Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Vulnerability of Performance

     A few days ago my students and I participated in a piano recital. There is something so very vulnerable about playing the piano in front of a crowd. I have been doing it since I was eight but yet every solo performance I have a moment of wanting to back out, even to this day. 

There are so many facets of our selves which are in view when we perform. Not only is our physical agility evident but our ability to focus, our gift to express feelings through music, and our self-consciousness is open for all to see. 
  "Why would you choose to perform if it is so unpleasant?", my son asked. 
   Now that is such a great question. Perhaps it is that when we can open ourselves up whole-heartedly to the music we have come to live and breathe, it is an amazing high.

   During rehearsal M., age 5, balked as I explained that I wanted him to tell the audience his name and the names of his pieces. 
   "I can't," he said, "I'm shy."
    It was his first recital so I offered to stand with him in front of the group. 
   "It wasn't that bad." he said after with a broad grin. 

    There in a nutshell is the reason to perform frequently. We can learn that our fears are not that real. Coming through a gut-wrenching experience can build hope that we are growing and changing. If we falter the lesson is still important. Perhaps we should have prepared better, or perhaps we learned that life goes on after a stressful event, or best, that we made music come alive and people enjoyed it.

   For the teacher, sitting on the sidelines, the event is emotional. I know too well what could happen. I see their legs shake, their hearts race, and their hands stiffen with cold. I send them bushels of love and hold them together with teacher energy. Then I clap and whisper that they were fabulous and feel privileged to know them in their most vulnerable hour.  It is exhausting, but so worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Era Devotionals

  Are your devotionals getting tired? Spice it up by checking out the past issues of the New Era from the ward library. Give everyone a copy and have them find a thought, or short story of someone with faith, or assign them to talk about the MormonAd in their issue and cross reference it to a mastery scripture.

                     This will light up your morning and interest them in reading the New Era at home.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Blue Hour

    The “blue hour” is the hour just before dawn and just after sunset, where there is natural, indirect light available from the sun behind the earth. This time of day can create deep blue skies in your images, which are interesting alone, or in conjunction with warm, yellow city lights. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happier At Home

   When "The Happiness Project" hit the bestseller lists I turned my nose to another self help book which sounded like a bootstrapping endeavor. Bootstrapping comes from the days of horse and buggy, where if you were to go riding you had to firmly grab your boots on each side and force them on. I don't like bootstrapping my way to change.

   So I ignored Gretchen Rubin's first book. Then she published "Happier At Home", which appealed to my foundational belief that all good things happen within the walls of your home. Or, they should, and I realize that often bad things happen there, as well. I work from home and spend 80% of my time within the walls of my hovel. The definition of hovel I refer to is small, my home is not unpleasant or squalid. I was intrigued with the question, "Was I happy at home?" I thought about the things which made me irritated; messy kitchen, dirty bathroom, overgrown yard, and being tired are a few. I listed things which made me happy at home. Fresh flowers, baking bread, good music, a stack of books, computers at hand, made it top on the list.

    Gretchen made me evaluate many others aspects of happiness at home. I took to heart some of the ideas she posed in regard to relationships with the people I live with. Warm greetings made it to the top of my list. I have seen the difference in my husband when I greet him warmly every morning and especially when he comes home from work.
  "To be happier, I have to notice what I’m doing, and why, and how it makes me feel."
    That may sound to some people like an over thinker but I am an over thinker. I like to mentally work through things and look for solutions to my unhappiness. For that reason alone this book was appealing. 

  "To be more at home at home, I had to know myself, and face myself. This was the way to true simplicity: to be myself, free from affectation, posturing, or defensiveness."
   After finishing the last page I felt satisfied that indeed I had some new ideas to be happier at home and I felt validated that my home is truly where I want to be most of the time.

  As Laura Ingalls wrote in the Little House series, "She thought to herself, “This is now.” She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago."


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mind the Gap #2

  There is nothing as unnerving as receiving the prompting from the Holy Ghost that you must "mind the gap". This phrase comes from London where passengers are cautioned about dangers related to the underground subway system. 
   "There is also a sign to remind people that there is danger--a gap between the train and the station platform. The sign says, "Mind the Gap." This reminds people not to let their foot get caught in the gap and not to drop anything in the gap because it will go under the train and be lost. The caution sign is needed and warns people of a very real danger. In order to be safe, people must "mind the gap." Sister Barbara Thompson 
  This is such a great metaphor for the gap between what we say we believe and what we do.
"We can't give people what we don't have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be." Brene Brown
  Rather than bore you with the gaps in my own spiritual life, let me pick on a man from the New Testament whose story has been read for countless years.

  Peter was an apostle who walked with Jesus for most of his ministry. He was present at mind-blowing events where he saw the power of God manifest in Jesus Christ. Recorded by Luke, written down for all mankind to see are some of his gaps between what he said and what he actually did.
  Luke 22:55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
  How Peter must have wept to look back on his weaknesses and fears.
John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest tho me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
  Would he ever be able to close the gap?
  Acts 4:13 "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
  Yes, there came a time shortly after the ascension of Christ when Peter stood to testify without the fear he had before.
  Acts 4:18 "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
   Peter is an example of the power that a congregation receives when their leader closes the gap.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
  In contrast, just a chapter later the story of Ananias and Sapphira's is told. They must have joined this congregation by choice and covenant, but their gap was sizable.
  Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
  I puzzle how immediate the consequences were of not "minding the gap". Why was Peter given space to grow and change but not this couple? I think the application here has to do with spiritual death.
  "We disengage when we are not minding the gap. It is a way to protect ourselves from vulnerability, shame, and feeling lost without purpose." Brene Brown
  And when we disengage we do things that can damage our spiritual lives. The story does not tell us all about Ananias and his wife, but it reveals their rationalization of the truth. It shows a disconnect to the people who they had alliance with. 
  "Spiritual connection is not built on compliance, it's the product of love, belonging and vulnerability." Brene Brown
 How did Peter mind the gap? He focused on the Savior, Jesus Christ. He took the Holy Ghost as his guide. He was humble in his need to be connected to his Savior. He walked the path of discipleship the best he could and the final gap was closed with the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


In yoga an inversion brings many health benefits to the body. For a few seconds the heart works less, the organs are cleansed, and in general the cells have a sauna.

   In music, a chord may be inverted to keep the key in tack but change up the sounds to a higher or lower pitch.  This gives lift and renewal to the same sounds.
  In life, things get turned upside down quite often and the result can be invigorating or disorienting. We never know if our day will go the way we planned.

"I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light."
Mary Oliver 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Come Follow Me

           How does the Savior show us our final destination? He gives inspired prophets the roadmap.

              Moses was given the template of our way home. It testified of all the Savior would do.

  "He marked the path and led the way, and every point defines to light and life, and endless day, where God's full presence shines." 

  The book of John demonstrates his pathway home.

He was the sacrifice on the altar-
John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

He was baptized to show us how to become clean-
John 1:28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

He was the shewbread on the table-
John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

He was the light of the candlestick-
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

His prayer in Gethsemane was the petition of the our pure and innocent High Priest for his people-
John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

At his death the veil was rent and He ascended back to his father-
John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

"Come follow me, the Savior said. And let us in his footsteps tread. For thus alone can we be one with God's own loved, begotten Son."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Disruptive Engagement

     The study of the life of Christ has brought me great joy and peace. However, I have noticed that every person he engaged with on this earth had a disruption to their life. It seems that being with Him brought opportunities for change. I call his teaching style "disruptive engagement", meaning an engagement between teacher and student which is honest, vulnerable, and possibly uncomfortable. My seminary students would like nothing better than to be allowed to sit back in a comfy chair and let me preach, but I make them sit in different places, move from room to room, and try new activities. Real learning and creativity are "inherently vulnerable". It takes courage to make a statement and weigh in with your own thoughts. The teacher could disregard your comment or other students could roll their eyes at your attempts. I remember one of my older students commenting under his breath to the new freshman, 'Why are you such an over-acheiver?" Should we have discomfort in our classroom? Perhaps we should normalize discomfort. Brene Brown says, "If leaders (teachers), expect real learning, critical thinking, and change, then discomfort should be normalized. We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it's going to happen here-you are going to feel that way. We want you to know that it's normal and it's an expectation here. You're not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean into it."

   That happened to me yesterday at a regional teacher training meeting. We were learning how to ask better questions. That is an art form, by the way. First we learned the difference between search, analysis, application questions. In smaller groups we discussed a new block of scripture and wrote down more questions. Then the teacher trainer asked for volunteers to practice in front of the class. No one jumped right up and I felt the heat rise in my body. Did I really believe in disruptive engagement? My hand shot up and I committed myself to learning by faith. What I did not remember was that I was volunteering my friend who was part of my group. I vaguely remember explaining the term disruptive engagement to all the sixty teachers in the audience and we launched in with our questions. Of course we had the best possible students, who wanted to participate. Did my volunteering reveal anything? Yes, it showed me that the search and analysis questions were easiest and finding room for the application questions took some time. I also learned that when we allow ourselves vulnerability we become more committed to changing. I am very motivated to teach tomorrow morning and continue my progress. I hope the teacher trainer reports back that the practice part of his class was highly effective because truth be told, we all really need the opportunity to participate in  disruptive engagement.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Keep Your Head Covered

  I happened by an art gallery window in the wee hours of day, kind of still night, and noticed a hat display.

   Theses hats are works of art but really hat making was an art that flourished into the 1940's. My own family history has a line of milliners who loved their trade.

My grandmother had several sisters who made hats and one, Tante Lina, had her own business, She apprenticed my Tante Hunni in her establishment. Below Tante Berta shows off one of her favorites.

 It got me thinking of my own christmas hat which I purchased to protect me from rain. I am getting used to the attention I get when I wear it. It just isn't as fashionable right now to have a hat but my coat is lacking a hood and it is raining everyday. What is a woman to do?

                                 Hats are in my family and I am ready when they come back in style. (My grandmother, my mother, me, my granddaughter…four generations of hats.)

Monday, January 7, 2013


    The restoration of spirit to renewed body called the Resurrection is a vibrant doctrine to discuss with my Early Morning Guests. We are a bit ahead in pacing so I feel I can slow down and cherish the last chapters in The Gospels. My Seven Little Words readiness activity works well to introduce words into our discussion.

                     The word restore in the context of resurrection is so beautifully written by Alma.

 The asoul shall be brestored to the cbody, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a dhair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and eperfect frame. And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has beenaspoken by the mouths of the prophets—

  To bring back what is lost is the promise of our Heavenly Father. The Plan of Salvation provides a way to restore our innocence, our inheritance, and our material bodies. We are the Restored Church.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hope Is A Function Of Struggle

      Every winter neighbors and passersby marvel at the Rhododendron in my front yard. This year it started to bud in December and it is now in full bloom. 

Of course it is genetically prone to bloom early but it is a bush that gets very little encouragement. One year a car off the road ran right over it and it was severely pruned but it came back stronger that ever. It is a symbol of hope for me. There will be spring after every winter.

    "Hope is a function of struggle; it is a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we have experiences that require growth and overcoming." Brene Brown
  It is no wonder that my stories of adversity are remembered so well. They have made me the person I am. If this be true why would we want to shield our children from this kind of growth. "If I could save from you from this heartache I would," I said to my daughter as she wept in pain over the loss of her engagement from a man who turned out different than she hoped. Perhaps I have less faith in my children than God had in us when he sent us here. Babies are hard-wired for struggle and we protect them but sometimes shield them from learning the hard lessons that could insure their hope in themselves. This is the great vulnerability  of all parents. Have we done enough or too little to launch them into being great adults. I don't know about you, but I was not "growed" up when I brought my tiny daughter home. I wasn't finished with tantrums, fear of the boogie man, and freaking out. I am just now daring greatly to be the woman I want my daughters to become. A little late? They still want to engage with me, so I think I may have a chance to be finished. 
  Read a super chapter called Wholehearted Parenting; Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be, by Brene Brown 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wholehearted Comes From Brokenhearted- Daring Greatly #7

The fruits of reading Daring Greatly are plentiful and the one most sweet is a desire for living life wholeheartedly. Chapter upon chapter this desire has grown but then I heard an interview with Brene Brown and her statement made my heart skip a beat.
 "Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted."

  That is chilling! It is spot on true, but scary. I know nothing more vulnerable that being brokenhearted. Let me share just a few moments if my courage holds up. 
  The air was quiet and the halls were uncharacteristically still. I was in the engineering building at BYU on a Sunday evening and I was there to pray and ask for forgiveness. My spiritual life was in crisis and I felt too small and petty to go on thinking I was "all that". I wanted my inside to match what my outside was saying. I knelt on the hard linoleum and started to speak. What I felt was unexpected. A large wash of love enveloped me and left me breathless. I was talking to my Heavenly Father but the love was coming from Jesus. He loved me, and had loved me before, and would continue to love me, and I felt my heart break for not running to him sooner. All these years I had missed out on this amazing love. I wept until there was nothing left to weep for.
  Years later, married with four children, we faced the untimely demise of our business. Having lost all the invested money from people who trusted us we faced no income and no job in the foreseeable future. I watched as my strong husband mourned his failure and I was scared and depressed. As my happiness melted away, my body showed signs of shutdown. I ran a low grade fever with no signs of infection. Each day seemed unbelievably slow and full of effort. My heart was breaking. One day a church acquaintance came to visit. She seemed uncomfortable coming into my bedroom where I rested. 
   "This is weird because I can't align the woman running the meeting last week with the person I see today. You are just like me, broken and a mess."
  At that point she offered to massage my feet and I was too tired to object. A recognition gave over me. The Lord was propping me up even as I was falling apart. Here was a sister who wanted to admire me, who had seen a person buoyed up by the spirit and now recognized my weakness, but served with love as He would if He were here. I was as vulnerable as I could be, yet, there was a wholeness to this experience.
  I have one more story,  believe me there are many. Olea was born at home and her birth was quiet and perfect. One hour later everything changed. My daughter-in-law started to hemorrhage and within 10 minutes paramedics arrived to airlift her to the hospital. The midwife handed me my granddaughter and I gazed at this unsuspecting soul.
" What will I do with her?' I asked. 
"She is in better shape than her mother."
The baby met my gaze and we bonded together, two completely vulnerable spirits. I finally started thinking and looked around to dress her for the first time. She was going to be going with Daddy to the hospital. I held her gently as we waited for the carseat to be found and then off she went. The house was still and I sat down to cry. I prayed. 
Life went on and we are all mostly whole. Do you see why this idea is so scary?

"Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If Shame is Driving, Blame is Riding Shotgun- Daring Greatly #6

    I am a recovering blamer. It is not pretty to say that but nevertheless, it is true. When life gets hard I turn to blaming someone for circumstances that are often random.
"Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort." But the consequences are not simple and can lead to disconnection between the people we love. It is very hard to stay vulnerable and open when a family member is consistently blaming us for things that go wrong. I had a huge epiphany years ago when it was suggested that I assume that my husband or child, is doing the best they can. That had never occurred to me as even being possible. But, on the other hand, my own mistakes are rarely made with intent and malice to do harm so could that also be true for others?
    The rumbling of the big garbage truck comes into my conscious mind and I don't hear him stop. Oh no, not again! He forgot to take out the trash. Right there, in this second, two roads open up. On the left, wide and well traveled, is the road of blame. "I can't believe he did it again. Because of his thoughtlessness, we will have trash lined up all along the side of the house. Our neighbors will be convinced we are white trash."
  On the right, a road, small and narrow, is the pathway less traveled. "He had a lot to remember this morning. What can I do to make this work? I'll just check to see if it costs too much more for a second can next week. I should leave him a note on his lunchbox."
   That road on the right is a happier place, but it takes some effort to traverse it's length. It means taking more responsibility for what happens to me. It is a road for grown-ups.

                             Happy new year and may we dare to live a life for grown-ups. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is really helpful for just this kind of new year's resolution.