Friday, December 30, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Want to feel close to the Savior as you finish the Christmas season? Click here to watch a beautiful video.
May the sweet memory of Christmas spill into your New Year, filling it with love, joy, and peace.

Linda Garner

Monday, December 26, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: After Christmas

The Message:
In the tradition of the shepherds and the wisemen, we will give many gifts this Holiday season. Some will be meaningful, some will be frivolous. Some will be gaily wrapped, others unwrappable. Some will be expensive, some will come from the heart. None can match the priceless gift that was given to us.

Will we bring a gift to our worship? What might we offer as we kneel before the manger? Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh seem strangely out of place this time.

What might we give as we kneel before the cross? Even a lamb will not do this time, for Jesus was the sacrificial lamb. Perhaps we might give a favorite sin, a heavy burden, a prideful spirit. Perhaps we could give obedience, our love, our will. Perhaps, we could offer our hands or even our heart.

And should we choose to give our heart to Jesus, he would give to us a new heart...a softer more obedient heart. He would take us and make us his. He would teach us to be like him.

I¹m Trying To Be Like Jesus (Children¹s Songbook p. 78)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Day

The Message:
In reality, the search for Jesus will take us far beyond the manger in Bethlehem. If we would truly follow the star we must go to Nazareth, to Galilea, to Jerusalem. We must find not only the infant Jesus, but Jesus the man.

We must find the fisher of men, the teacher, the leader, the healer, the friend.

We will find him by the sea of Galilea. We will find him on the Mount of Olives. We will find him on the dusty roads of Palestine. We will find him with the leper, the adulterer, the crippled, the sick.

Ultimately, if we would find Jesus, we must follow the star to the Garden of Gethsamane, to Golgatha, and to the Garden Tomb. Our worship must take us past the manger to kneel at the cross, for here he finished his work.

The gift was complete. This is the gift that matters most--the gift of all gifts--the gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Without Easter there could not be a Christmas. This is the gift of which the angels exultantly sang ...good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Joy to the World, the Lord is Come! Hail redemptions happy dawn!

Choose Your Favorite:
Joy to the World (Hymns p.201)
I Stand All Amazed (Hymns 193)
He Sent His Son (Children¹s Songbook p. 35)

*Note: There is one final message to be read on or before New Years Day. It will be posted tomorrow. It is a sweet finish to the Countdown til Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Day Five

Historians tell us that the wise men did not really kneel at the manger. They came much later, perhaps as much as two years later.

The wise men, or Magi, came from afar, and unlike the common, humble shepherds were men of wealth, influence, and power, perhaps even kings.

And so we see that the Savior did not come to just one nation or class of people. The Savior’s mission was to all people, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, humble and influential, Jew and gentile. All men, no matter what their race or station can come to the Savior and become whole. We are reminded that when he comes again every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.

We feel a sense of wonder as we imagine the Wise Men opening their treasures for the small Jesus. Their gifts were so well chosen.

Gold, a gift reserved for royalty, a gift representing a crown, a gift befitting a king.

Frankincense, a type of incense used by the priests in the temple . This was given as a symbol of his priesthood, his divine power, his Priestly nature. Frankincense was used in the temple for sacrificial offerings, and was given to the baby Jesus--Jesus, who would one day teach us much about sacrifice--Jesus, who had come to sacrifice himself for us, that we might live again.

The third gift, myrhh, was a type of perfume used for burial, a gentle reminder that Jesus would one day die for us.

Don't you love these images:

Learned men searching for Jesus, the source of truth and knowledge;

Influential men traveling through the darkness, to find the light of the world,following the star to seek the bright and morning star.

Perhaps even Kings, bowing before the King of Kings.

Sing: With Wondering Awe (Hymns p. 210)

*Note: There is an additional message which you can read on Christmas Day, or sometime next week. I think you'll enjoy it. It will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Day Four

The Message
Don't you love knowing that the shepherds were the first to receive the message that Jesus had been born?

Jesus, who would teach us much about shepherding, Jesus who would call himself the "Good Shepherd," who would teach us how to feed his lambs, to find the lost sheep, to come into the fold; Jesus, who would remind us that "my sheep know my voice, they hear me and follow me."

It seems so appropriate that shepherds would be the ones to get the news that the Lamb of God had come. Who were these humble shepherds? It was they who cared for the temple sheep from which the sacrificial lambs would be chosen. These lambs, like Jesus, would be sacrificed for the sins of the people.

We picture the shepherds bringing a lamb as a gift for the baby Jesus. The symbolism is flawless. Shepherds worshipping the Good shepherd...bringing a lamb as a gift for the lamb of God.

Choose Your Favorite:
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (Hymns p. 211)
Far Far Away On Judea’s Plains (Hymns p. 212)
The First Noel (Hymns p.213)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Day Three

The Message Part 1:
The name "Jesus" was specified by the angel Gabriel. It means Savior. His other names are no less descriptive. Christ means annointed one. Messiah means deliverer. Immanuel means God with us.

The scriptures teach "there is no other name given, whereby salvation can come to the children of men." Like Nephi, we can barely comprehend the condescension of God. This helpless baby nestled in the straw was Jehovah, the God of Israel, the Great I Am, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Bright and Morning Star....and he became like us, that we might become like him.

Did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus must be born in Bethlehem, the house of bread? How appropriate that the “Bread of Life” would begin his life in the city named the house of bread. How did they feel about the humble place of his birth? Would they have chosen a stable, a manger? What did Jesus mean to teach us by coming in this way?

Choose Your Favorite:
O Little Town of Bethlehem (Hymns p. 208)
Once in Royal David's City (Hymns p. 205)

The Message Part 2:
It was angels who sang the first Christmas Carol on that first Christmas night. Can you imagine a Christmas Celebration without the joyous music of Christmas? Perhaps it was their glorious song that inspired all other carols.

Who were the angels who filled that heavenly choir? Departed spirits and spirits yet unborn who recognized this pivotal moment in history, who understood that the future of the world, and their own destiny, hung in the balance of the sacred mission which was about to begin.

You and I no doubt looked on as the story began to unfold. In fact who knows but what we joined our voices in that glorious chorus..." Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men."

Choose Your Favorite:
Angels We Have Heard on High (Hymns p. 203)
Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Hymns p. 209)
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (Hymns p. 207)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Day Two

The Message:What kind of woman would God choose to be the mother of his son? Nephi calls her a virgin most beautiful and fair. Alma calls her a precious and chosen vessel of the Lord. Historians tell us that Mary was very young when she was told of her sacred mission, perhaps as young as 13, and probably not older than 16.

Can you imagine the thoughts that must have filled her young mind? It would be she who would prepare Jesus for his triumphant mission. Her baby would be the son of God!

This was neither the first nor last time that the Lord would choose someone very young for his most important work.

David was just a boy, when he was annointed King of Israel. The Savior would come through his blood line. Mormon was just 10 when he was entrusted with the plates, and 16 when he took charge of the Nephite armies. Joseph Smith was 14 when he saw the father and the son, and began his mission to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. We begin to see that you are never too young to be of great service to the Lord.

We love the words that Mary spoke as she accepted her sacred calling. "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word." If only we could be so obedient to the will of the Lord.

The name, Mary, means bitter...perhaps a reminder that a sword would one day pierce her heart.

Joseph was no less a hero. Imagine his feelings as he perceived that his love had been betrayed. Imagine his heartbreak, his anguish at his shattered dreams. Yet, at the angel’s word, he too showed complete and immediate obedience. Don’t you just marvel at the strength of his spirit, his trust, his faith.

We know so little of Joseph, but we imagine him gentle and kind, strong and protective. We know that he would have been equal to Mary in righteousness and spirituality. What kind of man would God have chosen to raise his son? Joseph would stand beside Mary. He would teach and guide Jesus. He would act as father.

Choose Your Favorite:
When Joseph Went to Bethlehem (Children’s Songbook p. 38)
Picture a Christmas (Children’s Songbook p. 50)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

Looking for a fun and spiritual way to count the days til Christmas?

Today is the first of five posts with a spiritual message and song that you can share at bedtime or around the dinnertable. May the spirit of Christ bless your home with love as you take a few moments to ponder the message and sing a song of Christmas.

The Message:
Christmas! It’s the happiest time of the year. We love the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas. We revel in the memories of Christmas past and the dreams of Christmas future.

For a short season we lay our cares aside and turn our thoughts to others. We are kinder, gentler, and more generous. We call it the Christmas Spirit. We hardly recognize ourselves as we go about spreading good cheer to friends, family, and sometimes strangers.

Yes, we love the tinsel, the gaily wrapped packages, the twinkling lights, but there is more. We know in our hearts there is a deeper meaning to Christmas, and we are not satisfied until Christmas takes us to the manger, if only in our hearts.

We must travel through time to the stable in Bethlehem. Our hearts yearn to follow the star, to hear the angel’s song, to smell the hay and listen to the lambs. Our search for Christmas is not complete until we, too, find the baby in the manger.

Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass. Oh Come, let us adore him.

Choose Your Favorite:
Oh Come All Ye Faithful (Hymns p. 202)
Away In a Manger (Hymns p. 206, or Children¹s Songbook p. 42)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TEXTING through TIME: a trek with Brigham Young

Time Travel is a great way to meet a Prophet...unless you get stuck in the past.

Christy Monson and I met at a writer's conference a few years ago, and we formed a tight little critique group with another friend. The focus of our group was picture books, and so I didn't get to preview this book, but I shared her excitement when it was accepted for publication. The book has been out for a few weeks now and is jumping off the shelves. I'm delighted to review it.

Time Travel is always a fascinating journey. A book that can combine adventure with history is sure to be a hit. Seeing the prophet, Brigham Young, through the eyes of a child as though it were happening right now is a lot of fun.

Alicia and Micah are just like your kids. Curious and at times a little contrary. When their dad's experimental phone malfunctions and they get stuck in the past, they want to go home. It takes time for them to get humble enough to pray for help and in the meantime they have a a few adventures with Brigham Young.

You won't want to miss this fun romp through the past. Pick one up to share with the kids you love.

Texting keeps us in touch, but cell phones keep changing. Who knows what's next. Before you know it we may be TEXTING THROUGH TIME.

Where would you like to go? Choose carefully. You could get stuck in the past.

Linda Garner

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gratitude: The Forgotten Key

There is something lovely about autumn. The days are crisper and there is a sense of purpose in the air. I enjoy the fall color and the gently falling leaves. I breathe deeply. I smell change.

As I watch the leaves fall, I ponder change. I wonder about the future. I look inside myself and enjoy the stillness. I step softly into my heart and take inventory. I embrace my gifts and examine my baggage. It is a good time for letting go.

What will I let go of this autumn? Some of my baggage is old and familiar. Shall I be done with it, at last? Is it time to move on? Can I let it go, like softly falling leaves, and allow it to gather at my feet, where I can sweep it up and carry it out?

Can I let go of judgement? Deceit? Bitterness? Self-Pity? Resentment? Anger?

Some thoughts have lodged in my heart for so long, they seem like family.
Who would I be without these guests? Guests are they, or perhaps intruders?

I examine each piece of baggage, each intruder, and wonder why I have kept it close for so long. In the corners of my heart I find hidden containers. Secrets. Do I know them?

Inferiority. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. No one likes me. It’s too late. I never… I always… How long have those bags been hidden in my heart? Who put them there?

Not I. Surely not I. Have I just been storing them, then, til someone claims them? Let them fall. I shake my inner tree and let them go.

I sweep the corners and gather the dust of loneliness, the cobwebs of despair, the skeletons of self-judgement, the bones of isolation.

Autumn feels good. With joy, I release things that no longer serve me. I let them go. I sweep up the leaves of yesterday and carry them out.

So much garbage. Did I get it all? Maybe not, but there is more room in my heart now. Room for shiny new gifts. Room for a jar of love, a box of forgiveness, a sack of friendship. Room for a cup of kindness, a tin of tolerance, and a can of cooperation.

With the baggage gone, I see a door that I didn’t noticed before. It was hidden behind the intruders. The word PEACE is painted on the door in pretty script.

What lies behind that door ? A closet? A hallway? An adventure? The door is locked. I search for a key. There it is hanging from a ribbon on a nail. The key is ornate, the ribbon delicate, and it is labeled gratitude.

Gratitude is the key.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." (Melodie Beattie)

I turn the key and enter. It’s not a hallway or a closet. It’s a beautiful room. Silently, it speaks the word on the door. It whispers peace.

The room is lovely. Fresh flowers grace the table. A fire crackles in the fireplace. The walls are decorated with things I love, meaningful art and pictures of things I am grateful for. I see faces of family and friends. I see happy memories frozen in time. These are precious gifts.

I explore this comfortable room. I sit at the piano and caress the keys lovingly. A tender melody flows from my grateful fingers. The music of my heart fills the stillness with gratitude. The gift of music sweetens my life.

I am drawn to the bookshelf where I notice my favorite books are mingled with some I have never read. I touch each one, feeling gratitude for the power of words. I am delighted that there are always new words to read. My fingers rest lovingly on the scriptures. I am grateful for the words of life.

Light filters in through a single window. I stand at the window and gaze at a charming garden alive with gracious plants. I throw open the window to breathe in the colors of life—the colors of gratitude. I find joy in this garden.

Inside this cozy room I become aware of my gifts, which are many. They bring meaning and enjoyment into my life. They bring me peace. I gather these gifts in my arms and carry them close to me, as I move toward the fire.

There is a mirror above the fireplace. As I look into the mirror, I am surprised to see not one, but two faces reflected there. I see my own face, and also the face of my Savior. I see that His life is woven together with mine. I see that His love and support makes my life meaningful. Gratitude swells within my heart.

A comfortable chair waits for me in front of the fire of love. It is inviting and has embroidery on the back. I trace the stiches with my fingers. At first the words are difficult to read, but as the fire tosses light onto the chair and fills the room with love, the words become clearer.

I can read the words now. Remember Who You Are. What a gift.

It’s a beautiful chair. I think I’ll sit a while.

Linda Garner

Friday, November 18, 2011

What If I Don't Feel Sorry?

Repentence isn't easy. It's even harder if we don't feel sorry for what we did. Sin can dull our senses and rob us of our feelings. Voices for Virtue posted Maria's question about feeling sorry on their facebook pages. Here is her question, along with some of the answers. I found it thought-provoking. Maybe you will too.

Maria asks: "Sometimes, when I've done something wrong, I do not feel sorry or regretful about it. Because of this- it's hard for me to repent. What should i do about this?"


Lisa from Utah
I know how you feel. I am there right now. I know what the answer is, though, I've heard it before from a friend: Pray for the desire to feel the remorse and repent.

Curtis from Texas
Be happy. The purpose of this life is to have joy. God isn't an umpire trying to call strikes and outs. So, although you may not feel guilt you may still have an intellectual knowledge of it as a sin. As you talk to the Lord about it He will gently invite you to change. Then your repentance will be real, sincere and short.

Darin from Utah
Read your scriptures... You'll start feeling godly sorrow and you'll feel the need to repent

…. it takes time and sometimes you fall a few times, but just keep trying. Pray to your Father in Heaven and He will guide you. Remember No matter what happens, you are never to far off the path to come back.. But you are still doing awesome because you have the desire to feel remorse :)

Jessica from Canada
Sometimes the circumstances surrounding a sinful act can seem very reasonable ... we must remember that the adversary will tell 1000 truths to tell one lie, and if all of the surrounding circumstances seem truthful, but the act you committed is not, that is one way that Satan can get a hold of you…

Juliana from Brazil
It helps if you keep in mind that you are a special daughter of our heavenly father, he loves and will take care of you and help you be a better person.

Ruby from Ohio
… listen to the still small voice. If we ignore it, and keep sinning, our conscience will grow smaller and smaller and it will be harder to feel regret for what we have done. When we go to church, or serve others, or do something to feel the Spirit, we will want to have that feeling with us always. We will miss the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Cindra from Michigan
... Your Bishop is the best place to start.

William from North Carolina
Follow these peoples advice dont do like I did and repeat the sin til it swalows your entire life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Addicted to my TO DO List

Priorities have always been a mystery to me. I’m always making “to do” lists, but I can never do all the things on my list.

As a young mother I was constantly reorganizing my “to do” lists according to priorities. My hope was that if I got my priorities in the right order I could somehow make it through my entire “to do” list. It never worked.

Eventually I learned that priorities were a tool to help me weed out the non-essential items on my “to do list” so that I could focus on the truly important things. There is so much I want to do, but there are only twenty four hours in a day, and I have to sleep sometime.

Wives and Mothers often put themselves last, because so many people are depending on them. You wouldn’t expect your car to run without gas, but sometimes this is what we expect of ourselves. If people are depending on us, we need to take special care of ourselves, for their sake as well as ours. When we allow ourselves to get drained, it is hard to serve anyone.

I admit it. I’m just like you. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and sometimes I forget that taking care of me is my first priority. Here is a fun reminder for all of us. I hope it makes you laugh.

Life Is Just So Daily

A model Mom was Mary Lee,
amazing for her friends to see.
She cleaned the house and fed the fishes,
Walked the dog, and did the dishes.

She drove her kids, plus neighbors, to school,
and lectured about the golden rule.
She wiped half a dozen runny noses,
And always took time to smell the roses.

She was a savvy grocery shopper,
and never gave up. No one could stop her.
She was always busy, and on the run.
But she was happy. Life was fun.

She volunteered at the old folks home
and later took time to write a poem
to go with a home made birthday gift.
She hoped it would give her neighbor a lift.

Her to do list was scary; her calendar? Filled.
She didn’t have time to clean up milk, if it spilled.
But she was organized, and life was a blast.
She knew how to work hard, and run fast.

Then one day… the visiting teachers came…

“…and Mary Lee, the Prophets say
We should read our scriptures every day.”

“I can do that,” thought Mary Lee.
“I’ll stay up half an hour later, gladly.”

The scriptures were awesome. They filled her with joy.
She pondered them often while picking up toys.
She read about service. She read about love.
She wanted to store up her treasures above.

She tended the baby for her best friend.
and gathered her ragged clothes to mend.
She cleaned out the fridge and made friendship soup,
while answering emails to stay in the loop.

She changed the baby again and again,
and paid all her bills with her favorite pen.
She made extra dinner for the sick and afflicted.
Mary Lee loved serving others. She was addicted.

While ironing, she listed to the radio, and heard:

“Daily exercise is a must
If the experts we can trust.”

“I can do that,” thought Mary Lee.
“I’ll get up an hour earlier, GLADLY.”

Jogging is easy, thought Mary Lee.
She jogged through the neighborhood daily.
When her alarm buzzed, she jumped up in the dark.
She jogged past the church. She jogged past the park.

Could anything slow down Mary Lee?
She kept on going, like the energizer bunny.
She still did her service and cheered up the sad.
Once a week without fail she called Mom and Dad.

At Relief Society one Sunday she heard:

“You MUSN’T neglect your kindred dead.
Please do your genealogy,”
the teacher said.

“I’ll do it. I’ll do it,” cried Mary Lee.
“I’ll stay up later than ever. GLADLY!”

A miracle woman was Mary Lee,
amazing for her friends to see.
She filled out pedigrees one by one
and family group sheets. “Hey this is fun.”

She diligently worked on her family tree,
and learned New Family Search, and Temple Ready.
She went to the temple for those deceased
and sealed them together, piece by piece.

At PTA meeting, one evening, she heard:

Children need to see their parents read.
“It’s your job”,
said the teacher, “Now please, take the lead.”

“I can do that,” said Mary Lee.
“I’ll get up earlier. I’ll do it GLADLY.”

She went to the library and brought home books.
She stacked up those books in corners and nooks.
She read the classics. She read history.
She even tried (gasp) romance, sci fi, fantasy.

She read lots of picture books to her small ones,
and shared current events with each of her tall ones.
She read the newspaper. Some news made her shudder.
She, of course, read the Ensign, from cover to cover.

And then, the home teachers knocked at her door:

“Prepare for the future,” they said. “Are you ready?”
“How is your food storage? Be sure to have plenty.”

“I must get prepared,” said Mary Lee.
I’ll fill all my shelves, diligently.”

“I’ll can, and I’ll freeze, and I’ll dry, and I’ll store.
I can do it. I can. I can always do more.
but where will I find the time,” said she.
“I can go to bed later,” she sighed. “…gladly?”

So Mary Lee bought fruit by the bushel.
She kept her stove humming. Food storage is crucial.
She planted her garden in the pale moonlight.
She watered and weeded, night after night.

She made sure to cover all of her bases,
and brought home more food, by the cases.
She gazed at her bulging shelves with pride.
I knew I could do it, she tiredly sighed.

One day in a magazine she read:

Develop your talents to give your life zing.
She had always wanted to learn how to sing.

So, she got on the phone that very day
and arranged for a teacher, You know what they say…
Don’t put it off, just do it TODAY.

The lessons were great, but there was a quirk.
When could she practice her new singing work?
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said tired Mary Lee.
“Get up earlier, I guess,” she said miserably.

That night when Mary Lee dressed for bed
and set the alarm, and laid down her head,
just ten tiny minutes and the alarm was heard.
You’d think she’d jump up, but she never stirred.

This part of the story, you may find boring,
for Mary Lee lay there exhausted and snoring.
How long did she sleep? No one knows for sure.
The next several days are simply a blur.

When she finally woke, she stretched and she yawned.
A brand new idea had finally dawned.
“I can’t do it all, though I wish that I could.
I’ve tried, and I’ve tried. I did more than I should.”

I’m only one person. Some things, I can do.
I don’t have to be good at everything. Nor Do You.
I like serving, and doing, and being, you see,
But I forgot one thing, taking care of me.

Linda Garner

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Nominations are Open

The Nominations for the Whitney awards are now open.

The Whitney awards were created to recognize quality work and to help readers become more aware of the fine literature being published by LDS authors. They were named after Orson Whitney.

There are seven different categories: general fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery/suspense, speculative (sci-fi/fantasy), young adult general and young adult speculative fiction. A book must get five nominations to be considered.

Last year, was my first introduction to the Whitneys. I read all five nominees in two different categories. It was delightful. I enjoyed branching out to new authors and new genres. This year, I hope to start earlier and read more categories.

If you’re looking for something to read that is clean and well-written, take a look at some of last year’s finalists, or previous years. I’ll bet you’ll like them. You can see last years winners here.

Anyone can nominate a book for the Whitneys. All books nominated go through a complex screening process to select the five finalists in each category. Members of LDS storymakers are eligible to vote along with a panel of experts who are invited to participate. We can only vote in categories where we have read all five finalists.

If you have read a book you’d like to nominate, it must have been published in 2011 and must have been written by an LDS author. Only full length fiction is eligible. To find out more click here. To nominate a book, click here.

Happy reading!

Linda Garner

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Choosing Light

Where were you on the morning of Sept 11, 2001? Do you remember?

I remember. For most of us, that moment will be permanently imprinted in memory: the moment we discovered that America had been betrayed. What did the betrayal feel like to you? Was it personal? Did you feel connected or detached? Were you angry, confused, frightened, sad, depressed, or all of the above?

A friend of mine who works in the mental health field reports that anxiety became rampant in wake of 9/11. She says that anxiety was relatively rare in the days before the terrorist attack and became widespread in the days and years that followed.

Not everyone gave in to terror. Some shelved their worries in a hidden place and buried them for another day. Some chose indifference. Some hardened their hearts. Others turned to faith.

Many chose prayer. A nation that had largely abandoned prayer suddenly became very prayerful…for a time. In a gesture of hope, my neighborhood displayed luminaries. We lit candles, laid them on a bed of sand in a one room paper house, and placed them near the street. A silent glow of unity lit our street against the ugliness of the day, and the curtain of night and fear.

Things have changed since the day terror knocked on our front door. Security is the new game in town. War is our new neighbor. And for some, a new fear moved in to stay.
Is it a coincidence that ten years later our economy is close to ruin, taxes gnaw hungrily at our paychecks, beefy government fingers poke at every pie, and joblessness lives in the spare bedroom.

We voted for change, but not this change. We hoped for improvement. Government behaves badly, much like a chubby, spoiled, manipulative child. It stamps its feet and cries for its way. It bullies us and kicks us when we’re down.

When I was young, I thought the end of the world was around the next corner. This both thrilled and worried me, for I knew that it would be a great and simultaneously terrible day. Would I grow old enough to finish school? To marry? To be a mother? What kind of world would I introduce my children to?

As a young mother, I stewed about wars and rumors of wars. I wrinkled my forehead over earthquakes in diverse places. I watched for the moon to turn to blood. When I could afford to, I stored food and water and wheat. Lots of wheat. I stored fabric and flashlights. I stored batteries, and candles, and clothes.

I once had a depression coat, a walking to Missouri coat, just in case. It was ugly as sin, but it was sturdy and warm. I knew I would never wear it, unless there was a crisis, yet I clung to it like hope. I knew that it would keep me warm against a dark and sinister nameless storm.

The coat is gone, but I still store food, and also hope, for I have learned that storms are a part of life. The thunder and lightning may frighten me, but I have control. I can choose peace. I can choose gratitude. I can choose faith. The most dangerous storm is the one that rages in my mind. Shall I choose fear or faith? Shall I choose chaos or stillness?

I have learned that most storms pass and that if we are prepared we shall not fear. I have learned that the only true safety lies inside my heart, the hand of my neighbor, the touch of a friend. I have learned that peace lies not in absolute safety but in trust and in my bucket of faith. I have learned to cling to my family, to strengthen my friends, and to share that bucket of faith with those in need.

There are more earthquakes now, and they have moved closer. The voices of war grow louder. Peace is not for sale, but it is abundant even in the growing chaos. Would you like a drink from my bucket of faith? Here, take my hand.

Abundance is mine. Peace, joy, and trust are abundant for those who know where to look.

America has a wonderful way of reinventing itself. We still have a lot going for us. We have a lot to be thankful for. We can make a difference. Be part of the solution. Believe it or not, whining is not a solution. Become the change you long for.

Gather your family. Gather your stores. Gather your courage. Believe. Hope. Trust. Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.

9/11/2011. It’s a perfect day for finding peace. Light a candle of faith in your heart and feel the glow of peace. Hold it out against the darkness surrounding you. Refuse to give in to darkness. Choose light. Choose gratitude. Choose abundance.

Count your blessings. Rejoice in abundance. Share your gifts. Strengthen your faith.

The choice is yours.

Linda Garner

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Service...Who Needs It?

What was wrong with Devin?

It was a busy day, and we were all hard at work. The kids were cleaning up a storm. Everyone, that is but Devin. Devin was out of sorts, whining and getting in the way. He seemed to be mad at the whole world.

I stopped what I was doing and gathered Devin in my arms for a hug. As I looked into his sober eyes, it occurred to me that I had given everyone a job to do, except him. He was the only one who was not contributing. Without meaning to I sent Devin a message that he wasn’t needed. I quickly assigned Devin a job, and he cheered right up.

Devin is twenty-seven now. He was four when he taught me the importance of service. Everyone needs to serve. Serving builds our sense of self- worth.

I remember a study that was done at a nursing home. Each of the residents was given a houseplant to keep in their room. Half were told that the staff would care for their plant. The other half was told that the plant was their responsibility. Interestingly, the patients who had to care for their own plants became more alert and experienced measureable health improvements.

Who needs to serve? Anyone who wants a sense of purpose and worth.

What If I Don’t Feel Like Serving?

Serving isn’t always easy and it is seldom convenient. For me, there have been times when I really didn’t want to serve. There have been times when I wanted to be left alone. Sometimes I have felt too busy, too tired, or perhaps just too selfish. Maybe you have felt that.

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” This probably never happens to you, but I must admit that sometimes I get a little weary of well-doing.
King Benjamin taught us that even if we serve our Heavenly Father with our whole souls, we will still be unprofitable servants. To be honest, I don’t know how often I serve with my whole soul.

He also taught that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God. Perhaps that thought can strengthen us when we are weary of well-doing.

Finding Joy in Service

Usually, I sign up to help out with ward service projects. I enjoy the work, once I am there. It’s nice to be around people who are serving, because they are usually cheerful and gracious. The atmosphere is friendly and uplifting. Still, I don’t necessarily look forward to service projects. A day at the cannery has never been my first choice, but maybe it should be.

Once while serving at the cannery, I worked alongside a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. As we visited I learned that she was knee deep in challenges that were troubling to me.

She and her husband were struggling with a son who had stolen money and personal items from them. He had sold family heirlooms for drug money. The list of problems created for them by this son was a heavy one.

“How are you getting through this?” I asked.

She smiled confidently. “This,” she said, indicating our surroundings.

This? I thought, as I watched the cans slide down the conveyer belt.

“Yes,” she said. “Serving is what gets me through.”

I was stunned. Serving was getting her through. Serving at the cannery was bringing her peace.

Who needs to serve? Anyone who longs for peace.

Occasionally we have the privilege of cleaning the temple. This is an extraordinary service project. We arrive late at night when the temple is closed, dress in white jumpsuits, and care for a sacred building.

We speak reverently. We walk quietly. It’s an unforgettable experience to clean surfaces which look as if they have never been used. I am not a night person, but I would not miss this sacred opportunity. I feel close to my Father in Heaven and I feel like I am giving something back to him.

Our Covenant to Serve

Alma gave us a clearer understanding of our baptismal covenants as he taught his people at the Waters of Mormon. He spoke of bearing one another’s burdens, of mourning with those that mourn, and comforting those who need it.

If you desire those things, said Alma, “…what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before Him that ye have entered into a covenant with Him, that ye will serve Him, and keep His commandments, that He may pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

I love what happens next. “And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”

What is the desire of my heart?

Recently, I listened to the sacrament prayers with new ears. The phrase that they may have His spirit to be with them sang in my heart. Those words are familiar to me, but this time, I was hungry for meaning.

That they may have his spirit to be with them, I thought, as I tasted those words. That is the desire of my heart. Like the followers of Alma, I want his spirit to be with me. Who wouldn’t want that?

This is the reason I serve, because I want His spirit to be with me. On days when I feel too tired, too busy, or too selfish, that is my motivation.

Who needs to serve? I do.

Linda Garner

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Witness

Ah,summer. Backyard barbecues. Fresh veggies from the garden. Colorful days and starlit nights. Children's laughter. Tangy lemonade. Rhubarb pie.

We spent a summer in Arkansas, where forest was everywhere. Even in the city we were surrounded by gracious trees. We walked daily near a friendly stream where fireflights and locusts entertained us and shy forest creatures sometimes said hello. It was a magic place, and one magic summer day I created this poem.

Summer Witness

What could be so pleasant as a peaceful summer day,
When life slows down a little bit and troubles melt away.
The sun’s a ball of butter and the earth is dressed in green,
While overhead the sky’s the bluest sea you’ve ever seen.
Now and then a puffy cloud floats across the sky,
And all around are buzzing things and things that flutter by.
The stream is just a trickle as it gurgles in its play.
The sleepy river lazily meanders on its way.
The heady smell of blossoms comes softly on the breeze
And all the woodland creatures take refuge in the trees.
Surrounded by this beauty and the joy that’s in the air,
Why do some folks wonder if God is really there?

What could be so pleasant as a starlit summer night,
Watching fireflies dance and flicker underneath the moon so bright,
Stepping in and out of shadows made by giants dressed in green,
Watching for the bashful creatures which by day are seldom seen,
Listening to the chicka chicka of the locust’s rhythmic song,
And the chirping of the crickets, as night birds sing along.
Though the earth is far from quiet, there’s a stillness in the air.
My heart is filled with gratitude. I bow my head in prayer.
I listen for the answer. It comes soft as summer rain.
It warms me and it softens me and fills my heart again.
As summer’s warmth enfolds me, I’m surrounded by His love,
And I know that He cares for me from His heavenly home above.

Linda Garner

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remembering Jesus

I wanted to create a picture book about the sacrament. That’s how it started.

I wanted to teach children about Jesus and the sacred thread that ties the sacrament to him. Children seem to bond easily and early with Jesus Christ, instinctively sensing his love, but do they understand the sacrament?

Sharing my feelings about Jesus was complicated, because His gifts to us are many and beautifully varied. The atonement is like a jewel with many facets or a mountain with many faces. I once called it as a mansion with many rooms.

I have tender feelings for Jesus because of His love and His mercy. I have powerful feelings for Jesus because of His majesty and glory. I have gratitude for Jesus because of His example, His grace, and His beautiful plan. I have hope because of Jesus and I want to be like him.

We are washed in the blood of Jesus when we are baptized and choose to follow him. Everyday choices bring us closer to him or farther from him. Agency is a wondrous gift with bittersweet consequences.

The sacrament is part of the glue that binds us to Jesus. If we choose, we can draw closer to Him each week as we thoughtfully partake of the Sacrament. We can renew sacred covenants, taking His Name upon us. We can promise to keep his commandments, and we can choose to remember him.

Taking the Sacrament is a sacred ordinance. It is a powerful reminder of our covenants and our dependence on our Savior. As we grow in obedience we can draw strength from this ordinance. Perfection is a process. The sacrament doesn’t make us perfect, but partaking worthily and honestly does help make us clean.

I love the sacrament. I love how it makes me feel. I love feeling close to my Savior. When I take the sacrament I feel his love for me, and I know that it is real.

These are some of the thoughts that teased my mind as I wrote about my love for Jesus Christ in the following poem. Maybe it’s not for children after all.

How Much Does He Love Me?

How much does He love me,
Jesus, my truest friend?
He loves me more than words can tell
or mind can comprehend.
For on this earth He walked the path
That showed me what to do.
I want to serve Him all my days.
I promise to be true.

How much does He love me,
Jesus, my powerful friend?
For He commands the thunder
and He commands the wind.
His love is warmer than the sun,
More mighty than the sea.
His voice is gentle as the snow.
His words, “Come follow me.”

Oh how I want to follow.
I promise not to stray.
He has the power to bring me home,
if I can just obey.
And though the days are sometimes hard,
the nights are sometimes long,
And on my own I’m sometimes weak,
Together, we are strong.

How much does He love me,
Jesus, my gentle friend?
He is the one who died for me
that I might live again.
He is the one who bled for me
in Gethsemane’s sacred garden.
He is the one who pleads for me
that God will grant me pardon.

He conquered death. He conquered sin.
It is my favorite story.
He is the shepherd of my soul.
He is the King of Glory.
I do not know how great the cost,
What pain He had to suffer.
He died for you; He died for me;
Our Savior and our brother.

How can I show my love for Him,
My Savior and my King?
What do I have to give to him?
What offering can I bring?
The gifts He gave are mighty.
The gifts I bring are small.
He wants me to remember Him
And share His love with all.

And when I take the Sacrament
I do remember Him.
I think of how He chose to live
completely without sin.
I think about the BREAD OF LIFE
while I eat the bread,
And of the multitudes He taught,
and of the ones He fed.

I hunger for His warm embrace
and for His healing touch.
I promise to be like Him.
I want His love so much.
I thirst for His forgiveness
when I falter and I sin;
And when the cup reaches my lips,
He bids me, “try again.”

and I promise to obey,
To stand for truth and righteousness
at home, at work, at play.
I think of His commandments.
I will try to do my part.
I’ll give to Him my love, my hands,
and most of all, my heart.

Linda Garner

My Special Investigator

I brought an investigator with me to Church today. She is amazing. I love her, and I hope that she will learn to love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My investigator is five years old and she is my granddaughter. Her mother is not a member of our church and her dad is not active. For now, they let her come with me. She enjoys coming, and is learning a lot. I am honored for the chance to share the gospel with her.

My goals for my granddaughter are different than they were for my own children, for she is an investigator. I don’t know how many Sundays we will have together before life makes other plans. I know that someday she will choose for herself, so today I do what I can to create spiritual memories for her.

For my own children, my goals were about being quiet during Sacrament Meeting, not being late, looking presentable, and not having to go to the bathroom and get a drink twenty times.

For my granddaughter, I have just one goal. I want her to feel something. I want her to feel safe. I want her to know that church is a happy place to be. I hope that she feels good inside and that she will come to understand that those good feelings come from the Holy Ghost.

I don’t mind if she makes me late. I don’t mind if she does her own hair and chooses her favorite dress, instead of the one I wanted. I don’t mind if she whispers to me during the Sacrament, or if she wants to get a drink or go to the bathroom more than once. I don’t stress if she dances in the aisle or spills the crayons on the floor. I am just glad that she is with me.

I talk to her about Jesus and about the Holy Ghost. I tell her that Heavenly Father loves her and that she is his daughter. I tell her that the Sacrament helps us remember Jesus. I tell her that the things she is learning in primary are true.

She knows a lot for a five year old investigator. She knows about Jesus and about Joseph Smith. She knows about temples. She knows some Articles of Faith. Sometimes she reads scriptures with Grandpa and me. She knows how to pray.

She sings about the doctrines of the restored gospel in amazingly beautiful primary songs. She may forget the lessons, but I think she will remember the songs.

“I know that my Savior loves me.”

“Faith is strengthened, I feel it grow whenever I obey. “

“I lived in Heaven a long time ago, it is true. Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.”

“I know my father lives, and loves me too.“

“I love to see the temple. I’m going there someday, to feel the Holy Spirit to listen and to pray.”

“My life is a gift. My life has a plan. My life has a purpose, in heaven it began.”

“I will follow God’s plan for me.”

“I need my Heavenly Father to help me every day. He wants me to be happy and choose the righteous way.”

My own children seldom missed church and they had the advantage of family home evening, family prayer, and seminary. I never thought of them as investigators, but perhaps I should have. They learned the principles of the gospel, but some of them chose a different path.

My granddaughter will choose too. I cannot make this choice for her, even if I want to. The choice belongs to her. I can teach her gospel truths while I have the chance, but knowledge is never enough. Those gospel truths need to find a home in her heart. Truth is obeyed when it is loved.

Today we are planting seeds of testimony. Will I have her long enough for those seeds to take root? Will she learn enough to grow her own testimony? How much will she remember?

It is hard already. She is confused. Why is Jesus important to Grandma and Grandpa, but not to Dad or Mom? Her mom would rather she didn’t come to church, but she allows it. Why doesn’t Mom want her to go to Church? Why won’t Dad come too? How can she follow Jesus and honor her Mother and Father? These are hard questions for a five year old.

I don’t have good answers. I have my testimony, and my love for her. I’m counting on the Holy Ghost to help her find answers. I’m counting on Him to help her make important choices. Will she get the gift of the Holy Ghost when she is eight? Will she listen to Him?

“Oh may I always listen to the Still Small Voice,
And with his light I’ll do what’s right each time I make a choice.”

The Holy Ghost is my best friend. I hope He will be her friend too. And when it really counts, I hope she’ll remember who she is.

“I am a child of god, and He has sent me here.”

Linda Garner