Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not Good For Man To Be Alone

Originally posted December 3, 2009

I took Advanced Placement (A.P.) Physics when I was in High School. The first semester there were about 15 girls in the class,but by the second semester there were only four of us left. It was a hard class. To this day I'm not quite sure what compelled me to stick it out, but I did. One day, a few days into the semester, the teacher took us four girls aside and thanked us for being in his class. He said that some years he didn't have any girls stick it out to the second semester and that those years were always the hardest. He said, "The dynamics of the class are different when it is all boys. It gets kind of rough. It changes things completely to have girls in the class."

I've been thinking a lot about what my physics teacher said because I just finished reading "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding.


The story is about a group of boys, ages 6-12, who get stranded on an island by themselves. Things start out fine but by the end of the book everything is out of control and they are hunting and killing one another. It is a powerful commentary on human nature and the condition of our world today. While there are many interesting ideas brought up in the book the main thing I was struck by in this book is that these boys are "girl-less"; there isn't one girl or woman on the entire island. I couldn't help but wonder how different the story would have turned out if there had been a female presence on the island. Would just having girls in the mix have, like my physics teacher said, changed everything?

I'm inclined to think it would have.

Remember that not long after creating Adam and placing him in Eden God states "... It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Genesis 2:18). God doesn't leave Adam alone in the world by himself very long because there wouldn't have been anything for Adam to do there by himself except pet the animals and swim in the rivers. Adam needed Eve in order to fulfill his purpose on this earth and likewise Eve needed Adam to fulfill her purpose. Without each other they would have been nothing and God's work would never have gone forth. There is a beautiful balance created when men and women are equally paired and when they are working on a common goal. Neither man or woman is complete, in a spiritual sense, without one another.

The other thought I had when I was reading "Lord of the Flies" was that one of the reasons the world we live in now is so full of violence, inequality and hatred is because some people are trying to live as if women don't exist or that they aren't important. There are places in the world where women's voices and freedoms are smothered and silenced; places where women don't have the right to make their own choices concerning their bodies, their marriages, their children, or their futures. This type of attitude wasn't what God intended for relationships between men and women to become. God's great work will not be done by men only, nor by women only, but by men and women working together as equal partners. Satan knows this and he is doing everything in his power to convince men that they don't need women and women that they don't need men.This is a great lie and I feel it is one of the main reasons our world so closely resembles the Hellish type of society the boys in "Lord of Flies" created for themselves.

We need the talents and gifts of both men and women to accomplish God's work. We will never heal our world if men continue to exclude women from their social, political and spiritual arenas and if women begin to do the same. Such a future looks bleak; not much different from the hopeless situation the boys in "Lord of the Flies"found themselves in or the rough state of an A.P physics class without girls.

It is not good for man to be alone. It is not good for woman to be alone. We need each other... desperately.

Monday, May 30, 2011

God is a Gardener

"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden..." (Genesis 2:8)


My garden is beginning to pop up and, like always, it brings me so much joy to see these little plants spring into existence. Even though I've been planting things since I was a little girl I can never quite get over the miracle of how tiny, hard seeds can be buried in the ground and then grow into food. Even if I live to be 100 I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by it.


Last spring I went to a gardening workshop held by one of the men in my church. He began his lecture, which was to a church audience, by saying that the desire to plant and to grow things is part of our eternal nature as children of God. For, he said, God is a gardener. One of the first things He did after he created the earth was to plant a garden in Eden. The scriptures didn't say that he "commanded" a garden or that he "willed" a garden into being, but instead that he "planted" a garden. The spiritual symbolism in that word is rich...


...but mostly I like to imagine that perhaps it means that even God himself takes joy in getting dirt under his fingernails, mud on his shoes, digging his elbows deep into the earth, and perhaps even smiles when the first little seedlings poke their heads above the ground.

He is the Master gardener.


"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Genesis 2:15)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Free Admission to the LDS Holistic Living Conference!

Last week I was contacted by Rebecca Price one of the organizers of the LDS Holistic Living Conference being held next month in South Jordan, Utah. She asked if I would be interested in attending the conference and if I'd like to give away a free admission to the conference to one of my readers! Here is a little bit more about the conference and its mission.



The Holistic LDS Living Conference's mission is to help all people draw closer to Christ by discovering His hidden treasures of knowledge for the health and healing of the mind, body and spirit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

8:30 am—6:00 pm

(vendor area open until 7:00 pm)

Paradigm High School

11577 S 3600 W

South Jordan, Utah 84095

I was going to go to this conference last year because one of my doula acquaintances was speaking but I didn't end up being able to go. I'd totally forgot about the conference this year until Rebecca contacted me. They have a really great line up of speakers this year (I'm especially excited about some of the women's health classes because I'm nerdy like that) and I am really excited to attend... well as long as my doula client who is due around then doesn't have her baby that day!

If you'd like to enter the drawing for a free admission to the conference you can do one of three things to enter. Please leave me a comment letting me know which ones you did:
  • Visit the Holistic LDS Living Conference's website and view the list of classes. Tell me which class interests you the most and you can have one entry.
  • Mention this give away on facebook, twitter or on your blog and you can have another entry.
  • Become a "follower" of my blog or add my button (found on the right hand side bar) to your blog and you can have another entry.
Please only enter if you are serious about attending or if you know someone else who might really appreciate the free admission that you can pass it along to.

Best wishes! I will announce the winner on June 3rd!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Do You Want to Know About Me?

So I am in a bit of a blogging slump... I feel totally unmotivated to write or to think of good things to write about. So, I've decided to write about myself :) I am going to make an "About Me" page for my blog so that new readers will have a better idea about who I am and why I am writing this blog. I know that I always appreciate having a bit of background on people when I start following their blogs.

But since I'm in a slump I need a bit of help. I am wondering what sort of things people would be interested in knowing about me (within reason of course). So this is your chance.... ask me a question about myself or my blog... any question. I won't promise that I'll answer them all, but I'll give them all fair consideration!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Improving Your Personal Scripture Study

This week I taught a mini-class for our weekday Relief Society Meeting on how to improve your personal scripture study. The class went really well and I thought I'd share what I taught with all you wonderful people. Also I would love to hear any more ideas you have about improving your scripture study.

I started out by asking the class "Why do we study our scriptures?" I got lots of wonderful answers like "because it brings us closer to God", "it reminds us of what is most important", "we can learn from the lessons of the past" and " they teach us what we need to do." All these answers are correct yet I think that the real reason we study our scriptures is because the scriptures are the gateway to personal revelation. It is through them that we receive personal direction and power to guide our lives and our families.

I illustrated this point by having someone read the first eleven verses of D&C 138, in which the Prophet Joseph F. Smith gives an account of how he received his beautiful vision of the spirit world. I asked the reader to stop every time Joseph F. Smith mentioned what he DID before he received his revelation and I wrote the verbs on the board. Here is what we came up with.

Joseph F. Smith

On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world... While I was thus engaged, my mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter... I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before... As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.

We then talked about each of these verbs and how, just like Joseph F. Smith, we too can receive powerful revelations and visions as we study our scriptures.

1) The first thing is that he SAT

This may seem like something so simple that it is easy to over look the importance of it. In Preach My Gospel, the manual given to LDS missionaries, one of the first pieces of advice that it gives missionaries about scripture study is to
"Be alert. Exercise, shower, and pray before you study. Study at a desk or a table where you can write (not lying down or sitting on your bed), organize your study materials, and remain alert."
I know that for me the times when I have best the scripture study is when I am treating it like a real study. When make the time to sit at the table, to get my scripture study journal out, to have my markers and sticky notes nearby, and my pen ready to write. I feel like by showing the Lord that I am alert, attentive and there to take notes on what he teaches me that he responds by taking me seriously and pouring out his knowledge. If you don't already have a designated place you sit at to study your scriptures then I recommend you find one. It is really amazing the difference it makes to study your scriptures at the table, instead on the couch, and to have a pen and journal ready instead of just reading a few verses before you hop into bed.

Think about it this way. How would a professor react if you showed up to his class with no backpack, no notebook, no pencil to take notes with, and were slouching in your seat struggling to stay awake. He wouldn't think that you were very serious about learning and probably wouldn't give you the type of attention he would the student who was sitting on the edge of their desk, pen in hand furiously scribbling down notes. Spiritual learning isn't all that different from secular learning and if we want to get good grades (ie. personal revelation) then we need to show the Lord we are prepared and ready to learn.

2) He pondered

Pondering is more than just thinking about what you are reading. Pondering requires you to slow down and to reflect. It is proably the most important part of studying your scriptures. Taking the time to ponder is what changes it from "reading your scriptures" to "studying your scriptures". There are three main ways that I like to ponder.
  • Re-read the text. If you get to the end of a chapter or a verse (especially if you are reading Isaiah or Revelations) and your reaction is "What in the world did I just read?" then I'd recommend you stop, turn around and go back and read it again... and again... and again... until you are able to understand just a little bit more than you did before. I think too often we are so set on getting to the end of the chapter or reaching a preset number of verses that we skip over the parts we don't understand instead of taking the time to work through them and figure out what they mean. It is really okay to slow down. When it comes to scripture study remember your goal is to gain personal revelation... not to fly through to the end of the the book. It is about quality, not quantity.
  • Visualize yourself in the story. I find that this pondering technique works really well for the stories in the Old Testament or in the Book of Mormon. It is amazing how a story can change when you slow down and start wondering about the people in it. How did those events make them feel? Why did they make the choices they made? How would I have reacted in a similar situation? I also always like to think about where the women-- even if they aren't mentioned-- would have been in the story. It helps me rememberer that these people were REAL and that they weren't all that different from me.
  • Ask questions and write them down. If the scriptures are the gateway to revelation than asking questions is the key to the gate. The Lord has told us "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shallfind; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Luke 11:9) If we want personal revelation we have to ask for it and we have to ask the right questions. As you read your scriptures take the time to write down the questions you have, whether they are historical questions, doctrinal questions, or personal questions. Then, in later scripture studies, take the time to go back and seek out the answers. Personally, I spend 85% of my scripture study time seeking out and studying the answers to my questions.
3) He Reflected and his Mind Reverted

Reflecting is a bit different than pondering. Relefcting is the time when you start to make connections between what you are reading now and what you have read or studied in the past. For example Prophet Smith said that as he was reflecting his mind reverted
"...to the writings of the apostle Peter, to the aprimitive saints scattered abroad throughout bPontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and other parts of Asia, where the gospel had been cpreached after the crucifixion of the Lord. I opened and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of aPeter..."
He had studied his scriptures enough that his mind automatically was able to make a powerful connection. Furthermore, he acted upon his thoughts and was able to opened his bible to the exact verse he was thinking of. Not all of us are blessed with Prophet Smith's mastery of the scriptures and so this is where marking your scriptures and writing in your scripture journal become essential. When we've taken the time to write down our previous thoughts about the scriptures then it is much easier for us to remember those connections and find them again in the future. If you didn't take the time to mark your scriptures or to write things down then you will probably forget what you learned. Make sure you take the time to write things down! Also I've found that I very rarely remember where an exact verse is but I'll remember a few key words from it. I then use the Topical Guide to find the verse or use the search option on the online scriptures to find the verse.

5) He was Greatly Impressed and he pondered again.

I love the word he uses "impressed" because I think it sums up exactly the feeling that one gets when they begin to see the connections, themes, and archetypes in the scriptures. Those are the moments that take your breath away and fill your soul with joy and your mind with wonder. For me those moments don't come every time I sit down to study my scriptures but I've found that if I study and read my scriptures enough that eventually I will have a really good scripture study that will keep me on a spiritual high for several days. In my opinion the "greatly impressed" moments are as good as any adrenaline rush and they are what keep me addicted to reading my scriptures...or compel me to read them even on the days when I really don't want to!

Also we don't know how long President Smith pondered over his questions. In his account he makes it sounds like his vision instantly followed his pondering. Yet for all we know he may have pondered the same question over and over again for years... and finally this time he got understanding. I know that in my own life I often have to study the same topic or the same question over and over again (I can think of some that I've studied at least 10 or 12 times) before I begin to understand. I've learned that receiving revelation takes work and that the bigger the question or the deeper the doctrine I am delving into the more work the Lord requires from me. Yet he always answers my questions, eventually, and in ways that are greater than I ever could have imagined.

6) The Eyes of His Understanding Were Opened

Having the eyes of your understanding opened is the ultimate goal of scripture study. When you approach your scripture study with that goal in mind then all of a sudden the scriptures cease to become a "book" and become a medium through which God speaks to you and teaches you great eternal truths. No knowledge or understanding is beyond our grasp if we are willing to put forth the effort to seek it out and have the patience and faith to trust in the Lord's timing. He will teach us line upon line and precept upon precept until we are able to comprehend all things.

If you haven't been putting the time into your own personal scripture study as you should or as you would like to I challenge you to start doing it. Nothing is more important than receiving personal revelation... and the scriptures are the gateway to that revelation... therefore nothing is more important than studying-- not just reading--- your scriptures.

Is that too bold of me to say? Oh well, it is true!

Now I'm curious... what has helped you improve your personal scripture study?

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Will Tell You of the Wrestle Which I Had Before God

"Mary and Baby" by Liz Lemon Swindle

Please understand this is my story. It comes from my heart. It isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad or to influence anyone’s decisions. It is just my story, my experience, and how the Lord has softened and changed my heart. I am only sharing this because I can’t shake the strong feeling that the Lord wants me to share the miracle He has worked in my life —and I’ve learned it is never wise to ignore Him. I’m turning off the comments on this post because I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to justify their choices or compare them to mine. I also don’t think I could handle any criticism on this one. It is too much a part of me, too close to my heart. We each walk different paths, and this is where God has led me.

As I was holding my two-hour-old son in my arms I felt a still small voice whisper to me “Be ready to have another baby sooner than you plan. One is ready to come.” In my mind I scoffed. I was still reeling from the exertion of natural childbirth and I was certain that I didn’t want to go through that again for a long time. Yet in my heart I heard the message and tucked it away.

A year later I was pregnant again and I knew, deep in my heart, that this baby was suppose to come to our family. I’d been expecting her.

After giving birth to my daughter I waited again for the still small voice. I didn’t hear anything. I waited. I prayed. I pondered and the only thing I heard was “It is up to you.” Those words, whispered so softly to my soul, sent me on one of the hardest and grueling journeys of my life.

It is up to me? What in the world do you mean by that?

Can’t you just tell me?

You mean you are going to make me work to find out?

Weeks earlier I’d scoffed when one of my friends had mentioned that she was considering not using birth control. She said she was ready and willing to consecrate her fertility to the Lord. I thought she was crazy. I thought that there was no way in the whole wide world that I could ever do that. My husband was willing but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to give up that much control.

Still her words came back to me, and back to me, and back to me. For weeks they wouldn’t leave me alone.

I began pondering on the word “consecration”. Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained that the Lord’s law of consecration

“…has an economic role but, more than that, is an application of celestial law to life here and now. To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices—to God’s purposes.”
Did God expect me to consecrate ALL of myself… including my fertility to him? That seemed like a lot to ask, almost too much.

Yet when I thought about consecrating myself fully to the Lord-- from an eternal perspective-- I was completely unafraid. I felt my heart reach out to the spirits waiting. I felt infused with power beyond my own and knew that God would give me the strength to handle anything, or anyone, who came. I felt the heavens rejoice and the gratitude of those yet unborn. I was filled with joy and peace that I can hardly describe.

Yet almost in the same breath I would begin to think about the world, about the people who would judge me for having too many children or children too close together. I could have 10 kids! I thought about how my family would react. Are people still excited for you when you are having your 8th baby? When would I ever have time to do what I wanted? I wondered how we would provide for all those children. I’d have to drive a bus! What would my body look like after? I’d most certainly go crazy.

Those thoughts filled my heart and mind with fear, paralyzing fear, that closed off my heart and sent me reeling with doubts.

For months I agonized. I cried. I prayed. I argued. I pleaded. I rationalized. I studied. I cried some more. Yet no matter what I did the still small voice persisted.

It is up to you.

Like Jacob in the Old Testament and Enos in the Book of Mormon, I literally wrestled with God.

I knew what He was offering… but my will wouldn’t bend.

Then one Sunday afternoon I came across an interview with a young woman who was 27 and had just given birth to her fifth child. She spoke very honestly and openly about the choices she and her husband had made, the challenges they had faced, and the blessings they’d received. In speaking of her children she explained that she and her husband “Try sincerely to accept what we can take, not just what would be convenient.” She also went on to say that she felt that, “These children’s spirits are going to go somewhere and I want them to come here. I know they will be coming to a loving place. It is a really committed form of missionary work at its heart. These children will be born in the covenant and they will always be a part of that, always a part of what we share.”

As I read those words I felt my testimony burn within me and I felt the presence of those spirits who were waiting. I felt my heart turning to them and I knew that in their eyes there was no greater gift I could give them than to clothe them in their immortal bodies. Could I tell them no? Could I one day look those spirits in the face and explain to them that they had to wait, that they had to go to a different mother, to a different family, because I was afraid of what the world would say or because I had “better” plans?

It made my heart ache and I really began to re-examine my testimony of the gospel. If the gospel was true, and there really were hosts of spirits waiting for their turn at mortality, then nothing else in my life would compare with the opportunity to help God clothe those spirits in their immortal tabernacles. Bodies, which because of the atonement, would all become immortal and could one day house Gods and Goddesses. Was there anything greater I could do with my “plans” that that? Yet, if the gospel wasn’t true and giving birth was really just giving existence to the non-existent, as so many in the world believe, then consecrating my fertility to a non-existent deity was the stupidest thing I could ever do.

Did I really have a testimony of the Plan of Salvation? Was God really serious when He said “be fruitful” or was He just giving a suggestion? Did I really believe God when He promised that “children are a heritage from the Lord? (Psalms 127:3)” Did I truly believe?

I felt my spirit yielding but still my mind pushed back against God.

I continued to wrestle.

A few weeks later as I was swimming laps at the gym I was pondering over my choices when a thought hit me so powerfully that I began to cry mid-stroke (yes, such a thing is possible) as the spirit rushed over me.

“It is all based on your willingness,” the still small voice whispered, “Are you willing to be a handmaiden of the Lord?”

Through my tears the image of Mary, the mother of Christ, flooded my vision. I saw her as she wrestled within herself asking, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”. I saw understanding come to her as the angel testified “…with God nothing shall be impossible.” Then I heard her speak the words that must have made the Heavens roar with joy, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary didn’t have to become the mother of the Savior. If Mary had refused God would have found someone else. The Lord was offering her a great honor and blessing but it was up to her to accept it.

Mary accepted. She was willing to do the Lord’s work even though it meant she might lose her betrothed, that she might be stoned to death, that she would lose the respect and love of her family and community, and that she would know unfathomable sorrow because of what her son would suffer. Still, she didn’t let rationalization or worldly cares influence her decision. She consecrated herself to the work of the Lord and, ultimately, her one choice made the plan of salvation possible.

Over the next several weeks these truths began to distill upon my soul. My heart began to change. I saw that the only thing I truly had to offer God—the only thing He hadn’t given me—was myself and my willingness to be an instrument in His work.

“Stubbornness, rebellion, and rationalization must be abandoned”, continued Elder Christofferson said in his talk on consecration, “and in their place submission, a desire for correction, and acceptance of all that the Lord may require.”

I knew it was impossible for me to know what the Lord would require of me. God might only give me the two children I already had or…. He might give me 10 more. I could also have health problems or life circumstances that would change my ability to have more children. Yet no matter what was in store I wanted God to know my heart and all that I had was His. Then if circumstances beyond my control influenced my family size I would be able to say, like King Benjamin counseled, Lord “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” (Mosiah 4:24) I also knew that, like Mary, choosing to walk down the road of consecration would not be easy but that it would bring me joy greater than I could ever imagine.

So, was I willing?

I knew what God was offering me and my heart yearned for it; but accepting it required the biggest and scariest jump into the unknown I’d ever taken. It required letting go of fear. It took surrender. It took letting go of my “control” and it took faith to know that if I jumped He would catch me.

As much as I wanted it my spirit wouldn’t yield.

Then one day, after another exhausting wrestle with the Lord, I decided I couldn’t keep living my life in fear. I could no longer stand on the edge of the chasm and cower. I either had to jump or retreat. I knew that either way He would still love me, but I knew that there was a great gift waiting for me on the other side. I just had to trust Him.

I closed my eyes and held my breath

And

I

Let go


“Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”


Our wrestle is now over

I know in whose arms I’ve landed

And

I trust Him

Completely

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flood Warnings


We are gearing up for flood season in my neighborhood. Granted we aren't any where close to the type of flooding they are having in Mississippi... but the rivers around us are already really high and the spring melt off hasn't even really begun in earnest yet. Sandbags have become the newest lawn decoration fad.

The most ironic thing about the whole situation to me though is that about two months ago-- in the middle of March-- we had a week of the MOST beautiful weather. It was about 65 degrees outside, sunny, warm and was in stark contrast to the snow we'd had the week before. I was on my way home from spending the day at the park with my kids when the weather forecast came on the radio. The man giving the forecast said something like this,
"Thank heavens that tomorrow we are expecting temperatures to drop significantly and may even have a chance of snow. It would be disastrous to have any more days like the last few warm ones we've had. The animals are all confused and the trees are starting to bloom. Hopefully it will get cold again soon real fast."
I was aghast. Obviously, I thought to myself, this man has no idea what he is talking about. The weather is great! He is probably just cooped up in an office. If HE had spent the day at the park he would probably feel much different. I really thought the guy was nuts and told at least 6 or 7 people that day about the crazy forecaster I'd heard on the radio.

Well, two months later I am eating my words because it turns out that forecaster really did know what he was talking about. It was those few days of incredibly warm weather early in the season that started melting the snow pack and raised the river levels high much earlier than they should have. Unlike me, the forecaster knew what lay in the future. He could see the signs of what was going to happen WAY before I could and was worried about them. To me, whose sight and understanding was limited, he sounded crazy and like he was overreacting. Yet in the long run he was the one who was right on.

This experience got me thinking about prophets and how they are able to see the spiritual and temporal storms and the floods on the horizon and are worried about them. They give us constant warnings to get our souls, our families, our finances, and our priorities figured out. To them, who can see more than we can, the coming storms and floods are very real. Yet those of us who are playing at the park we just keep singing "eat, drink and be merry!" and laugh at (or ignore) those overreacting old white guys in suits. The last few weeks I've been asking myself if I have really given the words of the prophets-- living and dead-- the type of at attention they deserve. Am I really listening and understanding their warnings, am I seeing the signs of the times, and am I preparing myself and my family for them? Or am I just playing at the park? In all honesty... I think I am still mostly at the park... but I hope I'll do better in the future.

I also had one other experience in the last few weeks that got me thinking about prophets and listening to their warnings. About two weeks ago there was a severe frost warning given for our area. My husband was really concerned because our apricot tree was in bloom and he was worried the frost might kill all the blossoms... meaning we wouldn't get fruit in the summer... meaning NO apricot jam... and that would be disastrous. So in an attempt to save our blossoms he decided to try a trick that he had learned in one of his plant classes at college. He'd learned that when commercial fruit farmers are threatened with frost that they often sprinkle their trees with sprinklers all throughout the night. It turns out that the steady stream of water creates icicles over the blossoms that keep them warm and prevent them from freezing.

Who knew huh?

So-- against all common sense-- we ran a sprinkler on our tree all night. In the morning this is what we had.




It was beautiful. By looking at the tree you'd think for sure that it was doomed but when the ice melted off almost all the blossoms were still on the tree! It has continued blooming and hopefully we will get fruit off of it this year (though I'm not sure if the bees have been out because it has been so cold, so it still might not make it... but we'll see).

This tree just reminded me of how sometimes the prophets ask us to do things that don't make sense to us... logically... or are things that we are really uncomfortable doing. Yet if we just had a greater perspective and understanding we would see that what they were asking us to do was just exactly what we need.

This flood season has taught me a lot. Now hopefully the river doesn't get too out of control the next few weeks, because even though I'm sure that I'd learn some good lessons from wading through flood waters... I'd really prefer not to!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Damsel and the Maid to whom Peter Denied Christ


Damsel

Matthew 26: 69-70

Mark 14:66- 68

Luke 22: 56

John 18: 15-17

Maid

Matthew 26: 71-72

Mark 14: 69- 70

John 18: 25-27

Background:

After holding the Passover meal Christ and several of his apostles retired to the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ completed the atonement. As Christ and his apostles were leaving the garden they were met by Judas and a host of Pharisees and servants of the chief priests who were armed with weapons. Peter drew his sword to defend Christ and cut off the ear of one of servants of the High Priest, a man named Malchus. Christ healed Malchus’ ear and then allowed himself to be bound and taken before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. Peter and John followed but since only John was known to the high priest he went into the palace while Peter had to remain behind at the door. (John 18)

Facts About Them:

The Damsel:

  • She kept the door at the palace of the high priest. After John followed Christ into the palace he spoke with her and asked if Peter could also be let in (John 18: 15-16).
  • Peter joined a group of people who were warming themselves around a fire in the Palace;
  • This damsel “earnestly looked upon” Peter and recognized him (Luke 22: 56);
  • She asked him, “ Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?” To which Peter replied, “ I am not.” (John 18: 17)
  • All the accounts of her story are very similar but only in John is her statement to Peter phrased as a question. In all the other accounts she states to those around her that Peter is one of Christ’s followers. In Mark 14: 66 we read that, “there come one of the maids of the high priest; And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him and said, “And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But He denied saying I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.”

The Maid

  • After Peter denied Christ to the damsel and those standing around the fire he went out onto the porch of the Palace;
  • Once on the porch “another maid saw him and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26: 71-72)
  • Mark 14: 69-70 recounts that, “ a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again.”
  • After Peter denied Christ to her he was approached by a group of people, among them one of the kinsmen of Malchus (the man whose ear he cut off), who insisted that he was one of Christ’s followers “for thy speech bewrayeth thee” (Matt. 26: 73). Peter began “to curse and swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 74-75)

Speculations About Them:

  • The words "damsel" and "maid" are often used to describe young women. It is likely that these women were fairly young, probably teenagers or even younger;
  • In the account given in John the gender of the person to whom Peter denies Christ the second time is not given. The account in Luke says that the second denial was given to a man. Yet the accounts in both Matthew and Mark state that “a maid” was the person to whom Peter denied Christ the second time. It is possible that the second denial might have been given to a man but I think that since two accounts state that it was a woman, and another doesn’t specify, that it is pretty safe to assume it was a woman.

My Thoughts:

It is interesting to me that, by the way in which John spoke with the first damsel who kept the door at the palace, it seemed like she was acquainted with him. Later she asked Peter “Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples” indicating that she already knew that John was one of Christ’s disciples. It is possible that this damsel may have listened to Jesus preach or was even numbered among his disciples-- perhaps openly or secretly. Seeing as she recognized Peter and obviously knew who he was and what his association was with Christ I can only imagine her reaction at hearing him deny his identity and refuse to be associated with Jesus. If she had been a follower of Christ how would her faith be shaken when the senior apostle denied Him, publicly and adamantly three times? Was she able to see past Peter’s humanness and his weakness and continues in her faith? If she was not a believer then I can only think how much more it must have cemented in her mind Christ’s fraud-- if at the first sign of trouble the most valiant of His believers refused to stand by him. I don’t think she would have hesitated to share the fact that Peter (who would later leader the Christian church) once flat out lied to her about who he was and denied Christ.

We have no way of knowing what this young damsel, or to the other maid, believed or what their reactions were to Peter’s denial. Yet we do know that they really only had two choices; they could have condemned Peter for his human weakness and mistake and used it to justify their opposition to the Christian church or they could have been able to see past Peter’s weakness and forgive him, like Christ did. In John 21, after Christ’s resurrection, we read about how Christ asked Peter three times “Lovest thou me” giving him the opportunity to redeem himself my repeating three times “ Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Even though Peter had denied Him and left Him alone at the time of his greatest need Christ knew Peter’s heart. He knew that he was a good man, that he was trying his hardest to do what was right, but that he was a man and that he had weaknesses and faults to overcome. Christ did not condemn Peter for his faults but rather loved him through them and gave him the chance to redeem himself.

I think this story is a good reminder to us that all of us are human and that we all make mistakes. We will each face trials in our lives that will stretch us and try us and like Peter and we might not always handle those trials the right way. Yet we can always know that Christ looks on the heart and if we are sincerely penitent He will forgives us and overlook our mistakes--- even if they are pretty big ones. On the other hand each one of us will be in the same situation as the damsel and the maid were. We will be faced with the glaring fact that those we love, those we respect, and those we sustain or follow have weaknesses and make mistakes-- perhaps even mistakes that will shake our faith in them or in our testimonies of the gospel. Yet just like these two women we have two choices in how we react. We can judge, condemn, justify and walk away from the truth because of the mistakes of one man; or we can be like Christ and learn to forgive, love, and understand the weaknesses of those who have hurt us, denied us, and betrayed us. If Peter, who denied and abandoned Christ, could be forgiven and later entrusted to lead Christ mortal church then there is no one who has made mistakes so bad that they can’t be forgiven. It is not our place to judge or to condemn… only to love.

"Peter's Deial of Christ" by Rembrandt

Questions to Think About:

  • How do we “deny” Christ? Are we, like Peter, afraid to declare who we are and what we believe at all times and in all places because we are afraid of what those around us might say or do to us? Are we only willing to follow Christ when it is easy or will we follow Him even when we in “enemy” territory like Peter was?
  • How would you react if you heard the senior apostle of the church deny his association to Jesus Christ? Would you still be firm enough in your testimony to follow Christ and his church? Is your testimony of Christ rooted in Christ or on a mortal man or woman?
  • Do you know someone whose testimony of Christ has been shaken or hurt because they were offended by the actions of someone else? What was the outcome of the way they chose to react to it? How might things have been different if they had chosen to react differently?
  • If you could write the end to these two women’s stories how do you think they would turn out? What sort of women would they grow up to be?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Learning and Choosing to Be Happy at Home

Today I am over at Empowering LDS Women for their series this week about finding balance in motherhood. Here is just a snippet of the start of my article so that you will go over and read the whole thing. I'd love some feedback on this one!



When I was 17 years-old one of my best friends and I were sitting backstage at play rehearsal. I can't remember now what prompted it but I remember that I turned to her and told her,

"Promise me, cross your heart and swear to die, that if I ever call you and tell you that I am getting married before the age of 24, have a baby before I get my Master's Degree or decide to be a stay-at-home mom that you will kidnap me and knock some sense into me-- even if I telly you I am happy-- just remind me of what I told you today."

She promised, because she could see I spoke those words in dead seriousness. I really meant them. In my 17 year-old mind getting married young, not having an advanced degree, having a house full of babies, and having no career outside of your home were the epitome of failure. Those were all the things that "ordinary" LDS women did and I was certain that they were all faking happiness. I was certain that I was not, and was never going to be, one of those "ordinary" LDS women.

Well, ten years later I am truly grateful that my friend seems to have forgotten her oath, because it turned out that I got married at 21, passed up the opportunity to do my Master's degree to have a baby, chose to be a stay-at-home mom full time instead of continuing with my career path, and fully intend (if God wills it) to have a house full of babies. Basically, according to my 17 year-old self, I am a failure.

Yet I am sincerely happier than I have ever imagined I'd ever be.

I honestly don't know where my 17 year-old perspective on motherhood and womanhood developed. My mother worked full-time for all of my growing up life but she always loved being a mother and made us feel loved. I had wonderful youth leaders who guided and taught me-- and most of them were stay at home mothers. Yet despite all the wonderful women in my life I think that the world's perceptions of womanhood and motherhood must have been the stronger voices. I wish there was a way that I could go back and tell that very confused and angry little 17 year-old that the path I have chosen, even though it is not what I thought I would choose, has brought me more joy and peace than I could ever fathom. I wish I could give her a little glimpse into the lessons that God would teach her and the paths he would lead her down in the next ten years that would soften and change her heart. I wish I could tell her that "our ways are not always God's ways" and that he knows better than anyone, even us, what will make us happy.

Specifically there are three lessons that I've learned over the last several years...

Read the rest