Sunday, April 20, 2014

Beautiful in Death

She died on Good Friday, with loved ones near, mortal and unseen, held by love until love could not hold her anymore.

Outside her window, the breeze tore cherry blossoms from a pair of trees in their Easter best, weightless petals carried beyond their power to a beautiful grave. That same breeze brought a small company of geese, returning with the graceful season, begging to carry her to a new home.

Her death was beautiful. Her life was beautiful. Impractically, imperfectly, inescapably beautiful. But it was not lost. Not forever.
Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come. —Joseph B. Wirthlin
We were all present in His death, and we all share responsibility for the death of our Savior. The transgression of just one made His death necessary.

We gave Him that Friday, but what did He give in return? He gave us Easter Sunday—a reason to hope, a reason to fight on, a reason to live and live again, beautifully.

In memory of Cleo Maureen Calder Montgomery • July 16, 1930 – April 18, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Because of Him

So many things are possible because of Him. He has already made them possible. Some of these things will be possible for us only if we will let them be possible.



Read the story of the last week so Jesus' life here (the companion reference is here).

Have a wonderful Easter week.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Heal Your Marriage

Relationships that work are more give than take.

You must give first, not stingily last. If you give, it will not return to you void.

What does your wife want, above all else? To be cherished and adored. Why don't you give her that?

What does your husband want, more than anything? To be really needed and tenderly nurtured. Why won't you give him that?

I had a very tough week. My wife gave me
calla lilies. She knows how to love me.

If you want to heal your marriage, love your wife the way she wants to be loved. Find out how she wants to be loved by talking to her—a lot—then love her that way. She will repay you a thousand times.

If you want to heal your marriage, be strong and independent, but love your husband with gentle, kind, tender, nurturing words. It is an irresistible force. It is the power that holds the universe together. Nothing can compare to it.

Listen to her. Stop judging him. Sacrifice for her. Retire your sharp evening words forever.

Ask as many questions as you have to ask to get to the bottom of what is bothering her. (This takes courage.) Listen with both eyes and both ears. Take notes and write them on your soul. 

Even though he has a tough time talking about what he is feeling, put a hand on his back and let him know that you really appreciate him. Appreciating him will help him understand himself, and if he understands himself, he'll have more to say.

Your marriage can work, but you have to stop waiting for him to "get it," or for her to stop begging for your attention with bitter words. You have to act. First.

It's time to take out the white flag and wave it high. Recreate your love life by not waiting for someone else to do something different.

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men [and women] give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38).

If you are angry and unhappy, there is something true that you don't believe. What is it?

Believe the truth and live it. It will never let you down.

But the price is everything. That's the exchange rate. Nothing less.

(If you are not getting what you really want, you are holding back.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More on Words Are Fire

Continuing yesterday's musings, I assure you that I have't figured the language thing out yet, but I'm on a path that's much higher than the one I was on when I was 17, higher yet than the one I was on in 1993, even higher than a year ago.

Remember the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? I've never believed it. When I was young, words hurt me a lot. They crushed me. They still do.

I am getting out of the business of shabby words. I no longer want to be a perpetrator or victim.

But I most definitely am not there yet. Every day, I regret something I say, analyze and over analyze my words, and find myself apologizing for something I said. It is unamusing.  Mortality is not over, so my battle continues.

But I don't fret over setbacks. I expect them. Plan on them. And I know what to do when they come along: move on, quickly.

Most of all, I refuse to defend my naked ego—a pitiful little form of myself that inspires no awe.

When I feel defensive—and I often do—I know that I am fighting a losing battle. Why not save my energy for something worthwhile? I accept my weaknesses but I don't cling to them.

You may or may not believe in the existence of the unseen enemies of God. They are real, and our battle with them goes on. They prefer to work anonymously, but when they get desperate, they make the mistake of showing themselves.

They are a bitter, unhappy bunch, driven by the worst motivations. They pursue us with wild-eyed fear. They know their time is short. They will try anything and stop at nothing. They have forgotten decency and honor no boundaries. They feel immorally obligated to tear down, and if they can, destroy, the children of light.

I am familiar with their language. You probably are too. They like us to quote them. In fact, they take fiendish delight when we do. I myself have given their ilk much delight over the years. As time passes, I am more and more aware of their schemes and purposes and how I have been deceived by them.

I know if I say anything in the heat of anger, anything tainted in the least by spite, pride, aggrandizement, or selfishness, that I am serving a puny god.

I work hard not to do it, and if I do, I work hard to correct it and pray for the strength and grace to do so.

I must close for now, but here is another passage that helps me when I give license to the natural man: 
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. . . . Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:34–37.)
I have more to confess on this subject (it occupies my mind) but that must come on another day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Our Words Are Fire

I have danced and wrestled with words my whole life. My father taught me how to court them, pay attention to them, and to love them.

One of the most memorable gifts Dad ever gave me was a little volume of Shakespeare's sonnets and love poems. On the day he gave that book to me, he confessed that he had taken a similar volume with him when he went into the service in 1944. He carried it in a duffel bag throughout the war.

When I asked him what a word meant when I was a boy, Dad would often say: "Look it up." That was some of the best career advice I ever got. Fifty years later, I still look up words every day. I even read the dictionary on a regular basis. (Hey, I heard that! "Word geek.")

To say that I love words is vastly understating the case. I want them to love me back so I have to take care of them. This love is conditional.

I used a lot of bad language when I was a boy. It went on for years until one day the Spirit healed my mind. It literally happened in one day. It was not gradual. It was like a divine hand turned off a switch. I was 17 years old. I have never gone back to my cowboy-word days.

Our words are our words. We own them unless we let them own us.

Our words are fire. They are the embers of our souls. They can sanctify or destroy, save or condemn.

They are investments that either lose or gain value, depending on how we use them. They are enchantments that vex or heal.

Words cannot escape your lips without your permission. Don't give any words that you don't like permission to leave your body. (The next step is to not let them live in your body, but that discussion is for another day.)

How we use them is our choice, but sometimes they feel out of control. If they feel that way for you, I have something you can try: Create a fire line.

One tactic for fighting wildfires is to get out ahead of the fire and cut a gash in the terrain to stop the fire—to clear away any flammable material so the fire has nothing to burn.

The fire line I'm suggesting is a commitment on principle, a commitment so strong that when a destroying fire reaches it, it has nothing to burn.

Here is one fire line I have adopted:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesian 4:29–32.)
I have memorized these verses. I repeat them to myself often. With spiritual mortar I have laid them into my foundation. Another favorite verse:
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (D&C 50:23.)
If I am not building up, I am tearing down, and if I am tearing down, I am walking in darkness.

And I've gone a little deeper. I have made a personal commitment to never speak ill of another person nor speak negatively of anyone or anything. Does that sound hard? It isn't. You get stronger and stronger over time.

If you make commitments and really perspire when keeping them, the commitments will become part of you. You won't be perfect in keeping them, but they will make you mindful. They will make you work harder. They will make you face your shame. They will make you accountable. They will protect and heal you. I promise.

Let me conclude with one of my favorite scriptures—a great reminder from King Benjamin to mind my words:
I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not. (Mosiah 4:29–30).
Your commitment is a fire line. It will keep your combustibles under control.

Words were meant to be your friends, not your enemies.

I hope to write more about this soon. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

After the Rain

Clouds are dreams
floating above us
anonymously,

But are known to
hurl down furious reminders
one at a time.

An unexpected telegram, delivered
with utmost dignity, but without
a return address.

Last week one said,
unapologetically,
Look up, you foolish man.

—Michael James Fitzgerald

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Seven Doors to the Soul

I believe in the soul. You have one. I have one. I am not completely sure what a soul is made of, but I am sure it is there.

When protected, it is a fortress—with seven doors, doors that can only be opened by your permission.

Happy is the soul who guards those doors wisely.

The first door, the eyes. Your eyes are the proverbial window to your soul. We open our eyes to see a scene, a person, a truth. We let the image in. For good or ill, the image becomes part of your being.

Second, the ears. We listen to others through our ears but also with our souls. At first we may listen without the other person really knowing we are listening to them. We are interested. We are intrigued. We quiet ourselves and listen.

This happened on my mission: I helped teach an investigator in Kirtland, Ohio back in 1978. Nothing happened. Fourteen years later, I saw him again and he revealed to me that he had listened to our testimonies and "devoured" a book we had given him, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards. I didn't know that at the time. When I saw him that day in the Portland Oregon Temple, he presented his temple recommend to me (I worked at the recommend desk). It was profound evidence that a door to his soul had quietly opened many years before.

The third is the mouth. With trust and confidence gained from eyes and ears, we begin to speak and share. We open up. First, we may share a simple fact from our lives, but as trust grows, we reveal ever deepening avowals. With the people you trust the most, you can share anything without fear; with those we fear, we conceal our essence.

The fourth portal is the mind. We open our thoughts to ponder and meditate. We let words and ideas distill upon us, drop by drop. We think about an experience over and over. It can be our own experience or the experience of another. The mind, of course, is involved from the beginning, but the door fully opens through intentional thought, deliberate meditation.

An example of this for me is the experience of our Savior in the garden Gethsemane, something I've pondered for many years. I think of how He felt completely alone, how He begged for relief, and how He yielded. How He did not bleed until He completely yielded. That is my own conclusion; it does not come from the scriptures, but it feels true to me. I will hold it as true until someone convinces me otherwise, but I won't teach it as doctrine. I offer it only as an opinion that has passed through a door to my soul.

The fifth, the heart. The mind is a pathway to the heart. I am not speaking of the physical heart that pumps blood through our veins. I am talking about something else. I don't really know what the heart is. It may be connected to the physical heart but it is much larger. It is at the center of our bodies. It glows and vibrates and shines and crackles. We weep and laugh. We may open this door when we are reading a book or writing one or listening to a talk in sacrament meeting or talking to a spouse, a child, a friend, even a stranger or listening to a sparrow or the wind sing, or contemplating a memory or the voice of the Holy Spirit. The heart is the sail of the soul.

The sixth is the spirit. Your soul, your eternal friend, is a union of your body and spirit. It is where the physical meets the spiritual. It is where the past meets the future. It is eternal. It is where we see across a vast expanse, forward and backward, into a time and place we seem to remember but cannot fully grasp. It is a place where we come to understanding or recollection before the mind and heart arrives. It is where we connect with the truth. When we connect with it, when that door is open to it, we forget we are on earth. Heaven is here and now. It is a way to peace, a peace that goes beyond understanding. 

The seventh and last is sacred, human touch. This is the door we often open too early. We are anxious to open it. We are desperate to find a soul mate. We think when we open that door that it will throw open all the other doors, but in this we are often disappointed. When physical touch begins so does trouble when that touch comes too early.

My wife and I never kissed until after we were engaged. We had known each other for over three years. To some that may seem Victorian, but really it was reverence for the sacred and reverence helps relationships last.

No door to the soul is more sensitive to timing than human touch. No door is deeper in the fortress. When it is opened in the right way with the right person at the right time, it is a joyful door to open, this final door. But this is why divorce and unstable relationships can be so painful and harmful. We long for the last door to be opened, but when we open it at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons or with the wrong person, it can destroy us.

These are the doors to your soul—our fortress.

Let no enemy enter.