Coming Up for Air

pearlsComing Up for Air

I.
My little sister may not win her battle with cancer.
She says God asked her, Will you take a bullet for
your son? To her it means, Will you give your child
a life of strength, wisdom born of losing his mother?

When she speaks I hear the surf begin to roar.
The tide inside threatens to push me over.

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Guest Post: The Message We Send

by Lori Davis

Fairly often, I read a blog expressing outrage about the message women and girls learn at church: women have no value outside the home, working women are neglecting their real responsibilities, women should always be subservient to men, etc.

I feel some sympathy here, but mostly, I feel puzzled. I’m not hearing that message at church here in the UK.

Two recent talks in Sacrament Meeting are good examples. One working mom spoke about praying over a change in her career path with good financial and spiritual results. Another talk discussed Deborah, Esther, and Eliza R. Snow, with particular emphasis on how motherhood is not what they are remembered for. Incidentally, this last one was given on Mother’s Day, which is in March here. As far as I know, no one batted an eye at either of these talks.

Strong role models are more effective than any amount of talking, so I tallied up the currently prominent women in my ward. 

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Guest Post: The Rituals We (Still) Perform

by Liz Johnson

My grandmother is dying.

Her cancer is incurable, and has spread to the degree that she has been given mere months to live. And so, with her mortal time rapidly closing, family and friends alike have flocked to her side to spend a few precious moments with a truly remarkable woman.

There could be no better tribute to a life well-lived than the outpouring of love that my grandmother has received in these past few weeks. Family members have flown across the country to sit by her side. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people calling to check in on her and to express their love. Almost every flat surface in her home has a vase of fresh flowers sitting on it, and her freezer is stocked to the gills with soup and other food brought to her by friends and ward members. Her door is being graced several times daily by friends and neighbors, wishing to express their love to her and to hug her at least one more time.

I realize that it’s not an unusual thing for a person to lose a grandparent – it’s the natural cycle of things. I have lost two before her. But yet the impending loss of this woman has affected me so profoundly.

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Guest Post: Auto-Pilot to Heaven

 

by Jenny

baptism dresses 4“What day is your daughter going to get baptized?”

It’s an innocent question, but it rips at my heart a little more each time it is asked. I have too many skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have two baptism dresses in my closet, one that I couldn’t resist because it was on sale at Costco, and another that was given to us. It was all so simple then, back when I was on auto-pilot to heaven. The path was steady and sure. My plane was headed straight toward the Celestial Kingdom and all I had to do was sit back and check things off my list. Married in the temple, check. Motherhood, check. Endure Sacrament Meeting with toddlers in tow once a week, check. Ten years of smooth sailing from the temple to my first-born’s baptism. Of course she would be baptized right after she turned eight, and taut her new cleanliness by wearing a pure white dress to church. That was one more thing to check off my list.

Then I woke up.

When I realized that I was flying on auto-pilot, I also realized that my path wouldn’t necessarily lead me to heaven. The dread set in. You mean I actually have to learn to fly my own plane? The flying lessons were short because I was already in midair. Now I am awake, and I am flying, and I am thinking about the covenants I make. I don’t want my daughter to grow up on auto-pilot. I want her to think.

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Rejected Offerings

Rejected Offerings

I didn’t ask the woman at the door of the tabernacle if I could come to the priesthood session. Elder Oaks had already answered my question, although he had not directed his answer to me. I strained to hear him talking to the men about me, a female member of Christ’s church who wanted to serve God as a priesthood holder. I listened through a cell phone as I waited outside in the rain, where I had been waiting in a line labeled “Standby” for nearly two hours.

It wasn’t a real standby line, even though it was labeled as such. Where I stood, behind hundreds of women hoping against hope to be admitted to the priesthood session, I saw men who entered the line behind me redirected to the real, unlabeled standby line.  A man with a Temple Square name badge was saying, “This is not the priesthood standby line, I’ll tell you that.”

There wasn’t much point to asking the woman at the end of the fake standby line if she would let me in to the priesthood session after she had already refused hundreds of other women. Instead, I asked her about Church PR. I wanted to know why the church PR department had ignored our many written requests for meetings with general authorities but responded to our request for tickets to the priesthood session with an open letter, addressed to me and three other women, with our names across the top, that was published in the Deseret News before I even received it. I wanted to know why that open letter made false claims that Ordain Women had said things that none of us had ever said.

I guess what I really wanted to know was why the church had rejected my offering. I asked to speak with my church leaders. I asked that my questions be taken to God by His prophets. I asked for the opportunity to serve my God and my church in expanded ways.  With the exception of this one woman, who had patiently received us at the end of that line, most of what I received was cutthroat PR tactics that treated me as an enemy.

I suppose that Elder Oaks answered my questions, explaining that a woman is just an “appendage“ to the priesthood. But he wasn’t speaking to me. He was speaking to other men at a session I wasn’t allowed to attend.

Serving as a missionary

Serving as a missionary

It wasn’t the first time the leaders of our church had talked about me and my female peers at the priesthood session. When I was 21 years-old, I was two months into my mission when President Hinckley, the very person who had signed my mission call and sent me to the far-away land where I was serving, gave a talk about sister missionaries during the priesthood session of General Conference. The first thing one of the male missionaries said to me after returning from the priesthood session was, “Boy, President Hinckley sure doesn’t like sister missionaries!” When I read it, I learned that the offering that I was making right then, serving my God and my church as a missionary, had been rejected by the prophet, who would have preferred that women like me stay home. Acknowledging that an all-male session was an odd place to talk about sister missionaries, Hinckley added,

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Sacred Music: In This Very Room

During the 2008 Prop 8 campaign in California, I was having a hard time with the Church. Never had I been so upset with my leaders. Eventually I realized I needed to take a break from church until after the campaign was over, and during that difficult time I found sanctuary at a local United Church of Christ congregation. This congregation featured a gay pastor and many of the congregants were likewise LGBT. It meant so much for me to go every week and see this community lovingly enfold its gay members. It meant so much to me to hear Jesus’s words preached to me every week by an LGBT man. And the music …. well, the music brought me to tears more than once.

One song I heard during one of my visits to IUCC was “In This Very Room,” sung by a young Latino man. I don’t know if he was gay, but the sentiments in this song felt like a warm embrace to anyone who has ever struggled with self-love or acceptance by their community.

“In this very room there’s quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for one like me,
And there’s quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus … is in this very room.”

The following two verses expand the notion of “enough love” to everyone in the world. I found myself quite moved by this song, and when I found a You Tube video of a gay and lesbian choir singing this song, it seemed wonderfully appropriate. This choir changes “Jesus” to “a spirit,” no doubt trying to be inclusive towards all those in the choir and audience who were not Christian. But I have to admit that I love the Jesus phrasing the best. My Jesus is indeed a Jesus who infuses our lives and emboldens us with a love that transcends all barriers.

Below is a clip of the gay and lesbian chorus, and below that is a clip of a soloist singing the song with the Jesus phrasing. Both are beautiful and reflect my vision of godly, inclusive love.

 

 

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