Friday, March 27, 2009


I was visiting fellow-author, Anne Bradshaw's "Not Entirely British" blog today, and her post reminded me of one of my all-time favorite stories. The following is an excerpt from Elder Hugh B. Brown's personal tale, "The Currant Bush". You can click the link to read it in its entirety, or just enjoy the short version below. It's truly a gem, and a lesson we all need from time to time. Enjoy!

by Elder Hugh B. Brown

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush.
So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?”

You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’ ”

I wanted to tell you that oft-repeated story because there are many of you who are going to have some very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried to prove what you are made of. I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, “God is the gardener here. He knows what he wants you to be.” Submit yourselves to his will. Be worthy of his blessings, and you will get his blessings.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


One measure of an author's gift is his or her ability to articulate and maintain the story through a clear perspective or point of view. Through whose eyes is the story being told, and in what position is the reader placed? Simply put, is the story written to make the reader feel he is the main character, able to see from the main character's point of view, or from many characters' point of view? It makes a difference in the intimacy the reader feels between himself and the characters.

Art draws from life. In life, perspective matters deeply. And perspectives change. Last Thursday I was puttering around on Face book contributing some inane banter about something nonsensical or at best, unimportant. The next day, after receiving some tragic news from dear friends, my Face book wall seemed almost obscenely irrelevant. My heart was in first person mode with my friends. The world seemed at best to be in distant third mode or even more removed. At that moment, such notations as, "I took the 'What Kind of Cookie Are You?' test, and I'm Oatmeal Raisin!" seemed a ridiculous waste of our limited time here on earth. The day before? Well . . . I wasn't rushing out to determine what my cookiness was, but the quiz didn't sting or annoy.

There just are some points of view that matter more, some moments that cause crystal clarity about the exquisiteness of life and its purpose. At such times we feel the world should halt for a moment and note that life has altered monumentally for someone, but the grass still needs mowing, the socks need matching, meals need to be prepared, eaten and cleared, and life moves on. It's how it is. It's how it must be, I suppose. The Lord seemingly knew that and gave us a permission slip to move on past grief or pain or sorrow or work. It's written in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and immortalized in Pete Seegers "Turn, Turn, Turn".

So I returned home to find my little two-month-old grandson sleeping in my family room. I never wanted . . . needed to hold a baby more than right then, to shift perspective back to life and joy and routine again.

I doubt I'll ask you what cookie you are today, or even tomorrow for that matter, but it is again a time to smile and seek joy, while always remembering and reaching out to those whose perspective will be one of sorrow for quite a while longer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CHRISTIAN COURAGE: The Price of Discipleship

We members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints have been taking it on the chin for some time now, with barely enough time to take a breath between blows. A question from a young member of the church voices what many in and out of the Church want to know. “Why doesn’t the Church defend itself more actively when accusations are made against it?” The following reply is taken from an address given by Elder Robert D. Hales Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 2008.
The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)

When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage. . . This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel, even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world.

As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be born in love and meekness.

. . .We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love. In doing so, we follow the example of the prophet Nehemiah, who built a wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies entreated him to meet them on the plain, where “they thought to do [him] mischief.” . . .Nehemiah wisely refused their offer with this message: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” Nehemiah 6:2–3. We too have a great work to do, which will not be accomplished if we allow ourselves to stop and argue and be distracted. Instead we should muster Christian courage and move on. . .In His Intercessory Prayer . . . the Savior warned of persecution, (but) He promised peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27)

. . .To my inquiring sister and all who seek to know how we should respond to our accusers, I reply, we love them. Whatever their race, creed, religion, or political persuasion, if we follow Christ and show forth His courage, we must love them. . . .He is “the way, the truth, and the life


In closing, allow me to add this quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who is also a Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

"Something is going to be asked of this dispensation that has never been asked before. We must be prepared to present the church of the Lamb to the Lamb. And when that happens, we must be looking and acting like His church."

Saturday, March 14, 2009


In 1754, when Benjamin Franklin first posted his political cartoon, titled "Join or Die", it was an attempt to rally the American people, to draw them from complacency and force them to realize that only in a unified body could they possibly survive the approaching threat posed by a foreign enemy. A decade later it was raised again and renamed "Unite or Die", this time calling for rebellion against Mother England whose forces already resided on American soil.
On March 13th, Glenn Beck raised this banner once more as a call to Americans to unite against another internal threat to her freedom. The enemy at our door, and in our homes, Beck explains, is not another nation, but the loss of identity in our own. But this enemy is a smoke and shadow show, easily defeated, not by armies and armament, but by a return to some core values and principles.
Read Glenn Beck's own words:
Do you watch the direction that America is being taken in and feel powerless to stop it? Do you believe that your voice isn’t loud enough to be heard above the noise anymore? Do you read the headlines everyday and feel an empty pit in your stomach…as if you’re completely alone? If so, then you’ve fallen for the Wizard of Oz lie.
While the voices you hear in the distance may sound intimidating, as if they surround us from all sides—the reality is very different. Once you pull the curtain away you realize that there are only a few people pressing the buttons, and their voices are weak. The truth is that they don’t surround us at all. We surround them. So, how do we show America what’s really behind the curtain? Below are nine simple principles. If you believe in at least seven of them, then we have something in common. I urge you to read the instructions at the end for how to help make your voice heard.

The Nine Principles
1. America is good.
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
The Twelve Values:
Hard Work
Personal Responsibility
You Are Not Alone If you agree with at least seven of those principles, then you are not alone. Please send a digital version of your picture to: and then stay tuned to the radio and television shows over the coming weeks to see how we intend to pull back the curtain.
Latter-day Saints will recognize how closely these values coincide with President Hinckley's value-laden "Bees". All those who love of American history will recognize the nations founding principles embedded here. These are not new ideas. But new voices are reminding us to clean our house . . our inner house, and to demand nothing less from those who govern and lead.
The 9/12 concept sums up the nine priciples and the twelve values nicely, but it is also a call to remember another 9/12--the day after the events of 9/11--the day we hung our flags and ribbons, and knit together and fell on our knees to ask God to show us the way to help and to heal. Remember that 9/12? Of course we do. . .
God, family, country . . . God, family country. . . God, family country. . .
Thump, thump, thump. . . That's the beat of the American heart. Can you hear it?
Please forward this and/or the link to Beck's

Friday, March 13, 2009


Everyone has a few "Small World" stories where they bump into someone who knows someone they know, or where your past slams into your present. Sometimes these can be uncomfortable, like when the person from your past shares some awkward details, (details you left in the dust hoping to bury forever), with the person from your new life. OUCH! But sometimes they are lovely little reminiscences. These are some of those.

A friend entered a fund-raiser called The Polar Bear Plunge, (that's another story) and while sharing her story she mentioned the name of a friend and fellow plunger. My ears perked up. "I used to know someone by that name," I replied thinking, "How lame is it when someone says that?" and "After all . . . what are the chances that my Greg @$#^$$#$ is the same guy as her Greg @$#^$$#$? Well, it turned out he was! We attended the same third grade class, and when my family moved to a totally different county, I ended up on the same street with his grandparents! For a third grader with a crush on a nine-year-old, such good fortune seemed like the intervening of the gods in my behalf.

My crush on him passed on to other, more accessible ten-year-olds, but his grandmother became quite special to me. She had a wonderful library of books, and knowing how much I loved to read she invited me into her home on occasion to select a book to borrow. One day, I stopped in straight from the bus stop. An hour later, I remembered I hadn't been home yet, and when I did get home, my frantic mother gave me such a licking! Fortunately for me, she warned me about the smack-down I was about to receive all the way home, so I had time to prepare. I put every pair of shorts and my bathing suit under a pleated skirt to hide the bulk. And when she entered wielding the belt, I wailed my heart out, providing a convincing performance, though I never felt a thing!

I always liked Greg's grandma for sharing that library with me. She's passed on now, but I think it'll tickle her to know that little Laurie Chilcoat writes books these days, and that I'm going to share something from my library with her wonderful grandson and his family. Yep . . . I think she'll smile.

I had another one of these crazy wonderful moments just two weeks ago. I received an email from the librarian of a small town in Utah who was inquiring about when book three of Free Men and Dreamers would be available. The name of the town intrigued me because I had college room mates from that area. The name intrigued me too because one of the room mates also had that first name. Her last name was different, but . . . as I thought longer I remembered that she dated a young man by that name! BINGO!

I did the 411 thing, got the library's phone number and asked for her. I recognized her voice immediately.

"Hi, this is LC Lewis, (my nom de plume). Did you send me an email?"
"Wow! That was fast!"
"I think I know you."
"You do?"
"Yeah . . . did you go to BYU in '75'?"
"Yes. . . ." Her 'yes' was very tentative.
"I think I was your room mate!"

What a fun conversation we had for the next thirty minutes. It was such a joy to hear about her beautiful life and family, and to catch up on others from Fox City, the indulgent name we gave to our apartment. We've emailed a few more times and hopefully our busy paths will converge so we can meet in person again.

It is a small world. Feels sort of cozy, doesn't it?

Monday, March 2, 2009


Grandparenthood arrives not a moment too soon for most of us. As was the case with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the starry-eyes that reflected awe in our presence began to dim some time ago. Our little children who once believed we knew all things and were capable of super-human things, slowly and subtly let us know that the ruse was over, our cover blown, revealing that we are merely mortal, and ever-weakening specimens at best. And then grandchildren come along, and the vestments of hero-dom reappear, glorious and bright once more.

A board game where the rules lean slightly to bless a child, a ride on a snowplowing yard tractor and a snuggle accompanied by a show on Noggin bring that glint of adoration to their eyes. But tonight, for the mere price of 100 Chucky Cheese tokens and a pizza, Tom and I exceeded humanity and re-entered the world of Superheroes once more. As our five-year-old grandson ran around, playing games and gathering tickets, utter ecstasy was present on his face. From time to time his joy would bubble over into expressions of his superb gratitude and love, and those old feelings of reflected omnipotence returned.

His aunt and uncle were there also, with little Brady in tow. We all took turns playing with Tommy, and likewise sharing the pleasure of tiny infant Brady sleeping alternately on our chests. The feelings were familiar. For a few fleeting minutes, for two little grandsons, we had the exquisite privilege of being the embodiment of love and happiness once more.

We cannot leap tall buildings or stop a bullet mid-flight, but we were able to hold the world at bay for a few hours and create exquisite happiness from a pizza and a string of paper tickets, and that is quite lovely for two semi-retired superheroes.


I have an entire set of Laurie-isms gleaned from a half century of living, loving, working and parenting. I'll have to post the entire list someday, but today I'm focussing on this one: "The hardest choices in life are between two goods."

I think most of us can agree that the average person has the polar opposites of the good and evil struggle conquered. That is to say, I doubt many of us wake up in the morning and wonder if we'll feel inclined to burn and plunder a small village, rob a bank or murder our neighbor on any given day. (I mean really. . . ) And while we may occasionally still struggle with the "you-must-be-forty-two-inches-or-taller-to ride-this-ride" clause at Disney when a sad-eyed grand child really REALLY wants to ride the Indiana Jones venue, I still believe that most of us are honest, caring, and good, truthful people.

But put two good choices before us . . . two demands that each have merit and require our simultaneous attention, and we struggle. We want to be perfect parents, build the Kingdom of God, assist aging family members, magnify our talents, be helpful neighbors, and save the Democracy. And even though we know logically that we can't be in two places at one time, nor make funds appear where they don't exist, more often or not, (and particularly if you are a woman), you will have guilt no matter which you choose when a choice between multiple goods must be made.

Some of these choices will barely leave a blip on the radar of our lives, but some are pivotal. And most seem pivotal at the moment of decision. It's these human struggles that make good drama and therefore, good books. Good books I have circling in my brain but which are denied landing privileges on paper because I am experiencing some of the aforementioned struggles between multiple goods. And so it is that as soon as I set a goal to write my next book in ninety days, nary a word has been typed.

I used to think that all of these interpersonal struggles would get better when my family was grown. Not so. Who we are and how we love when our children are small pretty much sets the pattern for the rest of our days. And so we'll do our best to be "Wonder-Man or Woman". Sometimes we'll hear the Still Small Voice and follow, striking the perfect balance that leaves all involved parties content. Sometimes we'll disappoint. In those cases I'm so grateful for the Atonement that covers disappointment and guilt as well as sin.

All in all, I'd like to think we'll be given an "A" for the effort invested in trying to do what's right. But now it's time to "suit up" for a new adventure. I wish us each well as we head off to save our individual corners of the world.