At Cape Lookout

I'll tell you a story, but I warn you it doesn't reflect very well on me. It was one of those internal storms that came and went before I really did anything about it outwardly, which I guess was good, because in retrospect it became obvious that my internal reactions were silly. But it's still kind of embarrassing when I think about it. However—this is the type of thing it is good for me to remember. (And also, this place sounds like it needs to be in the title of a Hardy Boys book. Caper at Cape Lookout!)

We were driving around on the Oregon Coast looking for things to do. We stopped at Cape Lookout State Park, which is a beautiful stretch of forest right along the edge of the bay where we were staying. There are hiking trails and overlooks, and it's the sort of amazing scenery that goes against everything I'm used to. In my mind, forests are only in "the mountains," and there they are full of conifers, or possibly aspens, and some underbrush, but not much else. So these Oregon forests, sweeping fernily down as they do right to the cliff- and ocean-edges, seem like they defy nature! I LOVE them.
Okay, so far so good, but the trouble was that I had not brought my hiking shoes on this little outing. And the reason for THAT was that a month or so earlier, I had fallen off the most pathetic little step to the garage while lifting Teddy up—or rather, I had stepped where there was no step, and somehow bent my foot all the way forward so I landed on top of it, and that had torn some ligaments. It hurt so much those first few days that whenever I was alone I would start crying—not solely because it hurt, but because I was just so scared that I would never get better—and all the while, I KNEW I was being unreasonable but I just couldn't stop myself! (That becomes a theme in this story, I'm afraid.)

A profound and inseparable connection

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the October 1976 Conference.
We read the Priesthood Session this week, and one of the talks was Elder Boyd K. Packer's "A Message to Young Men." The text of the talk wasn't on the church website, but the video was, so I watched it instead of reading it. I don't know why they decided not to publish the text, but I did read somewhere that the talk was "widely mocked" and had generated controversy (of course) and I decided I didn't want to write about it because I hate getting caught up in that sort of thing. (And now here I am [sigh] so here's one article if you're interested.)

But when I went to write this post I couldn't seem to think about anything else. (Why does that always happen?) So here are my thoughts. Elder Packer is speaking to the young men about chastity and masturbation and homosexual behavior and other "sensitive" topics. I don't know if it would have been embarrassing to the young men listening. It didn't seem so to me, but I know sex education has gotten more extensive in the years since then. I do know it was pretty easy for me to listen and pick out which things he was saying would make people now complain about how "old-fashioned" and "unenlightened" the brethren were back then. But it was also easy for me to detect the love and concern and anxiousness to teach truth with which Elder Packer was saying those things.

I guess we're pretty smug, these days, regarding what we know about human sexuality. Most of us compare our own views favorably with the "repression" and "shame" we ascribe to earlier times. I've read plenty of people even within the church talking about this, and lamenting how far "church culture" still has to go in that area. And I'm sure there is good that has come from our relative openness and increased education. But I also thought, listening to this talk full of "old-fashioned" wording and "old-fashioned" reticence, that we (and by "we" I mean "modern thought, even some Mormon modern thought," I guess) know a lot less than we think we do. Because there is a spirit-body connection that is still not fully understood, even by the "latest research" of which we're so proud. But it is very real:
People often nurture the fantasy that sex can mean whatever we want it to. This fantasy involves an unrealistic and strange sort of mind-body split, a kind of dualism. People mistakenly believe that the mind, the sovereign will, is in complete control. The body is just a tool, a sort of appendage, detached from the mind. So, if the mind decides that sex means nothing, the body must obey. If the mind decides that it wants sex to be violent and domineering today, but warm and tender tomorrow, the body must just obey. 
But the mind and the body do not work that way. There is no such mind-body split. Rather, the medical and psychological sciences are increasingly demonstrating that there is a profound and inseparable connection between mind and body. And the body—not just the mind—is obviously involved in sexual encounters. The body has its own laws and its own logic; the body has its own wisdom, and it operates on its own terms. The human body must obey the laws of biology, of neuroscience, and of human psychology. And when we push against these, the body will inevitably push back.
That quote is from Aaron Kheriaty, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine (and not a Mormon, as far as I know). He wrote that in 2015. But it echoes Elder Packer's insistence in 1976 that there are real consequences to what we do with our bodies and with the sexual feelings that go with them:
This physical power will influence you emotionally and spiritually as well. It begins to shape and fit you to look, and feel, and to be what you need to be as a father. Ambition, courage, physical and emotional and spiritual strength become part of you because you are a man. … This power of creation affects your life several years before you should express it fully. You must always guard the power…You must wait until the time of your marriage to use it.
Elder Packer also talked about the real, measurable effects of fasting, which is another thing derided in some circles these days as woefully inadequate and outdated as a "cure" for anything. And yes, addictions and other trials may not be banished forever simply because we fast and pray about them. But Elder Packer didn't say they would be. He just pointed out that intentional, righteous self-denial—a purposeful tying-together of the physical and the spiritual—can bring power:
At times of special temptation skip a meal or two. We call that fasting, you know. It has a powerful effect upon you physically. It diverts some of that physical energy to more ordinary needs. It tempers desire and reduces the temptation. Fasting will help you greatly. 
Again, it turns out this idea is not some old-fashioned invention of Elder Packer's. Here's what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said about something as simple as physically making the sign of the cross:
“I’ve found that following Luther’s instruction to ‘make the sign of the cross’ at our morning and evening prayers is…most useful,” [Bonhoeffer] said in one letter. “There is something objective about it…”
The Christian writer who quoted Bonhoeffer above comments further on why this is:
To begin with, signing oneself is more than mere symbolism. It is, as Bonhoeffer said, “objective.” There is something tangible and actual about tracing the points of the cross over one’s body. It goes back to something covered in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Christians, the senior demon informs the junior, “can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers, for they constantly forget . . . that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”
What we do physically affects us spiritually. Whether it’s lowering our gaze, raising our hands, bending our knee, or crossing ourselves, physical actions have a qualitative, spiritual effect.
Making the sign of the cross is something which we Latter-day Saints might find foreign, but I was thinking about how it is not unlike many of our physical covenant actions such as raising our hands to sustain someone, taking the sacrament, and other ritual actions we perform in the temple. And, of course, fasting! Our physical actions, both simple and complex, sexual and non-sexual, really DO affect our spirits!

I came away from listening to Elder Packer's talk feeling a sort of amazement about the many truths God makes available to us, if we will only accept them. Of course there are many things where our language and our understandings evolve over time, and that's how it should be. But there's also so much about modern thought that lets us down. I sometimes feel so discouraged about how inevitably and subtly the ideas of the world influence me in ways I'm not even aware of. But while we must each swim in the currents of our times, Heavenly Father doesn't leave us to flounder helplessly in them. He provides channels of truth and safety (or maps? or guides? or boats? Ha, this metaphor is beginning to falter…) and if we bravely stay within those—even when they seem counterintuitive or awkward or unenlightened—they will help us find happiness. Because no matter how much people insist that our sexual behaviors are our own business and "consent" or "lack of shame" is the only thing that matters, the fact is that God's ways of thinking about and using His creative power are the only ways that ultimately bring joy. And we knew that, through prophets, before any psychiatric research backed it up. From the same article above, here is Dr. Kheriaty's conclusion:
Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body—what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us. 
There is so much we (or I) don't understand about our physical bodies: why, exactly, they are necessary for exaltation; how they relate to our spirits; how they relate to God's perfected-but-also-somehow-real-and-tangible body of "flesh and bone." But we do know that they matter. What we do with them matters—and, as that quote above points out, we can choose, not everything about our bodies, but a significant portion of how they will develop and respond to our spirits. And most of all, we know that these physical bodies are the instruments through which many significant spiritual blessings and powers come. Mormons, of ALL people, know this through our doctrines and our temple ordinances. And how can we reach greater understanding unless we trust the revelations given to our prophets about how we should treat these sacred, "objective" and physical conduits?

Other posts in this series:

Regarding Clams

I've been feeling a bit self-conscious writing this post, because it occurs to me that maybe everyone (except me) already KNOWS about clams? Perhaps even finds them (and their habit of squirting jets of water at unsuspecting passers-by) boring?? Is this like someone marveling that milk actually comes from cows? If so…we will now excuse you to go read something more stimulating. But I was SO happy about this whole…clam…thing…that even now, I can hardly contain myself!
Let me begin at the beginning. One day the tide was very very low, with a huge swath of beach exposed. We saw lots of people out wandering around in the tide pool areas and wondered what they were all doing, so the boys went down to the beach to see. Then Seb came back all excited saying, "There are holes in the sand, and when you walk by, water comes squirting out of them!" And without even having to think about it, I said immediately, "It must be clams!" I felt instinctively that I must have read a thousand books talking about people watching for the sprays of water and digging for clams on beaches. I don't know WHY on earth I would have remembered, or for that matter, why I would have read so extensively about clamming in the first place, but I felt if I knew one thing in this life, it was that sprays of water from holes in the sand mean clams!

The house by the bay

We've never been on a trip with anyone before (except, I guess, staying at my brother's house in California lots of times) so we were excited to see what it was like staying in this house with Sam's parents. And it was great! It was fun to go places together. It was fun to split up and then come back later and report on our different adventures. And it was fun in the down time, to just be sitting there reading near each other and talking if we wanted to. The kids loved having Grandma and Grandpa to talk to and play games with whenever they wanted! And we loved having a date night with them one night while Abe and Seb babysat at the rental house. 

It really was a great house. The stairs up to it were formidable, but that's part of what made the house so great: it was up so high that the views from the windows were amazing! And I LOVED (as I mentioned here) watching the tide go in and out of the bay! I was kind of sad every time I had to step away from the window to do something else besides watch the ocean. And I loved the balcony. Like every other woman on the planet, I don't sleep well when I'm pregnant, but I loved getting up in the midnight hours and going out into the dark cool air and listening to the ocean waves, and catching glimpses of moonlight reflected in the water. It was so calming! I kept telling myself to remember how lovely it was, because soon it would be just a memory. (And now it is!)
You can see the row of houses of which ours was one—we were in the tallest one you can make out in this picture, up against the trees.

Beach Campfire

We love a good campfire, and having fires on the beach is always fun! The light was so pretty on this particular night.
Daisy, looking very grown-up in this picture!

Beach days

I was afraid it would be too chilly to do much swimming at the beach. But it was totally fine! I mean, not for ME…but it was lovely to just sit outside and watch the children play in the water…or let some of them go out by themselves while some of us stayed in with nappers. We had some sunny days and some more misty, but it didn't ever feel COLD in the afternoons. So, it was great. "A beach is a beach, but an Oregon beach…ah!" as Mr. Elton would say.
I liked to go out running by the water (hahaha, actually walking as my foot was hurt, but I'll call it running till my dying day) when I couldn't sleep in the early mornings. It was usually so grey and cool and misty, and quiet except for the waves...perfect. One morning I saw these big brown birds picking at something in the seaweed down the beach.
And they were bald eagles! See their white heads? They turned to look at me a little while later as I carefully edged closer, and they had the most disdainful looks on their faces. As if they were offended that I thought they might be startled by ME. And then they DID fly away, but slowly and deliberately to show me they were NOT being driven off.

Oregon Coast things to do

What we did on the coast was…basically everything we did last time on the coast. Plus a few new things we found. We wanted to show Sam's parents this cool cedar tree and wetlands in Rockaway Beach (directions are here. Don't be confused and go into someone's driveway. The trail doesn't really look like a trail right at first, but you go into the wooded spot directly at the end of the street, and as soon as you get around the first tree you can see the trail.)
Such big leaves! Teddy did NOT want to sit here on this log by the big leaf.
But Daisy didn't mind! (Hi, Grandpa's arm!)

Oregon Coast Tide Pools at Hug Point and Cannon Beach

We were so lucky to have some extra low tides while we were in Oregon! I was excited when I looked at the tide charts because they were going to be so low. I do so like tide pools. I don't know if everyone else likes them as much as I do—the others didn't seem quite as keen on getting up at 6 a.m. to arrive at the lowest tide—but by golly I was going to make sure everyone got there and enjoyed it whether they liked it or not! And they did like it. Once we got going, anyway. Isn't that what mothers are for? :)
The drive up the coast is always so great. I LOVE this sort of scenery. Trees above cliffs and rocky beaches.
And daisies! Wild daisies everywhere.

To fill the inner man with light

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1976 Conference.

Elder James E. Faust gave a great talk called "A Personal Relationship with the Savior" in this session, which I was excited to read because I've been thinking about that topic a lot. As I read, I noticed there were a lot of references to the "inner man" and our deeper selves. For example:
Having such a relationship can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God. 
We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but to strive, as He invited, to be one with Him (see John 17:21), to “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” 
Peter counsels us to be “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:4.) The influence and teaching of the Messiah should have a transcendence over all other interests and concerns in our lives. We must constantly be reaching upward for the riches of eternity, for the kingdom of God is within us
Is there not a yearning to understand in your mind what is in your heart, a feeling which you cannot give utterance to because it is so unspeakably personal? The Master said that this quiet reality can “speak peace to your mind concerning the matter.”
That last quote really spoke to me: I am always yearning to understand in my mind what is in my heart! So often when I learn something new or significant, I have this feeling of reaching toward something so much more than I can grasp—and I can SENSE that it's important—but I just can't quite get it! It sort of helps to try to write about it (I often go through that process here on this blog), but then you have the problem of reducing this vast, multilayered feeling back into the two-dimensionality of words—and, much as I like words, I never feel like they quite do the job. So, that frustrates me.

In spite of relating to that yearning Elder Faust referenced, though, I found myself thinking that all this about the inner self was an odd thing to focus on in a talk about getting to know the Savior. After all, what does self have to do with Him? Shouldn't we be focusing less on our own feelings and on finding "the divinity within us" or the "kingdom of God within us" (in fact, if it hadn't been President Faust using those phrases, I would have scoffed at them immediately as being a bit too new-age-y and self-centered for my liking)—and instead be focusing outward, on getting to know Christ and serving others?

Well, yes. And of course President Faust gets to that. To those who want to know Christ better, he does prescribe prayer, and selfless service, and scripture study, and obedience. But I suddenly realized WHY the "inner man" stuff was necessary and relevant to the subject at hand. It is because of the "relationship" part of "a relationship with Christ." We have to give something to the relationship for it to be mutually fulfilling, and that something is within us. It is our "inner selves," also known as our "wills," I suppose. But I like the "inner man" designation because it implies not just our desires, but also our thoughts, our questions, our worries, our preferences, our curiosities, our interests, our enjoyments, our annoyances. All these aspects of us must begin that reach toward Christ. I think that's what President Faust meant by "we must constantly be reaching upward for the riches of eternity, for the kingdom of God is within us." Not that hackneyed "girl-power!" sort of pep talk you get from children's books or Disney movies or guidance counselors encouraging you to "be whatever you can dream of being!" This is something more corporeal—rooted in and growing out of the reality of who you actually are now. In all our weakness and smallness and pettiness and lack of vision—in our most embarrassingly inner of selves—a stretching upward toward Christ is the first step to knowing Him.

And I love that! Of course I have heard that Christ "knows us better than we know ourselves." But to think what that MEANS for us! Because I love the idea that He can take all those things I don't understand about myself—those things I keep doing even though I don't WANT to keep doing them, or those times I feel mean and snappish even though I have no real reason to, or those fears I haven't even quite articulated to myself—and start to teach me, in that "unspeakably personal" way, not only how to understand the things of God from afar—but also how to teach my bedraggled SELF to become part of those things of God.

And then, on top of that, to think that Jesus Christ can take those little snips and glimmers of understanding and transcendence I sometimes feel (but can rarely hold onto as long as I'd like), and tease them out into longer strands, and harden them into something that lasts—transform them from "bits of residual divinity within" to "aspects of goodness that actually make sense in context of who I am now"—well, that seems truly miraculous. But it is no less than what He promises us in the scriptures. Elder Faust uses this verse from the Doctrine and Covenants:
“If your eye be single to [His] glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.”
I've always loved that scripture, but here I love it for what it means for our relationship with the Savior. Jesus Christ can not only emanate His light outward from His perfect self, but he can also send it into our dark corners until those, too, shine with goodness! He can fill us with understanding: of His mysteries, of those vast truths of eternity we're reaching up and yearning for, yes. But He also brings a new and real understanding of ourselves, and of our otherwise-unknowable brothers and sisters. All we have to do is open up our "inner man" toward goodness, and let Christ shine in.

Other posts in this series:

Hot and Cool

On our way to the coast we drove through Portland and decided to stop at the Rose Gardens since we were too early to check into our rental house. I had been here on other visits, but never during June, which is prime time for roses! So of course we stopped. But it was SO crowded, and SO hot, and there was some sort of loud Gay Pride concert going on…so I'm not sure we got the very most we could out of the experience. Unless you count seeing people in…interesting…costumes as part of the experience…which maybe, in Portland, it is. Ha. Mostly all we could think about was where the next patch of shade was going to be, and how soon we could get into it and collapse. It was 105 degrees outside!!

Still. Roses! Millions of roses everywhere! So at least I enjoyed it, and my long-suffering children have learned to be good sports over all these years of me dragging them to botanical gardens and demanding that they enjoy the beautiful flowers. 

Silver Falls, revisited

We didn't want to miss Silver Falls State Park while we were in Oregon (that's the trouble with having loved our trip so much last time…I'm sure there is tons of other great stuff to see and do, but we couldn't bear to miss any of our previous favorites either!) so even in the 100-degree weather, we hiked (or walked, really…they aren't hard hikes) to a few of the prettiest waterfalls. I love North and South Falls because you can go behind them, but Upper North Falls was really beautiful too. These pictures probably all look exactly the same as all the pictures I took three years ago…except for the growing children of course…but Sam and Sebastian were sure that more boulders had fallen since last time at North Falls. I can't tell from the pictures. Anyway, to ME every picture is still needed because each reminds me of a different landmark on those green, green forest trails that I love so much. I think, much as I love my desert home, there must be something in my blood that craves these abundant forests. Through my Oregonian mother, no doubt!
South Falls

The Hazelnut House


There is the light

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1976 Conference.
There were a couple different talks I kind of wanted to write about this week. But in the end I just can't pass up Elder John H. Groberg. I read The Other Side of Heaven when the movie came out years ago, and I've loved him ever since. He tells the best stories!

The story he tells in this talk is not strikingly different from all the other stories he tells of the islands. (Treacherous seas, stormy waves, miraculous escape. Ha ha. They sound formulaic, but somehow every one is still so good!) Elder Groberg and some other missionaries had been helping a sick missionary, when they received a prompting from the Holy Ghost to take him to the hospital on a different island. Of course, it was dark and the weather was threatening, but trying to trust the Spirit, they set off into the open sea. To reach the other island's harbor, they had to pass through a reef with a very narrow opening. It was raining hard and as they approached the reef, the passengers were more and more terrified that they wouldn't be able to find the way through. It was supposed to be marked with a light, but no one could see anything through the storm. Elder Groberg tells what happened next:
Our eyes strained against the blackness, but we could not see the light. 
Some began to whimper, others to moan and cry, and one or two even to scream in hysteria. At the height of this panic, when many were pleading to turn to the left or to the right, when the tumultuous elements all but forced us to abandon life and hope, I looked at the captain—and there I saw the face of calmness, the ageless face of wisdom and experience, as his eyes penetrated the darkness ahead. Quietly his weather-roughened lips parted, and without moving his fixed gaze and just perceptibly shifting the wheel, he breathed those life-giving words, “Ko e Maama e” (“There is the light!”).
I could not see the light, but the captain could see it. And I knew he could see it. Those eyes long experienced in ocean travel were not fooled by the madness of the storm nor were they influenced by the pleadings of those of lesser experience to turn to the left or to the right. And so with one last great swell we were hurtled through the opening and into calmer waters.   
I have just been reading the parable of the watchmen on the tower in the Doctrine and Covenants, which of course has the same message: that we should trust those who can see further and more clearly than we can. But Elder Groberg's story seemed to make that point in a slightly different way. I think it's because the tower in the parable sets the watchman up higher than the rest of us. And often, that is how I think of the prophets: like they're up on towers that give them a better view than I could ever have from "down here" in the world of regular people. And I know, of course, that they're just men and they're fallible. But they do have that God-given authority and perspective and position that makes them special, too.

Anyway, so nothing in Elder Groberg's story contradicts any of that, but I liked how in the boat, there was no tower, no special position, no higher vantage point. The captain and the passengers were all in the boat and they would all drown together if it came to that. The only difference between the captain and the others was that the captain had "eyes to see." Because of his experiences, he had truly learned to see differently than the others. It reminded me of the story of Elisha seeing the chariots of fire, or the scripture about the blind that "will not see." And it made it seem like those kind of light-seeing eyes could be…developed. Even if you weren't on a tower or in some special position. Not that that diminishes the importance of prophets! Of course there are things they can see beyond our reach, that we just have to trust them about. But it did make me think that maybe, if I do keep following them and listening to their guidance for long enough, that my OWN eyes might gain some of that experience and be able to discern light through the darkness for myself, like that faithful captain could.

I liked the way Elder Groberg described the captain:
I felt at the time that he was more than himself—he was more than the sum total of all of his experience. In some marvelous way at that moment of desperate need, he drew upon a power and a strength from generations of faithful, seagoing people that only those who know Polynesians well can begin to understand. My admiration and love for him and all other faithful descendants of father Lehi knows no bounds.
And then he relates this to President Kimball, and I think it's a perfect description of President Monson as well:
In like manner, and with even deeper meaning, I thank the Lord for our great prophet-leader of today. In our moment of great need the Lord has provided one tested and molded and trained and instructed and clothed with divine authority, who in addition to the total of all his experience, which is great, draws upon the strength and power of not only generations of faithful leaders but also of angels and of gods. 
…When all about us are sinking in darkness and fear and despair, when destruction seems close and the raging fury of men and demons ensnares us in seemingly insoluble problems, listen as he calmly says, “There is the light. This is the way.” I testify that he will so guide us safely home if we will but listen and obey. 
I love the image of our prophet standing calmly at the helm of a ship, guiding us to safety. And I love the image of a light that is always standing there, real, but only visible to eyes that know how to find it. I want to be in that ship. But I also want to gain those kind of eyes, that can find the light even amid the storms, and that can take comfort from its presence and its assurance of safe harbors to come.

Other posts in this series:


This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Afternoon Session of the October 1976 Conference.
Last week we were on vacation in Oregon, staying at a house by a bay. Every few hours the tide would come in or go out, and because of our position near the bay, the tidal changes were more dramatic than I've ever seen before. There was a peninsula that formed one side of the bay, and a low sandbar out near the bay's mouth. At low tide, the water would retreat on all sides, making the beach seem all sand and stretches of black rocks and tide pools, and the sandbar would become so far exposed that you could nearly walk across it to the peninsula. That stretch of sand blocked the ocean waves—not the water, but much of the motion of the water—from coming in to the bay at all. There would be gentle shifting ripples at the shore, but not those endless breaking white-topped waves.
At high tide, though, the sandbar disappeared and the waves swept in. The shoreline nearly disappeared and the water seemed to reach right up to the trees and cliffs. You could hear the difference even when the night was too dark to see the bay: that rhythm of crashing waves against the closer shores meant high tide had come back.

The tides are such a strange combination of finite and infinite: each tide in itself is temporary and measured and you can so easily see to its approaching end—but the overall cycle is SO vast it's almost beyond comprehension. The tides never stop coming! Then there's the variation even within what appears so regular: the extra-low tides, the higher high tides, the storm surges or winds that create irregularity in the system.

I watched this continual shift from high to low tide with fascination all week, trying to decide what it reminded me of. On the one hand, I looked forward to the high tide. It was so dynamic and beautiful and interesting. Like that quote from Julius Caesar—"There is a tide in the affairs of men/ which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune./ Omitted, all the voyage of their life/ is bound in shallows and in miseries."—where the high tide is seen as opportunity, power, and the chance for growth, and the low tide is stagnation.

On the other hand, the low tide's calm waters and its moderating, protective sandbar seemed like THEY must be the positive symbols, providing shelter and safety and a respite from the constant battering of the waves. This is the way of seeing that gives us phrases like "safe harbor" and those lines I love from Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me: "As a mother stills her child, /Thou canst hush the ocean wild."

Anyway, it did make me think a lot about water and cycles and all the different things they can show us. And then I read Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's talk, "Dikes versus Living Water," which was also about different sorts of water! His multiple water metaphors had me a bit confused at times, which is understandable…see above!—but his main point seemed to be that, while the forces of nature (floods, storms, tides, broken dikes) cause danger and can overwhelm us, the "living water" of the scriptures acts as a counteracting force that renews and stabilizes us.

He tells a story about a paraplegic man who attempted to swim the English channel, but ultimately had to give up from exhaustion:
"'…It was the last few miles that completely drained me. The tides defeated me!' the swimmer exclaimed. His strength ebbed away as he tried to cope with the formidable obstacles in his path.
Elder Wirthlin continues:
Life was made for struggle; and exaltation, success, and victory were never meant to be cheap or to come easily. The tides of life often challenge us. … 
Now let me make a suggestion that will enable us to maintain our spiritual strength and keep our testimonies vitally alive so that the trials, the storms, and the tides of life will not defeat us. This suggestion is that, above all, we should heed the words of Jesus to the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria when he said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14.) 
How could one’s strength ebb or falter when it may be so dependably and continuously nourished and restored?
Whether or not the coming of the high tide is a dangerous thing or an enabling thing or some combination of both—one thing I got from this talk is the seemingly-obvious truth that life ebbs and flows. There are times of calm, times of change, times that SEEM calm but are actually full of change underneath—but no matter whether one looks forward to the opportunities of the high tide or enjoys the tranquility of the low tide, we all need constant, individual, spiritual renewal to cope with the various demands of these cycles.

And that made me think about how God's love and dependability are constant, but they are constant like a spring or a flowing river—or like a tide cycle: constant in that they keep coming and keep giving us what we need, as we need it. Not constant in that they allow us to remain where and who we are! In fact, they almost force us to change and to confront change. And the words of the scriptures and the prophets work the same way. They are dynamic. Their meanings, to us, transform over time. We learn new things as we need them. The living waters roll forward, constantly renewed—and constantly renewing. But they are always, dependably, PRESENT, if we choose to drink from them.

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