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Once Blind, Now I See

Visualization is a scripture study skill where you try to imagine in your mind what you are reading about.  I think of it like being a movie director.  If I were making a movie about this scene, how would I do it.  What would the characters look like, young or old, male or female?  How would they be dressed?  What would the weather be like, the scenery?  Then I like to think about each character and about their “motivation”, I mean how they are feeling, what they bring to the scene.  It can be very powerful and help me see things I hadn’t noticed in the scriptures before.  For example this excerpt from Matthew 20:

30 ¶And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

 31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

 32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?

 33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.

 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

I don’t even remember reading this story before though I’m sure I have.  The first thing that struck me was about the possible friendship that the two blind men shared.  To me the idea of being blind sounds terrifying.  If I had to choose, I would choose almost anything else, the world is scary enough sometimes when you can see it coming.  These two men were facing one of my greatest fears, but they were not alone, they had each other.

It made me stop and think about friendship and how important it is in our lives.  We, human beings, are wired for connection.  Sometimes we marry our friends, or our friends are blood-related.  Sometimes they are people we found while we were sitting on the sidewalk.  But whether they’ve been there all your life (like family) or they come to you along the way, what matters is that they are there for you in those dark moments.  When you cry out for help and the rest of the world ignores you or rebukes, you but that friend is there.

And who else is there?  Christ.  How did they know He was near?  They couldn’t see Him.  They must have heard the voices in the crowd.   Perhaps they felt a different energy in the air.  Somehow they knew.  It is the same for us.  We can’t see Him, and yet He is there for us in our darkest hours.

Finally, over the voices of the crowd, He heard them and answered their request.  They did what good friends do, they got up and followed Him.

Had He helped you to see?  Are you following Him, being a loyal friend?  It reminds me of the song, Amazing Grace.  “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”  This is the invitation He extends to all of us. It’s our choice whether we follow Him, or stay behind in the dark.

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Light of the World

The many names of the Savior and their symbolism are fascinating to me.  One of my favorites is Light of the World.  This is because I love light and hate the darkness.  Ever since I heard of people in the Twin Towers on 9/11 making their way IN THE DARK down flights and flights of stairs, I have tried to keep flashlights readily available.  I have one in my purse, one in the car, one next to my bed, and there is even a flashlight in my bathroom.  While this might seem to border on paranoia (and maybe it does) but since I live in Western Washington where we experience frequent power outages in the winter, it comes in pretty handy.

A More Permanent Darkness

When I was 10 years old, a friend of mine told me he had leukemia and might die.  At the time my family and I did not attend church.  I had no idea what dying meant, really.  One of the first things that came to my mind was that it was like going to sleep and never waking up-a permanent form of darkness.  I was horrified by that idea.  That was when my search for God began.

Christ is that light that saves us from permanent darkness.  Unlike my flashlights, His light is not dependent on batteries or light bulbs.  His is a constant and dependable source of light.

Everlasting Light

This week in my reading in the New Testament, I came across another symbolism of Christ as the Light of the World that I had not noticed before.  I might have missed it this time too if it weren’t for theInstitute Manual.  The stories from John 7 took place during the “Feast of Tabernacles”.  This was one of the “greatest and most joyful” of the feasts.  While their customs were different than anything we do today, I’ve read that it loosely relates to our Thanksgiving.

The festivities included, “On the temple mount, four large golden candelabras (also called menorahs or candlesticks) illuminated the temple grounds during dances and other festivities held late into the night and early morning. The golden candelabras, which were 50 cubits tall (approximately 73 feet or 22.25 meters), not only provided light for the celebrations, but they symbolized that Israel was to be a light to those who walked in darkness.” New Testament Student Manual

That is mind boggling to me–73 feet tall!  How tall is that?  I wanted to be able to compare it to something so I did a quick google search and learned that wooden phone poles are approx. 24 ft tall.  Suffice it to say 73 feet is ginormous. So imagine the surprise of the Jewish leaders, who were seeking to entrap Jesus, when He stood before these giant candelabras and proclaimed Himself to be “the Light of the World.”

It’s powerful, stunning and beautiful to me all at the same time.

 

Photo attribution: LDS Media Images

Roman soldier

The Believers

My therapist says that healing is like a coil, it may feel like we are going round and round (and round!) in circles, but hopefully that coil is vertical and we are moving upwards at the same time.  I like that analogy-like a spiral staircase.  I find that I’m on that spiral staircase in my relationship with Heavenly Father and Christ (as well as many other issues).  I feel close to them, then I feel confused, and distant, then something happens and I feel close to them again.  And round and round I go.  As part of my effort to be sure the staircase is ascending, and not heading off in any other direction, I’ve decided to focus on the stories of “believers” as I find them in the scriptures.  I hope to be inspired and moved by them.  I’m leaving out the people who were physically healed for this project mostly because their healing was instantaneous while ours is generally slow.)

In my reading last week, I learned about Nathanael (John 1:47-51).  Nathanael believed because Christ said, “Before that Phillip called thee when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.”  That was enough for Nathanael to proclaim Jesus, the Son of God.  I am so impressed by Nathanael’s humility (I think many people, myself included would be hindered by our pride and be a bit more skeptical.)  I’m also impressed with his faith.  This story reminds me to look back on all the ways that God has blessed my life, and really their are many.  If Nathanael could believe with just one comment, surely I can believe because I have been given much.

This week, I read about the Roman Centurion who came to Jesus to plead for his sick servant.  Jesus offered to come right away, but the Centurion wasn’t having it.  He said he was not worthy of such a visit, but asked that Christ only speak the words and He knew it would be done.  Christ was very pleased with him, and the servant was healed.

This story fascinates me because this is not what I would have expected from a Roman Centurion.  From what I have read Roman soldiers and their leaders were fierce fighters, whether it is fair or not, I’ve always imagined them to be–not nice people.  (As an aside, a book I’m currently reading is softening my heart by helping me see that they were undoubtedly affected by their surroundings.  The book is called The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How God People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo, PhD.  This book helps me understand why God is willing in some cases to even forgive murderers.)  What the Roman did is amazing for several reasons:

  1. Rome ruled over Israel at this time, so the Centurion could have made the mistake of seeing Christ, along with all other Jews, as his inferiors.  But he didn’t.
  2. He plead for his servant, who is also technically his inferior.
  3. Again he showed humility by saying he was not worthy for Christ to come to his house.
  4. Finally, he had enough faith to trust on words alone that his servant (friend?) would be healed.

No wonder Christ was impressed with this man!  This story is a reminder to me to be humble but also in those moments that I don’t feel worthy to ask for anything for myself, I can still reach out and ask for blessings for those I love.

 

Photo Attribution: LDS Media Library

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Walk With Me

Dear Friends,

It’s been awhile, but here we are.  I’ve missed you.  I mean to say, I’ve missed interacting with you by sharing my thoughts and reading your comments.  What brings me back now is a class, a religion class, where I’m encouraged to share what I’m learning.  The class is on the first half of the New Testament.  As you may know if you’ve been here before, the stories about the Savior from the New Testament, and His teachings were a great comfort to me in a difficult time of my life so taking this class feels like coming home.  I’m really excited to study the New Testament in depth again, and I’d love for you to join me.

Something I really enjoy about this religion class is the tips on different ways to delve deeper into the scriptures, to truly drink from them, not just casually read.  This week the study skill I used was called: Lists.

“A list is a purposeful grouping that items are included in a list or excluded for a purpose. For a purpose like you make a grocery list and you make a separate list like a to-do list or a chore list or a homework list. A list implies that the things on that list are there together for a purpose. So the first question when you find a list is what’s the purpose of the list, what’s the topic, what’s the subject? What is the Lord trying to talk to me here? Another really good question to ask is does the list have an order to it? Are the things on the list being presented according to some ordered scheme, like chronology or hierarchy or process.” Dale Strum, BYU-Idaho

Lists are one of my favorite study skills to use.  It seems fairly simple, and it is, but somehow looking for these lists helps me see things I might have otherwise not noticed.  Sometimes lists simply help me bring things together that I love.  For example this list of Christ’s names thus far: Emmanuel: God With Us, Son of the Highest, and Word of God.  Each of those names could be a blog post on their own.

I also wrote a couple quick, fun (at least to me) lists.  Here’s one:

The Angel’s Instructions to Joseph:

  • Arise – take the child and His mother
  •  Flee in to Egypt
  • Stay there until you hear from me.

It occurred to me that at different times in our lives, we may have been given very similar instructions.

  • Arise-follow Him
  • Flee from sin and temptation
  • Stay there- be strong in the faith, keep the commandments

I really loved this list that I found in the Institute Manual:

Primary Audience

  • Matthew – Jewish People
  • Mark – Romans
  • Luke – Greeks
  • John – Members of the church

Wow, how did I never notice that before!

Do you make lists when you read the scriptures?  What lists have you found?

Til next time . . .

 

Photo attribution: LDS Media Library

A Midsummer-Night's Dream public domain

Healing from Abuse: Night Visitors

Friday Flashbacks–particularly for my new readers, I thought I would share some past posts to give you hope.  I have come a long way (and still have a ways to go), but my posts are more upbeat these days. If you are hurting right now, hopefully these posts will give you hope that things can get better for you as they have for me.

A Midsummer-Night's Dream public domain
A Midsummer-Night’s Dream public domain

Have you ever pondered the guests who come to your house when all is dark and the world is asleep?

Invited Night Guests

The Sandman
Santa Claus
Tooth Fairy
Leprechauns
Easter Bunny
Shoemaker’s Elves

Uninvited Party Crasher

Fear

Fear is a worse companion than Pain.  Pain comes alone, but Fear always has some creepy companions…don’t ask me who they are, I don’t dare look that closely, do you?  Pain sits with you and puts blinders on, then slowly tortures you, but Fear…ahh, Fear dances around.  It teases you.  It plays Hide and Seek, and Peek-a-Boo.

Tonight Fear paid me a visit. It was like when you are watching a movie and the suspenseful music starts and you know something bad is about to happen.  The hair rises on the back of your neck, you feel your body tense and your mouth goes dry.  If the fear gets too intense, you remind yourself that it is just a movie.

Unfortunately this movie was in my own mind, a memory close to resurfacing, I think.  It is awful to feel like a child again when that child experienced trauma and no comfort.  It is hard to trust that comfort will come this time.

“Trust,” part of me whispers, “trust someone will be there.”

“Yeah,” another part answers…”like Santa Claus, or The Sandman.”

Trust. . .I reach for it, but it is just outside my grasp.  Fear is closer, smothering now.

I hope the dawn comes soon.

Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Monday Mitzvah: Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hello everyone!  I’m back with a blog facelift (it’s most noticeable on the home page–how do you like it?) and another Monday Mitzvah.  Perhaps you need this little pick me up more than usual.  Holidays can be hard for survivors for so many reasons.  It’s also the first Monday back to school for many.

In case you are new (and if so welcome!) mitzvahs are small acts of service.  The idea comes from Linda Cohen’s book 1000 Mitzvahs, because Linda’s father loved mitzvahs, after his death she set a goal to do 1,000 mitzvahs to help ease her grieving.   I write about mitzvahs that are small enough that anyone could do them–meaning even someone that is severely depressed, even suicidal, because I think mitzvahs do have power to help us and the people we share them with.

Today, I want to share a video that I discovered on Facebook.  I really love this idea.  Such a small thing–express gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life.  And yet you can see how powerfully it affected the people in this experiment.

Now here’s the challenge for you–express gratitude to someone today.  You choose how big or how small…you could make a phone call like they did in the video, write a letter, or send a text. It’s your mitzvah so you can make it as simple or complicated as you like depending on how stressed and/or you may or may not be today. Just do it–even if it’s small.

I’ll start.  I am so grateful for all of you that read this blog.  Writing has been such a powerful outlet to me in my healing.  But not just any writing would do–I needed to share what I was writing with someone and blogging gave me the perfect platform for that.  The great thing about blogging is I know you will only be here if you want to be.  So when you leave me comments, here or on FB, when you click LIKE, or when you simply read (and I know someone has been here by looking at my blog stats).  It means so much to me.  It tells me that people care, and I think that is one of the most important parts of the healing process.  At least it has been for me.

So thank you for sharing this journey with me!  Sometimes people ask me, “Is it okay if I share your blog with a friend who is struggling?”  My answer is always YES.  Yes and yes!  Please do.  Sharing is the best compliment.

Now don’t forget your challenge–go express gratitude to someone.  Happy Monday!

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New “Motto’s” for the New Year

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We know that New Year’s Resolutions are rarely successful, but I can’t resist the temptation of a new year!  So instead of resolutions, I’m creating new “motto’s”.  I love personal mottos.  I create them to help me remember things ideas and principles (or in this case goals) that might otherwise slip out of my consciousness.  For example, my first motto was/is, “Don’t judge yourself by other people’s values.”

I created this motto because I realized that I was judging myself for not having accomplished more financial success in my life.  One day I had an epiphany.  It was never my goal when I was younger to make a lot of money.  I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom–not a lot of money there.  I also thought about being a teacher–not a lot of money there.  When I look back on my actual goals and values, I realize I have succeed at my goals!  And it made me feel a lot better about myself. Thus: don’t judge your success by other people’s values.

Here are some mottos I would like to make part of me during this new year.

1–You’ve got to move it, move it.

If you have a song playing in your head now, my apologies *snicker, snicker*  Hey, I didn’t say the motto had to be original or profound.  It is simply a way to keep something important in the forefront of my mind.  I need more exercise.  In addition to the traditional ideas about that, I think if find other opportunities to move, it would help.  I mean: make it fun, make it part of me, for example, last night at work I was dancing in the kitchen while waiting for the microwave (don’t laugh, no one saw me!  I figure all extra movement is good.)

2–You are what you eat.

Again not original, but something I need.  Several years ago, I went through a “health craze”.  I radically changed my diet, lost weight and most importantly, felt better emotionally and physically.  So what happened?  Emotional eating sabotaged me!  Sigh.  Now with a couple years of therapy under my belt, and some difficult emotions and memories excised, it’s time to try and tackle the emotional eating again.  I know I feel better when I eat healthier so: You are what you eat.

3–Hablar es querer

It means to speak is to love.  My oldest son is going to Argentina soon on an LDS/Mormon mission.  I’m excited, nervous and grieving all at once.  I’m tickled that he will be learning Spanish, because I learned Spanish when I went to Venezuela (just a few years back, okay more than a few years.  But who’s counting?)  I still use my Spanish, but I want it to be tip-top when my son comes back.  So I’ll work on that, and maybe I will even succeed in helping the rest of the family learn a little Spanish too!

4–Stupid is the New Smart

I got that one from Richie Norton in his book The Power of Starting Something Stupid.  This one is about my goal to self-publish my book, Touching His Robe, this year.  Hopefully, you are thinking, “That’s not stupid, Leslie!”  (You are thinking that aren’t you?)  Anyway, I vacillate between excitement about it and thinking “no one other than a few friends will by it” yada yada.  I go through this with everything I write.

I have high hopes for 2014.  I think it’s going to be a great year.  How about you?  Do you have any new mottos?  Or resolutions, you can share those too.