Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something to Talk About

Bookslinger makes a great point, and one of the reasons I've always loved that passage of scripture in Ether 12, along with the Lord making it clear that HE is the one to make weaknesses strong, not US.

For me, I think the reasons for not being more free with talking about my faith aren't that I'm worried about looking stupid or "uncool" (if I was worried about that, I think I'd have self-destructed years ago), but there are two things that feed into each other.

First, I take my religion very seriously, and hold it very precious. I spent 19 months parading my "pearls" out before people, testifying of things that I found so precious, only to see them trampled on. I come online and see them trampled on every day. So it's become harder for me to share as the years pass, unless I have some indication that someone really wants to know.

Second, I have developed a definite level of social anxiety. It takes effort for me to even look someone in the eyes, let alone talk to them about anything serious. Strangely, I have no problem performing in front of people. Then, it's the performance that is the focus, not me. I can pretend to be social, make small talk until the cows come home. But that isn't me. When it comes to sharing things face-to-face that actually touch on who I am . . . . Well, I'll just say it is also becoming harder and harder.

I think I always had a touch of that, but in recent years it's become almost a full-blown phobia. I suppose at the root of it all is fear, and I've not yet developed the perfect love that will cast that out. At least, not in the sense of random encounters to hand out Books of Mormon. So I post online, where there is a buffer between me and other people. This is where I bear testimony, pour out my heart.

There has to be a balance where my love for the gospel feeds into my love for other people. Obviously, if I truly got the Gospel, it would come despite my social fear of being a nuisance to people.

I know that "perfect love" doesn't mean trusting someone who is untrustworthy. I've done that, and know for myself that it is not of God. What does "perfect love" even look like? Is it possible to love perfectly when I have children to protect? To take Christ's example, perfect love is allowing others to have their way with you, assuming it is God's will. But without a clear conduit between me and divinity, how am I to know what is God's will and what isn't? I thought it was God's will for a person to keep peace with their spouse, that it was God's way to allow people room to change and grow and make their own mistakes. But again, I can testify that that doesn't really work.

So how does one begin to develop that perfect love for all men, as well as for the Lord? How does one get galvanized to share the Gospel with people who probably don't want to hear it, especially when many of them are predators waiting to strike at the least sign of vulnerability?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growth of the Church in Germany

I am not the best attendee of mission reunions, but I did attend last October, and I'm very glad I did. We had a segment presented by a German on how the missionary work is changing in Germany. I'm sure most of you are aware of the consolidation of missions and reduction in missionaries sent there and in other places.

But what I (and I assume most) didn't know is that the number of convert baptisms and retention is actually growing rapidly, especially among the "target ages" of twenties and thirties.

The burden of missionary work has been shifted from missionaries and put squarely on members' shoulders. And in true German fashion, the members have risen to the occasion.

Many have assumed that the missions are being consolidated from lack of interest and conservation of resources. But what the numbers are showing (according to the presentation I heard) is that when members begin to realize their own responsibility for teaching and nurturing converts in their own areas, you get more conversions and more baptisms. People take care of each other. Missionary work becomes more personal and more real. The wards and stakes become more Christian. And those who convert are serious about converting, and stay with it.

So the Church is not shrinking because of fewer missionaries in developed areas. It is growing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Don't Get Sports . . . or Politics

Perhaps it is a product of moving around so much, but I really don't get sports. I just can't conceive of being so emotionally tangled up in what is, in the end, JUST A GAME. Maybe I don't have enough emotional real estate to spend it on that.

If I or one of my loved ones were playing, I could see getting excited about it. But not when I'm supposed to be rooting for a team which has nothing to do with me except it is nominally residing in the same place I am. (Not that ANY of the team members have any loyalty to that same place, it's all about the scholarship or the money, right?)

Same goes for politics. Do people really think a vote makes much of a difference? Even if I were able to slog through all the detritus that makes up political "commentary" (I prefer the word "kvetching") to sift out whatever grains of Truth Gold might be lurking beneath the manure, I believe that our system is deliberately organized to keep any one person from making all that much of a difference, even the President.

Perhaps especially the President.

And I don't believe that there are more than a handful of politicians out there who really want to do good. But I admit I've become a rather vehement cynic.

Does it really matter which color shirt you're wearing? It's all the same game, right? And the players in either game don't switch sides based on loyalties, believe you me.

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