Sunday, April 6

Goals


(From a talk I gave January 12, 2014 in Miami Beach YSA)
For many years, I’ve played this game with friends who speak in sacrament.  Basically, you give the person five words that they have to incorporate into their talk.  For me, it helps to alleviate boredom, drive creativity and honestly, sometimes its just fun to watch your friends squirm as they have to use words like “fornication” or “Justin Bieber” over the pulpit.  But today, I’ve learned a valuable lesson because Cristy has completely outdone herself with the words she selected for me.
I apologize in advance.
Malcolm asked me to speak today about goals.  But I don’t want to talk about my goals of having a six-pack, or traveling to Qatar, or giving a very special someone in the branch a hickey. I don’t want do that, both because all of things are fairly unlikely and also because as I look back at the many goals I have set for myself throughout my life, I realize that more often than not, I’ve set the wrong goals.  As much as goal setting is about self-betterment, I think often it also has the tendency to make us more self-centered.
Instead today, I want to talk about the goal our Heavenly Father has for each of us.  He tells Moses, “… this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39).  The fact that God thinks that out of me, He can create something like Himself is in many ways a more ambitious and outrageous goal than my dreams of dating Ricky Martin.
The distance between Goshen and Jericho, the path of Israel’s great exodus was only about 250 miles—just a little longer than the drive from Miami to Orlando.  And yet it took the Children of Israel over 40 years. To me, the distance between who I am and who God is seems much further.  Luckily for each of us, it doesn’t matter how far away we are, or where our path has taken us to this point.  He is willing to help us.  This isn’t a casual commitment for him, its more than a fiduciary duty or contractual obligation—it is quite simply, but very beautifully, His work and His glory. 
He sits with us, eats with us, washes our feet, leads us across waters and deserts.  He stays near us when we hate Him, when He can’t quite convince us that we don’t want our sins anyway.  When we fall down, and even when we turn back.  His plans for us don’t change.  His goal for us — Eternal Life — is consistent.  He has a plan B, and a plan C and a plan D for us.  And lovingly watches us fail and fail and fail until we finally succeed.
Our Heavenly Father views us as beings of infinite worth, capable of becoming as He is — despite all evidence to the contrary.  In an uneducated 14-year old boy, He saw the great Restorer.  In fisherman and publicans, he saw the leaders of his kingdom on earth. In a young man with a stutter, he saw a Prince of Egypt.  He saw that in them, despite our own shortcomings, what do you think he sees in you and in me?
When the plan was presented to us in Heaven — this plan of coming to earth to be tried and tested and to become more like God, Job recounts that we “shouted for joy”.  We were actually excited about the opportunities and prospects here.  I used to think that we were very naive — that we didn’t or couldn’t appreciate how difficult this life would be.  But I’m not so sure about that.  We knew both our Father and even ourselves better than we do now.  The perspectives of our own potential, as well as his dedication to us, His children, reassured us enough to take this big step.
We’ve lost that perspective now and sometimes here it is difficult to see that ultimate goal past our temptations and weaknesses.  We lose not only faith in who God is, but in who we are.  
God, in his love, has given us many things that help us to regain our perspective and keep in mind the goal He has for us.  Three things that I want to highlight are scriptures, prayer and each other.
Scriptures.  The scriptures are full of imperfect people, just like us, that are led by God and changed.  The scriptures are not the stories of great men, but the stories of how men become great.  They deepen our faith that God knows what He is doing when He asks us to build a boat, or give up our last two mites, or come to a building in Hialeah with a host of unique smells.
Prayer.  Through prayer, we have the opportunity to talk with our Heavenly Father and receive quiet assurances of His love and our own infinite worth.  Prayer is difficult for me.  I’m afraid of the absolute silence that often is the only response I receive.  I’m also afraid that God will ask me, as He often does, to do something that takes me out of my comfort zone, or requires my time or a talent I don’t even have.  But I’m coming to realize, that despite its risks, prayer is essential.
Each other.  We have more opportunities than we can take advantage of in this life, to become more like our Savior and to serve His children.  We have the opportunity to build a community here of “Saints”.  To surround ourselves with people who believe in, and support us.  A few years ago, I decided to run the New York marathon.  I got off my coccyx, and trained for about nine months.  The whole run through the five boroughs of the City is quite the experience   and a fairly flat run, but at about mile 16, when you’re crossing the Queensboro Bridge from Queens into Manhattan, the bridge becomes rather steep.  Just at that point, when you’re still about 1/4 of mile away, you can hear this roar of folks cheering for you and when you arrive in Manhattan, the crowds are about six rows deep.  There are people from all walks of life, drag queens and nuns and homeless people and Hassidic Jews and thugs, cheering you on.  And maybe for awhile, you had stopped believing in yourself and you lost sight of the ultimate goal.  But there are people, complete strangers it would seem, that believe in you and encourage you on.
Life is long, and it is hard, and it is lonely.  The “tree of life” is often clouded with mists of darkness.  Sometimes God seems far away.  Sometimes we’re asked to take a step into the dark, waiting for the light, and then to step forward again into yet more darkness.  Often, he leads us to places that we do not to go: lonely paths through Gethsamane and to Golgotha. 
But God knows what he is doing.  And in his great love, he has given us each other.  

I hope we find ways to regain our perspective, to trust God, to cheer each other on.   “…that (we) may become the sons and daughters of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” is my hope and prayer for each of us.  And I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, December 2

The Voice of the Spirit

From a talk I gave in September 23rd in the Miami Beach YSA:

Good afternoon brothers and sisters, I’ve struggled with what to say.  Even up here, my hands are sweaty, my deodorant probably has already stopped working, and I wish there was water or a cold soda up here, because my throat is drying up.

Malcolm asked me to speak about ‘the voice of the Spirit.’ As I sat down and read the Boyd K. Packer talk about the topic, I was confronted with what might best be called a stupor of thought.  And honestly, I’ve tried to figure out what I might say on the subject that wouldn’t label me a hypocrite.  I do, and say, and look at, many things that probably offend the Spirit, and even more than that, I feel like I don’t often seek out the voice of the Spirit for direction in my life.

When I’m lonely, I call a friend.  When I’m sad, I go out and play croquet or bocche ball.  When I’m confused, I often turn directly to the scriptures or the Internet or Wikipedia, to find the answers.  More often than not, I talk through issues with friends, or play and win until I forget, before I’d ever think to fall on my knees and ask for help or seek direction from the Spirit.

But as I thought and prayed about it last night, I had the feeling that I should not shy away from that experience.  I think the real brilliance of Church is that we all come together and share our different experiences, and by doing so, we all gain a clearer picture of who He is and how He relates to us as His children.

Boyd K Packer says that the single greatest thing he has learned from reading the Book of Mormon is that the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound.  So this is what I feel I should talk about – and keep in mind that feelings can often be wrong. Once on my mission there was a sister in my district that was struggling, as I thought and prayed about how I could help her, I felt very distinctly that I should buy her a collection of “homies”—these little 2-inch figurines Chicano characters.  I’m not sure that was revelation or inspiration, and maybe this talk isn’t either.  

But here it goes anyway:

I think that sometimes, familiar scripture stories can make it seem that hearing, identifying and following the Spirit should be easy.  We forget that these great prophets of both the Bible and Book of Mormon were people just like us – people that doubted, and made mistakes, and got lost and wanted to turn back.
It takes great effort and experience to learn to feel, hear and recognize the voice of the Spirit.  As a baby, Jesus started out pretty much like the rest of us.  Luke tells us that even He had to “(grow), and (wax) strong in the Spirit.”  If it took time for Him, shouldn’t it also be a struggle for us?

I love story of Moses.  I think his call illustrates that very clear instruction from the Spirit often happens in the scriptures, but not so often in real life.  In Moses 1, he describes God’s voice speaking to him: “Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.  And lo, I am with thee, even unto the ends of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.”  So he receives this clear call and instruction, direct from the voice of God.  And ultimately, Moses does lead his people away from Egypt until they reach the Red Sea.  They come up to this great body of water and ask, “now what?”  And at this moment of impossibility, when the chariots of Pharaoh are approaching, and the children of Israel our panicking and there is chaos and confusion all around – and nothing but water in front of them.  At that moment, Moses does something incredible.  Amidst the mayhem and the doubt, he remembers God’s promise that he shall be “made stronger than many waters”, and has a feeling of what he should.  I don’t think that the miracle is the faith to spread the seas, it’s the faith to move forward, one step at a time, testing your faith and overcoming doubt.

I love, too, the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac.  Genesis doesn’t tell us how long it took Abraham to climb Mount Moriah with Isaac in his hand.  It doesn’t relate how slowly he walked, or many times he decided to turn back.  What it does prove to us, is that when we follow the voice of the Spirit, even to places we do not want to go, events nothing short of sacred occur. We all have moments like Abraham’s – when God has asked too much of us, when friends can’t help, when the answers don’t come easily, when the choices placed before us make it impossible to move forward and all we want to do is turn back.

And in those times for me, the voice has been there to teach me, to comfort me, to direct me, to reassure me.  But it is not always there.  And when there is no voice, and the heavens seem silent – there is the reminder of things learned.

I have three stories that are sacred to me that I would like to share:

First: In the last area of my mission, I’d never worked harder but still the success never came.  It was really a hard and miserable six months and it got to the point that I knelt and asked God why all my work seemed to be for vain.  And this was His answer, through the voice of His Spirit: He could have called someone that was faster, or smarter, or more spiritual or better looking (though that may have taken more work) that could have moved the work forward much faster, but He called me because I raised my hand to be there and I should feel nothing but gratitude for the opportunity He gave me.

I feel that way now. 

There are some real spiritual powerhouses in this branch and right now, you could be listening to any number of people telling you about how their unwavering commitment has led them to great spiritual blessings.  You could leave feeling much more motivated to love and live the Gospel.  But here I am, unsure of even the words I am using.  But again, I raised my hand to be here.  And if I fail, I’m grateful to a loving God who gives me the chance to try.

Second: When I doubt, and I often do, God reminds me that as a sixteen year old I listened to two missionaries tell a story of a young boy in upstate New York.  That was a long time ago now, but I still remember how embarrassed I felt for them for believing such a ridiculous story. 

And then I prayed about it. 

I didn’t hear a voice, but I had a feeling that I cannot deny (though I often would like to) that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

Third: My senior year of college, for lots of reasons, I found ‘the experience of reality’ and ‘the promise of the Gospel’ very difficult to reconcile.  I feel like I made a lifetime of mistakes in a very short period of time.  In the middle of this, when the rollercoaster of life was at it’s lowest, I received a strong impression about someone in my ward, to see how he was doing – again, not a voice, but a feeling.  So I send a Facebook message to let him know that he does a lot for everyone else and if there’s ever a time he needed someone, I’d be there for him.

He responds back almost immediately with a plea for help.  So I go over and we  talk.  The next Sunday he get’s up to bare his testimony, and through tears says that he’d been feeling so lonely and feeling that he tries so hard to be there for others and just didn’t know who was be there for him.  He prays about it about but receives little peace.  Shortly after praying about it, he get’s a Facebook message from me.

Moments like that make me want to ‘hear’ the voice of the Spirit more.  They also teach me some marvelous truths about a Heavenly Father, who can use each of us, willing though unworthy, to do His work.

I hope I’ve illustrated that the voice of the Spirit will speak to us, not only when we are trying our best, not only when we are just starting out, but even in the midst of our mistakes.  We should never stop listening for it.   

And sometimes, even when we think we need it the most, the voice is silent.  Sometimes, as Howard W. Hunter taught, it is our detours and disappointments that are the “strait and narrow path to Him”.  Sometimes, no often, salvation is a lonely road.  We are better for our trials, for as Dolly Parton often remarked, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.”

I really love this branch.  I love the things I have learned from each of you since I’ve been here.  I don’t always make the best Mormon – I don’t often wear white shirts to Church, I have little interest in going on double dates, or even to the next fireside.  I’ve been a member for over ten years, and still I struggle with some of the most basic doctrines of the Gospel.  But in spite of that, you’ve made a place for me here.  That reassures me that there is a place for me in God’s kingdom.

I hope you got something from this talk, because I did.  I felt things that I have not felt for a very long time, and remembered things that I had forgotten.  And I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, November 20


“I never felt further away from who I really am, I’m ready to go out in the world and be who I’m supposed to be, but I am so conflicted because the church and everything in that world is telling me that who I am is wrong, just wrong. And I know I’m a good person, I know that I treat people with kindness and that I try to make the world a better place. How can who I am be wrong? And in that moment I just know that something has to change. I have to acknowledge it. I’ve never said it out loud, like ‘I’m gay.’ I go pretty far down underwater, not trying to hurt myself, or anything, but it’s the sense that I want to sink. And I look up and I can see the sun above the water, and it’s almost as if I feel something reach in and pull me up. And when I surface I am totally different. I’ve made a decision. And I look at the kids, and for once I don’t feel disdain or wish I could feel what they are feeling. I don’t wish that I could have real tears when I close my eyes to pray. I feel like this is the first day.” - Cheyenne Jackson, in Out Magazine.

Sunday, October 31

God, make me good.

God, make me good.

I want to be valiant, one of the faithful. I want to devote my life to service. To be like Jesus, willing to give not just anything but everything. I want a life filled with sacrifice, and hope, and faith, and service, and joy, and charity. I want to keep every covenant and promise I've made with you. I want the spiritual gifts you promise throughout the scriptures. I want the blessings of the Gospel. Use me to bless and love and serve others. I want the capacity to love more, longer and deeply.

But not yet.

Not today, and probably not tomorrow either. I want to hold him in my arms, to feel him breathing and his heart beat. I want to see him smile. I want to be the reason for that smile. I want the life of my dreams--the house, the job, the car, him. I want to kiss his face and neck and chest. To run my fingers through his hair. I want to have a contented smile, not a painful one. One that takes no effort, knows no hardship and stays for long periods of times.

I want both things most. God, make me good. But not yet.

Sunday, September 12

A destiny that none of us wanted


"But you see, just because we've been ... dealt a certain hand ... it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above -- to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted." - Edward Cullen, Twilight

Growing up I never understood why there wasn't more said in the scriptures on homosexuality. I believe it is something of an experience that we all share finding we are not alone in the world -- of finding our first blog or seeing In Quiet Desperation on the shelves of Deseret Book or finding another young person who we somehow discover shares our secret. If there is one common experience among gay Mormons, it is the sense of being absolutely alone in the struggle -- to be one of the few ("the very few" as Elder Packer puts it) that have these unwanted emotions and desires.

But the homosexual experience is not a singular one.

For thousands of years and almost as many pages, God has asked similar things of all His people. To walk the lonely road to salvation, to endure misunderstanding and persecution, to be peculiar, to obey without understanding, to walk a different path, to sacrifice dreams, to offer a broken heart, to fail, to give up everything, to waste and wear out our lives, to have prayers unanswered, to feel utterly alone and unwanted, to walk in darkness.

He asks his most favored to spend nights in Liberty Jail, in Gethsemane, in Hans Mill, in Roman prisons, in Pharaoh's court, in the desert, in the snow and often in a lonely wilderness.

Christ tells us that salvation is not a cheap experience--everything we have is required and is still not enough. He has asked for the last mite, the best part, the farthest journey, the remaining meal and drink, the only son.

The road is similar for each of us: we pass not only through the waters of Mormon (where we promise not to fail each other) but the rocks of Moriah (where we prove to God that He is worth every sacrifice). It is a road that each of us shrink from, where we turn around more than once hoping for an easier way. There are parts which we pass through on dry ground and parts which we pass through the snow with bloodied feet.

And yet, the journey is different for everyone--for Lehi, it was away from God's temple and the priesthood; for Elijah, it was alone in the wilderness; for Abinadi, it was a martyrs' flames; for Isaiah, it was to help show fallen Israel greater truth.

It is a journey none of would choose, but that we can still choose to conquer.

Tuesday, September 7

Team Harlem United


"Man imposes his own limitations, don't set any" - Anthony Bailey

Up until this year, I'd never run farther than a couple of miles -- now that I've gone through a couple pair of shoes and trained everywhere from Nome to Phoenix I'm excited to take on my first marathon.

More than that, I am excited to be running the 2010 New York Marathon in support of such a worthy cause. The funds I help to raise will help to provide access to quality healthcare, HIV prevention, housing and care services to communities afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

To donate, click here. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, June 27

Completely, utterly, every-moment happy


"And they thirsted not [though] he led them through the deserts"
- Isaiah 48:21

Two and a half years ago I started this blog with a post about the Sweetwater River rescue. I felt like I was standing at a place where I could travel no further. I wrote then: "... I'm stuck. I don't have the energy, the confidence, the hope that I once had. I don't know how to overcome this battle." Two and half years later, I stand not only on the other side of that river, but at a place where I can't stop smiling.

For so long I have been given two similar but opposing truths: I won't be happy without fulfilling my divine destiny to be a husband and father, and similarly, I won't be happy without finding love. I am now living a life without either and learning the lie in both.

I find happiness in simply living: in telling jokes, in training for marathons, in making friends, in sharing experiences, in playing croquet, in exploring the world, in learning how to cook tofu, in listening to pop music, in believing that effort is rewarded and that God does indeed love his children, in small victories, in Backstreet Boy cruises, in having my perspectives challenged, in binding my life to the Savior, in becoming more like Him.

God has truly led me across the plains and through the desert. There was no path, so I trod one.

Monday, May 10

Blogging

I've probably started about twenty blog postings. I usually don't get much further than one or two paragraphs before I start all over. I'm worried that I might be losing the drive to write and I hope that this blog doesn't fall by the wayside of sport's equipment, games, books and other toys that were only able to hold my attention for brief moments.

A while back there was a trend started on some of the other moho blog's to open up to their readers and have them ask questions -- either about topics to write or questions you have for me your author. Please send them to me, if you have any, and I'll write the responses to them next Sunday.

If you have access, email them to me at markersjohnson dot gmail.com, or feel free to leave them anonymously on the blog comments section.

Sunday, March 14

God is Dead

Would it not be better to be dead than to have this horrible fear that Aslan has come and is not like the Aslan we have believed in and longed for? It is as if the sun rose one day and were a black sun. - King Tirian, The Last Battle


Few things are as painful as the discovery that God is not who we had once believed Him to be. Somewhere along the way we find that whatever It was that helped us find lost keys or comforted us when lonely is not who God really is. The God whom all our prior experience had taught us we would never be forsaken, ends up letting us down at the exact moment when everything else has as well. The God we read about in the scriptures, the Wise Grandfather, the Hope of the Helpless, turns out to be just as unreal as every other childhood hero.


On Moriah, Abraham found God not to be someone with endless promises, but someone prepared to take everything he had. In the garden and on the cross, Jesus found His Ever Present Friend strangely absent, at the moment of greatest need. I have watched many of the people closest to me go through similar experiences. I have seen their anguish, their tears and their pain as they have come to discover the God in whom they once testified and the Church they once loved, become nothing more than smoke and mirrors--an elaborate illusion that collapses during the time when it was most relied. It is too long and hard a road to Oz to find the truth finally at the last scene.


I look back on my life and remember the times I felt closest to Him. I remember:

  • Receiving the missionary lessons, kneeling in prayer, asking in faith and receiving more than I could believe
  • Listening to my first conference session and hearing for the first time the words of a prophet of God
  • Waking up at 6:00am every morning for seminary ready to feast upon the scriptures
  • Opening the Book of Mormon and reading words that were written just for me
  • Stumbling on the words as I blessed the sacrament for the first time
  • Kneeling in prayer in a bathroom stall in my dorm--promising God my whole heart
  • Nervously Humbly placing my hands on her head, trying to muster the faith to speak God's words
  • Riding my bike in torrential rain, on fire with the gospel, so happy to be sharing our Heavenly Father’s love
  • Wanting nothing more than to be like Jesus
  • Following the Spirit to bless people’s lives
  • Believing there was nothing greater in life than obedience, sacrifice and charity

I have the memories but have forgotten the feelings. I remember Him, but no longer feel the love toward Him I once did.


The God who I then believed in (and followed and promised and prayed to) is infinitely different than the God with whom hard experience has acquainted me. A God who stands ready to crush my heart and steal my dreams; who is often so distant that my memory is made foolish; who promises agency and freedom, but leaves me no choice but to surrender.

Sunday, February 28

Overheard in Church

"No matter where we are at now, or where we are going, or where we have been, our Heavenly Father is there and He loves us."

I wish you could have been there to hear that. I believe that, I wish you could believe it, too.

Saturday, February 13

Coming soon...

... four or five blogs I worked on while in Nome. I don't mean to neglect this, I just didn't have a real internet connection.

Monday, January 18

Saturday, January 2

My first Video Blog


My first attempt at video blogging. 24 "uhms" in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. That's one every ten seconds--this is why I usually stick to writing.

Saturday, November 28

But instead


I would love to wake up with our arms tangled together every morning. To feel his stubble graze across my cheek as he kissed me awake. To have the first hoarse words out of my mouth each morning be ‘I love you.’ To pause for just a few moments and stare into his eyes and admire his face in the daylight. To get up together. To come out of the shower and feel his arms wrap a towel around me and dry my hair. To stand next to him at the mirror as we both shave and get ready for the day. To listen to him gurgle his mouthwash. To breathe in the smell of his deodorant.

I would love to eat breakfast together. To watch him enjoy the meal I cooked for us--even if it was burned or undercooked. To frown at him sternly when he fed our dog from the table. To have him pour me orange juice while I read the Wall Street Journal before work. To wonder to myself how I ever got to be so lucky while he cleaned up the dishes.

I would love to be at work and look down from my computer monitor to see a picture of the two of us together. In front of the Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower or on the Great Wall. A goofy smile on my face and his arms around me. To get back to work but never stopping my daydreams about him. To have him call me to ask what we should have for dinner and what movie we should see. To look forward to holding him while I’m driving home at night.

I would love to look at him sitting at ‘our’ table through the restaurant window. To watch him smile as he looks up and sees me finally arrive; slowly standing to greet me with a gentle kiss. To not care what other people think, in fact, to notice no one but him. To have him already order, because he knows exactly what I’d like. To talk about our days, but then just to sit together, watching each other in silence as we press our feet together under the table.

I would love to hold hands as we walked back to the car. To breathe in the smell of his cologne. Smiling as he laughed at my jokes. To have him open my door and then gently close it behind me. To fight together over what radio station to listen to and then content myself that even though I don’t get to listen to what I want, I get to listen to him sing softly along to what he loves.

I would love to sit next to him at the movie theater. Shoulders and legs pressed together as we held hands tightly. Never completely getting into the movie because I can’t stop looking over at him to see him laughing or smiling and then looking back at me with an expression on his face as if to ask, “what?” To reach into the popcorn bag at the same time and bump hands. To taste his Chapstick on the straw of the drink we share.

I would love going home together. One hand on the wheel and one around him. To feel his head lay against my shoulder as he nodded off. To walk into our house, into the home we had built together. To walk upstairs into our bedroom and stand there together. A long hug turning into a slow dance, hands at each other’s waists.

I would love to feel his strong arms holding me, my head nestled into his chest so that I could hear his heart beating. To hear him whisper loving words into my ear and gently kiss my forehead. To feel our legs together as they intertwine. To watch his eyes close and his mouth softly open as he falls asleep. To feel safe and secure and warm. And in love.

I want that more than anything.

But instead of that, I hope one day I might be able to say as Benjamin Landart did on June 23, 1938: "The greatest decision I ever made in my life was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more. He has never forgotten me for it." (Thomas Monson, BYU Devotional, March 1997)

This Saved Me...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDpYrR2-Ghk
"Whatever it was we shared these relationships are the foundation of many of the most precious and rewarding moments of my life." 
- Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, November 24

The Widow's Mite


The Widow's Mite
[Mark 12:38-13:2; Luke 20:46-21:6]

The story of the widow’s mite has always inspired me. I, too, am one completely broken with so little to offer.

The scribes around her, with their riches, took no notice and even if they had, would not have understood or appreciated the sacrifice she gave there--of what it meant to lay her whole life on the altar.

Two mites is a small sacrifice. But when that’s all you have, I imagine it must be pretty difficult to give away. The sacrifice in itself contributed nothing to the temple, nothing to the kingdom. It provided no benefit, and would have gone unnoticed in the temple treasury. How could she have not felt, at least in part, that she was simply throwing away everything she had? I do not doubt it was a heart-wrenching experience to willingly give up something she
felt she could not live without.

But there is more to the story. Read it.

It is not simply a story about giving your all. Jesus uses it to directly condemn the scribes “which devour widows’ houses” by compelling to give more than what was required of them. The law of the Old Testament and the gospel of the New, commanded that widows be cared for, brought in, nurtured and loved.

The temple was important and essential. But Jesus made it clear that “there shall not be left one stone upon another”. It was infinitely less important than the people it was made for.

The scribes justified themselves by the temple and by the law. They happily watched as someone they were commanded to help willingly gave away all. Instead, they should have been supporting her, caring for her. Under their care, she should never have been in a situation where she had nothing left to give.

So here is my parallel and I hope that it is clear:

Mine is a generation of gay men that are trying to stay in the Church and live the Gospel. Trying to give up more than they can.

They walk the lonely road. They willingly walk into Priesthood office’s unprepared to do what is asked of them. They humbly sit at disciplinary councils and submit to the judgement of men who cannot comprehend their sacrifice. They are told by their parents and families and friends that what they are being asked to do is “small” and “easy”. They plead in prayer for help, for support, for answers; constantly asking what more than they can give. They sit in Church meetings (as I did just last week) where instructors compare homosexuality to bestiality and child sacrifice: a sin “worthy of death”. They are without hope that their sacrifice, however great, can ever be enough. They are driven to depression, self-hate, suicide. They are men who cast all they are, all they have, all they hope and long for into the treasury without any hope of impact.

Like the widow, I have no doubt that their faith will be richly rewarded. But again, there is more to the story.

Doctrine, like the temple, is made for the benefit of man. Doctrine is
not more important than people. Set it aside, for it is not for you to judge or condemn. Reach out your hands and hold them up. Love them. Care for them. Stop insisting they give more--because I assure you that even without your ‘encouragement’ they have already learned what it is like--and how awful it really is--to be willing to sacrifice all.

We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens
that they may be light and yet I see so many of ‘them’ falling in exhaustion because they cannot take another step forward; carrying a load that is impossible to bear; broken hearts wounded further by hateful words and doctrinally-justified prejudice.

Instead of asking them to offer more, take their hand and offer them something.  Be a savior instead of a scribe.

Monday, October 26

Attempting the Impossible


[From a talk I gave in sacrament meeting October 25th, 2009; based on Elder Zeballos' October 2009 Conference Address: "Attempting the Impossible"]

In this life, each one of us is asked to attempt the impossible: to walk the lonely road to salvation as Christ did and to become perfect as He is. I look at that road, the ‘strait and narrow’ path ahead of me, and I certainly don’t see the tree that Lehi spoke of.

Nephi told us it would be this way though: that the path that leads to the love of God would be enveloped with mists of darkness, even “exceedingly great mists of darkness.” Often the only thing we can see is a rod of cold iron, inflexible and rigid. My heart tells me it leads to a place I am sure I do not want to go: it promises to lead to a tree with exceedingly beautiful fruit, but makes no pretense that I will not be led directly up to the altar on Moriah and deep into my own personal Gethsemane. It leads a lonely journey--often in complete darkness and silence. There are no angels to beckon nor a light to guide. And its not just other’s scoffing that tempts me to let go, but my own heart that tells me to take a different path.

As if the journey wouldn’t be difficult enough though, He asks even more outrageous things of us along the way: love those that despise you, turn the other cheek, be reconciled to thy brother, bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, give more than we can spare.

God truly intends for us to be tremendously different than we currently are. He asks so much of us (more than we can possibly give) because, as David O. McKay taught, the richest rewards come only to the strenuous strugglers: to each of us who are us asked to do so much that we have no option but to fail, and fail, and fail until we finally succeed.

We are not alone in that failure. 

Its abundant in the scriptures. We often think of the scriptures as a roadmap to success--the history of heroes--but to us what seems so triumphant may have felt to them very different. Lehi sailed across an ocean, but in the end was able to save less than half his family. Abinadi had the courage to testify boldly in the court of a wicked king, but died without a single convert. Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery and across the Red Sea, but was not able to step foot in the promised land. Nor was Abraham. Israel, the chosen of the Lord, spent much of history conquered by their enemies. Isaiah, Micah and Nahum were able to speak the word of the Lord, but did so to a declining nation that rejected their words. Alma and Amulek converted many, only to see them burned for their faith. The Church Christ Himself set up crumbled within a century. Joseph Smith brought forth what was to become “the most correct of any book on earth” but only after losing 116 pages through disobedience. The pioneers who crossed the plains did so only after numerous failed attempts establishing their Zion.

Of course they didn’t fail though--and maybe we, too, are more successful than we think. Maybe the small steps we take toward Him, the small sacrifices we offer Him, the meager service we give His children are not as failed as we imagine but, like the widow’s mite accepted, not because they are enough, but because they are all we have to offer. Maybe our failures--like theirs of old--are actually triumphs in the eyes of the Lord. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty.”

Elder Zeballos reassures us that ‘God will not require more than the best we can give.” But in the same breath tells us that “He can not accept less than that because that would not be just.” Make no mistake: God will break our hearts, He will bend our knees, He will ask us to give more than we are prepared to, more than we want to and more than we should have to.

And why not? The Savior attempted the impossible in saving us: He gave His all when there was no assurance that it would be enough. Even a perfect atonement cannot save a single soul if they are too proud to accept it. He sacrificed everything and offers everything to us. To us who so easily “esteem it as naught”. I imagine, that just like us, He didn’t quite realize just how much Heavenly Father’s will demanded of Him. It was probably a lot harder than He expected. When He needed God the most, His Father turned away. C.S. Lewis writes that on the cross, Christ “found that the Being He called Father was horribly and infinitely different from what He had supposed.” His Atonement required a lifetime of obedience and an ultimate, final and complete sacrifice. Should we not too, at times, be called to suffer--alone and unbearably--with the doors of Heaven slammed before us?

Saving us individually is just as impossible a task. Each of us (or at least me!) is so quick to do evil, and slow to do good. The natural man within us is so rebellious, so ungrateful and so forgetful. We avoid suffering and pain at every cost and often His merciful hands that reach out to us, reach out in vain. And yet He is there--He has a plan B, and a plan C and plan D to save us.

Elder Zeballos teaches us, as Jesus Christ did through His perfect example and commandment to follow--to serve “with all our heart, with all our might, with all our mind, and with all our strength--that is to say, with all our being… That we will do the best we can in our roles as… children, brothers and sisters; in our callings; in sharing the gospel; in rescuing those who have drifted; in working for the salvation of our ancestors; in our work; and in our daily lives.”

I’m grateful--or rather, sometimes grateful-- for the impossible things that God has asked me to attempt. Even though I fail (even though I can’t even imagine what success would look like) in trying, I find myself becoming a lot more like Him than I would otherwise.

I bear my testimony of the Savior and of His commandments. Of a loving God who asks so much of us because there is a great need to become like Him. Many broken people need someone who can love as the Savior did, lift as He did, give as He gave. And the only way to become like that is to become as He is. “The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” (George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, First Series) That our impossible tasks might make us like Him.

I’m grateful for what I have learned in this ward. My first day in Seattle, eight years ago, I got stung on the head by a bee, got lost on the Burke-Gillman and went to sleep hungry because I couldn’t find a place to eat dinner, but here I stand seven years later feeling like I am leaving Zion. In this building, I received both the new member discussions, my first calling and the Melchizedek priesthood. In Lander Hall just down the way, I got my first priesthood blessing. I have made countless friends here, who have at many times and in many different ways have shown me the love of God and acted, to me, as ‘Saviors on Mount Zion.’ In the last few years I have learned so much of who God is and what He expects of me.

I think the most important thing I have learned, and I’ve learned it in a very personal way is this:
... It is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had.
I know that God loves me, because even when I do not love or desire Him, He does not abandon me. I’m grateful He has always surrounded me by people who love me, and grateful for the love I received while in this ward. I trust that as each of us attempt the impossible, He will help us. May we honor Him and each other by doing the best that we possibly can.

Thursday, October 1

Nothing in Return

“A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.” - Bhagavad Gita

Living a life daily at Moriah's altar is a heart-wrenching experience. Ironically, for such a sacred venue it doesn't feel sanctified at all. I stand without hope, at a lonely, painful and exposed place that couldn't feel further away from God. He gives me the choice, to know that at any moment I can walk down from the mount: forget the pain, leave behind the loneliness and find someone who loves me and gives me reason to smile every day for the rest of my life. He's taken away the hope of both finding some ram in the thicket and also, more painfully, of seeing some sign that all this sacrifice is accepted by Him. And the longer I stay the more damage I do--the less I become a happy person, the more pain I inflict upon my psyche, the less I am able to look beyond myself to see the needs of others, loving less the God who asks me to stand there like a fool.

A couple weeks ago I visited the Sacred Grove. I can say honestly that I know much of how Joseph must have felt as he walked onto that hallowed ground--unsure of which path to take, confused by different voices calling in every direction. And to a small extent, to have hope and faith that like Joseph, God would answer the prayer of a young man so confused, and so earnest, and so humbled. Despite my righteous desire to know God's will, despite my faith that He would answer, despite the fact that He should have answered, I left feeling empty, unsure of everything.

Instead of some great victory or triumph, I am forced to live a life of daily failure. Of constantly believing that no matter how much I am asked to give--how much I try to give--it is not enough, nor will it ever be. One step forward, and two steps back. Even with my best efforts I'm still further away then I have ever been.

I fully expect that at some point in my life my Church membership will be taken from me. Despite sacrificing more than I think I ever could as I walk in the darkness toward Him, I know that eventually I'll make a mistake (how could I not when at every moment of my life I desire to?) and an unsympathetic bishop will convene a council of unsympathetic men that will tell me--in the name of God--that my all wasn't nearly good enough.

God says He wants my heart, but when I try to offer it to Him, He won't take it. I plead with Him almost daily to just rip it out, take it from me. It doesn't work right. Instead of one final blow though, He insists on pulling, pressing and pounding it so I can feel poignantly the bruised organ beating in my body. He leaves me a broken heart, seemingly to remind me of the hurt caused by mistaken promises, to let me have a taste of what it might be like to feel love, and then to ache for it, knowing it will never be fulfilled.

And the 'eternal reward'? There is no reward for constant failure. Scripture makes it clear that God will not except a blemished sacrifice--but I have nothing else to offer. And so I stand at the altar, placing on it everything I want and think I need. Binding there my desires for love and romance and family. Giving Him my happiness and my hope.

There is no "ram caught in a thicket" (Genesis 22:13) here, nor is there the God who asks all this of me.

Friday, August 28

So Much Things To Say

I've neglected my blog as of late, not because I've run out of things to say--but more out of the abundance of things that have been on my mind:
  • I have no one else to tell this to, so I'm relegated to writing it on a blog: I fell in love with a boy. I said it to him, he said it to me. It felt perfect, and it got even better. And at the moment I was thanking God for him, the day I realized he was quite possibly one of the best things to ever happen to me, when things between us were starting to become better than I could have imagined he slammed on the brakes. With no warning, I went from going full-speed-ahead to flying through the front windshield because I had just begun to believe I didn't need to worry about a seat belt. The most painful words I think a person can ever hear (and I've heard the phrase twice now, from both the boys I've loved) are: "I'm sorry if you misunderstood my actions..." I can handle not having a future with you, but do you have to go and ruin the past, too?
  • I finished Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. One of the profound things he wrote: "... it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just the power of always trying again." Such a beautiful thought, are failings aren't failure, we only fail when we stop trying.
  • I got a job offer today for a better job. There isn't a single person on earth that I wanted to tell, feel free to leave a note of congratulations in the comment section, it'd be nice to celebrate with someone.
  • Sometimes showing up to sacrament meeting with a smile on my face is the absolute best that I can do.
  • Never have heaven's doors felt so closed and so empty as in the past couple months as I've tried to 'come back' and draw closer to God.
  • When I talk about what I did over the weekend and I tell people I went to a movie (or whatever else) by myself they get uncomfortable. I think they feel sad for me. Up until the last year, loneliness was a completely foreign concept to me. I am sure it would break my parents' hearts if they had any idea how lonely I feel now.
  • I'm on week four of my exercise routine--a six pack is starting to appear. A couple weeks ago, I buzzed my hair and for the first time in a couple weeks, I feel like its starting to look really good.
  • When I was sixteen, I promised God that for the rest of my life I would pay a complete and honest tithing. I haven't wanted to pay it since Prop 8. Two weeks ago I gave the Bishop my tithing for the last nine months -- not because I want the blessings of paying tithing, but because I needed to show God I am trying to keep my promises to Him.

Sunday, August 2

Ticket for one, please.

"The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable." - Mother Teresa

I'm starting to come to terms with the idea that I will likely spend the greater portion of the remainder of my life alone.

Now for a member of a Church who's doctrine teaches that celibacy is the only viable option for someone 'dealing with same-gender attraction' maybe I should've come to this conclusion a lot sooner. I'm sure you'll excuse me though for wanting to delay the thought of spending the holidays, my birthday and every sunset and sunrise alone.

Loneliness isn't something one usually welcomes into one's life. Yet, in my inevitable journey into the future, its something that I can't delay any longer.

And so I've begun the process: a solitary walk on the beach at sunset ... a night at the theater ("Ticket for one, please.") ... going by myself to a romantic comedy... planning trips where I constantly change the default from 2 adults to 1 ... keeping the moments of greatest excitement and deepest pain to myself, not sharing with anyone what I most want to ...

At times, the thought of a solitary life can be overwhelming and the longing for love, unbearable. It is both humbling and embarrassing to sit in a theater by yourself, watching everyone else snuggle up next to someone they love. It is surprisingly painful to snap pictures of a couple on the beach and then try to hold your own camera far enough away to capture your own face and the setting sun in the same shot. It is difficult beyond words to suppress the hope of 'one day.' (The hope that 'one day, I'll find love' that 'one day, I'll wake up with his arms around me' that 'one day, I'll be with someone who makes me smile'.) To give up the dream of a wedding day; of a soft, perfect kiss; of companionship; of love.

And yet, it seems now more than ever, He is asking me to do this: “Love is proved by deeds; the more they cost us, the greater the proof of our love."

Sunday, July 19

Scripture

... It is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had.
This is the God I worship.

Tuesday, June 30

Maybe

Maybe there are times God commands his people to do more than they can do, and in giving their all, even in failure, God accepts their sacrifice.

Maybe God understands when we are hungry, and are tempted to steal.

Maybe God can accept a blemished offering.

Maybe it isn't blasphemous to not limit (but instead to trust in) God's mercy, His love and His understanding.

Maybe if I showed up with him at Church, Jesus would be waiting at the doors of the Chapel for us, smiling with open arms. Maybe He would sit next to us, and He wouldn't judge me for feeling good while holding your hand.

Maybe the search for love is natural, innate, and even godly.

Maybe people are more important than doctrine.

Maybe charity is greatest of these.

Maybe God loves 'us' as much as He loves me and you.

Maybe our detours are the straight and narrow path to him.

Maybe pure love really is unconditional.

But then again, maybe I'm wrong.

Tuesday, June 16

Kurt


This is exactly how I feel about my 'first', Kurt (where it says 'Alma', read Kurt):
"The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma," she'd say... "Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone's hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted--wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don't look at me. If you don't, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.

"If you remember the first time you saw Alma, you also remember the last. She was shaking her head. Or disappearing across a field. Or through a window. Come back, Alma! you shouted. Come back! Come back!

"But she didn't.

"And though you were grown up by then, you felt as lost as a child. And though your pride was broken, you felt as vast as your love for her. She was gone, and all that was left was the space where you'd grown around her, like a tree that grows around a fence.

"For a long time, it remained hollow. Years, maybe. And when at last it was filled again, you knew that the new love you felt for a woman would have been impossible without Alma. If it weren't for her, there would never have been an empty space, or the need to fill it.

"Of course there are certain cases in which the boy in question refuses to stop shouting at the top of his longs for Alma. Stages a hunger strike. Pleads. Fills a book with his love. Carries on until she has no choice but to come back. Every time she tries to leave, knowing its what has to be done, the boy stops her, begging like a fool. And so she always returns, no matter how often she leaves or how far she goes, appearing soundlessly behind him and covering his eyes with her hands, spoiling for him anyone who could ever come after her."

- The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Sunday, May 10

Moriah

The walk up Moriah is a lot longer than I expected.

I'm beginning to think that Abraham started the path completely unsure of himself and his God. I don't think he knew how it would all end, and I'm pretty sure he felt like there was no way he wasn't going to fail. He took Isaac and started the journey not because he knew it was right, but because he felt like there was no other option.

I imagine the walk was hard. Each step he took forward he felt the weight of what he was about to do. There was no path that led a clear direction. No one to show him the way. No one to beckon him forward. No one to offer the reassurance that what he was doing was, in fact, right. I imagine he turned back a couple of times and even more often, collapsed to the ground crying, with nothing but hurt and anger in his heart for the God who had betrayed his hopes and dreams.

Nothing good awaited him. If he failed, he failed the God who gave him all the good he had in his life. If he passed, he would live the rest of his life scarred from the sacrifice he was forced to make. Either way, a life of regret, of wondering how it all could have been.

All he faced was doubt, disappointment, hopelessness. And still he walked forward. And the closer he got, the harder it became.

And at the moment he raised his knife, when all his detours and disappointments led him to this final moment of obedience and sacrifice, when he saw every promise fail, and every dream vanish--at this pivotal moment in his own personal history, he somehow managed to summon the courage and strength to offer God everything.

Everything that he thought he couldn't possibly sacrifice he willingly gave up.

Dream Unfulfilled


What would I give to live where you are?
What would I pay to stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you smiling at me?
- The Little Mermaid

Monday, May 4

I never realized until this weekend how close I actually am to the edge.

Thursday, April 23

My Wild Boy (Or, Unforgettable Sex Beast)


My friends say I should get over him, but I just can't. The slutty summer. The porn. I'll never love anyone like I loved you, Mr. Kempton. Thanks for the beach. I'll never forget what it felt like to fall asleep in your arms after are one, wild night.

Friday, April 17

Why I Stay


I feel like most of 'us' leave the Church.

And let's be honest, a day hasn't gone by since my mission that I haven't thought about leaving--about saying goodbye to all of the hurt and frustration being gay and Mormon has caused. Throwing in the towel and finding a different, happier path. The desire to leave can be powerful and overwhelming and often it feels like both the rational and the right choice. Yet for all the reasons I have to leave (and believe me, there are many) still I stay.

Don't get me wrong, just because I stay does not mean that I don't stray. I am not a 'strong' or altogether faithful member of the Church--but, like Paul, I find no shame in confessing that though I am "less than the least of all Saints" (Ephesians 3:8), I am still trying to follow both Christ and His commandments.

The reasons I stay are varied. They are not wholly noble. They are more 'personal' than 'doctrinal'. They change constantly. But for a variety of reasons I feel compelled to share them:
  • The Church needs to see active, 'gay' men. Most gay men struggle for so long in secret, pleading in the quiet of their closets. They try and they try and they try. And at some point they reach a point where they are pushed to the breaking point and everything comes crashing down. They decide to "come out" and leave the Church at the same time, in the same decision. The Church hasn't seen their faith and effort in doing all they can to live the Gospel. They haven't seen the brokenness that results from the inability to reconcile homosexuality with the Church. And they need to. All most of them see is actively gay men, they need to see active, gay men.
  • All the good in my character is because of my baptismal covenants. I am sure of that more than anything else in my life. When I stood in the baptismal font on my eighteenth birthday, I promised God (and I promised Him with all of my heart) that I would mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I have failed more than I have succeeded, but trying to fulfill that promise to God has made me the person I am today. Every good piece of me is because of that promise--both through my own feeble efforts, and through Him 'making up the difference.' There is power in covenant-making and covenant-keeping.
  • I haven't found the right man yet. Let's be honest, Mr. Right hasn't come along yet and until he does, I really won't know all that I'm actually sacrificing. And when his hands graze mine, and our hearts beat together, and he laughs at my jokes, and I can't stop smiling just because he's in my life things might suddenly change. I don't doubt that they will.
  • I see purpose in this trial. Every aspect of it. Every single one. The Church not knowing what to do. Members not understanding. The absolute loneliness of it. The unanswered questions. The unanswered prayers. The feelings of worthlessness and failure. How hard it is. How difficult it is to see light, to have hope, to feel peace. I see purpose in it--and see the better person I am because of it. And though it is painful, it is beautiful.
  • God is absolute good. I want to be like Him--exactly like He is. And you don't become like him by not watching rated-R movies. You don't become like Him by doing easy things. He is not a God of convenience. To be like Him requires us to sacrifice everything and to do the things that He did. And let's be honest, the things He did are impossibly hard. Just like this.
  • My own experiences with homosexuality have been varied, but overwhelmingly negative. I do not think this is an accurate representation of the gay lifestyle. I'm sure that many people find happiness and contentment. But for me, its been a whole-heck-uv-a-lotta heartache. Acting on my own homosexual desires has hurt many of the people closest to me and has left me with a broken heart that hasn't yet been made whole. I don't know if it ever will be.
  • I have received support from His children. Not everyone is as lucky to have the privilege of the love, support and acceptance that has been extended to me by so many people in my life. My friends, ward members and priesthood leaders have grabbed hold of me and held me. I'm sure I take for granted the effort that is extended by them to me--someone so flawed, so indecisive, so dramatic, so uneasy to love. They have paid high prices to try to understand the struggle that I go through. It is not easy to reconcile homosexuality and the Gospel--not for 'us', not for 'them'. But so many--more than I could have asked for--have made that effort, in large part because of the love they have for me.
[As a footnote, I would add that I do not judge those who leave, who stay, who marry, who try to find some compromise between homosexuality and Mormonism. Each of us is trying to find our way, to do our best and make the most of the situation we've been given. This blog is not meant to condemn anyone that has reached different conclusions than myself.]

Sunday, April 12

Thank you


You don't need the answers to all of life's questions,
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side.

As I contemplate a single, celibate life in the Church something that has always scared me is the fact that there will be nowhere for me to turn when things go wrong -- after a car accident, when I lose my job, when I need surgery. The pain of those situations will only be compounded by the fact that I am alone in it.

The last few months have been very difficult for me and the more difficult they got, the more it became clear how alone I am and would have to learn to be. Adversity can be a great learning experience but all I was learning is that I am left to endure alone and that up against the trial I am facing, I can't not fail. And I did fail. I gave up. I realized the truth of my greatest fears--that when times are darkest, I will be alone. God had failed me, my friends had, the Church had.

But in that darkness, a miracle in my life took place. My ward rallied around me--people reached out in ways that I have never experienced to show me that they loved me, and that God did, too. With their hands and calls and texts and prayers and faith God proved His love to me: That in my time of greatest need, He will make sure that I am taken care of, and looked after, and held.

If God was proving me, I gave up in the 'fourth watch.' But through you, He proved Himself faithful.

Thank you for showing me that though it may not be evident, God's love does not fail. That though I do not see a place for me in the kingdom, there is a place for me in the seat next to you at sacrament, and a place in your arms. That though I fail, neither Him or you will.

Thank you, University Third Ward.

Friday, April 10

My life right now

I move forward and backward at the same time, with the same step, the same purpose. - Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, April 1

Don't be pissed.

Happy April Fool's Day.

First me... Then God... Now the Church (Failure: Part 3)

The stake presidency is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf, including the possibility of disfellowship or excommunication, because you are reported to have participated in conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.

You are invited to attend this disciplinary council to give your response, and, if you wish, to provide witnesses and other evidence in your behalf. Please note that any invited witnesses must be members of the Church. It is important for you to attend, that you are able to express fully your own thoughts and feelings.

The disciplinary council will be held Sunday, April 12th at 3:30p.m. at the North Seattle Stake Center...
This week is not going well. What's the point of going forward? I have nothing else to say.

Tuesday, March 24

If you live in Utah...

Let the cat fighting begin....

I'm going to try to go down to Utah the first weekend in May for the Matis fireside. I really want to go do one. Anyway, I need a place to stay, people to hang out with and a way to get to the fireside once I'm there. Let me know if you can fulfill any of these needs.

Sunday, March 22

When Charity Faileth (Failure Part 2)


When faith faileth.
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Five years ago a good friend gave me this scripture and it impressed me so much, I count it a defining moment in my life. Do good to everyone, work hard to find ways to serve, give of yourself and your heart--and when you are in your most desperate times help will be provided you. It's the perfect plan, you don't even need to hedge your bets. The payback doesn't depend on any single person, it only depends on God. Even if friend or family fails you, God will provide.

About a month ago, a friend of mine was praying to know that someone cared for him, that someone was looking out for him. Not long after he finished the prayer, he got an email from a friend saying something to the effect of: "You do so much for others, I hope you know that me (and so many others) are looking out for you--if you ever need to talk, I'm here for you."

I thought I'd repeat the experiment a couple of weeks ago when I was in desperate need of help. My phone rang twice that day. I can't express how good it felt both times to know that faith and trust in God and His words paid off. That He does listen, that He doesn't fail His children. Unfortunately, both times it was someone calling to ask me for something. I should have learned after the first time (it would have saved me the blow of the second) but I needed badly to believe that my faith would be rewarded. It wasn't.

Faith failed me.

When hope faileth.

Last June, during what was then the most difficult part of my life, a friend told me that in March they had received a blessing from their bishop--in that blessing she had told not to worry about me, because this time next year I would be happy and good. I placed hope in that promise to her and it got me through a period of darkness when I could see no light. I trusted God and looked forward to March 2009 when I would again be happy.

Fast forward to today, and I'm far from it--in fact, I've never been lower. I've never been more heartbroken. I've never felt the sting of loneliness as piercing as it is now. I have placed too much hope in another promise that has turned out to be nothing more than a lie.

How can I have hope in resurrection or redemption when I don't even have it for tomorrow?

Hope failed me.

When charity faileth.

Remember when they used to show pictures in health class of a smoker's lungs? I can't know for sure, but I think that's what my heart looks like. I imagine that something that hurts so much has to be bruised, tumored and ugly. I used to have a good heart, a pure one. I used to be a little boy who loved to joke around and play and smile. People used to frequently tell me they never saw me without a smile on my face. I don't smile much anymore. The little boy is dead, a man stands before you now.

Many of the people closest to me have put me through nothing short of the equivalent of emotional rape. People have used me so much, I feel completely used up. The heart that used to love and trust and care for others has become something unbearable to me. It only works well enough for me to feel pain--what good is it to me (or to anyone) anymore. As Tony Kushner once wrote:
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn.
Whatever love and goodness within me has only worsened my fate, has only made an already dreary life even more painful.

And where is God when it hurts? Absent, as if He were never really there. Where is the love that conquers all, even death? I guess His church can't figure out how to love those that don't quite fit, I guess my friends (His children) can't figure out how to show me love when I need it most, I guess it shouldn't surprise that His love fails, too.

Charity failed me. At least we're even. I failed Him, He failed me.