Most Beautiful Words

“I will never fear to read what you have to say. Even if I disagree with it. Your friendship means more to me than that, and I can bear the burden of learning to comprehend you.” — My good friend, Rocky Cordray

This wasn’t said to me, but is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen a person say to another. If we all did only this ONE thing for each other – bear the burden of truly learning to understand one another, this world would BE “Zion”.

The Reunion

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)

As I sit here preparing to write this post, I’m torn between having no words, and feeling like there aren’t enough words to describe this incredible weekend. Maybe between myself and the others who will certainly be sharing their experiences from this weekend too, those who weren’t able to attend can feel a bit of the light and the pure love of Christ, that was so abundant. The reunion was an amazing success in my opinion. I will be so bold as to say that the Lord was there, and the conditions that make Zion possible were being manifest.

I am grateful to Bret and Samantha for all their sacrifices, and the punishment they took to do what the Lord led them to do. I’m grateful for everyone who sacrificed with them and put this together, and all those who made it possible for everyone who wanted to, to be there. Everyone involved gave a piece of themselves to make this possible for everyone.

I arrived late on Friday, so my first evening was spent saying a quick hello to many people who were there listening to the first speakers. How amazing it is – EVERY TIME, to be reunited with my most wonderful friends I’ve known for lifetimes, and to meet some of you for the first time, in this one. These reunions remind me of this scripture:

“And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other;”  (Moses 7:63)

Every time I experience these amazing spiritual connections that are forming among us, I feel more love for every individual than I can even contain. But I’ll talk more about that later.

The second day, I spent the afternoon with the teenagers helping them with an end-times simulation activity they had planned and organized themselves. I enjoyed getting to know them over the weekend; I was SO impressed with these kids. I have never seen a more spiritually mature group of youth before. They are strong and not simply following their parents on their path, but forging their own paths because of the examples of their courageous parents. They talked openly with their peers about the things they were studying – and some of them talked with me as intelligent ancient souls, about doctrines I’ve only known about for couple years myself. They testified of conversations with the Lord and shared some of their amazing personal revelations and visions with the group. I couldn’t help feeling like I was seeing the scriptures come alive before me:

“Behold, it came to pass on the morrow that the multitude gathered themselves together, and they both saw and heard these children; yea, even babes did open their mouths and utter marvelous things; and the things which they did utter were forbidden that there should not any man write them.” (3 Nephi 26:16)

This kind of behavior was rampant among the youth there! These kids are INTERESTED in the fullness of the Gospel and are being very proactive about knowing the Lord for themselves. They are all facing unique life challenges in choosing to follow the Lord the way they are.  And as I listened to them talk about these struggles throughout the weekend, I marveled that every one of them ended their accounts with something  like this:

…but I know I’m doing what the Lord wants me to do, and He will lead me.

After the teen activity, we met up with the adults on the mountain to gather around the campfire at the lodge, and bear testimony together. It was just awesome. This was not a group of people standing to offer thanktimonies or travelogues; people were testifying of knowing and talking with the Lord, of visions, of being taught by angels, of Baptism by Fire and the Holy Ghost, of being called to do life changing things to serve the Lord, of miracles, and of recognizing these eternal spiritual connections among us that are growing. Testimonies like these continued throughout the weekend and ALL were lifted up and made lighter by the things that were shared.

As I participated in this activity, I observed a group of the most kind and considerate individuals while we were there. All of us were freezing, and all of us needed chairs and warmth. But many people gave up their own chairs for others, found more for late-comers, and shared blankets, gloves, hats, room by the fire, “hot” chocolate, and anything else they had to share. I am grateful for the chair, the gloves, the blanket, the “hot” chocolate, and the woman who held my boy the entire meeting while I was in too much pain to hold him anymore.

_MG_3302One man received a witness there on the mountain, that he needed to be baptized unto the Lord. The handful of us with him scouted around and found an opening in the icy mountain water where he could fulfill the ordinance. Travis shared the journey he had traveled to reach that point and was bold in testifying that he needed to be baptized that day. My good friend Vaughn stood in the ice water with his arms raised to heaven and prayed before this ordinance, and then baptized Travis with authority and power. I watched Travis’ muscles lock up throughout his body from the shock of the extreme cold as he was submerged into the water, but he came up with a huge smile on his face.  All of us there who shared in his baptism experience had the privilege of enjoying in the pure love of Christ among us, and the spirit of God that was there. As we hiked back up the hill to drive back down the mountain, I turned and saw Travis – soaking wet and shivering, kneeling in the snow so he could pray to the God he just covenanted with. I’m so amazed by this new friend of mine and his determination to unabashedly GO and DO what the Lord asked him to do – right then and there, and with no regard to how inconvenient or uncomfortable it was for him at the time.

As I promised, I want to talk more about “spiritual connections”. Many of us have been experiencing this phenomenon. It could be likened to the pure love and spiritual bond between a parent and child. It is eternal and unconditional. When these bonds and connections are realized, it can be powerful and overwhelming. In my experience, it has involved a level of love for the other person that is so utterly powerful that you would do anything you can to love and uplift that individual in the unique ways they need to be loved and uplifted – just like you would for your child. These connections often times open up knowledge by revelation about the other person and their needs. Sometimes the bonds forged are strong enough to make the parties become aware of each other’s feelings, and some individuals seem to become connected telepathically. Spiritual communication becomes possible, joint visions can occur, and the Lord is able to minister to them in tandem. When these connections happen, you start learning what it really means to have the pure love of Christ for someone; the “highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection” (“Charity”, Bible dictionary.) These spiritual connections are essential among those who share in Zion, and are representative of the even greater cooperation and relationships among Gods.

The Savior taught us,

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

This is the pure love of Christ. I would lay down my life for any of those whom I’ve felt these spiritual connections with. This is the kind of love that was utterly abundant at this gathering. There are so many ways one can lay down their life for their friends.

Many of us there (along with others around the world) lay all we could give down as we worked spiritually to keep our friend Candice alive (for those who don’t know her, she’s a member of our community from Nashville).  When she began crashing as she fought to recover from a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), the women at the reunion formed a prayer circle and wept and prayed for two hours, and did all they could to spiritually support her. Others used various spiritual gifts to work to heal her.

Candice’s spirit was with me frequently during those couple days she spent in the hospital. As we were on the Mesa sharing our testimonies, Candice was with me again. I talked with her as I had been and I kept encouraging her to fight, and to be strong, and I reminded her that we love her so much, and that we were fighting with her, and praying for her. As I explained above, this kind of communication becomes possible with these spiritual connections, and it’s truly amazing. But it can also be just as painful as it is amazing. As I sat and listened to the testimonies of my friends on the mountain, I felt Candice “disconnect” very suddenly. I found out a few hours later that my friend had died.11295919_919627358080695_1549892210778419250_n

Everyone’s prayers then extended to Candice’s family and also to each other as we mourned together, and supported one another through various stages of grief. I don’t even know the name of the woman who came to my aid when she found me sobbing after hearing the news, but I truly love her.  All of us there allowed each other to grieve, and all of us there were willing to share the grief our brother or sister carried, too. Although I still have a lot to resolve internally and work through regarding my friend’s death, I am grateful for the lessons I’ve been able to learn from it so far. I refuse to let my friend’s death be for naught. I am grateful for the spiritual connections that were made and fostered between me and the other women at the retreat – because we had the opportunity to serve and love each other as we mourned together. As we held each other and offered comfort, we were also – at the same time, being held and comforted.

Candice saw and felt the amazing cooperation and love that is developing among us, and shared this with me last week before she passed away:

“I felt a feeling the other day that among some of these people I will really finally find a true community.” (Candice Zimmermann, in her last email to me.)

The pure love of Christ does not just extend to those in “our crowd”. My good friend Jefferey gave us all the opportunity to love someone new when he picked up a hitchhiker on his drive across the country to meet with us. The young man’s name is Alec, and he was trying to get to California. Jeffrey brought him the first half of the way and Alec spent the weekend as one of us. He was given food, housed, and fed spiritually as he got to know us and shared this amazing time with us. I was surprised to learn some of the miracles that lined up to bring Alec to this gathering with us.

It turns out that Alec grew up in the LDS church and at this point in his life, he is seeking “something more”. I saw him at a sacrament gathering and offered him a copy of the book my friend Jeremy wrote, “The Journey – Receiving Our Endowment“. He was very gracious and shyly thanked me. I was surprised when I talked with him the next day, and he told me he already read the whole book and loved it! He really appreciated the message and told me that it resonates with him. If you haven’t read the book before, it uncovers some of the meaning behind the symbolic LDS Temple Endowment ceremony. It discusses that the fullness of the Gospel is to be received by the Lord, and then brought to God – in THIS lifetime. I was truly awestruck that this young “random” hitchhiker my friend brought along with him, was standing there telling me how much a message that deep, resonated with him; and I had no doubt at all that he was utterly sincere.

Another friend, Sean, took our new friend Alec further across the country and dropped him off with his brother in Nevada, and also bought a bus ticket to get Alec the rest of the way to his ultimate destination in California. Sean pointed out what I believe to be, a very prophetic parable spoken by the Lord:

“And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?

It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:15-35)

Jeffrey had ears to hear the Lord’s voice and our friend Alec was brought in from the highways to share in this weekend long feast we enjoyed with the Lord.  There truly were no poor among us. I am blessed for knowing Alec and am marveling that this kid filled my heart the way he has.

The last day was bittersweet – filled with joy, love, the spirit of the Lord, more bereavement, and goodbyes. Adrian gave an amazing concluding talk, and did an incredible job of sharing his light and the knowledge God has given to him. He testified boldly and witnessed of things I was so grateful to hear him saying openly, and I add my witness to all he shared. The end was just powerful and one of those things I’ll say, I just have no words to describe.

At least a handful of people learned who they are to the Lord this weekend; they learned that they were for-ordained by God to do great and amazing things to uplift and bring light and the pure love of Christ, to those around them. They learned a little bit more about how the Lord sees them and began to see the heavens opened to them.

I am so utterly grateful I was able to attend this gathering. I experienced connecting with others I love deeply and consider to be family, and experienced becoming “one heart and one mind”; I experienced three days of feasting on the Gospel and with others, communing with the Lord while He confirmed to us that we were there acting in righteousness; and there truly were no poor among us – spiritually, or otherwise. I have been uplifted, comforted, cared for, served, blessed, edified, quickened, and loved – and I had the opportunity to share in all those things with the others who attended, too. There simply was not enough time to enjoy everyone’s company as much as I wanted to – I pray all of our paths will cross again in this lifetime.

If you were unable to attend this gathering and would like to hear the talks that were given over the weekend, you can access the audio files through this link:

REUNION TALKS

To the locals who know the history of this area and who enjoy the spirit surrounding this mountain each day, the Mesa is a sacred place. Now this place is sacred to me, too. For ME, this place, and this people, and this weekend was Zion.

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My Brother in Christ

I have intended to write some of the things I’ve written here, for years now, and was inspired by a good friend to get it done. I admit that in part, I’m writing here to clear my conscience of some things that have weighed upon me for years. But mostly, I want to share some lessons I’ve learned from an important member of my earthly and heavenly family.

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Shiloh Cody Martindale

I have a little brother. He died when he was 2 1/2 years old – a day after contracting viral meningitis. My little brother has come to me several times since he died on the cement floor in front of me when I was 9 years old. The first time he came to me was probably a couple of years after he died. He told me that he was happy and in a wonderful place and I shouldn’t worry about him. He also told me that I would be OK too. At that age, I don’t think I had ever “felt the spirit” more, than when my little brother came to visit me. He has visited with me a few other times too – including one occasion when he came with a group of others who are in my earthly family and otherwise connected to me through my heavenly family. I’ve missed my little brother almost all my life, and he has been a source of strength to me over the years. However, he isn’t the brother I’m going to talk about here.

I have another brother – just 15 months younger than me, who has probably shared more life experiences with me than any other human. But most of our days growing up together were not pleasant.

I used to tease him when we were very little and call him by his full name – emphasizing the “pher” part of Christopher. He would cry, and yell back at me, “Don’t call me Christopher, cuz I don’t have a FIR in me!!” (yes, we were VERY little at the time.)

Being the silly little girl I’ve been at least as long as his 40ish-year long life, I didn’t realize I should have been paying more attention to the “Christ” part of my brother Christopher.

Chris and I both boast fairly strong personalities that created a power struggle between us before we knew how to be kind to each other, and before we realized we don’t have to compete – or at least before I realized those things. Since I am the oldest, I assumed that afforded me the right to “pull rank” anytime I wasn’t getting my way – which was pretty much always.

We look like BFFs in this photo! The truth is, we knew if we yelled "CHEEZE AND CRACKERS" and took a pretty picture, our grandma Brown would feed us some cheese and crackers.

We look like BFFs in this photo! The truth is, we knew if we yelled “CHEEZE AND CRACKERS” and took a pretty picture, our grandma Brown would feed us some cheese and crackers.

I was usually not nice about it when I pulled the rank card. I think I LOOKED for things to do to torment him. I remember hiking one day in Summit Park, Utah where we grew up. We were probably about five and six years old, and I remember laughing at him and calling him a big huge baby, as he fell down the mountain he was struggling to climb. His back was swollen with probably 30 mosquito bites and it was bleeding and was so painful and itchy for him, that he literally struggled to stay upright.

At around ages six and seven, I recall playing a mean trick on Chris – simply because I had come up with another scathingly brilliant plan to torment him and make him cry. I ran ahead of him as we walked home from the bus stop together, and when I was beyond his line of sight, I hid. At the time, our walk home from the bus stop was about 3/4 of a mile (uphill… both ways… and definitely was 20 below zero back in the day, growing up in Park City area). The point is, this could have been a terrifying situation for a six year old. I hid in our front patio, behind some junk stacked in the corner. My brother finally wandered home, and was clearly upset that he couldn’t find me. I snickered and watched from my lair, as he continued to search for me – even though he was home and could have gone inside to get help from our parents. His frustration topped out, and he uttered the most technicolor stream of profanity I had ever heard at that age. You probably guessed it… instead of thanking him for diligently looking for me – even when he knew I did it to torment him, I ran in and gave him up to the one with the heaviest hand – our step dad, who made him brush his teeth with shampoo through his tears and vomit.

In case you’re still wondering why I never received the “Big Sister of the Year Award”, imagine this kind of thing happening all the time. I imagine it must have been awful for him to live with an older sister who treated him this way – literally every possible opportunity I could steal or create. I suppose I understand – I lived with the same kind of abusive treatment from our first step-dad, who was raising us at the time.

When our little brother died, obviously it was a difficult experience for our family – as it would be for any family. I think our family did just about everything we could to make it worse, though. Dysfunctional was synonymous with the Martindale last name. I know it was especially difficult for my brother Chris when our brother died; he lost his little buddy and was now the only other boy in the family where he remained alone in the middle of four sisters.

I was so utterly jealous of him as he began to fill the void in our family that was left by our little brother Shiloh. I felt like the “red-headed step-child” living with my three little sisters who were regarded as “perfect princesses”, and my brother – the “fair-haired-lad” who could do no wrong.

Our parents used to take us up to Pocatello, Idaho for the 24th of July LDS events that are celebrated in Southern Idaho. They dropped us off together at the “Pokie” fair one year and left us to walk around together. I remember making my little brother walk several feet away from me so people wouldn’t think we were together. I was much less concerned about one of us getting kidnapped during our separation, than I was about being publicly associated with this kid who “made” my life hell each day.

We used to sneak out and go to parties and mess around walking through Summit Park with our friends in the middle of the night, while our parents thought we were sleeping (for any kids getting dumb ideas, this was the 70s and 80s). We got pretty good at making it look like we were still in our beds using strategically placed pillows and wigs, and even helped each other sneak-out occasionally (especially if it would get us both to the party). But the rift was widened as our step-dad began catching ME every time we went out – and punishing me, while my brother remained the star-child of the family who never seemed to do anything wrong; at least in my parents’ eyes.

On one occasion, we sneaked out of the house, and went to the same party up the street, and spent the whole night actually getting along and hanging out with our mutual friends. We sneaked back into the house together, and my brother went to bed like nothing had happened. I on the other hand, found my step-dad waiting for me in my bed. I’m not sure why I expected my brother to give himself up just to make me look “less-bad”, but I did.

My jealousy toward him ran deep. Growing up, we had a family Christmas tradition that began after our little brother died. Each of us would write a letter to Shiloh and put it in his Christmas stocking to be read aloud to the family on Christmas morning. One year, Chris wrote an amazing, heart-felt, beautiful letter to our brother about how much he loved our parents and how he was working hard to be good. Both of my parents cried as the letter was read. I felt like I could not do anything right, and even the letter I wrote that year – and other years, was not good enough to be acknowledged that way. I found that letter my brother wrote, and ripped it to shreds – just to punish him.

I think I’ve done about every possible cruel thing a sibling could do to another; I’ve mocked and ridiculed him at his lowest moments, I’ve attempted to rule over and command him, I’ve judged and condemned him to hell, and I’ve tried to impose that hell upon him and punish him.

When we were in our early twenties, my brother went through some very big life struggles that were incredibly difficult for him, and he made decisions that I could not accept at the time. Instead of trying to understand what my brother was going through and help him through it, I ripped out the scriptures, and judged him with the harshest judgment I could muster. I also punished him with the most severe treatment I could impose, and I let him know what I thought of him at that time. I made this situation all about me (though it had absolutely nothing to do with me), and I did something to my brother that was probably the most horrible thing I’ve ever done to a person. That thing I did has haunted me for the past 20 years.

My brother’s best friend – and my adopted brother, was married a few years ago, and I attended the reception. My brother was there of course, and so were a lot of people from his past, that I didn’t know yet. I was introduced to the people my brother lived with 20 years ago when he went through that horrible time in his life; the people who DID help him through that time. All of those things I said and did, came flooding back to me and brought back that thing that haunted me, that I had buried deep where it could not hurt ME as much, right to the painful surface. I left the reception and sobbed all the way home. I knew I had to resolve this with my brother and tell him how wrong I was. Well that was a couple of years ago, and I still haven’t brought myself to tell him how sorry I am, until this post. In part, I haven’t wanted to bring up things that might be painful for him. But just as much, I haven’t wanted to bring up this thing that is painful for me.

I thought about all of these things on the drive home from the reception, and I remembered a dream I had several years ago, about my brother. In this dream, he was in a car accident and died. I ended up at the scene of the accident and held him and just sobbed. The dream was so real that I woke up sobbing and felt those feelings of losing him that felt so real. At the time, my brother and I were not talking and probably hadn’t talked for at least a couple of years. But when I woke from that dream, I realized how horrible it would be if I lost this brother too, and never repaired all the damage I had caused him and our relationship in his life.

A couple months ago, these feelings were all brought to the surface again as I thought I might lose my brother for real. My mom busted into my apartment one afternoon and frantically told me that something was wrong with my brother. I ran outside where he lay lifeless in the passenger side of his van. I dove inside, and Matt, a family friend, drove us to the ER in a third of the time it should have taken.

As we drove, I fought the feelings of fear that threatened to render me useless in this situation. I felt peace come over me as I prayed, and while I held my brother and held on for dear life, I followed the Lord’s push to ignore how crazy the family friend with us might think I am, and voiced a blessing commaning him to be well.  Though he lay there unconscious, I was told to command Chris to overcome this condition that brought him to this weakened and more fallen state, because he has a great mission on this earth to complete and he was not to succumb to this. I was told to remind him that he knows the Lord, and to remember the times He has come to him and what he has been told by the Lord, Himself. I was told to tell him to overcome this and rise up and fulfill what he was sent here for.

I have no idea what was wrong with him and what caused all the terrifying symptoms he experienced that day, but a cat-scan, EKG, and a million tests later, he walked out of the hospital irritated that he lost a day’s worth of work. I left knowing my brother was someone special, and is going to be facing more opposition as he continues to grow into who the Lord knows he is.

I learned later that week, that my mother had been prompted to give my brother a blessing using almost the exact words I used in the blessing I voiced for him.

This series of events taught me a lesson that is only learned with excruciating pain. I learned that the Savior had knocked, and every time I answered, this is the treatment I extended to HIM – because that is the treatment I afforded my own little brother.

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“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special, to be a Daddy.”

I’ve spent my entire life fighting against one of the greatest allies I have, and I’m grateful my vision is not as clouded today. I’ve joked for the past two years that his ex wife is crazy for divorcing him, and that I wish I had an ex husband like him – because he never would have become an ex husband. He has learned to treat even his enemies – those who spitefully use and abuse him, with respect, and with concern for the greater good, not catering to the disdain and guile he could feel for them. My brother is a man who has sacrificed himself for everyone around him. He has lived in poverty, slept in his car, and paid thousands a month more than he should to his ex wife, just so his kids can be comfortable and enjoy the closest version of a happy family he can help create for them. He has gone out of his way not to show any bad feelings in front of his kids for their mother – despite their divorce and the contention that continues. And although he may teach his kids slightly differently than I teach mine, HE TEACHES his kids. He counsels with them and acts as a true Father to those kids, no matter the discomfort it causes to him.

My brother is a seasoned Private Investigator by trade. He is hired to acquire and report information. He does this job very well and works hard to compile UN-biased, and impartial information, without inserting judgment that could skew the truth he is expected to report. That is what he gets PAID to do. But I have watched my brother spend just as many UN-paid working hours counseling the distraught clients he takes on. After all is said and done and the information he obtains is used to reveal the truth of the situation, someone is inevitably left broken and in pain. After the paycheck comes, Chris seems to always make time to pull out the “counselor/new friend” hat, and help those people overcome the struggles they have because of the information he is paid to provide them. Most companies provide free samples or other superficial perks to make their customers and clients feel “special”. My brother offers his clients the pure love of Christ, simply because he has that gift to share.

About a month ago, Chris and I had a conversation about some of the dysfunctional garbage and abuse that was prevalent growing up in our home. We actually laugh about it regularly these days. We were talking about a day that was particularly difficult between our first step dad we grew up with, and myself. I learned that Chris confronted our dad after watching him throw me around my bedroom, and essentially commanded him to back off and not touch me that way again. I never recognized this and other times in my life that he had my back, and I continued turning my back on him.

I want my brother to know, that I don’t NOT-hate him as little as he might think I do.😉 I’m writing too, to let him know that he has taught me more than he’ll ever know. He played the crappy role of the arch nemesis I get to learn to love with the pure love of Christ. He helped me learn that all these jealousies and fears I had within myself, turned the one I was given to walk through this life with me as my only living brother, into my enemy. He took on the crappy roll of being one of MY Saviors on Mt. Zion, as he will be for others, too.

20150502_144011This last weekend, I got to attend my brother’s re-baptism – where he also baptized our current step-father Scott (not the same step dad who raised us), along with his best friend Rocky, who helped inspire this post. Like me, Chris was led to do this in his symbolic, 40th year on this earth. Truth be told, he squeaked it in four days before the symbolic deadline – as his birthday is tomorrow, and the reason I’m writing this tribute that should have been paid to him each day of the past forty years.

Forty (one-ish) years ago when my brother was born, I did not realize who that loud, annoying, poopy, snotty, bacon loving, mullet sporting, air guitaring, pet-little-brother was. Now, I SEE who he is and I stand all amazed at this man who has risen from the ashes like a phoenix of light. I’m grateful and honored to be in the same family as the man who uses the words of Nephi found in 4:17 as his personal mantra, to inspire and lift him a little higher, every day:

Mendoza-Phoenix“Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”

I am not sure what earthly gift I could give him right now that would benefit him or express the feelings I have for this brother of mine who has literally been to hell and back with me. So this post is a tribute to him and a testimony to the world that my brother IS a man of God. He knows the Lord, and he becomes more like Him every day. I am better for knowing him, and I only regret that it took almost my entire life, to realize that. If you know him, you are just as blessed as I am.

So here is my birthday gift to you. Along with it, I am sorry, for everything. And I forgive you, for all the things I chose to “not like” you for. You probably already figured this out by now, but I needed to put it into words, “for the record”.

Along with this, I’d like to remind you that I left a pack of expensive, fat-cut bacon in the freezer of your new apartment. Enjoy it today, without a lecture on how unhealthy it is.

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Learning to “See”

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“And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.” (Moroni 10:8)

I’ve created this new section of my blog to replace the “Points to Ponder” page. Until I figure out how to link it automatically, you can follow this link below to access that new area:

LEARNING TO REND THE VEIL

** I apologize in advance for the ads that may appear at the end of my posts on this new section of the blog; I have no control over the content. If they are bothering anyone enough to donate the $99/year I don’t have – that WordPress requires to get rid of them, I’ll be glad to remove them right away.🙂

Know the Lord

I came across a thread today on a forum I frequent, that made me sad:

http://www.ldsfreedomforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=37209

I am not posting this to judge or condemn others (and I hope the author of this thread will forgive me), but I’m posting because I feel compelled to make a point. I pray that others will be led to know Him.

I fully admit, I likely would have ticked the 3-5 min option if I had taken this poll a few years ago. The longest amount of time given per-day for prayer in this poll, is 30 minutes. I think most of us spend that much time on the toilet in a day (in the case of my oldest son, even longer).

If we are only spending 30 minutes a day trying to talk with the Lord, how are we supposed to KNOW Him? Maybe I’m odd, but I talk with the Lord more than I talk with my little boy who is pretty much my left leg. He knows me intimately, but I SEEK to know Him better; constantly.

From Denver Snuffer:

“I have labored decades to learn what I have learned, and I spend some time daily now studying, praying, contemplating and pondering. Although I have had remarkable experiences, I continue to study because the the things of God are deep, and require careful, patient, solemn and ponderous thought to acquire some of what He has made available.” (Denver Snuffer, “What’s Wrong?”, emphasis added.)

This recommendation is from a man many of us respect and believe knows the Lord. He’s given us “the formula” in so many of the things he’s written and spoken, and he offers it again here in this quote above. Knowing the Lord is a labor of love, not something that is acquired flippantly or lazily.

“And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him…” (3 Nephi 1:12, emphasis added.)

How many of us are crying mightily unto Him – ALL THE DAY as Nephi did before he heard the voice of the Lord? This is the kind of earnest desire we need to find within ourselves – that we would cry mightily unto Him all the day – until we hear His voice.

Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and [IF] ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 37:36-37, emphasis added.)

The pattern for knowing the Lord in this lifetime has been given to us by those who have achieved it. Do we believe them? Do we want this bad enough to cast off the natural flesh and spend that time we might have spent watching a TV show, or going to a game, or surfing LDS Freedom Forum or Facebook, crying mightily unto the Lord all that day and doing ALL things unto Him?

My good friend Jeffrey wrote a wonderful article on the topic of the Second Comforter. I really appreciate what he said in this quote:

“However tempting it may seem, the notion that we have to wait is not of God. Waiting to see Him when you die is not a part of His Plan of Happiness. He has spoken in His written word, and by the mouth of His Prophets, that this experience IS for YOU, while in the flesh.” (Jeffrey Richardson, The Path, “The Second Comforter”)

I agree with him. If you want to know the Lord, be proactive. SEEK Him. The gift and opportunity are available to us in this life, but we must receive it.

The first time I was in the presence of the Lord, I was hiding in my little boy’s bedroom closet so I could pray privately (yes, sometimes it requires hiding in the closet for this mom to find quietude).  I went to the Savior to tell Him that I had done all that I understood would bring the gift of His presence into my life, and that I wanted to know Him. I asked what more I needed to do and told Him that I would do it if it would allow me to know Him in this life. I knelt as low as I could, and prayed with my entire soul – as I had done many times before, and I imagined myself at His feet and spoke to Him as if He were there. I sought Him and I EXPECTED Him, and He did come to me that night.eee4fad7b3b47509c622efbbda66e2ec

I testify to all who read this, that He is filled with so much love and patience for us. He WANTS us to be bold and passionate about not just following Him, but knowing Him. He IS the greater Comforter. He IS our advocate and our friend.

He is not scary and does not “punish” with cruelty, but mourns for all who have not yet embraced Him and allowed Him to abide with them. He seeks us, but He cannot and will not force us to let go of this world and this flesh, and be converted unto Him.

Start talking with Him people! KNOW Him! He will come to you if you labor to know Him, but we cannot get to know Him and expect Him to come to us and be our comforter and companion, if we do not SEEK to know Him. Thirty minutes of prayer in a day is barely giving acknowledgement; my young son might feel very neglected if I only spent thirty minutes each day with him. This desire should fill our every thought and action. If it doesn’t, you can work toward that. Just like serving others helps US love THEM, seeking the Lord and seeking to serve Him helps us to love and come to know Him. It gives us the opportunity to be received by Him. But we first should seek to know Him. He wants so badly to know us all, but we cannot do that if we only give him as much time as we give the toilet or other superficial or low-ranking activities in our day.

Don’t make knowing the Lord an afterthought; LABOR to know Him, and you will.

Exit Letter

In fairness to my bishop, I am retracting the statement I made prematurely in my last post, and providing the letter I did receive from him after-all, regarding my resignation from the church. I have now been informed as to the Church’s position regarding the blessings they feel are only available with membership in the Church organization.

The letter was hand-delivered to my house about a week and a half ago by the bishop’s counselors.  Reading this letter was the longest “conversation” I’ve had with my bishop (or any of my church leaders) in a year and a half, so I’m actually surprised to read some of the things he says here, but I suppose it doesn’t matter at this point.

I had the opportunity to spend this Sabbath day at home – playing and hanging out with my boys, studying the scriptures, discussing the Gospel with my brother, praying and talking with the Lord about things close to my heart, and reading Denver Snuffer’s personal feelings about the Lord in his book, “Come, Let Us Adore Him“.

I’m grateful the Lord still feels comfortable our home.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:20)

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Thank You For Your Business, Please Come Again!

I received my exit letter from the church in today’s mail – dated 8 days after I sent my resignation letter to the Bishop and Stake Pres.

– Yes, it feels odd; surreal.

– Yes, I feel some sense of relief, or maybe like closing the pages on a book I’ve finished, and picking up a new one.

– Yes, despite being grateful for less, rather than more drama, I’m trying not to feel hurt personally that nobody in my ward or stake contacted me with love and concern over this, or over my “dissent letter“.

– No, I don’t feel a loss of blessings from God, at all (interesting too, that neither the exit letter from the church, nor anyone else from the church has informed me that resigning from the corporation has cost me any blessings – this statement was amended here).

– Yes, the Holy Ghost is still a part of me and is still very much alive within me.

– No, I don’t think it’s the right thing for everyone to do – that’s between you and God.

– Yes, B.B., I get to legally wear cool underwear now, but I’m opting for whatever is warm and comes in bulk packages at Walmart.

– No, I’m not going to join another organized church.

– Yes, I attend worship gatherings with others, but I enjoy it most when I pray, study, and commune with the Lord at home.

– Yes, I will still likely go to the LDS church on occasion – especially if my family has an important day at church.

– Yes, I will still wholeheartedly support my older son in his choices when he serves a mission, and if he chooses to stay in the church the rest of his life.

– Yes, I’ll likely still bear my (non-travelog, non-HeartSell[tm], non-FTP) testimony over the LDS pulpit if I get a chance to.

– No, I’m not bitter toward the church or the leaders; maybe still a bit hurt, but I understand where they are coming from.

– Yes, I still do acknowledge the things I see wrong with the Corporation of the President if they come up, but it’s not my focus or concern.

My testimony of my Savior is independent of the church. I appreciate the basic Gospel understanding the church gave me, but I came to know the Lord on my own, and He is my rock and He leads me. I’ve continued to have some amazing experiences – even since resigning earlier this month. I testify that the Lord does not “cut ties” with someone simply because they are no longer a member of the LDS church. He will minister to ALL who come unto Him and are willing to receive Him – in, or outside the church. He loves ALL of us and is no respecter of persons. He does not care about whited sepulchers, He cares about what fills a person’s heart, and seeing people connect with the heavens through Him.

“Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.(3 Nephi 9:14)

 

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