Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Best posts for a book?

I'm currently compiling some of my Mormon-themed short stories, essays, poems, plays, screenwriting, and criticism into a book draft. I'm not entirely sure who would print the book yet, but I'm pretty sure at least a few hundred people would buy it.

I'd like to include a brief section with maybe ten of the short pieces in this blog. Any suggestions on which of these "midrashim" would be best for a book?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reed -- Ps. 27: 4

"One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple." (Ps. 27: 4)

When I was 18, I visited the Orem, UT ward I'd grown up in for the first time in six years. Those six years had changed a lot: a tight subdivision of condos had replaced what used to be orchards at the end of the once-dead-end street I grew up on, so the ward had a lot of new people I didn't know. Also: I was at least a foot taller and had grown long hair and beard, which made the child in me a little hard to notice on an impromptu visit.

The first person to recognize me, despite all the differences, was my childhood friend Reed. Most of my old friends had moved away to college by then, but Reed has Down Syndrome and still lived with his parents. The beard and hair didn't fool him one bit: he knew me on the very first glance, whispered across the chapel "James!"

A few years later, I got word that Reed was serving a church service mission and wrote him a letter. He wrote back. I didn't talk to him for quite a while after that, but would think of him sometimes, tell my wife about him when we'd pass my old neighborhood.

Today, I went to the church distribution store to pick up some things for my younger brother, who is currently in the Missionary Training Center. A man in the store looked like Reed's dad, but I shrugged it off as nostalgia playing with my perceptions. But then next to him was Reed, and I knew Reed for sure right away.

We talked. He'd been on another church service mission, this one with his parents to the Nauvoo Temple. He'd loved it, but didn't miss it much because he serves every Saturday morning in the Mount Timpanogos Temple as an ordinance worker. Maybe I should try to come when he's there, I said. Yes, said Reed. And say hi to your brother Stephen, who I used to play soccer with, he added.

I kept asking Reed questions about his life then, because I've missed the way he talks. He's got a nice, gentle way about him and he obviously loves his life so much.

A part of me thinks maybe even the temple is a little holier because Reed serves in it.

Another part of me thinks: it's so good God gave us temples, so that there's a place for Reed to serve so meaningfully.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If it felt so right, why did it turn out wrong? -- Matt 2: 1-2

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matt 2: 1-2)

Could there be any doubt that the star they'd seen was most unusual? Could any of them question what he had felt on seeing that star, the way he'd simply known that this signified the coming of a very special Jewish their fathers had been hearing about since the days when Daniel served Darius?

A wise man knows that knowledge comes and goes, but that experience of spiritual certainty was more than ordinary knowledge. A wise man knows that some feelings are worth following across the desert, are worth giving up wealth to purchase frankincense, gold, myrrh. Those wise men knew that seeing that star meant they should drop everything and see the King of Israel's newborn son.

So they sold possessions. They bought the best presents and provisions for the journey. These easterners traveled west in past the borders of the Roman Empire, farther west than they'd ever been before, and found--nothing. There was Herod, yes, this was Jerusalem, sure enough. But no crying baby. Not even a toddler crawling around the floor. They'd been wrong, absolutely wrong. It was obvious--no king had been born in this house; there was nothing any star could do to change the reality that was right before their eyes!

"Can I help you?" said Herod.

And they were about to shrug, turn around, hang their heads, head home. About to stop watching fickle stars now and forever. About to forget the whole delusion that is Hope, about to give up their wisdom for good old realism and practicality.

But then one of them said, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?"

And the others chimed in, "We saw the star. We know we saw the star. If he isn't here, where exactly can we go to find and worship him?"

Maybe the stars don't lie. Maybe the feelings we've felt are worth crossing the desert for really are worth every sacrifice.

Oh, but all that doesn't make it easy to follow God past so many of our assumptions and expectations!


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