Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ducks and Dark

For the most part I have recovered completely from the brain surgery and radiation. The past month or so I’ve felt my full strength finally returning and during our time in New York and Ireland I didn’t experience any of the fatigue that I had been going through before. It was wonderful! It is so nice to be able to move through a day without having to constantly stop and rest.

But there is one strange side effect that I still have to deal with. Every once in a while I say the wrong word. For example, yesterday I assigned my students to read the prefix to the Book of Mormon instead of the preface. Awhile back I told someone that “I was in the duck about the subject” when what I meant was that I was in the dark. This is annoying, but at the same time fascinating to me because the wrong word always starts with the same letter as the word I want, but usually has nothing else in common with what I mean. It has made me realize what an extraordinary thing the brain is and caused me to ponder on how it works.

This strange working of my brain has also given my whole family some good laughs. I just hope it doesn’t cause any problems like the one I read about the other day when a woman emailed to tell her friend that her mother was very ill, but that the family was praying she would recover and be back to normal.

The friend, sympathetic but in a hurry wrote back, “I hope she dies.”This devastated the woman with the sick mother. She never replied to the friend and it was months before the friend finally was able to get the woman to talk through the situation. At that point it was discovedr that there had been a typo in the email. The message the friend thought she had sent was, “I hope she does.” One little letter and yet it made all the difference in a friendship.

There is lesson in this. When we live in Truth instead of taking offense and jumping to conclusions, we give people the benefit of the doubt and let them explain.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We're All Students

It's the first day of school--an exciting time meeting new students and the very air filled with expectation. At this point everyone is an "A" student. Everyone has the same possibility. Everyone is bright and eager.

But the coming days and weeks will separate the students. The procrastinators will fall behind. The unfocused, uncaring will not make time to do the homework. Those students begin to look stressed and harried. They sleep through class because they've been up all night playing.

but the ones who have done their assignments and kept up with the work look peaceful. They smile and joke and enjoy learning.

And then comes the day of grading and the unprepared begin to come into my office with their excuses. (The strangest was a student who once told me that the spirit told him not to do the assignment.) It is too late. They didn't do the work, but somehow it is my fault and they want me to change the rules so they can get by. But I can't do that.

Every semester this reminds me of life. It makes me evaluate my own life and check to make sure I'm doing the assignments and am focused because I know that there will be no changing of the rules to let me slip by. That sounds harsh and difficult, but as my good students testify, it is really a lot easier to just do what is required when it is required. Not only is it easier, but it is the only way to find peace.

So here's to all the good students in the classroom and in life! May we all be among them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ahh, Sweet Sabbath!

I'm home! 
Sorry, I didn't have Internet access while away, 
but it was a wonderful trip.
I've come home rejuvenated, refreshed, relaxed, and ready to go.
And I hope your Sabbath does all of that for you, too.
Have a sweet Sabbath! 
See you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!

This is the room I was married in.
Forty-three years ago this morning, at six o'clock to be exact, Mr. J picked me up in his little red Corvair and drove me to Manti where we were married for time and all eternity. In some ways it seems like yesterday that all this happened, and in other ways it seems like the eternity part is all we've ever known. We've had ten children, sent one on to the next world where she's waiting for us. We've paced the floor with the other nine for reasons that included sickness, emotional crisis, and forgetting they had a curfew. We've worried about how we were going to put braces on their teeth and how we could help them through school. But despite the worry and because they are all such great kids, we made it through. We've loved, argued, laughed, disagreed, played, prayed, and loved some more for forty-three years, and now we find ourselves getting old together. What a blessing!

So today we are off to celebrate those forty-three years.We're going to Las Vegas to see the Lion King thanks to D2.We are excited not only to see the play, but because it is also a trip down memory lane. You see, forty-three years ago we went to Vegas for our honeymoon and we saw Hello Dolly. (We both love live theatre and especially musicals!

It isn't every day that I can tell you what I was doing forty-three years before. But today I can tell you what happened during almost every hour of the day. At exactly this minute I was getting into my wedding dress!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Example of Living In Truth

When I give the Truth Workshop, I invited people to send me their experiences as they implement the principles of Living in Truth. The other day I received a story that with the permission of the author, I would like to share.

When my son became engaged he brought his fiancĂ©e home for dinner and to meet us. That night she sat in the living room with him all evening and never offered to help prepare or to clean up after the dinner. I didn’t mind at that point because it was her first introduction to our family and she was, after all company. But as the months wore on and they were finally married, the same behavior persisted. She never lifted a finger or offered to help, and I found myself getting upset and irritated. “She thinks she’s some kind of princess and I’m the maid,” I found myself thinking one night after an especially nice dinner I’d worked hard to prepare. And from there other thoughts bombarded me like, “She is so lazy!’ and “Didn’t her mother teach her anything?” But suddenly, as the negative thoughts churned inside me, I realized I was in the Pit of Illusion.

“All right,” I said to myself. “What is the truth here? She doesn’t help. So what are my options to deal with that Truth?” I thought a moment and then came up with three. I could accept the reality that she didn’t want to help and keep serving but without all the vexation. Or I could stop inviting them over for dinner. Or I could simple (and nicely) ask her to help. Since I love my son and enjoying seeing him and really I enjoy her also, I decided to try the third option. So the next time they came over I told her I was a little behind and asked if she’d be willing to help. “Sure,” she said. “What do you want me to do?” I asked her to peel some potatoes which she did while I stirred the pudding to a boil—which was so much nicer than me stirring to a boil! We had a great visit while we worked and soon dinner was ready.

The surprise came after the meal when she not only started to clear away the dishes without me asking, but said as we finished, “Thanks for letting me help with the dinner. That was fun.” And said it in such a way that it seemed to me she was saying more than those words; saying something like thanks for letting me into your world for the first time. I now feel more a part of the family.”

Since then I’ve sometimes had to ask for help again and other times she’s come in without me asking and offered to help. Either way, I’m not vexed at all and as far as I can tell either is she. As a matter of fact, our relationship is much closer and we’ve had a lot of fun while working together in the kitchen.

I’ve thought about this a lot since that night and wondered what would have happened if she’d refused to help even when I asked. I have no idea, but by staying in Truth the Spirit would help me know what to do next. But I do think that what I’d assumed was laziness or worse was simply her shyness and not quite knowing how to fit in.

If you have a story of Living in Truth you'd like to consider sharing, email the story to me at smillsjohnson@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get Set--Go!

It has been a crazy and fast paced summer around here. Last night as Mr. J and I sat down to dinner we realized that it was the first time in 2 and ½ months that we had eaten dinner alone in our own home. We’ve either had company or were away from home during that time. It felt so nice, but today as I’m now starting to feel better all the things I’ve let slip for the past few months are jumping out at me and hitting me over the head. Wow, am I behind. My to-do list is longer than the paper I always use to make to-do lists on! It’s times like this that stress begins to push me into the Pit of Illusion. It tightens in the chest and makes all kinds of obnoxious noises in my head. “You’ll never get all this done!” it laughs a deep, delighted-to-see-you-fail chuckle that could sink a battleship in deep water.

But, the Truth Tools work. And I’m armed for battle. I’ve got a box full of tools and as every negative feeling of gloom and doom arises, I pull out a tool and go to work on it. My favorite Tool today is affirming to myself, “It just doesn’t get better than this!” and making the challenge of this to-do list into a game.I can do it!

I’m on my mark. I’m set. I’m going!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Solid Facts About Living In Truth

There is something in C. S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce that I have been pondering all week. In this book a bus load of people leave Hell for an excursion to an interim place just before Heaven. If they like, they may stay and make their way to Heaven. But if they don’t like, they may get back on the bus and go back to Hell. All but one of the passengers chooses to go back.

The thing I’ve been pondering is that the interim place is a very substantial place. Everything is hard and durable—the grass doesn’t bend when one of the passengers steps on it; instead it is spiky and hard so it hurts to walk on it. Everything in that place is solid and heavy, so that in the metaphor the way to prepare for Heaven is to make yourself tangible and solid so you can walk to the mountains where Heaven is. I love the symbolism in that idea.

In the metaphor, when we follow God, we are making ourselves solid, more tangible. When we follow the adversary we are dissipating, dissolving, liquefying, or melting away. It helps me to do what is right by remembering that image. I want to be solid and firm. I want to be made of substance not fluff. I want to be strong and not pliable. This is what I’ve been pondering. The solidness, firmness, substance and strength are what come to us when we Live in Truth.

That is one of the surprises Living in Truth had for me. The solidness grows in you as you Live in Truth in ways that are tangible. You feel it. You know it even if you can’t explain it. It is real, not metaphorical, and it is wonderful!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Sabbath to One and All

The Sabbath is a day for healing. 
(And I really need that this Sabbath!) 
What do you need to be healed of?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's Over

It is over and I am so sick. I guess I pushed too hard this week and my body still isn't ready to be pushed that hard. But then even before Grizelda this pace would have taxed me!

I do want to share with you a little miracle. Yesterday during the class on C. S. Lewis, while I was speaking the room suddenly began to spin and my knees began to buckle. I couldn't see my notes because of the spinning, but I managed to keep speaking (I don't know if I made any sense or not!) and inside I was saying a prayer, "Please don't let me pass out!" About then my stomach started to churn and I have no idea how I held on except that it was a miracle. Mr. J said he could tell something was wrong, but others in the audience said they didn't notice. All I can say is that the spirit must have taken over for a few minutes because my body was no longer running the show.

After that class, Mr. J took me to his office and gave me a blessing and that got me through the last class. Besides being sick it was a wonderful week and I found myself using the Truth Tools in a new way. (Someone is always teaching me new lessons!) I haven't thought much about using the Tools against physical ailments and physical pain, but yesterday I began to do that. They work! Not so much that they take away the sickness or the pain, but they helped me endure it and "over ride" it.

Well, Education Week is over and now its time to get ready for next semester. Time moves on.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Last Day

It's the last day of Education Week. In ways that is a relief and in others a disappointment. My cold has moved to my chest and I need rest, but I will miss the wonderful spirit that exists during Education Week.

I've had so much fun with the Lewis class, I thought I'd share with you just a snippet of why. First of all, I am mathematically challenged, but so was Lewis. He failed the math part of his entrance exams to Oxford and would not have gotten into Oxford if it had not been for the war. (He was an officer and after the war all veterans were allowed admittance without passing exams!) Concerning his lack of math skills, Lewis later wrote, "I could never have gone far in any science because on the path of every science the lion Mathematics lies in wait for you.” Oh yes, I've seen the jaws of that lion!

The other thing I love is Lewis' humor. He loved animals, especially dogs, and at one point he described his dog Tim, by saying he “was the most undisciplined, unaccomplished, and dissipated-looking creature that ever went on four legs. He never exactly obeyed you; he sometimes agreed with you."

But most of all I love Lewis because he holds a mirror up to my face and allows me to see things about myself I've never seen before--necessary things that will help me return to my Father in Heaven. He's facilitated some of the miracles in my life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Third Day at Education Week

Last night I couldn't go to sleep. I'd start to doze off and then jerk awake thinking, "I forgot to tell them this about Lewis." I'd finally drift back to sleep and again jerk awake, "Oh, I didn't tell them this, and it is so important." And on and on it went for what seemed like hours. All I thought about all night is what I left out! But 55 minutes is not long enough to include everything. Hopefully the point came across that despite the adversity and trials, Lewis was a man who lived in Truth. He exemplified it every moment he lived.

Today I'm talking about the non-fiction of C. S. Lewis in the morning and the Truth Tools in the afternoon. In the Lewis class we're going to talk about Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. I have a feeling I'm not going to get much of the Problem of Pain covered, and tonight my sleep is going to be a problem of pain as I recall all I didn't explain. But then, maybe a miracle will happen and we will be able to get all of my mere notes covered in the 55 minutes.

Once again, I wish you were all here. It is amazing to be surrounded by so many loving, caring, kind people all seeking to learn and grow. The very air rings with their joy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day Two of Education Week

Somehow I picked up a bug and am fighting a cold, but I'm depending on a higher source to get me through this.

I had a surprise yesterday when I found I had made the papers. Click the link and you can see for yourself. The picture of me is awful, but I love the way he captured me pointing at miracles! It captures my whole last two years of life.

Even though I'm sick and so tired, I'm loving this because of the people. I get so many hugs and smiles and just watching all these wonderful people affirms me. I imagine this is a glimpse into what heaven will be like.

Today I start the Lewis class and then in the afternoon I'll be talking about necessary and unnecessary pain. I wish you were all here to enjoy this with me. It is a whole different life than what the headlines of newspapers report life to be like!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The First Day (adventure!) of Education Week

Education Week is amazing. Yesterday I saw friends I hadn't seen in twenty years! I met new friends, and relatives and friends that I love very much showed up to support me. But the most amazing thing is that EVERYONE is so wonderful. The glow that emanates from them is out of this world! Before my first class I had a few moments to just look out on the crowd of people--what a handsome crowd--and my heart was touched by the thought that these were all my brothers and sisters and I wanted to know more about every one of them--wanted to give them all a hug! But, of course, I couldn't.

One very interesting thing happened after my last class (and remember I was teaching "Miracles in the Messages of Jesus" and the last class was on the Sabbath day miracles). A woman came up to me and introduced herself as a Jew from Israel who just happened to be on campus for a few weeks as a visiting professor and decided to come to one class today to see what this Education Week thing was all about. Of all the classes, I don't know why she picked one on Jesus, but she did. One of the first things she said to me was, "Thank you. I now know what to do on the Sabbath."

That comment surprised me coming from a Jew, but then she kept going on and on about what she had felt during the class. She left, but then my mother and I ran into her again when I was going to my car and I talked with her for almost an hour. She again kept talking about what she was feeling at BYU and how wonderful and nice the people are and I said, "That's what the gospel does to us." She smiled and nodded, but didn't say anything.

She is a very nice, intelligent woman herself, and I am looking forward to getting together with her in the future and learning from her. You just never know what will happen at Education Week!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Heart is Full

Today has been an amazing day and I wish you were all with me to share in the feelings. This afternoon I am teaching a series of classes on the "Messages in the Miracles of Jesus." Therefore, I spent yesterday and this morning preparing--reading the miracles of the New Testament, pondering on them, imagining them, learning from them,and feeling them and I am full to the brim.

I don't have much time, but let me share just one little thing that has impressed me. Of the 45 miracles that are recorded in the New Testament 19 are requested. Someone asks the Savior to help them. In two, both concerning the casting out of unclean spirits, the spirits ask him not to do anything. But in more than half of the miracles (24) Jesus seeks the person out and heals them without their even asking. As a matter of fact some of them don't even know who He is.

That is a powerful testimony to me that Jesus loves us all and wants to help us with whatever battles we are fighting. Jesus is the Christ. He cares about us. He lives.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Healthy Sabbath

The people asked Jesus,
"Is it lawful to heal
on the sabbath days?"(Matt 12:10).

Jesus proclaimed that it was.
So find ways to heal today!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It’s been a week of miracles around here. There have been so many I couldn’t even recount them all here. But just to give you an idea, before we left for NY my computer crashed and while we were gone SIL 5 fixed it. I wasn’t worried because I thought I had everything backed up so I could just reload, but when I did reload I found out that for some reason my documents had only backed up from “n” on through the rest of the alphabet. Since the "C. S. Lewis" file and the "Miracles" file both come in the alphabet before “n” they were gone and they had all that I had prepared for Education Week next week. It’s a long story, and it took a lot of precious time, but I eventually was able to find both files. It is an absolute miracle.

I also had a novel I’d written years ago and wanted to work on again that was stored on an old floppy disk and I no longer had a drive to read it, but SIL6 took the disk to see what he could do while warning me that the disk was so old it probably had corrupted. But he opened the file, made it into text, and emailed it to me. Miracle!

But the most amazing miracle happened to D8—the one we were with in Ireland and the one living in Africa where she and her family are the only members of the Church in the entire country of Mauritania. This December their oldest son will turn eight and he wants to be baptized in the ocean. There is one problem. They don’t have two witnesses. They have been corresponding with Church headquarters to see what they can do and were told they would have to either travel to another country or wait until they return to the states. Traveling would be difficult and they didn’t want to wait that long (It would be almost a year). He really doesn’t want to wait either and has his heart set on being baptized in the ocean.

Well, when they returned from our trip to Ireland, there was a new military unit attached to the embassy for the next six months. Mauritania is not a very important country and so the military units assigned there are small—only a handful of personnel, but in that small group are not one, but two Mormon men who hold the priesthood. Besides being the answer to the baptism dilemma, they now have someone else to give talks and prayers at their Sabbath meetings! They are so excited, and we all realize that it is a miracle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Navigating the Muck of Life

Part of Living in Truth is acknowledging the fact that life has periods of ups and periods of downs. That is what is. And as much as we don’t like it, I think the down times have as much purpose as the up times. It is in those times when we often even feel we are abandoned that we prove to God and to ourselves that we really do want to follow Him and that we really do believe in Him.

It is those times when we have to struggle through the muck of life trying to pull our feet out of mud that is sucking us back with a force equivalent to all our efforts to wade out that we really put into practice what we believe. We have to cling to our beliefs, sometimes hanging on for dear life, and usually using them as a rope to give us more leverage and help in our efforts. In those muddy times we have to confront our deep down fears and either drive them away or else let them sink us. But if we hang on, and just about at the moment we think we are going to be sucked under completely, miracles happen and we are saved. Then we realize that the Lord is right beside us parting all the seas, rivers, and streams so we can walk on through on dry ground. We’ve come out of the down times and entered the up times and we are much stronger because of the ascent.

All of us like those up times. They are good times—times when we renew and clean off the mud and enjoy life. But what I’ve come to realize is that the down times are shorter and the up times last longer when I remember who it is that makes rescue possible and good a reality. Turning my heart, my mind, and my strength to Him is the secret to life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm Working Hard

I’m busy preparing for BYU Education Week next week. Monday I teach a three hour series on The Messages in the Miracles of Jesus. Tuesday through Friday I am teaching two classes. At 11:10 Wednesday through Friday I will be teaching a class on C. S. Lewis and his Writings. At 1:50 Tuesday through Friday I will be teaching a class on called Escaping the Bondage of Your Negative Emotions By Living in Truth. (That’s certainly a mouthful!) This last class will cover the things about Truth that we talk about on Good News!

If any of you are coming to Education Week, I hope you will say hello. I love meeting the people who read my blog. It is like encountering an old friend after years of not seeing them.

I hope to see you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My "State of the Mother" Address

D2 just called me in a state that teeter-tottered between ecstasy and sorrow. It is a state of being that only mothers understand. As a matter of fact, I call it the State of the Mother—something more constant than the State of the Union. It is that paradoxical condition that mothers find themselves in all too often.

The first tastes of it come when a child begins to walk. You want them to walk. You help them to walk. There’s no way you’d want them to crawl forever, but at the same time you want them to stay your little baby. You want them to stay cuddly and dependent. That confusing state of paradox is the State of the Mother.

And things only get worse from there. When you send them off to school the polarized feelings are even more confusing. You want them to go to school. You want them to read and do math. You want them to learn, but you don’t want them to leave you . . . and yet you do! You need some time to yourself. You want to have time to develop you own talents and do some of the things you enjoy doing. That’s why D2 called. Today she put her baby in kindergarten and she was wallowing in the State of the Mother. She cried last night and again as her son so willingly walked away from her and into his classroom. And yet she is ecstatic at the thoughts of being able to quilt and read and do so many things she’s put off doing for the last decade. That’s the State of the Mother.

But even that gets worse. Some day she’ll send her child off on a mission. Pow! No one tells you how hard that is. You raise them to go. You spend years making sure they will. You wouldn’t want them to do anything else. You are happy they have chosen to serve the Lord, but when they do what you want them to do it rips your heart out. You find yourself saying, “How can anything this right feel this bad!” That’s the State of the Mother. And then they come home, but surprisingly not to you. They come home and find someone else to live with—forever. That’s the State of the Mother, a state so full of joy you think your heart will break and at the exact same time so full of sorrow you think you’ll never recover.

I’ve been a mother for 42 years and I still don’t see how one state of being can include such a spectrum of opposing feelings. The State of the Mother includes it all, and for some reason (the biggest paradox of all) we love it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's a New Day

Many years ago I gave a talk at a Stake Relief Society Conference and the next day a woman called me to chew me out. “It’s so easy for you to stand up there and talk about all these good things,” she said, “because your life has all been so good. You had good parents and have a good husband. But my life has been a disaster.” She then proceeded to tell me how bad her parents were and how she had been divorced and forced to care for four young children alone. She went on and on and frequently made snide remarks to reinforce her point that my life was perfect and hers was a mess so it was easy for me to live the gospel while it was difficult for her.

At the time, I remember thinking how strange it was that she thought my life so good. All she knew about me came from the hour we shared together the night before while I was speaking and I hadn’t said anything about my home life past or present. She didn’t have a clue what my parents were like or my present situation. For all she knew I’d been raised in an orphanage by cold and cruel caretakers! Her idea of what my life was like was pure fiction that she was inventing.

I got the impression she had created this perfect life for me and juxtaposed her life beside mine as an excuse for her own failings. While it is true that I have good parents who are active in the Church, there were problems—many problems that she knew nothing about.

But even stranger than her assumptions of what my life was like was the fact that she thought she had to call me and tell me all she did. What motivated her to find my phone number, pick up the phone, and vent all her negative feelings—especially her excuses about why she couldn’t possibly be good—to a stranger she had heard speak the night before? I’ve often wondered if the Spirit didn’t prick her conscience that night to do something or to be better, but instead of doing what the Spirit told her to do and repenting, she spent the night trying to justify herself—to find excuses for the way she was. And her past was her excuse. I felt so sorry for her. The same amount of energy could have been used to pull her out of the Pit and into the realm of Truth.

What she didn’t realize is that despite our pasts, every day is a new day and we all have the freedom to choose to make this day a good day despite our past. As we wake each morning, we have a choice to make as to how we will spend the coming day. Will we enjoy and appreciate the opportunity and beauty of the day or will we agonize over the many tasks we have to do or worse, will we wallow in self-pity because of what was done wrong to us yesterday? When we remember that we are free to choose how we think, we choose to stay out of the Pit of Illusion and to spend our time and energy enjoying the Truth by loving whatever is.

Picture: by nikilynn http://www.flickr.com/photos/niki-lynn/

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hyacinth Bucket

I love Hyacinth Bucket. For those of you who have not yet met Hyacinth click here and enjoy. For those of you who know Hyacinth, (you are already chuckling!) you know that she illustrates for all of us the absurdity of some of the things we do. We see the truth about ourselves in Hyacinth, and we see it in a way that makes us laugh at ourselves. She illuminates the ridiculous within us and makes us want to be more sincere and real in our own lives.

Most of all Hyacinth allows us to laugh at life. She takes life so seriously that we are forced to see how absurd that is. Instead we take a step back, look at life with new eyes, and laugh at what we see.

Humor is one of the most powerful of the Truth Tools and we all need to hone our skills at using it. It can take the edge off many a negative experience and can literally eject us out of the Pit of Illusion. Learning to see humor in the situations of life is powerful. A friend going through some bad times once said to me, "I know I'll laugh about the incongruities in this situation when I think about it later, so why not laugh now." Another friend recently said to me, "I'm beginning to realize that my life is just one big joke." And she meant that in a very positive way as she laughed about some odd things in her life that others would cry about.

But there is one more thing Hyacinth does that I love. She creates her own reality. She does it to the point of the ridiculous, but by doing it she illustrates for all of us that we too create own own reality. We have the power to make our lives whatever we want to make of them. No one forces a reality upon us. Instead, by the way we look at the things that happen to us, we create reality.

So, here's to Hyacinth! We learn from her faults and we learn from her strengths. And because of all she's taught me, I love her.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Best is Yet to Come!

While traveling in New York and Ireland at this time of year I couldn’t help but notice the many tour groups. They’d drive up to a site, get out, take pictures, and then their guide would try to herd them all back into the bus for the next site. Some people would get on the bus as soon as they were told to do so. Others would linger to take just a few more pictures, or because they hadn’t seen everything they wanted to see, or because they liked what they saw so much they didn’t want to move on.

As I watched, I began to think about the metaphor in the situation. We are the tourists in life and God is our tour guide. And we, like the tourists in NY and Ireland, react to His call to get on the bus in different ways. Some of us act immediately when he says to board the bus, others linger for just a few more experiences where we are, and others are very unwilling to part with what we think is a good thing. Still others, when life is concerned, refuse to board the bus at all.

Just as with the tourists, we cling to what we have before us because it is known. We aren’t sure whether the next stop is going to be as good or that we will like it as well so we linger. But with God as our tour guide we can always know that what is next is for our best good, it is part of our progression, and therefore we shouldn’t be reluctant.

Because of that one of the most helpful mottos for life is, “The best is yet to come!” With God as our guide, we are always going to end up in the very best place, the very best situation, the very, very best condition. So whatever you are doing right now, stop, breathe in deeply, and say right out loud, “The best is yet to come!” and get on the bus!

Friday, August 6, 2010

New You

One of the lovely results of living in Truth is that all things, including your past, become new to you. Christ changes you and your life. As Paul explains it, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17). This is so true.

As we let go of hurts and offenses and negative ways of viewing the world, we make room in our hearts for new thoughts and new emotions. And through those new thoughts and emotions we see our past, our present, and our future differently. Instead of seeing how we were hurt, we see how others were hurting. Instead of feeling victimized, we feel remorse for what we did to contribute to poor relationships or situations.

At first this sounds like merely an exchange of bad feelings, but it is a release. As we let go of heavy, painful things, we experience an escape from bondage and unnecessary pain. We climb out of the dark Pit into the light of Truth and joy where we are free to express our true selves and feel and use the power of positive emotions to shape our lives and interact with others.

Letting old things pass away—handing them over to the Savior to take care of instead of carrying the burden of them around ourselves—is freedom. The death of the negative allows the birth of the positive.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beyond Me

One of the blessings that comes from vacationing is that it jerks us out of our routine and the daily things we take for granted. Life is interrupted for the days or weeks we are gone and when we return we see them in new ways. At first I was worried about coming home from such a magnificent setting as Ireland. I thought maybe Utah would seem barren and dull, but instead I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the feeling of gratitude that has filled me. I’m grateful for my brown mountains and for the health that allowed me to enjoy the trip. I’m grateful for my soft bed and cozy home. I’m seeing things around me I haven’t noticed before, and I’m seeing things I have noticed before in new ways.

I love this feeling of gratitude that fills me with awe for the simple things around me, but going away and coming back has also somehow filled me with a consciousness of my relationship to God. I am aware that I am more than my body or my personality or my experience. I am God’s child and in some way that there are no words to describe I’ve a “genetic” link to Him that is as real as the links to my parents that gave me hazel eyes and long fingers. I am part divine and cultivating that divinity is what life is all about. I have been given this very moment in time to exist and if I use it to love and to serve my divinity grows—just as using a muscle makes it stronger. I am grateful both for my knowledge of that divinity and for that divinity itself.

In short, I’m brimming with the joy of gratitude today. I’m thankful to be. I’m grateful for existence. I’m so happy because I am the daughter of the King of Kings!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lessons From Lewis

Despite the time constraints and the stress, I am enjoying my study of C. S. Lewis. I study and the thoughts ring through me all day long giving a lilting lift to my work and play. For example, yesterday I read from his book Miracles, “In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself” (p. 212) and I found myself hearing Christianity as a poem with rhyme and rhythm and language that “blows the top off the mind.”From that vantage point, I saw religion in a new light that grew into sheer delight.

Another thing I read yesterday explains the importance and the benefits of living in Truth. Lewis talks about the war between nature and spirit, or as we usually say the Natural Human and the Spiritual Human. “Nature by dominating spirit wrecks all spiritual activities; spirit by dominating Nature confirms and improves natural activities” (p. 205). . . “The emotions do not become weak or jaded by being organized in the service of a moral will—indeed they grow richer and stronger as a beard is strengthened by being shaved or a river is deepened by being banked” (p. 206).

I like the wording, “organized in the service of a moral will.” That is exactly what the Truth Tools are designed to help us do—discipline and organize our emotions so that they work for us instead of against us. Oh, how I love the wisdom of Lewis!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saved From the Pit

I’ve had one of those Living in Truth moments this week. Some people are blessed with the gift of Living in Truth all their lives. Their families lived that way and so they just learned it as the way to live. Or, for some reason, they picked up the ability to Live in Truth while young. But as I have said before, I am not one of those people. I struggle to overcome the negative and to not be pessimistic. That’s what led me to study these things and to begin to put them into practice. What that means is that Living in Truth is not my normal first reaction and it is why I need the Truth Tools. I need the Tools because they help me change my first reactions to a given situation from negative to positive.

One of those situations happened this week. In two weeks I am teaching a three hour lecture series on C. S. Lewis at BYU Education Week. I have been preparing for months by re-reading Lewis’ works and making notes. I knew I’d only have two weeks after we got home from our trip so I took three of the books with me to read during travel time. That worked. I read the books, made extensive notes in them, and planned to then organize and put the finishing touches on the lectures after I got home. It would still be tight time wise, but I could do it.

On the trip home, Mr. J asked if he could read one of the books so I gave him my favorite—The Great Divorce which he started to read. I didn’t think much more about it, but the day after we got home he informed me that he had left the book (with all my notes!) on the plane. As he told me what had happened, I could feel the negative emotions swell like great tidal waves within me. Anger, accusations, fear, and many other negative feelings started to push me out of Truth and over the brink and into the Pit of Illusion.

At that moment I sensed the darkness of the Pit and knew from experience it was not a place I wanted to be and began to Rewrite the story I was telling myself. The accusation, “How could he do this to me?” changed to “He feels so bad about the mistake he’s made. He didn’t do anything to me. It was a simple mistake.” And “I don’t have time to re-read and find the quotes I need again!” was rewritten into, “The Lord will help me. Re-reading the book could even prove to be helpful.”

With those thoughts I found myself back in the Light of Truth and the vexing, negative feelings (the unnecessary pain) leave. I’m still not exactly sure how I’m going to do it, but I am at peace in Truth, and in that state of Truth things always work out. I’ll let you know how when I know!

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Amazing Week!

Our cottage in the Galty Mountains
I’m home. It feels good, but at the same time it is difficult to face reality after such a perfect adventure. Our last week was filled with more castles, more magic, and more scenic landscapes. The highlights were kissing the Blarney Stone, visiting the cliffs of Moher, and staying in a delightful cottage in the Galty mountains near a wee village called Skeheenarinky. (I didn't make that up! It's the real name.)

The Cliffs of Moher
The highlight on Monday was a visit to the Rock of Cashel, an ancient fortified cathedral with hints of the once ornate and magnificent building still visible. Tuesday was a long day that started early with a drive to the Cliffs of Moher, then a drive to Ballyvaughn which revealed a very different look to Ireland with its stark stone mountains of gray rock. From there we went on to a quaint folk park at Bunratty castle. The reconstructed village around the old castle had homes from all around Ireland and gave us a good feel for the history of the living conditions of the people.

One of the things I’ve been struck with on this trip is how people throughout time have been searching for God and trying in their own ways to worship Him. Too often we learn about and talk about the people who misused religion for their own purposes or to get gain, but the average man has been honestly seeking and their sincerity and desire is evident in the things they left behind. A touching example of what I’m trying to explain occurred while at Bunratty. One of the features of Bunratty is an old country church and as I left the building I passed a woman holding the hand of a toddler going into the church and as she stepped over the threshold she crossed herself. I was touched by her reverence. In this historical setting—in a church no longer used for religious purposes but for educational and entertainment—she honored the Person the building was intended to honor.

The Irish Night at Bunratty
That night D8 (she was an incredible tour guide!) had arranged for us to attend a traditional Irish night at the Bunratty corn barn which was delightful (another understatement!). We were served dinner by the entertainers. Most people had traditional Irish stew, but I had a vegetable tart which melted in my mouth and lingered so that if I close my eyes and concentrate I can still taste it. Between courses and after the dinner, the waiters and waitresses performed traditional Irish songs and dances. One of the dancers was the European National Dance Champion and they were all very talented. We laughed, sang along, and enjoyed every minute.

Me kissing the Blarney Stone
We didn’t get back to our cottage until midnight and so Wednesday we slept in a bit and then headed for Cork where we kissed the Blarney Stone—something I’ve heard about all my life yet knew nothing about. The stone is the top stone of a castle window (Blarney Castle) and is about four or five stories above ground! You slide under it, upside down, and kiss it in order to be blessed with the gift of eloquence. As I dangled upside down and backwards and saw the earth far below me I wondered who in the world had made up all this malarkey! Getting back up was the hard part. Dizzy is an understatement, but I survived!

The wee spot of light defines the B. Stone.
We returned to Cahir, which is the nearest village to where we are staying and wanted to find a place to have traditional fish and chips. When we asked a policeman where there were any, he laughed at us and pointed out the two best places to eat—one an Italian restaurant and the other in the old Chair hotel. We did finally find someplace that sold fish and chips, but it was served to us by a Moldavian who spoke broken English with a heavy accent. So much for cultural distinctiveness. They used to say the US was a melting pot, but now the whole world has become a melting pot.

Thursday we saw the local sights, a fascinating cave, Cahir castle, and a Swiss cottage. Friday D8 Carl and I went on to Dublin to see Newgrange and the book of Kells at Trinity College, which I’ve already told you about.

As I’ve said over and over, this has been a dream come true. I’ve wanted to see Ireland since I was a little girl reading about leprechauns and now I’ve seen it. The surprising thing is that most things I dream about for years like that turn out to be a disappointment—less than the dreams. But Ireland exceeded my expectations. I’ve learned so much (even more about living in Truth which I’ll share later) and enjoyed every moment. I hope all of your dreams come true in the same way! It is sad to see this come to an end, but as the Irish say, “All happy endings are beginnings as well."