in your life. It's amazing. We can't live without water.

Maybe this love of water is the reason I delight when Isaiah says, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3). Water is the life force both physically and spiritually. We are baptized in water. We drink the Sacramental water. We receive salvation from the Fountain of Living Water—Jesus Christ. When I used to hear that phrase, I'd think of a beautiful sculpted fountain spouting water into the air from its center and water spilling over its sides in cascades. But I have since learned that in Biblical days the word fountain referred to a source of something. So the Fountain of Living Water is the Source of Living Water. Jesus Christ is where it all comes from.

As I wash the garden soil off my work weary hands, I feel the water softly caressing my skin and it reminds me of the wells of salvation changing my soiled and tired soul into something pure and refreshed. Water is the source of all that is good.


Friday, August 8, 2008


I am at the Inova-Alexandria hospital. I came here early this morning to watch my 28th grandchild come into the world. But the baby was breech and they have taken my daughter into surgery to do a C-section. While I've been waiting, I've been praying and thinking about this whole business of giving life—being a co-creator with God.

I've heard it said that the birth process is the closest we get to God while in this life. I don't know if that is true but it makes sense because there are so many parallels between birth and the Atonement—emotional suffering, physical pain, blood shed and meeting the unexpected head on. And then comes the life.

Because my mother suffered and bled, I live. As Isaiah said of the Savior, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). As women we shed our blood monthly just for the possibility of one day giving life. And the Savior shed his blood for all just for the possibility that all would repent and turn to him. But perhaps the most important thing I've learned about the Atonement from giving birth is that when you suffer for someone, you love them more. Logic would tell me that if someone caused you that much pain and suffering, you would resent them or at least have an aversion toward them. But that's not how it is. The moment we see these little ones, our hearts overflow with love. They cause us pain, and yet we love them. It makes no sense, but it is very real.

As women, we should comprehend and relate more to the Atonement. We should ponder and learn more from our birthing experience about the Atonement and then help our children and husbands to understand more about the most important event in the history of mankind.

There is a baby crying down the hall. There is no sound in the world like that first cry—a cry for help and at the same time a cry of joy. That, too, is what the Atonement is all about.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Lesson From Flint and Steel

I once watched my Boy Scout brother in the back yard attempting to get sparks out of flint and steel. He had gathered a small pile of dead leaves and twigs and was determined to burn them. I watched as he laboriously struck the flint and steel. At first he'd strike and nothing would happen. But after a great deal of effort he began to get the hang of it and small, fleeting sparks appeared. The next challenge was to get the elusive spark to catch on the leaves and twigs. That too, took awhile, but finally the little pile of refuse burst into flame then immediately died out leaving nothing but a drizzle of smoke.

I think of that incident every time I read Isaiah 50:11. In that verse the Lord warns, "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." If you've ever been without electricity on a stormy, dark night and tried to navigate by the light of a single candle, this verse will mean more to you. A single candle doesn't give off much light and a spark gives off even less. Going through the dark, stormy circumstances of life with only the sparks I can make seems terrifying. On the other hand, the Savior promised, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). The choice is mine; Walk by the light of my own puny sparks or walk in the noon-bright light of Jesus Christ. Put that way the choice is obvious.

But it isn't just the amount of light that this verse is talking about. Trying to generate my own sparks takes an enormous amount of effort. I learned that from watching my brother. But to walk in the light of Jesus Christ only requires our submission to Him. More light with less effort!

On a practical level, what Isaiah has taught me in this verse is that if I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed or over-anxious, I stop and examine what I am doing and invariably I am trying to make my own sparks. On those occasions, I drop the flint and steel, take a deep breath, and let in the "Light." When I let go in this way and let God take over, things work out. Walking in His Light is so much easier than trying to produce my own light.