Apr 3

i went on an adventure yesterday with some friends. at least for me it was an adventure. (and no, this isn’t going to be very well written, i apologize). i went to the LDS church general conference down in salt lake city. now, if i had to drive a long distance to go to this event, i wouldn’t have gone, but because it was so close, and my dearest friends are LDS, and because i really am interested faith in general, i thought this would be a pretty interesting event to attend. the conference center holds 20,000 people and people come from all over the country and all over the world to attend. for many people it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend this conference, to see their leaders in person, and so it is, like for many muslims, going on hajj. since it’s that big of a deal for folks, since i’m so close and i have such dear people to go with, i should go.

a lot of the pictures we took i’m not going to post, because they are of my dear friend and his sweet son. i don’t have permission to post pictures of the dear son, dcp, and so that’s why those pictures aren’t being posted.

what follows is pictures mainly without people that can be identified.

our seats were in the balcony of the conference center, and honestly i was pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to get to the top. we went through metal detectors (i was okay with that, no big deal really), and the proceeded to follow the crowds (and guidance of folks standing around to guide wayward devotees (and visitors) to the correct place) up a series of escalators to the top. after we found our seats and saved them we walked back out and had a few minutes to check out the top of our area of the conference center. at one point i turned and saw this, a stained class version of the carl heinrich block painting “Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda.” i’ve seen this painting in person at brigham young u and it is stunning.. beyond stunning. i could sit with it for hours.

then we finally went into the main auditorium, because if we weren’t at our seats by 1.30 (it started at 2) we’d loose our seats. of course, we took pictures of each other being there. this doesn’t do it justice, the size of the place, or the size of the pipe organ, but i tried.

after the session starts you aren’t supposed to take pictures, but me being the rule breaker i did.. of course i wasn’t blatant about it, but i did, because it was kinda cool breaking the rules, and i wanted pictures during the event. this picture illustrates something handy they have for those of us who are having a hard time seeing the tiny figure way down at the front who is talking -> screens on both sides of the center so we can see them better.

i think this is boyd k. packer. he spoke about 400 years of the king james version of the bible. he’s an old guy and was honestly difficult to understand. this is the same guy who caused controversy (in and out of the lds community) with some of his statements about what is right and good, which were particularly targeted at the lgbt community.

okay, i’m not sure who this next person is. ppp could tell you who it is, but i’ve forgotten.

and here, this is everyone in place, the conference center filled to hear the words of their leaders. this is we were on the right side of the center at the top, this is, of course, pointing to the left. ppp got in the way a bit, but i tried. i’m trying to give you a sense of how BIG this place is and how many of the devoted make their way to slc to see their leaders speak in person.

the session is 2 hours long. even for adults 2 hours of sitting can be challenging. around the 1 hour mark they have a hymn, with the words posted on the screen that everyone stands to sing. this isn’t normal, standing and singing a hymn in the lds church – they don’t do that. this is done to allow people to stretch their legs, at least those in the conference center. these talks are sent out to millions of followers all over the world and i know, having been a follower for 1.5 years and gone to conference at friends’ houses, that those houses with lots of kids include lots of sitting and standing during the conference. here’s the music leader leading us all with the words on that handy dandy screen.

and that was the last picture i took until we were out. i have more to write about my experience there, especially the last talk. the last talk was brilliant and i was captivated. i expected to find some meaningful words throughout the session, but i didn’t expect to be captivated for a whole talk. the
the last talk was built around these words from matthew 22:37-40.

He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

here is the crowd leaving the conference center. i was glad i went, really glad. particularly that last talk and to share a moment with my friends.. but like all these people leaving, i must too. i’ve got my own church to go to.

Mar 29

guess who has a ticket to the 2pm session of the LDS general conference [general conference happens 2 times a year, it is a weekend where church members from around the world spend time listening to their leaders talk about various issues. it is broadcast from the lds conference center down in salt lake] on saturday? well, duh. it’s my blog. of course it’s me. it was a wild hair i had on saturday. there was discussion about general conference and how the amazing jcp was going with her sisters and i said “hey, can i go?”

yes, even having been lds for 1.5 years and then leaving, i’m still interested in going in person, because it’s kind of a cool thing to be able to see in person – this huge faith event that people from all over the world are tuning into. and to be able to see these leaders of this church in person that has such an impact of the lives of those here in logan – even those who aren’t members – seems kinda cool. plus, i see as one responsibility of mine as a pacifist to attend events like this to try to understand better a different world view than mine. i may not agree, but i need to understand and find love and respect for it.

it is likely that there will be moments where i find myself annoyed, but in the end these folks are talking about God and Jesus, and honestly, if it’s not full of dogma and hatred, it doesn’t matter who it’s coming from. it is still meaningful to me, and still has a positive impact on my faith, and *that* is important to me. plus, this is the church that has had a great impact in shaping my dearest friends here in logan to be the people that they are. these 2 people, and the children they are raising, are incredibly generous, kind, and welcoming. they love me and i love them. if they are who they are because they were raised in the lds church then, really, it must not be that bad of a church, and the things that the leaders say during general conference can’t be all that bad.

plus, this gets me out of cache valley on saturday for a bit. with mountains on both sides of us this place can get a bit stifling at times.

Aug 1

bruce reyes-chow, moderator of pcusa’s (presbyterian church usa) general assembly asked on twitter (@breyeschow) why people are members of pcusa.  i sent him 9 reasons why i am, and i thought it would make for a good blog post.  so here goes:

  1. belief in the trinity.  the father, son and holy ghost – all in one.  yes, this is different than the mormons.
  2. belief that Jesus Christ died, and was resurrected, for us.  i was unitarian universalist for 10 years.  this is not a church-wide belief held w/in that church (of course, if you know anything about the uu’s).
  3. the bottom up form of governance of the church, the way we make decisions.
  4. belief that we don’t hold the only truth and way to connect with God.
  5. we don’t evangelize through our words, we do so through our actions.  no, there aren’t presbyterian missionaries that walk door to door or stand on street corners condemning you to hell if you don’t believe what we believe..
  6. belief that the bible is a living word, though i’m not sure if this is specific to pastor paul or denomination wide.
  7. the diversity of people within pcusa.  as someone beholden to peace and justice i can feel comfortable within the denomination, but people who are pro-war, anti-lgbt rights also feel comfortable in it too.
  8. i read the heidleberg and westminster confessions and they felt right to me.
  9. repeat #2, it’s so incredibly important to me.

i thought i’d mention this.. john shuck tweeted asking if anyone had ever compared the presbyterians w/ the rastafarians.  i responded back my own faith journey.  i told him that before joining pcusa i’d:

  • been a member of the unitarian universalists (for 10 years) and the mormons for 1.5 years, along with being a practicing wiccan at different times, and
  • spent time with the evangelicals, episcopalians, and unprogrammed quakers, and
  • have read a lot on buddhism (and i didn’t mention this to him) and judaism, and
  • when i got back from palestine, after realizing i had to leave the mormons researched the episcopalians more in depth, the mennonites and generally the anabaptists, and the lutherans along with reading a lot about the presbyterians.

all of this was a part of a 26 year search for faith, a search that began at age 9.  why did i search?  because i wasn’t raised in any faith.  my father was raised episcopalian and my mother’s mother went to an evangelical church which my mother openly held great disdain for.

during college i went to the episcopal church for awhile and then found the wiccans.  in graduate school #1 i stumbled upon the uu’s which really made the most sense to me in all my years of searching.. though after awhile i found the whole God / Christ peace missing and after a lot of soul searching i realized i really do believe in good ol’ JC’s resurrection and the Christian God.

when i got here to logan i joined the mormons, because of the whole JC thing and because i wanted to belong, though all along i knew there was some non-resonance for me in the faith.  i couldn’t believe that gordon hinkley was a prophet of God and Dr. King wasn’t.  i also just couldn’t uphold the church’s definition of marriage and that women can’t hold the priesthood (clergy) or any official roles of governance within the church.  it was a huge blessing that pieter niemeyer said to me, on the way back to bethlehem from the negev desert, “you aren’t mormon.”  i will be forever grateful for his courage to say such a thing.

but, as i said to john, if i’d ever walked into a presbyterian (pcusa) church before my trip to the Holy Land i’m not sure if i would have realized i’d found what i was looking for.  i strongly believe that going to Palestine, to the places where Christ walked, made me ready to finally find my religious home.

does this mean i’m no longer searching and looking?  oh goodness no.  i find myself drawn to the works and writings of the emerging church movement.  does that mean i’ll leave the pcusa and head there?  i hope not.  the cool thing about pcusa is someone drawn to the values of the emerging church doesn’t have to leave to find others drawn to those values as well.

May 27

about a lot of stuff.. but on the subject of the proposition 8 decision that came down yesterday…. i’ll just cut to the chase.. being surrounded by a majority religion that does not support equal rights for everyone i’m angry… i’m really angry, and quite hurt.

i actually have friends who do not believe that if i end up partnering with a woman that i am not due the same rights as they are. yeah… as i type this i’m not angry, i’m hurt to the very core of who i am. it blows my mind that anyone can say to someone they call a friend that they aren’t deserving of the same rights – that they are not equal to them. right now – in the wake of this decision yet again, with the wounds still fresh from november, i’m not sure if i really want to be around those friends. i don’t want to go head to head with them about this issue but i don’t know if i can keep quiet about how hurt i am about their feelings. really – it just blows my mind. how can anyone tell a friend that they aren’t due the same rights as they are? and i guess i’m lucky – my family (well, i have no idea about the republicans… but they are episcopalian and i’m hoping members who supported the actions of their church.. feel about it) and those closest to me do not hold such opinions.
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Apr 5

the beginning of holy week. pastor p did a great job at telling the story of today and the rest of the week, until the events of sunday – the resurrection. i finally feel a part of this great thing called christianity. the lds church does not celebrate holy week and barely recognizes good friday. i know they don’t recognize today – palm sunday – either. as this week has approached i’ve found that i’m starting to question how christian any church is that claims to be christian but doesn’t recognize the events of this week. (my lds friends probably won’t like this, but many of my lds friends don’t agree with same-gender marriage and the rights of the lgbtq community, and so we all hold things that each other disagrees with.) for me it is in the events of this week that jesus christ went from being a radical preacher to really showing the world that he was who he said he was – the son of God. these are the events that give christianity it’s roots. how can these events be ignored? how can a church only focus on the rebirth of christ? without his death, there is no rebirth. bonhoeffer says, on the topic of the cross:

To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.

and i agree. christ was as much of a man as he was the son of God. i don’t know if bonhoeffer, or my own pastor p, would agree with this thought – but my suffering is an important part of my faith. my suffering is not the same as christ’s was, i only suffer for me, he suffered for me and You, but it is suffering. it is my own cross. to focus only on the rebirth is to deny that in between, it is, in my opinion, to not allow for that suffering, or to ignore it, or to not give it it’s due importance. it is to give people the happiness without the important sadness and hardness. it is not ‘keeping sweet’ or finding all the answers so easily in ‘choose the right’ it is doing what christ did, following the example of grappling with the cross itself. so, as i sit here at the beginning of the holy week – my first ever holy week baptized as a protestant christian, and i guess this is the cross i grapple with this week – finding peace with a majority that i’m finding myself disagreeing with, that some of my dearest are members of.

Apr 4

a) j from pdx. i didn’t have any berts bees stuff handy when i took a bath tonight.. but i did have some lemon olive oil, so i sprinkled a bit of that into my bath. i smelled lemony during bath time, but it made a difference getting out. thx!

b) went to the gender blender tonight. i dressed as a fairy hippie. it was nice to dance with my friend l in my fairy hippie dress (i wore my saturday market fairy wings too), even though i felt like crap the whole time. yes, i have a cold. yes, i should be using that darn nettie pot! hmmph on me for not doing so! i’ve learned my lesson.

c) at some point i may address this whole “brooke was a mormon for a year and a half” thing. i mean, if a guy can devote a whole book to a semester at liberty i can certainly devote a few blog postings to my experiences with the lds church. i think it may be of interest to folks? esp. since before coming to utah i had no idea what the mormons were all about.. in fact when i went to church with my friend stina i wasn’t sure if i could go because everything was supposed to be all secretive. it was an interesting piece of my faith journey, one i’ll always value, and though i disagree with some of their tenants i must say that my lds friends are true blue (not aggie blue) friends who i wouldn’t trade for anything.

Mar 28

my conclusion is this… it really doesn’t matter what church someone is baptized in – for those who believe in christ, baptism is an important event.  it’s a powerful event.  today as i watched d.p.p. being baptized i remembered my own, just months ago.. and i was reminded of, in lds speak, my own baptismal covenants.  it was pretty cool sitting there d.p.p.’s full dunk and remembering my own sprinkling.  what matters about dpp’s baptism today, really, is that this young man took another step along his spiritual path and for all of us who were lucky enough to be invited to watch it was a reminder of our own spiritual paths.  what connects me to them is a love of God and a belief in Jesus Christ.  in the end, my view is that those things that seperate us really are – in the grand scheme of things – insignificant.

Dec 31

2008 was not a good year for me, really.  but i should remember – there are things about it that i liked.  here they are:

  • i finally settled on a chair for my phd.  and every time i talk to her about my disseration work i find myself grateful that she’s my chair.
  • i also finalized my 5 person committee for my phd.  not only are they all really amazing scholars, but i like each one personally.  i am confident that the 5 of them will work excellently together.  i know of committees where they don’t work well together and it makes for a miserable experience for the student.
  • my friends in eugene still love me, and i them.  i’m glad that this distance hasn’t changed that.  i need those people.  i’m glad that the fact that we’re all changing as well hasn’t changed my relationships as well.
  • i went to palestine – i could go on and on and on about that trip.
  • i found peace with the lds church.
  • i finally felt like the christian church was truly accessible to me.
  • my mormon friends didn’t reject me when i left their church.  they still love me and i them.  i miss many of my lds friends that i only saw at church.
  • my world in logan has grown.
  • i found a church community that i fit into and a church leader who encourages me in all that i am, and who is willing to help me in those things about me i’m not so thrilled about.  i could go on and on about all the things i’m grateful to pastor p. for.
  • i think my papa and i actually got closer – even though we didn’t see each other at all face to face.  i’m grateful he’s my dad.

okay, enough feel good crap.  i have a lot of hopes for 2009 – some personal, some global.  my friend sally expresses my hopes so much better than me, so i’m just copying and pasting it here.. though one thing i will say is – i still want what i asked for for christmas.  oh, what did i ask for?  an end to the blockade of gaza, an end to the oppression of the palestinians by the israeli’s.

sally also doesn’t mention cancer.  it’s so personal for me – i want people like my dad, sarah smith, erin buenger, carl wilton, jeanne sather, and all the other warriors out there to be able to forget that cancer exists.  and i don’t want any of us who love my dad, sarah, erin, carl, jeanne and all the other warriors to ever have to go through what christi thomas’ and leroy sievers’ loved ones have to go through because of this awful disease.

okay here’s sally’s hopes for 2009

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Dec 23

i was at bible study tonight and we were reading out of isaiah 62:

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
2The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.

after we were done reading we talked about what the passage meant to us.  these days my mind has been thinking a lot about palestine (i’m currently working on a post about christians in palestine) and so when i read that particular passage i thought about the vindication of the palestinians.  one day jerusalem will be no longer be occupied and palestine will no longer be occupied and the palestinian christians that have left will go back home – all the way home, those that were forced from their villages will be given the right to return.  this is what i heard in the passage and it’s what i spoke about.

well – the fellow across the table from me looked at me quizically and asked what i meant.  so i talked about the sixty years of genocide that is also known as independence to the israeli’s and the nakba (catastrophe) to the palestinians.  then he said something along the lines of “you mean when the palestinians left for jordan and syria.”  well, yeah – when they were forced from their villages and had to go there.  THEN he said – well, there is debate about whether they were forced.

of course, i have a big ol’ hot head and so of course i wanted to jump down his throat and say something like – yeah, and there’s debate that the holocaust happened too – just to point out how UTTERLY ridiculous his statement was.  but.  i didn’t.  i turned back to l, who was running bible study and said something like “well, yeah, so i hear politics in this verse, but remember, i’m a very political person.”  and didn’t engage.

it’s a sign, yes a small sign, but a sign nonetheless that i have changed.

another sign i have changed? well, not changed, but had a change confirmed? a few times this evening things came up that caused me to compare pastor p’s church to the lds church.  e.g. we had a conversation about why our youth director wears jeans to church and her reason was so that the youth would feel more comfortable wearing what they wear to church, in other words – it’s a way of making church accessible to the youth.  in the lds church sunday dress is sunday dress – no pants for women and certainly no jeans for the men and boys.  i don’t critize that at all, but the diversity of dress in pastor p’s church fits me so much better.  and so on.  each time something came up that caused me to compare to lds practices i, yet again, had my decision to leave them and join pastor p’s church confirmed to be the right thing.

i must go check on the boterkoek that i have in the oven.  they are smelling good.

boterkoek (butter cake) are out of the oven – 3 of them.  2 for church, 1/3 of one for me, 2/3 of one for friends.  the smell SO good.  i love that they taste so good and are so easy to make!

Nov 23

Circle round for freedom
c Linda Hirshorn

Circle round for freedom, circle round for peace
For all of us imprisoned circle for release
Circle for the planet, circle for each soul
And for the children of our children, keep the circle whole

Keep, Keep, Keep the circle whole, whole, whole
Keep, Keep, Keep the circle whole

tonight i went to an interfaith gathering that was organized by the cache community connections.  the event was held at the logan lds tabernacle, a building that i’ve spent quite a bit of time in – during 3 stake conferences and, more importantly, when i was baptized mormon.  (any newcomers?  i was mormon for about 1.5 years (but continued to remain very dedicated to peace and social justice including LGBT rights).  i was a little nervous walking in to the building tonight as this was the first time for me to be in that building for a religious service as a non-mormon.  up until tonight all my memories attached to the building were of me participating in a faith that i tried very hard to make a part of me, but in the end wasn’t a good fit.  it wasn’t a good fit for me, and i wasn’t a good fit for them.

i’m trying to write this eloquently, but i can’t seem to find any semblance of eloquence – as i found my friend c and sat down with her my nerves were on edge – it just didn’t feel right that i was in this building again to worship – i really wanted for all of us to be back at pastor p’s church.  okay, maybe not all of us – but i wanted the 4 of us sitting in a row and pastor p – sitting up among the speakers of different faiths – to be back at our church.  that’s home for me.

see, i fit in there, for the most part.  and i love being a part of the community at pastor p’s church.  for the most part i never feel as though i’m the thorn being among all the roses who are doing pastor p’s faith so much better than me.  as much as i love the people at my old lds ward (i really do, in fact i find myself missing them and am looking forward to going to baby l’s blessing in a couple of weeks up there) i always felt like a thorn among the roses.  i never really was one of them.  i wasn’t married, didn’t have a child, my views of scripture diverged from what i heard talked about from the pulpit during sacrament meeting, sunday school and relief society.  i wanted to fit in, but i didn’t.

and so i was sitting there in the tabernacle wanting to get out of there.  but i was in the middle and i really wanted to hear pastor p preach his short sermon, because i do like hearing the guy talk at the pulpit, and i always enjoy sitting next to c when both of us are knitting away (we do that every week in bible study).  she, like her husband pastor p, has a good heart and i’m becoming to enjoy my friendship with her as well as the one with her husband.  so, back to the point – the minute pastor p stood up and started to talk i actually put down my knitting (i rarely do that during sunday services at church).  while i knew that none of my dear LDS friends weren’t in the audience, i did see some mormons who i knew, and as i watched him speak i got this feeling of great pride.  “see, see – i left your church and i got to find a church where i get to hear THIS every sunday” was what i thought in my head – not to anyone in particular, but i guess more to the building and the meaning it had held for me.  as he finished he mentioned the words justice and peace and i thought – here is a man who said the words justice and peace with the same meaning that i use them it in that building.  he said it not to prove any kind of point, he said it because it is an important part of being a person of faith for him – as it is for me.  and he’s not the only pastor within his denomination that feels this way about those 2 words.

when pastor p was done a great feeling of peace came over me.  the nervousness, and dare i say, and the little bit of anger i carried in to the tabernacle, left.  i didn’t (don’t) need to be angry anymore – because what a gift it is that i have been able to find a place that i do fit in.   i’ve been anxious to be baptized because i thought that that would close this circle for me, i thought that i needed that to be able to move on, but apparently not.  and again, trying to find eloquence here, but not able to find it – i don’t know why hearing p speak at that pulpit closed the circle, but it did.  and i’m glad.  i have so many loose ends right now and getting rid of this one feels good (and yes, i still want p to baptize me), but more importantly letting go of the left over anger at the church (not the politics, the theology) feels really good.