Category Archives: Being Prepared

White Space

A salesman once told me that an established maxim in advertising is White Space Sells. He explained that “less is more” in print ads. Keeping titles, information, and slogans short and punchy have a lot more impact than a flyer or ad crammed full of detailed text.

And aren’t we also like that? I tend to shut down when I feel overwhelmed with detail, endless to-do’s, and swirling emotions, just as I throw away flyers with too much to take in at a glance.

For a long time, I’ve used December to reflect on the year past and the one coming up. I form goals, clarify values, and edit out unnecessary involvements. Once my kids were grown, Christmas decorating, baking, and gift-giving (except to charity) lost its charm and freed up even more white space in my schedule and in my head as I streamlined my celebration of Christ’s birth.

This year, I come out of three years of focus on moving, settling into my new home, plus establishing a large garden, and I see an expanding horizon in front of me. It’s both enticing and a little daunting. Increased opportunities also present an increased challenge to carefully discern what should and shouldn’t be tackled, as well as how and when. So I’m not as far along in this process as I normally am after New Year’s. Plus I’m feeling the limits of my own abilities, energy, and drive, both personally and professionally.

Coincidentally, a broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded a year ago for Human Rights/Martin Luther King Day showed up in my queue on Direct TV last Sunday. The Spoken Word message really spoke to me. Fittingly, Dr. King was quoted as follows:

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair,
and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,
let us remember that…[God] is able to make a way out of no way,
and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
(Source listed in link above)

There was the light I needed. I was absolutely right to see that by my own powers alone, there really was NO WAY to achieve all my goals and dreams. But as I’ve seen repeatedly, God can open a way where there was no way before. He has provided employment, housing, creative opportunities, and friends. He has led me to insights and wisdom far beyond my own. I don’t quite know where this year is headed yet, although I see glimmers through the trees:
* Continuing to work with home buyers and sellers on a selective basis,
* Defending the faith in writing and orally,
* Looking for a publisher for my phonics readers,
* Expanding my social life.
All are twinkling at me. Stay tuned for updates….

If you’re looking for a good movie that brilliantly illuminates how God opens a way when there is no way, go see Darkest Hour, a film about a couple of weeks in Winston Churchill’s early tenure as Prime Minister in 1940. The entire British Army of 300,000 soldiers was trapped on the French beaches of Dunkirk, with the far more powerful German army and air force poised to annihilate them. Churchill had to weigh the loud voices of powerful British leaders pushing for a “negotiated peace” with Hitler versus his own belief that Hitler is a Bengal Tiger and you don’t negotiate when your head is in his mouth! (paraphrased). Go see it to find out what happened.

I am reaffirming my belief in God’s miracles today and reminding myself to call for them, expect them, and then be grateful for them when they show up. I invite you to do the same, and then let’s share those stories with each other and whoever needs a message of hope.

The Light of Miracles

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

The Angel Moroni, Raleigh NC Temple

The Power of Prayer

The second workshop I’ll report on was Hearing the Voice of the Lordtaught by Charlotte Varble, from the Whole Person Preparedness Conference recently in Utah. FYI, I hear it will be in Idaho in May – here’s the LINK. The content was quite simple but the results for me were profound.

She taught two activities to bring us closer to God:

Write a letter to God and His imagined response back to you. Pour out your feelings to the Lord, your thoughts and your prayers. Write them down in letter format and sign it. Then write a letter back to yourself with what you think God would answer. Remember His perspective is different than ours:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Keep a Prayer Journal for 30 Days. This involves three steps:

  1. Write down your prayer requests each morning. I pray first and then write them down, as I’m often inspired what to ask during my prayers. Plus it makes the actual prayer more important than the writing and my own thoughts.
  2. Watch for impressions, answers, guidance, and comfort throughout the day. There are a number of ways we receive these:
    * Direct Promptings of the Holy Spirit – a strong, recurring feeling or idea.
    * “Strokes of Intelligence” – ideas that come swiftly and powerfully, bringing clarity.
    * A “burning in the bosom” – goosebumps, a literal fiery feeling of enthusiasm.
    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me
    if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your 
    bosom shall burn within you;
    therefore, you shall 
    feel that it is right. 
    (LDS Doctrine & Covenants (9:8)
    * A “stupor of thought” is a No answer:
    But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; . . . (Doctrine & Covenants 9:9)
    Dreams or waking visions – those compelling dreams may be answers.
    * Peace that brings comfort even when other answers and solutions may not appear.
  3. Write down your answers and spiritual experiences each night, returning and reporting to the Lord. Keep either a handwritten notebook or use a computer, as I do. Just the act of writing makes me reflect more deeply.

In less than two weeks, I’ve had some powerful experiences:

  1. By focusing my spiritual attention on just this current day, I pulled back from an excessive focus on the future and on more nebulous ideas. I actually felt like I was shrinking within.
  2. On about the third day, I started feeling sad for a couple of hours, late afternoon. I think my focus on the future and more general topics was a shield protecting me from experiencing grief about how my adult life has unfolded and the effect it’s had on the people I love most. Each day this period intensified and lengthened into the evening. It culminated after about five days with a spell of anger towards God. How could He let all this happen? Am I so much less worthy and lovable than all the happy, successful people around me? After I “flushed my emotional toilet,” I felt better and I apologized to Him the next morning for my lack of faith. I felt no condemnation, only calm acceptance and love.
  3. Then I had an epiphany about the next three months of my life – how to reorganize, streamline, and then be ready for whatever might come this summer. I’ve rented a much larger storage unit and can fill it systematically as I sort and purge.

Wow – all this in less than two weeks – what a payday! I invite you all to try these ideas, although your answers and experiences will necessarily be different from mine, possibly very different. But it will unleash God’s love and power in your life, if you just let it flow.

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

The Power of Positive Thinking

I recently attended an amazing conference entitled Whole Person Preparedness. I was especially interested in spiritually preparing for the events of the Last Days and came away so inspired, I’ll be sharing what I learned in the next few posts.

Today, I want to quote Kirk Duncan, the Keynote Speaker. He emphasized positive thinking, faith over fear, and taking our lives to a higher level of vibrationHere’s what I learned.

He described a study about the effects of music on the structure of water molecules and crystals. One container of distilled water was placed in a room where beautiful classical music played all day. In another room, a similar container of water was exposed to heavy metal rock music. Then two identical plants were watered with this water. The one watered with classical music water flourished and grew. The other plant watered with heavy metal water died! Then a sample of each water was frozen and the resulting crystals observed: the classical music created a beautiful snowflake pattern, while the heavy metal created an ugly, chaotic mess! Watch a video about a similar experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto. Here are some of his photos:


HITLER, Courtesy


All photos courtesy of

Since our bodies are 60-80% water, we might want to consider what our thoughts are doing to our health and to others! For further inspiration, read the classic The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

His next point made me squirm as I’m totally guilty of this one: Beware of becoming a “gloom and doom” messenger about the times we live in. Feeling and communicating fear doesn’t inspire action in ourselves and others, but tends to paralyze instead, sending us back to our comfort zone. I’ve been guilty for too long of being another Chicken Little, running around and saying, The sky is falling, the sky is falling! So my apologies to one and all.

I’m changing my message. Malachi 4:5-6 can be read two ways:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

It’s either a GREAT day or a DREADFUL day. Those of us trying to live good lives can anticipate these times as great, not dreadful. The scriptures are full of these promises; go dig them out. Here’s a good place to START.

My message is that, in the words of Dickens, this is the best of times, not just the worst of times. Great light and knowledge, great love and goodness abound. God is pouring out knowledge, comfort, and inspiration to all who seek it. As it says in Jeremiah 16:14-15:

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

In other words, the events of our time will be so amazing, we will no longer talk about the Exodus from Egypt led by Moses, but will celebrate the many miracles of deliverance in our day.

Finally, Mr. Duncan described how to rise to a higher level of challenge without becoming overwhelmed. He quoted scientist Nikola Tesla, If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Raising your own vibration level will help you create new patterns of order in your life and lift you to a higher level of energy and achievement than you imagine possible. Watch this DEMONSTRATION with a vibrating metal plate and simple grains of salt.

So how do we raise our energy level? Here are some ideas – you may well come up with more:

  • Pray and ask for inspiration.
  • Brainstorm new ways to do things.
  • Purge out the old and unnecessary.
  • Think and speak positively.
  • Watch for inspiration and support to show up.
  • Act decisively and with commitment on your new plan.
  • Thank the Lord and the universe for supporting you.
  • Serve and inspire others.

I’d love to hear your comments on any of these ideas and what manifests in your life. New patterns are already showing up in mine – it’s a great day!



What I Know For Sure

Oprah used this phrase a lot during the time I watched her shows in the late 90’s, and it’s stuck with me. Usually I make one or two New Year’s resolutions but today I’m reflecting on all the upheaval in our world and “what I know for sure.”

More and more, I live modern life like running the bases in baseball. Each one is a safe touch point and helps restore my inner peace when the going gets tough:

  • Home Plate: I know there is a God, loving and powerful, and we will live forever through Christ’s Atonement.
  • First Base: I know most people are good and that goodness will triumph in the end.
  • Second Base: I know I must reach out for new challenges and new connections to be happy.
  • Third Base: I know I must develop the divine within to progress eternally.

What do you know for sure? What bases do you touch when anxiety or adversity strikes? This is a good time to put those things front and center and give them new life.

I’m knee-deep in a major purge of my files, and I’m finding gems I forgot I had. Here’s a quote I just found (from Gail Godwin’s novel, The Finishing School) that may speak to you as it does to me:

There are two kinds of people . . . One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people, you can never say, “X stops here,” or “Now I know all there is to know about Y.” That doesn’t mean they’re unstable. Ah, no, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive.

We all let fear and habit slow us down, but that keeps us from those “new trysts with life” that not only surprise our friends but they also surprise ourselves. C. H. Lewis wrote a book called Surprised By Joy. Let’s all be surprised by joy this year and spread it around.

City Park, Author's Photo

City Park, Author’s Photo


Storm Warnings

Last week I had a big “Oops!” moment.

Our long, balmy fall was deceptive. It was a lingering Indian summer with no end in sight, and the flies weren’t even trying to get inside!

Although we had a general forecast of snow last Thursday, I was caught off guard, thinking it would be mostly rain and a lighter storm.  WRONG – we got 8+ inches of heavy snow in less than 36 hours with plunging temperatures down into the single digits! Result: Terrible road conditions, over 200 slide-offs and crashes. Plus I was stuck inside from Wednesday until Saturday afternoon, eating food from my freezer and pantry, not wanting to risk injury to myself, others, or my paid-for car. Now we have news of the horrendous amounts of snow near the Great Lakes (over 6′ in two days in many places) with a total ban on travel.

Winter on West 21st Street, New York Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

Winter on West 21st Street, New York
Courtesy Beyond My Ken, Wikipedia Commons

So what was the problem? I had blithely put off my regular grocery shopping so I was caught without my usual supply of fresh produce and dairy. Even though eating from my well-stocked freezer and pantry was a far cry from starvation, I still felt foolish and deprived. I could easily have gone out on Wednesday and enjoyed fresh broccoli, salad, pears, and yogurt instead of freeze-dried green beans, dehydrated apples, and cocoa from powdered milk (ugh).

The stress I felt was much more symbolic than real, and I sensed a deeper principle at work. How ready am I for the bigger storms of life? I thought about a friend who’d endured a power failure for two weeks one winter while her husband was in school and she had three little children at home. Their fireplace and food storage really helped, but boredom, close quarters, and stress took their toll.

Their emergency came without warning. But many do provide a window to prepare. Are we heeding the examples of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy that were so devastating? We are warned that the Ebola virus may come here and we might well need to self-quarantine. Any disruption in our food distribution system would clear grocery store shelves within days. We could experience weeks or months of “hyperinflation” that would send prices skyrocketing. So if we’re warned, we have less excuse for not preparing. While we can’t foresee every emergency nor will there always be a warning, we can do a lot to soften the impact of those that do come. Believe me, I was saying all this to myself and more.

If you want more information on preparing for emergencies, check out these sites and ideas:

  • LDS Provident Living
  • FEMA
  • Take a checkbook to Costco or WINCO and stock up –  and don’t forget water.
  • If you’re more ambitious, learn to can and dehydrate your favorite foods.

Finally, the skies cleared, the sun came out and I dared venture out on the melting ice and snow. I cautiously toodled off to Fred Meyer and stocked up, so grateful for the abundance of nature and our clean, spacious stores. Driving home a favorite hymn came on the radio that totally mirrored my mood and renewed my faith:

This Is My Father’s World
(YouTube/user/The Hymns of Praise)

My final takeaway: Tackle the tendency to worry and act from fear. God provides peace and guidance:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of 
power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy1:7)

The more I think about being prepared, the more I realized that acquiring the habit of prayer and then heeding the subtle answers that come is perhaps the very best item in our spiritual backpack.

Just “Bozos on the Bus”

Lately, I let anxiety about the future creep into my thoughts – in spite of much preparation and reassurance from God that I’ll be cared for. Additionally, I was worried for my family.  It was a lot like the old saying, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”  In this case, I consciously thought I was exercising faith and feeling serenity but actually I wasn’t watching worries build up in my subconscious until they spilled over to overwhelm that faith and my daily effectiveness.

After days of trying to exert my own mental powers and failing to change course, I decided – duh! – to ask for a priesthood blessing from my home teachers.  They patiently listened to my concerns, then proceeded to lay their hands on my head and give me inspired counsel:  I would be cared for, be physically and spiritually safe, and my family’s spiritual path was safely in His hands – I could let go and trust Him.  It felt like unseen fingers reached into my brain and rearranged my thoughts, like the direction to “correct the seasoning” at the end of many recipes.  It was gentle, deep, and very reassuring.

The next day I remembered a saying:

 “We are all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.

I looked it up and found that Wavy Gravy said it at Woodstock in 1969, then Elizabeth Lesser commented on it in her book Broken Open which is where I originally read it.  That made me think of The Muppet Movie which is on my list of favorites – goofy guys bumping along the road of life. I needed to be more like them, more childlike:

 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:2-3)

To drive the point home, Heavenly Father sent the following experience.  Monday night was a lovely balmy evening and I was sitting in my living room with the windows open, reading.  I suddenly became aware of the echoing of bird song through the trees, the scent of my newly picked lilacs, and an intense recollection of being a child exploring my grandparents’ yard and the ravine beyond it.  I loved exploring the lush greenery.  There were lilies of the valley in the shade along the garage wall and masses of phlox along the edge of the yard.  The ravine hid many other treasures:  lacy ferns, dainty white anemone, and the mysterious Jack-in-the-Pulpit shyly hiding in the shade. Owls and toads lived there.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This was more than a memory, I actually re-experienced being a carefree child.  What a wonderful way to bring home the advice given in my blessing.  It lasted about an hour and sealed this lesson in my soul.

Now when I go out for walks, I notice the plants and birds more, and my own thoughts less.  I don’t know one iota more about the future than I did, but since I’ve done all I can to prepare, I don’t need to know. I’m too busy enjoying the present.