Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best Friends

We talk a lot about the importance of family in the Church, and we should. Family is very important not only in this life but in the eternities. But as I was ready in the book of Ether this morning I was struck again with the importance of friends.

At the time of the tower of Babel when the language of all the people was changed, the brother of Jared first prayed that he and his brother’s language would not be confounded. And the Lord had compassion on them so that they could still communicate. But then Jared asked his brother to pray that the language of their friends would not be confounded and again the Lord answered his prayers so that they and their friends would retain the same language and be able to continue in their relationships.

This indicates to me that yes family relationships are important, but so are friendships. It is important that we cultivate and maintain strong friendships with people who share our common beliefs and will encourage and help us along the path of righteousness.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

God Knows Me

I’ve been memorizing names all week and my mind feels like mush. I close my eyes and student’s pictures tumble in my eye balls. After a while all the students begin to look alike except for a few recognizable categories such as male, female, bald, and those who wear glasses. I get the names down perfectly with their pictures then walk into class and don’t recognize a single person. It is exasperating!

But it has made me think about what a marvelous thing it is that my Father in Heaven knows me by name. I don’t understand how he does it. I can’t explain it. But I know He knows me and not only that He knows what I need and provides it for me. That has to be one of the biggest miracles of life and I am so grateful for it.

God knows me. God loves me. He cares. And He knows, loves and cares about you, too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Beginnings

It’s back to school for me. Today is the first day of Fall Semester and the campus is humming with eager students.  Everyone is full of optimism and hope because the semester is a clean slate waiting to be written on. Within a few weeks that will fade as students take tests and write papers and don’t do as well as they wanted. You can feel the energy level drop on campus, but the good thing is that semesters only last 14 weeks and then everything starts all over again. New beginnings! If you didn’t do as well in a class as you wanted, you can retake the class—another new beginning.

This is a lot like life. Each week is a new beginning. On Sunday you take the Sacrament and then start over. You can live with the way your life has been going or you can repent and do better. But the important thing to remember is that you have a fresh start each week.

Too many of us don’t realize this. We let the mistakes and sins of the past weigh us down so much we don’t start over. Instead we lie down in the muck and cry about our sorry lot. That doesn’t do anyone a bit of good. 

But when we live in Truth we realize that any moment can be better than the last moment if we climb out of the Pit and enter the Realm of Truth. You don’t even have to wait for the new week. You can start right now! Every minute is meant to be lived to its best. So take a deep breath, smile, and make the new minute a Truth filled minute.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Create Your Day

This restful week is coming to an end, but I’ve got lots of beautiful memories now to get me through the busy weeks ahead. I was able to enjoy all of my favorite things—good food, bicycling on the old Union Pacific Rail Trail, walking at least three miles a day in the fresh mountain air, swimming and hot tubing at night, writing, reading, and good food. (Oh, I said that, but it’s worth saying again!) Now life moves on.

Fall semester starts on Monday, and I’ll be teaching five classes. It will be a busy semester, but I’m rested and ready now. And any time life gets hectic I can close my eyes and remember this feeling. I can bring it all back any time I need it. The power to remember is a beautiful gift that we all should use more. Store up the good memories, let go of the bad and then review those good memories any time you want.

Too often we do the opposite. We cling to the bad and forget the good. But when we realize it is a choice that we have power over, we can exercise that power and choose to savor the good. Try it right now. Close your eyes and think of a fantastic moment in your life. Let the good feelings fill you. Savor all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures from that moment. Make it as real as possible and then come back to now. Feels good, doesn’t it! And you can do it any time you want to.

While it’s important to live in the present, every once in a while the present can be enhanced by remembering the good of the past!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Forty-Four Years of Love's Beginnings

Forty-four years ago today Mr. J and I were married in the Manti Temple for time and all eternity. In those intervening years some days have felt like eternity, but most have fled like Christmas mornings—over before you want them to be. We’ve worried together, laughed together, cried together, and teased and loved each other. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it.

Married life is an amazing thing. When I was young I thought marriage was all about romance and love. Now I realize married life is all about sacrifice and love. It is about growing and serving and becoming like God. Marriage is beautiful in very sacred ways and making it work well is the greatest education in the world.

Mr. J has loved me when I was at my worst--when I was bald, when I was preoccupied with children, when I was busy going to school, and when I was just plain ornery. Most importantly he has loved me into being my best. He has supported, bragged about, and encouraged me when I needed it most.

So here’s to the love of my life, Mr. J and to our next forty-four thousand years together. They are going to be good years!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Last night Mr. J and I took a bike ride (for many miles!) through the wetlands and mountains. Beautiful sights like ducks leading their ducklings in the mossy swamps and white, Wedgewood blue skies with puffs of white clouds, and black and white butterflies flitting from sage brush to sunflower appeared in every direction I turned. By the time my tired, wobbly legs got off the bike I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this world.

Although my legs were worn out (I haven’t been on a bike since before Grizelda), there is something spiritually energizing about being in nature—about getting out of the subdivisions and the asphalt of the city and being surrounded by trees and brooks and wild flowers—even weeds! Occasional retreats into nature help strengthen us to live in Truth and to deal with the problems and challenges life throws at us.

This week has been wonderful. I’m revived and ready to start the new semester.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Way Is Perfect

In 2 Samual 22:33 is one of my favorite verses of scripture, “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.”

Having once been a terrible pessimist who is struggling to become an optimist I like how this verse instructs me that whatever happens is perfect for me. God is my strength. He is my power. Therefore, instead of getting upset or discouraged when things don’t go my way, I need to remind myself that His strength and His power don’t make mistakes. Therefore the things that happen to me are for a reason and I need to trust in His reasons. They are perfect.

My job is to learn from what happens and move on. Any other reaction to what happens sends me into the Pit and makes me miserable. When I got my new Ipad, I had these words engraved on the back, “Take what comes and love it.” And how can I love it? Because God makes my way perfect.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Art of Rumination

I’ve talked about storytelling and how it relates to Living in Truth several times on Good News! But I’ve never talked about rumination. The word ruminate comes from the Latin ruminari which means “to chew the cud.” In other words, a cow ruminates. Or to put it more graphically, the cow regurgitates a cud, which is food it has already swallowed that has been semi-digested into a cud, and then it chews on it—again. Sounds pretty disgusting, but before that disgusting scrunched look on your face goes away think about how much ruminating you do. Yes, YOU! People ruminate, but instead of a wad of regurgitated grass in our mouths, we ruminate with regurgitated words in our heads.

Besides meaning “to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed” the word ruminate also means “to go over in the mind repeatedly.” The problem with rumination is that it is usually regurgitated negative stories that we tell ourselves over and over again. “I can’t do anything right.” Or ,“No one likes me.” Or, “I’m not a very good mother.” I don’t need to list more, you get the idea.

Rumination is terrible when we tell ourselves stories based on lies like these. But the Good News! is that unlike cows, we don’t have to ruminate. When the old stories, the word cud, regurgitates we can spit it out and refuse to chew on it. The best way to do that is to replace the old cud with something new. For example when the old cud, “I can’t do anything right,” comes up, you spit it out and instead chew on the idea, “I made a mistake, but I’ve learned from that and it won’t happen again.” That thought tastes a lot better, and it will lead you on to brighter and more delicious things.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Am A Witness

After the hectic (but very enjoyable!) summer, Mr. J and I have taken a retreat for a little relaxation before school starts next Monday. We are in Park City enjoying the mountain air. This morning we took a brisk walk along the Rail Trail. The sun coming up on the mountains sent a tickle up and down my spine. This world is so beautiful!

Yesterday we went with some friends to Sacrament Meeting and they happened to be going to hear a mission speak at the Spanish Branch. I once studied Spanish but have never had much opportunity to practice it so I enjoyed every minute of listening and singing in Spanish. Afterward we went to their home to visit for awhile and they took us out back to their farm and YES! picture is of me and a bison and a zebra. Those of you who know me well and how much I don’t even enjoy the company of dogs and cats are laughing right now. But as you can see I was a bit timid about the whole experience. Being in the same pen as a bison is not something I thought I’d be doing, but the experience was amazing. Those creatures are sooo big and powerful—and this was a small one!

I learned a lot last week during Education Week. The surprising thing to me is how much the Spirit teaches me while I am speaking. You expect it while preparing and studying, but right while I’m speaking things come into my head and I learn. For example, I was sharing the story of the people of Alma who were put into bondage by Amulon. The bondage and subsequent servitude had become a tremendous trial to the people and they cried out to the Lord for help. He answered by saying, “I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage: and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14).

As I read that verse aloud to the class and came to the words about being witnesses, the Spirit whispered that part of the reason I experienced Grizelda is so I could testify afterward that I know the Lord does visit us in our afflictions. And so I do testify. He helps us. He visits us. I know it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sabbath Scripture-Look Around And Be Glad

Yea, all things which come of the earth,
in the season thereof,
are made for the benefit and the use of man, 
both to please the eye
and to gladden the heart.
D&C 59:18

Saturday, August 20, 2011

BYU Education Week Is Over

This week was delightful. My last class (on Lewis--specifically the Chronicles of Narnia) was at 7:00 on Friday night and I figured most people would have gone home, but there was a full house. The delightful thing is that a very kind lady came up afterward and presented me with a bottle of Gingerbeer--something one of the characters in the Chronicles, Polly Plummer, drank as she hid in the attic and wrote stories.

I'm waiting to drink it when I start writing my next story!

This coming week is my wedding anniversary and so Mr. J and I stole away this morning for a romantic retreat and a little rest and relaxation after the last few weeks of work. I've been looking forward to this, and I hope you are enjoying yourself as much as I am>

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last Day

Today I do the last Truth class--the one about joy and the Savior and His love. You all know that listening to those things makes you feel good but preparing them and teaching them makes you feel even better. I've had a wonderful morning reading and pondering and preparing.

In the Lewis class I'm teaching the Chronicles of Narnia--again the preparation has been wonderful but at the same time frustrating. How do you capture the essence of the Chronicles in 55 minutes? I'm struggling with what to put in and what to leave out. I guess I can only hope to instill in people a desire to read the books for themselves so they can experience it.

Lewis came under a lot of criticism for what some claimed was a degrading thing--writing for children. But I love how he defended himself. He said, "Critics who treat adult as a term of approval instead of a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. … When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” 

I love it! The child in me (the child I embrace with whole-hardheartedness) loves it! The Chronicles are wonderful reading when a child, but no child can fully comprehend the eternal truths hidden in the symbols and metaphors. The books are for adults as well as for children. 

If you haven't read them, you should.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Living in Truth

Yesterday as I was walking into my Lewis class a woman stopped me to talk to me about the Living in Truth class she had attended earlier in the day. "I love what you taught," she said. "It just makes so much sense and it is so easy! Even I can do that."

I loved that comment and it sums up what Living in Truth is all about. Mr. J said it best when he said, "This Living in Truth stuff isn't just about right and wrong--it's about making life easy!" And that's what it does.

One of the most common complaints I get about Living in Truth is that the person knows the principles are right, they just forget to live them. That transition to thinking differently about what happenes to you  and reacting in new ways is a big adjustment, but it is worth the effort.

Today in class we will be talking about the Truth Tools and if you can just remember one or two Truth Tools and begin using them, life begins to change and then slowly you can add other Truth Tools to your Tool Box and you find life not only getting better, but easier.

So pick out one Tool you are going to use today and make it a Living in Truth day! It's easy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What a Day!

Yesterday went well, but how can it not go well when you are surrounded by so many wonderful people. I managed to only go over my time by five minutes in the Lewis class (the day before I went over by 10) and stayed on time in the Living in Truth class. If you have ever heard me talk you know that is my biggest pitfall. I can't seem to stay within the time limit. I get so excited and my mouth just keeps on going!

Again, I met so many fantastic people including a man who was in our home when he was a missionary in Germany and we lived there. That was over 40 years ago! I can't believe he recognized me!

I love when people in my classes get excited about what I am teaching and want to share their own discoveries with me. I love when those who are simply touched by what they've learned want to hug me. (I love hugs!) And I love when some are so touched they want to give me something in return for what they think I've given them--a little note, or once a woman actually took off her bracelet and insisted I take it. But it isn't the gifts or the hugs or stories that actually bring the joy. I know what they are feeling isn't really me. But what touches me is knowing that their gestures of kindness indicate that the Spirit has been present and has touched them. That's what brings me the greatest joy. It makes all the time invested in preparation worth it.

Today I'll be teaching about Necessary and Unnecessary Pain in the Truth class and in the Lewis class discussing his non-fiction books. Say a little prayer for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Week So Far

Yesterday went very well. It is the first time I've taught the "Faith Works by Words" class at Education Week and it was exciting even though the microphone went out in the middle of the class. When teaching you have to learn to roll with the situations that present themselves!

The "Life of C. S. Lewis" class is always fun. I am teaching it again today and then the rest of the week will  discuss his non-fiction, his fiction, and finally on Friday the Chronicles of Narnia. I've never taught the Chronicles and so that will be another fun first. (At least I'm counting on it being fun!) I am still amazed at the adversity Lewis overcame and how he exemplifies Living in Truth.

Thanks to all of you who came to my classes! And especially thanks to all of you who came up and talked to be afterward. I love the hugs you usually give me!

Wish you were all here with me!

Monday, August 15, 2011

BYU Education Week- Day One

It's here. BYU Education Week is underway. I wish I could reach out and breath into you the feelings that are on this campus right now. The goodness that is exchanged as people walk from building to building greeting each other as if they were friends when actually they have never seen each other before. The smiles, the enthusiasm, the cheerfulness, and the pleasentries exchanged fill the air and the heart.

I taught my first class in a two hour back to back session--Faith ... Then...Works By Words." And I am now preparing to teach my second class of the day, "The Life of C. S. Lewis."

Monday classes are independent from the rest of the week and some people come only for today. Other's drink in all they can today and stay all week. I love talking to people after my class. Some have things to add to what I've taught, some just want to share an insight that illuminated their understanding, some want points clarified, and some just want to express love. I'll like it all. I learn and grow as much from the class as the class does from me.

Like I said, I wish you were all here to experience this, but since you can't be, close your eyes for a moment and pretend you are here. Feel the love and enjoy it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sabbath Scripture

(Sometimes comparing different translations of the Bible 
helps us understand the Good News better.)

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, 
saith the Lord, 
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, 
to give you an expected end. 
King James Version Jeremiah 29:11

For surely I know the plans I have for you, 
says the Lord, 
plans for your welfare and not for harm, 
to give you a future with hope. 
New Revised Standard Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you," 
declares the LORD, 
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future. 
New International Version Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, August 13, 2011

BYU Education Week

BYU Education Week begins Monday. It will be a busy week but a fun one. I love meeting so many wonderful people from so many different places. Just walking across campus you can feel the positive energy and the way even strangers greet you with so much love and kindness. It always makes me think that this is how it will be and feel in the millennium.

If you are coming to Education Week be sure to look me up and say hello. If you aren't, I'll try and keep you informed as to what is happening.

Monday morning I teach "Faith Works by Words." I've been researching this for a long time but haven't taught it before, so this week I did a practice run through with some friends. They gave me some good suggestions and so I hope I'm ready.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Empty Cup

I love the old Japanese story that illustrates what it means to be humble: Early one morning a wise old monk answered a persistent pounding at his door to find a young monk on his doorstep. Without any words of greeting the young monk began, “I have studied with the best and wisest masters. I know Zen philosophy well, but I have been told that you are the wisest of all the masters and so I have come to be sure there is nothing I am missing.”

The old monk bowed politely and said, “Certainly. But before we begin come have tea with me.”
The two seated themselves and the old monk began to pour tea into the young monk’s cup, but when the cup was full he didn’t stop. He continued to pour hot tea until it flowed over the side of the cup, onto the table, and into the young monks lap.

The young monk jumped and began to shout. “You fool! You are no wise man. You can’t even pour tea.”

The old monk bowed again and replied, “You are as full as this cup. You have no room for more thoughts. When you have an empty mind come back and then you can learn something.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rock Solid Joy

The famous psychologist that pioneered the psychology of happiness, Martin E. Seligman, points out that the “skills of becoming happy turn out to be almost entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, or not being angry.” When we look at this in the context of Living in Truth, we realize that the Truth Tools are a help to neutralize vexation and lift us out of the Pit of Illusion, but at that point we need to accept the direction of the Spirit to help us move into the realms of Truth where happiness and joy reside.

If all we do is stay out of the Pit, we can find ourselves living in a kind of emotional vacuum where we feel numb and empty. But after we using the Tools to climb out of the Pit we need to pay attention to what we are being directed by the Spirit to do. If we stay in the numb and empty place it is inevitable that we will fall back down the slippery slope of the Pit. The further we get away from the side of that Pit, the safer we are. 

So once out of the Pit, we need to do all the good positive things that lead to us to rock solid joy. We need to pray, study our scriptures, serve others and do whatever the Spirit guides us to do in order to live in a state of happiness.

Living in Truth isn’t just about staying away from vexation; it is about living in a constant state of joy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Grace

I have to thank Janet for her comment yesterday on grace. She suggested a talk by Brad Wilcox on grace that I hadn’t read. It was given at BYU just a few weeks ago while I was in Palmyra and so I missed it. I read it and just as she said, it is fantastic. I love his analogy of grace being like piano practice!

So today I am urging all of you to click on this link and read this talk. 

Grace is enabling power and we all need to understand it and use it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Accept the Grace

One of the most important messages of the Good News is that all we have to do is our best. We are mortals living in a sphere of opposition and that means we are going to be constantly making mistakes and failing to do all that we want and hope to do. It just isn’t possible. Our intentions will always far surpass our abilities. But the Good News is that if through all the trials and experiences we do the best we can Jesus Christ has promised to do the rest. That is grace. And we need it.

Accepting the grace offered is where we often get in trouble. Instead of looking in the mirror after we’ve made a mistake and saying, “I did the very best I could. I’ve learned from this. Now I’ll move on trusting in the grace of God.” We too often spend weeks or months or even years beating ourselves with whips made out of thoughts of inadequacy and regret. Berating ourselves like that is the Pit of Illusion and it is unnecessary pain. 

The very reason Jesus Christ performed an Atonement for us is because He knew we could not do it on our own. We need His grace. So beating ourselves up is a form of denial and a refusal to accept what He is offering us. It is turning our backs on Jesus Christ and refusing His help—His grace.

Accepting His grace is Living in Truth where peace, happiness and love abound.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Choose Your Life

One of my favorite all time authors, Victor Frankl, wrote a book that I read for the first time many years ago. The book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has impacted my life ever since and the impact grows more beneficial every time I read the book. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This simple sentence contains profound wisdom. The adversary does all in his power to convince us that we are what happens to us. But as Frankl knew and as the Good News of the scriptures teaches us, the Truth is that we are what we choose to be.

So today I choose to be happy, optimistic, enthusiastic, and kind. Just writing that makes me feel good all over. The very words have power to lift and encourage me. Say them yourself, out loud, and notice how you feel. 

Now choose your own words about what you want your day to be and then move into your words.