23 February 2016

Every Last One

I like this scene from Disney's Robin Hood a lot:

Robin Hood and Little John runnin' through the courtyard,
Got a cart of villagers and tryin' to get away,
A forgotten baby rabbit calls for help with king's guards close behind.
Robin scoops the baby up from them and saves the day.

It gets to me, the concept in that scene—Robin Hood about-facing into the mouth of the beast in order to save that last little one who is in danger.

But I didn't realize why it gets to me until just recently, when I read a rather obscure verse from the Book of Mormon:

"Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families." (Ether 1:41)

These words the Lord speaks to the Brother of Jared struck me for the first time in the 20+ times I’ve read this story. The Lord is about to Babelize the known world, and in answer to one humble man’s pleas that he and his family be spared, the Lord gives this answer: Escape this place. Not only you, but your families. And not only your families but your brother and his family. And not only them, but all your friends on both sides and their families. Leave no one behind.

The Lord goes to such lengths to detail this caravan; it’s as if He wants to make sure no one is left behind. He could have said something generic like “all your loved ones,” but he made a specific and comprehensive list, something that showed how individually He knew this amalgamation of people, and how he cared about them as each one — individuals He did not want left behind. Not one.

When I was little and still played with dolls I went through a nightly ritual. Every single doll had to be off the floor, nestled around me, covered with a blanket, and nose showing so I could make sure each of them could breathe. I used probably three or four different blankets, and by the time each doll was safely settled I couldn’t move for fear of brushing one or more of them onto the floor again. But I didn’t feel right unless they were all safe around me. Every last one.

Could it be the Lord is like this, but on a far more perfect scale?

I who played mother to my dolls couldn’t imagine leaving one out of bed. And the Lord promises that even a mother’s love and devotion to her child’s well being can’t compete with His devotion to His children on earth. (Isaiah 49:15).

Robin Hood turned back to save the very last peasant. The Lord declares that He will gather His people, His chosen ones, around Him, sweeping through “the four corners of the earth” to find those who are scattered and believe themselves lost. (2 Nephi 21:12)

None of us are lost to Him. He loves unlike any father. And He is thorough. He promised Abraham, “in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” (1 Nephi 22:9) That means something different when you consider the thoroughness of God.

We are not forgotten. Even tucked away where we sometimes find ourselves, lost and in the dark and wandering, wondering, or just trying to breathe. He sees. He knows our names. He will turn back to rescue us.

He keeps painstaking track of each child. He forgets none. He loses none. And He will leave none behind who choose Him. Not one. 

10 January 2016

Morning Ramble

One doesn't expect it — wet gray sidewalks and soggy grass at 7:30 on a January morning in the Rockies. Everywhere, rather than white or even dirty snow, is slick water runoff and that thin green in the grass sprinkled over the weary mud-yellow the now-melted snow flattened. Such a color Crayola cannot duplicate. What would they call it? "Warm winter."

Birds chirp outside the apartment and flit between the buildings, trying to keep warm. An alien but welcome sound in winter. Though the weather app has promised snow for the last three days straight, the sun diffuses pale through friendly white, harmless sheets of cloud.

I still bundle up to walk. In the hills, where I'm from, I put on fewer layers for romps on January mornings. But these are the flatlands; half the exertion required, and thus twice the cold felt.

I miss the hills—the trails, and even the roads and neighborhood streets that wind and rise at unexpected angles and gradients; no grids where I come from. Here it is flat, civilized, loud, and hazy with exhaust. Ambulances and police cars wail past at all hours. I climbed the hills in the dark of morning; here I have to wait until it's light. The least square path I can find is a cement track that winds in a circle around the soccer field at the local high school. More often than not I wend my way there and walk laps. Strange when you're used to just hitting the hills and never hitting the same point twice until it's time to bend home again.

In the summer when I started I would most often meet white-haired men and women walking along the track: the men in single file, the women in chattering twos. They walked slowly, the women, but I suppose that had to do with the fact that some of them didn't stop talking long enough to draw a breath the entire time they walked the track. I nodded at them once, twice, and then by mutual consent, we kept our eyes ahead as we passed each other.

Two men I remember well. Both tall, but one more broadly built than the other. This larger man beat me to the track every morning. We would pass each other five or six times before one of us left, and every time, he'd give me a big smile and a different, friendly comment—about the weather, my pace, his pace, etc. It warmed me clear through, and I made sure to give him a big grin back every time. What did he used to be, I wonder? I could picture him an officer in the army as easily as I could picture him a friendly grocer. I never asked. We just smiled.

The other gentleman, more spare in build, took a creaking jog around the track, so we passed more often. A smile did not come as easily to him, but every time he passed, he told me "Good job!" or "How far are you going?" I was sad when the cold weather crept in on the flatlands and I no longer saw them at the track.

Now the older walkers are gone, shut indoors by the cold. Younger women come jogging in their bright tops and huggy bottoms, and we don't speak or smile. I walk in broad, exposed daylight on a flat track, the soggy winter grass keeping pace with me. I fill my time, and walk home again. To have an enjoyable walk, I think, one must have either wilderness and hills for the imagination, or good company. I shall be glad, then, when the warm weather returns and the two gentlemen shuffle along the track again too.

29 October 2015

Revived


I opened it by accident last night — the StoryMill program right next to Microsoft Word on my dashboard. What was I trying to open from Word? An outline of legal cases to add to for finals in five weeks. A class-notes document. Or a book to edit for someone else. That's been the extent of any creation or literary merit on my part this whole semester.

Right.

I think in legalese. Passive voice. Just the facts. No feeling. Trying to translate a case from something my English professors would condemn to plain, understandable English. Trying to learn how to write in the same dead way.

I can't form coherent creative sentences. So many times each week story and blog ideas wisp by my tired brain like teasing smoke: Wisconsin autumns, the "etymology" of Halloween, the stubbornness of summer, Wilfred Owen, the people on the walk around the park...Things that breathe beauty and freedom, history and pathos. But I haven't the breath to describe them.

I'm brain-dead. Sitting in class, trying to stay awake or pay some semblance of attention in case I'm called on (thank you, Socratic method). Reading from 3-inch-thick case books so I'll have something to answer for if I am called on. Drafting the beginning of the end for the thesis I'm still working on. Feverishly clicking through and reading unfinished manuscripts to make editing deadlines. And when I'm not doing that, I'm bonding with my new husband, with my family. Or I'm in bed. Or watching a movie to destress. Because my brain's overworked; it hurts to create.

My creative brain has lapsed into obesity and lethargy. It can't reach out and grab the ideas. Sometimes it tries. And about a paragraph in it's out of breath. So little used. Shut down.

I miss it every day. And move on to "more important things."

But last night my finger slipped on click, and StoryMill opened instead of Word. Opened to a scene I'd written years ago. When I felt more, and wrote more. When my writing breathed people and feelings and trueness.

It was a short scene. So I read it. And it breathed into me. I watched my favorite character, my companion for a decade, die. Watched it through his only child. Unfair circumstances. Not ready for death. Felt his struggle for breath in my chest, the child's pain there too.

His breath failed, and mine returned.

I used to write. Well. And last night that put-out-to-pasture part of me was remembered. Like the "Please" in the Book of Virtues that finally got used again and bounded up with breath, it hops around in me and asks to be used.

So we're taking a chance, it and I. Because today the professor has started his interrogations on the opposite side of the room. We're writing. Quickly. No poetry. Just get the thoughts out. Let's exhale a little, and then maybe we can inhale a little better. And exhale a little better. Inhale...Exhale...Deep and healthy...

It's rusty. Instead of writing about creativity, we're writing about the lack of it. And honestly, how interesting is that? We're out of shape. But we're breathing right now. And that's a start.

18 September 2015

A Vow's Merits

I remember this post from three years ago and the way I planted my flag, dug in my heels and vowed I'd never go to law school.

I also remember vowing up and down for four years I'd never marry that boy from church whose beard was bigger than he was.

Within three days of each other, I vowed myself to both.



And it's a crazy. Exhausting. Thrilling. Rollercoaster. And I can't imagine doing it differently.

16 June 2015

'Even the Elect...'

Nehor preached "that which he termed to be the word of God." The obvious answer is, God terms His own word, not man. So it should have been easy for the people not to be deceived, right?

No. He probably used the same words and phrases that Alma and true prophets were using — "Thus saith the Lord..." And such a statement, when coupled with perks like "Thou needest never repent; Thou hast no need to earn thy own bread," etc., can be quite attractive.

As I thought about this the scripture came to mind that says that in the last days convincing false prophets and false Christs will attempt to deceive even the elect — the Lord's covenant people, who should know better. The scripture has historical precedent. 

How can we avoid being deceived? Another simple answer: Follow the prophet. But that leads to another point — how can we be sure of and testify that our living prophets are true mouthpieces of the Lord, authorized by Him?

As I thought about it, some different criteria came to mind:
  • The truth is bigger than the man: The antichrists in the Book of Mormon may have said "thus saith the Lord," but when brought to the breaking point, they couldn't defend what they were saying. Their messages couldn't hold up. Sherem and Korihor, both struck down for what they were preaching, acknowledged that their god was false. They admitted to being deceived and ultimately confessed the Christ. Nehor didn't die defending his message; before he died he had to admit that he, too, had lied. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, died in defense of the message God had given him. The truth was bigger than he was; he answered to a higher Authority than himself.
  • False prophets and antichrists won't stand: The Lord has stated He will not allow His prophets to deceive the people. Scriptural accounts assert that He means what he says (namely Judas, Sherem, Nehor, Korihor). In terms of fallen prophets, specifically, they will be dealt with by the Lord. But again (and the Saints in Kirtland had to learn this lesson) they must be dealt with by the Lord, not by men who have termed that they are fallen. The Lord backed Joseph Smith, even when Saints cried for someone different, more profitable.
Now this is all fine and good, but how do we avoid following someone down the wrong path until things implode?

Some things that come to mind from the scriptures include these:
  • Fruits: Judge the messenger and the message by their fruits. The antichrists' "beliefs" resulted in their own aggrandizement and in an irresponsible, idolatrous and self-centered belief group. If the fruit of the message benefits the messenger this way, especially at the expense of others, it is suspect.
  • Carnal Mind: Korihor pegged it when he said he had been deceived because the false message was pleasing unto his carnal mind. We are in the same danger today, especially with all the lewdness and distractions available to us. If we're not trying to keep our minds clean, we are easier to deceive. If we don't pursue a pure heart, we're prone to following messengers who justify and feed our propensity for sludge.
  • The Source: The Lord Himself is the source of His word, and He alone "terms" it. But how can we know whom He has authorized to be His mouthpiece? It's simple: Go to the Source. To me, this means two things: 
    • If a prophet is a true prophet, he will send his believers to the Source of his message for a testimony of the truth. He will not take credit for the message; nor will he tell believers to rely on his word alone. He will invite them to ask of God and learn if he speaks the truth. 
    • If we question a message from a prophet (whether true or false prophet) and pray and desire to know, He will manifest to us who His real servants are and who they are not. He is able to do His own work, after all. And we are His children; He loves us. He wants to protect us. He answers through the Holy Ghost.
  • Trust the Spirit: It will never lie, and it constantly testifies of "the Word" and the prophets. It is the sealer of truth. Here, again, it is vital that we be living worthy of its company. We also need to learn to recognize the Holy Ghost and to discern between it and cleverly disguised false spirits (something Korihor learned too late). Elder Richard G. Scott stated that a helpful way to do this is to study the scriptures, the established word of God. This helps us become acquainted with the Lord's voice.
What can I add to this list? What has helped you recognize deception and/or protect yourself from it? How have you gained a testimony of the living prophets?