Monthly Archives: June 2014

There Is a Balm in Gilead

I learned something this year that I wish I’d known a lot sooner. After my conversion 40 years ago, I was taught that God will forgive sin and relieve the guilt that comes from our missteps after we repent. And I also discovered some time ago that He’d heal my painful memories from the past as I forgave those who hurt me.

But when someone says something that hurts my feelings now, I’ve struggled with how to react.  My first defensive reaction has been to either get angry or just “suck it up” and stuff my feelings.  But neither one really worked to lose those painful feelings and freely forgive.

About three months ago, someone said something a little negative about me in a public discussion that came out of the blue, and it really stung.  I didn’t react there, but when I went home, I got on my knees and just said to the Lord, “That really hurt – please help me.” I took a page from psychologists and sent the Lord an “I message” – just describing my feelings but not the other person. Immediately, the pain went away!  And then the Lord showed me why that person said what they did and why they were hurting.  My feelings of being put down and made small immediately changed to understanding, even empathy. That was a light bulb moment and truly liberating – why hadn’t I tried that long ago?

Since then I’ve practiced this with both big and small hurts. It’s worked every time!  My wounded feelings have been healed quickly, then I was guided on how to handle the situation.  Sometimes it helps to say something to the person, giving an “I Message” describing my feelings to the other person without accusation. Other times, I let it go, realizing we all have to pick our battles and this isn’t one I need to tackle.  Occasionally, a hurtful interaction gives me a necessary signal that I need to change my boundaries with this person or group of people.

I’ve learned we have a stewardship over how we protect and care for ourselves, not in a selfish way, but so we can continue to serve others and be productive.  Just as the Lord is mindful of how we treat others, He also cares about our vulnerable side and is lovingly protective. I’ve been amazed to receive clear guidance that I need to take a step back from a relationship – when “irreconcilable differences” have emerged and after I’ve given it my best effort.  Much as we want to create connection, not everyone is committed to healthy relationships, and it’s not our fault!

I love the hymn, There is a Balm in Gilead – its lyrics speak to me:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

The keys to accessing this divine balm are being willing to recognize and repent for our part in a problem interaction, not indulging in any hateful behavior in response to another, and being really humble about what is the best, most god-like way to act in the future.

The Lord has truly “revived my soul” and made my “wounded self whole” and I stand all amazed!  I hope you find that peace and healing yourself.

Balsam Poplar Bud to Make Modern Balm of Gilead Courtesy The Naturalist's Miscellany

Balsam Poplar Bud to Make Modern Balm of Gilead
Courtesy The Naturalist’s Miscellany

Click HERE for an interesting Biblical discussion on God’s healing grace.

Waiting Upon the Lord

Last week I got stuck for a topic for my weekly post.  No idea I tried out really went anywhere. Then I happened to see a rebroadcast of the Elizabeth Gilbert interview on PBS’ Great Conversations that I had mentioned in a previous post, The Gems Within – specifically her observation that there is a spirit in the universe that’s seeking human expression. If we don’t let it work in us, it will move on to someone else who will respond.

This time, though, I was struck by a different thought.  She reported that a songwriter friend of hers would either get stuck for inspiration or not be able to develop any ideas he did have.  He told Elizabeth he would have a conversation with this spirit and say, “I really need you to show up – I can’t do this on my own!” I realized that I had felt that inspiration on all earlier posts and I sure needed it now. After all, God inspired me to start this blog, and I’ve been so happy to get reports that a particular post had given a reader a needed boost or insight, in ways I can only attribute to the Lord’s special knowledge of their needs.

So I decided to not force it but just keep praying and thinking until I felt that familiar rush of excitement and certainty that I was on the right track.  It’s getting the focus or central thought right, then everything else falls into place. That was Thursday night and I’d been pondering for two days. I got up last Friday morning and the idea “showed up.” It was almost a duh! because the inspiration that got me out of being stuck was writing about being stuck! (One Foot Into the Darkness)

So today’s post is really a continuation of last week’s –  the first step or that first blow on a wedge is our part. I’d sorted through my thoughts and started to write, but I couldn’t proceed without divine inspiration. Receiving that required a different sort of action – active waiting – mirroring this scripture from Isaiah:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as 
eagles; they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)

Now I get this scripture and I really learned the lesson through teaching Sunday School for over two years.  I could study and lay out a lesson, but on my own I struggled to create the right focus or impact.  I needed to think, ask, and wait, then repeat as often as necessary. (Hey, that could be a book title, like Eat, Pray, Love!)  

It was active waiting, expectant waiting, anticipatory waiting that got my silent partner to participate. The guidance was subtle and often last minute, but it always came.  And it brought an excitement that felt just like I’d expect mounting up with the wings as eagles to feel. That three-way connection between me, my readers, and God is a total trip, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. It’s not work, it’s fulfillment – thanks for participating!

For more insights, you might read the LDS Bible Dictionary on Prayer, the next to last paragraph, available online or the linked scriptures in the LDS Topical Guide under Ask.

 From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci The National Gallery, London, public domain image

From The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci
The National Gallery, London, public domain image


One Foot Into the Darkness

As I rest and gather my forces for what may be coming up on the horizon, I find myself being dragged towards sloth. I watch the birds at my feeder long enough that I’m almost starting to name them.  The house has never been so clean and orderly. I read scriptures twice a day and keep up with friends.  But I’m not plugging into the larger picture. Finally I realize that the future isn’t just going to happen to me but it’s something I have to help co-create.

What’s calling to me? Family history research, increased temple attendance, finding ways to “defend the faith” online, plus unearthing those special real estate clients for whom I’m the right match.  And of course, more writing. I have a small booklet on managing children’s behavior I wrote during my teaching days that I want to convert to an ebook and my phonics readers to publish. It all looks rather daunting, so I’m tempted to retreat back into more trivial pursuits, like perfecting my gluten-free crepe recipe!

Recalling again the Lord’s counsel to Joshua, about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land:  Be strong and of a good courage, . . . I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.  (Joshua 1:5-6) And He didn’t: The Israelites prevailed over the idolatrous Caanites. I could therefore attack my to-do list with courage and confidence. However, my energy level won’t stand a big push right now, so I remembered other counsel, given to Elder Boyd K. Packer, soon after being called as an LDS General Authority:

I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do. I returned to Elder [Harold B. ] Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, “The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.” I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: “You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you” (“The Edge of the Light,” BYU Today, March 1991, 22–23).

So I’m resolving to just take the first steps on my projects.  This afternoon I’ll toodle off to the temple and perform an endowment for a female ancestor who’s waited long enough. The Lord blessed me with the inspiration for this post last night, so it flowed easily.  I’ll print my real estate flyers today and mail them on Monday. Next week, I’ll read up on ebooks and research blog directories to find missionary opportunities.

Then I remembered a lesson from my days living in the woods of New Hampshire. We burned wood for most of our heat, much of which needed to be split.  We used the “hard” varieties like maple and oak which mightily resisted being split with an ax, even a sharp one. So Pete and I learned to use a wedge and maul.  You make the first cut with an ax, then insert the point of the wedge, driving it down progressively with each strike of the maul. Finally, the thing splits in two. In a battle between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins here every time.

So if you’re facing a daunting challenge, remember you only have to make one strike at a time, but each strike widens the split in the wood, giving momentum to our motivation. The wedge, or God’s grace, is the multiplier.

Splitting Wood Courtesy Image 59.16

Splitting Wood
Courtesy Image 5916


A Dog Named Jake

We often comment on how people influence us, but today my memories center on a dog.  His owner Bob was a friend during my days in New Hampshire.  Bob was a great guy and so was his black Labrador, Jake.  He was a powerful, strong-willed animal whose profile jutted into the wind like a ship’s figurehead.  But ironically, he was also calm and very obedient to Bob’s commands.  When we were visiting, Jake would lie quietly and not disrupt our visit.  When it was time to go out and play catch, he was all over it, tail-wagging and eager.  I asked Bob what made Jake such a terrific dog.  His answer: “Because I’m a fascist with him!”  He didn’t mean that he was harsh with Jake, just clear and very firm.

One day when Bob got up to leave, I stayed in my rocking chair with Jake on the floor beside me.  As soon as Bob called for Jake to leave, he immediately followed Bob without looking back. I remembered I hadn’t said goodbye to Jake as I always did.  I called out to him – he immediately turned on a dime and came right over, wagging his tail.  I scratched his ears and shared a nice moment; then they were gone.

I want to be like Jake:  moving forward decisively without hesitation but also able to make a course correction, even an extreme one, quickly and with grace.  My recent home re-organization could easily have created resistance since it came with some real surprises and serious drudgery, as well as shrinking my world. Coming to the end of my “40 years in the wilderness” had left me listless and drained.  After a week of puttering, watching movies in the afternoon, and sleeping in, energy was emerging and well-being was returning. I now had a clear choice:  drag my feet looking back or just go with it, like Jake.

Then I remembered an old Native American custom: When their people were sad or stuck, they would make them walk along a moving river until their emotions and thoughts moved too. So I just started moving more: parking myself at the computer, putting the last books in place, going for walks, calling old friends. I remembered my love of bike riding.  It’s pretty hard to balance when you’re stopped but so easy and free when you’re moving.

Finally, when my thoughts needed rearranging, I often played Free Cell on my laptop. Okay, it’s my guilty secret, so sue me!  But as I rearrange cards, I play with my thoughts, like fingering marbles in my pocket.  A half hour or an hour later, I have a whole new perspective.  Not a bad investment. Capped off with heart-felt prayer and taking direction from my Heavenly Father, I can see clearly once again.

Conclusion:  movement is magic!  Whether, it’s dancing, sports, housework, or simply spiritual and mental pondering, they can break those resistant log-jams so we don’t get bogged down. Try it, you’ll like it!

Wherefore . . . seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.
For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy,
over all his works.
 (Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:10)

 A Dog Named Jake Courtesy Image 143753

A Dog Named Jake
Courtesy Image 143753