Sacrament Talk on Cherly Esplin’s Conference talk, “The Sacrament, A Renewal for the Soul”

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I was given the assignment to cover Sister Cheryl Esplin’s conference talk, “The Sacrament, A Renewal for the Soul” I’m going to try to expand upon her remarks, if that’s at all possible. AS I begin I’d like to quote Psalm 86:1-4

1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

4 Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

As we partake of the Sacrament we are not only given the chance to renew our covenants with the Lord and repent of our sins, we are also given the chance as Sister Esplin said, “To renew our soul.” The ten minutes we sacrifice each Sunday to partake of the bread and water gives us an opportunity to place all our problems, questions and trials on the Lord’s alter. The Sacrament is the time to let go of all that is bringing us down. All that is preventing us from achieving our full potential in the eyes of the Lord.  The sacrament is the time to put away our pride and let the atonement take over. The sacrament activates the atonement.

 

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I’ve seen the sacrament’s healing powers in my own life. I have a condition that periodically causes my thoughts and perception of the world to become jumbled and cloudy. My body gets soo worn out from all that is happening in real life and in my mind during these periods that I have to sleep the day away on my days off. Unfortunately, I have missed some Sundays because of this and on those Sundays, I do miss taking the sacrament. I miss the quiet and focus that it brings to my mind. I miss closing my eyes and trying to find some semblance of stillness. I have tried to duplicate these feelings as I read my scriptures every night, but it’s just not the same. There is a special spirit during the passing and the taking of the sacrament.  It’s the spirit of light and inspiration and as Jeffery R. Holland has taught, “One of the invitations inherent in the sacramental ordinance is that it be a truly spiritual experience. A holy communion, a renewal for the soul.”

Last Tuesday as I was driving across town to my mom’s for a visit, I was in a quandary. I have a desire to go back to school, but in order to keep my finances together I’ll have to work full-time while doing this. I was and am afraid that my body and mind will not hold up under the pressure and on that drive to my mom’s I thought seriously about quitting my job. While stopped at a red light the frustration got the better of me and I yelled, “How am I going to do this!” Thankfully, my windows were rolled up and no one heard me, but if they had, they would have either thought I was being extremely abusive to whomever I was talking to on my Bluetooth or I should have spent a little more time with my psych nurse a few weeks before. So, as the light changed and I made my way towards my mom’s I had a feeling that I should change the station on my radio from the one that plays alternative rock to the Christian station I listen to now and then on Sundays. The station was broadcasting a sermon by Rick Warren a very popular nondenominational Christian pastor. So, as I again was waiting at another red light I tried to concentrate on what he was saying to get my mind off my thoughts. As I listened he began to talk about the role of rest within the spiritual experience. He said that rest was an important element in worship. That even God had to rest on the 7th day after he created the world and that we are commanded to rest on the Sabbath. As Jesus has said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” I’ve been a member of the LDS church for 20 years and I know that the Sabbath for Latter-Day Saints is usually a busy day whether it be due to callings and other obligations. We as Latter-Day Saints don’t know how to take a reprieve now and then. At this point you’re probably wondering what rest has to do with the Sacrament.  As I said earlier in my talk, the sacrament isn’t only a time to renew our covenants. It’s a time to place our worries at the Lord’s feet and by placing our worries at the Lord’s feet we are given permission to rest. To rest our minds, bodies and spirits.  As Christ said in Matthew Chapter 11:28, “Come unto me all ye that labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

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As I was walking my dog at Tom Brown Park that same Tuesday a question popped into my mind, “How can we improve the taking of the sacrament so it can be more of a renewal of the soul?” As I thought about that for a minute as my dog was sniffing something interesting on the side of the walking path, two instructions came into my mind. I’d first like to say I’m not one to over step my bounds, especially being a single woman with no children. I have a niece and nephew and it takes all I have to chase them around for 2-3 hours every month or so, so I can’t imagine how much energy it takes to do that 24 hours a day. But I feel like I need to rely this message.

So, how can we improve the taking of the sacrament so it can be more of a renewal of the soul?

1. If you’re not doing this already, married couples trade off each Sunday so you can give your partner time to concentrate on renewing their covenants and themselves. Help your companion keep the Sabbath

  1. To the single adults with children, I’m sure there are other single adults with children, single adults or willing older able adults who are willing to trade off with you each Sunday so you can renew yourself and your covenants.
  1. To those who think that they can do it all on their own, shed your pride and ask.
  1. To those who have the ability to help, look for those opportunities to serve the sisters and brothers around so they can take advantage of the sacrament. I know this may be very difficult for some of you. I can be an extreme introvert. It took me 2 years to be comfortable enough to not sit in the far corner in Relief Society, so I know your pain.

I’d like to end with Galatians 6:10, as we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

 

I say this in Jesus Christ name amen

 

All We Can Do Is Try

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I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon and go with the crowd, but ever since the death of Robin Williams and reading several blog posts about his death I’ve felt like I needed to address some things about mental illness and the choice to be happy. So here it goes!

 

A year or so ago, my symptoms  ( Mr. severe depression and a group of rag tag misfits of various types)   came back with a vengeance after a few years of relative normalcy and as I got to a point where I honestly didn’t think I could go on I reached out to a very wise friend  (someone who knows illness and my struggle very intimately). When I contacted them, they first chastised me for not contacting them sooner and for letting my pride interfere with me asking for help. I admit it, I am an extremely proud person who hates to think that she can’t do it on her own. I’m also a person who hates attention, which is ironic since I’m posting a blog about my illness!  I’d insert a LOL, but this isn’t Facebook, so I’ll refrain…..I’d also like to admit that this person was right to chastise me for not reaching out sooner. Well, it seems I am doing a lot of admitting of guilt here. Where’s a Catholic priest when you need one! Anyway, as I was lamenting about my struggle, my friend cut me off and said, ” Leslie, happiness is a choice.” This statement cut me like a hot double edged sword. How could this person who’d known me for so long and my struggle with this illness say that to me! For a split second I wanted to yank them up by the collar and yell, “What the hell! What do you mean happiness is a choice. Don’t you know how hard I’ve worked to be happy!”  But I just sat there fighting that impulse, because hat would have been kinda psycho……

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Yeah, psycho…………

After that conversation I obliged their attempts to talk to me, but I kept it simple, :

Friend? : So how are you?

Me: Fine.

Friend? : So how’s work?

Me: Fine.

Me after my friend ended the communication: (eye-roll) “Whatever”

 

Yeah, as you can see I was pissed and I agonized over this “betrayal” for months. I didn’t understand the term,” happiness is a choice” Ok. I understood it, but I couldn’t see it ever taking action in my life. I’ve seen it take action in others lives, those who shouldn’t be happy with their circumstances. People with terminal Cancer, paraplegics, amputees, etc. I envied them. “How was it that they were blessed enough in their circumstances to be happy? Where was my blessing??” I asked myself over and over. ” I have a mental illness shouldn’t that count for something? I mean those with illnesses like these also have a hard time being happy, right?”  I again agonized over this for months, until one night when I had completely had it! I was sick of thinking about it, sick of being angry. I was desperate, so I swallowed my pride and contacted my friend. They told me that they loved me and that they were happy to finally talk to me like a normal human being. Again I’m refraining from typing LOL…….So we talked and talked, and talked some more. And as we talked it hit me! Happiness isn’t some continuous party nor was it a blessing bestowed on the favored few. Happiness was the byproduct of trying however little you can try. Happiness is going forward no matter how far back you are, at least you’re going forward. The way to happiness isn’t some bright and sunny straight path to never never land. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, jagged rocks and glorious vistas.

From the little information I know about Robin Williams and his history I’m convinced that he tried to be happy. He spent some time in rehab at various times to overcome his addictions….. Um… That’s trying. He raised and as I can see received joy from his seemly well adjusted kids (we don’t see them partying it up Hollywood style do we?). That’s trying. He donated money and spend many hours helping various charities. That’s trying. He made quality movies that entertained millions and brought joy into their lives. Still trying.  My point is (if you haven’t gotten it yet from all the “trying”) that he tried to be happy even at his lowest. Yes, he succumbed to his illness. He was in such a dark void that the only way out he could see was to take his own life. But at the end of the day all that is asked of us is that we try.

 

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Catfishin’, It Ain’t What it Use To Be (Part One)

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NO.....That's NOT what I meant!

NO…..That’s NOT what I meant!

It has been said that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, but I disagree. The world’s oldest profession employs those who use their craftiness and cunning to lead the innocent and trusting into their trap of deception. Instead of building up their bank accounts these able workers labor to build their ego. For centuries, these astute craftsmen/women were known far and wide as”wolves in sheep’s clothing”, but in this modern age of the 21st Century the youths (you know the #hashtag, YOLO,  my best friend and I were texting back and forth about some guy who sent her a  🙂 and then I fell into a fountain and broke my arm generation) call them “Catfish”.

 

How's that YOLO working' out for ya? #AWESOME!

How’s that YOLO working’ out for ya?
#AWESOME!

Catfish have been around since man spoke his first word, built his first fire, and laid his first trail of broken hearts. And I’m sure that after these deceivers laid their first trails of mutilated hearts they got their first taste of angry tribes people pursuing them with big pointy sticks in a fit of vengeance. But unfortunately as you and I both know the collective “fit of vengeance” didn’t persuade them to end their beguiling ways. From Eve in the garden to your coworker in the next cubicle and those in between have all been jilted out of love, trust, confidence and pride. We have been warned by those living in ancient times to be mindful of this type of person. The Christian Apostle Paul preached this adamantly in many of his discourses. In one of his letters he mentioned “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ” (Eph. 4:14,15) He is basically saying in my humble opinion that we need to have a level head, assess the situation realistically and maybe even take whatever those who approach us say or do with a grain of salt, unlike children who look at the world in an idealistic manner and trust everyone. But wouldn’t it be the greatest thing,  to be like children, trust everyone, and view the world in rainbows and kittens?  Unfortunately, as Paul points out again that this is not possible. He warns  that, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Meaning, even your close associates, those you worship with, work with or even among your close friends and family may break your trust and turn those you love against you. But know that if or more than likely when this happens to you,  you are not alone in this situation even the Grand Poobah, the mighty Sensei, Heavenly Father’s point guard and, the man that would risk his neck for his brother man, Jesus! had his heart broken by one who was close to him and maybe was one of his confidants, Judas. Can ya dig it? But unfortunately, Judas couldn’t dig it and lead the chief priests and elders of the city to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in exchange for a payment of gold coins which lead to Jesus’s crucifixion. Christ paid the ultimate price for betrayal, so hopefully we won’t have to pay the same ultimate price.

 

Judas still not diggin' it, but he got these nifty gold coins.... not.......!

Judas still not diggin’ it, but he got these nifty gold coins…. not…….!

Stay tuned to “Catfishin’ Ain’t What it Use To Be,  Part Two: “Catfishin’: Myths and Reality.”

The Kool Aid guy will not be crashing through these walls!

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This post is going to be a little personal and it’ll more than likely be the only personal post I’ll write for this blog, because I’m not one to open my soul up on the interwebs. Heck, I’m not one to open up to anyone, except my handful of close friends. Therefore, you have been warned! If you feel like that it’s not in your best interest to move forward in this post, please by all means turn around and flee to higher ground! That being said, I shall now commence the opening of my soul. Don’t get too excited. It’ll only be a small opening. No, the Kool Aid guy will not be crashing through these walls!

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A couple of months ago as I was having a leisurely lunch break at Panera Bread I came across some information that turned my relaxing midday snack into” Angry and Tearful: I Want the Whole World to Fall Down and Die Crapfest 2014″! Ok, it wasn’t a crapfest. It was more like the Burning Man Festival, but replace the stinky incense smelling hippies with Goths circled around a campfire, smoking clove cigarettes, while listening to brooding music. Yeah, it was that dark and honestly at that point the whole world was dead to me. Which was unfortunate, because I work in retail and I had to clock back on in the middle of this apocalyptic drama and cater to what I considered the customers at that point, zombie ghosts. Yes, a disturbing thought isn’t it? As I went about my day, my body was moving, but my mind wasn’t. It was sitting on the cliff of despair and looking down on the ocean of antisocial angst. It knew this spot well. As it sat there taking in the sulfur tainted sea breeze and bleak sky the only thing it knew to do was to jump into that all familiar ocean and disappear.

I'm gonna go for gold and try to make it to the bottom!

I’m gonna go for gold and try to make it to the bottom!

I hate to say it, it did jump in, but fortunately it didn’t hit the bottom. By using its knowledge of the topography of the region and my chubby body to help it stay afloat, it eventually swam its way back to the side of the cliff and used whatever sturdy rock it could find to climb its way back up and onto stable ground.

I think we all have times like these where life seems impossible and the only viable option is to jump off that cliff, close our eyes and hope that we don’t hit the water too hard. Sometimes the sting from hitting the water is enough to scare us and cause us to immediately swim to the bottom of the cliff and rapidly climb back up onto solid ground. Sometimes the sting is seen as an unpleasant necessity as we make like Jacques Cousteau and continue to sink down to the bottom. The dark recesses of that ocean can be a lonely, miserable, scary place where it seems like no one will find you or if they do send out a search party, you are so far down they won’t be able to get to you, so they move on to easier rescues. But the bottom can also a refuge. Sometimes it’s safer to have the darkness as your comrade than other people. They can complicate things and make it worse, especially the ones who seemingly have never made the trip to the cliff of despair and their lives are full of sunny days and glorious wind swept fields where they run towards their loved ones and welcome them with open arms as Hobbits dance a jig of happiness in the background.

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They just can’t get over the fact that you chose the darkness over the dance. I’m not saying that living at the bottom of the sea of anti-social angst is always a choice. Sometimes it is and for many it isn’t. Many don’t have enough support nor the knowledge to make it a choice. They are left floundering on the surface until their strength gives out and they sink to the bottom. I’ve been there. I was there for years. But I’ve also had periods where I wanted to jump into the mosh pit of hobbits and dance a jig. Unfortunately, during the intermissions of those dance parties I was, not by my own choosing kicked, steel toed boots and all back into the abyss, until I regained my footing. I’ve met many people in my situation who are angry and despondent over their difficulties and who think that there is no help for them. This makes me sad, but while not turning another’s misfortune into my fortune it also makes me grateful  that when the world gets too loud, problems seem insurmountable and the steel toed boot comes along and makes a split second decision to kick me off the cliff I have the support, strength and knowledge I need so I can quickly climb that cliff and stand on solid ground.

In The Fear of Trolls Outside Closets

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While I was pondering this post, I started to think about closets. No, not the kind where you line up your clothes, then stand back and admire your tidiness. No, not the kind where you store all the tools you need to keep your house nice and shiny. I’m speaking of a different kind of closet. You know the kind where you find your dead grandfather in a wooden box underneath the floorboards. Wait, I‘m thinking about the wrong closet. Believe me, you DON’T want to find that grizzly scene “shivers” Anyway, I’m talking about the closets people put us in or we put ourselves in, for fear of judgement, retribution, being shamed or being in denial. The gay closet, the atheist closet, the  I don’t want anyone to know that my great-grandfather was a Nazi spy closet, and the mental illness closet. No, I’m not coming out of a “closet”, so readers you can start breathing again. Those in these closets have many things in common, self-loathing, frustration, second guessing and when they come out of the closets, detractors, prejudice, loss of family members, friends, and possibly employment etc. Yes, many people lose all these wonderful things in their lives when they turn the knob, open the door and let their light shine!  Which is sad because Christ doesn’t want us to hide our light underneath a bushel. Everyone has something to contribute no matter how lowly they are. I’m really not one to brag about not hiding my light. I hide it constantly.

I do hide it
in a house. 
I do hide it chillin
with a mouse. 
I do hide it 
here or there. 
I do hide it 
everywhere

See I hide it so much that Dr. Suess wrote a poem about me! But in all seriousness, those in whatever closet they’re in don’t contribute because of the aforementioned things I said, especially fear.  Fear is like a troll. No, not the ones who stay up into the wee hours of the night in a dark room while they sit behind brightly lit monitors in the hope that they will encounter someone who is in the mood for an aggressive and nasty debate.

Oh, so you think rice cheese is better than almond cheese? You're such a jerk! I say Velveeta trumps them all!

Oh, so you think rice cheese is better than almond cheese? You’re such a jerk! I say Velveeta trumps them all!!

The kind of troll that I’m speaking of is of the Nordic Medieval legend variety. You know the ones that struck fear in the heart of many a brave knight as he and his horse tip toe across a rickety wooden bridge in the hope of not awakening the old troll and risking the chance of either being eaten, having his babies stolen or having his wife seduced, which in and of itself is a very scary and disgusting thought, ‘shivers’. Anyway, even though the knight is scared witless by the prospect of losing all he has to an evil shriveled up troll, there is one bright spot in this dark tale and that is the flaming torch that he is valiantly holding before him as he makes his way across the bridge. He is using this torch to not only light his way, but also as a first line of defense against the blood thirsty, lady lovin‘ troll. You see trolls hate light. Any kind of light. Whether it be sunlight or torch light, they hate light! Light is their Kryptonite. It will destroy them and prevent them from having another round of sadistic fun with a lonely innocent traveler.

So as you can see, fear is like a troll. But instead of it hiding under a bridge way up in the frozen tundra of the marvelous region of Scandinavia, it hides just outside the doors of the many closets of those that are afraid to come out and let their light shine no matter how dim it is. What they don’t get is that darkness is a sissy and runs back to its mama the moment light invades its space. Yes, I called darkness a sissy, because hello it is! So to those who are afraid of the troll sitting right outside the closet door, open it up and I guarantee you will see a dazzling display of burning troll flesh once your light hits it! 

I'm gonna need a whole lotta light to bring that baby down!

I’m gonna need a whole lotta light to bring that baby down!

 

Tell Life to Shove off and Move On.

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That’s my motto. See, that’s me below in a sparkly dress at the Emmys “gettin‘ real”… oh wait, that’s Jennifer Lawrence in a sparkly dress at the Emmys “gettin‘ real” and letting people know how everything goes down.

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But telling life to “shove off” as the British politely put it isn’t that easy. I think as Mormons, we have a tendency to be extra polite, heck, maybe because of an innate fear of being swallowed up by an awaiting hell mouth whose specific task is to take all the impolite Mormons down to the basement of fire and brimstone. Believe me, I’ve yelled at plenty of horrible drivers and I have yet to be sent down to the fiery cauldron. So in our efforts to be polite, we are sometimes too polite with life. I’m sure some who are reading this are thinking, “If I’m rude at life that means I don’t have enough faith.” Well, do you think the Lord was having a grand ole’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross? No, he wasn’t. I don’t remember reading anything about colorful balloons being let loose and streamers falling from the sky. He felt pain, agony, despair, even depression and helplessness, not only for our sins, weaknesses, and illnesses, but from his human side. Him, saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” was his way of saying, “Dude, come on. I know you want me to do this and I’m willing to do it….. but come on.” I’d like to think he had a very small temper tantrum or a “shove off” moment if you will. But of course he would never say it in that manner, because he’s JESUS!

 

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Like Him we’ve all had those moments, years, or even decades where we think life hasn’t been fair, our personal cup is filled to the brim and we want to throw it at the wall. Well, go ahead, yell and scream, kick the wall, punch the wall (no I take that back. You might break your hand. Safety first people!), punch your pillow, cry into your pillow then punch it again. Yes, it sounds like you’re being very emotionally abusive to your pillow, but it’s ok… it’s a pillow…..

It’s also ok because the Lord understands. He had his moment. So go ahead, tell life to “shove off” like Jennifer Lawrence in her sparkly dress. Yes, I mean the men too, because who doesn’t like a sparkly dress!