heavengazingMy 11-year old daughter was struggling with a gospel question this week. As we discussed her ideas, I could see she was becoming more agitated and sad. She kept saying that she had a very bad feeling whenever this topic came up. She felt sad and upset…and I might add, a bit angry. When I told her to take it to the Lord, she claimed that the Lord never answers her prayers, so why pray about it? She said that the way she felt currently was an answer to her prayers and she did not need to ask the Lord about this topic specifically. As the discussion went on, it became very apparent to me that she was not under any influence of the Holy Ghost whatsoever. I explained how the Lord will never make us feel angry or upset when He is answering us. We might feel stumped if it is a no, but very peaceful and happy when it is a yes. After we get an answer, we should check that the answer is from God by asking again. And for me, I ask again. (Knock three times, eh?) This simplistic answer seemed to suffice for now, but how could I explain to my daughter the workings of the Spirit when it has taken me so many decades to finally get a glimmer into what is possible? Piercing the veil is no easy task for many of us. It is through obedience to the small promptings and guidance that the Spirit gives every day that we learn how to get answers to life’s bigger questions. Promptings can communicate the will of Christ and they are the primary way that we can know His will. However, some might ask, how do you even hear the small promptings? Continue reading

Peculiar Treasures: Kinetic Wonders

I’m cutting right to the chase this week. This installation art, Kinetic Rain, at the Changi Airport in Singapore is speaking to my soul so much I  put it in the post for you today. Rain enables life, movement, and us; in this piece it’s kinetic as we are.

While I’m thinking about movement and I am in awe with those who move on. Especially when it’s hard. Look at this collection of images and stories of strong single mothers by LDS photographer Erica Ericson.

How does your idea of beauty move over time and tragedy? Read Lee Woodruff’s lovely accounting of her journalist husband’s terror and their amazing transcendence together.

Mormon composers are creating a movement, and as the author so perfectly points out we didn’t just have a “moment”, but we’ve reached a critical mass and great works by Mormons are happening all over and outside of the music for the people, by the people.

How fast can your eyes move? Take this wee test and find out if your faster than the average reader. Can you beat our Kel? She smoked it at 557 wpm.

Here’s a book that will have you moving toward the kitchen. I have maybe been waiting for this cookbook my whole life- or at least since I drooled for a slice of the Trunchbull’s epic chocolate cake in Matilda.  I love that it was Dahl’s widow that finally made it all happen. What a delicious tribute.

The seasons are on the move, and here’s a fun tidbit and video explaining it is tree dieting that turns the leaves and sun that really makes a colorful autumn. Fascinating.

Did you watch the opening meeting of General Conference this weekend? The General Women’s Meeting featured more voices from more places than ever before. For this week’s First Draft Poetry, we have Melissa Young’s short but eloquent response to Elder Utchdorf’s talk about blessings and rain:

went outside
in the cold dark
and put my face to the rain

Let it Rain

I was curious about how the second General Women’s meeting would go. Spring was difficult and I’m still cooling from the heat of summer. I have felt spent and restless and impatient and enduring. My heavy-worn heart and wrenched, wrung-out soul needed a balm not just for recent church events, but for me in my own life fraught with questions and requests for answers. At the point in the meeting when we were all asked to sing “I’m a Child of God” I hit my threshold and everything I’d been holding in tumbled out and down my cheeks: tears for all my bottled up anxiety and annoyance. Ashamed, I realized my frustration probably looked like I was moved by the spirit instead of anguish. How can I be honest with myself and my religion when I ache for more than I have now? I want to sing I’m “A Child of God” the way I do to my own children, to loudly pronounce the tender truth I hold hard in my heart: God is love, love is family, Mother and Father are God. “Teach me all that I must do to live with Them someday,” audibly, not just under my breath in insistence for my own integrity. Each week begin the YW theme with my young women, “We are daughters of Heavenly Parents, who love us and we love them.” And when I offer prayers to God, have it understood and accepted outside of my own self that I acknowledge and reverence Her and Him together, as they are.

Patience, the spirit whispered. Patience is what is so hard and hurts so much in this and all my other wrestling of who, and what and when or where now and next. Wait. Wait. Wait. Can you wait? the spirit counselled and asked. Wait here, and there will be joy. The joy will be great here.

Calling my controlling calm to myself, I resolved that I could. And could certainly be patient for an answer (but impatiently hope I wouldn’t have to wait long.) Sitting up, I steeled myself for waiting and listening, and praying for some message to stem the hot tears on my face. Continue reading

Sabbath Revival: “The Sustain Pedal”

Image from

With my own background in piano, I’ve always thought of the musical meaning of “sustain” as maintaining a sound–keeping it from going silent–when I hear the phrase “sustaining our leaders.” This piece by Catherine A. from 2012 expounds on that a bit and was a great read for me as I prepare for general conference this week.

The Sustain Pedal
March 22, 2012, Daily Special, Catherine A.

I play the piano. Not well. But well enough to play the hymns impromptu or accompany if I have some advance notice. (Like several weeks. Okay, maybe a month.)

When I was a senior in high school, my grandmother asked me to accompany our entire extended family (cousins, aunts, uncles) in singing a special musical number at their missionary farewell. The piece was called, “Here am I” and was written by my grandmother’s sister. My grandparents had been called to the Minneapolis, Minnesota mission and all their children and grandchildren had been dutifully practicing in small circles around living room pianos in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, belting out, “Here am I! Use me Lord!” to the robust strains of Great-Aunt Marie’s rallying chorus…that repeats. Twice.

I had been practicing too. The accompaniment consisted mostly of chords that moved quickly up and down the keyboard, from black to white, both hands pounding and leaping along. The piece was stirring but tiring to play. The flap of skin between my thumb and pinky finger was stretched weary, and I was having trouble making the chord transitions sound anything but choppy.

Then I remembered the sustain pedal and its wondrous mechanics. I began practicing with it, using it to lengthen my sound, to sustain notes that were otherwise out of my reach. It made my fingers sound smooth and fluid. In truth, it hid my mistakes.

Come performance Sunday, I was a sweaty mess. But I was counting on that sustain pedal to get me through. And it did. When the meeting was over, Aunt Marie slid her arm around my elbow and gently chided me. “You know that piece wasn’t meant to be played with the sustain pedal,” she said. She knew my skill level. She heard every note I had missed. But she understood.

Last Sunday, I taught the lesson in Relief Society about “Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains.” And I thought about Aunt Marie as I read these words from George Albert Smith:

We would do well if we would magnify and honor [those individuals] God has placed at our head. They are men [and women] with human frailties, they will make mistakes, but if we will be as charitable to the mistakes that they make as we are to our own failures and mistakes, we will see their virtues as we see our own (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, George Albert Smith, p. 63).

With General Conference only a week away, a new Bishopric in my home ward, and wonderful, yet human people leading the church at every level, I am finding this to be wise counsel. My job, as one willing to sustain, is to look past any imperfections, to not judge, or criticize, but to support, bear up, and to nourish through my prayers and compassion. Sustain comes from the word sustenance, and it seems both leader and follower are nurtured by commitment to this principle.

I recently read an interview with Julie Beck in which she discussed what it has been like to be under scrutiny, to stand at the pulpit, rather than her kitchen counter, where she admits she is most comfortable. She said,

It’s never not overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve slept through a single night since I’ve had this calling. I can never take my head off and put on my resting head. I can never take these shoulders off and put on my resting shoulders. It’s always with me, but I’ve become more comfortable with how uncomfortable it is. The Atonement covers our ineffectiveness and insufficiencies, and it’s my whole dependence on the Lord that makes it possible for me to become more comfortable with the burden…The calling is lonely – it just is…There’s nowhere for me to turn except to heaven most of the time (LDS Living March/April 2012 pg. 50-56).

The honesty in Sister Beck’s words touched me. I pray regularly for our prophet. I pray for our local leaders. But I realized after reading her response, I had never prayed for the woman asked to worry over God’s daughters. So I began to pray for her by name, each night. And as I did, something beautiful, and humbling happened to me. I felt empathy and love for her like I haven’t for any church leader, at any time.

I don’t mean to gloss over this principle and tell you sustaining is always easy. I know there are those who’ve been injured or hurt, who are limping along as they try to carve out a place for themselves in the church. But I firmly believe sustaining isn’t so much about the individual(s) called as it is about our commitment to God. And he would want us to be gentle with each other. I, for one, am grateful when someone is willing to play the sustain pedal for me.

When have you felt sustained in a leadership position? Have you ever found it difficult to sustain a church leader and if so, how did you overcome those feelings? How do we best sustain those with whom we are asked to work or follow?