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.