Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God Is Good. So What's Wrong With Me?

A few years ago I was asked to play the piano at a baptism at our church. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary; our ward was historically a high-baptizing one, and when you're one of only a few ward members who play the piano, you have to expect to help out with these things sometimes. This one was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon, but since our family didn't have anything else planned I didn't think it would be a problem for me to hop over to the church for an hour to play for the baptism.

Well, the problem came when I remembered the baptism in the morning, but flat-out forgot about it by the afternoon. And it wasn't as if we were doing anything important or special; I was just hanging out, and then looked at the clock (which now said the baptism was half over) and it suddenly dawned on me that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

It is not a good thing to miss an event where you were supposed to play the piano, because that leaves the other people stranded. If you were scheduled to give a prayer, and missed the meeting, someone else could probably give the prayer. But it isn't always easy to come up with someone else to play the piano at the last minute when the scheduled pianist flakes out. So I wasn't feeling too good about myself as I quickly changed into a skirt and flew off to the chapel. I'd really, really blown it this time.

But, lo and behold, when I arrived, there was someone else at the piano. Another piano player in the ward, Sister W., had gone just to watch the baptism, but (as she told me later) she felt like she should bring her big hymn book along. Sure enough, her services were indeed needed at the piano. So she played everything as it had been planned, and the service went quite smoothly. Despite my shortcomings, the Lord in His tender mercy had provided another pianist.

Which has always left me wondering. . . why was Sister W. the one who received the inspiration? Why wasn't I inspired to look at the clock sooner, for example? Frankly, I don't have any good answers for that one. It might be that He did prompt me to get myself to the baptism on time, but I was so busy goofing off I didn't catch it. Or perhaps I was angry about something and was not receptive to the Spirit right then. Then again, there may have been a reason why I needed to be home at that time instead of at the baptism. (If so, I don't know what it was. But it's possible. We don't always know.) Or there may have been a reason why Sister W. needed to be the one who played at that baptism.

Learning to heed the promptings of the Spirit and allowing the Lord to work in our lives is one of those vital things that we must learn here on Earth. And yet as we do so, it's so easy to start adding our own interpretations and conclusions to what we receive: I'm supposed to do this thing because of this reason (which the Lord never actually stated, but makes sense to us). Or, because I have this problem, and I'm trying to live the way I should, God should help me fix it this way. And sometimes we can get pretty frustrated when we want--or expect--to see the hand of the Lord in our lives in ways that it just isn't being manifested.

The thing is, unless God tells us, we don't always know why the Lord does some things or why He asks us to do certain things. We may come up with reasons that make sense to us, but in the end, we just don't know. We may expect that God will bless us with a certain insight or wisdom or reward or answer because it makes sense to us, but what is our limited vision compared with God's? He sees the whole picture. He knows the end from the beginning, and His wisdom and perspective are infinite. We only see a small portion of the whole, and without God's help we are limited to our own meager understandings to make sense of it.

But if we truly put our trust in the Lord, and humbly heed His promptings, we need not fear. Things may not work out as we would have chosen for ourselves with our limited understanding, but He will make all things work together for our good.

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Whitney Finalists and Why You Should Read Them

It's that time of year again! For those of you not familiar with the Whitney Awards, they're given each year to honor novels by LDS authors. Many of these are books with Latter-day Saint themes, but quite a few are on the national market as well. The books are nominated by readers (that's us) throughout the year; those books receiving enough nominations (currently 5 or more) go before a panel of judges who read each of the books in a given category and vote on the top 5. These "top 5" were announced as finalists at the beginning of February.

For those of us who weren't on the judging panels, this is where the fun begins. Many LDS authors, publishers, and others involved with LDS books are on the Whitney Academy, and we get to read the books chosen as finalists and vote on the winners in each of the categories. (Yep, I'm on the academy--go to and if you squint hard enough, you will find my name on the list there in itty bitty letters. :-)

It's a lot of reading to squeeze in to just a couple of months' time, but I've been having so much fun trying to hunt down copies of these books and making time to read them. Most of the nationally released books are available through our public library here in Wisconsin, and I had an Amazon gift certificate just begging me to use it to buy some of the other books I couldn't get locally. (Yeah, it had to beg me pretty hard...) I've ordered the other books through Interlibrary Loan; ILL hasn't been able to find a couple of titles, but they're usually pretty helpful at hunting down all these LDS titles that one can most often find in Utah libraries and bookstores.

To be honest, I probably won't get to read all of these books before the deadline. But I hope to at least read the ones in my favorite categories so I can vote on those. If I have time, I'll add in my next favorite categories. Most of the categories are really my "favorite" in some way or another, so I really hope to get lots of reading done.

If you visit you can click on a printable PDF with all the finalist books listed in their respective categories, with the author's name, publisher, and ISBN. It's very handy for taking to the library and asking them to order Interlibrary Loan books for you.

So why should you read these books? First off, while there are other good books out there by LDS authors that did not make the list, the ones on the list have been recommended by readers and voted on by judges familiar with the category. I was on one of the judging panels last year, and we began with many more books to chose from than the ones that ultimately made the finals. Personally I enjoyed reading most of them, but the finalists had that special "something" that pushed them over the top. So if you're looking for something good to read by an LDS author, the books on this list will all be good reads.

Second, for all you LDS authors out there reading this, we need to keep up with the other books on the market--particularly the "best" ones. We need to know what's out there and what people are reading. In that respect, I admit that sometimes I prefer to read a poorly written book so I can feel proud of myself for being able to write better than that (yeah, I know, that's a horrible attitude to have; I admit it), but what really inspires me to stretch and improve my own writing is to see the great things that others are doing with theirs. To that end, of course we should be reading other books as well. But, particularly if we are writing for the LDS market, we shouldn't lose sight of what others are doing there.

So there you go. Enjoy your reading, everyone! And don't forget, you can also nominate books published in 2010 for the Whitney Awards next year, again at In fact, I just nominated one myself. It's a good book and I wouldn't want it to be overlooked when awards time next year rolls around.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Not-So-Glamorous Missionary Opportunity

Today I bribed The Teenager with pizza in exchange for snowblowing the driveway. (A little bribery can be a good thing sometimes, and everyone's happy in the end.) While he did the honors, I shoveled the sidewalk and the porch. An unfortunate side effect of this was that my nose started to run by the time we went inside. I don't know what it is about being out in the cold that makes my nose drip, or other people's noses drip. I guess it's just one of those things.

Well, The Teenager was a real trooper and cleaned everything right up, including the big mound of snow left by the snowplow at the end of our driveway when it plowed our street. So now it was time for me to pay up.

I hurried off to the pizza place in the shopping center down the street. I didn't have any Kleenexes in the car, but since my nose was just dripping a little and not running like a hose I wasn't worried. I parked the car, went inside, briskly gave my order, and then turned my head downward so my nose wouldn't be too obvious. And, of course, I had to look down to count out my money. So I really did have a good reason not to look at the cashier.

But she noticed my ring. "What does that stand for?" she asked.

Well, I guessed she wasn't asking about my wedding ring, so she must have meant my CTR ring. "Choose the Right," I said brightly.

"Choose the Right," she repeated, with a question in her voice. And suddenly I realized the motto must sound very political to people who aren't familiar with it. (Choose the right? Or choose the left?)

The seminary teacher in me took over. I looked her in the eye--my nose still glistening--gave what I intended to be a wise smile, and said, "Make good choices."

She seemed to think that was OK. At least she didn't respond with, "Ewww, your nose is running." I paid her for the pizza and she said to have a good evening or something.

As I drove home with our car smelling like pepperoni pizza, I thought of the shield shape of the CTR logo and how making right choices really is a shield or protection to us. In seminary we're reading about Captain Moroni and how he prepared his people to defend their land, families, and liberties in part by providing them with breastplates and shields to protect them against the attacks of their enemies. Making right choices based on eternal truths really will hold us steady and keep us strong in so many ways.

So when I got home, I made a couple of right choices. I surrendered the pizza to The Teenager. And then I blew my nose. I feel better now.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Is He Here Yet?

I'm waiting at the ophthalmologist's office. All I have to say is, it sure was nice of them to hurry and get my pupils dilated so I can wait, with my eyes seeing all weird, while the doc visits with not one, but two other patients.

Fortunately I can still read things like e-mail. . . or blogs. . . as long as I keep my glasses off and concentrate on focusing But if I try to leave my chair and take off somewhere, I just might get lost and never be able to find my way back.

One of the aides just offered me something to drink. "Coffee? Juice? Melted snow from the parking lot?" Well, OK, I'm kidding about that last one. There is no melted snow here; it hasn't been above freezing for many days. That's something about the frozen North: it's frozen.

But I digress. Of course, looking around at my surroundings--an examination room that I can't see clearly anyway--I am not sure what I am digressing from. There's a big round thing on a shelf that's staring at me; that's probably an eye model. There are little boxes of things I can't read. A mirror I can't see in. An orange thing on the wall that looks like a target, except it's missing the point values. Two phones. A trashcan. A big Thing with lenses and a chin rest that I've had my eyes checked on a zillion times before, but I've never thought to ask what it was called. A different thing on a shelf that's yellow and looks like Pikachu. No, not too much interesting going on here.

Actually I thought the doc would be in here before now, so I'm rambling and wondering how I'm going to finish this--short of saying "He's here!" Because he isn't. And also because when he finally comes in, do you really think I'm going to make him wait while I type HE'S HERE? Well, I guess I could, but I'd rather just finish and go home.

By the way...he's here!!


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