Thursday, October 30, 2014

Darkened Raven

*Thought I would post this just for fun.  I wrote it some time ago in conjunction to studying Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.  Those who know my cousin Eddie will not be surprised to hear that he was my inspiration and model for this brief stanza.  We have a very interesting, amusing relationship that leaves the rest of the family scratching their heads.  As our mutual cousin Rosalina once told us, "When I was little I used to listen to your conversations and I couldn't understand what you two were talking about.  Now that I've grown up...I still can't figure out what you guys are talking about."  Happy Halloween, everyone!

Art and passion prove the fire, lead the conflagration higher
Ever swelling, never tire that provides your wisdom bright.
Hard pressed moon’s glow shows the pathway, bathes your feet in beams of dark grey
Ever wander but do not stray, in this blanket of the night.
In this all consuming darkness and the grayish shades of night.
Look thou upward into light. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dad's Guitar

When father picks up his guitar in the ev'n
The world of the deep magic hears
And bends down to listen to soft tenor notes
Whilst gushing out laughter and tears.

His hands move like instruments just of themselves
And woo each sweet measure and beat
And children come round and sing loud with the sound
Of the tapping of pattering feet.

Bright beams seem to open like truth to your eyes,
And dreams don't seem ever so far -
They dance with the music along in your hands
When daddy picks up his guitar.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Italian Worship

I felt to sit and write poetry about the Lord Jesus Christ.  You have already seen a typical English style piece in my previous post but I often strive to employ terza rima, a type of poetry invented by Dante Alighieri for his Divine Comedy and which is generally known as the most difficult type of poetry to write in the English language.  The rhyme scheme is in triples, which Dante used to denote the power of the Trinity.  I have used this form before in much longer works where you can see the form more clearly. True to its conception I always write in it with spiritual context, and it is a delight to work through.  This little snippet seemed sufficient for the moment.

From deep within my weak and trembling soul
I raise my humble eyes up to my God.
In Him am I made strong and ever whole
Sweet kneeling on His pure and sacred sod
For in His care the earth transforms its face,
Oppressors cringe and break beneath the rod,
The scepter that He wields in awful grace
Which raises slaves to heights ethereal.

Sweet Jesus

I hear in words so many things about Him
In argued tones and analyzing days
They cut and splice to fit into their notions
Then lift their songs in awkward, reaching praise.

Quite true it is we know not much about Him
From published texts, philosophies of men.
I cannot help to bend the knee in prayer
Beseeching God to teach to me again

His grace and truth.  My tender adoration
Of Whom I've come to know through stumbling tread
By giving all my life to seek and follow
Being rescued from my sin and from the dead.

Whatever else the world may say about Him
I know His face, His comfort and His rest.
His all consuming love becomes my standard
And in His sweet embrace I'm ever blessed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When the World Comes Crashing Down

I must confess, gentle reader, that I have of late come across some rather pointed and poignant trials, which may account for the fact of my being something of a social recluse online and elsewhere.  It has seemed that I have been up against brick walls at every turn and I have felt confused and under the stern lash of painful experience.  Such a pedagogue will teach effectively surely but the lesson proves a difficult one whilst the student remains within the schoolhouse walls.  

Simultaneously, I have been reading the book of Genesis and Exodus to my children and as often happens I find myself in the scriptures before me.  When the children of Israel found themselves in slavery and any action they took would prove insufficient they learned to listen to their God who could rescue them.  Some of the actions seemed undoubtedly confusing but they were working hand in hand with the One who could part the Red Sea.  Sometimes bad things happen and we do not understand why.  Jacob, bless his heart, wanted only one woman for his own but was tricked into marrying his beloved's older sister.  I can't imagine how difficult and painful this must have been for him and his family and how many times he must have pleaded for answers to heaven.  But Leah gave us half of the tribes of Israel - could Rachel have handled bearing the 12 sons that the Lord knew needed to come from Jacob's loins?  Poor woman could barely handle two and sealed the second one's birth with her death!  The pain and sorrow of this family changed and blessed the world forever.  Could they have foreseen such an immense result from their pain, sorrow and betimes their confus├ęd bickering?  Did they really understand that after the trial of such great magnitude nearly the entire world would rise up and call them blessed, seeking for their promises, reading of their trials and learning from their experiences?  

And sometimes in the midst of trial, when we know not where to go or what to do, we need to follow the Lord's commands, no matter how reckless and confusing they may seem.  Did it make sense to walk through the Red Sea or march around Jericho?  Surely not.  But so be it.  And when I look at the difficulties surrounding me and wonder what God has in store, I am grateful to be in the middle of teaching the story of Moses to my children.  Sometimes the Lord allows difficult things to happen, like Pharaoh's hardened heart, in order to create miracles in our lives that will testify of His power and love for His children throughout all the ages and to all the world of mankind. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cute Clothes Make Everything Better

"Ummm...I thought you went to work on Tuesdays, not Mondays."  My kids' karate teacher sat down in his usual spot outside our mutual kiddos' elementary school a few weeks ago.

"I do." I answered, hardly glancing up from my book.

"So...why are you wearing that?" He referred to the sassy upscale red dress and matching heels I was sporting.

"It was a hard weekend.  I'm making it a good day."

(Shrug) "Well, as long as you're comfortable."

I was very comfortable.  Sexy clothes make me extremely comfortable, especially when stress and frustration are chasing me.  And power red says, "I am totally confident and independent.  Look me in the eye...if you dare!"  In a manner of speaking, more than half the battle against stressful situations finds itself finished if you can intimidate the elements around you enough to get them to leave you alone.  And trouble tends to flee in shame and terror if we look like we know what we're doing.  Truly, if we look the proper ticket people who may be inclined to give us a hard time will find themselves checked by our appearance of strength and self assurance. 

So often we try to depend on other people or uncontrollable outside circumstances to make us feel better when life performs its job of teaching by kicking us around, but I've learned through experience that it is wiser to try to pull myself up as far as is possible instead of putting that burden on others and then complain when they cannot make you happy.  That isn't to say that inviting help when needed is wrong or bad, but it is a peaceful and inviting person who can take matters into his own hands and do his part to don a smile.  Such people make the world a better place.  Besides, it's much more entertaining to wear a fabulous outfit and feel great than to sink into the dreary existence of depression and anxiety without a fight.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Girls are Sexier...Just Sayin'

I am and have always been what a person may term as a "good girl."  I've voluntarily never had an extramarital love affair, never had a sip of alcohol, was a virgin on the wedding night and so on.  But I have also never heard anyone who has seen me on a dance floor describe me as boring and I have had way too  many men attempt to get me to break that long standing record of chaste morality.  Though it seems counter intuitive that virtuous women are sexy, it is a concept that makes perfect sense.

We all of us, or most at least, have natural human feelings which include passion, sensuality and the like.  I often hear people make the very strange assumption that virtuous people are so because they lack sufficient interest in sexuality.  Bosh!  I have known a great many women who are good by choice but also have boiling inside an unquenchable and passionate desire for sensuality.  That is exactly what makes them sexier than those women who openly throw themselves at every man they see.  Honestly, men, help me out here.  Would you rather date a woman who gave you and everyone else her worn, tired out, overly used body and was so absorbed with being sexier than the next girl that she lost her appeal altogether, or a woman who had intelligence and purpose, spent her time in making herself healthy and beautiful in mind, body, and spirit, and wanted to give you her whole person, surrender her love and sexuality exclusively to you alone, and flood you with all the passion she'd been jealously harboring in wait for the right guy to come along?  Would you prefer a woman who you know will go from you to the next guy without caring much for either of you or respecting herself, or a woman who spends her time at the library, the beauty salon, the lingerie store and the gym, making herself the best person she can be so that she can give herself to you alone, body and soul, and delight in the idea of being all yours in your arms, in your heart and in your bed?  Such a woman naturally inspires her man to be the most amazing, heroic, powerful man he can be and lifts him to higher ground morally, emotionally, and mentally, allowing him to become something greater than he ever thought he could be.  C'mon, people.  Seriously?

There is no comparison in my mind and in my experience men have a tendency to agree.  I have seen guys who could have had any easy woman on earth completely lose their minds over such a good girl as I've described.  More powerfully, it is a true concept that pure love and reckless lust cannot coincide one with another.  Love and attraction can exist in the mind at the same time but love and lust cannot.  The more a person engages in things that damage the soul, the less capable they become of having pure, passionate, overwhelming love.  Good girls know what true love is and they know best how to shower their man with it. 

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Duel of Sex

Quite a title, no?  I captured it from another author and giving credit where it is most certainly due, I have to attribute the idea of this post to the immortal Bernard Shaw from his fabulous play, "You Never Can Tell."  I highly recommend it if you get the chance.  

Now, getting down to business.

The duel of sex as described in the play is the fight between parents trying to teach their innocent daughters to be wise enough to avoid men who would play with their affections and the young men who learn what the parents teach and try to find a way around it in order to win fair lady's heart.  Shaw describes it in order to make sense in his era; I will describe it in order to make sense in ours.  

Women used to learn that they ought to be modest, innocent, and wait for men to make the first move.  Men used such ideas to their advantage and women felt themselves unfairly oppressed until the rights of women came about.  Since then, women have thought themselves very safe in thinking that if they make the first move, they get the man's phone number, and they wear scanty clothing it will somehow give them power over the man.  After all, why let your fate and romantic destiny rest in someone else's hands?  Take them into your own, right?  Well, the modern man figured this out, learned how to get around it, and "beat her at that game, just as he had beaten her before."  He has learned to quickly hand out his phone number, expect the woman to make the first move, and unfortunately play the lady in many romantic situations.  Result?  I have seen more women's hearts shattered in this age of easy sex than I would wish to describe or consider.  But there is one woman against whom these modern masculine wiles do not work.  They don't work against the thoroughly old fashioned woman.  If we raised our daughters to be modest, innocent, and the like "it would take 18 months to get to where (a man can get now) in 18 minutes."  I recall being on a plane once and a man forcing his phone number into my pocket after fruitlessly throwing himself at me throughout the entire trip.  The phone number went into the nearest garbage can.  What was I supposed to do with that?   What does a thoroughly old fashioned lady do with a man who is seeking to play this modernistic game?  Absolutely nothing.

I suggest we turn the tables a little.  We educate our daughters to be the talented, beautiful, feminine ladies that they can be.  Let them learn to love, honor and value their bodies enough to wait (or make a guy wait) until marriage.  Teenage pregnancies would nearly disappear, marriages would be strengthened and guys would have to revert to being real men.  

Just a thought. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shrimp for Dinner and Mystery for Lunch

My daughter and I have been at home alone.  Whatever shall we do with ourselves?

Anything we want!

Mother/daughter time, or rather parent/child time proves sometimes rare in this world.  Best to live it up, I say.  We went to the local market and bought all her favorite foods.  This morning she announced that the shrimp platter had finally thawed in the refrigerator.  I don't quite comprehend or identify with her delight in consuming the entire package before eight in the morning, but to each her own.  No harm done.  These are the things that create lasting memories.

She had decided that for the most part our week together must have rules.  Generally we must sleep until noon, except, apparently, for today.  We must take hikes in the desert wilderness surrounding our home.  I am always up for a little extra exercise - no qualms with that.  We must dress like princesses, or in the case of these pictures, as a super sleuth like Nancy Drew, whose books we must read quite naturally in the very exciting super sleuth headquarters we made in her room out of bed sheet, chair, and step ladders.  She has also decided I must read my book on the couch while she silently reads hers (Bless you, my child!!!).  These rules have a tendency to change with the fancy of the moment, so who knows what tomorrow will bring?  With Julia, imagination is everything and miracles are always just around the corner.

Involuntary Convulsions


I do not delight to reveal this for public perusal but I feel much compelled by heaven to do so.  As mentioned, I suffer from pseudo seizures due to extensive trauma, and I have from time to time had people ask what it is like to endure these limb flailing, convulsive, frame contorting episodes.  It is with a heavy heart that I answer this question in writing for it is an unpleasant experience and I would shield the public and those I know and love from understanding just how painful it is. 

Firstly, while this looks much like a convulsive epileptic seizure, it is not so.  Such seizures arise from the brain itself.  The type I suffer find their points of origin in the psyche.  I have had an MRI and specialists in neurology have affirmed that the condition is due to trauma, not damage to the actual brain.  But I fear I digress in a natural desire to postpone discussing the experience itself.

We must also understand that it takes a great deal of pain and trauma in order to have even one pseudo seizure.  It is, in its purest form, a distress call from the mind to the body warning that the mind can take no more pain and tries to force the body to distance itself from whatever pain is causing the trauma.  It is a form of the mind's self defense.  The first night I endured one I had been through so much pain and fear that I first vomited from stress and then fell on my bed where my entire body proceeded to convulse involuntarily.

What is it like to actually endure it?  My soul weeps to have to relate this.  Well, beforehand, as the pain and trauma mounts, one can feel every cell of one's body in fiery anguish and revolt against the cause of the pain.  This may last a few minutes or it may be mounting and increasing slowly over a course of days.  It is difficult to prevent an episode though even with this warning because as the bodily pain increases the fuzziness of mind does too, and one does not realize the magnitude of the danger until it is too late.  Often the spine may feel so filled with stress that it feels literally on fire and extends a feeling of captive brittleness through all the nerve fibers in the body.  One becomes profoundly aware of the state of one's body, for in every nook and cranny, both at skin level and beneath, agony resides in a manner I can only describe as the very torments and pains of hell, for surely I know of nothing in this world to compare to it. 

That is only the beginning. 

When the pseudo seizure hits, it feels as though the soul is literally vomiting and rebelling against all the traumatic stress it has endured, which brought it about.  Pain and tension claim every shred of the body and though you can feel your body convulsing and even sometimes hear yourself screaming in anguish, there is nothing you can consciously do to stop it.  Once it has you in its grip, the only thing I know is to let it run its course.  I have had people try to hold my body still during these episodes but it doesn't generally serve to lessen the severity.  Many times the episode has proven powerful enough to create serious, mind shattering pain in my torso and it felt as though my chest was splitting apart.  In discussing this with someone who had been acquainted with the condition in intimate terms I found my suspicions confirmed - that the agony I had experienced was my weakened heart skipping under physical strain. I have known those who have died from this and can well comprehend how such a condition can create death in some and at times cause others of us to plead for it.

Yet here I stand seven and a half years and well over 1, 500 pseudo seizures later.  My health is very delicate in this respect and any incident echoing of the original trauma which excited this condition serves as a trigger to bring it to the forefront again, forcing my mind, soul and every feeling in my body into a vise of indescribable and absolutely blighting pain coupled with extreme, irrational fear.  Indeed, I have had episodes within the last week, but I trust in God, whether in life or death, health or sickness, and recognize that we all have trials of some sort.  I am grateful and awed that the Lord considers me strong enough to bear this with His help and it has created a deep and intense love and conscious dependence on the Almighty to carry me through each and every day.  And I am thankful for that.

What is it Like to Have Post Traumatic Stress?

I don't know why I feel so compelled to record this, but I feel a greater Hand than mine urging me to answer the question so many have asked me.  I must confess I used to be one of those who believed that these so called psychological ills were simply a lack of mind over matter and that such things were often the result of people willfully choosing to prove weak in the ordinary course of human trial.  I could not have been more wrong.

The circumstances of my trauma are so varied and difficult to discuss that I will simply say that mine is a type of compound trauma, arising from many things and culminating through many years of extraordinary difficulty as well as some short lived traumatic experiences.  Once I officially had post traumatic stress the circumstances in which I found myself worsened, hastening me toward the very severe condition I have now.  

I recall the day the traumatic stress hit.  I was alone in my home with my daughter and pregnant with my son when I sudden began hallucinating and falling onto the couch, held my head between my hands for my mind felt so badly squeezed into a vise and locked down immovably that I felt it would literally crack at any moment.  All my exertions proved vain and in desperate confusion I cried out, "What is happening to me?"  At once I felt a strong impression, indeed a voice, which said, "Calm down.  You are going to be okay.  You have post traumatic stress."  I had little studied the condition but now uncovered my old college psychology textbook and reviewed the list of symptoms.  I had been profoundly experiencing every last one.  

Generally the condition proves seasoned by continual attacks of nightmares, lack of emotion, flashbacks, and the inability to live life as one did before its onset.  I remember staring blankly at the wall for I know not how long and thinking I can't feel anything.  I had lost the ability to feel happiness, sadness, love or virtually anything else.  Indeed, at its worst the only emotion I never lost was compassion.  

Due to the circumstances my symptoms worsened and involved the sensation of anguish filling every inch, every cell of my body, and I have at length become rather prone to fainting through the toll it has taken on my body.  I remember for what I vaguely recall as weeks, a constant sense of wetness in my skin as though pain were continually seeping out of every pore of my body.  I lost the ability to read, write, sing, and converse normally with people.  I am told, and can well believe that I looked as a walking corpse, with no life in my eyes or expression for many months on end.  The most compelling symptom I have is a very rare one known in psychology as a pseudo seizure.  I have known some cases in which people have died from this condition, as indeed nearly happened to me.  The strain of involuntary convulsion proves too much for the already weakened frame and heart, leading to the heart skipping or stopping completely.  I have come to that point and by only the grace of God still sit here to record such things for the public eye.

I do not know why I have felt so compelled to write as I have but know the Lord wishes me to do so.  Perhaps it is for my own sake or for that of a beloved reader, but one of the greatest things I have learned through this experience and which has carried me through it against all reason and imagination, is that when the Lord impresses me to do something, that I immediately and entirely comply.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

By What Authority?

I don't know if I was supposed to hear this conversation. I overheard it because the two men to my right were discussing religious hierarchy and though I had a book in my face a part of me is so interested in religion that I could help...overhearing.  As they are both friendly to me on a regular basis I probably would have easily been included in the chat but I felt it best to keep my mouth shut, especially as my answer might have proven a bit too provoking.

The problem was that the pastor of one man's church was apparently gathering for himself and abusing position and power in the congregation.  This friend and good man was naturally feeling frustrated with the situation and dissatisfied with his pastor's behavior.  My temptation was to kindly, gently, take his discourse very seriously and quietly ask him how this pastor had the authority to hold his position as head of this flock.  Who gave him that right?  It seems a little thing but I feared heads might roll if I quietly brought that point to light.  I didn't then, but as it seems an important idea I felt it worthy of a post.

My own religion is so different that we do not run into this question at all.  Our answer is very straightforward.  In other faiths, however, I honestly do not know the answer to that question, neither do I yet understand how others do.  If you can enlighten me, I would be only too happy to receive instruction. 

Not to engage in religious mutiny but any historian knows that the authority given to the apostles fell into oblivion when they were martyred and could not appoint successors.  At this point the world fell into what we now call the Dark Ages.  Coincidence?  I don't believe in coincidences.  We might argue that the authority fell to a Roman Pope, but then we also have historical anecdotes of popes murdering popes and thus where did the authority go?  If authority to act as pastor somehow extended to Protestantism at all, which I don't see, which sect holds it?  If it didn't, then what right and divine authority does this pastor have to stand at his pulpit and abuse that position?  I have the perspective of an outsider but it seems to me that the right he has only exists by the homage his parishioners give him.  And if they dislike his behavior, what compels them to keep him in his station?  He has no more divine authority to stand at the head than they do.  Is it not so?  I understand that people study religion at college and attain a degree, but we must recognize that it is a man made, world given document.  Still, we see no authority from God.  We all have the right to preach as we see fit, it is true, and I applaud the honest application of that principle, but when a pastor abuses his position, are we necessarily bound to uphold him?

As I know this must raise questions about the authority of my own religion I will answer, briefly, that as the story goes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith met with numerous angels and glorified beings, among whom were John the Baptist and others who conferred upon him the various priesthoods discussed in the Bible.  Joseph called and appointed twelve apostles and conferred upon them the same power and priesthood.  Thus the chain of command and priesthood line were not broken.  They were given from a prophet to a prophet and when Joseph died, those he had called were set up in a divinely appointed hierarchy.  The next in line became prophet and another apostle was called to fill the vacancy as it was in the New Testament.  The hierarchy of the priesthood filters down to the congregational level, and all branches and levels report back, up the line, until it gets to the apostles and prophet.  All money is carefully watched, distributed and accounted for.  The Church is audited once a year and the auditor reports back to the worldwide populace. 

Joseph Smith: Madman, Liar, Demon or Prophet?

Which answer do I mark? I wondered.  The history book in my junior high class taught that the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, was taken out of Carthage Jail and hanged. That was one of the answers on the multiple choice test before me.  But I had been to Carthage Jail, had touched the bullet holes in the door, read and fairly memorized countless accounts of Smith's martyrdom and knew for a perfect fact he had been brutally shot, which was another answer, presumably the "wrong" one, on the page before me.  I didn't care if my grade suffered.  I answered that he had been shot.

I have rarely come across any historical figure so often lied about as the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I seek as he did "to disabuse the public mind" in reference to the most important aspect of his history - the defining of who and what this Joseph Smith person was. 

Often people have simply written him off as a liar.  Allow me to relate a story from his youth in which he proved his inward metal.  The tender age of seven found Joseph in need of an operation which consisted of cutting into his leg and removing the infected part of the bone.  The only type of painkiller available was alcohol and Joseph believed it was morally wrong to indulge in such things on moral grounds.  He insisted on having the operation with nothing to shield him from the agonizing pain.  Such was his conscience and devotion to moral decency.  Was he a perfect man?  No.  But can a rational person believe that such a child would 31 years later voluntarily lay down his life to defend fabricated lies?   Certainly not.  Whatever else, he believed with his whole soul that his story was true.

One may argue that he was an honest man but had lost his mind.  I appreciate personally the kindness attached to that idea, as it excuses this great man from ill doing.  But is it rational?  I would invite such a one to read his own language, to read the Book of Mormon and tell me if a madman could have written with such perfect simplicity, consistency, and power.  I know of no account of Joseph raving, lashing out, or engaging in strange, erratic behavior from his birth to his martyrdom. 

Well, if he was honest and in his right senses, surely he might have been deceived by the devil.  A passage from the Book of Mormon reads, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26) Can a man led by Satan write such passionate words describing a full devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ?  The entire Book of Mormon is devoted to testifying of the divinity of Jesus Christ and defending the Bible to an ever increasingly faithless people.

What answer remains?  I do not do this often on my blog but I would like to bear you my witness that I know perfectly that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, called and ordained by the Master Himself, and guided to bring forth the Book of Mormon for the benefit of mankind.  I have always instinctively known this and even as a child I hungered to learn about Joseph, for the feeling of light and peace proved always overwhelming.  Basking in the truthfulness of his testimony was delicious to my soul from my infancy, and as an adult I have furthered my study of him and found more proof than I can pour into a simple blog post arguing the reality of his mission.  Were I to lay all this before you I can still convince you of nothing.  But there is Someone who can.  Allow me to give you another passage, this time from the Bible, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith...."  (James 1:5-6)