Saturday, September 25, 2010

A birthday...

Thy word is like a lamp unto my feet... (Proverbs)

Fog comes, not on little cat feet, but with the seeping vengeance of a flood. Awaking in the fog of a clouded mind and a stormy heart yields confusion; today was a long struggle to engage my world. The gears of my mind kept slipping off each other in the greasy humidity of the past few days.

The fact that today is my birthday did not alleviate so much as exasperate my struggle; ideally, birthdays are days of reflection and celebration and of faithful, hopeful looking to the future. I took the time to sing today as I have not done in a long while, and the hymns of Zion provided strength, support, and buoyancy in an otherwise sinking morning. Eating lunch with my roommates was fun, as were visiting some friends and helping a classmate. The greatest comfort was speaking with my family, who are ever a source of comfort and strength and loving concern. But despite the points of light, the fog in my soul remained.


I sat down to read the scriptures. Repeated attempts at prayer had devolved into uneasy sleep, but as I opened to 3 Nephi and read again chapter 22*, and chapter 11, I found surcease from sorrow**, and felt prompted to read my patriarchal blessing.

(For my non-LDS readers, a patriarchal blessing is a piece of specific communication from the Lord to an individual through a patriarch, who acts much like Jacob did while blessing each of his twelve sons. I personally hold this type of communication to be one of the great blessings of the Restoration; a patriarchal blessing like those given by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is quite unlike anything else I've experienced in the LDS Church or in the Baptist or Pentecostal congregations I've attended. It is not quite the same as a father's blessing, or any other blessing I've seen given in any Church - the language used is in intelligible words, but is only correctly interpretable by the recipient. It's a continuing example of how involved the Lord is in our individual lives.)

Reading the words of the Lord to me, in applied scriptures and especially in His direct communication, rolled back the fog from my soul. I could think clearly, my emotions were understandable and negotiable, the weariness fell from my mind and heart, and I regained the opportunity to be thoroughly enthusiastic. I did not burst with joy - but I was back in the present again, reconnected to my world.

Following a feeling, I found myself in a movie that skillfully, comically and interestingly dealt with my precise situation in a way that helped me to be happy, to have a proper perspective, and to gain hope for the future.

In short: The Lord knew my sickness today, and turned my tears into the tonic for my tribulation.

*(A similar passage is found in Isaiah 54: "O, thou afflicted, tossed about with tempests and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires." But the whole chapter is one of comfort and peace.)
**(Paraphrase from Edgar Allan Poe)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I had written a long, philosophical case incorporating Kierkegaard and existential Christianity. I may post it later; I don't have the heart for it now.

Instead, one more definition.


Verb, transitive: To do the correct thing in relation to someone, regardless of the cost to the person or oneself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010



v. 1 - to feel concern for, to seek the welfare of, to be willing to make sacrifices on behalf of

v. 2 - to enjoy, to find happiness in, to be uplifted by, to be cheered by, to be pleased with

v. 3 - to experience with, to share in or with, to feel alike

n. 1 - a state of being characterizing a mental and emotional attitude of friendship, well-wishing, happiness with, and compassion for someone.

n. 2 - a willingness to give without expectation or rejection of reciprocity

n. 3 - affection

n. 4 - a relationship between two individuals characterized by the above.

n. 5 - a girl with seafoam eyes, red hair, joy in her heart and hope in her soul.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A new man

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day!
Earth's joy grow dim – her glories melt away.
Change and decay in all around I see -
O, thou who changest not – abide with me!
(“Abide with me!” Hymns no. 166, also the concluding quote)

While reading some of my sociological texts, I came across a description of some of the seeming paradoxes of our lives; the need for intimacy in an impersonal world; the trust of unknown strangers in lieu of personal relationships with each of the thousands of individuals who impact our lives. As I was reading, the author identified one of my heart's struggles:

“Our craving for 'deep' and 'wholesome' personal relationships grows in intensity the wider and less penetrable is the network of impersonal dependencies in which we are entangled. ... Everywhere I feel that only a small section of my self is present. I must constantly watch myself not to allow the rest of my self to interfere, as its other aspects are irrelevant and unwelcome in this particular context. And thus nowhere do I truly feel myself; nowhere am I fully at home. All in all, I begin to feel like a collection of the many different roles I play, each one among different people and in a different place. Is there something to connect them? Who am I in the end – the true, real 'I'?” (Bauman, Thinking Sociologically, 99 “Gift and Exchange”).

Bauman was describing the different people we are in the office, in the store, and at a political rally, but I find it describes my personal social movements. I recently told a friend surprised by my behavior that I am “multifaceted;” I ought to have uttered that statement with shame. It is unfortunately true - I act differently around different groups of people. My character varies based on my circumstance. I yearn for wholeness, for oneness, for reconciliation with myself; I long for the integrity I lack.

The Gospel answers Bauman's question. I am a son of God with the potential to become like Him. I wish to Heaven that I lived that answer! That I lived like a son of God in every instant! But I am not yet even a man for all seasons, far less a man for each moment. I saw that in a social event with some friends of mine from my old ward: I could see the history of my relationship with them in their eyes, for good and ill, and I felt myself struggling with the echoes of a man who died in Africa and who I cannot and will not revive.

Africa changed everything. It was a purifying fire. In agony, I prayed more earnestly, and was comforted. The residual and continuing effects of that same Spirit bring me closer to reconciliation. I am reminded somewhat of one of my favorite films, a portion of which I have linked to here. Though I fortunately do not carry the burdens of sexual sin implied in the linked video clip, I feel I too am being led to confront the demons in my soul. The translation is poor, but sufficient for this post, I believe.


Thankfully – and blessed be the name of my God for it! - I do know that mercy exists through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that it can be accessed through faith in His power and mercy coupled with sincere repentance.

The Lord promised Saul a new heart. Through the Atonement of Christ, we become a new creature – fitted jointly together, whole. Repentance and and receiving the forgiveness of God brings spiritual healing – again, being made whole. “Behold, He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord remember [his sins] no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42-43).

Repentance includes restitution – attempting to right the wrongs we - I - have done, including emotional injuries inflicted out of carelessness, selfishness, or fear. As a disciple of Christ, or as one who would follow Him, I can no longer start new and simply jettison my past lives. To allow Him to heal my heart, I must do my part and apologize to those I have hurt. I must face my shame and in humility apologize to girls I have led on, dated briefly, given false hope, and then dashed. Again, I do not speak here of egregious sexual transgression, but even so, to find peace, I cannot simply move on. I must work while the sun shines, before the night of darkness comes, to right as best I can the poor decisions I have made. “And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 12:24). Though it is painful, this semester's associations seem to give me a chance to apologize, to repent, and to develop a different nature with the Lord's help.

This perhaps seems melodramatic; having not committed “great” crimes, why agonize? But what I am discussing here is the substance of a soul's relation to another, the expression of love or hate in daily circumstance. Lives are made up of exactly the types of patterns I describe, in the daily relationships and interactions that define who we are and what we stand for – “every, every moment” (Oscar Wilde, Our Town).

I need thy presence every passing hour!
What but thy grace can foil the tempters' power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine Lord: abide with me!