The Three Pillars of Eternity: #3 The Atonement

Today is Easter Sunday when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing universal immortality. We are all also given an invitation to repent and be forgiven, as well as be healed of all our mortal sorrows.

In my previous post on The Fall, I recounted highlights from my own healing journey and how God’s grace blessed my fumbling efforts. The broken pieces of my childhood are finally mended, so I can look forward to future creative growth without that drag on my footsteps. Hooray! It’s a mini-resurrection for me. I have much work to do and growth to make, never fear, but that’s one challenge I can finally put “Paid” to. So yes, Humpty Dumpty can be put together again!

But no effort of mine nor anyone else’s can mend mankind’s fundamental brokenness. That happened through Adam and Eve choosing between two conflicting commandments: Multiply and replenish the Earth (Genesis 1:28) and Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). If they had stayed in the garden of Eden, they couldn’t have had children. By partaking of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they gave life to the warning that they would surely die, meaning they would enter mortality with its condition of certain physical death. But only by doing this could they have children and fulfill the first commandment.

Why would Heavenly Father give contradictory commandments? I believe, along with many religious scholars, that He did this so that the Fall would come about by choice, not compulsion – a fundamental law of Heaven. And that fall into mortality was universal for all humankind. We have all “surely died” since then. Can any effort of ours overturn this awful condition? People have long sought for the Fountain of Youth or a magical path to immortality, but always in vain.

That’s why we needed a Savior, someone with more than mortal power. In an almost unbelievable story, we’re told that Jesus Christ volunteered to be that Savior in pre-mortality. He would be half god, half mortal. His mortal half could experience life as we know it, suffering all our temptations, trials, and deprivations. His godly half would have extra strength to resist evil and super intelligence to understand all things. Most important, He would have power over death just as Heavenly Father has.

To be our Savior, he had to live a perfect, sinless life of His own free will and choice, then choose to be unjustly sacrificed for all our sins and sufferings, hence the phrase “sacrificial lamb.” The ancient Israelites were taught about this upcoming event and practiced actual animal sacrifice of a perfect, lamb “without blemish” each year on Passover, so the lesson would be imprinted deeply on their minds and hearts.

The scriptures give us the glorious tidings that Jesus fulfilled His mission perfectly, suffering every pain, sin, temptation, and sorrow of mankind willingly. Once the “uttermost farthing” was paid, He gave up His life voluntarily – no one could take it from Him. Instead of endless night and bondage to evil for eternity, all people will be resurrected and permanently escape death! It’s my testimony that this is the true story of life.

The big picture promises resurrection and the hope of eternal progression in worlds of glory if we choose to come unto Christ and live the laws of life (The Ten Commandments, The Sermon on the Mount, etc.). Most important, we must repent of wrongdoing promptly for:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom;
therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those
who have washed their garments in my blood,
because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins,
and their faithfulness unto the end. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:19)

And from Isaiah:

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence,
touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her;
be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11)

In Joy to the World, our joy comes from the Atonement:

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found . . . .

The little picture promises divine guidance during our mortal journey, healing of our broken pieces, and rich rewards for our feeble efforts now. No matter how long it takes, our own personal curse, like Job’s, will be removed and the Lord will bless “our latter end more than our beginning” (Job 42:12).

The true end of our mortal journey is the promised Second Coming of Christ, a truly great day for the faithful, and the real promise of Easter!

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson
Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 

 

 

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #2 The Fall

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

We’ve all grew up hearing this classic nursery rhyme and probably didn’t think a thing of it, but I’ve found a deeper personal meaning in it.

I had a nearly idyllic childhood except for one thing – my family didn’t communicate well. We talked about each other but rarely with each other. Differences often weren’t resolved, people were misjudged, then talked about with either concern or condemnation. Even worse, buried feelings smoldered and burned long afterwards, sometimes erupting without warning.

Not only did this damage our family, but it broke the fragile structure of my early self-esteem into many painful pieces that I’ve struggled to put back together most of my life. And don’t we all have broken places inside? Disappointed hopes, things we’re ashamed we did, ways we’ve been wounded, and ways we’ve wounded others?

After my marriage broke up, I had to look at those broken places and ask how they led me to marry someone who was never going to be right for the long haul. What in me brought me to this place?

I revisited family stories and family patterns. I studied psychology. I practiced better communication with my children, my friends, and at work. But I made only limited progress before I discovered God, prayer, and religion. What a great source of guidance, healing, and power beyond my own that’s been!

As stated by playwright Eugene O’Neill in my About This Blog message to the right:

Man is born broken.
He lives by mending,
And the grace of God is the glue.

That grace has led me to insight and ultimate healing, not in a single event but in round after round of growth cycles.

Scholars tell us that fairy tales, legends, and poetry often contain “archetypes” or classic themes common to many cultures throughout history. Cinderella tells a classic tale of adversity and rags to riches. The Three Little Pigs instructs us to not take short cuts to quality. But Rumpelstiltskin is the one that speaks most strongly about my path. It is a veiled tale of challenge and breakthrough as the Miller’s daughter, with magical help, spins ever larger rooms of straw into gold before she gets to marry the King. Go back and read it. Or listen to it HERE.

Each healing crisis in my journey seemed bigger than the last and more daunting, but God’s grace always appeared after I had worked hard and also sacrificed something precious to me: my pride, my laziness, my uncaring about others, etc. Marrying the King beckoned to me as symbolic of the final piece of healing that meant I could truly step out of the shadow of the past and fully turn towards a brighter future, with a healthier relationship with God and my fellow man.

This all dovetails with a symbolic dream I had soon after my divorce. I recalled it last week and shared it with my granddaughter. In this dream, I was instructed to sit in a wood straight-backed chair on the stone edge of a pool of water, with its back to it! I had to flip over backwards, chair and all, and land in the water (without the chair hitting me in the process), and then swim to the bottom of the pool to discover something that was there, waiting for me.

Being the physical coward that I am, I was very hesitant to even try. But finally, I gathered up my courage, hurled my legs up and over my head, and fell into the water well away from the falling chair. With relief, I then faced the dive, being a confident swimmer. But as I looked into the murky water, I again shrank from challenge. I dove, and my worst fears were confirmed as ominous seaweed undulated up towards me, threatening me with its slimy touch. As I swam, though, I found it couldn’t actually touch me. I kept swimming (oddly not needing a breath) until suddenly the seaweed disappeared and I only saw the off-white sandy bottom of the pool. Delicate yellow-green light wafted down. The whole scene lost its menace. It felt familiar and safe. So I swam around looking for what I was sent to find.

Very shortly I came upon a watch lying on the sand all by itself. I looked closer: It was a Mickey Mouse watch with a yellow patent leather band. I laughed at the whimsy of it, picked it up and thought, This is the gift of time!

Then I woke up. I knew it was important and contained a message I needed. I was newly divorced and just starting on my journey of self discovery and healing. A friend suggested the yellow color was important – that it was “the color of overcoming.” I decided I liked that meaning and it would be a symbolic banner to encourage me when times grew dark. But it remained only a mental image until 2004 when I went to Disneyland with my son’s family. I bought a Mickey Mouse watch to honor this dream. My ongoing quest was approaching 30 years, but oddly I didn’t wear it often. It ended up in my jewelry box, forgotten and not running.

Just lately I feel that God has put together the last of my inner child’s broken pieces. I’ve found that warm, white sand foundation in my soul, and I came across that watch. So now I’ll get a new battery and wear it with a laugh while I wait to see what the “Gift of Time” means in my life!

And isn’t Humpty Dumpty really just symbolic of mortality for every single one of us? The process of life breaks all of us in pieces, one way or another. I recently watched a PBS American Masters special celebrating the life of composer and singer Carole King (watch it HERE, only available through March 4, 2016). In it, her early talent is very evident, but she had her own “broken pieces” and attributed her success to persevering – just never giving up. She said, One day that door does open and if you don’t persevere, you won’t be there when it does – meaning the break-through into creative and personal success she achieved after many heartbreaks and setbacks.

So let’s none of us quit. Let’s push through whatever life throws at us until we “can marry the King” – whatever that means to each of us – and we can ultimately return to our heavenly King to be welcomed home forever.

Humpty Dumpty Courtesy Dreamstime.com

Humpty Dumpty
Courtesy Dreamstime.com

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #1 The Creation

An LDS scholar and Apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, defined the parameters of mortal existence as The Three Pillars of Eternity:

  1. The Creation
  2. The Fall
  3. The Atonement

I love this and want to write about each one, as we usually only hear a secular view of life: we evolved out of chaos and we live a life based only on our own efforts til death ends it all. The Christian view is significantly different: life is created by God, mortality tests and refines us, and we have a promise of life after death.

Mormon doctrine agrees with these basic tenets but adds something more: that human beings have a dual nature: The Natural (or Biological) Man and The Spiritual (or Idealistic) Man. The Natural Man provides needed instincts and energy. The Spiritual Man provides sane management of the animal within, necessary for civilized life.

As I understand it, the secular world asserts that the Theory of Evolution totally accounts for the origin of life and of human beings – arising from chaos and evolving into complex life forms, one small increment at a time. Christians have maintained that God “created” the earth, the heavens and all life therein as a conscious, systematic act, as stated in the Bible: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) These two theories have then been presented to the public as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable. Those in the “Science Camp” shout down “Creationism”; and I even know a local Christian high school that doesn’t teach any science at all – only the religious doctrine of creation! But are they truly mutually exclusive?

My education says “No.” I was raised in the beating heart of a Big Ten university in the Midwest, attending a University lab school from first through twelfth grade. My classmates were often children of professors, and I didn’t know what a bad teacher was as all were select graduate students or university professors themselves. We were urged to think independently but responsibly. All our teachers acknowledged that “the more they learned, the more they realized they didn’t know.” Most students and teachers loved learning and displayed this basic humility. In college, I soon learned to distinguish between the true seekers of knowledge and the infrequent “know-it-all’s” I encountered. When I saw professors go head-to-head over an apparent theoretical impasse, I just sat back and watched the fireworks. A year or two later when an academic resolution was inevitably reached, I chalked up their posturing and fights as just so much unnecessary ego. I believed then, and still do, that Truth exists independent of men’s opinion.

Then I joined the Mormon Church at age 31. As part of the Temple ceremony, I heard the phrase, All truth is circumscribed into one great whole. That resonated with me and I still believe it. In other words, there are no ultimate irreconcilable conflicts in eternal truth. And one day God will show us the true origins of life and answer all the questions we still have: the real age of the earth, whether or not biblical time frames were literal or symbolic, what happened to the dinosaurs, and many more.

I think because learning and technology have advanced so rapidly and so dramatically in modern times, we have become dazzled by it and have forgotten to look beyond man’s achievements – beyond the Natural Man’s reach. We’ve forgotten that God is a perfect being who knows infinitely more than we do and who also has our bests interests at heart. He wants to share all His knowledge and power with us, but only as we acknowledge Him and obey His teachings.

Could it be that some people haven’t forgotten God but are nevertheless happy to throw Him out of their lives, along with His unwelcome rule book, clearly defining good and evil? In a reference I cannot now place, an LDS scientist recounted a conversation with a secular scientist who openly admitted that many scientists supported the Theory of Evolution’s explanation for the origins of life so they could go on committing adultery without consequence! This was surely the Natural Man speaking . . . .

It’s a lot like a classroom of fifth graders, whose teacher is suddenly called away but leaves clear instructions on the homework they are to complete, then they are left to manage themselves for a time. Soon the class degenerates into those who want to work as instructed and those who just want to have fun. Conflict and chaos erupt, both sides labelling the other, either “goody goodies” or “lazy good-for-nothings.” The obedient kids huddle in their own small groups while noise and chaos reign as a whole. Bullies emerge and claim the class doesn’t need their teacher; they will take charge and throw out the old rules. Those who don’t play along are shamed and persecuted. History shows similar patterns in society when God and His rule book are tossed aside, and the result is always chaos and destruction. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them is a maxim too often forgotten.

I maintain that civilization was built on rules the Spiritual Man recognizes and supports as universal. I further maintain that God blesses those civilizations with prosperity and protection as long as they honor what I call “The Laws of Life” – essentially the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. And He “upholds all things by the word of his power” – protection that can be withdrawn:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past
unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us
by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,
by whom also he made the worlds
;
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
and upholding all things by the word of his power,
when he had by himself purged our sins,
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
(Hebrews 1:1-3)

What do we each believe? How do those beliefs influence our actions and our lifestyle? Integrity demands our actions line up with our true beliefs, so if we talk the Christian talk, shouldn’t we look more deeply at God’s Rule Book to see if we’re “walking the walk”?

My own faith – unabashedly a “revealed religion,” revealed by God, not voted on by mortals – says that God has not revealed the details of the Creation and therefore we have no clear answers, for now. But we also believe in continuing revelation through authorized prophets and believe that those answers will come forth in God’s own time.

In the meantime, I live with faith. I support the laws of life as I understand them, and have been richly blessed for doing so. I wish all the rebellious “children” running our world today would take back the Rule Book and live by it. The world would be a more peaceful, prosperous and happy place, when the true Teacher returns.

And I also rejoice in a beautiful world that could not possibly have happened by accident.

Beautiful Earth Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Beautiful Earth
Courtesy Pixabay.com, Image 511029

Do You Believe in God? Part 2

Last night I watched a new BYU production, Joan of Arc, streamed live from BYUTV.org. The story itself is stunning in its impact, inspirational in content, and as historically accurate as they could make it – taking the dialogue straight from the extensive trial transcripts that have miraculously survived over 500 years. Click HERE to view their upcoming schedule.

At about age 13, Joan claims to have been visited by an angel announcing her calling by God to lead the crown prince of France out of exile and be crowned in Reims. Then she was to lead the French patriots against the English who already occupied much of the country. How could a mere farmer’s daughter hope to accomplish any of this? But she believed this was from God, and she had repeated visits and messages from her “voices” who tutored her until she was 17 or 18, when she set out secretly to obey. Well might we think she was schizophrenic or otherwise deluded if it weren’t for the fact that she miraculously succeeded beyond even her own wildest dreams. That she was subsequently tried for heresy for merely political reasons and burned at the stake doesn’t change this history at all. God evidently didn’t want France to be English! And her martyrdom guaranteed that we would never forget His divine role.

I think many people would agree that individuals can and do receive answers to prayer, even many miracles in their own lives. But do we also believe that God directs those leaders, who are willing, on how to bless whole groups of people? Do all people who claim divine authority actually have it? And are there limits on the reach of authority of those who are genuinely inspired?

I think we can all agree that some people are either deluded or lying about claiming revelation and divine authority. But I suggest that Joan’s story gives us one guideline for discerning the source of claimed revelation:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  (New Testament, KJV, Matthew 7:15-20)

Here are some others:

Moses claimed that God spoke to him from a burning bush and told him to free the Israelites from bondage in Eqypt, in spite of his personal weaknesses. Moses doubted, but obeyed. The result was a series of miracles and deliverance of his people into a better land and a newness of life – clearly “good fruit.” See Exodus 3-15.

The Virgin Mary learned she would miraculously conceive and give birth to the promised Messiah, in spite of her lack of social prominence, wealth, and existing betrothal to another man. The result was the best fruit to ever come forth in all of mortal existence: Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

Teresa D’Avila was Mother Superior and reformer of a Carmelite order of nuns in Spain in the 1500’s. She was a practical administrator as well as famed mystic. She would retreat into prayer for long periods of time, communing with the Spirit of God. The famed sculptor Bernini portrayed her being flooded with divine light and pierced with the love of God. I was privileged to see this amazing work on the wall in the church of Santa Maria Vitória in Rome in 2001 and have never forgotten its impact as lovely soft light filtered down on it from above, just as it evidently did on her in real life! She reports that these experiences informed all areas of her life and very successful leadership.

Bernini Sculpture, St Teresa D'Avila http://www.luiginovarese.org/2015/03/27/il-beato-novarese-e-santa-teresa-davila/

Bernini Sculpture, St Teresa D’Avila
Courtesty www.luiginovarese.org

Peter Marshall was a Scottish immigrant who had received a call to the ministry in his native land after being saved by a divine warning from tumbling over a cliff during a late night walk. He emigrated, attended Seminary, eventually headed a successful Presbyterian church in Washington DC, and finally became the US Senate Chaplain. He was known for his fiery sermons and no compromise on principles. He died young, and his widow Catherine Marshall became a prolific and beloved Christian writer. Reverend Marshall felt the call many times in his work and in his message. His wife’s biography of him, A Man Called Peterwas eventually made into a popular movie – I highly recommend both book and movie (which has a rare audio recording at the end of the real Dr. Marshall speaking). Once again, we have someone called to a specific work for God, and his fruits are far-reaching and good.

Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) reported a visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees in Palmyra, New York, after reading James 1:5 (If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.) and praying to know which church to join. The result was a totally new church with 15,000,000 members today, about 84,000 missionaries (most paying their own way), and 140+ temples in operation worldwide providing saving ordinances and sealing families together eternally.  With an emphasis on personal sacrifice, Christ-like love and service, this is an abundant harvest of goodness.

People in other walks of life often claim inspiration and divine guidance in their work and personal lives. One doesn’t have to be a religious leader to receive guidance for groups and individuals over which they have some stewardship (family, patient, client, employee, etc.), just sincere humility and honest intent.

I pray for my children and grandchildren daily and often see the fruits of those prayers. I prayed to be a better teacher, and I still pray for my real estate clients and to know how to properly advise them. I believe we each have an opportunity to become a conduit for God’s love, mercy, wisdom and power in this fallen world.

Just think how much light all of us joined together in faith and charity can bring to it!

New Dawn Courtesy Pixabay #570881

Joyous New Dawn,   Courtesy Pixabay.com

Do You Believe in God? Part 1

Coming out of science one day in 7th grade, my friend Sally asked me, Do you believe in God?  It took me by surprise, as we had never discussed religion before, and I answered candidly, I don’t know.

I decided to think about it and see what I really believed. I felt that if there was a God, He would be wise, loving, powerful, and all knowing. I thought that if there wasn’t a God, I would feel an emptiness in the universe, a lack of a larger consciousness than what I experienced within myself, from my family, and from the academic community around me. But I felt there was a consciousness around me that wasn’t human, that was bigger and wiser. It felt paternal. Furthermore, that being reacted to the things I said and did, just as a father would: either with approval when I was unselfish or hardworking, or with disappointment when I said something mean or did wrong. I don’t know if I told Sally, but I knew I believed in God. However, I didn’t stop my thinking there.

I lived across the street from an enormous City Park sloping down to the City Pool, then down another hill to a large area tucked into a bend of the Iowa River. It contained two ponds where we fed the ducks in summer and ice skated in winter. The 4th of July fireworks and carnival were held on the softball field there every year, plus there was a small zoo with rabbits, monkeys, buffalo, and peacocks. Though the park was well attended, it often seemed to be nearly empty. So we relished the playgrounds, leading each other around blindfolded, and sledding on the hills undisturbed. When I slept out on our screened-in front porch in the summer, I could hear the peacocks screaming in the night and owls hooting in the huge oaks across the street. There was a brooding consciousness over all the life that happened there. Since then Nature has always spoken to me of a loving caretaker and eternal, orderly mechanisms by which the universe unfolds and operates.

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

In college, I devoured philosophy and psychology looking for more answers. I rejected out of hand the existentialism of Sartre and Camus I found in French Lit. If you’re going to be that depressed, what’s the point of even living? I rejected behavioral determinism in learning theory because I experienced my own power of conscious choice. It was a “duh” moment, just like in the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have free choice because I exercised it myself and could see the results of both wise and foolish choices. And there was a spirit around “good” people who were self-sacrificing, hard working, intelligent and kind. They had a form of happiness that no amount of self-indulgence could create. I experienced that myself when I resolved to help out more at home and did so, or when I studied hard for a test and did my best. No donut, new outfit, or TV show gave me that!

Then Pete and I moved to New England for a grand adventure in country living. If I thought Nature spoke to me in Iowa, She set up a symphony in rural New Hampshire. I was awakened by thousands of birds at dawn, picked wild blueberries on Pitcher Mountain with its dizzying views, washed my hair under the small dam on Highland Lake, and enjoyed innumerable dinner parties with like-minded friends. Sadly, Pete and I didn’t continue our adventure together, but we each bought little country houses, burned wood, and drank sparkling well water. I was actively pursuing my own spirituality, learning meditation, astrology, visiting communes, and sharing insights with friends. One of them invited me to a Christian prayer group with the older ladies of our small town. There I learned about Christ’s invitation to come to Him in simple, sincere prayer and His promise to answer.

So one day, alone in my house, I knelt down by an upstairs dormer window and said my first official prayer: “God, if you’re there, I need to know it.” I went on to lay out my concerns for my children and the difficulties I faced providing a life for them on my own. I lay down on my bed and, no sooner than I did so, a waterfall of pure love poured all through me. It lasted for at least 2-3 minutes and soon I was crying tears of real joy. My search was over. I was a Christian. Not from belief, but from my own experience and knowledge.

My younger sister and mother had become active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since I’d left home, and they introduced me to the Restored Gospel and the power of a priesthood authorized by God. I learned that all throughout history, those people who lived true to their Christian faith were blessed, prospered, and protected. Here are the words of Moses from the Old Testament:

3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.             [In freeing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt]
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.  (Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added)

You might ask yourself if this nation is still a Christian nation, keeping its original covenant with God and meriting His blessings and protections. See my earlier post on Covenant America, July 4, 2014, and more about my personal journey in About Janet.

More importantly, ask yourself the same question my friend Sally asked me so long ago: Do I believe in God? If you say, Yes, then you might ask yourself how you can participate in a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We are each just one little person, but we can all light our own candle and dispel darkness around us. I wish you Bon Voyage.

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy Pixabay.com

A Candle in the Darkness
Courtesy Pixabay.com

The Feast of Trumpets

Today, September 13, 2015, is highly significant in the Hebrew calendar.

At sundown today, the Feast of Trumpets begins. I knew very little about this until last night. I did know about Passover in the spring and how it commemorates the Israelites’ miraculous exodus from ancient Egypt, led by Moses. It’s also the day Christ was crucified, to be resurrected on the third day, he being the first fruits of the Atonement.

According to an article I read last night, The Golden Plates and the Feasts of Trumpetsthe Passover signifies the Early Harvest or the first harvest of souls at the time of Christ. The fall holy days symbolize the Later Harvest, or the harvest of souls in the Last Days – the times in which we live!

This day is part of three High Holy Days or Days of Awe:

  • The Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah – This is a day to remember how the ancient Israelites escaped from both Egypt and Babylon. In both cases, many spirituals truths and practices had been lost. So, even today, Israel remembers and begins the repentance process to become more spiritually righteous. It is also the Jewish New Year, a time for new beginnings. It is signaled by a single long note, offering God’s hope to the truly penitent.
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – This is a day of fasting, reflection and repentance, about 10 days after The Feast of Trumpets. It is signaled by a series of short trumpet notes, symbolizing man’s weeping for his sins and failings, and asking for the Lord’s forgiveness. This year it begins at sundown, September 22, and ends at nightfall on the 23rd.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot means receiving the Lord’s forgiveness and a return to grace – a completed harvest. It is signaled by another single long sound from the trumpet. This year, it begins on Monday, September 28, and ends seven days later on Sunday, October 4.

Even though Latter-day Saints don’t officially observe Jewish holy days, I plan to use this three-week period to look within, see what I can and need to improve, and recommit myself to the Christian path. I especially want to repent of hardheartedness, my tendency to hold onto resentment, and my failure many times to love others as I should.

I also have a great love for the Jewish people as well as empathy for their long sufferings and worldwide wanderings over many centuries. It mirrors my own wanderings through a wilderness of unfulfilled hopes and some negative generational patterns that have dogged my footsteps. Plus Mormons believe that we are part of the House of Israel just as the Jews are. Some scholars believe it’s significant that the Angel Moroni delivered the Book of Mormon plates to Joseph Smith on Rosh Hashanah, September 22, 1827. It then became God’s voice of warning to all the world in our day – a trumpet in its own right.

I saw a PBS special this last year on how Broadway musicals have been mostly created by Jewish writers, composers, producers, and directors. They wrote about alienation and a desire to belong. They set their stories in the most American of settings with non Jewish characters: Oklahoma, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, Carousel,  Showboat, and many more. My heart went out to them in their desire to find a home in America and a cultural identity integrated with the story of our nation. In many respects, they’ve succeeded and prospered, while adding to the greatness of our nation.

Today, I join with them in celebrating our common history, in affirming our common allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and finally in looking forward to the ultimate harvest of souls through the return of our Messiah – the ultimate new beginning.

Today is also the 29th day of Elul, the last day of the Shemitah or Sabbath year, but that will be the subject of another post.

May you all burn with a “perfect brightness of hope” that only a hope in Christ can kindle and not put out. And may we each sound a trumpet of invitation and hope to those around us.

The Angel Moroni, Raleigh NC Temple Courtesy lds.org

The Angel Moroni, Raleigh NC Temple
Courtesy lds.org

Are Miracles Real?

Last week I saw a movie with huge impact: The Cokeville Miracle about how a small elementary school coped with a mad man holding over 100 students and teachers hostage with a bomb and guns – every parents’ and teachers’ worst nightmare. It happened for real in 1986 and details of how this all played out are based on fact. This is an LDS produced movie, not widely available, but if you can find it, I highly recommend it.

In today’s world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by bad news and anxiety about the future. It’s easy to feel small, powerless, and vulnerable in the face of big business, big government and a sense of evil growing in the world. It’s also easy to think that the only way to protect ourselves is with a similar strength and worldly power. This movie, however, suggests another way, and one rarely, if ever, talked about in mainstream media: the way of faith and spiritual protection.

Pardon the spoiler! Innocent teachers and children were protected by angelic beings, some of whom they recognized as ancestors, after uttering many simple prayers for help. The bomber’s wife accidentally triggered the bomb while the bomber was in the restroom. He shot himself when he realized his plan was failing, and she was the only other casualty. The bomb set off ammunition that shot all over the room but no one else was killed or even seriously injured. Why?

A teacher had previously taped off a line around the bomber and his wife to keep the kids at a distance. Several children reported seeing beings that looked like “light bulbs lit up” standing all along that line protecting them. Their power kept the bomb blast from radiating outwards which could have killed everyone in the room. Instead the blast only went upward through the ceiling.

What brought the angels? The whole class had been praying silently, then aloud. I believe the faith of children is especially powerful. In any case, it worked. Read an account in the Deseret News remembering the actual event:  CLICK HERE

The Book of Mormon teaches us about faith and miracles. Here’s my favorite scripture:

 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles;
and I will show unto the world that I am the same
yesterday, today, and forever;
and I 
work not among the children of men
save it be 
according
 to their faith.
(Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:23)

I believe we can all seek after miracles when we need them. We can exercise faith “like a little child” and, God willing, we will receive divine help. Sometimes accident, disease, and death are part of His plan for us, with all suffering and losses made up in the next life. That’s the rub, and it requires a huge amount of faith to not become bitter or depressed.

But when you’re feeling particularly powerless or vulnerable, remember the Old Testament story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:8-23. The vast armies of Syria gather against little Israel. The Israelite servant turns to Elisha, the prophet, in fear:  Alas, my master! how shall we do? 

Elisha replies with this famous statement: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

The children of Cokeville saw the unseen powers of heaven marshalled in their defense. I testify that we too can call upon angels and “chariots of fire” to protect us when we need them. They are greater than any evil that surrounds us.

Elisha Calling Forth Chariots of Fire People of the Keys.com

Elisha Calling Forth Chariots of Fire
People of the Keys.com

Is Evil Real?

Last week I saw a wonderful movie, Woman in Gold, a true story about a woman trying to reclaim her family’s art that had been confiscated by the Nazis during their occupation of Austria – especially the stunning portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, covered in gold leaf. The movie’s name is how the Nazis labeled it. At its heart, the film is about the personal journey of Maria Altmann and her attorney, but it also gives us a vivid glimpse into events most of us would label evil.

I think we would all agree that the holocaust was evil – inherently wrong at its core. And there are many, many books and movies portraying events and people participating in other horrific events in history. A prime example would be Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza, which I highly recommend.

Left to Tell Book Cover

Left to Tell Book Cover

Maria Altmann’s family were educated and cultured, living a prosperous life in Vienna in the 1930s. They were lovely people caught up in events beyond their control. I couldn’t help compare their innocent suffering with the harshness of the Nazis and the blindness of most Austrians who welcomed them.

For decades, America has lived in relative peace and prosperity. Whole generations have known little adversity. I, however, grew up in the 1950s, under the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. News of the atomic bomb and its potential to devastate the world terrified me so much as a small child that my parents shielded me from the news and all talk of world events.

In high school and college, movies and novels portrayed this history in journalistic detail, plus I’ve experienced enough unjust adversity in my life to truly believe that there is an evil force loose in our world. But I observe that younger people today seem to think the continuum of good and evil goes from Mother Teresa’s complete altruism down through rudeness, ignorance, dysfunction, and finally mental illness, and stops there. Evil, wickedness, and sin just don’t seem to make it onto the list at all. Values are relative, and conflict is just the result of different backgrounds and perspectives, among people basically of good will.

Let me suggest that there really are people who intend to do harm, who consciously plan our enslavement and the downfall of our freedoms, just as with the Nazi regime and many others. So far, they’ve worked behind the scenes, but I believe we’ll soon see this evil emerge increasingly in national and world events.

In the movie, Maria’s uncle was not so deluded. He saw the handwriting on the wall and left Austria soon after Anschluss was announced, taking her sister to safety with him. Maria’s father, however, thought it would all blow over and life would continue unchanged, a decision that proved tragically wrong.

I believe that the eternal battle between good and evil is heating up to the final confrontation long heralded in the scriptures, under the heading “Last Days.” Traditional values are being denigrated, materialism and selfishness are rampant, and the divide between the haves and the have-nots has never been greater. Even our own government is gearing up its military to fight “domestic terrorism” (google JADE HELM 15), anticipating much civil unrest.

I believe that we need to get clear with our values and right with God. It’s time to pray and learn to discern our Heavenly Father’s answers. In the days ahead, they will be sorely needed. And may we all be decisive like Maria’s uncle, not blind like her father, when we see events advancing and follow the spiritual promptings we receive.

It’s my testimony that there is a God who loves us, who wants to “gather us as a hen gathereth her chicks” and lead us to physical and spiritual safety. But if we don’t heed the invitation, He may allow adversity to bring us back to the path of true goodness.

I also believe that when the storm of cleansing is over, all good people will be able to move forward, all scattered families reunited, and once again civilization will flourish.

"Woman in Gold" labutaca.net

“Woman in Gold” labutaca.net

40 Years in the Wilderness

I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 40 years ago as of yesterday. I consider this a huge milestone. Why? Because the ancient Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert after miraculously escaping from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. The number 40 is very symbolic of a wilderness experience in the Hebrew culture.

So did I have a “wilderness experience” these last 40 years. You bet your boots I did! After growing up in a Midwestern university town with little exposure to religion or spirituality, I then detoured through six years as a New England hippie, glorying in the back-to-the-land culture of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Not only did that affect my lifestyle (burning wood for heat, hauling water from a well by hand, and using an outhouse for two of those years) but those lovely, silent woods awakened my soul to a profound spiritual reality. I experimented with astrology, meditation, and night walks along lonely back roads. I sensed unseen beings and a higher power.

After an amazing conversion to Christianity and then to Mormonism, I moved briefly from my little hippie house to Iowa, and then settled in Salt Lake City soon after my baptism. That began my sojourn learning how to be a good Latter-day Saint (saint meaning “follower of Christ,” not holy person). Over the ensuing years, I had to confront a multitude of faults: my unchristian resentment of those I felt had wronged me, my lack of desire to serve those around me, and coveting the blessings of others, to name a few. I needed to think before I spoke, learn the place of faith and grace in my life, how to pray and get answers, and so much more. I found an image on the front of a greeting card years ago that’s provided needed encouragement when the road seemed long. This young woman is resolute in spite of inadequate clothes and winter weather, and she’s surrounded by snowflakes representing spiritual guidance and miracles:

Winter Pilgrim, from Greeting Card

Winter Pilgrim, Publisher Unknown

As I tackled motherhood after my divorce, various jobs and church callings, each one seemed to provide tutoring along the path of discipleship. My children taught me patience and living in the moment. Difficult bosses taught me to either speak up professionally or learn charity and long suffering. Friends encouraged me and provided needed R&R. Prayer was a refuge from the storm and an anchor to my soul. While I have much to learn and master, I feel I’ve finally “caught up with myself.” The little wounded child within has been made whole by the grace of God, and my future challenges seemed designed for creativity rather than healing.

I had a dream very early on that foreshadowed my spiritual odyssey and also gave me hope: I was in the Florence, Italy train station on a balcony overlooking several tracks with trains backed up to a platform, waiting for passengers to climb aboard. I was trying to decide which train to take when I noticed a headlight burning in one of them with its engine idling. All the others were dark and still. I said to myself, “I want to get on that one.” I entered through a door at the back of the caboose and, as soon as I did, the train took off at a terrifying speed. The vibrations were so strong I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled forward with difficulty. I slowly progressed through several seemingly emtpy cars, crawling on a slightly dusty but clean linoleum floor. Finally reaching the engine, I groped my way unto the engineer’s seat and studied the complicated control panel in front of me, trying various switches to learn how to drive the train. Finally, I opened a hatch over my head and put it through a cold, dark, ominous opening. But then, amazingly, my face was struck by warm night air, I could hear the crickets along the track and see down it by the headlight. I was free, exultant, flying along, and driving my own train!

I feel I’m at the end of this journey and about to put my head through the hatch. All the threads of my spiritual and personal growth have come to a healthy place. I have great hope and expect life to open up with new creative and fulfilling opportunities. I encourage all of you to find an image or allegory that helps propel you forward and see where it takes you.

 

Trust His Heart

I struggle with faith and optimism after a lifetime of chronic opposition. Some people have mostly sunny days, some have many intense storms that make me wonder how they survive and some, like me, have long-standing but milder adversity that seems to just go on and on – but interspersed with enough real blessings to keep me trudging onward.

While it would be nice to get closer to perfection and have a quick resolution to my problems, I find that a huge push only exhausts me. So I’ve learned to pace myself and only try each day to improve in some area of my life. My standard is “just do a little better” and hope that over time that this will add up to real growth and decisive breakthroughs.

Today, my worries threatened to overwhelm my natural optimism. So reached a little higher and a little deeper for trust and hope. I remembered good advice from Oprah and others that gratitude is powerful, so I shifted my thoughts to what I’m grateful for and what I can solidly hope for. As I drove away from Albertson’s after yet another ho-hum run for empty boxes in which to pack my books, I said a silent prayer about where to look with more success. Ace Hardware just came to mind so I headed over there. The nice man at the counter said to come back in two hours and they would have lots. Thank you, Lord! That will provide the last ones I need, so I can finish sorting and packing this week.

I listen to Rejoice Broadcast Network regularly on my car radio because they have such wonderful inspirational music. One of my favorites came on as I drove home and validated my new tender hope. Here are the lyrics and a link to a YouTube performance. I hope it helps you like it helps me every time I hear it:

Trust His Heart

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can’t see how they could.
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth.

Our Father knows what’s best for us.
His ways are not our own.
So when your pathway grows dim, and you just can’t see Him,
Remember you’re never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,
When you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, 
Trust His heart.

He sees the master plan.
He holds our future in His hands.
So don’t live as those who have no hope.
All our hope is found in Him.

We see the present clearly,
But He sees the first and the last. 
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me to someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand.
When you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, 
Trust His heart.

He alone is faithful and true.
He alone knows what is best for you.
So when you don’t understand, 
When you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart, . . . trust His heart.

Listen HERE.

Peace at the Heart of the Rose Courtesy Pixabay.com

Peace at the Heart of the Rose
Courtesy Pixabay.com