Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Merry Month of May

When we were in elementary school, the first day of May was a wonderful holiday. We dressed up more than just our everyday school clothes - though not quite in our Sunday best. During the day - I don't remember whether it was during recess or lunch hour or whether it was a special part of the program - we all went out to the playground and wrapped the May Pole.

It was really just the flag pole or the tether ball pole, but long ribbons had been attached to the top and we had to bob under and around each other to braid it beautifully all the way to the bottom. Memory can be a funny thing, and I'm really not sure if we actually had music while we did it, or if I always just have a song in my mind and bring my own accompaniment but it seems there was music.

Our seventh grade teacher was also the choir teacher and we had a little chorus that sang for special occasions. I loved Mrs. Bright. She was young and pretty and read stories to us right after lunch before we started again into classes. I would draw intricate designs in my notebook and color them while she read. That was a pleasant memory that surfaced thinking about school. Off subject.

Much later, May Day became associated with displays of military might in other countries which spoiled the beauty of the day for me. I always wanted to remember soft sunny days, warm breezes and lovely, bright colored ribbons being wound around the pole and what fun we had doing it. Life seemed much more pleasant then and certainly more simple.

 Memory softens some of the rough edges. I also remember a big sixth grader tripping me - on purpose - when I was in the third grade. I fell on my face on the front stone steps of the old two story black rock elementary school and chipped my front tooth. I was snaggle-toothed until high school when a kind dentist finally filed away part of it to help even it out. So maybe life wasn't so much more pleasant - just more simple.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Desperation can sometimes breed/bring Inspiration!

We were living in San Antonio, Texas in the early 1980's where I served as Education Counselor in the Stake Relief Society. I desperately needed a special musical number that enhanced our theme of Excellence for Stake Leadership meeting I'd been planning for weeks. There simply wasn't anything to be found that sent the message I so desperately wanted to present in a way that music can only do.

My husband needed something from Austin, up Interstate 35 about an hour. I had been praying fervently, pleading for inspiration, and I really didn't need to take these precious hours for a trip up and and back when I needed to be working on the meeting. But I went, praying all the way. Suddenly the words began coming into my mind - with a melody to go with them.

I grabbed a piece of paper and pen from my purse and scribbled frantically while I drove. I repeated them over and over and the melody just flowed. By time I returned home, I was able to go to the piano and write down the notes. But then, I am not a composer and the accompaniment was another matter.

To add to the problem, I needed an interlude between the pleading tone of the first part and the answer that came to the pleading that was a totally different tone and key. Yes, I even changed the key signature. I am a simple pianist - I never had training in all the wonderful parts of music and how they work. I simply took piano lessons as a child and then never quit practicing so I didn't lose my knowledge of how to play - I just never progressed beyond being able to play the hymns and some simple accompaniments.

This was total inspiration - revelation that came in answer to my need to serve and meet the needs of my sisters. But the heavenly help didn't stop there. A seminary and institute teacher in our ward was well versed in music and I asked him to write the interlude. He did. Then I asked another sweet member of our ward with an amazing voice to sing it and another talented sister to play for her since I was conducting the meeting.

To hear that heaven-inspired message in that meeting was something I'll never forget. It was the perfect channel through which the Holy Ghost could touch hearts and embed the message of the meeting. I know God hears and answers prayers in sometimes very unexpected ways. He can work miracles through the weakest and simplest of us when we are on His errand. The song was never performed again and I even had to dig through stacks of music to find it to be able to share the words.

Excellence

Where am I going? Why am I here?
Please won't you make all the answers more clear?
How can I be all you know I can be?
Help me, dear Father, Please help me so see.

When my world is so frantic -
When my calendar's full;
When everyone needs me
All I feel is the pull!

When there's no time for learning;
When there's no time for me
How can I be all you need me to be?

Take one step, Stretch yourself, Reach up high!
Set a goal, struggle hard, reach the sky!
Excellence! If you strive for Excellence,
A Celestial Excellence is what you'll find!

Thank you, dear Father, Now I can do
All of the things that you need me to do!
Now I can be all you know I can be!
One little word - Excellence is the key!

Thank you, Cheri, for your last post that reminded me of this totally forgotten little faith-promoting episode from decades ago. I may dust it off and give it to my talented daughter and granddaughters to perform just for me.

On a related note, because I kept practicing the hymns and never gave up playing when called upon to help with music, I was asked to be the ward organist. You've got to be kidding, I said! I was barely a qualified Relief Society pianist, hiding behind the piano so no one could see my red face when I made mistakes. I was too shocked to say no to the calling. I kept stuttering "But I'm not an organist! I don't know how to play the organ!"

Amazingly, many do not seem to know there is a world of difference between playing an organ and playing a piano. The bishop promised as I was obedient and accepted the calling, the blessings of learning to play would come. And they did. I've been ward organist for nearly 20 years - still just barely getting through the hymns each Sunday and agonizing over making mistakes that will jar the congregation from their worship, but the blessings have come. Including keeping my arthritic fingers from freezing and stopping working altogether. Obedience and prayer - and desperation definitely bring heavenly blessings.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Are The Stars Still There?


It seems like our valley has been hit from every direction in recent days. Most people are enduring trials of some nature--heart-rending challenges that overwhelm. I woke early this morning, troubled by some of the things taking place. It doesn't help that today marks the anniversary of a tragic loss in our family. I found myself staring out the front room window at the bright stars still visible, and it triggered a memory of another time when life was less than fun. I'd like to share a journal entry I wrote then:

 November 5, 1996



". . . A few weeks ago, I had been feeling quite discouraged. I think we all experience times like that in our lives, moments when we wonder why life has to be so challenging. I don't feel that way all of the time, but for some reason, at that particular instance, despair seemed to creep inside my heart. One night when everyone else in my family had gone to bed, I wandered outside. Sometimes listening to the night sounds brings comfort and so I sat on the porch and listened for a bit. I remember silently praying, asking why I was feeling this way. The thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." I agreed, but still wanted to know why things seemed so bleak. I had been having some challenging health problems and there were several trials taking place with some of my extended family members. As I wondered why everything had to be so hard, I stood and glanced up at the sky. It was one of those star-filled nights--the entire sky was lit with stars. Again the thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." As I gazed at the stars, I noticed that clouds were moving in. This is something that has probably occurred millions of times, but for once, I was watching as it happened. Within minutes, every star was covered. As I stared at the sky, I was so amazed by how quickly the clouds had moved in. Another thought came to mind, "Are the stars still there?" With that thought came the peace I had been seeking. Other thoughts came, "Is the Church still true? Does your Heavenly Father love you? Did your elder Brother lay His life down for you? Are all of these things true despite the discouragement, despite the challenges, the heartaches, the pains of life? Are the stars still there?"
The lesson I was taught that night has been such a comfort. Every time I start feeling a little down, it comes to mind: "Are the stars still there?"
To make a long story short . . . [I had an impression that] I should write a song based on that theme . . .  Here are the lyrics:

                                                         Are The Stars Still There?
By: Cheri J. Crane


1st:
Dark were my thoughts--all around were storms of heartache and strife
All those tests that sometimes just go with life
Mountains that seemed too steep to climb.
I walked outside--to clear my head and ask my Father, "Why?"
My inner peace had dissolved for a time
Where was the faith that was mine?

Chorus:
Staring at the star-filled sky--my heart revealed its inner cry
"Father, if You're listening help me know the reason why."
A thousand tiny twinkling lights were covered, hidden from
my sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Darkness seemed to fill the night as every star was veiled
from sight
Yet peace crept in my heart and comfort eased the black despair
As the question came, "My child, my child--Are the stars still there?"

2nd:
Now when dark thoughts come and some nights seem too long
I remember the words of this song
When everything seems to go wrong
The answer to my prayer--the night I struggled with despair
The night my Father heard my silent prayer
And reminded me the stars are always there.

Chorus:
Our Father's love is always there--through layers of grief and care
Hope is shining brightly through the clouds of dark despair
A thousand tiny twinkling lights--though covered, hidden from our sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Though darkness seems to fill the night--And every star is veiled from sight
Peace and love seep through to ease the black despair--
Remember the question--"My child, are the stars still there?"



Monday, April 4, 2016

Still cleaning out!

Every once in a while I go back to my stack of files to sift through and toss things that are no longer pertinent: sayings that touched me at one time or another; a scripture with a wonderful illuminating comment; a story that had meaning.

Today I leafed through a file and decided it was time to toss a bunch more things that are good but that can now be found on line at the click of a mouse.

Then I came across the little message below. I had included it as a President's Message one of the many times I served as a Relief Society president across the United States while we were in the Air Force. It is still pertinent today:

"If something is impossible, but if you want it bad enough, it can happen!" How do we accomplish the impossible? According to Elder Larry Lawrence, these are the steps:

1.  Choose a righteous desire (a desire is something you want with all your heart - not just a wish or a dream.)
2. Be believing - not half-heartedly hope it will happen, but have no doubt in your heart or mind that you can accomplish it with the help of the Lord.
3. Plead your case to the Lord - pray vocally, unceasingly, having the goal in mind the entire time. Think about it every minute your mind can spare to focus on it.
4. Be totally committed to the goal - preoccupied with it, with an overpowering desire to accomplish it. Commitment means to go the extra mile - maybe give up a bad habit to show that you are so totally committed to this goal that you will sacrifice something to get it.
5. Know your faith may be tried. You may taste the agony of defeat before you find the thrill of victory.
6. Expect the Lord to perform! Know that as you do your part in accomplishing this righteous desire of your heart, He will help you.

Guess it must be time to apply this to finish editing Too Many Ghosts and find a publisher. I really do want to get that done......but apparently not enough to follow the above steps.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking Offense When None is Intended

Is it me, or does it seem lately like people are more easily offended . . . usually over silly things that don't really matter? Like the day I drove one of those riding carts some stores furnish for people that have a hard time getting around. My mother wasn't feeling well that day, and sometimes riding a cart like that makes it possible for her to shop. She has rheumatoid arthritis and knees that have seen better days. Those riding carts have been a life-saver for her, and we appreciate the stores that furnish such items. There wasn't one on the side of the store we entered on the day in question, so I helped her to a bench at the front of the store and ran down to the other end to see if I could find a riding cart there. I found one, and then proceeded to drive it down to where my mother waited. Wow did I get dirty looks from a woman who had seen me run down to that end to retrieve the riding cart. She was mortally offended--the look on her face spoke volumes. She made sure I saw the unpleasant look on her face before she huffed out of the store. In an instant she had made herself the judge and jury over a case she didn't even understand. To her, the judgement was sound and fair. It didn't matter that she had missed the entire reason for my erratic behavior. Nor had she witnessed the countless times I have purposely parked clear out in the north 40 to make sure those with physical challenges have a closer place to park near a store. None of that mattered. She had seen all she needed to see before passing judgement. I'm sure she shared with anyone who would listen how terrible I was to use a riding cart when I obviously didn't need one.

I'm sure we've all been there--condemned by those who don't have all of the facts. People witness something with tunnel vision, and then make it worse by jumping to conclusions. I've been on both sides of this type of drama. We're all human, and we all make mistakes. We see a portion of what is really taking place, and then choose to be offended by what we perceive to be a slight directed toward us, when in reality, it had nothing to do with us at all.

I'll conclude this post by sharing some thoughts on this matter. Hopefully when we are tempted to jump to conclusions, maybe we'll pause a moment to consider that we may not always know the whole story. Think about what is most important, and give those around us the benefit of the doubt:



“Time is the justice that examines all offenders.” William Shakespeare

 “I'll not willingly offend, Nor be easily offended; What's amiss I'll strive to mend, And endure what can't be mended.” Isaac Watts



“An offended heart is the breeding ground of deception.”  John Bevere




“To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”  David A. Bednar


Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you're doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. Joel Osteen
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/offended.html
Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you're doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. Joel Osteen
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/offended.html

 “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”  Brigham Young






Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Joy of Easter

Social media is filled with such beautiful pictures and memes during the holidays. This holiday is no different in that there are many wonderful things being posted - as it should be. I believe this holiday should be celebrated more than any other because if its incredible saving grace for all of us.

I love the Easter hymns "Christ The Lord is Risen Today" and "He is Risen!" They have such a glorious, joyous message for all mankind. When I see the picture of Mary weeping at the Garden Tomb, it's so easy to understand her anguish. Her beloved Master is gone. But what an unbelievable message the angel delivered - "He is not here. He is risen." What did that mean? I can feel her frustration, her worry - where is he? What have they done with his body?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a favorite apostle when I was growing up, spoke of the Three Gardens of God: the Garden of Eden where it all began with the creation, the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus suffered unbelievable agony to pay for our sins,  and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.  He had burst the bands of death and is forever triumphant over the grave. 

To know that we will live again after we die is such glorious news it does seem unbelievable to some. But I believe that because our Savior, the Son of the Living God, took upon himself and suffered all the sins of the world, I can be resurrected just as he was. I can live again after death.  And so can every other living being who has ever existed on this earth.

To be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before will be the greatest measure of joy I can imagine. So this wonderful Easter weekend, I rejoice that "my Redeemer lives!"  It truly is the sweetest sentence we can hear.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ice Happens


I apologize for not posting anything lately. Life has been acting like the ice on a local lake, and has piled up, with one adventure after another. That seems to be a current theme for many of us in 2016. We just think things will settle down, and wham, along comes another character building moment. ;) I'm beginning to think that's part of why we're here--part of our earthly education. You just think you're getting everything figured out, and life happens. It can be a health dilemma, death of a loved one, or a myriad of trials that affect the people we love. Sometimes financial setbacks take the reins, or little things, like dropping a metal container of heavy dominoes on one's foot. (Yep, I'm still dealing with that last item. Not my idea of a fun time, and about the 6th broken toe I've endured through the years.)

Suddenly we find ourselves floundering in a sea of turmoil and pain as wave after wave of physical or emotional challenges threaten to sink our boat. That's when we long for the safety and comfort of the shore. We can often see it in the distance--a safe harbor where life starts making sense again, but while we're doing our best not to drown, we sometimes struggle with making it to a refuge of protection and peace.

In recent weeks, we've dealt with a son who had to endure a painful surgery, an aging parent, who despite getting the flu shot, caught a version of the flu anyway,  interesting weather fluctuations and corresponding arthritis flares, one disaster after another in our local ward and community, as well as challenges in our extended family.

There were good things, too, like several births of cute babies, a niece's mission call, as well as the mission call for one of the YW I used to serve during my last tour of duty as a YW leader. Last night we learned where a favorite aunt and uncle will be serving their mission. All wonderful news moments! And we were able to go through the temple with both of those young ladies mentioned above. Awesome experiences.

My calling in the R.S. keeps me hopping, but often in a good way. So on and so forth. In short, currently we're not meant to be bored. I suspect it's part of the joy of our current time. ;)

So how do we find our way to the shore when we suddenly find ourselves blown out to the middle of a turbulent trial? I'll admit, it's not easy. I've sometimes felt like I will always be stuck out where the water is too deep and the wind is extremely nasty. Then little things happen that help me find my way. Items like prayer, scriptures that provide comfort and guidance, upbeat or positive thoughts, a hug from a loving friend, a song that contains a soothing message, and sometimes just a realization that one day, all of this will make sense. One of my favorite poems talks about the shaping of a tapestry, and how at first it seems like a jumbled mess of color. Then gradually a beautiful picture emerges and you see that all of the colors were required to create a completed masterpiece.

Despite how it feels at the time, there is a reason for the good and bad items that happen in our lives. One of the most difficult things we will ever do is to place our trust in our Savior. As the saying goes, "when we get all wrinkled up with worry and care, it's time to get our faith lifted." I often reflect on Peter, and the great faith he possessed as he began to walk out on the water to reach the Savior. True, he had his moment of doubt and discouragement, but our Savior was right there to catch him before he drowned. The same is true for all of us. Since Jesus suffered more than any of us can possibly comprehend, and willingly endured what all of us would experience, (see Alma 7:11-12) we need to remember to trust in Him, and to allow Him to shoulder our burdens.

I've had to do that a couple of times in my life. There have been dark nights when I thought I would never sleep again, or feel comforting peace. When I finally ceased ranting, raving, and being obnoxiously angry, that peace has come. But I have to be humble enough for it to enter my heart.

There is a famous picture of the Savior standing outside of a door, knocking. The only available doorknob exists inside. It is symbolic of the fact that He is always there to help us, but it is up to us to let Him into our lives.

So on those days when you are feeling tempest tossed (as the popular hymn advises) remember to count the blessings in your life and know that God is indeed over all. Things will eventually settle into place, and safe harbors do exist. We merely have to steer toward them and trust in the One who understands us more than we understand ourselves.