Pearls Before Swine

“It’s all my fault,” I explained, tears running down my face.  I could hardly open my mouth.  It took too much effort.  Laying in bed, I couldn’t even wipe the tears from  my face as they dripped from my catatonic eyes to the pillow.  “I’ll never write on my blog again.  All I do is hurt people.  I’m broken.”  And I believed it.  I wouldn’t be able to care for my kids.  I wouldn’t be able to feed myself.  The world lay on top of my chest.

“That makes me so mad,” Ben said calmly.  He is always calm.  I love and hate that about him.  My mind is a tempest and his is a calm summer’s day.  I listened to him talk about the good I do and how beautiful I am.  It seemed as though he was talking about someone else.  “The Savior hurt people too,” he said.  “Yeah, but he was the Savior.  I’m just broken me,” I said despondently.  I thought for a few moments.  I am just broken me.  Am I better than he was?  Can I live my life without hurting anyone when even the Son of God could not?  He knows I am broken.  He knows my limitations.  He also knows that I’m not to blame for the problems of a fallen world.  The weight on my chest is not fair.  The words I speak are mine and I speak the truth.  If the truth hurts someone, I am not to blame.  And so I got out of bed.  I’m here to write again.  My truth and my testimony from my broken mouth.

Last night I said the words I thought I would never say.  “I think I need to go to the mental hospital.”  Suicidal thoughts were swirling in my brain like sharp razor blades in a clothes dryer.  For hours and hours I had batted them away, distracted myself, used self-care, and read uplifting material.  Nothing helped.  I knew if something didn’t change I would act on my thoughts.  I sat on the couch with hardly the energy to blink my eyes as I watched my Austin play happily with his brothers. I wrote a piece, but I haven’t posted it yet.  It is about what happens to children when they loose their mothers.  What would he do without me?  How could I do that to him, knowing what it would do to him?  And yet a person can only hold up under torture for so long.  Everyone has their limits.

Ben knew how bad it would have to be for me to be willing to go back to that place.  I wouldn’t go back to Sundance.  I would find a better place.  Maybe they could help me.  Maybe I wouldn’t feel this pain anymore.  Ben gave me a priesthood blessing.  He cast out Satan.  He did what I didn’t have the strength to do.  I have had such blessings many times before.  It is like waves of power, like a nuclear blast of light.  Satan was gone.  I was blessed to have the robe of peace around my shoulders, and I felt it warm around my frigid body.  I took a sedative and went to sleep.  Satan is gone, but his lies still have to be refuted.  No one can do that but me.  That’s why I’m here.

“You shouldn’t write these things.  They are sacred.  A blog is not the place for such things,” Satan whispers.  The day is coming when all blogs will be silent.  The day is not far distant when cell phones and google searches and Facebook posts will vanish away.  Until that day, I will testify to as many people as I can.  Satan is real. His power is real.  All is not well in Zion.  Our houses need to be set in order.  The prophecies of his holy prophets are coming to pass.  The sins we hide will not be hidden forever.  It is up to us to find the Savior. The sorrow I feel and the enemy I fight will be yours to fight before he comes.  Do you have what you need?  There is a time when sacred things must be shared.  We must help one another find the Master before it is too late.

The Master said, “Do men light a candle and put it under a bushel?  No, but on a candlestick that it giveth light to all that are in the house.”  Do I know that perhaps by putting these things on a public blog that I risk casting pearls before swine?  Yes. Even the Son of God was judged by men to “have a devil” which I take to mean a mental illness.  They judged his wisdom as foolishness and they tortured and murdered him.  God the Father still sent him.  Was he casting his pearl before the swine?  I do what I do and I say what I say because I am His handmaid.  He tells me to write and I will write.  He tells me to testify and I will testify.  I am not to blame for your pain at my words.  Learn from them.  Find the Savior, for he is Mighty to Save. 

Job as a Type of the Master

Job suffered. I imagined his solemn spirit standing beside me last night in my suffering. His spirit must find those who suffer to give them comfort. That is why he suffered. His suffering approached closer to the suffering of the Master than anyone I have read about. In chapter 2, we read about what happened after he lost his family, his wealth, and his health. 11 ¶ Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. These friends were not fair weather friends. They tore their clothes, put ashes on their heads, and sat and fasted with him for an entire week without saying a word. I’ve never been that good a friend. Eventually they tried to help him with their own formidable understanding of God and his justice and wisdom. They tried their best to wrap their minds around the circumstances that may have lead to his cursing. In doing so, they erred and they further wounded their friend. I felt Job’s fierce anger and his testimony in Job 27 as he refuted the lies of Satan, repeated by his friends, tempting him into the dark despair. “You have sinned. You deserve your pain. You need to repent,” they said. Job refused the temptation to blame himself. 5 God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. 6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. God does not punish people with depression just as he didn’t punish Job with his trials for his sins. God punishes us for our sins, but only at the judgement day. There are many people who live successfully in sin. Job talks about this. This life is a time for us to judge ourselves and to use righteous judgement as Job did. Job knew God. He didn’t understand why he was going through his pain, but he refused to blame God or himself. He was a charitable man who, even in his wealth, suffered with those who were less fortunate. 25 Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor? 26 When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness. It is easy to misunderstand Job’s friends unless you do a careful reading of Job. His friends were wise men who knew God. They wanted to help Job. There are entire chapters with their words which ring with the notes of truth. They had good intentions and they did their best to help Job. They were suffering too and struggling to understand something very difficult. Even so, their words were poison to him. They go back and forth for many chapters discussing God’s justice and goodness, his mercy and his mighty wrath. In the end, they are angry and frustrated and their criticisms become more pointed. Then God speaks to Job. I imagine that it was a kind of vision. At first God asks Job questions about himself and the extent of his understanding about his own relationship to God. Then, he reveals his own vast power and majesty as only can be comprehended spiritually unless a mortal be consumed by his fire. I imagine Job’s eyes being opened spiritually to behold the majesty and greatness of God! He sees that in his poverty and want he is no different than when he was great in the eyes of the world. To God, he is the same. Only men think other men are great. Compared to God, we are nothing. We are all alike unto him, the rich and poor, bond and free, male and female. God is no respecter of persons. In his suffering, Job found God. Only then did he repent. Only then did he see his own nothingness before God. Not in the mistaken advice of his friends, but in the realization of God’s own majesty. His repentance had nothing to do with sin, but because he was fallen and realized it at last. Even he, a great, wise, and good man was broken and needed a Savior. Then God spoke to Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends that we can assume was most in tune with the spirit. He told him that his wrath was kindled against him and his two friends because they had judged Job unrighteously. They were wrong, and God revealed their error to them. He told Eliphaz to ask Job to pray for them while they offered sacrifices in the spirit of repentance. Imagine it! This leprous man that everyone turned away from in horror was praying for these three men who had been trying to help him and yet had hurt him. He was their intercessory with God. What better type of the Savior is there? I imagine the three friends as they made their sacrifices, coming to a more perfect understanding of the Master, the sinless one, our advocate with the Father, him who is Mighty to Save; The lamb of God, the eternal sacrifice of the Father who would suffer all things just as Job had suffered. Job, playing the role of the Savior, bearing the suffering of their sins, praying for them; those who had hurt him. Because those four men listened to God, miracles happened. Hearts were changed, hurt was replaced with joy, healing replaced deep wounds. In Job 42, 10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. When I read these words, the spirit tells me that the example of Job’s three friends in esteeming Job as they did, helped all the people who knew them. Because they repented and gave respect and honor to Job, the rest of the community rallied around Job. They mourned with him and they did the ancient method of a Go Fund Me. They helped him get on his feet again. Relationships were saved and suffering ended. God blessed Job and everyone was blessed when they helped Job. Satan’s trap to destroy a good man, ended up making four good men better, and with them, a whole community was blessed. Such miracles are possible when we do as they did and turn our hearts toward the suffering among us. When we withhold judgement and exercise charity, we are blessed. When we judge the suffering and harden our hearts, God’s wrath is kindled against us. That judgement will come upon us. How can this apply in our families? In our wards? In our communities? In our nations? I’m not saying we need to have the government throw more money or programs at the social problems in our society, but neither should we close our eyes to them. Are their Jobs among us that are judged and misunderstood through little or no fault of their own? What miracles are possible in our lives, our families, and our world if we could nurture that charity which never faileth? What judgements await us when we harden our hearts and turn away from the suffering? The first is last and the last is first. Job was the first, then he was the last, then he was the first. Jesus Christ was the firstborn of the Father, and yet he was last. He descended below all things and suffered more than anyone had ever suffered. Then at last, he is first again, leading the Saints of God to their final triumph at the last day. Are we first today? Are we ready to be last? I testify of Jesus Christ. He lives! He loves us! He sends trials to his children as he did to Job because he seeks to bless us. He refines the pure in heart, he comforts the broken hearted, he binds the wounds of the broken. We are broken! Rejoice in it! This life and it’s wicked ways is not where we are designed to be. His grace is sufficient for us and he waits for us to find rest in him. Do not judge unrighteous judgement by assuming that those who suffer deserve their suffering. Comfort those who stand in need of comfort, advocate for the widows and the fatherless, give aid and comfort to the poor, and peace to the refugee. Welcome the unwelcome. Embrace the friendless. Stand up for the falsely accused. If we say, “That suffering person deserves what has happened to him,” that judgement will come upon us in the days of our tribulation. When the beggar comes to the Southern border, don’t turn him away and judge him as a thing of naught. Don’t make the children to cry for their mothers and turn your hearts to stone. This is less about politics and national sovereignty and more about the hearts of his people. We are all beggars before God and people, even the elect, are forgetting that. Like Eliphaz, we can turn from our sin, plead for forgiveness, and the wrath of the Lord can be turned away. It is not too late. Let us show ourselves to be true followers of Him who is Mighty to Save!! There is enough and to spare! His nation, even the United States of America, has the power to save, to bless the world, to show to all people that there is a God in Israel and he does not turn aside from the children of men who seek his asylum. Have faith! Do not despair! He multiplied the loaves and the fishes, the winds and the waves obeyed him, and the blind received their sight. Is it so strange to think that a great nation with hearts full of charity might stem the tide of suffering in the world? It is our faithless hearts that stay his hand. We can do better! Let us start today.

Savior of Sandcastles

Once there was a young girl sitting on the shore of a vast ocean.  She was crying and looking out at the waves in despair.  There were forlorn piles of sand around her that looked as though they had melted, the remnants of dreams and efforts unrealized.

A man came along the beach and saw the tear-stained face of the girl.  He lifted the brim of her floppy beach hat to see her eyes and then said, “It’s hard to build a sandcastle in the surf, isn’t it?  She was surprised to see her own sadness reflected in the twin mirrors of his eyes. 

His empathy released her emotions like a flood dike had suddenly collapsed.  She had been sitting there for hours trying to build her dream sand castle. She showed him the plans sketched childishly on her notebook page.  She explained that each time she got a turret built, she would start on next one, only to have the surf come up and wash the turret away.  

“Don’t despair,” the man said, “I’ve built a lot of sandcastles, but never in the surf.”  He pulled out his phone and showed her the pictures of some of his best work.  She laughed in delight at the magnificent sand creations he had made.  “If you want your sand castle to last, you have to start with a good foundation.”

So they found a rocky spot nearby.  It was much more work to haul sand and water in buckets up to the rocks, but working together made it fun.  They mixed the sand and the water and built the castle turret by turret far away from the crashing waves.  When they were finished, the castle was much finer than the drawing had been.  The girl threw her arms around her new friend.  “Thank you for saving my sand castle.”  He replied, “That’s what I do.”

Forging an Instrument

I got a text today that someone needed me.  It feels so good to be needed!  When you are in the middle of a depressive episode and feel like you are no better than a lump of poo, it feels good to know that someone else can benefit from your existence on the planet.  Even a lump of poo has lots of good to give when you put it in the soil it increases aeration and nitrogen levels….the gardener in me is coming out.   Seriously though, even when you feel like crap, you can still be of value when you go where you need to be and that is what I was able to do today.p

Anyway, I got to help someone who was feeling down.  She needed me, but I needed her too.  She knew that I would get it because I’ve been there and she knows that.  Tears don’t scare me. Hugs aren’t awkward.  I didn’t have any solutions to her problems, but I sat in it with her and I hope I helped a little.

Today’s lesson was on Job.  I’ve been thinking about him all week.  He’s the guy that you can always say, “At least it isn’t that bad.”  Reading his story again I was struck by several things.  First and foremost I was reminded that bad things happen to good people.  Really good people sometimes.  We want the world to make sense and be tidy.  We want easy answers and simple solutions.  Sometimes life is a crap pile and nothing makes sense.  Nobody understands that like Job did, sitting on the floor, covered in boils, his skin falling off in leprous chunks, mourning the deaths of his ten children and all his livelihood.  He didn’t know when or if things were going to get any better.  Still, he kept his faith.  His understanding of God was incorruptible.  Satan threw everything he had at Job and ironically he only made Job stronger.  When Job rose from the ashes of his broken world, Satan just threw up his hands.  What more could he have done to break that man?  He used all his ammunition on that one guy and he got knocked on his butt! I love that image.  

Let me tell you friend, Satan beats on me.  Sometimes I feel like he is walking right beside me whispering his lies into my ear every minute he gets a chance.  I want to just say, “Aren’t there other people on this planet that you want to talk to?  I’m nobody!  Go torment someone else.”  Every day I tell him to go back to hell, and everyday I get better at seeing him and saying it.  The Savior is stronger than he is and Job knew it.  I know it too, and he isn’t going to beat me. I imagine the Savior looking at Satan and just saying, “Keep working on her!  I know how strong she is.  You’re just tempering the steel of her blade and one of these days she’s going to stab you through the heart with it.”  I am his instrument being fired with Satan’s fire.  He’s not going to win because my story was written long ago and I’ve already won.  Just like Job won.  Just like the Savior won.  I am HIS handmaid and I was born to win this fight. 

It’s a broken world, but we are not without hope. We have the Master on our side and he is Mighty to Save!  We are enough.  We are strong.  Satan will not take us.  I have a vision of a body of broken saints rising to meet the tide of wickedness, challenging the evil around us, and knocking Satan on his butt.  Let’s do this.

Broken like Nike

Nike of Samothrace

“There are three elements to remember in teaching reading,” my elementary education professor explained. “There is the author, the text, and the reader. The author puts their ideas into the text. The reader reads the text, applies their own background experiences and perspective, and creates their own interpretation of the text. The interpretation will depend as much on the reader as it does on the author.”

To expound on this idea, he had us respond to certain symbols, texts and even numbers. He wrote the numbers 9-11-2001 on the board and asked students to name ideas connected to those numbers. We made a class mind map of ideas that included words like terrorism, airliners, trade center, New York City, pentagon. This was in 2002. He asked us what those numbers would have meant to us two years prior.   Those numbers would have been a meaningless date.  It was a powerful lesson.  What we bring to a message is what we will take away from it.

What does the word broken mean? The Savior prizes broken. The Savior requires a broken heart from everyone as a prerequisite to salvation. Broken can mean different things to different people. To my dad broken means a old beater car that can’t be fixed and has to be taken to the dump. Some days I feel like that kind of broken. Most days I have the faith to see myself like the Nike statue. It’s broken and it’s lovely and valuable. It is one of the most celebrated statues in the whole world and it’s broken!  Imagine that.  I’m broken, but not without hope. I write because of the hope that is in me. The depression is hard, the anxiety is torturous, but the faith and hope are there too. I am beautiful, I have wings, I have value, but I am broken; and that’s okay.  I’m broken like the Goddess of Victory!  Things could be much worse.

I want to tell each of you readers that I love you. Some of you come to my blog because you are worried sick about me. Some of you come because you want to know what the crazy lady is writing today. Some of you see my openness about my pain and the hope within me as courage. You love it and it gives you energy to fight your own battles with a fallen world. In John 6:26 the Savior perceives that some people are only coming to hear him for the food! I didn’t bring a casserole to this potluck, so I know you aren’t here for the food.  What you interpret from what I write is your business. Why you read what I have to say is about you. I’m too concerned with my own faults to judge you, but I would like to hear from you.

 If you can gather the courage, I would like to hear why you come to my blog. It can be an uncomfortable place. Why do you want to be here? I would love to know. Post in the comments or on Facebook.

Being a Dandelion

Sometimes the pain is so intense that words just can’t describe.  Sometimes the yuck just keeps coming and tears and tissues won’t wash it away.  This kind of pain doesn’t yield to pills or clever maxims.  Prayers don’t make it go away.

Wesley came down from playing his Wii game to find me drowning in my tears. His face screwed up in anger and pain, he said, “I don’t want anybody hurting my mommy!!”  I hugged him and told him it would be okay.  I told him I had been reading about Jesus.  He went around doing good.  He healed people like me, forgotten, broken people that no one could help.  He can help me.  He will help me.

I know that he suffered in the garden.  He bled for me.  He cared for me enough to die for me.  He knows my burden and he feels my pain with me.  I can’t write what happened or the source of my pain.  I’ll just tell a story, like the Savior used to do.

Once upon a time there was a gardener who only liked roses.  One day in her garden, a dandelion grew.  She thought it was a rose until one day it bloomed and it was a bright yellow flower.  It was different and she didn’t like it.

The gardener said, “Go away, you don’t fit in the garden box.”

The dandelion said, “I’m a flower, God made me like this.”

The gardener said, “Only roses can live here. Be a rose, then you can stay.”

“Roses are big and beautiful and expensive,” the dandelion insisted, “They
have thorns.  I am free.  I have no thorns.  I am yours, God sent me to you.  I have many petals like the rose.  Look at me and see.  I’m beautiful too, God sent me to you.”

“You aren’t beautiful,” scolds the gardener, “You are a weed, and no one
likes you.”

“Look at the children,” the dandelion said sadly.  “They love me.”  Tears dropped like dew.

“Children don’t count,” the gardener said impatiently.  “Only important people matter. And important flowers.  You can change,” insisted the gardener.  “If you become a rose, you can stay and I will love you.”

The dandelion died of shame and a broken heart that day, but God had mercy
on her.  He turned her yellow petals into white flying seeds that the gardener’s children blew all around and now they grow in the grass and the fields and the roadsides where unimportant people can love them. 

Someday I hope in heaven that I have a garden full of dandelions.  I’ve always loved them.  They are beautiful to everyone until they grow up to learn that they aren’t supposed to be beautiful.  Because I never grew up, they will always be beautiful to me.  I see myself in them.  

 

 

Between the Mirrors

Ben and I on our wedding day standing in front of the temple doors.

I stood beside Ben a little over seventeen years ago in the Salt Lake Temple. That beautiful building was the place where my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were married. Together, dressed in our wedding and temple clothing Ben and I looked into a large mirror on one wall of the ceiling room. On the other side was another large mirror, so that the reflections seemed to stretch in a shadowy corridor into infinity. It was a powerful metaphor to teach us the vital importance of our place at that time, between the mirrors.

As I return to that memory, I can almost imagine my ancestors dressed in white, standing in the shadows, watching.  Always watching.  Also, my children, their wives and their children, watching.  Because what happens between the mirrors is what is important.  It is where everything changes.

Eternal things don’t change.  Temporal things change.  When we come to this mortal world, we fall, as Adam and Eve fell into a place where things are in a constant state of flux, being born and dying in an ever changing cycle.  Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same, everything dies.  Where we came from, it was not this way.  Where we go after this life, it will not be this way.  This life is the time to prepare to meet God, to find the Savior and own him our Lord.  That is our one task while we enter the realm between the mirrors.

Edwin Harris Cutler, my Great Grandfather

Last night I couldn’t sleep.  As the clock went from eleven o’clock, to twelve o’clock to one, I started to pray as I often do when I can’t sleep.  The silent stillness of the night seems to make my prayers reverberate and ascend to heaven more swiftly.   My mind went to my great grandfather Edwin Harris Cutler.  I had been reading about him that night on Family Search.  He was a school teacher like me.  He died when I was one year old, almost to the day.  I have no memory of him, and I often get him confused with the many other Edwin Cutlers in his line.  I got the distinct impression that although I don’t know him, he knows me very well.  “You are in the arena,” he said, “We all see you, and our hopes and prayers are with you.”

I imagined myself leaving this life and entering the mirror shadow corridor to take my place with the others.  There I will watch my descendants enter the space between the mirrors, see them take my place, bear the burdens that I bore, struggle with the genes I struggled with, battle the enemy I fought.  I will pray for them always.  I will cry with them, I will stand beside them when they are too weary to go on.  I will guard them from harm and warn them of danger.  Of course I will.  I will hope beyond hope that perhaps they will get it right.  Perhaps they will realize at last, the potential that I know is in our DNA; the potential that has been hampered by sin and false traditions, by pride and weaknesses that I strove to overcome while I was between the mirrors.  I will see in them, the sins I am guilty of and their devastating consequences.  That will be my hell.  I will see in them, the virtue I possessed and passed on.  That will be my heaven.

And so I live another day between the mirrors.  It doesn’t feel like the work I do, tending sick children, wiping noses, making peanut butter sandwiches, and teaching life lessons, is very significant.  It is of little consequence to this world, but it is eternally significant.  I live between the mirrors and I have the opportunity to bless my future family by the decisions I make today to trust in my Savior, follow his commandments, and draw strength from his love.  They watch me and they cheer for me, my guardian angels.  I can’t see them, but they are there and I can feel their love, blended with His love.  My Savior and Redeemer, the source of my hope and my salvation!