Poetry Sundays: Who The Meek Are Not

 

 

Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome

Who The Meek Are Not

By Mary Karr

          Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
          in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
          make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
          nun says we misread 
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them. 
          To understand the meek 
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
          in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned
          but instant halt. 
So with the strain of holding that great power
          in check, the muscles 
along the arched neck keep eddying,
          and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order. 

 

::

Among my favorite religious poems, Who the Meek Are Not, has stayed with me since I first read it. It is one a few jewels I pull from a treasure box of inspirational writing when I become confused or wonder if my particular variety of discipleship is worthy of God’s grace.

I understand this version of meekness, the ears pricked forward, the sudden awareness of a call, the subsequent redirection of energy. Meekness can be a quiet yet powerful force running through our veins. Mary Karr and her Franciscan nun gave me permission to be a strong, courageous, vocal woman who is a humble servant of Christ. My agency–the power to choose, and to have an effect on the world–is only as useful as my willingness to surrender that power to God, to seek his will. I pray for strength and meekness every day.

How do you feel about meekness? What does this poem say to you? 

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Young Women Lesson: How can repentance help me every day?

Repentance can be a very difficult subject. You want to help the girls learn how to recognize when they’ve done something wrong and to improve upon that, but you don’t want to instill shame. I think as an opening activity, I would ask one of the girls to tell the story of the Council in Heaven. In the story, Satan wants to make every one do the “right” thing, but Christ advocates for agency. This story tells us that making mistakes is something that we know will happen and it’s part of the Plan to make mistakes. Doing the wrong thing means simply that we did something wrong; it does not mean that we are therefore “bad” people. In the class, I might emphasize that again: doing something wrong does not mean we, ourselves, are bad and undeserving of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

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An (Out)Burst

Three Sundays ago in Relief Society we had lesson 1 in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It was the lesson on Heavenly Father. I had  ended up on the front row with my knitting and my baby. The first discussion in the class included listing the traits of God on the board. I sat there wondering if I had something to add while everyone else put up all the phrases  I was already thinking about: all the omni-stuff, loving, merciful, etc. And then,

“Male.”

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Nursing Madonna as God’s Love

Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18

Mary nursing in a Nativity scene
I am sharing these pictures and scriptures, inspired by the Pope’s recent comments on breastfeeding, which led to a revisitation of this Huffington Post article:

“Ask anybody in the street what’s the primary Christian symbol and they would say the crucifixion,” said Margaret Miles, author of “A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750,” a book that traces the disappearance of the image of the breast-feeding Mary after the Renaissance.

“It was the takeover of the crucifixion as the major symbol of God’s love for humanity” that supplanted the breast-feeding icon, she said. And that was a decisive shift from the earliest days of Christianity when “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity.”

We know God loves us because God nurses us, has birthed us. I love the use of Mary as God’s love and it reminds me of all that Heavenly Mother has done for us.

Our Lady nursing the Infant Jesus

His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow. Job 21:24

Louvre-Breastfeeding Jesus

Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? Numbers 11:12

The Virgin Mother feeding the Infant Jesus

That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. Isaiah 66:11

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Relief Society Lesson 1: Our Father in Heaven

Relief Society Lesson 1: Our Father in Heaven
credit: NASA/JPL

credit: NASA/JPL

In the Book of Mormon, Alma debated Korihor about the existence of God:

Alma 30:43-44

43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me aasign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of aall these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the bearth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its dmotion, yea, and also all theeplanets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

What strengthens your testimony of God?

From the Life of Joseph Fielding Smith

While Alma’s knowledge of science added to his testimony of God, Joseph Fielding Smith observed that the increased scientific knowledge we enjoy today does not always have the same effect:

Great progress has been made in mechanics, chemistry, physics, surgery, and other things. Men have built great telescopes that have brought the hidden galaxies to view. They have, by the aid of the microscope, discovered vast worlds of microorganisms. … They have discovered means to control disease. … They have invented machines more sensitive than the human touch, more far-seeing than the human eye. They have controlled elements and made machinery that can move mountains, and many other things have they done too numerous to mention… All of these discoveries and inventions have not drawn men nearer to God! 1

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that science is inadequate to learn about God:

We know that God is known only by revelation, that he stands revealed or remains forever unknown. We must go to the scriptures—not to the scientists or philosophers—if we are to learn the truth about Deity.

For some, believing in God comes naturally.  For others, it is a struggle.  As we discuss faith in God, it is important not to let the discussion turn to vilifying atheists and agnostics.  The scriptures teach that a testimony is a spiritual gift and not all people receive the same spiritual gifts.

D&C 46:11-14

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man [and woman] is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

13 To some it is given by the aHoly Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

14 To others it is given to abelieve on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

While we may not all be blessed with the spiritual gift of a testimony of God, this revelation encourages us to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46: 8).

Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., Joseph Fielding Smith’s grandson, reported that Smith’s “…prayers were always very personal—as if talking to a friend.”2

What do you think leads a person to be able to pray to God “as if talking to a friend”? How might we “seek earnestly” to strengthen our relationships with God?

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