Monday, September 27, 2010

A God of Pain

Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul,
and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

Who can be surprised that His discipleship also brings pain?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conditional Love

A discussion over on FMH really got me thinking about some of the choices I've made in the last decade, as well as how relationships and love work. They began talking about unconditional love in conjunction with some discussion on marriage and divorce. Some thoughts came to me which I felt were worth reproducing here.

Everyone’s love is conditional in one sense or other. True unconditional love in the sense that most people mean it—that I can do anything I want and not suffer loss of intimacy—CANNOT exist. That’s one thing I learned from my experiences in my marriage. I stayed with my ex-husband through some pretty scary times over the years because I believed in unconditional love like that.

But true unconditional love does not exist without boundaries or limitations. Conditions on love are different than boundaries. To set a condition on love means, “I will only love you if you do this.” That was something I experienced up close and personal in my marriage. Unconditional love really looks like, “I will always love you, but I’ll not be close to you if you engage in behavior that is destructive.”

I still love my ex, in the sense that I want what is best for him. I would love it if he would repent, become a good father and maybe even a good husband some day to someone else. But to the extent of my power, I will not let him hurt me or the children any more.

So I love him unconditionally, but I will not stay close to him unconditionally.

I think most of us have a pretty twisted sense of what real love is. I imagine this is what makes it hard to understand a God who wouldn’t just forgive all and let us all come back to live with Him no matter what we do. We conflate love and intimacy. I imagine that God will always love us, but we cannot be close to Him if we engage in destructive behaviors.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/11 and the Mosque: It's Not About Religion

I know there's a great deal of furor about the Mosque overlooking Ground Zero. I don't get it. I don't get it for a few reasons, some less noble than others.

First, I don't get 9/11. I know that is borderline unpatriotic, but I just don't get why it was so monumental. Maybe it is because as I was growing up, bomb drills were as much a part of the school practice as fire drills. Except, I never experienced a fire at school. Two of the "bomb drills" I went through were real. I had to carry an identification card around with me to get to my house. I've waited in line for over an hour just to get home so the bomb dogs and guys with the oversized dentist mirrors could go through every single car queued up to get on base. I lived as a child knowing that my house could be bombed, that my dad could be killed. That I could be killed in a heartbeat. It wasn't frightening, it was just how life was. 9/11 didn't carry the same punch for me that it seems to carry for most people.

Plus, I was in Germany when the attack occurred. Not only did I not live through the national panic, I experienced the anti-American rallies in the aftermath. I even suggested to my companion once or twice that we take off our missionary name tags so we could travel incognito and not start a riot. I worked hard to improve my accent in German rather than worrying about vocabulary so I could pass as British or Dutch in a pinch. I never had to use that, at least, but I was trained by life as a child how to blend in when necessary and knew it didn't hurt to be careful. I don't think all military kids learn these things, but my dad always encouraged us to immerse ourselves in our resident culture.

Which brings me to second: 9/11 wasn't about religion. It was about politics first and culture second. A good part of my life was spent in a first-world country that is not America. I lived a couple of years on a third-world island. I have seen for myself the range of emotions towards Americans ranging from excited interest through disdain to contempt. I have seen what we Americans do that justifies those sentiments.

If the attacks were about religion, there are many better religious sites that could have been destroyed. But there were no attacks on the Vatican, nothing against Notre Dame. The targets were 100% political and 100% American—a country which theoretically professes no religious alignment.

So why not let them build a Mosque near Ground Zero? Even in a worst-case scenario and the alarmists are right, that it is mockery of our culture and the Christian religion, so what? Why indulge ourselves in the self-centeredness which the rest of the world despises instead of celebrating the parts of America which make us great—our tolerance, our open arms to conflicting ideologies and points of view? We can always reclaim that mosque as a badge of honor, reform it into the gesture of mutuality they claim it is. And if the alarmists are wrong, and it really is intended as a gesture of goodwill, it is churlish and hypocritical of us to refuse it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Patiently Wandering in the Desert

"Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens,
Bringing them back to the fold."
LDS Hymns #221, "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd"

But as much as He is hastening to rescue, it can feel like an eternity to the foolish, lost sheep.

As a student of pre-veterinary medicine, I once had the privilege of knowing a real-life shepherd. Not just a sheepherder, was Warren, he was a true shepherd. Even in an academic field with many colorful personalities (my friend and I used to joke that missing a body part was a prerequisite), he stood out. He was quiet and awkward until he stepped into the sheep pen, where he became a blaze of decisive ovine-oriented charisma. I found his personality utterly compelling, and I still wish I had a chance to learn more about him.

I competed once in a lively contest between my university and a rival for the honors of knowing which school was smartest in animal matters. There were several parts to the contest, once of which was a series of practical tests with a wide variety of beasts. One test was to catch and draw blood from a sheep while Warren looked nervously on. After our job was done, we asked Warren how the other teams had done. I vividly remember the pained look on his face as he mentioned that one team, cattlemen mostly, had attempted to draw blood from the tail. I realized at that point that Warren saw these rather stupid, belligerent animals as precious. He saw something in his charges that eludes me to this day.

Whenever I think of Christ as the Shepherd, I think of Warren and I try to remember that the Lord's sheep have value that I might not see.

Even the sheep that is me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God Conforming to Men

Something keeps coming up in the discussions of polygamy I see wandering about the web. I have heard it said that polygamy probably wasn't God's commandment because if it had been, the Church would not have discontinued the practice.

My question is why?

Why is it not possible that God could have the Church conform to legal laws when the tension between legal and spiritual laws becomes so tight, the Church as a whole faces extinction?

Wouldn't the Lord prefer we follow the laws of the land than have His authority and restored gospel lost from the earth again, especially when He promised that would not happen?

Isn't God adapting His laws to men what most of the Old Testament and Law of Moses is about?

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