Category Archives: Choices

Like a River

This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:

We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .

I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.

I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!

Iowa River
Courtesy breac.nd.edu

And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.

But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:

  • Mark Twain and his biting wit
  • All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma,  that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
  • Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
  • Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
  • TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
  • Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.

Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.

 

28 Months

Today marks 28 months since I first conceived the idea of doing a deeper organization of my home and possessions. I started with possibly the most un-fun job – dejunking my files! Who likes paperwork, now I ask you? But I decided that it was time to marry an old system of putting documents in 3-ring binders by topic with the file folders in drawers, which were quicker but less usable. I started in December 2014 and it took me into January, about five weeks of chaining myself to my desk singing along to Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma and Showboat.

Then I tackled my cramped kitchen, finding yet more alternate pantry space, then my linen closet turned household supply cupboard. After an inspirational spiritual preparedness fair in March 2015 and praying earnestly for goal-setting guidance, I had a vision of a large storage unit stocked with bins and books for the future. Three months later, reality matched the vision. Then in quick succession I worked with rural buyers, researched a home to rent for myself in the rural areas west of me, found a home to buy instead, listed my current rental for my landlord, moved, put in a large garden, found renters for my bonus room, settled in, redid my legal paperwork and battled a second bout of Epstein Barr virus (chronic fatigue) all winter. By New Year’s, I felt like I was in “House Jail” and I wanted out!

Elderberry syrup quickly banished the virus, spring banished the blues, and as I emerged from those 27 months, I found I needed to banish lingering personal doubts and fears about my future – I still wasn’t done. Did I deserve prosperity and higher levels of success and creativity? So I’ve spent an additional month working through this last obstacle – the 28th month! I listened to countless Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, Vocal Pointe’s Christmas concert, and meditated on God’s many invitations throughout the scriptures to trust Him and to trust in His promises to bless our efforts, however imperfect. And I’m making headway – I truly feel “a perfect brightness of hope” as many of my insecurities are healed. (1 Nephi 31:20, Book of Mormon)

I may be just like the plant below, emerging out into the sunshine through hardened layers of habit, doubt and fear.

Breaking Through Obstacles
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 1147803

Why was I doing this? To create an expanded future, with more time for family and friends, for inspirational writing, for community and church service, and I now have time and energy for them. I feel like a kid on the last day of school facing a long, wonderful summer – whoopie!

This 28-month trek was like the last room in the fairy tale, Rumpelstitskin, where the miller boasted to the king that his daughter could spin straw into gold, but she was in trouble when the king put her to the test! She was promised she could marry him if she would actually spin a room of straw into gold. You all know what happened:  a funny little man showed up and magically did the work for her in exchange for her ring. The king, seeing a bonanza, delayed fulfilling his promise and gave her a bigger room of straw. Her mysterious friend rescued her once again in exchange for her necklace. A final challenge, however, found her with the biggest room of straw yet and nothing with which to pay this funny little man. He suggested she give him her first born child and, thinking she would never have to actually do it, she agreed. The straw was turned to gold, the king finally kept his promise and, in due time, the miller’s daughter had a beautiful child. When the funny little man showed up demanding payment, she was stuck unless she could guess his name. Numerous failures ensued, but finally one of her huntsmen overheard a funny little man dancing around a fire chanting a rhyme that contained his name. Appearing one last time before the young queen, he was flabbergasted when she pronounced his name, Rumpelstitskin, and he dissolved, screaming, into ash.

I believe this, like all fairy tales, is an allegory about life. When we face “impossible” tasks, something or someone magical shows up to help us but it costs us something (faith, courage, work, time, etc.). When our usual talents and resources aren’t enough, the largest challenges require extra brilliance, inspiration, and help from the unseen spiritual forces around all of us.

Willow Cathedral
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 90987

But the good news is that, because there is goodness in the universe that ultimately rewards effort and sacrifice, we get to “marry the king” and break through into a newness of life. As I emerge from my latest cocoon of struggle (larger than all past ones), new horizons beckon me like the tunnel above. They’re green, inviting, and exciting – far from the drudgery of the past. And I have hope this truly was the last room before greater support systems show up and allow me a more “normal” pace of life and expanded effectiveness. Stay tuned for updates….

In one of those serendipitous happenings, I just finished reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery where our likable British “Investigator and Psychologist” comes to a major crossroads in Leaving Everything Most Loved, to travel into adventure. Her fears were soothed by a wise Indian woman who reassured her with these words:

I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you – if you allow it to be.

These words reflected my experience leaving my marriage, leaving New Hampshire where I spent the happiest six years of my life, leaving Eagle last year and many well-loved friends. But each move has brought new adventures and new friends, making their own memories. The rewards have been worth the pain of change.

Eternal Life – Part 3 – Tribes and Families United Forever

I just watched a Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast, all of which was dedicated to the music and genius of Oscar Hammerstein II. Not only was it a musical feast, but my love for the Jewish people reawakened. It’s a little known fact that most Broadway musicals were a product of two great legacies: the American struggle to create itself and the Jewish struggle to recreate themselves. Jewish songwriters, lyricists, producers and directors wrote stories of outsiders who were lost, then found – a mirror of their own struggles over the centuries. But they didn’t directly tell their own story but instead told the story of the “Gentiles” (non Jews) who founded this nation and gave birth to a vibrant new culture.

So why are Jewish people telling the Gentiles’ story? To answer that, I needed to reflect back on Biblical history:

A close reading of the Old Testament tells the story of the 12 Tribes of Israel, descendants of Abraham, his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob (spiritual name Israel) who had 12 children with multiple wives – hence the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Throughout ancient history, their fate rose and fell on the tides of righteousness versus idolatry, false values, and downright wickedness. The Tribe of Judah are the ancestors of today’s Jewish people, especially the sect known as Pharisees. They were the administrators of the Kingdom, a “chosen people” unto God, really self-chosen by their righteous living and dedication to that God. But the tribes of Israel struggled and fought with each other, ultimately dividing into the Northern Kingdom of 10 tribes and the Southern Kingdom based in Jerusalem, consisting of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. When the Northern Kingdom had “ripened in iniquity,” they were scattered by the Assyrians in the year 721 B.C. and absorbed into other cultures, and are now called The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

The Southern Kingdom lost the way of good living, embraced sin to the degree of sacrificing their children to idols and embracing every known sin, resulting in their vulnerability to outside enemies. They were conquered by the Babylonians and carried away captive in 586 BC, as a group, for 70 years; they were then allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem and, unlike the Northern 10 tribes, were able to maintain their culture and religious identity. But since a segment of Judah (mostly Pharisees), ancestors of today’s Jewish people, crucified Christ, they and their descendants have been fated to be “scourged,” afflicted, and scattered throughout history as a way to ultimately bring them back to God. They found a refuge in Spain for centuries until the Inquisition sent them fleeing, yet again. Pogroms in Russia, the Holocaust during WWII, and persecution elsewhere finally drove many to America where they again found a safe harbor. Their business experience, intelligence, and creative talents opened doors of opportunity, especially centered on both coasts. Of course, not all Jewish people followed good paths, just as people from all religious and cultural groups spawn evil doers. But those who reached upward created much of our wonderful American culture.

This morning I’ve listened to classics from Sound of Music, Carousel, Oklahoma, and State Fair, with the spoken word given by Oscar Hammerstein III describing how his grandfather gave us such wonderful stories and lyrics through his own continual struggle and much failure. He told his sons, when playing tennis, to “always look to the next ball, not the last ball” – good advice for us all!

This wonderful legacy is detailed in the PBS Special, Broadway Musicals, A Jewish Legacy. I saw it years ago, never forgot it, and ordered my own copy recently. Who doesn’t love the music of Barbara Streisand, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Rogers (Oscar Hammerstein’s creative partner) to name just the most famous?

Christian prophecy tells of the great restoration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel with Judah’s spiritual leadership centered in Jerusalem and “Zion” or the Tribe of Ephraim as temporal leaders centered in the “New Jerusalem.” Even though many of our struggles only result in partial victories now, we have the hope of absolute victory in Christ at His Second Coming.

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out:
and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God,
which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God:
and I will write upon him my new name. 
(Revelation 3:12)

Last week, I spent some wonderful time in our local LDS Temple, “sealing” ancestors together as families. I could feel the spirits of those who especially wanted this work performed for them, all of which is conditional upon its acceptance by them. It’s my testimony that everyone who wants this blessing, who lives so as to qualify for it, and embraces the path to it, can bring that restoration and ultimate unity to their own family.

Gladly, we also have the promise that the family of God will be made whole. All human life on this planet has the same promise: to be restored to their original place in the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or be adopted into it; then to be taken home to the God who made us to live eternally with Him, the great patriarchs, our ancestors and families. Those who arrive there are not chosen capriciously by God, but they choose themselves through their intentions, efforts and journey towards truth.

Salvation is so much bigger than human ideas and even experience. It’s my “hope in Christ” that all those who have wandered, struggled, and felt lost will find the eternal home they’re seeking. The Jews, by telling America’s story, really tell the story of all humanity, for which we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Sealed Together for Eternity
Family Photo

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

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

My Daily Bread

My prayer project this last month has been nothing short of amazing. I was given clear direction to radically dejunk my house and could see it freeing me creatively. I quickly outlined a detailed plan, singing the Hallelujah Chorus in my head.

The first three weeks went well with an increasing sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I was on a roll – or so I thought. Then a week ago, it all came crashing down. I lost my drive and only wanted out from under this big, crushing project.

I had lots of schedule conflicts until that Friday – then I had to face my long to-do list. So I grit my teeth and plunged in. Normally, my enthusiasm returns once I start moving. Not this day. I grumbled and resented every minute. Finally I sat in my living room and just cried in misery and frustration. But my determination was stronger, so Saturday I trudged grimly on. Finally, late in the day, satisfaction returned. Not only had I conquered several projects, I had conquered my own resistance.

What happened? I’m not entirely sure, but I think energy cycles just have a natural rhythm, and I had expected mine to just keep peaking, ignoring real needs for rest and relaxation. I’m also an Aries sun sign. We like to start things but lose interest more quickly than others do. Plus the sheer size of this project really hit home. I felt like the Miller’s daughter in Rumplestiltskin facing the largest room of straw needing to be spun into gold – utterly hopeless!

So what did I learn?

  • I was prompted to alternate heavy work days (Mon, Wed, Fri) with “catch-up days,” pacing myself. This last week brought sanity and joy back into my life, instead of endless pressure, as well as solid progress. Thank you, Lord!
  • I learned that while there are big, over-arching revelations that help us see the big picture and make plans, most of the time we just need to focus on today. So each morning I hold the possible tasks before me “up to the light” of higher wisdom. The ones that the Spirit lights up with enthusiasm stay on the list. I then remembered the Israelites leaving ancient Egypt for their exodus to the Promised Land. They wandered in the Sinai Desert for 40 years, miraculously finding water and eating Manna from heaven that appeared every morning. When they tried to save it for the next day, fearfully doubting a continuous supply, it spoiled and wouldn’t keep. Maggots developed and made it inedible. However, on the day before their Sabbath, Manna would keep for two days so they could honor the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, free for worship and rest.
  • I also learned to keep the day flexible. I was all set yesterday to finish copying precious ancestral documents from 80-100 years ago (left partly done from the day before) when I had a sudden lack of interest wash over me. Something in me said, “No, clean out your linen closet and pack up all your extra cleaning supplies and paper products.” So I dug in, and by day’s end my linen closet was transformed. I had a car load for storage, and I felt great about it. The documents were handled another day, and with more enthusiasm! Then I remembered the advice Corrie ten Boom’s father gave her, recorded in her book The Hiding Place. She had asked him as a child about the details of an upcoming train trip. He gave her a brief answer and asked her when she would be given her ticket. She answered, “Right before I get on the train.” He said, “That’s when you’ll know all the details. You don’t need to know everything until then. You can trust that I am handling them now.” Isn’t life often like that? Ancient hippie maxim: Just go with the flow!

Our spiritual “bread” that feeds and powers us forward is like that. Most of the time, we pick it up in the morning and it is only good for that day. Those answers won’t work or be right for the next day – they will “spoil” and may even bog you down in murky paths. There’s a difference between absolute right and wrong – principles that need to guide our big decisions – and  the “good, better, best” of daily living.

“Meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day
and precedes the temporal creation of the actual execution of the day.”
(Elder David A. Bednar, LDS Apostle)

God will lend us His vision if we but ask and then listen to it.

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

 

 

 

Taking the Stairs or the Escalator?

I watched two shows this morning on PBS, The Italian Americans, about the very real challenges Italian immigrants faced integrating into American society. The other, Instruments of Change, spotlighted Ruth Greenfield’s Fine Arts Conservatory in 1950’s Miami where she provided arts instruction to local youth, irrespective of race or economic status.

Italians are known for their wonderful cuisine and for organized crime, among other things. This program illuminated the danger of trying to climb into prosperity too quickly, via either organized crime or political radicalism. But the “silent majority” of Italian immigrants who took the slow route to acceptance and success quietly achieved it, albeit in later generations.

This reminded me of my research in Cambridge, England, on my father’s ancestors. We had already discovered that our mother descended from English and Scottish kings, and we could certainly see that heritage in her ambition and high brow tastes. My Dad was hardworking, honest and had the most perfect character of anyone I’ve ever known. I was surprised, therefore, to discover that at least this branch of his family were listed in the 1800’s census records as “farm laborers, beer sellers, blacksmiths” – clearly working class. After watching many British TV shows depicting the life of the 1800’s, I formed a composite image of the “faithful steward” who rises slowly into positions of trusted employment with the aristocratic landowners. This took generations of lowly toil, often being treated unfairly and bearing it with patience, but in the end, rising steadily. My family benefited from both heritages, and I am deeply grateful for their examples. It’s a lot to live up to.

Ruth Greenfield and her husband Arnold were severely punished for their defiance of the rules of segregation, losing their employment, their luxurious home, and ending up starting their own business in a much poorer part of town. They looked forward with hope to new opportunities rather than back in anger, self-pity, or bitterness. After Arnold’s death, Ruth continued to promote the arts, starting the Lunchtime Lively Arts concerts that started a cultural revitalization of downtown Miami. She’s now revered as a pioneer, and numerous dancers, musicians, and artists trace their success to her early encouragement and training. Many remember being told, “You are special,” and how it fueled their upward climb for years afterward. If Ruth and Arnold hadn’t persevered, their contributions would have been much smaller; but they ran the race of patience and many people won.

I think life presents us with a fundamental choice of either taking the slow but real road to progress, no matter the consequences, or trying to take the false road to “Easy Street.” The false one is like the Up Escalator that moves us along without much effort, but we’re not able to see where it’s really taking us. Or we can choose the stairs where a lot of muscle power is needed and the destination is labeled: Top Floor. We just don’t know how many flights we have to climb!

I also believe that life is designed like this for a reason. We read in the New Testament:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow
and 
is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I believe that reason is to see what we will choose, all on our own. It isn’t earthly success that matters as much as character development and the heritage we leave. And, in the end, we all must face our maker, ourselves, and those we influenced, and account for our choice. I think we’ll be happier if we’ve taken the stairs and avoided shortcuts. As LDS Apostle LeGrand Richards once said (paraphrased from memory):

The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but they grind very, very fine.

I take that to mean, all good choices and the intent behind them will ultimately be fully known and rewarded, while all bad ones will lead to regret and sorrow.

Let’s look within, then, to decide which path we’re on, and be faithful stewards wherever we find ourselves. I believe we’ll end up being glad, no matter how hard the journey.

Stairway of Life, Courtesy hdwallpapers.in

Stairway of Life, Courtesy hdwallpapers.in