Sunday, 10 August 2014


Reaching 5895 meters above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free-standing mountain and the highest peak in Africa.*  At the tender age of thirteen, I along with my sister and my father, set out to conquer Kili.  Eager, and with spring in our steps we began the journey, three and a half days up, one and a half down.  We carried only our day packs and were ready to run with the gazelles up the constant incline.  Our guide, however, warned us against such sprints.  His advice was simple, "polepole" - slowly.  The idea was that going slowly at a sustainable speed would be quicker than a binge and purge approach.  It's the story of the tortoise and the hare.  It worked.  Our trek was slow, but it was consistent.
Polepole.  I am often overwhelmed at how much I have to learn, how much I have to grow.  I have goals of being totally humble, completely faith-filled and perfect.  While those goals are great things to aim for, they are not achieved over night neither are they achieved sprinting.  Polepole.  I hope that every day I can become a little more humble, gain a little more faith and move closer towards perfection, but the journey is long, the destination is still far away.  What matters though is that I am on the journey, I am taking steps, no matter how polepole, in the right direction.
You might think this is a poor analogy if I tell you that I never made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  However, even in that there is a lesson to be learned.  The goal set out for us was to summit for sunrise.  My sleep, uncomfortable in a dorm of strange men and women, was cut short when I was awoken a little after one and beckoned to begin the journey heavenward.  It was dark, the steep trail lit only by our head lamps.  I was tired, grouchy.  Our goal, which had previously been hidden from us by the clouds, was now cloaked in darkness.  There was greater urgency than in the previous days.  If we were to make our goal, we had to keep going.
I couldn't keep up.  I didn't feel well.  Whether it was because of the altitude, the physical exertion or the lack of sleep, i do not know, but I felt miserable.  I begged for a break, and in the darkness I sat down.
I couldn't do it, I told them, and then I was told that I didn't have to.  I could go back to the scary dorm room filled with strange men and go back to sleep.
The choice was mine - conquer Africa's highest peak or go back to bed.  That was a big choice for little 13 year-old me.  I knew hours of hiking were still ahead.  The summit seemed to be nothing more than a fictitious promise, and surely the sunrise couldn't be that amazing.
I'm convinced I could have made it.  While altitude sickness seems to be the most honourable excuse, I think I was just tired.  Had I gotten up, taken just one step and then another, polepole I would have made it to the top.  However, my sister, rather than encouraging me along, gave me a ultimatum.  Now or never.  "Let's go, and if you can't, then you go back and let us go on."**  I went back.  I spent the night coward in a corner of the dorm room hoping and praying that the men wouldn't touch me.  So much for sleep.
My sister and my dad when on to summit the world's tallest free standing mountain while I stayed behind.
I'm thankful for the people who haven't left me behind as I journey to become more like Jesus.  I too often I'm pouty, I sit down and complain that I can't do it.  Every time I do, someone comes along and tells me to get up, to take another step, to look back at how far I've come, remember the strength I've been given thus far and to carry on.  Little by little, inch by inch, do whatever I can do, and if all I can do is sit there for a minute or two, that is better than retreating.  I love that the Gospel asks us just to do however little it is that we can.  What matters is that I am on the right path, not the speed at which I am progressing and while I want to sprint towards the goal, I can't.  It is too far away, but everyday I can learn something new, I can put into practice everything I've learned and step by step, polepole, I'll get closer to my goal.  Will I succeed?  Ultimately the choice is mine.  A choice made up of a thousand choices.  On Kili the choice was mine and this is no difference.  I'm just thankful for those who have made the choices easier, who have encouraged and supported me and reminded me that I am where I need to be.  I'm on the journey, I'm on the right path, I'm going in the right direction and that's what matters.

**I feel like I should defend my sister.  She's great and we had a lot of fun together hiking up Kili.  She was also a teenager, grumpy from not getting enough sleep, and well you can't expect much patience from a 16 year-old.  She likewise has made little steps towards greater change, so when she decided that we should run 15 miles a couple years ago, and with less than a mile left I just wanted to give up, she wouldn't let me.  She encouraged me every step and told me I could do it.  It turns out that she was right, but I couldn't have done it alone.  Thanks.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ferry - God - Mother

We waited in a forever long lineup of cars.  After hours of driving through the mountains, we stopped to pick up a second car for my mom to use, and then headed to the ferry terminal.  Soon we would be on Salt Spring Island.  In the long line, we disembarked the vehicles, stretched in the parking lot, breathed in the salt water and stood on tippy-toes trying to see the ocean.  Then the cars up ahead started to move so we jumped back into the vehicles.  Me, my sisters and my dad in the van; my mom following right behind us.  Excitement grew inside of us.  We would soon be aboard a massive boat.  I love, have always loved boat rides.
We were waved ahead, started to drive on to the boat, but when I looked back, I realised they had stopped my mom.  I panicked.  Our van was the last vehicle to get onto the boat.  I might have cried as I realised that we were leaving my mom behind.  I think I demanded that we go back to be with her.  We couldn’t leave her behind.  My dad did what he could to assure my sisters and me that we would wait for my mom on the island.  That she could catch the next boat over and everything would be fine.
I’m not sure I agreed, but everything turned out fine.
I’m on the other side of Canada today.  The ferry has just pulled in and soon I’ll have to stand in line to board.  I’m sad to be leaving New Brunswick.  I met a lady here, a lady who showed me that the nurture from a human is far greater than anything mother earth has to offer me.  She’s not a woman I’ve known for long, but she cared for me, looked out for me and mothered me when that’s what I needed.  As I prepare to leave NB, I feel the pain of leaving her behind.  I want to cry, catch a bus in the opposite direction and go be with her.
The announcement tells me that it's time to board.  The ferry will not wait for me, it will not mother me.  Though the waves of the ocean may rock and comfort me, nothing compares to those who have nurtured and mothered me.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

On Kate Kelly and Ordain Women.

“ have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood.”

“persuade them to support your particular interpretation of Church doctrine”

Those are two statements found on the excommunication letter sent to Kate Kelly.  There seems to me to be a huge difference between undermining Church doctrine and trying to get other to support one’s understanding of the doctrine.  I’m not just talking about the motivation of an individual, but what it ultimately comes down to is the doctrine.  Are the Ordain Women trying to change how a doctrine is interpreted, or are they trying to change the doctrine.  I would think that from their perspective they are trying to do the former.  They love the Church, they love the Gospel and the Doctrine of Christ, but they want to see that doctrine played out differently.  If that is all, who can fault them?  If however they desire to change doctrine, I can see why that is problematic. 

What I’m trying to say, though I’m not sure I’m articulating myself very clearly, is that I think their motives matter less than what the doctrine is.  Their motives matter, and I think their motives are good, but if trying to get people to support their interpretation of doctrine is actually undermining the doctrine, I get why that is problematic.  So, what is the doctrine?  What is the doctrine stated so clearly that will make it obvious if Kelly’s interpretation is an acceptable one of many, or if it undermining the Church's doctrine.

Jesus, as recorded in 3 Nephi 11, makes it seem pretty clear that there should be no disputes among us about doctrine.  Then, the doctrine is clearly laid out:  Believe, Repent, Baptism, Reception of the Holy Ghost, and then build upon Jesus’ rock so that the gates of hell shall not prevail – endure to the end.  To me, that’s the doctrine.  That’s it, and I certainly don’t hear the Ordain Women speaking out against any of those things.

Should Kelly have listened to the warnings she was given?  I don’t know, maybe.  I get the point made by a different Kelly over here, I’m not surprised, but I’m still sad.  I still think there are many questions left unanswered.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Chocolate Ice Cream

This is a story from when I was three.  It is accurate according to my memory which may not be accurate at all.
It was a bright sunny day.  My sisters and I and two of our friends were playing house in my back yard.  I had to get the “food” which was leaves from our May Day tree.  Against the fence ran a bench.  I stood upon it, leaned against the fence for balance and reached up to pluck the leaves. 
An angry swarm of wasps came rushing out from the other side of the fence.  Apparently they didn’t like having their nest disturbed.  I panicked, screamed swung my arms wildly. 
“Stay calm,” my nanny Gail yelled as she came rushing out of the house.  “Don’t swat them, it will only aggravate them.”
My arms couldn’t stay still, but my feet couldn’t move.  Gail picked me up off the bench and rushed me into the house.  There we assessed the damage.
I was three years old and had been bitten three times: once on my arm, once on my lip and once on my pinkie.
Gail lectured me about how one ought to behave around wasps as she held me and comforted me.
“Did you swat one away,” she asked.  “Is that why it bit your pinkie?”
“No,” I lied.

I was afraid to go back outside.  The following night after dark my father and my sister took a spray and went to kill the wasps.  It was past my bed time, but my other sister and I sat nervously by the window.  We ate chocolate ice cream and feared for their lives, at least I did.  I was terrified that they’d get bitten just as I had.  The fear made me feel sick to the stomach.  Yet, they went willingly, to ensure my safety, and for that they were my heroes.  When they came back unharmed I was filled with relief.  Only then could I go to bed in peace.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

On Things That Scare Me after Dark

I awoke to scuttling, scratching, gnawing sounds.  A mouse was in my room.  Immediately I thought defensively.  I tried to clap, to scare it away, but my hands were slow to move and the sound they produced was muffled by the covers.  The mouse continued his racket making.  The noise came from the foot of my bed.  I could only imagine that he was trying to make his way up there, turn into a monster mouse and attack me.  Or at least bite me and give me a deadly disease, rabies or something.  I started banging my feet against the bed, stomping, as it were, under the covers.  Surely that sound, and the movement  would frighten him away.  The mouse, however, continued unfazed. The monster mouse would be frightened by nothing.  I’ve never before been woken by a mouse, and yet the noise was vaguely familiar.  Since my best efforts to scare it away hadn’t worked, I stopped for a moment and listened.  Its scuttling was like fluttering, the scratching and gnawing like the taping of a trapped insect against glass, like a moth or a fly, exactly like a moth or a fly. And I, I have my roommate Charity to deal with problems like that.  I listened to the noise for less than a minute more, and then a reassuring quiet filled our room.  The creature lay caught in Charity’s web.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

On Motherhood

A Mother’s Day Post
It is a little atypical for me to post a seasonal post as such, and I don’t really mean to.  It is just that I’ve been thinking about mothers a lot, and it just so happens that tomorrow is mother’s day.  Really though it is an accident and a coincidence.
I’ve been living with a family and spending my time observing a four year old boy interact with his mother.  We’ll call him Wallace. 
Wallace love his mother, and his mother loves him.  She loves being able to say “yes” to him.  She loves chasing him around and getting down on the floor and playing with him.  She loves cuddling him and kissing him.  She wants to see him succeed, and tries to explain what is best for him.  However, she lets him use his freewill, make poor choices, but she still loves him.  She teaches him to do things on his own.  She loves to listen to him, and desires so much to understand what he is saying.  Wallace is loved.  He is given the best that his mom has to offer.  When he calls, his mother is quick to listen, to come to his aid.  I was likening their relationship to my relationship with God.  Meanwhile, I have been reading a book about the fatherhood of God.  But, I started wondering, what about heavenly mother.  While belief in a heavenly mother is upheld in LDS teachings, I’ve heard nothing about her.  I don’t have a problem believing in heavenly mother, but I haven’t heard a satisfactory explanation for why she is not spoken about. 
But, I’ve been thinking about mothers.  Perhaps I’ve been wanting to be mothered, to be loved like Wallace is loved.  It doesn’t seem like heavenly mother loves us like that at all.  Rather it feels much more like we are forbidden to even much talk about her, let alone talk to her or have a relationship with her.  Like Wallace I want to cry out “mom, mom, MOM!” and have my heavenly mother answer calmly, “yes, bud?”  Then I could say “I want supper.” And she would ask, “what do you want?”  I’d think for a moment and then reply, “a peanut butter and jam sandwich.”  Then she would ask me to get the peanut butter and jam.  I’d do all I could and she’d make me a sandwich, and then another one if I was still hungry.
I could believe in mother earth, that she is our heavenly mother, the wind calling us, the vegetation serving us, forests playing with us.  I could believe in mother earth, selflessly giving resources to her children, laying herself down for them, allowing them to walk all over her and yet loving them the same.  I could believe in mother earth; a heavenly mother who gives everything for her kids, that we can know, tangibly interact with, lay down to rest with, simply be with her.  I could believe in mother earth; a mother who so loves her children that she gets down on their level, sings over them as a bird, plays with them as the mountains.  I could believe in mother earth, that she is our heavenly mother who has come down as the sunrise to be with her children, who, a bubbling stream rejoices in her children.
I could be wrong.  I can hear the counter arguments running through my head.  But don’t just crush this mosaic.  Doing so will leave me feeling abandoned, empty.  If you must take this picture away, leave me something even more beautiful in its stead. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dad Day

Two years ago today my dad died.  They've been a long two years.  Sometimes I feel like it's been much longer.  Other times I awake from dreams of him, that seem so real that I am no longer sure if he is alive or dead.
I don't spend lots of time speaking, or even thinking, about my dad.  I'm always hesitant to share stories about him, especially with those whom I'm not sure if they know that my dad has passed away.  But today is dad day.  I get to think about my dad, tell stories about him, enjoy the memories and be a little sad.  Still, I have to function, I have things to do, I don't get the whole day just to mourn.
There are many stories I could tell about my dad.  This is a story about when he made me feel like the most important person in the world.  When I was 7ish, my dad read Heidi to me.  That summer the two of us went hiking.  Half way up the mountain we entered a sloped green field, beautifully alive with wild flowers.  We sat down to have our lunch, and my dad told me that I was Heidi, and he was Peter and we entered into the world of pretend.  It was lovely.
It's dad day, one more story:

My dad also ready the Little House on the Prairies books to me.  I was rereading one of them and I think those books may have been what inspired me to ask my dad to tell me stories about his childhood.  He would make excuses, saying that he wasn't good at telling stories, or that he couldn't remember any.  This always make me a little sad, but he'd read to me, and for that I am so thankful.  I told my dad that he had to take me to Bolivia, the country where he spent a large portion of his childhood.  When I was 18, we went to Bolivia, and there I finally heard stories about his childhood.  We went hiking and came across these large rock formations.  I wish I could remember what they were called, but I believe the name reflected the idea that they were guards.  My dad shared with me that as a kid he was never allowed to climb the rocks.  I tried to get him to climb them, but he claimed to was too old.  Rather he lived his childhood dream vicariously through me as he encouraged me to climb the rocks.  It was great.  He encouraged me all the way up, helped me to find handholds and took pictures of my accomplishments.  I'm so thankful for all the times my dad let me be a kid and climb trees and mountains and rocks, and dig holes in our back yard and get dirty and just play.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

On Humility

reserved the right to change my mind, and while I haven't changed my opinion, I've changed my attitude.  I spent Sunday dwelling in frustration, arguing with my sister missionary about gay rights and, while I watched conference in the morning, I was completely unfocused, and I didn't watch in the afternoon.  My sister missionary told me to study something, but I didn't want to.  I considered picking up my Book of Mormon and just reading the next chapter, but in my imagination when I picked up the book, I tore it to pieces.  I was neither willing nor worthy to receive revelation from God, so I didn't see the point of studying.  I decided to bake instead.
I've been reading through the Book of Mormon and underlining the things that are meaningful to me.  At the end of each book I go back and make notes in my study journal about why those verses were important.  Though I was half way through Helaman, I hadn't gone back over Alma, so, after baking muffins, I decided to do that.  I prayed.  I told God that I wasn't sure why I was still trying, but I was.
I started flipping through Alma, stopping when I had something underlined.  I had Alma 5:7 underlined.  Perhaps I underlined it thinking that God had changed my heart, but it became my prayer that God would change my heart.  But what really hit me was Alma 5:28 "Behold, are you stripped of pride?  I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God.  Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life."
Was I stripped of my pride?  Not at all, and I knew it.  I knew I was refusing to be teachable, I knew I was holding on to my opinions as right, unshakable and better than everyone else's opinion.  I had Alma 5:33 underlined as well.  "Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you."  I had some repenting to do.
I decided I should watch Elder Anderson's talk again, this time with determination to be humble and teachable.  Five minutes in, I stopped it.  He hadn't even started talking about homosexuality yet, but I was questioning.  I don't have childlike faith, blind faith.  I still think I know better than people speaking on behalf of God.  When I try to just accept I feel like I am brainwashing myself.  I remembered that I can write down my questions.  That validates them, they are real questions, but stops them from consuming all my thoughts.
He said that there was always going to be sin in this world, but I thought after Christ's reign on earth that the world was going to be transformed/perfected/celestialized.  Did he just mean in this current state there would always be sin?
He talked about the trials that some of the general authorities faced in their early years, but they all seemed really small, really trivial to me.  If he was trying to conjure up sympathy by telling me that Packer had polio, it didn't work.  Thousands of kids will die today because of hunger and preventable illnesses.  You don't care.  I don't care, really.  If I want you to care, I'll tell you a story of a little girl, Sary, barely 7.  Her dad is gone, her mom is in labour.  Sary is trying to keep her two younger siblings calm as her mom screams with her legs spread on the dirt floor.  Sary is doing doing everything she can to comfort her mother.  She fetches water (it's murky, something you'd never drink) and brings it back to her mother.  The mother screams again, and then the bady, a boy, slides out.  Sary is there in time to catch the baby.  She hands the newborn to her mother, but her face is paling.  She's bleeding badly from a tear that happened during birth.  "His name shall be Miro," she says, blessing the newborn child with her last breath.  Later that afternoon, while Miro sleeps, the children dig up the dirt with their bare hands, and bury their mother in a low grave.  They stand together weeping.  When Miro awakes, Sary tries everything to comfort the boy, but she doesn't have what he needs.  They haven't the ability to feed Miro, and he will die a few days later.  They will dig a grave for him next to his mother's.
I hope you feel some sympathy, but the story is just a creation, something made up based upon what happens all too often.  A story with loveable characters will elicit sympathy; stats will not.  Thousands of kids are dying of hunger?  So what.  Packer had polio?  I don't care.  I suppose my concern here was with the delivery, not the message.  Actually, I'm not sure what point he was trying to make.  Trials make us stronger?  Sometimes, but sometimes they kill us.  I think I was most bothered by how much weight he wanted to grant to the trials of the general authorities, whilst seemingly forgetting the kids growing up in war zones, or the ones who struggle every day to find food, or the... the list goes on.
I had a few thoughts after that, like:
-Prepare for trials by remembering.
-Don't disconnect sex from all that goes along with it (namely intimacy, children, trust, love)
-Same-sex attraction = trial of faith.  I'm not sure how I feel about that statement.  it seems weighty.  Same-sex attraction certainly leads some to trials of faith, but is it in an of itself a trial of faith?
-Beware of self-righteousness.
-Strength comes from trusting the Lord's prophets (yikes that sounds hard and scary)
-Experiences confirm that Jesus is the Christ (what will those experiences look like?)
-Jesus will comfort me.

After listening to the talk, I continued going through Alma.  Alma 13:28 was again about humility.  I need to be humble.  That is a choice, but it is also a process, a journey that the Holy Spirit will lead me on.  Alma 36:5 confirmed my thought that I am not worthy to receive revelation from God.  That, however, won't stop God from making things known unto me.  God loves me and receives me, and if I am humble, he will be able to teach me.  For that I am thankful.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

On Understanding

You say you want to understand, but understanding is a lot of work.  If you knew all that was involved, would you still feel the same way?  I so desperately want to be understood.  I want to believe you, but I’m afraid.  I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.  You’ll never understand me.  I can’t say I’ll ever understand myself, and when one thing comes to make sense to you, I’ll change.  But, I’m not sure you really want to understand me.  I’m not sure you know all that is involved.  Professionals, they’re paid to listen, but you, I feel bad taking your time.  I’ll keep buying you supper because I feel that somehow I need to give back to you.  I need to make every hour we spend together worth it for you, and I can’t believe that you’d find it worthwhile, just hanging out with me.  I love you so much, that’s why I’m so afraid.  I’m afraid that you just put up with me.  I don’t want to annoy you.  I don’t want to force you to listen to me.  I’m selfish.  I love talking about myself, I love being with you, so I’ll try not to talk about myself too much, because I’m afraid I’ll push you away.  I wish this wasn’t all about me, but like I said, I’m selfish.  I’m not sure I have anything to offer you.  Can I buy you lunch?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

On General Conference

I have often stayed up to date in the happenings of the MoHo world as I follow blogs and read about what people are saying.  I read of people who feel sad, hurt or angered by things the general authorities say and wonder why they stay in the church.  I wondered if anyone I'm following would have posted about this morning's conference.  I noticed rather, a post about a new car.  Not a word about conference.  I'm a little jealous of those that can live today and not care about what the general authorities are saying.  Since no one I follow has yet remarked about the anti-gay doctrine reiterated at conference, I feel ahead of the game.  I watched conference this morning at the stake centre. I knew about this before I joined the church, I'm not sure Elder Neil L. Anderson said anything new, but it was still very painful to hear.
I noticed his slow approach to the topic.  I hoped he'd skirt around the issue and move on, talk about the dos and not the do nots.  At the first hint that his talk was going to make me uncomfortable I wanted to get up and leave, but I sat through it.  I starting fidgeting with my pen, I put down my journal.  Somehow I felt betrayed, let down by the church that was supposed to be supporting me.  The more he glorified families, the more I felt like I didn't belong, could never belong.  There was no place for me to be single.  As he spoke about the laws, I felt opposition.  I am fully for marriage equality.  Let all men practice their religion however they want.  Let gay people get married, have rights, and lovely families.  What's wrong with that?  How better can we show love for people than by letting them love, be loved and be protected by law.
One of the most painful statements, though it seems nice enough, was "The Savior taught us not only to love our friends, but also those who disagree with us."  That sounds great, but that's not really what Jesus said.  Jesus said love your enemies.  Am I your enemy, Elder Anderson?
I started texting my sister missionary after his talk.  I wanted words of consolation, but she wouldn't soften what Elder Anderson had said.  I hope he's wrong, but she just reminded me that he's an apostle.  I don't care.  She said I didn't like it because I don't understand, but frankly, I don't think he understood.  She suggested that his words are God's words, given to make us happy.  They might make some of us happy, but traditional marriage doesn't work for everyone.  She told me to pray.
"God... I don't know what I want...  you don't care what I want anyhow."
Why does what I want matter to God?  If he knows what is best, my desires are forgotten.  On a better day I'd have an answer to this, I know it's out there, but not today.
I thought I should try praying again.
"God, help me to want what you want."
I left the conference a few minutes early.  I didn't want to talk with anyone.  They might ask what I thought about conference...  Then what would I say?  I thought the first half was good.  The Church, however, is an "ism" that must be accepted as a whole; the seemingly good along with the seemingly bad.  If I thought I were a better judge of truth than some old men in suits I might forge my own path, but for now, I know no better way.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


The day is warm, but still very wet.  The melted snow has yet to find its way down a drain and into the river.  The sidewalk is mostly clear as I stroll home, but I watch my step.  A makeshift stream flows down the hill, first on one side of the sidewalk, and then the other.  I step over the water with ease.  As I continue along, the path flattens out, and I have only the occasional puddle to step around.  I carry on.  Suddenly I’m confronted with a puddle of a monstrous size.  It stretches across two or three sidewalk squares and is at least 5 centimeters deep.  The murky water stands in my way.  I freeze.  I contemplate going further; I want to go further; if I am ever going to get home, I have to go further!  But I can’t; I’m stuck.  I think about turning around, backing away, or calling a friend to ask for a ride home.  I can’t call a friend.  They’d laugh at my problem and say it’s small.  Besides, who would I call?  My problem isn’t small.  It looms over me, unconquerable.  I have to get home.  I can’t.  I can’t get home.  I’m never going to make it there.  I’m trapped.  My vision blurs.  I feel a tear sliding down my cheek.  I bite my tongue and blink away the tears.  There has to be away, I tell myself.  But, I cannot see the way.  I cannot see past the puddle that forbids my progression.  I’m ready to give up.  I sit down and wait for the puddle to dry up.  It might take days and I am helpless.  A sudden wind comes upon me, causing me to shudder.  I can’t stay here.  I can’t wait for things to change.  I have to do something.  Tears are sliding down my cheek again.  They’ll only make the puddle bigger.  I have to do something.  I stand up in search for another way around.  On either side of the puddle, the grass is saturated with water, marshland.  Walking there would be no better than walking through the puddle itself.  I look up at the sun, feel its warmth against my face and push aside the discouragement that keeps creeping into my mind.  When I look back down at the water, I see my reflection looking up at me.  She’s pathetic.  Her eyes red from tears, her hand clutching her phone, hoping that someone will call and help her along, or at least listen to her complaint.  “I’m here,” I tell my reflection.
“I can’t do this.”
“Come on.  We’ll do this together.”
I look again along the banks of the puddle.  A short distance to the right lays a strip of packed snow that I hadn’t noticed before.  If I can get there, I can follow it to the other side.  It’s not much of a leap, but I’ll have to jump.  I look around once more, but I have no other option.  I focus on the snow, bend my knees and then I’m in the air.  When I land, I left out a sigh of relief.  I follow the slippery island to its other end, and with one large step I am back of solid ground.  I glance at the puddle splotched sidewalk before me, hold my head high and carry on home.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

So much for authenticity.

Well, if the following information is new to you, and you feel like I should have told you in person, or should have talked to you months ago before making this decision, I'm sorry.  You're probably right.  I should have talked to you, but I had a hard enough time telling my family.  Don't take my not telling you personally, personally.
Have you ever done something that you think is good, but you know others with not approve?  Have you wanted people to rejoice with you, but you knew they would be sad.  Well, that's what I'm going through, and it's tough. 
On Saturday I was baptised at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That's the long way of saying that I've decided to become a Mormon.  If you know me at all you'll know that for the last 5 years I've loved Mormons but thought very poorly about the LDS church.  So, something's changed.  A lot of things have changed, the journey has been long and I won't share all of it now.  But still, you're probably asking why.  Well, I wanted to follow Jesus, I wanted to know God, and I'd seen many things in the LDS church that seemed good.  There are things about the hierarchy that do seem good to me.  I saw a lot of small things in the LDS church that were good.  Those things by themselves are insignificant, but together they amount to something.  Part of that is realising the my LDS friends are not crazy, they are not brainwashed, they are not naive, but they are living according to their beliefs, and consequently they are living good lives. They are living testimonies that the LDS church is good. 
On Sunday I was excited to be part of the LDS Church, I learned new things, felt for the first time that the Book of Mormon was good and valuable.  On Monday things were swell.  Tuesday was okay.  I told people at my college about my decision, I do not yet know if they'll let me graduate.  On Wednesday, oh, that's today, I don't feel great.  I don't feel great at all.  I wonder if I did the right thing.  I wonder if my faith will last.  I wonder if I'll end up feeling disappointed by God again.  I'm afraid.
I had a hard time telling my family.  It had me feeling stressed and sick.  I knew the news would disappoint them, and make them sad.  I don't like making people sad.  I continue to have a hard time telling people.  There are many who will disapprove.  I understand.  Not long ago I was among them, offering disapproval to those who joined the LDS Church.  Sometimes that past self haunts me.  She laughs at my baptism, calls it a joke, wonders if it really happened.
Anyhow, I'm not giving up.  I'm still going to strive to follow Jesus and be a good Mormon.  Today it's hard.  Maybe tomorrow will be better. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

To the Seed Throwers

I've been feeding crows, they're hungry, and I give into their desires so easily, that they always come back.  They pick at the seeds, mock them, and then carry them away.  Their presence brings peace for a moment, but it is as fleeting as the birds themselves.  I think about building a scarecrow, to make these birds leave me alone, but I love the birds, they're my friends, I'd hate to frighten them away.

Scatter the seeds, scatter some more; despite the crows, hopefully one grows.

The soil is rocky, I know, the ground is hard clay.  Doubt and fears abide.  Though sprouts may come, life is hard, quickly then life dies.  To clear the rocks that keep me safe is such a dangerous game.  But game it's not!  It determines my lot, and if plants don't grow, I'll erode away.

Scatter the seeds, scatter some more; despite the clay, one might find a way.

The weeds abound, and at least they flower; bud, blossom, shrivel, and their seeds give way.  Their beauty - fleeting- but still beautiful.  I cannot, will not tear them out.  The good seeds, though they try, are choked by the vines, overpowered in their shade.

Scatter the seeds, scatter some more; despite the weeds, hopefully a seed succeeds.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart...

I cried out to the LORD,
Day after day I sought him. 
In the mornings, I offered a prayer.
At night I read his Word.
Oh God, forget not your servant.
At night I fell asleep alone.
In the morning I awoke, but I was alone.
I sought the LORD All my days
He heeded not my cry.

The LORD is my Shepard
I followed the list of shalls and shall nots.
Rest escapes me
Peace is an illusion
My soul trudges on, alone on this path unknown.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
For this is normal to me,
though it is far from comforting.
You've set nothing before me
I have so much because of the blood and sweat of factory labourers
They are not my enemies, nor are they in my presence.
Surely goodness comes to the oppressors,
And those who eat at their table.
They dwell in the house of blessings,
From which I have chosen to walk away.

I cried to the LORD, or LORD, hear my plea.
I cried to the LORD, and begged him to come near to me.
I called out the I might not be alone
I called in hopes that he might be known
I cried out to the LORD.
I cried out.
I listened.
I listened for the LORD.
I opened my ear that he might be known
I opened my ear to hear that I wasn't alone.
I listened for the LORD's footsteps coming near to me.
I listened for the LORD, but the LORD heard not my plea.

The LORD hardened my heart.  Did his divine hand come into my body and make it stone, no.  His divine hand never came into my life.  When I sought him, he was not found.  When I called to him, he did not answer.  My heart is hard.  Why wouldn't it be hard?  How can I soften what God has hardened?  Why would I hope again when hope has just led to disappointment.  God, who is God?  Does he exist?  I don't know, but I don't think I can trust him with my heart.  Why would I?  God?  Maybe there's a God, but I don't think he'll make me feel complete.  I'm not whole, but maybe that is okay.  Maybe brokenness is just part of human existence.  I don't want to be bitter.  I don't want my heart to be hard.  If I life without expectations, then I will not be disappointed.

Oh, God,  do what you promise,  "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:26.  But I am not going to wait around for you to do something.  I won't hope in the one who has so often disappointed.  I'll try to soften my own heart.  Is that as foolish as it sounds?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

I'm not suicidal, but...

I wrote a poem that might suggest otherwise:

A guy sees me hanging myself
He walks on by.
Perhaps he thinks it's too late to help
Perhaps he doesn't care
Perhaps he reasons it'd be better if I were dead.
One less mouth to feed
One less body to clothe
One less soul to redeem
When there's one less me.

Again, I'm not suicidal, don't worry about me, but I think like this sometimes.  I try to avoid harming others, I try to take less than my share so there is enough for everyone, but I wonder to what extent I should follow these principles.  Is it wrong to eat sugar when farmers are using their land to grow and export cane sugar, and being poorly repaid when they could be growing food for their community?  Even if I buy fair trade cocoa, is it problematic how much land we've dedicated to growing luxury foods when many live without essentials?  I don't know the answers, but I can see, from my poem above, where such thinking can lead.  Will I even be able to do more harm than good?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I watched the CES broadcast... well, most of it, and most of it was enough.  I found it disappointingly apologetic and proof-texty.  Apologetics are good for assuring those who already have faith, but from my experience they do little to convince someone to believe something new.  Elder Tad R. Callister speaks to a crowd that nods along.  They are eager to hear what he has to say.  His words fill their desire to be affirmed.  They say "you are right."  I'm sure college students around the globe left the fireside with confidence, feeling ready to return to secular universities, ready for any "anti-material" that might come their way.  They now felt a confidence that their church, was right.  They'd heard the scripture to back up this claim.
Problematically, many take the scripture and produce it as evidence to support their church, or their beliefs.  As many examples and quotations can be given, as Elder Callister gave, and yet different conclusions are reached.  Others look to the scripture as a way God acted, but not as the only way God can act.  They suggest the sacraments are the usual way, but not the only way.  Is God bound by the sacraments?  A more basic question I find myself asking is: Is God?
But, back to the scriptures.  So many people take them so many ways.  It wake me wonder if there is any good in studying them at all.  To every person they say something different, and these messages, often contradictory fail to tell us anything about capital T Truth.  Perhaps because there is no such thing, or at least, such a thing is unknowable.  So, why study the scriptures?  Why read them at all? While some look to the Bible through the eyes of historians, and others through the eyes of the poor, John Chrysostom (I believe, but I cannot find a reference), suggests that a good interpretation of the Bible is one which leads to love.  To throw away authorial intent, and to measure an interpretation by love sounds pretty great to me.  There are, however, certain problems bound to surface.  Love is a great sounding measurement, but it fails as people interpret some actions as loving that I would call horrible.  We each define love differently, and so, love is really no standard at all.  
Why study the Bible?  So we can find support for our beliefs?  So we can feel confident that we are right?  Those sound like poor reasons, but maybe there is something more.  Maybe the Bible can inspire us to live differently, and maybe there is something beneficial about letting the Bible shape out lives.  Can we do that?  We come to the Bible with preformed ideas; is it possible to learn from the text?  I hope so.
I can (and have) spent countless hours arguing the Bible against the Bible.  Many cling to this sacred work, but derive interpretations completely contrary to my understandings.  The above is a reminder that countless hours simply throwing Bible verses back and forth will be wasted.  My Mormon friends would simply conclude that this is why the Bible is not enough, and modern day scriptures have been provided.   Rather than searching for accurate information within the Bible they will prod me to read and pray about The Book of Mormon to know if it is true.  Latter-day Saints do not need to know all their doctrine because they know that someone, namely their Prophet and the General Authorities, do, and they trust that they have got it figured out.  Saint Augustine put it well: “To trust the word of another is one thing, to trust our own reason is a different thing; to take something on authority is a great timesaver and involves no toil.”[1]  How much easier and simpler it would be to name an authority to my theology and take whatever she says as truth without question.  While taking one as an authority provides a great opportunity to be led astray, my mind may do no better job of leading me to truth. 

[1] John J. McMahon, “The Magnitude of the Soul” Saint Augustine.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Resolution and my Baptism Date

My New Year's Resolution is to live up to the Robert Makee quote on the side of my blog.  I want to write bravely, and without fear.  The problem is, I tend to worry about what people think, and I fear ridicule, rejection and failure.  In making this my resolution, it might so happen that people will ask about my resolution and in so doing find out about my blog.  Then I may have more people reading my blog that is saying more courageous things.  Hopefully this doesn't backfire.  Hopefully I still have friends when this is all said and done.
I have two requests of my readers.  First, feel free to push back.  If I say something that you think is outlandish, tell me so, tell me why.  Secondly, extend some grace.  My thoughts and opinions are constantly changing, so give me the space to change my mind.  Maybe you'll push back, and I'll agree.  That's cool.  Let me think 'aloud' and shift perspectives.

That said, I thought I'd try it out.  Often I think about something for days, or weeks before it becomes a blog.  This is something I have yet to fully think about, so hear me out.

Over the past couple of months, I've been meeting with a couple of LDS missionaries.  One thing they've told me is that I've changed for the better since we've started meeting, and this is because of the Spirit.  I want to evaluate this claim.  I'd agree that I've changed, but I am not sure if it has been for the better or if the change was brought about by a superphysical presence.
How have I changed?  At the beginning of the fall semester I was feeling quite miserable.  Bible School was far from fun.  By the end, I was enjoying the social life at my school, and that made things a lot better.  I would credit that change to honesty.  While at the beginning of the year I felt pressure to conform, be a good little Christian girl, as more people found out about my lack of faith, conversations became real.  That was nice.  While that change paralleled the time I was meeting with the missionaries, it seems to be completely unrelated, caused neither by the missionaries nor by a Spirit.
Prior to meeting with the missionaries, I felt quite content with the idea that there might not be a god in this universe.  I ordered my life in such a way that I was not living for validation from a divine being.  That was going fine.  As I began meeting with the missionaries, they'd ask questions like "if there is a good God, and his Spirit could speak to you, would you want that?"  In so doing, they instilled within me a desire to know this good god.  It was a desire I once had, but after years of disappointment, I'd given up.  Why wouldn't I have given up.  But now, now I wonder, is there a good God out there?  Is it possible that I could do more good with him than without him?  Is it possible that he's Mormon?  Is it possible that he's been chasing me all these years that I've been loving Mormons?  While I can weave a nice story, as long as I know that I've made it up, it's not too meaningful.  Without knowing if there is a god, I do not know if this change is for the better.  Perhaps I'd be better of not chasing the supernatural, and rather using my time to serve the poor.
I have a greater desire to tell the truth.  While I'm generally not an outright liar, I try to avoid things, or "soften the truth" if in so doing I think people will be happy or like me more.  My people pleasing has some dangerous side effects and it is fear, probably more than anything else, that keeps me from speaking openly about what is on my mind.  I guess this blog-resolution is just one why in which I am trying to be honest about where I'm at.  (Side note:  While I want to be honest about where I am at, I don't want to be trapped here.  I'm not all that content in this nowhere place.  So, as I said above, let me change).  Why?  Why has this change occurred?    I find myself seeking for genuine community, that requires honesty.  Perhaps my desire stems my Bible College experience noted above.  Perhaps I have faith, and faith, being the opposite of fear has driven out this fear.  But faith in what?  Most likely, I think I am tired of hiding.  It is no fun.  My best friendships are the ones where I am totally honest.  I'm not sure I needed the Mormons, I'm not sure I needed the Spirit to teach me that.
When I first started meeting with these missionaries, it was quite different than in times gone by.  I had no agenda, no desire to convert them because I didn't believe that I knew more than they did.  I had no motivation to meet with them other than they asked, and I said sure.  A couple weeks into our meeting, acknowledging it was somewhat ridiculous, they asked if I would set a baptismal date.  I said no.  I didn't want to get their hopes up only to disappoint them.  I wasn't going to get baptised.  They kept meeting with me.  A couple weeks later they asked again.  "Will you, Patricia, take a step of faith and set a date to be baptised."  I said "no, I don't believe it."  But the missionary went on to explain how setting a date didn't bind me to baptism, but showed Heavenly Father that I was willing to act if he gave me an answer.  I said "Ask me again in 2 weeks."  I also mentioned that if I set a date, I thought I'd go through with it.  I like doing the things I say I'll do.  A week later they asked me again.  I said no.  Maybe I was just being stubborn.  It hadn't been two weeks yet.  A week and a half after that they asked me again.  I said okay.  January 11th, we decided.  January 11 would be "the day."  The stipulating being that if I don't believe by then, I don't get baptised.  So, I changed.  I went from an unwillingness to set a baptismal date, to setting that ever approaching date.  Perhaps I changed because I understood it differently.  Could I credit the Spirit for this?  Did he open my mind, or give me a bit of faith so that I thought that there might be a slight possibility of me getting baptised?  Did I just do it because it'd make them happy and I'm just as much a people pleaser as I've ever been?  I don't think so.  I think it was because of how they phrased it.
Well, I'm getting ready for baptism.  If I had to decide today I wouldn't get baptised; I don't believe.  I've got 8 days to believe.  In my preparation I've been reading my Book of Mormon every night and praying.  It's been a long time since I've prayed, but now, I offer a thought to God every now and then throughout the days.  I'm not sure it makes any difference.  Does the spirit lead me to pray?  Is it an old suppressed habit that is coming back?  I don't know.  Does the Spirit lead me to read the Book of Mormon every night?  I don't think so.  I do it though, because I want to know.  Really, I don't want the LDS church to be true, but if it is, I want to know.  I want to have faith.  And, if it is not true, I'd wanna know that too.  I'm not sure praying is the way to come to decide if something is true.  There are those who pray about the Book of Mormon and are convinced.  I'm yet to be one of them.  Is the Spirit changing me?  If I was a little more convinced one way or the other, this post might be more controversial.  For some, that I even consider that the Spirit might be directing me towards Baptism is reason enough for concern.  I'm pretty skeptical myself.