I’m pretty gloomy when it comes to questions of human nature. I very much believe in original sin. I don’t buy the optimistic notion that humans aren’t really all that bad, and just need a bit of education to be persuaded to do the right thing. No, I resonate much more with Alma on this one: we’re carnal, sensual, and devilish. It’s not just that without grace, we can’t quite make it to the finish line on our own; we’re wandering off in the wrong direction altogether. It’s why I like Augustine, who would have no patience with the positive self-talk of 20th and 21st century pop psychology. We’re pretty messed up, we human beings. We hurt each other, both inadvertently and intentionally. We hurt ourselves. We set out to do good, but our motives are mixed, and our efforts prone to self-sabotage. We plan to repent–but not yet. Read More
My alarm goes off. I’m in a deep sleep, dreaming about my sister Melyngoch coming back from her mission and wanting to go on a crazy hike involving a lot of waterfall crossings. I get up, and pack my last few things. I have a large suitcase, a small one, a backpack and a small bag. Also, two other train necessities: a pillow and blanket. Since I’ll be flying later, I’ve been careful not to bring too much—one of the advantages of train travel is that the luggage limits are rather more generous (not to mention that they don’t come with extra fees), and it’s tempting to over-pack.
So a couple of years ago, I made a post at Times and Seasons about trusting God. In the meantime, things have changed, and the whole trusting God thing is a challenge for me at the moment. But let me back up a bit. Read More
When your life is tightly entwined with the lives of others, you adjust who you are to meet their needs and expectations. For example, spouses make small, daily adjustments so that they don’t push their partners’ buttons. Parents postpone their desires in order to tend to those of their children. When not taken to an extreme, this is a good thing.
The past couple years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about to what extent we should bend who we are to make our relationships with others work. While I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the outer limits of sacrifice, I’ve learned to embrace the ways that relationships can refine us and transform us into better versions of ourselves. But now my life circumstances have changed, and because I want to continue a process of transformation, now I’m wondering: how do I change who I am for myself? Read More
Like all of my family, and most people I know, I get easily addicted to computer games (currently it’s various word games on facebook, but it changes). I can also get very into TV shows, a few video games, and all sorts of books. All of this combines, at times, to make me incredibly unproductive. And then I have to think of creative ways to get myself to do something other than play stupid computer games. I’m kind of like a little kid that way. Here are some of the things I do (or have done): Read More
Last August I started a post entitled “Enjoyment and Productivity, or, The Adventures of Supermom.” I was celebrating the fact that I was writing quite a bit, and loving it. But not only was a writing a lot, I was doing better about keeping up with all of the other things I was supposed to be doing as well. My house was cleaner than ever, I cooked more dinners, I was more pleasant with my kids and I played with them more. Life was great. I posited that perhaps I was so productive overall because I was doing something I loved and was enjoying myself, and that made me happier and better able to deal with all of the other things as well.
The reason I never finished that post is that a few days after I started it I found out I was pregnant. Read More
On April 29th, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Phoenix Suns and dismissed them from the NBA playoffs. I’ve been a passionate fan of the Suns for several years, and I was hugely disappointed that they hardly put up a fight, losing this first round series, 4-1. I watched parts of the series, but not all of it. It wasn’t for lack of interest that I didn’t watch it all, though. It was that I couldn’t bear to watch my team play badly or see the Spurs or their fans rejoicing. In the deciding game of the series, for example, I turned the TV off when, with under a minute to play and the Suns down one point, Boris Diaw got the ball in the low post and then turned and threw a cross-court pass to . . . nobody, and the ball went out of bounds. The fans in San Antonio went crazy and I felt sick. So I turned the game off. I was happy to miss the agonizing final seconds.
But what if the Suns had won? Would I have kicked myself for giving up too early? Read More
Usually sometime in January, I write down a list of the things I’d like to try and accomplish during the upcoming year. It’s usually not a long list, and I’m not very intense about it, and I usually only accomplish one or two things on the list (and this is often based on the fact that one to two things on my list are things that I think I will likely accomplish). However, I enjoy doing some thinking about how my life has gone for the past year and what I’m trying to envision for the upcoming year.
Except this year I’m not sure if I want to write up a list. Read More
I haven’t been around as much the past little while because I’ve been on the job market, moving, and preparing for a new job. No, I haven’t finished my dissertation. I’m currently rethinking my life plans, and I have found a job as a secondary school English teacher, which I will start in a couple weeks (which means I probably continue to be scarce for the next month or two as I adjust to the new job).
It’s all kind of strange because I’ve wanted to be an English professor since high school. But the past year or so, that dream has been slowly fading, though I didn’t recognize it until I had a sudden moment of realization a couple months ago. Read More
A question I get a lot at church is that of how studying theology has impacted my testimony. Sometimes people make comments along the lines of how studying the beliefs of others must be quite faith-promoting, with an apparent assumption that the musings of non-LDS religious thinkers are likely so self-evidently ridiculous or confusing that they could only result in my having a greater appreciation for the simple clarity of the restored gospel. Others wonder, by contrast, whether engaging religion academically might be dangerous, might undermine my belief in the LDS church. I am not comfortable, however, with either of these paradigms. What I study has in fact profoundly influenced my faith, but in complex ways. Read More
If you’ve read our Welcome page (or Numbers 27), then you know that the real Zelophehad didn’t have a son. This makes my existence, as a guy, a crime against nature, or at least a crime against a good story. But being the only boy in the family of seven kids isn’t too bad a story either. Read More
I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the stories surrounding Easter. I remember as a child listening to adults talking in solemn and hushed tones about the death of Jesus, and wondering how I was supposed to react. Should I be feeling guilty, since as a sinner I shared part of the blame for his suffering? Should I be feeling horrified? (Some of those who went into excruciating and grisly detail seemed to be hoping to provoke a bit of that reaction.) All too often, hearing the story of Good Friday left me with an image of a Jesus who quite possibly resented me for having messed up so badly that he had to pay for it, and who was now scrutinizing my every action to see if I was good enough to be worthy of his help. Read More
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Who goeth forth and weepeth, and beareth precious seed, shall doubtless return with rejoicing, and bring his sheaves with him. –Brahms Requiem, 1st movement
As I lay curled in a ball on my bed late Friday night, trying to quiet the sobs that shook my body and had the mascara pooling in dark circles under my eyes, it was difficult to remember the words from a few hours earlier: “blessed are they that mourn…” When the emotional pain envelops you and leaves little room for rational thought, the blessedness of mourning is merely an attractive idea. And comfort is very far away. Read More
My mother-in-law and I are very different people. Almost polar opposites, in fact. (The only reason I don’t say complete polar opposites is because that’s probably her and Seraphine, and I’m just most of the way to the Seraphine end of the spectrum). Nevertheless, we have come to understand, appreciate, or at least tolerate each other better over the past few years. She tries not to rearrange my stuff when she comes to visit (but she does anyway), and I try not to mind when she rearranges my stuff (though I still do sometimes). Read More
I’m rather fond of the story of Jonah. Partly this is just because it’s so funny, what with the cattle of Ninevah repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and Jonah melodramatically announcing that he would be better off dead after God kills his shade plant. But I also like Jonah because there are ways in which I see myself in him. In particular, I’m quite sympathetic to his decision to flee in the opposite direction when God calls him. That’s frequently my reaction to God, too. Read More
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. –Matthew 5:39
A recent post reminded me of an experience I had my first couple years in graduate school. It was a difficult, painful experience that taught me a lot about anger, forgiveness, and what it means to be Christlike when another person is trying to manipulate you. Read More
I don’t know quite what I think about petitionary prayer; once you raise those sticky questions about God intervening in the world sometimes but not others, it all gets so complicated. But I’m more than a little skeptical of any theory of prayer that treats God like a vending machine who dispenses blessings if only you can come up with the correct combination of change. Rather, I’m drawn to the idea that the point of prayer is relational, that it’s not so much about coaxing stuff out of God as about developing a relationship with him.
That’s how I like to think about prayer in the abstract, at least. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily live that way. Read More
I have very strong feelings about the temple, and it’s quite difficult for me to sort them out. On one hand, there are aspects of temple worship that I find immensely troubling, and even painful at times. On the other hand, I have had some of my most powerful spiritual experiences in the walls of the temple. Read More
There hasn’t been much going on around here the past few days (I know, the end of the semester), so I decided to follow Bored in Vernal’s example and reflect on what I have been doing for the past  Decembers (yes, she did 10, but that would be a lot longer, and besides, my husband gets sad when I talk about old boyfriends in nostalgic ways). And unlike her, I’m going to go forward instead of backward. So here goes: Read More
What I remember about Thanksgiving from when I was growing up is the annual argument I (and several sisters) had with my brother Ziff about whether we should watch the annual TV showing of Charlotte’s Web or a football game on Thanksgiving afternoon. Charlotte’s Web is the same every time, he said, and every football game is different. Not so, I said–every football game is basically the same, so we should go for the option that’s actually entertaining. (I still think I’m right in my assessment of football games, but I’m sure Ziff would point out that I just haven’t learned to appreciate them.) Read More