Prayer and Politics

Because my trusty Suburban is too old to have satellite radio, I was flipping through stations the other day as Spuds and I were making the hour-long trek home from Costco.  In the midst of this flipping, I heard a soothing male voice talking about hurricane Harvey, so I stopped (station flipping, that is, not the car).  I like soothing voices, especially soothing voices on the radio.  The soothing voice very quickly transitioned from talking about the possible weather repercussions of the hurricane to talking about President Trump pledging to donate one million dollars of his own personal stash to hurricane relief efforts.

The soothing voice went on to say something to the effect of, “I really respect the president for that.  I don’t know how anyone could not respect that act.”

That got my attention because, even thought I am no fan of Donald Trump as a “reality” television host, President of the United States, or pretty much anything else, it still seems pretty obvious to me that the media are showing their bias like a two-year-old in a sun dress shows her underwear — with gleeful reckless abandon and completely unaware.  So to hear the words “I respect the president” spoken over the airwaves was a bit of a surprise.  The soothing voice had my attention.

Next it started talking about how Governor Abbott had issued an official proclamation calling for a day of prayer in Texas, and how this was a positive step, and I was left driving down the road thinking, “Whoa!  I have stumbled into the Twilight Zone!  Or, wait, maybe I’ve stumbled across a Christian radio station.”

Then the soothing Christian radio station voice read the entire proclamation word for word, clear to the end where it says:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of Texas, pursuant to the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 3, 2017, as a Day of Prayer in Texas.  I urge Texans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers on that day for the safety of our first responders, public safety officers, and military personnel, healing of individuals, rebuilding of communities and the restoration of the entire region struck by this disaster.

I was so moved by this.  I was moved by the inclusion of everyone and everything, all faiths, the victims and the rescuers, the here and now and the work to be done in the future.  I was moved that a government official would throw political correctness to the wind and urge his constituents to turn to their God.

And then the soothing voice proclaimed in its soothing manner, “Now, as a Christian, I can’t agree with the part about all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds.  As a Christian, I know there is only one God of the Universe, so I can’t support urging others to pray to their false gods.  There is only one God we should be praying to.”  I’m paraphrasing, since I couldn’t drive and write down direct quotes that I never ever expected to hear, but that was the general gist of what he was saying when I changed. the. station.

I didn’t want Spuds to think that we should scoff at the prayers of others.

Which brand of Christianity, I wondered, does the soothing voice practice.  Is he Methodist?  Presbyterian?  Baptist?  Evangelical?  Pentecostal?  Catholic?  Don’t they all disagree, at least a little bit, about who and what God is?  So are they really praying to the same God?  Does he also scoff at the prayers of his fellow-but-different Christians?  I suppose he would scoff at my non-mainstream-Christian prayers.

I can’t speak for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor can I speak for other members of my church, but here is what I personally believe about prayer and praying, regardless of your faith and religious tradition or background:

If you believe there is a God, if you approach that God with sincerity and faith in your heart and you humbly pray your righteous desires to that God, the God of the Universe (to directly quote the soothing voice) will hear you.  I don’t care what you or I or anyone else calls that God, and I don’t care what you or I or anyone else knows or thinks we know about that God. If you are approaching your version of God as God, He will hear your prayers, because He knows you, and He knows you are putting your faith and trust in Him and appealing to Him, and He loves you regardless of what your level of understanding of Him is or isn’t.  If you’re sincerely praying then you’re sincerely trying to know Him, too, and that counts for a whole heck of an awful lot.

What parent among us hasn’t heard a child’s voice call the word, “Mom!” or “Dad!” only to turn around to respond and discover that it’s not our child, and it’s not us to whom they are calling?  I believe it is kind of like that with God, except that we are the children doing the calling and He is the parent to whom we are calling, always, because we are all His. Maybe we are calling to a parent who we don’t fully know or understand, maybe we are calling to a parent about whom we have some pretty big misunderstandings, but God hears us anyway, because He is THE parent.  There is no one else.

Unless you’re a satanist or something, but I think I pretty much excluded you in the above paragraphs anyway.  You know you’re not praying to God at that point.  Run along now.  I hear Hot Topic is having a sale.

Bottom line:  If I am, or a loved one is, ever involved in a crisis, either as a victim or a rescuer, I welcome your prayers on my behalf, on behalf of my loved ones, on behalf of my community.  If you believe there is a God, if you believe He can help us put the pieces of shattered lives, homes, and communities back together, then I welcome and appreciate your prayers.  I suspect there is a large part of Houston that welcomes your prayers as well.  I am sorry there are those who don’t.  Please know they don’t represent all of us, no matter what you hear over the airwaves after a bout of channel flipping.

Tewt the Christian Newt wishes you well (and, admittedly, has made one or two purchases at Hot Topic — but he got in and out as fast as he could).

 

 

Home Depot and Divinity

As I was walking out of the local Home Depot with a cart full of paint-the-front-porch supplies, I passed a man going in who looked for all the world like Russell M. Nelson.  My first impulse was to run over and introduce myself to him, to thank him for his service and for being such an inspiration to me and so many others, but logically I knew it wasn’t him.  I don’t know if President Nelson shops at Home Depot, but, if he does, it’s not on this side of the Mississippi River, so Spuds and I kept walking towards our car.

While we were walking, pushing the cart, I began thinking about how the man I’d just seen, though he wasn’t a renowned heart surgeon or apostle of the Lord, was still a child of God.  We weren’t really parked that far back in the parking lot, but all of these thoughts just kind of washed over me and into me in a matter of seconds, so I pondered the divinity within that anonymous elderly stranger and thought how wonderful it would be if we all could recognize that in everyone we meet.  I have no idea who that man was, what he has or hasn’t done in or with his life, or anything else about him, but why should that mean I shouldn’t feel privileged to meet him, to shake his hand?  Can you imagine what kind of world it would be if we all greeted one another with a sense of awe and gratitude just because we are getting the chance to meet another child of God?  President Nelson probably gets special, effusive greetings from strangers on a regular basis, and I’m sure that bolsters him.  What if we all got sincerely effusive greetings, whether from strangers in a parking lot or at times of formal introduction?  What if we all met each other as if we were meeting an apostle (or a celebrity, if you’re not into religion)?  I can only imagine how we could bolster each other through such sincere appreciation for . . . each other.  I mean, I’m not saying I should have chased the old dude down and fawned all over him or anything — there are limits of social acceptability and all that — but if, within the limits of what is sane and acceptable, we all greeted each other warmly, in a way that made the other person feel special, important, noticed . . . how amazing would that be?

Very Deep Thoughts to be having in a Home Depot parking lot, but the conviction swept over me to approach each new person I meet with a least a little bit of that awe and gratitude, a little more recognition that I was meeting a child of God, a little more effort towards helping each person feel their importance.  “Why don’t I already do this???”  I wondered to myself.

Then I heard, “Hey,” from a bit of a distance.

I came out of my Very Deep Thoughts to see an unkempt man standing behind the car parked next to mine, but almost standing behind my car.  He and his clothes, beard, and hair looked unwashed, his eyes were glassy and his expression hard to read, and he was standing in place but shifting his weight back and forth, swaying from side to side a bit while smoking a . . . what was it?  Do vape pens come with attached boxes?  I really have no idea, but the smoke seemed to have no smell.  We had been walking down the wrong row and had just barely turned toward the proper one when his,”hey” came from that row over, so I initially assumed it had been directed at someone else.

Again he said, “Hey,” and I realized he might be talking to us.  I smiled but said nothing, because I didn’t feel like shouting across the parking lot, and I still wasn’t sure if he was greeting me and Spuds.  As we entered the correct row of cars and were halfway across it, again, “Hey,” but he didn’t move away from my car, even though we were clearly approaching it.

I said hi, but was getting a thoroughly creepy vibe from this man who was swaying and smoking from some mystery apparatus and standing so close to the back end of my car that I knew he’d be able to reach out and grab one or the other of us as we loaded our supplies in the trunk.

At the moment I thought we were getting too close to what could be a dangerous situation, my phone rang.  I gestured to Spuds to get into the car on the passenger side, the side furthest from Mr. Hey, while taking to Midge about whatever it was she needed to talk about and trying to make it sound like I was talking to an adult.  I loaded the car quickly and then smiled at Mr. Hey as I looked directly at him and squeezed by to get to my door, praying that he wasn’t going to let go of his smoking device and sway in to grab me.

After getting in safely, locking the door, and getting off the phone, I realized two things in slow succession:

  1.  I’d just failed at my brand new resolution to meet/greet new people as if they were amazing and it was my privilege — what kind of awful person am I that I can’t hold on to a goal for, like, five seconds???  That man was/is a child of God, too!
  2. There are very real reasons why I haven’t been doing this it’s-my-privilege-to-meet-you stuff already, and, child of God though he may be, his glassy-eyed swaying with no sense of boundaries and appropriate space was creepy.  Maybe I failed at my resolution, but maybe I succeeded at keeping my kid and myself safe.

My resolution isn’t dead, but I’m also not going to stop listening to my Spidey Sense.  I wish I didn’t have to.

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Two

Written June 13, 2017

Last night I said goodbye to my two oldest until Christmas.  We took L~ out west to begin establishing residency for scholarship purposes.  She will begin college in the fall.  A~ stayed out west for the summer to live with L~ until her own classes start back up in the fall, and then she will move the two hours south back to Provo.

My mom heart says this is a good plan.  This plan will help L~ acclimate and transition.  This plan means L~ doesn’t just get dropped off at her university in the fall, completely alone, totally away from her family for the first real time in her life.  This plan is comforting.

But this plan?  This plan doesn’t mitigate the effects of having to say goodbye to another one of my kids.  Aside from keeping her at home for college, which we couldn’t do (because she is a very determined and independent person) and wouldn’t want to do (because I remember the joy and growth that come from striking out on one’s own), no plan could protect me and my mom heart.  I find myself struggling with this in ways I don’t remember struggling when we dropped A~ off for her freshman year.

For the past 19 years, I have devoted my life to being a mother.  I know I haven’t been perfect.  I know I have screwed up over, and over, and over.  I know I’ve had expectations that were, at times, too high; patience that was, many times, too short; and love that wasn’t always expressed in the ways they needed to receive it.  All of that notwithstanding, I have devoted the past 19+ years to being a mom.  I gave up a career before I was able to work long enough to really begin establishing a career.  I gave up my budding dream of law school when it was just that – a budding dream, an absolute love of one college law class that made me want to get into the field of communications law at a time, it would turn out, that communications law would be turned on its head by the advent of the internet – because I knew I wanted to be a mother, a stay-at-home mother, and the time and monetary investment law school would take seemed counterproductive and foolish in light of that goal.

I knew that I wanted to be able to accept responsibility for how my kids turned out as adults, whether good or bad.  I didn’t want to wonder if things would have been better had they spent more time with me and less time in day care or with a babysitter.  I didn’t want to be able to blame anyone but me (and, to a lesser degree, my husband) if they seemed to be failing at life.  At the same time, I didn’t want to have to give daycare workers and babysitters credit for shaping my kids into good people, for doing what I felt was, ultimately, my job.  I wanted to do that.  I wanted to be the mom.  I wanted the buck to stop with me (and, you know, their father).  I knew from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do because: 1. My own mother was a stay-at-home mother and I always wanted to be able to be there for my kids and be the influence for good like she was for me and my siblings; and 2. I grew up being taught that this is what God wanted me to do, if at all possible; that being a mother would be, and is, my highest and holiest calling, and I believed it.  I still believe it.

But right now?  I’m struggling with this idea.  I’m struggling, just a bit, with a God who asks me to give up pretty much every independent, individual aspiration of my life and pour it all . . . ALL . . . into loving and raising these amazing people who I then, ultimately, have to give up as well.  It doesn’t feel like there is a lot of justice in that.  It doesn’t feel fair that I have to sacrifice the very things for which I have sacrificed so much . . . sleep, time, emotions, energy, health, aspirations, independence, quiet, financial security (for a time) . . . and the list goes on.

But I don’t regret it.  I don’t regret one moment of it (except for all the times I messed up along the way).  I don’t regret the sacrifices.  I don’t regret the lost career opportunities.  I don’t begrudge the time and energy lost.  It was time and energy well spent, and I know that.  I KNOW it.  I wouldn’t change any of that.  If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t go to law school.  I wouldn’t keep working full time after A~ was born.  I wouldn’t change any of it except for the many, many parenting moments I wish I could do better, do over.

However, right now?  In this moment?  I feel like all of my sacrifice and obedience deserves some kind of happy ending, and this doesn’t feel like that.  This feels like more sacrifice.  This feels hard, and sad, and a little bit lonely.  This feels like heartbreak.  This feels like God expects too much from women.

I know I’m wallowing in the moment.  I know this isn’t actually the end, so I shouldn’t expect it to all be wrapped up neatly with a magical sunset and a surge of happiness.  I am still their mom, and I still have plenty of screw-up mom moments with them ahead of me and, hopefully, plenty of good mom moments as well.  I know I am blessed to be their mom forever, and I could never say the same thing about being a public school teacher, or a journalist, or a lawyer (not that being any of those things is bad).  I know that being a mother is my highest and holiest calling, even if I don’t fully understand why it is I am the one, by virtue of my gender, to make so many unheralded and often derided sacrifices.

Yet, as I wallow, I can’t help but think of the Savior of the world who made sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice for those who derided Him.  On the cross he made what we consider the ultimate sacrifice, but prior to that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he made a sacrifice I can’t begin to comprehend.

I know my sacrifices pale in comparison, as does the loss I am feeling.

I know He understands my struggle, and I know that He loves, truly and purely loves, women, including me, even though I am feeling a little bit set up and robbed by God at the moment.

I know he counts my tears.

I know that someday I will have a better understanding of all of this.

I know that, along with a Heavenly Father, I have a Heavenly Mother who probably also feels great loss as she sends her children off to the school that is mortal life.

I know how blessed I am to be a mother – to be the mother of my children.  I don’t know how motherhood can be so painful and be such a blessing at the same time, but it is.  I know it.  I’m living it.  I love it.

And I know Christmas will come.