Power Unseen

May Our Eyes Behold Your Return in Mercy to Zion By Ephraim Moses Lilien – Milwaukee Jewish Artist’s Laboratory, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22895265

I was looking at photos of my life a year ago.  In some ways the images of primary children, MCO rehearsals, first day of school poses, and date nights at the restaurant seem like they are from another planet.  A year ago, a sense of normal was only broken when I read news reports of a chaotic president and a tumultuous Democratic primary nomination process.  I could set the news aside and imagine that the world was going to be okay.  Now the anxiety I only had premonitions of a year ago, is a daily dystopian reality.  Our nation is populated with socially distanced and masked people who radiate the fear and uncertainty of an unprecedented national disaster in which the only way America seems to be first, is in the number of infections and deaths from the awful virus that has stolen so much from us.  The social, emotional, educational, and spiritual disruption that this virus has caused is impossible to comprehend at the moment.  We will be studying the phenomenon for decades to come.

I have fallen into a slump recently as I try to endure a strange and difficult period of transition between summer break and the beginning of school.  All of the anxiety and stress of the start of school, with few of the usual benefits has slowly dragged my emotional and physical health down.  Headaches, low-grade fevers, muscle aches, and a cloud of despair has burdened my soul.  Ben had to take a day off of work Friday as we processed through the difficult burdens we are under and planned how we will cope with challenges of the next few weeks.

If only there were fewer questions and more answers; more certainty and less fear; more trust and understanding, and less cynicism and hate.  That is not the reality of this moment.  It feels like the tremors of last year’s troubles have erupted into the volcanoes of today’s trials.  Add to all that, the divisive rhetoric of campaign season, and we have a recipe for even more unrest and trouble in the future.  The election in November is already being discredited by the president who sees a good chance that he might lose to Joe Biden who is doing a pretty good job of creating a coalition of moderate voters.  Donald Trump has no intention of leaving office.  He has lusted for the untethered power of tyrants abroad, he knows that without the protection of his office and the loyalists he has installed in the justice department under his control, he will at last face the consequences of his choices.  That is something a narcissist can never allow to happen.  One does not need prophetic ability to see the obvious.  If he is reelected, he will continue corrupting the federal government to his benefit, thereby endangering everyone who has tried to prevent him thus far.  If he is defeated by Joe Biden and refuses to accept the results of the election and leave office, he and his supporters are likely to revolt.

So, our current trials will likely pale in comparison to the catastrophic events that will take place at the end of the year.  With the pandemic still raging, an election with uncertain results, an executive unwilling to cede power, and an electorate hopelessly divided and unable to trust those in authority, we will look back at August with fondness wishing we could go back to the sultry days of the summer when we could delude ourselves into thinking that this election would solve our problems.  But perhaps it is my anxiety causing me to catastrophize.  Best to stay in the here and now.  

I’m still in counseling. Remote counseling which, like online school, is not nearly as effective, but I’m still profoundly thankful for the help I am getting. I’m managing my depression. I’m still trying to gain confidence and feel peace. I’m still loving and nurturing my boys and my dog. I’ve been developing my artistic skills. When I step back and look at the burdens I am carrying, I am doing remarkably well.

When storms of darkness and uncertainty swell around me, I can still feel the peace of my Savior.  He is like the calm in the eye of the storm in which one can rest in spite of the dangers around.  He is the assurance that there is a world beyond this one in which evil has no refuge and scheming men have no power.  This world can exist, even if it is only in my heart and mind.  The unseen Zion that exists only in the hope of humble followers of Christ is more real than we can possibly imagine.  The faith, hope, and charity that work miracles in the lives of each disciple are not to be seen in the news reports of the day.  Jesus Christ is not powerless.  He lives, and we will see His hand revealed in time.  We will someday know that in the darkness, He was working His design to take the horrors of Satan and the vilest evil and turn it to good.

His plan is a plan of happiness; but we only get there through a path of sorrow. We must know the suffering to savor the joy. The pride of the world is crumbling, and in its ruin, we will find the rock of our salvation. We will build again on that sure foundation. We will learn from the failures of the past as we begin again.

Dumbledore and the Power to Hold Back

Photo by Sean Thomas on Unsplash

Layne is an insatiable reader.  He reads so much and so fast, that we are spending large amounts of money trying to keep him supplied with reading material.  As we try to get a library card, we convinced him to read the Harry Potter series.  We already have the books, and even though he has watched the movies, they are still worth a read.  He has grudgingly obliged.  I have spent many hours in the past week reading the books aloud to him.  His brothers often listen in, and it has been a fun pass-time as we endure the dead of Texas summer heat.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read the Harry Potter books.  I have read them aloud to classes and students and my own children.  I have cried and laughed through the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione with children who likely now have children of their own.  This reading has drawn my attention to Dumbledore.  As I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser but definitely more omniscient about the Harry Potter story, I find myself gravitating toward the all-knowing, all-powerful, master of magic that is the headmaster of Hogwarts.  Did he know Harry would save the Sorcerer’s Stone?  Is that why he left the school just as Quirrell was to attempt to steal it?  Did he know that he would have to leave to allow Voldemort to think that he had a chance to succeed and that Harry would be there to prevent catastrophe at great risk to his own life and considerable damage to his health?  Did he know about the chamber of secrets and the basilisk that roamed the castle?  Did he know about Ginny and the diary?  Did he allow Harry to confront the Basilisk alone even though there was almost no chance he could triumph?

Did he know of the innocence of Sirius Black?  Did he deduce that it wasn’t Black but Pettigrew who was guilty of betraying the Potters to Voldemort?  Did he know when he instructed Hermione to use the time turner that they would have to face countless dementors and a rabid werewolf?  There is a good chance that the answer to these questions and countless others is yes.  It is no wonder that Dumbledore allows Harry to destroy his office in a fit of rage at the end of the Order of the Phoenix.  Dumbledore knows that Harry has suffered, in part, because Dumbledore has been pulling the strings in the background.  He has chosen to act, and not to act, for his own purposes.  He has used Harry and his friends to act, knowing enough about their temperament, character, motivations, and skill, to burden them with impossible tasks and dangers.  As Hermione said, “If Dumbledore knew, he was being extremely reckless!”

In order to judge Dumbledore, I have to understand him.  I don’t, so I withhold judgement.  Some online fans of the series have excoriated Dumbledore as a master manipulator of questionable motives.  That is one way to look at him.  I can’t help but see parallels between Dumbledore and the Master I serve.  At risk of seeming blasphemous, I will make a comparison of the fictional gay headmaster of a wizarding school and the Savior of mankind.  Prepare to be offended.

Dumbledore is extraordinarily powerful, and yet he seldom uses his awesome powers.  Through the entire series, he seldom uses his magic to interfere at Hogwarts.  He allows student misbehavior including bullying and rule breaking.  He doesn’t seem to care when he finds Harry in front of the Mirror of Erised with his invisibility cloak.  In fact, he sent him the cloak likely expecting that Harry would use it and find the mirror!  Peeves the Poltergiest roams chaotically, Snape abuses Neville Longbottom regularly, and incompetent or inexperienced teachers like Quirrell, Lockhart, and Hagrid are commonplace.  He could take action to change or stop these things for the health and safety of the students, but he doesn’t.  Why?

I suspect he holds back for the same reason God often doesn’t act as often as we want him to.  He is all powerful, but God understands that there is perfection in imperfection.  Only as we allow imperfect things, can we allow perfection to develop.  It’s a strange paradox.  It seems that the powerful ought to use their power to shape the world according to their own design, but it can be a tremendous act of humility to have the power to do something, and choose not to use that power; to allow the world to create its own design.   The humility that says, “I don’t know best.  I don’t want to mess up what needs to happen by forcing my will upon the world.  I will allow people to act and not use my power to effect the outcome.”  To make that choice is to accept the consequences of not acting.  The reality that comes to pass may not be perfection.  It may cause suffering to the innocent.  A boy neglected and abused by his aunt and uncle, an innocent man tortured by evil dementors in a prison for years, and other injustices and traumas.  To not act is an action.  To hold power back has consequences.  To be given great power and influence means that our mistakes, both to act and to hold back, will be “huger,” as Dumbledore so memorably points out.  

When I’m not reading Harry Potter to my kids, I have been processing some of my recent trauma.  By trauma, I am talking about small “t” trauma.  I haven’t witnessed any deaths or been the target of a violent crime.  Thankfully.  The small “t” trauma has been the political, social, and family upheaval of the last seven months.  I’ve found my mind wandering into painful places only to jump away like a hand from a hot stove.  Those concentrated emotions need to be processed and felt as much as I want to avoid and suppress them.

So I spent several hours this morning journaling and processing the situation with my parents. I got to a place where the pain is less distracting and overwhelming. Like nursing a sore muscle or an overstretched ligament, gentle attention can soothe and dissipate the pain. It’s okay to know what I know, don’t know what I don’t know, and live with the reality of my choices to act and not act. God will judge me. I am accountable to him alone and not those who judge without understanding. That is both a relief, and an awe inspiring duty.

I found this very informative study about the effects of family estrangement. I haven’t read the whole thing, and it might be quite triggering for some, but if you are struggling with the loss of family members in your life due to estrangement, it might give you some insight. It’s called, Hidden Voices; Family Estrangement in Adulthood.

Whatever your circumstances are, my friend, I hope the chaos and trauma of this moment is made a little better by reading what I have to say. I hope that the spirit of our Savior will rest upon you and those you love. I pray that, as my Lord seems to me to stay his hand, that eventually I will see the genius of his design. It may be that he is allowing us to face extraordinary challenges because he has faith in us and our ability to overcome. I know that in the shadow of his wisdom, I am as clueless as a newborn baby. Like a child, I will trust in Him who is Mighty to Save. Like Harry trusted Dumbledore, I will follow the plan no matter what the cost or sacrifice. I trust that someday, I will look back and see the wisdom and the love that I can’t see in this moment. That is faith.

As a Little Child

Laying beside my four year old tonight, I basked in the calming holy presence that only seems to exist as a halo around a sleeping child.  I prayed for the Lord to bless and protect my youngest sweet son, I thought of how he was part of my husband and me.  He is his mother and father reborn, holy and pure again, as we once were when we were children.  In some ways, our entire purpose on this Earth is to become like children again; to peel off the cynicism and mendacity that collects after years of living in a fallen world.  And yet as parents, we are also the greatest in the home and the servants of all.  We are the greatest, and the least; the most powerful and the most fallen.  

There are so many paradoxes.  A friend of mine posted about the paradox of the artist who must foster the confidence to exercise the creative process anew each time not knowing whether the outcome will have any value.  Along with the confidence that spurs the creative project, the artist must also have the humility to learn from the art and the many failures that precede success.  

Our family watched a show the other day called, “Knives Out” which was about a very dysfunctional family with a very wealthy man at the head.  The sons and daughters of the wealthy man had become entitled, wasteful, and prideful.  He decided to will his fortune to his housekeeper and nurse, a poor hispanic woman with a family of illegal aliens to support.  The entire movie was fascinating with a star studded cast and many allusions to current events.  The thing that occurred to me is how bad money can be for a family.  It creates unhealthy patterns of enmeshment.  I noticed the same dysfunctional patterns as I read Mary Trump’s book about her family.  The family becomes accustomed to the wealth and then they can’t live without it.  Instead of making a life for themselves on their own terms, the family becomes dependent on the one who controls the money.

We had a disaster happen in our garden this year.  We added some liquid fertilizer to several plants.  Although the liquid was teeming with beneficial nutrients, the concentration was far too high.  It burned the roots and killed several of my most treasured plants.  The concentration of wealth in a family seems to me to have similar consequences.  When wealth is concentrated in a small area, it becomes poisonous.  It is better in a garden for the fertilizer to be distributed fairly evenly throughout all the plants.  Likewise, in a society, when wealth is concentrated into a small segment of the population, it causes problems, not only for those who lack the necessary resources, but to the families of those who have too much.

I couldn’t help but think of the reasoning of the rich man who left his fortune to a stranger to save his family, and wonder what would become of the woman who inherited the money.  Would her family become similarly entitled and dysfunctional?  Would she eventually give the money away to save them?  Would the inheritance become a blessing or a curse for her?  The movie never said.

The problem of the fair distribution of resources has been one of the fundamental quandaries of the past two centuries as we have experimented with different forms of government around the globe.  Communism, socialism, and capitalism along with various combinations have competed for dominance on the world stage.  None of them have managed to solve the problems of fundamental inequalities that arise in our fallen world.  Concentrations of the world’s resources pile up in the homes and families of the privileged and wealthy, while the less fortunate scrape to get by.  Instead of acknowledging our failures as modern mankind to solve these ancient problems, we play the blame game shaming those that advocate for the opposing brand of failed solutions.  It is in this sad state that we approach the coming presidential election in the midst of a national public health crisis the likes of which is unparalleled in my lifetime.  

Carl Jung taught that a society is only as strong as the individuals that comprise it.  He argued that individual integrity and connection with divinity was the only way to save mankind from himself; his own worst enemy.  The state will not save us from ourselves.  Only Christ can redeem fallen man, and he does it one by one, not collectively.  Whatever the results of this election, our societal problems will remain until as individuals, we come unto Him who is Mighty to Save.

But that is a paradox, isn’t it?  There are no collective solutions that will fix our broken; no populist leader who will deliver us to the promised land with a tax cut or a social program.  We as individuals have to work out our salvation one by one.  And so the pandemic has forced many of us into our homes either because of unemployment or remote work.  We have been compelled to spend more time with our little children, seeing ourselves in their innocent eyes; seeing the future of ourselves in their future.  I wonder if that wasn’t part of God’s plan in sending us this particular plague.  Was he trying to tell us to stop running around stimulating the economy and focus on our homes and families; to stop frantically searching for ourselves in the next promotion or the next corporate fad or the next political rally?  To find ourselves in the eyes of the next generation?  To see ourselves in their innocent halo of purity?  To realize that the destination is coming back to the beginning again?

As the world bumps along ever more chaotically into this decade, I struggle to find purpose and meaning.  Some days it feels as though I have expired my supply of spiritual strength and can’t do this another minute.  Other times like today, it makes a kind of paradoxical sense.  I pray that all those who read this will feel a measure of peace; that the spirit of Him who knows all things will bring you comfort in your time of grief.  I pray the Lord of all will have mercy on all of his children who suffer in this moment and give us relief. 

Modern Pride

My second son Layne is comfortable in the realm of ideas, which makes him fun to teach. This summer he has taken an interest in the periodic table, which I have on a poster in his room. He wasn’t interested in memorizing it or learning what is in it, he wanted to learn how it was made. How did scientists like Mendeleev figure out the classification of elements long before we could see them under an electron microscope? How can we find new elements and what can they do? That is what Layne was interested in.

At first I searched YouTube for videos and they were helpful.  Today he and I sat down with a fascinating book that details the origins of thoughts about the elements.  Pre-modern philosophers and scientists categorized the elements into four groups; fire, water, earth, and sky.  Most of their understanding of these elements was mixed with mythology and religion.  This sometimes led to scientists being persecuted for unorthodox theories and explorations.  The Greeks secularized their science making a less rigid structure and allowing for much progress.  Today, science is totally secular.  This has enabled science to transcend the boundaries of country and culture and resulted in the explosion of knowledge.  Science has exalted mankind’s power over the world.  Because of the power of science, it has had the unfortunate effect of casting a large shadow over all other aspects of humanity.  Mythology, religion, and all those things that unite us culturally are devalued and marginalized in favor of those things we can prove through models, statistics, and peer reviewed experimentation.

Last night at dinner, we discussed the Dunning/Krueger effect.  This effect shows the inverse relationship of confidence with competence; with what we think we know with what we actually know about a subject.  As moderns, we think we understand science.  Science, which has been built upon centuries and millennia of observation and innovation, is merely a YouTube video or a Google search away.  And yet endless varieties of scientific disinformation is also available.  Truth can be found, but it must be fished for in a sea of lies, simplifications, and distortions.  Often a diet of superficial and sometimes false information can delude us into thinking we are wise and know much more than we do.  The Dunning/Krueger effect can create a collective pride in our achievements and our wisdom as though they were not passed down to us from the past; as though we have transcended our ancestors who wallowed in filth and ignorance.  On this shaky tower of false confidence and sense of entitlement, the modern world threatens to fall into chaos.  My fourteen year old son looked into my eyes with a confusion that seemed ancient.  “How can we know what is true and what’s not?” He asked.  


There was another fourteen year old boy who asked that same question. He was wondering about the truth about God and what doctrines and philosophies were correct. He prayed to God in a grove of trees in New York with the faith that if anyone lacks wisdom he can ask for divine inspiration, directly from God, and that God would reveal the truth to him. Joseph Smith’s faith was richly rewarded with a torrent of revelations which we have today as the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. As I testified of these things to my son, I asked him if he believed that God would answer his prayers for truth. He said he believed.

As our prophet today speaks of the great restoration of the last days.  I can’t help but wonder at the exponential explosion of scientific understanding that has commenced in the last two hundred years.  I wonder what other areas are ripe for development?  What other truths of human life is God ready to reveal to us if we are able to receive it?  What opposition will we face as we find and reveal those truths to the world?  What part do I play in the restoration of all things?

All I know for sure is that I will search. I will ask the questions. I will dare to be conscious of truth no matter what it reveals. I will teach my children the same and hope that they will also be a part of this glorious restoration. With humility, with an understanding of the limits of mortal understanding, with the hope in a God who is Mighty to Reveal, Mighty to Guide, and Mighty to Save, I face the future with faith. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Come Unto Jesus

Yesterday I was dragged down the rabbit hole of Twitter craziness.  It’s hard in that moment to remember that most Americans are not the twitter mob.  Most of us are too busy working, playing, and living in the real world to waste time arguing with someone about whether Mount Rushmore should be blown up.  Yes, that was a real argument that I engaged in for a few minutes before muting the idiot.

We are two days out from celebrating the Fourth of July.  This year’s celebration will be different.  We won’t be going to any parades or to any fireworks shows.  We might buy a few fireworks to shoot off out of town.  This year, more than any before, I’ve been reflecting on my nation and her tumultuous and violent past.  Born in the fires of revolution and created in the wild and lawless west, this nation has been anything but tame and civilized.  We call ourselves a nation of immigrants, but in reality, we are a nation of refugees.  We, for the most part, are a motley collection of people who have dared hope that a better life is possible.  We left nations where religious, political, and economic oppression were a way of life.  My refugee forefathers and mothers had to hide their bibles, shut their mouths, and conform to social norms or risk being executed for vague crimes like treason, witchcraft, and heresy.  I read yesterday about a priest who was convicted of treason and he was hung by his foot for a day while he was mocked by the crowds.  After this public torture and humiliation, he was executed.  That was in France.  If people didn’t show up to jeer and spit on the victim, they were considered to be guilty too and may be subject to the same treatment.  That was the life my ancestors decided wasn’t for them.

But, unfortunately, they brought many of the toxic attitudes and behaviors with them to their new home.  It was the only life they ever knew, so what else would they do?  It took time before the superstitions of witchcraft were rejected.  It took time before we stopped jailing people for being the wrong religion.  Eventually, we decided that we needed to put our differences aside and make a single nation that could shove off the yoke of tyranny that threatened to follow us from Europe.  Slavery was one of the hardest of the old world habits to reject.  In fact, the damage of that terrible collective sin have followed us ever since.  And now, more than ever before, our national consciousness has been awakened to the reality that not everyone who came here had a choice.  Not everyone had a better life when they reached our shores.  Some of them arrived in chains and lived in abuse and dehumanization.  Some of our brothers and sisters of color still face extraordinary challenges in this country.  

As I see my Twitter feed showing strange juxtaposition of images.  Some of Lincoln, and some of the confederate generals and leaders memorialized in stone.  Some of angry black faces twisted in pain, and some defiant angry white faces holding the stars and bars of the confederacy.  Our old wounds are being exploited by our enemies who see a second civil war as a way to cripple us on the world stage.  China, Russia, Iran, and others want to use the inexperience and hubris of our president to humiliate us.  They want to consume us with self-doubt and shame about our history.

In my own life, Satan has tried to do this same thing.  He wants me to feel captive to my past sins.  He wants me to lose hope and faith in my ability to change, repent, and embrace a better future without the weight of past sins.  He wants me to be ashamed of myself, of my family, and of where I came from.  He doesn’t want me to embrace faith in my Savior’s redeeming power, the hope that my experiences will be turned to my benefit, and the charity that enables me to see all of God’s children as valuable and worthy of love.

The truth is, redemption is possible.  Our nation has faced challenges in the past and we have met them with rational policies to solve those problems.  Our medical professionals, our intelligence professionals, our state department officials, and our political leaders (especially at the state and local level), are for the most part very good and honorable people.  They don’t want to enslave us.  They work hard to give us the tools to solve the serious problems we face.  It is time for us to stop fighting each other and start seeing who the real enemy is.

The enemy is ignorance; the determination of many not to be conscious of the problems we face.  The enemy is disinformation; the careful cultivation of false narratives created by political parties to demonize groups of our citizens for their own benefit.  The enemy is foreign influence campaigns; the spreading of lies about our nation, its founding, its role in blessing the world, and the vital importance of our influence to improve human rights today.  The solution is, as it has always been, to come to Him who is Mighty to Save.

He quiets the voices of extremism. He helps us see others not as enemies, but as brothers and sisters. He reveals the source of the problems we see and the concrete steps we can take to improve the situation within our sphere of influence. He calms our fearful minds and leads us to faith and courageous action. We are not the sins of our fathers. There is forgiveness and redemption as we come unto him.

Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash

Come Unto Jesus

By Orson Pratt Huish

Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,

Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.

He’ll safely guide you, unto that haven,

Where all who trust Him may rest, may rest.

Come unto Jesus, he’ll ever heed you,

Though in the darkness, you’ve gone astray.

His love will find you, and gently lead you,

From darkest night into day, today.

Come unto Jesus, He’ll surely hear you,

If you in meekness, plead for his love.

Oh know you not that angels are near you,

From brightest mansions above, above?

Come unto Jesus, from every nation,

From every land and isle of the sea.

Unto the high and lowly in station, 

Ever he calls, “Come to me, to me.”

No matter what our past has been, he can turn it to our benefit. There is no person born on this Earth that is beyond his compassion and power to save. If there is racism in us, let us repent. If there is hatred in us, let us repent. If there is pride in us, let us repent. Let it end today. Let it be swallowed up in His marvelous atonement. Satan would have us ashamed of our past, but the Savior would have us glory in the future of our redemption. There is enough and to spare if we come to Him; the well of living water; the one who multiplied the loaves and fishes; the one who made the lame to walk and the blind to see. He can heal us! Let us Come Unto Him.

The Physician and the Entertainer

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Have you ever had a broken air conditioner, a broken dishwasher, a leaky toilet, a major mold removal project that resulted from said toilet, a car repair, a chronic illness, a raging pandemic, an economic collapse, and problems with your family of origin…….all at the same time? If you have, you might understand a little of what my mental state is.

Even so, in this time of great stress and trial, I find myself growing stronger every day. I have hope that the temporary stresses of today will pass and that tomorrow will bring less chaos and drama. My relationships with my husband and children are growing. I was able to go to church yesterday, swathed in a cloth mask and sitting a good distance away from any other families. I was worried that the strange circumstances of the meeting would make my anxiety worse. Sacrament meeting is hard for me even in the best of times, but bound in a mask breathing my own hot breath and unable to sing? I had serious concerns. Fortunately, I had no symptoms of anxiety. I had been assigned the opening prayer, which I forgot of course. After a few whispered reminders, I offered a prayer for the congregation. After the meeting, it was so wonderful to see and talk to a few good friends.

Last night, our family had a very nice long discussion about religion and church. Our son confided some of his feelings and concerns. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t a perfect Father’s Day. In some ways it was a very painful day. But if I’ve learned anything in the past three months, it is that pain and beauty can live together.

The family discussion lead to a dramatic dream last night that helped shed some light on the tremendous progress I have made since I started therapy two years ago. I am a much stronger person and I take much better care of myself now than I used to. Because of that, I have been a better instrument in the hands of my Savior to bless his children.

The relationship with the self is the key to everything.  The Savior taught that what comes out of a person’s mouth comes from the abundance of the heart; whether that is good or evil.  If a person hasn’t come to terms with their pain, reflected on their own sins and repented, and come in humility before God and submitted themselves as a little child to his will, how can that person connect with others?  How can that person have true empathy?  How can I understand another person if I don’t understand myself?  How can I forgive another person if I can’t forgive myself?  It all comes down to the heart of the self.  

And the only way to develop a healthy heart is to feed it and love it.  The only way to emotional maturity is to nurture and protect the inner child.  If the self is neglected, there is not an abundance of the heart, but a cavernous hole.  Like the silly man in the parable we are running around trying to remove motes from the eyes of others while a beam is sticking out of our own.  We are keyboard warriors ready to cancel and shame all the motes we see while stubbornly unconscious of the beam that is causing us so much pain.  Self-reflection and self-compassion is the key to a fruitful life.

And yet, I was taught to focus not on myself, but on others. It was considered selfish and sinful to be self centered. I was taught to be conscious of others and make them happy. That was my responsibility. Of course, that was nice for them…..but for me, not so much. I felt like a clown with a mask of cheeriness running around avoiding anyone who was suffering who couldn’t be fixed with a little distraction and entertainment. Drop off a meal, give a hug, check off a box, and run to the next responsibility while trying to stuff down feelings of resentment and depression. I may have made things pleasant for some for a while, but at the cost of my own soul.

Understand, I am not saying that what I was taught was evil. There is a difference between evil and empty. There is a difference between a person who acts happy and a person who is happy. It was only when I started investing in myself, understanding myself, and having compassion for myself that I began to make real and meaningful connections with others. My depression isn’t gone. There is still a ways to go before I reach that point. Still, I’m making steady progress toward self-esteem. Already I feel an abundance of heart. I can love my enemies, bless them that curse me, do good to them that hate me, and pray for those who despitefully use me and persecute me with an understanding of who the real enemy is. The enemies aren’t my brothers and sisters on this Earth. They aren’t responsible for all the chaos and pain in this world. They, along with me, are the victims of it. There is only one way to conquer Satan and that is with the constant help of my Savior.

And increasingly I am coming to him to know what to do next. Instead of the complicated calculations of how my choices will make someone else feel, I turn my calculations to the Savior. What would he do? What would he want me to do? Even if it makes someone incredibly uncomfortable, that’s okay as long as He wants me to do it. The Savior made a lot of people very uncomfortable because of his willingness to exist. It wasn’t his mission to make people feel good today, it was to save them. He was the physician, not the entertainer.

Everyone loves a good entertainer. We don’t go to the doctor to feel good today. Often there is the setting of bones, the taking of yucky medications, the reminders of healthy behaviors we have neglected, or even the revelation of a devastating diagnosis. It’s a lot more pleasant to go to the movies than to the doctor’s office. I’ve covenanted to take the name of the Savior upon me and take up his cross. What does that mean? It means that I am to do as He did. I am to choose to exist, to speak, to minister, and to love. That also means that I will make people uncomfortable sometimes. Am I greater than He? Am I smarter or more righteous than He was that I can somehow avoid the same outcome He had? No.

My inner critic insists, “You aren’t Jesus Christ.  You aren’t a doctor.  Who do you think you are to put yourself above others this way?”  To that critic I say, it wasn’t me who wrote the terms of the covenant.  He wants me to pretend to be Him no matter how imperfectly I do it.  He said, “Take upon you the name of Christ and keep his commandments.” Should the apprentice never take up the tools because he is unable to do as his master is able to do?  I am the apprentice and he has commanded me to take up the tools.  If I listen to you, who then is my master?  Am I not putting myself above the master I have covenanted to serve if I heed you?  So I say to my inner critic, “Get thee behind me Satan, for thou savorest not the things of God.”

And so I walk my broken and crooked path to Him who is Mighty to Save. If a narrow path means a lonely path then perhaps I am not so far off the mark. I can’t say that it has been a straight path, but perhaps it is a strait path.

Letting Go and Making Space

Photo by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

Every yogi knows that moment when you have to force yourself to let go. You’re muscles are fighting against one another and the pressure is so intense, and you breathe into that pressure and tell your muscle to let go. It’s tenuous at first. Your muscles don’t trust you. They aren’t used to you talking to them or paying them any attention at all. After a while of doing yoga, they learn to trust you and listen to you when you tell them to let go.

When you move into a pose like moon or dancer or warrior one, there is a letting go of the need to have more than one limb on the ground. There is a letting go of the grounding in one foot and increasing the grounding in the other. I feel at those moments that I’m flying. It only comes when I can let go.

Let go of the need to control. Let go of the need to understand. Let go of the need to be the smartest or the best at anything. Let go of the desperation for approval. Let go of the need to be self-sufficient. Embrace interdependence. Embrace your limitations. Embrace the complex relationship you have with others in your life.

Life is a series of deaths and new births. Our world as we knew it died with the birth of the coronavirus. Letting go of the past and what was familiar to us is hard. Embracing an uncertain future can be hard too. The death of an old and treasured plant is always a hard thing for me. My hydrangea on the side of my house is slowly dying. As I feel the sadness of letting go of what was, I embrace the future possibilities of that space in the garden.

This was our hydrangea bush last year in full bloom.

Relationships can be like that too. Sometimes it’s important to know when to let go of toxic relationships. It can be especially painful because even toxic people are valuable sons and daughters of God. The pain of what might have been combines with the pain of past trauma, and the loss of an important person in your life. That sadness reverberates on so many levels.

Due to a fertilizer mishap, the hydrangea bush is gradually dying. I’ve comforted myself in imagining what I can do with this space in the garden for the future.

It helps to look at that relationship space and think of the possibilities. The energy and love that you invested in that dying relationship can be diverted into new relationships that will be more healthy and rewarding.

The Savior gives us everything we need in the moment we need it. He gives me sufficient for what I need today in this moment. Enough health, enough strength, enough love, enough patience, enough humility, and enough wisdom to make it through each day. He carries my burdens with me and makes them possible to bare. Sometimes I have to let go of clinging to the blessings that used to be mine. I need to let the past go. Keep the happy memories. Treasure the good times, but throw away the dead and rotting remains of yesterday’s beauty. In a world where everything is temporary, there comes a time to let go. Only then can the future begin.


Staring at the worn table I felt the waves of anger flow through my body. I slammed the heel of my hand into its unyielding weight. Again. Again. I was in my early twenties. I had a degree in a profession I wanted nothing to do with. I was working for minimum wage as a server hoping I could find fulfillment and happiness. Instead I was lonely and depressed. One critical customer that day had destroyed my fragile self esteem. Amid the raging pain, a little voice in my head whispered, “You’ll never be happy if you keep doing the same things as you’ve done in the past.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was starting to see. I had been running from my pain. I had a bad experience in counseling and I was running from the depression. “The right job, the right apartment, the right ward….if I can just get the right circumstances, my depression will go away. I can get off the medication.” I kept telling myself that like a mantra. Instead I kept having to increase the dose. No matter where I went, the depression went with me. No pill would fix it, and I knew it.

The little voice spoke again, “Look at the servers in this place. They live in sin and they are happier than you. You are a covenant daughter of God. Why do you keep running from your happiness?” It was right. My hand was throbbing with pain and my brain swirled with thoughts of self-harm. It was time to stop running.

It was shortly after that experience that I started therapy with Robbin. I was terrified. He told me later that I was so uptight that he thought I would explode right there. Over the years he would become like a father to me. For the first few months he kept repeating the same phrase, “What would happen if you just gave yourself a break?” Gradually I learned to soften some of my caustic self-talk. I started to find a friend inside my head instead of a constant stream of criticism. Ironically, as I gave myself a break, I found strength to push the depression aside. I accomplished more at work and my self-esteem improved. I was able to return to teaching. For a while things were great, and then after I had children, the depression came back and I went back to counseling.

Robbin had gained my trust, but I was still very guarded about talking about my parents or my childhood. Eventually, we started exploring some of the roots of that negative self-talk; the fear that was so deeply imbedded within my psyche. And I’m still exploring that. I’ve come to deeply appreciate and love the woman I am and the ways my life has been shaped. I’ve come to trust myself and my feelings. I’ve stopped running.

When I read the chapter in Alma about Nehor, I thought about flattering words. Flattering words give us permission to keep running from the truth. Flattering words are the words we want to hear. “The problem is with this job. The problem is with this ward. The problem is with this political party. If not for those things, I would have what I want. I would have what I deserve.” Flattery allows you to see no fault in yourself, no responsibility to change, no need for introspection. The small voice that spoke truth to me in that managers office at Tony Romas was not a flattering voice. It was the voice of the truth.

Nehor is a fascinating character. His flattering words had great appeal and his teachings continued to impact the people of the Book of Mormon long after his execution for murder. In the end, some of the worst atrocities in the book were committed by the followers of Nehor. Anyone who preaches that riches are the reward of the righteous and that our leaders should be popular and given special privileges because of their position is channeling Nehor. Anyone who stirs up the people to hatred against one another is channeling Nehor. We have many voices amplified by social media that would turn us against our fellow citizens. They want to use force to suppress those who disagree with them or speak out against them. That is unrighteousness dominion. The spirit of the Lord is still and small. It is a voice of reason and persuasion. It does not force compliance but seeks consensus. Sometimes it tells us hard truths like it told me that day at Tony Romas.

I didn’t want to go back to counseling. I didn’t want to face the demons in my head. I especially didn’t want to face the dysfunction in my family of origin. That has been the hardest part of my recovery because family is such an important part of my culture. My depression has forced me to choose between loyalty to my family of origin and my own health. I chose my health because anyone who truly loves me would want me to choose that.

The Savior promised his disciples that we would be his brothers and sisters if we keep his commandments. I am in His family. He is my brother and he will not leave me comfortless in the days of my loneliness. In the depths of my sorrow he will come to me. Of all mankind he knows what loneliness feels like.

On the outside, I still look like the same person I used to be. I still attend church and live the values I was raised with. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. I keep the Sabbath day holy. I read the Book of Mormon. I keep the covenants I made in the temple. But inside, I’m a lot different than I was twenty years ago when I started counseling with Robbin. The kindness and gentleness that I’ve cultivated toward myself makes me better able to feel genuine empathy for others. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have a lot of readers. I have hardly any family still in my life. That’s okay, because I don’t need those things to be happy. Happiness comes from being your own friend.

It has become clear to me that there are some who read my blog who don’t like the person I’ve become. They wish I hadn’t gone to therapy. They wish I would not have listened to the small voice that has guided my recovery. To them, my recovery story isn’t a recovery story. It inflames their fear and causes them to lash out. If this applies to you, stop reading. Take responsibility for yourself and your feelings. Stop doing damage to our relationship because you can’t handle my expression.

This blog is intended to help others as they approach their own recovery or the recovery of a loved one from depression. I have no desire to hurt or criticize anyone. I strive to put the spirit of hate, pride, revenge, and malice far away from me. If you judge me to possess those things, it is likely that your feelings are trying to tell you something about yourself. Rather than blame me for your feelings, I suggest that you stop running from your feelings. Listen to them. Find out where they are coming from. Often the most hateful people in the world hate themselves more than anyone. They refuse themselves the right to listen to their own feelings or deny their existence at all. When I am at peace with myself, I am able to walk away from a blog I don’t like. When I feel compelled to attack the author, it is a sure sign that I need to address the reasons for my being triggered. I usually find that there is some pain I am running from. Life is too short to live at war with yourself. Start the path to healing today.

If you don’t like the ideas I present or the things I say make you uncomfortable, don’t read them. If you choose to read them and they upset you or make you angry at me, that is your problem. Also, anyone who questions my good standing in the church because I am voting for a Democrat needs to do some introspection. I suggest you meet a member of the church who is a Democrat and listen to what they have to say. You might find that they are a better member of the church than you are. The Democratic Party is not all about killing babies and taking your guns away no matter what Rush Limbaugh tells you. I think its past time we allow Democrats in the church to come out of the closet. Most of the ones I know keep quiet about their views in order to avoid the stigma. We miss out on their valuable perspective because of our prejudice against them. They have suffered greatly in the time of Trump and that should be a concern to all of us. They aren’t our political enemies, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. My life has been blessed by my friendships with Democrats and Republicans and I’ve found that labels often hide people.

It feels good to post again. It has been a while. I hope that my expressions are acceptable before my Savior. Every twist and turn in my recovery, he has been by my side. In the depths of my despair, he has not abandoned me. Blessed be the name of Him who is Mighty to Save.

The World Burns

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

I see you, with your lighted torch

With your angry eyes and your thirst for revenge

I see you with your victim facade

As you take power you have an excuse to grasp.

You oppress the innocent and let the guilty go free

I see you with your gilded halls and your empty soul

Your insatiable wants and needs swallow the world.

I see you with your corpses of anger that grow every day.

On the altar of revenge, there are never enough victims.

To slate the thirst. Hate. Anger. Revenge.

And the World Burns.

I see you with your cynical laugh as you delight in sorrow.

I see the insecurity behind your bravado, the emptiness behind your mocking smile.

I see you. I see the hatred in your face for anything that shows you the reality of what you are and the master you serve.

I see you, and I am not afraid of you. The fire of your hatred may consume the world, but the ashes will serve His purposes.

He will win. And your orange clown show will disappear from the world stage.

I see you, as the world burns.

Come Unto Him

Photo by Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash

It has been a hard day.  Watching Minneapolis burn on the news has added to the feeling that our country’s troubles are just beginning.  I have been thinking about racial issues for a long time now.  Living in Texas has opened my eyes to the reality of the need for tolerance, an appreciation for diversity, and the unique challenges of a highly specialized and interdependent society when it comes to race.

I want to see the Democratic Party as advocates for minorities and particularly African Americans, but that isn’t what I see.  If the Democratic Party truly wanted equality for African Americans, I think more progress would have been made by now.  In fact, I see the Democrats exploiting the African American voting block for their own purposes.  They expect their votes and Biden said as much in his latest gaffe when he said that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” I plan to vote for Biden and the Democrats in the November election, assuming it happens.  I wish he hadn’t said what he did and I wish it didn’t reveal what is clear to me.  The Democrats exploit the racial divide.  They want African Americans to believe all non-Democrats are their enemy; that their party is the only place for them.  Unfortunately, Trump has done much to fuel African American suspicions about the Republican Party.  More than ever, the Democratic Party seems like the only option for people of color.  The big problem with this “white Republicans are the enemy” strategy is that although it helps the Democratic Party unite their caucus, it does little to help African Americans improve their situation.  Democrats give them false hope with promises they can never keep.  That false hope turns to cynicism and resentment when African Americans help elect Democrats who then cannot or will not deliver on their promises.  And yet, the Republican Party has never held much appeal for them.  With the rise of “compassionate conservatism” and the RNCs 2013 autopsy, there was hope that African Americans might have another party to choose from.  Now with the rise of Trumpism, there is little appeal for them and much to alienate them on the right.  

So, it is likely that little progress will be made for African Americans in this country.  The powerful in both parties are content with them where they are at.  The occasional outbreak of riots and the burning of a few buildings is unlikely to change anything permanently.  African American outrage will continue to simmer beneath the surface, fueled by the reality of their underprivileged position.  That outrage will burst into violence when the inevitable viral videos of police brutality against their most vulnerable members surface; a reminder that they have been mistreated and will continue to be mistreated.

And on the other side of this miserable coin, we have the police.  We don’t pay the average officer enough to support a family, then we demand that officers remain professional at all times even when confronted daily with the worst of our society.  Where do they put all the trauma and chaos?  What do they do when the compartment containing all the disrespect and pain bursts?  Who suffers?  The marginalized.  The weak.  The voiceless.  Those unfortunate members of our society who can be hurt by someone with a little authority and no one will care.  People like George Floyd; a black ex-convict trying to get his life together.  That officer knew the moment he got the call that George Floyd’s life didn’t matter.  He could take out his anger and hostility on him and people would look the other way.  How many other victims were there?  How many other times had this scene, or one like it, played out for this officer and he never had any consequences?  More times than I would like to imagine.

I’m not trying to defend what those officers did.  Just because it happens often, doesn’t make it any more acceptable. George Floyd’s right to life was taken by officers who were sworn to protect and defend him.  His life does matter! Those officers deserve the punishments that are coming to them.  But punishment alone isn’t going to fix it.  Punishment may help in some ways, but it will make it worse in other ways.  It may increase the resentment and anger of officers who feel misunderstood and unfairly judged.  It may encourage them to band together and defend one another against outsiders who don’t understand the difficulties they face.  Law Enforcement officers are vulnerable to Trump and his flattery of them.  He tells them they are justified in acting on their worst impulses.  He tells them that he alone understands their burdens and the anger they feel.  He will manipulate their emotions and their hostility to turn them against their superior officers and the elected officials of their cities.  When he calls for them to fight for him, will they follow his orders?  If they don’t sense that we the people care about them, will they fight for us, or for him?  

The ultimate solution to the larger problem is not punishment, it is empathy.  The solution is more listening and understanding.  The answer is self-reflection and personal responsibility.  The answer is the Savior.  We must stop listening to the most divisive voices among us.  We must start listening to Him who is Mighty to Save.  We can have compassion toward the African Americans.  We can stop the cycle of exploitation and seek real and permanent solutions to the challenges they face instead of empty promises.  We can provide and encourage mental health services for all of our police officers.  We can create a society where trauma is acknowledged and addressed within law enforcement and within the larger community.  We can better understand and appreciate the unique burdens our law enforcement officers carry and help them cope in more healthy ways.  We can empower them to be worthy of the honor their position demands.  Only then will both groups be able to build relationships of trust and cooperation.

But we Americans seem determined to destroy everything we have worked so hard to build.  We elected a horrible human being as our leader and our hearts, rather than reaching out to the Savior, are turning cold.  We have turned our hearts away from charity, forgiveness, and empathy.  Instead of turning the other cheek, we punch back ten times harder.  Instead of a soft answer turning away wrath, we shout more loudly and are heard less.  Instead of sound judgment and wisdom, we gorge on conspiracy theories and listen to liars with flattering words.

My heart breaks for my country and the suffering that surrounds us.  It is not too late for us to repent and change our path.  If we don’t, we are sure to destroy ourselves.  

Come Unto Jesus

Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,

Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.

He’ll safely guide you unto that haven

Where all who trust him may rest.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll ever heed you,

Though in the darkness you’ve gone astray.

His love will find you and gently lead you

From darkest night into day.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you,

If you in meekness plead for his love.

Oh, know you not that angels are near you

From brightest mansions above?

Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation,

From ev’ry land and isle of the sea.

Unto the high and lowly in station,

Ever he calls, “Come to me.”