Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review - Lighten Up! by Chieko Okazaki

I read this book years ago and loved it so much that I framed the cover and hanged it on my study wall.  I remains there today.  This morning I finished my first re-read of this wonderful book and was amazed at how much better prepared I was to receive it's powerful message this time around.

Sister Okazaki was a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency back in the eighties.  She wrote the book directly to the women who are members of that great organization.  Consequently, far fewer men than women have been exposed to this wonderful woman and her marvelous book.  This is a crying shame.

I recommend it to men all the time and after re-acquainting myself with its message, will be pressing even harder to spread the word.

Here are a few quotes from the book to whet your appetite:
Ideals are stars to steer by.  They are not a stick to beat ourselves with.  (Barbara Smith)
In principles, great clarity.  In practices, great charity.
Don't think the Lord can do without any of your gifts, no matter how you feel about them. 
When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.  (Corrie Ten Boom)
Whenever I saw a parent trying too hard to make one child fit the family mold, I flinched a little.  I knew there would be trouble.
Maybe you've received a lot of "shoulds" and "oughts" about your spiritual life.  Do any of these sound familiar?
     You should read the scriptures at the same time every day.
     You should go to the temple once a month.
     You should always wait quietly for the answer after you've prayed.
     You should always accept every calling in the Church.
Well, I have another "should" for you.  Here it is.  Are you ready?
     You should do what works for you.  
These are just a small sampling of the wisdom, insight and encouragement Sister Okazaki offers to the willing reader.  I am profoundly grateful for her counsel.  If you feel burdened by your service in the Kingdom, or your home, or your job, or your life in general read this book!  Or be reminded of Sister Okazaki's counsel:
Christ's burden is light.  When he says, "Learn of me," he wants us to do something that will be light and joyful to us, not heavy and discouraging. 
Just this week I heard someone say in Church that we should set a particular day and time to attend the temple and stick to it.  And that if we don't the devil will keep us from getting there.  I think Cheiko Okazaki might have turned in her grave had she heard that.  First of all, the message was designed to make us feel guilty that we hadn't set that date and actually made it.  Second, it implies that there is nothing on God's green earth that is more important, ever, than keeping that date.  Third, it assumes that Satan is the only one who has influence over us on a day to day basis.  Like there's no way that the Holy Ghost would spontaneously prompt me to go to the Temple.

I have heard that counsel before, and followed it.  And sometimes, not very often, I should have been doing something else that I know in my heart was, at that moment, more important.  It wasn't necessarily something big, more often, it was small, like giving my weary wife a break from three toddlers, but it was, at that moment, what the Lord would rather I do.

In church I would much prefer being joyfully inspired and uplifted, than being shamed and guilt tripped into conforming to someone else's view of perfect performance.  Their prescription for my spirituality is no more a match for mine, than are the prescriptions for our glasses.  Thank you Sister Okazaki for releasing me from the guilt our culture so readily seeks to apply.  Thank you Master, for applying the Balm of Gilead to my wounds and the Atonement to my weakness and for offering to be my yoke-mate.


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