Some Thoughts on the Psalm of Nephi

In Sunday School this week, we’re studying the Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4:17-35).

I LOVE the Psalm of Nephi. It’s one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon. It reminds me of how trustworthy and merciful God is, and how frail I am without Him.  But I haven’t always felt this way.  For a time, it was a baffling bit of scripture.  I struggled to fit it into a worldview that left little room for mistakes.

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Gifts OCD Has Given Me

This is the 100th post on my blog!  Celebration time!!!!!  🙂

Since it’s my hundredth post, and it’s coming up on the New Year, I thought it might be a nice opportunity for reflection.  So I went through some of the old posts I’d written.  WOW.  What a transformative few years it’s been since I started writing my blog in June 2008.

In some ways, it’s painful to read.  In other ways, it’s miraculous.  I read between the lines and remember what this journey has been.  In particular, it’s striking to revisit the agonizing confusion that came with my fight against OCD, especially before I knew I had OCD (I wasn’t diagnosed until December 2010, but I have been battling it my whole life).  I see it in every post, every question.  And yet, I would not change any of it. OCD has been my life’s greatest trial; but as is often the case with great trials, it has also provided many of my greatest gifts.

Today, I’d like to share some of the gifts OCD has given me — graces I would not have received were it not for my day-to-day struggle to live a rich, meaningful life despite my disorder.  I write this for the benefit of others struggling with difficult trials of every variety (including myself!), but with a special place in my heart for those facing mental illness.  I hope this will be a reminder that there is meaning in our battle, that God can create tremendous beauty from even the deepest despair, that there is hope for all of us.

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Why I Believe in Santa Claus

Today, my husband posted a “personalized” Santa Claus video on Facebook that we’d made and sent to our daughter.   One of his friends, a staunch atheist, made this comment on the thread: “I’m telling [my son] the truth about Santa, because I don’t want to tell him a lie, besides, if he starts believing cultural mythology, who knows what he might start believing.”

I felt his comment was kind of Grinchy so I fired off a less-than-patient reply — told him that he’d “missed the point.”  I immediately recognized that my comment was made in frustration — something I try to avoid, since the Internet is a mean enough place without me joining in — so I quickly deleted my response.   He must have seen it anyway, though, because when I logged in again tonight I noticed that he’d added another reply: “Katie, ‘you missed the point’ is an easy thing to say.  Please explain what the point is, then I’ll know.”

After some deliberation, I decided I’d answer his question (hopefully with a much gentler spirit than before).  This is what I wrote:

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Eating Well: My New Hobby

I recently realized that I want to start eating well.  I don’t mean eating fewer calories per se — though that’s certainly part of it — but I mean eating whole, fresh foods that are rich and nourishing in more ways than one.

It began when it occurred to me that I need a hobby.  In my close circle of friends, I am surrounded by artisans and crafters: people who knit, refinish furniture, and make windchimes out of antique teacups and silver.  They tell me that their hobbies relax them — give them something to do with their hands that is satisfying and creative.  I, however, have zero crafting skills.  I can scarcely hot glue sequins on paper. (What’s that you say?  No one hot glues sequins on paper?  I rest my case.)

My hobbies tend to be cerebral — reading, writing, thinking.  Even when I’m running, one of my favorite physical pastimes, I usually pop in a podcast or audiobook to occupy my mind (and to keep myself focused on something other than how badly my legs hurt). 😉  Which is great, but since reading, writing, and thinking are pretty much what I do for a living as a professional copywriter and content development director for an internet marketing company, sometimes I (and my brain!) need a break.

So I went in search of a hobby.  Something I could do with my hands.  Something creative.  Something I would enjoy.  And because I run a business and am always looking for ways to spend quality time with my family, preferably something I could do with my daughter.

That’s when it hit me: FOOD.

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LDS Christmas Talk: Behold, the Condescension of God

I gave a talk at our ward Christmas party this evening, which I called “Behold, the Condescension of God.”  Thought I’d share it here…

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Empathy and the Suffering God

My sister posted this video today on Facebook.  It is really interesting — well worth the 10 minutes you’ll spend on it.

One thought.  The narrator here argues that there is no empathy in heaven, for in heaven there is no suffering.  I’m not so sure. See Moses 7, the Beatitudes, or think of Christ’s agony in Gethsemane and on the cross.  I believe that if the scriptures teach anything, it is that our God is a God who suffers.

God is love, the scriptures teach.  And as anyone who has loved can attest, that does not come without sorrow.

More Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street

Today I spent some time learning more about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I thought I knew what they were about because of a handful of radical statements I’d heard from them: “down with corporations,” “share the wealth,” “capitalism doesn’t work.”   I’m ashamed to say that even before I knew that much about it, I judged the entire movement as a bunch of greedy whiners who were blind to their own privilege and ignorant of how the real world functions.  However, when I read a couple of blog posts from people whose perspectives I respect speaking favorably of the movement, I knew it was time to dig deeper.

Here’s what I discovered…

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I Am the 1%

I don’t usually talk politics here, but I’m pretty concerned about this whole “I am the 99%/Occupy Wall Street” movement.  I wanted to share some thoughts about it…

First, I want to make it clear that I do believe Wall Street screwed up.  Of course, they had plenty of help from Washington AND, quite frankly, from us.  When the bubble was riding high, no one was asking questions.  We should have.  We needed to.  The bankers and big corporate executives behaved unethically, yes, and there’s no excuse for it — but it’s not like we didn’t enable it.

Second, I am frustrated with the unwillingness of the protesters and their supporters to see that they are also contributors to the oppression and victimization of vulnerable populations.  By virtue of the fact that we live in America, we are privileged — more privileged than the vast majority of people the world over.  Are we giving our own excess to the poor?  Have we downgraded our lifestyles, moved into smaller homes, cut back on restaurants, sold our cars and plasma TVs and Xboxes, in order to voluntarily redistribute the wealth and abundance that we have?  Then who are we to demand that others do the same?

Third, I see a disturbing entitlement-driven, victim mentality underscoring the entire movement.  While Wall Street execs did do wrong, and some of that was beyond our corporate control, much of it was well within our individual control.  I am a “victim” of the recession: before the bubble burst, my husband and I bought a fourplex, only to see its value diminish almost immediately afterward.  Looking back, we probably shouldn’t have qualified for the loan that our mortgage broker pitched us hard.  We were fortunate enough to sell the fourplex this year and avoid foreclosure, but we sold it at a loss, and not before we were out about $20,000 on it.  We don’t have $20,000.  It was a huge financial hit.

And yet…I recognize that the signs were there.  We could have, should have, seen that it wasn’t the time to buy real estate…that the loan was more expensive than we could legitimately afford…that we should have passed on the opportunity.  But we were driven by greed and want.  I am frustrated that we didn’t get better advice from our mortgage broker, sorry that the underwriters approved us when perhaps they shouldn’t have, but we take 100% of the responsibility for the mistake — because it was ultimately our mistake.

To the “99%”: I’m sorry that you’re working extra to make ends meet.  Maybe it’s time to radically restructure your budget?  I’m sorry you can’t find employment that fulfills you.  Maybe it’s time to take a less agreeable job until something more suitable comes around?  I’m sorry you have too much student loan debt.  Maybe you should have worked full-time and gone to school part-time, instead of the other way around, to reduce your debt burden?  I’m sorry your house was foreclosed on.  Maybe you shouldn’t have bought something you couldn’t afford?  I say this without malice because I have been impacted negatively in almost all of the areas I mention above — but I recognize that most of the harm would have been avoided if I hadn’t wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.  It’s not “their” fault.  It’s mine.

Finally, even if you are in a situation where you have truly been oppressed — where hardship has fallen as a direct result of the evil actions of others and through no fault of your own — Jesus has some hard but powerful things to say about what to do about it.  If an oppressor asks you for your coat, give him your cloak also.  If an oppressor asks you to walk a mile, walk with him two.  If an oppressor smites you on the cheek, turn to him the other cheek also.  This isn’t about taking it lying down; it’s about showing your oppressor your humanity and dignity.  Right now, I see little dignity in this movement.  Instead, I see anger, class warfare, envy, and pride.  Sure, it’s a natural response to affliction, but I believe there is a better way.

On Fig Leaves, Coats of Skins, and Things As They Really Are

I’ve always loved the passage in Jacob 4:13, which explains the primary role of the Spirit: “…The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are…” (emphasis mine).

The idea of Things As They Really Are is one of the most profound spiritual concepts I’ve ever encountered.  It’s about much more than adhering to the “correct” interpretation of abstract theological principles; it’s about embracing all the truth we can, even difficult truth, on our way to a fully actualized life in Christ.  As important as good theology is, I believe that on the path of real discipleship, often the most difficult truths we encounter are personal — things we’d rather not face about our communities and families, and especially ourselves.  And yet the Spirit exists to show us these truths, to help us strip away layers of deceit and shame, so that we can stand face to face with God, knowing Him even as we are known (see 1 Cor 13:12).

I often think of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  After they partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they discovered their nakedness.  Suddenly ashamed, they rushed to make coverings of fig leaves — as if, somehow, the fig leaves would restore their former innocence, or at least hide that they had sinned.  But God wasn’t fooled.  He called out to them, made them stand before Him, demanded an accounting of what they’d done (as if He didn’t know).  Then He cast them away with a curse…and a covering of skins He crafted for them.

There was a time this story made me shudder.  I imagined myself standing before God, naked, exposed; and God sending me away, angry with my performance.  How is this love? I wondered.  I had missed two critical points in the story:

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Why I Love the “I’m a Mormon” Media Initiative

The “I’m a Mormon” / media initiative that was launched last year is making its way to my neck of the woods (inland Northwest).  Starting the first week in October, there will be TV spots, radio ads, billboards and bus signs with cool, trendy people proudly proclaiming their Mormonness.  In preparation for the media blitz, our ward received in-depth training from Salt Lake this past Sunday, so that we can be ready for the increased questions and attention that will inevitably come our way.

I am completely enthusiastic about this initiative — have been from the start.   I’m not sure how well it’s working in terms of creating convert baptisms (that’s probably not trackable, since it’s a branding campaign as opposed to a response-driven campaign)…but that’s not what excites me most about it anyway.  While I certainly hope it improves our public image, what I really love about the “I’m a Mormon” initiative is the message it sends to Mormons about who gets to be “in!”

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