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31 July 2015

Psalm 5: Prayer and Joy

I've been excited to get to Psalm 5, because it's the first one that's referenced in the Hymnal. So, the first thing I did was to go look up which hymn uses it: Did You Think To Pray. And I found this beautiful acapella version,  which even comes with a bonus verse that I wasn't familiar with: 

When you met with great temptation, did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit, did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay? 
Oh, how praying rests the weary! 
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark and dreary, 
Don't forget to pray.

In our hymnal, the hymn is referenced to  my favorite verse in the chapter:

It's good to be reminded that "prayer is the source of comfort, relief, and protection, willingly granted by our loving, compassionate Heavenly Father. (Richard G. Scott, Apr 2007)" The Psalmist lays out two contrasting paths: the path of wickedness, which leads to destruction, and the path of humility and righteousness, which leads to the temple and to joy. Prayer seems to be the key that turns us from the one path to the other. 

I submit that a return to the old pattern of prayer, family prayer in the homes of the people, is one of the basic medications that would check the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle.

A generation or two ago, family prayer in the homes of Christian people throughout the world was as much a part of the day’s activity as was eating. As that practice has diminished, the moral decay discussed by the Apostle Paul has ensued.
-Gordon B. Hinckley, Feb 1991

Although it would take a great deal of time to see the effect upon the whole society, I do not believe that it would take that long for families and individuals to see the impact on a small scale. I know that, when I am doing well with my prayers, my inner peace becomes far more stable, in spite of what may be happening in the world around me.

One thing that stands out to me, looking at all this, is the way that we are able to choose either of the two paths. I intend to choose joy. Joy is the result of choosing God's way -- the way of prayer. The world can be a very dark place, but we are able to choose joy, even in the dark times.

"But let all that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful. (vs. 11)"

This idea of joy, joy strong enough to penetrate to our core, even in dark, hard times really grabbed my attention, and I spent quite a while studying it. One of the first things I did was browse through the Topical Guide's entry on Joy. There's a lot in there; this list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface, particularly not if you start branching out into related topics, such as Gladness or Peace. Truly our Father's plan is a Plan of Happiness! Here are a few of the passages that stood out to me:

Psalm 5:11
Ezra 3:12-13
Psalm 16:11
Psalm 30:5 (especially the JST footnote)
Isaiah 12:2-3
Matthew 5:11-12
Luke 2:10
John 15:10-12
Galatians 5:22
3 John 1:4
1 Nephi 11:21-23
Alma 27:17-18

Along with all the passages of scripture about joy, there is a wealth of talks that about the topic, and that touch on it in their treatment of other gospel principles. I am convinced that to do an exhaustive study on the topic would take at least as long as going through all the Psalms is going to take me. There's just that much. These were some of the highlights from the material I browsed through:

"Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described President Benson as a “careful watcher of events, [who] maintains a certain buoyancy and cheerfulness we would do well to watch. Such buoyancy,” Elder Maxwell said, “comes not from ignoring enveloping events, but from noticing these and yet looking beyond them to promises having to do with how the kingdom will finally prevail.”
-Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 70

It's an important reminder to keep perspective - perspective which has been easier for me to hang onto since I started studying the Psalms. It sometimes looks dark in our world, but the outcome is predetermined; Good wins in the end. However, the question remains: where will we stand?

"But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven--they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement. They will surely feel God’s resplendent Spirit. They will taste the indescribable joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014 Conference

One way we experience the miracle of the Savior's Atonement is through repentance. I had never considered that there might be a connection between repentance and joy, but now that someone has pointed it out to me, it makes perfect sense. It fits. They fit beautifully.

"Establish an attitude of ongoing, happy, joyful repentance by making it your lifestyle of choice."
-By Elder Jörg Klebingat, of the Seventy, October Conference 2014

Our joy in Christ comes because He offers us the chance to repent and return. And repentance leads directly to deep and abiding joy. What a gift.

22 July 2015

Folk Song: Barbara Allen

In the past, we have done some work with learning folk songs. It's one of those cool things that a lot of Charlotte Mason's followers do, and I really enjoy when I remember to get it done. So we're doing some more. I went to Ambleside Online and looked at their suggested folk songs. Top of the list was Babara Allen. We printed out the lyrics, and we listened to a nice performance:

I even checked the chords, to see if we can play it on our instruments. I'm going to try to do my banjo, and if Hero is interested, I'll write out a violin part for him, too. We'll see how far that goes; I don't require that he play with me, and he's already working on a difficult song right now. But he likes to play with me, so it may happen, anyway. I hope so, because that's fun.

We actually keep our folk songs pretty simple. I sing them a lot, and the kids pick up the words kind of by osmosis. We mess around with our instruments a little, and that's about it. Simple. Easy. Snuck in like vegetables in spaghetti sauce: they often don't even realize that it's part of their education. 

21 July 2015

Loving Liberty is Tough

I love Liberty. I think it holds the key to curing so many of the world's ills: poverty, exploitation, church-state conflicts, discrimination, tons of things. Liberty lifts. Liberty strengthens. It ennobles.

Liberty is very, very unpopular.

Sure, people sometimes pay lip service to Liberty and the Constitution, but in general, people don't understand either, and they aren't that interested, and they don't like the sound of it.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion... (D&C 121:39)

"We need to use government to compel people to help, because otherwise people won't do..."

"We have to have compulsory education laws because otherwise people won't..."

I see it all the time. People don't want liberty because they want to force their neighbor to "be good." Which means some very different things to different people. Or, they'll come at it from the other side: it's been so common to use government as a limitless lever to shove people, that individuals can't imagine how anything could possibly get done without that shove. And, when you suggest that Liberty would not only work to improve society, but work better than compulsion, people often get pretty upset.

Add to that an awareness of just how much Liberty has been lost (the losses in the past 100 years are staggering), and it can sometimes get pretty disheartening.

Who am I kidding? It's completely discouraging, and if it wasn't that I am convinced that Liberty is an eternal principle, and an essential part of the Lord's plan, and also convinced that the Lord has things under control and the evil attacks on Liberty and all else that's good will be, in the end, utterly futile, I would give up. It's hard, constantly rocking the boat. It's exhausting, emotionally. It takes a toll on relationships I cherish, sometimes a heavy toll, and sometimes the cost is high, and I can't always see that my words have any impact, whatsoever.

I have long been fascinated by the story of Isaiah's call as a prophet.

Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking int he midst of the land.

But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. (Isaiah 6:8-13)

I've been drawn to it since I was a teen, before I really understood any more than that Isaiah was being sent on a hard, hard mission. "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant." That's a good long time to preach while nobody's listening. I admire a man who can take on an assignment, knowing it's going to be that. And I ached for the people who refused all the Lord's efforts to heal them. For a long time, that's all I saw from this passage. I didn't understand the last verse well enough to take anything from it. But my husband gave me Strong's Concordance for my birthday, and I've begun exploring the Hebrew and Greek meanings of some of the difficult words in the Bible, and it makes things so much clearer. The word that's rendered "substance" in this verse, is a "pillar" in Genesis 35:14&20. Well, the pillar of an oak tree is its trunk, which looses its leaves every fall, but then grows them back again. Isaiah's mission was to testify of Christ, and he taught the people that Christ would proclaim Liberty to the captives, and heal the brokenhearted. No, people then mostly didn't listen to Isaiah, but that didn't tell the whole story, any more than a oak's naked branches in early winter is all that's left of the tree.

More than once, I've stepped back, and tried to stop talking about Liberty. But the Gospel of Christ is all about Liberty, and if we are to exercise our hard-won agency we need to protect the Liberty that gives us the space in which to use it.  Every time, the Spirit gives me a breather, and then asks me to go back and do it some more. Talk some more. Try again to show people the gift that Liberty really is.

Still, watching the news, the outlook for Liberty right now is pretty bleak. However, I recently read an article that reminded me again, and in a new way, that the news isn't all that there is to the story.

It is crucial not only to think about the problem but also to see the solutions being lived out all around us. We need to learn to observe the marvelous businesses starting and succeeding every day, the beauty of spontaneous human interaction, the order and prosperity that emerge from the exercise of human choice. We should thrill in the many ways that people go about their lives in casual defiance of the central plan. We can glory in the creations all around us that were never mapped out or approved by politicians, or by the experts in their pay.

In other words, focusing on the solutions rather than solely on the problems can brighten your day and give rise to creativity in the service of the good. Liberty is not just the absence of oppression; it is the presence of well-lived lives and institutions that emerge despite every attempt to stop them. In this sense, freedom is blossoming all over the world. If we can focus on making that positive change, rather than dwelling on what’s wrong with the world, our task becomes more delightful and a dedication to liberty becomes more sustainable.

I love that. Look at the solutions being lived around us. Focus on the positive changes. Look for the wins. I need to get better at both seeing them, and at talking about them. After all: one good thing leads to another.

13 July 2015

Vacation Time!

So, my sister had a baby. An adorable one, to boot. The kids and I got to run away for a few days to smother her in kisses. It was quite the adventure. 

Dragon and Cousin C played at getting married. Or, they tried to. "I tried to get married, but my wedding was crashed FIVE TIMES!" Her little brother clearly thought they were playing Chase, rather than House, with hilarious results. 

We took all the cousins to the zoo. They were pretty sure that a picture of the whole bunch of them was torture. Buncha cuties. The part where they're lined up in age order is a happy accident. 

The statues were clearly the best part of the zoo. So much so that Uncle D and I discussed how a date to the zoo - no kids allowed - would be nice. Then, we could read plaques and look at animals (rather than statues: we checked out ALL the statues we found) and linger a bit if we wanted to. Silly grown-ups. That's not how you do zoos! 

Cute baby! Cute sister! 

We messed with this big watery globe thingy they had just inside the front gate for a while at the end, putting off the end of the event: Nana and Grandpa were leaving to visit Uncle J and aunt N: they're moving at the end of the month, and could use a hand getting ready. 

The next morning I got together with a blogging buddy. We'd planned to do some geocaching, but it was a canyon, and there wasn't enough signal to play. We had a great time anyway. 

It was lovely. Nobody wanted to leave. At some point, I'd love to do something like this again. 

On the way back, we drove past the temple where my Grandma used to be an organist. 

More excitement the next day: we took the kids for a picnic on Temple Square. Dragon was particularly impressed with the Conference Center. 

The last day, I slipped in a quick get-together with a college friend. It was such a lovely trip. 


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