Sunday, May 23, 2010


Well, it is fifty days past Easter. I had planned to bear testimony (in some way) daily from Easter through today. I did not make it for every single day, but I made it for most of them, and it was a pretty good experience. I wanted to write up a bit about that.

First of all, and I certainly did not have this in mind, I was entering a really rough period of my life. I didn’t know it, and I will write more about that later, but at first my little plan seemed ironic, because I was supposed to be making expressions of belief but I was struggling so much to feel any belief.

It seemed ironic, but it was actually very helpful. Having to be able to find something to say, and when to say it, and to whom, kept me from wallowing in self-pity. I had to remember over and over that things have worked out before, and that ultimately I believe they will continue to do so. I’m still not the kind of person who is grateful for trials while they happen, but I can concede that they often end up being helpful, and that things do work out. The timing was good from that perspective.

It also led to some good experiences that would not necessarily be expected. One night I remembered at eleven o’ clock that I had not done it yet, and so I went to where Mom was getting ready for bed, and I told her that I knew the church was true. Instead of looking at me and wondering if I was on drugs, she reaffirmed that and shared her own testimony, and it was a very touching, bonding moment in the bathroom, that would not have happened otherwise. That was good.

It can also be good to tell people what you are doing. My friend Jill will bring up religion fairly often, and she will sometimes disparage Mormons a little, not too bad, but I tend to shrug it off, answering questions and sharing things as appropriate, but not really paying attention to that, because she is kind of smart-mouthed in general and I tend not to take the bait. Well, because of my goal, I was taking all of those smart remarks and refuting them and testifying and just not letting her comfortably ignore the truth of it. In other conversations that followed, she kept telling me I was a control freak, and I think that’s way. If I had told her, by the way, I have this goal, maybe she wouldn’t have said that—but then maybe she also would not have taken what I was saying so seriously.

(Incidentally, I didn’t think I was, and that seemed ironic because I had just been talking to Julie about her being a control freak, but not the way Becky is, and Jill admitted she was a control freak too, so maybe everyone just has different things that they freakishly need to control. It really only bothers me if they try to control other people.)

There was another incident that was especially important to me. On Mother’s Day, I suddenly remembered that this would be the first Mother’s Day for a friend since his mother had died, and all of those milestones in the first year hurt. I mean, they hurt on subsequent years too, but I believe it starts to sting less. Anyway, I wrote to him, and among other things I told him that I knew that he would see his mother again.

It was his response that made the difference. He didn’t really say that much, but there was emotion conveyed where it was like he had not been thinking in those terms. That’s the one thing with bearing your testimony at church or with other members—yes, we do feel something and we are strengthening each other, but it’s usually just reinforcing what we already know. That the soul continues and that we will see each other again is just such a given for us, but it’s not that way for everyone. That realization humbled me. It’s an amazing thing to know, and I felt more grateful for it at that moment than I have before. And believe me, I have been grateful before, but remembering that not everyone has that, and being able to comfort someone, I felt it more.

I know it was not as effective as it could have been, at least in terms of reaching other people. I kept getting stuck inside my own head with worry and fear, and I just was not organized at all. I’m not planning on continuing the daily part, but it did remind me how powerful sharing faith can be, and that there are actually a lot of opportunities. Two of the nights that I missed, I had conversations that just skirted the area, and if I had been thinking I could have easily gone there.

More to the point though, as I was looking for people to share with, it reminded me to think about other people, and what they might need and what might help them, and that’s something I try to do anyway, but there is always room for improvement. If you don’t want my religious beliefs, but there is something else I can do for you, I really will try. That kind of things is great, and I love it.

Just let me reiterate, though, that it is an amazing thing to know, and it is a beautiful thing to share it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My opinions on everything!

Seriously, I filled out my ballot tonight, and I thought I might do an election blog, but it’s pretty boring. Granted, it’s only the primaries, but so many of the races are either uncontested or foregone conclusions, it’s like there is not even a point. So, I thought I would just write about everything else going on.

Wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo: I do suspect that the kids in question were doing it somewhat defiantly, as is not completely unheard of with teenagers. That being said, threatening suspension is ridiculous, as is asking them to turn the clothing inside out. If they were trying to be intimidating by anything other than their clothing, but all means punish that. If they were wearing clothing that had a negative message even, maybe, though you don’t want to be overly draconian about the whole thing, but if all they are really doing is wearing flags, it’s not an issue.

Actually, this one does appear to be a non-issue. Most of the student body seems to feel it was an overreaction, the school board feels it was an overreaction, so basically you have one principal in trouble, plus Roger Ebert. People overreacting to (and via) tweets, though, is a whole other topic, and one I don’t care about very much.

BP versus the Gulf Coast: The damage that is happening there literally makes me feel sick. The rush of lawyers heading there to try and get lawsuits started is not as visceral, but still kind of sickening.

Arizona’s new law: There are a lot of things wrong with this. The part that makes it really ugly is that it is essentially turning Arizona into a police state for brown people, many of whom are citizens. I don’t imagine that many Caucasians are going to be asked for their birth certificates when they are out walking, and it’s just wrong. I think all the citizens who are against this law should start walking around with their birth certificates around their necks as a protest. Maybe it’s a lame protest, but it’s a nasty law.

The bigotry factor is what makes it ugly, but I’ll give you two things that make it stupid. Firstly, if the real purpose is to cut down on crime, I think it will turn into a pretty ineffective way of fighting crime, including the crime of illegal immigration. More to the point, you have to fix immigration from the employer end. As long as people can come here, get hired, and make money that even at horrible wages looks good to them by comparison with what they can make at home, they will keep coming. If they aren’t getting hired, it will take a while to filter through, but it will change things around, and I bet you will find it easier to crack down on employers than seal the borders.

Things that are appalling: The skinny jeans defense and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

Kind of disturbing: In the picture of Kagan that AOL is using, she kind of looks like Brendan Fraser (which has absolutely nothing to do with her qualifications).

Okay, so what about that election? Well, the two ballot measures are both basically procedural, and the voters pamphlet did not have a single argument against either of them, most of the judges and representatives are running unopposed, and the gubernatorial races seem to be a lock for Kitzhaber and Dudley.

I’m actually not down with that, for what it’s worth. On the Democrat side, I favor Bradbury, and voted for him. I am one of those people having a hard time getting over Kitzhaber calling Oregon ungovernable back in the day. He needs to demonstrate that either he has changed or the state has changed to build confidence. The two things he has indicated don’t even come close. Yes, Oregon is not currently GOP-led, but that could easily swing back the other way in the near future. The margin is not really that wide, and partisanship has gotten much worse, so there are still going to be real issues there.

The other thing he has said is that he would focus more on dealing with the voters, and getting them behind ideas, rather than focusing on trying to work with the legislature to get his policies passed. Once again, partisanship has gotten much worse, and I just don’t see him pulling it off.

That’s not that I don’t think he’s a good man, and if I needed someone to head a special committee for working out medical reform, where we could reduce costs and improve care and get it offered to more people, I would totally put him in charge.

Bradbury I think has a more realistic view of the situation, and he really won my heart by pointing out that a lot of the issues we have stem back from Ballot Measure 5, which I say all the time but in general it gets ignored, and yet it damaged schooling then and it has never really been repaired. I’m not crazy about his Bank of Oregon plan, because what I really want is for people to leave big banks behind and go to credit unions, but his principles are sound. So it’s Bradbury for me, but if he loses I am sure I will be voting for Kitzhaber in November.

Honestly, I kind of like David Lim, and if I were registered Republican I would vote for him, but he really is a long shot. In fact, I recommended to my family members that they vote for Alley, because I think he is the only one who even has a remote chance of beating Dudley, and we all hate Dudley.

It is interesting to see how many people Sizemore has lost over time. He doesn’t seem to realize that he’s a joke. On the plus side, he saves Dudley from being the biggest ego in the race, so that’s nice.

The 26th district only has the one Republican candidate for representative. I did think about advising the voters to come up with a good write-in candidate, lest they have to choose between a lying child-abuser who manipulated his way into the office and a Democrat, but it’s hard getting a good write-in campaign going, so we’ll just worry about that in November.

There is one other race that is pretty interesting. There are three excellent candidates for Metro President, but one keeps raking in the endorsements, and he has mine as well—not just for the sentiment. Tom Hughes will be a great leader for Metro:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Where was I?

No one who is a regular reader will be surprised that I have gotten busy and gotten behind on the blogging, because that’s sort of how I roll. There was an additional issue, though, in that I found I kept getting sidetracked on the subject matter.

Remember that I was starting on the issue of the lack of civility in politics—what I have noticed and why it was a concern for me, and how pride is a factor—and then I wanted to have one post on why this was bad for society and another post on why it was bad for individuals. Well I managed the first part of that way back in March, but every time that I started thinking over what I wanted to say regarding why pride and anger and all of that was bad for an individual, I kept getting back to why it was bad for society.

I always have been prone to tangents, but maybe I am just increasingly aware of the difference an individual makes for others—that you can’t really isolate yourself from your impact on society. What happens with the individual is still important for the individual’s sake.

Where I had kind of thought I would be going was that if you are full of anger, and your world is full of enemies instead of brothers, and if you are so confident that you are right in your ways that you would not be able to hear a still small voice suggesting that you are wrong, that you need to consider the fact that maybe you are a goat instead of a sheep, and that goats go to Hell. Granted, under my belief system that doesn’t mean that you are left there, but that still if Christianity is important to you, than loving your neighbor and having charity needs to be important to you, and it’s not enough to only be kind and respectful with the people who think the same way you do. Even publicans do that.

There are signs that are hopeful. I will frequently see stories of generous donations and volunteer work where clearly there are still good hearts out there. I also still see really ugly comments and arguing and wrong-headedness that will lead to bad decisions more to prove a point than anything else.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

If this is what you are feeling, perfect! But if you (for politics or other reasons) get caught up in wrath, scorn, contempt, hatred, etc., that is a problem, even if you political philosophy is sound. And because religion so frequently seems to flavor these political arguments, it can affect your salvation.

That seems like important information, and yet I keep getting distracted. That is partly getting distracted by how bad it is to have a bunch of angry, hateful people walking around and posting anonymously on message boards, but there is more.

Maybe it’s that trying to modify your behavior by fear doesn’t really work. If I only try to be good because I am scared of the results of being bad, chances are I am not going to be able to sustain it. Otherwise, people would probably have more success at dieting and quitting smoking.
However, as I try to do what is right, and I feel God’s love for me, and I act on that and love other people more, which also feels good, motivation becomes a totally different thing. I am acting out of love and gratitude and I am not doing it because of an eternal reward, but because I want to in the here and now. And then I find out that even small actions can make a huge difference with people, and I learn more what is important, and ultimately when I am worried about eternal salvation it is for other people, and all I feel is peace.

I don’t know if that sounds over the top Christian or ridiculous flower child, and really, I am a very practical, grounded person. Also, I do worry about my soul at times when there are weaknesses that I can’t seem to shake, and even when I am doing well at being kind, I often feel like I am totally awkward, or I realize later that there was an opportunity that I completely missed, so don’t get the wrong idea about me that way either.

What I’m trying to get at is that love changes things. Specifically, charity changes things. It elevates and uplifts, and beautifies. It increases your enjoyment, and it can bring some increased pain too, I suppose, because you do care more, but it has rich rewards, and it is a shame what some people will choose over charity.

You know, I could give different examples of that, but then I think it would become kind of scolding, and I don’t want to do that. Plus, then maybe I would feel pride for not being like these people, and that would just be wrong.

So I guess I am leaving it at “Love is good.” Aren’t you glad you read this?