Finding God in Community

"Lightning on Columbus River" by Ian Boggs

“Lightning on Columbus River”
by Ian Boggs

By Jenny

The spring thunderstorms have set my mind back to my youth.  I watch the misty greyness creep in as the rolling thunder awakens in me a sense that a powerful universal force exists.  Lightning pierces the melancholy clouds and lacerates the sky with its fierce power.  It’s as if God is raging in the heavens above, until the clouds open and the fierceness turns to a cleansing grace which flows freely to earth allowing life and beauty to thrive.

My teenage years also flowed with grace that allowed life and beauty to thrive in me.  I was nurtured by community and by dedicated leaders.  I lived in a world filled with scripture stories, faith, and miracles.  On a Book of Mormon Trek the summer after I turned sixteen, these scripture stories surrounded me in the form of handcarts and liahonas helping my youth group through the wilderness like Lehi’s family.  Prophets appeared to tell their stories and miracles surrounded us at every bend.  My leaders had put their heart and souls into planning a three-day trek that they hoped would be life-changing for those in their charge.  And it was.

I sat in the forest alone after the prophet Enos had appeared.  He sent us to pray and meditate on our own in the woods as he had done.  My scriptures lay open on my lap as the thunder began to roll in.  I looked up at the sky and smiled.  I could feel raindrops slowly kissing my face.  The smell of newness filled the air.  Thunder crept closer to me, as if warning me of what was coming.  Suddenly a boom shook the earth and the forest was consumed with fire.  A sharp pain shot through my back and I fell to the ground.  Through the chaos of people running down the mountain, I stumbled and was carried to a tent.  The doctor came quickly and looked at my back.  When he decided I was fine (just experiencing acute shock), he couldn’t hide his excitement over seeing an actual mark left by a lightning strike.  He took a picture.

The Stake President and Bishop came in then to give me a blessing.  Everyone in the tent could feel the power at that moment.  I don’t remember exactly what my bishop said.  It wasn’t so much a power of words, as it was a power of love and belief shared among humans.  When they left the doctor checked my back, but the mark was gone.  As a community, we felt the miracle in this event.  No one else on that mountain was hurt.  Through the storm, God had showed us power and grace.  I spent my teenage years feeling wrapped in that blanket of grace, safe and secure.

From that environment of communal nurturing and growth came a strong and powerful faith.  Over the years my faith has become more complex.  I have gained a deeper understanding of experiences beyond my own.  I have found knowledge that extends beyond my cultural conditioning.  I see now that things aren’t as they always seemed to me when I was younger.  Some might call the complexities of my faith “doubt,” but that word doesn’t describe it.

I have frequently been asked over the last few years, “So what do you believe?”  I don’t have the words, or maybe the words are meaningless to someone who hasn’t experienced my journey.  How do you describe what lightning feels like to someone who has never been hit by lightning?  If I could just show you my faith.  If you could see it, feel it, hear it, taste it…like running out into a thunderstorm, arms out, feeling energy flashing in the sky, the rain streaming down your face.  If you could only know my faith the way I do.  But you are in your safe shelter, watching the storm from a distance.  All it is to you is a disturbance to your plans, a tempest when you want sunshine.

I don’t claim to know the form of God.  Male, female, an old man with a beard, a king, a spirit, energy, embodied being, the evolutionary perfection of the human race, Elohim, Allah, Krishna…it doesn’t matter to me.  God is perfect love.  God is brightest light which opens the mind and fills it with knowledge and wisdom.  God is energy to move in a positive and powerful way.  God is grace.

I felt that grace as a young girl.  I felt it through family, friends, and leaders.  It kept me in the light.  It moved me in a positive direction.  It surrounded me with the power of love.  I don’t feel like I am wrapped in a blanket of grace anymore.  So I must generate grace within my own soul.  God is in me.  God is in the way I love, forgive, and connect with other people.  God is in the way I accept my imperfect faith and move forward.  God is in the way my heart tries to understand those who don’t understand me.  I believe God’s power and grace can be found in lightning and miracles.  God’s power and grace are in communities that nurture, build, and support each other.  God’s power and grace are in a heart that is open to love.     As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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Heavenly Mothers Day: My Absentee Heavenly Parent

Many women—and men—yearn for our heavenly mother.

I don’t. When I believe in her at all, I tend to resent my absentee heavenly parent, just as an abandoned child would resent an earthly parent that doesn’t communicate with her child.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him.” Reference A

If this is how strong relationships with deity are formed, it is obvious why I don’t have a healthy relationship with my heavenly mother, if she exists. I don’t learn about her in my Sunday meetings and communing with her through prayer is expressly forbidden.

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Introducing our Heavenly Mother’s Day Series

CW: Suicidal thoughts

I moved to Oakland five years ago. One of my first outings in the Bay Area was a gathering at Carol Lynn Pearson’s house where she gave each of us copies of her play, Mother Wove the Morning. It sat on my shelf for months because I didn’t want to open up Heavenly Mother-less wound I had.

When I finally read it, half a year later, I discovered that I was right in that it was an intense experience. I loved reading it and yet I ached. I wanted a relationship with Heavenly Mother, but I didn’t know how. Unfortunately the bigger question for me was “why.” Why should I have a relationship with Her?

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For the Beauty of the Earth

Spring has sprung in my corner of the world!

We’ve had a brutal winter and so seeing 60ºF (and up!) in the forecast makes me incredibly happy. I love seeing all the flowers. I love seeing happy faces out on the street, smiling for no other reason than warm weather has finally arrived. I find myself joyful, even more so when I’m with friends. Spring is just a happy and optimistic time of the year.

SPRING

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Exponent II: A Journey of Discovery

Fall Winter 2015 coverExciting news! The double issue for Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 is in production and will be mailed on April 30th. You don’t want to miss this 68-page celebration of Exponent II’s 40 years in publication with writings from so many beloved Mormon feminists like Gina Colvin and Lavina Fielding Anderson (not to mention the ones listed on the cover)!

Our Letter from the Editor comes from former assistant editor and Exponent permablogger, Heather Sundahl. Heather is entering her 20th year of Exponent II involvement, and there’s no one better to introduce this issue, the last piece of our 40th anniversary celebration.

Whenever people talk about Exponent II’s origin story, the word “discover” is always used. In 1972 Susan Kohler “discovered” a stack of original Woman’s Exponents published a century earlier whose purpose was to advocate for “the Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of all Nations.” And as you can read in the retrospective essays of Claudia Bushman, Laurel Ulrich and Judy Dushku, within two years of that unearthing a brave group of women in Cambridge would decide that the time was right to start anew.

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The Parable of Mushrooms

posted on Flickr with Creative Commons license

posted on Flickr with Creative Commons license

I hated mushrooms…

When I was four and I wrote in my journal, “I lik all food excip mushroms.”

Family members would say, “But, they’re really good in this dish.” Or, “Maybe you’ll like them this year.”

Every year or so, I’d try them, and I’d gag, reaffirming my decision that I hated mushrooms.

But, then, about eight years ago, I decided to give mushrooms another try. My oldest kid had a lot of food allergies and after seeing all the foods that would make him sick, I decided it was silly that I was holding out on one food because of a decision I made when I was four.

And, I still hated them. Slimy, tasting of dirt, with a smell that just epitomized everything yucky.

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