Monday, January 05, 2015

My Christmas Time

I’ve heard of Jesus who was born in a stable
Of wisemen, bright stars and other great fables
Of ivy and mistletoe and endless traditions
And interesting Christmas tales in various editions

But I find myself pondering on various occasions
A private concern above all life’s equations
Will I know Him when He comes in all His glory?
Will I recognize the truth, will I know the true story?

Will his voice be too soft for my ears to hear?
Or will my heart embrace His words strong and clear?
Will I recognize His tender face on sight?
Or will He just be another star in the night?
Will I hesitate to run to Him and rather just hide?
Or will my feet simply know the way to His side?
I better get to know Him now, this very minute then
For soon He comes and no one knows the hows or wheres or when

I Know His hands fashioned Moses’ laws on heavy mountain blocks
And these same fingers touched 16 stones to glow as fiery rocks
His hands bid the tempest calm and thunderous winds to cease
These same hands can at moment’s call give indescribable peace
He called the little children and blessed them ‘round his knee
He showed the way for Lehi to go across the sea
And then upon a boy who prayed in faith implicitly
He gifted truth in fullness clear and quiet simplicity

Many sing and carols ring of a baby born in a manger
And yet to them this babe is like another faceless stranger
To me He is my Prince, my King, my brother and my friend
Because I know He lived on earth and still He lives again

Sometimes late at long days end, I kneel in private prayer
I hear the rustling of his robes, of his presence I’m full aware
I can almost feel His hand upon, my heavy shoulder’s rest
For deep in prayer after scripture time is when I feel Him best

Once a year the world takes pause for gifts and a Christmas tree
I’ll close my eyes and imagine Him right here just close to me
And everyday I’ll do just that as I learn life’s lessons sweet
For my Christmas time is that one great day when I fall upon His feet.

                                               Written by: E.Christie deRama-Faux
©2001 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2007

To A Cherry Made of Glass

Glass objects have always held a fascination for me. But I did not indulge in collecting useless glass kitsch until my youngest child turned three. Thinking that I can slowly begin to indulge in found objects to adorn my home now that my children were no longer grabby toddlers, I purchased a set of five glass cherries with long delicate glass stems. They were most intriguing because although they were made of glass, they did resemble the real things. My little daughter took particular interest in this and I would often spy her inspecting each piece with a raw curiosity worthy of Sherlock Holmes. One day, I spied her kneeling by the table and then softly placing her head next to the cherries as she inspected them. Finally, as she began to place her fingers around the thin stem, I intercepted and showed her how to touch the cherries so that the thin stems don't snap into pieces.

"Hold them this way," I said. "Hold them by the base not by the stem."

We practiced doing this for a time until I was satisfied that she understood. She was an impressive old soul with knowing eyes. I was sure that she got the idea.

I few weeks later, as I was doing the dishes, little Hannah came into the kitchen crying inconsolably. Etched on her face was the look of pain and anguish. Extending one sweet arm, she held out a piece of a glass stem and on the other, a stem-less cherry.

My first instinct was to scream out a well worn cliche: How many times do I have to tell you to.... . Well, you can just fill in the blanks. I wanted to wail. I wanted to give in to anger. As her lips trembled to speak, a voice inside my head urgently but with great clarity urged me to pause. In a split second, I made the decision to listen. I do remember that I had no idea what to do...or say. And yet, I wanted to surrender to this sweet spirit that urged me to stop. As I stalled to wait for more instructions, I took my little daughter in my arms and carried her to our favorite rocking chair. I asked her "who mommy loves more than cherries, or houses, or things" and she answered each question with her name. Then it became clear to me what needed to be said. As the fog in my head cleared, we talked about how our Heavenly Father loves us more than anything that He put on this beautiful planet...more than the moon and stars that He placed in the skies to adorn it. He loves us more than the breathtaking sunsets or awe-inspiring sunrises. He loves us more than the seas or the mountains that give our planet form and movement. He loves us more than the majestic animals or graceful birds that roam and beautify our earth.

We try to fill our homes with objects that please our eyes and things that we pronounce good. Trite as it may sound, I know Heavenly Father loves us because He did the same for the world we live in. And also like little children, as we sometimes haplessly or selfishly make mistakes, He nevertheless puts His arms around us and loves us just the same. And though our frailties may render us blind or oblivious to His deep and abiding love, His love for us is boundless and unrelenting. Many lessons were learned that day as I held my little girl in my arms. Many thoughts seeped into my head...thoughts of love for a small child, flesh of my flesh now cuddled contentedly in my arms; thoughts of worlds without end created just for man; thoughts of a Heavenly Father who longs for His children.

A mother and child rocked and pondered in loving silence for a time, basking in the sweet spirit that now enveloped their hearts and minds. What potentially could have been an unpleasant scene with consequences that I dare not even consider, thankfully turned into a celestial moment. I do not remember if my little Hannah will remember the details of this event. But I am confident that she will remember and feel how much love I felt for her that day. And if I can be vigilant and careful enough as I mother this wonderful spirit, we will have more moments like this---when mother and child can be assured that the bonds that draw them together were spun and woven in a place we call Heaven.

"Hannah, every time you look at this broken cherry, it will be a token for you to remember that mommy loves you more than anything in the world."

After our tears were dried and our spirits calmed, we placed the broken cherry among the perfect ones. It seemed to project more dignity than the rest. It was beautiful to me. None of the perfect cherries carried any significance but our broken cherry held a memory of love that extends into the eternities.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


They pay an honest tithing. They honor the Sabbath. They obey the commandments with exactness. They read and study the scriptures with great fervor. They attend and participate in all their meetings. They are modest in their attire and behaviour. They honour the traditions of their fathers and attend the temple. If these descriptions fit your description of a good latter-day saint, that may not be far from the truth. But these characteristics also describe the Pharisees--the most prominent of the ancient Jewish sects. Though they believe in a just and merciful god, they shunned all those who did not live by their strict codes and separated themselves from those they considered "common" people. When they pray, they give thanks to God that they are not "unjust" or "unclean" as other people (see Luke 18:11) and they take pride in being "different" from others.

For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

Can you just hear the irony in this passage of scripture? One can't help but crack a smile after reading this! While it is of paramount importance to obey the commandments with exactness, our zeal to live the gospel can be carried too far when our efforts turn to measuring others instead of concentrating on our own obedience. The Pharisees were more than concerned about rules and their own interpretations of the applications of these rules rather than the principles of the gospel. They didn't see that before every rule, first comes love.

Pondering all the concerns that we have right now with life's details regarding dress, music, use of technology, the media, dating standards, language use, even the protocol of nursing a baby during meetings left me with many sobering thoughts. While I do not want to minimize the importance of adhering to common sense rules that bind us to high standards, our own zeal to make sure others adhere to these rules may very well limit our ability to love them. This very same problem imprisoned the Pharisees.

Measuring others by any yardstick can prevent us from developing tolerance and compassion for others. Please note that I refer to others and not the sin. It is so easy to look at others and judge them by their appearance---the apparel, their looks, their shapes, their history, their family, their pedigree or name because it is a natural propensity of being human to seek faults so we can feel superior. On some occasions taking offense becomes a favorite pastime or habit because NOT taking offense is a more difficult choice to make. I should know. Many times my sensitivity gets the best of me. But we can override our "humanness" with loving kindness and hopefully, charity as gifted to us by the Holy Ghost. That is not an easy task especially for me. But I am hopeful.

Pharisees wasted too much time building a wedge between them and others. Christ taught us that "...our bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish they thoughts unceasingly; then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of God. (D&C 121:45)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the real center of it all. It provides the only way to help us return to our Father in Heaven. Peripheral issues such as attire, tradition, cultural tolerance or social expectations are important and need to be addressed because understanding how we interact and should act within these boundaries help create order in our human environment. But what's peripheral must not take precedence over what's really important. The fact is, many people, especially young people, dare us to love them by expressing themselves in such a way that it becomes difficult for us to love them first. Often, and there are exceptions, these expressions mean altering their appearance, behaviour or style of dress. Do not let your displeasure reign over your ability to feel more love--and especially to see their hearts. Reproof can only be effective when tempered with an abundance of love and wisdom wrought, shaped and reinforced by the power of the Holy Ghost. Without this influence, we are missing the mark, often causing more hurt and confusion not just for the people we love but also for ourselves.

Our main edict is to make sure we ourselves obey the principles of the gospel and the counsels of a living prophet, not to police others. It is our privilege to obey, to choose for ourselves and as far as others are concerned, we are privileged to learn to show love and kindness to all those we come in contact with---to love them into the fold. It is the greatest and most challenging of all of God's commandments. The measurements that we use to judge others by, whether thy are calibrated by tradition, culture, correct principles or even our own person preferences, fall behind the greatest of all commandments. After all, first comes love.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saccharine Thoughts

Sugar. It used to be the essential feature of all things wonderfully sweet and magically comforting. As little girls, my sister and I would run barefoot into our garden when morning dew used to smell sweet, looking for fresh blooms of honeysuckle and yellowbells so we could suck their honey nectar. Sugar crusted custards, sugar flowers, brown sugar muffins, cold sugar cane freshly cut from the fields, banana-scented ice cold panocha drinks….these are some of the wonderful things that lived in my head.

Decades later, I find myself engulfed in a new philosophy of diet and health consciousness that has given sugar an evil face. It is now a “drug” that can adversely affect children’s behaviour or snugly blanket our depression. To avoid having to deal with the ill effects of too much sugar, man developed a solution to rescue us from overindulging and sugar highs: sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are nothing less than fascinating to me.

Saccharine is an organic petroleum-based compound that our bodies cannot metabolize into fuel and therefore contain no calories. Aspertame or NutraSweet is even more interesting. It is composed of two amino acids and is therefore a protein.

Aspertame has about the same number of calories contained per gram as sugar but here’s the kicker: it’s 200 times sweeter! That is why we only need a negligible amount to sweeten our lemonade. Its own intense sweetness limits its ability to be consumed. There are endless controversies that surround these and other sugar substitutes regarding their benefits as well as possible serious contraindications.

I was thinking about crème brulee when the thought first came to me. It is impossible to enjoy crème brulee without sugar! There simply is nothing that exists that can substitute for the sugar experience: the light tapping sound your spoon makes when you crack the caramel glass of sugar that crowns the custard or how the vanilla bean cream perfectly coats your tongue because of the extra fine sugar that was used to ensure its satiny texture. Man can only provide sugar substitutes lacking the properties of real sugar and are absent of any caloric benefits.

Because we fear the negative effects when sugar is not treated responsibly, we blame sugar itself and not the consumer. The same reasoning becomes universal when we assign blame to an object rather than contemplate how we use it. For example, we call television an idiot box because we fear its adverse effects when used irresponsibly. Focusing and blaming the object relieves us of responsibility. Focusing on responsible and wise choices gives us the option to find joy in our power to choose correctly.

That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. (D&C 101:78)

We assign the face of an enemy to many things that we fear and do not understand. And more insidiously, we assign an ugly face to those things that demand too much responsibility or would require vigilant stewardship.

Sometimes we feel more secure when, like the Pharisees of old, we rely on the security of the letter of the law rather than the more exacting principle of listening to the Spirit—–a way of life that requires constant effort and reliance on the saving gift of the Atonement. There is such safety in merely being told exactly what to do. Interestingly, it would be so much easier to judge when the calibrations are exact and we need not think for ourselves! It would be easier to judge others!

Sometimes we blame our teachers, leaders or visiting teachers for not inspiring us enough or bishops for not understanding us enough, assigning the face of an enemy to others because we might find that our worst enemy is our own fear that the responsibility lies in ourselves. When we assign blame to objects, events or on others, we have in essence created substitutes that fill us with empty “calories” or worse, endanger our spirits.

I am about to finish a small cup of homemade rice pudding lightly sweetened with sugar and dusted with a dash of cinnamon on top. I shouldn’t but I am. It’s my husband’s fault. I told him to eat it and he didn’t. I just couldn’t let him waste a good cup of rice pudding. It just won’t taste the same if you wait too long. I’m sure tomorrow he’ll regret it. I know I will.

Introducing Heaven

The Lord’s voice awakened young Samuel as he lay sleeping but he did not recognize His voice. Assuming that it was Eli, his guardian, who was calling, he instantly gets up and runs to his chambers. “Here I am!” he answers obediently. Eli, ancient and near blind, is awakened and tells Samuel to go back to sleep. Twice this happened and twice, Eli reassures Samuel that he did not beckon him and thus, patiently sends him back to sleep. But the voice persisted a third time and Samuel once again obediently runs back to Eli. This time, Eli “perceived that the Lord had called the child”. Carefully, he looks into Samuel’s young face and, now graced by enlightenment, introduces the young boy to the powers of heaven that beckon him.

“...Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down; and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth…..”

With this introduction, Samuel became privy to the powers of heaven “to hear his voice
that he might instruct thee….....” (Deuteronomy 4:36)


My little son, Leland came into the bedroom one night crying.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, as my mind reluctantly surrendered to wakefulness.

“I can’t find my Mousie!” he cried, as sheer desperation flooded his angel face.

I vanquished the momentary urge to get irritated and proceeded to get up.

“Let’s go find Mousie.”

But Mousie was nowhere to be found. Still earnestly trying to fight the strong urge to merely dismiss my son’s yearning for this ragged toy, a sudden spark of enlightenment burst into my consciousness until the vision of what I needed to do brimmed with clarity and purpose. Like Eli of old, I realized that the Lord was beckoning—–opening a door for my young son to hear Him and and experience the powers of heaven. And like Eli, my task was to introduce my angel son to these powers so that he may recognize the voice of God.

“Let’s kneel down and ask Heavenly Father to help us find him.”

Mother and son then knelt down by the bedside and earnestly asked a loving Heavenly Father for assistance in finding a very important soft animal pillow whose shape fit perfectly in my son’s little hand and whose eyes sparkled with silvery thread.

After our prayer was said, a sweetness filled my heart as I tucked my young son back to bed. I softly caressed his tender cheeks and as we straightened out his blanket, Mousie popped out from the folds right into my son’s sight and reach. Great joy and relief illuminated his innocent baby face and we joyfully thanked Heavenly Father for His kindness and His quick and ready hand.

Our prayer was answered and the heavens were opened….wide open. And although I had already turned off the bedroom light, there was a brighter light that filled our spiritual eyes. As I hugged little Leland good-night, I thanked the Lord again for the privilege of introducing heaven to my little son for I knew that this night would always be in his memory and would help shape his belief and trust in a Heavenly Father who lives, who is real and who loves us.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sunday School was an interesting sit-in.

The lesson was taken from the Old Testament, the book of Deuteromony which discusses how God commanded the Israelites to remember their covenants by posting scripture between their eyes, their hands, their door posts and their gates. A quote from Ezra Taft Benson was also read where in he says that people who are “captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. … Enter their homes, and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians” Many agreed that one can always tell upon entering a home whether Christ is the center of the lives of the occupants of the home by the picture of the temple or of Christ hanging prominently on their walls. This made me cringe. I have none of those pictures. I had no idea that I can be judged by what I hang on my walls. God forbid that my Sunday School teacher or anyone who believes these words, be my judge for I will surely be sent to the depths of hell. And I thought it was ME who was being judged---not my house or my lack of appropriate pictures that hang on my wall...if we need to be judged by others at all. There is something intrinsically wrong with this kind of thinking. My true friends know me. ME. Not the contents of my home.

A few years ago, my friend began to collect signed reproductions of limited edition Kinkaid paintings. She gushed excitedly about them and encouraged me to invest in collecting these 'works of art'. I studied each painting carefully and pronounced them "pretty" and went my merry way. Though I wanted to run to the nearest Kinkade gallery to make an initial investment, something inside me told me to take my money elsewhere. I heeded that inner voice. I am glad I did. Though the paintings were pretty, they did not speak to me. But many Kinkades grace many LDS homes and I found myself outside that circle. And because I don't have one, I'm just not LDS chic. And this is how I got booted out of the inner circle of the LDS women's lunch club. I just didn't own a Kinkade. Pity. Now you can find Kinkades in flea markets. Frankly, I'd rather have a Boticelli nude. Of course, I jest. . . but only in part since I do admire Boticelli's work and yes, that includes the famous "Birth of Venus". And I also admire Rodin including the famous statue, "The Kiss" and wouldn't mind a version of it displayed in my living room. But the point is, just because hordes of LDS love Kinkade art doesn't render it great art or celestial art. Oh, but must we all be homogenized?

LDS kitsch and bric-a-bracs have found their way into many LDS homes. There are cheap porcelain copies of the Christus, the ubiquitous temple posters, limited edition Olsens and Swindles, plates, statues and badly produced LDS pop music. There is money to be made and fame to be claimed by anyone who can find a way to mass produce trinkets and kitsch to pose as LDS "art" that will fill the growing need of Latter-day Saints all over the world to have a tangible reminder of what they feel is important. Therein lies my dilemma. What exactly am I bringing into my home to "remind" me of what's important to me? I had no idea that what's important to me can be objectified and captured into a three-dimensional token that can be mass produced and can render an enterprising kitsch-mogul wealthy or famous in the process. Who really profits from these objects? And if my allegiance and faith can be measured by what I hang on my wall or what kind of music I listen to, I am in big trouble because I have no idea who and how these measurements are calibrated, quantified and qualified. Judging my character and testimony by what I deem is beautiful, enlightening, inspiring and empowering is unfair and foul. My taste is my own. It is made up of who I am and the experiences that wrap around my core. And no human can dictate what I deem to be beautiful and inspiring but my own muse. I can eat dog if I want. And I can retch at the thought of buttered rice if that's what my guts tell me.

How close are we to lighting candles (preferably Salt City candles) to remember our dead, eating green jello only on Sundays, banning hapless uninformed people who wear pants to church or wearing a "uniform" to bless the sacrament? How close are we to adding aspects to our ordinances and activities? Church leaders have warned against phylacteries and additional aspects to ordinances. Quoting President Joseph Fielding Smith, he states: ...let us consider the ordinance of the sacrament. It became the custom in many wards throughout the church to have the young men who passed the Sacrament all dressed alike with dark coats, white shirts and uniform ties. This could in time lead to the established custom of dressing them in uniform, such as we see done in some sectarian and other churches. Then again as they passed the Sacrament, they had to stand with their left hand plastered on their backs in a most awkward manner...Members of the Church were instructed that they must not touch the trays containing the bread and water with their left hand. . . So we see that we, if we are not careful, will find ourselves traveling the road that brought the Church of Jesus Christ in the first centuries into disrepute and paved the way for the apostasy. (Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol 1, p. 103)

President David O. MacKay said: I am not going to say much about the dress. We are not a people who look to formality, certainly we do not believe in phylacteries, in uniforms, on sacred occasions, but I do think that the Lord will be pleased with a bishopric if they will instruct the young men who are invited to administer the sacrament to dress properly... (Conference Report, October 1956, p.89)

So here's what I think. I get to listen to my rock and roll music. I get to enjoy any exhibit of my choice at the New York Metropolitan Museum or any museum for that matter, without guilt. And when I find a really great rendering of the temple of my choice by an artist of high caliber that touches my spirit, I will hang that work of art. Until then, I get to hang whatever work of art that inspires me. The appreciation of art is an individual experience. It is subject to one's knowledge, experience and yes, culture and upbringing. Art can be an expression of a feeling that is singular only to the person expressing it. And if by some cosmic miracle, that piece of artwork touches me in the same way, I can own it and embrace it even if it speaks to me and me alone. And no one is allowed to judge me because of it.

Telling me what work of art to hang on my walls is the height of snobbery and self-indulgence. Anyone who comes to my home to judge me by what hangs on my wall or what music I listen to will not be invited to eat my barbecued meat surprise the next time I have a hankering for Filipino food.

It would indeed be a sad time if LDS culture reaches the point where we become obsessive zealots who need objects or phylacteries to 'ward off' evil or to give us some measure of security against an encroaching, scary world. I thought that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of hope and light-- not a gospel based on fear and dread. The gospel should be written in our hearts, not on parchment to be placed on our heads. And I have been gifted with a power more potent than any object on earth and I am privy to that by the nature of my birthright, the ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands as well as my obedience. I need no object to remind me of my covenants for I rely on the Spirit to whisper to me, to be my constant companion. It is a power that I trust. And though I may fail to listen or to heed, patiently, the Holy Ghost has not given up on me. And He has never failed me. Never. Ever.

When Jehovah asked the Israelites to place scriptures between their eyes, their hands, the doorposts and their gates to remember their covenants, it served a purpose on their level. It has now been at least two thousand years since the birth of the Saviour and His resurrection. The gospel has been restored in its fullness. We no longer have to wear phylacteries on our heads, arms or doors; nor do we need any more objects to hang on our walls. Our lives must become the objects by which we glorify His name. We must exemplify how the gospel works by the lives we lead. But now that we understand how the plan of salvation works and how the atonement can bless our lives, we need only the tokens in His hands and his feet and his side.
I am a convert. There were only about 600 members, half of them inactive, when I was baptized in the country of my birth. I was nine when I joined the church. I grew up without LDS friends, without the benefit or rather, the limitations of a Mormon culture. We simply lived our lives the best way we could with the little that we knew.

When I say, we knew only a "little", I am being facetious. The only thing "little" that I knew was this: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on earth. That the priesthood, the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ, was restored on earth through a new prophet, called of God, whose name was Joseph Smith. It was also obvious to me, at nine years old, that I could never abandon this church and that the gospel is what fuels the organization that we call the 'church'.

What I intend to write about are my growing experiences while being carried into the land of the restoration: America. I am an immigrant to the nation where this restored church was organized. It has been quite a life. My experiences have been varied. Some are bitter. Most are enlightening. Most of what I am about to write about may be hard to read. But these are my experiences. I claim them. I own them. And this is my story.