Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rachel's talk in Sacrament today

Becoming Spiritually Self-Reliant

It is easy to feel helpless, to delay and to stall instead of taking responsibility for ourselves and relying on the gifts God has given us.  My talk today is on becoming spiritually self-reliant so that instead of feeling helpless, we can draw of the grace and Spirit of God in our lives.

Elder Jorg Kelbingat gave a talk in General Conference that addresses that point and I would like to share things I learned from the talk in addressing this topic assigned to me to talk on.

The first thing he suggested would make a real difference is to take responsibility for our own spiritual well-being. 

·         Stop blaming others for your circumstances.
·         Stop justifying and making excuses for why you are not obedient to God.
·         Accept that you have free will and that you are free to choose eternal life

God knows our circumstances. He knows us perfectly.  He also knows what we choose.  Be honest about your choices and then choose to strive.  Your spiritual confidence will increase when you take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being and when you seek to apply the Atonement of Christ daily.

The second thing he suggested was that we take responsibility for our own physical well-being.  Our soul consists of a body and a spirit.  If you are out of shape, if you feel uncomfortable in your own body, you can do something about it.  I know that as I have begun to exercise and pay attention to my sleep, I have felt better and make progress.  Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit is in charge of your body and you are taking responsibility for your physical health.

The third thing that increases spiritual strength is to embrace the idea of voluntary obedience to God as a part of your life.  Christ was very straightforward “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  If you choose to obey God for the right reason and choose to serve God over the alternatives, you are choosing Christ.  Spiritual confidence increases when you are striving to voluntarily obey God and to turn over your imperfections to him.

The fourth thing Elder Kelbingat suggested was to embrace what my mom calls “Alacrity” – to act with cheerfulness and promptness.  To become good at repenting quickly and completely.  Embrace the atonement of Christ that makes repentance possible and remember how generous Christ is with the gift of forgiveness.  Work at the attitude of ongoing, happy, grateful repentance and at making that your lifestyle.  Spiritual confidence increases when you use alacrity in repenting of your sins, both small and great.

The fifth thing is the other side of repentance – it is forgiving.  The better you get at forgiving others the stronger your spiritual confidence will be.  Don’t hold grudges.  Realize that others are “children” of God, not “adults” of God.  Do not ever think that you are the only person who does not need to obey the commandment to forgive others.  Spiritual confidence increases when your heart is free from malice, pride and grudges.

The sixth point is that we need to accept that mortal life in an imperfect world is mortal life in an imperfect world and that there will be surprises, set backs and trials as a part of normal mortal life.  Some trials come from God.  Some trials come from the mistakes of others.  Some trials come from the adversary and some things go wrong because the world is imperfect.  Do not take the trials of life as punishment or as pain, but embrace life as an opportunity to overcome.  Spiritual confidence increases when you look at trials as something that come into the life of everyone who is doing the right thing.

The final point Elder Kelbingat made was that we need to face our weaknesses, but not be immobilized by them.  It is too easy when faced with any difficulty in life to say “I can’t do that.”  To think of ourselves as helpless and to be frozen.  We do not need to do that.  Instead we can remember that the Savior’s Atonement can enfold us and surround us in our lives, giving us strength to overcome and to find joy. 

We can take an engineering approach, so to speak, to every trial or difficulty.  We can realize we have the tools to overcome, and by using those tools increase our spiritual confidence and our spiritual self-reliance so that we can face and overcome the barriers that confront us instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Christ loves us and desires for us to succeed and he has given us the tools and the grace that we may.

I bear testimony of Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More on Tiny Houses.

Linden 20 On The Horizon Tour

This design will provide the largest loft and, like the Elm, offers a full size porch. Once inside you’ll see this model is quite unique from the other two, but she has a Tumbleweed heart and offers a clever, spacious design.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Seeing the truth

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

When I was only six or seven years old, my father bought me a bicycle.  It was used, of course, but he put a fresh coat of paint on it.  I was overjoyed.  A major's son came over and scratched up all the paint, because even a used bicycle was too fine for an enlisted man's son if it had fresh paint.  Nothing happened to him, that was the way of the world and the dividing line between the classes on an Air Force Base.

Even now, I'm aware of class lines and distinctions that apply to me.  I grew up in trailer parks with severe attention deficit disorder.

I've been on the board of a child advocacy center.  I served on the board of a rape crisis center.  I did  a fair amount of pro bono work for victims of domestic violence.

I've buried three children.  I've sat by helpless unable to do anything for a child with PTSD.  My youngest child has Tourette's Syndrome.  I've had dreams stolen from me.

I've no illusions.

But I take joy in life.

Too often I hear people claim that they've seen reality and that they cannot unsee it.  That they've earned their anger, their self-righteousness, their rage, their judgment on the world.

I first thought about it when a friend of mine, a Black Justice of the Peace who had to run with a white man's name (because if she hadn't, she would not have been able to get re-elected in a district that was dominated by whites), commented on the terrible disservice that had been done to children she knew who faced the world through a lens of anger and betrayal.  She knew the world was sexist, racist and terribly unfair.  But that did not mean we had to be sexist, racist and unfair creatures that mirrored the world.

I'm not Pollyanna.  But I also know that I eat better food than the Sun King ate.  I sleep in a better bed. My central heat and air conditioning work better than his did.  I have far fewer bed bugs or lice than he lived with.  I can expect to live longer, with better health.

I can choose to take joy in things, to treasure my living children and love them.  To watch them overcome and make progress.  To find joy in my life and to look towards the future and to Christ forgiving me of my sins and the wrongs I've done others.

I take the following passage of scripture very seriously:
 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
Is there a point to this essay?


Bad things can happen to us, but we do not need to become what has happened to us.

The world is filled with both great ugliness and great beauty, and we do not have to choose to reflect the ugliness.

That does not mean that we give in (I would never have volunteered in the places I have volunteered if I thought that).  Nor does it mean that we need to rage against the dying of the light.

Instead I think it means that we can seek charity, the true love of Christ, to love without envy or vaunting, to care and to know joy and hope.  That I can see the truth that is in God and God's love for the world.

That is my testimony of what I seek in this life, what I hope to remember and to regain.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How ...

The woman stumbled, fell forward and died, baby in her arms, inches from food.

"How could that happen?" my friend asked "was there no one to help?"

I bit my tongue.

There were the aid workers with food.

There was the man with the camera, tracking on her as she left the train, hope and strength almost gone.

There were her fellows in suffering.

But it suited none of their agendas to save her from death.

All of them cheered, whether they admitted it or not, as she became a dead woman walking, as her strength gave out, as she died mere feet, almost inches, from the food that would have saved her.

They were all complicit in her death, battening on it like any undead on the blood of the living.


Years ago a friend of mine wrote a poem inspired from seeing a video where this poor woman fell dead as described above.  She was aghast that there was no one to help, and at how close the woman came to salvation.

This is my response.  So very often someone's self immolation, their death, figurative or literal, serves the agendas of others.  They hasten down a path that will consume them, and everyone they meet encourages their destruction because of the benefit they will gain from it, one way or another.

Remember that every time you see someone's life destroyed in the public sphere, in the public eye.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I was reflecting that the two times I've been warned spiritually of future pain or adversity it has been so much worse than I anticipated.  I've wondered if I could withstand another warning and have any grace or patience about it.

One of the times was when I received my patriarchal blessing.  The patriarch stopped and cried for five minutes in the midst of it.  I wrote that off as his being old and didn't believe it could really be that bad.

The other time was when we were thinking about having Courtney and we got the strong message that having a child at this time was optional because of the hardship it would cause.  I naively thought that was that the economic stress was something we could put off.  I had no idea that it related to her dying between the deaths of Jessica and Robin.

So I consider how I would react should I receive another warning that did not include a promise that I'd be able to avoid the experience or mitigate it but only told me not to get to upset about an oncoming disaster.

Guess I'm getting old when I ponder things like that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On privileges and advantages

I recently watched the movie The Fault in Our Stars -- we saw it for family home evening and really enjoyed it.

In part of the movie the "villain" of the movie goes on a rant about the privilege position of dying children. Of course the narrator (a dying child) disputes his analysis.

But it made me think of the various discussions of privilege I've run across.  Which made me think of a discussion a friend of mine had on privilege where he linked to a Black Academic who talked of things in terms of advantages rather than privileges. I thought the discussion was brilliant and have been trying to use it since.

Some people get it.  Privilege is a class marker, a way to identify those who benefit from the existing structures.  Applied to a homeless guy on the street it seems a little out of place as he or she is one of the people being chewed up and spit out by the class structures of wealth and power and prestige that mark out society.

Advantages captures what most people who are on the down side of the power structure may have.  Every neo-Calvinist virtue someone has (wealth, beauty, ability, power, race) is an advantage.  In addition, there are some societal markers (such as sex, race, height, hair color and age) that give advantages.

Rather that spark a discussion of the oppression Olympics, a discussion of advantages sparks a realization that the literate, the athletic, the tall and the strong have advantages. Most of those do nothing by themselves, but in application, well, look at all the 5'1" pro basketball players out there ...

It helps provide a multi-dimensional look.

I tell the guy on the street he has privilege he will just look for a better place under a quieter bridge to sleep.  I talk to him about the advantages he has and he'll agree with me that he has it better than other homeless types.  He inherently rejects things that reek of class warfare benefits, he instinctively accepts things that point out where he has hope and a leg up.

It is the difference between comparing being a white man to playing the game of life on its easiest setting, and comparing being a white man to using cheat codes.

If you are a white male academic, of course, admitting privilege costs you nothing and makes you look good.   To quote:

I get that "privilege"---race, sex, gender, disability, etc---has become something of an overplayed and diluted idea in debates about social justice and activism. But it's still a super important concept. I am vexed by the resistance to it by so many who benefit from it, and at the risk of further diluting it, I offer just two observations to skeptics:
1) When you say "look, it's not my fault that I benefit from being [white, male, straight, whatever]" that's _exactly_ what we're talking about. You benefit from something you didn't choose and that you have no role in. You shouldn't be blamed, but you don't get credit. It's the basis of your unearned benefit.
2) The best part of acknowledging that you benefit from, say, straight white male privilege is that, even in acknowledging and accepting that it exists, you don't have to give it up. You get to keep it. YOU STILL GET TO BENEFIT FROM IT.
Compared to a Jewish friend of mine, who when told of the great advantage he had in life because of the "Jewish Conspiracy" kvetched to me that whoever was running it had somehow managed to forget to include him in on it.  ;)

Anyway, the idea is not mine, and I get enough negative feedback on it I'm not comfortable pointing out where I got it, but I do think that there is a lot of progress to be made by talking about advantages rather than privileges.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

More on tiny houses (I'm a fan)

Tiny House Resources

Over the past few months there have been some great new resources available from Tumbleweed and others. Here's a quick list...

Photo taken by Dan Gilman

What type of truck do I need?
Turns out a 1942 Ford doesn't do the trick. Discover which type of trucks will do the job.

Which type of trailer should I buy?
There are 4 basic types. Learn about all 4 plus wheel ratings and more.

Where can I park my Tumbleweed?
Our friend, Steven Harrell, has started If you have a need or place check it out.

How do I finance a tiny home?
Read this quick overview that outlines the basics of getting a loan for a home on a trailer.

Tumbleweed Community Forum
We've added a Forum to our website.
Take part in the discussions.

In case you missed it
Our newest floor plan, called the Vantage, features a downstairs bedroom for 2 people.


built by you
JT's Home away from home
After attending the Berkeley workshop, JT built his own tiny home. More...

Brittany's vacation rental
After attending the Olympia Tumbleweed, Brittany now teaches others how to do it. She lived in her home for a year before turning it into a vacation rental for others to try. See inside...

Ella's home
We met Ella at the LA workshop. She followed up by building her home and now teaches others at our workshops. Read more.

Ah, we built this one.
Okay, you caught us cheating here a little bit. But this gorgeous home is worth sharing. Heather contacted us to build her home for her. More photos.

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