what is a squiggle?

According to fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Hill, a squiggle is a beginning point, a small, wiggly line on a page with the potential to become something more--a brilliantly drawn fifth-grade picture!

A beginning point. A silly phrase from my preschooler, my teenager rolling his eyes, or my kindergartner deleting my entire 3rd chapter...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fictional Story: Moroni 7:33

Melinda stared at the phone, her finger perched over the "talk" button. Why is this so hard for me? With a sigh, she dropped the phone on the bed where she sat and took another look at her visiting teaching list. None of theses sisters are strangers to me, and none of them are inactive, either. This should be easy. But she continued to sit glancing back and forth between the phone and the list, rehearsing in her mind the things she could say. A few times she picked the phone up; once she even started dialing a number, yet as her hands began to tremble and her heart began to pound, she ended the call and tossed the phone aside like a hot potato.

Tears pooled in her eyes, and the names and numbers on her list blurred. Jackie always made the calls for me, and I taught the lesson. She sighed. Why am I able to teach and unable to make a simple phone call? Her new companion, Kourtney had recently moved into the ward from out of state. Since Kourtney didn't have a home phone yet, and her cell phone had a different area code, all of the visiting teaching phone calls would have been long-distance.

"I know it's crazy," Kourtney had said at church on Sunday. "Here I am living within ten miles of these sisters, but calling them is long distance!"

"Yeah, crazy," Melinda had replied, swallowing hard. "I guess I'll make the calls this month, then."

"Great. And I'll do the message." Kourtney offered.

Melinda wished she'd never offered to call. Maybe I'll just wait until Sunday and talk to all of my sisters at church. She knew the problem with that idea, though. As second counsellor in the Primary presidency, she was often too busy to talk to anyone. Sister Magnes dishes had sat in Melinda's car for nearly two months before Melinda found the time to hunt her down and return them. Phone calls are the only way.

After wiping her tears with the back of her hand, Melinda reached for the letter that had accompanied her new visiting teaching route. In the letter, Sister Paul made reference to Moroni 7:46. Melinda reached for her scriptures to look up the verse. As she was turning the final page to reach the verse, her eyes were drawn to another scripture that she had highlighted in blue: Moroni 7:33. And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.

Melinda sat for a moment contemplating what she had just read. I know that Jesus wants us to fellowship each other and strengthen our sisters. I suppose, that although calling a few sisters may seem like a small thing, that if I have faith, I will have the power to make these calls.

Her heart still pounded, and her hands and voice trembled, but Melinda tried to remember that the calls she was making were important to the Lord, and that He would give her the power she needed to get them done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Moroni 7:33

"And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me."

This verse is short and simple yet so meaningful. Faith is the key to unlocking the power of God in our lives. The Lord often asks us to do things that seem hard, maybe even impossible, but at the same time, He provides us with the power to accomplish them. I think what I love most about this verse is that Christ doesn't just say that our faith will empower us in the "big" things, but that faith gives us "power to do whatsoever thing" the Lord has asked us to do--whether that thing is a big thing like saving a life, or a small thing like overcoming dreadful shyness to give a talk in church.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poem: Psalm of Isaiah (inspired by Isaiah 40:31)

I decided to try something new. This poem is inspired by Isaiah 40:31 as well as some of my other favorite verses in Isaiah.

Psalm of Isaiah

We knowest, O Lord, thou art our Father.

Mount us, thy children, upon eagles’ wings

Ever to serve thee, thy praises to sing.

We are the clay, in the hands of the Potter.

Thou art a refuge from the raging storm;

The cooling shadow in the burning heat.

We are graven upon thy hands and feet,

Upon thy shoulders our sorrows are borne

Redeemer of All, Beginning and End,

Hold thou us fast in thy hand’s safe hollow

Set forth our feet on thy path to follow.

Thy soul was an offering; our souls to mend.

We knowest, O Lord, thou art our Father;

We are the clay, in the hands of the Potter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Isaiah 40:31

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

I love the poetic beauty of Isaiah and the images he uses to augment his message. Here he tells us that if we trust the Lord, the Lord will strengthen us; then comes his image--flying with the tirelessness of eagles. As I read this verse, I can see the majestic eagle soaring in the sky, wings stretched out, buoyed up by the wind. Isaiah subtly tells us that we can soar, too, if we allow the Lord to buoy us, to be the strength that holds us up. Knowing that the Lord is our support gives additional meaning to the phrase "run, and not be weary...walk, and not faint." We will not be weary or faint because the Lord is with us, holding us up.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fictional Story: Alma 8:15-16

Alma trudged down the dusty path leading out of Ammonihah toward the city of Aaron. His shoulders slumped forward, and he kept his gaze down on his sandals. He stopped only briefly, at a small stream to wash the spit from his face and the dirt from the scrapes he'd sustained when the three men tossed him out of the city. Although the revilings, mocking and spitting had been difficult to bear, they were not the cause of his rejection. Alma understood the torment that came when you rejected the truth as the people of Ammonihah had done.

As a youth, he and his friends had rejected the teachings of the prophets, had journeyed through the land convincing others that the traditions of their fathers were foolish. In his pride and arrogance, he had looked down with pity upon his father, the prophet of Christ's church, trapped in his limiting beliefs. Until the angel appeared to him and those that were with him. Alma then felt the fear of God; he trembled and shook as the angel chided him for his actions, and his anguish eventually overcame him as the angel commanded him to cease his work of destruction or he would be destroyed.

Alma ran his hand through his hair as the memory of the three days that followed the angel's visit played through his mind. I was tormented with the pains of hell, with the realization of all of my sins. I knew that I had willfully rebelled against God. But no matter the bitterness of my anguish, what sweet peace filled my soul when I finally called out to Jesus and accepted that He and only He had the power to save me, and that he offered me a way to return through repentance. The people of Ammonihah will never know such joy because they have rejected the prophets, rejected Christ and his atonement.

As he walked, Alma became aware of a light descending from the sky, brilliant and beautiful, shining above the brightness of the daylight that surrounded him. A being emerged from the light, and the brilliance gathered around him. He smiled at Alma

"Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou has great cause to rejoice; for thou has been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold I am he that delivered it unto you."

Alma felt the Spirit of God pour through his body. It tingled through his limbs and lifted his burden of sorrow. Heavenly Father has accepted my offering of service; He considers me faithful! He has sent the same angel who once threatened my destruction to confirm his acceptance of my actions. In that moment, Alma felt he could fly. The angel confirmed that the Lord knew of his sufferings, and reminded him that he still had many reasons to rejoice.

Then the angel continued his message. "And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the lord God will destroy them. For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people."

The message was similar to the one Alma had received from the angel in his youth--repent or be destroyed. His message delivered, the angel ascended again into the sky and the brilliant light vanished away. Alma pivoted and hurried back toward Ammonihah. The angel's promise of destruction if I did not mend my actions lead to my conversion, to my conviction of the reality of Jesus Christ. Now I must deliver the same message and perhaps help rescue a few lost souls from the pains of hell.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 8:15-16

"Blessed art thou, Alma,; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you
And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them."

To me, this scripture is a wonderful example of the Lord's love for the individual. Alma is on his way out of Ammonihah; he has been reviled, spat upon, and cast out of the city. The people refused to listen to his words, and even mocked him. Already he's having a pretty lousy day, but then the Lord sends an angel commanding him to return to Ammonihah and do some more preaching. It may have seemed to Alma that the Lord was saying: Yeah, yeah, I know you had a tough time; they spat on you and threw you out, but why not go back for some more?

But the Lord knew what kind of man Alma was; He knew what Alma needed to give him the strength to do what He asked. First, He sent the same angel that He sent when Alma and the sons of Mosiah were causing havoc among the members of the church, and had this angel tell Alma to lift up his head. Yes, the Lord knew Alma had been through some discouraging events in Ammonihah, but He reminds Alma that despite those events, he has reason to rejoice. Then, the Lord has that angel, who was a witness to Alma's actions (remember he told him to change his ways or be destroyed), say to Alma that he is blessed, that he has been faithful since the time he first visited him. This had to be very encouraging to Alma; imagine having an angel of God tell you that you've been faithful!

Why does the angel include the part about "from the time that thou receivedst thy first message?" I believe that rather than discourage Alma by reminding him of his past, the Lord included this in His message because he wanted to remind Alma that He knew Alma's past, yet still felt that Alma was capable of accomplishing the mission He had for him.

Did the Lord know Alma and his needs? Evidently! As soon as the angel delivered his message, Alma "returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah." (verse 18).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fictional Story: Mosiah 4:30

Tara sat on her canopied pink bed with her legs pulled up and her arms wrapped around them. The knees of her jeans were wet with tears, but the streaks were already drying on her cheeks--no fresh tears fell from her eyes; although, she continued to shake with sobs. After a few more minutes her sobs quieted, and she released her legs, flipping around so she lay on her stomach, chin resting on her hands.

It looks just like any other Mormon girl's room, she thought as she looked around. She was tidy by nature and had always enjoyed rearranging and redecorating her room every few months. The last time she'd done so, she'd created a little Young Women's shrine on her dresser--framed pictures she had received from her teachers and leaders, a mirror admonishing that "modest is hottest," and several little handouts that she had especially liked adorned the top. Her scripture bag hung from a hook nearby underneath a poster that reminded her of the importance of getting her spiritual nourishment. She looked away and sighed. I haven't used those in a while. Sitting up, she tugged at her shirt, as if sheer will power could make the material lengthen downward to the top of her jeans.

I thought I had everybody fooled, but really I was only fooling myself. Where's the girl that truly believed that "modest is hottest? Where's the girl that promised herself a temple marriage? She reached beside her on the bed and picked up something long and thin. She looked at it for several seconds as renewed tears gathered in her eyes. Then she threw it across the room.

Tara closed her eyes. Who am I kidding? I know exactly when that faithful girl started to leave. And it all started with a thought...

"Hey, Tara," her friend Natalie called.

"Hmmm?" Tara replied as she stuck a french fry in her mouth without looking up from her homework.

"I have a question for you."

"What's that?"

"What would you do if you weren't Mormon for a day?"

Tara raised her head and gave Natalie a quizzical look. "What do you mean."

"You know," Natalie shrugged, "if you didn't have to live by all of those rules you follow, just for one day, what would you do?"

"I don't know. That's not likely to happen."

"Okay, just wondering."

But the question kept nagging at Tara until she finally began to think about the some of the things that her friends did that she couldn't do. Where was the harm in merely thinking about the things she would do? It wasn't like she was actually doing them. However, once she begin thinking about everything she was missing out on, she found her resolve not to do them slipping. A cuss word started to slip out here and there, and then she started to participate when her friends told dirty jokes. One thing led to another until...

Now I'm here. Pregnant, and wishing I had never thought about the answer to that stupid question.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Mosiah 4:30

"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."

King Benjamin understood that what a person thinks about eventually leads to what he says and then what he does. If we want to keep our lives in harmony with God's commandments, the best place to start is with the things we think about. I know that I'm in trouble when I go to sleep thinking about how much I would rather sleep in instead of getting up to exercise. As soon as that thought takes hold in my mind, I'm doomed--the exercising never happens. But if I go to bed rehearsing to myself all of the reasons that I want to exercise in the morning, than I am more motivated to get up and do it. The power of our thoughts is amazing, but scary, too. The challenge is keeping control of our thoughts, instead of allowing them to control us.

I believe that this is one of the greatest benefits of fasting. By limiting our physical bodies, we are allowing our spirits to take control. We can either suffer through the day, miserable because of our lack of food and drink, or we can take charge, direct our thoughts to spiritual feasting and find ourselves wishing at the end of the day that the fast had lasted a little longer.

Remember the proverb: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." (Proverbs 23:7)